Sunday, July 31, 2016

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for July 2016

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 June 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 new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have a whole lot of space opera and military science fiction this month as well as funny science fiction, dystopian fiction, Steampunk, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Asian fantasy, young adult fantasy, young adult science fiction, fairytales, horror, vampires, fae, superheroes, blighters, alien invasions, galactic conspiracies, royal weddings, interrupted dinners, cardboard spaceships, haunted houses, time travel and much more.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

A Threat of Shadows by J.A. AndrewsA Threat of Shadows by J.A. Andrews:

There are decisions that can’t be unmade, paths that cannot be unchosen, choices that change us too much for us to ever change back.

In a desperate attempt to save his dying wife, Alaric has sacrificed everything. He’s abandoned his position as advisor to the Queen, he’s cast aside his role as a Keeper, he’s betrayed his deepest beliefs.

And still he has failed.

Now he’s found one last chance at a cure. Haunted by the choices he has made and surrounded by companions who have dangerous secrets of their own, he returns to the people and land he turned his back on.

But soon the quest to save his wife becomes entangled with a larger quest. Gathering shadows threaten the land, whispering of the return of a dark lord, thought to be defeated.

To fight this enemy, the world needs the Keeper Alaric used to be, not the broken man he has become.

Can he regain what he’s lost? Or do some choices change us too much for us to ever go back?

Alaric must decide or, in the face of all the growing shadows, it may be the darkness he carries within himself that destroys everything.

The Three Quarters Eaten Dessert by Cora BuhlertThe Three Quarters Eaten Dessert by Cora Buhlert

Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument about sharing a dessert at an upscale restaurant escalates and threatens their friendship with their neighbours, the Hoppenstedts.

This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 6000 words or approximately 25 print pages, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s. With bonus recipe.

Cleon Moon by Lindsay BurokerCleon Moon by Lindsay Buroker:

Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon.

Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. To further complicate matters, she must worry about the ancient relic hidden on her ship, a beacon to anyone in the system who craves its power. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.

The Immortality Cure by Toni CentanniThe Immortality Cure by Toni Centanni:

Henri Dunn was damn good at being a vampire, until her immortality was ripped away from her.
Now she must solve a murder or be executed for a crime she didn’t commit.

Six months ago, Henri was stuck with a syringe full of the poison known as “The Immortality Cure.” Now, after almost a century of being an immortal monster, Henri is human again and she’s not loving it: her body aches, she has too many mortal needs, and the other vampires shun her as a Blood Traitor. All she can do is keep her head down and bide her time until she can find a way to get her immortality back.

When vials of the serum are stolen from the lab and another vampire is murdered, Henri is the number one suspect. With the help of a melodramatic vampire “king” and his mortal groupie, Henri must find the real killer or face the wrath of vengeful vampires.

The Immortality Cure is the first book in The Henri Dunn Urban Fantasy Series, featuring a badass female protagonist and a sardonic sense of humor.

Hollow House by Greg ChapmanHollow House by Greg Chapman:

No one in Willow Street pays it any notice, not the disgruntled Campbell family next door, not Alice Cowley and her suicidal daughter, or Mr. and Mrs. Markham down the road. Not even Darryl, the loner at number seventy, who is abnormal himself, thinks much about it. It is just the old Kemper House, forgotten and abandoned.

Until it makes itself known.

When the stench of death wafts from Kemper House through Willow Street, and comes to the attention of recent resident and newspaper reporter, Ben Traynor, it starts a chain of horrors that brings Kemper House’s curse into their own homes and leads others direct to its door. Kemper House not only haunts its neighbours, it infects them with an evil that traverses time and reality itself.

The Cardboard Spaceship by Matt Snee and Gregg ChirlinThe Cardboard Spaceship by Gregg Chirlin and Matt Snee:

Lewis Darby, a science fiction writer of some repute, is about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

Also known as the Captain, Lewis lives with his mother in modern day Indiana. What nobody knows is that sometimes Captain crawls beneath an old refrigerator box in the basement and pretends it’s a spaceship. And what Captain doesn’t realize is that he has a date with destiny.

One peculiar April morning, Captain crosses paths with Jennifer Pichon, the child of legendary space explorer Marty Pichon and Kitty Malhotra, the Princess of Saturn. They join forces just in time as the terrifying astronomical event called “No-Shape” is poised to ravage the Solar System from Mercury to Neptune and beyond.

