Tuesday, December 1, 2020

An Enigma in Silver (Mysteries in Metal, Book 2) by Simon Haynes

 

Release date: November 30, 2020
Subgenre: Gaslamp Fantasy
 

About An Enigma in Silver:

 

England, 1871. A quiet country village is rocked by murder. Police have no leads and no clues, apart from the grisly state of the victim's body.

Evidence points to a supernatural killer, but Professor Twickham is curiously reluctant to lend his assistance.

Roberta, his daughter, has no such qualms, and she involves me in the case as well... only to turn around and abandon me for a sick friend.

Now I must unmask the vicious killer on my own, but had I only known the truth, I'd never have got involved...

This standalone novel is the second title in the Mysteries in Metal gaslamp fantasy series.

 

Excerpt:

 

 Together we turned and hurried up the hall, prancing on tip-toes to avoid making any noise, and in doing so we must have looked for all the world like a pair of pantomime villains. We reached the dining room, but instead of entering Roberta took my hand and pulled me towards the front door. Outside, in the mid-morning sunshine, we took the short path to the front gate, where she led me into the street.
"I think we've run far enough," I said, quite out of breath.
"We're not running, Septimus. I want to speak to those policemen."
"But why?"
"I'm intrigued. Are you not?"
I confessed that I was. When I first met the professor and Roberta, I had no inkling they were engaged in the hunting and trapping of other-worldly spirits. At first I dismissed their business as a type of confidence trick, designed to milk rich folk, but the moment I encountered my first phantasm all thoughts of trickery were quickly forgotten. Indeed, that memory would haunt me forever. Now, it seemed the police had a case involving something of the supernatural, and I wanted to know more. "I'm surprised your father was not more receptive."
"He may have been, had they offered remuneration," said Roberta, with a shrug. "In any case, you and I will decide whether this case merits further attention, while my father reads the newspaper and enjoys the rest of his breakfast."
"We're going to talk to the police?"
"Not us. Me. And here they come."
The two policemen were tall and forbidding, and were made even more so by their helmets and dark blue uniforms. Worse, they bore expressions like thunder, and I prayed Roberta did not antagonise them further.
"Sirs, might I speak with you?"
"Not now miss," grunted one of the policemen. "We're on urgent business."
"I know. You were just speaking to my father."
"Professor Twickham? You're the daughter?"
Well, I thought, you couldn't fault their powers of deduction. But by now Roberta had their undivided attention, and I moved closer, much as they did, eager to see how things might turn out. The older of the two policemen looked Roberta up and down, then glanced at me. His scrutiny was brief but intense, and I felt as though he were peering into my very soul. Then he returned his attention to Roberta, and I let out a relieved breath.
"We can't talk in the street, miss," growled the policeman. He indicated a waiting cab, the horse flicking away flies with its jet-black tail and with sudden shakes of its mane. "You'd better come down the station."

 

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About Simon Haynes:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock series, the Hal Junior series, and the upcoming Harriet Walsh series, as well as several dozen short stories. He is also the programmer and designer behind Spacejock Software, and is responsible for popular programs like yWriter and yBook.

 

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The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories by Eugen Bacon


Release date: December 1, 2020
Subgenre: Short fiction collection. Dark fantasy

 

About The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories:

 

Eugen Bacon’s work is cheeky with a fierce intelligence, in prose that’s resplendent, delicious, dark and evocative. NPR called her novel Claiming T-Mo ‘a confounding mysterious tour de force’. The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories imbues the same lushness in a writerly language that is Bacon’s own. This peculiar hybrid of the untraditional, the extraordinary within, without and along the borders of normalcy will hypnotise and absorb the reader with tales that refuse to be labelled. The stories in this collection are dirges that cross genres in astounding ways. Over 20 provocative tales, with seven original to this collection, by an award-winning African Australian author.


Excerpt:

THE ROAD TO WOOP WOOP

 

Tumbling down the stretch, a confident glide, the 4WD is a beaut, over nineteen years old.

The argument is brand-new. Maps are convolutions, complicated like relationships. You scrunch the sheet, push it in the glovebox. You feel River’s displeasure, but you hate navigating, and right now you don’t care.

The wiper swishes to and fro, braves unseasonal rain. You and River maintain your silence.

Rain. More rain.

“When’s the next stop?” River tries. Sidewise glance, cautious smile. He is muscled, dark. Dreadlocks fall down high cheekbones to square shoulders. Eyes like black gold give him the rugged look of a mechanic.

“Does it matter?” you say.

“Should it?”

You don’t respond. Turn your head, stare at a thin scratch on your window. The crack runs level with rolling landscape racing away with rain. Up in the sky, a billow of cloud like a white ghoul, dark-eyed and yawning into a scream.

A shoot of spray through River’s window brushes your cheek.

A glide of eye. “Hell’s the matter?” you say.

“You ask me-e. Something bothering you?”

“The window.”

He gives you a look.

