Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dragon's Trail (The Outworlders, Book 1) by Joseph Malik

 Release date: September 30, 2016
Subgenre: Epic fantasy

About Dragon's Trail:



"I didn't come here to sell my soul. I came here to buy it back."

Once dubbed "The Deadliest Man Alive," Jarrod Torrealday is a former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert banned from competition for killing another fencer in a duel. Despondent, volatile,alcoholic, yet still one of the greatest swordsmen alive, he now works for third-rate fantasy films as a technical consultant and stuntman.

When Jarrod accepts the gig of a lifetime from a sorcerer looking for a hero, he finds himself facing an invading army in a world inhabited by creatures from Earth's mythical past. He soon learns that the enemy mastermind is also from Earth, and has laid the foundations for a new kind of war.

Gripping and literate, with spectacular worldbuilding and a sharp eye for combat, Dragon's Trail is an epic fantasy thriller and the first book in Joseph Malik's Outworlders saga.

Excerpt:

 

 I. OVERTURE 

“Fighting was fun; this was the thing. Fighting was tremendous fun.” — Ewart Oakeshott 

The Middle Ages had come to Camille Bay. 
It was a rainy Memorial Day weekend. Spring seemed to have been and gone without a single hour of sunshine, and the coming summer held no promises. 
Camille Bay, Maine, is a tiny Birkenstock town known for its artistic population and a never-ending slew of obscure exhibitions. Camille Bay is host to fantasy conventions, an occasional movie set, and the region’s most prestigious glass-blowing school. She boasts several successful authors among her quiet inhabitants.
The particular way Camille Bay had chosen to draw the immediate world’s attention today entailed a re-creation of a medieval fair in the market square, courtesy of several large Renaissance troupes. 
Everyone in the town participated; participation is the town creed. The costumes ranged from casual passers-by in Robin Hood hats, to axe-bearing Norsemen and lace-ruffled Elizabethans. Woe, indeed, to the unwitting tourist, reluctantly handing over his Mobil card to a bearded Norseman in a bearskin cape and a leather jockstrap. 
Crius’s vision unclouded in an alley of Camille Bay. 
With a fleeting sweat of terror he realized that this was not a world he’d expected and certainly not the world he’d visualized moments ago, standing an ocean of space distant in his chambers at Horlech with the Tower Day celebrations rampaging in the distance. 
A granite sky spat mist over a fitful, intense gridwork, a hornets’ nest as garish and searing as the sun even in the intense cold of the day. Everywhere he looked, the world seemed to explode with its own sprinting pulse; every color and edge exquisite in its squarishness and order. He smelled fish and seawater. An unsourced thrum slashed at him from nowhere. 
He climbed to his feet on a hard black road. A fine road. 
Roads were roads. 
Roads hadn’t changed. 
There he stood on the road, crumpled, hands on his knees, awestruck at a piece of trash more bright and polished than anything he’d ever seen, a massive facet of a jewel blowing along the slate of the yard fences and the blacktop of the alley. 
He watched it go, and the world tunneled into place in its wake. 
Square homes built shoulder to shoulder sprawled up the hills away from the sea. At the end of the alley the road led up the hill, and also down to a calm harbor brimming with boats.
Away from the water, the town was bursting. He knew a festival when he saw one. 
Festivals hadn’t changed. 
He pulled his hood up and struck out uphill, thrilled with the quality of the road beneath his boots. The noise grew and his pulse quickened. 
What a world! What an intense, bright, loud, fast world! 
He stopped at a police barrier and reached to warm his hand by its flashing lamp; found light, but no heat. He touched it. He rested his hand on it. He giggled.
He took a slow look across the multitudes. Warriors in piecemeal armor, commoners in
simple dress, well-outfitted courtiers.
Many things, it seemed, had not changed. More than he’d expected.

Amazon


About Joseph Malik:

Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a freelance writer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command. His hobbies include boxing, fencing, HEMA, traditional archery, and linguistics.
A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he currently serves in the Army Reserve and lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. 
Dragon’s Trail is his first novel.
 




Friday, September 30, 2016

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2016

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some July books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have a whole lot of space opera this month, but also epic fantasy, urban fantasy, portal fantasy, military science fiction, dystopian science fiction, science fiction romance, time travel, vampires, witches, demons, dragons, aliens, nanitechnology, starship mages, disasters in space, intergalactic mercenaries, turncoat princes, outlaw swordfighters, FBI witches, psychedelic coffee and much more.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Graveyard Shift by Cora BuhlertGraveyard Shift by Cora Buhlert
 
While docked at the civilian space station Unity for repairs, the Republic of United Planets battlecruiser Great Endeavour undertakes a trial flight with an inexperienced bridge crew. Disaster strikes and the Great Endeavour crashes into Unity's shopping concourse, killing more than three hundred people.

A tragic accident, but in times of war, the public is not willing to accept tragic accidents. And so the Republic's government sends its best troubleshooter, Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces to initiate a cover-up.

This is a novelette of 14100 words or approx. 48 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

Courting Trouble by Cora BuhlertCourting Trouble by Cora Buhlert
 
Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eek out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

But when Anjali and Mikhail stumble upon a protection racket during a routine shopping trip, they have to make a choice: Lay low to avoid attracting attention or stay true to their personal ethics and intervene?

This is a story of 6700 words or approx. 23 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

Arkadian Skies by Lindsay BurokerArkadian Skies by Lindsay Buroker
 
With the man who kidnapped her daughter imprisoned aboard her ship, Captain Alisa Marchenko is closer than ever to reuniting her family. But her new guest has been in a coma for weeks, with the secret to her daughter's location locked away in his mind. She must find a way to sneak him into a state-of-the-art hospital on Arkadius, a planet in the heart of Alliance territory. Not an easy task when she and the cyborg Leonidas, her most trusted ally, are wanted by the Alliance army.

As if that mission weren’t daunting enough, the Staff of Lore has appeared on the planet. As has the man who stole it: Alisa’s father.

Bloodless by Tori CentanniBloodless by Tori Centanni
 
Henri Dunn would love to avoid all vampire bullshit for the foreseeable future, but the universe has other plans.

When an exsanguinated corpse is left in the dumpster behind her workplace, Henri knows it's a some kind of twisted message meant for her. It's just not one she can decipher.

In addition to that terrifying puzzle, Henri's new ex-vampire roommate is not adapting well to human life and a Cure-obsessed vampire is stalking her. And of course, her enigmatic vampire sire, Sean, is being his usual elusive and infuriating self.

When a second body that's been drained of blood is left in front of Henri's apartment building, it becomes clear that a vicious serial killer is fixated on her. Using her ability to read memories in blood, Henri must figure out who's behind these terrible killings and stop them before she becomes the next victim.

Bloodless is the second installment of The Henri Dunn Urban Fantasy Series, which features a snarky protagonist, intriguing mysteries, a captivating cast of characters, and elements of humor. Book 1, The Immortality Cure, is also available.

Osdal by Michael ChatfieldOsdal by Michael Chatfield
 
Masoul wasn’t just an uprising, it was the starting of a war. Harmony didn’t start on Masoul; they were using it as a testing ground.

Moretti has a lead on where Harmony might have come from. First they need to defeat Harmony’s forces in Osdal.

Nerva’s not going to throw his people at Harmony, this is not just a colonist uprising, this is a well-armed and backed military. They need more information. It comes down to the Triple-Two’s to find out that information.
Once again the Victor brothers and their platoon will be right at the heart of Harmony.

Nothing will be the same after Osdal.

Blooded by Shei DarksbaneBlooded by Shei and Annathesa Nikola Darksbane
 
Dakota Shepherd gained Hellfire from a demoness on the day she Awakened. She never asked for that power, but it worked out well...until the deadly fire turned against her, forcing her to strike a deal with her even deadlier benefactor.

A bloody quest. A score unsettled. A lesson finally learned.

Dakota must recover the demoness’ stolen blood before a thief with unparalleled power can turn it to his own dark purposes. Even with her wealthy and powerful girlfriend on her side, Dakota is way out of her league.

But when a demoness calls, only a dead girl says no.

The Captain by Brian W. FosterRepulsive Origins - The Captain by Brian W. Foster
 
When a supervillain attacks civilians, the US Army is first on the scene. Lieutenant Samuel Shields is given the impossible task of protecting lives and property. His weapons won’t hurt a three-story tall enhanced hostile, and even if he could figure out a way to take the enemy out, he’s not allowed to engage under any circumstances. Instead, he must wait for the so-called superheroes to show up.

Leave it to the politicians to create such a FUBAR situation.

Two children are put in danger, and Samuel is forced to make a life-altering decision. If he follows orders, he’ll have the deaths of two kids on his conscience. But if he disobeys, he risks his life and, worse, a court martial.

The Night Watch by Chris GerribThe Night Watch by Chris Gerrib
 
In the chaotic and crime-ridden settlement of Boxtown on Mars, Minty Storey witnesses a bar fight she has no idea will change the course of her life.

Halfway across the planet, Janet Pilgrim and the Volunteer Space Rescue Service struggle to do something about the pirate menace on the spaceways between Earth and Mars.

But the problems both face are much bigger than pirates and bar fights. When a leader of Earth's Manifest Destiny movement makes an appearance on Mars, events begin to roll to a climax that will hold the fate of the planet in the balance.

One Down by Bryce T. HughesOne Down by Bryce T. Hughes:
 
An impenetrable barrier keeps Earth's ships from leaving. Teams of specially-trained heroes fly the limited allowed space wiping out the debris specialists suspect offended an alien force. Separated from her lover, Jane treasures her team and performs her duty, but she suspects a lie fuels the international sport. With her friend Julio's life hanging in the balance, she faces the deadly force penning her planet and battles the hypocrisy of her government.

This is a LGBT short story with lesbian and gay content, and mild swearing.

True Colors of Betrayal by J.C. KangTrue Colors of Betrayal by J.C. Kang
 
The world knows Kaiya as the Dragon Charmer.

After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all she wants is to return to a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor assigns her an onerous task: negotiating with the aggressive Teleri Empire for the extradition of her cousin, who tried to murder the imperial family and usurp the Dragon Throne.

The mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.

When the Teleri Empire breaks off negotiations, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.

Stem by Aaron D. LambStem by Aaron D. Lamb
 
After escaping the extermination of everyone they loved, Rome and Mae seek revenge.

However, the world outside their city sized prison is too busy to care. They form a desperate friendship with an unlucky Zoo guide, caught in the wrong place at the right time. Together they face the forces of a corrupt government, a sensationalist media, and an apathetic public.

And they only have a week left to live.

Suspenseful, political and awash with colourful characters and epic set pieces. Stem the sequel to sci-fi hit Pollen, builds to a finale that pits hero against hero.

Cargo by V.M. LawCargo by V.M. Law
 
On the Age of Discovery, a massive cargo hauler, Kasey Lee works as a Custodial Technician, essentially a glorified janitor.

When the Ides, a hostile alien race, attacks Earth's outposts, the Age must assist in the war effort.

But Kasey discovers that there is a conspiracy on board, one which led the Ides straight to the outposts, and is now pointing them right at Earth.

You Don't Belong Here by Tim MajorYou Don't Belong Here by Tim Major
 
Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine. As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself? Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.

Dragon's Trail by Joseph MalikDragon's Trail by Joseph Malik
 
"I didn't come here to sell my soul. I came here to buy it back."

Once dubbed "The Deadliest Man Alive," Jarrod Torrealday is a former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert banned from competition for killing another fencer in a duel. Despondent, volatile, alcoholic, yet still one of the greatest swordsmen alive, he now works for third-rate fantasy films as a technical consultant and stuntman.

When Jarrod accepts the gig of a lifetime from a sorcerer looking for a hero, he finds himself facing an invading army in a world inhabited by creatures from Earth's mythical past. He soon learns that the enemy mastermind is also from Earth, and has laid the foundations for a new kind of war.

Born a Witch by TS PaulBorn a Witch... Drafted by the FBI by T.S. Paul
 
Agatha Blackmore came into her powers early as a child. Her first spell was a thing of beauty and wonder. It brought terror into the hearts of her family. Who wanted to accidentally become a pink chicken? Now that she's older her magic is out of control. She needs a teacher and none of the Witch Schools will take her. How about a career in law enforcement? The FBI needs serious help in catching law breaking Paranormals. It's a match made in heaven or is it in Hell? God only knows what happens next.

The Unmasking Engine by Ian W. SainsburyThe Unmasking Engine by Ian W. Sainsbury
 
An experiment that began 2.8 billion years ago is about to end…

Seb Varden is starting to get used to life as a World Walker. With a body full of alien nanotechnology, the ability to travel anywhere instantly and - most surprising of all - a steady relationship with Meera Patel, things are finally looking up.

Until Seb has his first blackout, starts meeting aliens and discovers a plan that threatens the entire human race. And, of course, Mason, the most dangerous Manna user, picks this particular moment to come after him and Meera.

Scariest of all, Seb is learning his transformation into a World Walker is far from complete…

Monkeys, aliens, technology, parallel universes, music, psychopaths, A.I., a magic tech spider, The Unmaking Engine has it all, including the explanation of how all life on earth began. Did I mention monkeys?

The Unmaking Engine is book 2 in the The World Walker Series.

The Turncoat Prince by Amelia PrinceThe Turncoat Prince by Amelia Smith
 
Darna is just a guildswoman, or so she’d like to think, but her alleged father was the prince of a backwater province. Her uncle assassinated him to claim the throne, and now he's coming after her.

With assassins on her heels, Darna takes on a job in the remote province of Slaradun. The prince is irate to find that this limping woman has replaced the able-bodied man he hired, but according to the contract, he’s stuck with her for the season. Darna finds the prince arrogant and high-handed, but he’s also intelligent and well-read. As winter closes in on Slaradun keep, late night conversations turn from sea walls to more intimate territory, and the province’s lost dragon reappears.

This book is the second in the Dragonsfall trilogy. To enjoy it properly, read The Defenders' Apprentice first, and perhaps also the beginning of Darna’s story in the prequel novels, Scrapplings and Priestess.

Phobos Eclipse of the Heart by Colin SpindlerPhobos Eclipse of the Heart by Colin Spindler
 
Colin Spindler's CULT Group Coffee Sequence is a mystical space yarn for lovers of psychedelic science fiction.

Phobos Eclipse of the Heart picks up the wild tale where Of Bots and Beans left off.

Follow the mysterious Participant's continuing misadventures in Sequencing. Learn about The Scullythorne Thesis, an authoritative document which can be twisted into providing support for any and every argumentative perspective. Uncover a nefarious plot to bring down the Dos Boletos facility. Mourn the tragic end of Sir Francis Buildobare and the loss of the Vladimarino Gripebagger Expedition. Puzzle over the controversial Alley Cat Initiative.

Revel in the mysteries of the nanobot-haunted Cosmos!

Alien Arcana by Glynn StewartAlien Arcana by Glynn Stewart
 
An alien ruin
A murdered archeologist
An ancient secret—and a conspiracy that will kill to keep it!

When a scientist is murdered after finding signs of alien magic in an archeological dig, Mage Damien Montgomery, Hand of the Mage-King of Mars, is sent to investigate both the murder and the alien runes.
His investigation is interrupted when a mysterious ship attacks the ruins with weapons only available to the Martian Navy. Despite saving the dig site, Montgomery is left with more questions than answers.

His investigations reveal questions about the origin of his magic and his nation—and lead him back to the one place that should be safe: the court of the Mage-King of Mars.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for September 29, 2016

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with more tributes to Dave Kyle, discussion of the movie The Girl With All the Gifts, lots of awards as well as the usual mix of writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on The Girl With All the Gifts:

Tributes to Dave Kyle:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Turncoat Prince (Dragonsfall, Book 2) by Amelia Smith

Release date: September 27, 2016
Subgenre: Epic fantasy, dark fantasy

About The Turncoat Prince

 

Darna is just a guildswoman, or so she’d like to think, but her alleged father was the prince of a backwater province. Her uncle assassinated him to claim the throne, and now he's coming after her.

With assassins on her heels, Darna takes on a job in the remote province of Slaradun. The prince is irate to find that this limping woman has replaced the able-bodied man he hired, but according to the contract, he’s stuck with her for the season. Darna finds the prince arrogant and high-handed, but he’s also intelligent and well-read. As winter closes in on Slaradun keep, late night conversations turn from sea walls to more intimate territory, and the province’s lost dragon reappears.

This book is the second in the Dragonsfall trilogy. To enjoy it properly, read The Defenders' Apprentice first, and perhaps also the beginning of Darna’s story in the prequel novels, Scrapplings and Priestess.

Excerpt:



This place isn’t safe for you,” he said. “I think you should go stay in the temple.”
Don’t be ridiculous; I’ve lived here for years.” Darna looked over her shoulder and drew the curtains across that last gap. “Is it something to do with Tiadun?”
Thorat nodded. “Was the prince of Tiadun your father?”
I don’t know.” He might have been. After all, her mother had been a priestess and might have lain with any number of men, including the prince of their province, but no man was supposed to claim a priestess’s child as his own, though they did when it suited them. The prince had tried to claim her. He’d sponsored her priestess training, possibly because she’d stood as proof that he could sire a child, although a girl child wouldn’t normally inherit the throne. He’d needed that, not that it had done him any good in the end.
He’s dead now, so it doesn’t matter.”
Thorat shook his head. “That’s the trouble. It does matter. Calar, his brother, your uncle, he found out about you. He wants you dead. He’s offered a land grant, a rather large land grant, and a share of the Cerean trade in dragon stones to the man who kills you.”
Kills me? Me?” Darna’s voice squeaked. “Why?”
I don’t know all of it,” Thorat said, running his hand through his hair. His hand looked strong, competent. He had a good longsword which he knew how to use. Maybe he would protect her, not that she’d ever needed protection before.
You don’t know all of what?” Darna asked. If she was going to be murdered, she’d like to know why.
He had your father murdered.”
I don’t know that he was my father.” The idea that Calar had killed his brother, the prince, was not at all surprising.
The prince looks like you. Looked like you. He had the same expressions. I believe he was your father, even though you’re not like any other princess I’ve seen.”
I wasn’t raised to be a princess.”
You weren’t raised at all. You’re half-wild.”
Exactly,” Darna said, “but now I’m also a full initiate of the Guild of Planners.”
Congratulations. I didn’t know that.”
They blessed my masterwork this past winter, just before Tiada was killed.” Tiada was the dragon and guardian deity of her home province. Dragons were supposed to live forever, as long as the land, so now her homeland was dead. The death of the dragon meant far more to her than the death of a man ever could, even if that man had sired her, and that was far from certain. Thorat had been there at Tiada’s death. That much she knew, though the details of why he’d been there were not entirely clear.
You know about that?” Thorat asked.
Iola thought I should know. She said that Tiada had joined the deepest stream, and that that was different from death, though it looks the same to us on the surface. She knew that I was Tiada’s child.” Darna had sensed the absence of the dragon before Iola had told her about it.
And not the prince’s,” Thorat mused.
I have no interest in being connected to the prince of Tiadun,” Darna said. “He had nothing that I wanted. Everyone knows that. Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference. Why would Calar want me dead?” She did know her alleged uncle’s name. She kept track of what was happening in Tiadun, just in case. “I’m no threat to him.”
But he thinks you are, and he’s right,” Thorat said.

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About Amelia Smith:


Amelia Smith writes magazine articles about Martha's Vineyard, fantasy sagas about dragons, and blog posts about nothing in particular. To learn more about her, visit www.ameliasmith.net.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Courting Trouble (In Love and War, Book 3) by Cora Buhlert

Release date: September 15, 2016
Subgenre: Space opera, science fiction romance

About Courting Trouble

 

Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eek out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

But when Anjali and Mikhail stumble upon a protection racket during a routine shopping trip, they have to make a choice: Lay low to avoid attracting attention or stay true to their personal ethics and intervene?

This is a story of 6700 words or approx. 23 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone. 

