Speculative Fiction Worth Reading: The Silver Ship and the Sea by Brenda Cooper #SciFi #BookReview

The Silver Ship and the Sea

by Brenda Cooper

For when it gets boring at work, I keep a book at my desk. This story soon had me so engrossed, I had to take the book home to finish it. The world and characters were rich and complex.

I imagine it's set some time in the far future.  Most humans have been augmented; bio-engineered to be improved. A ship full of regular humans settle on the planet of Fremont, where they want to live without any of the trappings of modern humans.

A ship of modified humans arrives and there is soon a clash that leads to war. All of that happens before the story starts. The story begins shortly after the war ends. The modified left behind six children, who essentially become prisoners of war of the colony. The children have extraordinary abilities. Some are treated with love; some not so much.

Inevitably, as the children grow and realize their predicament, things come to a boiling point again.

I really need to read the next book in this series. I've not read Brenda Cooper before, but she has oodles of talent and tells a fabulous story woven with wonder, humanity, and questions we must all answer for ourselves.


The Best Fictional Gifts - Happy Holidays from the Untethered Realms Authors

It's that wonderful time of the year again. Time spent with the family, eating way too much, and gift giving. Since we're always thinking about what ifs, this year we wondered....

What if we lived in a fantasy or sci-fi world...
What fictional gift would be at the top of your list?

I would love to get a magical Narnia-esque door installed in my studio that, when I walked through it, would take me to another world for a break between my real-life work sprints. It could send me right into my own fictional world, as in my drawing for Fireseed One (left), or to a fantastical pond in a magical forest, or into a Victorian goth scene. Then, with the press of a button, I'd be back, refreshed.

 - Catherine Stine

Like Hagrid of Harry Potter fame, I adore pets. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hagrid wants a dragon so bad that he gets tricked into revealing where the Sorcerer's Stone is hidden. I hope I'm not that gullible, but I get it. If I lived in the magical world, I'd want a dragon too. I got a little glimpse of what it could be like when I visited Harry Potter world last year...

- Gwen Gardner

Ooh, so many things. I don't have enough computer space to write them all down! Yet there is one thing that could give me all the wonderful adventures I crave. A holodeck! If I had one of my own, I don't think I'd ever leave it. I'd be more addicted than Reginald Barclay!

- Christine Rains 

I'm in a fantasy world, and I’m going to go for a magical writer’s notebook. This book has the special property that any location written about within its pages becomes a real place you can visit. Just describe the world you want to explore and step inside. Oh, and the book always comes with you, so you can easily escape the horrors and complications you encounter and escape into the next world...

- Simon Kewin 

I would love a spaceship to have a chance encounter with aliens from another world. Meeting extraterrestrials would be just the thing to enjoy as I continue orbiting the sun in our solar system.

- Jeff Beesler

An ever-filled, ever-chilled beer mug is very tempting. However, I'd have to go with a real, working Stargate. How long ago did that show end? I still dream of going through the Stargate. Can I have a Colonel O'Neill with that?

- M. Pax 

I'm with Mary on this one. I want a working Stargate. However, she can take O'Neill. I want either Dr. Rodney McKay or Colonel John Sheppard.

- Cherie Reich

There are so many options that would be wonderful! Right now, at the end of the semester, I'm wishing I had more time (probably so I could take a nap!). A time-turner would certainly be a lovely thing!!

-Meradeth Houston

Happy holidays from all of us here at Untethered Realms!


Book Review - Cursed City (Shadow Detective #1) #urbanfantasy

Blurb: My name is Mike Raven, and the weird and supernatural are my life. Monsters murdered my parents when I was eight. Turns out my folks were paranormal investigators and Hell always settles its debts. Naturally I decided to join the family business.

For two decades I've studied the occult and traveled the world hunting nightmares. Vampires. Shifters. Demons. Wraiths. I've faced them all. But my greatest challenge still lay ahead...

From the moment Celeste stepped into my office, I knew she was in trouble. Black magic trouble. Her father had promised her soul to a powerful demon on the day she was born. Now, twenty-one years later, the forces of darkness were gathering to collect their long-awaited prize.

Guess who's about to pick a fight with the Devil himself?

Christine's review: Mike Raven hunts monsters. When Celeste hires him to help her, he isn't certain he can help her. Yet he isn't about to let a beautiful woman suffer. But will he be able to fight back the forces of the Devil himself?

A fantastic start to this urban fantasy series. If you like Supernatural, you're going to like this book. Great hook at the beginning to bring us into the world, and nice descriptions all around. Plenty of action and a few nice twists at the climax. Can't wait to read more in the Shadow Detective series!


Coincidences and Synchronicities

I've always had a thing for coincidences: those random events all coming together in ways that one least expects it. Good or bad, these kinds of events are fun and fascinating. For some, they suggest a higher power ordering things, but for me they're the chaos of the universe sometimes aligning into a wonderful and wondrous pattern. Anyhow, no matter what you think is behind them, they're all kinds of fun to think about.

My upcoming release, THE COINCIDENCE MAKERS, due out on November 19th (yep, gotta get a plug in there somehow ;) talks about the possibility of there being people who make these seemingly impossible things happen. Ami and Luke create coincidences--some small, some large, and some they have no idea why they are supposed to make happen. At any rate, the whole idea came to me from a RadioLab episode I listened to many years ago. You can check it out here, and I totally recommend it: it's chock full of wonder and delight (okay, that may be more my interpretation, but it's awesome if you like this sort of thing!).

Anyhow, this got me started thinking about where stories come from--what sort of coincidences are involved in that? For me, they tend to come from songs (Colors Like Memories came from a Linkin Park song), or a scene (the opening of Surrender the Sky was a horrible opening scene that got into my head I had to write it out). Anyhow, whatever the source, somehow there was something came along and demanded that I write about it.

Recently I was listening to NPR (which probably says more about my demographics than I comfortable with, but it is still amazing and I learn so much random, cool stuff that I just don't care), and Elizabeth Gilbert was talking. She's the author of Eat, Pray, Love (which, I swear, every time I write, I accidentally type out 'prey', which amuses me to no end). And I just kind of loved what she had to say about the way stories float around and try to find a home--looking for the person who can tell them and gift them to the world. And especially how we have to demand a lot from our "muse" so that they know we're serious. I kind of love this idea!

Also, I kind of love the thought of stories floating around in the air like ghosts, looking for vessels. It's both elegant and distinctly creepy. And yet, it feels that way sometimes. Like something just hits and all the pieces just snap together and viola! A book! Like a major coincidence, or maybe a synchronicity, that allows a book, a story, to come into the world.

I'm embedding the radio program here for anyone who's interested, or you can listen here. The Gilbert bit starts around 3:30.

Anyhow, I love a good coincidence, and I love a good story even more. Do any of you have a good story about a synchronicity that you had happen? Or one that you've read about that blew your mind? If you go and read my deleted scene, you'll find one that I lifted from true life :) (And hey, sign up for my newsletter while you're at it? ;)


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Untethered Realms 99c Sale & Giveaway!

Happy fall!

With Halloween on the horizon, it's time for treats. But the Untethered Realms authors live so far apart, you can't come knocking on all our doors. So we're setting up a one stop buffet of 99c books for you here!

Plus, scroll down for a HUGE giveaway!

First, grab these incredible 99c reads!

Cherie Reich:
Once Upon a Nightmare
People of Foxwick and Their Neighbors

Mary Pax:
The Rifters Box Collection
Renaissance of Hetty Locklear

Gwen Gardner:
A Scandal in Boohemia

Jeff Chapman:
The Black Blade
Cat Sidhe
Last Request

Catherine Stine:
Pictures of Dorianna

Simon Kewin:
The Cloven Land Trilogy

Meradeth Houston:
The Chemistry of Fate
Surrender the Sky

Christine Rains:
Of Blood and Sorrow (23rd-27th)
Of Gods and Sorrow (27th-31st)

FREE Halloween treats from:

Mary Pax: Deadly Sins

Christine Rains a.k.a. Morena Silver: Bound by a Ban-sidhe (27th-31st)


Enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon giftcard!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Review: Murder at the Marina

Murder at the Marina
Book Review

What would you do if your hubby gave you the worst anniversary gift ever?

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.
Mollie McGhie is hoping for diamonds for her tenth wedding anniversary. Instead, her clueless hubby presents her with a rundown boat. She's not impressed.
When she discovers someone murdered on board, things get even worse. Mollie hopes it will convince her husband to rethink his hare-brained scheme of sailing off into the sunset. Instead, he's more determined than ever to fix the boat up and set off to sea.
Poking her nose in where it doesn't belong, Mollie finds herself drawn into the tight-knit community living at Palm Tree Marina in Coconut Cove, a small town on the Florida coast. She uncovers a crime ring dealing in stolen marine equipment, eats way too many chocolate bars, adopts a cat, and learns far more about sailing than she ever wanted to.
Will Mollie be able to discover who the murderer is before her nosiness gets her killed?
Murder at the Marina is the first book in the light, humorous, and original Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery series. If you like kooky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you'll love this cozy mystery. Buy Murder at the Marina today and laugh out loud from the first page to the last.
My Review:

Mollie McGhie’s husband buys her a dilapidated sailboat for their 10th anniversary—even though she doesn’t sail. Fearful that he’s having a bidlife crisis, she goes along with her husband’s dream in the hopes that he loses interest once he realizes what bad condition the sailboat is in.
No such luck. Her hubs sees nothing but potential, even after the body shows up. And guess where it turns up? Sorry, no spoilers here!
As any good sleuth worth her salt, Mollie can’t help herself. Instead of talking her husband out of buying the boat, she gets sidetracked investigating the murder. Plenty of people had reasons to want him dead and Mollie is in a perfect position to find out whodunnit.
Mollie fits quickly into the marina scene, which is much like an RV park for sailboats. She meets all the residents aka suspects who live on their sailboats and together they make a cozy little community.
Just add murder and stir!


Book Review: Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner #fantasy #fay #fairies

“A book for anyone who has heard the horns of Elfin in the distance at twilight, as much as it is for readers who crave fine literature and are certain that elves and their kingdoms are bosh.” - Neil Gaiman.

I fell in love with this collection of short stories. I confess I hadn’t heard of Sylvia Townsend Warner and hadn’t read any of her work, although she wrote numerous novels over a long life, and many of these stories were originally published in the New Yorker. I was introduced to the book at a conference, at the launch of a new edition by Handheld Press (it was originally published in 1977, the year before Warner died). I’m very glad I took the plunge and bought a copy as the book is a gem. It’s described as containing “sixteen sly and enchanting stories of Elfindom”, and that catches it perfectly: these are stories about the Elfin courts that are dotted around in our world, hidden away under hills and in woods: Brocéliande in Brittany, Elfhame in Scotland, the Kingdom of the Peris in Persia, Mynydd Preseli in Wales, Zuy in the Low Countries, Pomace near where I live in Herefordshire in England (haven’t found it yet), and so on.

They are aristocratic societies, with queens (never kings) and nobles - as well as those less lucky fairies who have to do all the work. The fairies can fly, but to do so is beneath the dignity of most higher-ranking Fay. The delight of the book is in the regional differences and quirks of the courts: each is a little world with its own oddities and eccentricities, so that the book reads a little like a travel guide written by an expert of Elfin cultures – although that makes them sound dry, when they breathe with wit and intrigue and conflict. No end of intriguing details of each distinct court are thrown in: the pack of hunting werewolves at Brocéliande, the rotating island of the Peris, the fairies’ various obsessions with birds, or singing four-part harmonies, or the use of larks for divination, or playing the flageolet, or whatever it may be.

The elves in Warner’s stories are capricious, self-obsessed and bordering on the sociopathic (from our perspective). Mortals - us - are their playthings, to be stolen at birth and then cast aside when they become boring or old. Fairies, too, are treated with utter cruelty when circumstance conspires: these are creatures capable of delicate gentleness and absolute brutality, like highly-cultured toddlers. In truth, apart from their longevity, and their wings, and their occasional magic use, there isn’t too much difference between the Elfin and us - not that they would see it that way. They call humans “mortals”, although, in fact, we have immortal souls, and the Fey do not. They are simply long-lived. They are equally fascinated and bemused by religion - although mostly indifferent, as they are to all aspects of humanity.

The stories are often slight in tone and literary in style. They perhaps have a tendency to peter out, to dazzle and delight and then stop. This is not the sort of fiction where you get a whizz-bang, twist ending. Several times I wanted to know more about certain characters, certain situations, but that gets left for the reader to think about on their own. You may like that, you may not. A common theme is the outcast: a fairy who leaves their Court for one reason or another (intrigued, bored, thrown out, left behind), or a mortal changeling within a Court (a baby stolen at birth or an adult who finds their way inside).

The writing is beautiful, full of subtle literary flourish. More than once I found myself rereading sentences simply in order to savour their perfectly-formed elegance, their economy. Towards the end of her long life of writing, Warner was clearly a fairy queen of sentence-weaving. Her style is sly, witty, beautifully-observed, luscious. As I say, a gem of a book.


Science Fiction = science + imagination

When I'm inspired to write a science fiction story, it's almost always because of something I've seen or read in the news. Climate change, new technology, an immune virus, or a controversial change in laws. This is the spark that changes the future, and I wonder where it will take us.

Over a century ago, much of science fiction was written about the far future (500 years or more in the future). It was difficult to see humans in space or how fast the world would change. The genre has evolved, and these days, much of it is written about the near future (50-100 years in our future). We know how fast things can change, and it's frightening.

The rocket of humanity has blasted off, and most people don't see a bright future. Dystopian books are popular, but is this because so many folks have accepted our dismal tomorrow or because they're looking for solutions?

By exploring what is logically possible through science fiction, we can seek out solutions to problems happening in society right now. We may not have the technology or a society which demands that change, but it may inspire people to become scientists or sociologists. Imagination is just as important as science.


A Review of Familiarity: A Winston and Ruby Collection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch #fantasy #cats #familiars

Winston: A kind and quiet wizard possessed of small magic.
Ruby: A familiar with a big mouth and even bigger heart.

My Review: Winston lives in a small town on the Oregon coast along Highway 101. He runs a small curiosity shop catering to the tourists. The locals know him as "that crazy guy with the cat." The locals do not visit his shop, which makes little money. His real line is a mail order business. He ships potions on a weekly basis all over the United States, Canada, and Europe. He's not rich but it is a living. He has a small magic. And the shop gives him somewhere to go every day, a reason to leave his cottage.

Winston's magic would be nothing without his familiar. He works best with cats and they choose him. (If you live with cats, this won't surprise you.) His familiars also have a lot of attitude and have no problem expressing their opinions and desires in perfect English.

Winston wants to live a quiet life somewhere below the radar and tinker with his potions in the workshop in the back of his store. He used to live in San Francisco but an unpleasant misunderstanding required him to leave quickly. He wants nothing more than to avoid trouble but trouble wanders into his shop on a regular basis.

Familiarity collects five Winston and Ruby stories. “Familiar Territory” tells the tale of how Ruby came to live with Winston and the death of Buster, Winston's former familiar. Buster leaves some odd instructions for his funeral and his spirit sails off in a blaze of glory, literally. In “Saving Face” Winston and Ruby work with a local detective to track down a killer when a woman who visits Winston's shop turns up dead. In “Searching for the Familiar” Winston hears rumors that familiars are going missing and when the rumors become a reality for Ruby, Winston is frantic to find her. “Disaster Relief” tells the story of Ruby's attempt at altruism. She convinces Winston to open their cottage to the magic users and familiars displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In “Un-Familiar” Ruby teams up with a toy poodle-Chihuahua mix. Ruby usually has nothing to do with dogs and she won't tell Winston what's up with the poodle-Chihuahua.

If you love fantasy and you love cats, Familiarity was written for you. The characters are truly charming. My only disappointment is that the collection comes to an end and as far as I know, there aren't any more Winston and Ruby stories.


Why I Wrote Interstellar Dad

Ever since my days of playing Sims 2, I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of aliens visiting us. If you’re at all familiar with the Sims franchise, you know that there is on occasion this chance encounter with aliens, some of whom could very well make your adult male Sims pregnant. It is through this very concept where the idea for my science fiction series, Interstellar Dad, was born. But there are other reasons why I wrote for this universe.

The most important reason of them all is simply this: fertility. Impotence.

When I wrote the first book in what has now evolved into a four-book series (so far), I was coming to terms with the fact that I would probably never be able to pass on my genetic information to offspring. There were some feelings of despair and inadequacy back then, of course.

Then I got to writing about my main character, Andrew Skyes. To him I gave him the desire of wanting to be a dad, just like my own desire. Only, I’d given him a plot twist. I let him encounter aliens in a way not unlike what went down in the Sims franchise. Before Andrew knew it, his life as the Interstellar Dad had finally begun.

Ultimately, I wanted to share with my readers the emotion of hope, of possibility. That sometimes the dream might’ve taken on a different version of itself, but that it was important to continue the chase.

Which I did.

Has your dream ever changed? If so, did you still pursue it?

The four books in the Interstellar Dad series are Interstellar Dad, The Battle at Stellar Daycare, Mass Reproduction, and Impostor Care. I also write fantasy and horror novels too, the latter being the genre of my thirteenth book, Fool’s Blood, currently in the editing phase.


Book Review of The Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

I chanced onto Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s Bohemian Gospel, part of her Bohemian Trilogy while searching for other novels online, and I’m glad I did. I’ve read the first two books and I’m onto the third, a rare thing for me, as I usually lose interest after the beginning of the second book. It is a dark, historical fantasy that moves back and forth through time, and begins in Thirteenth Century Bohemia. It provides lots of info about old religions, churches and bibles of various types, which might also be a deal-breaker for me, as I am not religious in the typical church-y way. Except it is so interesting!

The trilogy is quite the page-turner. Part of the appeal is Carpenter’s great, quirky characters, and the intensely wrought romance.

A girl simply called Mouse knows no other home than a monastery in Bohemia. And though the priest who cares for her calls her Little Angel, she learns that her father is the Devil himself.

Indeed, she has special powers: of hearing, memory and of healing—both of herself and others. When the young King Ottakar comes to the church badly wounded, she provides healing and intelligent counsel, their bond grows… and grows, to the point of a fierce love. But she has secrets, and he is bound by the parameters of protocol. Even if it includes marrying for tradition, not love.

I highly recommend this series if you like thrills, historical details, deeply wrought characters and intense romantic bonding. I am a third way into the last in the series and it is as good as the first two books.


UFOs are Real and Everyone Needs to Get Used to the Idea

What? They're no longer relegated to the land of Big Foot? No! Says the Washington Post.

Not a tabloid, but a respectable news organization reported on the reality of UFOs. Although many may be explained by perfectly rational means we have yet to discover, the fact of extraterrestrial activity can not be ruled out.

The US government itself is beginning to actually admit that UFOs exist. Jokes of the current occupants of our institutions aside, this is mind blowing stuff.

Remember that weird obect in space? Oumuamua?

Credible astrophysicists theorized it could be an artificial construction with a solar sail.

We've always wondered whether we're alone, and the answer seems to be no. Is that Ancient Astronauts dude actually right about some stuff? It seems he just might be.

Although I always believed there was other life in the galaxy, this growing evidence gives me chills. If they are aliens, what do they want with us? Why do they find us so interesting? Or, are we a lesson on what not to be? We can't get along with each other, how can we get along with other beings from other worlds?

Are we a roadside attraction for galactic travelers? Are we a science experiment? Do they protect us from other aliens? Have some people actually met them?

Obviously, I have a thousand questions. If you'd like to read the full article from the Washington Post, you can read it HERE.


If any of you visit my site, I have the comments turned off at the moment. This will continue for the next few months. Besides working full time, I'm taking classes to get certified to do medical coding. So, yeah, work and school and everything else. I don't have much free time these days. I squeeze in some writing when I can.

In the meantime, I have a few sales to tell you about:

In honor of the summer solstice and the season of monsters, The Rifters Box Collection: Books 1-3 is on sale for 99c all this month.

It's the summer Smashwords sale! Get your read on!

Until July 31st, get these great discounts!


A Review of Binti by Nnedi Okorafor #sciencefiction #HugoAward #NebulaAward

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.

My Review: Binti leaves everything she knows for a place at Oomza University, but it's what she learned from home that will help her survive in Nnedi Okorafor's Binti.

I related to Binti right away. We all find a point where we leave what we know and go off into the big world. Binti is nervous yet hopeful that she'll find a way to fit in at Oomza University, an institution in another part of the galaxy. I loved learning more about the culture of the Himba people of Africa. The strength of this novella is Binti, her culture, and her gift of mathematics. Her treeing in math is almost a chant--almost magical. The Meduse she comes across are terrifying, yet not without the ability to reason with them.

The only thing I wished while reading the story was for it to be longer. I would have loved to see Binti with her family or new friends before the Meduse changed everything as it would have upped the stakes, but there is good news. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is just book one. We have sequels to delve into Okorafor's fantastic unique world.


I Love Waving at Self-Imposed Deadlines as They Pass Me By...

At the start of the year, when all the UR members had to book dates for posts on this lovely blog, I picked this date with the idea that I would be in the midst of my newest book release. I had this beautiful idea that if I could chip away at my book a little bit every day, six months would be more than enough time to whip it into shape.

Then again, I've never edited a book so long that I had to split it into five sections for one of my critique partners... with each single section being novel-length.

Needless to say, editing is kicking my butt in a big way. So I'm pushing my publishing date out to the end of the year in the hope that I'll be done by then.

It still left me with this post, though. So I thought about writing about deadlines and the pressure we put on ourselves sometimes.

I'm terrible about self-care. Seriously. I'm good at setting goals and chasing them down with Javert-like dogged determination. (John Malkovich Javert is my favorite, in case that was a burning question in the back of your mind.) Except... when the goal is to just have fun, or to take care of myself.

Which is not to say that I'm a stick in the mud. I love enjoying myself as much as the next person. But there's a flip-side to the "doing what you love" gig. "Do what you love," they say, "and you will never work for a day of your life."

Well... Lately I've come to realize that another, less-known adage has made it into my mind: "Do what you love and even your relaxation becomes work."

Writing? Work. Reading? Work. Watching TV? Work. Going to the movies? Work. Don't get me wrong. I love it. But I have found it harder to turn off for the day because the very things I used to do to relax are now the things I do to make a living.

Add to that deadlines (self-imposed or not) and/or the knowledge that you've got a few thousand people waiting for your next book to come out, and you've got yourself a pressure cooker. This gets even worse when we keep the deadlines short because conventional wisdom says we have to rush to get our books published... like yesterday.

But coming to this past weekend, when I had pictured I'd be celebrating my newest book being out, I just realized it's not necessarily the best thing to put that level of pressure on ourselves. Especially when you share in my good fortune of being able to write full-time. There needs to be a point where it's okay to miss a deadline, or to slack off and just have fun. To do something just for the hell of it instead of to reach some end-goal you have in mind. Otherwise, what would be the point of doing any of it in the first place?


#BookReview Maggie For Hire #SpeculativeFiction #paranormal #vampires

Maggie for Hire
Kate Danley

When monsters appear on Earth, Maggie MacKay is on the job. No one is better at hauling the creepy crawlies back where they belong. No one, that is, except Maggie's dad, who vanished in the middle of an assignment.Now, an elf named Killian has shown up with a gig. Seems Maggie's uncle teamed up with the forces of dark to turn Earth into a vampire convenience store, serving bottomless refills on humans. Ah, family...

The only hope for survival lies in tracking down two magical artifacts and a secret that disappeared with Maggie's dad.

WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.

Cathrina's Review:

I was hooked in the first chapter. Read that warning. It holds true. Maggie cracked me up. Sarcasm and snark spews from her mouth and thoughts throughout the story. 

At the onset I was enamored with Killian, whom I thought would become something more. But he was basically just there, and I didn't quite understand his role. 

This is the first book in a whole line of Maggie for Hire's. Fast-paced, unique, and had me chuckling a couple of times. If you don't like cussing and snarky talk, then this book isn't for you. 

As I ventured toward the end of the story, I have to admit the cliches and sarcasm were somewhat over the top, and I felt like I was drowning in them. But, all in all, a fun read. 


Writers, Stop Killing Pets

I recently finished the second of a six-volume epic fantasy series. I'm not going to tell you the name of the series in case you haven't read it. And no, it's not about games and thrones. One of the protagonists of the series is a young mystic whose companion is a wolf. The two are inseparable. I like the wolf. It's my favorite character. As I read toward the climax of the first volume, I had the sense the writer was setting up the story for the wolf's death. I considered putting the book away if the wolf died. But, surprise, surprise, the wolf survives.

After finishing volume one, I wrote to the author on Goodreads to tell him how much I enjoyed the story. The wolf is my favorite character, I wrote, and I was impressed that he avoided the temptation to kill it. The author thought it was interesting I experienced such a strong connection to the wolf's character. He asked me to write again after finishing volume two. I should have seen what was coming.

In volume two, the wolf dies. Twice! Yes, twice the loyal, faithful wolf with its fighting and sniffing skills is sacrificed. In the first instance, the party is trapped deep in the bowels of a mountain and under attack from a demon. The mystic might be able to defeat it but needs a massive surge of power. The mystic's mentor offers herself as a sacrifice to create the power. The mentor at this point is three-quarters dead already. The idea is the mystic has to kill someone close and dear to her. The mystic decides she cannot kill her mentor, so she kills her wolf instead and transforms the wolf's spirit into a sort of dragon which battles the demon until they figure out how to dispatch it.

It's kind of neat that the wolf has upgraded to a wolf-dragon who is still intensely loyal to the mystic. And yes, I understand the need for the sacrifice. But, the wolf's character lives on in a new form and won't it be neat for the mystic to have a wolf-dragon as a companion? Think of the damage a wolf-dragon could do to a horde of enemies? As they are leaving the bowels of the mountain, the mystic is abducted by a nasty creature. The other members of the party are powerless to save her until the wolf-dragon shows up and puts an end to the creature.

At this point the wolf-dragon has prevented the demon from killing all of them and single-handedly saved the mystic. The mentor is now comatose and nine-tenths dead. None of the humans in the party have died. Due to some restrictions in the spell used to create the wolf-dragon, it cannot leave the mountain. Bummer! But, it could still live on as a friendly force for good inside the mountain. There are still many nasty creatures living down there. The mystic refuses to leave the wolf-dragon. The pair settle on the floor together like she and her wolf used to do.

Meanwhile, the party of humans struggle to negotiate an exit from the city. The ungrateful mayor won't allow them to leave even though the demon has been destroyed. What does the leader of the party do? Yes, you guessed it. She offers to kill the wolf-dragon in exchange for free passage home. Really? This is how you reward loyal service? The poor mystic must again kill her friend to save the party's sorry butts. There appears to be no coming back this time, which is probably a good thing. They would just kill it again.

Seriously, can't writers think of something better to do than killing off pets? We've all seen Old Yeller. We've been there, done that.

Image Attribution: Detail from an image by Stéfan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


Speculative Fiction Worth Reading - The Circuit by Rhett C. Bruno #review #scifi

Looking for your next great space adventure?

Earth is a dying planet. To survive, humanity founds the Circuit, a string of colonies across the solar system, dedicated to mining resources vital to preserving what remains of mankind. Here there are no heroes or villains, only those willing to do what's necessary to survive.

The New Earth Tribunal, a powerful religious faction, has risen to rule the Circuit. They believe a Spirit within the Earth will one day appear and welcome humanity back home. Following a string of seemingly random attacks, the Tribunal suspects its mortal enemy, the Ceresians, have again rallied to challenge their absolute rule. But a new, sinister threat has arisen--and it plans to bring down the Tribunal once and for all.

Join an unlikely band of would-be saviors--the Tribunal's best spy, a roguish Ceresian mercenary, a subservient android and a disgraced general--as they are drawn into a conspiracy destined to change the Circuit forever.

Rhett C. Bruno made me a fan with his first novel, Titanborn. He has a way of creating complex, flawed characters who I always end up rooting for. That's a great talent. I enjoy every adventure he takes me on, and The Circuit was no exception. 

Like all good science fiction, this story makes one think about oneself and humanity in general. I always hope I'd rise to the challenge as the characters do to overcome obstacles and make our humanity better. That's what I love about space opera, the discovery inside and out.

You can get the series here: http://rhettbruno.com/the-complete-circuit-trilogy/  Also find out more about Rhett and his other books.

Have you read anything good lately?


Franny's Mashup of Victorian and Modern Vernacular

One of the fun things about writing my characters is that they say the darndest things. I almost wrote that I can make them say anything I want, but that’s not strictly true. The story-line must fit their character, or they’d never let me get away with putting words in their mouths. They really do have minds of their own, especially my secondary character Franny!

First, a little about Franny. The sleuthing sidekick of reluctant ghost-whisperer, Indigo Eady, Franny Bishop also happens to be the ghost of a former Victorian madam of some repute. Walking with a foot in both worlds, she’s still “living” the high life in modern day Sabrina Shores. The old English market town is a haven for the dearly departed, and Franny leads quite the active afterlife. Indigo is not far off when she says that Franny exists in the modern world better than she does.

Existing as she does, Franny has become quite the unintentional logophile—a lover of words. And except for a few instances which you’ll see further down, she’s quite the colorful speaker.

And she has reason!

Sleuthing is tough work. Everyone needs an outlet when frustration strikes, right? Here are some of Franny’s favorite Victorian expletives (the corresponding definitions are mine):

Balderdash = B.S.
Blast a Spaniard = Dang it!
Doolally = Crazy
Numbskull = Dumb@ss
Cockamamie = Ridiculous
Pshaw = Surely you jest

And then there’s the telly. How many ghosties do you know who watch television? Franny does. She is addicted to late-night black and white crime shows, featuring tough-guy private dicks such as Mike Hammer, Sam Spade—and even Charlie Chan.

Franny loves to use the slang she picks up...

Clocked = Assaulted

Rozzer = Policeman

Gam = Sexy leg

“Oh dear,” Franny said. “You’ve done it now. Gone and clocked a rozzer.” 

Rob stood—if you counted stooping at the waist as standing, and I did. Franny lifted her skirts and floated around him tsking at his rumpled condition. 

Rob raised his pant leg to assess the damage and Franny stopped and bent to check out his knee. “A bit of a lump, but all in all, a nice gam, don’t you think, Indigo? Placed higher and you’d have made a clean getaway. You’re out of practice, dear.” She shook her head.

Franny doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes she's a bit confused, like in this scene where she tries a bit of matchmaking... 

“Life is too short, don’t waste it on boredom. You need to follow your dreams. And speaking of dreams, that Badger is a real dream ship. Have you spoken to him yet?” 

“You mean dream boat and Badger is ancient history, Franny. We were kids. Besides, we’ve both moved on. He has a girlfriend.” 

“Pshaw,” she snorted, in a most unladylike manner. 

Or in this scene, where she mixes up the term, "coming out"...

“If an event or anniversary woke him from the ether, he might only now be coming out,” Franny said. 

I snorted. Franny’s interpretation of modern slang tickled my funny bone. We’d recently discussed gay people ‘coming out’ after my break-up with Francois. I never expected to hear the term used in connection to a haunting.  

Franny continued, “You may laugh, but he could be a newborn.”

I laughed again. “You mean newbie.” As in newly departed. 

And what self-respecting ghost isn't concerned with how she looks?...

“...Do I look warm?” She patted her ebony hair. Her teal skirts flared from a waist so tiny that Barbie would be green with envy, and her bright white gossamer blouse hugged her ample bosom in flawless perfection.

As if she ever looked anything less than perfect. “You mean hot. And yes, you’ll do.” 

But seriously, can a ghost be faulted for using "cobblestones" instead of "road"?...

“Good thinking, Indigo,” Franny said, as if she were my conscience sitting on my left shoulder giving her approval. “Plenty of time down the cobblestones to spill the beans.”

“You mean down the road…” I corrected Franny automatically. 

I love Franny’s character. She makes me laugh all the time. I hope you enjoyed learning about her as well.

What do you think?

Is Franny a true logophile?

Or one forgetful ghost?


If you enjoyed reading about Franny, these snippets are from my upcoming cozy paranormal mystery novella, 
A Scandal in Boohemia.

Indigo Eady can’t live on ramen noodles forever…

She jumps on the first job offered. All she has to do is work undercover at Sabrina Shores Theatre, find a ghost thief, and cross him over. Easy peasy, right? Until an actor is murdered and Indigo’s fingerprints are all over the pistol like ink on a Rorschach test.

Forced to dust off her rusty sleuthing skills to clear herself, Indigo enlists the help of her ghost friend Franny and her hunky ex-boyfriend Badger to help solve the crime. Now, how to keep her investigation from the handsome inspector?


Indigo Eady is a reluctant ghost whisperer, but she’s grown quite attached to Franny Bishop, a former Victorian ghost madam of some repute. Franny’s afterlife makes Indigo’s life look like she has one foot in the grave. Much to Indigo’s chagrin, Franny is determined to find her a man. After all, there are plenty of handsome men around ripe for the picking, and Franny’s an expert. In the meantime, Indigo and Franny have murders to solve. 


Speculative Fiction Worth Reading - #Review of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of this masterpiece!

Blurb: Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

Christine's review: Billy Pilgrim was not made for war. Later in life, as he sits down to write his experiences in a book, the reader follows his life before, during, and after the bombing of Dresden in World War II. Not in that order due to the fluid nature of time!

I read this book many, many years ago. When I picked it up to read again, what I remembered most was that Billy had been abducted by aliens and they displayed him in a zoo. That is just a very small part of this story. This time around, it was the horror and devastation of war that struck me, and left me feeling heavy and depressed. The grisly details and horrible reality of what it was like; the sights, smells, and sounds. The repetitive imagery of the frozen ivory and blue feet. Billy was already broken by the time he was sent overseas to fight, but the war shattered him further. He was truly a tragic character. There is a bit about aliens and living in a zoo, and the fourth dimension of time. It's weird and zany, but the novel carries a great weight which makes it truly one of the greatest novels I've ever read.

The Kurt Vonnegut Library is celebrating by working with the publisher to get a new 50th anniversary cover for the book. Check out the article here.