Monday, December 31, 2018

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2018

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month

It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some November books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, cozy fantasy, grimdark fantasy, military fantasy, children's fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, science fantasy, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, LitRPG, sword and sorcery, horror, non-fiction, time travel, a lot of holiday stories, vampires, witches, ghosts, dragons, robots, asteroid miners, space pirates, alien invasions, airships, enchanted swords, Krampuses, mermaids, tech mages, enslaved princes, valkyries 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:

Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel AaaronMinimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron:

The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world's most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That's a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can't pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab.

That's when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I'm a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who's employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It's not a pretty job, or a safe one--there's a reason I wear bite-proof gloves--but when you're deep in debt in a city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don't get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.

Fringe Legacy by Rachel AukesFringe Legacy by Rachel Aukes:

It's a new age of heroes and sacrifices.
The colonies won their independence.
But they are not at peace.

New enemies come at the fragile Alliance of Free Colonies. Assassination attempts. Kidnappings. Murder.

When Aramis Reyne is nearly killed, he turns the tables and hunts the hunters. He learns things are not as they seem. When Critch disappears, he must make an impossible rescue.

If Reyne fails, the Alliance will fall. War will claim the colonies once again.

The race is on and time is running out.

Flights of Fancy: The Great Atlantic Run by Cameron Jon BernhardFlights of Fancy: The Great Atlantic Run by Cameron Jon Bernhard:

Join Captain Fancy and the crew of the Persephone as they take to the clouds in this riveting steampunk adventure.

The Great Atlantic Run is more than a passport to high-flying thrills and excitement; it's a perilous two-day marathon over the ocean, where only the fast and strong survive. In a journey fraught with air pirates, rough weather and international spies, the risks are sky-high. The rewards, fame and fortune.

Take off on the voyage of a lifetime as you explore a grand world of flying ships, steam-powered machines, and incredible characters. Flights of Fancy is a fast-paced, unforgettable yarn as limitless and unpredictable as imagination itself.

The Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora BuhlertThe Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora Buhlert:

A legendary monster threatens Christmas…

It's Christmas time in the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, which is also known as the "Harbour of the Weird".

Rachel Hammersmith is new to Hallowind Cove and has recently taken over the bakery on Gloomland Street, after Marie Percht, the previous owner, retired.

However, Marie Percht didn't tell Rachel everything, when she retired. She didn't mention the fog, for starters, and she also didn't mention that her bakery plays a vital role during the Christmas season and not just as a provider of holiday cookies either.

For the Krampus, a yuletide monster from alpine folklore, is coming to Hallowind Cove. And the only thing that can keep him from wrecking the town and ruining Christmas are pastries baked according to a secret recipe. Unfortunately, Rachel has no idea what the recipe is.

However, with the help of fellow newcomer Paul MacQuarie, Rachel will bake up a storm to pacify Krampus and save Christmas.

The Mermaid of Foghorn Point by Cora BuhlertThe Mermaid of Foghorn Point by Cora Buhlert:

The catch of the day at the Croaking Foghorn is not at all as expected…

Strange things keep happening in the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, earning it the nickname "Harbour of the Weird".

Paul and Rachel's date at The Croaking Foghorn pub is derailed, when it turns out that local fisherman Eddie Bramwell brought home no fish, but one hell of a story.

But Paul has one hell of a story of his own to tell and he's not at all sure how Rachel will react.

This is a short story of 3400 words or approximately 12 pages in the Hallowind Cove series, but may be read as a standalone.

The Standarounds of Twilight Gardens by Cora BuhlertThe Standarounds of Twilight Gardens by Cora Buhlert:

Sinister shadows menace a family…

Strange things keep happening in the quirky little seaside town of Hallowind Cove, earning it the nickname "Harbour of the Weird".

When the Hutchinson family buy the beautiful Beauregard mansion on Gloomland Street, they believe they've made the deal of a lifetime.

But unfortunately, no one told them about the fog that envelops Hallowind Cove for three hundred and forty days a year. Or about the mysterious shadows that stand around Twilight Gardens, staring at random houses…

This is a short story of 3300 words or approximately 14 pages in the Hallowind Cove series, but may be read as a standalone.

Dragon Tear by Lindsay BurokerDragon Tear by Lindsay Buroker:

Now that Jev is no longer obligated to marry a manipulative noblewoman, Zenia can finally pursue a relationship with him. But there’s something else she must deal with first. She’s learned that the magical dragon-tear gem she wears around her neck is linked to a living dragon, one that is being held prisoner and tortured.

Zenia owes her life several times over to the creature. She must set aside personal desires and lead a team to the distant and dangerous continent where the dragon is imprisoned.

But it took someone—or something—very powerful to capture such a great creature in the first place. Zenia, Jev, and their friends may not have the magic or might necessary to free their scaled ally. If they fail, the dragon will be enslaved forever by a cruel master, and Zenia and Jev may never see their homeland again.

Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Kenneth W. CainDarker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Kenneth W. Cain:

This collection of dark speculative tales will lead the reader on a roller coaster ride through the unknown, where things aren’t always what they seem.

Now that you’ve warmed by the embers, submerse in darker days.

The author of the short story collections These Old Tales, Fresh Cut Tales, and Embers presents Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing.

