Of narrative catnip, cultural taste differences, telling my own stories and a new “In Love and War” novella: Dead World

As many of you probably know, I currently have two space opera series going on: The Shattered Empire series and the In Love and War series. Both are stories of rebellion and of fighting an unjust system, because such stories are narrative catnip to me to the point that my personal definition of science fiction once included “there is a rebellion or a struggle against an all powerful system” as a crucial ingredient of SF.

Shattered Empire tells the story of a political rebellion against the typical evil SF empire. The focus is very much on the various characters, their stories and their reasons for joining the rebellion, but overall it’s mainly a story of a political rebellion.

In Love and War is different. It also has an evil galactic regime or rather two of them, the Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds, and protagonists rebelling against them. However, Ajali and Mikhail’s rebellion is personal rather than political. They are not trying to overthrow their respective regimes and free the galaxy from oppression. No, all they want is to be left alone to spend their lives together in peace.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way, for starters because both regimes pursue them relentlessly, though the Republic is a tad more enthusiastic about it. What is more, Anjali and Mikhail – being the sort of people they are – cannot just stand idly by, while others are in danger. And so they hop from planet to planet, trying to survive and stay one step ahead of their pursuers, while helping those in need.

I write a bit more about the background of the In Love and War series, what inspired it and what I want to do with it here, here and here.

In short, I had two characters I enjoyed spending time with, the potential for many adventures featuring those characters and what I thought was a compelling overall story arc full of cultural clashes, forbidden love, the conflict of love versus duty, heroic sacrifices, characters standing up against an unjust system and choosing to do the right thing, even if it could cost them everything. I had two lonely people overcoming their troubled past and finding companionship, love and a purpose in life. I also had two characters who roam the universe, helping others in need and solving those people’s problems (and eventually aquiring a makeshift family in the process), while remaining permanently on the run and unable to solve their own. In short, the In Love and War series combines various elements that are narrative catnip to me. So I reasonably assumed that the series and its elements would also be narrative catnip to others.

Alas, the In Love and War series doesn’t sell very well or at least not nearly as well as I’d hoped. Part of that might be due to the fact that I launched the series just as the US presidential election was reaching its hottest phase, when books sales fell across the board. Part of that might also be due to the covers, which are stylistically quite different from other indie space opera and indie SF romance covers.

However, in a way, the covers are appropriate, because the In Love and War series is also quite different from other indie space opera and indie SF romance series. I’ve written before about how the indie mantra of “Writing to market” is causing indie SFF to become a lot more narrow ad formulaic than traditionally published SFF ever was at its worst. And so, when I look at the also-boughts/also-vieweds of the In Love and War books, on the one hand, I see a lot of cookie cutter military SF with plots and ideas that weren’t new when Heinlein was writing them sixty years ago, and on the other hand, I see a lot of equally cookie cutter alien warlord romances that read a lot like the werewolf/werebear/shifter paranormal romances that were popular a few years ago, only with aliens instead of werwolves. The covers are naked manchests with strategically placed dots for SF romance and exploding spaceships for space opera. There was one space opera cover in my also-boughts that looked uncannily like a recruiting poster for a hypothetic Nazi space program. And people who are attracted fascist aesthetics in space probably won’t particularly care for my quirky little series about a mixed race couple who just happen to be deserters on the run from their respective governments.

No offence to the people who read and write about bare-chested alien warlords, exploding spaceships and manly space marines doing manly things in space. Those books may not be my cup of tea, but they’re obviously somebody’s – a lot of somebodies in fact – cup of tea, so more power to those authors and their readers. However, my stories – though they absolutely fit into the space opera and SF romance categories – don’t feature bare-chested alien warlords and manly space marines doing manly things in space.

Last year, I did a guest post on Sarah Ash’s blog as part of her “Nobody Knew She Was There” series on women SFF writers, where I wrote the following:

Another problem facing international writers is more subtle. For in a market – whether indie or traditional –that is still dominated by American tastes and expectations, our stories often fail to hit those expectations. Because even though we have consumed more than our share of American cultural products – books, films, comics, television – we nonetheless aren’t Americans. Our history and culture, not to mention our experiences and influences, are different. In fact, you may have noticed that I mentioned a lot of works above that few people outside Germany have ever heard of. So the stories that rise out of the stew pot of our subconscious are quite different from what an American writer would produce, even if they are nominally part of the same genre. In fact, it took me a long time to realise that a lot of what I perceived as bugs in the fiction I consumed, were actually features to the American audience those works were aimed at.

A lot of what I write, including the original spark behind the In Love and War series, is an attempt to fix the bugs in other people’s stories. And though I’m aware that many of those bugs are actually features for the (American) target audience of those works, I still can’t resist fixing them, even if it means subverting the tropes that attract part of the audience to the genre.

That truth was brought home to me sharply, when I was entering the changes resulting from the final proofread of the next In Love and War novella, while the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony was running in the background. Now US TV generally has a lot more commercial breaks than German TV and this includes the Academy Awards. What is more, the Academy Awards are on in the middle of the night in Germany, i.e. not exactly prime TV advertising real estate, unless it’s for phone sex hotlines. And so the German broadcaster fills up the commercial breaks in the Oscar ceremony with trailers for the nominated movies (since it can be assumed that people watching the Oscars will be interested in movies).

And this is how I chanced to see a trailer for a movie called Allied, which was nominated for an Oscar for best costume design. I’d never heard of the movie before and the brief clips shown during the Ocar ceremony made it look like “Agent Carter – the Movie” (which I would actually watch). However, the trailer (and the movie I presume) told a very different story: We got a couple of action scenes and a handsome 1940s couple played by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard having adventures and falling in love. So far, so good. But then the trailer took a sharp turn, when we got a scene where Jared Harris (the British suicide guy from Mad Men) in a military uniform told Brad Pitt that they suspected Marion Cotillard was a Nazi spy and ordered Pitt to find out the truth and personally execute her. If he refused, he would be hanged.

So what does Brad Pitt do? Does he tell Jared Harris where he can shove his order, even if it means risking the gallows? Does he go on the run with Marion Cotillard, shadowy military guys hot in pursuit? Does he shoot the bunch of them? No, he begins to doubt Marion Cotillard, whereupon the trailer descends into a series of increasingly tense scenes between the two of them.

Now these days, comparatively few movie trailers excite me. Most just leave me bored. This one, however, made me actively angry. It made me angrier than I’d been at a stupid movie trailer in years (and coincidentally, the last one was also a WWII movie starring Brad Pitt – I do sense a pattern there). It also made me wonder how a movie with such a terrible plot could ever get made, let alone with obviously high production values, good actors and a good director (Robert Zemeckis, who can do so much better).

Remember that I was entering the final changes into the manuscript for the next In Love and War novella, when I saw that trailer. And the very premise of the In Love and War series is that two elite soldiers fall in love against all odds and turn their back on their respective regimes, because they both refuse to hand over the other to certain death. In short, the story, the whole series I was working on at that moment, was the polar opposite of that movie.

Like everybody, I have a few tropes that I really, really hate. And one of my most hated tropes – a trope that’s pretty much an instant “Book meets wall” and “Movie/TV show meets OFF button” moment for me – is characters turning against friends, loved ones and family members at the slightest hint of any wrongdoing and subsequently turning over those friends, loved ones or family member to the police, the courts, the FBI or whomever. I can tolerate that trope, if the suspect is actually guilty and turns out to be a serial killer or something similarly awful. However, in the vast majority of cases – even if the suspect is guilty and most of them aren’t – the crime is comparatively minor like smuggling or theft or drug possession. That trope is what killed Quantico for me, what killed Blindspot for me, what killed Picket Fences for me, what caused me to dislike Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine. Amazingly, it did not kill The Maltese Falcon for me, but then I find I can never be angry at any character played by Humphrey Bogart for any reason.

However, it wasn’t until I chanced to see a trailer for a movie featuring a particularly noxious instant of that trope, while working on a story that is the exact opposite, that I realised that this trope I hate so much might not be a bug for US audiences at all, but a feature. For while Germans – and most Germans I have talked to hate this trope, too – value personal loyalty to friends and loved ones more highly than loyalty to a state or system, Americans don’t necessarily seem to share this preference and indeed find something compelling in stories where someone chooses loyalty to the state/system over loyalty to a loved one. As for why this is so, I suspect the reason lies in our sorry history. For within living memory, we had not one but two regimes where plenty of people decided to value loyalty towards the system more highly than personal loyalty and chose to sell out their friends and loved ones to the state (and it happened. A lot). This sort of history leaves its mark, both on our collective psyches and on the stories we choose to tell.

So is part of what made the story of Anjali and Mikhail so very compelling to me, the fact that they are both willing to turn against their respective regimes (and both the Empire and the Republic are pretty damn awful – these are not nice democracies) and turn their back on everything they ever strove for in their lives for the sake of love, the very thing that puts off American readers? I don’t know.

As I said before, I can only tell my own stories, not somebody else’s. And I hope that at least some of you will give Anjali and Mikhail a chance and follow their adventures.

Which finally brings me to the actual point of this post, namely that there is a new In Love and War novella available. It’s called Dead World and sends Anjali and Mikhail on a deadly chase across a nuclear wasteland, relentless pursued by a bounty hunter who’s after the prize on their heads.

It’s got action, emotion, vile villains, heroism and of course, true love. So just check it out, will you? And if you want to read the whole series, there’s a handy bundle available at a sharply reduced price at DriveThruFiction.

Dead World
Dead World by Cora BuhlertOnce, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

When they are hired to retrieve a weapons prototype from an abandoned planet, it seems like a routine job. But it quickly turns out that the planet is not as empty as they had thought. And soon, Anjali and Mikhail find themselves caught in a deadly chase across a radioactive wasteland.

More information.
Length: 27500 words.
List price: 2.99 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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An interview and a new post-apocalyptic collection: After the End

For starters, I’ve been interviewed by C.E. Martin, author of the pulpy Stone Soldiers series, as part of his Chowmageddon series about post-apocalyptic fiction and particularly food after the apocalypse, so head over there and check it out. And while you’re at it, you can also read the other interviews in the series with Ann Christy, Marcus Richardson, Lawrence Herbert Tide and Leo Nix.

The timing of the interview is highly convenient, because I also have a new release to announce, which just happens to fall into the post-apocalyptic subgenre.

The new release is a short story collection entitled After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse. All but one of the stories in the collection were the result of the 2016 July short story challenge. The objective was to write a story per day in July 2016.

When you attempt to write a whole lot of stories in a very limited time frame, certain themes inevitably emerge. And one of the themes that emerged during the 2016 July short story challenge was post-apocalyptic stories. As for why I felt so drawn to this particular theme, I suppose the unstable geopolitical situation and general apocalyptic mood in the summer of 2016 (which has not exactly become any more stable since then) had something to do with it.

The apocalyptic scenarios featured in After the End are all different. Five of the apocalypses are triggered by climate change, one of the likelier end of the world scenarios, though the particulars vary. There are three stories set in a world flooded due to global warming and melting ice caps, a story set in a world suffering from massive droughts due to global warming (with an extra shout-out to the depletion of the ozone layer) and a story set in an ice-bound world where climate change has paradoxically triggered global cooling and a new ice age in the Northern hemisphere.

Other apocalypses are more fanciful. I have a story set in a world where modern technology has ceased to work due a massive electromagnetic pulse caused by a solar storm and where humanity suddenly has to rely on nineteenth century technology. There is the requisite zombie apocalypse story, of course, and a story set after the robot apocalypse.

However, as varied as the end of the world scenarios are, one common theme became notable as I was putting together this collection. For while the vast majority of post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on the struggle for survival in the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse, the stories in this collection are all set years or decades after the apocalypse, when a new normal has asserted itself. And most of them feature young protagonists with little to no memories of the world before who are just trying to get through their everyday lives.

Initially, I wondered why the theme of young people living in the new normal after a world-shattering apocalypse resonated with me so much. And then it hit me: The reason why that theme resonated with me so much was because I had been that young person growing up after a world-changing catastrophe and just trying to live my life in the only world I knew, while older people, the generation of my parents and grandparents, just could not stop talking about the bad old times.

Of course, I did not grow up after the literal end of the world. However, I grew up in postwar Europe at a time when the Third Reich and the bombings of World War Two were still within the living memory of my parents and grandparents. And World War Two was pretty damn apocalyptic for those that lived through it, particularly in Europe and Asia. Even by the time I was a kid, some thirty to forty years later, there was still visible bomb damage in our town, either hidden behind billboards or in the form of suspiciously empty lots in otherwise densely built areas.

Nor was World War Two the only apocalyptic event within living memory. Very old people also still remembered World War One, which was equally apocalyptic and probably even more successful at totally destroying the world as it had been before. Then, when I was a teenager, the Berlin Wall fell, once again spelling the end of life as they knew it for friends and relatives from beyond the iron curtain. And finally, as an adult, I teach German to refugees who have fled the apocalyptic hellscapes of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Mali for the relative safety of Europe.

The thing about real world apocalypses is that unless humanity is wiped out altogether, life goes on. People still go to work, fall in love, get married, have children. And to those children, life after the apocalypse will be the new normal.

It’s this new normal that the stories contained in this collection focus on. And it’s no coincidence that After the End starts with a funeral and ends with a man holding a baby in his arms.

Of the eight stories included in this collection, two probably require a bit of further explanation. The optical telegraph or semaphore described in “Lifeline” was a real communication technology that was developed in France in the late eighteenth century and became obsolete by the mid nineteenth century, when electrical telegraphs came along. You can learn more about optical telegraphy here.

One of the fairly few surviving optical telegraph stations is located in the town of Brake in North Germany. It was once part of an optical telegraph line stretching from the North Sea port of Bremerhaven to the city of Bremen. You can learn more about that line here (only in German alas). Nowadays, the Brake telegraph tower has been restored and turned into a museum. I had the chance to visit the museum during a trip to Brake. It occurred to me that optical telegraphy would be the ideal long distance communication medium after an apocalypse, which eventually inspired “Lifeline”.

The port of Bremerhaven is also mentioned in “Shelter” as the destination of the ice-locked vehicle carrier MV Aniara. Among other things, Bremerhaven is the one of the biggest transshipment ports for cars and other motor vehicles in the world. Every day, some four thousand cars pass through the port of Bremerhaven, more than two million per year, as well as a further million of busses, trucks, tractors, construction equipment and other heavy vehicles. The giant car carriers and the huge lots full of brand-new cars waiting to be loaded either onto vessels for export or onto trains for further distribution are truly a sight to see. And just like Paul tells Karla in “Lifeline”, pretty much everybody driving through Bremerhaven’s car terminal has probably thought of just climbing over the fence and nicking one of the ten thousands of brand-new cars waiting at the quay.

There really is a car carrier named MV Aniara by the way, operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics who tend to name their vessels after operas. I chose it because of the science fictional connotations of the name, which of course refers to Harry Martinson’s epic science fiction poem Aniara and Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s eponymous opera adaptation. Here is a photo of the real MV Aniara, BTW.

So if you’re looking for some post-apocalyptic fiction that’s not all bleak, then check out:

After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse
After the End by Cora BuhlertWhen the apocalypse has come and gone, life still goes on for the survivors struggling to adapt to the new normal.

In a drowned world, the descendants of surface dwellers remember the cities that were lost, the inhabitants of ocean floor colonies cling to outmoded customs and scavengers search the flooded ruins for anything that might be of use. In a world ravaged by droughts, two college students come face to face with how the other half lives. A lone explorer traverses the icy wasteland that used to be Europe. A group of children travels across a zombie-infested America in search of shelter and safety. After a robot uprising, a police officer is assigned to clean-up duties and finds an unexpected miracle among the ruins. And in a world blasted by electromagnetic solar storms, a nineteenth century technology suddenly becomes the sole means of long distance communication.

More information.
Length: 24500 words
List price: 2.99 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for February 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 January 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, epic fantasy, a whole lot of space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, dystopian fiction, science fiction romance, alternate history, Cyberpunk, LitRPG, horror, dragons, aliens, werewolves, cyborgs, supersoldiers, galactic empires, FBI witches, Appalachian monsters, zombie insects, revenge of nature, The King in Yellow 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:

After the End by Cora BuhlertAfter the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse by Cora Buhlert

When the apocalypse has come and gone, life still goes on for the survivors struggling to adapt to the new normal.

In a drowned world, the descendants of surface dwellers remember the cities that were lost, the inhabitants of ocean floor colonies cling to outmoded customs and scavengers search the flooded ruins for anything that might be of use. In a world ravaged by droughts, two college students come face to face with how the other half lives. A lone explorer traverses the icy wasteland that used to be Europe. A group of children travels across a zombie-infested America in search of shelter and safety. After a robot uprising, a police officer is assigned to clean-up duties and finds an unexpected miracle among the ruins. And in a world blasted by electromagnetic solar storms, a nineteenth century technology suddenly becomes the sole means of long distance communication.

This collection contains eight stories of life after the apocalypse of 24500 words or approximately 85 print pages altogether.

Cyborg Legacy by Lindsay BurokerCyborg Legacy by Lindsay Buroker:

Former Cyborg Corps soldier Jasim Antar was relieved to come out of the war alive and looked forward to switching to a less violent line of work. But nobody wants to hire a brawny cyborg to do anything that doesn’t involve brutalizing people on a daily basis. Stuck working as a debt collector alongside an eccentric pilot who enjoys knitting gifts for her grandkids when she isn’t blowing people up, Jasim longs to find a more peaceful existence.

 

 

Coalescence by Zen DiPietroCoalescence by Zen DiPietro:

Fallon’s back, and ready to settle things with Blackout once and for all. If she and her team can’t take control, the PAC will splinter and galactic war will decimate the populace.

Can one little rebellion save an empire? Avian Unit–and their friends–are sure as hell going to try.

 

 

Sieging Manganela by Charon DunnSieging Manganela by Charon Dunn

When you’re waging war against the people who sold your ancestors those multigenerational bioengineered supersoldier enhancements, you can pretty much predict they’re not going to meet you face-to-face, especially if they happen to have an endless supply of remote controlled drones.

The city of Manganela has been sending drones after the army camped outside for the past several years, and now it looks like the war might be ending soon, and Corporal Turo Berengar might even get to meet that city girl he’s been surreptitiously texting. Assuming he can survive the drones.

Heretic by C. GockelHeretic by C. Gockel:

The day of reckoning is coming …

Commander Noa Sato has almost reached the Kannukah Cloud. Within hours her crew may be able to reach Sol System through a hidden time gate. If they make it, she and her crew won’t just save their own lives–they’ll save millions from genocide at the hands of Luddeccean fanatics.

But the Luddeccean “fanatics” may not be as mad as Noa believes.

If the Ark reaches Sol, Professor James Sinclair will be revealed as the imposter he is. Designed to be the perfect spy, James’s love for Noa seems to be the only thing truly his own. But what can love be to an agent of the gates?

When the final confrontation occurs, and the truth of the gates is revealed, James and Noa will have choices to make … Choices that may divide them forever and lead to the destruction of the human race.

The Final Reconciliation by Todd KeislingThe Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling:

Thirty years ago, a progressive rock band called The Yellow Kings began recording what would become their first and final album. Titled “The Final Reconciliation,” the album was expected to usher in a new renaissance of heavy metal, but it was shelved following a tragic concert that left all but one dead.

The sole survivor of that horrific incident was the band’s lead guitarist, Aidan Cross, who’s kept silent about the circumstances leading up to that ill-fated performance—until now.

For the first time since the tragedy, Aidan has granted an exclusive interview to finally put rumors to rest and address a question that has haunted the music industry for decades: What happened to The Yellow Kings?

The answer will terrify you.

Inspired by The King in Yellow mythos first established by Robert W. Chambers, and reminiscent of cosmic horror by H. P. Lovecraft, Laird Barron, and John Langan, comes The Final Reconciliation—a chilling tale of regret, the occult, and heavy metal by Todd Keisling.

Continue Online Together by Stephan MorseContinue Online Together by Stephan Morse:

Since stepping through the gateway to Continue, Grant has been many things: a dying hero, a malevolent imp, a robotic space explorer, and felon seeking redemption. Now he’s added a new role to the list—married man to a virtual woman. In his mind, nothing could be more perfect, but his newlywedded bliss is in jeopardy.

Trillium pulled the trigger on a digital Armageddon and the games have changed. Virtual people are being hunted down then deleted forever. Players’ characters are removed if they die three times. The AIs have a plan to fight back and protect their citizens by storing as much data as possible into a haven, including Xin’s.

To help secure the survival of his friends and wife, Grant will seek the secrets to salvation left behind from the game’s first heroes and programming team. Along the way, Grant reunites with old companions, sets aside past grudges, and pulls out every trick he’s ever been taught to help him in the race against digital death.

Failure means Grant will lose Xin a second time, but success may cost him even more.

Age of Order by Julian North:

In a world where all people are not created equal, Daniela Machado is offered the rarest commodity: hope.

For a girl from plague-infested Bronx City, the opportunity to attend the elite Tuck School in Manhattan is too tempting to turn down. There, among the so-called highborn, Daniela discovers an unimaginable world of splendor. But her opportunity soon turns into peril as Daniela discovers that those at society’s apex will stop at nothing to keep power for themselves. She may have a chance to change the world, if it doesn’t change her first.

Age of Order is a dystopian thriller filled with intrigue and unexpected relationships. It explores the meaning of merit and inequality in a world where the downtrodden must fight for a better future.

Recon: A War to the Knife by Rick PartlowRecon: A War to the Knife by Rick Partlow:

Tyler Callas is the pampered heir of a high-level Corporate Council executive, groomed from birth to take a seat beside her as a member of the ruling class of the Commonwealth society. But the bloody war with the alien Tahni has hit close to home and Tyler wants to join the military, something his powerful mother won’t allow.

Desperate to escape her control, Tyler changes his identity to Randall Munroe, a product of the poverty-stricken Underground, and enlists in the Marines. There he flourishes, becoming a member of an elite Force Recon unit and striking deep behind enemy lines. But when his platoon is assigned to take back the colony on Demeter from the Tahni, the mission falls apart, most of his comrades are killed and Munroe is wounded, separated from his unit and left for dead on an enemy occupied world.
With no other choice, he organizes the civilian colonists into a resistance movement and begins fighting against the occupation with limited supplies and no support. As the situation becomes more and more desperate, what began as a high-tech, interstellar conflict will become a war to the knife…

Special Agent in Charge by T.S. PaulSpecial Agent in Charge by T.S. Paul:

The Magical Crimes Division of the FBI has a new boss!

Agatha Blackmore’s Probationary period is over and she has been promoted to Special Agent in Charge. Now armed with a new team of Paranormal investigators she is setting out on a new adventure.

An innocent Werewolf child has been murdered. Local FBI Investigators have discovered that Slavery still exists in the modern world. The new team must combat deceit and corruption in their pursuit of Justice and Salvation for the Paranormals of the Midwestern United States.

