Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2014

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 November 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, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have a broad spectrum of titles, featuring hard science fiction, science fiction romance, paranormal romance, Steampunk, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Asian based fantasy, Native American based fantasy, Egyptian mythology, young adult fantasy, fairytales, werewolves, witches, dragons, telepaths, ghosts, healers, thieves, pirates, atomic seas, magical cupcakes, time travel and much more. Once again, we also have a broad spectrum of authors hailing from countries as diverse as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Trinidad, Thailand, Singapore, Germany and the Philippines.

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:

Two Crows by David Dakan AllisonTwo Crows by David Dakan Allison

Lucky Two Crows is Portland’s best, and only, Native American Private Investigator. Hired to solve an attempted murder on the Blackfeet reservation, Lucky returns to Montana, to the tribe of his birth. With the help of the mysterious millionaire Clarence Two Moons, and his beautiful daughter Summer, Lucky must confront the inheritance of poverty and loss that has cursed his people, and his own terrifying and history-altering destiny.

In 1876, Grandfather Wolf Eyes looks in to the fires of the Blackfeet tribe and sees the return of his grandson. As a child, Two Crows was taken by the Crow Indians, and grew up to serve as a scout in the 7th Calvary. Foreseeing the Battle of Little Big Horn, he deserts and returns home to his people, and to his childhood sweetheart White Feather. As visions of past and future collide, Two Crows must choose between the Way of War—and the Seventh Path, the Way of Medicine.

Across centuries of violence, two Indian warriors must save their people from military aggression and corporate greed, as they journey together in to the fifth dimension.

Look for book two of the Shambala Mysteries, High Pony, in February 2015.

Foxworth Terminus by J. Drew BrumbaughFoxworth Terminus by J. Drew Brumbaugh

Reggie Foxworth, brilliant bio-chemist, has spent the last fifteen years working on a top secret project to enhance paranormal brain function. With success in sight, the project is being cancelled. Knowing his career and future are about to be terminated and with nothing to lose, Reggie takes the mind expanding drug himself before they can destroy it.

Initially, the physical consequences are not evident but as time passes Reggie finds out just how powerful the mind can be. More like magic than science, Reggie discovers that he can do impossible things. These strange powers don’t go unnoticed and soon every government on Earth is out to steal the secret and eliminate Reggie as a threat, including his own. They send assassins, turn his friends against him, alienate his girlfriend, try anything to stop Reggie. How can he escape, end the attacks and find a way to win back the love of his life?

Boardwalk Baby by Cora Buhlert

 There are two things about herself that Izzy has always known with absolute certainty: One, that she was adopted and two, that she has an affinity for the sea. For from her earliest memories on, the ocean has always called out to Izzy. But her adoptive parents thwart her attempts to get closer to the sea at every turn.

When Izzy turns eighteen, she goes in search of her past and her birth family. It's a quest that will take her to the boardwalk of Ocean City, New Jersey, and to a mysterious fur coat that might hold all the answers to Izzy's questions.

This is a fantasy novelette of 8200 words or approximately 27 print pages.

Warning: There are a few rude words in this story, because teenagers sometimes swear.

Darkness's Fury by Tiffany CherneyDarkness’s Fury by Tiffany Cherney

Despite the rather turbulent year, Liz and her fellow Segennyians look forward to the future as their rebuilding efforts continue. Still, whispers and shadows of plots continue to reach her ears, and those that know their unseen enemy won’t—or can’t—give the needed information to reveal them. Only one thing is certain: A storm is brewing and now it’s a matter of being able to stop it.

Even with the threat hanging over her head, Liz refuses to give into fear. Life goes on, and soon the first true holiday Segennya has celebrated openly in years is upon them. It is a time to reflect, to hope, and to make new promises as everyone gathers together once more. As the land awakens for spring the first rumblings of the storm come. The old allies are split, as magic gathers in the south near the old Uranysian capital. Regardless, all of Segennya marches to war; to hopefully force their enemy finally into the open.

This is the sequel to Vengeance of Segennya.

Sword and Silence by Joyce ChngSword and Silence by Joyce Chng

With the loss of her loved ones strong in her mind, Torin, a young swordswoman, finds her life changed when the Two-Headed arrive to conquer her planet.

The Atomic Sea by Jack ConnerThe Atomic Sea by Jack Conner

A thousand years ago, the sea began to change, and the change spread.

Now the boiling, toxic, lightning-wreathed Atomic Sea has encompassed every ocean on the planet, and the creatures that live in it have become mutated and unnatural. The sea’s taint can infect any human who comes in contact with it or with unprocessed seafood, killing them . . . or altering them. No one knows why the sea has become this way or what it portends, only that it’s irrevocably changed the world.

Meanwhile, world war has erupted, and the small country of Ghenisa, like many others, is tottering on the brink of collapse under the onslaught of the Empire of Octung. Dr. Francis Avery, a middle-aged widower, is aboard a military whaling ship far out on the Atomic Sea when a series of murders onboard propels him down the rabbit-hole of danger and terror unlike any other.

Soon he becomes aware of a spy on the ship, but that’s just the beginning. With the help of the grizzled whaler Janx and a mysterious woman named Layanna, he will embark on an epic quest to save Ghenisa from Octung and unravel the secrets of the Atomic Sea.

Part 2 is here.

The Witching Elm by C.N. CrawfordThe Witching Elm by C.N. Crawford

At a Boston school brimming with centuries’ worth of magical secrets, New England’s buried past rises up to grab the present by the throat.

Fiona Forzese walks the halls of prestigious Mather Academy with a deep yearning for a more exciting life. Her wish is suddenly granted when she meets an intriguing new student named Toby Corvin—who just happens to be a sorcerer. Toby soon introduces Fiona to an astonishing universe of ancient spells, talking ravens, and sinister bone wardens.

When a deadly army from Toby’s strange world descends upon Boston, he and Fiona race desperately to stop the slaughter. In the process, they face unspeakable danger while unearthing New England’s darkest secrets.