There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 26 short speculative stories arise from a void, escaping shadows that ebb and weave through minds like worms, planting the larvae that live just under the skin, thriving upon fear. These are Cain’s darker days.

In this collection, Cain features stories from the Old West, of past lives and future days, the living and the dead, new and unique monsters as well as fresh takes on those of lore. Once more he tackles themes of loss and grief and the afterlife, always exploring the greater unknown. In “The Sanguine Wars,” Cain takes us to a future war where soldiers are made to endure the horrors of war. He explores the complexities of global warming and what lengths men and women alike sink to in “The Reassignment Project.” And, as often is the case, he ends on a lighter note, with “Lenny’s New Eyes” and “A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse.”

When the darkness comes, embrace it. Let it wrap you up in cold. Don’t worry, it’s not your time...yet.

Lasso by Mike CovilleLasso by Mike Coville:

A suspicious accident, a prized asteroid, and a game of politics to decide who rules the galaxy. Someone’s making a power play, but who?

Captain Greg Daniels of the DSM Boone is a handful of asteroids away from retiring when his plans are threatened by an explosion on his ship. With the risk of another more lethal attack, Greg must locate the source of the explosion or he’ll lose more than the priceless rock he just obtained - he’ll lose his life.

On the Lunar Community, Final Frontier Mining Director David Rivera has his sights set on become Prime Minister of the ISC. His hopes rest on ace miner, Daniels, bringing in the most profitable asteroid in the company's history to keep himself in the spotlight. But when he discovers a conspiracy to destroy his company and put a stop to his political aspirations, David must hunt down his mysterious hacker while trying to save Greg, DSM Boone, and the asteroid it has secured.
One man fights for survival in deep space, another on the moon, but is there someone else pulling the strings of both? Only if they can work together, will they find the answers they need to survive.

Hunter's Terminus by Timothy EllisHunter's Terminus by Timothy Ellis:

Tech and Magic must come together to survive!

Jon Hunter thinks he's done enough. But since when did he get any say in the matter?

15,000 people, 4 main stations, and 15 large ships, somewhere in the galaxy, unexpectedly looking for a new start.

Jon sees himself as their protector, at least until his people build their own new society, without him in charge.

Thorn has been waiting for Jon Hunter for 82 years.

3100 years ago, Thorn had to save humanity. One week ago, Jon did save humanity. Just different groups.

Both have done the impossible. Both are tired. Both want out.

But in a galaxy newly restored to an older and much more dangerous configuration, just how much rest can either of these men get?

Especially when the three powers in the galaxy don't want a fourth.

Is the galaxy's crossroad, Hunter's Terminus?

Krox Rises by Chris FoxKrox Rises by Chris Fox:

The Godswar Has Come Again

Nebiat has seized godhood, and now controls Krox, the most powerful elder god in the sector. Both Ternus and Shaya know she is coming, but their preparations cannot save them. She launches a strike at Ternus that cripples their home world, and shatters their fleets.

Voria desperately struggles to find a way to raise Shaya, or to rise as a goddess herself. She will do anything to oppose Nebiat, but fears it will not be enough.

Aran must confront the awful truth about the Skull of Xal, and make a deal with demons in order to gain the strength they so desperately need to overcome Krox.

And Nara must face the most awful choice of all. Will she murder the woman she most respects, or let the sector burn?

Possibilities narrow. Krox Rises. Shaya will fall.

Prince for Sale by Caroline GibsonPrince for Sale by Caroline Gibson:

Sold into slavery, saved by love

Vell once was a powerful sorcerer and a prince of Otharn. With his father and brother at his side, worlds fell at his feet. Now, he is a slave, cast out by his father, sold, used and abused. His rebellious brother’s desperate attempt to save him is his only hope for freedom, but first, he must go to Earth in chains.

David Thomen, scientist, inventor, defender of Earth, is living a lonely life with his inventions. Responsible for opening the gateway from Earth to Otharn, he must come to terms with his role as Vell’s newest owner and navigate the powerful forces of the joined worlds, who all seem to have an interest in Vell’s fate.

Joined by a magical binding which forces them into an intimate relationship against both their wills, can Vell and David learn to trust each other, find a way to break their bonds, and preserve the alliance of the worlds?

Note to readers: This is an MM Romance book for a mature audience, it contains dubious consent, memories of past rape, as well as consensual sex scenes. No graphic violence, mild descriptions of injuries.

The Scythian Crisis by J.J. GreenThe Scythian Crisis by J.J. Green:

Humanity’s last stand.

An attack by unknown aliens has devastated the Nova Fortuna colony. Its long-term survival seems impossible. But the colonists aren’t going down without a fight.

Ethan must prepare the Gens for their final battle. Geneticist Cariad must decide whether to reactivate the sinister Guardians to aid in the colony’s defense.

Earth is lost. The new world settlers are without hope. When the moment to decide humanity’s fate arrives, will they be ready?

The Scythian Crisis is book three in the compelling, provocative space colonization epic adventure, Space Colony One.

Ruby Heart by Donna Maree HansonRuby Heart by Donna Maree Hanson:

A book of manners, magic and mayhem.

Jemima Hardcastle has a sad history. After her father was murdered by a secret society of magicians, her guardian and new heir to Willow Park, Edward Huntington, packed her off to boarding school. In the four years she was there, she never saw him again until she escaped from school to a house party and there he was. He did not recognise her and he even flirted with her.

