A New Adventure of the Silencer: The Milk Truck Gang

As mentioned in my last post, there will be a couple of new release announcements in the near future, as I work through the backlog of stories I wrote during the 2017 July short story challenge.

The first story from the 2017 July short story challenge to see the light is The Milk Truck Gang, the latest adventure of the Silencer. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the series, The Silencer follows the adventures of Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp writer by day and the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, and is my homage to the hero pulps of the 1930s such as the Shadow, the Spider, Doc Savage and others.

The Silencer stories are fairly research intensive because of the 1930s setting and also because New York City, where most of the stories take place, has changed a lot in the past eighty years. Luckily, New York City’s past is extensively documented, though tracing what the city looked like in the mid 1930s, what long gone buildings were in which location and what shops, restaurant, hotels, theatres, etc… were called (cause they change names and tennants often) can still be a pain. On the plus side, researching locations for a Silencer story often yields plenty of interesting facts that provide ideas for more stories. Coincidentally, I recently came across this fabulous site, which is a basically a Google Streetview into the past and links historical photos to particular locations. Invaluable, particularly when dealing with an area that had changed drastically in the past eighty years.

Because the Silencer stories require so much research, they don’t really lend themselves to a project like the July short story challenge, where speed is of essence and there usually isn’t a lot of time for research. I did write a Silencer story during last year’s July short story challenge, but Fact or Fiction is a housebound story that takes place entirely in Richard’s study and therefore required a lot less research than the average Silencer story. Though even Fact or Fiction required some research, e.g. was white out fluid available in the 1930s (no, invented in the 1950s) and if not, what did people use instead?

While doing the 2017 July short story challenge, I chanced to listen to a report on the radio about a wave of thefts, where cargo – mostly electronics – was stolen directly from the backs of trucks. The report was about a new alarm system that would alert the driver, but what piqued my interest was the crime itself. “That would make a great Silencer story”, I thought to myself.

The July short story challenge requires coming up with a whole lot of ideas in a very compressed time period and so it didn’t take long before I thought, “Hey, that idea for a Silencer story about a wave of thefts from truck beds was pretty good. Maybe I should write that one.”

The next question was what should the thieves steal? It needed to be something that was shipped in sufficient quantities and on a predictable schedule, that was easy to sell and difficult to trace. And so I settled on milk. Milk was ideal for the purpose of my story, because a city the size of New York consumes a lot of it, it is delivered on a predictable schedule and by trucks following predictable routes in the very early morning, it is easy to sell and almost impossible to trace, particularly with 1930s technology.

This led to the question, where precisely did the milk consumed by New Yorkers in the early 20th century come from? Researching this led me to the swill milk scandal of the mid 19th century, which in turn made its way into the story, for the gang not just steals milk and attacks truck drivers, it also adulterates the milk and so poisons young children, which gives the story an extra sense of urgency.

There were a couple of other questions to research, such as what route would the milk trucks take to get the milk from Westchester County to New York City and did those streets already exist in the 1930s (thanksfully yes – what is now Broadway was first mentioned in 1642 and is likely much older)? The reminder that Broadway extends quite a bit beyond the city limits of New York into Westchester County brought to mind the George M. Cohan song “Forty-five minutes from Broadway”, which not only made it’s way into the story, but also stuck in my head for several days.

After the Christmas extravaganza that is St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, The Milk Truck Gang is a more low-key Silencer adventure that basically centres on a single fight scene. The investigation take place largely off-stage and of the Silencer’s usual supporting cast, only Constance and Edgar, the kitten, as well as Baby Kenny (introduced in St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen) appear. I’m somewhat troubled by the fact that this is the third Silencer story in a row, where Constance doesn’t get a very much to do aside from making coffee and breakfast and patching up Richard after his adventures (the fifth story in the row, actually, since Constance doesn’t appear at all in The Great Fraud and Mean Streets and Dead Alleys). Okay, so she does get a bit more to do in St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s not nearly close to the level of Constance’s involvement in Countdown to Death or The Spiked Death. However, in the hopefully not all too distant future, there will be a Silencer story where Constance goes on an undercover mission of her own.

But for now, here is the Silencer’s latest case, as he battles…

The Milk Truck Gang
The Milk Truck Gang by Cora BuhlertUpstate New York, 1937: When the delivery vans of the Daisy Chain Dairy Company are targeted and robbed by a criminal gang and a driver is shot, Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer decides to get involved.

So he stakes out the dairy company in the early hours of the morning to apprehend the criminals, only to find himself embroiled in a lethal fight on the bed of a speeding milk truck…

 

 

More information.
Length: 3700 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

And if you want to read the entire Silencer series, there is a bundle of all nine stories to date available at a steeply reduced price at DriveThruFiction.

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A New Cover and a New German Short Story Available – Ein neues Cover und eine neue Kurzgeschichte auf Deutsch erhältlich: Der Lohn des Henkers

There will be a few new release announcements in the next days and weeks, since I’m currently editing my way through the backlog of stories I wrote during the 2017 July short story challenge.

However, today’s double announcement has nothing to do with that. For starters, my science fiction short story Whaler has a new cover. Now Whaler is one of those stories I refer to as a never-seller. It was my lowest selling book for a long time and though it isn’t my lowest selling title any more (currently, that’s Parlour Game, but since that’s a fairly new release, that will probably change), it’s still a story that sells very little.

Because Whaler doesn’t sell and isn’t part of any series, I was reluctant to invest any more time and money in it. However, I recently had to update the file because of an issue with epubcheck, that had gone unnoticed for six years. And while I was updating the file, I also noticed that the cover was getting really long in the tooth. It wasn’t bad for its time, but that time was six years ago. Whaler is one oldest covers I have that has never been updated (Outlaw Love and Rites of Passage are even older, but those are still pretty good) and it was really in dire need of an update.

So behold the beautiful new cover for Whaler (and maybe buy the story, while you’re at it):

Whaler by Cora Buhlert

The second announcement is for a new German language short story. During the long hot days of summer, when I don’t feel creative enough to work on new stories, I occasionally translate some of my existing stories into German. My historical romances have always done well in Germany, so I decided to tackle Hangman’s Wages for my next translation project.

***

Die zweite Ankündigung für heute (die erste war für ein neues Cover einer Science Fiction Kurzgeschichte, die es bis jetzt leider nur auf Englisch gibt) betrifft eine neue Kurzgeschichte auf Deutsch. Während der langen heißen Sommertage fühle ich mich manchmal nicht kreativ genug, um etwas Neues zu schreiben. Also nutze ich die Zeit, um einige meiner älteren Geschichten ins Deutsche zu übersetzen. Meine historischen Liebesgeschichten haben sich auf Deutsch immer gut verkauft, also habe ich mich der Kurzgeschichte Hangman’s Wages angenommen, die es jetzt auch auf Deutsch gibt:

Der Lohn des Henkers
Der Lohn des Henkers von Cora BuhlertWährend der öffentlichen Hinrichtung eines berüchtigten Banditen wird die junge Anna beim Taschendiebstahl erwischt und an Ort und Stelle zum Tode verurteilt. Der gnadenlose Graf Dietmar von Finsterwalde weist seinen Henker Ulrich an, die Diebin unverzüglich aufzuhängen.

Ulrich hat Mitleid mit Anna, aber Befehl ist Befehl. Also führt er das verängstigte Mädchen zum Galgenbaum vor den Toren der Stadt hinaus. Ulrich ist entschlossen, dafür zu sorgen, dass sie so wenig wie möglich leidet. Aber als er Anna die Schlinge um den Hals legt, wird Ulrich sich bewusst, dass diese junge Diebin sein Herz rührt wie keine andere Frau zuvor.

Aber wie kann er Anna retten, wenn Graf Dietmar schon ihren Tod befohlen hat?

Mehr Informationen.
Länge: 3800 Worte
Preis: 0,99 EUR, USD oder GBP
Erhältlich bei Amazon Deutschland, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Niederlande, Amazon Frankreich, Amazon Italien, Amazon Spanien, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australien, Amazon Brasilien, Amazon Mexico, Amazon Japan, Amazon Indien, Kobo, Apple iTunes, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, BOL, Osiander, Mayersche, buecher.de, buch.de, eBook.de, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, 24symbols, Playster, txtr, Inktera, Smashwords, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Flipkart, e-Sentral und XinXii.

Dieses Buch gibt es auch auf English.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for August 2017

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some July 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 Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, gothic romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, young adult science fiction, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, superheroes, ghosts, haunted valentines, alien invasions, FBI dark fae, magical circusses, galactic outlaws, space pirates, girl scientists and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

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:

Rotten Magic by Jeffrey BardwellRotten Magic by Jeffrey Barwell:

Devin will do anything to win. Even resort to magic.

Devin competes to become the best artificer in the mage phobic Iron Empire. Who needs magic when you can master the art of machinery? The other apprentices envy his genius and skills . . . especially Benson. Every apprentice hones their craft building and fighting in crude prototypes of powered armor. Some add frills, others barbs or horns. When Devin transforms himself into a mechanical dragon to slaughter the competition, Benson steps into the role of dragon slayer.

But Devin harbors a secret as he claws his way to the top of the Artificer’s Guild: he’s a mage. These new abilities are thrilling and frightening, and the voices more so. How long can Devin be content wearing a steel dragon mask when the seductive promise of true arcane power whispers in his ear?

Experience the novella prequel to the Artifice Mage Saga: a fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody’s hands are clean.

Resistance by Max CarverResistance by Max Carver:

DISCOVERY…INVASION…WAR…

On a rocky, desolate planet, a small band of gold prospectors find themselves making a discovery they never expected–valuable and powerful relics of the galaxy’s deep past.

They also discover a hostile alien species: gigantic, hideous, ruthless monsters who wipe out all humans on sight.

Humanity’s first contact with intelligent aliens becomes a war for survival. The invasion has begun…but the beginning of the invasion is also the beginning of the resistance.

Renegade Star by J.N. ChaneyRenegade Star by J.N. Chaney:

Jace Hughes is a Renegade.

That means taking almost any job that comes his way, no matter the situation. So long as he can keep his ship floating, he’s free to live the life he wants.

But that all changes when he meets Abigail Pryar, a nun looking for safe passage out of the system.

Too bad there’s something off about the cargo she’s carrying.

Jace knows he shouldn’t ask too many questions, but when strange sounds start coming from inside the large, metal box, he can’t help but check it out.

Big mistake.

To make matters worse, he’s being pursued by unknown ships–people who want that cargo. Does Jace give up the goods and hand over the nun…or does he risk it all for an even bigger payout?

The Contending by Cynthia Joyce ClayThe Contending by Cynthia Joyce Clay:

“If I survive this, I must make amends to Princess Royal Tristabe-airta. If don’t, when I become her liege, she be too powerful of an enemy.”

Royal swords possess the unhuman strength and temperament of their ancestors, dragons. Burta, a young royal sword, resents that she must always defer to Tristabé-airta, Princess Royal of Allsongs, a poet. But Burta is so skilled in arms she expects to win the Allsongs’ Contending and that will make her Tristabé-airta’s liege. The problem is, though, she is trapped between the monster that hunts her and the deadly drop down the cliff to the turbulent sea. In Book Two of the Saga of the Dragon Born, all the poets of Allsongs, including Tristabé-airta, must unite their power to rescue Burta. Once rescued, will she unwisely keep a secret close to her heart that will be a rending betrayal to Allsongs’ best hope and defense, Tristabé-airta?

The Dance on the Moons of Serenity by M.D. CooperThe Dance on the Moons of Serenity by M.D. Cooper:

Everyone deserves a day off, right?

That’s just what Jessica and Cheeky are enjoying when a pair of old “friends” show up and force them to smuggle weapons into the Serenity System.

On their own with just a small interstellar pinnace at their disposal, Jessica and Cheeky aren’t going to let someone else force them to smuggle weapons (especially when there’s no profit in it for them) and they take control of their ship and escape.

Unfortunately, they still end up in the Serenity system…with the weapons. Now they must unravel a tangled web of deception in a highly stratified aristocratic society to learn the intended recipient of the weapons.

Attending a series of gala events, Jessica will have to use a particular set of skills she’s acquired over the years (as a TBI Agent, seriously, people) to start a war between two aristocratic families.

What could go wrong?

Agent of Darkness by C.N. Crawford and Alex RiversAgent of Darkness by C.N. Crawford and Alex Rivers:

There’s a dark power growing within me. And I’m not sure I can control it.

The fae king wants me dead. His assassins tracked me down and nearly killed me— now they’re the ones lying lifeless in a pool of blood. But the price I’ve paid is too high. They hurt someone I love, and I burn for revenge.

I’m done watching from the sidelines. Following the seductive fae Roan, I join the rebels but find myself surrounded by suspicion at every turn. But with the strange new magic in my blood, no one trusts me anymore.

It’s the magic of fear, of terror, of nightmares. The king’s minions have given me another name: Mistress of Dread. My power is unstable and deadly, and to get my vengeance, I must learn to control it. Yet with fury boiling in my blood and desire for Roan kindling my heart, it seems like an impossible task.

FBI Agent, Pixie, Terror Leech, Mistress of Dread. Will I become a King Killer as well?

Brave New Girls, edited by Paige Daniels and Mary FanBrave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme, edited by Paige Daniels and Mary Fan:

Dive into a universe of sci-fi wonders.

This collection of sci-fi shorts features a variety of brainy young heroines—girls who engineer, tinker, experiment, and more. Voyage to far-off galaxies with girls who use their science savvy to fix rovers, rescue friends, and protect alien critters. Visit steampunk realms where young ladies put their skills to the test building mechanical wonders and solving mysteries. Trek across sci-fi landscapes with girls who save androids and repair robots. Journey to post-apocalyptic futures where heroines use their tech know-how to bring down overlords and spread the most dangerous thing of all… knowledge. And drop in on a few near-future heroines who use their smarts to take down supervillains and bring a little more understanding into the world.

Proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers. Let’s show today’s girls that they, too, can be tomorrow’s inventors, programmers, scientists, and more.

STORIES BY:
T. Eric Bakutis, Elisha Betts, Steph Bennion, Bryna Butler, Margaret Curelas, Paige Daniels, Kay Dominguez, Brandon Draga, George Ebey, Mary Fan, A.A. Jankiewicz, Evangeline Jennings, Jamie Krakover, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Stephen Landry, Karissa Laurel, Michelle Leonard, Meg Merriet, Jelani-Akin Parham, Josh Pritchett, Holly Schofield, and Lisa Toohey.

Harkworth Hall by L.S. JohnsonHarkworth Hall by L.S. Johnson:

Caroline Daniels must marry, and marry well. But in her remote corner of England eligible suitors are few and far between, and none hold a candle to her closest friend, Diana Fitzroy.

When Sir Edward Masterson arrives, he seems the answer to Caroline’s financial worries, though she instinctively dislikes the reticent, older merchant. Soon Sir Edward has set his sights on acquiring both Caroline and the decaying Harkworth Hall.

Caroline’s future seems secure, save that Sir Edward’s enigmatic secretary hints at a dark secret, and Sir Edward shows an unusual interest in the nearby bay. To discover Sir Edward’s true purpose, Caroline will have to face the horror beneath Harkworth Hall—and the woman who will change her life.

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

Look out Sin City, here comes the Mystic Caravan Circus.
The city that never sleeps has something lurking in the darkness and Poet Parker can’t decide if it’s friend or foe. The rich history of the area comes into play when research uncovers a mine disaster more than a hundred years in the past … and a tragic outcome that still haunts the locale to this day.
Between dust storms bringing forth a creature with glowing red eyes, screams in the desert and Poet’s increasing conviction that they’re not alone, the team has their hands full. That’s on top of the fact that Max decides now is the time to make his move and get to know his son – who also happens to be Poet’s boyfriend – in a new light and the unwelcome realization that Luke has seemingly become obsessed with gambling.
Poet’s attention is split in numerous directions, although Luke’s quagmire is closest to her heart. She wants to help her best friend, even as he spirals out of control. He’s not the same best friend she’s spent the past few years loving, but she’s determined to get him back … even if it means facing off with some of Las Vegas’ most perilous residents.
The mystical world of the circus is due to collide with the dangerous underbelly of the gambling world and the two sides might not be as far apart as they initially assume.
When the dust storm settles – and the final battle is upon them – more than one person will be in danger … and Poet will have to make a hard choice to protect those she loves while sacrificing someone else to the unending darkness.
It’s the ultimate game, but money isn’t the only thing at risk.

The Fiasco in News by Stephan MorseThe Fiasco in News by Stephan Morse:

When you’ve seen as many catastrophes as I have, “disaster” becomes a relative term. But when disaster hits, feel free to do what I do—hang your head while waiting for the tight-wearing crowd to arrive. That only works if your super power is the same one I have though. I’m an immortal walking magnet for superpowered problems.

This new guy, Ted—a fake part-time villain who’s in it for the ratings and excitement—wants me to be a field correspondent for his news blog, and his offer sounds good. If I can’t beat ’em, expose ’em. The problem is he has no idea what my daily life is like.

No one really does—but they’ll learn.

The Black by Neil MossparkThe Black with Neil Mosspark

Five years ago, when the anomaly arrived, it wiped out eight thousand square kilometers of Toronto Ontario, taking with it over seven million souls. It remains now as a looming impervious black dome.

Dave Thompson, a hard rock miner, was hired as the lead engineer on tunnel 18. The job is simple: Get the crews to dig fast, and dig deep, avoid the lethal energy discharges and try not to die in a tunnel collapse.

Recently the energy releases are happening more and more frequently, the miners are refusing to dig, and the government is becoming desperate. Making things worse, there’s something they’re not telling him.

With time running out, he suspects that if he can’t get the scientists inside, there’s little hope for humanity’s survival.

Heart of Vengeance by Glynn Stewart and Terry MixonHeart of Vengeance by Glenn Stewart and Terry Mixon:

A pirate attack with only one survivor
A conspiracy woven across the planets
A vengeance that will not be denied

When pirates seize the inter-planetary freighter owned by Brad Mantruso’s family, he is dumped into space. Saved from death by a passing Fleet ship, he is left with nothing but his skills, a gun, and a burning desire for vengeance.

Acquiring a ship, he reinvents himself as the mercenary Captain Brad Madrid. Before he can pursue his enemies, however, he finds himself dragged into an unexpected conflict when his ship’s history draws new enemies to him.

Beset by pirates, slavers, and a woman who might be his savior—but definitely is a spy—it will take all of his skill, cunning, and new friends to claim his revenge!

Privateer by J.A. SutherlandPrivateer by J.A. Sutherland:

Even with no war on, there are always battles to fight.

A cease-fire in the war with Hanover leaves Lieutenant Alexis Carew on half-pay, in-atmosphere, and with her ship laid up in ordinary until called upon once more for the “needs of the Service.” She was, at least, lucky enough to be in her home star system when here last ship, HMS Nightingale, paid off, unlike much of her former crew.

She’s left to help manage her family lands, though still with no certainty she’ll be allowed to inherit them. It would be a tranquil, peaceful life, if not for the influx of asteroid miners seeking their fortunes, the uncertainties of her inheritance, and the nagging certainty that her current life is not what she really wants.

She’d give anything to command a ship again.

As We Rise: Rogue by Donielle TynerAs We Rise: Rogue by Donielle Tyner:

It’s been 48 days since Jo Cygni’s father died, leaving her the CS Kismet and its crew of space-born misfits. Despite a lifetime of preparation, Jo never thought she would captain her own ship before her 21st birthday.

Broke and determined to prove she is worthy of command, Jo pushes aside her political concerns and accepts a commission from the Galactic Consulate.

The job? Launch a load of sealed crates into a nearby star.

The catch? Don’t open the containers.

 

The Haunted Valentine by J.A. WhitingThe Haunted Valentine by J.A. Whiting:

Lin and her cousin, Viv, stop into a gift shop in Nantucket town and while browsing, Lin sees an antique Sailor’s Valentine.

The valentine, made of tiny beautiful shells, pulls at Lin and she decides to buy it and bring it home.

At times, the object feels hot to the touch and sometimes the shells illuminate and dim in a sequenced pattern. Once in a while, the valentine makes appearances outside the house in places Lin happens to be. A ghost pays a visit, but Lin has no idea what he wants from her or what his link might be to the sailor’s valentine. With the help of her boyfriend and her cousin, Lin works to solve the mystery of the haunted valentine.

This is book 7 in the Lin Coffin Mystery series from USA TODAY Bestselling Author J A Whiting. Although the main mystery is solved in each story, the books should be read in order for the most enjoyment as story threads run from book to book. This story has ghosts and some mild paranormal elements.

Restless Spectres by A. WoodleyRestless Spectres by A. Woodley:

Clara was comfortable around ghosts, she’d been aware of them for as long as she could remember and for the most part, she liked having them around.
She had been thinking of leaving Dan for a while and the ideal opportunity presented itself by way of an inheritance from an aunt that she had no previous knowledge of.

Leaving her job, Dan, and her old life behind, Clara heads for her new home and her new life but she soon finds out that she’s forced to share her home with an unseen, evil presence that clearly doesn’t want her there.

Needing to confront the vicious malevolent spirit or leave her precious new home, Clara tries to carve out a new life, while attempting to rid her castle of the evil presence that threatens to destroy her planned livelihood or her life.

Dead Weapons by Simon Paul WoodwardDead Weapons by Simon Paul Woodward:

Ciaran Richards’ father was a soldier. A hero. But now he’s dead. Or is he?

Ciaran has lost his way. He’s forgotten the boy he was and the man he wanted to become. Worst of all, he’s betrayed his only true friend, Isobel, leading her to a tragic accident.

His estranged brother, Patrick, forces him to carry out one last job for his crew: collecting a stolen gun and delivering it to the gangster Eliza Frost. In return, Patrick reveals a startling secret: somebody faked their father’s death.

When the gun malfunctions, fastening itself to Ciaran’s hand, he’s framed for the murder of two policemen and forced to go on the run. He searches for a way to remove the weapon and find his father, but the police, Eliza Frost and a black ops team of frighteningly modified soldiers are all hunting him and Isobel may be the only person who can help.

Dead Weapons is a young adult, urban fantasy; a story of father figures fair and foul, broken friendships and the fleeting possibility of redemption.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for August 2017

Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some July 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 Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, culinary mysteries, small town mysteries, paranormal mysteries, romantic suspense, police procedurals, psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, medical thrillers, legal thriller, science fiction thrillers, men’s adventure thrillers, YA thrillers, serial killers, missing girls, stolen Shakespeare manuscripts, murderous apple thieves, forensic photographers, lawyers, guns with a mind of their own, adventures in the Caribbean and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

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:

Apple Assassination by Stacey AlabasterApple Assassination by Stacey Alabaster:

An apple a day keeps the homicides away…or maybe not!

When apples go missing from Pippa’s farm, the Bakery Detectives have another mystery on their hands. When someone turns up dead at a rival bakery, things turn far more sinister than a simple case of apple thievery. Can they put aside personal feelings and business rivalry and clear their rival or will this be the first case the Bakery Detectives can’t (or won’t) solve?

Apple Assassination is part of the Bakery Detectives Cozy Mystery series. If you like fast paced mysteries full of quirky characters and unexpected twists, you’re going to love the Bakery Detectives.

The Carlswick Deception by S.L. BeaumontThe Carlswick Deception by S.L. Beaumont:

Theft. Murder. Love Tested.

A priceless Shakespearean First Folio is stolen from an English manor house.

A man is dead.

Oxford student Stephanie Cooper is drawn into the dangerous criminal world of art theft when she meets attractive young detective Luke Spencer.

While her rock-star boyfriend tours Japan with the band, Stephanie and Luke’s quest becomes personal as they follow an increasingly perilous trail that leads from Oxford to London, Paris and Venice.

But when Stephanie takes an unnecessary risk, the stakes turn deadly. Can she stay alive long enough to expose the identity of the thieves, help recover priceless literary works and resolve her conflicted feelings for Luke and her boyfriend James?

The Carlswick Deception is another exciting instalment in the Carlswick Mysteries series and can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Buried Secrets by T.J. BreartonBuried Secrets by T.J. Brearton:

What if your dream home became your worst nightmare?

Newlyweds Brett and Emily Larson have just moved into a new home deep in the countryside, and are overjoyed when Emily finds out she’s pregnant.

Then they discover human bones in their garden.

As the police start to investigate, three things become clear:

The bones are recent.
They are not here by accident.
They are a message.

When the police put three photographs of known criminals on the Larsons’ kitchen table, the couple realize the danger may be closer to home than they think.

As the situation escalates, can Brett and Emily keep one step ahead to protect themselves – and their unborn child?

Girls in the Water by Victoria JenkinsThe Girls in the Water by Victoria Jenkins:

When the body of Lola Evans is found in a river in a local park on a cold winter’s morning, Detective Alex King and her new recruit Chloe Lane are called in to lead the hunt for the killer.

Days later, another girl goes missing, and another body is found in the water. It seems the two girls shared a troubled history, and were members of the same support group. What secrets were they keeping? And who is the monster preying on these vulnerable girls?

As the detectives start to piece together the clues, it becomes clear that the murderer’s reach goes even further – back into the painful past of Chloe Lane herself. Chloe realises that she too is in danger – as she uncovers secrets about her own brother’s death which someone will kill to keep hidden.

Alex and Chloe are soon caught in a race against time to reach the next victim before it’s too late… and they must face terrifying truths from their own lives to have a chance of catching the killer.

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

Look out Sin City, here comes the Mystic Caravan Circus.
The city that never sleeps has something lurking in the darkness and Poet Parker can’t decide if it’s friend or foe. The rich history of the area comes into play when research uncovers a mine disaster more than a hundred years in the past … and a tragic outcome that still haunts the locale to this day.
Between dust storms bringing forth a creature with glowing red eyes, screams in the desert and Poet’s increasing conviction that they’re not alone, the team has their hands full. That’s on top of the fact that Max decides now is the time to make his move and get to know his son – who also happens to be Poet’s boyfriend – in a new light and the unwelcome realization that Luke has seemingly become obsessed with gambling.
Poet’s attention is split in numerous directions, although Luke’s quagmire is closest to her heart. She wants to help her best friend, even as he spirals out of control. He’s not the same best friend she’s spent the past few years loving, but she’s determined to get him back … even if it means facing off with some of Las Vegas’ most perilous residents.
The mystical world of the circus is due to collide with the dangerous underbelly of the gambling world and the two sides might not be as far apart as they initially assume.
When the dust storm settles – and the final battle is upon them – more than one person will be in danger … and Poet will have to make a hard choice to protect those she loves while sacrificing someone else to the unending darkness.
It’s the ultimate game, but money isn’t the only thing at risk.

Ice Lake by John A. LenahanIce Lake by John A. Lenahan:

An abandoned body
Deep in the woods of north-eastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A haunted psychologist
Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A desperate killer
It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.

Cause of Death by Patrick LoganCause of Death by Patrick Logan:

How do you catch a killer when no one believes that a murder has been committed?

Detective Damien Drake is back, but after what happened with the Butterfly Killer, he’s no longer associated with the NYPD.

Now Drake heads his own PI firm, which specializes in dealing with paranoid housewives and rich suburbanites suspicious that their nannies are stealing their silverware.

That is until a visitor comes to him with a series of photographs of dead people. The problem is, no one believes that the victims in the images have actually been murdered.

Staged to look like suicide, the victims follow a pattern that Drake is determined to crack. But as the body count rises, the real difficulty becomes determining the victims’ true Cause of Death…

Dead in Bed by Wendy MeadowsDead in Bed by Wendy Meadows:

Brenda Sheffield is thrilled to host the East Coast Acting Troupe in her inn set above the Atlantic Ocean. Excitement permeates the Sheffield Bed and Breakfast and injects new life in the small town of Sweetfern Harbor. Ellen Teague, the famous actress will be given a large suite on the second floor. From the adjoining room she will have access to her assistant Chester Boyd. Chester caters to her every whim. Ellen is demanding and narcissistic. She is liked by very few members of the troupe who are there to perform “The Rich Game.”

After the first performance at Harbor Park, Edward Graham pulls Brenda aside and tells her he has serious business to discuss with her. The lawyer informs her that Ellen Teague states she is the rightful owner of Sheffield Bed and Breakfast, not Brenda. Brenda argues her uncle’s will states she is the heir to his property. Ellen argues she and Randolph Sheffield signed an agreement that the bed and breakfast would be hers.

When Brenda confronts Ellen late at night, a loud argument ensues. Brenda’s raised voice awakens the cast members who were sound asleep. Brenda doesn’t think about this and goes to her apartment seething in anger. The next morning, she becomes fully alert when one of the cast members informs her that Ellen Teague is dead in her bed. As if this discovery isn’t shocking enough, Brenda is dismayed when Detective Mac Rivers narrows her down as his prime suspect and states she has the strongest motive for killing the star who demanded her rights to the bed and breakfast. Brenda and Mac are in love with one another, or at least that is what he told her when he gave her the Promise ring the day before. The estrangement leaves Brenda to solve the murder case as soon as possible or Mac plans to serve the warrant for her arrest.

This will be no easy task since at times all of the actors argued with Ellen. Combined with the fact that none of them cared for her egotistical behavior they also had individual motives for wanting her dead. Brenda knows she is on her own. Will the forty-eight hours the detective gave her be enough to prove who the killer really is? It is the only way Brenda will avoid prison for the rest of her life, and she realizes time is of essence.

L.A. Defense by Rachel SinclairL.A. Defense by Rachel Sinclair:

Ginger is back, and her mouth is as unfiltered as ever…

Ginger Perry, Harper’s star witness in her previous murder trial, left Kansas City for the greener pastures of the Los Angeles adult film scene. As soon as she gets out to the West Coast, however, she catches a case. A big case. A murder case.

The victim is a powerful studio head. Ginger insists she was framed. Harper’s not so sure. She wants to give Ginger the benefit of the doubt, but Ginger’s always been a little shady. Nevertheless, she agrees to take the case. After all, she hasn’t had a vacation in years, and a trip to Los Angeles is as much of a vacation as she’s ever going to get – even if it’s not really a vacation, but another murder case. Harper knows that she needs another murder case like she needs a hole in the head, but she just can’t resist a lost cause.

And Ginger’s case seems to be as lost of a cause as you can get.

With the twists, turns and lightning-fast pace you’ve come to expect from a Harper Ross Legal Thriller, L.A. Defense is not to be missed!

Picture Perfect Murder by Jenna St. JamesPicture Perfect Murder by Jenna St. James:

Ryli Sinclair had no idea that moonlighting as a Forensic Photographer for the Granville Police Department would put her directly in the path of a crazed killer. Determined to identify the murderer before she becomes the next victim, Ryli enlists the help of her best friend, Paige, and her elderly great-aunt, Shirley, a former private investigator. From the driver’s seat of Aunt Shirley’s coveted ’65 Falcon, Ryli and the girls are hot on the trail of the murderer…and hilarity ensues, as the ridiculously handsome chief of police, Garrett Kimble, throws stumbling blocks in their path at every turn.

Hold on to your seats as hilarious and talented Cozy Mystery Author, Jenna St. James, takes you on the ride of your life! You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you may even scream during this rollicking romp through the town of Granville. This down to earth non-traditional Cozy is an absolute delight that pushes the boundaries of the genre in some daring ways that make it all the more enjoyable.

Rising Storm by Wayne StinnettRising Storm by Wayne Stinnett:

Miles from the laid-back lifestyle of No Name Key, and just shy of the raucous nightlife of Miami and South Beach, lies Coconut Grove, a tropical oasis with a distinct Bohemian flair. Lately, a seedy underside has emerged along the Grove’s waterfront, preying on adventurous young women.

Somewhere amid all the glitz and glamour, hides a thief who stole a fortune in Aztec emeralds. Or did he? Jesse McDermitt must first determine if the victim herself is a thief. The trail of clues leads him to evidence that the thief may be involved in a string of more heinous crimes.

Jesse and Chyrel enlist the help of the recently returned Charity, and the trio go “undercover” at a floating swinger’s party headed for the Bahamas, which may well be a front for torture and murder.

When a sudden violent storm strikes Stiltsville, Jesse finds himself alone on the ocean, trying to recover the treasure and put a murderer behind bars—but first he must win the battle with Mother Nature.

The Haunted Valentine by J.A. WhitingThe Haunted Valentine by J.A. Whiting:

Lin and her cousin, Viv, stop into a gift shop in Nantucket town and while browsing, Lin sees an antique Sailor’s Valentine.

The valentine, made of tiny beautiful shells, pulls at Lin and she decides to buy it and bring it home.

At times, the object feels hot to the touch and sometimes the shells illuminate and dim in a sequenced pattern. Once in a while, the valentine makes appearances outside the house in places Lin happens to be. A ghost pays a visit, but Lin has no idea what he wants from her or what his link might be to the sailor’s valentine. With the help of her boyfriend and her cousin, Lin works to solve the mystery of the haunted valentine.

This is book 7 in the Lin Coffin Mystery series from USA TODAY Bestselling Author J A Whiting. Although the main mystery is solved in each story, the books should be read in order for the most enjoyment as story threads run from book to book. This story has ghosts and some mild paranormal elements.

Spider Jack by Cyrus WintersSpider Jack by Cyrus Winters:

CAN YOU GUESS THE KILLER?

Detective Taylor Shandling is one of the only good guys left standing after events that have shaken her city precinct. Indefinitely suspended and spending her days drinking alone, things spiral further into desolation as an old nemesis from Taylor’s past makes an unexpected return.

Once again she finds herself on the hunt for a killer, in a day where friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the unexpected is always sure to happen.

 

Dead Weapons by Simon Paul WoodwardDead Weapons by Simon Paul Woodward:

Ciaran Richards’ father was a soldier. A hero. But now he’s dead. Or is he?

Ciaran has lost his way. He’s forgotten the boy he was and the man he wanted to become. Worst of all, he’s betrayed his only true friend, Isobel, leading her to a tragic accident.

His estranged brother, Patrick, forces him to carry out one last job for his crew: collecting a stolen gun and delivering it to the gangster Eliza Frost. In return, Patrick reveals a startling secret: somebody faked their father’s death.

When the gun malfunctions, fastening itself to Ciaran’s hand, he’s framed for the murder of two policemen and forced to go on the run. He searches for a way to remove the weapon and find his father, but the police, Eliza Frost and a black ops team of frighteningly modified soldiers are all hunting him and Isobel may be the only person who can help.

Dead Weapons is a young adult, urban fantasy; a story of father figures fair and foul, broken friendships and the fleeting possibility of redemption.

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Cora goes to WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland

Ursa Major, WorldCon 75Next week, I’m off to Finland for WorldCon 75 in Helsinki. I’ll be leaving on Monday and am really looking forward to the experience.

So there will be light to no blogging next week and plenty of photos and con reports and Hugo discussion (come on, you know there’ll be Hugo discussion) once I get back.

In the meantime, the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene will still be chugging along, including (somewhat truncated) link round-ups.

But should you find yourself in Helsinki for WorldCon 75, say hello to me.

You can also find me and several other fine folks on the following panels:

 

Alien Language in Science Fiction

As easy as a Babel Fish is, usually alien languages are handled differently in science fiction. The panelists discuss various alien languages and how they are understood.

 

The Hugo categories are based on paper publishing. With more and more writing and art ending up on the internet, in shapes not constrained by publishing houses, shipping, printing and paper, the categories are getting less and less relevant in the light of what is created and what people actually read.

Do the Hugo categories need to change? Do the categories reflect what you read and watch? How do we create a set of categories that get enough nominations and votes, but still mesh with the historical traditions?

Do we need to rethink the traditional fiction formats based on length? How about Best Related Work, which used to be called Best Non-Fiction Book, but now is used to nominate among other things internet platforms, larps, pods, scientific papers and internet essays – do we need to split it into (at least) two? The recent influx of non-fictional future speculations in blogs, articles, TED talks and lectures: are they relevant and pervasive enough that a future category should be discussed? Why do the zines categories assume periodicals with issues? Where is art published – does it need to appear in print?

Unless we think about change now, the future could take us by surprise.

What is the current state of machine translation? The rough-n-ready web page translation provided by Google, the apps you speak into, film dubbing/sub-titling, and translating SF books themselves all present unique technical challenges. If machine translation is commonplace, will fewer people learn English (or Chinese) as a lingua franca, and will the American cultural steam-roller’s effects be reduced? We’ll also look at the risks and benefits of translation making foreign countries less foreign to visitors.

Blogging/vlogging about books has caused some recent controversy. Some authors have claimed bad reviews in book blogs have resulted in poor sales. Book bloggers and authors discuss the importance and power of book bloggers/vloggers.

 

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The July Short Story Challenge 2017 – 32 Short Stories in 31 Days

Yes, you read that correctly. I wrote a bonus story for this year’s July short story challenge, so there’s actually 32 stories to come out of the challenge this year.

But let’s backtrack a bit. In 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a short story per day in July. It seemed to be an insane writing challenge, but nonetheless I decided to play along, at least for a week or so. So I wrote a story and then another and I kept it up throughout the entire month of July, as chronicled here. I found the experience incredibly rewarding and illuminating. What was more, in the end, I had 31 brand new short stories, most of which are published now.

Fast forward a year to 2016. July rolled around and Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was going to do another story per day challenge and that he was also aiming for 200 stories per year. The latter wasn’t doable for me, but the former definitely was, especially since I had done it before. So I decided to play along once again and write a short story every day in July. Dean Wesley Smith himself eventually dropped out, when he was assaulted by an idea for a novel (as novel ideas are want to do), but I kept it up, wrote 31 stories and blogged about my experiences here.

Doing something twice is almost a tradition. And so, when July 2017 approached, I found myself thinking about doing another July short story challenge, even though Dean Wesley Smith has switched to challenging himself to write four novels per month in one of his established series this July. He still does short story challenges on occasion, but in different months.

Still, since I had already designated July as my “story a day” month, I decided to just run with it and see where it takes me. And guess what? Here I am, 31 days and 32 stories later, exhausted (because let’s face it, writing a new story every day is exhausting) and very happy about the progress I made.

As in the last two years, the vast majority of the stories I wrote were some flavour of science fiction, fantasy and horror (my first love) as well as crime fiction (my second love). So let’s take a look at the genre/subgenre breakdown:

  • Post-apocalyptic science fiction: 6 stories
  • Space opera: 5 stories
  • Epic fantasy: 4 stories
  • Horror: 4 stories
  • Dystopian fiction: 3 stories
  • Alien invasion/aliens: 3 stories
  • Men’s adventure/pulp thriller: 2 stories
  • Crime fiction: 2 stories
  • Spy fiction: 1 story
  • Steampunk: 1 story
  • Time travel: 1 story

Once more, the subgenres do tend to blend into each other. For example, I wrote space operas or post-apocalyptic stories that were also alien invasion stories. Meanwhile, dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories do tend to run into each other. Pretty much all of the space operas I wrote have romantic elements. Once more, the horror stories all had an undercurrent of dark humour, since I still seem to be incapable of writing straight horror. The pulp and spy thrillers are also crime fiction. One story is a crime thriller in a dystopian setting. The Steampunk tale is also a spy thriller. Several of the stories feature plenty of action and adventure. Several are also romances.

The story lengths range from 650 words for the shortest to 5400 words for the longest. Three stories are flash fiction length, i.e. under 1000 words. Meanwhile, seven of the stories are longer than 3000 words, while the vast majority is in the 1000 to 3000 word range. Altogether, I wrote 73000 words in July 2017, i.e. almost one and a half NaNoWriMos.

Dean Wesley Smith always wrote a lot of stories in established worlds or series for his short story challenges. Meanwhile, I tend to write more standalone stories. In 2015, not a single story to come out of the challenge was in an established world or series. In 2016, five stories were part of established series. This year, four and a half stories are part of an established series. There is a new Hallowind Cove story, a new Silencer story as well as two new In Love and War stories, so fans of these series can look forward to new installments. The “and a half” story is an edge case, a crime story where Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd shows up at the end to arrest the criminal. It doesn’t fit into the Helen Shepherd Mysteries, because the Helen Shepherd Mysteries are narrated only from Helen’s POV, whereas this one is narrated from the criminal’s POV and Helen is only a supporting character.

There are also two potential series starters among the stories to come out of this year’s July short story challenge. One is the Steampunk story, whose two main characters, an airship captain and his aristocratic fiancée, clearly have other adventures in them. The other is an adventure story inspired by the cover of a 1950s men’s adventure magazine (found in this fabulous art book, which is a treasure trove of inspiration for me, both for the covers and the ridiculous headlines). The protagonist Todd Donnovan is an adventurer and freelance troubleshooter who is hired to locate and rescue a missing botanist and tangles with a drug lord and a pit full of venomous scorpions. The story was really fun to write and Todd could easily have further adventurers. Should I ever write another story about Todd, I’ll be calling the series Two-Fisted Todd.

The July short story challenge relies on quickly coming up with characters and story ideas. Using an established world or series is ideal for this, because the world and the characters have already been built. I know how the world works, I know how the characters react, how they talk, how they think. All I need to do is jump back in. Coincidentally, this is also why Helen Shepherd shows up in an otherwise unrelated crime story, because I needed a police officer and Helen was ideal for the part. However, the fact that I already know the world and the characters can also be a disadvantage during a challenge like this. Because established characters also have history and their share of baggage. Two-Fisted Todd Donnovan has no established supporting cast and nowhere to go after his adventure, but the Silencer will go home to Constance, kitten Edgar and baby Kenny, the newest addition to the household (introduced in St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen). Anjali and Mikhail from In Love and War will banter about Anjali’s love for soap operas and be reminded of their respective lost families in a way that brand-new characters probably wouldn’t. Hallowind Cove is a bit of the exception here, since it’s more of a shared world type series than a character focussed series, which is probably why I’ve found myself writing new Hallowind Cove stories during the July short story challenge two years in a row.

As in the previous two years, I found that the stories I wrote tend to cluster around certain themes: As in 2016, there is a cluster of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories (I foresee volume 2 of After The End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse in the medium near future). I suspect it’s because we’re living in dark times and they haven’t exactly become better since last year. Another mini-theme – probably related – was subverted horror, i.e. stories which put a twist on such horror tropes as summoning a demon or the entire hordes of hell, changelings and monsters stealing babies and mysterious, shadowy stalkers outside the window. There’s also a related theme of epic fantasy clichés subverted.

A third mini-theme was aliens. I’ve recently noticed that though I write a lot of science fiction, I rarely write aliens. The In Love and War universe is entirely human and while the Shattered Empire universe does have sentient aliens, we only meet them in a single story. The alien saucermen in The Day the Saucers Came are never seen and the focus is entirely on the human characters. Indeed the point of the entire series is that various more or less mundane dramas are interrupted by a 1950s B-movie style alien invasion. And while there are aliens in several of the stories in Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them and Operation Rubber Ducky, none of them are remotely serious.

I’m not sure why I write so rarely about aliens. I suspect it’s partly because the depiction of aliens in SF is so often a cliché. The evil insectoid/reptilian aliens the manly space marines can shoot without any remorse, for they’re evil because they’re evil. Humans with latex masks and bumps on the forehead. Aliens which only exist as an allegory for some aspect of human nature. I find most of these approaches boring. Not that there aren’t excellent depictions of aliens – from the very human to the very alien – in contemporary SF. But for some reason, that’s not what I write. My subconscious pounced on this realisation and started producing story ideas about aliens. So I wrote three not entirely serious stories about aliens on Earth (since I apparently still have problems taking aliens seriously) – a thwarted invader, an ordinary alien just trying to make a living and a trio of aliens just looking for a good time.

I also noticed that about 99 percent of the space opera and military science fiction categories at Amazon consists of stories about humanity locked in a mortal struggle with evil aliens (who are of course either insectoid or reptilian or – if we’re going to be really original – a Cthulhu knock-off) and only Captain Manly McMannerson and his ragtag crew of misfits and outcasts can save humanity. A lot of the time, the blurbs read like something that might have appeared in Astounding Stories or Amazing Stories in the 1930s to 1950s. My reaction to such novels is usually “been there, read that and besides, Heinlein did it better”, but apparently there is a huge and hungry audience for such stories, since they are inexplicably popular. So I wondered if I could write a very traditional humans vs. evil aliens story and did. Don’t let it be said that I can’t write to market at least once.

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation. In one case, googling a research question for one story, namely whether there it’s actually legal to shoot looters after a massive disaster (it’s not, though there have been cases where law enforcement personnel was given carte blanche, with predictably terrible results) led me to the story of a man who bragged that he had shot more than thirty alleged looters after Hurricane Katrina (thankfully, it seems he was lying or at least massively exaggerating) and who amazingly was not arrested as a serial killer. This made me actively angry, so I wrote a post-apocalyptic story where a shooter of looters gets his comeuppance.

Especially towards the end of the challenge, different sparks of inspiration also combined into new ideas. A piece of concept art of an armed man walking down a moss-overgrown escalator combined with a news article about dying shopping malls in the US led to a post-apocalyptic tale about a scavenger exploring a shopping mall after the apocalypse. A call for submissions for a themed anthology and a piece of concept art sparked a story idea, while two different pieces of concept art combined to spark a story. Every day, we are surrounded by dozens of potential story ideas. One of aspect of the July short story challenge is that it forces you to grab those sparks of inspiration and run with them.

Coincidentally, one of the best aspects of the July short story challenge is that it gives you room to just experiment. Want to try out a new genre, a new POV, a new kind of protagonist or a new technique? No problem, it’s just a short story and you’ll write another tomorrow. During the July short story challenge, I wrote two second person stories (and I almost never write second person POV), a confessional “tell-all” type story and an epistolary story among others. I also experimented with genres I rarely write such as horror and men’s adventure. What is more, I don’t particularly like writing blow by blow action scenes (I much prefer dialogue), but nonetheless I found myself writing street fights and shoot outs, an ambush at a mountain pass, fights against aliens, scorpions and crocodiles and much more.

Another positive aspect of the July short story challenge was that I learned a lot of new stuff. During the course of the challenge, I found myself researching the nuclear blast shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leprosy, Antarctic research stations, scorpions, crocodiles, dairy farms in Upstate New York, 1930s trucks, demon summing rituals and much more.

Once more, I found myself writing a huge range of very diverse characters with very different backgrounds, ranging from a 10-year-old boy in post-apocalyptic Kenya via a Swedish scientist in the Antarctic, a teenaged sniper in the far future and a scriptwriter for toy tie-in cartoons in the 1980s to an old lady in the Bavarian Alps. Nine stories have female POV characters, seven stories have POV characters of colour, five have non-human POV characters (two aliens, a robot, a demon and a dragon respectively), one story has a gay POV character. Even a story set in the Bavarian Alps, a setting that’s about as white and German as you can get, features a gay man and a Pakistani immigrant as supporting characters. So really, there is no excuse for defaulting to straight white Anglo-American men as main characters for such a challenge.

For the third year in a row, I’ve found the July short story challenge an incredibly rewarding experience. Will I do it again next year? Probably, if I find the time.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for July 2017

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some June 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 Amazon.com, 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, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, space opera, military science fiction, hard science fiction, science fiction mystery, alternate history, Norse mythology, horror, vampires, elves, ghosts, valkyries, FBI witches, space outlaws, unicorn killers, murder in space, intergalactic slavers, haunted prisons and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

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:

Victorious Dead by Marie AndreasVictorious Dead by Marie Andreas:

The galaxy was in for a world of hurt—chaos unseen since the violent, sadistic Asarlaí ruled. For the first time in her life, Vas doesn’t know if she can fight hard enough to stop it.

Vaslisha Tor Dain was a simple sort of mercenary starship captain. She fought hard, drank hard, and killed people when all else failed. Those were the good days–blown to interstellar dust when a band of crazed monks tried to resurrect a race of long-dead homicidal rulers: the Asarlaí.

Vas and her crew defeated the first wave but at great cost, both professional and personal.

Now lying low, she’s been taking tedious recovery jobs with a new ship, a new second-in-command, and a galactic government that has gone into hiding but is still on the hunt for her and her ship. But there are noises in the distant corners of the galaxy that the Asarlaí have found new allies and another way to come back from the great beyond. A painful and brutal way that will destroy worlds.

In the darkest night of deep space, if she sits too still and thinks too long, she still misses her former ship, scattered in pieces across the universe, and Deven, her former second-in-command, also scattered in pieces across the universe.

When what should have been an easy job with easy money backfires in her face, the cosmic conspiracy engulfs her again. The ghost–make that ghosts–of her dead lover appears, as do the deadly, long-gone Asarlaí who want their empire of worlds back, never mind that other beings live there. And Vas realizes lying low was never a possibility, not for the Warrior Wench, and never for her.

Death is final. Except when it isn’t.
But the righteous in battle are always
VICTORIOUS DEAD.

Strangeways by Robert J. BrunnerStrangeways by Robert J. Brunner:

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD!

Thomas Griffin has heard the legends about Strangeways Federal Penitentiary — tall tales and whispered rumors.

Ghost stories.

Now a guard has died, and the FBI agent is summoned to the century-old prison to investigate.

Inside the massive stone walls, Griffin finds a drug-fueled madhouse of violence and hate. He kills a man in self-defense only to see him rise from death and murder an innocent. Inmates commit horrific suicides using the only weapon at hand — the prison walls themselves. The trail of grisly deaths lead Griffin to the greatest threat — not just to body, but to soul — the disciples of an ancient, blood-thirsty cult.

The Gate at the Grey Wolf Star by M.D. CooperThe Gate at the Grey Wolf Star by M.D. Cooper:

In the Age of the Orion War…

After nine long years of searching the Inner Stars, Jessica and the crew of Sabrina have finally found the president’s brother, Finaeus Tomlinson.

Now Finaeus has convinced them to take a shortcut through a jump gate–a new technology none of them have ever used before–located at a secret dwarf star mining operation.

But a mysterious group within the Transcend Space Force, known as the Grey Division, has orders to intercept and capture both Jessica and Finaeus.

Trapped at the bottom of a steep gravity well and surrounded by enemies, Jessica and the crew of Sabrina must find a way out of the Grey Wolf System and deliver the crucial information Finaeus carries back to New Canaan before even their allies are forced to turn against them.

Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. FennPiper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. Fenn:

Detective Piper Deez, newlywed but still hardboiled, is a solar system away from home investigating murder and thievery on Alta-na-Schell, the Winter Planet. Who can she trust? Who should she trust? Why didn’t anyone tell her monogamy was going to be this difficult? Eye of the Storm, a domed city riven by clan rivalries and corruption—with only fingerlengths of shielding protecting its denizens from certain death—may hold some answers and, perhaps, even the end of Piper Deez.

If monogamy doesn’t get to her first…

 

Selling Out by Zen DiPietroSelling Out by Zen DiPietro:

Begin a fun, exciting epic science fiction series that spans an entire galaxy. Selling Out continues the Dragonfire Station universe with Cabot’s story.

It’s all just fun and games unless a profit can be made.

Cabot Layne is a trader, through and through. Some might call him a pirate, but he never breaks the law. He only bends it. One thing’s for sure–he’s certainly no hero. Except a certain BlackOps officer seems to think he is, and sends him off on a mission only a trader can pull off.

That only a very good trader can pull off.

War is good for business.

Cabot’s not concerned with the safety of an allied planet, or even the PAC itself–everyone knows guys like him are privateers who only care about themselves. But if he can save the planet and make a profit too…well, that might not hurt his reputation too much.

Sometimes a shady guy needs to play good guy.

A Magical Reckoning by N.R. HairstonA Magical Reckoning by N.R. Hairston:

By Any Other Name
Rye must risk her life to save her best friend and fellow Scope agent from the drug runner bent on draining him of valuable skunk oil. Having skunk DNA herself, she’ll do anything to shut down the illegal operation and get her friend back, but putting her trust in a stranger may lead to an unexpected tryst, as well as the ultimate betrayal.

I Was Asked to Kill Him
Delia is a pacifist who never wanted to kill her boyfriend, Greg. In a world full of powerful beings, she only wants to stay under the radar. She paid her debt to society and only wants to get back to a quiet life – but Greg isn’t finished with her yet.

Pear Town Ruckus
A game of Spades is all that stand between telekinetic Leah and paying her rent this month. When fellow card player, Xavier offers to be her partner, she’s delighted, that is until she finds herself fighting for her life in Pear Town, a place even cops dare not enter.

Belle of the Ball
All Kerry wants is to go home. Swept away from her hopeless existence into a life of strange luxury in an alternate universe, Kerry isn’t convinced her luck has changed. As she discovers the ugly truth buried under the world of opulence and indulgence, she also discovers that she may not be as helpless as she thought, which is good, because what they have planned for her is a fate worse than death.

A Gathering of Succubi
In a race against the clock, Kia only has twenty-four hours to discover which of her fellow Succubi is killing humans. All supernatural beings are under the rule of the powerful First Families, who have laid down their mandate – find the killer, or all Succubi will suffer the consequences.

New Wings by N.D. IversonNew Wings by N.D. Iverson:

Anahira Clarkson. Dating app addict. Problem drinker. Supernatural newbie. Screw up.

When mauled bodies start piling up in Calypso City, Anahira and her crew are hired to hunt down the rogue werewolf responsible. No mercenary could refuse such a fat pay check. Too bad word spreads. With the Magistratus breathing down her neck and competing mercenaries hot on her heels, the case is messier than the werewolf’s meals.

If that’s not enough, her crew is being picked off one by one. Screw money, now it’s personal. Anahira has no choice; it’s time to woman up and track down the killer before her friends and co-workers become puppy chow.

Beacon's Fury by Jim JohnsonBeacon’s Fury by Jim Johnson:

DEFENDING THE VEIL

Rachel Farran returns in the third book of the POTOMAC SHADOWS series! When the evil Spinner begins an all-out attack on Rachel and everything she holds dear, Rachel must draw on all the resources at her disposal to defend herself and her allies. Can she survive the challenge or will she be doomed to haunt the shadows alone for all time?

Beacon’s Fury is the third book in POTOMAC SHADOWS, a paranormal fantasy series set in the Washington, DC metro area.

 

Deal with the Devil by Eugene Kirk and Garan MadDeal with the Devil by Eugene Kirk and Garan Mad:

She may be just an actress, but Shay the Savage She-Wolf’s out to prove her bark is nothing compared to her bite . . .

With her career as a bio-augmented E-tainment superstar making a rebound, Shay’s hopes and dreams finally seem to be taking form. But when a brush with urban violence leaves one of her neighbors shot and another kidnapped, her life is abruptly thrust into turmoil once more.

With the cops set to do nothing, Shay sets out to find her neighbor and rescue him before the unthinkable happens. But when the trail leads to one of the biggest drug lords in Miami, Shay quickly finds herself in over her head.

Now, she’ll have to use her brains as well as her genetically enhanced brawn to navigate Miami’s seedy underworld and find her friend before it’s too late.

But to do so, she’ll have to make a shaky deal with a devil she knows she can’t trust.

Sagitta by Ruby LionsdrakeSagitta by Ruby Lionsdrake:

Dr. Tala Matapang thought the most challenging part about getting kidnapped by slavers from another planet would be escaping, not butting heads with the obstinate Star Guardian captain who rescued her. She’s been working in his sickbay, and it’s refreshing not having to deal with the politics and bureaucracy she faced as a surgeon back home, but Captain Sagitta is as infuriating as he is handsome. He’s got this crazy plan to take her and the other women home against his government’s wishes, and he didn’t even consult them about it first.

Captain Sagitta “Sage” of Dethocoles believes in doing the right thing. That’s why he’s defying his government to take Tala and the other Earth women home. Unfortunately, he has a couple of problems. First, his government is sending a surprisingly aggressive pursuit after them. Second, he’s having a hard time imagining dropping Tala off and never seeing her again. She’s a capable doctor and is doing an excellent job heading up his sickbay. More than that, he’s attracted to her and is starting to care about her. Too bad he’s better at barking orders than sharing feelings, and he seems to argue with her every time they speak.

With trouble stalking the ship from behind and obstacles blocking the route ahead, Sage and Tala will have to form a bond and learn to work together, or neither of them will see their home worlds again.

Revenge by Dominique MondesirRevenge by Dominique Mondesir:

When the entire universe is determined to destroy you…

With a ship accrued and allies on hand, Phoenix Jones believes his life is finally ready for some smooth sailing. But Holger Portendorfer has other plans as he launches an all-out war against Phoenix.

As Phoenix fights back with every ounce of his being, old enemies resurface, forcing him to question who he trusts. While battles are won and lost, Phoenix’s friendships crumble.

Against all odds, in a David and Goliath tale told like never before, can one man and his motley crew defeat a space lord and his armada before more innocent people get hurt?

How many pieces of your soul could you give up, to do what’s right.

One man and his crew, are about to find the answer to that very question.

Night of the Unicorn by T.S. PaulNight of the Unicorn by T.S. Paul:

Someone is killing Unicorns and the Magical Division of the FBI has been assigned to stop it. Special Agent in Charge Agatha Blackmore has an edge to solving this new case. Her familiar and friend Fergus is a talking Unicorn. But he doesn’t want to help, even if it’s his own Herd he’s be saving. Sacrifices don’t come back is all he will say. The team has to track down a killer while dodging Blood Magick and more Godly interference along the way. What is a Witch to do?

 

 

Young Parisians by P.J. PostYoung Parisians by P.J. Post:

Ten years ago, the world ended.

Ten years ago, a handful of orphaned kids were infected with a bioweapon virus. They called themselves the Pixie Girls.

Ten years ago, raging fires ended the Battle of Freemont; half of the Pixie Girls escaped to the river.

Ten years ago, the others didn’t.

The Pixie Girls refuse to give up hope, and as they come of age, searching for one another, they transform from terrified refugees into ruthless seasoned warriors: Wanted, dead or alive.

Surrounded by Bounty Hunters and Slavers, by zombies and mutating lands, the Pixie Girls remain honor bound and vigilant, committed to finding their sisters, to protecting each other, and no matter what, to living to fight another day.

But after ten years, hope is becoming liability.

Frigga's Lost Army by Juli D. RevezzoFrigga’s Lost Army by Juli D. Revezzo:

In the winter of 1943, Benjamin is just a grunt and Army cook—until he finds himself captured, along with his unit, taken prisoner by Mussolini’s troops after the Battle of Tunisia.

Transported to a POW camp in Italy, Benjamin is plagued with intense visions of the Norse Goddess Frigga and her retinue of Valkyries, berserkers, and other magical beings.

When he encounters a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to the goddess, he wonders if he hasn’t been entangled in a battle between the natural and the supernatural—a battle for the present and the future.

Equality by Alasdair ShawEquality by Alasdair Shaw:

Harry Robinson lives an idyllic lifestyle. A brilliant computer engineer, he made his fortune pushing the limits of android design. When a neighbouring planet is hit by a global nuclear strike, he feels compelled to help. A chance encounter with a group of offworld soldiers launches him on the trail of the perpetrators.

Prefect Olivia Johnson leads a Legion of disillusioned soldiers from both sides of the civil war. She blames herself for failing to prevent the attack. Now her mission is to hunt for its architect. But first, she must reclaim their adopted home from a different enemy. An enemy who won’t even talk.

The Indescribable Joy of Destruction is Johnson’s best friend and closest ally. Despite the lives they have saved, artificial intelligences are still the victims of fear and prejudice. The shadowy warship fights to defend the first place it felt accepted, and for equal rights for its kind.

First Love by Aria SparkeFirst Love by Aria Sparke:

Lily Winter has never had time for boyfriends. All she has ever wanted is to be a doctor, but her life is unraveling. With the death of her father and her life coming apart at the seams, she and her mother move oceans to the watercolor world of Wicklow. In the midst of her pain, she meets Flynn Cooper—intelligent, handsome and caring. Their attraction to each other soon proves overwhelming and undeniable. Flynn’s wealthy and ancient family hide dark secrets and Lily finds herself ensnared in their strange world. After meeting Flynn’s charismatic and hypnotic father, her life becomes increasingly complicated leaving her to question everything about the universe she held as true. When the Ruberios call upon her to help their family, Lily discovers her decisions can’t be undone, entrapping her in a terrifying web.

Onset: Blood of the Innocent by Glynn StewartONSET: Blood of the Innocent by Glynn Stewart:

A war older than the nation
An enemy with agents at every turn
An ancient foe with an offer of peace

The alliance with the Elfin Warriors has allowed the United States Government’s supernatural forces, the Omicron Branch, to hold the line against the demons and take the war to the Vampire Familias, defeating them in battle and reclaiming their resources.

Victory against the vampires, however, leaves David White with a moral dilemma as he captures an entire convoy of freshly turned vampires: beyond saving, but innocent of their species’ crimes. Duty only allows one fate for them—but then an ancient vampire arrives to negotiate for their freedom.

Letting them go drags David into the middle of a political nightmare as the Omicron branch must decide which is more important: Omicron’s authority and revenge for their dead, or the very Constitution and people they are sworn to defend…

Virago One by John TriptychVirago One by John Triptych:

Virago: the codename for a top secret project between ACE Corp and USAF Space Command. Its goal is to deploy the first fusion-powered battleship to ensure American domination of any potential conflict in space.

There’s only one problem: Virago has been stolen.

The world is now at the brink of war as the hijacked spacecraft forges a path of destruction across known space. The task to intercept and retake this dangerous adversary falls on corporate troubleshooter Stilicho Jones and NASA Special Agent Darian Arante, who must overcome their mutual distrust and antagonism just to survive. This time the stakes are higher, the price of failure too catastrophic to imagine.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for July 2017

Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some June 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 Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, craft mysteries, small town mysteries, science fiction mysteries, romantic suspense, police procedurals, psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, military thrillers, men’s adventure thrillers, serial killers, terrorists, assassins, murder in amusement parks, museums and zoos, crime-solving dogs, the FBI, the Chinese mafia, adventures in the Caribbean and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

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:

Broken Blue Lines by Ariadne BeckettBroken Blue Lines by Ariadne Beckett:

Nick Aster is a felon. He’s also one of the FBI’s most valuable consultants, and Agent John Langley’s best friend and partner. When Nick is arrested and brutally assaulted, he must bring down some of the most powerful and corrupt men in the NYPD in order to survive the fallout…. and Agent Langley must defend the man he’s come to love from the system they both serve.

They say the bond between law enforcement partners can be as strong as the one between couples. Agent Langley is straight and married to the love of his life. But when nursing Nick back to physical and emotional health brings the partners closer than ever, John and Nick realize they don’t just love each other; they’re in love.

Can an apple-pie wholesome FBI agent with a traditional marriage, a dog, and a perfect career adapt to the concept of another man joining the family? And can one man change the entire NYPD and erase a stain that has destroyed thousands of innocent lives?

Celebrities and Chaos by Cindy BellCelebrities and Chaos by Cindy Bell:

A new TV show is filming on the beach in Garber and Dune House is full to the brim with crew members and celebrities. Suzie and Mary are run off their feet trying to keep up with the demanding guests. But that turns out to be the least of their concerns when someone is found murdered.

Chaos erupts as Mary is the prime suspect and Dune House is out-of-bounds because it is a crime scene. Suzie and Mary join forces with Paul to try and weed through the web of suspects to find the killer. They are in a race against the clock to clear Mary’s name and get back to business as usual at Dune House.

Will the murderer be found before Mary lands up behind bars and the reputation of Dune House lands up in tatters?

Shanghai Tang by Mick BoseShanghai Tang by Mick Bose:

A betrayed assassin is thrust into the secret life of Shanghai’s underworld
Dan Roy, ex Black Ops legend, is becoming a new legend in the infamous blood fight tournament called Kumite, in Hong Kong. He is carving himself a new life, when disaster strikes his loved ones back home. He gets a phone call, and he cannot deny Kimberly Smith’s plea for help. Not only is Kim’s life endangered, the rumbles of discontent have reached the White House…
A devastating secret lurks inside the glamorous night life of Shanghai. Political interests are involved, and soon Dan finds himself in a ruthless and twisted struggle for survival. He gets help from Xiao Wei-Ling, A Chinese woman who is on the run herself. An ambitious Triad boss is making a bid to over rule the whole of Shanghai, and Dan Roy has become a thorn in his side. The Triads have help from the police, and all eyes are on Dan – alone in a foreign land.
Get prepared for a white knuckle ride from Hong Kong and Shanghai to the corridors of power in Washington, as we follow Dan on a terrifying adventure that could be his last.
Will Dan meet his nemesis in the murky underworld of Shanghai? Or will he fight to live another day?

Child of Mine by V.J. ChambersChild of Mine by V.J. Chambers:

A teenage girl found murdered.

Lorelei Taylor’s autistic son, Simon, is a suspect. But he didn’t even know the girl. Did he?

Simon is sixteen, vulnerable, and diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Lorelei knows her gentle son could never harm another person.

But then she finds Simon’s camera full of photographs of the murdered girl, and her certainty begins to waver.

As the police circle in on her son, Lorelei has only one choice—to solve the murder and exonerate Simon. But does she know her teenage son as well as she thought she did?

Piper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. FennPiper Deez and the Case of the Winter Planet by M. Fenn:

Detective Piper Deez, newlywed but still hardboiled, is a solar system away from home investigating murder and thievery on Alta-na-Schell, the Winter Planet. Who can she trust? Who should she trust? Why didn’t anyone tell her monogamy was going to be this difficult? Eye of the Storm, a domed city riven by clan rivalries and corruption—with only fingerlengths of shielding protecting its denizens from certain death—may hold some answers and, perhaps, even the end of Piper Deez.

If monogamy doesn’t get to her first…

 

Final Check Out by CeeCee JamesFinal Check Out by CeeCee James:

When Maisie takes a day off from the hotel business to visit a popular amusement park, the last thing she wants is to trip over a dead body in the Maze of Mirrors. The only witness to the murder is a park employee dressed in a princess costume. ??

Things take a turn as Maisie watches the princess run off and nobody seems to know who she is. And the Federal Marshal who was first on the scene has disappeared, too. ??

As Maisie follows the twists and turns of this not-so-funhouse, she hits one dead end after another—until she discovers that the person she should have been chasing has really been chasing her all along.?

Steele on a Roll by Chris LordSteele on a Roll by Chris Lord:

Death can come on the next roll for Ashley Steele, when you gamble searching for a killer!

Ashley Steele’s compassion causes him to land his plane The Good Fortune to save some refugees in the waters off of Cuba. The rescue gives him a friend he couldn’t have guessed in his quest to save Ella. Everyone you meet could be a friend, and every friend has connections. Some good. Some bad.

Captain Juan Diaz of the Cuban Naval Intelligence seems to be someone who becomes a friend to Ashley in his hunt for the ex-husband of the woman, Ella Fair, the only woman he loves” Ella’s ex-husband, Roderic Wright, and her brother, Donovan Walker work with the terrorists the S.I.A. and are the only two things standing between him and the safety of Ella.

Using the resources of his plane The Good Fortune, and the antiquated ship of Captain Diaz, The Cuban Queen, Ashley has a chance to catch Roderic Wright, a slim chance of getting out of Cuba alive, and an even slimmer chance of seeing Ella again.

Penguins and Mortal Peril by Ruby LorenPenguins and Mortal Peril by Ruby Loren:

When the penguin keeper is found dead at the bottom of the penguin pool, zookeeper Madigan Amos is determined to find out what happened to him… even if it means apprehending armed intruders, getting caught in the middle of a terrorist attack, and sparring with a machete wielding murderer.

The police struggle to conclude whether or not the death was accidental, but it’s not the only recent, unexplained happening at Avery Zoo. Since the tragic, avoidable death of a serval, animal rights activists have plagued the zoo. Activists with a reputation for extremism. Do they have something to do with the penguin keeper’s demise?

Madi also has her suspicions about two new zoo employees, but what exactly do they have to do with the goings on? Are they activist spies, or do they have their own scores to settle?

By the time Madi figures out things are not as they seem, she’s already in too deep. Someone has a hidden agenda, and they’re willing to kill to keep it a secret.

The Rushing Noise of Death by Gretchen Mullen and Phyllis JobeThe Rushing Noise of Death by Gretchen Mullen and Phyllis Jobe:

“It was almost midnight on New Year’s Eve. Martha Leland poured herself a drink, her labors worthy of celebration. She stood before the mirror and toasted her reflection. The clock began to strike and the big fireworks on the bridge behind her reflected their lurid blossoms in the glass. The great booms began and when the bullet struck dead center at the back of her skull, she might have seen the blinding splintered light of the finale, she might have heard the great white rushing noise of death.”

On New Year’s Day, Oklahoma Detective Hiram Flagg is called in to the Bliss County Court House by the newly installed Chief of Police. Initially, Flagg feels that he must, for the first time in his career, ask to be relieved from a case. He and Martha Leland have crossed paths before. Ultimately, however, he knows he must see this case through to the end.

Suspects begin to emerge from Martha Leland’s immediate family and close circle of friends: the daughter, Anna Leland, and alcoholic undergoing psychiatric analysis with a secret wish for revenge; the son, Walker Leland, hungry for easy money and running with the wrong crowd; the ex-husband, Jack Leland, and his new young wife Margo, bitter after the messy divorce and quick remarriage; Martha’s sister, Shirley, and her husband Jim Boyd, harboring a painful secret; portrait artist Gordon Grimes, motivated by greed and a desire to elevate his standing among the wealthy matrons of the town; and gigolo Jeff Sinclair, friend to Martha’s son Walker, claiming to be Martha’s most recent “love” interest.

With the discovery of a second body, the pace quickens and subplots converge during the lakeside memorial service of Martha Leland, when all suspects are present the identity of the murderer is revealed through the attempted murder of yet another victim and a surprise twist at the end.

Murder at the Museum by Melanie MyersMurder at the Museum by Melanie Myers:

She’s used to dealing with ancient bones, not fresh corpses…

In sleepy Chowan Cove, a seaside town in Maine, an exciting day for local museum curator Maree Lilley is one where her favourite cafe owner makes fresh cinnamon buns.

So when she finds her boss’ body in her office, less than an hour after arguing with him, Maree knows it’s not going to be just any normal day. Trained as an archaeologist, Maree has always been about unravelling puzzles, especially when it turns out she’s the main suspect in her boss’ murder.

With her best friend Abby’s help, Maree sets out to solve the case and clear her name, despite the local police chief being less-than-enthusiastic about Maree’s involvement.

But as she delves deeper into the investigation, Maree finds herself in the murderer’s crosshairs. Will she be able to solve the case before she becomes the next victim?

Murder at the Museum is the first book in the Museum Murders series. A light cozy mystery with a dog-loving amateur sleuth, her quirky artist best friend and a small-town setting.

False Signs by Travis StarnesFalse Signs by Travis Starnes

Retired Special Forces Sergeant John Taylor is hiding from the world. Still dealing with his captivity by terrorists and a near fatal collaboration with Federal law enforcement, Taylor has sworn off any future heroics. A call from a friend inside the FBI and the pleas of a desperate mother force Taylor to change his mind and end his self-imposed exile.

A National Guard armory has been destroyed in west Texas, and all eyes have turned to a possible terrorist attack by a missing corporal. The agents in charge of the investigation refuse to listen to claims of innocence by the soldier’s mother, forcing her to turn to Taylor and hope his first-hand experience with terrorists and past success with the Bureau can help clear her son’s name.

Granted access to the case but saddled with a beautiful yet stern Bureau baby-sitter, Taylor runs head first into the FBI’s refusal to look beyond their preferred theory of the crime. As he digs up clues of a frame-up and hints of a much more sinister motive behind the explosion, Taylor races to stop a dark conspiracy hiding in small-town America.

Murder in Crimson Velvet by Karen Sue WalkerMurder in Crimson Velvet by Karen Sue Walker

What’s worse than an actress who’s a diva? A dead one!

Max Walters, a talented bridal consultant, is called upon to help with the costumes for Romeo and Juliet just days before opening night. When an actress confesses that a psychic told her she would be murdered, Max doesn’t take her seriously until the actress ends up dead. Is it a tragic accident as everyone is meant to believe, or is it really murder? With her friend and assistant Keiko, Max searches for the truth. Will she find it? Or will a murderer go free?

 

Icy Stares by Cyrus WintersIcy Stares by Cyrus Winters:

Twenty years ago when she was just a young girl, a man abducted Nadine Shields for twelve hours and has been in her nightmares ever since. In spite of her childhood trauma, Nadine forged ahead bravely and left the past behind, establishing herself as a crime solving specialist within her state’s city precinct.

But tonight Nadine’s inner strength will be tested in ways it never has before. The monster who abducted her all those years ago has inexplicably reached out, wanting to draw her back into his sick world of terrifying mind games and abuse.

With the lives of innocents threatened and time running out to save them, Nadine must work with her colleagues to solve the one crime she never wanted to face – the crime that had been committed against herself.

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New Helen Shepherd Mystery Available: Parlour Game

Blogging has been very light this month, since I’m currently trying for a repeat of the July Short Story Challenge, where the aim is to write a story per day in July (for previous editions, see here and here). I just finished story number 16 and I’m really happy with what I have written so far.

In other news, I am currently participating in a Christmas in July promo, where you can get lots of Christmas books for 99 cents. And if you want more cheap books, Smashwords is currently holding its annual summer sale, where you can find lots of e-books at a reduced price, including several of mine.

What is more, I also have a new release to announce. That is, it’s no longer quite so new, but I was so busy with translation work and Hugo voting and the July Short Story Challenge that I didn’t get around to announcing this new release so far.

The new release is another Helen Shepherd Mystery, the 11th in the series by now. Though it’s not necessary to read the previous ten, cause they all stand alone.

This Helen Shepherd Mystery is entitled Parlour Game and it’s basically my version of the classic country house mystery. Helen and her team (plus DCI Simon Westmoreland from Counter Terrorism Command who is dating Helen) are called to investigate a mysterious death in a manor house (and yes, there are manor houses to be found in Greater London, though Honeydew House is fictional) and find themselves faced with a library full of suspects.

When writing Parlour Game, I finally understood just why classic mystery authors like assembling all suspects in a single place so much. Because when you gather all suspects in a single place, they inevitably start to accuse each other. All the detective has to do is listen and watch. Coincidentally, the scene was also a whole lot of fun to write, because the characters did all the work.

So if you’re in the mood for a modern take (did I mention that there are references to Star Wars and Midsomer Murders among other things?) on the classic country house mystery, check out Parlour Game:

Parlour Game
Parlour Game by Cora BuhlertWhen Edgar Asheford-Browne is found dead in his palatial home, with a hole in his head and a bloody fire poker next to his body, the cause of death seems obvious. Edgar Asheford-Browne was beaten to death.

But as Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team begin to unravel the case, it suddenly seems much less clear. For Helen has to deal not only with contradictory evidence, but also with an entire library full of suspects who are all accusing each other.

 

 

 

More information.
Length: 10800 words
List price: 2.99 USD, EUR or 1.99 GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Our Six Year Anniversary

July 3 marks Pegasus Pulp’s six year anniversary, so it’s time for another overview post. In those six years, our catalogue has grown to 109 titles in two languages.

In other news, I’m currently trying for a repeat of the July short story challenge, where the idea is to write a short story per day in July (for a summary of the 2015 and 2016 challenges, see here). I’m not sure if I will manage to do it for the whole month this year, but so far I’ve written three stories in as many days. And since writing a short story every day takes time, this post will be a bit more basic than usual:

So let’s take a look at the figures and percentages. The figures of previous years may be found here BTW.

Warning, lots of statistical neepery under the cut. Continue reading

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