Friday, September 30, 2022

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for October 1, 2022

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with the 2022 Worldcon, Star Trek: Lower Decks and the many iterations of Star Trek, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, Andor and Star Wars in general, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, My Best Friend's Exorcism, Smile, Hocus Pocus 2, Jungle, Don't Worry Darling, problems in Bollywood, tributes to Hilary Mantel and Louise Fletcher and much more.

Speculative fiction in general:
Tributes to Hilary Mantel: 
Film and TV:

Tributes to Louise Fletcher: 
Comments on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general: 

Comments on Star Trek: Lower Decks and the many iterations of Star Trek
Comments on Andor and Star Wars in general: 
Comments on House of the Dragon (spoilers):
Comments on Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: 
Comments on the new My Best Friend's Exorcism

Comments on Don't Worry Darling:
Comments on problems in Bollywood: 

Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews:
Reports about Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon:
Other con and event reports:


Science and technology:

Free online fiction: 
Trailers and videos:

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 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 August 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, cozy fantasy, paranormal mystery, planetary romance, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, near future science fiction romance, weird western, horror, speculative poetry, vampires, werewolves, wizards, dragons, aliens, space cadets, cursed thieves, blood curses, artificial intelligence, magical tea shops, talking cats, crime-busting witches, intergalactic playboys 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:

Nightswept by Odette C. BellNightswept Episode 1 by Odette C. Bell:

They say night will always lift. Day must come. But when the light threatens to leave the Coalition for good, only two cadets will stand in its way.

When Samantha, a promising cadet with a chip on her shoulder, barely survives a cataclysmic attack on an observation world, it takes her memories and leaves her with an ancient gift. A force now resides in her mind, and it has removed all her recollections. She can only recall one memory – and one man – Bastien Vanguard, the galaxy’s richest playboy and her greatest enemy.

Bastien can’t stand her, but only he can unlock her memories and save the Coalition before it’s too late. For forces align to tear it down once and for all. Can two enemies come together to save the Milky Way, or will they tear each other apart?


Nightswept follows a playboy and an amnesiac cadet fighting to save the universe from darkness. If you love your space operas with action, heart, and a splash of romance, grab Nightswept Episode One today and soar free with an Odette C. Bell series.

Nightswept is the 19th Galactic Coalition Academy series. A sprawling, epic, and exciting sci-fi world where cadets become heroes and hearts are always won, each series can be read separately, so plunge in today.

Star's Guardian by Odette C. BellStar's Guardian by Odette C. Bell:

To protect, is to change the course of history. Fail, though, and you’ll fall.

Grace Smith is about to fall, and there’s nothing that can stop her. She was destined to lose the sacred energy pumping in her veins since birth. The multiverse has always had a plan for her, and now that dark plan unfolds, one dead body at a time.

Grace is used to running from the dark forces hell-bent on murdering her, and she’s good at it. Then she runs into the one man she can’t escape. Alex Round, Supreme Outer Guardian. When he picks her up on a backwater planet by accident, he thinks she’s a pointless distraction. Then hell unravels, and the fabric of reality fractures with it. At its heart sits the one woman he must now protect, no matter what.

Can someone who has run her whole life stop still long enough to accept the help of the only man who can save her? Or will she tumble into the arms or danger and take the rest of the multiverse with her?

Star’s Guardian follows a runaway and a lieutenant fighting through secrets to save a lost universe. If you love your space operas with action, heart, and a splash of romance, grab Star’s Guardian Book One today and soar free with an Odette C. Bell series.

Tales from a Magical Teashop by Casey BlairTales from a Magical Teashop by Casey Blair:

Add a dash of joy and imagination to your day with tales of a magical tea that summons cats to snuggle or enables its recipients to exhale sparkles, hilarious combat with aggressive fantasy ingredients while others turn invisible out of shyness, and the day-to-day management of a shop dealing in the unexpected. These are quick stories ranging from silly to bittersweet that can be read as you wait for your tea kettle to boil.

Tales from a Magical Teashop is a stand-alone short story collection set in the world of Tea Princess Chronicles that functions as an introduction to the series with hidden gems for those who’ve read it, featuring scenes set in a shop serving teas made from magical ingredients as well as bonus scenes from the perspectives of fan-favorite characters.

Brew up a cup of tea, and enjoy a little interlude away at a magical teashop!