Classic, you think. But you know that if you listen long enough, every argument is an empty road that attracts unfinished business. It’s an iceberg full of whimsy about fumaroles and geysers. It’s a corpse that spends eternity reliving apparitions of itself in the throes of death. Your fights are puffed-up trivia, championed to crusades. You fill up teabags with animus that pours into kettles of disarray, scalding as missiles. They leave you ashy and scattered—that’s what’s left of your lovemaking, or the paranoia of it, you wonder about that.

More silence, the cloud of your argument hangs above it. He shrugs. Rolls up his window. Still air swells in the car.

“Air con working?” you say.

He flexes long corduroyed legs that end in moccasins. Flicks on the air button—and the radio. The bars of a soulful number, a remix by some new artist, give way to an even darker track titled ‘Nameless.’ It’s about a high priest who wears skinny black jeans and thrums heavy metal to bring space demons into a church that’s dressed as a concert. And the torments join in evensong, chanting psalms and canticles until daybreak when the demons wisp back into thin air, fading with them thirteen souls of the faithful, an annual pact with the priest.

Rain pelts the roof and windows like a drum.

He hums. Your face is distant. You might well be strangers, tossed into a tight drive from Broome to Kununurra.

The lilt of his voice merges with the somber melody.

You turn your face upward. A drift of darkness, even with full day, is approaching from the skies. Now it’s half-light. You flip the sun visor down. Not for compulsion or vanity, nothing like an urge to peer at yourself in the mirror. Perhaps it’s to busy your hands, to distract yourself, keep from bedevilment—the kind that pulls out a quarrel. You steal a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Deep, deep eyes. They gleam like a cat’s. The soft curtain of your fringe is softening, despite thickset brows like a man’s. You feel disconnected with yourself, with the trip, with River. You flip the sun visor up.

Now the world is all grim. River turns on the headlights, but visibility is still bad. A bolt of lightning. You both see the arms of a reaching tree that has appeared on the road, right there in your path. You squeal, throw your arms out. River swerves. A slam of brakes. A screech of tires. Boom!

The world stops in a swallowing blackness. Inside the hollow, your ears are ringing. The car, fully intact, is shooting out of the dark cloud in slow motion, picking up speed. It’s soaring along the road washed in a new aurora of lavender, turquoise and silver, then it’s all clear. A gentle sun breaks through fluffs of cloud no more engulfed in blackness. You level yourself with a hand on the dashboard, uncertain what exactly happened.

You look at River. His hands . . . wrist up . . . he has no hands. Nothing bloody as you’d expect from a man with severed wrists. Just empty space where the arms end.

But River’s unperturbed, his arms positioned as if he’s driving, even while nothing is touching the steering that’s moving itself, turning and leveling.

“Brought my shades?” he asks.

“Your hands,” you say.

“What about them?”

“Can’t you see?”

His glance is full of impatience.

You sink back to your seat, unable to understand it, unclear to tell him, as the driverless car races along in silence down the lone road.

 

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About Eugen Bacon:

Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo (Meerkat Press) and Writing Speculative Fiction (Macmillan). Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.
 

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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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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for November 2020

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 and small press authors (as well as the occasional Big 5 book) newly published this month, though some October 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. This month, we have urban fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal mysteries, paranormal romance, time travel romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, humorous science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, biopunk, agripunk, steampunk, gaslamp fantasy, time travel, alternate history, horror, LitRPG, vampires, aliens, dragons, dinosaurs, gargoyles, alien invasions, interstellar wars, space marines, mercenaries, pirates, thieves, interstellar brides, crime-busting witches, crime-busting psychics, samurai barbers, ninja haristylists 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:

The Trouble at Turtle Beach by Carrie BedfordThe Trouble at Turtle Beach by Carrie Bedford:

ROMANTIC GETAWAY BUZZKILL:
DEATH NEVER TAKES A HOLIDAY!

Harried, overworked architect Kate Benedict has no sooner stepped off the ferry to a tiny, remote island in Seychelles, primed to de-stress and celebrate at a destination wedding, than she spots imminent danger – auras spinning above the heads of two people on the dock. One’s a stranger, but the other’s the groom!

Kate has a gift – or possibly a curse. Unfortunately for her, she can predict death. When she sees the spinning circle of air above someone’s head, her heart sinks. She calls it an aura, and unless she can locate the source of danger and intervene, the person is destined to die within a matter of days.

But since the potential victim must be convinced of the danger, usually there’s no way to intervene with a stranger. When the second man is found drowned, Kate knows she has to tell her boyfriend Josh that the groom, Josh’s close friend from college, has an aura.

It’s hard to convince Josh’s friends that a murderer is lurking among the gracious islanders, the chill tourists, and serene natural beauty – but with a suspicious fire and a third aura sighting, the evidence is mounting. Until they can find the murderer, Kate and Josh have to keep the groom safe and fend off the worst wedding crasher ever – Death!