The Dark of Twilight by Kate DanleyThe Dark of Twilight by Kate Danley

Aein always longed to become a member of Lord Arnkell’s army, ever since she was a child working in the stronghold’s kitchen. When that day finally comes and she is sent to patrol the border’s swamp with fellow warrior, Lars, it seems like her dream has come true. But something has followed her home. When Lord Arnkell’s wedding is interrupted by a werewolf attack, the dream shifts into a nightmare… and Aein is the only one awake.

Book One in the Twilight Shifters series.

Twiceborn by Marina FinlaysonTwiceborn by Marina Finlayson

Still grieving her beloved son, Kate O’Connor’s just going through the motions. She doesn’t care that strangers often shadow her on the unorthodox courier jobs she does for a friend. She doesn’t even care what’s in the packages until the day she returns from a special rush job with no memory of the event. But it must have been pretty wild, because now there’s a werewolf in her kitchen trying to kill her—and he’s just the first in line.

Dragged into a supernatural war of succession between the daughters of the dragon queen, Kate discovers a Sydney she never knew existed, peopled by all kinds of strange half-human creatures. To have any hope of surviving she must uncover the explosive secret hidden in her memory—but first she has to live through the night.

Twiceborn is the first book in the urban fantasy trilogy The Proving.

The Blood of Brothers by Domino FinnThe Blood of Brothers by Domino Finn

In the bucolic town of Sanctuary, a body is strung up to a tree outside the local high school. The only thing more shocking than the crime is its heinous nature: the mysterious victim has been skinned and drained of all his blood.

Detective Maxim Dwyer knows the murder is a message, but who it’s from is not so clear. The few clues he has point to his friends, the Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. Diego de la Torre is part of that pack now, but brotherhood comes at a price when blood is spilled. Meanwhile, Kayda Garnett returns home with a college degree to find her family torn apart by the same tragedy. Only half-Yavapai, she is considered an outsider, but finding a peaceful alternative to the violence may finally win her the respect of the tribe.

Despite best laid plans, California bikers incite a gang war, the FBI undermines local police, and vigilantes take the fight to the streets. What starts out as a simple murder may soon run Sanctuary red with the blood of brothers.

This is the sequel to The Seventh Sons.

The First Ark by Chris FoxThe First Ark by Chris Fox

“There is a voice in my head, slithering through my mind like a serpent. It whispers dark things. Tells me to feed.” -Osiris, Egyptian Lord of the Underworld.

Were the Egyptian gods fanciful imaginings of primitive people, or something more? Some believe that they once walked the earth as mortals, that they warred and loved just as any of their worshippers.

This is their story, the tale of how Isis gained the power of shaping. How mighty Osiris died and lived again. How they discovered the fabled First Ark, a structure older than man. It is the tale of us all, the story that shaped our race from cave dwellers into the people we are today.

Are these fanciful tales? Or long lost truth wrapped in myth? Only time knows.

This is the prequel to the Deathless series.

To Whatever End by Claire FrankTo Whatever End by Claire Frank

The thriving kingdom of Halthas was founded by Wielders and Shapers: people who can manipulate either energy or matter. Cecily’s noble birth and strong Wielding ability made her a favorite of the king, until she and her husband Daro were caught up in the war that saw him deposed. Although they were hailed as heroes and a new king sits on the throne, Cecily and Daro chose to leave the politics of the Halthain court for a peaceful life, far outside the city.

Their quiet retirement is interrupted by an unexpected attack, leaving Daro captive and Cecily injured after a narrow escape. With no trail to follow and few clues, Cecily desperately tracks rumors of a madman who is trying to bend the laws of Wielding magic. The subjects of his human experiments rarely survive with their sanity, if they survive at all.

Only their bonded soul assures Cecily that Daro is still alive – but for how much longer and in what condition, she can’t tell. Her best hope is to gather old friends, try to repair the bridges she burned when she left her old life, and muster every resource to find her husband. No sacrifice is too great to bring Daro back, if his mind isn’t already gone.

Cupcakes and Kisses by Heidi Garrett and Billie LimpinCupcakes & Kisses by Heidi Garrett and Billie Limpin

One bite of her luscious cupcakes and you just might fall in love…

Nineteen-year-old Glynna Balcora’s super power is baking. A young witch, she’s lived her entire life tucked away in the quaint city of Spokane, WA with her domineering aunt and sweetheart of a grandmother. It’s not an ideal situation. Although Glynna loves her grandmother dearly, and treasures the special times they spend in their magical greenhouse, Glynna’s aunt keeps her niece on a tight leash using threats of vague enemies.
Since Glynna graduated from high school a few a months ago, her aunt’s be-home-before-dark curfew seems more ridiculous every day. It isn’t doing much for the young witch’s social life, either. With encouragement from her best friend, Glynna sneaks out one night to go to a bonfire party at the lake. There she has an unexpected encounter with Spokane’s most eligible bachelor, Ashton Bass. Glynna’s been crushing on Ashton since she was five years old. But when they share their first kiss, thunderstorms and lightning follow… and Glynna’s aunt realizes it’s time to tell the young witch the truth about who she really is.

Two Heirs by Peter KensonTwo Heirs by Peter Kenson

Denied his usual array of hi-tech weaponry, agent David Held is sent to a backwater planet, seeking a royal baby who vanished years earlier. Now grown up, the heir is threatened by hostile agents hunting the last claimant to the throne.

In the race to find the missing heir, Held is forced to help another prince, Jeren, secure the claim to his own throne. Over time, the destinies of the two heirs become intertwined.

To accomplish his mission, Held faces a deadly enemy with no qualms about bringing hi-tech warfare to a pre-industrial world. Armed with only his sword and telepathic ability, he is reminded of advice from his old weapons master:

“Never take a sword to a gun-fight.”

Deadly Love by Wesley Robert LoweDeadly Love by Wesley Robert Lowe

I’m Jasmine Huang. Five years ago, I was murdered in Beijing when I was twenty. I gave birth eight months later. I was haunted by not knowing who the real killer was and stalked my ex for years, finally winding up in Vancouver’s Chinatown when I discovered the truth. That allowed me comfort in leaving the natural world and I was en route to the Next Place when I heard my daughter Mei-Mei call me back to earth. She’s all that’s important to me and I will not leave unless she is with me.