A disastrous kiss, a murder and a stolen jewel herald dire happenings. Jemima is shipped off to Willow Park in the care of Fulton, Edward’s man, to be under the chaperonage of the odious Aunt Prudence and the meek cousin, Milly. While avoiding stitching in the evenings, she discovers Edward’s scientific genius and the artificial leg he made for Fulton. Her esteem for Edward rises and she is actually looking forward to seeing him again when he does not arrive as planned.

When they realise Edward is abducted, Jemima schemes to go in rescue. She has cunning and she has money and with these she plunges herself and her companions into the world of dark sorcery and London shopping.

In London, Jemima and Fulton lead a double life as they search for Edward in the slums, manufactureys and even a bawdy house. When she finally discovers Edward, her life is on the line.

While a vicious and bloody fight for survival is going on around him, Edward has to choose between saving her life or unleashing the unholy, vampiric beast Geneck on an unsuspecting London.

The Starfighter Invitation by Andrea K. HöstThe Starfighter Invitation by Andrea K. Höst:

The only thing bigger than the world's first full virtual reality game is the mystery surrounding its origins. Who is behind Ryzonart Games? How was such a huge advance in technology achieved? Taia de Haas loves having her own virtual spaceship, and wants nothing more than to visit every planet in the solar system. But she cannot ignore the question of whether such a magnificent gift comes with strings attached. Is the game a trick, a trap, a subtle invasion? Or an opportunity to step up and fight for her own planet? Caught in a tangle of riddles and lies, Taia can't resist trying to win answers from Ryzonart's mysterious administrators. But will finding the truth cost her the Singularity Game?

Eternal Darkness by Marc JohnsonEternal Darkness by Marc Johnson:

The wizard Hellsfire is dead. Hellsfire is now an ordinary mortal, weakened and powerless. But two people are seeking him out: one wants to save him and one wants revenge.

Bryce is seeking retribution for the slaughter of his family. Running his blade through Hellsfire is the only way to fill the empty hole in his heart. He failed before. He won’t fail again.

Eager to explore her blossoming powers, Alyssa receives a vision from the gods telling her to go to Hellsfire. He may be the only one who can teach her to harness her magic. With no family ties, she’s ready to leave the only home she’s ever known to rescue a man she barely knows.

Hellsfire still has a crucial role to play in the fate of the realm—if he survives and remembers who he is. Will he regain his powers and his sense of purpose before it’s too late?

Swordheart by T. KingfisherSwordheart by T. Kingfisher:

Return to the world of Clockwork Boys in this all-new novel from T. Kingfisher!

Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle's estate... and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder against everything from bandits and roving inquisitors to her own in-laws... and the sword itself may prove to be the greatest threat of all...

The Megalodon Mix-Up by Amanda M. LeeThe Megalodon Mix-Up by Amanda M. Lee:

Charlie Rhodes’ life has taken a turn.

Not only is she working her dream job, but she’s also taken on a dreamy co-worker and is officially dating the office security chief.

Yeah, she’s still trying to wrap her head around it, too.

She doesn’t have much time because a high-profile incident in Florida means the team is on the hunt, and this time the likely culprit is none other than a prehistoric shark that’s been extinct for millions of years.

For Jack Hanson, the mere thought that a Megalodon is hunting the Gulf of Mexico waters is too much to bear. He’s on edge and irritated, and that’s on top of the fact that Legacy Foundation co-workers are starting to find out about his relationship with Charlie.

For her part, Charlie is enjoying herself. Not only is she looking for a giant shark, but she’s investigating in the middle of an author conference and the victim was the one person hated by absolutely everyone. She’s learning on the job … and it’s a tangled web of lies and intrigue to wade through.

There are suspects at every turn, blood in the water, and hungry sharks looking for a meal. It’s another fun-filled adventure, and the stakes in this one are graver than anybody anticipated.

Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), edited by Catherine LundoffScourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), edited by Catherine Lundoff:

Think pirates are all about the rum and the pieces of eight? Let these fifteen tales draw you into the adventures of a new kind of pirate. Sail with them as they seek treasure, redemption, love, revenge and more. Raise the Jolly Roger and sharpen your cutlass (or recharge your raygun) and climb aboard for some unforgettable voyages. Featuring stories by Ginn Hale, A.J. Fitzwater, Geonn Cannon, Joyce Chng, Elliott Dunstan, Ashley Deng, Su Haddrell, Ed Grabianowski, Mharie West, Matisse Mozer, Soumya Sundar Mukherjee, Megan Arkenberg, Peter Golubock, Michael Merriam and Caroline Sciriha.

The Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona MarpleThe Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona Marple:

What if Father Christmas is on the naughty list?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mystic Springs, but all is not still or calm with the department store Santa.

The amateur dramatics club is full of big egos and legends-in-their-own-heads, so their spats aren't unusual. But when the theatre owner is shot dead during the Christmas play, it's Santa who pulls the trigger.

With the arrival of an unwelcome ex, a petition to end Discrimination Against Spirits, and a second attack by St Nick, the chances of a quiet Christmas seem to be quickly disappearing.

Has Santa really gone bad? Or is there more to it?

