All About the Tarot

The Tarot has fascinated me for quite a while. I remember when I first left home I was not quite eighteen. I moved into a large ramshackle house in Philadelphia, and I would climb over the fence dividing my place from the next-door neighbors. Why? Because the lady who lived there was an expert Tarot card reader! She would read my cards almost every night. Did I take it all seriously? Not really… but it was completely entertaining and sometimes the cards messages rang true.

Fast forward to present day, I’ve become an expert card reader, and I collect them for their variety, beauty and even humorous images. Most decks have spectacular art on them. As for their history, they are thought to have originated all the way back in ancient Egypt, as a cosmic source of wisdom and divination of the future. The Egyptian word tar means royal and ro means royal – thus the royal road to wisdom. Later, in northern Italy, a complete deck for card playing and gambling was devised. In France in the 1700s, a “cartomancer” named Jean Baptiste-Alliette created the imagery in the decks we often see today. There are cups, swords, wands, and pentacles. And the Major Arcana cards that hold great symbolism, such as the hermit, the world and the death card (which can also mean rebirth!).

In my novel, Witch of the Cards Peter Dune has a Tarot and Séance shop on the boardwalk, where he holds readings and séances. In walks Fiera, who not only has a mysterious and electric connection to Peter, she can do more outrageous and unexpected things with the Tarot than simply reading them! I won’t give away the surprise, I will only say I’m pretty sure you will not be able to guess. She is also a sea witch so her supernatural powers are twofold. I love reading Tarot for my friends, and I love writing dark fantasy with plenty of frightening magic and mayhem.

Do you know how to read the Tarot? What’s your favorite card?

Get Witch of the Cards here: Amazon, UK, iBooks, Kobo, B&N/Nook


The Science in Writing

Hello! I'm actually really new here: I just joined with the awesome women & men of Untethered Realms a couple of months ago, and I am continually blown away by their novels and general amazingness :) I love getting to hear from other sci-fi and fantasy authors, chat about craft, and generally have a support system that gets us through the rough patches that invariably come from being an author.

So, a couple things about me, just by way of introduction:
~I have five novels published in the YA and NA age range. You can find out more here :)
~I am a California girl living in Montana. It's beautiful here, though I'm still adjusting to the cold winters.
~By day, I'm a professor of Anthropology at the University of Montana, where I do research with ancient DNA and teach college kids about the biological invalidity of race, how to use DNA to trace ancestry, Neanderthals, and how solve forensic cases. I adore my job, even if it keeps me running around like a headless chicken most days!

My day job gives me a good bit of insight into some very strange topics that come up pretty often in novels, especially lab work and forensic stuff. And while I have fun teaching about these things, it does make for some interesting reading and watching at times. As in, I can barely stand CSI or
The CSI effect is real! (Source)
Bones, or any of the other forensic shows. They drive me batty! (Which is, admittedly, not a long trip ;). Too many shows, and unfortunately books (thankfully not from our group!), fudge the details.

(As an aside, this has always struck me as so weird on the crime shows. I mean, the real-world way of using DNA and other forensic techniques to solve crimes are very difficult and can be super dramatic--why don't the shows just stick with real science and not make stuff up? The drama could totally still be present, and bonus, people would actually learn a few things along the way!)

What's a writer to do to keep things accurate? Well, research, right? That's the biggest thing. There are some amazing resources around the web! But it's easy to get bogged down in details and be unable to get the answers you want. Trust me, I totally understand this--the last novel I wrote was all about biological weapons. I don't even want to know how much my googling got me onto watch-lists for every government agency. So, if you're having trouble finding the answers, might I recommend your local college or university? There's probably someone there who knows what you're looking for, or can point you in the right direction.

Do keep in mind that emailing a professor or researcher out of the blue may not lead to a quick response, but a short and quick email with a description of what you're trying to find out often does spark some interest. I mean, most professors are a very curious bunch, and most of us love to read :) I'd recommend avoiding a phone call, unless they suggest it, or stopping by their office unannounced, as well as having a bit of patience for a reply. But in general, you're likely to find someone helpful, curious, and all too eager to ensure that you're able to describe something they study accurately in your book!

As a random example, a writing buddy of mine emailed to ask me about body decomposition a while ago. She was writing a scene with a dead body and wanted to know what it would look like after being enclosed in a room for over a year. A few questions about the climate, animals, and ventilation, and I was able to get her a pretty good estimate of what would be left of the body :).
Incidentally, this is not what the body would look like, though. (Source)
Anyhow, this is my two cents on research for novels. It can be a lot of fun!

Thanks for joining me here today! Anyone have any fun research stories?


Discovery and Space Adventures. What's Out There? #SciFi #FREE

My first memories of television are Lost in Space, Space Ghost, and the Jetsons. A few years later came the Moon landing. I was only five, but the Moon landing blew me away. "Wow," is what I still think. To have the perspective of before and after is a gift.

It spawned the space age and a fascination for what lies beyond our planet. Then there was Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Tang. I grew up thinking that Earth was no longer the limit, a very special time.

Then came along Babylon 5, Farscape, and Stargate. And I can't wait for the next Guardians of the Galaxy.

I want to know what's out there, and these shows and stories give us glimpses. Because if we can imagine it, it exists. It's already been proven with diamond planets and super Earths.

We are fortunate to live in an age of vast discovery that gives us glimpses of worlds beyond our own. Discovery is the part of any story that interests me the most. Take me to a new world. Introduce me to new people. Whether it's learning about a different culture or point of view on Earth or on another world, a different time, or a world yet unseen by human eyes, I can't resist the lure of discovery. It calls to be like a beacon.

What do you love to discover?

The Backworlds Collides with 7 Other Galactic Empires!

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 Eight full-length novels of adventure, war, intrigue and survival in the far reaches of space.

The Backworlds by M. Pax  A man struggles to survive in the harsh world of humanity’s outer settlements and prove his father wrong.

Ambassador 1: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen To look an alien superior in the eye is a deadly offense. To accuse him of a political murder…

Alien Hunters by Daniel Arenson A scruffy alien pest controller faces an alien threat the likes of which the universe has never seen.

Hard Duty by Mark E. Cooper Hostile aliens nearly eradicated humanity. Will the next encounter finish the job?

Bypass Gemini by Joseph Lallo A disgraced racer pilot gets mixed up with a mega-corporation. Now he has to stop them.

Sky Hunter by Chris Reher Sent to a human outpost to investigate sabotage, a pilot finds more trouble than she bargained for.

The Galapagos Incident by Felix Savage A genocidal AI attacks the solar system, and a Space Corps agent has one chance of saving a bunch of asteroid squatters she was sent to evict.

First Conquest by David VanDyke To find a home and keep humanity safe from hostile aliens, Task Force Conquest must fight to seize a new star system.


Cathrina's Review of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo #specfiction #fantasy

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.  
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Cathrina's Review:


Six of Crows is the first book I've read by Leigh Bardugo and I was blown away by her world. 

Since I had not read her other books in the Grisha Series, I was slightly lost in the beginning of the book with the language and the extraordinary abilities of the people. Though, I persevered through a couple of chapters and I'm so happy and delighted that I did. 

Talk about speculative fiction! 

This tale revolves around teenagers between the ages of 15 to 18 years old. And you'll be utterly amazed, IF, this is the type of genre that you love, which I do. 

I was captivated by a convict, a sharpshooter, a runaway, a wraith, a Heartrender and, a thief. A bunch of misfits that come together for a spectacular mission. The story is fast paced, gritty, and full of action.

After reading Six of Crows, I'm not surprised that the author, Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times Bestseller.


What inspired Witch of the Cards, my historical fantasy

My historical fantasy Witch of the cards launches in mid-March. I want to tell you about specific elements from the real world that inspired this dark fantasy. It's set in 1932 in Asbury Park, NJ, a beach town I've been going to for years. A while ago, I wandered into one of the boardwalk stores and saw old photos of a shipwreck that beached on the shores of Asbury for an entire year.

It was a party cruise boat called the Morro Castle that sailed from New York City to Cuba during prohibition, so high-rollers could drink without penalty. In my novel, the disaster at sea was caused by very different events! Peter Dune, one of the main characters in my novel sails on the Morro for a business meeting. For fun, I added cameos on the Morro of Bela Lugosi (the actor who played Dracula), Irene Ware (a 1930s movie star), the great surrealist Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, a famous clothing designer who collaborated with Dali.

From the nucleus of a real life paranormal museum in Asbury Park, I created Peter Dune's Tarot and Seance. A salt water taffy store on the boardwalk got transformed into a magical place with a very strange speakeasy in the basement. 

The novel summary:
Fiera was born a sea witch with no inkling of her power. And now it might be too late. 

Witch of the Cards is historical, supernatural romantic suspense set in 1932 on the Jersey shore. Twenty-two year-old Fiera has recently left the Brooklyn orphanage where she was raised, and works in Manhattan as a nanny. She gets a lucky break when her boss pays for her short vacation in Asbury Park. One evening, Fiera and her new friend Dulcie wander down the boardwalk and into Peter Dune’s Tarot & Séance, where they attend a card reading. 

Fiera has always had an unsettling ability to know things before they happen and sense people’s hidden agendas. She longs to either find out the origin of her powers or else banish them because as is, they make her feel crazy. When, during the reading, her energies somehow bond with Peter Dune’s and form an undeniable ethereal force, a chain of revelations and dangerous events begin to unspool. For one, Fiera finds out she is a witch from a powerful sea clan, but that someone is out to stop her blossoming power forever. And though she is falling in love with Peter, he also has a secret side. He’s no card reader, but a private detective working to expose mediums. Despite this terrible betrayal, Fiera must make the choice to save Peter from a tragic Morro Cruise boat fire, or let him perish with his fellow investigators. Told in alternating viewpoints, we hear Fiera and Peter each struggle against their deep attraction. Secrets, lies, even murder, lace this dark fantasy.

Join the Facebook Witch of Cards launch party! Check when book links go live.

What real life elements would you love to turn into historical fantasy?