In the first place I look is this old Chinaman ghost. This horny lech tells me I’m beautiful and wants me to help him. Ugh! I keep looking for Mei-Mei but find nothing but a fourteen-year-old hooker and her demon pimp. Surly, obnoxious, evil.

But I need these sick, twisted creatures to help me find Mei-Mei in this dangerous spiritual netherworld. I hate it.

This is the first book in the Chinatown Haunting series. The sequels Guilty Love and Deceitful Love are available as well.

The Thief Who Knocked On Sorrow's Gate by Michael McClungThe Thief Who Knocked On Sorrow’s Gate by Michael McClung

After surviving Thagoth and returning rich to Lucernis, Amra and Holgren have settled down to a very comfortable, if decidedly unexciting life — until the night Amra receives an old enemy’s head in a box. A longstanding debt calls her back home to Bellarius, the scene of many childhood horrors she would much rather forget about.

But as bad as memories of the past might be, present-day Bellarius is rapidly becoming worse, for the Eightfold Goddess has not forgotten about Amra, and another of Her Blades, the Knife that Parts the Night, has been discovered and threatens to tear the very fabric of reality apart.

All that stands in the way of utter destruction is one small, scarred thief and her mage companion…

This is the third installment in the Amra Thetys series, following The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids and The Thief Who Spat In Luck’s Good Eye

Mirrorheart by Grace McDermottMirrorheart by Grace McDermott

Stef Mimosa died.

Struck down by a shard of mirror – a literal piece of solid potential – Agent Ryan makes a wish for her to live, and is left with a corpse whose soul is slowly finding its way home, one that he must hide at all costs.
Ryan is under scrutiny for the death of his recruit – an audit that could lead to his execution.

Within the Agency, Curt – who helped initiate the investigation – sees only life going on without Stef, and Ryan’s apparent lack of care on subject.

Following immediately from the events of Mirrorfall, wishes have consequences in Require: Cookie, Book #2 – Mirrorheart.

Jacob's Odyssey by Russ MelroseJacob’s Odyssey by Russ Melrose

For Jake, a perilous journey of survival will soon turn into a quest for redemption…

A terrible virus has struck and the world has deteriorated into chaos. And with the infected outnumbering their human counterparts, chances for survival lessen with each passing day. After running out of food in his condo, Jake must make his way across the Salt Lake Valley to reach the safety of the mountains, and he must use his wiles to avoid the packs of infected roaming the streets. But Jake is haunted by a devastating personal tragedy, and his journey of survival will soon turn into a quest for redemption. Just as he’s about to reach the safety of the mountains, a phone call changes everything. A woman and her child need help and Jake finally sees his opportunity for redemption. But will his helping them put them in harm’s way? Jake is being stalked by a brutal and sadistic alpha (by far the most dangerous of the infected). And in the end, Jake will have to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep them safe and earn the redemption he seeks.

Solatium by Becca MillsSolatium by Becca Mills

Beth Ryder’s dangerously sexy and seemingly all-powerful boss has disappeared, leaving an increasingly desperate group of Nolanders — and one inept Second — in charge of policing other-worldly activity across much of North America. What better time for a legendary monster to emerge from the Second Emanation and make New York City its hunting ground? But little does Beth know that dealing with the voracious Thirsting Ground will pale in comparison to a shocking betrayal that threatens to destroy her new life among the Nolanders.

Solatium is the second book of the Emanations series. The first book, Nolander, is available at no cost on all platforms.

Ghost Box by Derek NevilleGhost Box by Derek Neville

In the summer of ’92, a young girl named Isabelle disappears into a vacant building and is never seen again. She becomes another name alongside many others who have vanished when stepping through the building’s doors.

Boyd Dwyer knows a thing about missing people. At least he did when he was a cop, but that was before Morgan died, and before his ‘little drinking problem’ forced him into an early retirement. Now the only job he can get is the one no one else wants — protecting a building with a violent and disturbing history.

It’s not so bad until he starts getting phone calls late at night. It seems someone really wants to talk to Boyd and confess something awful.

Will he answer?

Back Again by Andrew NicolleBack Again by Andrew Nicolle

Tom Granger, a prisoner trapped in Kingsworth penitentiary, finds himself defending the prison against an alien invasion.

He soon discovers the situation is even worse than he’d realized when he encounters the enemy’s most terrifying weapon yet…

Back Again is a short story of 3000 words.

The Return of the Key by Alisha NurseThe Return of the Key by Alisha Nurse

16 year old Eliza Aurelio grapples with her mixed race identity amid rising racial tensions on her little island. For their safety, Eliza’s grandfather sends her and her grandmother to a quiet town in Southwest England to stay with a relative. But this otherwise quiet town has been turned upside down by people mysteriously disappearing. Eliza eventually encounters a magical but dangerous realm accessible through a doorway in the town, and sees its connection to the abductions. She intends to put things right, only wanting to protect her family. To do this, she must return a stolen key to lock the open doorway. But Eliza has to overcome her own inner conflicts if she is to stand any chance of being successful and leaving the other realm alive.

Suspenseful and enchanting, The Return of the Key explores the power of love, sacrifice and the journey to self acceptance.

The Mainframe by Simone PondThe Mainframe by Simone Pond

The hunt for Morray continues . . . Book three picks up in the year 2345, seventeen years after the disappearance of former city center leader, Chief Morray. There has been peace among the West Coast regions for years, but in Ojai Village there is very little peace between Ava and her sixteen-year old daughter Grace. Both have different ideas about what it takes to maintain independence. Ava spends hours inside the mainframe searching for Morray, while Grace focuses on the art of combat. Grace’s dream is to get accepted into the Silicon Valley Academy and become a soldier like her father General Joseph Strader. During tryouts for the academy Grace comes across some digital footprints inside the mainframe, convincing Ava that Morray has returned to seek revenge and reclaim control. When Ava goes missing, Grace assembles a motley crew of cadets to go on a search and rescue mission up north in Seattle to save her mother and take down Morray. Grace soon learns that independence comes at a price.