Together, Captain and the mysterious Jennifer face such terrors as the jungles of Venus, the perilous Worm Caves, and the decaying, giant insect-ridden wastes of Mars – and perhaps even fall in love along the way.
Their journey is filled with trials, but they alone can save the solar system from certain doom.

War's Reward by Michael ChatsfieldWar’s Reward by Michael Chatsfield:

The Second Kalu War rages across known space.

The newly formed Union undergoes it’s first baptism, the baptism of war.

The Free Fleet is barely holding the line against the Kalu. Salchar and the other commanders of the Free
Fleet have one goal. Survive.

As war rages politics and power brokering are at work behind the scenes in the Union.

Even if the Free Fleet survives the war, will they survive it’s aftermath?

Callow Lily by Sara CobbCallow Lily by Sara Cobb:

Countries have fallen only to be replaced by corporations. After spending years in the unclaimed districts of the unemployed; Lily has nearly given up hope that anything will change. When she is told that her Mother is dying and nothing more can be done, Lily is desperate enough to try anything.

When her family is offered a position at Trustmedia, Lily thinks that all of their problems are solved. Until she realizes that her acceptance is conditional. She will have to prove that she has what it takes to stay. If she fails, she will be thrown out and never see her family again.

Lily quickly finds that staying will be harder than she expected, even Father seems intent on seeing her fail. Things become complicated when her Father injects her with an unknown substance and she begins to have intensely vivid dreams. Lily is on the verge of having everything she has ever wanted, but does she have what it takes to keep it?

High Flight and Flames by Kate CoeHigh Flight & Flames by Kate Coe:

The land of Quorl is under attack. S’ian, badly injured when her Glider crashed is trapped in a city under siege. Meanwhile out on the plains, Toru is desperately defending his own city and people from the advancing enemy. The fighting is no longer between men: a battle for the air has started, and new weapons force both sides into desperate measures. Even if Toru succeeds in pushing the enemy back from Meton, what will the cost be? Can Toru reconcile his duty to his country with his own dreams?

Woven Peril by Jeffrey CollyerWoven Peril by Jeffrey Collyer:

The Guardian’s forces may have left the forest, but they haven’t departed from Michael’s mind as he struggles to learn what his enemy will do next. Torn between feelings of guilt and love, he must now push ahead to find mythical halls deep in the earth, where secrets from the distant past are spoken of, and new riddles unearthed.

Entering dark paths, Michael must learn to use his growing power if he is to discover that which will save the land, at the same time as trying to protect those now under his care from new and deadly monsters sent to hunt him.

And all while he struggles to understand mysteries surrounding his mother.

Woven Peril is the thrilling second book in the Aylosian Chronicles, and continues the epic tale in a world of unusual magic and unique creatures.

Heartfelt Sounds by C.M. EstopareHeartfelt Sounds by C.M. Estopare:

Orphaned Naia Belle is an apprentice songstress, attached for life to her silkhouse in the illustrious pleasure capital of Sorrel, Felicity. But as the dark clouds of war descend upon Felicity, Naia, ill-prepared and not yet fully trained, is forced from her home and into a nightmare she never imagined.

Driven once more from the haven she finds, posing as a boy and conscripted into a foreign army, Naia struggles to remain hopeful in spite of the trials she faces. Then she discovers there are those who wish to reopen Heaven’s Gate and allow titans to walk the mortal realms once more. Only one power can stop them.

As her friends and allies fall around her, beset by sand wraiths and the soulless dead, with everything she
loved now lost to her, Naia faces yet another challenge: the blackened plains of the Void, where she may learn the true power of her voice. A power the necromancers and titans would kill to stop.

HEARTFELT SOUNDS, is the first book in the exciting fantasy coming-of-age trilogy, THE WORLD OF SORREL.

The Cauldron's Gift by Marina FinlaysonThe Cauldron’s Gift by Marina Finlayson:

When Vi and her twin sister CJ started spitting frogs and diamonds with every word, they discovered their parents worked for a secret organisation dedicated to keeping the magical denizens of the world safely locked away. Vi thought life couldn’t get any weirder, but then Dad became a bear, and her world really fell apart. Because it’s starting to look like that’s one spell the warders can’t undo. They’re all too busy trying to unmask the traitor who is secretly aiding the Sidhe.

Vi managed to keep the Sidhe from breaking out of their magical prison, but she couldn’t stop the Morrigan from stealing back the great cauldron of the Dagda. And of course now CJ says the only way to save Dad is to get that cauldron back from fairyland. Talk about a suicide mission. Vi would have to be crazy to consider it, but as time runs out for Dad and the Morrigan threatens everyone Vi loves, craziness starts to look like the only sane option.

Noa's Ark by C. GockelNoa’s Ark by C. Gockel

First contact didn’t go as planned…

Time Gate 8, one of humanity’s portals between the stars, has been overrun by a mysterious alien intelligence, and the planet Luddeccea is now cut off.

Haunted by those she left behind, Commander Noa Sato is on a desperate mission to save her homeworld. Navigating the ancient Ark, she seeks a hidden gate that will transport her ship to Earth and the Galactic Fleet. But the Luddeccean system harbors dangers, and so does her crew.

The only crew member she completely trusts is James Sinclair, but he doesn’t trust himself.

James isn’t the man he once was. He has a hunger that is never sated, kills without regrets, and is fitted with extraordinary augments he doesn’t remember getting. Can James control his augments, or will they control him?

In a future where almost all humans are augmented, James’s answer and Noa’s mission will determine the fate of the human race … and the enemy is already within the gates.

Wrong Side of Time by J.J. GreenWrong Side of Time by J.J. Green:

When the greatest minds in the galaxy can’t solve a problem through logic or reason, they call Carrie Hatchett.

Carrie and her reluctant sidekick, Dave, have succeeded in driving the evil mechanical aliens, the placktoids, to their only remaining hiding place—the past. But the danger isn’t over. The Transgalactic Council suspect the placktoids are trying to change the course of history and re-emerge as rulers of the galaxy.

Carrie and Dave are sent on a mission to defeat them, but even attacks from Carrie’s psychotic cat can’t prepare the two for the challenges they face when they travel back in time to the placktoid planet: searing temperatures, a barren landscape and primitive robots with OCD. And waiting in the wings is the placktoid High Commander, whose 3D printing ability is lethal.

Naively optimistic Carrie needs to recognise what’s staring her in the face if she’s to defeat the placktoids and avoid being trapped in the past forever.

Amped by Kevin HardmanAmped: A Kid Sensation Novel by Kevin Hardman:

Electra – the beautiful, unflappable girlfriend of teen super Kid Sensation – headlines her own adventure for the first time.

A foundling adopted and raised by the Alpha League (the world’s greatest superhero team), Electra has exhibited super powers since infancy. However, her past has remained a mystery for the most part, with those few people with any knowledge of her background being reluctant to talk.

Refusing to remain ignorant of her own origins, Electra embarks on a fact-finding mission intent on discovering who she really is. However, in addition to providing more questions than answers, her investigation causes her to cross paths with a powerful group of supervillains, who see in her a means of furthering their goal of world domination.

Finding herself in the crosshairs, Electra must now find a way to stop those seeking to exploit her unique talents for their own nefarious purposes. Because if she can’t, the world will pay a heavy price.

Autonomy by Jude HoughtonAutonomy by Jude Houghton:

Balmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite?
What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world?
What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making?
What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed?

Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

Beacon's Spark by Jim JohnsonBeacon’s Spark by Jim Johnson:

Twentysomething Rachel Farran dropped out of college after family pressures drove her to the edge. Now disowned by her parents, the only things going for her are her girlfriend, her bestie, and visits to her ailing grandpa, the only member of her family who even really likes her.

When Rachel stumbles into the mystical Veil separating the mortal and spirit worlds, her world is turned inside-out. She soon discovers that she is a Beacon, a descendant of the ancient Fates and a guide for lost souls who can manipulate magical ley threads. But when the malevolent being known as the Spinner harnesses the ley to drag helpless souls through the Veil to devour them, can Rachel learn to control her newfound abilities before her grandpa and many others are lost forever?

Beacon’s Spark is the first book in Potomac Shadows, a new paranormal fantasy series set in the Washington, DC metro area.

Blighters by Tim MajorBlighters by Tim Major:

Them Blighters are everywhere.

