Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Roadside Horrors by Cora Buhlert


Release Date: October 31, 2022
Subgenre: Horror collection

About Roadside Horrors:


 Roads are interstitial spaces, their only purpose to take you from one place to another.

In most cases, roads only connect two places in the real world. But occasionally, a road crosses the borderline into the unknown. That’s when things can come through, terrible things that lurk by the side of the road for the unwary traveller.

A car full of drunk teenagers on their way home from a festival encounter something terrible in the woods of Northwest Germany…

Nina delivers newspapers in the wee hours of the night and pays no attention to the pets that go missing in the neighbourhood… or the strange sounds echoing from the sewer grilles…

On a lonely country road in northern Spain, a truck driver encounters the ghosts of a terrible past…

So buckle up and get ready to meet the horrors that lurk by the side of the road. But be careful, because every encounter with them might be your last…

This is a collection of three tales of roadside horror of 9500 words altogether by Hugo winner Cora Buhlert.




Eight hours into a twenty hour trip, hauling asparagus from Andalusia to Germany, things started to go wrong.

It began with an accident on the autopista AP-7. A fellow truck driver crashed his rig into the central guardrail just behind Vinarós. No big deal, except that it was a cement truck. The cement spilled all over the autopista, causing a huge mess and blocking the entire highway for hell knew how long.

I got lucky and barely managed to pull into the Benicarlo exit before I got caught up in the traffic jam. So I was driving my semi along the old N-340, a single lane road that wound its way through villages and small towns along the Mediterranean coast.

It was just past midnight and the road was quiet. Apparently, most of my colleagues had decided to try their luck on the autopista, hoping that the cement spill would be cleaned up soon. And at this time of night, few others were on the road.

I’d just passed through a typical Catalan fisher village, picturesque by day and dark and dead by night.

Though the village was nothing compared to the darkness that awaited me once I’d left the town limits behind. The village at least had a few wan streetlights, plus the occasional neon sign. Out here, it was completely dark. Not a single light relieved the gloom.

I could only see as far as my headlights, so I drove slowly. After all, the road was narrow and winding, closely hugging the coastline, and a forty-ton truck is not the most manoeuvrable of vehicles.

The beam of my headlights struck the burned out husk of a building by the roadside. A faded sign still clung to the façade. It flashed by too fast for me to read.

Up ahead, there was a sharp curve, so I braked. The road was flanked by a wall here, a pockmarked brick wall, blackened with age.

I rounded the curve, my truck going maybe thirty kilometres per hour. And then I saw her. A little girl, maybe five or six, with blonde pigtails standing by the side of the road. She was dressed in a blue bathing suit with bright red flowers, though it was only March and the nights were still cold. In her hand, she was carrying a toy bucket and a plastic shovel. She was staring at me with blank eyes, like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

I hit the brakes. I had no idea what this little girl was doing out here or where she’d come from, right in the middle of nowhere. All I knew was that she shouldn’t be out here, all alone at night in a bathing suit.

But before my truck could come to a halt, I saw that she wasn’t alone. Because next to the little girl, there was a woman. An attractive young woman, with luscious red hair that fell to her tanned shoulders. She was wearing sunglasses — in the middle of the night — and an orange bikini that revealed more than it hid.

Next to the woman, there was a man in swim trunks. His chest was hairy and he wore a pornstar moustache. Then another man, older and potbellied, in shorts and a half open shirt. A little boy on a tricycle. A teenaged girl in a yellow sundress, her face dusted with freckles. An old woman in a shapeless gown emblazoned with colourful flowers.

There was a whole procession of them. People of all ages, twenty or more, in bathing suits or summer clothes, standing by the side of the road in the middle of a cold night in March, staring at my truck. Those stares were the most unnerving thing about it all. Because their eyes were strangely vacant, almost as if they were all on drugs. And who knows, maybe they were?


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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. Cora is the winner of the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer and the 2021 Space Cowboy Award.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for November 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 October 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, YA fantasy, fantasy mystery, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, YA science fiction, dystopian fiction, LitRPG, horror, demons, dwarves, ghosts, exorcists, Norse gods, aliens, cyborgs, space marines, climate change, haunted roads, haunted prisons, magical schools, Pandora's box, crime-busting witches, arsekicking grandmothers, veterinarians in space, 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:

Pandora's Demon by Odette C. BellPandora's Demon by Odette C. Bell:

Oh dear. Ruby Whittle’s already down on her luck. Soon, she’ll descend much further into something far worse. When she inherits Pandora’s box and finds out Hell’s real – and coming for her – she needs help. And only one demon can save her.
Blake is the Sixth Son of Satan, a man just as arrogant as he is handsome. When he spies Ruby, the half-breed, he plans to kill her. But when Ruby contracts him with one of his father’s rings, she binds them. Blake must now protect her. Through Heaven, through Hell, and through one of the greatest plots the universe has ever seen.

A dark force is rising, and though Blake really doesn’t like it, Ruby is the only half-breed who can help him defeat it. To do that, she’ll make him discover the beating organ between the junction of his fourth and fifth ribs. And by the end of this demonic tale, she’ll rip his heart right out and lay it as his feet. For when a demon falls in love, things get sticky.

Pandora’s Demon follows a prince and a half-breed battling to save the universe. If you crave your contemporary fantasies with action, humor, romance, and fun, grab Pandora’s Demon Book One today and soar free with an Odette C. Bell series.
Pandora’s Demon is the 2nd Sons of Satan series. A witty, action-packed, light romance world where Satan’s sons must find love, but only after it sticks a ring on their finger. If you like your urban fantasies packed full of charming smiles, arrogant demons, and sprinkles of romance, dive in today.

The Master of Puppets by Molly J. BraggThe Master of Puppets by Molly J. Bragg:

Jakari, an alien assassin, receives orders taking her to a primitive alien world. She expects the mission to be like any other. Get in, eliminate the target and get out again. Instead, when she arrives, she finds out that one of the leaders of the fascist Char Oram is there, seeking to turn the inhabitants into mindless soldiers that could tip the war in favor of the Char.

Hayami Takahashi follows a strange woman down a dark street and all she wants is to make sure the woman didn’t wind up as the next victim of a kidnapping ring working the streets of Dallas. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a civil war between two factions of shape shifting cyborg aliens.

After Jakari saves Hayami from becoming a test subject in a Char lab, the two of them are working together to stop a war that’s been raging for nine thousand years.

Smoke and Hellfire by Kristen BrandSmoke and Hellfire by Kristen Brand:

Keep calm and call an exorcist.

Most people don’t believe in the supernatural—at least until a ghost starts making the walls in their house bleed. That’s when they call Bea Romo Reyes. She’s my best friend and roommate, and she works as a freelance exorcist and paranormal consultant. Meeting her plunged me into a supernatural world both wonderful and terrifying, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But there’s something Bea’s not telling me, and her secret might be more dangerous than the demons she’s hired to exorcise.

Smoke and Hellfire contains four episodic, novelette-length stories:

The Scent of Brimstone
When my friend dies mysteriously and her house stinks of brimstone, I know a demon is to blame. And when it threatens my friend’s family, I do the only thing I can think of: I call a professional exorcist.

An Unfair Bargain
Bea and I investigate a missing woman who wandered into the forest at night like she was possessed. But the truth of what happened is—if possible—even worse than demonic possession, and we might not make it out of the forest alive.

Drowning, Drowning
A ghost tour in St. Augustine accidentally raises a vengeful spirit who starts picking off the tour group one by one. Can Bea banish the ghost in time to save the young tour guides from a watery grave?

The Corporate Job
I always knew corporations were evil, but this one takes it a step further when they summon a demon to increase their profit margins. With a possessed CFO chained up in the basement and Bea’s exorcism failing, the demon reveals a sinister secret that could change everything.

Marines Never Die by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. ChaneyMarines Never Die by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. Chaney:

The war continues...and the body count rises.

With humanity joining the alliance to fight the Naxli invaders, the war should be turning in their favor.

Unfortunately, the enemy must not have gotten that memo.

Across the galaxy, the Naxli strive for total domination. To create a stronger resistance, Gunny Pelletier is sent to work with the various races, but he and his team soon discover that reaching common ground and coordinating military action is far more difficult than they’d imagined.

But the Naxli aren’t pausing to give the allied races time to work out the kinks, which means it's time for humanity to go at it alone once again. Bureaucracy must wait while Marines do what Marines do best.

Besides, humanity owes the Naxli a few paybacks, even if the rest of the allied races are not willing to join the mission.

Roadside Horrors by Cora BuhlertRoadside Horrors by Cora Buhlert:

Roads are interstitial spaces, their only purpose to take you from one place to another.

In most cases, roads only connect two places in the real world. But occasionally, a road crosses the borderline into the unknown. That’s when things can come through, terrible things that lurk by the side of the road for the unwary traveller.

A car full of drunk teenagers on their way home from a festival encounter something terrible in the woods of Northwest Germany…

Nina delivers newspapers in the wee hours of the night and pays no attention to the pets that go missing in the neighbourhood… or the strange sounds echoing from the sewer grilles…

On a lonely country road in northern Spain, a truck driver encounters the ghosts of a terrible past…

So buckle up and get ready to meet the horrors that lurk by the side of the road. But be careful, because every encounter with them might be your last…

This is a collection of three tales of roadside horror of 9500 words altogether by Hugo winner Cora Buhlert.

Hammered by Lindsay BurokerHammered by Lindsay Buroker:

Seattle native Matti Puletasi has the strength of a bear, the stamina of an ox, and a magical hammer inherited from her dwarven mother.

She’s happy renovating homes and occasionally thumping bad guys until she learns of a mysterious artifact hidden under the house she’s working on. Everybody from humans to orcs to werewolves wants it, and they’re willing to kill to get it. Things go from bad to worse when someone frames her for murder.

The only person interested in helping her is a haughty elf assassin from another realm. He’s handsome, powerful, and deadly, but he’s got an agenda of his own. She dare not trust him—or be attracted to him.

But if she can’t clear her name, the assassin will be the least of her worries.

Kill Spree by M.R. ForbesKill Spree by M.R. Forbes:

Ben used to dream about being famous. He didn’t expect to wind up infamous instead.

Now he’s stuck in the middle of the most grotesque contest in the galaxy, racing against time and some of the most dangerous and deranged psychopaths in the Spiral to rescue his crew from a bloody battle royale.

The clock is ticking. The leaderboard is reset. Millions are watching. There can be only one winner, and if he ever wants to see his best friend again…

It had better be him.

Digital Divinity by Rachel FordDigital Divinity by Rachel Ford:

A shadow hangs over Midgard. Malevolent forces stir in Asgard. Out of the chaos will rise… a grandmother?
Barbara Callaghan assumed she’d spend her retirement peacefully, playing bingo and babysitting her grandson. Not fighting giants and wrangling unruly gods.

But when she finds herself the victim of a digital scam, trapped as a barbarian brawler in a game world generated from old Earth mythologies, she knows she will either adapt or perish. And Barbara has never been a quitter.

To survive this harsh rendering of Midgard, Barbara must win the patronage of one of the Asgardian gods. With the help of her disloyal companion Carwyn, an elven NPC with more warrants out on him than coins in his purse, she seeks out Asgard.

She discovers a world in turmoil, with powerful gods at each other’s throats, rogue giants causing chaos at every turn, and dwarven craftsmen at war with one another.

A world that needs the practical, no-nonsense touch of a grandmother—and the occasional brute strength of a barbarian.

Eat, Drink and Be Witchy by Lily Harper HartEat, Drink and Be Witchy by Lily Harper Hart:

Life is going well for Hali Waverly. She owns her own tiki bar at one of St. Pete Beach’s premiere resorts and her life is settled for the first time in…well, a really long time. On top of that, a local private investigator she keeps crossing paths has decided it’s time to date, something that both thrills and terrifies her.

All of that changes when a body turns up on one of the resort’s balconies and the owner of the resort is passed out inside with no recollection of what happened. Police think Franklin Craven could’ve killed her. The only problem is the marks on her body could also be attributed to an animal…and maybe one of a supernatural variety.

Worried about his freedom, Franklin hires Gray to solve the case. That means Hali and Gray are going to be investigating together…again.
St. Pete is full of paranormals, but Gray and Hali are looking for one specific one, a murderer who has a clear goal, even if it’s one they can’t quite ascertain.

Sparks are about to fly, in more ways than one, and death is on the cocktail menu. Hali and Gray want a chance at a future. They have to get through the present to make it happen.

A Swift Kick to the Thorax by Mara Lynn JohnstoneA Swift Kick to the Thorax by Mara Lynn Johnstone:

When space poachers release Earth animals on an alien world, threatening a fragile new alliance, they anger the wrong people. A veterinarian, an accountant, and a furious sign-language-fluent gorilla are coming for them.

Robin enjoys being one of the only humans around: an exotic outsider, strange and tall, with no shell and only two arms. Consulting for locals who want to keep Earth pets is a fine job. But when a swarm of rabbits invade town and humanity is blamed, everything unravels.

If Robin wants to save the alliance between two planets - and keep from getting sent home in disgrace - she has to prove that a powerful crime ring is behind the crisis. Luckily for her, she makes friends who are eager to help: from planetside, from the nearby space station, and recently escaped from the poacher's ship.

Those poachers may be bug aliens with an excellent range of vision, but they won't see this coming.

Lights, Cameras, Witches by Amanda M. LeeLights, Camera, Witches by Amanda M. Lee:

Bay Winchester isn’t in the mood for trouble. It seems to continually find her, however, and this time it’s coming in the form of a television production crew.

Haunted Traditions has made a name for itself as the premiere reality television show catering to paranormal enthusiasts. Of course Hemlock Cove pops up on their radar. What they want most of all is an interview with Bay, the local newspaper owner and expert on all things Hemlock Cove, and a shot of magic happening in real time wouldn’t hurt either.

The woman in question is not having it.

When a body drops in an alley, it’s bad enough that the production crew is on site. What makes it worse is that the body is glowing … and there’s no hiding it. There’s no telling why it’s glowing either. It’s a mystery.

Bay and her husband Landon are convinced the body has something to do with a new meth gang that has taken over a chain of lake cabins on the outskirts of town. They just have to prove it.

Between dodging the television crew—who have taken up residence in The Overlook—and chasing a monster, the Winchesters have their hands full … and that’s not counting the family members who have decided they want to become television stars.

Bay is used to fighting evil. What she’s not used to is having to dodge potential exposure in the process.

The Winchesters are facing a battle. Now they just have to figure what side it’s coming from.

It’s a fight to the finish … and if the television crew catches them, it’s all over.

It’s lights, cameras, action in Hemlock Cove … and death may soon follow.

The Quarrygate Gambit by Marshall Ryan MarescaThe Quarrygate Gambit by Marshall Ryan Maresca:

Mixing urban and high fantasy, the fourth Streets of Maradaine novel follows the crew of outlaws led by the Rynax brothers as they struggle to protect the city they love.

After having thwarted some of the forces responsible for ruining their lives, reformed thieves Asti and Verci Rynax and the rest of the Holver Alley Crew had mostly settled back into sedate lives as upright citizens of Maradaine. But when they are suddenly arrested in mysterious circumstances, they find themselves in Quarrygate Prison, which tests the limits of their cunning and skill. While Verci struggles to keep their friends alive and safe in the prison, Asti gets pulled into a mysterious scheme in the underbelly of the prison, teaming him up with some of the most dangerous people in Maradaine. The cracks in Asti’s tenuous sanity get torn open as he is thrown into a cat-and-mouse game with one of the city’s most infamous killers.

Meanwhile back in their neighborhood, Verci’s wife Raych is desperate to help him and Asti and get them home. When her attempts to go through proper channels fail, she accepts a ludicrous deal from the local crime boss: Verci and Asti’s freedom in exchange for her pulling off a daring, nigh-impossible heist that would challenge even seasoned thieves. Raych doesn’t know how a simple baker like her could hope to succeed at such a task, but she will use every trick and wild idea she has to help her family. None of the Rynaxes will rest until they are free from Quarrygate and together at home again, no matter the risk, no matter the cost.

Planetfall by Emily McCoshPlanetfall by Emily McCosh:

A rogue cyborg. A talking badger. A bounty job that goes incredibly wrong.

Aaron is perfectly content to chase bounties in his run-down little space ship, avoid human interaction at all cost, and lay low from the cyborg planet that created him. But when he and Bat—his half-robotic badger companion (who talks just a little too much)—chase their largest bounty ever, they run head-first into not only some dangerous criminals, but other cyborgs much stronger than them, and worst of all, a handful of humans who aren’t going anywhere.

Their job leads them first to Yayth, a backwater planet nearly as inhospitable as it is frigid. On a planet this abandoned, their target should be an easy find. Until a storm rolls in that freezes even the engines of starships. Aaron and Bat find themselves trapped not only with their bounty, but with some bystanders determined to get in the way, and something monstrous wanting to crack its way out of the ice.

Dream of Death City by P.J. NwosuDream of Death City by P.J. Nwosu:

Chilling, dark fantasy with a heavy dose of Sherlock Holmes in this new series of twisty mysteries in fantasy worlds.

Pale moths haunt an icy frontier. Beneath the shadow of a drowned death god, a frozen body is unearthed from the snow.

Investigators arrive to a superstitious island to solve a brutal crime. Among them is a lowly slave desperate to prove her worth and a soldier with dark dreams. Neither are prepared for what they find.

Death City is a strange and violent frontier, and no one who survives comes back clean.
First though, Thora and Diem must survive.

Welcome to the Red Kingdom.

Severed Ties by Kris RuhlerSevered Ties by Kris Ruhler:

A scientist filled with doubts. A four-year-old facing death. A momentous journey to save her.

For Belor, life in Cerulis City provides a myriad of comforts: endless food, a nice and warm home, and his dream job. He has life all planned out.

But when four-year-old Saya is about to be executed, Belor makes an irreversible decision that upheaves his entire life.
Soon, the pair find themselves on the run, fighting for survival. Saya is no ordinary four-year-old. She is a half-Aeterna, a race of beings banned from Cerulis City.

Will Belor be able to keep Saya alive?

Eldsprak Academy by Oskar SoderbergEldsprak Academy by Oskar Soderberg:

What do you get when you take a geomancer with a bone to pick, a secret aeromancer, and a healing hydromancer, and put them in a practice yard with a commoner ranger and a bunch of noble sons of Eldsprak Kingdom?

A group of individuals who all need to win The Academy Tournament for reasons of their own!

It’s up to Goslin to make them work together. If they’re to have any sort of chance at coming out on top, they’ll need to adapt and change. Can they start to pull in the same direction, or are they doomed to fall over each other in their eagerness to prove themselves on the field of battle?

How will they conquer The Tournament when one of their many opponents is Goslin’s own brother, the champion from last year’s tournament, and his hireling pyromancer who can send blasts of fire from the palm of his hand?

All the tyrannical gods may have been killed by The Heroes of old, but who cares about things like that when sword strikes sword and bursts of magic erupt in the streets of Fyrie, Eldsprak’s capital, where The Tournament is just starting?

Orphans of Canland by Daniel Vitale Orphans of Canland by Daniel Vitale:

It's 2088, and the dust has settled on America, decades after an environmental collapse. The eco-totalitarian organization, WORLD, has reconfigured society with the intention of restoring nature. Twelve-year-old eternal optimist Tristan Weekes lives in what he believes must be paradise: Canland, an agrarian California desert-greening project. However, Tristan's life-defining medical condition, analgesia, prevents him from feeling physical pain, leaving his brain's stress centers unresponsive to everything from ego-blows to heatwaves.

Well-intended, curious, and wielding a stunning vocabulary, Tristan loves to listen to the subversive theories spouted by his older brother, Dylan, a drug-addicted satellite hacker. He also wants to prove his independence to his mother, Helena, a powerful population control-extremist. Meanwhile, all around him, the survivors of the environmental collapse are just working toward a better tomorrow. But when a slew of violent acts befalls Canland, Tristan must confront certain truths about the community he loves-including his family's secrets, his own involvement in the horrors enacted by WORLD, and the debts that are owed to the orphans of Canland.

In this work of literary fiction, set against the backdrop of a frighteningly plausible dystopia, Daniel Vitale explores the fate of our planet, the nature of family, and the duty of science, as Orphans of Canland asks: What does it mean to belong on Earth?


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Interview with Victory Witherkeigh, author of The Girl

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Victory Witherkeigh, whose debut novel The Girl is published on December 6.

The Girl is your first full-length novel. What prompted you to write it?

I started writing portions or ideas for The Girl as far back as the early 2010s. But the first time I really sat down to pull the ideas together into a manuscript was in the fall of 2019, when I first explored my dream of being a full-time writer.

How did participating in NaNoWriMo help in the writing process of the novel?

Having the framework of NaNoWriMo allowed me to focus on typing and purging the words from my mind at a certain pace. Knowing the number of words per day needed to keep on task gave my brain enough distraction to not reread what I was writing as I was going. It may sound strange, but The Girl manuscript came as free-form chapters first, and I then outlined it as part of the editing phase once I completed the first draft. This gave me a big-picture view of all the pieces I had created, allowing me to think of outlining further ahead. 

What was it like changing from writing short fiction to a novel?

I had been a short story writer in dark fantasy/horror for a few months before NaNoWriMo came up. The most significant shift was having to elaborate into finer details of world-building or scene setups because in short stories, they can pass those finer details over because you have word count limits.

Tell us about the main character in your book, known only as "the Girl". Who is she and where does she find herself at the beginning of the novel?

The Girl is a first-generation American growing up in Los Angeles, CA, who just wishes her life followed the Hallmark movie channel scripts. And at the very beginning of the novel, the Girl has just arrived in the city of London, England, to a very unfortunate surprise when she gets to the hotel.

How important to the story are the Filipino and French Polynesian myths with which you grew up?

The myths themselves are, very much, a small window into some of the pre-colonial stories of our islands' past, but as a reader, there is no expectation that anyone may know the myths themselves. These stories and legends I would hear interchangeably with ghost stories or Aesop's fables and Grimm's fairy tales as a kid. I know each island area or family may have its own versions of the accounts, but they have wiped much from everyday history. It's rare to find the myths told in the modern household.

You emphasise that the Girl isn't a typical Mary Sue, "golden" heroine. Why is that significant to you?

My childhood and teenage years of reading fantasy had me grasping at straws, feeling like I couldn't identify with most of the female characters in the novels. If you were the heroine, you were most likely super quick to make the best decisions, with no hesitation in doing the right thing and taking up the sword for justice. Or you were the anti-heroine, where you were so good-looking that everyone fell over themselves to justify your actions and explain how they really had a good reason. There seemed to be no greyness, no authenticity to other options - like if you mess up or panic and have to work your way back to prove yourself. Or maybe you aren't sure there is a "right" answer, or you are afraid and take longer to work up to confront those fears. 

The Girl has been told all her life that she's evil and unwanted. How does that affect her and what happens when the magical part of her story begins?

The short answer - is not well. I wanted to answer that idea honestly, even though we read from her point of view. I wanted a fictional heroine whose biggest concern wasn't just the external quest or romance but the internal, familial struggles. When the Girl struggles with acceptance, the basic ideas of what love and belonging should look like, her emotions tie back to this magic that her family fears. As an outside reader, hopefully, there's also a visceral reaction regardless. Some might see why that happened, or some may even understand the family's point of view.


This is a coming-of-age novel that emphasises the difficulties of coming of age and the morally grey. Why did you want to write that narrative and how does The Girl explore it?

I wanted to write something I searched for as a teen. As I grew older, there was this sensation of a period where the childlike fairy tales or Disney-fed happy endings I saw seemed more like lies or condescending. I wanted to write something for kids to add a layer to the coming-of-age stories, to show that sometimes they aren't immaculate, that it can be a roller coaster or even underwhelming. The Girl explores some of these feelings and ideas from her early introduction to puberty to terrible social interactions with other kids, even issues making, keeping, or fighting with friends.

How do you interweave the mythological and fantasy elements into a modern Los Angeles setting?

Since the islands we come from were prone to various monsoons or lack of government infrastructure, power outages were widespread. A common way to pass the time in the dark would be to grab a flashlight and tell stories - often, the scarier, the better. I think that's something all children and adults can relate to—that feeling of sleep-away camp or a sleepover where you and your friends are trying to one-up each other to see who will be the toughest. My earliest short story publications involve some of the nightmare creatures that haunted my childhood dreams. There is this type of witchcraft called "Usik Daginut." It means "little death" or "thousand little deaths," with which you could curse someone by having tiny insects burrow under the victim's skin and create the sensation of hundreds upon hundreds of bug bites, driving a person mad. 

How important was it for you to write an "unlikeable female character", one who doesn't conform to the stereotypes of some YA novels?

Even now, as I watch my nieces pretend to play newer heroines who didn't follow the tropes I had, I'll catch her admitting that she can't "play" a particular character because she's not brave enough. It makes my stomach turn when I can't just point to a book to say yes… sometimes you don't do the right thing…Sometimes you aren't perfect, and sometimes it takes a long time to build confidence or unlearn bad habits. Young women need to have more opportunities to understand that being "likable" doesn't necessarily mean that you are a "good" or a "heroine" and vice-versa. Part of doing the right thing for you may come at a cost.

Why is diversity amongst characters important, especially in genres like Fantasy, SF and more?

It's everything… There have been plenty of research papers, studies, and hashtags about how much representation matters and how so many marginalized groups are still struggling to have over one facet shown. Showing diversity in fantasy or sci-fi only helps to enrich the world's understanding of our communities or cultures but is foundationally essential for the education of young children. It allows young readers to perceive their community with more empathy, improve their early behaviors by reducing prejudice, encouraging early critical thinking, or even inspiring confidence - all things that make the future brighter and better.

What do the words "dark fantasy" mean to you and why is The Girl part of this (sub)genre?

When using or hearing the term "dark fantasy," my mind immediately jumps to the aesthetics and imagery brought from the original Brothers Grimm Fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, and even Aesop's Fables. I've seen the TL: DR definition on Social Media as "fairy tales with no happy endings" or "stories without the Disney or Hallmark branding." The more formal definition I've seen in the publishing industry is "stories centered with fantastical and horror elements." The Girl is part of this sub-genre because, like many other cultures, the legends and magical stories of the pre-colonial Pacific islands come with a price. Very rarely do stories end in "happily ever after" or clean endings. 

How far have YA Fantasy and other YA genres changed or developed since you were a YA reader yourself?

I had enjoyed seeing some movement in the discussions of diversity in genre writing, whereas when I was younger, it seemed just a known fact there were only these creators known in these genres, and that was it. As much as it is a double-edged sword, the internet has allowed for smaller, indie, or even self-published authors to help expand the breadth of the genre to a certain extent as far as having more women, authors of color, or LGBTQIA authors. The fact that I was able to specify the point that if my main character was displayed on the book cover, she'd need to be shown as a brown-skinned girl. Knowing that even the cover art can now include color tone feels like a big step forward.

What are your plans? Will there be a sequel to The Girl? 

There's obviously more to this story, but whether I'll be telling it or leaving it up to the readers' minds is yet to be decided. I can't imagine not coming back to The Girl, assuming there is enough interest.

Are there any writers of Fantasy and YA Fantasy past or present whose work you enjoy?

The first series I fell in love with were Garth Nix's Abhorsen Series and Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics. As a kid, I preferred reading R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike to Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and enjoyed the Game of Thrones series as it felt the most realistic for a change. Once I was out of college, I had more time to pick up works by Leigh Bardugo and Erin Morgenstern. Books like I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez and The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke are other contemporary favorites I've discovered over the years.

Have you watched The Rings of Power from Amazon Prime, and if so, what do you think of it?

I have watched The Rings of Power and enjoyed being back in the world of Tolkien. The visuals were stunning, and the music made my heart flutter. I liked the relationships built between the characters, and there's definitely room to grow, which is something I think is appropriate for both the Second Age of Tolkien and new writers. I enjoyed the casting decisions, and honestly, seeing other Brown people in Tolkien's world just made the little one who read those books so long ago want to do her own little dance of joy that she could be part of as well.

Preorder The Girl from Amazon

About Victory Witherkeigh:

Photo credit: Kat Goodloe

Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino/PI author originally from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. Victory was a finalist for Wingless Dreamer’s 2020 Overcoming Fear Short Story award and a 2021 winner of the Two Sisters Writing and Publishing Short Story Contest. She has print publications in the horror anthologies Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, and In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press. Written during NaNoWriMo, Victory’s first novel, set to debut in December 2022 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing, has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award, a 2020 Cinnamon Press Literature Award Honoree, and long-listed in the 2021 Voyage YA Book Pitch Contest. Find out more about her at:

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Friday, November 25, 2022

Interview with Rebecca Gomez Farrell, author of Wings Unfurled (Book 2 of Wings Rising)

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Rebecca Gomez Farrell, whose novel Wings Unfurled is our featured new release on December 6.

Wings Unfurled is a sequel to your first novel, Wings Unseen. How did you come to write a sequel and was that your original intention?

When I began daydreaming about writing this fantasy story, way back in college in the early 2000s, I always assumed it would be a trilogy—it’s fantasy, right?! But once I began writing the first book, Wings Unseen, in earnest, the going advice for debut novelists, even in fantasy, was to aim for a standalone novel rather than a series. I took that advice and managed to tell the whole story I envisioned in one book, rather than three. That ultimately made for a much stronger book! But by its publication, I thought I had told all the story about Lansera, the main kingdom in the books, and its characters that I wanted to tell.

Meerkat Press’s publisher, Tricia Meeks, encouraged me to consider a sequel, so the what ifs started rolling around in my head after Wings Unseen’s publication in 2017. I am not a fast writer, and it took probably a year until I could really envision a new story told in this world. But once I could, I absolutely wanted to peel back the next layer of Lanserim spirituality, magic, and culture and the lives of my main characters and share them with readers.

You introduced the countries of Medua and Lansera in Wings Unseen. What can you tell us about them and their world?

A few generations before Wings Unseen starts, Lansera was the only country in this world. It’s ruled mostly wisely by the Albrecht line of monarchs, regional nobles, and town councils. Its citizens are generally motivated to be good people, and they have a strong connection to their goddess Madel. 

A portion of the Lanserim populace decided that they were tired of living by acceptable social mores, and that prizing themselves over others sounded a lot more fun and rewarding. So they rebelled, and a bitter civil war ensued. Ultimately, the Lanserim king ceded the rebels a portion of their lands to stop the bloodshed. That land became Medua, and it was quickly overrun by the most brutal rebels who used a false religion to establish a harsh, patriarchal rule over everyone else in Medua for generations.

By the beginning of Wings Unfurled, the Lanserim and Meduan peoples have been reunited for six years. They’ve learned that Lansera turning a blind eye to the horrors the Meduan rulers visited on their own people ultimately hurt the Lanserim as well. But the reunification of two cultures that have lived by very, very different morals while apart is not easy, and lingering resentment on both sides threatens to boil over into open fighting again.

When Wings Unfurled is published, Wings Unseen will be reissued with new cover art. What prompted that decision and what is the significance of the beautiful stag on the cover of Wings Unfurled?

We decided to correct a mistake we’d made when first marketing Book 1, Wings Unseen. We’d categorized it as young adult fantasy, but that never really fit the book, despite two out of three main characters being teenagers. It reads more as adult epic fantasy. So Tricia and I decided that recategorizing both books made sense, especially with the characters having aged in Wings Unfurled. New cover art is essential to appeal to a new audience, and you want that instant brand recognition across a series. Thus, new cover art! And I am absolutely thrilled to have two gorgeous versions of Wings Unseen artwork now.

The silver stag featured on the cover of Wings Unfurled is a legendary creature that plays a huge role in both books. In Wings Unseen, Janto Albrecht, one of my main characters, slays the stag, fulfilling a prophecy. We learn that the stag is also tied through some sort of essence to Vesperi Sellwyn, another main character and the wielder of the Silver Flame. In Wings Unfurled, that essence is explored more deeply, as is the silver stags’ true nature.

Tell us about the protagonists, Janto, Vesperi, and Serra. How have they changed since the end of Wings Unseen?

Vesperi and Janto have wed, and she now has all the power she ever wanted, both magically and politically. Yet she struggles to find that power can’t fix everything: her and Janto’s daughter Izmareld has disappeared without a trace.  

Vesperi blames Janto for Izzy’s disappearance, and so Janto is at Castle Callyn without his wife’s support. His father is ailing, he may soon become king, but how can he possibly rule a whole country when he couldn’t keep his wife or keep track of his own child? 

Serra still travels the countryside, often as a healer and using her special sight to commune with the spiritual realm. But she is running away from committing to her long-time paramour, Lorne Granich, and her duties as the liege of her home region. Serra has spent so much time sacrificing herself for Lansera, that she can’t imagine what living for herself might look like. Then those dark patches start creeping into her second sight…

As the book begins, all three know the important roles they play as people of prophecy, but they don’t know their own strengths as human beings.

What is the importance of Esye, the silver moon?

I can’t go into detail, as Esye’s importance is a central part of Wings Unfurled! But I can say that Vesperi’s power, the Silver Flame, is drawn from Esye’s essence, and that essence is far more than the mere light that Esye projects onto the Lanserim realm.

When the book begins, Vesperi and Janto have lost their daughter. Tell us about this.

The prologue describes the moment when Izmareld, Vesperi and Janto’s daughter, disappears. She is four, and like many four-year-old children, prone to wandering off when something sparkly catches her eye. Janto commits the grave sin that so many parents fear: letting her out of his sight for a moment. And in that moment, Izzy disappears entirely, leaving no trace. Months have passed by the time Chapter 1 begins. Their stress and heartache over their still missing child are the driving factors in every decision Vesperi and Janto make separately and together, for good or for ill.


Serra possesses second sight, which detects a growing evil. How much can you tell us about this new threat?

It’s different than the claren, the invisible insect horde that consumed people from the inside out in Wings Unseen. This threat creeps in slowly, enshrouding its targets in darkness until they can no longer see the light. The claren bred in the tainted spiritual waters that the Meduan evils created; this one flourishes through doubt and despair.


As well as this duology, you have written many short stories, which have appeared in magazines, websites, and anthologies including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, It Calls From the Sky, PULP Literature, and A Quiet Afternoon 1 & 2. What are the challenges of writing short fiction and novels and do you use a different method?

I begin short stories and novels in similar ways: a character or a few will come to mind along with a concept I want to explore, and then the mood of the piece. As I begin writing, snatches of scenes appear, and I get a feel for the shape of the story. It is generally quite clear to me from the onset if I’m writing a novel or a short story, however. Only once have I written a short story that I’ve realized would be better served as a novel. That’s still a work in progress.

You are communications director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), and helm a local chapter of the national Women Who Submit Lit organization, which encourages all writers who identify as women and/or nonbinary to submit their work for publication. What made you sign up for the former and why is the second important, especially now?

I joined SFWA as soon as I learned about it, which happened to be the same year I qualified to join as an associate, in 2013. Many people don’t realize that SFWA is more than a writers association, it is also a nonprofit that advocates for creators and the SFF genres at large. I had wanted to volunteer more with them, and the pandemic freed up enough of my time that I finally could, so I took over running their social media. Within six months, they offered me a spot on staff, and I accepted, spurred on mostly by my passion for helping communicate the great work SFWA does.

Women Who Submit Lit is a fantastic organization that just received its nonprofit status this year. It’s such a simple concept: women and nonbinary creators come together, in-person or virtually, and spend a few hours focusing on sending their work out for publication. Each time someone hits send, we cheer loudly, providing a burst of endorphins and encouragement to keep sending out more of our work. Especially now, with the publishing industry in constant transition and rejection rates higher than ever, anything that motivates us to keep submitting is beneficial. 

You also co-organize the East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup Group and administer several discussion groups for women, nonbinary, and Bay Area writers. This sounds fascinating and fun but also time-consuming. How do you manage your time?

The honest answer is that I don’t as well as I’d like! Since the pandemic started, my writing motivation has taken a big hit, especially as my husband began working at home—turns out privacy is essential to my creative process. So I couldn’t write, and I suddenly had time for more online volunteering and event organizing. It has brought me a lot of validation and satisfaction during these tumultuous years.

But I’m now in the process of stepping down from a lot of my extracurriculars, including the East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup group and the Bay Area Women Who Submit Lit chapter. Though I love their work and support for the writing community, I need to prioritize my own writing again. Luckily, new organizers are stepping up, so they’ll continue to keep going strong! I’ve been running both for 5+ years, and I’m thrilled that my leaving doesn’t mean those groups will stop thriving.

In addition, you write a food, drink, and travel blog,, which has been going for a decade and a half. What can you tell us about the blog and how far does it influence your fiction? Why would you choose “Absinthe verte, one cube” as your replicator order?

As I often say, my writing and social media posting for The Gourmez influences every tasty bit of my worldbuilding. Food, aromas, textures: these are such powerful conjurers of memory and emotion. Learning how to describe them in salivating detail can be a powerful technique in your writer toolbox. Though I do warn everyone who follows me @theGourmez on social media that my feeds will make you hungry! 

As for my replicator order, I have always been enchanted by the forbidden “banned” lore of absinthe. Since its return to production in the USA, I’ve tried a ton of absinthes, and I simply adore the flavor of black licorice. Absinthe vert means “green absinthe,” though I prefer it if it’s a light natural green from the herbs rather than a vivid one from artificial coloring. One cube refers to the amount of sugar that I like slowly dissolved into my absinthe glass.

Where have your travels taken you and do you have any plans for the immediate future?

Prior to the pandemic, I loved travel! I’ve been to Japan, Romania, the UK, the Netherlands, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and a few other countries. I know it's passé to admit it, but I love hitting up all the standard tourist spots. I’ve often shared travelogues on The Gourmez as well. But this last year, many of the trips I had planned before the pandemic all happened at once, so now…I need a vacation from travel. Hopefully, I’ll get to recharge in 2023. I do have travel planned to NYC in April to take part in the Rooftop Readings series, however!

What are you working on now? Will there be a third volume to follow Wings Unfurled?

My next writing goals are to complete one final revision of my manuscript for the first book in a post-apocalyptic, paranormal romance series and then seek an agent to represent the series. Then I’d really like to return to several short stories that I think are some of my best…but I haven’t had time to work them into masterpieces quite yet. I’ve also begun a horror novel based in the Southwest. Will there be a third Wings Rising book? Well, ask me in a year when potential plot points have had the time to dance around in my head.

Have you any favourite authors or books, inside or outside of the genre?

Inside the genres, I have been most moved by Mary Doria Russell’s duology of The Sparrow and Children of God. I have been most influenced by well-known SFF authors such as Tolkien, of course, George R. R. Martin, and Octavia Butler. I am most inspired by authors who share their experiences with the world through essay, memoir, and literature that manages to convey great truths, such as James Baldwin, Michael W. Twitty, Zora Neale Hurston, Haruki Murakami, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Do you attend conventions and have you got any appearances coming up?

I am not a big convention goer, partially because I do love travel! When I’m visiting somewhere new, I’d rather be outside exploring than inside talking on panels. But I do think the professional development for creators that the Nebula Conference provides is worth those hours spent inside conference rooms, whether in person or online. I also hope to return to Wiscon and Sirens someday, both great conferences that support women in fantasy. I also enjoy my local FogCon and staying abreast of the SFF community in the Bay Area. 

My next reading will be at Story Hour on Wednesday, December 7, at 7:00pm Pacific Time, and I am hosting SFWA’s Weekly Writing Date the following Sunday, December 11, at 2:00pm PT. More events are forthcoming in 2023. I’d be delighted if your readers visited my website,, for future event details or joined my newsletter for updates.

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About Rebecca Gomez Farrell:

Rebecca Gomez Farrell refuses to say “Bloody Mary” three times into a mirror, though she’ll write stories about the people who do. She lives in California’s East Bay with her tech wizard husband and two feline coworkers. Her epic fantasy duology, which includes Wings Unseen and Wings Unfurled, is published by Meerkat Press. Becca’s shorter works have appeared over thirty times in magazines, websites, and anthologies including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, It Calls From the Sky, PULP Literature, and A Quiet Afternoon 1 & 2.
Becca is the communications director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA). She helms a local chapter of the national Women Who Submit Lit organization, which encourages all writers who identify as women and/or nonbinary to submit their work out for publication. She also co-organizes the East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup Group and administers several discussion groups for women, nonbinary, and Bay Area writers.
Over the past decade and a half, her food, drink, and travel blog,, has influenced every tasty bite of her fictional worldbuilding. Her replicator order is “Absinthe verte, one cube.”
Author Website: Social Media: @theGourmez.