This is part 3 of the New Agenda series, following The City Centre and The New Agenda.

Star Crossed by Christine PopeStar Crossed by Christine Pope

Grace Rinehart has known for most of her life that she isn’t quite like anyone else — her father was a human/alien hybrid, and although she might look like a normal young woman, she still carries the alien trace within her blood. Even so, she’s done her best to ignore her not-of-this-world heritage…until she returns home to Sedona and loses her heart to the one man she knows she shouldn’t love. But as more secrets are revealed, and she finds herself doubting the choices of her heart, she finds herself caught between the expectations of those around her and the deepest truths within her soul. In the end, she’ll discover that the stakes are even higher than she imagined… not just for her and the man she loves, but the entire world.

Mother by Jennifer R. PoveyThe Silent Years: Mother by Jennifer R. Povey

Dorothy Mayling thought her worst problem was the long-standing family feud over her sister’s choice of husband. Or her sons’ grades. Then the rumors started – bird flu in Seattle, SARS in Washington State? The truth is a hideous, terrible disease, one that slowly steals away the ability to speak and reason, turning people into nothing more than zombies. Worst of all, it was meant to be a weapon. Can Dorothy hold her family together as the world ends around them and people fall, one by one, to the silent plague?

Dry Land by Carina SanfeyDry Land by Carina Sanfey

“There was no way out of Centralia. The fibreglass walls and ceiling had been built with containment in mind. None of the Founders had wanted to risk an encounter with the Beasts, nor had they wanted us to be able to damage the environment, or the environment to be able to damage us. Nobody wanted a repeat of what had happened on Earth. Of course, nobody had ever wanted to leave. Until now.”

When a water shortage threatens the existence of the last humans in the known universe, Katchia and her friend Frost must go out in search of a new water supply. Nobody has left the settlement since the Founders first settled on Mars. The go in search of water, but instead find a dark secret that will change their world forever.

Clockwork Gold by Jenny SchwartzClockwork Gold by Jenny Schwartz

There’s a conspiracy in the Goldfields of Western Australia, and the money men of London don’t like it. Dirigible pilot Rebecca Jones likes it even less. She has a messenger service to run, justice to pursue in a lawless land, and she can do without Special Agent to the Crown, Nathan Burton, hijacking her dirigible—and her heart—and disrupting her carefully laid plans. The result is adventure, romance and explosions.

A Steampunk novella.

Mystery at Skeffield Manor by Hollis ShilohMystery at Skeffield Manor by Hollis Shiloh

Old friends, new friends, magic and mystery…

Join Wes and Kit, Robert and Louie, and their friends and family at Skeffield Manor. Except that there is mischief afoot here…in the beautiful country home and with a mysterious magical object.

A story told from multiple points of view.

Takes place after “Wes and Kit” and “Robert and Louie.” Other stories set in the same universe: “Like A One-Eyed Cat” and “Gear Heart.”

This story contains some magic, some steampunk elements, and has a low-medium heat rating.

Length: approx. 62,000 words

Scrapplings by Amelia SmithScrapplings by Amelia Smith

Darna shouldn’t have been born – priestesses aren’t supposed to have babies – and she most certainly shouldn’t see dragons. After all, no one else does, except in Anamat, or so the minstrels say.

She sets out for the city of Anamat. Along the way, she meets Myril, an older girl with frequent premonitions and an eerie sense of hearing.

Then there’s Iola, who is so dragon-struck that she actually wants to be a priestess. She’s blind to the corruption in the temples.

Thorat is Iola’s champion. He sees dragons as much as the girls do, but unlike them he blends easily in to a crowd.

Apart from these four, the city seems to be nearly as dragon-blind as the provinces. Darna scavenges for scraps, but apprenticeships cost more than she’s likely to earn. When she’s offered a sack of gold beads for a small bit of thieving, she takes her chances… and ends up angering the dragon herself.

We Are Watching by M. Stephen StewartWe Are Watching by M. Stephen Stewart

Seven years after his father’s death, Planetary Link Trainee Technician Henry Malone repairs the neural implant of a stranger, and finds her mind isn’t like any other. She’s in possession of illegal memories, unauthorized knowledge, and a message: speak to me later, and tell no one.

He’s thrust into the center of a growing conflict between the domineering Planetary Link Corporation and Sever, a violent organization devoted to Plink’s total destruction.

All the while, Henry begins hearing the voice of his dead father.

Using their implants, Planetary Link sees what you see, hears what you hear, and knows everything you know.


The Highwayman Incident by Kristy TateThe Highwayman Incident by Kristy Tate

Celia Quinn’s business lies in ruins at the hands of Jason West, the latest in a long line of scoundrels. As she seeks to restore her family’s livelihood, Celia stumbles upon lore about the local Witching Well, whose water is said to cause hysteria and psychosis. When a mysterious stranger slips Celia water from the well into her drink, she’s transported to Regency England. Her timeless adventure spans miles and centuries from modern-day New England to Merlin’s Cave in Cornwall, England. Only Jason West can save her.

But Celia and Jason must tread carefully, as what happens in the past can reverberate through the ages. Their lives, hearts and futures are caught in time’s slippery hands.

The Dragons Return by J.J. ThompsonThe Dragons Return by J.J. Thompson

Over 3 years ago, the old Earth began to die. Technology started to break down. Electricity failed. Machines stopped working. Planes, trains and cars became useless hunks of metal. And then the dragons came. On the Night of Burning, the world’s great cities were reduced to slag and rubble by dragon fire. Civilization, as we knew it. ceased to be.

But before the end came, there were the Changlings. A few humans, children and adults alike, began to mutate into…something else. Ears became pointed, fingers fused or elongated. Their old languages were lost to them and they began to babble in unknown tongues. Perhaps one in a hundred thousand Changed. Simon O’Toole was one of them.

Back then, he was a large middle-aged man. Now he’s a skinny, awkward teenager, Simon has lost everything; his family, his friends, the world that he knew. But he has gained something as well. Through hints in dreams, he has learned magical runes that can summon elementals. He can cast fireballs and lightning. In short, Simon has become a wizard.

Slowly, carefully, he is learning to use this new power. It will take years to master his magic. Years that Simon may not have.

The dragons are still on the hunt. They search for survivors of the human race, and when they have been exterminated, the dragons will turn on the last remnants of humanity: the Changlings themselves.

Blood in the Water by Tami VelduraBlood in the Water by Tami Veldura

Kyros Vindex, treasure-hunter, has a problem. He’s carrying a torch for a fellow pirate with the sexual awareness of a teaspoon. Rumors say the man has killed hundreds. He’s determined to knock some sense into the work-a-holic that captains the Midnight Sun, but damned if he knows how.

Eric Deumont has more pressing concerns than the treasure-obsessed Kyros. There’s a creature inked into his chest that no witch in the seas will lay hands on for all the gold in the world. He knows it gives the Midnight Sun a cursed reputation and that doesn’t make living any easier. He has heard stories of spirits trapped for lifetimes inside spelled puzzle jars. Eric tracked down three of the pieces for such a jar with a lead number four. The fifth is still out there.

Even then, the spirit of vengeance that lives in Eric’s skin has no intention of giving up such easy access to the mortal realm. It craves blood and the light of the moon allows it to wreak unchecked havoc. Cursed is an insult. This is madness.

My Lovesick Zombie Boyband & weirder tales by Damien WalterMy Lovesick Zombie Boyband & Weirder Tales

Fred is a goth. A real goth, descended from a real Visigoth tribe, not one of those mopey kids in black eyeliner she ignores at school. But when her talents as a witch and her fetish for stupid boys with spikey hair get out of hand, Fred finds herself on the run from her very own lovesick zombie boy band.

Nine weird tales of lost gods, demonic dating sites and dusty antique shops all in one tiny book. A minuscule collection of teeny weeny stories by Damien Walter.


Hopebreaker by Dean F. WilsonHopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.

First Lights by Regan WolfromFirst Lights by Regan Wolfrom

It’s been over twenty years since Elgin and Singhal and their crowdsourced sunshield saved the world from runaway climate change. Or at least bought the world a little time.

Now, in a bold new world where the people have started to gain power over the old elites, and the first uncertain steps are being taken to move offplanet, there are alliances at work to take control of the sunshield — even if that means destroying it — and to reverse the progress that has been made.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Science Fiction and Fantasy Mad January Sale

For January 1, Australian SFF writer Patty Jansen has organised a massive sale of over forty science fiction and fantasy books. All books will be available for 99 cents on January 1, 2015.

To quote Patty:  
I decided to hold a huge cross-promotion with a lot of other authors of SF/F to celebrate the next book in the Ambassador series. ... I've reduced book 1 to 99c (will remain so until a bit after book 3 comes out) and I've added a whole bunch of other books that are also 99c cents by other authors. ...
In the next few days, a number of these authors will appear on this blog to tell their stories about their books and themselves.
Look out for updates on Patty's blog here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Witching Elm (Memento Mori Series Book 1) by C.N. Crawford

Subgenre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Release Date: December 25, 2014

ABOUT The Witching Elm:

At a Boston school brimming with centuries' worth of magical secrets, New England’s buried past rises up to grab the present by the throat.

Fiona Forzese walks the halls of prestigious Mather Academy with a deep yearning for a more exciting life. Her wish is suddenly granted when she meets an intriguing new student named Toby Corvin—who just happens to be a sorcerer. Toby soon introduces Fiona to an astonishing universe of ancient spells, talking ravens, and sinister bone wardens.

When a deadly army from Toby’s strange world descends upon Boston, he and Fiona race desperately to stop the slaughter. In the process, they face unspeakable danger while unearthing New England's darkest secrets.


“Picture a place that looks like Boston.” He looked into Fiona’s eyes, gesturing with his paper cup. “There’s a Common like this. Around it are crowded alleys that wind below people’s windows. At night, the streets are lit with floating lanterns of foxfire.”

They walked west through the darkening Common, past the snow-covered tennis courts. Fiona peered at him over her hot chocolate. This was an unexpected turn.

“In this place, ordinary people can’t read, so there are painted signs on the taverns in blue and red and gold paint. There are symbols of ravens and stars, king’s-heads and fire-breathing dragons.”

“Why can’t people read?”

“Well, the wealthy can read. In Maremount, the aristocrats practice magic, but for everyone else it’s illegal. There are a few secret covens for poor people, but the King wants them disbanded.”

Fiona wrinkled her forehead, glancing over at him. “This place is called Maremount?”

“Right. It’s just imaginary.”

They now stood at the edge of the park, as cars inched forward in gridlock along the icy street.

“You see these streets?” He looked down at the slushy pavement. “They were filled in with land from the nearby hills. In my story, these streets remain a bay, full of cod and lobster. There’s water all around. There are crabs here, and sometimes at night there are flickering sparks on the waves. Those are the Nippexies—the water spirits. They’re still here underground, I think.”

“Maremount sounds lovely.”

He kicked at an icy chunk of snow. “Well, except for the civil war.”

“Civil war?”

He adjusted her scarf on his neck. “Just part of the story.”

“Boston’s not as beautiful as the place in your story, but there’s the garden in the summer, and you can see fish in the aquarium.”

“The aquarium?”

“They’ve got a tank that you can walk under. You can see the fish from underneath. It’s beautiful.”

“That sounds nice.”

“We should go with Mariana. She knows all the fish names.”

“We should get back now, right?” He gazed at her with a hint of a smile. “I guess my story didn’t really go anywhere. But it was nice to talk to someone.”

“I guess we should get back.” By now she could picture the sparkling bay he’d described and was loath to leave it for her dreary room.

Toby started to walk toward the school, and she followed, glancing back at where the water spirits might be. She usually hated this time of year, when the trees looked like skeletons and her feet were always cold. But their stroll after curfew had refreshed her, and Celia’s proposed adventure started to seem more appealing.

C.N. Crawford is not one person but two. Christine (C) grew up in the historic town of Lexington, and has a lifelong interest in New England folklore--with a particular fondness for creepy old cemeteries. Nick (N) spent his childhood reading fantasy and science fiction during Vermont's long winters.

Together they work to incorporate real historical events and figures into contemporary urban fantasy novels.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Guest post - Bruce Fottler on Popular Apocalyptic Events

My main character in Paladin's Odyssey scoffed over the absurdity of tired doomsday clichés in apocalyptic tales of our era. The inspiration behind this came from the abundance of post-apocalyptic movies that have come out over the years. While they range from compelling to just plain silly, there's no denying that we have a curious interest in the demise of our species.

But what are the most popular apocalyptic events in movies these days? I recently came across a list of the top post-apocalyptic films (on and thought it would be interesting to identify the apocalyptic event in each movie to see what might be keeping us up at night.

Note: My list is a consolidation of the top IMDB picks, as some franchise sequels/prequels showed up more than once. In these cases, I noted that all sequels/prequels movies are included.

1. The Hunger Games (includes sequels/prequels). It's never said what happened to civilization before the establishment of Panem.

2. The Maze Runner (2014): Much like “Hunger Games”, the apocalyptic event is undefined.

3. The Planet of the Apes (includes sequels/prequels): “You maniacs! You blew it up!” Who can forget Charlton Heston's meltdown at the end of the 1968 classic?

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): Machines built to exterminate mutants turn against everyone.

5. Snowpiercer (2013): A failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet.

6. The Terminator (includes sequels/prequels): “I'll be back.” Skynet takes over and seeks to exterminate the human race.

7. Mad Max (includes sequels/prequels): Civilization breaks down leading to war over dwindling resources.

8. The Matrix (includes sequels/prequels): Machines enslave the human race and use them as a power source.

9. Cloud Atlas (2012): “The Fall" is a largely-unexplained apocalyptic event.

10. Oblivion (2013): (Spoiler alert!) Aliens harvesting our planet.

11. Zombieland (2009): Zombies, Twinkies shortage, and the death of Bill Murray!

12. The Rover (2014): A global economic collapse.

13. I Am Legend (2007): A cure for cancer inadvertently creates a deadly plague, while turning a small percentage into monsters.

14. Warm Bodies (2013): Zombies, love, and a cure.

15. Total Recall (2012): Earth is almost uninhabitable (not sure why, and it's not the same premise of the 1990 original).

My observations:

Overall, I can think of several other great movies that should have ranked higher on this list, but it's just a snapshot of what's popular today among IMDB voters.

It's interesting to note that the underlying apocalyptic event in the top two movies is undefined. These stories instead focus on their present circumstances. It shows that a strong, engaging story doesn’t need to explain the apocalyptic event behind the narrative.

The most reoccurring apocalyptic event is machines turning on humans. Hey, I've always been suspicious of Skynet myself. Did I just hear a laugh coming from my laptop speakers?

I found it interesting that Zombie-themed movies didn't rank higher the list. Perhaps this is a sign that the zombie sub-genre is showing fatigue?

It surprised me that the less popular apocalyptic events are a plague and economic collapse (which doesn’t bode well for Paladin's Odyssey being made into a movie). Besides war, I think that these represent the most plausible of the apocalyptic scenarios on the list. Maybe we just don't like too much reality in our movies?

And finally, why are aliens always trying to kill us off and steal our planet?

What do you think of the list?

About Bruce Fottler:

Since exiting a finance career in a world of cubicles, Bruce Fottler has been busy writing novels. His latest is the post-apocalyptic thriller: Paladin's Odyssey.

Bruce grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved to the Boston area as a young teen. While seeking a career-track that mostly put him behind a desk, he dabbled in creative pursuits such as producing, writing, and directing film shorts. However, it was always writing novels that interested him the most because they aren't limited by production budgets, technical capabilities, or tight shooting schedules.

Bruce has three other published novels: Chasing Redemption (Sci-fi thriller), Dover Park (Mystery), and The Juncture (Time-travel drama).

Amazon Author Page:

Goodreads Author Page:

Link to Paladin's Odyssey on Amazon: http//

Paladin's Odyssey Facebook Page:

Please also note that Paladin's Odyssey is free through Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for December 26, 2014

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this time in a special Boxing Day edition:

Speculative fiction in general:

Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Odds and ends: 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Something to Read: A Charity Omnibus Anthology, edited by Stella Wilkinson

Release date: November 25, 2014
Genres: Multi-genre flash fiction anthology 

About Something to Read:

Something To Read is exactly one hundred stories to entertain you whenever and wherever you feel the need. The majority of these stories are flash fiction of under 1000 words and contain themes as varied as the authors who wrote them. Stories were contributed for charity from nearly seventy different authors from at least four different continents, and contain comedy, tragedy, romance, science fiction, horror and everything in between. If you have several hours or just five minutes, there is something here for you. 

Stories and Authors:

John - N. Bursnoll
The Agency Chef - Samuel Clements
Coming Home - Andrew Vu
Love @ First Site - Amanda Brice
Dancing Cheek to Cheek - Amanda Brice
A Ghost Story? - Stella Wilkinson
100-1 Hoodoo - Neil Sweetman
Monster in My Head - L.G. Castillo
See the Galaxy - Landon Porter
Ten To Nine - Debbie Bennett
Brief Encounter on the 75 - Frank Zubek
Small Parcels - Pru Moran
Moth Boys - Neil Sweetman
Friday Night - Stella Wilkinson
Simon Marriott's First Puff - Louis Hessey-Antell
Priorities - Dan Brady
A Routine Sunday - J. David Core
The Centennial Grape - Monica La Porta
Amy - Paul B. Kohler
A Guy’s Story - Dan Fiorella
Beware How You Stand Lest You Fall - Ruth Banda-Banda
My Subway Fantasy - Penny Darling
Through Glass - James Griffiths
The Day the Washing Machine Broke Down - Pru Moran
Losing Track - Pauline Drummie
“Last Day” - Frank Zubek
Us & Them - Dario Solera
Diamond - Neil Bursnoll
Armed and Dangerous - T.L. Champion
God Two - Kathy Molyneaux
Personal Hell - RJ Kennett
Learn - Peter Cawdron
The Stolen Satchel - Jamie Campbell
The Glass Horse - Sarah Dalton
The Faceless Ones - Vincent Trigili
Bad Deal - Cora Buhlert
Lookout Mountain - Paul B. Kohler
Christmas with a (Snow) Monster - Stephen Drivick
The Orders - Stacy Claflin
Curbside - Frank Zubek
Hidden in the Closet - Al Stevens
Sweet Baby - Sheila Guthrie
The Life of Herman Von Schmit - Jamie Campbell
The House without a Pumpkin Tree - Dan Fiorella
Good Deeds - Pru Moran
Transfer of Power - Paul Levinson
Half the Battle - Melanie Nilles
Holidays with My Grandfather - James Griffiths
Gold Rush - Paul B. Kohler
Angels and Demons - Seun Odukoya
The Candy Shop - V. A. Jeffrey
Christmas Dinner - Pru Moran
Carrie’s Gift - Frank Zubek
Taste - Stella Wilkinson
Refusal of the Call - Cora Buhlert
Frankenstein & Igor, A Tale of Terror and Misplaced Organs - Dan Fiorella
Super 88 - Erin Garlock
Green, Green, Blue - Kevin A. Lyons
Twilight Raid - Edward M. Grant
Controlled Experiments - Kevin J. Anderson
The Cyclist - Samuel Clements
A Wish For Smish - David Gerrold
The Last Lodger - Stella Wilkinson
The Pawnbroker of Personalities - Richard Wolanski
Stylish Headwear and the Problem of Free Will - Jamie Horyski
Recall - Graham Brand
Fuzzy’s Diner - Michael Carmella
He Will Lead Us - John L. Monk
Vietnam with a Side of Asparagus - Lindy Moone
All Mine - Jamie Campbell
The Vet - Frank Zubek
A Grown Man’s Love Story - Debadatta Pati
Alone - Paul B. Kohler
Roadworks - Edward M. Grant
Large Animal/Small Animal - Ron McLarty
And The Chimps Shall Lead - Paul Levinson
Lilac and Dead Land - E. Percy Muove
The Long Elegance of Sleep - Helen Cho
More Than A Feeling - Cate Dean
A Flurry of Footsteps - H.S. Stone
The Skylight Room - Karen Tucker
Tonianna Gallager - Mary Kincaid
Scout’s Ninety Seconds of Enlightenment - Joe Tannian
A Change of Heart - Cate Dean
Whither Time - Sheila Guthrie
Mason and Me - Kelly Lytle
Involuntarily in Charge - T.L. Champion
The Spitwalk Contest - Richard Wolanski
Faceless - Neil Bursnoll
Looking Down - Dario Solera
Wasteland, Part 1- Vincent Trigili
Wasteland, Part 2 - Vincent Trigili
The Last President of the United States - Stephen Drivick
Peregrine Comes To OJO - 1911 - Ron McLarty
Following String - Jamie Campbell
Moving - Donald R. Broyles
Surprise, Surprise! - Aditi Bathia
The Not Wanting - J. David Core
What Is the World Coming To? - Rich Wells
Whatever Happened to Annie Garrett? - Frank Zubek

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Seeds of New Earth by Mark R. Healy

Subgenre: Cyberpunk, Genetic Engineering, Science Fiction
Release Date: December 17, 2014

ABOUT The Seeds of New Earth:

The Earth is in ruins. Cities and nations destroyed. Mankind is extinct.

Brant and Arsha are synthetics, machines made in the image of people. They dream of bringing humans back into the world and have the technology to succeed, but the obstacles in their way are mounting.

Not only are their own conflicting ideals creating a rift between them, but now the sinister Marauders are closing in as they seek revenge on Brant. Out in the wasteland, strange lights and mysterious objects in the sky herald the arrival of new factions that seek to control the region.

Even in the once quiet streets of their own city, malevolent forces are beginning to unfurl that threaten the sanctity of everything they hold dear, jeopardising the future that is within their grasp.


The flashlight was starting to give out. It threw a murky yellow disc across the pavement, enough to accentuate the shadows in the street but little else – a poor excuse for illumination. As I watched, it winked and then went out.

Thumping it in my hand, I tried to jolt it back to life as if hammering on the chest of one whose heart had stopped. It was no use.

The motion of my feet ceased and I listened. Something out there was watching me.

This wasn’t the first time I’d felt it. In the past weeks I’d experienced this same feeling before – an indefinable knowing that I wasn’t alone, that there was some kind of presence nearby and that it observed me, not unlike a hawk watching a mouse in a field. I felt that any minute now it would decide that it had waited long enough, that it had finished toying with me and now the game was over, that there was no more satisfaction for it to derive from this pursuit. It was time to end it, to swoop down with a wordless shriek, to rip and tear at my innards with talons and a wickedly curved beak until the light went out of my eyes. I fought to push that idea from my mind. Imagination was a dangerous thing at times.

High above, the stars were coming out. The last breath of the day was spent, manifested by a cool breeze that eddied around my ankles and flapped at the folds of my jacket like the hands of an invisible assailant. I pressed my fingers to my chest. The fabric fought to squeeze between them, to cast itself at the mercy of the wind, but as suddenly as the breeze had arrived, it was gone. The fabric went limp and the street quietened as the last wisps receded across the concourse.

This was a city without people. The humans who had built it had perished long ago, and now it was an empty husk where the sound of their voices was but a memory.

I still thought of them often. My creators. I’d outlived them by many years, but still yearned for their return, to hear the reassuring sounds of their feet echoing in these streets again, to hear their voices. After so many years I’d had enough of traipsing this place alone.

But now I wasn’t alone. Something other than me was flitting between the shadows, unseen. I could sense it. And it was anything but reassuring.

I took a few quiet steps along the asphalt. There was a rustling in the gloom that seemed to mimic every movement I made, as if the thing out there was a shadow, masking its own motions in the furtive stirring of my own. A predatory thing that stalked me with great cunning and patience, waiting for the right time to strike.

Marauders? No, it wasn’t them. They would have come at me already by now, brandishing their machetes and screaming promises of violence as they thundered along the street. They would have taken me by force, not by patiently abiding in the darkness.

I hooked my thumbs under the straps at my shoulders and tugged them forward, the weight of the backpack transferring snugly to the curve of my back. With that secure, I ducked into a crouch and moved rapidly to the alleyway nearby, poking my head discreetly around the corner to survey its narrow confines.

Overhead, threadbare cables stretched between apartments and along the walls like cobwebs, disappearing in and out of gaping voids and crisscrossing into the upper reaches of the tenements, where one thick strand dangled vertically, swinging idly back and forth in little oscillations like a hangman’s noose.

Was this place truly hiding secrets from me, or was I just afraid of my own shadow, creating imaginary spectres in order to frighten myself? Tricks of the mind to alleviate the loneliness.

As if in answer I heard a noise down the alleyway, a rasping, drawn-out scrape like a blunt knife being dragged across wood. I shied backward involuntarily, then, edging forward, peered down the alleyway again. There was nothing moving, nothing altered since I had last looked.

I could leave now and be on my way, make my way home while there was still enough light to see, make it to the security of four walls and shelter from the evening chill. That was the safe option, the easy option. It was probably also the prudent choice. I knew that it would gnaw at me, though, the source of this unknown presence that seemed to monitor my every movement. It would dog me as I fled home, as I lay in the darkness of the house, watching the windows for signs of movement. It would be waiting in the morning when I stepped back into the sunlight and looked out across the city, teasing me.

It would eat me up, knowing that I’d had a chance to unravel the mystery and had failed to take it.

I needed to go after it.

Slinking away from my place of concealment I shuffled down the alleyway. The wind stirred again, ruffling little flaps of garbage at my feet, and I noted that among them were the decaying remains of those who had died in the Winter, their forms now nothing more than mounds of brittle grey bones entangled in scraps of clothing. An undignified kind of resting place, I thought remotely, but one that I had seen all too often in my travels. I had mourned for so many of them over the years, understanding the pain of what they must have gone through, but now was not the time for such sentimentality. I needed to focus.

A wooden doorway appeared on my right, bent and broken inward, within which I could see a staircase leading up into the dimness of the building. I stood and listened. Drifting down the stairwell, I thought I could detect the barest hint of that scratching and rasping I’d heard before, permeating the quiet. Something moving, sneaking about.

I pushed forward, noisily kicking and bashing through the remains of the door, then stopped to listen to determine if the racket had elicited a response from above.

Nothing. All was quiet.

My boots brushed against the steps and I began to ascend. Almost immediately I heard it again – the scraping. It was louder, closer, more defined. I was closing in on it.

With more urgency, I thumped my way up onto the next floor and out into a long, dark hallway. In the gloom I could make out the mottled and cracked form of the walls and ceiling where paint had peeled away, the flakes collecting on the bare floor in chunky strips like an accretion of fallen leaves. Half a dozen doorways lined either side, disappearing at the end of the passageway where it fed into the tenebrous innards of the building.

The noise abruptly stopped.

I clenched my fist involuntarily, unsure of what to do. Was it lying in wait behind one of these doors, its breath stilled, poised to strike should it be cornered? Had it laid a trap somewhere and now patiently waited for me to fall into it? Or had it found itself at a dead end, standing there helplessly as I closed in?

I’d come this far, and I’d never been this close to capturing it, to discovering the nature of it.

Don’t turn back now.

I entered the passageway, the paint chips crackling as they yielded under my boots, my jaw set firmly, my synthetic muscles coiled and ready to respond to whatever might cross my path. I paused at the first doorway, my hand hovering over the knob. I grasped it gently and twisted. It was locked.

Further down I could see that only one of the doors in the passageway was open. Listening at the first door for a moment longer, I heard nothing. I kept going.

Pausing briefly at each entrance, I listened for sounds of movement, for that distinctive scraping noise, but it seemed to have retreated. I could no longer find any trace of it. Had I lost the watcher, or was it still here, having fallen silent?

I reached the open door and looked through, into the room beyond. Inside it was brighter than the hallway, and as I eased across the threshold I saw the dull light from outside spilling in through an open window. The room itself was in tatters, a small bed rotting away in one corner and a filthy, dirt-smeared kitchenette in the other. The darkened recess of a lavatory appeared as I entered further, but it was empty.

I moved across to the window and looked out into the street, the cool evening breeze caressing my face. There was no movement out there. Gripping the windowsill I leaned out more, craning my neck this way and that, but could see nothing aside from the great concrete and steel expanse of the city and the stars above.

As I leaned back inside, my fingertips brushed something sharp, and I looked down. The wooden frame of the windowsill had been splintered and gouged, with four distinct gaps lined out across it like great claw marks. Something had come through here. Something had gone out.

Lifting my hands away and brushing at the splinters of wood that clung to my skin, I realised it had eluded me, stealing off into the night and out of my reach. Whatever purpose it had in mind, whatever its reasons for following me, would remain a mystery for now, for once again it had managed to stay out of my reach.

This game of cat and mouse wouldn’t last forever. There would come a time when it grew tired of waiting. One day soon I’d find it, or it would find me.
Mark R. Healy is an author and musician from Brisbane, Australia. From an early age he loved to create, and often assembled his own illustrated books with accompanying stories - and then forced his parents to buy them.

Unfortunately this model was not scalable and Mark now seeks to promote his works to a wider audience.

Mark has also combined his storytelling prowess with music, creating a project called ‘Hibernal’ through which he interweaves original sci-fi stories with his own music to create an immersive theatrical experience for the listener. Combined with a professional voice cast and sound effects, these “audio movies” are available online through iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon under the name ‘Hibernal’.