They fell out of the sky last year, great horrible armour-plated slugs with razor-sharp fangs. But ugly as they are, they give the ultimate high to anyone nearby: a blissful, gleeful contentment that people are willing to kill for.

Not Becky Stone, though. All she wants is to drink beer, listen to her dad’s old vinyl, and get her life back to how it was before everything was all messed up.

Blighters? Frankly, she could do without them.

“Contains true craft and substance… You’ll finish this novella and immediately start it over again.”
Urban Fantasy Magazine on Carus & Mitch

Five Kingdoms by T.A. MilesFive Kingdoms by T.A. Miles:

With the Celestial Swords and their bearers united, Xu Liang heads for his homeland. Having lost his spiritual connection with the Empress, he is unprepared for the severity of Chaos’ grip on the land and its people. Fear is spreading throughout Sheng Fan. War is in the air. There is dissension in the ranks of the Empire and Xu Liang’s favor with the Empress seems to be in question, his once influential position now tenuous. The coming together of the Blades seems for naught while enemies from within threaten to tear apart his allegiance with the outsiders he dared to bring into Sheng Fan by spreading dangerous rumors. It seems that Xu Liang can do little more than watch as the Dragon continues to rise, every hour clawing its way deeper into the heart of the Empire, which slowly rends itself apart with the governors of the Five Kingdoms taking up arms against each other, as well as against the Song Dynasty. Those allied by the Swords must put Chaos to rest—be it an actual dragon, or war itself—but first they must find peace within themselves and amongst each other.

The Mercy of Men by S. Hunter NisbetThe Mercy of Men by S. Hunter Nisbet:

The anticipated second installment of the Saint Flaherty series moves from the hills of Appalachia to a city where law no longer prevails.

When Simon Flaherty’s routine of training and fighting is interrupted by a sudden eviction, he never expects his new neighbor to be the one person he thought was long gone from Scioto City: Connor Hall.

It’s been six years since they escaped from Buchell together—six years since Connor walked out of Simon’s life and never looked back. For Connor, it hasn’t been long enough. Trapped in a cycle of debt to the syndicate he works for, he’s barely making it payment to payment while juggling two jobs and university. One more burden will destroy him, and the help Simon is willing to give can’t balance the shadows of their past.

Fighting isn’t all Simon’s been doing in the years since arriving in Scioto, and the crime bosses of the city have their eyes on him. Getting involved with another syndicate’s business isn’t an option. But if Connor doesn’t find a way to pay back his debts, Simon will do anything to make sure Connor doesn’t pay the price for breaking a deal with a syndicate boss.

In a city without mercy, “anything” goes a long way.

Prelude to War by T.S. PaulPrelude to War by T.S. Paul:

With the destruction of the Earth ship Colossus the 3rd interstellar war is about to begin. The Cabal plan to reveal their political intentions to the Galaxy, but before they can, they have to eliminate their enemies first. Athena and her whole family are in their sights along with anyone that stands in the way of progress and control. Who will survive the onslaught and who will die? Only time will tell.

Join Athena, Wilson and the CATTs as they set out to prove that might does not equal right!

Brother's Pride by Jim RudnickBrother’s Pride by Jim Rudnick:

While the wrecked alien ship on Ghayth provides some interesting new technology, Admiral Scott has nothing on his mind but his upcoming wedding to the Lady St. August. In only a couple of months, he’ll have vows to pledge and a ring to don as he becomes a Royal himself to take the new title of Lord Scott. And the only thing in his way—even though he doesn’t know it, is his sister Gia who has pledged revenge upon him for the death of their sister, Nora.

With the upcoming release of the Ikarian longevity vaccine, the RIM Confederacy realms are all wanting more and more of the vaccines to double their lifetimes, while the Baroness is purposely chocking off the supply. Added to that is the fact that the Master Adept knows what will happen at the wedding and she is hurriedly training her own replacement and the wedding will be where the assassination attempt is made.

But the Master is not the only wedding party member to die at the altar as the admirals sister takes careful aim and screams out her revenge and Tanner falls as do others—all to pay penance for his crime of decades ago…

Felix R. SavageThe Reluctant Adventures of Fletcher Connolly on the Interstellar Railroad: Skint Idjit by Felix R. Savage:

Fletcher Connolly hasn’t got a lot to lose. Since he, and half the galaxy, signed on to the rat race of the technological relics trade, Fletch has long since come to terms with the idea that he will join the ranks of the unlucky explorers that perish lightyears from home without a dime to his name.

As the first mate of an old, decrepit exploration ship–the Skint Idjit–things can’t get much worse. As if that isn’t enough, he has a hard time convincing himself his luck is bound to change when he finds himself stranded on the planet Suckass, on a remote branch of the Interstellar Railroad. With his new assignment an unlikely candidate to hide alien treasures, true to his personality, Fletch settles down to work on his tan.

But when disaster strikes and a member of his crew is killed, Fletch finds himself torn between loyalty to the surviving crew and the siren song of an unsuspected trove of A-tech.

Can Fletch save the Skint Idjit and her crew from a horrible death? Or will he ignore their dying screams and laugh all the way to the bank?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hollow House by Greg Chapman

Release date: July 25, 2016
Sub-genre: Horror

About Hollow House:

No one in Willow Street pays it any notice, not the disgruntled Campbell family next door, not Alice Cowley and her suicidal daughter, or Mr. and Mrs. Markham down the road. Not even Darryl, the loner at number seventy, who is abnormal himself, thinks much about it. It is just the old Kemper House, forgotten and abandoned.

Until it makes itself known.

When the stench of death wafts from Kemper House through Willow Street, and comes to the attention of recent resident and newspaper reporter, Ben Traynor, it starts a chain of horrors that brings Kemper House's curse into their own homes and leads others direct to its door. Kemper House not only haunts its neighbours, it infects them with an evil that traverses time and reality itself.


Zac lay flat on the ground beneath the Kemper House and watched the police officers walk around the perimeter, and then back to their car. Fear froze him to the spot, and he realised that scoping out the house had been a bad idea—despite the fact that his assumptions had been right all along.

There was an actual dead body inside the house! Although the officers’ conversations had been muffled, Zac had heard the subsequent radio transmissions well enough. He knew what “Homicide” meant. He watched the two officers get back inside their cruiser and close the doors, probably to get away from the smell. The fact they weren’t leaving told Zac things were about to get a lot busier in Willow Street and he’d be best be getting himself gone.

Crawling on his belly through the dirt, he started to make his way back to the rear of the house. His clothes were coated in filth, but he didn’t care. He just had to get back home before the police found him. His foot snagged on something and he looked over his shoulder at what was slowing him down. The tip of his sneaker was wedged under something long and flat with a hard edge. Zac pulled his leg muscles taut and the object lifted out of the dirt for a moment before falling once more. Curiosity burning, he turned about to get a closer look at what he had unearthed. Using his hands, he brushed away the loose soil.

The object was a long piece of rotting wood. Zac brushed more dirt away. The piece of timber seemed to be as long as he was. It was barely holding together, and had many markings etched into its surface. They almost looked like words, and despite the wood’s obvious age, he believed the markings had been carved by careful hands.

With most of the dirt removed, Zac saw the piece was cut into a particular shape, with a long rectangular half and a shorter, more angular top. He realised he was looking at some sort of lid. Thoughts raced through his head. Not only had he been one of the first to confirm there was a dead body in the Kemper House, but he’d also possibly stumbled upon a chest of hidden treasure.

Licking his lips eagerly, Zac plunged his fingers under the edge of the lid and lifted. But the lid only rose so far before coming to an abrupt halt. Frowning, he craned his neck and saw there was a large, rusted padlock holding down the lid. At first he thought about giving up on it, until his father’s voice emerged in his head.

If it’s rusted, then it’s weak.

His enthusiasm renewed, Zac scraped away the dirt to expose the lock. He saw it was tethered to the side of the chest, and to his dismay, the rust only appeared to be superficial. And yet, the wood it was bolted to was as soft as the earth around it. Gritting his teeth, he pulled on the lock and its fastener came free with a crack like a branch being wrenched from a tree. The boy’s smile widened as he opened the box.

Strangely, the chest was filled only with darkness. He crawled closer, hopeful that it wasn’t empty. He bent over the lip of the chest to peer within and stretched his right arm inside, desperate to feel anything. All his fingers touched was more dirt. Zac moaned in frustration and began to claw at the dirt, shoving it aside like a dog with a scent. The exertion drew him farther into the chest and before he could stop himself, he fell inside. The lid came down with a thud, and every skerrick of light vanished in an instant. He let out a cry of fright and reached to push it open—only to discover the lid was no longer there.

Confused, he strained his arms in every direction, searching for the walls of the box, but they too were gone. Even the soil beneath him was lost. He seemed to float in a sea of darkness. The boy screamed for help—for the two police officers, for his parents—but his voice no longer carried any weight. Heart pounding fiercely in the black vacuum, Zac tried to move, but it was as if his entire body and all his senses, were totally paralysed.

All but one.

He was granted back his hearing just in time for the screams. They rose softly at first, like the rush of air from the end of a distant tunnel. With each thrum of Zac’s terrified heart, the shrieks intensified, octave after octave until the boy’s ears—and his very skull— vibrated. Inside the box, Zac’s body became a tuning fork until the screams became a message from the centre of Hell itself.

About Greg Chapman:

Greg Chapman is a horror author and artist from Australia. Greg is the author of five novellas, Torment, The Noctuary (Damnation Books, 2011),Vaudeville (2012), The Last Night of October (Bad Moon Books, 2013) and The Eschatologist (Voodoo Press 2016)His debut collection, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares, was published by Black Beacon Books in September, 2014.
He is also a horror artist and his first graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Bram Stoker Award® winning authors Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton was published by McFarland & Company in 2012. Witch Hunts won the Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel category at the Bram Stoker Awards® on June 15, 2013. Lycan Valley Press will re-release a second edition of Torment in 2016 and Omnium Gatherum Media are publishing his debut novel, Hollow House in July 2016.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for July 29, 2016

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with lots of news and trailers from San Diego Comic Con, a lot of debate about the new Ghostbusters, Star Trek: Beyond and the streaming video show Stranger Things as well as the usual mix of writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding projects and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on Star Trek: Beyond

Comments on the new Ghostbusters

Comments on Stranger Things


Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Interview with S. Hunter Nisbet, author of What Boys Are Made Of and The Mercy Of Men

Today on the Speculative Fiction Showcase we have great pleasure in interviewing S. Hunter Nisbet, author of What Boys Are Made Of and The Mercy Of Men, Books 1 and 2 of The Saint Flaherty Series.

Tell us about the Saint Flaherty Series. What’s the significance of the name?

In chapter one of book one, we meet Simon “Saint” Flaherty, the prize-fighting teenager on the verge of a back alley mixed martial arts fight he’s expected to win. Win it he does—but at a terrible cost. When his opponent pulls a knife mid-match, Simon responds with a baseball bat and swings a homerun.

The kill cements his reputation as a fighter to be reckoned with. It also makes him believe that no matter what he does from now on, he’s going to hell. In the meantime, he might as well do what he can to make sure no one else will. Not if he can help it.

The rest of the series follows Simon’s rise, each book almost a snap-shot of time, a point in his life where momentum and groundwork and pure, gut-clenching chance ignite the powder-keg and decide what is to come. Make-or-break moments, for better and for worse, that define who Simon is.

Can he be Saint Flaherty? Or will the hell he came from claim his soul for once and all?

As for how he got that particular nickname, well. That would be telling, now wouldn’t it?

Your first book, What Boys Are Made Of, introduces us to a dystopian world. What part does the world play in the story?

The dystopian elements create the central conflict for the book. A Mexican-cartel-style kingpin has set himself up in the town of Buchell, ruling the town and all trade coming and going. He’s taken an interest not only in Simon, but his guardian and pseudo-sister, Erin, both whom have every right to fear him.

At its heart, the conflict is simple: how these two can escape this tyrant, this madman. It’s the setting that complicates the story.

Simon and Erin can’t escape through the woods because those have landmines, and they can’t just hop on a convoy out of town because those go through checkpoints controlled by the cartel. They’re being watched, strings are being pulled. Who can be trusted?

And every day they need to survive, to eat, to stay as safe as they can while still searching for this way out. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done in a town that lacks an intact criminal justice system, or a high regard for human life.

To me, setting a book in the future is more than sticking a high-tech weapon in and saying humans are at peace now, or at war with the aliens. It’s all about changing norms, little details like three shells in the bathroom or, in my case, offhand comments about “back when we still had indoor plumbing” and the fact that all guns are 3D printed.

Likewise, the narrators don’t wake up and say “I live in a totalitarian dystopian society with bad evil baddies on the street.” It’s a gradual introduction. Your first wakeup call is when Simon kills someone and the police don’t start asking questions. The second is when you find out there are no police. The third? At a certain point, the creeping realization that the younger characters don’t even know what police are.

We are not in Kansas anymore.

What inspired you to write this series, and where do you see it heading?

This series came from a lot of places. My love of language and idioms, my desire to write something fast-paced and unpredictable. But far beyond those rises my experiences in high school.

For me, high school was a trial-by-fire gauntlet, where the goal was to reach adulthood without making too many bad decisions. Not a great mind-set, right? Even to me, so much of what I did at the time seems inexplicable. Why did I think that my choices in any given situation were so narrow? Why did I do what I did, say what I said?

But the answer is simple. People under duress do not make the best decisions; rather, they make the best decisions they can. Lacking sleep and safety, pursued by demons imagined and all too human, most people are incapable of making choices anywhere approaching the best. They do what they can and keep on.

I wanted to write people like that. I wanted to write those stories, not based on good and evil but good enough and all that entails.

As for the series itself, it has two books published, another three written, and I’m working on what should be the final main book right now. Altogether, that means four main series books as well as two in-between novels that explore side-stories mentioned in the main narratives. I have ideas for a handful more side novels, not to mention another series in the same universe, but no promises on those ever seeing the light of day! For now, six books seems like a pretty good number.

Your bio says much of your writing is based in the hills of Appalachia. How is the sense of place important to your writing?

To me, Appalachia is all about the speech. That was actually one of the first things I knew about the Saint Flaherty series, when I sat down to write those early chapters: that my characters would, as we say here in Southeast Ohio, “talk with an accent.”

That’s a touchy subject, because the dialect used around here is one of the most ridiculed in the United States. You want to instantly show a character is dumb? Give them an Appalachian accent. In media these days you either hear it out of the mouths of red-neck hunters or mystic foresters in tune with mother nature. It doesn’t seem to come from regular people who live unremarkable lives, and so that’s what I wanted to do. As much as I write speculative fiction, I do my best to populate it with ordinary people, those who might be a check-out clerk in Walmart or the guy who does your plumbing with plenty of friendly banter in another life, a more peaceful life.

Around here, we say “him what I was talking to” instead of “that guy I was talking to.” We occasionally drop the various forms of be, slur our don’t knows into dunnos and going to into gonna. Aside from those couple words, I otherwise avoided phonetic renderings, but to me, the speech rings true.

Fifty years ago university students with this dialect automatically got put into remedial speech lessons—it only seemed fair that in the dystopian future it reasserts itself in full force.

You say you like British political snark shows. Which ones and why?

There’s a few of them! I’m a huge fan of Mock the Week—it’s the first political commentary show I got into. I love how silly it gets, and back when I didn’t know much about British politics it was the perfect intro to the main players. Not to mention it features one of my favourite comedians, Dara O’Briain. It’s great to relax in front of an episode and listen to people who aren’t panicking at every political event.

I also love Have I Got News for You, but for the opposite reason. Call me cruel, but there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing some poor politician put themselves in the hot seat for half an hour. It’s like a ritual sacrifice the parties make each season. Part of me feels very sympathetic every time they have some MP on, but most of me loves seeing a little discomfort from the elected ones. Schadenfreude at its best!

Politics are serious, but like all human things, they have their ridiculous side, and these shows do a fantastic job of highlighting that while still being surprisingly informative. The best of both worlds.

How does the gritty realism of your settings introduce speculative fiction elements?

Back in 2011, driving down an isolated road through the woods, my mind combined the brutal events of the recent Kenyan civil war, the total lack of government in Sudan, and the hills of Southeast Ohio to come up with a mixture guaranteed to create conflict. My mind raced. What if you had to take a convoy to safely reach the next town? What if 3D printed guns became something you make in your basement for the war outside your front door? What if modern laws disappeared?

As a kid, I thought the future was robots and space and flying cars, but I only had to watch one democracy fall to a political coup on the evening news to realize that’s not always the case. Sure, sometimes we move forward—but just as often its backwards societies go.

In the Saint Flaherty series, that’s exactly what’s happened. There was a war, a civil war, and as my characters put it, it turned rude pretty darn quick. After all, America as a country relies on free transport in order to function. Cut off a place like West Virginia from the rest of the nation and you’re going to hit starvation point pretty quick.

Not all futures are bright and shining. Some reach back to the roots of society and rip them up.

Are there any contemporary SF/dystopian/apocalyptic writers whose work you admire?

Funny enough, one of my favorite recent works is the Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I say funny enough because that series is almost the polar opposite of mine in theme, despite following a similar arc. Both take a young man, give him extraordinary circumstances, and see what he’s made of in a future that’s been simplified from modern life. But the Long Earth assumes humans have one sort of nature, and I assume another.

What I loved about this series was the wonder it brought to the page. I could’ve read descriptions of the various Earths for as long as the authors were willing to write them. The various theories of why one evolved one way and not another, how people were branching out and developing, all of it created such a soothing space in my mind. Some days we want catharsis, but sometimes a peaceful read through an ideal place is a nice change.

Your books sound very noir. They could be about contemporary events. Are they cross-genre?

They definitely are, to all parts of that question! While they’re set in the future, anyone who’s interested in books that deal with abuse would like the Saint Flaherty series. More than being about concepts, it’s really a story that focuses on people and how they deal with trauma, stress, and the dark parts of their own souls. I tend to call the Saint Flaherty series dystopian psychological suspense. The first book has heavy post-apocalyptic tones, while later books branch more into organized crime.

As for sub-genres? It’s noir. It’s grit. Not to throw out spoilers, but as one review points out, it’s more a story with characters who are LGBTQ than an LGBTQ story, so there’s that too, and where to stop?

If you like dark character-driven pieces, you will like this. Genres are only the things I argue with Amazon over.

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?

I’m a terrible Luddite! Technology isn’t scary to me, but it’s a terrible inconvenience to learn to use, so I’ll stick with what I know until it actually becomes a problem. I’ve had to be dragged to get my last three phones, and I hung onto my previous laptop until it began erasing chunks of documents at random.

That attitude towards technology probably shows in my books rather more than it should. I barely had a cell phone when I began writing What Boys Are Made Of, so didn’t really write them into it. Not from a great grand reason, but more forgetting about them. I had to retcon an explanation about cell phone towers and satellites into the narrative later, so they could show up in later books. Ah well, it contributes to the atmosphere.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
Oh, the tricky question. I play a small selection of modern Nintendo games. Does that qualify me, or do I need to be more hard-core about it? Either way, I love to relax with whatever cute adventure that’s caught my eye that week. Pikmin, Mario Kart, Yoshi—if it’s adorable and not too difficult, I’m there.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?

What I have is a black thumb. This occasionally worries me. If the apocalypse came tomorrow, I would be in deep trouble, having managed in my life to grow only a single tomato. What skills could I trade on to survive? After all, if I was sent back in time, I could definitely make my way as a teacher of some sort, perhaps even publish a bit, but modern people don’t have as much trouble in that department. As someone who can’t grow their own food and is too squeamish to hunt, I’ll have my work cut out for me if everything goes to heck.

I probably spend too much time thinking about this.

Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?

Oops, I guess I’m for big chains, because I do all my book shopping on Amazon! Really, I’m for any place that supports independent authors and gives them an equal shot at sales.

Most of my reading decisions these days seem to be made on whether the book in question hits the right genre buttons, and then is it on sale. Or did a friend write it. I’ve found some fantastic books from buying an author friend’s new release.

On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?

Outwardly? Not very. I’m one of the hyper-competent people who has no trouble dressing the part or acting it—whatever the part may be. I have potluck games nights with my friends, dote on my parents’ dog, eat the fashionable number of avocados a week. So on an eccentric scale, even adding in my crazy author thoughts, I’d probably be about a three.

Okay, okay, I think peanut-butter onion bacon sandwiches are delicious. Four.

About S. Hunter Nisbet:

S. Hunter Nisbet is a dedicated writer of dark tales. Born and raised in southeast Ohio, she bases much of her work in the hills of Appalachia. When not working on the next novel, Hunter spends her time posting on her blog and watching British political snark shows.