Monday, January 15, 2018

The City of Ashes (The Chronicles of the Second Interstellar Empire of Mankind, Book 2) by Robert I. Katz

Release date: January 15, 2018
Subgenre: Space opera

About The City of Ashes


Douglas Oliver has survived the siege of Aphelion but the threat posed by the nation of Gath is far from over.

Every five years, Gath sponsors a Grand Tournament, where future leaders are pitted against each other in a series of violent contests. No outsider has ever won the Grand Tournament. Douglas Oliver is determined to change that.

All across the continent, nations are making alliances and choosing sides. War is coming, and Douglas Oliver’s participation in the Grand Tournament represents the opening gambit. Meridien intends to win the game that Gath has started, and Douglas Oliver is his country’s chosen weapon.

You will love this fast-paced science fiction adventure from Robert I. Katz, the award winning author of Edward Maret and The Game Players of Meridien.



Chapter 1

Two weeks after the siege of Aphelion finally ended, we set out for Gath. It was a boring two weeks. The streets were cleaned, the power grid fixed and reinforced. The city’s infrastructure was inspected, repaired and made sound. Our allies’ troops were wined and dined and given the keys to the city, which they richly deserved. As for myself, I had little to do  except tend to my business interests and think about the future. I was eager to get started.
Guild Master Anderson had meant it when he said that we would be putting on a show. We travelled in one of the largest airships in the fleet, named the Endeavor, re-painted for our trip in all the colors of the Meridien flag, festooned with rippling pennants and banners flapping in the breeze. The personnel, however, were intended to put on a very different sort of show, all either elite military or secret service, about a third female. All of them moved with quiet confidence. All of them looked like they could punch through walls and probably most of them could.
“Bring somebody with you,” the Guild Master had said. “Gath is a chauvinist culture. They will expect a young, virile man like yourself to have a sexual outlet.”
“Why should we care what they expect?” I said, though I had no objection in principle to a sexual outlet.
“Think of it as an insurance card. If you bring a woman along, it will make it harder for their spies to seduce you.” He shrugged. “No doubt, they’ll still try, but why make it easy for them? If you don’t have anybody in mind, we’ll assign a member of the military.” He got a far-away look on his face. “That might be best, actually, a combination mistress and bodyguard.”
I looked at him, not quite scandalized. “That seems above and beyond the call of duty.”
“We wouldn’t insist that she have sex with you. She could pretend.”
I declined his offer of military assistance for my libido but did ask Jennifer to come along, though I felt it wiser to not mention the Guild Master’s comments regarding our hosts’ expectations in the bedroom. “Sounds interesting,” she said. “Sure.” She grinned. “I’m looking forward to it.”
So, we drifted over Imperion, Cuomo, Valspur, Neece and the desert kingdom of Kush, which, like Gath, preferred to maintain the old ways. Kush rejected most modern technology outside of health care and genetically engineered crops. And air conditioning, pretty much a necessity when the average daily temperature during most of the year hovers over forty degrees Celsius. The Kushians trailed below our ship on horseback, carrying long rifles to protect themselves against sand-tigers and the lizard-like morions, drawing pictures with wax stylets on sheaves of paper and talking among themselves. They had one unusual but obviously useful modification: like chameleons, they could change color to blend into their surroundings, which varied from tan sandstone to red, iron rich rock. They seemed interested in our passage and thankfully didn’t try to shoot us down. I wondered if they had holo connections and were fans of the upcoming games.
We took our time. We wanted to be seen. The ship stopped twice, both times to pick up passengers. Denali was a small mountainous nation in the center of the continent, lumber, harvested from enormous hardwood trees, being their principal product. McClain was the only city, neatly laid out in a grid around the government center. The Endeavor floated to a mooring atop the Parliament building. We exited the ship, met the Prime Minister and his cabinet, had lunch at a restaurant that specialized in wild game, and trooped back into the ship before nightfall.
John Mead was the passenger, a big man with a perpetual smile, he moved slowly, as if careful not to damage other, more delicate human beings. I knew of John Mead. He had trained at the same dojo as Master Chen and owned a chain of martial arts academies that spread across the continent.
Denali, like so many nations in the wake of Gath’s challenge, had suddenly awakened to their own danger. Alliances were being made. Denali had entered into negotiations with the Guild Council and it had been decided that I would not be alone in entering the Grand Tournament.
Fine with me, not that I had anything to say about it.
John Mead looked at me with mild interest when we first met, as if wondering what made me think that I might have a chance at winning against the best fighters in Gath. I smiled back and let him wonder. At least, he was polite.
The mountains turned into foothills, then a high plain and a day later, we came to Hayden, a town on the edges of Lake Sierra, the third largest body of fresh water on the continent. Hayden was the home town of Alessandro Abruzzi. I had heard of him, as well. Five years before, he had entered the Grand Tournament of Gath, the only foreigner that year, and he had done better than anybody had expected, ranking forty-fifth out of the nearly five thousand who had entered. Apparently, he had decided to try again, and we were elected to help him do it.


About Robert I. Katz:

I grew up on Long Island, in a pleasant, suburban town about 30 miles from New York City. I loved to read from a very early age and graduated from Columbia in 1974 with a degree in English. Not encouraged by the job prospects for English majors at the time, I went on to medical school at Northwestern, where in addition to my medical degree, I acquired a life-long love of deep dish pizza. I did a residency in Anesthesiology at Columbia Presbyterian and spent most of my career at Stony Brook University, where I ultimately attained the academic rank of Professor and Vice-Chairman for Administration, Department of Anesthesiology.

When I was a child, I generally read five or more books per week, and even then, I had a dim sense that I could do at least as well as many of the stories that I was reading. Finally, around 1985, with a job and a family and my first personal computer, I began writing. I quickly discovered that it was not as easy as I had imagined, and like most beginning writers, it took me many years to produce a publishable work of fiction. My first novel, Edward Maret: A Novel of the Future, came out in 2001. It won the ASA Literary Prize for 2001 and received excellent reviews from Science Fiction Chronicle, InfinityPlus, Scavenger’s Newsletter and many others.

My agent at the time urged me to write mysteries, as mysteries are supposed to have a larger readership and be easier to publish than science fiction. Since I have read almost as many mysteries as science fiction and fantasy, and since I enjoy them just as much, I had no objection to this plan. The Kurtz and Barent mystery series, Surgical Risk, The Anatomy Lesson and Seizure followed between 2002 and 2009. Reviewers have compared them favorably to Patricia Cornwell and Robin Cook and they’ve received positive reviews from The Midwest Book Review, Mystery Review Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Lady M’s Mystery International, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and many others.

In 2014, I published a science fiction short story, To the Ends of the Earth in the Deep Blue Sea on Kindle for Amazon. Since then, I have made all of my previously published novels available for purchase on Kindle. A new science fiction novel, entitled The Cannibal's Feast, was published in July 2017. The next, entitled The Game Players of Meridien, a tale set far in the future after the collapse of the First Interstellar Empire of Mankind, is the first in a projected seven book science fiction series, and will be published on December 16, 2017. The second novel in the series, The City of Ashes, will appear early in 2018. In addition, a fourth novel in the Kurtz and Barent mystery series, The Chairmen, will also be published in the first half of 2018.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for January 12, 2018

It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week again with the best books of 2017 and a look ahead at books coming out in 2018, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (spoilers mostly marked, but reader beware), Star Trek Discovery (spoilers again mostly marked, but reader beware),  Black Mirror and particularly the episode "USS Callister",  the return of The X-Files, Hard Sun, the Golden Globes, an uproar involving WorldCon 76 as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, con reports, crowdfunding campaigns, science articles, free online fiction and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general: 

Comments on Star Trek Discovery (spoiler warning):

Comments on Black Mirror and the episode "USS Callister":

Comments on The Last Jedi and Star Wars in general (spoiler warning): 

Comments on The X-Files:

Comments on Hard Sun:


Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

McEdifice Returns by Timothy T. Cat and Straw Puppy (with a little help by Camestros Felapton)

Release date: December 5, 2017
Subgenre: Science fiction parody

About McEdifice Returns


Veteran space marine Chiseled McEdifice wanted a peaceful life after decades of fighting evil but a cowardly attack sets him off on a bicycle ride of revenge and into an adventure across space and time.

From the pen of Timothy the Talking Cat and his surprisingly loud imaginary friend Straw Puppy, comes a space adventure like no other (except ones a bit like it). Featuring a chapter full of the word ‘I’, a dancing photocopier and guest appearances galore.


Chapter 1

Standing proudly before his lonesome homestead on the far prairie plains of the Grassland Planet of Steppe, Chiseled McEdifice was chopping wood. He was standing when he was chopping the wood obviously – I don’t think those two things contradict each other and I wish the beta reviewer would JUST GET OUT OF MY FACE and learn their place. Me: the author, in charge, creative genius. Them: the lowly moron who should be grateful that they get this kind of opportunity to learn from the best quite frankly. Can you chop wood sitting down? No, so what are you going on about? He is STANDING and chopping the wood and those two images do not “clash”.
Here, in this dusty retreat, McEdifice was seeking the peace his life had never given him.
“I’m just looking for peace,” he said wistfully as he stared out over the grassy plains before him.
Just then a gunshot rang out and a bullet ricocheted off his space marine helmet (he was wearing his space marine helmet obviously – look at the cover image). The HUD display flickered on in his helmet (no that isn’t ‘redundant’ I can’t just say ‘his HUD flickered on’ as that sounds perverted to me). Targeting identified a heat source 501.67 metres away to the north east.
“Enhance,” McEdifice vocalised and in some sort of cool special effect way the helmet magnified that area of his vision (with maybe a hi-tech noise like boop-ooohwushboop). It was one of the Treerat gang!
The Treerat Gang: a bunch of outlaws and pagan worshippers of the ancient demonic squirrel god. They had a lasting hate for McEdifice ever since he drove them and their filthy ways out of town and killed their leader in a shoot-out.
With one deft movement, McEdifice hoisted his wood chopper into one hand and then with a mighty flick of his elbow he sent the axe careening through the air. THUNK! it landed straight in the miscreants head who then let out an ungodly scream: “aieeeee!” and then died.
“I guess that trespasser should have axed for permission before stepping on my land.” quipped McEdifice sardonically.
Just then, McEdifice realised that the back paddock was unguarded! He ran as fast as he could but he was too late! Another outlaw had sneaked round and now was pointing a gun at McEdifice’s only friend: a lovely pony called Chuck.
“Don’t move McEdifice or the pony gets it!” said the outlaw.
“Don’t you harm a hair on that pony’s head!” said McEdifice.
“Shoot him McEdifice!” said the pony – this is in space right so it can be a talking pony I think. Probably a mutant pony or something.
“Stay calm Chuck,” said McEdifice.
“I’m just going to mosey on out of here with this here pony,” said the outlaw in that kind of accent that outlaws have in cowboy movies.
McEdifice checked his pocket and in his pocket, he found a pencil. With one deft movement he hoisted the pencil into his hand and then with one mighty flick of his elbow he launched the pencil onto a ballistic trajectory (yes I do know what that means and on this planet the gravity means it is like a straight line because that is cool) which flew straight into the outlaw’s head.
“aieeeee!” said the outlaw and then he died.
McEdifice ran over to Chuck.
“Thank God you are OK old buddy!” said McEdifice to Chuck. I guess it was obvious he was saying it to Chuck (the pony) and not the outlaw because the outlaw was not his buddy and was also very dead by now. I guess he could have said it sarcastically to the dead outlaw – that would be kind of cool if he said it in a drawl. Anyway, he didn’t do a quip at this point because I couldn’t think of one.
“I’m not OK dear friend,” said Chuck, “in the stress of the moment I caught a terminally pony-sickness and I’m now dying. Goodbye old friend, we had good times together.” and then Chuck died. Oh gosh, this is so sad.
“Noooooooo!!!!!!” said McEdifice and at that moment he swore revenge! He knew his quiet life of peace on the plains was over. He’d tried to escape the horrors of space-war but war was what he knew and it would always keep pulling him back!
Oh! I thought of a quip he could have said when he killed the second outlaw! “I guess I was quick on the draw” because he used a pencil you see. That’s what he said when he killed the outlaw – sardonically. So just imagine now I told you that earlier, OK?
Sorry about Chuck the Pony dying. Don’t be upset beta reviewer – it’s for motivation. OK, ok. Later after McEdifice goes off to get revenge, it turns out that Chuck wasn’t quite dead, he was just very, very tired from the space-mutant-pony disease and needed a long nap. He then got better but McEdifice had already left. So in the next chapter Chuck isn’t actually dead but just asleep but McEdifice thinks Chuck is dead. OK? Good.


Free at Smashwords


About Timothy T. Cat:

I am the best editor in the world and I am a cat so I am the best editor in the world who is a cat - like obviously. Also I am the best writer. CEO of Cattimothy House, best publisher in the world.



About Straw Puppy

Probably just a figment of Timothy T. Cat's imagination, albeit a noisy one.

About Camestros Felapton: 

Camestros Felapton is an extended cosplay of a pair of syllogisms and their adventures in cyberspace. He is also the manager and amanuensis for Timothy the Talking Cat. 

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Banished (The Saga of the Dragon Born, Book 3) by Cynthia Joyce Clay

Release date: December 6, 2017
Subgenre: Epic fantasy 

About Banished


In this third book of The Saga of the Dragon Born, Tristabé-airta, banished from her father’s kingdom of Allsongs, must find a mentor so that she can advance in her training in magic. But no one wants to teach a miscreant, especially one who pulled from the ocean ten waterspouts and destroyed a village with them. On the road alone and prey to griffons, ruffians, and a frightening god who lusts for her, Tristabé-airta must find a way to improve her control over her magic. 

And Allsongs? Allsongs must prepare for a truly terrible winter, having banished the one person with the magical ability to right the weather–Tristabé-airta. The poets have always said Tristabé-airta is Allsongs’s best defense, so having her driven her out, the new heirs of Allsongs must protect Allsongs from enemy kings and their own dragon natures on their own. Despite the king’s decree, Tristabé-airta’s milk sister Em keeps in touch with Tristabé-airta and gives her what help her magic can provide.



Prince Haudin, Heir of Azulefair, clad in full armor, rode up to the castle of Allsongs, presented his warhorse’s left flank to show his hostility and bellowed: “I am Prince Haudin, Heir of Azulefair, and I call out challenge.”

Burta, dressed in the padded tunic and trousers, chainmail, and gauntlets as she was each day the charge of defending the castle was hers, ran for her warhorse, and galloped out to meet Haudin, blindfold about her eyes.

"It’s true, what the bard scryed, they’ve let a lass have defense of the castle. She’s even blindfolded, the foolish thing. No more fussing with grand plans of invasion. I’ll dispatch her neat and quick, and Allsong’s is my kingly daddy’s," thought Haudin.

Then with a parry of his blade’s slash at her and a strong punch to his throat, Burta knocked Haudin right off his mount. Burta jumped down from her horse and held her named blade, Wyvernfang, at Prince Haudin’s throat, and demanded, “Yield.”

Haudin rolled fast so that his armor rammed away Burta’s blade. Burta was forced to jump back.

Thackery, gaping at Burta and Haudin from window, turned and ran for The Poet’s quarters. He banged on the door, “Ollave! Ollave! Burta fights off an attacker!”

He heard through the door matching howls, one high pitched, one low pitched, moments seemed to stretch forever before the door was opened and a naked Ollave Woadwyn, said, “What? What do you want? Can’t a man have some privacy?”

“Burta fights Haudin!”

“Dear gods!” yelled the Ollave running into and disappearing through the stone walls, not bothering to dress. He popped out of the castle wall into south approach road.

A sword in badly dented armor battled Burta. Burta bashed the sword’s helmet again with her Named Blade, tearing a third of the helmet from Haudin’s head. Blood poured from his head. He stuck his sword between her legs meaning to cleave her in half, but Burta, quicker than the eye could see, grabbed his visor and hoisted herself up onto his shoulders where she rammed her blade down into his brain. Haudin tottered. Burta jumped away, and Haudin collapsed with great, horrible clanking, dead, dead, dead to the ground.

Amazon | Paperback

About Cynthia Joyce Clay:

Cynthia Joyce  Clay, the Artistic Director of Storycrafter Studio, grew up in the theater. She is an award winning author and a member of the Dramatists' Guild.

Clay was judged to be a computer program on Shakespeare at the First Loebner Prize Competition of The Turing Test-a truly science fictional experience. The Competition was filmed as part of a PBS Scientific Frontiers episode and aired internationally. In addition to living sf, Clay has experience with the thriller genre: she was invited to Russia to deliver her paper, The Application of Vector Theory to Literature and Drama at the international conference "Languages of Science, Languages of Art" and was chased by the KGB. She loves to write sf and fantasy.