Monday, February 28, 2022

Masks and Magic 2022 - A Round-up of Indie Mardi Gras Speculative Fiction


Masks and Magic banner
Our monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite Mardi Gras speculative fiction by indie authors.

These Mardi Gras stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have a lot of urban fantasy, horror and paranormal mysteries, but also historical fantasy, dark fantasy, religious fantasy, fairy tales, post-apocalyptic fiction, science fiction, time travel, angels, demons, Lucifer himself, dragons, ghosts, ghost whisperers, vampires, werewolves, witches, monsters, zombies, voodoo, ancient legends, family curses, cursed doubloons, human sacrifices, voodoo gods, kidnapped nuns, evil twin sisters, space cruises, precognition and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They're all set on or around Mardi Gras.

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:

Southern Monsters by Cora BuhlertSouthern Monsters by Cora Buhlert

Three tales of monsters and terror in the Louisiana bayous.

When a young bride goes missing on her wedding day in Acadiana, the locals blame the Terror, the legendary monster that stalks the Crimson Bayou.
Remy Theriault does not believe in the Terror and he's pretty sure the bride has done a runner. But the groom is his cousin and family is family. So Remy goes out to look for the runaway bride, only to find that sometimes, the old legends are true…

When their car crashes into the bayou on a dark Louisiana night, the swamp creature known only as Big Puffball might just be one family's salvation…

When fishing boats go missing on the Mississippi River Delta, few people link these disappearances to the mysterious light that lit up the Louisiana sky only weeks before. But an astronomer from Tulane University makes the connection and discovers the horror that is the sphere that ate the Mississippi delta.

This is a collection of three short horror stories of 7700 words or approximately 27 print pages altogether.

Krewe of Souls by Elaine CallowayKrewe of Souls by Elaine Calloway:

Mardi Gras, Mayhem, and Murder...

Tristan Pleasance is a ghost whisperer extraordinaire, but talking to his living father is another story. Family conflict prompts Tristan to bolt from his lifelong home in St. Francisville, Louisiana, to make a new life in New Orleans. But six months later, a family tragedy forces him to return home and he is thrust into a murder investigation where his past and future will collide.

Grace Lansing is a New Orleans columnist who yearns to write feature articles rather than puff pieces. To prove herself to her editor, she travels to the quaint town of St. Francisville to research their big Mardi Gras Krewe competition. But what seems an innocent cultural practice quickly turns into a web of intrigue—and getting too close to the handsome Tristan puts her in danger of becoming collateral damage.

Together, Tristan and Grace must find out who is responsible for the murders—before the Krewe of Souls is trapped forever.

Mardi Gras Maiden by Michael Dreysher Sr.Mardi Gras Maiden by Michael Dreysher Sr.

New Orleans 1854: A young woman, driven by curiosity sneaks into a brothel and stumbles into a Mardi Gras masquerade. She discovers that the ball is in reality an erotic ritual paying homage to Lucifer, the Great Prince of Evil and she is the guest of honor. The Archangel Gabriel sends four warriors from a dying world to rescue her but they arrive too late; the cult has slaughtered the girl, offering her as a sacrifice to Lucifer.

Rural Pennsylvania 1954: The same cult takes control of an entire town when their High Priestess seduces the land baron who owns it. They engineer a series of extramarital affairs among the residents which culminates in ritual debauchery. Gabriel has his avengers return to Earth with orders to wipe out the cult but Heaven has a dark side. A rogue spirit with an agenda of its own plans to kill these out-world warriors and the archangel's champions find themselves defenseless in the center of a titanic struggle between two opposing forces from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Carnival in Sorgenbach by Raymund EichCarnival in Sorgenbach by Raymund Eich:

Hans returned from the Great War, haunted. Not only by the horrors of the trenches, but haunted by visions of a more terrifying war to come. Would the parties and parades of Carnival 1919 offer him love and hope? Or doom him and his country to the devastation he foresaw?

Trapt by Rene FolsomTrapt by Rene Folsom:

Mardi Gras is coming, and no one is more excited than Jolie—The Big Easy’s resident good witch. Amidst the festivities, darkness creeps under the blissful veil of love she is entangled with. Her twin sister, the evil witch Melanie, is out to destroy Jolie before her powers can usurp her own, willing to stop at nothing to do so. Jolie, aided by Asher and his seven-man wolf pack, are set to keep New Orleans safe from Melanie’s sorcery, or die trying.

Enjoy the story of Jolie and Asher, a modern-day retelling of the classic tale Snow White.

Death Dealer by Graylin FoxDeath Dealer by Graylin Fox:

My name is Cimmerian. I’m a dragon shifter living in New Orleans. Someone is screwing up my pre-Mardi Gras plans by leaving mutilated human bodies all over town. I have to find out whether or not a demon is behind this. If so, are they building a human to animate with demon magic? If not, we have a human serial killer just in time for the town to flood with tourists.

Things were so much quieter on vacation.

Damn, I’m glad to be back at work.

Dead Velvet Cheesecake by A. GardnerDead Velvet Cheesecake by A. Gardner:

A hotel billionaire is dead, and Ember Greene is the prime suspect.

Misty Key's annual Mardi Gras celebrations are approaching, and the Lunar Bakery is busier than ever cranking out beignets and King cakes. Ember is tasked with juggling her responsibilities at the family bakery with her newfound psychic duties which includes pet sitting a witch's familiar named Whiskers.

But beads and baked goods fly when a body is found at the Crystal Grande Hotel, and a slice of the bakery's red velvet cheesecake is to blame.

With an influx of tourists and religious protestors crowding the streets, Ember struggles to find the killer and clear her family name. After a parade float explodes, she discovers that the murderer has some unfinished business. Enlisting the help of her bloodhound Yogi, a pessimistic medium, and a troubled pet psychic leads her to one conclusion.

She's been framed for murder.

Can Ember figure out who framed her before her family's legacy is destroyed?

Mardi Gras Zombies by Bart GnarlyMardi Gras Zombies by Bart Gnarly:

Seven college friends who attend the University of Connecticut (UCONN) together take a road trip down to New Orleans, Louisiana in order to have a good time during the Mardi Gras celebration. Mark, Nikki, Laura, Destiny, JT, Abe, and Steve are staying in a luxury hotel right on Bourbon St to party their brains out and to get away from the cold weather for a few days of fun and debauchery. Their only goals for this escapade are sex and drinking lots of alcohol, while listening to Rock and Roll, Blues, and Jazz at various bars. Partying in the French Quarter as a group will just be a bonus. The guys and especially Mark want to see as many boobs as possible. Unfortunately for them a zombie apocalypse happens during the midst of the Fat Tuesday celebrations. An amazing and relaxing adventure turns into a desperate fight for their survival. Which of them will live to go home again?

The Hexorcist by Lily Harper HartThe Hexorcist by Lily Harper Hart

Ofelia Archer has a full life … which only gets fuller when a dead body lands in her backyard.

As owner of New Orleans’ premier supernatural speakeasy, Ofelia is always in the thick of things when the witch hits the fan. That’s no exception now … even when the local police start breathing down her neck.

Zach Sully has a colorful background. As a panther shifter, he keeps his true origins secret while walking the colorful streets of the French Quarter keeping law and order. A tourist murder draws him into new and uncharted territory, and a feisty witch is at the center of it.

Sully and Ofelia circle one another … warily … as they both try to solve a mystery that revolves around an outsider who somehow had ties to their little corner of the world. Eventually, they’re going to have to join forces … and it’s not exactly a comfortable meeting of the minds.

Chemistry is one thing. Trust is another. Ofelia and Sully will be forced to get over their inner misgivings and unite if they want to solve the crime … and stay alive in the process.

Welcome to a magical world, where the characters are colorful, the magic is fantastical, and the drinks are poured strong.

It’s Bourbon Street, baby, and you’ll never be the same again.

Creole Moon: Book of Roots by S.T. HolmesCreole Moon: Book of Roots by S.T. Holmes:

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the perfect locale for a treasure hunt. When it coincides in the year of the Luperci festival, the magic world is turned upside down, and the feast of forgiveness turns into a fight of wickedness. This Mardi Gras festival is like non ever seen before or will ever see in the future.

Experience sibling rivalry at its finest as two sisters square off against each other for control of the book of roots. Unite with our hero, George Genois, as he is drawn deeper into the realm of magic and the forces of good and evil. If he thought his adventures with Mamuska and Ophelia were harsh before, then he is in for an even wilder time with these sisters. Each sister wants him as an ally, but George is interested in righting a wrong done only to him. Does George get his revenge?

A Rose at Midnight by Sylvie KurtzA Rose at Midnight by Sylvie Kurtz:

He abandoned her to save her life. Now he must convince her he still loves her before the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras . . . or condemn her to her death.

Nine years ago, Christiane Lawrence fell hard for a mysterious young music student. Even after he left her without a goodbye, the memory of Daniel Moreau haunts Christi every day when she looks at their daughter's face.

Whenever Christi asked about her mother's family, she was warned to stay away from the birthplace her mother fled. Now, grieving her parents' death in a car accident, an invitation from Gabriel Langelier, a cousin she'd never met arrives, promising answers. This is her chance to give her daughter a taste of the family roots she never had.

What Christiane doesn't know is that her mother's warning sprang from real fear. Gabriel is obsessed with the legend of Rose Latulippe. He's sure only someone from Christiane's bloodline can fulfill his quest for eternal life. He must have her heart at midnight on Mardi Gras.

To save the woman he loved, Daniel made a bargain with the devil and abandoned her without explanation. And now she's back in the middle of danger, bringing their daughter with her.

To have a second chance and earn Christiane's forgiveness, Daniel has to convince Christi he still loves her before the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras . . . or send her to her death.

Voodoo Dreams by Alana LorensVoodoo Dreams by Alana Lorens:

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can't wait to get out of Pittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious--but handsome--lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He'd much rather devote himself to her--especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to threaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle's clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

Battlefield Z: Mardi Gras Zombies by Chris LowryBattlefield Z: Mardi Gras Zombies by Chris Lowry:

He found them!

Two of his three children are alive and now that he's found them he won't let them out of his sight.

It's time to find his youngest daughter.

The last he knew she was heading to a refugee camp with her Mom and step-dad. He's got a map of the camps back at Fort Jasper waiting.

All he has to do is keep his kids safe as they search for answers and a trip back to Alabama. The safest route floats them down the river. It keeps the Z at bay, but delivers them straight into a fortress that feels like paradise.

He has a choice. Hide behind the walls with two thirds of his heart and let the world burn or take a chance and continue the hunt.

An easy job if it weren't for all the damn zombies.

The Outer-Universe Cruise Ship Mardi GrasThe Outer-Universe Cruise Ship Mardi Gras by E. Miguel:

Space, there is a lot of it. Like really, a lot. As much space as there is though, it also happens to be very crowded. It is for this exact reason the Outer-Universe Cruise Ship Mardis Gras was created. While other cruises throughout the universe offer excitement and adventure, the Mardis Gras offers the mundane for those vacationers that are allergic to such excitement and adventure. The ship’s only constant inconstant is a Mardis Gras party held every other day.

Unfortunately for two passengers on the ship, this week’s cruise offers more than they signed up for. Escape pods, a slumbering Old God, and a Voodoo priestess robot all happen to show up on the unplanned itinerary this week.

Nocturne by Irene Preston and Liv RancourtNocturne by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt

It's Mardi Gras, cher, but this year le bon temps kick off with murder…

For generations, the White Monks have treated the vampire Thaddeus Dupont as a weapon in their battle against demons. However, when a prominent matron drops dead at a party, Thaddeus and his lover Sarasija are asked to find her killer. Their investigation leads them to an old southern family with connections everywhere: Louisiana politics, big business, the Church, and an organization just as secret as the White Monks.

Meanwhile, an esoteric text containing spells for demon-summoning has disappeared, Thaddeus is losing control of le monstre, and Sara is troubled by disturbing dreams. These nightmares could be a side-effect of dating a vampire, or they could be a remnant of his brush with evil. As the nights wear on, Sara fears they are a manifestation of something darker – a secret that could destroy his relationship with Thaddeus.

Krewe of Hecate by Sim ShattuckKrewe of Hecate by Sim Shattuck:

A group of Mardi Gras wizards descend to the Underworld and capture the goddess Hecate so that they can display her during Carnival. But they didn't understand that having the goddess of the Uncanny upon the face of the Earth would do to three unlucky New Orleans residents.

Burgundy Doubloons by T.J. Spencer JacquesBurgundy Doubloons by T.J. Spencer Jacques:

You caught a doubloon at a Mardi Gras Parade - that was a bad thing.

Trent McGowan is going home. Home to his ailing mother. Home to the city of his childhood. Home to New Orleans. As Trent deals with the peculiar circumstances surrounding his mother’s illness, his family gets swept up in the excitement of Mardi Gras and all of the festivities of that intoxicating day. The jubilant crowds, breathtaking carnival floats, and oh yes, the throws! His youngest daughter Zoe catches one of those throws, a sparkling red doubloon, and that is where the story ends and begins.
Burgundy Doubloons is more than just a suspense thriller, it is everything that makes New Orleans the party capital of the world: only bloodier and darker.

For those who love a parade, Burgundy Doubloon answers a terrifying question: What if your child simultaneously caught a bead, and a murderous spirit? In this heart-palpating novel, you will meet the entire McGowan family, and the people determined to destroy them.

Finally, a paranormal thriller that takes place in New Orleans – as told by a native son who knows where the bodies are buried.

Poison and Wine by C.H. Valentino and Eldon HughesPoison and Wine by C.H. Valentino and Eldon Hughes:

Welcome to the Crescent City

Danni Toussaint has a nail in her chest as a mark of her debt to The Baron Samedi - a debt she can only repay with the souls he forces her to steal.

Michael Belew is desperate. Someone is kidnapping nuns in the Ninth Ward where he was raised an orphan, and he suspects a powerful enemy armed with voodoo magic.

When Michael asks for Danni’s help to find the kidnapper - or killer - they become pawns in a vicious game between The Baron Samedi and his brother, Lacroix.

The prize? Control of the most powerful source of magic in New Orleans.

Now, to protect the people of his city and save Danni from Samedi, Michael may have to sacrifice his soul.

Mardi Gras by Diane WordsworthMardi Gras by Diane Wordsworth:

As usual, brother and sister team Toni & Bart are off into history to solve a mystery. However, this time there's something wrong. This time, they land in the wrong place at the wrong time. This doesn't stop them from enjoying Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but they do have to work out how to get back.

Razor Valentine by Roland YeomansRazor Valentine by Roland Yeomans:


In 1947 New Orleans THREE KINGS DAY marks the start of the official Carnival Season. Carnival, coming from the Latin words, carne vale, meaning "farewell to the flesh."

Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte, Our Lady of Holy Death, is stalking the French Quarter streets killing apparently at random. What does the psychotic actress, Irene Dupré, know of this entity and what lies behind the murders? She remains silent, only smiling. Santa Muerte’s strange acolyte lurks in the shadows watching, waiting. Waiting for what?

Frank Capra is filming a historical fantasy in the city with Jimmy Stewart, Cesar Romero, and the enigmatic Irene Dupré. Former O.S.S. operative, now the film’s Prop Master, Lucas, finds himself in the middle of the mystery with more questions than answers.

His lost love back from the dead, Ingrid Durtz, and his best friend, Mitchell Mack, are at a loss on how to stay alive, much less catch a supernatural killer.

Then, there is Lucas’ former O.S.S. team mate, Father Darael, whose gift of a Seraph Blade is literally a two-edged blessing. You see, Darael is a Seraphim Provocateur. And Lucas is unsure whose side he is really on, the Celestial or the Fallen?

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for February 2022


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 and small press authors newly published this month, though some December 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 urban fantasy, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, cozy fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, YA fantasy, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, weird western, vampires, werewolves, mages, healers, aliens, space marines, ghost ships, magical prisons, arrnaged marriages, time travel, barbarian kings, shattered gods, fake goddesses, crime-busting witches, crime-busting psychics, orc baristas 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:

Legends and Latte by Travis BaldreeLegends and Lattes by Travis Baldree:

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

The Secret of the Chateau by Carrie BedfordThe Secret of the Chateau by Carrie Bedford:

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread - and death.
She knows it's coming, she has to stop it!

London architect Kate Benedict has barely shucked off her coat before she spots her host's aura, a swirling pattern above his head that Kate has come to recognize as a prediction of death within a few days.

And she’s barely realized he’s in danger when he drops to the floor, shot by an unseen assailant.

It should have been the perfect junket—escaping miserably rainy London to a luxurious chateau in the Burgundy countryside. All she had to do was advise the owner on rebuilding his winery's tasting room. But trouble seems to come in threes...

The first person to rush into the room, the young woman who manages the tasting room, also has an aura, as does the winemaker, nephew to the dead man.

Surrounded by absolute strangers and the ever-present reminders of imminent death, Kate is overwhelmed by uncertainties: Where is the danger coming from? Does it extend to her? And dodgiest of all, Whom to trust?

She makes fast friends with the tasting room manager, and she knows from past experience that if she can discover the source of the danger she can cheat death out of a victory. She desperately wants to save this woman.

So she’ll have to make the chateau give up its centuries of secrets: betrayals among the highly competitive vintners of the region, disputed ownership claims, deceitful spouses, treacherous employees, even secret passageways.

And, of course, since it’s a 700-year-old chateau, there will be ghosts. The question is: Does the elegantly-caped gentleman in the green hat mean to help…or to harm?

Just as you’re thinking, “What a clever solution,” the tale takes an even cleverer twist. This is a book with pretty much everything—a likeable heroine, an ancient chateau, all the wine you can drink, a fun plot, and a ghost to top it off. The very definition of cozy.

Antique Instincts by Odette C. BellAntique Instincts by Odette C. Bell:

They say some things can’t wait. One of them is destiny. The other is murder.

Sonia is meant to be normal. She isn’t. She has a rare magic – she can sort out the temporal order of anything.

But while that might be incredible, it can’t catch his eye.

Rushford Halsey is one of the most powerful vampires in the city. A resolute man who heads up Vampire Pharmaceuticals, he shouldn’t be interested in her. But there’s a problem. He’s her one-true vampire. Destiny has dictated they will be together. So what does Rushford do? Go and marry someone else.

He seemingly has no interest in Sonia – other than to keep her as far from his murky world as possible. When a dangerous drug hits the streets and she’s dragged into the police investigation to stop it, that all ends, and once more they are thrown together.

But destiny can be a fickle thing. It will give you one chance at happiness. Lose it or ignore it, and you will do so at your peril.

The Book of Shadow by Bruce BlakeThe Book of Shadow by Bruce Blake:

Llyris Fildarae is an outcast tainted by a sliver of magic in a world terrified of the supernatural. Loathed and distrusted, she uses her ability to control a magical Unnamed to survive.

Caedric Carpera is desperate to save his son from a deadly illness. He enlists Llyris to locate a lost tome containing secrets capable of healing him, but its location is a mystery that's already claimed lives. Thrust into a hostile world, Llyris and her companions risk everything to find the relic and return before the child's sickness prevails.

But who is the enigmatic old man who appeared out of nowhere to set them on this dangerous expedition? And what does he really want?

Only a perilous mission to an untamed land can save the boy and reveal the truth.

Except some truths are too shocking to be exposed.

Twelve Nooses by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertTwelve Nooses by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

Before Kurval became King of Azakoria in the year of the forked serpent, he was commander of a mercenary company in service to his predecessor King Orkol.

While helping to bring the rebellious northern provinces back under Orkol's heel, Kurval is ordered to hang twelve innocent young women as an example to the rebels.

Kurval is disgusted by Orkol's cruelty. But can he find a way to save the twelve young women from the gallows? And dare he defy King Orkol?

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a novelette of 14200 words or approx. 50 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

The Tear of Chronos by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Tear of Chronos by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

In the year of the forked serpent, Kurval came from beyond the sea, slew King Orkol and became King of Azakoria.

On the day of his coronation, Kurval consults the oracle in the temple of the goddess Ashvarya, where he is supposed to gaze into a magical jewel called the Tear of Chronos, hoping for a vision of the future.

But before Kurval can receive his vision, a young woman named Stella suddenly appears in a flash of light in the inner sanctum. Not only is Stella a deadringer for the goddess, she also wears the Tear of Chronos around her neck.

Can Stella help Kurval retain the throne he's barely won? And is she truly a goddess or just an imposter?

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a novelette of 13500 words or approx. 45 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

When Words Fail by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. ChaneyWhen Words Fail by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. Chaney:

The Galaxy is growing...and it's more dangerous than ever before.

An all-out war within humanity has been narrowly avoided, and peace is finally at hand.

Yeah, right.

Human ships are being taken, their crews disappearing. Has an old enemy returned? Or has the galaxy revealed a new threat?

With humanity’s very existence at stake, Rev and the Perseus Union Marines have to put old rivalries aside and help form a last line of defense if the human race is going to have a fighting chance to survive.

Fight. Endure. Win. Live.

Prepare yourself for the seventh entry in the ongoing Sentenced to War series. Experience what fans are calling the military science fiction story of the year and find out why you just can’t keep a good Marine down.

Crown of Command by Chris FoxThe Crown of Command by Chris Fox:

An Empire Entombed Under Ash

Four centuries ago the Stewards decreed that the Elentian Imperium must be punished. For a year and a day ash rained from the sky forming what is now known as the Ashlands.

As a new member of the Temple of Celeste you are now privy to the truth. Our diviners have scried the infamous lich's final moments. If you dare witness the memory, you will find it transcribed within.

The Crown of Command is a SHORT STORY set in the Shattered Gods universe. It foreshadows the fate of our protagonist Xal, and also shows one of the most important historical events in the series.

A Very Klagan Valentine by Holly HanzoA Very Klagan Valentine by Holly Hanzo:

From being jilted at the altar, to being ghosted by a blind date, Mia held onto the hope that one day, she’d finally be the bride and not the bridesmaid. The Elodian invasion of Earth and Mia’s subsequent capture changed everything. Mistaken for a Sudabian, and dropped on Sudabia, a pleasure planet she’s never heard of, Mia finds herself smack in the center of their annual hedonistic mid-winter celebration - and - up for auction.

Klagan Warrior Rylan’s mission takes a turn for the worse after a firefight with a lone Elodian cruiser over a remote planet in the middle of nowhere. His worst nightmare comes true when he’s forced to land on Sudabia. As a virtuous man who doesn’t mix business and pleasure, his only goal was to get off-world, and fast, until he stumbles across the auctions - and the frantic pleas of an unwilling participant in the auctions stirred something within him. Against his better judgement, Rylan rescues Mia from the auction block.

She wants to leave. He can’t let her go.

Haunted Plains Drifter by Lily Harper HartHaunted Plains Drifter by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok and Cooper Wyatt are newly engaged and ready to celebrate. Cooper just didn’t think the celebration would involve a hike to a long-abandoned boom town called Blackridge. He had something more romantic in mind. Despite that, he agrees … and believes the trip will be fine, right up until they stumble across a homeless man warning them away from their destination.

Hannah tries talking to him but the man is out of it, to the point where she recognizes he needs medical help. They manage to call the local sheriff to provide that help, but when the team he brings to carry the individual out of the valley crosses the Blackridge border, a wave of magic ricochets back and knocks Hannah for a loop.

She recovers quickly, but there’s a question as to what happened. Once back in Casper Creek, that question becomes a concern. It seems the ghostly shadow that appeared in Blackridge at the time it fell more than a hundred years before is back, and now he’s focused on Hannah.

The dark man is more than a ghost. He’s more than a shadow. He’s a monster who can straddle two worlds. He needs Hannah to lift the curse that has kept him trapped for a century, and he’s more than willing to threaten those she loves to make it happen.

A new sort of terror has come to town, and Hannah has no idea how to fight him. She’s a strong witch, but she’s also a new witch, and when this battle lands on her doorstep, it’s going to be a doozy.

Buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage by HiyodoriThe Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage by Hiyodori:

“I never forgot the sound of you calling for me. Not for a second.”

The Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage is a slow-burn f/f romance set in an original modern-era fantasy world, featuring a magical tower with countless curious rooms. It’s a story of friends to enemies to reluctant allies, guilty secrets, love mixed inextricably with hate, fragile second chances, and the true price of boundless magical power.

In a country where mages have all the power and healers supposedly only exist to support them, Clematis—a talented healer—is despised for her past attempts to defy the mageocracy. In her early thirties, she’s already on year seven of a life sentence for treason.

But when the most powerful mage in the nation suddenly loses all her magic, the government wants unconventional Clematis to help get it back.

The mage is a tall, distant woman called Wist, and Clematis knows her all too well. They used to be classmates. Best friends. Perhaps more. Wist is also the person who reported Clematis for leaking state secrets. She’s the reason Clematis spent the last seven years in prison.

Clematis wants revenge for her betrayal, but she wants freedom even more. She’s got thirty days to recover Wist’s magic: miss the deadline, and she’ll be shunted back to prison for the rest of her life. Yet attempting to resurrect Wist’s lost magic will force her to face the real reason why Wist betrayed her—and to face her unresolved, unspoken feelings for the mage who stabbed her in the back and walked away.

Family Ties by B.R. KingsolverFamily Ties by B.R. Kingsolver:

When a man came into my shop in the Great Marketplace at the Crossroads of the Worlds and tried to kill me, it completely ruined my day. Not only did I have to clean up the blood, but disposing of his body made me late to meet my friends for drinks. A nagging little detail kept bugging me, though. As he died, he said he was hired by my mother’s family—people I hadn’t seen for more than a decade. Then I discovered that assassins had made attempts on my brother and sister as well. As much as I didn’t want to, I decided I should find out who wanted us dead, and put a stop to it. Talk about stepping out of the pan into the fire…

Smoke and Spells by Ryver KnightSmoke and Spells by Ryver Knight:

An ordinary girl. A rare power. A deadly game.

Lie low.
Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Fifteen-year-old Asha Olinger has abided by her sister’s rules her entire life. Every day, she works relentlessly as a cleaner to put food on the table, scrambling in the dredges of Althuria. Every day, she wonders about a life where she no longer struggles for a few measly coins.

But after discovering she wields a rare and destructive power, her quiet life is turned upside down. Her older sister gives her a mysterious warning. Lex Sylvester, with his fame, wealth, and stupidly charming looks—that she certainly never, ever noticed—starts flirting with her. And to top it all off, she receives a letter from the famed Luminus Academy, declaring that she got accepted through the lottery system. The terrifying probabilities quickly turn into incredible opportunities, and suddenly controlling her power doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

What is this darned ability of hers? Why does everyone keep telling her to stay away from the Queen of Althuria? And more importantly...

Who the heck is murdering girls at the Academy?

If she doesn’t find out soon... she might just be next.

Freaky Sights by Amanda M. LeeFreaky Sights by Amanda M. Lee:

Mystic Caravan Circus is on the move after their winter break. First stop? Moonstone Bay. Poet Parker and crew are looking for a permanent location because traveling won’t be an option for much longer. They’re expecting a normal trip.

They’re getting so much more … including a mystery.

The day after they arrive, a body drops in the ditch across from the city park, and what follows is a series of bone-chilling events that revolve around the island’s children. It seems something weird is causing them to act out of sorts … and they might just have murder on their minds.

Moonstone Bay is a magical place and Poet feels a kinship with the land and people who live there almost immediately. Unfortunately, the terror stalking the island isn’t something that can be ignored.

Poet has to band together with the island inhabitants – including a feisty witch and fiery half-demon – to figure out what’s happening. Their research leads them to an ancient story about a possessing demon, and the villages he left decimated in his wake.

Poet is strong. Her new friends make her stronger. If Moonstone Bay is ultimately to be their home, she’s going to have to go all out to protect it.

Two teams are coming together to fight a war. It’s going to take all of them to ensure a happy ending.

Buckle up. Things are about to get wicked on Moonstone Bay.

Scion of Lightning by J.T. MoyScion of Lightning by J.T. Moy:

The deadliest blades are not made of steel . . . When Jaks almost kills another soldier with his volatile magic, he is forced to tread the fearful path of the electromancer. Succeed, he will be the first in a generation. Fail, he will lose everything.

As the ruthless king of Voros invades the land with axe warriors, skyships and dragons, Jaks and his battlemage master begin a quest to train his powers and uncover a potent artifact that could halt the rampaging enemy.

On their journey through dangerous lands, they are accompanied by a sharp-eyed ranger, a lethal assassin, and a mysterious foreigner with unworldly weapons.

However, nothing is simple when Jaks' greatest adversary is much closer than he knows.

The Fallen Shall Rise by James PylesThe Fallen Shall Rise by James Pyles:

Jepheth Shinzi, archeologist on the rigid backwater Kaamus star system, discovers a controversial anomaly when scans taken of space match up with 3,000 years worth of cultural mysteries.

Fearing being labeled a traitor to his government, he proceeds to share the findings in confidence before the evidence becomes overwhelming and the situation warrants in-person investigation.

There appears to be an ancient gate in deep space and it's emitting an energy signal.

Gnome on the Range by Tammy SalyerGnome on the Range by Tammy Salyer:

The West wasn’t won with grit and guns. It took a sawbones with fae blood to git ’er done.

Book 1 in the Otherworld Outlaw series, an action-packed romp through the Wild West, loaded with living myths, dark magic, and bloodthirsty monsters aplenty.

Lula Cullen isn’t sweet and gentle, and she’s got no time for anyone’s guff. Esteemed Bostonian surgeon, she’s a woman with a career in a time when the very idea is laughed at. And nothing, not even her fiancé and his Brahmin family’s traditional values, is going to get in her way. Until…

Her ambitions are derailed like a runaway steam engine when her uncle and only living relative is killed in a freak lightning accident. His dying words—“Find Toxicore Darkheart. He’s the only one who can protect you now”—launch Lula into an ill-conceived and unchaperoned trip to Abilene, Kansas, where hanged men dangle for days for minor crimes and only married women are considered respectable.

Mistaken for a soiled dove the minute she hits the frontier, Lula decides to hell with respectability and starts swinging her uncle's shillelagh at anyone who asks for it. And the West sure has a lot of folks asking for it. Upon finding Darkheart, whose peculiarities go well beyond his odd name, she unearths long-buried family secrets tied to her bloodline, secrets that ultimately led to her uncle’s murder and the disappearance of her parents when she was an infant. And worse, much worse, she discovers that though she’s the one hunting for the truth—she's also being hunted.

Caught between a werewolf, a necromancer, and two fae queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Lula has to trade her scalpel for a Colt .45 and do it fast. Because they’re not just after her, they’re after her blood.

Don’t miss any of the magic-packed Otherworld Outlaws series

Balefire by Glynn StewartBalefire by Glynn Stewart:


A demon born of human evil
A knight forged in holy fire
A town that he must either save…or destroy!

Alsan is a Paladin of the Intercessor, a holy warrior called to the village of Redgarton to investigate a demonic plague. Powerful magic of his fellow priests has sealed the village against the demon’s escape, and still more powerful magic awaits only his command to destroy demon and village alike.

To save the innocent, the knight must enter the village alone and learn what has unleashed the Abyss amongst them. If he can strike down the demon, his holy oath is sufficient to spare the town the balefire.

But the plague is spreading and the order he leaves behind is simple: come dawn, unleash the balefire.

Oscar Tremont: Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable by Cameron TrostOscar Tremont: Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable by Cameron Trost:

Introducing Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable.

Join Oscar Tremont on his first four cases as he tackles mysteries too strange for the police and assures his clients that a rational explanation lies behind what at first appears to be impossible. You will find clues, question suspects, don disguises, break into abandoned houses, solve codes and puzzles, and if you really have your wits about you, crack the case before our hero.

Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable consists of two novellas and two short stories that display the keen intellect of a private investigator who is bound to make a name for himself in the mystery genre.

  • The Hunt for the Stayne Fortune
  • The Ghosts of Walhalla
  • The Witch at the Window
  • The Secret of the Severed Hand

These four mysteries will challenge and surprise even the most experienced armchair detectives.

Ghost Ship by James David VictorGhost Ship by James David Victor:

Sometimes when things are at their worst, the only way out is to team up with the enemy.

Carl Sebastian has overcome every obstacle and fought every enemy. Now, he’s stuck on an abandoned ship, taken over by xeno-mutations that are fusing with the ship. Their only way off the ship is to work with a group of Palacian soldiers who have also been trapped. Can they escape this ghost ship or will the mutations finally take hold of Carl and his team?

Ghost Ship is the fourth book in the Gene Soldiers series. If you like fast-paced sci-fi adventures with alien mutations, genetically enhanced humans, and an interstellar war nobody was ready for, Gene Soldiers is your next adventure.

Download Ghost Ship and see what happens next in this epic adventure today!

The Four by Katelyn YoungThe Four by Katelyn Young:

Princess Kiera knows that one day she will be auctioned away in an arranged marriage, but she never imagined that her fiancés would be vampires.

When people from the Kingdom of Zayn go missing, Kiera’s father, King Zachariah, arranges for Kiera to marry one of The Four rulers of Vampira. This marriage will end the kidnappings and unite the two kingdoms. As per the rules of the engagement, Princess Kiera is given one month to decide which of The Four she will marry. Kiera wants to be a righteous ruler. She also wants to marry for love. Each of her four suitors has something unique to offer her. Kiera must figure out whose intentions are pure and whose are for show. What Kiera doesn’t realize is that this decision will last for all of eternity.

The Capture by Nicole ZoltackThe Capture by Nicole Zoltak:

I don’t recognize the danger until it’s too late for not only myself but also my sisters.

Our town is besieged by monsters, vile creatures. No one knows who or what they are, but the whispers, the rumors… Everyone stays in at night. I do my best to keep my sisters safe.

But then I’m captured.

I’m bitten.

I flee.

But I’m not safe. I’m turning into one of those monsters… a vampire. But I don’t recognize this until it’s too late.

It may be too late for us all.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for February 25, 2022

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Star Trek Discovery and the many iterations of Star Trek the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, Peacemaker, The Batman and the various DC Comics based movies and TV shows, Our Flag Means Death, Severance, Hellbender, Uncharted, the latest version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, season 11 of The Walking Dead, trouble on the set of Mad Max Fury Road and much more.

Speculative fiction in general:

Comics and Art:
Film and TV:
Comments on Star Trek Discovery and the many iterations of Star Trek
Comments on the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
Comments on The Batman, Peacemaker and the various DC Comics based movies and TV-shows:
Comments on Our Flag Means Death
Comments on Severance
Comments on problems on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road
Comments on Hellbender:
Comments on season 11 of The Walking Dead
Comments on the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre:
Writing, publishing and promotion:


Classics reviews:
Con and event reports:
Science and technology:

Free online fiction:
Trailers and videos: