What Makes a Great Ghost Story? #Paranormal

It's October! Time to get your scare on...

There's something about a good ghost story that suckers me in. You're probably tired of hearing my account with an actual ghost... A black thing ran over my foot once and out the door. It was like a shadow, but not a shadow. My husband was there at the time and saw the same thing.

We believed it the spirit of Mr. Sox, who was killed by a car. After he died, I used to hear him scratching at the back screen. The sound was so distinct, I would often get up and go out on the patio looking for him, even though I knew it was impossible he was there.

That black shadow ran over my foot while I was serving dinner and raced out the sliding door into the backyard. I never heard the scratching at the back screen again.

It wasn't a frightening experience. It perplexed me. The shadow had form and was thicker than a shadow, more solid. Yet I could see through it. It was the size of a cat.

My husband and I have gone ghost hunting before, and I'd love to say I've had other encounters, but I haven't. I don't want to jump to conclusions that a sound is a spirit or an experience is a spirit. I want a real, solid encounter... like the one I had.

Recently, we went on a 'haunted' tour of our town. To me, it was a win-win... history and ghost stories. I love history and I love ghost stories. There were some good ones...

George at the Reid School, a builder who had died on the site, shows up quite frequently. It's now the local history museum.

A boy on a bicycle at the high school, which is now county offices. He likes to turn lights on during the night.

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson of the Tower Theater are sometimes seen sitting in the audience.

Mrs. Smith can still be heard banging on the ceiling with a broom to call Mr. Smith to dinner.

There's a malevolent presence in the old hotel, who has attacked several people.

No one wants to own anything that was in the old nunnery. The buildings and contents were sold and transported far away. I wonder if the new owners have had anything odd happen.

Whether true or not, my favorite ghost stories are accounts related by family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. I don't want to run away, I want to investigate. I love talking over the mysteries that touch our lives and our world.

What's out there?


Book Review: Serpent's Sacrifice by Trish Heinrich #superhero

Ever since Alice was saved from her abusive father, she’s wanted to be a hero. But in 1960’s Jet City, women are supposed to want marriage and babies, not cowls and secret identities.

When her beloved aunt is murdered by a new crime syndicate, Alice takes up the mantle of the Serpent, a heroine who has been protecting Jet City for decades.

But one mistake will unleash a dreadful villain. One who will stop at nothing to take control of the city and kill anyone who stands in the way.

Can Alice survive the battle and become the hero she was always meant to be? Or will the price be too much to bear?

My review:
Alice is swept away from her abusive father and her best friends to live with her rich aunt in Jet City. While well-to-do women in the 1960s are expected to marry well and have children, Alice longs for something much more. She trains to be a powerful fighter and takes up the mantle of the city's infamous superhero, Serpent. A vicious villain is making people cower in fear, experiencing waking nightmares. Alice and her friends must stop the madness before their enemy takes over the city, but are they willing to pay the price to do so?

This is an amazing debut novel from Trish Heinrich with rich world building, twists and turns, and fabulous characterization. I thoroughly enjoy the superhero genre, but most books give us extended comics without the illustrations. Not this one. The plot is thick and well written. I love the history of the Serpent. (Pick up the prequel novella, Serpent for even more!) I especially love the strong women that have put on the cowl. The story takes place in the past, and it makes their strength even more admirable.

What thoroughly won me over was the excellent cast of characters. Alice is a smart and resourceful young woman who doesn't exactly fit in to her world, but she strives to make it a better place. While she is the Serpent, she has no super powers. It's all her. I also liked the fact that punching things wasn't the only way she had to resolve things. There was social maneuvering, battle tactics, and investigating. I loved her relationship with her two best friends, Lionel and Marco. Each man so different and endearing in their own way. Alice's aunt and uncle, Mrs. Frost, and Rose. So many great characters. Plus the villain. I won't give any spoilers, but yes, so demented.

I can't wait for more in this awesome series!


New Release - Spirits in the Water #shortstories #sciencefiction #fantasy

The fourth anthology in our Elements of Untethered Realms series, Spirits in the Water is now available.

A haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and the Lady of the Lake lurk in dark waters. Raging storms and magical rainbow fountains. Water is spectacularly beautiful but also treacherous.

Gwen Gardner gives us Shake, Rattle and Row. Harlow Grayson has the chance to rid herself of a pesky ghost but she must first brave a haunted riverboat and recover a family heirloom. What she finds might be more than she can handle.

Jeff Chapman offers The Water Wight. When a drowned girl changes her mind about suicide, Merliss and her associates face a fearsome, preternatural creature.

M. Pax presents The Wallows. Evernee Weems wants to escape this world in the worst way. Her daughter needs everything, the rent is being raised, Evernee’s job barely pays minimum wage, and she has little hope for better. Inside a puddle is a different reality. She jumps in, happy to trade her problems for a life in which worries don’t exist. Or do they?

Angela Brown gives us Extraordinary. Puberty hits Angelique like a gut punch and brings about a change, forcing an unexpected revelation about her past. All seems well until a vicious storm tears through her Texas community, and Angelique learns there are worse things than a little change.

River Fairchild presents You Can’t Go Home Again. A young woman, filled with regret about the past, goes on a journey and discovers more than she bargained for.

Simon Kewin offers us The Waters, Dividing the Land. Hyrn the horned god of the woodlands is learning the meaning of fear. Death magic blights the land, threatening everyone and everything. To save what he can from spreading corruption, he turns to the ancient river serpents, but they’ve grown old and distant and may not hear his call at all.

Christine Rains gives us Frozen. A necromancer is on the frozen moon of Saturn where the dead do scream.

Meradeth Houston presents The Flood. Sometimes a flooded kitchen isn’t the unluckiest thing to happen to you.

Catherine Stine offers Maizy of Bellagio. April still searches for her mother who vanished nineteen years ago from the fountain at Hotel Bellagio in Vegas. Can Maizy, a water sprite who works the fountain’s pink colors, begin to help the three generations of eccentric women tortured by this tragedy?

M. Gerrick gives us The One Who Would Wield the Sword. Nikka is supposed to be nothing more than dragon bait so a real dragon hunter can do his job, but the Lady in the Lake has other plans for her.

Cherie Reich presents The Folding Point. Aimee’s fight against those who banned paper magics has begun.

From USA Today, Amazon bestselling, and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Spirits in the Water, a supernatural anthology of eleven thrilling tales. Spirits in the Water is the fourth, long-awaited Elements story collection from the dynamic and inventive Untethered Realms group.

To celebrate the release for Spirits in the Water, the first Elements of Untethered Realms anthology Twisted Earths is free on all major retailers. Pick up your copy today!


9 Twisted Tales Set in 9 Twisted Worlds #SpeculativeFiction #Giveaway

Untethered Realms is celebrating the upcoming release of the 4th collection in our elemental story series: Spirits on the Water. We're celebrating by making the first in the series, Twisted Earths, FREE!

That's right, 9 outstanding, fantastical stories for the price of free.

Twisted Earths Available at:

Amazon / AmazonUK / Google Play / Smashwords / iTunes / B&N / Kobo

Here's what you get:

Twisted Earths is a collection of tales from Untethered Realms, a group of speculative fiction authors. The stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets—sandy loam, clay, knotted with roots and vines, dreaded paths through unexplored planets, and in enchanted forests, lit by candlelight and two moons. 

M. Pax, author of the series, The Backworlds and The Rifters spins a tale called Patchworker 2.0. Specialists with digital interfaces are the only ones who can distinguish between biological energy and mechanical pulses, and “patch” AIs, which hold the world together. Patchworker Evalyn Shore meets up with an AI with deadly intent.

Cherie Reich, known for her epic fantasy series The Fate Challenges and The Foxwick Chronicles, presents Lady Death. Umbria, a beautiful and powerful swordsmith, is given an impossible task by her brother Leon when he asks, “You are the assassin. Are you scared to destroy Death when you are up to your elbows in it?”

Angela Brown is the author of the paranormal Shadow Jumpers and NEO Chronicles series. In her story, In The Know, Jacob, a loyal family man is struggling to stay out of debt when he’s hired to report on big plans for a future Detroit. He’s given a mysterious manila envelope with instructions to “open it alone” or pay the price. With switchback twists you won’t see coming, a debt of a much steeper cost is what he just might end up paying for his involvement.

Catherine Stine, author of the futuristic thrillers, Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire, offers The Day of The Flying Dogs, a sinister tale of brilliant, troubled NYC high-school student, Theo. He experiences a day at Coney Island that includes drugs, delusions, a lonely capybara, Nathan’s hotdogs and a mind-bending lesson in our very twisted universe.

Christine Rains, known best for her paranormal series The Thirteenth Floor, gives us The Ole Saint, a story at once sweet, horrific and heartrending. Ezra longs to fit in and have boys stop calling him witch and freak, yet his unique supernatural skill sets him apart, and the last gift from The Ole Saint cinches the deal.

Graeme Ing, known for his young adult fantasy, Ocean of Dust presents The Malachite Mine, a gripping, scream-inducing ride. Whatever was Mary thinking when she accepted her husband’s gift of a most terrifying twenty-first birthday celebration in an abandoned Russian mine?

River Fairchild, author of her Jewels of Chandra series, presents A Grand Purpose. Rosaya and her cousin, Drianna are soon to be married off, but Rosaya is unhappy with her assigned match. She’s much more intoxicated by the older Firrandor, a wizard she hardly knows. When Rosaya is accused of killing an oracle boy, all bets are off, not only for her love, but her freedom.

Gwen Gardner, who pens the cozy paranormal mystery series, Indigo Eady, adds to her collection with Ghostly Guardian. Indigo and her rib-tickling ghost-busters must travel to a dangerous pirate-laden past in order to unearth a curmudgeonly eighteenth century spirit that is plaguing the Blind Badger Pub.

Misha Gerrick, whose War of Six Crowns series is forthcoming, gives us a story called Red Earth and White Light. Emily, a young ghost bride has long haunted a house. She longs to cross over into the afterlife, but she’s trapped in memories of lilies and betrayal.

The stories in this collection are marvelous, strange, frightening, and otherworldly. And we know you're ready for more. They're coming in Spirits of the Water! Huzzah!


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.