What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted?

Fruiting Bodies by Guy RiessenFruiting Bodies by Guy Riessen:

It’s 1979 and a secret all-out war between science and nature has erupted in the forests of the eastern United States.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, also known as the Zombie Fungus, infects the brains of ants. A daring military mission has recovered samples and it looks like the fungus just evolved into humanity’s worst nightmare.

A Sci-Fi Horror Short Story of 5500 words.

 

Greenwood Cove by Celia RomanGreenwood Cove by Celia Roman:

I had three loves in my life: my daddy, him what my mama killed in cold blood; my son Henry, God rest him; and tall as an oak Riley Treadwell.

I lost all of ’em, one way or t’other, ’til Riley showed up on my stoop with a monster problem and tried to wiggle his way back into my life.

Only, weren’t no monster bothering him; was the one bothering his ex-girlfriend what’d stirred up a hornet’s nest out on Lake Burton amongst the muckity mucks. Weren’t no never mind to me, see? I was fine letting well enough alone, ‘cept curiosity got the best of me, and Riley, well. He weren’t above using that silver tongue of his to persuade me ’round to his way of thinking. If I’da listened to my gut, maybe I woulda avoided stepping knee deep into somebody else’s trouble.

Then again, I ain’t never been one to heed a warning when monsters come a-calling.

Author’s Note: Greenwood Cove was written in the native dialect of the narrator, found in the rural areas of the Southern Appalachians. The grammar, spelling, and syntax are not standardized American English.

The Mercy of the Tide by Keith RossonMercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson:

Riptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down at a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever. At the heart of the story are Sam Finster, a senior in high school mourning the death of his mother, and his sister Trina, a nine-year-old deaf girl who denies her grief by dreaming of a nuclear apocalypse as Cold War tensions rise. Meanwhile, Sheriff Dave Dobbs and Deputy Nick Hayslip must try to put their own sorrows aside to figure out who, or what, is wreaking havoc on their once-idyllic town. Keith Rosson paints outside the typical genre lines with his brilliant debut novel. It is a gorgeously written book that merges the sly wonder of magical realism and alternate history with the depth and characterization of literary fiction.

Chronicles of the Last Days by Amelia SmithChronicles of the Last Days by Amelia Smith:

Myril doesn’t need prophecy to see that her world is going to end – the city is sinking before her eyes. Foreign ships fill Anamat harbor, bringing traders bent on pillaging the city’s treasures – with help from the governor – as its people flee to hostile lands.

Her guildmaster calls on her to help save the Chronicles of Anamat from the pillagers. Meanwhile, her old friend Darna needs healing, Iola wants to go to her death in the dragons’ realm, and the Defenders are airing their secrets at just the wrong time.

How will any of them survive when the waters rise again?

Duchess of Terra by Glynn StewartDuchess of Terra by Glynn Stewart

When Terra knelt to an alien Imperium
They guaranteed our safety and our future
But now their enemies are coming for us

To preserve humanity’s survival and freedom in a hostile galaxy, Annette Bond tied her world to the A!Tol Imperium, taking on the mantle of Duchess of Terra to rule humanity in the Imperium’s name.

The A!Tol have provided technology, ships, and money to uplift the new Duchy of Terra, but those gifts come with strings attached. The Imperium has their own plan for Terra—but Bond has tricks of her own.

With enough time, she can build Earth a place in the galaxy. But as Bond’s many enemies gather their forces, the clouds of war threaten not only the recovering Terra but the entire Imperium.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for January 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 December books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to 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, epic fantasy, Asian fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, dystopian fiction, science fiction mystery, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, aliens, werewolves, robots, UFOs, intergalactic traders, FBI witches, magical source-fixers, mutant assassins, murdered gods, monsters in the woods 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:

Dick and Henry and the Temporary Detective by Kenneth Buff:

Space is full of adventure. And danger too. Fresh off their last case, Captain Dick Shannon and his harvest bot, HN-R3 report to Station 2 for reassignment, only to find the station in the middle of an attack that threatens the lives of everyone on-board. Now, Dick and Henry must work together with a mysterious woman, hopping from planet to planet in search of clues in order to save themselves and bring the monsters responsible for the destruction of the station to justice before it’s too late.

 

Hunted Wolf by Stacy ClaflinHunted Wolf by Stacy Claflin:

Her fiancé’s family wants her dead. And they won’t stop until she is.

Victoria and Toby have faced one trial after another since falling in love. Now they must face Toby’s old pack—a cruel traditional group opposed to anyone refusing to follow the old ways. Toby will do anything to protect Victoria, even to the point of separating from her. He sends her to a fierce bear shifter colony, where she will be hidden and protected.

Life with the werebears begins to take its toll, and Victoria’s worries get the best of her. She fears for Toby and her pack, but her thoughts are torn—she also fears her sister is in danger. Victoria is compelled to find and protect her, so she leaves the sanctuary of the werebear colony and sets off in search of her.

Victoria encounters so much more than she could have imagined once she embarks on her quest. Will she be able to find her sister before Toby’s old pack finds and kills her?

The Cost of Business by Zen DiPietroThe Cost of Business by Zen DiPietro:

Cabot Layne has unintentionally become the owner of someone else’s problem. In order to get free of it, he’ll need to use every bit of his trader cunning. If he does it just right, he might stay out of prison. With a little luck, he’ll even manage to turn a profit.

 

 

 

Murdered Gods by Marina FinlaysonMurdered Gods by Marina Finlayson:

Lexi didn’t set out to steal a god’s ring, but when a magic artifact starts trying to talk to you, what’s a girl supposed to do? She’s always had the ability to talk to animals, but this new development amps up the crazy. Now she’s afraid her power is out of control and she’s losing her mind.

The only person who could possibly reassure her that she’s not going mad is her mother, who has always refused to discuss the source of Lexi’s strange ability. Now that the jewellery is getting chatty, maybe she’ll finally spill the beans.

Unfortunately, going home means a trip back to the human territories, and Lexi only just made it out of there alive last time. She’s hoping for a quick visit, but with a god hellbent on retrieving the ring and a fireshaper she might have accidentally betrayed on her tail, life is about to get horribly complicated—for her and everyone she cares about.

Alien Tales and Lore by G.J. Gundersen Jr.Alien Tales and Lore by G.J. Gundersen Jr.:

Strange messages from alien visitors start to appear in the newspapers. A young farmer dares to visit a mysterious pyramidal hill that, according to village legends, was built by aliens. A lowly researcher at a government installation finds a fully functional alien spacesuit …

These are just some of the stories included in Alien Tales and Lore.

Gundersen’s entertaining stories are told in a folkloric or fairytale style, but they are unashamedly set in a modern age where odd occurrences may often be brought about by alien technology. The tales included in this volume are by turns enchanting, surreal, and troubling. But as with all fairytales and folktales, they offer an insight into human nature. Gundersen writes a new tradition for an age of alien contact!

Source-Breaker by Kyra HallandSource-Breaker by Kyra Halland:

After twenty-seven years in the trade and with a string of failures behind him, Kaniev the Source-Fixer is ready to go home and take up fishing. First, though, one more repair job lies ahead of him – the magical Source Chaitrasse is experiencing problems. Kaniev’s depleted finances and self-confidence demand that this time, he get the job done right.

Fransisa, once presumed to be the next High Priestess of Source Chaitrasse and now displaced by a young Chosen, the natural heir to the position, is struggling to hold on to her authority at Chaitrasse when a wandering tradesman appears, telling her the Source has a problem and he’s the one who can fix it. Though he looks more like a wandering brigand than a powerful wizard or wise scholar, Fransisa decides it can’t hurt anything to let him take a look.

Kaniev’s ill-fated attempt to repair Source Chaitrasse leads to a sorcerer who is conducting dangerous experiments with magic. Caught in the sorcercer’s schemes, Fransisa and Kaniev must overcome their past failures and their differences to stop him before the Sources of magic and all the lands around them are destroyed.

Songs of Insurrection by J.C. KangSongs of Insurrection by J.C. Kang:

The Empire of Cathay teeters on the brink of rebellion, and only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can prevent the realm from descending into chaos.

Blessed with an unrivaled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when music could summon typhoons and rout armies. Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool.

When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing rebellion, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.

Obediently wedding the depraved rebel leader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.

Chameleon Assassin by B.R. KingsolverChameloen Assassin by B.R. Kingsolver:

Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives’ secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation’s network? Libby’s your girl.

Climate change met nuclear war, and humanity lost. The corporations stepped in, stripping governments of power. Civilization didn’t end, but it became less civilized. There are few rules as corporations jockey for position and control of assets and markets.

In the year 2200, the world has barely recovered the level of technology that existed before the ice melted and the subsequent wars. Corporate elites live in their walled estates and skyscraper apartments while the majority of humanity supplies their luxuries. On the bottom level, the mutants, the poor, and the criminals scramble every day just to survive.

Urban Fantasy set 200 years in the future.

Sundown Apocalypse by Leo NixSundown Apocalypse by Leo Nix:

It is the end of days, the Apocalypse of Revelations has begun and terrorists have effectively taken out the super powers cleansing the planet of the ‘disease of civilisation’.
?Small bands of survivors are forced to confront the horrors of a psychopathic enemy. They fight back the only way they can – with sudden and savage violence.
Sundown, under the mentorship of an ex IRA commander and a retired Vietnam war CIA operative, struggles with his own demons as he guides a determined band of civilians to defeat their enemy and to survive the harshness of the Australian desert.

Cat's Night Out by T.S. PaulCat’s Night Out by T.S. Paul:

Catherine Moore, Cat to her friends, trained with her friend Agatha Blackmore to be the best FBI Agents to ever graduate from the Academy. When Agatha left for her Probi assignment Cat had one of her own. A serial killer stalked the South. Sometimes it takes a Monster to catch a Monster.

Read this and other Tales from the Federal Witch Universe today!

 

 

Inwards Bound by Jim RudnickInwards Bound by Jim Rudnick:

Tempted by the dissolution of the huge empire inwards, Duke Scott and the Baroness and the Caliph join forces to send a ship inwards bound, to find new planets for the expansion of the RIM Confederacy—led by the new captain, Bram Sander. Making a mind-reader a ship’s captain means more than one might expect, and Bram has to worry about the issues that arise.

Broken now into smaller Warlord realms, the first thing to do is to find allies and that becomes a major thrust in the RIM Confederacy ships first voyage inwards—and that leads to various new allies and antagonists too. One Warlord wants to join the Confederacy and one wants to take it over by force and the chances of that happening are real.

As the new secret mine for Xithricite is found by the Confederacy who now mines the red ore in secret, the Warlord fomenting war sends declarations to the Confederacy ship and Bram must respond. Aided by his own red ship and the Leudies gifts, he foists the Confederacy wishes on the Warlords—and the battles begin…

The Winter Knife by Laramie SassevilleThe Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville:

Death stalks a snowbound city from below… Feral dogs are blamed when a popular teen is killed. Is it just coincidence that he disappeared after infuriating 14-year-old Haley, who is torn between her anger and her desire to belong? More attacks implicate a creature of Northwoods myth she befriended in its summer form. As the DNR leads a cougar hunt in town, Haley makes a desperate plan to steal a car and use their empathic bond to lead the creature away from the city — driving alone into the fangs of a blizzard that makes roads hazardous even for experienced drivers. If she fails, either her monster or more members of her community will die.

Requiem for the Wolf by Tara SaundersRequiem for the Wolf by Tara Saunders:

They told him that the Lost were animals. Crazed and brutal, they said, a danger to themselves and others. Hero, they called him, for providing the mercy of a clean death. They lied.

The Tiarna Beo is a land frozen in the still moment between acts of savage violence. Forty years after a Purging that drove an entire race either into the ground or north through the mountains, every man watches his words and his neighbour. Only a fool draws attention to himself, and only the suicidal travel from the North.

Growing up fatherless in a cold and grieving home, Breag had a clear vision for his future – a good woman, a family of his own and a quiet life. When his good woman betrays him, her confederates force him into the Tiarna on a mission to find one of the Lost and bring it home to be sacrificed. Mired in hopeless duty and wandering rootless among people who would kill him if they knew what he was, Breag struggles to hold on to the frayed edges of his humanity.

But no good deed goes unpunished. When his rescue of a brutalised young woman reveals her to be the Lost he has spent eight years hunting, Breag is forced to choose between her life and his future. And she’s not prepared to go quietly. Breag’s choice will create ripples that ignite the fumes of anger among his people and theirs, and ultimately to burn the entire kingdom down around his ears.

The Perception of Prejudice by Alasdair ShawThe Perception of Prejudice by Alasdair Shaw:

Ace fighter pilot Anastasia Seivers is offered a secret assignment: to join a squadron taking the fight to Concorde’s true enemies. But this squadron isn’t part of the regular Concorde military, it is attached to the Legion Libertus, the independent force responsible for saving thousands of lives after the nuclear attack. After initial hope that her new commanders will be different, Seivers starts to suspect that they too are prejudiced against her.
Determined to remove the chip from Seivers’ shoulder, Prefect Olivia Johnson, commander of the Legion, takes her on as pilot for a special mission.

The Perception of Prejudice is a novelette in the Two Democracies: Revolution series.

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Multi-Author Speculative Fiction Promotion

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Fantasy author Andrea Pearson has organised a huge speculative fiction multi-author promotion from January 10 to January 14.

Over seventy authors are participating, with works ranging all across the speculative fiction spectrum, from epic and urban fantasy via paranormal romance all the way to horror and science fiction, so there’s sure to be something for every taste.

And best of all: All books are only 99 cents!

You can find a full list of all participating books here, including one title that may seem familiar to some of you.

So what are you waiting for? Go and buy some books!

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2016

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 November 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, epic fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, dystopian fiction, science fiction romance, paranormal romance, vampires, werewolves, trolls, robots, starships, crimson queens, genetically engineered dragons, alien bounty hunters, Venusian affairs, telepaths, miracle drugs, brainwashed soldiers, monsters in the woods, Christmas in space 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:

Liquid Muse by Cora BuhlertLiquid Muse by Cora Buhlert:

Jonah Winter has developed the perfect creativity enhancing drug – one hundred percent effective, non-addictive and safe.

Ron Varnhagen has experienced the drug’s remarkable properties for himself and plans to invest in Jonah’s venture. But then he learns of the horrifying secret behind the drug and its production…

This is a short science fiction story of 2600 words or approx. 10 print pages altogether.

Ayers by Andrei CherascuAyers by Andrei Cherascu:

In the corrupt city of Mei Jhabo, a mysterious new thoughtenhancer has devastating effects on the consumer’s brain. Its emergence is linked to the sudden rise of one of the city’s most ruthless drug gangs. Leading the fight against it, Commissioner Celia Wallace employs the services of the famous Ayers-Ross Thoughtprotection Agency. Their mission: retrieve an undercover agent sent to infiltrate the gang and protect the information inside his mind.

For ambitious young telepath Alex Lea, this seems like the perfect opportunity to prove that he is a worthy successor to his idol, legendary Mindguard Sheldon Ayers. But, in this profession, the course of things can change in an instant.

After an ambush leaves him separated from his team, Alex must learn to become his own guardian first. Pushed to the limits of his ability, he comes across an enemy far more dangerous than anyone suspects and a plot that threatens the very future of the Federation.

