Sunday, March 31, 2019

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for March 2019

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some February books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to, 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, historical fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, hard science fiction, dark science fiction, dystopian fiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, witches, ghosts, werewolves, dragons, galactic empires, space smugglers, asteroid miners, slaves, dying worlds, dead girls, last minute rescues 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:

Holly Cottage by Shelley AdinaHolly Cottage by Shelley Adina:

Buying a cottage is not as easy as you'd think. Especially if you're a man with a past ... in love with a woman with a future.

Maggie Polgarth astonishes everyone at Carrick House when, in a bid for independence, she buys a plot of land and a cottage near Vauxhall Gardens. From one decision, change ripples outward in the flock. Maggie transfers her scientific studies from Munich to London, leaving Lizzie behind. Two of the street sparrows leave the Malverns’ protection to go with her to her new home. And most significant of all, she meets a man who is not only well educated but also kind and handsome.

But the south bank gangs have not forgotten the Lady of Devices. If they cannot touch her, it’s only a matter of time before they take their revenge on someone closer to hand. Jake Fletcher McTavish will risk his own life before he allows anyone to harm a hair on Maggie's head. He’s not afraid of the gangs and he’s a dab hand in a fight. But how can he show Maggie that his feelings run deeper than those of a brother? And how can he protect her when she seems to prefer the company of her new suitor—a man who is everything Jake is not?

If you like old-fashioned adventure, brave women, clever children, and strong-willed chickens, you’ll love this short story set in the Magnificent Devices steampunk world. Fangs for the Fantasy says, “The backbone of this great series is and has always been the characters. Their issues, their layers, their complexity, their solid relationships and their loyalties all elevate a good book to a really great one.”

The Forest of the Hanged by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Forest of the Hanged by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert

According to the laws of the Rhadur, whenever one of their own is killed in one of the cities they have conquered, twelve citizens chosen at random must die in turn. Now the Rhadur governor of Greyvault has been murdered and in retaliation, his successor plans to hang twelve innocent maidens.

One of the women to be hanged is Lysha, the childhood sweetheart of Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin. When Meldom learns of Lysha's fate, he immediately sets out to rescue her, accompanied by his friends Thurvok, the sellsword, and the sorceress Sharenna…

This is a short story of 6500 words or 24 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

Monshine & Murder by Kathleen BrooksMoonshine & Murder by Kathleen Brooks:

Zoey Mathers had everything going for her until one night she lost her biggest client, her job, and her reputation. Leaving her life up to fate, Zoey closed her eyes and pointed. She would serve out her career exile in the small mountain town of Moonshine Hollow where moonshine flowed as freely as a mountain stream.

Giving up the law to become a baker in Moonshine Hollow turned out to be the best thing Zoey had ever done. She was happy and enjoying life in her new small town. But Zoey should have learned the first time . . . one night can change your whole life.

After unknowingly crashing a battle between witches, Zoey accidentally becomes a witch herself. That’s all before Zoey stumbles over a murder victim and the town’s sheriff becomes involved. Now she’s trying to find a murderer, stop two old witches from playing matchmaker, and learning she’s way more than a mere accidental witch.

And that’s all before fate turns up one more sexy hunk of a twist...

Seraphina's Lament by Sarah ChornSeraphina's Lament by Sarah Chorn:

The world is dying.

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake.

First, you must break before you can become.

Vultures by Mike CovilleVultures by Mike Coville:

When games of politics put the lives of deep space miner crews in danger, a coalition of captains organizes a resistance.

The crew of the DSM Boone are still reeling from being the target of a saboteur and the loss of a friend, but Captain Greg Daniels pushes them back out for lasso another asteroid. Will this break their spirit and cause a mutiny?

Computer specialist Zayna Watson doesn’t know who she can trust. Her world is being thrown into a roller-coaster ride of adventure, betrayal, and self-discovery. Will she stand with the one man that has given her all her opportunities, or is the evidence against him shown to her by an underground resistance movement convince her to bring down her mentor?