Town medium Connie and her dead sister Sage are both avoiding their own festive conundrums. A mistletoe murder is just the distraction they need.

Phyllis Wong and the Vanishing Emeralds by Geoffrey McSkimmingPhyllis Wong and the Vanishing Emeralds by Geoffrey McSkimming:

When Phyllis Wong—that brilliant young magician and clever sleuth—happens upon a mystery from the past that has proved unsolvable, she knows she has to try to get to the bottom of it.

More than sixty years ago an astonishing emerald necklace owned by the famous pianist Isabella Beaufort seemingly vanished off the face of the earth! Ever since, the disappearance has stumped the police, detectives and those associated with the missing priceless jewels. How did the prized Flurtis Emeralds vanish? Where are they today? Is there any way they can be traced, after so many cobwebs have covered the case?

Another mysterious intrigue right up the alleyway of our favourite conjuring Transiter!

The sixth Phyllis Wong: Time Detective mystery.

Christmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri MoultonChristmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri Moulton:

A man spends the holidays in a small Northwestern town that may not be exactly what it seems...and rediscovers the true meaning of Christmas.

It's Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life, edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene JohnsonIt's Alive: Bringing You Nightmares to Life, edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson:

Nightmares come to life in this comprehensive how-to guide for new and established authors…

Book two in Crystal Lake Publishing’s The Dream Weaver series picks up where the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Where Nightmares Come From: The Art Of Storytelling In The Horror Genre left off.

It’s Alive: Bringing your Nightmares to Life focuses on learning the craft in order to take your story from concept to completion.

With an introduction by Richard Chizmar and cover art by Luke Spooner. Featuring interior artwork from horror master Clive Barker!

Table of Contents:
  • Introduction by Richard Chizmar
  • Confessions of a Professional Day Dreamer by Jonathan Maberry
  • What is Writing and Why Write Horror by John Skipp
  • Tribal Layers by Gene O’Neill
  • Bake That Cake: One Writer’s Method by Joe R. Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale
  • Ah-Ha: Beginning to End with Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Bailey (Discussing the Spark of Creativity)
  • They Grow in the Shadows: Exploring the Roots of a Horror Story by Todd Keisling
  • Sell Your Script, Keep Your Soul and Beware of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing by Paul Moore
  • The Cult of Constraint (or To Outline or Not) by Yvonne Navarro
  • Zombies, Ghosts and Vampires?Oh My! by Kelli Owen
  • The Many Faces of Horror: Craft Techniques by Richard Thomas
  • Giving Meaning to the Macabre by Rachel Autumn Deering
  • The Horror Writer’s Ultimate Toolbox by Tim Waggoner
  • Sarah Pinborough Interview by Marie O’Regan
  • Conveying Character by F. Paul Wilson
  • Sympathetic Characters Taste Better: Creating Empathy in Horror Fiction by Brian Kirk
  • Virtue & Villainy: The Importance of Character by Kealan Patrick Burke
  • How to write Descriptions in a story by Mercedes Yardley
  • “Don’t Look Now, There’s a Head in That Box!” She Ejaculated Loudly (or Creating Effective Dialogue in Horror Fiction) by Elizabeth Massie
  • Point of View by Lisa Mannetti
  • What Came First the Monster or the Plot? In Conversation with Stephen Graham Jones by Vince A. Liaguno
  • Building Suspense by David Wellington
  • Conveying Horror by Ramsey Campbell
  • Unveiling Theme Through Plot: An Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” by Stephanie M. Wytovich
  • Interview with Clive Barker by Tim Chizmar
  • World Building (Building a terrifying world) by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Speak Up: The Writer’s Voice by Robert Ford
  • Writing for a Better World by Christopher Golden
  • Shaping the Ideas: Getting Things from Your Head to the Paper or on Screen. Interview with Steve Niles, Mick Garris, Heather Graham, Mark Savage, and Maria Alexander by Del Howison
  • On Research by Bev Vincent
  • Editing Through Fear: Cutting and Stitching Stories by Jessica Marie Baumgartner
  • Leaping into the Abyss by Greg Chapman
  • Edit Your Anthology in Your Basement for Fun and Profit! . . . or Not by Tom Monteleone
  • When It’s Their World: Writing for the Themed Anthology by Lisa Morton
  • Roundtable Interview by John Palisano
  • The Tale of the Perfect Submissions by Jess Landry
  • Turning the Next Page: Getting Started with the Business of Writing by James Chambers
Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.
Merry Happy Valkyrie by Tansy Rayner RobertsMerry Happy Valkyrie by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Norse myth and magic collides with a small town Tasmanian Christmas in this festive romantic fantasy!

Lief Fraser has mixed feelings about returning home to Matilda, the only Australian town where it always snows at Christmas. As a TV weather presenter, it’s her job to report on the strange holiday phenomenon… but as a local, it’s her duty to preserve Matilda’s many magical secrets.

Then pretty Audrey Astor rolls into town to shoot the ultimate romantic Australian Christmas movie with her film crew. Sparks fly, secrets unravel… and soon everyone will know exactly how Mt Valkyrie got its name.

"A sparkling holiday fantasy story full of deliciously fun characters and fabulous magic." - Stephanie Burgis

Created for Christmas by Joynell SchultzCreated for Christmas by Joynell Schultz:

Need the perfect man? No problem—simply create him!

