Read, Write and Relax

Congratulations! If you're reading this, then you survived 2017 and the holidays. I don't know about you, but by the end of the year I'm ready to wrap it up and move on. Completing another year is quite the accomplishment, and moving into a new year brings a special kind of hope for the future.

As a writer with a day job, I'm busy juggling and balancing things in my world. The day job satisfies my financial needs, while the writing life satisfies my soul. Both are necessary to my happy existence. Inevitably I get to the point in the new year when things get hectic. Sometimes I'm so busy reacting to the next "thing" that comes my way that I forget to breathe. Then anxiety sets in. For someone who once suffered from Panic Disorder (it's a real thing), it's not the way to go.

The world is such a busy place these days that we're all in a mad dash to get things done. The good news is that people have recognized the human need to decompress. And in typical modern fashion, we're only fingertips away from instant gratification. So I went in search of some quick go-to options for de-stressing and decompressing. 

I find the sound of running water soothing (as long as it isn't a broken pipe, overrunning toilet or flood!) And I adore rain! There's actually a name for people who love rain: Pluviophiles.

But it doesn't have to be rain. I love the sound of ocean waves too. Preferably from a hammock, sort of like this one... 

~~~~~~~~~~HERE ARE SOME APPS YOU CAN TRY~~~~~~~~~~

If you love the sound of water, try one of these:

You can meditate anytime you have a few free minutes at either of these apps:

Or, if you don't go in for meditation, but need to unwind, try these breathing exercises:


There are so many apps these days to help with stress and anxiety. There's even a Psychiatrist app! 

I'm not a great one for exercise, but a short walk helps me to unwind and gets my creative juices flowing. I get my best ideas during walks. 

BUT, of course my favorite way to relax is snuggling down and getting into a good book (sometimes with whisky and chocolate!)

What is your go-to technique for relaxing?


Happy Holidays From Untethered Realms


(Image from Pixabay)

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

We here at Untethered Realms hope to share with you something a little bit more this holiday season. These books are our favorites, near and dear to our hearts. Perhaps you already love them too, or you may find the gift of a new tale to sweep you away.

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M. Pax: My all-time favorites: Man O' War by Walter Farley, A Wrinkle in Time, Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dune, The Valor series by Tanya Huff, anything by Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy, and Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. This year, some of my favorite reads were Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman, Horizon Alpha by D. W. Vogel, Hidden by Linda Berry, The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn, and World Without End by Ken Follett.

Meradeth Houston: My all-time favorite read is A Wrinkle in Time, but this time of year I remember The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot with quite a lot of fondness. My mom used to read this to my sister and I around the holidays, and as big animal people (we always had some creature or other living/recuperating in the kitchen) this story always hit home.

Christine Rains: I'm with many people when I say I can lose myself in the Harry Potter series again and again and again. But here are a few you might not have heard about. The Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman is such beautiful and dark alien fantasy. For horror fans, The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman is amazing.

Catherine Stine: Wow, I have so many favorite reads... okay, here are a handful: Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (for kids); Paula Brackston's witch novels like Winter Witch; and almost any novel by Don Delillo - for instance Libra or Point Omega.

Cherie Reich: It's hard to narrow down my favorite reads, but let's see if I can. For people who enjoy the classics, I loved reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. For fantasy, my all-time favorite is the Harry Potter series, but I also really enjoyed Rachel Morgan's Creepy Hollow series. For science fiction and thrillers, I love anything by Michael Crichton. For writers, I recommend Story Genius and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. For mystery and historical, I thoroughly enjoyed John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series.

Gwen Gardner: My all-time favorite Christmas read, hands down, is, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. He knew what he was about when he wrote it. The social aspects of the novel are still valid today. But my favorite line is when Mr. Cratchit tells Mrs. Cratchit what Tiny Tim said in Church: He hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.

Some of my other favorite reads this year were In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, The Seagull by Ann Cleeves, and Rather Be The Devil, by Ian Rankin. 

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From our family to yours, we wish you a happy holiday season and a fantastic 2018.

Don't forget we're seeking author guests for the new year. If you're interested, please leave a comment below.


Meet the Neighbor... Ross 128 b. Another world close to our own #astronomy

By ESO/M. Kornmesser (https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1736a/) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Eleven light years away, orbiting a small, faint red dwarf, is the Earth-like planet Ross 128 b. The star, Ross 128, is one of the quietest stars in the solar neighborhood and is located in the Virgo constellation. Most red dwarfs are prone to flaring, which can blast nearby planets with lots of radiation, stripping away their atmospheres and making them uninhabitable. But Ross 128 b doesn’t flare very often, which makes any planets in its habitable zone candidates for hosting life.

The planet was detected by the HARPS instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is the second-closest known Earth-size exoplanet and is calculated to have a minimum mass of 1.35 times the Earth. Ross 128 b orbits 20 times closer to its star than Earth orbits the Sun, but intercepts only 1.38 times more solar radiation than Earth, increasing the chance of retaining an atmosphere.

It's year (rotation period) lasts about 9.9 days and is most likely tidally locked, meaning one side of the planet has eternal daylight and the other eternal darkness.

As of 2017, Ross 128 b is the best candidate for a potentially habitable exoplanet, if it has an atmosphere and if it has the right chemical balance for life to thrive.

Would its inhabitants be like us? Or wildly different? What do you imagine they're like?


NCTE, a very special book event plus more

I have attended lots of book fests, retreats and conferences in the last two years to see which ones make most sense for me. I promised to report on some for you. Last month I attended NCTE - National Conference of Teachers of English. Hundreds of teachers and librarians attend this conference to figure out which books to use for their classrooms in the year to come. The location shifts from city to city. Last year it was in Atlanta, Georgia. This year it was in Saint Louis, Missouri. Next year it will be in Houston, Texas.

This conference is excellent for any author who wants to get their books read and taught in schools of any level--elementary, middle or high school. I shared a booth with fellow author, Gail Strickland, who writes fantasy using mythology, while I am focused on spreading word of my Fireseed series, which teaches about climate change, future farming and transgenic crops.
Gail and Catherine sharing a booth at NCTE

For me, there is nothing better than getting a chance to speak directly to teachers, who are passionate about reading and educating students.

I've found that even if you never plan to go to conferences, it is a good move to create a question list for book clubs or classrooms that can be accessed in the back of your book or directly downloaded from your website.

Next year I will pare down the amount of book cons I attend. They do cost money and take up time. One must weigh the costs and benefits. Here's a list of ones I've been to and what I found were the best aspects:
Roanoke Author Invasion: Great for selling books!
Squaw Valley Writers' Retreat: Good for receiving in-depth writing critiques, community, finding editors and agents. One must send a writing sample for entry.
Writers' Digest Con: Great for pitching to agents and editors.
Chapter Con UK: Wonderful for meeting UK authors and book lovers. The next one in 2019 will focus on writing sessions and writers' issues.
Penned Con (St. Louis): Excellent one for selling books.
RT Booklovers Con: HUGE event! Great for bookselling, and for high level panels. Can pitch one-on-one to editors and agents. Location switches from year to year.
Mendocino Writers' Con: Lovely little conference, which is good for small breakout groups on various writing topics. Can pitch to a small group of agents. Affordable.
RWA National Conference: A great con for anyone writing any type of romance. Location switches.
BEA - Book Expo: HUGE event. Many great breakout groups! Can buy half-priced books. Can get in at a discount if you belong to a group such as SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). You can also sign your books with an org. such as this, but you must give the books away. I found my Evernight Teen editor this way.
Brooklyn Book Fest: A surprisingly homey event, with lots of live readings and lectures. A family event, so not good for romance but great for YA. Share a booth. It's expensive otherwise.

I will attend Once Upon a Book con in Michigan next summer, which I've heard great things about. But I cannot vouch for it yet. There are MANY events all over the USA. Google book fests in your area to see what's around.

Have you gone to any retreats or book fests you've enjoyed or found helpful for your author life?


Fantasy Patterns

A few weeks ago I was scrolling the list of fantasy audiobooks available at my library, adding ones that looked promising to my wish list. I picked one of those promising titles at random, knowing nothing about the author and having never heard of the book.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes is the first of six titles in her Falling Kingdoms series. The story follows the fortunes of three families in three kingdoms. One king is a blood-thirsty tyrant. Another is a gullible chieftain who considers himself a mystic. The third is a fair and just king. One of the kingdoms is rich and plentiful. Another is slowly dying, and the third is perpetually cold. The protagonists are young people who are in line to inherit the thrones or throne depending on what happens in the wars and intrigues among the three kingdoms. Does any of this sound familiar?