As a conspiracy is uncovered and alliances are being formed, who will be at the top when the dust settles?

Hello Protocol for Dead Girls by Zen DiPietroHello Protocol for Dead Girls by Zen DiPietro:

Jennika died under suspicious circumstances and her memories were uploaded for investigation. Somehow, they didn't upload her memories alone. They uploaded her consciousness, too.

As she struggles within a perplexing computer network environment to find out how she died, she must also come to grips with the nature of her existence. Her body died, but she sure hasn't. What does it mean to be alive, then?

She wants to talk to her friends and family, but they might not accept her. Before she can even try to reconnect with them, she has to get the people on the outside to recognize that she's a real person, trapped inside technology.

She needs to establish a hello protocol--a way of establishing communication.

This story is like nothing you've read before. It's Altered Carbon meets Gone Girl inside a digital environment. It will challenge you, then thrill you, then leave you wanting more. You'll be on the edge of your seat as you explore this fascinating new technological existence with Jennika.

Wicked Delights by lily Harper HartWicked Delight by Lily Harper Hart:

Ivy Morgan and Jack Harker don’t have many complaints.

Things are good, life is quiet, and the only big thing on their to-do lists is picking a date for their wedding, which is exactly what they’re doing when a local celebutante approaches with an offer for Jack to be on a dating show.

He turns her down flat and goes on his way, but the next morning, she’s found dead and the list of suspects is endless thanks to the production landing smackdab in the middle of Shadow Lake.

Ivy doesn’t like having Hollywood on her doorstep. Jack is even worse, especially when he realizes the producers want Ivy to step in and take the dead heiress’s spot in the limelight. The idea of cameras following Ivy when magical things keep happening around her is enough to paralyze the couple … and then force them to run to avoid the harsh glare of the viewing public.

Jack and Ivy have a lot on their plates. They have to solve a murder, figure out what the witch in the woods is trying to tell them when it comes to the nature of the human soul, and pick a wedding date.

It’s all in a day’s work for Shadow Lake’s favorite couple. If they live to survive the dark force descending on their town, that is. They’ll have to work together to overcome imminent evil … but they’re used to that, of course.

The Ghost Who Says I Do by Bobbi HolmesThe Ghost Who Says I Do by Bobbi Holmes:

A Valentine’s Day Wedding at Marlow House?

Love is in the air—along with secrets—some are deadlier than others.

Will secrets from Clint Marlow’s past come back to haunt Walt and Danielle?
The Well of Time by Robert I. KatzThe Well of Time by Robert I. Katz:

Michael Glover, a military genius of the First Empire awakened from cold sleep after two thousand years, has spearheaded the Second Empire’s efforts against the Imperium.

But once the Imperium is defeated, it becomes apparent that the war is not over.

Second Empire ships are still being hijacked and Second Empire citizens sold into slavery. Spies and saboteurs continue to bore from within.

The Empire has enemies and those enemies are more powerful than the Second Empire can imagine.
Michael Glover and his crew are determined to discover the source of the conspiracy but before they can do so, a fleet of advanced ships, as large and as dangerous as the ships of the Second Empire, pose a new challenge to the Imperial worlds.

As the Empire teeters on the brink, Michael Glover must search for the final clue at the hidden Well of Time.

Lunar Escape by C.P. MacDonaldLunar Escape by C.P. MacDonald:

A mysterious secret society. A corrupt Governor. Can a simple smuggler stop the destruction of the moon?

Captain Calin Aku smuggles contraband and people from the cesspool of Earth to the Moon cities aboard his ship the Sea Rover. He leads and protects his small crew, pulling off heists and diving into adventures.

With a new client, the crew of the Sea Rover find themselves in a battle against a corrupt Governor and allied with a secret society hidden from humanity for a thousand years. Calin has no choice but to take action and to be more than a rogue outlaw. Can he defeat an all-powerful government to save his crew and the citizens of the Moon?

SYNTH #1, edited by C.M. MullerSYNTH #1: An Anthology of Dark SF, edited by C.M. Muller:

SYNTH is a new anthology series of dark SF published quarterly, with each issue containing eight thought-provoking visions of the future . . . tales of utopia and dystopia, of inner and outer space; tales that are bleak, tales that are bold . . .

ISSUE #1 features the dark visions of Dan Stintzi, Steve Toase, Virginie Sélavy, Charles Wilkinson, Farah Rose Smith, Jeffrey Thomas, Christopher K. Miller, and Joanna Koch. It is edited by CM Muller, creator of the award-winning Nightscript anthology series.

If you are a fan of Black Mirror, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Alphaville, and the like, then SYNTH may well be your next literary fix.

Cloaked by Vanessa NelsonCloaked by Vanessa Nelson:

The world itself in peril.

Arrow’s sleep is being disturbed by nightmares that she cannot remember when awake. Her days are spent trying to build her new, simple, life in the human world and helping the shape-changers track down the last conspirators that tried to destroy the Erith.

But the Erith want her help one last time. The Erith heartland needs a new monarch, and the Erith require Arrow’s presence for the selection.

Nothing is that simple, though, and Arrow finds herself dealing with betrayal that could tear the heartland apart. She will need all her skills, and the help of the few people she trusts, to prevent the destruction of the heartland, and the world.

Draft of Dragons by T.S. PaulDraft of Dragons by T.S. Paul:

Suspended for political reasons Agatha and her team have returned to her home to rest and recuperate. But still another war looms on the horizon. The Draconic Empire is making it's move towards earth. They've worked behind the scenes to disrupt any and all that stand before them. But Agatha is still alive and she and the Blackmore Coven are prepared. Whatever comes through the Garden Gate will trigger a war. Is America and Earth ready for it?

Malarat by Jessica RydillMalarat by Jessica Rydill:

The Duc de Malarat wants to conquer the Kingdom of Lefranu. In his army ride the ruthless and fanatical Domini Canes, warrior monks of the Inquisition who have forged a secret weapon to cripple the power of the shamans.

But when Malarat’s eldest son challenges a stranger to a duel, he sets in motion a terrifying train of events. For the stranger is Malchik Vasilyevich, now a man; and his sister Annat stands with her allies and the Railway People as a fully-trained shaman, prepared to defend the city of Yonar from Malarat’s army.

But Malchik and Annat will face foes much worse than the Duc de Malarat, even as the struggle that began in Lefranu spreads to the spirit world and beyond.

Wolf at the Door by Hollis ShilohWolf at the Door by Hollis Shiloh:

Devin has a lot to prove.

Rickey is just here for the free food.

Devin's here to get a wolf shifter as a partner. The short, loud redhead intends to be the best cop in his class and doesn't care if he gets on everyone's nerves in the process. He loves fancy sports cars and has a competitive nature.

Rickey likes the van life and living by his own terms. But times have been tight for the wolf shifter lately, and signing up for this course seems like an easy way to keep the wolf from the door. All the free food he can eat, if he sits through some classes. What could go wrong?

The two guys have chemistry, despite being so different. They could be friends at least, maybe partners. But there's an underlying sexual chemistry that's getting harder and harder to ignore...

Trapped on Vkani by Aurora SpringerTrapped on Vkani by Aurora Springer:

Marooned on a desolate planet, joining forces with the enemy is their only hope.

Maya Pandita spent years preparing for an expedition to the Deadlands. But her dreams of unearthing ancient artifacts are shattered when her shuttle is buried by a violent sandstorm, and her team is abducted by the scaled inhabitants of the planet. Maya and her companions must try to outwit their blue captor and call for help before they die in the toxic atmosphere.

Sa Vittaran has a problem in his claws. Along with treasures from the ruins, he has retrieved three smooth-skinned foreigners. He cannot leave them to die in the desert. Yet the puny creatures have little value as workers, except perhaps for the impudent woman who claims to be their leader. Her knowledge of the ancient script will be an asset if she can survive the long trek to his house.

An attack by marauders forces Maya and the Blue leader into a wary alliance. They must work together to thwart the bandits and reunite their company. Can Maya convince Sa Vittaran to help her team? If she fails, they are doomed to a short unpleasant life on the desolate, war-torn planet.

Shield of Terra by Glynn StewartShield of Terra by Glynn Stewart:

The mother, ruler of an entire world
Sent to the heart of an old enemy to build a new peace
The daughter, officer of a deadly warship
Sent to the darkness to find the new enemy hunting them all

A dozen inhabited worlds of the Kanzi Theocracy and the A!Tol Imperium are ash. Millions of sentients of a dozen species are dead, including humans from the brand-new colonies built under the Imperium’s watch. Despite the losses, the strange Taljzi fanatics have been defeated—but everything suggests that more will be coming.

The Empress of the A!Tol has resolved that the cold war between A!Tol and Kanzi must end. She sends Duchess Annette Bond to the heart of the Kanzi Theocracy to negotiate a new alliance.

Elsewhere, Bond’s stepdaughter Morgan Casimir and the battleship Bellerophon are sent into the darkness beyond known space to see what they can learn about the Taljzi.

As they uncover old secrets of new enemies and new secrets of old enemies the fate of humanity and five dozen other races hangs on the actions of mother and daughter alike!

Smuggler by J.A. SutherlandSmuggler by J.A. Sutherland:

There are 'nice' jobs that come my way, and there are profitable jobs that come my way. Now, these things do, on occasion, come along inside each other's orbits - but it's more of a cometary sort of thing, if you take my meaning.

Avrel Dansby is troubled.

He knew, going in, that the life of a smuggler would be filled with disreputable sorts - still, he'd like to imagine there are some jobs out there he can stomach without the desire nuke his client from orbit.

Rules of Redemption by T.A. WhiteRules of Redemption by T.A. White:

The war everyone thought was over is just beginning.

Kira Forrest is a survivor. She’s risen above the pain of her beginnings to become a war hero only to leave it all behind in the pursuit of a simple life. Now a salvager, she makes a living sifting through the wreckage of dead alien ships from a war that nearly brought humanity to its knees.

After her ship takes damage, she’s forced to re-route to a space station where her past and present collide with dangerous consequences.

Kira’s existence holds the key to a faltering peace treaty with the Tuann—a technologically advanced alien race who dislikes and distrusts all humans. Winning her freedom should be easy, but a powerful and relentless Tuann warrior stands in her way. Deceiving him seems impossible, especially when he strays dangerously close to secrets she struggles to hide.

Can Kira reconcile the pain of her past with the possibilities of her future? The fate of two races depends on her success.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for March 29, 2019

It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Star Trek Discovery, The Orville, Captain Marvel, Shazam!, What We Do in the Shadows, Love, Death + Robots, season 2 of American Gods, The OA, Us, Dumbo, tributes to Larry Cohen, The Matrix at twenty, Alien as a high school play and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Film and TV:

Comments on Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek in general (spoilers):

Comments on The Orville:

Comments on Captain Marvel (potential spoilers): 

Comments on Shazam!

Comments in What We Do in the Shadows:

Comments on season 2 of American Gods

Comments on Love, Death + Robots:

Comments on The OA:

Comments on Us

Comments on the live-action Dumbo:

The Matrix at twenty: 


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews:


Con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Forest of the Hanged (Thurvok, Book 4) by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert

Release date: March 6, 2019
Subgenre: Sword and Sorcery

About The Forest of the Hanged:


According to the laws of the Rhadur, whenever one of their own is killed in one of the cities they have conquered, twelve citizens chosen at random must die in turn. Now the Rhadur governor of Greyvault has been murdered and in retaliation, his successor plans to hang twelve innocent maidens.

One of the women to be hanged is Lysha, the childhood sweetheart of Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin. When Meldom learns of Lysha's fate, he immediately sets out to rescue her, accompanied by his friends Thurvok, the sellsword, and the sorceress Sharenna…

This is a short story of 6500 words or 24 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.




The trouble started, as it sometimes did, with a message. It was delivered to Meldom, cutpurse, thief and occasional assassin, at the breakfast table at the Long Drop Tavern, though Thurvok the sellsword had no idea how the messenger had even found his friend and companion here. After all, very few people were supposed to know where they were staying. It was simply safer that way.
While Thurvok nibbled on a joint of ham, Meldom broke the wax seal — plain candle wax and not proper sealing wax — with his dagger and read. His expression darkened.
“Business?” Thurvok asked between two bites.
Meldom shook his head. “No, private.” The dagger was still in his hand, clutched so hard that Meldom’s already pale skin become even paler.
At this moment, Thurvok’s other travelling companion, Sharenna, the flame-haired sorceress, appeared, carrying a jug of milk, a basket of fresh bread and a chunk of cheese. She set down her burden on the table, flashed Thurvok a private smile and settled down on the chair opposite the two men.
Sharenna filled up her cup with milk and helped herself to some bread and cheese. It was only now that she noticed that the normally chatty Meldom was uncharacteristically quiet. For once, he wasn’t plotting grandiose plans for making ridiculous amounts of money. Nor was he making pointed remarks about sleeping arrangements.
Of course, eating normally shut Meldom up, but then he wasn’t eating either. He was just staring at that letter and clutching his dagger, clutching it so hard Thurvok briefly worried that the hilt would shatter.
“What’s wrong?” Sharenna asked.
Meldom looked up, his grey eyes troubled. “Nothing. Just a message from an old friend. I’ll have to leave for a while, though. I have business in Greyvault.”
“I thought you said you couldn’t go back to Greyvault, because you’re wanted for something or other there,” Thurvok pointed out, still gnawing on his joint of ham.
“Well, in theory I can’t go back,” Meldom snapped, “But in practice, I’ll just have to risk it and hope that the constabulary doesn’t catch me.”
In response, Thurvok laid down the joint of ham or rather what was left of it. “We’ll come with you then.”
“It’s private business,” Meldom replied.
“We’ll still come with you,” Sharenna said, her voice softer than usual, “After all, we’re friends. And friends help each other when they’re in trouble.”
“How do you even know I’m in trouble?” Meldom snapped, “Are you using your magic to read my mind or what?”
Sharenna sighed. “For the last time, I can’t read minds. Not that I need to, considering you’re making a face like soured milk.”
Meldom finally put the letter down, though he still clutched the dagger in his hand. “Yeah, I’m sorry. It’s just…”
“Bad news?” Thurvok suggested.
Meldom nodded. “Very bad. An old… friend of mine is in trouble. The sort of trouble that tends to leave you swinging on the end of a rope.”
Thurvok patted his friend on the shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“You want to help your friend, don’t you?” Sharenna asked.
“If I can.” Meldom replied. “I have to try, at any rate. I owe her my life, after all.”
Across the table, Thurvok and Sharenna exchanged a look. For though Meldom talked a lot, he rarely spoke about his life before he became a wandering mercenary, selling his skills to whoever was willing to pay him. Still, whatever was behind this message had left Meldom rattled, more rattled than Thurvok had ever seen him.
“Then it’s settled.” Thurvok rose to his feet. “We’ll go to Greyvault and save this friend of yours.”
Meldom shot him a warning look. “It’s going to be dangerous.”
Thurvok sighed. “Isn’t it always?”


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About Richard Blakemore:

Richard Blakemore (1900 – 1994) was a prolific writer of pulp fiction. Nowadays, he is best remembered for creating the Silencer, a masked vigilante in the vein of the Shadow or the Spider, during the hero pulp boom of the 1930s. But Richard Blakemore also wrote in many other genres, including an early sword and sorcery series about the adventures of a sellsword named Thurvok and his companions.
Richard Blakemore's private life was almost as exciting as his fiction. He was a veteran of World War I and II as well as a skilled sportsman and adventurer who travelled the world during the 1920s. He may also have been the person behind the mask of the real life Silencer who prowled New York City between 1933 and 1942, fighting crime, protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty, though nothing has ever been proven.

Richard Blakemore was married for more than fifty years to Constance Allen Blakemore and the couple had four children.


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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 

Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres.

When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher. She also runs the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene and contributes to the Hugo-nominated fanzine Galactic Journey.


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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Interview with Carole McDonnell, author of The Constant Tower

Today on the Speculative Fiction Showcase it gives us great pleasure to interview Carole McDonnell, author of The Constant Tower. 

You are a prolific writer in several genres - fiction, non-fiction and poetry, to name but a few. Do you have a favourite genre, and is it helpful to write about different things at different times?
My favorite genre is probably time travel. That encompasses so much, doesn’t it? Speculation, science fiction (if the time travel was done by scientific means), fantasy if the mechanics of the time travel is unexplainable or merely caused by some spiritual power or human wishing. It is often a puzzle too and I like puzzles. It is the genre of regret, a woulda-shoulda-might-ve genre. And the time disorientation, time loops, and puzzling out the exact key to a better outcome of life is fun to watch. That’s the genre I love to watch. I’ve written some time-travel stories. Those are in my anthology, Turn Back O Time. The genres I love to read are non-fiction and poetry. I avoid science fiction because I don’t know enough about any particular hard science to write convincingly or intelligently about them. I like writing fantasy, however, because of the worldbuilding, the folklore and the culture of those worlds. I can create these worlds and live in them and not have to worry about science.

Tell us about your writing process, and your writing day. Do you prefer to work on one project at a time, or to move between books?
I work on several books at the same time. Sometimes one feels like editing, sometimes one feels like writing, sometimes one is blocked on a particular book, and sometimes one wakes up with the scenes of a particular work-in-progress in one’s mind.

Does your interest in poetry infuse your writing to a certain extent?
Oh yes, definitely! I was a poetry nut as a kid and still am. Mostly English and Irish poetry from all eras, and Chinese poetry.

You have contributed to a number of anthologies. How does that experience  differ from writing a novel or series of your own?
Writing to a theme is either very easy if you know what the editor wants , but it is also very challenging because if you don’t usually write steamfunk or dieselfunk, for instance, then you have to really think about it. Also, they are short stories, at the most novellas. When I create worlds, I tend to really get into everything about that world so the readers have an idea of that world. But this can lead to stories that are really novels or to stories that are too complicated and confusing and which feel incomplete. So I have to learn how to measure the story.

Tell us about your stand-alone novels. Two of them, Wind Follower and The Constant Tower, are fantasy novels. The most recent stand-alone, My Life as an Onion, described as African-American Christian Fiction, is closer to literary fiction. Can you talk about the differences between the books, and what prompted you to write about such a different theme?
Yes, I generally write about other worlds and other cultures. Wind Follower is about imperialism and is very infused with Christianity. The Constant Tower doesn’t seem religious at all but if someone knows the Bible she will see that the book is full of Bible verses. With My Life as an Onion, I wanted to write a story about real life as I have experienced it. Real life is full of the surreal, especially for a little Christian kid raised in Jamaica. I’ve always loved magical realism and, having experienced some odd events in life, I wanted to put them in a kind of fictional memoir. I also love Korean dramas and I wanted to write a reverse harem new adult for dark-skinned women. When I say “reverse harem,” I’m talking about the Asian variety where a girl has several men around her who may like her but she has to choose one. Not the American version which is often overtly sexual. I was raised by my Methodist Minister grandfather and his sister who was a former Catholic nun. To the best of my ability, I wanted to write a story about a Pentecostal Black girl who has to discover what part of her Christian culture she will keep and what part she will toss.  Most Christian fiction often feel unreal and preachy and there is a kind of distance between it and non-Christian readers. And most Christian romance avoid interracial relationships and supernatural events.