Ivy wanted nothing more for Christmas than to have someone to come home have a companion to chat about her day with, and someone to show off at her family holiday celebrations.

This Christmas, she's not going to be alone! Ivy decides to create her perfect companion at Dream Droids, the premier robotics company specializing in sentient humanoids. Ivy spends weeks with Dr. Pierce, creating her dream man, from his appearance, personality, and even his knowledge of her life.

There's just a few problems: when a special gift she purchased for her father goes missing, and Dr. Pierce agrees to help her find it, she finds herself falling for him. After getting her heart stomped on by her ex-fiancé, there's no way she can open it up again...besides, she just created the perfect man.

Finders by Melissa ScottFinders by Melissa Scott:

Cassilde Sam is a barely solvent salvage operator, hunting for relics in the ruins left by the mysterious Ancestors—particularly the color-coded Elements that power most of humanity’s current technology, including the ability to navigate through hyperspace. Cassilde is also steadily fading under the onslaught of Lightman’s, an incurable, inevitably fatal disease. She needs one last find big enough to leave a legacy for her partner and fellow salvor Dai Winter.

When their lover and former colleague Summerlad Ashe reappears, offering them a chance to salvage part of an orbiting palace that he claims contains potentially immense riches, Cassilde is desperate enough to take the gamble, even though Ashe had left them both to fight on the opposite side of the interplanetary war that only ended seven years ago. The find is everything Ashe promised. But when pirates attack the claim, Cassilde receives the rarest of the Ancestors’ Gifts: a change to her biochemistry that confers near-instant healing and seems to promise immortality.

But the change also drags her into an underworld where Gifts are traded in blood, and powerful Gifts bring equally powerful enemies. Hunted for her Gift and determined to find Gifts for her lovers, Cassilde discovers that an old enemy is searching for the greatest of the Ancestral artifacts: the power that the Ancestors created and were able to barely contain after it almost destroyed them, plunging humanity into the first Long Dark. Haunted by dream-visions of this power whispering its own version of what happened, Cassilde must find it first, before her enemy frees it to destroy her own civilization.

Death by Rosie ScottDeath by Rosie Scott:

Over the years of waging the War of Necromancers, Kai Sera has become known by many names. Mage of the Six Elements. Necromancer. God-Killer. Rebellion Leader. Liberator. War General. Goddess of Magic. Living Legend. Most importantly, Kai is the greatest asset of war that exists, and now her war is nearing its end.

Chairel is on the horizon. Kai's home country has massive armies prepared to defend itself from her rebellion. Mortals and gods alike team up to put a stop to her intimidating advance, but Kai is not fazed. News of the final showdown brings unlikely supporters to Kai's doorstep willing to bend their knee to her superior power, and her Seran Renegades collect the allies they've made over years of globe-trotting and war to face their foes head-on.

The greatest military in the world will come to a final bloody clash with the largest rebellion ever built. Both sides will suffer losses and heartbreak. The world and its occupants will be forever scarred. Kai started this war for political change and vengeance, and she will not relent until it is finished.

UnArcana Stars by Chris FoxUnarcana Stars by Glynn Stewart:

A humanitarian mission into unfriendly stars
A training cruise under the watch of a fortified fleet base
The closing jaws of a trap years in the making

It has been over a year since the UnArcana Worlds of the Protectorate of the Mage-King of Mars seceded, shattering the unity of the human race. The new Republic of Faith and Reason has raised new banners in defiance of the power of the Protectorate's Mage aristocracy.

Now, Hand Damien Montgomery commands a relief mission to a Republic world ravaged by famine. His humanitarian mission collides with a newborn military beginning to flex its muscles--and a newborn nation prepared to accept no violations of its sovereignty, regardless of their needs.
Elsewhere, disaster strikes the Nia Kriti Fleet Base as an earthquake shatters their only communication with the rest of the Protectorate. Officer-in-training Roslyn Chambers is in the middle of the recovery effort when she realizes Nia Kriti is under attack.

The Republic is done with peace. They are coming for the Protectorate--and they will see the fleets of Mars break!

Elixirs and Elves by Astoria WrightElixirs and Elves by Astoria Wright:

The elves of Mount Vale are throwing a Christmas Party, and they've invited everyone! While the human residents of Moss Hill are excited to attend, many of the sidhe find the invitation beneath them. It's no secret that they dislike mingling with non-faeries, but are they so hostile toward humans that one of them would commit murder? Carissa has never gotten along with the sidhe guard, but Varick of Vale has helped her on occasion. So, when he asks for her help after suspicion falls on him, it's up to her to prove his innocence - if, that is, he isn't guilty after all.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ruby Heart (Cry Havoc, Book 1) by Donna Maree Hanson

Release date: December 22, 2018
Subgenre: Steampunk

 About Ruby Heart:


A book of manners, magic and mayhem.
Jemima Hardcastle has a sad history. After her father was murdered by a secret society of magicians, her guardian and new heir to Willow Park, Edward Huntington, packed her off to boarding school. In the four years she was there, she never saw him again until she escaped from school to a house party and there he was. He did not recognise her and he even flirted with her.

