Monday, November 18, 2019

Tooth and Blade (Tooth and Blade, Book 1) by Shad Callister

Release date: September 25, 2019
Subgenre: Military fantasy

About Tooth and Blade:


Desperate young warriors fighting for gold and glory in a land filled with monsters.

The warriors of the Tooth and Blade will fight for Ostora, to protect the people of this new land from the dangers that stalk it. Somehow, if they live long enough, they hope to find a place for themselves here.

But the future of these fighting men is anything but certain, and Captain Pelekarr of the cavalry must work quickly with Damicos of the foot soldiers to establish the fledgling company's reputation. The Kerathi military has pulled out, and the barbarian tribesmen are massing for battle while huge monsters lurk in the trees.

If the Tooth and Blade can fight their way past all this, they'll become legends. But how many will die trying?




Keltos heard Cormoran and Fieron exchange grumbling commentary on being lumped in with the horsemen, but soon none of them had breath to spare for words. They sprinted across the stream sheeting water to each side, and emerged onto the tiny path worn into the steep side of the bluff that loomed darkly over their heads.
More than once they slipped and fell on the steep dirt path, only to rise and scramble upwards again, using their weapons for leverage. Muscles ached, breath rasped in lungs as they heaved their bodies upward. Each moment they expected an arrow to pierce their skulls.
Keltos felt something hum past his ear, confirming his fear. He threw himself flat against the rocks.
“Move!” Ireth hissed. Makos pushed him onward from behind. They were right behind the Duran woman now, with Meldus and Ica following, and the hoplites a little further down still.
Another arrow sailed down, this time piercing Meldus in the back of the leg. He cried out and sank back several feet. As Keltos looked back, Cormoran bent to help the man, but Meldus waved the others on.
“Don’t stop. Get up there, or we’re all finished!”
“Come on, archers,” Keltos heard Makos mutter as they both launched themselves up the trail with fresh energy. “Loose, damn you, loose! Keep them down.”
No other shaft came for a moment, and Keltos wondered if one or all of the watchers remaining on guard at the back entrance to the camp had turned to go for reinforcements. This seemed to be confirmed when a sharp whistle sounded from below, and a volley of shafts hummed out and up overhead, a cluster of white streaks in the gloom.
“That’s it, Argaf!” Ireth said as they each paused to watch the Duran arrows go. “Hit them for us!”
“Praise Telion,” Keltos muttered. Then they were climbing again, their legs burning now with the intense and frenzied exertion. His arms strained at every rock and root that could keep him from sliding back down.
They were near the top now, having taken no more than three minutes to get from the stream to the bluff’s peak. Ireth’s soft leather boot scraped on a bare patch of rock and she tumbled sideways, arresting her fall just in time to avoid going over into some bushes and down an even steeper embankment to the side. Cormoran reached over and helped her toward the path again, but now Keltos was in the lead and he pressed toward the part of the trail that leveled out just above.
So far, Felevus had answered their prayers; the rain had not begun yet, and the path was still traversable. In a few minutes’ time it would be a slippery mess of clay and rainwater, suicide for any that attempted the climb afterward. This meant they were even less likely to receive aid from below once the small rescue team had ascended to the camp.
Keltos held his saber before him, ready for anything when he lunged into view at the top.




About Shad Callister: 

Shad Callister is a bit of a nomad, having lived in every region of the U.S. and parts of South America as well. Nowadays he stays close to the Rocky Mountains, where he quietly pursues interests in military history, swordsmanship, and technology.