Folder by Raymond BoltonFolder by Raymond Bolton:

Eric Folder has moved to Oregon to attend Portland State University when an automobile accident leaves him stricken with migraine headaches. The resulting visual effects—something medical professionals term an aura—render him virtually blind and defenseless when a gang of street thugs attacks him. Desperate to see and needing to protect himself, Eric reflexively tears at the luminous lines of light and finds they have become tangible. When he pulls them aside, his present reality folds away with them, leaving him in better circumstances with his enemies vanished. Attempts to fold his way out of successive perils leave him in increasingly strange situations until, eventually, his world becomes a nightmare.

Neutral Ground by Cora BuhlertNeutral Ground by Cora Buhlert:

Two old soldiers share a coffee and fight for their lives

The Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds have been at war for eighty-eight years now. But nonetheless, Colonel Brian Mayhew, deputy commander of the Republican Special Commando Forces, meets with his Imperial counterpart General Roderick Crawford to discuss an incident that’s a problem for both of them. For two of their elite soldiers fell in love and ran away with each other, an embarrassment to the Republic and the Empire both.

However, this secret meeting is not as secret as the two men think. And so Mayhew and Crawford are soon fighting for their lives side by side…

This is a novelette of 9500 words or approximately 32 print pages in the "In Love and War" series by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert, but may be read as a standalone.

Ballroom Blitz by Cora BuhlertBallroom Blitz by Cora Buhlert:

Anjali and Mikhail go on a Valentine’s Day date. Trouble ensues.

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 eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

It’s Valentine’s Day and so Mikhail and Anjali enjoy a well-deserved romantic dinner. But their date is rudely interrupted, when they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a turf war between two rival gangsters.

This is a Valentine’s Day novella of 23200 words or approximately 78 print pages in the “In Love and War” series by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert, but may be read as a standalone.

Secrets of the Sword by Lindsay BurokerSecrets of the Sword by Lindsay Buroker:

After helping my steady dragon Zav with his family problems, I thought life would get back to normal. As normal as it can be when you’re a hit woman responsible for hunting down bad guys.

That was before a strange artifact showed up in a bog and turned my ancient dwarven sword into a magical beacon. Now my enemies can sense it from hundreds of miles away. More than that, every club-toting, over-muscled orc, ogre, and troll who would like a magic sword can sense it.

Usually, fighting off opportunists wouldn’t be a problem (they don’t call me Ruin Bringer without reason), but even I can only handle so many attacks at a time. And Zav isn’t as much help as you’d think, since he’s busy on a quest for a ring.

No, it’s not a Lord of the Rings kind of quest. My boss put it in Zav's head that since we’re mated in the dragon way, we should also be married in the human way. Now, he’s off to find the perfect engagement ring. Given his taste in human footwear, I may be in trouble for more reasons than my marked sword.

Not only is there no chance of my life getting back to normal any time soon, but if I can’t figure out how to fix my sword, I’ll be dead long before I can get married.

Leads and Lynxes by Rebecca ChastainLeads and Lynxes by Rebecca Chastain:

Be careful what you ask for...

Kylie got into journalism to write important stories. Ones about gargoyles and dryads, elemental warriors, and thwarted magical attacks on her city. The bigger the story, the better. So when she lands the opportunity to ask an enchanted everlasting tree for the answer to any question she desires, she doesn’t have to think about it. She wants the story of a lifetime.

So does her nemesis, Nathan. If anyone is going to write a high-profile story, the senior journalist believes it should be him—and Nathan’s not above playing dirty to get his way. Kylie must work fast or risk losing control of her story.

But with every new lead forcing Kylie and her gargoyle companion, Quinn, deeper into a deadly maze of murder, warped magic, and monstrous beasts, rushing could prove fatal. Kylie is determined to publish her dream story, but she is beginning to wonder...will she survive long enough to write it?

Rika Destroyer by M.D. CooperRika Destroyer by M.D. Cooper:

If the Nietzscheans want war…

…then Rika will bring it to their doorstep.

With the enemy embarking on a scorched earth withdrawal, Rika has few choices available. Either she spreads her Marauders out to protect the Genevian worlds, or she strikes at the enemy’s heart when they least expect it.

Even though her Marauders are fearless and have never been defeated in battle, they’ve also never faced off against the full might of the Nietzschean military. Rika’s plan doesn’t involve going toe to toe with the enemy—though she’s not above tricking them into thinking that by layering feints within feints.

Poised for victory, what Rika didn’t plan for is the internal machinations of Nietzschean politics and how far Admiral Hammond is willing to go to secure the empire for himself.

Aided by an old friend, Rika will push herself further than ever before in order to save her Marauders and the fledgling nation she’s pulled back from the brink.

Tales From a Scarygirl Two: Darkly Sinister by Marie Anne CopeTales From a Scarygirl Two: Darkly Sinister by Marie Anne Cope:

THEY WALK BESIDE YOU. THEY SHARE YOUR BED. THEY EVEN KISS YOUR KIDS GOODNIGHT.
Are you SURE you know your friends and family as well as you think you do?

These Darkly Sinister tales will challenge your view of those closest to you as they delve into the minds of a selection of murderers; all calm and composed on the outside, but harbouring depths of depravity within.

When someone says, ‘I love you’, have you considered the small print if you were to sign? When you make a desperate call for help, can you trust the person who responds? And, when you chase that adrenaline rush, have you considered the price may be your life?

In Darkly Sinister, volume two of Tales From A Scarygirl, Marie Anne Cope takes you on a journey to discover the wickedness of the human psyche and how, when it comes to being scared, you should look at those close by.

If you enjoy spine tingling short stories that leave you unsettled and feeling uneasy, Marie Anne Cope’s latest collection, encompassing the darkness of Stephen King and the visceral gore of Jack Ketchum, is the very reason you will sleep with the lights on.

Samurai Barber versus Ninja Hairstylist by Zed DeeSamurai Barber Versus Ninja Hairstylist by Zed Dee:

Change is in the hair.

Ninjas are wreaking havoc by cutting people’s hair without their permission. Behind this follicular terrorism is a master ninja, the Ninja Hairstylist, whose chaotic hairstyle embodies the anarchy that is about to tear the city apart.

The Samurai Barber must step up and cut down the evil strands on the Ninja Hairstylist’s head. It is not just keratin that is at stake. The Samurai Barber must fight for one of the cornerstones of modern civilization; the freedom and self-determination to choose your own hairstyle.

Bugs and Loopholes by Rachel FordBugs and Loopholes by Rachel Ford:

A fully immersive virtual reality system. A beta testing opportunity that’s the stuff of dreams – or a nightmare that may never end.

Jack Owens is stuck in Marshfield Studio’s newest virtual reality videogame. To escape, he needs to win. He’s started assembling his team of heroes, which brings him one step closer to leaving the virtual world forever.

Until Jack finds the mother of all bugs: his companions vanish into thin air. The same companions he needs to have a chance at winning the game.

Luckily for Jack, there’s no rule against utilizing cooperative mode to finish the quest. Level developer and beta test supervisor Jordan Knight spins up her character, and jumps in.

The problem? Cooperative mode is even buggier than single player…

Dryker's Fall by Chris FoxDryker's Fall by Chris Fox:

Humanity's End is Upon Us

The Tigris have declared a Sacred Hunt against Earth. During the last battle Dryker's daring plan turned back their vanguard, but now the entire fleet has arrived.

Thousands of Tigris vessels converge upon our world, with only a few dozen battleships, and our remaining orbital defense platforms to shield us.

Captain Dryker is placed under the command of the sadistic Doctor Reid, and sent to reactivate an ancient Void Wraith factory. Within this factory slumbers an army of Void Wraith, and a fleet of harvesters. But if he succeeds those forces will not work for Earth.

They will begin the Eradication, and wipe out everything.

Rebel Mate by Grace GoodwinRebel Mate by Grace Goodwin:

A rebel alien roaming the far reaches of the galaxy. An Interstellar Bride on the run for her life. When her life crash lands into his on a remote planet, they'll need each other to survive.

The Interstellar Brides Program guarantees it can match any female on Earth, even a cynical, street-wise, and very jaded Zara, who just wants to start over. But when she arrives on her new home planet... she gets more than promised:

Murder? Check.
Smugglers? Check.
A sexy as hell pirate who demands she follow his orders? Um, what?

Zara didn't volunteer for this mess, but she's a fighter. A survivor. She'll work with a sexy--did I say bossy?--rebel to bring down the bad guys and take on a Rogue 5 legion in order to obtain what she wants, a white picket fence kind of life in outer space... if she can live long enough to get it.

Wicked Wedding by Lily Harper HartWicked Wedding by Lily Harper Hart:

You are formally invited to the wedding of Ivy Morgan and Jack Harker.

Before they walk down the aisle, though, there’s one more mystery to solve.

Ivy, who is finishing up the last days of her community service, inserts herself into a tense situation when the alarm at the domestic violence shelter she is working at sounds and she goes off to make sure all the women and children are accounted for. She expects a malfunction. What she gets is a violent man trying to remove his daughter from the facility. She reacts out of instinct … and magically thwarts the attempt.

Unfortunately for her, that’s only the beginning.

Because the man managed to escape, Ivy and Jack find themselves working together to track him down. On top of that, since the location of the building is supposed to be a secret, it appears an insider might be selling information.

More than anything, Ivy and Jack want to slide into happily ever after. However, neither of them can rest until they’re sure those most vulnerable are safe.

Ivy’s powers are growing. Her relationship with Jack was always destined to be. They’re both about to get everything they ever wanted … as long as they survive to make it down the aisle.

The big day is finally here.

An Enigma in Silver by Simon HaynesAn Enigma in Silver by Simon Haynes:

England, 1871. A quiet country village is rocked by murder. Police have no leads and no clues, apart from the grisly state of the victim's body.

Evidence points to a supernatural killer, but Professor Twickham is curiously reluctant to lend his assistance.

Roberta, his daughter, has no such qualms, and she involves me in the case as well... only to turn around and abandon me for a sick friend.

Now I must unmask the vicious killer on my own, but had I only known the truth, I'd never have got involved...

This standalone novel is the second title in the Mysteries in Metal gaslamp fantasy series.

The Almost Good Witch by Erin HussThe Almost Good Witch by Erin Huss:

Abigail was your average evil witch, complete with the hat, the cat, the cackle, and the bad habit of turning people into slugs on a whim. Cursed with eternal life because of a hex gone wrong many centuries ago, Abigail spent her days exacting revenge on those she found to be the vilest of humans, from evil dictators to shoppers who didn't return their grocery carts.

The line between good and annoying may have gotten blurred over the years.

Sick of spending immortality frozen at the age of twenty-five, Abigail does the only thing she can—turn herself into the Supernatural Crimes Department. Now she's a member of Dark Magic Anonymous with a three year probation and a parole officer who is annoyingly powerful and more annoyingly cute.

Oh, and she's traded in her broomstick for a Prius.

After centuries of being evil, Abigail struggles with entering the workforce and being good. But that pesky probation means one slip up will result in a life sentence. She's not about to let that happen, and things are going well until her boss turns up dead with all evidence pointing to her.

Will Abigail be able to maintain her new good witch ways while she hunts a killer, or will she slip up and spend the rest of forever behind bars?

The Vampire by Erme LanderThe Vampire Duology by Erme Lander:

“I do not require your eternal love or devotion Ms Johnson, merely what is inside your veins.”

When Tina Johnson, single mother, forty, wakes up in an isolated castle in Central Europe she simply wants to return to her daughter as quickly as possible. She doesn’t expect to find that she has been kidnapped and brought into a world where power is the key to survival and sanity is an optional extra.

Tina discovers she has been watched for many years, she has a rare genetic structure that makes her attractive to vampires and has the possibility of living for well over a century, if she allows herself to become infected. Kalmár has stolen her and intends to keep her captive, hiding her from both her family and other vampires. Normality becomes a frightening place as Tina struggles to escape those holding her and to fights to keep her daughter, her lover and her freedom.

Those wanting teenage kicks and thrills had better stand aside. This is a story of a woman held hostage with only her own exhausted brain to help. The slow seductive burn of sleepless nights. The nightmare of a horrific reality setting in and the endless patience of a dark being who has time on his side.

Sitting somewhere between Anne Rice and Bram Stoker this is perfect for fans of paranormal romance that want something different to savour. The Vampire Duology is a modern twist on the classic vampire tale.

Please note that this duology consists of "A Dark Inheritance" and "A Dark infection" both available on Amazon as single books.

The Witch Is Back by Amanda M. LeeThe Witch Is Back by Amanda M. Lee:

Bay Winchester is living the high life. She’s engaged, owns her own business, and is undergoing a magical transformation, complete with growing powers at every turn. All that changes when a local teenager goes missing at a festival and nobody knows who took her.

The girl’s friends saw the abduction but the description they provide doesn’t match anybody in town. The only other witness is Marcus, her cousin Thistle’s boyfriend, and he was seriously injured in the attack and can’t provide additional information.

Bay is determined to solve the case, although she’s not sure where to look. On top of that, her normal partner in crime is otherwise engaged, which means her mother has decided to tag along for the ride.

Bay is the sort of witch who is willing to put herself on the line to save those who need saving. Unfortunately, this time around, the answers she finds only lead to more questions. On top of that, her great-aunt Willa and cousin Rosemary have arrived in town out of nowhere and they seem to be harboring their own secrets, and it’s something that could change the entire trajectory of Bay’s life.

The Winchesters are loyal, and it’s going to take all of them working together to solve this one. It seems new magic is afoot, and whoever is wielding it is deadly.

Magic, mystery and mayhem are about to collide. Batten down the hatches. The Winchesters are about to take you on a wild ride.

Tiny Planet Filled With Liars by Stephen M.A.Tiny Planet Filled With Liars by Stephen M.A.:

So, a fussy ex-military amateur sleuth walks into a brothel and saves the world.
(Stop me if you've heard it.)
A comically tragic spectacle; a cathartic balm for our times; a cerebral pack of filthy lies.

A shuttle pilot once remarked to me, "You know, no one needs a monthly visit from an undying alien armada just to remember rent's due."

But you'd be surprised.

For generations, the Unified Fiduciary Dominion has relied on the military contractors of the Board to defend our planet (and its revenue streams) from Fleet Eternal. Now, those preening corporate punks have left us dangling.

Armed with exclusive investigatory powers, I've collaborated with Zhou—Ruby District madame—to scry the mysterious conspiracy unfolding over our heads.

Why are time-tested battle plans of the Alpha Vector Defense Corps suddenly failing? And why is the Board sitting idly by as casualties pile up in the Divisions? Does inventory attrition prevention mean nothing anymore?!

Not to belabor the many faults of these Incorporated scoundrels, but just know this: A few weeks ago—after I discovered they're probably about to get us all boiled alive in orbital battle radiation—I'm pretty sure one of the fuckers ruined my best jacket by ordering a lackey to put a knife through it on a busy industrial boulevard. While I was still inside it.

My best jacket.

The verdict is clear. (ahem) That is—the verdict is clearish. Let this report serve as our collective judgment all the same.

Behold, fellow plebs; take heart in these dark days, and stand tall once again.

The Board may not fear Fleet Eternal, but it will fear The Interviewer.

Trust me.

When Luck Runs Out by Terry MixonWhen Luck Runs Out by Terry Mixon:

After years of battle, Kelsey Bandar and Jared Mertz are finally ready to face the master AI enslaving the Terran Empire. With just a bit of luck, this nightmare will finally be over.

Only luck can run out just when you need it the most.

Outnumbered and outgunned, they must salvage victory from certain defeat. Failure means extermination, invasion, and the loss of everyone they love. Can they beat the odds just one more time?

If you love military science fiction and grand adventure on a galaxy-spanning scale, grab “When Luck Runs Out” and the rest of The Empire of Bones Saga today!

First Strike by Scott MoonFirst Strike by Scott Moon:

Joining the fight for the Galaxy isn't required. It's a choice.

The United Galactic Government is mired in a decade-long war for control of a key planet. Weakened by overextension and political intrigue, they could lose everything.

When a child of privilege gives up everything to enlist and fight for what is right, he learns what it means to become part of a team. He encounters refugees, aliens he never expected to empathize with, and the loss of comrades. In the end he must develop the courage to stand up, not only to aliens and governments, but his own family.

Eight Cylinders by Jason ParentEight Cylinders by Jonathan Parent:

Sebastian “Seb” McAlister has run out of luck in Vegas. Cornered by a trigger-happy gang and shot through the stomach, he makes a desperate escape in his supercharged Hellcat. Fate guides Seb safely out of Sin City and into the desert, but as his wheels fade into the horizon, he fades into darkness.

He awakes among a tiny community in the middle of nowhere. A mountain range circles the hodgepodge of shacks like prison walls looming high. And the warden that resides in those mountains is big, ugly, and deadly—a creature straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmare.

If Seb hopes to escape that wayward way station, he’ll need enough cunning to outwit a force beyond comprehension… and a fast car. With a little luck and a ragtag group of would-be monster mashers racing alongside him, Seb just might have a shot of making it through the mountains alive.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

The Impure by Kaitlyn PenningtonThe Impure by Kaitlyn Pennington:

Twenty-one-year-old Daniella Reilly always believed that her mother’s tales were nothing but fiction. But when she is taken to Seattle by her long-time friends, Madison, Derrick and Masen, Daniella meets people that she had been told did not exist. That is when she realizes that her mother’s stories of monsters and magic might actually be true. Vampires, Werewolves, Warlocks and Witches all exist among us, and Daniella finds herself launched into their world. She finds that not only does she have family in this strange, new world, but her mother is not who she believed her to be.Now knowing the truth of her childhood and family, Daniella joins Andrew, James, Amaelia, and Oliver on a mission to bring her mother’s work to a stop and to find a man that may not want to be found.Daniella’s main goal after discovering all that she has, is to make sure that her newfound family and herself all survive what’s coming and stick together despite the obstacles.

Longshot by Sean Platt and Johnny B. TruantLongshot by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

While Las Vegas burns, John Abbot is on fire.

What's a Gambler to do when the kind of winning streak he's only ever dreamed about hits just as aliens invade and it looks like the world is coming to an end?

Even while Las Vegas catches fire all around him, John Abbot decides to let it ride. For the first time in his life it feels like he can do no wrong. But it's gonna take more than a boatload of chips to survive the alien apocalypse. It might even require him to pull together the motley crew of left-over lowlifes and Vegas vagabonds to embark on a high-risk crusade.

In order to get a dying alien to Area 51, and hopefully save the world, John's only hope is a disillusioned showgirl, a snarky comedian, a cynical slot maching junkie, and the rest of the Las Vegas leftovers.

Unless they die, and destroy the universe along the way.

It's a race against time as the aliens arrive in this new stand-alone book in the Invasion universe by masters of story Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, authors of The Beam, Robot Proletariat, The Dream Engine, and more.

Ascendant by Joyce Reynolds-WardAscendant by Joyce Reynolds-Ward:

WHAT DOES ASCENSION TO POWER REALLY COST?

Six months after the triumphant collaborative conclusion of the AgInnovator Superhero game show, Ruby Barkley and her ex-husband Gabriel Martiniere still struggle with the professional and personal fallout from their victory. The Superhero money allowed Ruby to launch her line of agricultural biobots. But one of the RubyBot spinoffs, the Defender, leads to unsettling revelations about crop tampering using body-modified indentured workers. Their son Brandon uncovers even more disturbing information about the abuse of indentureds as he campaigns to end it. All of these disclosures lead back to the Martiniere Group, the family corporation controlled by Gabe’s malevolent uncle, Philip Martiniere.

Meanwhile, Ruby and Gabe wrestle with what form their resumed relationship will take, as Ruby contemplates whether she wants to take on the role of a Martiniere wife. The revelation that Gabe’s father is not who they thought, and Philip’s attempt to force Ruby away from Gabe once again confirms her decision. But the need to rescue one of Brandon’s valued indentured informants turns celebration into catastrophe. Will Ruby and Gabe be able to recover from this disaster—or will Philip triumph yet again in his campaign to destroy Gabe?

Realization by Joyce Reynolds-WardRealization by Joyce Reynolds-Ward:

THEY’VE ALMOST REALIZED THEIR DREAMS…BUT CAN THEY REMAIN THEMSELVES?

The indentured labor wars heat up as Ruby Barkley and Gabriel Martiniere struggle with medical complications that interfere with their fight to stop the sinister goals of Gabe’s father Philip. Discoveries by their son Brandon about the degree to which Philip and the family corporation, the Martiniere Group, are involved in unethical, interdicted human experimentation push them into accepting a questionable treatment to speed their recovery.

Philip’s direct challenge initiates Gabe’s final push to take over the Martiniere Group. Ruby and Brandon consolidate family support behind Gabe. When a high-profile assassination attempt at a political banquet reveals the existence of cyborged Martiniere descendants and clones of Philip intended to provide him with replacement parts, Ruby and Gabe must take action. One clone—Michael—still survives.

Along with their bid to win control of the Martiniere empire, Ruby and Gabe now face the dilemma of what is to be done with Michael. Can they save both the family and Philip’s clone—or should they even try?

The realization of their dreams is within Ruby and Gabe’s reach. Can they fulfill it while still remaining true to themselves?

Raven's Course by Glynn StewartRaven's Course by Glynn Stewart:

Old friends have turned to foes
Old oaths have shattered
But old ties still promise redemption

Amid the ruins of a fallen empire, humanity fights to secure the fates of once-enslaved worlds. Captain Henry Wong and Ambassador Sylvia Todorovich of the United Planets Alliance have mustered force and diplomacy alike to drive their former allies in the Kozun Hierarchy back from their invasion.

With their superiors unwilling to fight a war this far from home, Todorovich leans on the Drifters, old allies of both the UPA and the Kozun, to broker a peace summit that could bring peace to a dozen worlds—if she can trust anyone.

Fearing treachery, Captain Henry Wong and the battlecruiser Raven accompany Todorovich to the summit. Even among former friends, he can trust no one—not the Drifters and, most especially, not the old friend in command of the Kozun delegation!

Stranded by Rosalind TateStranded by Rosalind Tate:

A modern girl. A door to the past. No way back.

When Sophie Arundel falls through a hidden portal into 1925, she assumes she’s dreaming.

Except she isn’t.

Then the portal disappears.

Mysteriously invited to stay in a grand house, Sophie must navigate high-stakes rules to find a wealthy suitor. But that’s the least of her problems.

History is unfolding differently in this England. Millions are starving, desperate and angry. When Sophie’s soulmate is attacked by a baying mob and his life ebbs away…

Can Sophie save him?

Stranded is the first book in the Shorten Chronicles romantic fantasy series. If you like time travel, adventure and heroic dogs, you’ll love Stranded.

The Diamond Device by M.H. ThaungThe Diamond Device by M.H. Thaung:

After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.

Alf Wilson resents the new technology that cost him his factory job, especially as his clockwork leg bars him from army enrolment. He daren’t confess his unemployment to his overbearing mother. Desperate over the rent, he ends up in a detention cell with a hangover.

Impoverished Lord Richard Hayes maintains his expensive parliamentary seat by a mixture of charm and burglary. During a poorly planned break-in, he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping. To cap it all, the police arrest him for the crime. At least he's using a fake identity. The real criminals make off with not just the professor who discovered diamond power, but her plans for a diamond-fuelled bomb.

When Rich encounters Alf in the neighbouring cell, he sees an opportunity to keep his noble reputation intact. He persuades Alf he's a secret agent who needs an assistant. This chance association will take them to the oddest locations. But law-abiding Alf’s first assignment? Break Rich out of jail.

Within the Fog by Charles WelchWithin the Fog by Charles Welch:

The same ancient evil that killed 115 people at Roanoke, Virginia in the late 1500’s has arrived in a small eastern Colorado town. A fog covers the small town and closes in on Tom Benton and his family. The evil that lurks within the fog feeds on humanity but has special plans for those with anger deep inside. Tom Benton’s son Bobby has seen the face of evil outside his bedroom window in the darkest hours of the night. The man who appears at his window offers a veil of redemption to those holding onto anger and rage. As the fog wraps around the Benton family home there will only be a narrow chance at survival. Can Tom Benton and his family escape the issues of their past in time to save themselves from Croatoan?

Wearing Skin by Simon Paul WoodwardWearing Skin by Simon Paul Woodward:

None of us are what we seem to be on the outside. We are all pretending. We are all wearing skin.

The Angel of Loughborough Junctions: An amoral filmmaker experiences the horror of the world through an angel’s eyes.
Children of Ink: A living tattoo breaks one of the Five Laws of Ink and suffers the terror of life away from flesh.
Wearing Skin: Bigotry conquers true love in a blood-splattered tale of body swapping, sex and immortality.
American Sexual Lobster: A seafood chef loses his mind and body on a night of shellfish slaughter.
Manny & the Monkeys: An egotistical writer’s life is ripped apart by escalating, and increasingly bizarre, coincidences.

These 12 unsettling short stories include the British Fantasy Society award-winning Manny & The Monkeys.

If you're a fan of Stephen King, Joe Hill or JT Lawrence you'll love these dark stories with a twist. Get ready to stay up all night with award-winning horror author Simon Paul Woodward.

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Samurai Barber Versus Ninja Hairstylist by Zed Dee

Release date: November 28, 2020
Subgenre: Humorous Speculative Fiction
 

About Samurai Barber Versus Ninja Hairstylist

 

Change is in the hair.

Ninjas are wreaking havoc by cutting people’s hair without their permission. Behind this follicular terrorism is a master ninja, the Ninja Hairstylist, whose chaotic hairstyle embodies the anarchy that is about to tear the city apart.

The Samurai Barber must step up and cut down the evil strands on the Ninja Hairstylist’s head. It is not just keratin that is at stake. The Samurai Barber must fight for one of the cornerstones of modern civilization; the freedom and self-determination to choose your own hairstyle.


Excerpt:

 

The rush-hour train was packed with people, some of them so annoyed by the Samurai’s katana jutting into them that they violated polite decorum by rolling their eyes and clicking their tongues. The Samurai didn’t care though. Tā had other things to worry about, like how to pay tāde rent and what tā should buy with the measly twenty dollars in tāde wallet. It was either an apple or a slice of kaya toast.

Oh, the crunch when biting into a green apple, followed by that tart yet sweet taste. Tā preferred that over the nauseating sweetness of the red counterparts. But kaya on grilled bread, that was the ultimate temptation. The caramel-like taste of crispy, almost burnt, bread combined with the soft sweetness of kaya spread on top – just imagining it made tā salivate. The healthier option would be the apple, but tā had a craving for the pure rush that only kaya on grilled bread could provide.

Kaya it was. It was better to indulge tāself first and deal with the consequences later. The job interview had gone as well as could be expected considering that tā had been two hours late. It could be a long time before tā got any more money.

“Good afternoon, Mister Ken, so sorry I’m late,” tā had said to the interviewer. Tā had offered tāde hand for the customary handshake.

But Ken did not deign to reciprocate the gesture. “Good afternoon? Good afternoon?! Do you know what time it is now?” Ken had asked instead.

“It’s six o’clock,” tā had answered.

“Wow!” Ken had rolled tāde eyes. “You do know what time it is. I thought that perhaps your phone had gone siáu or something. But maybe you’re the one who went siáu. Do you remember what time you were supposed to be here?” Ken had almost screamed out that last question. The verbal attack made tā flinch and tā looked down in silence.

“Well?” A vein had popped on Ken’s neck.

“Four o’clock.” The answer had gone out like a thief trying to sneak away.

Ken had motioned for tā to stand. The motion had been gentle, at odds with the simmering fury that erupted as soon as tā stood up. “Get out, you bloody butoh!”

Ken’s hairline was receding a bit too early for someone who seemed to be in their late twenties. In an effort to hide this fact, Ken had slicked up what remaining hair was left and combed it downward. The result was that it looked like Ken was wearing a black helmet.

And while a katana could not fix faulty DNA, tā had seen the strands of shame and despair taking root on Ken’s head of hair. A couple of swipes from tāde katana and those errant strands would have been cut down. Ken could have been saved from a lifetime of low self-esteem. If only Ken had asked, tā would have barbered Ken for free.


Amazon | Apple


About Zed Dee:

Zed Dee grew up in Malaysia where he was exposed to three languages; English, Malay and Mandarin. Then he moved to Singapore when he was nine, where he studied English as a first language and Malay as second, because he couldn't read Chinese.

He has a BA in Sonic Art but found out he wasn't really that good at it. So, he decided to work in the games industry, starting off as a game tester, then becoming a programmer, and writes on the side. Oh, and somewhere along the way he got diagnosed with autism.


Website | Twitter

 
 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for November 27, 2020



It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2020, season 3 of Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek in general, season 2 of The Mandalorian and Star Wars in general, season 2 of His Dark Materials, the Supermatural series finale, the new Animaniacs, a special Hugo Award for videogames, problems at Fireside Magazine and much more.

Speculative fiction in general:
 
Best of 2020:
 
 Film and TV:
 
Comments on season 3 of Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek in general:
 
Comments on season 2 of The Mandalorian and Star Wars in general: 
 
Comments on season 2 of His Dark Materials
 
Comments on the Supernatural series finale (spoilers): 

Awards: 

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews: 

Classics reviews:

Con and event reports:
 
Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Trailers and videos: 

 

Odd and Ends: