12.12.2017

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?






12.05.2017

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?

11.28.2017

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?

11.21.2017

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

11.14.2017

Why I Write by Terry Tempest Williams



~.
~
Why I Write 
by 
TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS

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.  

11.10.2017

Book Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick #historical



Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways. 

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.



Cathrina's Review:




Robert Goolrick is an intricate and captivating writer. When I began to read A Reliable Wife I was hooked after the first page. Mr. Goolrick's writing is superb and I hung on his every word. 

As you absorb A Reliable Wife, Mr. Goolrick slowly peels away the nuance's of the main characters bit by enthralling bit. A Reliable Wife is an emotional and oftentimes darkly obsessive story of deception. 

Towards the conclusion of A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick's writing becomes breathtakingly wordy and at the close you breathe a sigh of relief and shake your head at the complexities of this novel.

11.07.2017

Parallel Universes - is there a flip side?


One of my favorite things to think about is if there are parallel universes and multiverses. After watching season 2 of Stranger Things, I spent too much time staring at the wall and wondering if I could reach through and touch myself in another universe. If I did indeed exist in that universe.

I googled movies on this topic and very few came up. I found a lot about time travel and how that makes alternative histories, presents, and futures. But not so many about parallel universes.

Yet some of my favorite books have taken on this theme: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and stories by H.P. Lovecraft. We step through a mirror or a wardrobe, and we've gone through a portal into a parallel world. Some more pleasant than others!


One of my favorite TV shows about multiverses was Sliders. Do you remember that show from the 1990s? They traveled from Earth to Earth trying to find their own. Some Earths were so similar to their home, they wondered if it was the right one, but then they'd find one little difference.

What am I like in parallel worlds? Did I have seven children like I wanted when I was a teenager? Did I become an archaeologist like Indiana Jones? Did I say yes to that doctor who asked me on a date in university? Do I have tentacles instead of arms and legs?

The possibilities are infinite. And great fuel for future stories!

What are your favorite books/movies/shows about parallel universes?