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Friday, November 15, 2019

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for November 15, 2019

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with more about the uproar involving Martin Scorsese's derogatory remarks about superhero movies, The Mandalorian and the future of Star Wars in general, His Dark Materials, Watchmen, Terminator: Dark Fate, Doctor Sleep, season 4 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Joker, Frozen II, problems at ChiZine Publications and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Film and TV:

Comments on The Mandalorian (warning: potential spoilers): 

Comments on Martin Scorsese versus superhero movies:

Comments on His Dark Materials:

Comments on the latest version of Watchmen

Comments on Terminator: Dark Fate (potential spoilers):

Comments on season 4 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Comments on Doctor Sleep:

Comments on the future of Star Wars:

Comments on Joker

Comments on Frozen II:


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews: 

Con and event reports:


Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Journey (Twisting Fates, Book 2) by SMA

Release date: November 6, 2019
Subgenre: LGBT Science Fiction 

About The Journey:


The Routine's dominion is cracking. Can Owen pick up the pieces in time to save humanity?

Step into the realm of the Routine once again in this sensually adventurous continuation of the Twisting Fates saga.


It's not every day you fall in love and get sent to assassinate an AI god.

Dispatched to discover the truth about the missing colony on Mars, Owen finds allies in unexpected conditions, and explores the depths of new love.

But nothing can be taken for granted under the AI's shadow. The Routine is dangerous, and the man Owen is sleeping next to every night might be its most vicious secret weapon.

Cut off from the world, the young Initiate must confront the strength in his own heart—and be prepared to lose everything. What awaits them on Mars, and can he really trust his new allies? Each discovery leads closer to the truth, but there’s one fact Owen will never forget:

The Routine is lying to us all.

Join the journey as Owen pursues the secrets of the Routine—and learns the endless bounds of love and his own desire.

An immersively mysterious sci-fi romance adventure that spans the solar system!
This is a direct sequel to Twisting Fates Book One: The Screening Routine, OUT NOW!
"It's been a while since I've read a true sci-fi story that is so intriguing"
"I was drawn in immediately—the imagery of the dystopian world [is] superb"
"There is absolutely nothing run of the mill about this book"
"I cannot wait for the second part of this series"
-Book One reviewers


It began in the air.

Domo had halted the shuttle’s progression just a few minutes after they’d taken off from the wind-swept landing pad. Now they hung over the city in the upper atmosphere, and when he closed his eyes Owen could swear he felt the craft subtly bobbing up and down.

He knew this was silly—shuttles were used all the time, both within cities and around the region, and lift technology was never anything but rock-steady. Being in one was usually indistinguishable from standing on firm ground.

But this shuttle was about to become a genuine voyager, Owen knew. About to break its taxi bonds, leave the atmosphere, and live the glamorous life of a V-plane. And somehow that knowledge made it more of a vessel—rising and falling in the waves of this planet’s thin, fragile sky.

He shivered in pleasure at the thought, still flush with the euphoria of being free from the Screening Complex and its endlessly white, windowless towers.

Owen hoped he’d have some time to visit the viewing deck he’d seen in the shuttle’s directory when they first embarked, but for the moment Domo seemed to have a very specific agenda in mind. As soon as the shuttle had taken flight, the bot had scurried off to check on something in another room, instructing the three initiates to wait here.

Gael and Colette stood next to Owen in the embarkation chamber, and the trio perked up when Domo finally reappeared in the doorway leading to the rest of the shuttle. Owen was reminded of his original name for it—“microphone bot”—by its broomstick body topped by a mysterious protrusion that he’d only recently been informed was not a microphone.

But the bot immediately wiggled its sweeps of ocular metal, and Owen smiled at the friendly greeting. He much preferred things now that he’d discovered Domo’s true nature, and had already begun to think of it as an artificial person, not just a (highly advanced) machine.

Domo spoke in the now familiar dulcet tones of a middle-aged woman, “Sorry about that, I needed to make sure the appropriate modifications were active. They are indeed, so if you’ll all follow me, we can discuss where this little pleasure cruise is headed.” The bot turned and went back through the doorway into the ship’s interior.

Owen was still confused about why this conversation required special arrangements, but he’d learned that it was best to pick your moments strategically when it came to questioning Domo—unless you were particularly fond of having said questions ignored.

Gael grabbed his hand, and Owen turned to look up into those stunningly dark eyes, his chest fluttering at the mere sight of the man’s face. He hoped that particular symptom of his rapidly blossoming feelings for Gael never went away.
The two shared a quick kiss, spurring a bit of throat-clearing from Colette, who was impatiently keeping the door open for them—though she smiled indulgently just the same. She said, “Come on you walking hormones, I’ve got family waiting for me, and they don’t even know it yet!”




About SMA:

SMA writes LGBT-themed scifi from his home base in the United States. Book One of his debut series “Twisting Fates” is available now, with Book Two releasing on September 9, 2019. His untitled Four Seasons quartet will begin releasing Autumn 2019.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren

 Release date: November 12, 2019
Subgenre: Ghost Story, Gothic Horror

About Into Bones Like Oil:


In this gothic-styled ghost story that simmers with strange, Warren shows once again her flair for exploring the mundane—themes of love, loss, grief, and guilt manifest in a way that is both hauntingly familiar and eerily askew.

People come to The Angelsea, a rooming house near the beach, for many reasons. Some come to get some sleep, because here, you sleep like the dead. Dora arrives seeking solitude and escape from reality. Instead, she finds a place haunted by the drowned and desperate, who speak through the sleeping inhabitants. She fears sleep herself, terrified that the ghosts of her daughters will tell her “it’s all your fault we’re dead.” At the same time, she’d give anything to hear them one more time.



There was no sign of Roy as she approached The Angelsea on her return. It was a hard walk up the hill and she had to pause a few times. But she liked the feel of her muscles, liked the sense of actually working at something, if only for a little while. She hadn’t been able to see the building well the night before, but now she saw it was four storeys tall, made of dark red brick, marked with decades of pollution. There were many small windows. The walls were covered with ivy and there was moss in the mortar. A veranda graced the front, the floorboards damaged by the sun, almost burned in places. The railings were recently replaced; someone wanting to keep it safe, so that no one could fall or tip over the edge.
The front door was quite small. It used to be the servants’ entrance, decades ago. But so many rooms had been added and other houses built around The Angelsea, the original front door and foyer—Dora’s room—were blocked off. Rickety stairs clung to the side of the house, in dark shadows.
Taller buildings surrounded the house now, blocking most of the light.
The sun was beautifully warm and she sat on the front step, closing her eyes and letting it wash over her.
Luke appeared behind her, like a ghost.
He said, “Bloody lovely isn’t it? That sun. Makes you forget for a minute, doesn’t it?”
She didn’t ask him forget what? He really was almost handsome.
But his eyes were ringed with shadow and his face gaunt. Those eyes were green, and his hairline was good. He was tidy and clean, with a neatly-ironed, well-fitted shirt. His haircut was military. She could see his scalp. He wore tight black jeans.
“Home from work already?”
“Yeah, I’m on a disability so I work short days. Blinding headaches. Nothing like coming home to The Angelsea to make a headache disappear.” He winked at her; she’d have to get used to that.
“Shouldn’t it be ‘Anglesea’? I’ve been wondering about that.”
“Yeah, poor bastard can’t spell. Apparently there was a famous shipwreck at Anglesea so he named the place after that.” Dora noticed the name was painted on a piece of driftwood she imagined must have come from the wreck. “Got it wrong. He shoulda just named it after our own shipwreck. Most of the town call it Shipwreck House, anyway.”
They both turned to look down the hill. Dora could see some piles of metal on the rocks and on the sand down there. The beach was almost inaccessible, even by water.
The Barlington had struck ground there, all lives lost. At the time there were no communities in the area, so the shipwreck went unnoticed for weeks. Some may have survived the accident but couldn’t find a way off the beach. It was the smell, they said, that led to the eventual discovery. Plus the clothing rolling into the beaches along the coast.
“Half the house is decorated with stuff he’s pinched from down there. Pays the local kids to risk their lives getting it. Like those.” He pointed at four large broken lights, anchored to the wall near the door.
Dora realized she needed to respond to him, so said, “Are these old ship danger lights or something?” She hated herself for the “or something.” Her therapist had told her she needed to regain herself by standing by her own statements, but she couldn’t help it.
“Yes! Fat lot of good they did. He pinched them from the crash site. He calls it beachcombing. Other people might call it looting. He used to have them set up to flash until one poor bloke killed himself over them.”
“Like a fit or something?”
“Nah, he was a train driver, caused an accident, killed a heap of passengers. Apparently he reckoned the lights flashed wrong, but no one believed him. Gets the sack, wife leaves him, he comes to live here. Takes a room on the fourth floor, with a window looking down onto the water. It’s my room, now. Of course Roy has to set those ship lights going so that every night the poor bastard up there watched them flashing on and off, on and off like train lights. Hung hisself. Up in my room. I dunno if you believe in ghosts or not, but sometimes I reckon he’s there. Only he knows if it really was his fault. Who knows. Maybe it was deliberate. Maybe he just wanted to see what would happen. We’re all a bit that way, aren’t we? We’re all so bored we’ll try anything.”
“Speak for yourself!” she said.
“You can come have a look if you want.” He looked at her expectantly.
“I guess I could take a look,” she said. She shuddered. The air was growing colder. She stood up and they went inside. The ticking of the clock seemed louder.
“Maybe someone’s having an afternoon nap,” Luke said, and she wished she was confident enough to ask him what he meant by that. A nap sounded good, though. Sometimes a nap worked.
Four flights of stairs to his room. The stairwell was dark and smelly, as if someone had used the ground floor for a toilet and the smell rose all the way up. The lino was old and slippery, so she clung on the handrail, when it was there. She grabbed Luke’s shirt, and he took her hand. His was warm and dry.
“This is me,” he said, pushing the stairwell door open. The sign said fort floor. “Nice and quiet up here. Just the woman next door.”
She didn’t know who he was talking about but had no more questions.
His door was solid, old, scratched with names and dates. He pushed it open.
Inside it was bright. He had a lot of windows, none of them with coverings. “Nice during the day, a pain at night,” he said. “And you can’t open any of the windows. Roy thinks it’ll stop suicides, but it doesn’t.”
She could see now, as the sun fell, that artificial light poured in, even though they were four storeys up. Strong street lights and the security lights of the garment factory two doors down.
“Wow,” she said. The room was obsessively neat, with all the books color-coded, glasses lined up on a small table, nothing left on the floor that shouldn’t be there. It was four times the size of her room, but still small. No bathroom, no kitchen. Navy memorabilia filled the walls and made up most of the furniture; trunks, khaki rugs, anchors, plaques, knives, and what looked with a tiny replica landmine.
“If the ghost isn’t here, he might be marching up and down the coast hill. You can see the track they’ve worn. See?”
Looking down, there was a path in the long grass.
“Roy. And tourists sometimes.” She could see other debris too: wood, metal, piles of each. He stood closer to her. “Near midnight, other times too, you can see ghosts walking up from the wreck. Over and over, trekking up and down. Roy reckons they need to speak their last words, but no one can hear them. I think they’re just . . . lost.” He was very close to her now. She stepped away to really look at him. His knuckles were unmarked, no scars, which was a good sign.
“Can you see them?”
“Not down there. But they come visit, up here at the house. Roy’s pinched so much of their stuff they think this is where they belong.”
His room smelled of Febreze. It was chemical, fake, but a nice change from mold, smoke, frying onions, sewage.
“It’s moments like these I don’t hate Shitwreck House,” he said. She laughed.
“Would you like a drink?” he said. He lifted two nice glasses from a tiny covered table. Each had an anchor etched in gold. “I’ve got some vodka left over from something. Pinched it from my parents. They’re pissheads who always forget what they’ve got.”
“I’d love to meet them,” she said. “You can tell them I’m your fiancée, and they’ll pull out the champagne.” Being with him, with anyone, was almost painful. But there were moments of pleasure in company. When the other person momentarily made her forget. So she smiled and put on the face that said, “I am an ordinary person capable of talking to you.”
“We don’t even know if we like each other yet,” he said, handing her a glass full of vodka, no mixer. The glass had the word Oceania etched above the anchor. “Roy collected them,” he said. “He reckons from the wreck, but I reckon from the op shop.”
 “What’s a man like you doing in a place like this?” she said, instantly regretting it. No past, no future, just the present. In her real self, her real life, she wouldn’t even contemplate sleeping with him. But here, time was contracted. Relationships would form and fall apart quickly.
Here, she was who he thought she was. Not who she really was.
And she knew she’d sleep with one of them. A couple of them, probably. Sex gave her a momentary feeling of being appreciated. Regardless of what happened before and after, you were loved in that moment. Even by someone who despised you.
She drank that glass and another, and then felt so good she stepped up to him and kissed him gently on the lips. He put his hands on her shoulder.
“Are you sure? I always like them to be sure.” It wasn’t until later she wondered who “they” were and how many there had been.
She nodded. He kissed her, holding her enclosed in his arms, then his hands moved down and cupped her arse. He had big hands. They felt so different from her ex-husband’s. He had small hands, long fingers, he didn’t have a gentle touch.
This man had a gentle touch.
From below, someone thumped. She could hear a muffled “shut the fuck up” and she blushed at the idea whoever it was could hear what they were doing.
“Don’t mind her. Fucking lunatic. Fucking monster. If she’s gonna whine, I reckon I’ll wear my army boots. In fact, I might as well wear them.”
He pulled a pair of boots on and stood, naked, before her.
Dora laughed till she wept as he danced for her.
Then they made love again.
He fell asleep straight after. She watched him, almost angry with envy at his peaceful face. She wondered what it would be like to sleep like that. She didn’t want to mistrust a man again so soon.
She pulled her clothes on and went to the toilet. It was nicer than the one on her floor. Smaller, but then there were only three rooms to service. It felt warmer, too, maybe because the heat rose through the house. There was spare toilet paper on a stick by the bath.
His door had snicked shut. She knocked quietly but didn’t want to waken him, so headed downstairs. Once near her bedroom she realized there was no way she’d sleep. She felt wired, wide awake, excited. She went down to look at the site of the wreck, following the path worn by looters, tourists, and, according to Luke, ghosts. The streetlights provided more than enough illumination for her to find her way.
It took longer than she thought and once she reached the edge of the cliff, she lost the energy to walk all the way down. She could see that the metal was very rusty, the wood mossy and cracked. Dora wondered that what was left of the vessel was still there. It was pulled up high on the beach where the tide couldn’t reach it. Perhaps this—along with the containers, jars, and remnants of many other things she could see—was the real rubbish, all the good stuff long since taken.
She heard someone coming and hid behind one of the large bushes that lined the path. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. She felt dirty and tired and not up to speech.
It was Roy. He held a large hook and seemed to be dragging something, but she couldn’t see what. Behind him she thought she saw a line of bedraggled people. As they passed her she felt overwhelming sadness. Helplessness. Once they were gone she headed back to the rooming house, but the smell of fried food drew her to an all-night taxi drivers café, thankfully almost empty. She bought herself half-a-dozen dim sims to take back to her room.
Once there, she heard the clock ticking loudly and found herself chewing in time.
She checked her phone, but no one had called. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but the upstairs neighbor sounded like he was dancing in army boots.
The thought of it made her smile.


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About Kaaron Warren:

Kaaron Warren has been publishing ground-breaking fiction for over twenty years. Her novels and short stories have won over 20 awards, from local literary to international genre. She writes horror steeped in awful reality, with ghosts, hauntings, guilt, loss, love, crime, punishment and a lack of hope.

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About Meerkat Press

 Meerkat Press is an independent publisher committed to finding and publishing exceptional, irresistible, unforgettable fiction. And despite the previous sentence, we frown on overuse of adjectives and adverbs in submissions. *smile*

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