There are definitely some similarities to Game of Thrones, including a body count among some of the viewpoint characters. (Yes, one of the characters I liked died.) It's not a Game of Thrones rip-off, more like Game of Thrones light. Fewer characters and a lot fewer words, for which I'm thankful.

A few decades ago, most fantasy novels followed the quest pattern. The hero took a journey in some grand struggle between good and evil. Sometimes the protagonist was a great warrior, other times an unlikely or unwilling hero. Critics complained about Tolkien and Conan rip-offs. Are those complaints fair? Maybe in some cases, or maybe the quest pattern just makes a great story. Maybe it's the kind of story fantasy readers want. With the popular success of Game of Thrones, we can add a new pattern to the mix: the political intrigue fantasy. We follow characters at the top of the social hierarchy fighting and killing each other for political control. And the fights should include lots of ruthless murders for selfish ends.

What do you think? Will the political intrigue fantasy become the most common pattern or will quests make a come back? Or is there a new pattern emerging?


UR is welcoming guests in the new year

To all the authors who love science fiction, fantasy, the paranormal, and all those wonderful in between bits of speculative fiction,

You're invited to write a guest post for our blog.

We want all your weird, wacky, intelligent, and creative thoughts on topics in these genres. We love to provoke what ifs and spark our readers' minds.

We're not looking for promotional posts. Give us thoughtful and fun. No more than 1000 words and a maximum of three images. Plus a short two to three sentence bio with your links.

Hitch a ride with Untethered Realms. We love to have guests. Just keep your arms inside at all times, don't drink Jezebel's punch, and please don't tease the T-Rex in the back.

Any queries can be sent to christinerains.writer@gmail.com


Why I Write by Terry Tempest Williams

Why I Write 

It is just after 4:00 A.M. I was dreaming about Moab, Brooke and I walking around the block just before dawn. I threw a red silk scarf around my shoulders and then I began reciting in my sleep why I write:
I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation  I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to the music that opens my heart. I write to quell the pain. I write to migrating birds with the hubris of language. I write as a form of translation. I write with the patience of melancholy in winter. I write because it allows me to confront that which I do not know. I write as an act of faith. I write as an act of slowness. I write to record what I love in the face of loss. I write because it makes me less fearful of death. I write as an exercise in pure joy. I write as one who walks on the surface of a frozen river beginning to melt. I write out of my anger and into my passion. I write from the stillness of night anticipating-always anticipating. I write to listen. I write out of silence. I write to soothe the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around. I write because of the humor of our condition as humans. I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take longwalks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness. I write because as a child I spoke a different language. I write with a knife carving each word through the generos­ ity of trees. I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine. I write by grace and grit. I write out of indigestion. I write when I am starving. I write when I am full. I write to the dead. I write out of the body. I write to put food on the table. I write on the other side of procrastination. I write for the children we never had. I write for the love of ideas. I write for the surprise of a sentence. I write with the belief of alchemists. I write knowing I will always fail. I write knowing words always fall short. I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by syntax, crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding. I write out of ignorance. I write by accident. I write past the embarrassment of exposure. I keep writing and suddenly, I am overcome by the sheer indulgence, (the madness,) the meaninglessness, the ridiculousness of this list. I trust nothing especially myself and slide head first into the familiar abyss of doubt and humiliation and threaten to push the delete button on my way down, or madly erase each line, pick up the paper and rip it into shreds-and then I realize, it doesn't matter, words are always a gamble, words are splinters from cut glass. I write because
it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient.
I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love. 

Taken from Wiki:
Terry Tempest Williams (born 8 September 1955), is an American author, conservationist, and activist. Williams' writing is rooted in the American West and has been significantly influenced by the arid landscape of her native Utah and its Mormon culture. Her work ranges from issues of ecology and wilderness preservation, to women's health, to exploring our relationship to culture and nature.
Williams has testified before Congress on women's health, committed acts of civil disobedience in the years 1987–1992 in protest against nuclear testing in the Nevada Desert, and again, in March 2003 in Washington, D.C., with Code Pink, against the Iraq War. She has been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of the Utah and Alaskawildernesses and worked as "a barefoot artist" in Rwanda.

Why Do You Write? 
I've been asking myself this question lately. This article by Terry Tempest Williams certainly has taken some of the words out of my mouth.