Excerpt:

 

Djamila was an unremarkable dustball of a planet, notable only for one thing, its strategic location along one of the major trade routes between the Republic of United Planets and the independent worlds on the galactic rim.
Its main trade hub was the city of Demirkan on the North Continent, a sprawling metropolis that had sprung up around the planet’s biggest spaceport, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.
Next to the spaceport, the most important structure in Demirkan was the Red Market, named for the bright red awnings that shielded shoppers and vendors alike from the merciless desert sun.
No matter what the hour, the Red Market was always bustling with activity. Hundreds of vendors were offering goods from a thousand world to crowds of eager buyers. Legend had it that anything in the galaxy could be found at the Red Market, either above or below the counter.
Two figures briskly made their way through the labyrinthine passages of the Red Market. A man and a woman, both in their mid twenties, walking side by side in the perfect synchronicity born of close companionship.
The man was tall and lanky, though he moved with the natural grace of a trained fighter. His hair was dark and fell down to his shoulders. His skin was uncommonly pale, his eyes were a striking blue. He was clad all in black — boots, utility pants, shirt, all topped by a long coat of black synth-leather, that also concealed the blaster he wore in a shoulder holster. This was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces.
The woman by his side was a good head shorter, with brown skin, dark eyes and glossy black hair she wore tied back into a single long braid. Like her companion, she wore utilitarian clothing, though she had opted for a tunic of flowing synth-silk in bright colours with a matching scarf rather than the stark black her companion favoured. She, too, was armed, with a blaster on one hip and a dagger on the other. This was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps.
Djamila was a harsh world and Demirkan a harsh city. And while the Red Market might be a place of wonder, it was also a place of danger, its passages prowled by various gangs in search of easy prey.
But even the most hardened criminals of Demirkan knew better than to bother the pair that strolled across the Red Market, preferring to give them a wide berth instead. For Mikhail Grikov and Anjali Patel radiated danger, which was not surprising, considering they were two of the deadliest fighters in the galaxy. They were also on the run.
The Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds had been at war for eighty-eight years now, grinding up generations of soldiers in endless battles. Mikhail and Anjali had been two of those soldiers, the best their respective governments had to offer. They’d met on the battlefield, fought, but failed to kill each other and finally had taken each other prisoner. And somewhere along the way, they’d managed to fall in love and decided to run away together, deserters and traitors to the Republic and the Empire both.
The Republic and the Empire might not be able to agree on anything, but there was one issue in which they were curiously of one mind. The traitors Patel and Grikov had to be found and brought to justice, whatever the cost.
So Mikhail and Anjali had fled to the independent rim worlds, the only place where they could live in relative peace, working as security, mercenaries, muscle-for-hire and hopping from world to world, always trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. And today, their flight had brought them to Djamila, to the Red Market in the city of Demirkan.
Though the exact purpose that had brought them to the Red Market today was not escape or even work — no, the reason was something far more prosaic. Mikhail and Anjali were shopping for groceries. Or rather, Anjali was shopping for groceries, while Mikhail was tagging along.
“What about that one?”
He pointed at a stall that was selling a bewildering variety of powdered spices and dry goods that to his uneducated eyes looked exactly like the sort of thing Anjali was looking for.
“Oh no, that won’t do at all,” Anjali replied, “The quality is bad, the spices are old, preserved by irradiation and quite possibly adulterated as well. They add yeast extract, monosodium glutamate, bran or even sawdust, you know?”
To be honest, Mikhail hadn’t known that. “I bow to your superior knowledge,” he said with a smile, wondering how in the universe Anjali could tell all that without a thorough chemical analysis, for he sure as hell couldn’t. But then, Anjali had some genetic enhancements, courtesy of her former masters, that he lacked.
“That man at the spaceport said there was a Rajipuri spice merchant somewhere here at the Red Market. We only have to find him or her.”
Rajipuri was Anjali’s homeworld, commonly referred to as the jewel in the Imperial crown, for it kept the Empire supplied with fierce warriors, powdered spices, brightly patterned synth-silk and intricate jewellery. All the finest quality in the galaxy, or so Anjali insisted.
“How about asking for directions?” Mikhail suggested, “Rajipuri merchants can’t be too common, this far from the Empire.”
“I’m a Shakyri warrior. We never ask for directions.”

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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 
Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres. When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

 

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for September 23, 2016

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with a lot of listicles, the 50th anniversaries of Star Trek and Raumpatrouille Orion, tributes to Dave Kyle, the Emmys and other awards as well as the usual mix of writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stem (Pollen, Book 2) by Aaron D. Lamb

Release date: September 5, 2016
Subgenre: Dystopian science fiction

About Stem:

 

After escaping the extermination of everyone they loved, Rome and Mae seek revenge.

However, the world outside their city sized prison is too busy to care. They form a desperate friendship with an unlucky Zoo guide, caught in the wrong place at the right time. Together they face the forces of a corrupt government, a sensationalist media, and an apathetic public.

And they only have a week left to live.

Suspenseful, political and awash with colourful characters and epic set pieces.

Stem the sequel to sci-fi hit Pollen, builds to a finale that pits hero against hero.

Excerpt:



“Don’t fuck this up,” Henry whispered to himself.
Henry Underhill, a graduate of the CSKU Academy for Advanced Engineering, and yet most days he felt like a chump. He clapped his hands together; he winced at the sting and watched the spit of sweat fly off in all directions. 
This was his first class ticket to be free of Rita. Her name ebbed into him, like water through a crack in the sea wall. The dismal feeling pulled him toward a dark sinkhole at the centre of his living room. He liked the idea of his sinkhole; it was full of things that couldn't hurt him, things he was the master of, books to read, games to win. No Rita. No heart-pounding chaos.
He sighed. He loved the heart-pounding chaos.
 
He took a big gulp of water and a final look around his apartment. Tidy, nothing embarrassing, but enough knick-knacks to spark conversation.
He flicked his holoprojectors on and the room lit up. A beautiful blue light filled his home, and then overlaid a waiting room in a fancy hotel in perfectly replicated 3D.
“Just ask questions,” Henry said to himself.
His brother had done this a thousand times and had been coaching Henry for weeks.
 
“Don't compare anyone to Rita.”
 
The waiting room turned green.
“Welcome, Henry Underhill,” the host of the waiting room said.
 
No projection, a bodiless but pleasant voice.
 
“Your premium membership enables you access to the best Life-Swipe has to offer. We have matched you with several women based on your biometric data and preference settings. Relax, enjoy the dates, and remember: you've got five minutes per date. If you don’t like, swipe! Have fun, Henry.”
Henry’s room then split. Half, his room; the other half of the room lit up with a stranger’s living room. Neat and tidy too, bookshelves, paintings on the wall. Henry relaxed.
“Oh, hi,” said the projection of a woman beamed into the room.
 
Curly red hair, cool green eyes with a big bright necklace; she looked like she was ready for a night at the opera. He saw from her quick facts file she was two months older than him, and liked the same music.
 
“So. Five minutes,” she said softly.
“Yeah, what can you do in five minutes?” Henry laughed weakly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I mean, you know, five minutes is no time at all. You have to get right into it, don't you?”
“Right into what?”
“Conversation.”
“Oh sure! Sorry, for a second I thought you'd come to the wrong kinda dating site.”
“I hope not. So let's get down to it!”
“Seriously? You want that kinda date? I'm not that person.”
“What? I'm confused. I’m not here for a sex ...”
SWIPE.
“Right,” said Henry. “Fucked that up then.”
“Sorry Henry,” said the host voice as the projection flicked back to the waiting room. “Would you like feedback?”
“Sure,” he said nervously.
“Your feedback is, ‘I think he was after a sex line’.”


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About Aaron D. Lamb:

Aaron Lamb born in the Medway Towns, grew up in the gritty terrace housing of a main road to an industrial estate. Wrote his first novel aged 11 and hasn't stop telling stories since.
He has trekked extensively around the wilderness of Norway and Finland, ran a cabaret show in London's Soho for four years, ran an ultra marathon and has lived in Eastern Cambodia.
He now lives in Australia with his wife in a little flat with a fantastic garden and enjoys a beer in the evening and cooking interesting dinners!