Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for March 2015

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 February books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have science fiction, space opera, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Norse mythology, alternate history, time travel, young adult SFF, Steampunk, vampires, witches, mermaids, dwarves, vengeful Norse gods, South African werewolves, post-apocalyptic owl queens, fox shifters, magic schools, superheroes, airships, interstellar archeologists, plucky teenaged cooks in outer space and much more. This month’s round-up also features authors from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Bulgaria.

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:

Time Slip by ML BannerTime Slip by M.L. Banner

His invention would have changed the world…
if the world hadn’t ended first.

By accident, Dr. Ron invented a time slip, a way to travel through time. When he finds out his wife is dying of a rare cancer and the cure is five years away, he decides to slip forward in time and bring the cure back to the present. Only, this is a one-way trip and he arrives right after an apocalypse has brought the world back to a new Stone Age.

Survival for Dr. Ron, his wife and even that of the rest of the world, just became a race against the clock.

Elves and Escapades by Eleanor BeresfordElves and Escapades by Eleanor Beresford

In some disgrace after the events of the preceding term, Charley is determined to redeem herself, and resolve her complicated love life. The Christmas holidays change her life forever, but before she finds her feet again, she and her friends are drawn into dark, old magic.

A magical YA school story with a sapphic twist, the second in the Scholars and Sorcery series, following Pegasi and Prefects.

Scholars and Sorcery is a series of young adult fantasy novels set in an alternate version of 1950s England in which elves invaded in the far past, leaving magic and mythical creatures such as fairies and dragons behind them. It features lesbian heroines and a sweet dollop of romance.

The Shard by Ted CrossThe Shard by Ted Cross

A dying king. A mysterious invader. The seer’s vision was clear: find the lost shard from the Spire of Peace or the realm would drown in blood.

The problem: eight hundred years ago the elven hero Kathkalan took the shard with him into the lair of the most vicious dragon ever known to mankind…and he never returned.

Reluctantly drafted to lead the quest is the minor noble Midas, torn between his duty to the realm and the desire to protect his sons. With an unlikely band of heroes, including two elderly rangers and a young tinker’s son, Midas must risk losing everything he loves if he is to locate the shard and save the Known Lands.

Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael DeckerEdifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker

Inbound on an interstellar flight, Archeologist Nosuma Okande sees far more ancient sites to excavate on Achernar Tertius than the Institute has on record. Setting out to unearth these sites proves more of a challenge than she realizes, bringing her into conflict with local villages and ancient traditions—and with a shadowy force called the Madziva Mutupo, the Hippopotamus Totem. 

Cast in Stone by A.F. DeryCast in Stone by A.F. Dery

After her parents are murdered by a brutal warlord, Celia makes it her ultimate mission to bring him to justice, but she can’t do it alone.

Rupert is a criminal mage whose sentenced execution is commuted if he agrees to serve as Celia’s Guardian until her mission is complete.

But what looks like the perfect opportunity for them both quickly turns into the perfect catastrophe. In the fall out, she is betrayed by those she trusted most. Now on the run, Celia and Rupert find not only their lives in jeopardy, but also their hearts.

Torn between her old vow and a new love, Celia must choose justice…or vengeance.

Wolf Logic by Masha du ToitWolf Logic by Masha du Toit

Never trust a werewolf. That’s Gia’s first lesson as she enters the wolf cages at Special Branch, the police force that deal with the illegal use of magic. But working with the tracker-werewolves is not the greatest danger she faces: Gia is a spy. She risks torture and death if her secret is discovered.

Then Gia receives shocking news. Her little brother has disappeared, taken out of his bed, in the middle of the night. She doesn’t want to believe that Special Branch is responsible, but who did take Nico? Could it be the magical terrorists, the Belle Gente? Or is there another, even stranger explanation?

Contemporary fantasy set in Cape Town, South Africa: Wolf Logic is the sequel to Crooks and Straights.

Heart of the Kraken by A.W. ExleyHeart of the Kraken by A.W. Exley

Legend says if you consume the heart of a mermaid, you will know all of a man’s secrets.

Ailin doesn’t care if the legend is true or not – she’s stuck in a crate on her way to feature as the main course at a lavish banquet. Her heart to be served while still beating for a cruel noble while the rest of her is sliced into sashimi. Unless she can escape.

Across the ocean, Fenton longs for a different release. Sold as a child by men who labelled him a mistake, a failed experiment. Except he has one valuable skill, he can summon the dreaded kraken. Bought by a pirate, he has only known life at sea, wielded as a tool by the captain.

Two lives collide when the pirates capture the vessel holding Ailin. The kraken holds the key to Ailin’s freedom but in summoning the beast one last time, Fenton must choose between losing his life or his heart…

The Last Mermaid by Ian FraserThe Last Mermaid by Ian Fraser

The Last Mermaid is about the coming of age of a young girl in a small island community off the coast of Maine. It is set in an alternative1940’s. Hitler has conquered Europe, and the US faces an imminent invasion. A German-speaking family struggles to maintain a semblance of normality as the possibility of internment draws near.

Ragnarok by C. GockelRagnarok by C. Gockel

Loki vowed Asgard would burn.

Bohdi Patel, latest incarnation of Chaos, wants nothing to do with Loki’s psychotic oath.