In the Editorial Review for My Life as an Onion, you mention your interest in Korean dramas. Can you tell us about these and what is particularly good about them?
Korean dramas use a different kind of storytelling than American dramas. The muism – Korean folk religion-- of Korean culture touches the dramas. Everything is interconnected, interwoven, and aims for harmony and redemption. For westerners, the coincidences might seem like easy plotting but for Koreans, those coincidences are the universe working out some issue to produce harmony. Also, Korean TV is concerned with stories with a beginning and an end (usually a happy or redemptive ending) but American TV is primarily character-based where there are the same characters in sit-coms for years. Korean TV trusts its viewers – mostly older women-- to have the patience and intelligence to enter any world the writer might create and to wait to see how the story goes. Each channel has stories and each story is about 16 episodes. This means a lot of stories throughout the year, stories that are truer to the meaning of “story” and purer to some extent than western TV where the characters, settings, themes are already established because the western shows are so long-standing.

What do you do when you are between writing projects, and how do you like to relax?
I go to my English Country Dance, I go for walks, I design fabrics, I listen to music.

You have written about several different fantasy universes. One series concerns Malku and the Faes. What is distinctive about this world, and the characters who inhabit it?
In all my stories, I am fascinated by culture, races, and how everyone works together. In the Malku universe, there are standard humans, merfolk, fae, and the children of such unions. In some regions everyone gets along, in others not so much.

The blurb to The Charcoal Bride, the first book in the series - a collection of three short novels - describes it as chronicling “the rise to power of Hanrisor’s King Skall and the family curse –called ‘The Hanrisor Legacy’--that troubled him and his descendants”. What is the importance of the curse, without giving too much away, and how does it affect Skall and his adventures?
It’s a vengeance curse. There is the old Biblical idea of a generational curse. Deuteronomy 27 and 28, and the ten commandments for instance are about curses. For instance, Abraham lied to Pharoah about his wife, Isaac lied to another king about his wife, Jacob lied to his father, Jacob gets lied to by his wife’s father, Jacob ends up being lied to by his son Reuben.  Or King David committed adultery and killed the husband of his co-adulterer, and ends up causing bloodshed in his own family where his son rapes his daughter, and another son ends up raping David’s concubines. It also occurs in Greek literature. Everyone in Laius’ family had some sexual issue – falling in love with a bull, marrying one’s mother, etc—because an ancestor raped a young boy. In my story, Hanrisor is a kingdom where the king’s family is under a curse. Prince Arvid’s biological father was murdered by a king who loved Arvid’s mother. Arvid makes a vow to the God of wrath to kill the king. However, he doesn’t kill the king because he loves his mother and half-brother.  He has broken the vow he made to a god. This curse of wrath between the son and father goes on through the generations until it works itself out.

The Fae themselves play an important role in this and other stories. They are not exactly benign as an influence - is that a fair summation?
The faes are indifferent to everything for the most part. They are otherworldly and powerful. They tend to live and let live unless they are bothered. Malku has encountered several disasters because humans dared to war against the fae. In The Charcoal Bride, we hear about such a war and we discover why Skall becomes king.

Tell us about the second book in the series, SeaWalker...
In The Charcoal Bride, we are mostly concerned with Skall. SeaWalker is about his best friend, a child who was once disabled whom the fae raised. Skall has arrived in Hanrisor as king now and he and the SeaWalker, who is named Nohay, go on a road trip throughout Hanrisor to learn about the culture and to see what damage the war with the fae has done. Of course there are resentments and would-be murderers.

The Nephilim Dystopia Series has two books to date: The Daughters of Men and The Chimeran Queen. What aspect of the stories is dystopian?
In this world, there are different kinds of humans. There are standard humans. There are chimeric humans who look more or less human who have had their genetics manipulated by scientists. There are the prototypes who cannot die but who continually age. There are the Nephilim. The Chimeran Queen is Medusa. She is quite hideous and worms continually come from under her flesh. She has been raised and trained by the Nephilim and in book two has now been given the rule of Otaura. The Chimerans have different categories which include equine chimera, bovine chimera, avian chimera, etc.  Some are ashamed of their genetics, others proud. They are supposed to be living on a terraformed planet but some hide their genetics and continue to live on earth. Most of these groups hate, envy, or curse others in other groups.

What is the significance of the Nephilim in this world?
The Nephilim are beautiful, powerful, telepathic. Some are more human than others because of continued intermarriage. Others, like Prince Woden and Duke Siddhart, have had only one human female ancestor. Nephilim who are human-demon hybrids who rule the world because of some great disaster because their spirit fathers revolted against God.

The protagonist, Ellie, who is human, finds herself torn between two different men, and also the subject of a prophecy. How does this conflict affect her and her world?
Some humans want to be free from the power of the Nephilim, others are fine with it. The Nephilim think they are doing good in the world because they helped earth recover from the great disaster. But although the Nephilim love women, they disdain human evil and there is that nasty pesky human sacrifice every year so one could question how much they truly like humans. The Nephilim are also looking for a savior. As in the supposed Book of Enoch, they are constantly seeking God’s forgiveness. After all, they may be monsters in God’s eyes but they didn’t ask to be born.  

What are you working on at the moment? And what are your plans?
I’m writing the first draft of Chimeran Queen, editing SeaWalker, and working on a nonfiction Christian book.

The influence of the Bible is inescapable, whether one is Christian, Jewish, or simply English-speaking. It informs so much of our discourse, and writers who disagree with it, like Phillip Pullman, are nonetheless deeply influenced by its language. What are your thoughts about this?
I’m not sure if one can really say that writers disagree with the entire Bible. There are many books in it. There is Ecclesiastes, for instance. I really can’t see any atheist writer disagreeing with it. The thing is many cultures have a holy book. It is part of human folkloric culture to speak of a lost book and a need for a sacrificed savior. Job, the oldest book in the Bible, speaks of desiring a book and looking for a savior who could put one hand on God and the other hand on a human. So culturally the Bible is the western version. Ashok Banker is an Indian writer who acknowledges and honors his culture’s religious stories, and Bryan Thao Worra is a Laotian poet who honors his culture’s mythos. Whether one is religious or not, cultural landmarks should be acknowledged and honored during our time. I’ll just say that for me, the language of the Bible and all those tragic princes one finds in it has affected my writing, and its philosophy and concept of the nature of man has definitely been the lens through which I see the world. And thank you so much for interviewing me.

About Carole McDonnell:

Carole McDonnell is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including Griots, edited by Milton Davis and published by MV Media, Steamfunk, edited by Milton Davis and published by MV Media,  So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; Jigsaw Nation, published by Spyre Books; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others.
Her reviews appear at various online sites.
Her story collections are Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction by Carole McDonnell and Turn Back O Time and other stories of the fae of Malku.
There are also stand-alone novels: Wind Follower, My Life as an Onion, The Constant Tower
Her novels also include books in the following series:

The Nephilim Dystopia Series: The Daughters of Men, The Chimeran Queen
And Novels of the Malku Universe: The Charcoal Bride, SeaWalker

She lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their pets. When not writing, she teaches English as a Second Language to refugees and migrants or can be found dancing English Country Dances.