AYERS is a prequel set a few months before the events of MINDGUARD. It can be read as a stand-alone or at any point in the series. For reasons pertaining to themes and character study the author recommends reading the books in order of publication.

Shadowrise by J.J. GreenShadowrise by J.J. Green:

In the void, the Shadows lurk, waiting to arise.

Jas Harrington and the crew of the Galathea have made it back to Earth. Now they face an investigation into the Shadow attack on the ship and the infiltration of the colony world of Dawn.

They find that things have changed since they went away. Strange disappearances and odd behavior lead them to the question: have the Shadows invaded their home planet?

When the former navigator Sayen Lee investigates, she’s taken hostage. Can Jas get her back? And can they find out what’s been happening on Earth before more lives are lost?

The Crimson Queen by Alec HutsonThe Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson:

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…

Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…

Mission: A Venus Affair by V.A. JeffreyMission: A Venus Affair by V.A. Jeffrey:

Bob and his family are going on a much-needed vacation towards the hottest destination in the solar system: Vepaja City, Venus! But as soon as they reach Venus someone from his past makes an inconvenient request: make a secret deal that promises to benefit Bob, U-net and the Boss. Who is this mysterious character? Does this person really care about helping him or is there a darker agenda? Is this side mission really in Bob’s best interest? If he agrees to the deal U-net could reap an advantage in the coming war. But is this mission legitimate or is it a trap?

 

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

After centuries of being the most dangerous predators on the planet, dragons were hunted to extinction. That is, until Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson and Dr. Kamala Anjali cracked the code to bring them back. Through their research at MIT, they resurrected the first dragon anyone has seen alive since the 15th century. There’s just one problem.

Someone stole it.

Caught between two ruthless yakuza clans who want to clone the dragon, Jack and Kamala brave the dangerous streets of Tokyo to steal their dragon back in a race against time before the world is taken over by mutated, bloodthirsty monsters that will raze it to ashes.

Of Cinder and Bone is an all-new sci-fi thriller from the author of the Amazon bestselling Black Parade novels. Don’t miss out on this explosive first-in-series!

Rayzor's One by Michele MillsRayzor’s One by Michele Mills:

Rayzor of Twelve, a lonely Bounty Hunter banished from his home world, is determined to follow his mission parameters: He must extract his target from a primitive planet called Earth with zero human casualties.

His plan unfolds with precision, until a human female gets in the way.

Rebecca doesn’t understand what the hell is happening. One moment she’s scared and alone in the spooky forest. Then a seven foot tall alien warrior is gazing at her with dark passion, his clawed hands touching her reverently. He’s kissing her, claiming her and saying, his voice hoarse with emotion—that she is his Bride.

His Bride? Wtf?

This stranger is swoon-worthy, but…She doesn’t know his name, or what species he is and he’s kidnapped her, thrown her on his goddamn spaceship and now she’s speeding away from Earth to parts unknown. And he expects her to fall into his arms?

Oh hell, no.

For Whom the Bell Trolls by Lindy MooneFor Whom the Bell Trolls, edited by Lindy Moone and John L. Monk:

It’s a Smorgasbord of Trolls!
Funny, touching, titillating and suspenseful, there’s a story for every adult reader in For Whom the Bell Trolls, a unique, illustrated “antrollogy” by 24 international authors. Arranged from light to meaty fare, the book’s “menu” offers up fanciful and farcical stories, family-oriented tales, romance, mystery, even magically surreal literary stories — starring all sorts of trolls, from the all-too-real Internet variety to the man-eating, bridge-dwelling trolls of legend.

 

South of the Spire by Neil MossparkSouth of the Spire by Neil Mosspark:

Three weeks after a southern exploration team left the Citadel to map the unknown lands to the south, their cartographer’s journal was found stuffed into the hollow of a tree. It accounts the southern exploration team’s journey, documenting the ruins of ancient man, and the threats encountered in the post-apocalyptic forest.

… There are more than just wild things in the wilderness.

 

 

Ghosts of Noodlemass Past by T.S. PaulGhosts of Noodlemass Past by T.S. Paul:

The War with Earth looms over everything. It is overshadowing even Noodlemass, the Holiday Celebration of Athena Lee’s planet. Refugees have no where to go and children are trapped out in the cold without shelter. The best solution is to use local Hotels to put them up for the winter. One problem with that. The owner won’t sell or even lease.

What will Wilson and his gang of cybernetic heroes do to help? Wilson provides his unusual spin on a Christmas Classic!

 

Hounds of God by Justin SloanHounds of God by Justin Sloan

Torn from her parents at a young age, Katherine is raised in a pack of werewolves like herself and brought into the ways of the Hounds of God: An army of werewolves that will bring justice to evildoers.

But when their leader is killed and everything Katherine has believed is thrown on its head, she sets off with a small group of friends in search of a cure to what she now believes is a curse.

This search for a cure leads her to a fight for survival where she’s challenged to embrace the beast within. Will she give up everything to stop the nefarious army of werewolves, betraying those she once considered family?

Justice Is Calling by Justin Sloan and Michael AnderleJustice Is Calling by Justin Sloan and Michael Anderle:

The History of the World wasn’t what Valerie was taught.

The daughter of a vampire and sister of a devil walking, Valerie finds out she has something neither her brother nor her father possess:

She has Honor.

Now, she needs to flee a brother who leaves her for dead. Because, if there is one thing Valerie understands?

It’s that Justice Doesn’t Turn the Other Cheek.

150 years after a near apocalypse, the world is rebuilding. Survival has become the only rule, and justice is in short supply. Now, Justice has come calling.

Shades of Honor by Sandy WilliamsShades of Honor by Sandy Williams:

She won her freedom. Can she win a war?

Commander Rhys Rykus is facing court martial. With his career on the line, he’s ordered to keep his distance from the brainwashed Ash and protect her from afar, but sinister elements threaten her safety. He accepts a new mission that puts them on the same warship, knowing it will take all his self-control to fight his feelings for her.

Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn is no stranger to fighting for her life. Still under the influence of the Coalition’s brainwashing, she cares little for her own safety. She merely wants to protect the Coalition… and reconnect with Rykus.

Rykus knows how important Ash is to keeping all of them alive, but the target on her back is enormous. Will the growing threat to the Coalition take down Ash and Rip’s only shot at love?

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Another new release for the holidays: Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart

And here is the final new release announcement for 2016. It’s another holiday story, but one that is very different from St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen.

For Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart is a sweet and rather fluffy holiday romance in the vein of Christmas Gifts and Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café.

Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart was something of an attack story, because the phrase that eventually became the title suddenly popped into my head. At first, I wanted to write a poem around it, but then I thought, “Hey, that’s a great title for a Christmas romance,” and started writing. Three days later I was finished and here is the result.

Regular readers may notice that Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart is the second holiday story I have written that is set in a shopping mall just before Christmas. The other one is Christmas Gifts. And coincidentally, it’s strongly implied that both stories take place concurrently at the same mall. Plus, I strongly suspect that Shannon from Christmas Gifts snagged that last jar of cranberry sauce that Hannah and Owen can’t find later on.

Why malls? Well, for starters, visiting a mall at holiday time is an experience most of us can relate to, plus malls give strangers plenty of chances to meet and they offer any kind of setting you could possibly need, because a mall is basically an interconnected universe of little mini-environments. Hence, Christmas Gifts features a perfumery and a coffee shop, while Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart features the plaza/entrance area, the mall parking lot, a supermarket and once again, a coffee shop. And yes, it’s the same coffee shop manned by the same barista, a Pakistani math student named Mohammad.

In fact, I may eventually turn Christmas Gifts and Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart as well as any other holiday stories set in and around shopping malls I may still write (e.g. I have an unfinished holiday romance set at a Christmas tree lot on – yes – a mall parking lot). The only reason I didn’t yet officially link both stories in a series is that a) it didn’t occur to me until yesterday and b) I’m reluctant to make any changes to book listings or upload new content at a time where the backend at most e-book vendors is closed for the holidays.

So enjoy Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling for the holidays.

Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart
Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart by Cora BuhlertWhen her boyfriend dumps her four weeks before Christmas, Hannah throws herself into holiday preparations in order to dull the pain. But nothing seems to help, until Hannah quite literally bumps into Owen, while Christmas shopping.

Hannah and Owen hit it off immediately. But Owen is nursing an old grief of his own…

This is a short and sweet holiday romance of 5900 words or approximately 20 print pages.

 

More information.
Length: 5900 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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New Release: St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, a Silencer Christmas novella

I promised you more new release announcements in the run up to the holidays and here is number 2. This one is for St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, a Silencer Christmas novella.

Now I’ve always been fond of the Silencer series of pulp-style adventures set in Depression era New York City. However, the series has never sold all that well, since the audience for retro thrillers in the style of the old hero pulps is limited and many of them are perfectly satisfied with an endless supply of actual vintage pulp fiction. Never mind that the Thrillers –> Pulp subcategory at Amazon is cluttered with all sorts of bog-standard thrillers that have zero connection with actual pulp fiction.

As a result, I don’t actively write more Silencer stories, unless a good idea presents itself. However, one thing I’ve always wanted to do was write a Silencer Christmas story. All that was missing was the right idea.

That idea eventually showed up sometime in October, when I thought it would be fun to have the Silencer make his escape down a chimney and get mistaken for Santa Claus (which is exactly what happens in the opening chapter). My first idea was simply to have Lucy rattle off her wishes to the Silencer and Richard doing his best to fulfil them. However, that wasn’t a particularly satisfying story, so I added in some more conflict, namely that Lucy and what was originally her family were at risk of eviction from their apartment.

The apartment quickly changed into an orphanage. After all, it’s a Christmas story and the Silencer helping nuns and orphans has more impact. So once I had the orphanage, I also had the three remarkable (and absolutely not villainous for once, because the evil nun/priest trope annoys me to no end) nuns Sister Mary Margaret, Sister Agnes and Sister Bernadette. Coincidentally, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen also effortlessly passes the Bechdel test, since it has plenty of named women (the three nuns, Constance, Leah Levonsky, Dorothy Berwick, Melody Rumpus) talking among themselves about all sorts of things, including on occasion men.

Once the three nuns had laid out their plight, the information naturally led Richard (and me, since I’m very much a discovery writer) to Father O’Leary and the church of St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen (which is entirely fictional BTW) which also gave the novella its title. As for why I chose to set the story in Hell’s Kitchen, I picked that particular neighbourhood, because it was an immigrant neighbourhood and crime-ridden well into the 1980s. The name of the street gang the Silencer is tangling with at the start is a reference to another well known heroic resident of Hell’s Kitchen. Plus, the religious connotations of the name were too good to pass up. Coincidentally, the Heaven & Hell Cabaret and particularly the scene where Richard stumbled into a dressing room full of chorus girls in angel and devil costumes also came about because of the theme.

Initially, I had planned for slumlord Paul Krays to be the main villain of the story. However, then the US presidential elections happened and my plans changed in that I made Krays merely a henchman of an even bigger villainous mastermind. And yes, any resemblances between Reginald Rumpus and a certain US real estate mogul turned reality TV star turned president are totally not coincidental at all.

Though you’ll also notice that the physical descriptions of Reginald and Melody Rumpus don’t quite match their real world counterparts. Instead, they were based on Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow playing a crass noveau rich couple living in a very white Art Deco apartment (so white that the cinematographer had problems filming it) in the 1933 movie Dinner at Eight. Here is a trailer for the movie BTW, which made me realise that though I’ve seen the film (I’m a big fan of Jean Harlow), I remember absolutely nothing about it except Jean Harlow and her spectacular gowns, Wallace Beery and that very white apartment. So in short, Reginald and Melody Rumpus are Donald and Melania Trump as portrayed by Jean Harlow and Wallace Berry.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the Silencer stories are among the most research intensive of my stories. Only the Alfred and Bertha stories require even more research, but the necessary info for those stories is usually much easier to find. The big problem with the Silencer stories is that the 1930s are still close enough to our time that many things are similar, i.e. there are guns, cars, airplanes, radios, movies, typewriters, etc…, but nonetheless far enough away that plenty of things we take for granted today didn’t yet exist. And yes, I admit that I occasionally cheat a little. For example, night vision devices were still highly experimental in the mid 1930s and only gradually came into wider use during WWII. And while acrylic glass was certainly around and Lucite was trademarked in 1936, there likely weren’t shoes with Lucite heels yet.

What is more, New York City has changed a lot since the 1930s, though thankfully the city or at least parts of it are well enough documented that it’s easy enough to find out what things look like today, whether they looked like that in the 1930s, when particular buildings were built, etc… That’s for example why the scene of Constance and Leah Levonsky walking along Fifth Avenue never mentions Tiffany’s, since Tiffany’s didn’t move to its current location until 1940. And indeed, all the buildings, hotels, stores and sights mentioned in the Fifth Avenue scene actually existed with the exception of Reginald Rumpus’ dark tower, which was based on some actual Art Deco skyscrapers with a bit of gothic flair added. The Bonwit Teller department store BTW was torn down by none other than Donald Trump to make room for the Trump Tower. And by the way, I’d like to make a shout-out to the Sherry-Netherland Hotel whose website has plenty of photos of its beautiful restored interior, which were exactly the sort of information I needed for this story. I’m not actually in the market for 400 USD per night hotel rooms in Manhattan, but if I were, this is the hotel I’d choose.

But even though there are plenty of photos of Manhattan in the 1930s around, photos of Christmas decorations in 1930s Manhattan are far more difficult to find. Hence, while it was easy enough to figure out that the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center has been around since 1931 (with a gap in 1932), though actual photos of what it looked like at the time were a lot more difficult to find. This page has some, though. The ice skating rink, meanwhile, only opened in 1936, i.e. it would have been brand new at the time the story was set.

Photos of 1930s Christmas decorations on Fifth Avenue were even more difficult to find. I could find a few interior shots of various department stores, but hardly any photos of street decorations, at least not in New York City. So the descriptions of display windows and decorations are largely much made up.

Regarding the F.A.O. Schwarz scenes, now I’ve actually been inside the Fifth Avenue flagship store of F.A.O. Schwarz. However, the building I visited was clearly built after WWII. Luckily, it was not just easy enough to find out where F.A.O. Schwarz would have been in 1936 (practically next door, it turned out), but I also came across this 1940 article from Fortune magazine which decribes exactly what the store looked like, how it was set up, etc… There’s also a photo gallery which includes plenty of shots of Christmas decorations from the 1930s and 1940s. The various toys described are all real toys from the 1930s BTW. I didn’t even have to research those, since I used to collect toys (still do, though I refrain from buying additions for space reasons).

The Paradise Lounge is obviously a proto Tiki Bar. Now Tiki Bars are mainly associated with the 1950s and 1960s, but the beginnings of the trend lie in the 1930s. Don, the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s (still named Hinky Dink) both opened in the 1930s in California. Actress Dorothy Lamour also first donned her famous sarong (which has very little to do with an actual sarong) in the 1936 movie Jungle Princess.

But it wasn’t just settings and technology that required research. For example, I come from a Lutheran Protestant majority region and have never been Catholic, so I had no idea how confessions really work beyond what you see in movies in occasion, what the priest says, etc… Luckily, there are plenty of religious websites which have the relevant information. In the end, I enjoyed writing the confession scene a whole lot, especially as this is where some hints at Richard’s none too savoury past come out.

The Hanukkah dinner at the Levonskys’ home (which I wanted to include just to show how diverse 1930s New York would have been) posed a similar problem. For though I know what Hanukkah is and what is being celebrated, I didn’t know what middle class Jewish families would have eaten. Once again, the web came to my rescue and to own surprise I found that most of the food was familiar to me, though I know it by different names.

Coincidentally, while the wife and daughter of pulp publisher Jake Levonsky have been mentioned in the Silencer series before (in Countdown to Death and The Great Fraud, to be exact), this is the first time we actually meet them on the page. I really enjoyed writing the bubbly Leah Levonsky BTW and I’m sure she’ll show up again.

Of the other Silencer regulars, Justin O’Grady shows up briefly towards the end (and reveals that he knows exactly who the Silencer is, even if he cannot prove anything). Constance has a more substantial role, though she is not actively involved in the action this time around. And Edgar, the kitten Richard rescued in Elevator of Doom, shows up as well. Plus, there is the possibility of a new addition to the family towards the end.

Elevator of Doom by Cora BuhlertTalking of Elevator of Doom, that story has a gorgeous new cover, by the way, which also matches the Silencer series branding much better than the old cover did. And indeed, finding suitable covers for the Silencer series is another massive challenge, since illustrated or CGI retro stock art is extremely rare (and 1930s style imagery is even more difficult to find – Victorian, Edwardian, 1920s and 1950s are far more plentiful). Though I’m happy both with the new cover of Elevator of Doom as well as with the vintage Christmas tree on the cover of St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen.

In short, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen takes us on a seasonal tour through the wintery New York City of 1936 and really has it all: action, thrills, romance, toy stores, tiki bars, burlesque theatres, orphans, nuns, chorus girls, villains and even a time-displaced Donald Trump analogue.

So what are you waiting for? Get your copy today!

St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen
St. Nicholas of Hell's KitchenChristmas time in 1930s New York. After escaping through the chimney of an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen, Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer is mistaken for Santa Claus by one of the children and learns that the orphanage is under siege by both a gang of brutal racketeers and an unscrupulous landlord.

Richard vows to help the children and their guardians. However, it turns out that the attacks on the orphanage are only part of a much larger plot, when Richard’s quest for justice leads him into the upper echelons of Manhattan’s high society.

Soon, the Silencer finds himself face to face with one of the most powerful men in the city, while Richard and Constance struggle to save the orphanage and give the children of Hell’s Kitchen an unforgettable Christmas.

More information.
Length: 29000 words
List price: 2.99 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

Don’t forget that you can buy a bundle of all eight Silencer novelettes at DriveThruFiction at a reduced price.

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New science fiction story available: Liquid Muse

It’s time for a new release announcement, actually the first of three to come in the run-up to Christmas. Yes, I’ve been busy, which is why this blog has been somewhat neglected of late.

Today’s announcement is for a near future SF story called Liquid Muse. It’s another story to come out of the 2016 July short story challenge.

Unlike most other stories originating from that challenge, Liquid Muse has no clearly defined inspiration. Instead, it was the result of the juxtaposition of an article on gentrification, a news headline on possible genetic link to human creativity and a call for blood donations that landed in the creativity pessure cooker of my mind and caused Liquid Muse to fall out.

It didn’t really fit in thematically with any of the other stories to come out of the July short story challenge, so I decided to publish it as a standalone. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the more explicitly political stories I’ve written.

Since Liquid Muse is largely about abstract concepts, I was unsure what to do about the cover. But then I came across a gorgeous piece of psychedelic art, which was actually supposed to be a visualisation of migraine.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the psychedelic science fiction covers of the 1960s and 1970s, not to mention for the psychedelic posters of Wes Wilson and Peter Max, so that was the look I went for.

Liquid Muse
Liquid Muse by Cora BuhlertJonah Winter has developed the perfect creativity enhancing drug – one hundred percent effective, non-addictive and safe.

Ron Varnhagen has experienced the drug’s remarkable properties for himself and plans to invest in Jonah’s venture. But then he learns of the horrifying secret behind the drug and its production…

This is a short science fiction story of 2600 words or approx. 10 print pages altogether.

 

More information.
Length: 2600 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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The Return of the Trolls and a New Release: The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach

I’ve been somewhat missing in action these past few weeks, because I’ve been hard at work finishing the Silencer Christmas novella St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, so I can publish it before the various e-book retailers close down for the holidays (which happens up to two weeks before Christmas for some of them).

Over at my personal blog, I also have some seasonal photos of German Christmas markets coming up as well as my comments on recent genre debates coming up. And here at the Pegasus Pulp blog, I have another post on new and old pulp fiction planned.

What is more, the troll-themed anthology For Whom the Bell Trolls: 25 Tales of Terror, Triumph and Trolls, edited by Lindy Moone and John L. Monk is available again. My story in the anthology is called “When Life Gives You Trolls, Make Lemonade” and it’s about a lonely troll looking for companionship on the Internet.

For Whom the Bell Trolls by Lindy MooneIt’s a Smorgasbord of Trolls!
Funny, touching, titillating and suspenseful, there’s a story for every adult reader in For Whom the Bell Trolls, a unique, illustrated “antrollogy” by 24 international authors. Arranged from light to meaty fare, the book’s “menu” offers up fanciful and farcical stories, family-oriented tales, romance, mystery, even magically surreal literary stories — starring all sorts of trolls, from the all-too-real Internet variety to the man-eating, bridge-dwelling trolls of legend.

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 and Amazon Mexico.

Royalties go to charity (Equality Now), so what are you waiting for? Grab your copy today.

However, I also have a new release in a different series (well, it is a series now) to announce, namely the sequel to The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock and the second story in the Hallowind Cove series about a fog-shrouded seaside town that is a magnet for weird happenings.

I initially wrote The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock as a standalone, though I always intended to reuse the town of Hallowind Cove, should the right story idea come along. And eventually, the right idea did come along, while I was doing the 2016 July short story challenge.

Also in July, I visited Bremerhaven. Though Bremerhaven is a seaside city, it is not at all like the fictional Hallowind Cove. For starters, it’s a lot bigger, something of a tourist attraction and also a major sea port.

One of Bremerhaven’s main tourist attractions and one of its four big museums is the German Maritime Museum and its exterior grounds at the so-called museum harbour, which hold those exhibits too big for the museum proper. Most of those exterior exhibits are historical ships (you can see some of them in this post). However, there are also buoys, smokestacks, cranes, a harpoon and a wooden sculpture called the sailor’s arm, which is basically an almost six meter long wooden arm.

When I’m in Bremerhaven and have enough time, I like walking around the touristy Havenwelten neighbourhood and the museum harbour. And so I was wandering among the historical ships at the museum harbour, primed to generate story ideas because of the July short story challenge, when I walked past the sailor’s arm. And suddenly, the sculpture sparked an idea. “What if the arm wasn’t just an offbeat work of art, but the actual arm of some kind of giant? And what if the arm wasn’t happy about being separated from its body?”

On the train, I mused a bit more about that idea and suddenly realised that this was a Hallowind Cove story. So, once I got home, I sat down and started writing what would eventually become The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach.

In the story, we meet some old friends, namely Paul, Old Hank and Hugo from The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock, again and also encounter some more of the residents of Hallowind Cove.

So prepare to be thrilled by:

The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach
The Cursed Arm of Driftwood BeachA disembodied arm terrifies a seaside town…

Strange things keep happening in the permanently fog shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, earning it the nickname “Harbour of the Weird”.

When a beachcomber finds a giant wooden arm on the beach, the people of Hallowind Cove are excited about a new addition to the town museum’s collection.

But the wooden arm has a mind of its own – and the tendency to go walkabout by night…

This is a short story of 2400 words or approximately 10 pages in the Hallowind Cove series, but may be read as a standalone.

More information.
Length: 2400 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, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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