Stranded on the icy world of Jotunheim with Amy Lewis, his friend Steve Rogers, and an unlikely band of civilians, magical beings, and elite military, Bohdi just wants to keep himself and his friends alive … but when you’re Chaos incarnate, even the simplest goals are complicated.

If Jotunheim doesn’t kill them, Odin will, and if Odin doesn’t, the secrets they harbor might.

In the final installment of I Bring the Fire, Bohdi, Amy, Steve, and their companions learn that Chaos cannot be contained, some secrets cannot be kept, and some vows cannot be broken.

The Fires of Yesterday by Mark R. HealyThe Fires of Yesterday by Mark R. Healy

The Earth is in ruins. Cities and nations are destroyed.

Brant is a synthetic, a machine made in the image of man who dreams of bringing humans back into the world. Close to achieving his goal, his tiny cradle of life is now threatened by ominous black clouds that roll in from the north and bring darkness to the land.

In the wasteland, the cannibalistic Marauders begin to escalate their war with the resistance fighters of Ascension. As resources dwindle, both sides become more ruthless, endangering all within the region.
Brant will be forced to once again return to the wasteland and into the midst of the battle to confront the source of the darkness in an attempt to save all that he has created.

This is book 3 of the Silent Earth series, following After the Winter and The Seeds of New Earth.

Nestor deNeffo by R.D. HendersonNestor deNeffo by R.D. Henderson

A fantasy novella that is second in a series that follows the exploits of the conniving, calculating, and corrupt black elf intelligence operative as he expands his criminal activities to the surface when he is involved in a scheme to sell weapons up there.

The Pyramids of London by Andrea K. HöstThe Pyramids of London by Andrea K. Höst

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the New Republic’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.
With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton makers, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

Dwarf's Ransom by M.L. LarsonLay of Runes: Dwarf’s Ransom by M.L. Larson

Jari, a young dwarf from an isolated kingdom, is sent out to find his trouble-making brothers. After being saved by a stranger from being trampled by a horse, Jari finds himself with a new companion in this strange land. As they search for Jari’s kin, they find more trouble made than either of them had anticipated. Soon, Jari’s missing brothers are implicated in the murder of a god, making their return home all the more urgent. But when they are finally found in a distant land, troubles only seem to get worse for Jari and the companions he’s picked up along the way.

This is book 2 of the Lay of Runes series, following Sky Treader.

The Other Car by Paul LevinsonThe Other Car by Paul Levinson

James Oleson is beginning to see everything in perfect duplicate – two identical models of cars which are the same down to scuff marks and license plate, two old philosophy books with the same torn pages and inscription in old ink, and twin mail men. Is he losing his mind, or experiencing the birth of a new alternate reality via binary fission?
Dissident by Cecilia LondonDissident by Cecilia London

She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.

In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.

Part One of a Six Part Series. Each part is a full length novel between 60,000-120,000 words and ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This saga contains adult situations, including non-gratuitous violence, explicit (consensual) sex, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes dark and gritty plot (particularly in part two).

Back to the Viper by Antara ManBack to the Viper by Antara Man

The Jackal had the chance to shoot to the top of the charts”
” until they blew their live showcase in The Viper Room.

Four misfits in a music band called The Jackal — single mother Ashley on the vocals, Hollywood stuntman Wane the guitarist, computer techie Craig banging the drums and Chad the ‘bent’ photographer doing the back vocals. And then they blew their live debut on The Viper Room. Now ten years on, the four are roiling in their own mud of guilt and regret. They’re not built to be prisoners of their own making, that’s for sure.
Then an oddball scientist turns up with an offer they can’t refuse – time travel. Can it make a difference? Will it? Who’s to say what they’re letting themselves in for?

No man is free who cannot control himself. Will time travel make any of those four anyone’s favorite person?

Awakened by C. Steven ManleyAwakened by C. Steven Manley

Chicago journalist Israel Trent and Erin Simms- a woman with a life she’d rather not have -awake in a modern day dungeon and are thrust into a world of shadowy government agencies, secret societies, and fringe sciences so far beyond understanding they might as well be magic. To survive in this secret world, they must face down a powerful doomsday cult intent on opening a gateway for their alien masters while simultaneously coming to grips with the unearthly power locked deep within their own DNA.

Our Fair Eden by Harry MannersOur Fair Eden by Harry Manners

Welcome to Eden, citizen. The fate of the world is in your hands. Don’t forget to wipe you feet!
Our Fair Eden is a near-future dystopian mystery, marrying technothriller with hard sci-fi against a background of climate change and spellbinding narrative.

It’s 2087, and the Earth’s climate is in wild fluctuation. The Amazon Basin is a sun-baked graveyard, the Gobi is blossoming into tropical beauty, Europe is buried beneath icy tundra, and Manhattan is a swamp of the risen Atlantic. Old paradises are becoming new wasteland, old wasteland a new breed of paradise.
Nowhere is safe. Millions flee the world’s cities. But where do they run to?

The UN has an answer: the Eden Projects, colonies drawn from all nations, leading the charge in beginning anew, and developing new technologies to help start over.

Desh can’t believe his luck when he wins the lottery to Eden Prime, most famous of all the Projects, hidden in the heart of Mongolia. But when he arrives in Eden, he finds himself caught in a struggle against a cruel autocracy, divided into gentry and peasants, all under the watchful eye of mysterious Texan matriarch, Mother Eden.

