Have you ever wished you could step outside of reality for a little while, take a breath and simply will yourself somewhere that is more peaceful, or more exciting, somewhere where you can be anything you can imagine, or experience an adventure you’d never dare to dream in real life?
The main character in my book Virtual: can you be sure what’s real?, Amanda, has the chance to do exactly that, through a marvelous trip into Virtual Reality. Join Amanda and her teammates and opponents, especially the sexy Rex Cade, as they experience excitement, adventure, betrayal, and untold dangers as they uncover a plot to take control of this new world.
It’s been awhile since I posted much original fiction, save for the poetry contest last month, so I thought I’d share this little story that’s been taking up space on my desktop. This is just a strange idea I had- what if humanity’s first encounter with extra-terrestrials didn’t go quite like we expected? Enjoy!
First Contact, by Amy Caudill
When the visitors came they did not appear in front of the U.N. or another world center. The sleek, ovoid craft, which NASA sensors determined was made of materials originating from outside our solar system, was first recorded as visible on June 21st, 2023, in the forests of Maine. The craft sat down in a clearing at 9:23pm EST.
It would only become obvious much later that this was in fact their intended destination, and not a navigational error as officials would initially speculate.
Quickly the governments of the world began jockeying with personages from various media outlets for position to witness this most historic occasion. Numerous military units took up position, ready to control crowds or wipe out invaders, as needed, if signaled from a command center positioned a safe distance away.
When the ship opened along a hidden seam and lowered a ramp to permit egress, the representatives of world governments, military components, research scientists, and members of the press, were naturally shocked at the appearance of the extra-terrestrial visitors, but in a manner that was completely unexpected.
The other-worldly visitors who descended from the vessel did not resemble any fanciful or movie variation of alien life forms. In fact, the group appeared as nothing more or less than creatures of earthly origins, but those popularly dismissed as figments of myth and legend.
One member of the alien delegation, of unknown gender, was over seven feet tall and covered with brown fur; another appeared to be female, stood at most two feet high, and had pointed ears and transparent wings that fluttered as she walked down the ramp. The third member of the alien party, apparently male, was nearly as short as the second, squat, and possessed a long, red beard that nearly touched the ground.
“We have traveled from a distant system to treat with the leaders of this planet,” the fairy-like being said, in a recognizable form of Standard English. “We wish an exchange of knowledge and perhaps raw materials.”
A U.N. official replied, “We welcome you in peace. We would be glad to introduce you to our governments, and discuss terms of exchange with you that could benefit us all.”
“We thank you for your words but are uncertain why you are approaching us. We assumed these forms to honor the most advanced species native to this planet,” the furry alien delegate claimed.
“We expected to meet with the caretakers of this world. We have long observed your planet and are aware of the damage your race has caused, more so than any other indigenous population,” the bearded delegate added. “We were uncertain as to your function, but inferred you to be an encroaching species. May we ask where the beings are who are responsible for the welfare and security of this planet?”
As the representatives of government struggled to voice an answer to the aliens’ query, the billions watching live via satellite feeds were already assigning blame, none of which they claimed for themselves.
Prince Jalan Kendeth is a pampered, self-centered rogue, a scoundrel, a womanizer. He’s hardly hero material, which he will tell you himself, except that when trying to escape one battle he accidentally led a charge into another one, a feat that made his people call him hero and his enemies call him devil.
When Jal tries to escape an enchantment the mysterious “Silent Sister” has placed over an opera house full of patrons, he literally runs into a fierce Norse warrior named Snorri Snagason. Both men are impacted by the failed curse, which causes them harm either if they part ways or make direct contact with each other. Effectively bound together until they find a way to reverse the curse, Jal joins Snorri on a mission to rescue his kidnapped family. The fact that he’s wanted by the local crime lord has nothing to do with it.
Jal and Snorri begin a quest that leads through wilderness, barbarian towns, mountains filled with undead soldiers, and ruins of “ancient”civilizations as they draw ever closer to a fortress planted on the edge of a glacier, the “Bitter Ice.” What they find there, and what they are willing to sacrifice, may determine the fate of the world.
This story is told mostly through the point of view of Jal, who paints a picture of a dark, unforgiving world, where the value of a man can be measured by the sharpness of his steel or the gold in his pocket. The narration is occasionally broken up by the storytelling efforts of Snorri, whose flashbacks reveal hints into the larger plot.
This latest installment into the author’s Broken Empire universe started off a little slow, but picked up momentum about a third of the way in. The suspense kept me practically on the edge of my seat towards the end of the story, and I was still guessing all the way up to the final chapter.
Though this book is the first of a trilogy, and is part of a larger universe, it still had enough resolution to be read as stand alone, which is a plus to me. For all of these reasons, I award this book 4.5 stars, and recommend it to anyone interested in the fantasy genre, as well as fans of paranormal and dystopian stories.
One of my favorite things about Halloween is seeing all the children, dressed as their favorite characters from make-believe, excitedly collecting treats as they travel door-to-door. With a few simple rules and precautions, we can ensure that this holiday tradition is a safe and fun time for our kids.
Before you go:
Do your research.
Many communities will establish a certain time frame for kids to trick-or-treat in, so both residents and law enforcement will be aware of when they may be on the streets, and to protect residents from “tricksters” who may try to take advantage of the night. It’s a good idea to check your local news source or community webpage to see if there are restrictions in your area. In my community, for example,children are only permitted to be out on Halloween from 6 to 8pm.
It’s also a good idea to plan the route your kids will take, especially if you are not going with them, and make sure they know to stick in areas you know and consider safe.
Alternatively, a number of local shopping centers and even churches offer “trick-or-treating” events, where kids can walk around a well-lit area, sometimes indoors, and collect candy from participating vendors or parishioners.
You’ve purchased your little ones that costume that they just had to have. Unfortunately, it’s a dark color that will make it hard for them to be seen by any cars on the street while they’re out. That’s okay, because you can make a last minute addition of reflective tape, found at any craft or hardware store, to their costumes. Or consider a battery-powered light pack, or a flashlight or other light-up accessory such as a lightsaber to make them more visible when they have to cross the street.
Instead of a mask that can make it hard to see, especially in a relatively dark area, consider using makeup on your kids’ faces. There are all sorts of specialty kits available for Halloween, or you can make use of normal cosmetics you have around the house.
When you’re ready to head out:
Make sure that your little ones are either with you, an adult or older teen you can trust, or at least with a group of friends. There really is safety in numbers when they are walking in or near dark, with loads of strangers out.
Encourage your kids to follow the courtesy rule-only visit houses where there is someone waiting out front or an outdoor light lit. Not everyone chooses or is able to hand out candy on Halloween, so remind your kids to be respectful. Also, it never hurts to encourage them to say thank you for the treats they receive.
It’s time to go home:
Unless your route out goes by grandma’s or your sister’s house, make sure that your kids don’t eat any treats until you get home and can check it. Consider counseling your kids to not eat their entire haul in one sitting, or take charge and ration it out to them. After all, the last thing anyone wants is for them to end their Halloween with a massive tummy ache!
Despite the recent controversies surrounding the cast of this upcoming movie, many of us are looking forward to the latest addition to the Harry Potter franchise, which is due out in theaters on November 16th. My children grew up on this series, in books and movies, and their excitement for J.K. Rowling’s world helped foster their love of reading. My thanks to Brian Avolicino from Apocaflix! Movies for this post on this upcoming sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
There has been a lot of speculation about what will be going on in the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We have already gotten a couple of trailers, including most recently the final trailer, which gives us an idea of what to expect from the movie. As well as the trailers, the title of the new movie Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, clearly seems to push the fact that this movie saga will be about the Dumbledore and Grindelwald story briefly told to us in the Harry Potter novels as well as movies.
In the first Fantastic Beasts movie we met Magizoologist Newt Scamander, (Eddie Redmayne) as he embarks on an adventure from Europe to the United States with his suitcase of Fantastic Beasts on a journey that ends up garnering the attention of the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of…
Please respect each authors’ and poets’ copyright. The rights remain with the writers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from each of the poems author’s is strictly prohibited and violates copyright laws in the country you are reading this work in as well as in the country you are trying to re-publish this work in. – Aurora Jean Alexander
A rustling of the yew in October’s breeze,
While over her grave it sheds a few leaves.
They rot in the soil with what’s left of her corpse,
Rain drenches the ground where once she had walked.
Burned at the stake in seventeen-o-two,
Jane looks down from the top of the yew.
She wasn’t a witch, and it wasn’t a trick,
She’d learned from her mother how to heal the sick. Potions, plants…
I wanted to share with you the original poem I entered into Aurora Jean Alexander’s annual Halloween contest on her website, Writer’s Treasure Chest It describes the excitement that various characters feel at the approaching spooky holiday. Please take a moment to stop by and check out the other entries
Is it Time? – by Amy Caudill
Plastic skeletons of varied size,
Pumpkins of sundry hue, with permanent artificial grins
And lights in their eyes,
Rubber bats on string and flocked ravens perching,
Tinsel cats and wired-sheeted ghosts all implore-
Is it time to come out and play?
Little monsters of every style,
Fairy princesses bedecked in their finest and pirates
In the original novel that drove a series of bestsellers, Odd Thomas is a humble soul distinctly lacking in what many would consider ambition. His goals in life are simple: to help others using his unusual gifts whenever possible, to love Stormy Llewellyn to the best of his ability, and to live as normal a life as possible.
When Odd sees a cluster of otherworldly bodachs following a customer who enters the Pico Mundo Grill during his shift as a fry cook, he feels compelled to investigate. Odd knows from long experience that the ominous spirits, which few others can see, are drawn to death and mayhem, and their presence in such large numbers surely heralds an approaching calamity.
Odd quickly finds himself in deep trouble while tracking a serial killer fanboy, who is apparently aware of every move Odd makes. Unfortunately the villain’s intended target is unclear, and to make matters worse, the fanboy killer is not working alone. Also, unfortunately, the conspirators go after the people Odd loves.
This riveting story quickly drew me in, and kept me on the edge of my seat with every page turned. Odd Thomas is a true hero; he doesn’t see himself as such, but he thinks nothing of placing himself in harm’s way to save the lives of others. The fatal flaw in Odd’s gift is that he can’t always tell immediately whether someone he sees is a ghost or the living, leaving a pall of uncertainty over his course of action in this story.
From Koontz’s descriptions of the ghosts and spirits Odd encounters, to the friendly and otherwise-normal nature of his protagonist, to the rich tapestry of secondary characters that surround Odd, the author presents a cast of heartwarming characters made all the more touching by the dangers that lurk around the corner.
This novel represents the best in paranormal thrillers, and I enthusiastically give it five stars.
Forty years after the release of the original movie, Laurie Strode, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis, faces a final confrontation with her brother and nemesis, Michael Myers, played by Nick Castle.
This new version of Halloween begins with Michael escaping from the sanitarium where he has lived for most of his life so he can continue to kill. Laurie has survived when no one else has, and rather than fearing that Michael will come after her, Laurie actually is prepared and even eager to wage war on the psychopath who murdered their sister among many others. She will fight with everything she has to protect her family and stop Michael.
Michael Myers began his killing spree as a six year old child in the original theatrical release, Halloween (1978), when he murdered his sister Janet. Confined to a sanitarium for fifteen years, he escaped with only two goals in mind, to find his sister and to continue his murder spree. The next few movies weave a mysterious and horrifying mythology around the characters, culminating in a reboot of the series in 2007, with a sequel, Halloween II, in 2009.
This second reboot of the franchise that has sparked eleven movies to date, plus novels, comic books and video games, Halloween (2018), arrives in theatres next weekend. What a perfect way to get into the spirit of the season-just leave younger children with the sitter because this movie is rated “R” for violence and gore.
I remember long-ago nights when, accompanied by my siblings and friends, I walked through the streets of our neighborhood, dressed in an outlandish fashion and carrying a plastic jack-o-lantern. There were usually a few parents along for the trip, but we didn’t fear the night, because surely our large contingent of monsters could handle any truly scary denizens of the dark.
I remember the excitement I felt as a child as I chose a new identity, a new persona I would become, if only for one night. Simply by putting on different clothes, a mask, a wig or a hat, my mind was free to imagine, and I took advantage of the situation to act, to pretend, to become someone new.
Once our baskets were full and we had paid homage to every last house in sight that displayed a lit front porch light, it was time to return home, where our bounty could be inspected before we secreted it away, and removed our costumes and wigs, ready to be ourselves again.
It’s October, and as I wander the aisles of my favorite stores, the displays of colorful seasonal merchandise take me back to those treasured memories of my childhood. I’m not talking about the bountiful Christmas decorations that are often exhibited side-by-side with the other stuff, but rather those items strictly designed especially for the period that begins with the start of autumn and that we are usually ready to store, or dispose of, by Thanksgiving at the latest.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the year, from the neighborhood camaraderie generated by the descending hordes of costumed children seeking sugar, to the imaginative and eye-catching displays some of our neighbors create to entertain, and to scare.
Halloween is one of the few excuses we adults get when it is socially acceptable (aside from Comic-con or Renaissance Fairs) for children and children at heart of all ages to become someone else for a little while. One simply needs to don a mask, and live out a fantasy. Pick up a wand or sword, and become a new character. Put on a costume, and revisit childhood and the world of let’s pretend.
Who would you choose to be if you could become someone else, temporarily? Would you choose to be your favorite character from a book, movie or television show? Would you choose an archetypal character like a generic vampire or pirate? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wander around or simply answer the door as a zombie, a werewolf, or a fairy godmother?
Let’s take this occasion to fantasize, to remember, to return to when life was filled with the joy of imagination. If you have the opportunity to attend a work or community event where you can dress up for a night, why not take advantage? Remember for a little while the joy that comes from such a freeing activity.
If you have children you can take door to door, or through the local mall for trick or treating, consider coordinating costumes with them. I have seen some really cute theme costumes in the past, where every member of a family became a character from The Wizard of Oz, or Star Wars, or Marvel.
Take pleasure in using your imagination. Even if you don’t go out, you always can dress up to hand out candy this year. You may find that you enjoy the thrill your guests get from seeing you as you answer the door. Whatever you choose to do this year, have fun. After all, that’s what Halloween is really all about.