Light-hearted, comforting, and satisfying, brighten your day with a collection of magical teashop stories from the world of the cozy fantasy series Tea Princess Chronicles.

Queer Weird West Tales, edited by Julie BozzaQueer Weird West Tales, edited by Julie Bozza:

Frontiers have always attracted the Other - where they find that the Other is always already there. These 22 stories explore what happens when queer characters encounter weirdness on the edge of the worlds they know.

Authors include: Julie Bozza, J.A. Bryson, Dannye Chase, S.E. Denton, Miguel Flores, Adele Gardner, Roy Gray, KC Grifant, Peter Hackney, Bryn Hammond, Narrelle M Harris, Justin Warren Jackson, Toshiya Kamei, Catherine Lundoff, Bunny McFadden, Angus McIntyre, Atlin Merrick, Eleanor Musgrove, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Lauren Scharhag, Sara L. Uckelman, and Dawn Vogel.

United We Kill by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. ChaneyUnited We Kill by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. Chaney:

Humankind is under the gravest threat in its history.

The enemy Naxli keep advancing, taking humans prisoner and destroying human worlds. But this isn’t the Naxli’s first rodeo, and humanity is not alone.

Other races have suffered at the hands of the enemy, and they’ve proposed that humanity join them and present a united front to defeat the Naxli once and for all.

The Congress of Humanity deploys the First Human Expeditionary Brigade to join with the alien military to take the fight to the Naxli. But with seventeen known “allies,” all with different goals and perspectives, how can they form a unified, integrated fighting force? It’s been hard enough for humans to cooperate throughout history, and now the problem has just logarithmically increased.

Still, a mission is a mission, and Gunnery Sergeant Reverent Pelletier, Perseus Union Marine Corps, is going to do what he can to create an effective fighting unit, even if he has to beat in some alien heads to get it done.

Orbs of Wisdom by Lindsay BurokerOrbs of Wisdom by Lindsay Buroker:

With his mother’s life at stake and the entire world threatened by powerful dragons, the sand in the hour glass is running out for Jak Freedar. He and his allies must find the ancient Orbs of Wisdom and hope they hold the solutions to the problems plaguing humanity and the dragons before it’s too late.

This is the final installment in the Dragon Gate saga!

Mark of the Fool by J.M. ClarkeMark of the Fool by J.M. Clarke:

The gods chose him. He said no.

After his parents died, Alex Roth had one desire: become a wizard. Through hard work, he was accepted into the University of Generasi, the world’s greatest academy of wizardry...

Fate, however, had other plans.

On his eighteenth birthday, he is Marked by prophecy as one of his kingdom’s five Heroes, chosen to fight the Ravener, his land’s great enemy. But his brand is 'The Fool'. Worst of the marks.

Rather than die or serve other Heroes like past Fools, he takes a stand, rejects divine decree…and leaves. With his little sister, his childhood friend, and her cerberus, Alex flees for the university, hoping to research the mystery of the Ravener. He’ll make lifelong friends, learn magic from mad wizards, practice alchemy, fight mana vampires and try to pay tuition.

There’s one small problem. The Mark insists on preventing the Fool from learning and casting spells, while enhancing skills outside of divinity, combat, and spellcraft…

…that is, unless he learns to exploit the hell out of it.

Blood Curse by Rachel FordBlood Curse by Rachel Ford:

A terrible curse. A dangerous weapon. An impossible mystery.

With all the residents of Little Eerie turned to goblins by an ancient blood curse, Apprentice Wizard Idun Wintermoon and sellsword Liss Forlatt are in a race against time to undo the curse before goblin hunters show up and kill the hapless villagers.

To unravel the secret of the blood curse, they’re going to need to get their hands on the blood of a royal. A present day, very much alive royal.

And it just might be easier to pull dragon teeth.

Older, Wiser, Witchier by Lily Harper HartOlder, Wiser, Witchier by Lily Harper Hart:

Four women. Four great loves. One great partnership.

It’s been years since Ivy Morgan, Harper Harlow, Maddie Graves, and Rowan Gray married the loves of their lives and decided to settle down. Since that time, they’ve joined together to form a fearsome magical quartet. The plan was to stand with one another. Now that plan is being put to the test.

While out morel hunting with her brother, daughter, and nephews, Ivy stumbles across a body, a ritual dagger causing her to fear they’re dealing with something more dangerous than a normal human. Right away, she calls for reinforcements from her magical friends…and they come running.

Ivy’s magic has grown, and she’s much stronger than she used to be. That doesn’t mean she’s ready for what’s coming, especially when it becomes apparent that her daughter might be following in her mother’s footsteps, and being drawn into a dangerous world she doesn’t understand.

A local real estate developer is dead, his wife is missing, and there’s a random ghost hanging around stirring up trouble. Ivy has her hands full, and things are about to get worse.

Magic is might, and this particular foursome is ready. What if they’re not strong enough to fight off a new threat, however? What will it mean for them as a group?

They’re about to find out, and the answer might be more than they can bear.

Note: This series follows the events of the Ivy Morgan, Harper Harlow, Rowan Gray, and Maddie Graves series. It's set seven years after the events of those series. You do no need to read those series, but if you want more of the characters, that's where you can find them.

Game of Crones by Amanda M. LeeGame of Crones by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall thought killing the master vampire threatening those she loved would make everybody safe. She was wrong.

One dying utterance changed everything.

Yolanda Stratton haunts Hawthorne Hollow like an oily shadow of death. Gunner, the son she tried to kill, tries to pretend that he doesn’t care that she might have answers. He’s not fooling anybody. Graham, the husband who wishes he would’ve killed her twenty years before, is resigned to the games she will play. And Scout? She’s ready to face off with the face of abject evil, even if it comes at a cost.

Just who will be paying that price, however?

Yolanda won’t explain why the lone zombie that appeared behind the Rusty Cauldron boasted the same symbol she had branded into her shoulder years before. She won’t explain why the past is playing so heavily into the present. She definitely won’t explain why the new witch in town is after Scout…and isn’t afraid to play dirty to end her life.

Scout is a witch with a plan but outthinking an enemy she doesn’t understand could be the end of her.

There’s a whisper on the wind…and it speaks of death. Who will fall?

Moral Code by Ross and Lois MelbourneMoral Code by Lois and Ross Melbourne:

Dr. Keira Stetson has two passions: ethical artificial intelligence—AI with a conscience—and creating technology that improves children’s lives. Trapped in an earthquake-flattened building with a half-dozen panicked five-year-olds, she fears the worst. When billionaire Roy Brandt leverages his mysterious nanite technology to rescue them, she’s both grateful and intrigued.

Impressed by his prototype technology but alarmed at its potential for exploitation, Keira merges her company with Brandt’s. The merger gives Keira access to much-needed funds for the development of her own tech, and access to Brandt’s powerful minuscule robots. In turn, she and her AI assistant, Elly, embed Keira’s trademark Moral Operating System in Brandt’s nanite SmartDust to rein in its power.

But Brandt’s technology has been kept secret for a reason. Though he’s adamant about using the Dust to improve life, not destroy it, corporate raiders and the military have other ideas. They want to weaponize Brandt’s nanites. Suddenly, everything Keira has worked for is in jeopardy. Exposed to the worst humanity has to offer, she and Elly must fight to use this newfound tech for good and keep it out of the wrong hands…before it’s too late.

Spacer's Bet by Bonnie MilaniSpacer's Bet by Bonnie Milani:

The attack came out of nowhere. Suddenly a hunting pack, flashing Lupan IDs, dropped out of Jump to fire on the unarmed ore hauler Shojai.

Isfahan "Iz" Hauler Shojai had only an instant to wonder why before the attackers’ guns ripped open Shojai’s cargo bay.

The cargo bay where her ditzy younger brother Kansas was working. The bay whose crew was sucked out into the void. Like herself, Kansas was genetically engineered to survive vacuum. But his protective shell couldn’t hold forever. Battling time and the chaos of a wounded ship, Iz launched herself into the vacuum of the gutted hold to rescue her brother.

Badly damaged Shojai limps into RockPort only to discover that the port is now under the ‘protection’ of Moscow, a woman whose laws are as harsh as the blue ice of her liege world, Streiker. She demands all fees up front. Worse, the voices Kansas ‘hears in his head’ have him spouting a language he doesn’t even speak. But Moscow does.

Already fearing repercussions, Iz drags Kansas away from a dockside murder. But she soon learns that there is far more at stake than just their own lives. They must get to the near-mythical world of Earth or risk the destruction of the human Commonwealth itself.

It doesn’t help that Moscow’s cat attaches itself to Kansas. Especially because the cat seems to have an agenda of its own…

West of Hell: Weird Western Horror StoriesWest of Hell: Weird Western Horror Stories by James A. Moore:

Want to go on a Western Adventure?
Join three highly talented authors on a thrilling journey into the past that’s perfect for readers of Western thrillers, horror, mystery, fantasy, and of course the supernatural.

DEAD MEN by James A. Moore: And the Dead shall rise. Jonathan Crowley is having a problem with dead men. They just keep getting back on their feet. From the ghost dancers at a strange burial site to the corpse of a man he literally just killed, the dead refuse to lay down and die, and now it's up to Crowley and his traveling companion Lucas Slate to try to figure out why the dead are restless and determined to kill whatever crosses their paths.

THE TRICKSTER OF PARADISE by R.B. Wood: Never trust a cave painting with an agenda.
In the old west, the people of Paradise live in harmony with the local Sioux tribe until the U. S. Army arrives with false accusations and their deeply rooted prejudices. While the strange newcomer known as “Mortimer” watches; a sixteen year old boy and an ancient legend must come together to fight the invaders, save the town and win the day. Can the desires of an ancient legend and the wishes of a young man survive the encounter with Death watching their every move?

LAST SUNSET OF A DYING AGE by Michael Burke: Ibuki Shibuya is a disgraced samurai, a fugitive from the vengeance of his former master. His flight leads him to the American Southwest where he discovers a mutilated body in the Arizona desert. He eventually finds himself in Copper City, a frontier town plagued by a series of grisly murders.
A motley cast of characters populate the town and Ibuki becomes embroiled in affairs both mundane and extraordinary as he resolves to assist the sheriff in solving the strange murders. Perhaps he will even meet the honorable end he seeks in doing so. All the while, a strange man, dressed in black, who knows more than he says, lurks outside of Copper City.
Events come to a head when the truth is laid bare. Ibuki, along with both friends and foes, learns that not all remnants of a dying age have given way to progress.

Crystal Lake’s Dark Tide series will continue soon with more tales of Mystery Thrillers and Horror Books, including themes of more Weird Western, Sherlock Holmes, Grief Horror, Body Horror, Halloween, Space Horror, Mystery fiction, and Psychological Thriller books.

The Cursebound Thief by Megan O'RussellThe Cursebound Thief by Megan O'Russell

The world wants a hero. The curse needs a thief.

The party of the decade stands between Jerek Holden and saving the people he would do anything to protect. After twelve years, he’s finally found a way to break the curse that ripped all magic from the world and destroyed the peace that took generations to build. All he needs is one, simple artifact. But he can’t steal the heliostone alone.

A girl with a soul of fire.
A vampire bound by a vow.
A werewolf bent on revenge.
A knight torn between honor and duty.
A hacker to keep them all alive.

The fate of magic lies in their hands?if they can survive long enough to pull off the heist of the century.

The Purpose of Reality: LunarThe Purpose of Reality: Lunar by Steve Simpson:

Steve Simpson's remarkable collection of poetry and illustrations is dream-like, playful and wildly inventive. Here is a selection of the beings within:

The detective, who carelessly morphs into birds and insects, and cannot choose between brooding and moping, until a stylish grayscale client with retrolescent highlights appears.

Proteus, Homo Sapiens Beta, who discovered fire and put it out, who created a rudimentary encyclopedia that he pedaled across Gondwanaland on weekends.

Millie, the intrepid librarian, unperturbed by the Dark Solarian or the fearsome kilowasp, who insists that her underlings pay for bibliotactical losses.

The adorable Deija Vitro, Martian Princess of Glass, whose fans line the streets waving Windex spray. Wollongong will never be the same, because her armies have razed it to the ground. "No one will miss it," she reassured an infatuated follower.

The Purpose of Reality: Solar by Steve SimpsonThe Purpose of Reality: Solar by Steve Simpson:

Steve Simpson's mesmerizing collection of short fiction and illustrations is surreal and wildly imaginative, with touches of playfulness throughout. Here is a selection of the beings within:

At Claire's school, the walls were cardboard, and her chain-smoking math teacher never allowed numbers to be mentioned. He used a drawing of a press to flatten slices of air into tissue paper for kites, and he was Claire's favorite, because all the other teachers were ghosts. One day, with a little pasta and a little mambo, everything changed.

The negentropy wars didn't end the world, there were survivors, and in Santarém, the gringo electrician needed medicine to save his daughter's life. To get it, he had to cross the Amazon River, where the Negentropy Horizon divided Brazil. The locals believed you could look across the river and see directly into hell. The electrician wasn't superstitious, but he decided netting was a good idea, to keep the insects off.

Aldona worked in the Damasco Auto scrapyard, and when the electromagnet on the crane burned out and dropped the blue Passat, no one saw the electric-winged shape that had been trapped by the magnet. After all, there was nothing to be concerned about: the alien space fleet had been driven away by the earth's nuclear defenses.

Remnant Faction by Glynn StewartRemnant Faction by Glynn Stewart:

It is the first and final duty of any warship to put herself between the innocent... and the enemy.

Henry Wong and Sylvia Todorovich have gathered the interstellar powers of the Ra Sector into a tentative alliance—an alliance that is tested by the return of the Sector’s former rulers: the Kenmiri Remnant.

The Sector’s only hope of withstanding a genocidal faction of the Kenmiri is the Twelfth Fleet of the United Planets Alliance. But when Wong’s scouting flotilla collides with the Kenmiri, he discovers they now have a weapon that could easily destroy Twelfth Fleet.

Wong and Todorovich are stranded on the wrong side of a world the Remnant have burned, and they only have one way to meet their allies before it’s too late.

If Henry Wong is to save his people and his allies, he must take his ship on a deadly run into the hostile star systems of the Kenmiri Remnant: the very species he doomed to a slow death.

The Gods Awoke by Marie VibbertThe Gods Awoke by Marie Vibbert:

If the Gods were real, could you believe?

Hitra, high priestess of Revestre, already has enough on her hands: political upheaval, a distractingly attractive male servant, and an upcoming harvest festival. But when a column of flame from the heavens sends a city into tumult, it upends more than just her schedule. Now, Hitra must deal with a religious schism, ethnic strife…and a God growing out of control.

"An innovative slant on a fantastic religion, its worshippers and divinities!
~Mary A. Turzillo, Cosmic Cats and Bonsai"

"Even in a conflict on the scale of Gods, Vibbert masters the art of making small things matter."
~Lorelei Esther, illustrator, The Kitra Saga

"Creative, quirky, fun, Vibbert delivers a wild new take on divine gods and their petty squabbles in The Gods Awoke!"
~Tobias S. Buckell, Crystal Rain

Bad Tidings from Queen Sophie by Danielle WilliamsBad Tidings from Queen Sophie by Danielle Williams:

As heard on the NoSleep Podcast

When her beloved kitty Queen Sophie starts acting odd, Cass turns to a mysterious app to bridge the communication gap.

But she soon discovers that no mews is good news…

BAD TIDINGS FROM QUEEN SOPHIE is a quick fright perfect for any animal lover who's ever wondered what their pet is trying to tell them.

* * *

If you’re looking for scares that unnerve instead of nauseate, look no further. Horror stories from Danielle Williams lean towards slow-burn scares and the unsettling. If you take your creeps with a PG-13 sensibility—think THE SIXTH SENSE, THE OUTER LIMITS, or classic TWILIGHT ZONE—this is a story for you.

Stranger Shores by Katie ZaberStranger Shores by Katie Zaber:

Busy learning how to kill with her gift of life, Princess Megan craves time to practice how to heal, but knows that only death will win the upcoming war.

For the first time in Megan’s life, she has fallen in love, and with the wrong man, at that. As much as she loves Mana, will she have to end their relationship to keep her promise to the soon-to-be king of the Syreni, Prince Aenon?

Meanwhile, Kevin is busy preparing for his child with Dana and trying to keep Megan out of trouble. When Brynjar takes him to the Saoirson Fighters’ hideout, he realizes he knows nothing and if he wants answers, he’ll have to talk to people he never expected to meet and never wanted to.

On Earth, Carmia is learning what makes this foreign world spin. She discovers an island with inhabitants that appear primitive but are more sophisticated than anyone on Dalya. Their technology is more advanced than the inventions in her dreams. She flirts with the idea of staying on Earth forever until tragedy sends her sailing back to Dalya and into a deadly storm. She promises to return and never leave Earth again.

At the same time, the king of the Paradise Kingdom and secretly all of Dargone, Megan’s father, plans his next move against his daughter, giving her a surprise she will never expect.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Mark of the Fool by J.M. Clarke


Release date: September 20, 2022
Subgenre: Epic Fantasy, Coming of Age

About Mark of the Fool


The gods chose him. He said no.

After his parents died, Alex Roth had one desire: become a wizard. Through hard work, he was accepted into the University of Generasi, the world’s greatest academy of wizardry...

Fate, however, had other plans.

On his eighteenth birthday, he is Marked by prophecy as one of his kingdom’s five Heroes, chosen to fight the Ravener, his land’s great enemy. But his brand is 'The Fool'. Worst of the marks.

Rather than die or serve other Heroes like past Fools, he takes a stand, rejects divine decree…and leaves. With his little sister, his childhood friend, and her cerberus, Alex flees for the university, hoping to research the mystery of the Ravener. He’ll make lifelong friends, learn magic from mad wizards, practice alchemy, fight mana vampires and try to pay tuition.

There’s one small problem. The Mark insists on preventing the Fool from learning and casting spells, while enhancing skills outside of divinity, combat, and spellcraft…

…that is, unless he learns to exploit the hell out of it.

Explore a coming of age magic academy fantasy with a weak-to-strong progression into power, a setting inspired by D&D, detailed world building and magical science, action, comedy, slice-of-life, and GameLit elements.

With nearly 10 million views on Royal Road, this popular web-serial has been completely revised and relaunched into this definitive version now coming to Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible, narrated by Travis Baldree!



“I can’t hear anything,” he whispered.

“Exactly. The forest is never this quiet.” Theresa slipped back into the circle of firelight with Alex following close behind.

She crept to her sleeping roll and rummaged through it. When she rose, she had tied her quiver to her belt and had her bow in hand. On her opposite hip gleamed two blades: her massive hunting knife and—to his surprise—one of her great-grandfather’s swords. As she silently went to wake Brutus, Alex moved near his sleeping sister and turned to peer into the trees opposite Theresa. This way, they’d be covering most directions. Or so he hoped.

He willed his forceball to drift a few feet ahead of him. It illuminated the foliage beyond the reach of the fire with its red light. He injected a bit more mana into the circuit and the glow brightened. A low, ominous hum groaned from the orb. It seemed deafening in the silence.

There was a scrambling as Brutus woke and rose to his feet, growling from all three heads. Selina groaned in her sleep.

“Do you see anything?” Theresa asked.

“No,” he said, willing the forceball to rise higher. The humming spell drifted until it was just below the branches of the forest canopy. Its light bathed the undergrowth ahead and branches above, but he could see no movement or shape up ahead.

He swallowed saliva and fear.


Brutus growled, rustling the grasses underfoot as he turned in place.

“No,” Theresa admitted. “But something’s wrong.”

Alex believed her. It was like ice crawling over his spine. Only, no matter how long he looked, he couldn’t see anything in the trees. He decided to risk a glance backward.

“Theresa, what do you—”

He stopped dead.

She couldn’t see it from her position. Brutus couldn’t smell it either.

But he could see it.

The red glow of his orb outlined shadows in the trees above. There—sliding along the bark of an oak near Theresa’s side—was the shadow of a blade, long and wickedly curved. His gaze drifted higher until he was looking into the tree directly above him.

Something was nestled among the branches, illuminated by the fire and the red light of the forceball.

It looked like a cross between a spider and a giant crayfish. Its long, armoured tail wrapped around the tree trunk and each of its eight legs ended in long, scythe-like blades, which bit into the bark. Its front claws were pointed shears, long enough to cut Alex in half with one snip.

Its jaws were wolf-like and devoid of lips to hide massive fangs. Despite its densely armoured exoskeleton, it crept down the side of the tree in an eerie silence. It paused, meeting his horrified eyes with eight dead, black orbs. Jaws were parting, and saliva shone in the crimson light.

Alex screamed.

It tensed.

He grabbed his shocked little sister just before it lunged.

Amazon | Audible

About J.M. Clarke:


J.M. Clarke is a fantasy writer and social worker located in southeastern Canada, focusing on short stories, novels and web serials in a variety of subgenres, including Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Progression Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery.

His Sword & Sorcery tales include Vapours of Zinai, appearing in New Edge Issue #0, The Curse of Wine, appearing in A Book of Blades, as well as The Dreaming Sceptre, currently serialised online and due to be published to Amazon.

His debut epic progression fantasy series—The Mark of the Fool, published by Aethon Books—for sale through Amazon and Audible.