A disastrous kiss, a murder and a stolen jewel herald dire happenings. Jemima is shipped off to Willow Park in the care of Fulton, Edward’s man, to be under the chaperonage of the odious Aunt Prudence and the meek cousin, Milly. While avoiding stitching in the evenings, she discovers Edward’s scientific genius and the artificial leg he made for Fulton. Her esteem for Edward rises and she is actually looking forward to seeing him again when he does not arrive as planned.

When they realise Edward is abducted, Jemima schemes to go in rescue. She has cunning and she has money and with these she plunges herself and her companions into the world of dark sorcery and London shopping.

In London, Jemima and Fulton lead a double life as they search for Edward in the slums, manufactureys and even a bawdy house. When she final discovers Edward, her life is on the line.

While a vicious and bloody fight for survival is going on around him, Edward has to choose between saving her life or unleashing the unholy, vampiric beast Geneck on an unsuspecting London.




The sound of Sylvia Horton’s familiar laugh drew Jemima Hardcastle to the rear garden of Primrose Manor, where the large party of house guests lounged on chairs and sipped cool lemonade. Under the shade of her parasol, Jemima walked with a light step. Last night’s introductions had been rather blurred as both Sylvia and Jemima had been tired, arriving well after dinner. Despite their fatigue, they spent half the night discussing the people they had met. One young man had already attracted Sylvia’s interest—Mr Jasper Heaton, who was a dashing medical man with dark hair, hazel eyes and a ready smile. Sylvia’s parents had assembled an assortment of young people for their daughter’s entertainment, the goal being a good marriage. Jemima had not such inclination for matrimony but had to admit the attention of the handsome and intelligent members of the opposite sex was diverting and flattering.
With a wave to Sylvia, who was dressed in pale pink, with her white blonde hair curled into tight ringlets, Jemima walked up to the party, not too ashamed of her own turnout. She was wearing a pale green day dress, trimmed in braid, with flattering sleeves. Her own strawberry blonde hair was swept up in a tall bun, with one trailing ringlet draped over her neck. Sylvia’s maid had dressed it for her and she felt so mature. No more school ringlets and pigtails.
A deep laugh drew her attention, a newly arrived guest, she surmised. Her gaze darted to the tall figure of a man, with a well-tailored morning coat hugging his broad shoulders. When he turned around, she saw dark, curly hair trimmed to frame his somewhat olive-toned face. Their eyes met. Her heart thumped, and she had to lock her knees before she collapsed. Sucking in a breath, she did her best to hide her trembling hands. How odious that he should be here. No glint of recognition flashed in his deep blue eyes, allowing her to relax somewhat. She smiled to hide her discomfiture and hoped she did not perspire too much. Had she changed that much in four years?
He stepped forward and bowed slightly. Sylvia performed the introductions. “Oh, Mr Huntington, please meet my friend, Jemima H Castle.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr Huntington.” Jemima blushed, terrified to her heart at the out and out lie of her name. Sylvia had no trouble calling her by her school nickname, Jemima “H”, for Hard, Castle. And Sylvia knew she was using the name to avoid the notice of her guardian. The Hortons had accepted the name, swallowing the story that she was an orphan of no particular breeding, which meant of course, she was a nobody and less likely to compete with Sylvia in the marriage stakes. But now, what could she do? If she announced she was Jemima Hardcastle and that Mr Huntington was her guardian, there would be no end to the uproar. His was the exact circle she wished to avoid.
“A pleasure, Miss Castle.” He bowed over her hand, which quivered in his grip. A slight flicker of his eyelids betrayed that he noticed her reaction.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Jemima replied, while thinking she could not bear him calling her by that counterfeit name. Glancing about, she was in want of a seat before her trembling knees failed her completely.
“Will you not join us?” he asked pleasantly.
With a sigh, she relaxed as she was in no immediate danger. “With pleasure. Thank you.” Jemima gracefully lifted her skirt and sat down on the garden chair he held for her. She placed her parasol beside her leg and smiled nicely at everyone. She had no idea how long she would get away with it. When she was found out, all hell was going to break lose. At that odious thought, she began to look optimistically on her predicament. It was a good joke to play on him—mixing in society in front of his nose. That thought made her arch her eyebrow and consider her situation some fine fun, provided she had the nerve for it. Of that she was not convinced. Her smile widened. Those who dare win, they say.




About Donna Maree Hanson:

Donna Maree Hanson is a traditionally and independently published author of fantasy, science fiction and horror. She also writes paranormal romance under the pseudonym of Dani Kristoff. Her dark fantasy series (which some reviewers have called “grim dark”), Dragon Wine, was first published by Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan digital imprint) in 2014. Shatterwing: Part One, and Skywatcher: Part Two, are now re-published independently in digital and print-on-demand formats. The next two instalments of Dragon Wine, Deathwings and Bloodstorm, were published in 2017. The final instalments in the Dragon Wine series, Skyfire and Moonfall, were published in 2018.

In April 2015, Donna was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction” for her work in running science fiction conventions, publishing and broader SF community contributions. Donna also writes science fiction romance/space opera, with Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures out with Escape Publishing. Opi Battles the Space Pirates was published independently in 2017. In 2016, Donna commenced her PhD candidature researching feminism in popular romance at the University of Canberra. Also available is her epic fantasy series The Silverlands: Argenterra, Oathbound and Ungiven Land. The Cry Havoc series is a steampunk-themed fantasy, with romantic elements, starting with Ruby Heart and Emerald Fire. It is based in Victorian England and features magicians and a very precocious Jemima Hardcastle. Another book, Amber Rose, is planned in the series.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Interview with Tim Major, author of Machineries of Mercy

Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase has great pleasure in interviewing Tim Major, whose new YA novel, Machineries of Mercy, was our featured new release on October 30, 2018; his next novel, Snakeskin, will be published by Titan Books in 2019.

