Science Fiction Fears - Just Our Overactive Imaginations?

Eek! Aliens are going to abduct me. Oh no! Skynet is going to take over the world!

There are a lot of wondrous things in the worlds of science fiction. We've seen technology from stories made real decades later and events happen just like they were written. Yet it doesn't make the horrors of sci-fi true. The fact that so many people fear these things could happen only says how well the authors did their jobs.

Are there aliens and would they abduct us? There are likely aliens, but the chances they are here are very slim. Plus would a greatly advanced race with amazing technology really resort to kidnapping and probing humans to learn about them? They would have scanners that could tell them everything they want to know, and they can observe us in our natural habitats. Nope, not creepy at all.

Will an asteroid hit Earth? Not at all likely. NASA says there are no near-Earth asteroids or comets, and their chances of identifying a big one that might cause worldwide damage early so something could be done to stop it are nearly 100%. But a Sharknado, now that's a different story!

Will AI evolve and take over the world? No. AI is only composed of what we put in it. If robots try to take over the world then someone programmed them that way. AI can never replace the ingenuity and perseverance of humans. Plus a few well placed EMP bombs will take care of the problem easily!

Dystopians are immensely popular be they primal or technologically advanced societies. If there is a worldwide disaster or war, would it be likely something like that could happen? Not really. These are pessimistic views of our future. People will want the society they lost and seek to rebuild it. No matter how dismal it looks sometimes, never underestimate the power of hope and compassion.

Let's hope we have more of a Star Trek future than a Hunger Games or an Idiocracy.

Do you have any fears that have stemmed from science fiction?


Flavors of Book Fests, Author Retreats, Signings and Figuring Out What Works Best

The subject of book conferences and writing retreats is the obvious one for me to post about, since I've just attended two of them, with a third happening next week. In August, I went to ChapterCon in England, the brainchild of my author friend, Katie John. This was its first year. It was mainly craft-based with panels, but it did have a full Saturday public signing event. I was eager to listen to the panels, which ranged from diversity in lit, to romance, to how to keep your stories flowing (I was on this panel). We all learned that Bank Holiday weekend, which is the equivalent of Labor Day weekend in the states, is not the best time to invite the public to a signing, because everyone is streaming out of town for the last big party of the summer. That said, we had some book-lovers in, plus it allowed us authors to hobnob and buy each other's books.

My favorite workshop was a mindfulness one, which taught zen style tools for unwinding author stress. I needed this tool that very night, as Katie texted me an hour before my bedtime and asked if I'd deliver the second keynote speech! The scheduled author had a personal emergency. I have never scribbled my lecture notes as quickly as I did that evening. People told me it was an inspiring speech, so I guess I did okay. LOL. Talking about one's own rollercoaster journey is apparently something most writers relate to.
Me delivering a keynote speech at ChapterCon UK

The second writing conference was this last weekend's Next Chapter Writing Retreat held in NYC by Janet Wallace, the founder of UtopiaCon. There was a small handful of very savvy authors, and it was a rare treat to get to know them. We had sessions with high-level branding and media experts, which was intimidating, until I realized that these "experts" were simply speaking about their own personal journeys, as I did during my keynote. The authors had time to chat and compare notes over dinner and drinks. There was only one two-hour public book signing, which I found refreshing and fun, and low stress as compared to some marathon book signings I've been part of.
A new reader of mine treating herself to an early birthday present at NCWR signing

What are my takeaways from these events?
A two or three hour book signing event seems perfect.
I love hand-selling and getting to know new readers.
I need to boundary off my time to write, and to take my writing more seriously.
I love meeting authors and sharing stories and marketing tips. Community is key.
European events rock, as does the Welsh coast. LOL.
I need to take calculated risks and stretch myself in my craft and marketing.
De-stressing is important. Meditation, massage, whatever works!
Create a long game plan. (I can always revise it as I go).

What are your personal tools? What is most important to you in your writing life? Do you create a long game plan or do you prefer making it up as you go?


Book Review: BLOODGIFTED by Tima Maria Lacoba #paranormal

Tima Maria Lacoba

What’s a girl to do when she learns she’s descended from a vampire? Being unable to age is only the beginning… 

Laura Dantonville is a Primary school teacher with one wish—to marry her boyfriend, Detective Matt Sommers. When her aunt Judy reveals a frightening family secret that explains her rare genetic mutation, it threatens to propel her into a dark underworld where her true family waits. 
Laura’s future with Matt hangs in the balance. 

Alec Munro never wanted to become guardian to a Dantonville regardless that her blood is coveted by his vampire-kind. But his sire, Lucien Lebrettan, gave him no choice. Now he’s faced with not only protecting the girl, but fathering a child with her in order to end his servitude—and a centuries-old curse. 

… which some among his kind will do anything to prevent.


Cathrina's Review: I haven't read a vampire story in quite a while, so this book intrigued me. The author, Ms. Lacoba kept some of the olden time lore of vamps, like, the sun frying their bodies to a crisp. And similar to the Twilight Series, Ms Lacoba tweaked our perception of the blood sucking creatures a wee bit. An example: vampires do have a reflection in mirrors.The book begins in the year 263 AD and a woman invokes a wicked curse after Romans slaughter a Pict village. (Human blood will be your food. As beasts you shall kill and walk in the night and sunlight will be your enemy) There's more in the history of the story where those cursed resurrect the woman's spirit to revoke the curse. (A marriage and a birth are involved, a mingling of Pict and Roman blood) 
The mc, Laura is 50 years old but you'd never know it because she looks 25. And she is descended by Lucien Lebrettan, a vampire and Judith, one of the descendants of the bloodgifted. Being the Bloodgifted, Laura doesn't reach maturity until the young age of 50 when her blood reeks with power. Alec Munro, the Princeps and a doctor in the human world, becomes her guardian. By drinking Laura's blood Alec is sustained with strength and able to walk in the daylight, a gift that many vamps long for and are willing to die for. A problem commences when the scent of her blood brings evil vamps to suckle. 

I was entertained by Bloodgifted, in fact, I liked the book. A little lengthy, yet the action and intimate scenes between Alec and Laura were literally steamy. If you like to read about sexy, wicked, bloodthirsty vamps, then Bloodgifted is for you.


Shake, Rattle and Row, a #CozyMystery #CleanRead from the Spirits in the Water #Anthology

Spirits in the Water, an Untethered Realms short story anthology is coming in October! My contribution to the collection is a #CozyMystery. 
You may have noticed that the world’s gone a little crazy lately. #CozyReads are meant to entertain, but not stress you out. If this sounds good to you, check out my sweet, fun, cozy and quirky short story, Shake, Rattle and Row!
Shake, Rattle and Row is a sequel short story glimpse into my new series coming out in 2019 called, Ask Crystal Ball. 
A Riverboat Casino sounds like a roaring good time, but it can be murder for those who suffer with seasickness...
Harlow Grayson is the journalist who unwillingly inherits Crystal Ball’s agony column after Crystal is found murdered. Unfortunately, the agony column, called Ask Crystal Ball, comes with a nasty side effect: the ghost of Crystal herself. Complete opposites, Harlow and Crystal never did get along, even when Crystal was alive. Nothing has changed. 
In this short story, Crystal needs Harlow’s help to recover an item of sentimental value—but it comes at a hefty price. 

I jumped. “Crystal! Where’ve you been?” I looked around to see if anyone was listening.

“Scouting. Did you bring it?”

I held up the pen. “Yes. But I’m not sure about this. It’s not right. We shouldn’t be messing with this stuff.”

“Oh, get over yourself.” She fairly bounced with excitement.

I sighed and knew I’d regret this.

“Try the gold ink this—”

“Shh, I got this.” With my heart pounding, I pushed down the gold nub. A golden glow descended over the room and cast an unearthly light. My skin prickled as latent sparkles of ethereal energy settled over me. I blinked several times, adjusting to the illusion of the veil merging between the mortal and spirit worlds.

Holy mother of— I crossed myself. Although I’d done this before, I’d never get used to it.

I surveyed my new—but somehow same—surroundings. I was still on a riverboat casino, but it was more alive, if that even made sense, given that the room was full of ghosts. A roulette wheel spun, and the clickety-clack of the marble bounced from slot to slot until it found its sweet spot. Joyful shouts erupted. Spectral women in flapper dresses and feathered headbands hovered over gray-suited men in pinstripes playing cards and smoking fat cigars. And above it all, the fog of cigar smoke clung to everything.

I wrinkled my nose. Observing the two worlds together made me dizzy. Between the smoke and the boat rocking, I felt green around the gills. I knew as soon as I had stepped on board in my four-inch stilettos that this was a bad idea. And trust me, a full figured diva on heels was no easy feat to begin with.

“This isn’t natural,” I whispered to Crystal.

“Welcome to my world,” said Crystal, hovering at my side.

Crystal Ball—her real name—used to be my annoying coworker before she got murdered. Now she was an annoying ghost. I unwillingly inherited her agony column—Ask Crystal Ball, if you can believe it—a pseudo- psychic hocus-pocus bunch of baloney. But worst of all was that Crystal’s ghost came as a nasty side effect of the job. My fate was sealed when I’d picked up and used her favorite pen. Somehow the pen allowed me to see the ghostly realms she saw. I’d never seen another era, though, until now. What business could Crystal possibly have with the 1920s, and more importantly, why involve me?

But I had bigger problems.

“You could have warned me.” I spoke into my digital voice recorder so it didn’t look as if I were talking to myself. That and the press pass around my neck should cover any awkwardness that might arise while speaking to my spectral sidekick.

“I told you it was formal, didn’t I?” She eyed my gown and then perused the room as if looking for someone. “Besides, what do you have to complain about? I’m the one stuck throughout eternity in skin tight pants.” She squirmed and tried to pull out a wedgie to no avail.



Summer Adventures with the UR

"In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible." - Sarah Dessen, Along For The Ride

* * * * *
Christine Rains

This summer I discovered something new and magical. It's called Camp Brosius, and it's a family camp. What's that, you ask? It's summer camp for families, and it's like a cruise on land. There are activities for kids, for adults, and for the whole family. My son stated it was the best vacation of his life, and I have to agree. I relaxed for the first time in like ten years. Really, truly relaxed. That's magic.

* * * * *
River Fairchild

Summers aren't really my favorite time of year to do anything, but I was thinking back to the carefree days of my childhood. The endless opportunities to do nothing at all. Lie in a field of flowers for no reason. Idle the time away. Thinking about wanting to grow up... and not understanding the value of having no responsibilities for the one and only time in your life! LOL

* * * * *

Cathrina Constantine

Every year we try to get together for a family vacation. This year we ended up in Chautauqua Lake in a small cottage. It sure was cozy. It was especially special because our three grandchildren met for the first time. Sammy, our 3 year old snagged his very first fish! Fishing, boating, kayaking, and nightly fires with s'mores, good conversation, laughter, and reminiscing made it a perfect vacation.

* * * * *

M. Pax

Zip lining! With the new job, Husband Unit and I rarely get a day off together. When we do, we take advantage. One of the most enthralling things we've ever done was the zip line tour near Crater Lake. Heights scare the crap out of me, but I also like adventure. I'd never jump out of a plane or bungee jump, but zip lining scared me a little bit less. It was fantastic! Flying through the trees, being out in the glory of nature, laughing under the sun. Now I want to zip line everywhere there is a zip line.

* * * * *

Meradeth Houston

This summer I spent a good deal of time in my lab working, but that was to gear up for a super awesome adventure :) I traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, where I met up with one of my good friends and we headed to the Dolomites (southern Alps in Italy). The striking peaks were amazing and we have six days of hiking through their splendor. From there, I got to travel around in northern Italy, visit Otzi the ice mummy (so cool!), and several other places. This is me in Verona (the city from Shakespeare's famous Romeo and Juliet), and I also had some fun in Genoa and along the coast there. I have a bunch of photos on my Instagram page, if anyone wants to see. It was a trip of a lifetime, and since I really needed a break from work, I am very grateful I was able to go!


Putting Real People in your Historical Fantasy

Recently, I attended the Writers’ Digest Book Conference in NYC, and one of the panels that resonated with me was The Thin Line Between Historical Fact & Fiction moderated by authors Crystal King and Anjali Mitter Duva. They posed some interesting questions. Here are a few:

When is it beneficial to use real people in fiction? Are there rules? Can you make a good person into a dubious character—a villain even? How much can you bend the “real” history? Is there any instance it would be unwise to use a real person, or a time you might go too far?

In my Witch of the Cards, set in 1932 I injected multiple real life characters: Salvador Dali, Elsa Schiaparelli, Irene Ware and Bela Lugosi to name a few. They were mainly in the scenes aboard the Morro Castle ocean liner that sailed from Manhattan to Cuba. I wanted to show that even during Prohibition, the glitterati of high society found a way to drink. The laws that held on solid ground, were not punishable when on the high seas, or in Cuba. I also put these creative souls in to lighten the dark days that my poor character Peter Dune endured. He got to party with these folks and lounge on a Cuban beach. Who wouldn’t want to party with the madcap Dali?
Dickens at work
I am now crafting a fantasy set in 1854 Philadelphia and so far I have decided on two characters from real life. One is Charles Dickens and the other is Thomas Mutter. In addition to writing great novels, Dickens wrote an infamous treatise on the cruelty of solitary confinement in prisons. This, after he toured the supposedly humane Eastern State Penitentiary, where my girl, Evalina is serving a sentence. You see, during that time, people believed that forced isolation was a humane way to treat prisoners. But soon, people discovered that it made prisoners go mad. Dicken’s scathing article helped illuminate this. Mutter is most well-known for his strange collection of medical anomalies. Yet, more importantly, he invented cutting edge (pardon the pun!) plastic surgery techniques still used today, like the Mutter flap. Can you tell that my novel will have shady medicine in it?! Uh, huh.

So, the upshot is that one should think deeply about who and WHY they want to write real folks into their historical fantasies. Some benefits are:
*Grounding the story historically and vividly.
*Opening out a period of time in order to look at it from a fresh vantage point.
*Giving a side character his or her due. (Similar to Fan Fic)
*Imagining an alternative history.
*Giving an entire period of history its due using people from the time.
*Imagining two peers who never atually met. Having them meet and carry out a friendship, a love relationship, a rivalry, a freaking crime!

It’s fun to think of angles, right? Can you think of more reasons to utilize real historical characters? Have you ever wanted to put a real person from history into your stories? If so, who might be the most fun? The most unnerving?


#perseverance #writer #writing

I belong to a fantastic group of writer's called the Insecure Support Writer's Group. If you haven't joined yet, you should. 

The group was asked in July: 
What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing? And this was my answer:

is a valuable lesson. 

Once you begin your story, you are a writer. It doesn't matter what genre or if you write flash fiction, short stories, articles, or novels. If you wish to pursue traditional publishing, small independent presses, or self-publishing, it can be quite daunting. 

The lonely and long hours you put into your work and self-sacrificing your time can be a joy and/or a drudgery. You need to persevere.

It's your first draft, and you type those phenomenal two words: *THE ENDBut really it's the beginning. A second draft, a third draft, editing, revising, beta readers and so on...persistence

Then if you seek an agent or submit to publishing houses it's another path filled with road blocks of disappointments and rejections. 

But my mantra is: "It only takes one YES" and for that one yes you need: **PERSEVERANCE**

You can join this wonderful group here:


Why We Love Series

I read a lot. And I read fast. Thankfully I've built up my TBR list to such a huge scale that I'll never run out of books.

What I love the most is book series. Most readers feel the same way. As a writer, I can't help but wonder why people love series so much. Stand alone books can be fantastic reads, but series of books attract me much more.

First, and most obvious, is that we can't get enough of what we love. We want more. Series of books fill that need. Finding characters I love make me want to follow them through their whole lives. Exploring wonderful new worlds can have me reading for hours, and I get excited when new parts of the world are revealed as the series goes on.

I get deep into plots that slowly unfurl over time. With a story just in one book, it all has to be tied up at the end, but in a series, there is a longer buildup for the over-arching plot. I want all the details, to wonder what might happen next, and to be taken on all sorts of twists and turns.

Another reason we love series is familiarity. We know the characters and the world. There's comfort in that, and when the author manages to surprise us with something new in our favorite series, it reinforces the adoration.

Choosing from the countless shelves of other books can be overwhelming. Something in the same series makes our next read an easy choice. Less stress is good for us all.

What are your favorite things about reading a series?

I'm celebrating my urban fantasy series, Totem, with the release of the 8th and penultimate book today!

Some say the moon is for lovers, but wise folks know to fear it.

Kinley Dorn must be strong for her family in these dark times. Sometimes she feels she’s all that’s holding them together. But when the frightening Moon Man attacks and bestows a burdensome gift upon her, Kinley might have to do more than simply help her family. She will have to battle a god, but which one? If it’s the sly man hunting her in the astral plane, Kinley might not make it out alive.


Book Reviews: 3 awesome books from the Untethered Realms authors #amreading

We have such an amazing group of authors in Untethered Realms. I eat up all of my fellow members' books, and I wanted to share with you three of my most recent reads.

Saving the Phoenix Guard has changed him forever.

My review: In a great battle against the Great Beyonders, Liam died on the field. Yet the Phoenix Prophetess Yssa somehow brought him back to life. He never wanted to be apart from her, but now he struggles with seeing and hearing things that aren't there. Dark threats still shadow the kingdom, and Liam will do everything in his power to protect Yssa. This also includes finding out what is happening to him. If only he can find the information he needs in time.

This well-written fantasy novella takes place just after Reborn, the first book of The Fate Challenges. It brings us from Yssa's point of view into Liam's, her Phoenix Guard. I loved seeing Yssa from a different point of view. We are all harder on ourselves after all. Liam strives to protect her and make her happy, and sometimes those two goals are opposed to one another.

The aftermath of a huge battle isn't pretty. We see the celebration and the grief. Liam is a soldier and has lost many comrades, and this makes his struggle with his own situation even more immense. Love gives him strength, though. It was fascinating to follow along with him as he researched the only other man to be brought back from the dead and wonder what exactly happened then, and what might happen to him. I can't wait for the next book to see where it will take Yssa and Liam!

The first shot of a new war echoes through the galaxy.

My review: The Backworlds and Foreworlds have banned together with the hope of defeating a terrifying enemy, the Quassers. Craze gave up his friends and livelihood to become the envoy for the Backworlds. All he'd rather be doing is brewing some malt and tending his bar, but there is much more than his pride at stake here. The alliance is shaky, and Craze can't afford to let it fall apart. They have one more chance at survival, and it's all or nothing.

I loved delving back into the rich universe of this space opera series. The settings, characters, and storylines are all marvelously varied, but twine together so very well. I'm often reminded of Firefly with Craze and his friends out to save the universe armed with their good hearts and sometimes good luck. But things don't go their way all the time.

The cast in this series is large, but none of them suffer from lack of depth. Each of them have their own tales, but a powerful love of friends holds them together. The twists in the plot had me shouting "Oh my God!" out loud, and several times, it tugged hard at my heart. Plus there were some clever bits in there like the crusties and the tendrils. This is an immensely heavy book, and I didn't want it to end. I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Backworlds.

The Weird West just gets weirder.

My review: Orville "foretells" people's futures for coin, but Jimmy hopes to make a more honest living in the Old West. The two hucksters are captured by a dark wizard named Marzby who lures them in with a plea for help with a knocker. Orville is held prisoner as Jimmy is sent out to find an enchanted knife and bring it back to Marzby within three days. Help isn't coming, and Jimmy doesn't know what's more pesky: shapeshifting varmints or a tenacious girl who refuses to be sent home to her ma. The knife is an evil thing and no one should have their hands on it, but how else is Jimmy going to rescue Orville?

This weird Old West tale was a marvelous adventure. It me laughing with Jimmy's similes and Isobel's antics, and it had me on the edge of my seat with the thrilling action and thick tension. There were a few twists and turns I didn't see coming. It was just the sort of gritty, supernaturally fun plot I enjoy.

Jimmy is immediately likable. He's loyal, goodhearted, and not afraid of hard work. He can be a wily young man too. Orville is exactly what I imagine a huckster to be like. Slick of tongue, able to talk himself out of most situations. I particularly enjoyed the interaction with Jimmy and the girl, Isobel. She's got the makings of a great hero and huckster herself! Marzby was a despicable villain. The kind I love to hate. I always wondered exactly how much he knew and how he would turn the events into his favor.


Cat Sidhe, Coming in Late October

Cat Sidhe: Into the Witch Lands I

Cat Sidhe is the first in a trilogy of novellas. Merliss the cat, the protagonist from "The Water Wight," is back for more supernatural encounters.

Something nasty has come through one of the ley gates. It walks upright. It talks. And it looks like an oversized cat, but as Merliss can attest, it doesn't smell like a cat. The cat sidhe is on the hunt for slaves, someone with opposable thumbs. Merliss travels to unknown territories to rescue Saerwynn and encounters more trouble making her way home. The situation is far more dire than Merliss and her friends could have imagined.


A gust whistled through the crevices between the rocks. There was a ley here, but not one Merliss travelled. It linked to a network far to the northeast, in a cold, rugged land of steep hills and valley streams.

A pulsing blue pulled Merliss out of the hunt, pushing all thoughts of the vole aside. The runes around the ley's arch glowed with the sharpness of the day of their carving and then faded to the faint scratches of today. Her whiskers twitched. The air crackled with the energy of a lightning strike. The ley was active. Someone was coming.   

From time to time an unwitting animal leapt through a ley in just the right way to activate it. Merliss considered the strange smelling vole. Leys were only active when the sun warmed them. Fog or heavy cloud cover made them dodgy. But such accidental ley leaps were rare. Ley arches hummed with enough energy to ward off animals and even people. The folk living on the moor called them ghost stones. Merliss didn't have enough paws to count the times she had seen someone alter their path to avoid passing near a ley.

Merliss's eyes grew wide and as bright yellow as gorse flowers. The runes pulsed with more energy, no longer fading. To a magical creature's heightened senses, the ley buzzed with the roar of a thousand swarming bee hives. Merliss ran to Saerwynn's side. Blissfully unaware of the ley's activity, the girl tucked the wrapped flower in her satchel, exercising the same care she would give an egg.

"We've done alright for ourselves, we have. A full day's work and hardly half the day gone amiss. Master Fendrel will be pleased, eh?"

Merliss turned her back on Saerwynn to face the ley. Her tail twitched, audibly thumping the ground. The hairs along her back rose as stiff as yew needles. A growl vibrated in her throat. The hill trembled. The vibration crept through the pads of her paws. A ley's disruption was proportional to the distance traveled. This one spanned hundreds upon hundreds of miles.

"What's gotten into you, cat? Just a pile of weathered old stones." Saerwynn's smile twisted. "You don't smell an adder, do you?" She gazed at the base of the rocks, searching for the long, thick body of a viper.

Blue light flashed amidst the stones, wrapping round the edges like a blooming pimpernel of flame.

Saerwynn shrieked. "Ghost stones."

The flash was blinding. Merliss squinted and turned away, saving herself from an eyeful of blind spots by the breadth of a whisker. When she turned back, a yowling, black ball of fur and legs bounced out of the ley. It unwound as it rolled across a waste of rock chips, scattering them like splashed water with each bounce. When it came to rest at the edge of the summit, it possessed all the appearance of a monstrous black cat with a head as big around as a man's, yellow eyes rivaling walnuts, and forelegs stretching three feet.

Merliss hissed through bared teeth, spittle bubbling round the edges of her mouth. Her back arched. Instinct insisted on a show of ferocious force. Instinct also counseled running, but for now Merliss planted her paws and leaned into another hiss. She chanced a look at Saerwynn.

The girl stood silent, her mouth gaping, as dumb as a dead songbird. A rock would have danced a livelier jig. Was the girl already bewitched?

Merliss sniffed between hisses. The cat creature didn't smell like cat, more like sour magic and burnt chicken bones.

The black creature peered at them down the length of its belly. Shimmering black fur, slick as a seal skin wet with oil, covered the creature's body except for a patch of white on its chest, like the chink in a dragon's armor. Inch long claws sprang from its flexing forepaws. Yellow eyes twitched between Merliss and Saerwynn.

The creature clambered onto its hind paws, bringing its head a mere hand below Saerwynn's full height. The tip of its ragged tail brushed the ground. The white patch on its chest rose and contracted with the beat of the creature's heart.

"What, what is it?" sputtered Saerwynn.

Merliss knew exactly what this was. A cat sidhe. A dark witch shifted into a cat-like form. Had the witch done it for the ninth time and stuck herself? What a time to lack speech.

The cat sidhe stretched its arms and rolled it head. Its neck popped and cracked.

Merliss loosed a long, mournful cry. The sunny afternoon darkened. Merliss kept her gaze locked on the cat sidhe's chest, careful to avoid staring into its eyes. To lock gazes with a cat sidhe would grant the monster power over one's soul. Merliss crouched and backed closer to Saerwynn. When a hind paw brushed the girl's staff, the cat thumped it with her tail.

"Prrettyee," said the sidhe. It's tongue wrapped clumsily around the word gurgling up from it's throat. The creature sniffed. It's gaze directed at the satchel. "Willow. Gatherring ingrredients, arre ye?"

The sidhe's gaze returned to Saerwynn. It stepped forward. With its forepaws reaching toward Saerwynn, the sidhe bobbed on hind legs in a herky-jerky motion. If not for its sharp-toothed grin, the exaggerated tip-toe gait would have been comical. The sidhe tilted its head from side to side. Drawing Saerwynn's attention to the eyes, thought Merliss.

"Stop!" Saerwynn took a step backward and stretched her arm to tap the rock pile. "Who are you?"

"Yerr frriend." The sidhe bobbed forward. "I can teach ye, a lassie like ye. Fates've brrung us togetherr."

The eyes, thought Merliss. Don't look in its eyes. Merliss could not talk to Saerwynn, but she could talk to a creature of magic. "Back off!"

The sidhe jerked its attention to Merliss and stared hard at the crouching cat.

Merliss felt the power behind the eyes like a heavy hand squashing her into the dirt. She whacked the staff with her tail, ignoring the pain shuddering up her spine.

"What arre ye?" said the sidhe, all the syrupy sweetness drained from its voice.

"You don't belong here. Go back!" Merliss ended her command with a hiss.

"Hmm," said the sidhe. "Interrresting. What does ye call yerrself?"

"I'm--" Saerwynn apparently thought better of giving away her name. She snatched up the staff to Merliss's relief and thrust the silver point at the black creature.

The sidhe yowled as it stumbled backward, flailing its forelegs. Fleet as a cat, the creature recovered its balance in an instant and stood where it had begun.

"I've got a teacher. And he's no flea-bitten fur bag, so back with you. Back to the pit where you crawled from." Saerwynn jabbed her staff at the creature, rocking it back a half-step, her confidence rising like a flood in a gulley.

"Go on," shouted Saerwynn. "Off with you."

Merliss marveled at the girl's confidence. Was this the Saerwynn who complained of walking up a hill? Perchance she was finally coming into her power, living up to her potential. The thirteenth daughter of a seventh son could have a wild power if caught and groomed. A powerful healer could emerge from an ugly cocoon. Maybe Fendrel had chosen well after all.

The sidhe hissed and flexed the formidable claws in its forepaws.

"Not so hasty, little girrl. Put down yer wee twig. We have much to talk about."

"I've got nary a word to toss at you." Saerwynn glared at the sidhe. "Off with you, I say, or I'll call my master. And he'll put an end to you."

"Yerr masterr. Yerr masterr. What has he taught ye but to wave a stick and sniff out smelly roots?"

"He..." The anger faded from Saerwynn's voice. "He..."

"Hmmm? A cat's got yerr tongue?" Its eyes pulsed between yellow and amber, one color fading into the other.

Not the eyes, thought Merliss. Beware the eyes. This talking had gone on too long. She swiped the air with her claws and yowled, hoping to draw the attention of friend and foe.

The sidhe hissed and cut the wind with its claws.

Saerwynn shook her head like someone waking. She cocked her staff overhead in one hand and sent it flying like a spear.


"No!" cried Merliss. To cast one weapon while reaching for another was strategic. To throw your only weapon was foolish.


The Wallows, a Dark #Fantasy Part of Spirits in the Water #speculativefiction

The Wallows
by M. Pax

Spirits in the Water is coming! Get excited for some great stories inspired by the element of water. Here's a snippet from my story, "The Wallows," about a young woman not yet old enough to legally drink with a three-year-old daughter and a lot of stress. She wants nothing more than to escape her troubles. You know what they say... be careful what you wish for...


The weird lamppost continued to glow green, and it was the only one still lit. After unlocking her bike, Evernee Weems wheeled it to the lamppost. A small puddle lay under the streetlight, and a drip slowly tumbled from the bowl-shaped shade to the ground. The drop fell slower than normal. Ripples broke the surface of the puddle in perfect circles. After two heartbeats, the puddle settled into a sheen as serene as the cloudless sky.

Evernee studied the shallow depths and sighed. “It’d be cool if it was another world and I could go there.”

The puddle shimmered, and for a scant second she saw the faintest image of a man’s face. She bent over and peered closer. Her eyes blinked back. Two songbirds landed on the opposite side, thirstily pecking at the water. With the drought, how did a puddle form?

Shrugging, Evernee hopped on her bike. She rode to the other side of town to pick up her daughter and parked the bike a block away in a thick hedge. Her phone beeped, the alarm warning she was going to be late picking up Poppy. She jogged down the sidewalk and around the corner. A frowning Mrs. Drow stood at the gate holding Poppy’s hand. She was a tank of a woman with a lot of gray among the badly dyed auburn strands.

“You’ve got a better deal than most, Miss Weems. You know what time I close.”

Because the state paid for Poppy’s daycare, Mrs. Drow believed Evernee had something she didn’t deserve. Maybe she didn’t deserve anything, but Poppy did.

“Sorry, Mrs. Drow. I was at work. You know, earning a living.” She reached for her daughter.

Poppy clutched onto a bunny constructed from old socks and baby clothes. Evernee had sewn it herself. Poppy tore away from Mrs. Drow and, in doing so, ripped the arm off her rabbit. “You late, Mama.” Throwing the bits of bunny on the sidewalk, she marched down the street as if she was about to turn seventeen instead of four.

Have you ever wished to escape? Where did you imagine you might find a better world? When I drive into the wilds of Oregon, I still think it'd be grand to find another world hidden in the old forests.

Sometimes I find otherworldly places, but they're still very much in our world. It'd be neat if they weren't... maybe. Be careful what you wish for, right?


Are you ready to challenge Fate? #ya #fantasy

I published my first novel Reborn (The Fate Challenges #1) back in May 2014. After three years, I now have a second edition of Reborn available as well as two novellas! Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until 2018 for Forged (The Fate Challenges #2) and Destined (The Fate Challenges #3) are ready for me to publish.

I'm also running a sale on Reborn, which is 99c for a limited time. Determined (A bonus novella set between Chapters 24 and 25 in Reborn) is free on my website, and Marked (The Fate Challenges #1.5) will always be 99c. (Prices are subject to change by country.)

To save her kingdom, a prophetess must challenge Fate.
On her seventeenth birthday, Phoenix Prophetess Yssa must leave her home to serve the God of Prophecy. Sea serpents and other gods endanger her travels and sour the omens. Her duties at the Temple of Apenth prove Yssa is cursed instead of blessed. Not yet permitted to give prophecies to temple goers, Yssa spends her days reading dusty scrolls, which does nothing to help her forget Tym, the boy back home. Then, there is Liam, the annoying yet gorgeous ferryman’s son. He proves to be a distraction not even a psychic can predict.
Her boring temple life screeches to a halt when premonitions of her parents’ murders consume her. Yssa races to her home an ocean away to stop their deaths. After all, Apenth’s rare Phoenix Prophetesses are gifted with the ability to alter the future. Fate, however, won’t be changed as easily as Yssa assumes. Worse, it has plans for her and the kingdom.
Yssa must either accept her destiny or fight Fate.

A prophetess must prepare for war.

The city of Amora will burn, if the Phoenix Prophetess doesn’t uncover a way to alter Fate. But Yssa is a world away from warning the kingdom of its impending demise.

While Yssa learns fighting techniques from the ferryman’s son Liam and how to follow the threads of Fate from the woodwose seer Zoon, she sets out to restore her friendship with the woodwoses. She is determined to put things right before Liam and she leave at the month of beginnings.

Because when they exit Waldbaum Forest, their real challenges will begin.

Available only through Cherie Reich’s website, Determined is set between chapters 24 and 25 in Reborn and meant to be read in conjunction with the first book of The Fate Challenges.

Saving the Phoenix Guard has changed him forever.

A blade to the gut gave Liam a one-way ticket to the Underworld, but Phoenix Prophetess Yssa brought him back to life. As the second mortal man to survive a sojourn to Hupogaia’s realm, Liam strives to understand how the one he was tasked to protect saved him, why he lived when so many others died during the battle against the Great Beyonders, and, most of all, why he now sees and hears things that aren’t there.

Liam researches the God of Prophecy’s mortal son, the one who also came back, but Moran died over twenty-four hundred years ago. To say that information is scarce is an understatement, but Liam won’t give up.

After all, rumors are flying around the Kingdom of Amora about Yssa’s newfound powers. Threats loom ever closer. Liam must protect the Phoenix Prophetess at any cost. Uncovering Moran’s destiny may be the one thing that helps Liam save the one he loves, if he can find the right scroll in time.

So are you ready to challenge Fate and read The Fate Challenges?


A Writing Retreat - Report from this time around

I head to Cape Cod every summer for a long-standing writing retreat. I always look forward to it long before summer, and I depend on it to power my writing long after it's over. I just returned from this year's, and I'm withdrawal, though I'm also quite inspired. How do we organize it? We share the cost of VRBO or Airbnb. Then the person who communicates with the rental folks gets taken out for dinner one night. This time it was me and I chose a restaurant in Woods Hole, where all the scientists and oceanographers hang out.
The usual suspects
The perks:
Uninterrupted writing time and meditation/flow to craft story-plot-character.
Hearing my fellow authors typing away with occasional snorts of hilarity, followed by equally hilarious explanations. Laughter is always welcome.
Brainstorm sessions with the authors during morning coffee, at dinner and at beach.
After-dinner readings and helpful critiques.
Tarot Card readings and parlor games involving writing skills.
Shared "war stories", biz tips and giggles.
We take turns making dinner so we get lots of variety, and only have to cook one night.
My morning station

My afternoon station

The downsides:
A week is too short! I've just fully hit my stride when it's already time to pack it in. Having essentially five full days makes me reluctant to take any downtime to visit the local museums or glassblowing studio. I do allow swims at the beach, but little else. As a result, there's a danger of burnout, and a sore back and neck.
A hot room with inadequate or no AC.
Bug bites when eating picnic dinners.
Going around July 4th - too many scary fireworks way too close! Too much traffic.
View from the restaurant in Woods Hole, Ma.
The solutions:
Next year, rent a place for at least two weeks!
Bring along a screened tent or rent a place with a screened in porch.
Take a strong fan.
Go later in July to avoid July 4th issues, but not so late in summer that we can't take advantage of power-boost to summer writing.

What about you? Do you ever do writing retreats? If not, how do you manage to get extended blocks of writing time?
What we needed!
What we had


Book Review: The Undead Road (My Zombie Summer #1) #amreading

Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse …

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he has no choice if his family wants to survive the end of the world. Their plan? Drive across the infected United States to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without a scratch, but their trip takes a complicated detour in the middle of Nebraska when they find Kaylynn, a girl who can handle a baseball bat better than Jeremy can hold a .45 Beretta. And when they stumble into a sanctuary, Jeremy soon learns that Kaylynn is stronger than she looks—a deadly secret lies inside her.

After the radio picks up a distress call from Kansas City about a possible cure, Jeremy’s parents go with a team to investigate. They never return. The only way to find their parents is for Jeremy and his sister Jewel to rely on a dangerous girl who might just turn on them at any moment.
Jeremy Barnes and his family are driving across country to their cabin in Colorado, a place they believe will be safe now that the zombie apocalypse has happened. Along the way, they meet a teenage girl named Kaylynn who can expertly wield a baseball bat and wins over Jeremy's heart quick. Kaylynn has a secret, though. One that might be the death of them all.

A fun and fast-paced YA zombie apocalypse read. Jeremy's fifteen year old voice is captured exceptionally well. He's a smart kid who gets way too distracted by a cute girl. And who can blame him? Kaylynn kicks butt. She tries to keep herself isolated so no one learns her secret, but Jeremy eventually figures it out. He sticks by her still. Hot girl, after all, and yeah, he's loyal with a good heart. Jeremy's family was awesome too. His mom's a nurse and his dad's a gun dealer and his little sister kicks butt too. The family unit is tightly knit and drawn genuinely throughout the story.

It reminded me of The Walking Dead at the beginning, but the zombies, or Vectors as they call them, are something very different here. An interesting twist to the typical zombie story. A solid 4.5 rating, and one highly recommended to zombie fans.


Jeff Chapman's "The Water Wight" - An Excerpt from Spirits in the Water

A dark gray cat, a shade shy of black, padded through a stand of hawthorn perched near the rim of a hollow. The cat moved with her tail low, the tip nearly touching the ground. To hold it above her back invited snagging her fur in the bush-like trees, whose branches bent low in permanent submission to the whistling moor wind. After slinking from under the trees, the cat stopped and pricked her ears toward the stream below.

A poorly sung tavern tune floated upward before the moor wind snatched it. A very, very old part of her wanted to join in the singing. She had so loved to sing when she was young. Sometimes, even after centuries of seasons, she forgot she was a cat.

She knifed between the thorny stems of a blackberry bramble, lithe as water slipping between rocks. Her paws whispered through the leaf clutter.

The hollow widened to a gentler slope. The cat crouched beneath an alder barren of leaves. The autumn foliage did not hang about long in the relentless wind. At the riverbank, a tall, thin young man baited his eel traps. To see but not be seen pleased her, as was a cat's nature.

"He'll leave no scraps for us, the greedy bastard."

The cat jerked her gaze skyward to find a raven perched on a stout branch. Three of the bird's tail feathers were longer and stuck out at odd angles like a boy with a cowlick. She did not like any animal, especially a bird to surprise her, but for this raven, she would curb her anger.

"Nor would you, Crowlluk." The cat licked a forepaw. "He may come from a nest full of hungry mouths."  

"More like his own mouth is extra big," said the raven.

The cat folded her forepaws beneath her chest. "You are far from home."

"There's a fine yew tree farther down stream. Mistress wants some particular seeds."

"I know the tree. What is Mistress brewing with yew berries?"

"How should I know? I fetch what I'm told. And what brings a cat forth on such a cold morn, Merliss? Since we're inquiring into each other's business."

"It pleases me to prowl. Might find a fat grouse not paying attention." Merliss craned her neck to see the raven swivel his head to look away. Teasing Crowlluk was such fun.

Merliss sniffed and then sniffed again deeper. A wet smell was stealing up the slope, like froth pushed before a wave. The hairs along her spine stood stiff. "Crowlluk? Do you smell it?"

"What is it?"

Merliss tasted the scent growing stronger. Her whiskers tingled with approaching vibrations. The supernatural possessed an unmistakable scent, as clear as a print in soft mud. She searched her memory for a matching scent.

"What is it?" repeated the raven, all the bluster gone from his voice.

"I don't know. It's coming from the river. And it's coming faster." Her claws flexed; her ears flattened; her tail stiffened to a fury wand. At times like this, the primitive cat sprang to the fore, ready to scratch and bite, and Merliss almost forgot she had once been a girl.

The man at the river's edge fiddled with his trap, positioning the bait, ignorant of any danger.

Warn him, cried a human voice in Merliss's subconscious. Tell the crow to sound an alarm, the voice counseled, but the raven was all raven and cared nothing for humans beyond his mistress.

The vibrations roared, approaching the crashing crescendo of a breaking wave. To Merliss, attuned to catch the twitch of the smallest enchanted cricket, the grass seemed to quiver, the bushes to shudder, and the trees to shake. Blades of pain ripped along the ley lines of her senses.

The water at the riverbank swelled into a mound. The eel fisher stood of a sudden, rocking back on his heels. At last he too recognized the danger, which shook Merliss from the points of her claws to the tip of her tail.

A human form erupted from the river with the force of a geyser. Arms clothed in froth wrapped the eel fisher before his wits recovered enough to raise his own arms. At the center of his back, the creature's limbs crossed and flowed together into a single watery rope. A blue-green wave molded itself to the fisher's chest and neck. He overbalanced, falling toward the river under the water creature's clinging weight. Merliss questioned why the man did not scream for help, and then she understood. A liquid head had fastened over the eel fisher's mouth. Fluid tendrils stuck out across the crown of the creature's head, and a white orb glowed through a slit where Merliss expected an eye. Her cattish aversion to water swelled her horror. A wave crashing against a rock spread more than enough of its dirty wetness, but a sentient wave that wrapped its wetness round its victim seeded nightmares.

The man splashed the surface, spraying water onto the bank and halfway across the stream. As swiftly as a rock sinks, his body disappeared. Waves rushed in to fill the void and collided where the eel fisher sank. Merliss inched backward, curiosity fighting with the instinct for flight. She had seen many creatures during her time, but never one so much akin to water itself.

Wings thrashed overhead. The raven left his branch, cawing a warning to all who could hear, near and far. Merliss's heart pounded at her throat. Crowlluk smelled it too, she thought. Death exuded a scent as peculiar as magic.

The current swept the eddies downstream. If not for the discarded eel traps and the lingering scents, which had settled over the stream, escaping the moor wind whistling over the hollow, Merliss might have doubted the attack had taken place. The old man must know of this, she thought, and quickly, before someone else dies.

Spirits in the Water is forthcoming October 2017.