Hidden Falls by Stephanie MarksHidden Falls by Stephanie Marks

All that Seline Michaelson needed was some time to get away from the city to clear her head. She never expected to meet a man that could make her forget about her ex-boyfriend while staying with her cousin, until she met James.

But what started as a simple vacation in the small town of Hidden Falls, quickly became a lesson that would put everything Seline thought she knew about the world to the test. Because everything seems to grow bigger in the mountains, especially the wolves.

Protector by Christine PopeProtector by Christine Pope

Caitlin McAllister has been keeping a secret. While her clan suffers for lack of a seer, she’s been hiding her gift of second sight—hiding and running away from a destiny she does not want and has done her best to escape. Unfortunately, she finds that keeping secrets carries its own price when she and two of her friends end up in the hands of three evil warlocks who seem intent on using the young witches for their own dark purposes.

Far from her clan’s territory, Caitlin turns to Alex Trujillo, whose grandmother is the prima of the de la Paz witch clan and whose own gift is the ability to cast a unique kind of protective spell, to help her with tracking down the warlocks who planned the kidnapping.

As Alex and Caitlin work together to save her friends, they find themselves falling under one another’s spell. But their combined talents may not be enough to save the kidnapped witches… or to stop a murderous conspiracy that threatens the safety of all the Arizona witch clans.

This is book 5 of the Witches of Cleopatra Hill series.

Company Daughter by Callan PrimerCompany Daughter by Callan Primer

A girl. A saucepan. A plan to conquer the universe.

Aleta Dinesen doesn’t see the point of hanging around home, not when she can cook a mean paella. But her plan to conquer the universe one meal at a time runs afoul of her overprotective father, commander of a tough mercenary company. And when he puts his foot down, he’s got the firepower to back it up.

Undeterred, Aleta escapes the dreadnaught she calls home one step ahead of the gorgeous, highly disapproving Lieutenant Park, the unlucky young officer tasked with hauling her back. But the universe isn’t the safe place she thought it was. Stranded in a dangerous mining community, she clings to survival by her fingernails. Only by working with someone she can’t stand will she have a chance to escape, proving to everyone that a teenage cook can be the most dangerous force in the universe
No Way Home, edited by Alex Roddie and Luca BaleNo Way Home, edited by Alex Roddie and Lucas Bale

Stories From Which There is No Escape.

Nothing terrifies us more than being stranded. Helpless, forsaken, cut-off. Locked in a place from which there is no escape, no way to get home.

A soldier trapped in an endless war dies over and over, only to be awakened each time to fight again – one of the last remaining few seeking to save mankind from extinction.

In rural 70s England, an RAF radio engineer returns to an abandoned military installation, but begins to suffer hallucinations, shifts in time and memories that are not his own.

A widower, one of ten thousand civilian space explorers, is sent alone to determine his assigned planet’s suitability for human colonisation, but stumbles across a woman who is part of the same programme and shouldn’t be there at all.

A suicidal woman in a poverty-stricken near-future America, where political apathy has allowed special interests to gain control of the country, takes part in a particularly unpleasant crowd-funding platform, established by the nation’s moneyed elite to engage the masses.

An assassin from the future, sent back in time to murder an insurgent, is left stranded when he fails in his mission and knows he will soon cease to exist.

These sometimes dark, sometimes heart-warming, but always insightful stories and more are to be found in No Way Home, where eight of the most exciting new voices in speculative fiction explore the mental, physical and even meta-physical boundaries that imprison us when we are lost.

Call of Kythshire by Missy SheldrakeCall of Kythshire by Missy Sheldrake

The existence of the fairies of Kythshire is a secret kept for over a century…

Azaeli has trained from a young age in order to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a Knight of His Majesty’s Elite. When she finally becomes a Squire, her name is mysteriously left off of the list for the King’s Quest. Her parents set off without her, but the simple quest goes awry leaving tragedy in its wake. With the help of her lifelong friend, Rian, a Mage apprentice, Azaeli must unravel a sinister plot that threatens both the existence of Kythshire and the peace that her people have celebrated for generations.

Call of Kythshire includes over a dozen beautifully rendered illustrations in this author-illustrator’s debut novel. Enjoy full color illustrations in the digital version and black-and-white images in the Paperback.

Joey and the Fox by Hollis ShilohJoey and the Fox by Hollis Shiloh

Asshole cop. It’s Joey’s role, and one he’s comfortable with. Joey tells gay jokes. He’s crude, tough, and thick-skinned. But now he’s got a chance to work with a fox shifter—and he doesn’t want to lose that opportunity.

Dylan is a mess: clingy and broken, cheerful but lost, seriously unpredictable…and very gay. But Joey desperately wants the partnership to succeed. He’s not willing to lose the fox shifter for any reason, even when Dyl drives him crazy.

Is there any way to make it work? And will the weird attraction he feels to the cute redhead ever go away?
57,000 words

Grand Master's Pawn by Aurora SpringerGrand Master’s Pawn by Aurora Springer

A thousand years in the future, wars and portal failures disturb the fringes of the galaxy. On Terra, twenty-two year old Violet Hunter seems an ordinary student of the Space Academy, who dreams of exploring unknown planets. She applies to serve as the pawn of one of the twelve Grand Masters, although her hidden talent of empathy makes her ineligible. Violet has defied the prohibition against psychics for half her life. Why should she stop now?

Isolation is the penalty for a Grand Master’s great power because their touch is deadly to a normal person. The Grand Master with the griffin avatar selected the girl with the star-shaped birthmark in spite of her father’s dire prophesy. He is suspicious about his disobedient pawn, yet he cannot deny the success of her missions to strange planets where she finds more than he expected.

Violet seeks the truth about the mysterious Grand Masters. Who or what are they? Do they threaten or benefit civilization? While searching for answers, Violet does the unthinkable. She makes a bargain with her obnoxious Grand Master and challenges him to meet her face to face, risking her secret to discover his purpose. She plunges into an impossible love and a world of intrigues. Can she survive the vicious conflicts?

Acorn 666 by Josh St. JohnAcorn 666: Episode 1 by Josh St. John

The Human Apocalypse has Ended… Within the destruction left from the fire that fell from the sky, only the animals remain. Prophesied by the Owl Queen and her loyal army for years, the Apocalypse has started a war of control between the various factions of animals left behind — revealing ancient magic passed down from generation to generation. From the noble woodland creatures led by a quiet and mysterious council, to the domesticated animals who were once companions for humankind everywhere.

The Animal Apocalypse Begins…
Outside of the warring factions of animals left behind, the owls who foretold of the Apocalypse have regrouped. With the return of magic, the war has grown into a struggle of power. Not only power over the arcane, but power over life… and death. The Owl Queen has foretold of a new prophecy. One where owls rule the land under her command. In order to grow her army, the Queen comes up with a painful curse. A curse that will transform anyone who ingests it into a bloodthirsty and frenetic owl, hellbent on destruction. A curse that will make this prophecy come true. The prophecy of Acorn 666.

Don’t eat the acorns.

Sac'a'rith: Rebirth by Vincent TrigiliSac’a’rith: Rebirth by Vincent Trigili

All Zah’rak wanted to do was train and work with Narcion, but now Narcion is dead, leaving Zah’rak and the others without guidance or a plan. Cyborgs, Resden, and many others are after their blood, while Phareon tries to be their puppeteer.

Before Zah’rak can get far, Raquel reappears and offers them their dream: to be real wizards and full members of the Wizard Kingdom, but Zah’rak does not trust her or the offer.

Meanwhile, the Korshalemian sorcerers are up to their old tricks again, and it is up to Zah’rak, Raquel, and the others to discover their new plan and prevent a new great war.

The Lost Tales of Power is an open-ended series of Sci-Fi/Fantasy books set in a vast multiverse featuring a mixture of traditional fantasy and science fiction elements.

Never Sleep by Cady VanceNever Sleep by Cady Vance

127 days without sleep…

Thora Green had a life once upon a time. But that ended the day her parents enrolled her in sleep clinic prison. At the facility, her chronic months-long insomnia is observed by scads of doctors, but she is never actually treated for her dire disease. In a feat of desperation, Thora escapes and heads straight for New York City. Buried deep in the city’s underbelly, there is rumored to be a secret haven called the Insomniacs’ Café: a place where people like Thora can find relief.

As Thora joins forces with Aiden and Florence, two fellow insomniacs, their midnight quest will take them from the dusty bookshelves of The Strand, to the smokey underground clubs in the Lower East Side, to countless taxi and subway rides. Clues leading to their final destination are waiting for them at every turn. But so are Sleepers–a powerful core of sworn-enemies to all Insomniacs– who wish to see Thora and her friends destroyed at any cost.

Flashpoint by Indigo WilderFlashpoint by Indigo Wilder

Caia is a fresh college graduate who has the power to start a fire with the snap of her fingers. She isn’t ready to grow up and settle down in real life. But ready or not, real life is coming for her. When out-of-towner Brandt bumps into her too many times to be coincidence, Caia begins to realize that her parents might not be who they say they are. They have a secret, one they are willing to die to protect.

Ash is a Guardian, genetically enhanced to be stronger, faster, and smarter than an ordinary human. Cool, collected, and highly trained, Ash is one of the Agency’s best. But when a long time missing Guardian draws the attention of the Guild, an organization of powerful rune masters, things get personal for Ash. Very personal.

Caia is swept up into Ash’s world of super soldiers and rune masters and propelled toward an uncertain future. But one thing is always certain when playing with fire – someone is bound to get burned.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dissident (Book 1 of The Bellator Saga) by Cecilia London

Release date: March 17, 2015
Subgenre: Dystopian fiction

About Dissident:

She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.

In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.

Part One of a Six Part Series. Each part is a full length novel between 60,000-120,000 words and ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This saga contains adult situations, including non-gratuitous violence, explicit (consensual) sex, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes dark and gritty plot (particularly in part two). 



They had been dragging themselves through the woods for hours, with him holding the flashlight and leading the way, and her faltering through the ice and snow trying to keep his pace. They moved slowly, their injuries hindering their flight. The forest was thick and foreboding and the biting winter wind whistled through the branches in the trees, cutting them to the core. They listened for the sound of flowing water in the hope that the Allegheny River was no longer frozen over and they could follow it up to New York.
They knew their odds were long but held out faith that despite the blustering wind and bitter cold, they could somehow find a way to Buffalo. The Canadian border. Their last, best chance at safety.
The flashlight began to flicker and the man knew that the batteries would only last them so much longer. It had been snowing earlier in the night, but the clouds had been carried away by the wind and the flashlight was supplemented by the glow of the winter moon.  He turned the flashlight off and his wife tumbled into him.
“Jack, why did you do that?” It was hard for her to stay upright without her momentum to keep her going, and even harder to follow him without the artificial light.
“The flashlight’s getting low and the moon is relatively bright. We should conserve the batteries. Do you need to rest?” he asked, knowing the answer was yes.
“No,” she lied. “Let’s keep going.”
He put the flashlight in his coat pocket, feeling it bump up against the gun he had concealed there. He put his arm around her waist and hoisted her up.
“Let’s go,” he said, as he kept his arm around her to steady her as she walked.
Their pace continued to slow until they were hardly moving at all. He could see her grimacing with every step, could hear her labored breathing, and he knew that she was much more seriously injured than she was letting on. Although he himself was in pain he did his best to keep them both going. His ankle was sprained and the weight of two people upon it was almost too much for him to bear. But they couldn’t stop.
He saw a clearing up ahead and knew they were nearing a road. But that wasn’t what they wanted. Roads meant people and people meant danger. Almost no one could be trusted. The soldiers who had run their car off the road were biding their time, waiting, until the moment was right to come after them again.
The two of them weren’t about to make themselves easy prey by following a path trod by others. Their footsteps were not hard to trace because of the snow, but it was better than being out in the open. No, the river was their best bet, their least dangerous path north.
He turned sharply and started to steer them both away from the road, as close to a westerly direction as he could manage. He was a suburban Philly boy and could only depend on his poor instincts to guide him.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“We need to find the river, Caroline. There’s a road up ahead and we have to avoid it.”
The woods grew hilly and she began to struggle. He was practically carrying her as they made their way up an incline and he knew he wouldn’t be able to support her much longer.  Suddenly she broke free of him and lurched into a nearby tree, sinking to the ground.
She pulled off her earmuffs and loosened her scarf with difficulty, her back to the tree. He could tell she was in tremendous pain and knelt down in the snow beside her.
“Sweetheart, we have to keep going,” he said.
Her face was windswept and her eyes were red.  She was sweating in spite of the cold and he could practically hear her heart beating out of her chest.
“Jack, I can’t do this. I’m too tired. I can’t breathe.”
“Yes, you can. We can keep going. I’ll help.”
“You can’t help. You can barely walk while you’re lugging me along.” She began to cry.
He wiped away some of her tears with his gloved hand. “We’ll stop for a minute, all right? Then we’ll start again.”
She closed her eyes and tried to breathe. The tears coursed silently down her face. He let her rest, hoping that she would then tell him they could move on even though they really had no time to waste. She opened her eyes a few moments later and looked at him. His breath caught in his throat. Her brown eyes, which had once been so warm, confident, and loving, were now laced with a fear he’d never seen before.
“You have to go,” she said. “Now.”
“We have to go,” he corrected her.
“No. You.”
“No.” He looked at her incredulously. “We.”
“You have to go, Jack. It’s the only way.”
His mind started racing. He couldn’t wrap his head around what she was suggesting.
“No. I’m not leaving you here.”
She closed her eyes again. The wetness on her face was beginning to freeze in place. Her voice broke.
“Tell my girls how much I love them.” She stifled a sob. “Tell them I’m sorry.”
Her children. Their children. Who were hopefully already in Canada.
“This is absurd, Caroline. I’m not leaving you here alone. Are you insane? We’re wasting time.”
“You can move ten times faster without me. You know I’m right.”
Hot, angry tears pricked his eyes. “I’m not leaving you, sweetheart. There has to be another way.”
“This is the only way and you know it.” She took her left glove off and traced his lips with her bare fingers. “My darling. My Monty. I love you so.”
He kissed her fingers and wrapped them in his, trying to warm them. “I’m not leaving you,” he repeated.
Her voice was weak, but firm. “This is bigger than us. You have to go. Get to Canada. Share that information. Stop Santos. Don’t let all our sacrifices be for nothing.”
“I love you.” He took off his gloves and began to caress her face with his bare hands. “I’m not leaving you.”
“Listen to me. You are going to go. You are going to get to Canada. You are going to get this flash drive to people who can do something with it. Please, Jack. Please do this for me.”
He was adamant. “I am not leaving you here!”
“You are. You need to go. They will find us soon and they’ll find us even sooner if we’re moving together.” She tried to straighten up, using the tree for support. “If you don’t leave, I swear to God I will never forgive you. I mean it. There is no point in both of us getting captured or worse. Please. Do this for me.”
He kissed her forehead, still cradling her face in his hands, and the tears in his eyes spilled over. “Don’t make me do this. I can’t. I won’t leave you.”
“Go,” she whispered. “Go before they catch up with us.”
She removed the glove from her right hand and began to slip her wedding rings off her left ring finger. Her large diamond and sapphire engagement ring glistened in the moonlight. She’d thought it was gaudy when he’d first given it to her, and the media had loved speculating about how much it must have cost. But she’d grown accustomed to it. Aside from its sentimental value, it was now almost worthless in the fragile American economy.
She fumbled through the simple task, her hands numbed by the cold. She placed the rings in Jack’s hand and wiped the tears from his face. He searched her eyes for an explanation.
“They’re no good to me out here,” she said. “Take them. They belong to you. I don’t want those bastards to have them.” She closed her eyes and began to nod off.
Jack grabbed her chin, desperate to keep her awake. “Stay with me, Caroline. We can do this.”
“Go now.” Her voice was fading. “Be safe. Be strong.”
Jack brought his lips to hers and kissed her hard, wanting it to last, wanting to breathe life into her, to give her the strength to keep going. He gripped her rings tightly in his fist. The prongs from the engagement ring were prodding into his ice cold palm, but he was oblivious to the pain they caused. He didn’t want to break the connection between them. Caroline brought her hands up to his stocking cap, drew it off, and ran her fingers through his hair. He pulled back, his lips close to hers.
They heard a rustling in the distance and Jack turned his head, not sure of what he would find. He half hoped that a deer would come gliding through the trees but he knew that would be too good to be true. Their luck had run out too many times. Caroline squeezed his hand, the one with the rings in it.
“Go, Jack. They’re coming. Go.”
He pressed his lips to hers again, a long, frantic kiss. She pushed him away and reached into her coat pocket, pulling out her Glock and an extra magazine. “Take these. You might need them.”
Jack dropped the rings into one of the interior pockets of his coat, and heard them clink against the box containing the flash drive he was hiding. He put the gun and magazine in his outer coat pocket and leaned down to kiss her cheek. She very clumsily put his stocking cap back on his head and stroked his face, wiping away the wetness there.
“I will always be with you,” she whispered, so softly he could barely hear her.
He took in a sharp, painful breath and put his gloves back on. The night air was freezing. “I will come back for you, Caroline. Understand? I promise I will come back. I’m not giving up. I will find someone we can trust and I will come back.”
She smiled and closed her eyes.
He heard the rustling getting closer. There was almost no way that noise was an animal. And he knew he had only one choice.
He ran.

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About Cecilia London:

Cecilia London is my pen name. I am a native Midwesterner who never thought I'd end up in Texas and yet here I am, determined to help Keep San Antonio Lame. I have been known to dabble in the practice of law. I can apply Simpsons quotes to everyday life, and I live for baseball season.  I've been writing off and on since I was a kid, but never really thought I’d have any idea that could turn into a single novel, let alone a series. There aren't many books about how dystopias/totalitarian political regimes come into existence, and I wanted to touch upon that topic while still maintaining a primary focus on the epic romance. Dissident is my first published novel.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker

Release date: March 1, 2015
Subgenre: Science fiction, space opera

About Edifice Abandoned:


 Inbound on an interstellar flight, Archeologist Nosuma Okande sees far more ancient sites to excavate on Achernar Tertius than the Institute has on record. Setting out to unearth these sites proves more of a challenge than she realizes, bringing her into conflict with local villages and ancient traditions—and with a shadowy force called the Madziva Mutupo, the Hippopotamus Totem.



     Archeologist Nosuma Okande surveyed the site. A cluster of tents across the entry square looked to be the mess tent and sleeping quarters. Beyond them, atop a short stone pyramid was an awning, under it a pair of khaki-clad Caucasians gesturing toward the north rim. They were the only Caucasians, everyone else at the site of African descent, native to the planet. The site directors, Nosuma could tell, because they were the only ones not actually working.
     She headed that way, anxious about walking into Danamombe as if she owned the site. But I do own it! she told herself vehemently. It belongs to me and my people, and the ancestral spirits have given me the task of discovering why these great houses of stone had been abandoned.
     "I'll wait here," her assistant said, stopping at the pyramid foot.
     Nosuma nodded and strode up the stairs like a priestess toward a sacred ritual, looking neither left nor right, her gaze fixed to the canopy atop the structure.
     "Doctor Okande, I presume," said the man, his digs so immaculate they'd never seen the insides of a trench. "I'm Peter Tuinstra, site director, and this is my assistant, Katelyn Mulder."
     "Good morning," she said, nodding and shaking hands with each. "I see you're expecting me, Mr. Tuinstra, Ms. Mulder. I won't be here long, and I'll try to keep as low a profile as I can."
     "Quite the stir elsewhere, eh?" Tuinstra said. "But you won't find any similar artifacts here, Doctor, I assure you. I'm afraid we've already unearthed anything of major significance from Danamombe. But you're welcome to take a look. Shall I show you around?"
     "Oh, I can do that, Peter," Mulder said. "In fact, I'd be honored." Her khakis also looked as if they'd never known the gritty work of excavation. She had the breathless manner of an absolute twit.
     "Not necessary," Nosuma said, "but very kind of you both to offer. If it's all right, my assistant and I will browse the site at our leisure. I'm sure if there's anything I need, someone will know where to find you, eh?"
     "Well, if you prefer, Doctor Okande. What happened at Regina, by the way? The Hallorans arrested? For God's sake, on what charges?"
     "They tried to steal the statuettes by sedating me, my assistant, and Doctor Xironga. Fortunately, Mr. Tuinstra, I was sickened and purged most the sedative, and Doctor Xironga didn't eat much."
     "Ghastly behavior, I tell you. Never trust those English," Peter said. "Rumor is you found another totem statuette there? Given the stir the first two caused, understandable why the Institute would keep quiet about it."
     "I'm afraid I'm not able to comment on rumor, Mr. Tuinstra."
     "Prudent, that. By the way, your dissertation was wonderful, eloquently argued. No mystery why Doctor Kaonde was so eager to bring you aboard. Quite shook up the suits at headquarters too, you know, your finding that statuette on your first day. I'd love to have seen their faces."
     Nosuma gave him a quick smile. "Thank you, Mr. Tuinstra. By the way, at Regina they found an artifact, a pole sculpture, carved from bone or tusk, an ithyphallic figurine, three inches tall and a half-inch through, with a prominent phallus. Any record here at Danamombe of anything similar? Or of a female counterpart?"
     Katelyn giggled and blushed, her gaze raking Peter from head to toe.
     Nosuma wished she hadn't seen that.
     "No, not to my knowledge, Doctor Okande. If we do, I'd be happy to contact you immediately."
     "Thank you, that would be helpful," she said. "The people working here, are they all from the local clan?"
     Peter nodded. "Yes, the Fish Eagle Totem. Silly lot of rubbish, these totems. Serves a purpose if it keeps them from inbreeding, I suppose."
     "Peter!" Mulder stared at him, giving Nosuma a brief glance, as if trying to tell the site director he should watch what he was saying in front of her.
     "Well, it's a lot of bother whenever we go to break ground, all their rituals," he told his assistant. "They can do their spirit possession frolic on their own time."
     Keeping her thoughts off her face, she decided they were a perfect match for each other. "I'll stop by briefly as I'm leaving. Thank you both." And she descended from the pyramid as quickly as she could without seeming to hurry, feeling sullied.

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About Scott Michael Decker:

Scott Michael Decker, MSW, is an author by avocation and a social worker by trade. He is the author of twenty-plus novels in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, dabbling among the sub-genres of space opera, biopunk, spy-fi, and sword and sorcery. His biggest fantasy is wishing he were published. Asked about the MSW after his name, the author is adamant it stands for Masters in Social Work, and not "Municipal Solid Waste," which he spreads pretty thick as well. His favorite quote goes, "Scott is a social work novelist, who never had time for a life" (apologies to Billy Joel). He lives and dreams happily with his wife near Sacramento, California.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for March 27, 2015

And here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web:

Speculative fiction in general:


Writing, publishing and promotion:

Thoughts on the Clean Reader app:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Other Car by Paul Levinson

Release date: March 14, 2015
Subgenre: Science fiction, short fiction

About The Other Car:

James Oleson is beginning to see everything in perfect duplicate - two identical models of cars which are the same down to scuff marks and license plate, two old philosophy books with the same torn pages and inscription in old ink, and twin mail men. Is he losing his mind, or experiencing the birth of a new alternate reality via binary fission?



I came down the stairs from the sports club and saw two identical cars. This surprised me, because only one of the cars was mine.  I owned only a single car, no one else in the family had a car, and in fact I had driven here in that one car -- a Prius hybrid I had bought about a year ago.

I looked more closely. Each of the two cars had the same license plate -- mine -- and they both had the same set of scuff marks on the rear left fender.   One of the things I really liked about my Prius was how it unlocked automatically as I approached with its digital key in my pocket, but I couldn’t always hear the unlocking, especially in an active, noisy parking lot like this one.   I pulled open the door of the car which I was sure was mine -- pretty sure, no, I was positive this was the space in which I had parked it about an hour ago, before my swim.  There had been a big red Subaru next to it, on one side, and an empty space on the other.

The Subaru was still here, but now there was a Prius next to mine, identical to it from what I could see, in the space that had previously been empty.   It had to be someone else’s, even though it looked the same as mine, down to the plate, unless I was suffering from some kind of strange double vision.  I guess someone could have been playing some kind of weird joke on me, someone who had the capacity to make up a phony license plate, and took the time to scout out my car and put similar scuffs on the rear fender. But who? And why?

I wondered if the chip in my keychain had opened this second car.  I was tempted to see, but there were other people in the parking lot, and I didn’t want the owner of this other car to see me breaking into it, if he or she came down the stairs or walked out of the elevator at the wrong time -- but, on the other hand, who could blame me, the two cars seemed exactly the same.

I took a step towards the second car--

And she appeared, as if on cue.   I’d noticed her and her bathing suit getting out of the pool.  She gave me a slight smile now and opened the door to her Subaru.   I pretended I had some business on my phone, and waited by my car until she left.

I looked again at the second car -- still identical to mine -- when my phone buzzed, now with some real business.   Donna, the secretary in my Philosophy Department at Fordham University, was saying in a message that a student, Dava Hernandez, had an urgent problem regarding her mid-year graduation in February, which was just a month away, and could I come in to my office to see this student right away.  “Dava would really appreciate it, Professor Oleson, thank you!”  Going into the office was the last thing I wanted to do with this cloned car in my face, but I do like helping my students, and there was a book on my desk  that I needed, so …  But I couldn’t just leave that car.

I looked at the second Prius again, and continued debating with myself.   I noticed a cop car had pulled up across the lot, likely to get a coffee at the Starbuck’s, and that settled my debate.  No way I was going to take a chance and break into a car that looked just like mine but couldn’t be mine, with a cop just a few feet away.



About Paul Levinson:

Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC.  His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (winner of Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999, author’s cut ebook 2012), Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002, 2013), The Pixel Eye (2003, 2014), The Plot To Save Socrates (2006, 2012), Unburning Alexandria (2013), and Chronica (2014)  - the last three of which are also known as the Sierra Waters trilogy, and are historical as well as science fiction.  His nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), and New New Media (2009; 2nd edition, 2012),  have been translated into twelve languages. He appears on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News,  the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, NPR, and numerous TV and radio programs. His 1972 LP, Twice Upon a Rhyme, was re-issued in 2010.  He was President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1998-2001.  He reviews television in his InfiniteRegress.tv blog, and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Top 10 Academic Twitterers" in 2009.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Author Interview: Ted Cross


The Speculative Fiction Showcase is pleased to interview Ted Cross, author of The Shard and The Immortality Game, both out now. 

  1. Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
We have a parakeet named Sheldon (after the character on Big Bang Theory). He’s good for distracting me sometimes, especially when I need total silence.

  1. Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
Hmm, I think The Immortality Game would work best as a movie, but The Shard could benefit from a Game of Thrones-type television series, especially once the rest of the series is written.

  1. Are you hooked on any science fiction or fantasy TV shows? If so, which one(s)?
For me Game of Thrones is the best tv show ever. Firefly and the newer Battlestar Galactica are pretty darn great as well.

  1. Do you own copies of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings DVDs? The extended version? Do you ever watch them?
I own all of them in extended editions. When I saw the original Fellowship of the Ring, I was a bit disappointed in it, but once the extended edition came out and put back in all of the character development, it became my favorite.

  1. Have you seen the first two parts of the The Hobbit? Are you planning to see the final instalment?
I’m watching them, but I feel Jackson lost his way, similar to how George Lucas lost his way with the last three Star Wars movies. I wish someone would do The Hobbit over again someday and stick close to the book.

  1. Your two novels so far are science fiction and epic fantasy respectively. Do you find it difficult to switch between these two rather disparate genres?
It sure was a big adjustment. When I sat down to write the science fiction novel (I wrote The Shard first), it struck me that I couldn’t simply write in the same manner that I had gotten used to while writing the epic fantasy. It had to be shorter, faster paced, and I learned early on that it didn’t work as well to stick to one POV character per chapter. I wouldn't say it was difficult  but it did take some mental adjustment.

  1. Both your novels to date have stunning cover art. Can you tell us a little about your process for selecting cover art?
While I do still dream of getting picked up by one of the big five publishers, the one thing I dreaded was their poor taste in cover art. They would get some right, of course, but far too often their covers stank, and they don’t usually let authors have much say in them. I trust my taste, and I knew what I wanted with the sci-fi cover. I even knew what artist could most likely pull it off properly, though I didn’t think I could afford him. It turned out that just by asking him, we managed to come to an agreement that was painful but doable, and I’m happy I did. Stephan Martiniere is one of my two favorite living artists (along with Alan Lee).

The cover for The Shard didn’t work out quite as wonderfully as I had hoped. The artist Shane Tyree is quite good, but the scene he chose to do doesn’t quite work properly for a book cover. First he did it in landscape. That makes sense for the scene itself but it made it hard to turn into a book cover. And while the scene itself was one that I sorely wanted to see done by an artist, it isn’t typical to give away major plot points right on the cover (the dragon shown as being dead). It was the first piece of art I ever contracted, so part of it was my own fault as I was too nervous about pushing back on details. I felt it was best to let the artist go with their own inspirations. So with The Immortality Game I was far more specific about the scene and what I hoped to have in it.

  1. Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
I’m not a die-hard gamer, but I enjoy procrastinating, and good games help me do that. Right now I’ve been playing Rome 2 Total War.

  1. What kind of foods do you eat? Are you a health-food-nut or is it strictly junk?
Strictly junk food for me! It’s hard for me living overseas. It makes me sorely miss my favorite fast food joints back home, like Taco Bell or Arby’s.

  1. Do you cook? What is your best/favourite/most popular recipe?
I enjoy cooking. I’d say my wife and I split dinner duties almost evenly. I always do spaghetti nights, and my best dinners are tostadas with guacamole. I make the best tostadas in the world.

  1. Have you ever been to Starbucks or any other coffee shop?
I’ve never had a cup of coffee. Yes, I’m an alien...

  1. Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater?

  1. What are you wearing right now?
This is getting a little personal! I just got up, so I’m in my winter weather lounge-wear—socks, sweater, and comfortable pajama pants.

  1. Does life fascinate you?
Very much, though I wish it wouldn’t go by so fast. I deal with immortality a lot in my writing, partly because I wish I could see everything that comes in the future.

  1. Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?
Nope. Writing is a constant mental struggle for me. I have so many other interests that I tend to go for long periods without writing. I let story ideas percolate in my mind, building up force until they are ready to burst and I just have to sit down and start typing. Whenever I begin to struggle with exactly where to go next in a story, I simply stop writing and let my subconscious go to work on it until it is ready, whether that is a week later or several months.

Cora and Jessica, thank you so much for having me on your blog!

About Ted Cross:

Ted Cross has spent the past two decades traveling the world as a diplomat, all the time dreaming about writing fantasy and science fiction. He's visited nearly forty countries and lived in seven, including the U.S., Russia, China, Croatia, Iceland, Hungary, and Azerbaijan. He's witnessed coup attempts, mafia and terrorist attacks, played chess with several world champions, and had bit parts in a couple of movies. He currently lives in Baku, Azerbaijan with his lovely wife and two teenage sons.