You describe your new novel, Machineries of Mercy, as “a little like a YA Westworld combined with John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos”. That sounds intriguing – and worrying! Can you expand on this a little?

As much as anything, it was a thrill to reference two of my favourite pieces of fiction from back when I was a teenager myself! But I think the claim holds up. The Westworld aspect is because the teenagers in Machineries of Mercy find themselves in a virtual reality which is designed as a self-contained ecosystem… though it’s a prison as opposed to Westworld’s holiday destination. And it just so happens that the virtual reality simulation is a northern English village, in which many of the residents behave in pretty odd ways, which leads to the Midwich Cuckoos comparison. To be honest, every novel I’ve written has a link to one or more novels by John Wyndham, who was absolutely my favourite SF author when I was growing up. His books are hardwired into my writing brain.

You have had several full-length fiction books published, which you list as You Don’t Belong Here (Snowbooks, 2015), Blighters (Abaddon, 2016) and Carus & Mitch (Omnium Gatherum, 2015), as well as a non-fiction book about the 1915 silent film Les Vampires (Electric Dreamhouse Press, 2018). Have you made a deliberate decision to write stand-alone novels, and if so why?

I tend to read standalone novels as opposed to series, so I suppose that’s a big factor. The same goes for films – I don’t avoid sequels and franchises particularly, but they’re rarely my thing. If I want ongoing narratives, I’m happier with TV series. I like novels that involve a complete arc, a neatness or even circularity both in terms of plot and theme. Something about my novel plotting means that a sequel would rarely be possible. If nothing else, my main characters tend not to be in top shape by the end.

What made you choose to write a YA novel, or was that choice dictated by the plot; and what different challenges did this create in terms of writing?

This comes from the same starting point as the Westworld and Wyndham comparisons. These, along with Doctor Who and H. G. Wells, were my gateway to SF. I was keen to write something in the same vein: a novel that I would have relished discovering when I started out reading SF novels. Also, I have nieces and nephews who sometimes ask about my novels, and there’s a chance their parents might actually let them read this one!

Please could you tell us a bit more about your non-fiction book about the silent film Les Vampires? What impelled you to write about the subject?

When Neil Snowdon, the commissioning editor at Electric Dreamhouse Press, asked if there were any films I might like to write about for his Midnight Movie Monographs series, Les Vampires was my first suggestion. It’s a ten-part silent French film serial from 1915 about a criminal gang that terrorises Paris. And it’s amazing. I’d watched it for the first time about five years ago, watching and rewatching each episode before moving on to the next, and at the time I wished I’d written about my response to it, as I found it electrifying. Being allowed to spend months analysing the film and researching its production (it was filmed in Paris as World War I was being fought just outside the city; lead cast members occasionally disappear when the actors were conscripted to fight on the front lines) was an absolute indulgence. It’s become my favourite film. 

Your next book, an SF thriller about spontaneous clones, Snakeskins, will be published by Titan Books in Spring 2019. What are spontaneous clones, and can you tell us a little more about the book?

Maybe I’m not so good at snappy descriptions as I’d hoped! ‘Spontaneous clones’ was my shorthand for the premise of Snakeskins, in which a group of British people have the inexplicable power to shed their skin every seven years, and in doing so rejuvenate. The only problem is that there’s a by-product: at each shedding they produce a Snakeskin, a duplicate that is sentient and has all their memories, hopes and fears. The Snakeskin might last only for a few seconds, or might last much longer… The novel is about one girl’s difficulty in adjusting to life with her unwanted twin. Oh, and it’s a conspiracy thriller, too. The novel will be my first for Titan, and will be published in May 2019. I’m very excited about it.

You have had short stories published in Interzone and Not One of Us, and numerous anthologies including Best of British Science Fiction and The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow. How does writing short fiction differ from writing novels, and do you think it is easier or harder?

I’ve heard writers talk very sensibly about the differences between short fiction and novels, but I’m afraid I can never articulate the difference very well, in terms of my own writing. From a practical standpoint, short fiction is shorter than a novel (!) and it’s wonderful to fit in writing a few stories between longer projects – not quite as a palate cleanser, but more as a way of offloading ideas that may have been backing up. Short fiction is also a good testing ground for ideas, and often I’ll write a story and realise the concept can be developed far more. In fact, all but one of my novels and novellas began life as short stories. 

As co-editor of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction journal, BFS Horizons, I read a lot of short fiction – but to be honest, my response is still usually more about gut instinct than a set of criteria to be fulfilled. I think that writing a good short story is no easier or harder than writing a novel (time investment aside), but it certainly requires different qualities. 

Your fiction crosses several genres. Do you have a favourite, or is that an impossible question?

My favourite genre is weird SF horror. That’s a cheat answer, but it’s also true! 

Horror or dark fantasy writing seems to be undergoing a renaissance. Is that a correct analysis and is it reflected in bricks and mortar bookshops yet?

