11.17.2020

#Steampunk Worth Reading: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street #BookReview

 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

by Natasha Pulley 

 The world created in this story was addictive and immersive. Every night I looked forward to losing myself in this novel. 

Set in 1880s London, Thaniel Steeplton works at the Home Office telegraph. There have been bombs going off in London and his office has received another bomb threat.

Thaniel receives an anonymous gift of a watch that later saves his life. The watch starts a chain of events that lead Thaniel to a Japanese baron named Mori, who makes incredible things using clockworks and gears.

This story is about friendship and how it enriches the lives of both men. Humor, wit, mystery and danger are woven into the tale. There's magic, fantasy, science, fate vs. free will, and a clockwork octopus that seems alive. 

 This story is pure magic. I will definitely read another of Natasha Pulley's books. Highly recommended. 

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard.

At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something.

When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.


11.03.2020

What is a Blue Moon? #Astronomy #Science

 





A blue moon is an additional full moon. Basically, a second full moon in a month. It can also be an extra full moon in a season.

How often does a blue moon occur? Every 2-3 years. The moon isn't actually blue. It can have a blue tint when certain particles from volcanic eruptions or fires are in the air. This is very rare.

There are many superstitions about a full moon:
  • It evokes madness
  • women are more likely to go into labor
  • women are more fertile
  • werewolves come out, etc...
Have you noticed the moon isn't always out at night?

At any rate, the moon evokes mystery, magic, and the fantastic. A moonrise is certainly magical. Instead of gold, it chases away the shadows with silver. In reality, the moon is always full. It's a matter of its orbit that lights up more or less of it.

So why does it affect tides? That has to do with its placement in orbit, which corresponds with how much of it is lit up. 

 I love taking photos of the moon, and I love including it in stories. One of the most memorable stories I've read about the moon was by Arthur C. Clarke: A Fall of Moon Dust.  Do you have a favorite myth or story about the moon?



10.20.2020

Speculative Fiction Worth Reading: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

Blurb: A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice.

Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

Christine's review: This is the perfect Halloween read. It's darkly evocative and twisty with some clever gothic wit. Johannes isn't the sort of character you want to be friends with, but as an anti-hero, his story is enthralling. A man who sold his soul for knowledge and then realizes later he wants it back, so he makes a wager with Satan. Johannes needs to sign 100 souls to damnation in one year, and Satan gives him a demonic carnival to help with it. The cast of characters are delightfully dead and amusing. I especially like Horst, Johannes' vampiric brother. The story picks up steam as the carnival moves along. I love the dry humor and quirky dread blanketing it all.

10.06.2020

Science vs. Fiction


When it comes to writing science fiction, which is more important: the science or the fiction?

There’s often an uneasy relationship between sci/fi and science fact, and it can be a tricky asteroid field for the writer to navigate. Asteroid fields are a good example of this, actually: in books, films and games, spaceships are forever weaving through treacherous three-dimensional mazes of spinning rocks, typically to evade capture. Science, however, tells us that such fields are actually much more tenuous, with vast distances between each object. Zipping through a real asteroid field would be easy and probably quite dull, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much more exciting to have a ship dodging vast shards of deadly debris while the pursuing bad guys unleash beam-weapon death. Because, of course, one of the hunters will get it wrong and will crash into one of the asteroids. That’s just a law.

Science fiction, by its very nature, often simplifies and (over) dramatizes the physical reality of our universe. For many casual readers, this doesn’t matter a jot: what matters is the story. It isn’t a concern if the science is impossible, just as long as it’s consistent and used to convey an engrossing tale. So far as we know, it’s impossible for a ship to travel faster than the speed of light and remain intact, but limiting velocities to the light-barrier makes almost all of sci/fi unworkable. Does it matter? I’d say not: in science fiction, a sense of wonder and thrill is more important than being faithful to the truth (as we currently understand it).

At the same time, some writers put a lot of work into producing fiction that works firmly within the realms of scientific possibility. The genre has many devoted readers who have a very good understanding of real science, and who will very happily point out the flaws in a story if they’re there. I think that’s fair enough – if you know how astrophysics or biochemistry or computer science works, a story that breaks the rules of what’s possible is going to be annoying. Some writers work hard to produce books that an expert could happily read and enjoy, others aren’t so bothered. There’s surely room for both. Space, as Douglas Adams once pointed out, is big: “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” There’s room enough for all possible futures.

And, of course, the whole point of science is that it knows it doesn’t know all the answers. Its whole point is to come up with better models of reality by finding the flaws in the current ones. One day, FTL travel might be possible, and there are plenty of examples of scientists being inspired by science fiction. A book like Physics of the Impossible by the physicist Michio Kaku describes in detail how many of the tropes common in sci/fi are or might be possible one day. There’s a familiar quote, versions of which are ascribed to people as diverse as the geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, the theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg and the sci/fi writer Arthur C. Clarke: the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. Whatever the source of the line (it’s probably Haldane), the point is that the little word “can” gives sci/fi writers enormous scope to try and do exactly that: imagine something new, intriguing, wonderful, perhaps impossible. Worth doing for its own sake, but also because today’s impossible has a habit of becoming tomorrow’s possible.

And actually, I think it’s wrong to emphasise the tension between science fiction and fact as I’ve done above. The discoveries thrown up by science are very often the starting point for story ideas. The two feed off each other, but they are symbionts rather than parasites. To pick a trivial example, while researching some background information for my own Triple Stars trilogy, I came across a description of a blue dwarf star – something I’d never heard of. Blue dwarf stars are theoretical objects, and it is not possible for one to currently exist given the age of our universe. Reading that, I immediately knew I wanted to have one in my books – because, how did it come to exist? How is it possible? Those questions became fundamental to my story. A scientific discussion of the physics of blue dwarfs is not going to be much fun for the sci/fi reader, but a space opera set in a galaxy where such things exist because they’ve been engineered – that is (hopefully) fun.

For me, the whole point of sci/fi is that it has the capacity to put the readers into situations that are not possible in any other literary form. The sense of wonder that imbues books like Larry Niven’s Ringworld or Philip José Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go or Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels is unique to the genre. To take another example: minds that are far beyond the limits of small biological entities such as ourselves – be it intelligent starships or planets – are wonderful to read about, to become for a time. That is, literally, mind-expanding. Fantasy can do something similar (in different ways), but only in sci/fi is it possible to see the real universe through such marvellous eyes.

Always assuming, of course, that the entities in question even have eyes…

9.22.2020

Book Review: Tainted Waters by Lucretia Stanhope #darkfantasy #paranormal


Tainted Waters
takes place in a world where witches, light elves, and dark elves are in perpetual conflict. A cold war between the group simmers and it won't take much to spark a hot war. Despite the inherent animosity, strange allegiances form between witches and elves. But can anyone really trust anyone else? Trusting your natural enemy for benefit and survival is the theme at the heart of Stanhope's novel.

A coven of witches and a clan of dark elves share a forest, both want access to its resources. Their forays into the woods bring them in deadly contact and conflict with one another. Alice--half light elf and half witch--is a new member of the coven. As many of the characters point out, Alice shouldn't exist. A union between a light elf and witch shouldn't happen, but she does exist and her mixed blood gives her unique abilities which makes her dangerous to everyone. Alice is young and still in training, hardly aware of her strengths.

Someone in the coven sends her to a cave to search for nettles. The cave is the home of the dark elves that share the forest. Alice is captured and questioned. She would have been killed straight away and cut up for her bloody bits but the dark elves are intrigued by her lineage. They also have a problem. They believe a witch has poisoned their water supply and the leader of the clan decides to use Alice to remove the hex. Alice realizes she was sent to the cave to die. Someone in her coven wants to be rid of her and maybe start a war. Alice decides to help the dark elves with their water. She doesn't have a lot of choices. Complications abound as Alice discovers her worst enemies might be her best friends.

If you enjoy stories about magic and twisted allegiances where it's not clear anyone can be trusted, you'll love Tainted Waters.

9.07.2020

Let's Share Our Favorite Fall/Harvest Legends

 


It's the time of the year for the harvest.
It's when Hades takes Persephone to the Underworld.
The days when the veil between realms is at its thinnest.

What are your favorite autumn/harvest legends?

Christine Rains

I do love all the spooky ghost tales and the origins of Hallowe'en, but the simple delights and the folklore that goes along with them is just as wonderful. Like the catching of falling leaves. Some believe if you catch a red falling leaf, you will have a happy new year. Others make it more challenging by saying for every leaf you catch, you will have a happy day, or that you will be free from colds for a month. A happy day and no colds? That is no simple magic to me!

Meradeth Snow

I'm not certain that I have any favorite legends (I'll admit, I've always been kind of a wuss and don't really go in much for ghost stories--probably because I grew up in a very old, very creaky farm house and valued being able to sleep!), but I do love fall. Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors and I love some good pie. Also, I finally live in a place where the fall colors are spectacular, and that's always so lovely. Now, if only fall didn't mean winter was coming...now that would make me happier as a die-hard summer person :)

Catherine Stine
I admit, I don't really know any Halloween-ish myths. But I do LOVE the holiday. Having visited the Newgrange prehistoric burial grounds in Ireland last year, I do find it intriguing that Nick Rogers, a history professor at York University in the UK said, "According to the ancient sagas, Samhain was the time when tribal peoples paid tribute to their conquerors and when the sidh [ancient mounds] might reveal the magnificent palaces of the gods of the underworld." He also said that, "Samhain might be less about death or evil than about the changing of seasons and preparing for the dormancy (and rebirth) of nature as summer turned to winter." Below, are two photos I took at Newgrange. One is of the entrance with prehistoric inscriptions on it. The other is a side view showing the trench around the burial mound. It's incredible to imagine living back in those days.



Gwen Gardner

My favorite legend is Sleepy Hollow, where the headless horseman comes galloping through the woods on his horse *shivers*. I adore everything autumn/fall/and Halloweeny, from the burnt orange and rust hues of the changing leaves to the hot cocoa with whipped cream and of course, the candy, candy, candy! I’m a big kid when it comes to Halloween, from our annual pumpkin carving party (lots of kids, lots of pumpkins) with signature drinks (for the adults!), pizza, and candy of course. A Halloween music track is a must during the festivities (Monster Mash, I Put a Spell on You, This is Halloween, etc.). Then at the end of the evening, when it’s dark, we light the candles inside the pumpkins and ooh and ahh about how good everyone’s pumpkin looks. And of course there are the Halloween movies all month long. It never gets old!









8.18.2020

Book Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, godmother of fairytale twists


    Everything old is new again, so goes the phrase. And Angela Carter's radically strong women, who relish sex, adventure, and find crafty ways to thumb their noses at all manner of annoying traditions and bores fit in this category. 
    Carter was born in England in 1940, and wrote some of her best stories back in the '70s. She died in 1992, way too soon. Yet her stories not only live on, but are still cutting edge and eye-opening, even to my young feminist and activist students.
    As Kelly Link said in the intro to this new edition: 
“Since I first came across The Bloody Chamber, I have kept a copy with me wherever I have been living. . . . The things that I needed, when I was beginning to think about writing short stories, were the things that I found in The Bloody Chamber. . . . Reading Carter, each time, [is] electrifying. It [lights] up the readerly brain and all the writerly nerves. . . . What we don’t have, of course, is any more Angela Carter stories. And how I yearn for exactly this.” —Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters
    My favorite in this collection (which includes twists on "Little Red Riding Hood", "Puss in Boots" and more) is the title story, "The Bloody Chamber", a twist on "Bluebeard". It is creepy to the max, yet fantastic in its lyrical beauty, with passages so stunningly gorgeous they take my breath away, yet other passages that make my stomach churn. She does not shy away from awkward emotions: the conflicting emotions of the young bride who is at once disgusted by, and hungering for more physical attention from her predatory husband. In this, Carter is not afraid to be "politically incorrect" to drive home how many levels we exist on. But to be sure, this vile man gets his comeuppance. And in this, too, Carter goes way beyond the "modern" trend of the heroine saving the day, to end on a twist verboten in the acceptable basket of trope twists, yet completely satisfying, and one my female creative writing students cheer on in a sort of shock and awe daze. I won't provide spoilers here. You just have to read it!


I'll end with these two quotes from Carter. You can see her as a young woman, and then older, yet always an original.


8.05.2020

Making New Friends as You Write

One of the aspects of writing I enjoy the most is the discovery of new characters, ones I hadn't planned on or ones that decide to play a much larger part in a story than I had anticipated. I write stories "into the dark." (That's not my term. It belongs to Dean Wesley Smith.) I start with a situation and characters and some vague idea where the tale might end. My best ideas come while I'm putting pen to paper. The vague endpoint becomes a moving target. The story meanders in unexpected directions and usually becomes much longer than anticipated.

In The Great Contagion, my most recent novel, I thought it would be fun to have a pooka who took the form of a stoat. I didn't know what I would do with Slynid, but once he appeared he demanded a starring role. He became a critical player in several chapters. Merliss would not have survived without him. The story would have suffered without him. I can't imagine any new Merliss tales without him. I would detail his feats but I don't want to fill this post with spoilers.

Other characters emerge out of necessity to play a bit part but then they won't leave. Liesael came about because I needed some members of a family with a sick patient that Merliss and the cunning men were visiting. Liesael revealed a love interest in Fendrel, the cunning man's apprentice, and slipped a love charm into his satchel. She later came to stay with Fendrel and nurse the cunning man when he became ill. Liesael doesn't play the prominent role that Slynid does--more of burr in Merliss's fur--but she grew from a mere decoration to a significant player.

Late in the novel, Merliss escapes through the woods, traveling from one scene to another. I thought to add some interest with a chance encounter with another cat. Tawk is the name of a very timid feline who barely escaped his own death. Tawk gave me a chance to depict events in other villages. Merliss finds him annoying and an object of pity. I thought Tawk's first scene would be his last but like Liesael, he refuses to leave the story and tags along to the very end.

Slynid, Liesael, and Tawk will certainly appear in future Merliss tales. I don't know where they came from but I'm very glad they appeared. I know I couldn't have planned them or their exploits ahead of time. Writing is a lot about trusting that the characters you need will appear when you need them. And you have to let them do what they will, even if it throws a wrench in your original plans. The fun part is getting to know your new characters.

7.21.2020

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik #fantasy #fairytale

Literary fantasy set in the Russian winter...


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik | Waterstones


I've called Spinning Silver literary fantasy because it tries hard - possibly a little too hard - to be "literature" first and fantasy second. Although I knew it was a fantasy novel, I actually stopped to check after the first few chapters, because the book could have been a slice-of-life period drama set among the peasants and landowners of pre-revolution (I guess 19th century) Russia - although place names are all, so far as I could tell, invented. But, a magical fantasy novel it definitely is. It's also quite heavy on exposition and explanation at times, making it read more like a retold and dramatised folk tale - there are elements of Rumpelstiltskin and Baba Yaga in there - than a more traditional fantasy novel.

That all said, I enjoyed this book very much - it's intriguing and beautifully written, offering a very welcome change to the more standard tropes. The magical and fantastical elements are introduced gradually and gently: they creep up on you, just as they creep up on the characters in the book. Farmers and peasants struggle against poverty and hunger, but they're also battling more magical, elemental forces: faerie-like and demonic entities that intrude into the real world as folk-tale and rumour. The deep woods are to be avoided, because that's where the monsters and the malign beings dwell...

The story is told through the eyes of three women: Miryem, a moneylender, Wanda, a servant who becomes a friend, and Irina, the daughter of a nobleman. They're each well drawn, with their own distinctive voices and characters. All the characters are three-dimensional and believable. If there's a flaw in the book, it's that its conscious literariness makes the reader work to discover which character is speaking at any one time: the point-of-view switches a lot (which I personally enjoy), but doesn't give you any direct clue about who is speaking, meaning that you have to work it out from context, an effort that sometimes takes several paragraphs. Perhaps it's just me. This task become harder because a first-person narrator is used throughout, making it tricky to work out which I, "I" actually is quite a lot of the time. Instead of losing yourself in the beautifully-crafted prose, you're thinking, "Who is this again?" It could have been easily fixed: a few tweaks to the text, or just the name of the relevant character above each chapter or section, and the book would have flowed much more easily.

If you're looking for a completely escapist book in these troubled times - and who would blame you - this may not be the one to choose as the flight from our world is not total. Miryem encounters depressing anti-semitism during her experiences, and it's also very definitely possible to read the story as a parable of climate change.

But, overall, I loved it and it's highly recommended. The descriptions of snow and ice and cold are wonderfully done, and I really found myself identifying with and rooting for certain of the characters - including some who start off as "bad". That depth is surely the sign of a good book, and I'll certainly look out for more by the author.

Find more about the book at Goodreads.

7.08.2020

Shifters, Revenge & the Shadow Self

I’m writing a paranormal romance in a shared world shifter series, The Royal Alpha Wolves Club. My book is called Alpha’s Revenge, starring Wayland Leblanc. He craves revenge after his whole royal line is slaughtered by the Tundra, a rival royal pack. The worst thing? They killed Wayland’s fated mate, Sabine and their unborn heir.

It’s ironic that I’m tackling a shifter hero, after I steadfastly avoided reading Stephanie Mayer’s Twilight series (or watching the films), which fueled the newest mania for shifters (Though, let's face it, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were shifters). I thought Twilight was for teens and so I couldn’t quite square it with my reality, though I've realized, I was making assumptions. In fact, I have written about shifters… I’ve created water sprites, ghosts, witches and Dorianna, who forged a deal with the Prince of Darkness, and shifted into a beastly version of herself that became almost unrecognizable.

Another irony is that in the last year, I’ve pinned up lots of wolf, fox and coyote images on my bedroom wall. Why? I identify with their feral drive, their loyalty to family and love for their forest homes. Also, their sharp instincts. Here’s one of the images I love most. It’s a mama coyote and her pups (Photo credit: Jim Zuckerman for the Sierra Club).

In fact, in Alpha’s Revenge when Wayland returns solo to his native Canada to eke out his form of payback, he befriends and enlists a pack of scruffy, wily coyote shifters. I wrote those scenes before I took this card down from my wall and saw that these guys were not wolves but coyotes! Excellent coincidence.

Anyway, I’m reminded of Carl Gustav Jung’s writings on the Shadow Self:

"Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." It may be (in part) one's link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”

This quote is good too…

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” … “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” – Jung

Finally, here’s the cover of Alpha’s Revenge. It launches on September 3rd and I’m really enjoying writing it!

What do you think is essential in a (wolf) shifter character? What would you like to see in one that you don’t usually see? What’s your favorite shifter type?

6.16.2020

Fractions of Existence - Speculative Fiction Worth Reading #bookreview


Blurb: Once they were humanity's exalted protectors— now they are being hunted.

Xavier will weigh all human life against Gwendolyn's ignorant happiness. The good news is that her choice can blow his away.

Omnipotent beings find each other while playing an online game. Xavier has been searching for Gwendolyn, his true mate and the missing member of the Existence. Only if reunited can the group regain the rest of their memories and access all of their powers. Hidden in plain sight, disguised as humans, they help who they can, as best they can, when they can.

The Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect, has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millenniums. The Existence has always been able to thwart them… until now. They've discovered a way to end the world that no one will see coming.

Gwendolyn has her future all laid out. There is a plan. She knows what her parents want for her and how to get it. Then Xavier, a friend from a virtual game, makes her question everything. He's full of secrets, one being an understanding of her fear of the wind.

She tries to suppress her intense attraction to the mysterious and frustrating Xavier. She's engaged, after all, and the thoughts she's having aren't proper. Gwendolyn is swept into a whirlwind of secrets, danger, and a forbidden attraction. She'll drive across the country in her beat-up old car, not knowing if he is genuinely interested or just being polite. (He refuses to kiss her!) Gwendolyn's journey is full of self-doubt, sacrifice, and dark visions that invade her sleep. Will she uncover the truth about herself?


Christine's review: The Existence wants only to protect humanity, but with their numbers split, they do not have the power to stop those who wish them dead. Xavier has been searching for their missing member and his love, but when he finally finds Wend (short for Gwendolyn), she doesn't know who she truly is and is about to be married her a man she doesn't know. The two of them grow close online, and Wend tries to be happy with her life, to do right by her father, but her emotions are in turmoil. Will she find her true self before it's too late?

This is the first book in the NA fantasy series, Existence. It has a unique mythology about The Existence where the members are like superheros or demi-gods. Even those that serve them have the desire to protect and better humanity. I have never read something like this before and it truly fascinated me. I'd love to see more about The Existence and its history. The villains are despicable and only want to destroy the good guys to "free" humans from their Earthly prison. Yet most of this book is concentrated on Xavier and Wend and how they're struggling with their budding relationship. Wend especially has a lot of issues to deal with for she feels a duty to her family and her religion, which makes her very passive, and has no one to support her until Xavier comes along. The relationships of Xavier and the others in The Existence are powerful, and I loved seeing the interaction between them. I also loved the fact Xavier and Wend met in an online fantasy game.

Highly recommended to those who want something new and fresh in the genre.


5.19.2020

The Winter People #BookReview Speculative Fiction Worth Reading

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Set in the rural Vermont town of West Hall, this is a story certain to give you thrills and chills. 

As it was my bedtime reading, it was creepy for that time of day. However, I was soon completely absorbed in this story and had to find out what was going on.

My sister lives near one of the real towns mentioned in the story, so I had to warn her to be careful in her woods.

Spooky, haunting, and addictive, The Winter People was worth staying up late for and I savored every page.



Synopsis: West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished.

In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself. Available in paperback, hard cover, ebook, and audio.



5.05.2020

#pandemic #stayhealthy @UnRealms #staystrong #books #movies

That phrase, ‘We’re All In This Together,’ I don't believe is entirely correct. Yes, the whole world is sick and suffering, that's a fact. But ~ My son is an ER doctor in Reading Hospital, PA, he is on the front lines. He is my Hero! Nurses, doctors, EMT’s, First Responders ~ they are on the front lines. All Hero’s! Cashiers at the grocery stores, Target, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, truckers…etc…essential employees are on the front lines. They may be reluctant Hero's! They deserve all of our respect and gratitude!

How are you coping during this pandemic? I’m not an essential employee. I’m home, and go to the market once a week. I am totally into social distancing. There are a lot of protests to reopen in many states. I believe America is divided on that topic. If you have ever researched the Spanish Flu that hit the world in 1918, I just hope that history does not repeat itself with a second wave. That was tragic!

People need to get back to work, to be paid. The economy needs to flourish, again. We do have to get back in the game…but…slowly. I could be wrong, what are your opinions?

I have caught up on all my shows that I’d DVR’d. And we’ve been searching for new series and shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, You Tube. Please comment below with some awesome suggestions!

Have you been reading during this time? I’ve read Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare. I’m rereading a fave, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. And I’m also reading Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. What are you reading?

My prayers are with all of you and your families during this pandemic.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

4.23.2020

#BookReview #paranormal #fantasy @JamiGrayAuthor



Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows…especially the monsters.

It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.

When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.


Buy Here: AMAZON


Cathrina's Review: I take pleasure in reading all genres, though, Urban Fantasy is high on my list of faves. And Ms. Jami Gray certainly writes a compelling fantasy.

It took a few pages to get acquainted with Raine McCord, a wraith with unique powers, and the Taliesin Security that she works for to delve deeply into this action packed novel. I was introduced to a plethora of creatures such as Vamps, Feys, Shape Shifters, Witches, Warlocks, and more that added spice to the tale. The Shadow's Edge is a mystery as Raine and the hot Gavin Durand are assigned to find who's killing person's connected to a biogenetic company. While at the same time Raine is struggling with her own personal demons that threaten to surface, taking over her body. And Raine is a lethal weapon, a woman who can definitely handle herself in deadly situations. The sexual tension between Raine and Gain is on the rise, and my only disappointment was wanting more. If you love Urban Fantasy the The Shadow's Edge is for you. Looking forward to her next book in The Kryn Kronicles, Shadow's Soul.

4.07.2020

Researching & Launching a Novel During a Pandemic


 Launching a book during a pandemic is no joke. Nevertheless, the date I picked turned out to be smack dab in the thick of it. Witch of the Wild Beasts is a dark fantasy for dark times, and hopefully a good diversion, which we all need a dose of. The process of researching a book is always a deep diversion from the daily grind, pandemic or no pandemic. Allow me to tell you about the process.
          I’ve been fascinated by the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia ever since I visited for their Halloween fright tour, and saw the actual, untouched surgical room from when they opened in 1829. It still had a rickety metal operating table, sharp and crusty medical tools, and frighteningly tiny holding pens. The idea for Witch of the Wild Beasts rushed in right then and there: a thriller involving doctors devising medical mischief and unlucky prisoners, including Evalina Stowe, a woman accused of witchcraft.
It turns out that in the 1850s, when my novel takes place, Philadelphia experienced an explosion of new medical “breakthroughs”, from the wacky to the notable. At the offbeat end, there were herbal remedies inspired by the German Pow Wow or Braucherei practitioner, a combination of ritual prayer, herbal applications and the chanting of charms to not only heal the patient, but protect the farmers’ cattle and sheep. On the remarkable side, were the “plastic operations” of Dr. Thomas Mütter, who pioneered plastic surgery at Jefferson Medical School, and who invented applications we use to this day, such as the Mütter flap. This uses a flap of living skin, still partially attached, to cover open, damaged areas until they can heal, at which point the connected flap is cut and stitched. Dr. Mütter, who appears in the book, was quite the flamboyant dresser, who liked to match his suit to the color of his carriage. To this day, the Mütter Museum is a go-to attraction for all sorts of medical oddities, including dozens of wax molds of eye diseases and ‘The Soap Lady’, a woman whose body was exhumed in Philadelphia in 1875. She is nicknamed this because a fatty substance called adipocere coats her remains.
I grew up in Philadelphia and thought I knew a lot about its history, but in the process of research for the novel, I learned many new, startling facts. I love writing historical fantasy for this very reason.
Before Eastern State Penitentiary was built with its single cells and solitary confinement, people of all ages, including children were thrown in one holding pen at another location. Thus, Eastern State revolutionized the system and was considered state of the art when it was built. It was equipped with skylights, central heating and some of the very first flush toilets, and inspired by the Quakers’ belief that solitary penitence could quell an inmate’s urge to commit crimes.
Yet it wasn’t long before people realized that “paying penitence” 24/7 alone in a cell did not cure people of criminal behavior. Rather, the isolation drove them stark raving mad. Charles Dickens, who visited the prison, wrote a scathing treatise, saying, “Solitary confinement is rigid, strict and hopeless… I believe its effects to be cruel and wrong.” Oddly enough, during that era the phrase What the Dickens was a euphemism for What the Devil! Go figure.
Even in this cultured, modern city of Brotherly Love, superstition and chaos were alive and well. According the an article on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania blog, a sensational case occurred in 1852, with newspaper headings entitled, "Superstition in Philadelphia," and "Witchcraft - Evidence of an Enlightened Age”.
"Mary Ann Clinton & Susan Spearing, residents of Southwark Ward, were formally charged at the 'Court of Quarter Sessions,' with "conspiring to cheat and defraud George F. Elliott, by means of fortune telling and conjuration," in order to extort money. The 'Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' alleged that the two women were giving Mrs. Elliott, "a bottle containing some portions of Mr. Elliott's clothing, and telling her that as the clothing decayed, so Mr. Elliott would moulder away, until he would finally die by virtue of the spell..."

It appeared that Mrs. Elliott suspected her husband was guilty of infidelity, a belief that "had so strong an effect upon her as to make her wish for his death." Thus, she had enlisted the services of Clinton & Spearing, who also encouraged the jealous wife, as an "ordeal of witchcraft," to "take her husband's clothes, tear them to pieces, fill the bottle with them, then boil the contents nine times, and this would give him such extreme pain as to cause his death."
Enter my heroine, Evalina, accused of witchcraft when her pet bird, flies down the throat of her violent boss and chokes him to death. Add to this mix, Dolly Rouge, her prison neighbor and ex-bawdy house madam, Lightning, a homeless urchin who knew Evalina’s brother and was jailed for stealing horses, and Birdy, a handsome, kind Irishman jailed for a tragic accident while blasting granite for the railroad who Evalina falls for. Oh, and add a handful of sinister doctors, and Evalina’s perilous plot to gain justice for her brother’s murder.
Research is the grounding for the fire that ignites the writer’s mind. And let us all remember that after the Black Plague came the Renaissance. May we have one for 2020.

To see the novel on all sites click here.

3.17.2020

Speculative Fiction Worth Reading - After the Sky by Milo James Fowler #SpecFic #postapocalyptic


Blurb: The meek have not inherited the earth.

The world isn't how they left it. When the bunker airlocks release them after twenty years in hibernation, the survivors find a silent, barren world outside. But they are not alone. There is a presence here, alive in the dust—spirits of the earth, benevolent and malicious as they interact with the human remnant.

Milton is haunted by a violent past he's unable to escape, despite the superhuman speed the spirits give him.

Not interested in bearing the next generation, Daiyna is determined to destroy the flesh-eating mutants lurking in the dark, pierced by her night-vision.

Luther is a man of conviction who believes the Creator has offered humankind a second chance, yet he's uncertain they deserve it—and he's perplexed by the talons that flex out of his fingers.

Willard is a brilliant engineer-turned-soldier who refuses to leave his bunker, afraid of becoming infected and willing to destroy any obstacle in his way.

As their lives collide, the mysteries of this strange new world start unraveling, culminating in the ultimate life-or-death decision one survivor will make for them all.

My review: Twenty years ago, civilization was blasted away. Now the airlocks on the vaults have opened, and the survivors get to see what has become of their world. The land has been devastated, but spirits of the earth still roam. Some seem to be helpful, but others want to wipe away the last remaining humans. Will the survivors be able to make a new life for themselves or will the malicious spirits have their way?

This is the first book in a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure series. It reminded me of the popular video game, Fallout, with survivors coming out of the safety of their vaults into a frightening world. After the Sky has much more twisted plot which wrapped me in it quick. We get to see the world through a handful of eyes, the points of view of different characters from various vaults. Each vault has its own specialty: engineers, scientists, breeders. Many people gain new paranormal abilities when they come to the surface. They venture out and meet one another along with other chilling surprises. Luther is the rock of the group and helps keeps hope alive. Daiyna is my favorite character. Strong and wise, and not letting the assignment of her vault determine her purpose. Milton is fascinating, and I never knew which way he'd go.

There's high tension and plenty of action along with a lot of depth in the plot. What exactly is going on in the world, and how to these spirits tie into everything? How can one person make all the difference? While fear, hate, and paranoia drive some characters, others still hold on to their faith and hope. An amazing read that has me eager for the next book.

P.S. Click here or on the cover for the Amazon buy link!

3.03.2020

No (Real) Spooks Allowed


In this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post over on my blog, the question of the month is, Do you ever include traditions or customs from your real life family into your writing?

My short answer was no. But I gave my main character my grandmother’s maiden name and physical characteristics. This got me to thinking about my character’s ability to see and speak to ghosts. In her world, it’s a normal occurrence. As easy as breathing. 

But the ghosts Indigo Eady encounter are not any scarier than they would have been in life. They carry on with their afterlives how they lived their mortal lives. The problems come when they carry on in the space which is now occupied by the living. 

In my cozy mystery books, the stories come with a sense of humor and fun. My sleuth, Indigo Eady, along with her ghostly sidekick, Franny Bishop, a former Victorian madam of some repute, solve mysteries that no one else can.

What makes cozy mysteries so enjoyable to read are not the plots, though it’s fun to help the sleuths figure out whodunit. It's the characters and their interactions that keep you reading. 

Franny is always trying to find Indigo a man (because she knows men, which she doesn’t hesitate to remind Indigo of at every turn) before her shelf life is up. Indigo thinks Franny is an interfering old ghost. But make no mistake, these two are besties.

Cozy paranormal mysteries are fun. We laugh at the character's antics. We want to join in the investigation. Perhaps sit down and have a chat with a ghost about what’s in the ether, and what they do for fun. 

But in real life?

I’m pretty sure I’d head for the hills if I ever ran into a real ghost. I believe they exist.
I do believe in spooks. I do believe in spooks. I do! I do! I do! 
The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz 

I kind of want to see a ghost. In broad daylight. Surrounded by a crowd of people. Holding my husband's hand. 

I don't consider myself a coward...

...but if I saw one in the middle of the night hovering at the foot of my bed, staring at me? Or touching me? You’d hear me screaming from here to the moon.

Have you ever seen a real "live" a ghost?

Would you want to see one? 


2.18.2020

Speculative Fiction Worth Reading: Stormrider by Peggy Bechko #SciFi #Fantasy




An exciting, adventurous read!

The main character, Tanith Aesir, is sent on a quest by the rulers of her world to find a stolen amulet that lends authenticity to the ruler who wears it. She rose up from the ranks of slave to being trained to serve the Council of Nine on Antaris.

Tanith is sent to Nashira where she becomes stranded when her ship crashes. Her origins, before being taken by the slavers, is on Nashira, and she forms a bond with a pack of wolves.

When the story open, she saves a man who was left for dead by her enemies. Turns out, he's a bounty hunter after the same amulet.

This adventure was part science fiction, part mystery, part mystical, part supernatural. It was an exciting mix with twists and turns and great characters I enjoyed spending time with.

Highly recommended. Available at  KindleBarnes & NobleiBooks
















2.04.2020

New Life Form Created! Part Machine and Part Living Organism. #SciFi

When is a frog not a frog?




When it's created from computer algorithms (AI) and evolved into a new life form. A living machine.

Scientists at the University of Vermont evolved frog stem cells. The tiny blobs made up of living tissue are neither robot nor animal. About the size of the head of a pin, they can be programmed to do different jobs, such as heal wounds faster and deliver medicines to specific places in the body.

There's no external control. The xenobots are more like windup toys. The bots are programmed to do a job and nothing else. The bots can work alone or in groups.

How fascinating is that? It's incredibly cool. Want to learn more about the xenobots? Here's a link to the article. XENOBOTS

This bit of science inspired some scenes in Endpoint, Backworlds Book 8. I hope to release it before the year ends
.

Here are some M. Pax specials to enjoy in the meantime:



Available at all eBook retailers.

Now in Kindle Unlimited!















1.21.2020

Book Review - Louisiana Longshot (A Miss Fortune Mystery Book1) #Cozymysteries


I love to read mysteries, whether it's procedural, crime drama, or cozy. However, I get bored easily. But I don't like anything that stresses me out, so there can't be too much violence. On the other hand, I need something to read that has a fast pace. Yeah, I have a lot of reading codicils. Most importantly, if it doesn't grab me in the first page or two, I don't buy it.

I 'don't buy' a lot of books.

If I can get a fast-paced cozy I'll read it. Louisiana Longshot by self-publisher Jana DeLeon fits the bill perfectly. I came across it as a free-read (still free on Amazon), checked it out, then devoured it.

GWEN'S REVIEW

Fortune is a CIA operative that royally messes up and a price is put on her head by a middle eastern arms dealer. The CIA quickly becomes a former lifestyle. If you're looking for a hardcore thriller, this isn't it.

She ends up hiding out in a podunk town called Sinful, which operates on its own set of rules. She is supposed to be keeping her head down until it's safe to go back in the field. As with any mystery, she quickly stumbles over a bone in her own backyard and an investigation ensues (with the  hunky sheriff being the potential love interest).

The CIA agent-in-hiding walks on the edge at keeping her head down though. As she picks her way through the ins and outs of small (small, small, small) town Louisiana, she becomes friends with a couple of older women. Although they are from different generations, they have something surprising in common.

All three have secrets. All three are bad-ass. Trouble and hilarity is around every corner when the three of them team up to solve the murder.

This is a 'southern cozy mystery', which is sort of a sub-sub-sub-genre of mysteries.

I give Louisiana Longshot a 5* rating.



BLURB

It was a hell of a long shot....

CIA assassin Fortune Redding is about to undertake her most difficult mission ever—in Sinful, Louisiana. With a leak at the CIA and a price placed on her head by one of the world's largest arms dealers, Fortune has to go off-grid, but she never expected to be this far out of her element. Posing as a former beauty queen turned librarian in a small bayou town seems worse than death to Fortune, but she's determined to fly below the radar until her boss finds the leak and puts the arms dealer out of play. Unfortunately, she hasn't even unpacked a suitcase before her newly inherited dog digs up a human bone in her backyard.

Thrust into the middle of a bayou murder mystery, Fortune teams up with a couple of seemingly sweet old ladies whose looks completely belie their hold on the little town. To top things off, the handsome local deputy is asking her too many questions. If she's not careful, this investigation might blow her cover and get her killed. Armed with her considerable skills and a group of elderly ladies the locals dub The Geritol Mafia, Fortune has no choice but to solve the murder before it's too late.



1.07.2020

In the Year 2020


Happy New Year from Untethered Realms!

It's now the year 2020. Sounds very futuristic, doesn't it? As a child, I thought we would all be able to fly to the moon for fun and be friends with hundreds of kinds of aliens all mingling here with us on the planet by this year. Even now as I play with that date in my head, it seems like we should be living in some science-fiction type of world.

I know I'm not the only one who thought that 2020 should be some fantastical year for humans. There were predictions that we'd having flying cars by this point. We do have self-driving ones, though! Some thought we'd have androids with AI too. Sometimes I think my Roomba is smarter than it acts, but we aren't quite at the point where we have robots walking around as part of our every day lives.

There were those who predicted books would be dead. Shame on them! It's not true. While a lot of things have gone digital, humans will always crave stories.

While many of the predictions proved not to be true, there are things that have surprised us all. Good and bad surprises, to be sure, but the fact the human race keeps improvising and creating and pushing forward says great things about us.

What did you use to imagine the year 2020 would bring? What are some of the fun predictions you've heard?