11.29.2016

Huzzizzle of the Realms - November 2016 UR News #amreading

M. Pax

The next Backworlds is almost here!


The first shot of a new war echoes through the galaxy. Craze has high hopes for what the alliance with an old enemy, the Foreworlds, will do to defeat a worse enemy, the Quassers.

The test of a highly-advanced weapon, created by the efforts of the alliance, pushes tensions over the brink, which kills thousands. To make it worse, the Foreworld ambassador is keeping secrets.

Conventional warfare against the Quassers isn’t working, and if the alliance ends, Craze has become the most hated man in the galaxy for nothing.

With nothing left to lose, Craze sets in motion one last chance for survival.

Preorder from:

Amazon / AmazonUK / AmazonDE / AmazonAU / AmazonCA / B&N / Kobo / iBook / Googleplay/ Smashwords

AmazonFR / IT / ES / NL / IN / JP / BR / MX


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Renovating house for supernatural clients is easy. Saving the world? Not so much.
Here's the next in the thrilling urban fantasy series, Totem!


No one messes with Saskia Dorn’s family and gets away with it.

The same murderous shifters who had hunted her sister have attempted to steal a magical totem pole. Since the pieces are scattered across Alaska, Saskia, a polar bear shifter, takes her search to the tundra for any signs of the lost totems.

Instead she finds Sedge, the latest reincarnation of the old Inuit Bear god, who just happens to be the man who broke her heart.

They come across a small native village tormented by the Jinxioc, evil gnomes with an appetite for human flesh. Sedge declares he will rid the people of the menace, believing a totem token is nearby affecting the devils’ behavior. At his side, Saskia battles to save the tribesmen, but it could mean sacrificing herself.


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11.22.2016

How Thanksgiving became a Holiday



1863

Lincoln proclaims official Thanksgiving holiday


The speech, which was actually written by Secretary of State William Seward, declared that the fourth Thursday of every November thereafter would be considered an official U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving. This announcement harkened back to when George Washington was in his first term as the first president in 1789 and the young American nation had only a few years earlier emerged from the American Revolution. At that time, George Washington called for an official celebratory “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” While Congress overwhelmingly agreed to Washington’s suggestion, the holiday did not yet become an annual event.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president, felt that public demonstrations of piety to a higher power, like that celebrated at Thanksgiving, were inappropriate in a nation based in part on the separation of church and state. Subsequent presidents agreed with him. In fact, no official Thanksgiving proclamation was issued by any president between 1815 and the day Lincoln took the opportunity to thank the Union Army and God for a shift in the country’s fortunes on this day in 1863.
The fourth Thursday of November remained the annual day of Thanksgiving from 1863 until 1939. Then, at the tail-end of the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, hoping to boost the economy by providing shoppers and merchants a few extra days to conduct business between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, moved Thanksgiving to November’s third Thursday. In 1941, however, Roosevelt bowed to Congress’ insistence that the fourth Thursday of November be re-set permanently, without alteration, as the official Thanksgiving holiday.

I pray that all of you will have a Blessed and Thankful Thanksgiving! 
I'm thankful for my family and friends and You!
What are you thankful for?

11.15.2016

Post-Election Thoughts & Two Questions for Authors

 
 In my post-election daze, I realize it's my turn to write the UR blog. I've been in a profound state of shock and thus, tempted to pawn my duties off to a fellow UR member. But, like the trooper I am (LOL) I decided to persist.

My neutral author cover has been blown on Facebook. And I did it intentionally, albeit with extreme trepidation. This election cycle was just too important to stay in my shell and pretend I didn't care. I've been posting a lot.

Yet, for the sake of this post, I am going back into that shell, or at least crawling halfway under, so it's not too lopsided, so I can speak to all sides. Many of my fellow authors vowed to not speak out, for good reason. We authors, do business on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and blogs. As the week unfolded, I noticed that other authors were very outspoken. Some well-known, some less known. Authors are thoughtful beings, and whether the post was weighted to one political party or the other, they felt it was their duty to speak out.

Authors like Bruce Coville, Chris Crutcher, Ellen Hopkins are passionate spokespeople, as is science fiction darling, John Scalzi and indie star, Hugh Howey. Oddly enough, they all post on Facebook, maybe to speak to the most amount of folks as they can.

Coville writes, "In nearly seven decades of wandering around on this planet, one thing I've learned for certain is that making a decision out of anger almost invariably leads to bad results. So what does it tell us that tens of millions of Americans made their decision on who to support for president based on their feelings of anger? Not a good sign, in my opinion." He posted this link to a glimpse of a lesser heard view.

I was afraid that I'd get flack. Sure, I've unfollowed a few people and a few have unfollowed me. BUT, through my transparency, I've gained so many new friends! People seem eager, even desparate to talk, to bounce around theories and ideas, to talk about their frustration, their pain, their joy. So, I have no regrets. And though I may not post as many political/cultural rants, I won't be scared to anymore.

Authors are talking about the power of fiction to heal. They're speaking about being led to pen new dystopian novels. This time does speak to the dystopian... what with border walls and terrorism and the possible loss of human rights and freedoms. I've been thinking again about 1984, and a couple of Big Brother's doublespeak slogans, Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace.

My question to you... well, I have two of them:

1. As an author, do you prefer to speak out or remain neutral?
2. If you had to describe the last year as a novel, which one comes to mind?

11.08.2016

Writing Effective Non-Human Characters


In the genre of speculative fiction, we see many non-human creatures. Yes, most of the time the supernatural creatures are humanoid and/or living in a human world. But there are also those beings from other worlds or those monsters hidden in the unseen depths of our reality that aren't human in any way.

How does a human writer go about effectively portraying such a character then? Here are five tips for writing believable non-humans.

1) The character's physical traits will affect a lot of how they behave. Your non-human may be an arachnid or an alien with no bones. No matter who we are, we are limited by our physicality and the environment we live in. What advantages and disadvantages would your character's body give them? Have they enhanced their strengths? How do they cope with their bodily limitations? How does that all work in their environment?

2) The ways the character deals with their physicality will help build their culture. Our human world is build for fragile warm-blooded beings who walk on two legs and have opposable thumbs. Most things center around the visual. What if your non-human doesn't have that sense? What sort of civilization will they have built? What if there was a world built completely upon the sense of smell? All information would be carried upon scents.

3) With culture evolves ethics. Non-humans aren't going to have a black & white view of the world. They might not even have a concept of good and evil. Your character's morals could revolve around their physical traits or some divine magic. It will be central to how that character thinks.

4) Non-humans aren't going to have emotions as we know them. How they react to a situation will depend on the three things above. It is possible they don't know fear or love. Figuring out the emotional state of your character (or the non-emotional one if it's a robot!) will guide you with how they will act and react within the plot.

5) Even considering all of this, our readers are still human. We must make them relatable to humans. We need something for the readers to hook on to, even if it's just one trait. See that sea dragon above? She wants to fly in the sky. We can all relate to a desire to be more than we are.

Have you ever written non-human characters? Care to share any tips?

11.04.2016

Book Review: The Picture Frame: A Horror Novel by Iain Rob Wright

The past can be deadly.

Blake Price is the most celebrated mystery writer since Agatha Christie, but a violent tragedy has sent him and his family to a secluded cottage in the English countryside.

Trying to connect with his spirited ten-year old son and despondent wife is difficult, but Blake tries to hold the strands of his life together as best he can—but that becomes impossible when an old picture frame finds its way into his life. A picture frame that curses anybody unlucky enough to have their picture placed inside of it. Unfortunately, Blake’s wife thinks the frame is just perfect for a family photo...

Some memories should stay buried.

Jeff's Review:

One of the most disturbing covers I've seen in a long while. I don't want to look at it. The family portrait seriously creeps me out, but I feel drawn to look at it and delve into the text beneath. Yes, blood is dripping from the frame.

Blake Price's attempt at a bucolic life is shattered when he and his son dig up an old picture frame in the field beside their cottage. Blake is spending quality time with his son, messing about with a metal detector. The frame is wrapped in a burlap bag. Blake doesn't show his son the small bones rattling at the bottom of the bag. Chicken bones he thinks. Very odd.

Blake's son puts a photo of the family dog in the frame. A van on the highway puts an end to the dog. Blake's wife puts a family photo in the frame—the three of them and her mother. Grandma drops dead of a heart attack.

It appears whatever evil haunts the frame will not be satisfied until everyone inside is dead, but to what purpose? And the blasted thing is indestructible, impervious to hammer and car tires. Wright slowly tightens the screws on the family as Blake struggles to figure out the frame's curse. Although he cannot get the family portrait out, Blake's younger brother discovers he can replace part of the image with someone else's picture with deadly results. Wright puts Blake in a serious moral quandary. Should he murder others to save himself and his family? According to what Blake has learned, the only way to stop a curse is to make it work against itself.

The Picture Frame is a fast-paced read with some unexpected twists. I found a few more copy-editing errors than I like to see and Wright's treatment of a retired priest character is one-sided and shallow. Those qualms aside, The Picture Frame is an enjoyable horror experience. A welcome companion for a chilly autumn evening. 

11.01.2016

Dragons were Aliens Who Bettered Our World #SciFi #Giveaway

According to Ancient Astronaut theorists, dragons visited our planet eons ago.

Ancient Sumerians and Greeks spoke of 'flying serpents' in their texts as descending from the skies. Well, they were obviously talking about extraterrestrials visiting our world.

What did these dragons do when they visited? My guess is they sent the Ant People and the Lizard People packing, because the Earth can only handle one alien benefactor at a time.

The dragons also bestowed us with the merry holiday of Halloween. They landed in the city of Ur and said, "You humans are so serious. Go have some fun. We demand it!"

Well, who could say no to a dragon? More recent evidence of dragon activity is the existence of candy treats. I mean, candy just all of a sudden showed up in evolution. The most logical answer: the dragons came back. And no other alien but the dragon is capable of melting sugar with such finesse. They're experts at melting everything.

I bet there is way more evidence of dragon activity hidden from the public record. I point to this: if dragons were ordinary reptiles, why would we love them so much? Most people scream at snakes. So yeah, that means dragons are aliens. Obviously.



Well, that was all for fun, but...

How about a dragon story and a treat for real?



This contains two short stories: "Wings of the Guiding Suns" and "Aftermath".

"Wings of the Guiding Suns" is solar punk with dragons. It could just be Ancient Alien theoriests are correct and dragons really do exist... out in the stars.

Sita is born to be the emissary between dragonkind and a world on the verge of doom. If she saves the people about to become extinct, she will join her fellow dragons sailing on the solar strands. If she fails, her life will end the moment the dying world does. The choice is simple: leave and live. Yet, the people resist and time is running out..

"Aftermath" is also told from the alien point of view. I confess exploring alien worlds and cultures is a passion of mine. It's my favorite ingredient to science fiction.

It has a cool video, too:




Noret’s world is destroyed by an attack on the moon. It sends the city tumbling and kills thousands. Among the dead is her bonded, whom she cannot survive without. Her kind has never known violence, but an act of war must be answered. What will be her reply?

As a thank you to our wonderful Untethered Realms visitors, I'm offering it as a free treat. Just click HERE and type in the code URRealms31. It expires 11/6/2016, so don't delay.

Enjoy! If you decide to leave a review at your favorite book store, be sure to mention you were given a free review copy.


And share your theory about the everlasting effect of ancient dragon aliens in the comments...

10.25.2016

Spooky Stories from the Authors of Untethered Realms


Christine Rains

I'm one of those folks who want to believe. There are unexplained things out there, but I've never had a paranormal experience myself. I've been on ghost tours and strolled through cemeteries in the middle of the night. Nothing. Well, except...

During college, I helped a friend care for her two young sons who were nearly one and three at the time. I had an old Ouija board that we'd play around with, and my friend claimed it worked for her. Not long after, her oldest son started talking to someone who wasn't there. Kids have imaginary friends all the time, right? There were strange noises at night. But kids thump around and knock against walls. Nothing convinced me something definitely was going on other than kids being kids, but one incident did leave me wondering.

I had the youngest in my arms as I walked up the stairs to the second floor. The other boy walked in front of me. Both yammered on animatedly until they suddenly stopped. In sync, they turned their heads to the far left bedroom and looked at something unseen to my eyes. They followed it across the hall to the other bedroom. Neither of them were frightened, but I did wonder what they saw.

Cherie Reich

Well, there was this one time some friends and I were the ghosts who scared off some kids, but that's probably not very spooky. For us. *grins*

Back when I was moving to Missouri for college, my parents, sister, and I stopped at a hotel in Illinois, not far from St. Louis, Missouri. The motel was one of those typical cheap places where it is two floors and all the doors open to the outside. I had a bad feeling about the place, but we were tired. It's a long drive from Virginia to Missouri, after all, so I pushed those feelings aside.

I feel asleep rather easily, but come morning, a strange sensation flowed over me. I was between waking and sleeping. I could hear the TV on and my family getting ready for the last bit of our drive. Before I could open my eyes, I heard a deep voice saying, "I will find you wherever you go."

My eyelids flung open and I startled up. No one had heard what I did. No one in the room had spoken those words. Scariest of all, I had heard that voice once in the dead of night when I was thirteen.

Luckily, I haven't heard it since, but I wouldn't stay in that motel again.

Gwen Gardner

The Whaley House is considered one of the most haunted houses in America. Built in 1857, it is located on the site of the infamous hanging of Yankee Jim Robinson in 1852, among other things. Owned by Thomas and Anna Whaley, the house has a long history of death and tragedy.

So what better way to celebrate Halloween than a real live ghost hunt in a real live haunted house? That's what my sister and I did last year. From 10:30 to midnight a handful of strangers intrepidly crossed the threshold to wander throughout this famous house in hopes of making contact with ghosties.

We learned the history of the house, which included the loss of Thomas and Anna's son, Thomas Jr., at just eighteen months old. We used EMF meters (Electromagnetic Field Meters) for detecting the presence of ghosts, EVP recorders (Electronic Voice Phenomena) for picking up ghostly voices and of course you're welcome to bring your own camera. An interesting experience, when you think about the living making contact with the not-so-dead. It was cool seeing colorful lights indicating the presence of ghosts and hearing the electronic-like voices of spirits reaching out to us from beyond the grave.

But the most interesting part was this photo taken by someone in our group:


Notice the arm and body of a woman bending over the cradle. Could this be Anna Whaley, still rocking the cradle of her infant son, Thomas, after all these years?


M. Pax

If I had never seen a ghost for myself, I would still be a skeptic, but I did, and I know it wasn't any kind of trick. Husband Unit saw it at the same time and so as to not contaminate one another, we went and wrote down what we saw then exchanged papers. We saw the same thing.

A year ago, we went on a ghost hunt to a cemetery with a local medium and other truth seekers. The night can play tricks, so I can't say anything definitive happened. But I did hear footsteps on the gravel at one point when no one was walking and what sounded like someone knocking on a gravestone in response to a question we asked. My husband thinks this is a ghost by the tree. I'm not as certain, but you be the judge.



Cathrina Constantine

I believe in ghostly spirits and paranormal activity. My husband is levelheaded and very, very hard to convince. With that said, this is his account: 

He'd been watching television late at night. As typical, he'd fallen asleep. He woke to find ~ what he calls, the grim reaper standing between the door frame. A white ghostly apparition wearing a hood and holding a harvesting sickle. Then it disappeared.

He's a man that doesn't scare easily, and it freaked him out! The next day I said, "You must've been dreaming." He's insistent that he was wide eyed and awake. If it was anyone else I'd be skeptical, but not with my pragmatic husband. I believe him. 

To this day, he will recount the scene when asked.


Catherine Stine


Boo! I love Halloween. And yes, I do believe there are webs of invisible energy fields, and when someone passes, their energy lives on in some form, inside this web. That's just physics, folks--energy doesn't "die" it transforms. The night my dad passed (before I knew), I got up suddenly, went downstairs, checked the time and just then, the phone rang. When I picked it up, I heard the sound of shuffling feet. I asked who was there. No one. But I got the shivers and goosebumps all over. Then, I went back upstairs to sleep. My brother called, a little over an hour later and said my dad had died at the EXACT time I got that phone call.

Yes, it was someone's pocket dial, but I am SURE that my dad somehow had an influence in it. I have more stories like this, but I'm out of room. Here's me, below, already ready for this holiday. Can you say, Good Witch?!



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