I agree. UK weird and horror writers, in particular, are doing incredible work right now. Writers such as Nina Allan, Aliya Whiteley, Naomi Booth and Tade Thompson are producing novels and stories that aren’t particularly bound by genre, but which are centred around strong speculative concepts, and they’re dark and complex and resolutely human. As for bookshops, there are certainly novels that break through to the mainstream but (as has always been the case) buyers and readers that consider themselves uninterested in genre need to be lured in. Or to put it another way, whenever there’s a breakthrough horror novel, people will go out of their way to claim it was a thriller, or literary fiction, all along. People can be daft. 

You mention Westworld, a film that has been remade as a well-reviewed and popular TV series. What is your view of remakes generally, and are they worth pursuing?

I’ve seen the first series of the Westworld TV series, and liked it well enough, though for me it doesn’t recapture the giddy possibilities of the film, instead focusing on plot twists routinely second-guessed by internet critics. Whether it’s a remake is arguable, of course, but I’d definitely agree that the Westworld concept always had plenty of mileage in it and – obviously – I’d love to be allowed to play in that fictional world myself. Almost all remakes, when they’re slavish, are rubbish. We can all name examples of triumphs, but there are countless more that should never have been greenlit. 

 The idea of virtual reality prisons sounds incredibly sinister (to me). What made you choose to write about this topic, and as a young adult novel? 

As well as the novels and films already mentioned, one of the biggest influences on Machineries of Mercy was a 1976 Doctor Who story, ‘The Deadly Assassin’. In the third of four episodes, the Doctor enters a nightmarish virtual-reality world, the Matrix, in order to hunt the Master. In the Matrix the Doctor suffers a series of hallucinations (trapped on train tracks, attacked by a biplane etc) and at one point shouts at the sky “I deny this reality!” I don’t know how old I was when I first saw the story – I was a huge Doctor Who fan when I was growing up, and though ‘my Doctor’ was Sylvester McCoy, I worked my way through every televised story and novel I could get my hands on – but this sequence has stayed with me more than any other. In writing Machineries of Mercy, I wanted to recapture that macabre fascination I experienced on first watching ‘The Deadly Assassin’.

Why do you think so much contemporary science fiction is dystopian or pessimistic? Or was that always the case with writers such as J.G. Ballard or John Wyndham? 

Have you seen the state of the world right now? Being serious, though, I think there’s a world of difference between dystopian fiction and, say, post-apocalyptic fiction – for example, Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, a subgenre which also remains popular. A decade or so ago I read a huge amount of post-apocalyptic novels, and they were comforting. I was stuck in a job I didn’t find fulfilling, and I didn’t feel particularly skilled or useful. The idea of starting afresh in a world wiped clean of bureaucracy and management structures, and with a new imperative to learn practical skills, was very appealing. That doesn’t quite answer your question, though I wonder if dystopias might perform a similar function. Contemporary SF may usefully grapple with real-world horrors like Brexit and Trump, but perhaps there’s also something almost comforting in losing oneself in a different kind of dystopia for a while. I’m not totally convinced by this idea, though. It’s late and I’m quite tired. 

Have you got a current WIP and can you tell us anything about it?

Yes – my second novel for Titan Books will be called Hope Island and is due to be published in May 2020. I’m working on a second draft at the moment, and I’m enjoying myself very much, despite the fact that it’s turning out to be pretty scary and very weird. 

What are you watching on TV at the moment, or reading?

My wife and I are working our way through the Handmaid’s Tale TV series, though were pacing it slowly and interspersing with comedy because each episode feels like a punch in the guts. I’ve finally got around to reading Catriona Ward’s Gothic novel Rawblood, which is wonderful. 

Is there an alternative (or art?) genre cinema, or is it strictly mainstream and emanating from Hollywood?

Absolutely there is! And Hollywood is absolutely not the primary source of interesting genre cinema today. My favourite SF film of the 2010s is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, and my favourite horror Berberian Sound Studio – both UK productions. The VVitch is incredible but is unrelated to anything produced by mainstream Hollywood. Alex Garland’s excellent Annihilation didn’t even reach cinemas. I’ll take low-budget genre films from Film4, Warp and Rook Films over Hollywood action spectaculars any day of the week. Though I’ll concede that Gravity was brilliant.

About Tim Major:

Tim Major’s SF novel, Snakeskins, will be published by Titan Books in 2019, followed by his first short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, published by Luna Press. His recent books include YA novel Machineries of Mercy and a non-fiction book about the silent crime film, Les Vampires. Tim’s short stories have been published in Interzone, Not One of Us and numerous anthologies, including Best British Science Fiction 2017 and Best Horror of the Year #10, edited by Ellen Datlow. He is co-editor of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction journal, BFS Horizons

Friday, December 28, 2018

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for December 28, 2018

It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with yet more best of 2018 lists, Outlander, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Aquaman, Bumblebee, Mortal Engines, Bird Box, The Dead Room and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Best of 2018 lists:

Film and TV:

Comments on Aquaman:

Comments on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:

Comments on Bumblebee:

Comments on Outlander: 

Comments on Bird Box

Comments on The Dead Room:

Comments on Mortal Engines:


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews:


Con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction: 

Odds and ends: