Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for January 2018

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 epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, historical fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, post-apocalyptic romance, horror, Steampunk, weird western, reluctant witches, space vampires, dragons, djinns, crime-solving ghosts, aliens, rogue AIs, murderous androids, dead women revived, reincarnation, zombie-fighting sheriffs, imperiled hostages, remorseful executioners, Lovecraftian monsters, Frankenstein’s Bride, sentient office equipment 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:

The Legion and the Lioness by Robert D. ArmstrongThe Legion and the Lioness by Robert D. Armstrong:

They said I would never finish flight school. Never rank at the top of my class. Never fly with the top aces. Never return from combat against the Kelton androids. Never survive emergency surgery.

Here I am.

The year is 2151, Earth is gone. A hellscape. I’ve been unfrozen after 72 years of cryosleep on a medical facility on Saturn’s moon, Titan. I have nothing, no home, no friends, no concept of this new world, these Titans.

All that remains is the old conflict that has blackened my veins and memories of the ones I loved still fresh in my heart. Forgotten for decades.

But it seems war hasn’t forgotten me, no, even in my slumber. My name is Captain Victoria Ann Belic, I was a wife and an ace fighter pilot, and have been revived for one reason–to die again.

Zombie Wild West: Death Wals In by Eric BakerZombie Wild West: Death Walks In by Eric Baker:

“Is this the end? The apocalypse?”

The dead are coming back to life, and there’s going to be a showdown in the sleepy town of Dire.

Sheriff Eli Roberts has had more hardship in his life than one man should ever have. Now he’s started over: a new town, a new life, and as of this morning, new problems. A stranger has walked into town and fallen dead in the middle of the main street. Once again the wild west has earned its name.

As if zombies in town weren’t enough, the Sheriff also has to deal with an ornery Doctor, a saloon girl, and a corrupt Mayor. To make it even worse, they’ll have to work together if they want to make it through the night.

Sawyer by Theresa BeachmanSawyer by Theresa Beachman:

Surviving the invasion was only the beginning.

Ben Sawyer is a man of morals, driven by conflict and haunted by a dark past, where doing the right thing came at high personal cost.

Following an attack on her lab, he helps weapons engineer Julia Simmons across the alien infested landscape of London to the safety of the underground Command Base. Safe for the moment, Sawyer falls hard for her brilliant mind and dangerous curves.

Struggling to come to terms with Earth’s devastation, completing her newest weapon gives Julia hope and purpose. But, her decision leaves her no time for a relationship. She makes Sawyer promise they will not fall in love, because there’s no time for love in the apocalypse, right?

Still fighting his own demons and believing himself beyond redemption, Sawyer agrees to Julia’s terms–comfort without emotional entanglement.

But events escalate and an unexpected alien mutation threatens the very heart of the previously impenetrable base. Even if they can survive the dangers closing in on them, Julia and Sawyer may not survive each other’s dark secrets.

The question then becomes, who will be the first to admit to love?

Life Under the Noose by James BeeLife Under the Noose by James Bee:

Fifteen years ago, Rivers was stolen from his village, under the orders of a King. Forced to serve, Rivers’ life was safe as long as his village stayed loyal. Only now it seems that they have broken faith with the King, and the noose around his neck grows tight. His life is forfeit, unless he travels back to his home, and delivers the punishment himself. Now Rivers is faced with an impossible choice. If the life he has carved out for himself is to survive, he must destroy his old world. How far will he go to save his own life? How far can one man be pushed before he breaks?

Life Under the Noose is a fast paced, character driven novel for readers who love gritty action, and high stakes.

Vengeance by S.M. Schmidt and Lisa BlackwoodVengeance by Lisa Blackwood and S.M. Schmitz:

When rogue AIs steal everything that matters most, the only thing left is vengeance.

As the flagship of the Spire Empire, Vengeance is a legendary AI whose broken heart has proven his greatest battle yet. But his new telepathic link, a little girl named Hayley, finally teaches him to love again—until rogue AIs attack her planet and level her home in a storm of fire and destruction. Vengeance is left with only one hope in his potentially immortal existence: the chance to avenge his innocent link.

Twenty years later, a young engineer joins his crew, and he’s inextricably drawn to her. But the closer he tries to get to her, the harder she pushes him away. Olivia Hawthorne risks everything—her friendship with her telepathic sisters and even her life—to assume a new identity so she can serve aboard Vengeance. After suffering at the hands of rogue AIs, she should be wary of trusting one again, even her old friend. And yet, she can’t seem to stay away from him. But when rogues raid Spire colonies, Vengeance and Liv must learn to overcome the fears shackling them to the past. Because if they want to survive, they’ll have to seek vengeance together.

Beyond Night by Eric S. Brown and Steven L. ShrewsburyBeyond Night by Eric S. Brown and Steven L. Shrewsbury:

An Epic Fantasy tale of action, adventure, heroism, horror and sorcery…

Beyond Night is a Dark Fantasy Horror novel that pulls back the veil of nearly two thousand years of jaded history. Come trod in the bloody footprints left by monsters, soldiers and wizards and behold what lies hidden Beyond Night itself.

It’s Bigfoot War mixed with Lovecraftian horror on the edge of the Roman Empire.

How could Rome lose a Legion? What could’ve happened to blot out the existence of over five thousand men not only from history but the Earth itself?

As the Legion moves north to engage the forces of Pictdom, a dark horror emerges from the bowels of the Earth. Thought to be random attacks by hulking monsters, Decurion August soon learns a dire truth, that these bloody events are directed by opposing the wizards of the Picts. While one side assembles all tribes in a confederated army to battle the Legion, the other pulls these Greyman beasts from the depths of the Earth.

August fights not only these creatures and workers of magicks, but internal passions in the Legion itself.

Can he discover a way to survive the enormous bloodletting about to take place that will only serve to satisfy the wizards of Pictdom?

Origins by Lindsay BurokerOrigins by Lindsay Buroker:

Are you still human if your father was a dragon?

Even though Captain Trip always knew he was a little odd, he’s still shocked by the revelation that the elder gold dragon, Agarrenon Shivar, sired him. It’s time, however, to accept reality and learn to use his power, even if it alienates him from his magic-fearing friends—and the woman he’s come to care about. With enemy dragons threatening to kill or enslave everyone in his homeland, he has no choice.

But even if he becomes a great sorcerer, it won’t be enough to fight off all the dragons threatening Iskandia, so Trip suggests a mission to General Zirkander. He wants to lead a team, with the scholarly Lieutenant Ravenwood’s help, to locate his sire. Agarrenon Shivar, once respected and feared by his own kind, may be the perfect ally for Iskandia—if Trip can talk him into siding with humanity.

Just one problem: the ancient dragon hasn’t been seen for thousands of years, and Trip has no idea how his long-dead mother found him.

Banished by Cynthia Joyce ClayBanished by Cynthia Joyce Clay:

n this third book of The Saga of the Dragon Born, Tristabé-airta, banished from her father’s kingdom of Allsongs, must find a mentor so that she can advance in her training in magic. But no one wants to teach a miscreant, especially one who pulled from the ocean ten waterspouts and destroyed a village with them. On the road alone and prey to griffons, ruffians, and a frightening god who lusts for her, Tristabé-airta must find a way to improve her control over her magic.

And Allsongs? Allsongs must prepare for a truly terrible winter, having banished the one person with the magical ability to right the weather–Tristabé-airta. The poets have always said Tristabé-airta is Allsongs’s best defense, so having her driven her out, the new heirs of Allsongs must protect Allsongs from enemy kings and their own dragon natures on their own. Despite the king’s decree, Tristabé-airta’s milk sister Em keeps in touch with Tristabé-airta and gives her what help her magic can provide.

Copper Cove by Robert DahlenCopper Cove by Robert Dahlen:

Copper Cove, city of marvels powered by magic and steam, is abuzz over the coming of the new rail line. Crafter Tabitha Miles would love to be on the first trip of the Velessan Express, but there’s work to be done. Staying awake past midnight to make ends meet, difficult clients, runaway automatons, guild enforcers, all just another typical day for her.

Tabitha’s latest commission seems like just another job at first but then she meets newspaper reporter Sophie Haverford and falls into a web of conspiracy and murder. Can Tabitha unravel the mystery, prevent a disaster, and win Sophie’s heart in time for tea?

Rain Dance by D.N. EriksonRain Dance by D.N. Erikson:

Eden Hunter has a little secret that could get her killed. Again.

Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Reaper Eden Hunter would know: she spends her days working for a local vampire warlord, harvesting the souls of the recently departed. But even bad situations can get worse. And when a body washes up on shore near Eden’s secluded beachfront villa, the former con artist finds herself under investigation by the FBI.

But Eden’s not concerned about being charged with murder. She’s got a bigger secret she needs to keep quiet. It’s why she’s living miles from anyone else, even on an island that appears on no map. If that secret gets out, the fate awaiting her is far worse than life in prison. Too bad the FBI won’t stop digging until it might be too late…

Rain Dance is the first book in the all-new Sunshine & Scythes urban fantasy series starring (semi) reformed con artist turned Reaper (and occasional FBI consultant) Eden Hunter. Each novel can be enjoyed on its own without reading the others, but there is an ongoing series arc.

Their Last Hope by Sarah EttrichTheir Last Hope by Sarah Ettrich:

AI specialist Liz Price is determined to see sentient androids in her lifetime, but then she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. Hoping that her dream will be realized in the future, she arranges to be cryogenically frozen upon her death.

When Liz is revived years later, she expects to be cured. But sentient androids are taking humans and killing them for some unknown reason. They control the medical system, and they don’t treat serious illnesses.

A resistance group wants Liz to turn the androids back into mindless machines. They tell her that’s the only way to stop the androids, and the only way she’ll be cured.

Liz wants to live, so she agrees to work with the resistance. She secretly hopes she can reason with the androids, but then she finds out why they’re taking humans.

McEdifice Returns by Camestros FelaptonMcEdifice Returns by Timothy T. Cat and Straw Puppy with a little help by Camestros Felapton:

Veteran space marine Chiseled McEdifice wanted a peaceful life after decades of fighting evil but a cowardly attack sets him off on a bicycle ride of revenge and into an adventure across space and time.

From the pen of Timothy the Talking Cat and his surprisingly loud imaginary friend Straw Puppy, comes a space adventure like no other (except ones a bit like it). Featuring a chapter full of the word ‘I’, a dancing photocopier and guest appearances galore.

The City of Ashes by Robert I. KatzThe City of Ashes by Robert I. Katz:

Douglas survived the siege.

But will he survive the tournament?

The contest takes place every five years. The best and brightest fight for riches and glory. But the hidden battle isn’t with fists or weapons, it’s a game of words and diplomacy. Behind the scenes deals are being struck. Sides are being chosen. And betrayal is in the air.

Does this mean war?

Can Douglas uncover the truth?

And if he wins, can he survive long enough to enjoy his victory?

As the game unfolds, the Grand Tournament is just the opening gambit. What comes next will blow you away.

The Empire's Orphans by Robin KristoffThe Empire’s Orphans by Robin Kristoff:

In the space of three days, Rogan loses his royal privilege, his country, and his mother. Now knowing that his father, the King of Kanrine, orchestrated his mother’s execution, Rogan is left stranded in his mother’s homeland. Sickened by the idea of returning home, Rogan lowers himself to washing and sweeping for a local healer to survive. He’s now a drudge, a mongrel, a nobody with airs. His one friend is Bryna, the poverty-stricken daughter of the city’s former baron, who has her own reasons for skirting the notice of the city’s occupying soldiers.

Before Rogan can decide his next move, the mysterious death of a soldier pulls him and Bryna into a web of politics, murder, and magic. The two of them must race to separate truth from lies as the authorities’ investigations quickly turn personal…and deadly.

Told from the alternating perspectives of a conqueror’s son and a conquered lord’s daughter, THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS follows two twelve-year-olds in a country simmering with national, racial, and class.

Witchin' USA by Amanda M. LeeWitchin’ USA by Amanda M. Lee:

Hadley Hunter has lived a normal life, in a normal suburb, with a normal job and a normal father. All that changes when a grandmother she didn’t even know existed dies and leaves her a fabulous lighthouse on Moonstone Bay Island.

Hadley, ready for an adventure, decides to check things out and finds herself plunged into a world she never envisioned.
From the naked woman swimming in the ocean outside her back door, to the hot sheriff who seems to be hiding a secret, Hadley is intrigued from the start. That’s before magical things start happening – including to Hadley – and a body washes up on the beach.

It seems Moonstone Bay has a killer on the loose … and he may be stalking Hadley, although no one can figure out why.

Things are about to spiral for Moonstone Bay’s newest reluctant – and baffled – witch. She has to learn about the past, investigate the present and hold on to her future for dear life. Along the way she will meet a bevy of new friends who have a few particular abilities … and a lot of really odd quirks.

Set sail for adventure, because once you visit Moonstone Bay, you’ll never be the same again.

Three Wishes by Lisa ManifoldThree Wishes by Lisa Manifold:

To find out what might have been, she has to give up control over what will be.

After a long night of eating too much ice cream and lamenting her less than wise choices, Tibby Holloway wakes up to find a freelancing djinn sitting on her bed. He makes her the offer of a lifetime: three wishes – three chances to go back and change her life.

She can choose a different career, find the man she loved and lost – in short, she can go back and do everything right this time.

But there’s a catch.

Once she’s gone back three times, once she’s created three new—and hopefully better—realities, the djinn will decide where she ends up.

Maybe it would be better not to even know … but that’s a chance Tibby will have to take if she wants to have her THREE WISHES.

Gone with the Ghost by Erin McCarthyGone with the Ghost by Erin McCarthy:

Bailey Burke has had a rough six months—it’s not easy thinking your romantic overtures toward your best friend caused him to kill himself. Except that’s exactly what happened. Ryan is very much dead, having shot himself with his own police-issued gun. Guilt and grief shouldn’t cause hallucinations though, but six months after Ryan went into the ground, Bailey is freaking out and swearing his ghost is standing in her kitchen. Which he is…

Ryan claims he didn’t commit suicide, but was murdered, and he needs Bailey to help him find his killer so he can earn his ticket out of purgatory. Ryan’s counting on a stairway to heaven, as opposed to wings, since that might be a little unmanly for a cop, even a dead one.

An expert in home design, with her own staging business, Bailey can tell you where to place a couch to improve flow and comfort, but solving a crime? Not her area of expertise. But with help from Ryan’s former partner, Marner, she is unraveling the mystery of what happened to Ryan that day… and unwittingly putting herself in grave danger.

Bride by Kyle Alexander RominesBride by Kyle Alexander Romines:

The year is 1795. Frankenstein’s monster has given his creator an ultimatum: Victor must build the creature a mate, or watch as the monster destroys everything and everyone he has ever loved.

You know their story.

You don’t know hers.

She is born into darkness, her destiny entwined with an unspeakable evil. Her sole companion is her creator, the inscrutable Victor Frankenstein, gatekeeper to a life she has never experienced. As her understanding of humanity takes shape, she must contend with the horrific nature of her intended mate and conflicting feelings for her creator.

She wants more from life than to be the bride of Frankenstein’s monster, but will she seek freedom, vengeance, or something else entirely?

Smoke City by Keith RossonSmoke City by Keith Rosson

Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.

Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been . . . but how will he find her?

When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.

In Smoke City, Keith Rosson continues to blur genre and literary fiction in a way that is in turns surprising, heartfelt, brutal, relentlessly inventive, and entirely his own.

Lessons Learned by Alice SaboLessons Learned by Alice Sabo:

While a wildfire threatens High Meadow, an uninvited guest sows seeds of dissent.

The president arrives at High Meadow with his entourage of bureaucrats and faux-military. Tillie and Angus don’t have time for any distractions as a massive wildfire bears down on their settlement. It will take more than hard work and good intentions to get them through this catastrophe.

Martin is leery about sending all of his men to aid those in the path of the fire thereby leaving their borders unprotected. They are most vulnerable in their commitment to help others.

Wisp and Nick work the fire lines seeking out people fleeing the raging flames. Only Wisp can find those lost in the heavy smoke, risking his life to bring them to safety.

Behind their backs, certain people are questioning every decision. At a time when they most need to work together, the outsiders are creating divisiveness.

Ghosts of the Sea Moon by A.F. StewartGhosts of the Sea Moon by A.F. Stewart:

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.
Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.
His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.
What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

ONSET: Stay of Execution by Glynn StewartONSET: Stay of Execution by Glynn Stewart:

The Vampire War is over.
The United States is reeling.
The Masquerade is fragmenting.
The Apocalypse is here…

The long and bloody war with the vampires in the United States has finally ended, thanks to the efforts of the vampire Arbiter and ONSET Commander David White—and a nuclear explosion on American soil.
The final battle proves harder to conceal than hoped, however, and a series of high profile incidents end any chance of hiding the supernatural. Suddenly the world is faced with the fact that it is both more wonderful and more terrible than humanity ever realized.
But as the US Government struggles to adapt to this new reality, old enemies have set into motion plans that could render humanity’s struggles irrelevant. There are those beyond the Seal who were once Gods…and they want their planet back!

Fire Fight by Chris WardFire Fight by Chris Ward:

A gripping new space opera saga from acclaimed author Chris Ward …

On the fire planet of Abalon 3, an evil warlord threatens to unleash a wave of destruction in order to take control of the planet’s valuable source of trioxyglobin, a dangerous but valuable liquid used for starship fuel. The only person capable of stopping him is Lianetta Jansen, a disgraced former Galactic Military Policewoman now turned smuggler, who is haunted by a terrible tragedy in her past. Along with her ragtag, wisecracking crew—the one-armed pilot Caladan, and the malfunctioning droid, Harlan5—Lia must confront her own demons, while trying to stop another.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for January 2018

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 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.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, culinary mysteries, paranormal mysteries, hardboiled mysteries, historical mysteries, police procedurals, legal thrillers, crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, men’s adventure, private eyes, missing persons, prosecutors, reluctant witches, domestic violence, murdered grandmothers, the pit of crawling death 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 crime 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:

A Frosty Mug of Murder by Constance BarkerA Frosty Mug of Murder by Constance Barker:

Who Killed the Black Widow?

The Grumpy Chicken Irish Pub is in full blast mode when proprietor Ginger O’Mallory discovers someone has offed the town’s Black Widow before the woman can take out another husband. Secrets swirl and the hooch flows in this brand new series centering around an Irish Pub with a crazy clucker name. And what is with all the spooky goings on with a ghost chicken attached? Find out in this hilarious romp filled with colorful and wisecracking characters.

 

The Crawling Death by Cora Buhlert
The Crawling Death by Cora Buhlert:

1966. Freelance troubleshooter Todd Donovan is hired to locate Dr. Pat Turner, a biologist who has gone missing in the South American jungle. It seems like an easy job at first, but then Todd finds himself staring into the barrel of a gun.

Captured and taken to the jungle compound of the drug lord Durango, Todd finally meets up with Dr. Turner, who turns out to be not just a beautiful woman, but also Durango’s prisoner.

Durango is not the sort of man to leave potential witnesses alive. And so Todd and Dr. Pat Turner are soon facing a painful end in Durango’s pit of crawling death…

This is a short adventure story of approx. 5500 words or 20 pages in the style of the men’s adventure pulps of the 1960s.

The Mystery of Ruby's Sugar by Rose DonovanThe Mystery of Ruby’s Sugar by Rose Donovan:

Christmas, 1934.

The snow lies heavy around Pauncefort Hall. Dress designers Ruby Dove and Fina Aubrey-Havelock leave behind their Oxford exams to rescue Lady Charlotte’s wardrobe. But what Lady Charlotte doesn’t know is that Ruby is on a mission—a mission to avenge her family and bring down an empire.

As the weather worsens, Ruby and Fina are drawn into the intrigues of Lady Charlotte’s other guests, who include a princess, a furiously left-wing don, a West End starlet—and, it seems, a murderer. After the two resident cads are poisoned, Ruby and Fina must find the culprit and still carry out their secret plans—all before the law arrives. But Pauncefort Hall can remain snowbound for only so long.

The Mystery of Ruby’s Sugar is the first book in the Ruby Dove historical cozy mystery series.

Bleeding Levee Blues by Nick DorseyBleeding Levee Blues by Nick Dorsey:

Tom Connelly left the New Orleans Police Department after the madness of Hurricane Katrina, and his life has gone downhill ever since. Shunned by his brothers in blue, he broke down and gave in to drink. He lost his friends. He lost his wife. And now his son barely knows his name.

But a figure from his past has asked Tom to help a wealthy politician find his missing daughter. If Tom keeps this quiet, the politician promises Tom the one thing he needs most: redemption. A name cleared from past controversy. A new life moving forward.

The search for the young woman leads Tom into the dark corners of the decaying New Orleans landscape and beyond, right into the heart of a deadly human trafficking organization and to the other side of the world. Now Tom isn’t just worried about redeeming himself, he’s hoping he can get out of this alive.

For Better or Worse by Donna Huston MurrayFor Better or Worse by Donna Huston Murray:

Finally back to her spunky self after the loss of her husband, men have once again become an issue for amateur sleuth Ginger Barnes—men who mistreat their wives, men accused of murder, and men who ask her out.

While working on a DIY project at her newlywed daughter’s house, a bag of bricks is thrown from the neighboring third-story window. Next, pops that sound like muffled gunshots have Gin racing for her phone. Eric, who lives in the house with his grandmother, claims she’s obsessed with mystery novels. Yet after the septuagenarian falls down a flight of stairs, she’s so frantic to keep Eric away that Gin must intervene. Was the fall actually attempted murder?In her husband’s eyes, Cissie Voight can’t do anything right. Gin occasionally helps the frazzled young mother, and when she needs a dresser carried upstairs, Gin brings Eric along. Bad move! The electricity between the two new acquaintances sparks a chilling premonition. This time Gin’s good intentions will produce grave consequences—for everyone involved.

Deep Zero by V.S. KemanisDeep Zero by V.S. Kemanis:

It’s one a.m. Do you know where your teenagers are? Prosecutor Dana Hargrove makes it a point to know. But one night, in the dead of winter, she should have known more.

In February 2009, Dana is the newly-elected district attorney of a suburban county north of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, attorney Evan Goodhue, and their two teenage children. The Great Recession has seen a rise in substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s also the era of burgeoning social media, an intoxicating lure for wayward and disaffected teens who find new methods of victimization: a game to some, with no thought of the consequences.

During an arctic cold snap, the body of a high school student is discovered, lodged in the ice floes of the Hudson River. People are crying for justice, but there doesn’t seem to be a law that fits. Days later, in one hellish night, Dana’s children are sucked into a criminal investigation against several of their classmates, making her a convenient target for community outrage.

In Deep Zero, the fourth standalone legal mystery featuring the dynamic prosecutor, Dana walks the tightrope like never before in her tricky balance between professional ethics and family loyalties.

Witchin' USA by Amanda M. LeeWitchin’ USA by Amanda M. Lee:

Hadley Hunter has lived a normal life, in a normal suburb, with a normal job and a normal father. All that changes when a grandmother she didn’t even know existed dies and leaves her a fabulous lighthouse on Moonstone Bay Island.

Hadley, ready for an adventure, decides to check things out and finds herself plunged into a world she never envisioned.
From the naked woman swimming in the ocean outside her back door, to the hot sheriff who seems to be hiding a secret, Hadley is intrigued from the start. That’s before magical things start happening – including to Hadley – and a body washes up on the beach.

It seems Moonstone Bay has a killer on the loose … and he may be stalking Hadley, although no one can figure out why.

Things are about to spiral for Moonstone Bay’s newest reluctant – and baffled – witch. She has to learn about the past, investigate the present and hold on to her future for dear life. Along the way she will meet a bevy of new friends who have a few particular abilities … and a lot of really odd quirks.

Set sail for adventure, because once you visit Moonstone Bay, you’ll never be the same again.

Murder at Home by Faith MartinMurder at Home by Faith Martin:

Meet DI HILLARY GREENE, a policewoman struggling to save her career and catch criminals.

Flo Jenkins is found murdered in her armchair, a paperknife sticking out of her chest. The old woman was well liked and nothing seems to have been stolen from her home. And it was common knowledge that she only had weeks to live.

Why kill a dying woman? This is going to be one of the toughest cases yet for Hillary to solve.

Hillary also has to deal with a new colleague who has a terrible temper and a rocky past.

With no forensics, no leads, and only a drug-addict nephew as a suspect, will this be Hillary’s first failure to solve a murder case?

Gone with the Ghost by Erin McCarthyGone with the Ghost by Erin McCarthy:

Bailey Burke has had a rough six months—it’s not easy thinking your romantic overtures toward your best friend caused him to kill himself. Except that’s exactly what happened. Ryan is very much dead, having shot himself with his own police-issued gun. Guilt and grief shouldn’t cause hallucinations though, but six months after Ryan went into the ground, Bailey is freaking out and swearing his ghost is standing in her kitchen. Which he is…

Ryan claims he didn’t commit suicide, but was murdered, and he needs Bailey to help him find his killer so he can earn his ticket out of purgatory. Ryan’s counting on a stairway to heaven, as opposed to wings, since that might be a little unmanly for a cop, even a dead one.

An expert in home design, with her own staging business, Bailey can tell you where to place a couch to improve flow and comfort, but solving a crime? Not her area of expertise. But with help from Ryan’s former partner, Marner, she is unraveling the mystery of what happened to Ryan that day… and unwittingly putting herself in grave danger.

Chocolate Cake with a Side of Murder by Meredith PottsChocolate Cake with a Side of Murder by Meredith Potts:

Wedding season has come to Treasure Cove. But a shocking murder threatens to turn the entire town on its head.

Even worse, amateur sleuth Sabrina Daley and her detective fiancé are unable to uncover a single suspect.

Will Sabrina be able to track down the killer before they get away, or will this case go cold?

 

The Accused by Rachel SinclairThe Accused by Rachel Sinclair

Harper is back…and this time it’s personal.

Harper must defend Damien, who has been arrested for the murder of his birth father, Josh Roland. Harper knows that Damien didn’t do it. He couldn’t do it. Yet his past comes to haunt him, as Harper finds out things about Damien that she never knew.

The victim, Josh Roland, was, for many years, a bastard. He sexually harassed most of his female employees and was a serial rapist. He was also involved with many shady and crooked financial deals that broke the many contractors who had the misfortune of dealing with him. In short, there were many, many people who wanted this man dead. So why was Damien made the prime target of the investigation? The answer to this question stuns Harper and causes her to question everything about what she thought she knew about her law partner.

In the meantime, her tween daughters are giving her fits – even Abby has been acting out lately. They’re 13, at the most awkward age imaginable, and Harper is at the end of her rope with them. Throw in some romantic troubles with her longtime beau, Axel, and you have one seriously frazzled lawyer. She keeps it together, Harper-style, which means that her life is perpetually a mess, but she always fights her way out.

With the twists and turns that you’ve come to expect in a Harper Ross/Damien Harrington legal thriller, The Accused is not to be missed!

Who Killed Granny? by Stephanie VillegasWho Killed Granny? by Stephanie Villegas:

When Barbara Smythe finds her grandmother unconscious and sprawled out on the sofa, she suspects foul play. Worried the attacker will come after her next, Barbara rushes around Los Angeles in a desperate attempt to find and warn her twin sister of the peril they face. With the killer hot on her trail, she must race against the clock to discover who killed Granny and bring them to justice.

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A New Release and a New Series – Introducing Two-Fisted Todd

Yes, this is another new release announcement and also the announcement of a new series. But first, let’s travel back in time.

About twelve years ago, I sold several short stories to a magazine that billed itself as a successor to the men’s adventure magazines of the 1960s. Most of those stories were historicals featuring more or less scantily clad damsels in distress, while one was a take on the spicy pulps of the 1930s featuring The Silencer. All but one of those stories have been republished in e-book form since then.

At the time, I didn’t know much about the actual men’s adventure mags of the 1950s and 1960s beyond having seen a few cover scans on the internet. The editor of the mag in question helpfully sent me some scans of the interiors of actual men’s adventure mags. What is more, I also came across this art book which collects hundreds of covers of vintage men’s adventure magazines and also offers an overview about the genre, it’s development, prominent themes and subjects and what sort of content might be found inside. So I promptly bought the book.

The art book also included some statements by artists, models and writers who had worked on these magazines. And one of the writers said that quite often, the covers were painted before there was even a single word of content. And afterwards, a writer would be commissioned to write a story to match the cover. And considering some of the really lurid illustrations on those covers – rugged men being attacked by all sorts of likely and unlikely wildlife, while buxom maidens were being tortured and menaced by evil Nazis, evil Communists, evil biker gangs and evil beatniks (the last one doesn’t quite fit) – coming up with a story to match must have been quite a challenge.

Now I have never been able to resist a writing challenge, so I decided to set myself the same challenge as those men’s adventure magazine writers of old, namely to write a story to match the cover of one of those magazines. So I opened the art book at random, picked one of the covers shown and decided to write a story based on it.

Of course, a men’s adventure tale also needed a suitably manly and rugged hero and so I came up with “Two-Fisted” Todd Donovan, a freelance troubleshooter who travels around the globe to solve other people’s problems, provided the price is right. That was a vague enough description to allow for pretty much any kind of adventure from dealing with lethal wildlife via rescuing young women from dastardly villains to tangling with biker gangs and those really, really dangerous beatniks. And of course, it also had series potential.

So now I had my hero and an image to serve as inspiration, so I started writing. The story stalled out at about three-quarters through. So I set it aside. Then life and work got in the way and the magazine changed direction to become a sexy horror mag, depriving Two-Fisted Todd of his intended market. Eventually, self-publishing became a thing, making previously unviable stories suddenly viable again. And through it all, Todd was biding his time in some tropical paradise, a cool drink in his hand, waiting for another job.

Eventually, I started doing the July short story challenges and one of the things I used for inspiration was the art book of men’s adventure magazine covers, because both the lurid covers and ridiculous headlines made for excellent inspiration. And so several of the stories in Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them as well as the story “Mock Duck” in Operation: Rubber Ducky were inspired by either headlines or illustrations in vintage men’s adventure mags that I found in that book.

Because the art book was such a gold mine of inspiration, I used it again for the 2017 July short story challenge. Only that this time, I didn’t even open it. I looked at the cover – a lurid illustration of a man and a woman tied up with scorpions crawling all over them – and thought, “Actually, that’s a great image. Why don’t I write a story for that one?”

Of course, I still needed a plot – beyond two people getting tied up and menaced by scorpions – and a hero to go with it. And this is where Todd Donovan suddenly emerged from the depths of my subconscious, cleared his throat and said, “That looks like a job for me.”

And since one of my rules for the July short story challenge is “Go along with whatever pops up, no matter how weird” I sent Todd on a quest to locate a missing scientist (who of course turns out to be a very attractive woman who also isn’t willing to take any macho crap neither from Todd nor the villain) only to find trouble in the form of a murderous druglord and his pit full of scorpions. I also decided to keep the story a period piece set in the mid 1960s.

With the July challenge stories, I normally try to keep research to a minimum. However, this story required some research beyond googling what coca plants actually look like. For starters, a pit full of deadly scorpions required a sufficiently lethal species of scorpion that made sense in the context and setting, since lethal scorpions that live in African or Asian deserts are not really suitable for a story that is set in a Latin American jungle. Finally, I did find a suitable species of scorpion, namely Tityus serrulatus, the Brazilian yellow scorpion, which even looks a little bit like the scorpions on the cover I used as inspiration. And since I had a pit full of lethal scorpions, I also needed to research what happens and what to do when someone gets stung.

That’s one of the benefits of writing. You learn all sorts of obscure facts when researching stories, which is why it baffles me when certain authors, usually of the literary persuasion, insist that they never do research, such as this dude who portrayed cellphones and e-mail as common in a novel set in the early 1990s and also relocated a town from Serbia to Croatia, which is kind of a massive faux pas, especially when the Balkan wars are one of the subjects of the novel.

Te next challenge was finding the right kind of cover for the story. Now the striking cover art of vintage men’s adventure magazines is largely impossible to recreate in the modern era without access to custom illustration. The look of men’s adventure paperbacks such as The Executioner or The Destroyer is also difficult to recreate in the modern era.

In the end, I combined influences from vintage paperbacks and German pulp magazines and found a stock photo of a young lady lying in the grass in clothes that fit both the description in the story and that also looked suitably vintage (too modern clothing and make-up is a curse when browsing stock photos). Of course, there were no scorpions, so I had to photoshop some in. Next came the typography, inspired by looking at the kind of fonts used on actual vintage magazines and paperbacks of the era, and finally some photoshopped grit for that beat up paperback look.

I think the result is pretty good, at least unless I can somehow resurrect Norm Eastman or Rafael DeSoto and persuade them to make covers for me.

Finally, do you remember that first Two-Fisted Todd story, the one I started and never finished? Well, in the wake of editing, proofing and publishing, I dug up that story again as well and found that what I’d written way back when still held up pretty well. What is more, I finished the story. It’s currently going through editing, so there will be at least one more Two-Fisted Todd adventure in the very near future. And then, who knows? After all, I have a big book full of artwork to serve as a potential inspiration for more adventures for Todd Donovan, freelance troubleshooter.

And for those of you who are not into retro pulp stuff, I also have more In Love and War stories coming up very soon (again, currently in editing) as well as at least one more Helen Shepherd Mystery as well as Murder in the Family 2 and After the End 2: More Stories of Life After the Apocalypse.

But for now, buckle up and follow Two-Fisted Todd Donovan into the jungle, as he faces…

The Crawling Death
The Crawling Death by Cora Buhlert1966. Freelance troubleshooter Todd Donovan is hired to locate Dr. Pat Turner, a biologist who has gone missing in the South American jungle. It seems like an easy job at first, but then Todd finds himself staring into the barrel of a gun.

Captured and taken to the jungle compound of the drug lord Durango, Todd finally meets up with Dr. Turner, who turns out to be not just a beautiful woman, but also Durango’s prisoner.

Durango is not the sort of man to leave potential witnesses alive. And so Todd and Dr. Pat Turner are soon facing a painful end in Durango’s pit of crawling death…

This is a short adventure story of approx. 5500 words or 20 pages in the style of the men’s adventure pulps of the 1960s.

More information.
Length: 5500 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, 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 December 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 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 epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, time travel, witches, werewolves, vampires, dragons, cyborgs, fugitives, angels, demons and demon slayers, assassins, 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:

Fringe Campaign by Rachel AukesFringe Campaign by Rachel Aukes:

There is no turning back from war now.

The Fringe Liberation Campaign has sparked protests and rebellions across the Collective. Can the fringe unite into a single front before the Collective Unified Forces send everything they’ve got to destroy the Campaign and kill every last torrent?

 

 

Fugitive by Krista D. BallFugitive by Krista D. Ball:

Hope is a luxury traitors can’t afford.

To say Rebecca has some doubts about her personal choices would be underestimating the situation. In this second installment of the Collaborator series, Rebecca finds herself being chased by Blackout officers, border patrol, military intelligence, and surveillance drones.

Rebecca still isn’t sure she can trust any of these people who’d escaped the exploding station, but what choice does she have? She is a fugitive and a certain Blackout officer wants her back.

Christmas on Iago Prime by Cora BuhlertChristmas on Iago Prime by Cora Buhlert

Eight-year-old Libby has come with her parents to spend a year at the newly established colony on the planet Iago Prime. Libby’s parents believe that this is a great opportunity for all of them, but Libby is unhappy on Iago Prime. There are no other children on Iago Prime and Libby can’t go anywhere, because she doesn’t even have a space suit. Worst of all, they will spend Christmas on Iago Prime, where there aren’t even any Christmas trees.

However, Libby’s parents, with a little help from Santa Claus himself, conspire to give Libby an unforgettable Christmas on Iago Prime.

This is a science fictional Christmas story of 6600 words or approx. 22 print pages.

Dragon Storm by Lindsay BurokerDragon Storm by Lindsay Buroker

Dragons have been gone from the world for over a thousand years. Now they’re back.

Telryn “Trip” Yert has always been a little odd, with hunches that are too accurate to explain. Magic is feared and forbidden in Iskandia, so he’s struggled his whole life to hide his eccentricities. As a boy, he was forced to watch his mother’s execution. Her crime? Witchcraft.

Understandably, Trip wants nothing to do with the power that lurks within him, always threatening to reveal itself. Instead, he dedicates himself to serving as an officer in the king’s army, to battling pirates and imperial conquerors. He longs to become a soldier as respected and renowned as the legendary General Zirkander.

But his country is in need of more than a soldier.

After disappearing for over a thousand years, dragons have returned to the world. A few of them are willing to be allies to mankind, as they were millennia before, but far more want to destroy or enslave humans and claim the world for themselves.

There are few people left with the power to fight dragons. For reasons he doesn’t understand, Trip may be one of those people. But if he chooses to learn more about his heritage and the power he can wield, he risks losing everyone he loves and everything he longs to be.

I Wtich You a Merry Christmas by Snow EdenI Witch You a Merry Christmas by Snow Eden:

A heart-warming story about Christmas, elves, Santa Claus…and a really mad witch.

There are many things Cinnamon Mercy Claus is struggling with this holiday season: the memories of long forgotten holidays when the Christmas season was about family; that she’s just found out her grandfather is Santa Claus; and that her grandmother is a witch—who is bent on destroying Christmas for them all.

This is a 30,000-word novella with a dose of Hallmark warmth and crazy witch mayhem!

It is a ‘clean’ read with no cursing. Situations should be appropriate for all ages.

Valence by Jennifer Foehner WellsValence by Jennifer Foehner Wells:

Earth’s days are numbered.

Two very different women race to prepare for the battle to come. The future of Earth is in their hands.

One struggles to resurrect her ruined ship so she can navigate the politics at the galactic core in a desperate bid to recruit allies.

The other strives to master alien technology to supply the forces of Earth with the tools needed to defend themselves against the ravenous Swarm.

Between them, Jane and Zara offer humanity its best chance at survival, but the odds are stacked against them and their best may not be good enough.

Blood Ties by K. GormanBlood Ties by K. Gorman:

Together again, and ready to bring the system to its knees.

Karin Makos has spent the last two months running from one thing or another—but all that’s about to change. Her sister’s back, and Nomiki’s ready to grab their problems by the horns, throw them on their backs, and rip into them with her modified carbon steel blades.

With the backing of the Fallon Empire and a promising new lead, the two are determined to reach down into the mystery of their past and pull out its secrets, once and for all.

But they aren’t the only ones on the move. And looking may uncover more than even they could have bargained for.

Nerves of Steel by Lee HaytonNerves of Steel by Lee Hayton:

For a thousand years, vampires ruled the earth. They bent men to their will and molded cities into hotbeds of depravity.

Ha! Just kidding. Vampires are weaklings that catch fire if you push them into sunlight. As soon as humans found out they existed, they captured the suckers, enslaved them, and put the pallid creatures to work.

So, imagine my surprise when a free vampire strolled into Joe’s Bar just before closing. Fair enough if he’s ditched his chains but walking around in public? That does not compute. As an escapee cyborg with a bounty on her head, I don’t want to dig for trouble. Don’t see, don’t tell is the motto for survival on the empire’s rough streets.

If it weren’t for my best friend, I’d turn a blind eye. But I owe that thirteen-year-old vampire my freedom and most probably my life. If something is changing for his species, then he deserves to know.

Sure, this investigation might open a seething can of bother, but if trouble comes for me, I’m ready. My body is 34% titanium, my skin is silicone polymer, and I’ve got nerves of steel.

Star Keeper by Chris Heinicke and Kate ReedwoodStar Keeper by Chris Heinicke and Kate Reedwood:

Axel Ryan is running for his life.

Pursued by bounty hunters with a price on his head, he should disappear into the stars to hide and continue his search for Stardrives. But his soulmate, Element Cruz, has resurfaced and after spending the last six months searching for her with no luck, finding her again is worth gambling his life. She’s putting her own in danger by infiltrating an illegal slave auction where the Star Keeper of Endaria is being sold; a woman with empathic abilities, worth more credits then Axel can legally gather.

It should be an easy mission. Crash the auction, save his girl, and fly off into the galaxy to live happily ever after together. But the universe has another destiny in store for Axel, one he’ll need to embrace to save them all, or die trying.

The Siege of Sirius by Eddie R. HicksThe Siege of Sirius by Eddie R. Hicks:

The dream to travel to the stars has become the nightmare to escape from them.

Rebecca’s passion for space exploration made her a captain. Living through an alien invasion made her strong enough to endure the harshness of the galaxy.

Rebecca has been given the opportunity of a life time, command of the ESRS Carl Sagan an exploration and colonization starship. She along with her trusted crew embark on an expedition to establish the human race’s most remote colony located in the heart of the Sirius system.

Upon awaking from their multiyear cryostasis sleep, Rebecca and her crew quickly discovers that what exists in the Sirius system isn’t what scientists had predicted.

Not even remotely close.

Their journey to the brightest star in the skies of Earth has now become a dreadful catastrophe with the potential to reach Earth if left unchecked. With innocent colonists at risk and no means of communicating with Earth, Rebecca must abandon her primary mission of exploration in order to take on a new one, survival.

Magic Runes by Devyn JayseMagic Runes by Devyn Jayse:

Meet Carmen Rebello – Rune Witch, owner of the best magic store in Barcelona, and black sheep of her family.

When Carmen successfully removes a spell from a bewitched human, she never thought she would get ensnared in an ongoing Supernatural Bureau of Investigation case. Her life is already complicated by trying to stay hidden from her powerful family members, Carmen can’t afford the attention of joining the investigation but the SBI insist on her involvement. Add an annoying (but hot) SBI agent and her life is getting more difficult by the day. Can she help the SBI without exposing her identity?

Magic Runes is the intriguing first novel in the Magic Runes series. If you enjoy stories filled with supernatural creatures, magic and mystery, and a sprinkle of romance in an urban fantasy setting, this is the book for you!

Blue Skin by Steven JenkinsBlue Skin by Steven Jenkins:

What will you do when they come for your children?

The world has turned inward, away from the sun, in the wake of a mysterious disease that has altered the human race. No longer able to bear healthy human children, our mothers and daughters have brought vampire-like hybrids into the world, and with it a new order. Now that reproduction has been banned, those left with young children face a terrible and devastating decision – turn your babies over to the government or pay the price. For young Freya, keeping her brother hidden is the only real option.

Enemies of the state, Freya must stand between her family and the forces of a fearful world. Although her brother may not be human, there is little else separating her and those of the blue skin.

Choices will be made. Lines will be drawn. The battle for humanity has only just begun.

BLUE SKIN is the first book in a 5 part vampire dystopian, thriller horror series.

Chameleon's Death Dance by B.R. KingsolverChameleon’s Death Dance by B.R. Kingsolver:

Even a chameleon can be a target.

Libby makes her money as a thief and an assassin, but a girl has to have a cover. To her surprise, her business installing security systems in 23rd century Toronto is taking off, as is her romance with Wil—North America’s top cop.

Then an insurance company hires her to recover a fortune in stolen art and jewelry. Bring them the stolen goods and they’ll pay an outrageous fee, no questions asked.

The Vancouver art scene is hot, in more ways than one. Billionaires compete for bragging rights, and they aren’t picky who they deal with.

With big money and reputations on the line, Libby is on a collision course with the super-rich. When too many questions make the art thieves uncomfortable, one of the world’s top assassins is hired to eliminate those who know too much—including Libby.

The Lion of Ackbarr by Erme LanderThe Lion of Ackbarr by Erme Lander:

“Primal forest, dim light and the muscular grace of a large predator sliding through the undergrowth. Mika twitched, caught up in her dream. Gnats swarmed above the moss coated pools. The crashing of beasts in the distance and the humming of bees. She threaded her way through, blinking in the green light.”

Fifteen year old Mika is to be married to a foreign boy she has only met once, despite her family mourning the recent disappearance of her twin brother, Kaylan. Forced to live in a strange land, far from her home in Cassai, she is resigned to her life as a lady until the day she discovers her new family dead around her. Mika escapes the city and disguises herself to travel to Ackbarr, certain she will discover the real reason for her brother’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, her dreams are filled with a predator stalking the forests of her homeland. Dreams that leave her trembling with the taste of blood.

The Ministry of Detection: Project Cocoon by James LawsonThe Ministry of Detection: Project Cocoon by James Lawson:

Arthur Winter’s job at the Ministry of Detection used to be simple: track down the humanoid alien hybrids and lock them up.

But after a botched operation, he finds himself on a different kind of assignment. One that’s off the books and very hush-hush.

Mary Haddon, eminent scientist and daughter of a senior politician, is missing and its Winter’s job to find her.

But when Winter discovers Mary’s history of communication with illegal alien hybrids, he realizes that his assignment is about more than just a missing woman. As he gets deeper, he finds questions going in every direction.

If Mary ran, who is chasing her? Why is her disappearance a matter of secrecy? And what is Project Cocoon?

The only thing Winter knows for sure is this is definitely above his pay grade.

Back to Black by Kyoko M.Back to Black by Kyoko M.:

Seer and demon slayer Jordan Amador has had it rough lately: separated from her husband the archangel Michael, hated by the angels who think she betrayed them, hunted by demons who want her dead or enslaved, and rejected by her friends and family for lying to them. Disgraced and miserable, she’s all but ready to lay down and die until another Seer named Myra Bennett saves her life. Myra gives Jordan a new mission: to wipe out a nest of demons that are terrorizing her family as well as the innocent people of Houston, Texas. Jordan goes undercover to infiltrate the demons’ nest and figure out how to eliminate them. Meanwhile, she’s locked in a deadly game with the archdemon Belial, who constantly visits her night after night in her dreams to convince her to give him her soul. Between the insanely gorgeous, but dangerous archdemon poking around in her head and the vicious creatures surrounding her, she’s not sure how much longer she can survive.

Back to Black takes place between She Who Fights Monsters and The Holy Dark in the Black Parade

Not His Christmas by Annie NicholasNot His Christmas by Annie Nicholas:

It’s Eoin and Angie’s first Christmas together and he wants to make it special. But his dragoness is lacking holiday spirit and doesn’t want anything to do with celebrating. Does Angie think Eoin is the type of dragon who could ignore her unhappiness? Clipping on his jingle bells and grabbing the mistletoe, Eoin is on a mission.

 

 

 

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

Christmas in New York by Monique MartinChristmas in New York by Monique Martin:

Time-Traveling adventurers Simon and Elizabeth Cross return in an all-new Christmas novella!

Along with their young daughter, Charlotte, the Crosses travel back to 1937 New York City to visit an old friend, Charlie Blue. But Charlie’s in trouble — holiday-sized trouble — and their plans for a pleasant little Christmas vacation soon fly out the window.

Christmas in New York is the fast-paced and heartwarming tale of the true meaning of Christmas — and the importance of the people we share it with.

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia NovaSnowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia Nova

A Christmas without warmth…
Rachel hates her life in Alaska. She hates the weather, but even more, she hates her job which requires her to stay in the sodden state even for the holidays! Instead of going to visit her family in sunny California, she will be spending the holidays alone in the cold north. But when she encounters an unconscious, golden alien on the way home from work – amidst a massive snowstorm to top it all off – it looks like the holidays might not end up as boring as she’d thought after all!

A dragon paralyzed by cold…
Captain Erro of Traag never thought to go down in a battle. Even less did he think to find his mate on the surface of the planet he crashes on! Trapped in the planet’s frozen wasteland, Erro can hardly function in the cold climate. He’s a dragon, for heaven’s sake! He needs some heat! And yet, despite the icy weather seeping into his bones, every time the strangely beautiful alien female smiles at him, his inner flame burns stronger than ever. She is his mate, there is no question about that.

Now, if only he could understand what the hell she was saying…

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon is a standalone sci-fi romance novella with a scorching hot dragon, a HEA and no cliffhangers. Intended for mature audiences only.

The Krampus Hunters by J.P. ReedmanThe Krampus Hunters by J.P. Reedman:

Krampus, haunter of the dark winter’s nights before Yule, comes bearing a switch to beat ‘bad children’…

Young Snoefrith, daughter of the Erl-King, leaves her homeland on a quest to find her lost mother…and a life. As she travels in wild, unfamiliar lands, she is accosted by Old Nickor, a red-robed goblin who flies the wintry skies in a sleigh pulled by coal-black deer, and his bestial companion, Krampus. Nickor sets Krampus upon Snowfrith, seeking to capture her to sell to the Kobold King who dwells under the mountains.
Rescued by Red Roo, a feisty girl who is the best archer in the Wandron tribe, Snoefrith believes she is now safe.
But Krampus is determined to capture his prey and please his master, Nickor. Under cover of darkness, he destroys the Wandron’s caravans and sends Snoefrith and Red Roo fleeing into the forest and beyond.
Soon they learn that they cannot flee forever.
The hunted must become the hunters….

KRAMPUS HUNTERS

A short fantasy novelette for all ages, 15,000 words.

Joyeux by Tansy Rayner RobertsJoyeux: A Musketeer Space Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts

There’s mistletoe growing out of the walls, it’s snowing inside the space station, and a sex scandal is brewing that could bring down the monarchy. Must be Joyeux!

Joyeux on Paris Satellite is a seven day festival of drunken bets, poor decision-making, religious contemplation and tinsel. But mostly, poor decision-making. Athos and Porthos aren’t going to sleep together. Aramis is breaking up with her girlfriend because it’s that or marry her. Athos is not ready to deal with the ghost of his ex-husband. Oh, and no one wants Prince Alek to break his marriage contract by hooking up with a sexy Ambassador…

It’s down to the Musketeers and the Red Guard to save the space station and the solar system from disaster. So… that’s not going to end well.

This novella is a festive prequel to Musketeer Space, a genderflipped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

Jingle Stars by Jenny SchwartzJingle Starr by Jenny Schwartz:

When a starship decides to play Santa Claus…

Ahab is a mLa’an artificial intelligence embedded in the starship, Orion.

The campaign for AIs to be recognized as full citizens of Galaxy Proper is within reach of its extraordinary goal. The only thing that could stop it now is if an AI did something foolish…like take a space station hostage to save eight orphaned children.

***
And this is the letter to Santa that starts it all:

Dear Santa

I don’t know if yourreindeers work in space. But if you have room in your sleigh after you finishdelivering presents to the lucky kids with parents and homes, can you come and getme and my friends? Please?

We’ve been good. Well,we haven’t been really bad. We’re on Station Elphame, in the junkyard, and Zoeis sick. She’s bad sick. I think she’d be better on a planet. We don’t needpresents. We just need a way out of here. Ollie tried to sneak onto atrampship…he died.

Please, Santa, I don’twant any more of my friends to die.

Aiden.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for December 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 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.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, culinary mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mysteries, a whole lot of holiday mysteries, police procedurals, legal thrillers, crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, private eyes, missing children and missing adults, lawyers, meddling witches, crime solving housemaids, deadly doughnuts 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 crime 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:

Fatal Festive Donuts by Cindy BellFatal Festive Donuts by Cindy Bell:

Christmastime at the holiday market means mistletoe, colorful lights and…a dead body.

It is almost Christmas and Joyce and Brenda are excited to get a coveted spot at the local holiday market. Business is thriving and they are looking forward to celebrating the holidays.

But Christmas becomes the last thing on their minds when a dead body is found on ‘Donuts on the Move’. Not only is their truck shut down, but they become the prime suspects. With the evidence stacking up against them and a detective who thinks they’re guilty, they decide to take things into their own hands and find the murderer.

Joyce and Brenda’s investigations lead them straight towards danger. Will they find the killer before they land up in handcuffs or even become victims themselves?

Recipe Included: Baked Gingerbread Donuts with Ginger Glaze

Merry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope CallaghanMerry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope Callaghan

Carlita, Mercedes, and Tony are gearing up to celebrate their first Thanksgiving at their new home in historic Savannah, Georgia. Along with the excitement of the upcoming holiday season, there’s a lingering sadness because part of their family won’t be there to celebrate.

When Carlita’s friend, Victoria “Tori” Montgomery, invites the Garlucci family to her “Merry Masquerade” party at Montgomery Hall, Carlita is thrilled to have something to take her mind off the approaching holiday.

Despite a recent theft and an assault on her butler, Tori moves forward with her party plans, a grand affair and a gathering of Savannah’s elite. The Merry Masquerade turns out to be everything it was billed to be and more, when one of Tori’s employees is found murdered inside the pool house.

Is the murder linked to the recent break-in and the butler’s attack at Montgomery Hall? Could the killer be living under Tori’s roof? Or was it a masked party guest trying to make it look like an inside job?

Join the Garlucci women as they help one of Savannah’s most prominent residents track down a killer!

Tampa Two by David ChillTampa Two by David Chill:

David Chill’s colorful and brilliant mystery captures both Raymond Chandler’s gritty vision and Robert B. Parker’s biting humor.

Tampa Two marks the return of Judy Atkin, the teenage runaway who P.I. Burnside arrested a decade earlier for prostitution. He made an enormous mistake by trying to help her, and wound up losing his job as an LAPD officer, along with his honor and reputation. Judy was the catalyst that led him down the path of becoming a Private Investigator, and all the good and bad that came with it.

But Judy is back in L.A. again, and is desperate for Burnside’s help. Her life is in danger, and she tries to persuade Burnside to accompany her into a dangerous situation. While Burnside isn’t fooled this time, she still manages to rope him in, and he quickly finds himself to be a person of interest in a grizzly Santa Monica homicide.

Tampa Two continues to showcase Burnside at his wise-cracking best, exchanging quips with an assortment of fascinating characters, no matter what side of the law they are on. This well-crafted novel is the embodiment of the classic Southern California noir mystery, set against a Los Angeles backdrop, a city that many think they know, but few really do. The story leads readers down a trail of theft, murder and deceit, with sharply honed banter and strikingly original characters. It is a tightly written story that is loaded with both suspense and humor, as well as some jaw-dropping surprises!

Little Lies by Stacy ClaflinLittle Lies by Stacy Claflin:

He’s dedicated his life to saving missing persons, but will it be enough to save himself?

Alex Mercer traded in his troubled past to protect the powerless. His blog for tracking down missing persons got his foot in the door at the police academy. But on his first day of training, a heroic act drops him into the hands of the captors he once hunted.

Zoey planned to tell Alex how she felt the night he disappeared. As she and Alex’s family discover the bloody signs of his fate, past regrets and dark secrets begin to come to light. It’s enough to tear Alex’s loved ones apart.

Without hope of rescue, Alex must rely on his cunning to escape captivity. In his line of work, he knows all too well that each passing hour could kill his chances of survival…

Little Lies is the third captivating standalone novel in the Alex Mercer series of thrillers. If you like edge-of-your-seat suspense, complex characters, and unflinching explorations of real-world problems, then you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Claflin’s pulse-pounding novel

Merry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey ColeMerry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey Cole:

Murder always ruins the best baked plans . . .

Annie Hunter has a lot on her plate just before Christmas, but it’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice! With an open house at her aunt’s new Blackbird Bed and Breakfast, all Annie hopes for is a drama-free day.

Of course, events never go as planned.

On top of preparing a whirlwind of food, holiday decorating, and keeping to a tight schedule, a surprise visitor is also on the menu. When that visitor turns up dead, Annie must search for the killer to keep everything from crumbling like a stale Christmas cookie.

Annie’s plan to flush out the murderer includes one tasty bribe, a pinch of needling, and a heaping tablespoon of accusation. When she is threatened, it’s time to put it all on the back burner.

But the killer has other ideas.

While the snowflakes fly, Annie finds herself caught between a cookie and a crazy person. This time, it looks like she bit off more than she can chew.

***Merry Buried Christmas is volume 12 in the Black Cat Cafe Cozy Mystery Series. Lyndsey’s books can be read and enjoyed in any order.

Where We Went Wrong by Andi HollowayWhere We Went Wrong by Andi Holloway:

Two families’ pasts unravel when the last person to see a missing girl alive is murdered and the victim’s crime-writing father becomes the prime suspect.

Second wife Harper Stone’s life is nothing like she imagined. A talented writer bound for the kind of greatness she inspires in her husband, Harper exchanges her lifelong dreams of becoming a bestselling author for the ready-made family of her nightmares.

With her eight-year-old stepson at the center of a missing person’s investigation, Harper struggles to balance the obligations of motherhood with her calling as an author, ultimately sacrificing her success in support of her husband, whose crime-writing career is fueled by their ordeal.

It’s only when he becomes the prime suspect in his son’s murder, years later, that she begins asking the difficult questions about his past, about their marriage, and about the disappearance of the little girl whose remains have never been found.

As Harper looks into the cold case where their problems began, she discovers people aren’t who they seem. Not the missing girl’s mother. Not Matthew, the last person to see the girl alive. Not her husband, whose obsession with the disappearance has caused an irreparable rift between them. Not even Harper herself, a woman trapped by obligation and circumstance.

In the throes of an investigation based in the past, solving Matthew’s murder means getting to the bottom of what happened all those years ago. Two families are destroyed by a single bad decision. The question is which decision, and whose was it?

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

Kathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa LockeKathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa Locke:

It’s the very end of December, 1880, and the servant Kathleen Hennessey expects to spend a quiet week taking care of the O’Farrell Street boarding house while her employers, Annie and Nate Dawson, are off spending the Christmas holidays with Nate’s family. However, when she agrees to help out one of her friends, Kathleen discovers that a simple case of a servant being dismissed without notice has turned into a complicated puzzle that she is determined to solve.

While featuring minor characters from Locke’s Victorian San Francisco mystery series, Kathleen Catches a Killer contains all the light romance, humor, and suspense of the longer works. Chronologically, this novella comes right after the events in Pilfered Promises, but it can be read as a stand-alone and an excellent introduction to this mystery series about the gas-lit world of the late 19th century.

Frostycake Murder by Summer PrescottFrostycake Murder by Summer Prescott:

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MISSY AND CHAS!!!

Life is full of surprises in the sleepy beachside town of Calgon, Florida, and the holiday season proves to be no exception. Echo faces a new reality that could change her life forever, Missy and Chas wrestle with the pain of facing their own limitations and uncertainties, while Spencer finds himself in a sticky situation relationally.

In the midst of all of the personal turmoil, a gruesome murder is discovered, and Chas once again has to take charge and hope that he finds the ruthless killer, before tragedy strikes a bit closer to home.

Murder Over The Bones by Stephen RandorfMurder Over The Bones by Stephen Randorf:

Detective Gilbert Bass searches for the identity of a homeless man found dead in an archeological dig site. Dinosaur fossils unearthed in the city? Mrs. Wicker and her adult children want the bones, two partners in real estate want the land, and a local activist wants to keep his girlfriend.

 

 

 

Beset by E.H. ReinhardBeset by E.H. Reinhard:

Beset: The Lieutenant Harrington Series, Book 2.

When a spring breaker is found with his head all but removed along the side of a posh Miami Beach hotel, Lieutenant Nash Harrington is tasked with tracking down the person responsible.

But the dead college kid in the bushes is only the beginning. The victim came to town with friends—friends who start dropping like flies.

Just as the lieutenant closes in on his killer, the case takes an immediate left turn into the unknown, a place where Harrington could find himself directly in harm’s way.

North Pole Unlimited by Elle RushNorth Pole Unlimited: Decker and Joy by Elle Rush:
Jaded P.I. Decker Harkness must track down a missing prototype if he wants a shot at a corporate security contract. Sexy cat-lady Joy McCall has her own investigation running after someone breaks into her animal shelter. When they cross paths during a triple kitten-napping, they’ll have to work together to close their cases. Will everyone make it home to celebrate a merry Christmas together?

Only Santa knows.

 

Reasonable Doubt by Rachel SinclairReasonable Doubt by Rachel Sinclair:

A prominent artist from New York City, in town for a show, is found brutally murdered in the back of an art gallery. A prominent gay art dealer stands accused of the murder. He fears he might have done it. He doesn’t remember if he did or not. Damien must get at the truth, which is made more difficult by the fact that even his client doesn’t know the truth about what happened.

In the meantime, Damien throws himself into getting his three best friends out of prison. These men mean everything to him. But getting the three guys out means that they must leave Connor O’Brien behind. Damien can’t stand for this to happen, so he risks everything to make sure that Connor can be freed with the others.

With the hairpin turns and lightning fast pace that you’ve come to expect from a Rachel Sinclair legal thriller, “Reasonable Doubt” is not to be missed!

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Two new releases just in time for the holidays: Christmas on Iago Prime and Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen

Well, I promised you more new release announcement in the run-up to the holidays and today, I am pleased to announce not one but two new releases. Both of them are holiday stories, one in English and one in German.

Let’s start with the English language story. Back during the first July short story challenge in 2015, I wrote a little story called Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime, in which a couple attempts to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a new settled space colony.

I’d assumed that this was the first and last time I’d ever visit the colony of Iago Prime. However, I try to write a holiday story every year. And when I searched for ideas for a holiday story for this year, I suddenly thought “Why not write a science fictional holiday story about Christmas in a space station or interplanetary colony?” And then I thought, “Why not reuse the Iago Prime setting?”

The result is Christmas on Iago Prime. The protagonist this time around is Libby, a little girl whose scientist parents are due to spend a whole year on Iago Prime, including Christmas. Libby is not at all thrilled about this, at least at first. Kai and Maisie from Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime also appear and they have big news to share.

Currently, the A Year on Iago Prime series has only two installments. However, I may well write other holiday stories set on Iago Prime. After all, we haven’t yet seen Easter on Iago Prime and we only get a tiny glimpse at Halloween on Iago Prime.

But for now, let’s blast off into space and celebrate…

Christmas on Iago Prime
Christmas on Iago PrimeEight-year-old Libby has come with her parents to spend a year at the newly established colony on the planet Iago Prime. Libby’s parents believe that this is a great opportunity for all of them, but Libby is unhappy on Iago Prime. There are no other children on Iago Prime and Libby can’t go anywhere, because she doesn’t even have a space suit. Worst of all, they will spend Christmas on Iago Prime, where there aren’t even any Christmas trees.

However, Libby’s parents, with a little help from Santa Claus himself, conspire to give Libby an unforgettable Christmas on Iago Prime.

This is a science fictional Christmas story of 6600 words or approx. 22 print pages.

More information.
Length: 6600 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.

***

The second new release for today is not actually a brand-new story. Instead, it is an existing story, Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart, translated into German.

So enjoy…

Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen
Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem HerzenZwei einsame Herzen finden im vorweihnachtlichen Shoppingchaos zueinander.

Als ihr Freund sie vier Wochen vor Weihnachten sitzenlässt, stürzt Hannah sich in die Weihnachtsvorbereitungen, um die Schmerzen zu betäuben. Aber nichts scheint zu helfen, bis Hannah beim Weihnachtseinkauf im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes mit Owen zusammenstößt.
Zwischen Hannah und Owen funkt es sofort. Dabei kämpft Owen mit seinen eigenen alten Schmerzen…

Dies ist eine kurze weihnachtliche Liebesgeschichte von ca. 6300 Worten oder ca. 25 Buchseiten.

Mehr Informationen.
Länge: 6300 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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Magic under the Mistletoe – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Speculative Fiction

Our monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite holiday science fiction, fantasy and horror by indie authors.

These holiday stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction, space opera, time travel, post-apocalyptic fiction, plenty of dragons, werewolves, were-reindeer, elves, telepathic detectives, crime-fighting witches, orphans in danger, troubled marriages, musketeers in space, alien invasions, Christmas in space and after the apocalypse, robots, sentient starships playing Santa and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set around the holidays.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday mysteries is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, 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:

A Dark Root Christmas by April AasheimA Dark Root Christmas: Merry’s Gift by April Aasheim

When ten-year-old Merry Maddock makes a holiday wish on a shooting star, she has no idea how her life will change.
Suddenly, she’s become the parent to a strange baby owl, and the caretaker of what appears to be an enchanted tree.
But will her wish for a family Christmas be granted? Or will her mother’s desire for a year without a holiday win out?
Magick, mystery, and family take center stage in this charming witchy novella featuring the Maddock girls when they are young.
This 20k word novella is a prequel story to the popular Daughters of Dark Root series and can be read as a stand alone novel.

A Very Mercy Christmas by M.Z. AndrewsA Very Mercy Christmas: A Witch Squad Holiday Special by M.Z. Andrews:

It’s Christmas time at the Paranormal Institute for Witches. Excited to go home for the holidays and be reunited with their families, Mercy, Jax, Holly, Sweets, and Alba say their goodbyes. However, when an unpredicted snowstorm ravages Aspen Falls, the girls must scramble to figure out their next move. Tempers flare as blame is placed and feelings are hurt. By the looks of it, Christmas will surely be ruined.

But when a surprise visitor arrives, the girls are forced to find out what friendship really means and decide whether or not it’s worth saving. Visited by some blasts from the past, the girls are given glimpses into each other’s pasts and find out what life would have been like if they’d never met and formed the Witch Squad on the first day of classes.

A Very Mercy Christmas is the 5th book in the Witch Squad Cozy Mystery series – there is no mystery to solve, instead sit back and enjoy a Christmas story about what went down over the Witch Squad’s first winter break and get a glimpse into the lives of each of the girls before they met.

The Journey of Joseph Winter by John AnthonyThe Journey of Joseph Winter: A Christmas Fairy Tale by John Anthony:

A heartwarming Christmas story in the tradition of the holiday classics It’s a Wonderful Life and A Miracle on 34th Street.

Take a personal journey to discover the true magic of Christmas.

Joseph Winter is a good and gentle man, but he carries with him the pain and regret of a childhood mistake.

When a package mysteriously arrives on his doorstep, he is invited on a path to redemption.

Traveling far from his cozy little home in St. Paul, Minnesota, into the snowy landscapes of the Arctic, his touching Christmas journey takes him in search of the one man who may be able to help him find peace—Santa Claus.

An inspirational family Christmas tale in the style of the classic Christmas stories shared by families every holiday season, The Journey of Joseph Winter: A Christmas Fairy Tale is the inspiring story of a man in search of Santa Claus, his childhood, and ultimately—himself.

A Tale of Christmas Past by Katelyn A. BrownA Tale of Christmas Past by Katelyn A. Brown

A woman from the future, trapped in the past…

Avery Lawson expects to spend another holiday alone, with only memories of her parents and her abandoned faith for company. One chilly day, she reads an old journal that once belonged to a pioneer named Kathleen. Avery is captivated by the story, but she never imagined how much her own life would be turned upside down after reading it. In a strange twist of fate, she finds herself transported to a Kansas homestead in the year 1880, with no conceivable way to get home to the future.

Widower Jacob Cole is in desperate need of a housekeeper and nanny for his three young children. When the mysterious Miss Lawson shows up at his farm, his instincts tell him to trust her, despite the bizarre circumstances surrounding her arrival. She quickly becomes an important part of his world. Could she be just what his hurting family needs?

But being from the future, Avery has a dreadful secret. With Christmas fast approaching, can she stop another terrible tragedy from befalling the family? Will she ever make it home to the future? Or–with the Cole children and Jacob steadily breaking down the walls around her heart–does she even want to anymore?

Christmas on Iago Prime by Cora BuhlertChristmas on Iago Prime by Cora Buhlert

Eight-year-old Libby has come with her parents to spend a year at the newly established colony on the planet Iago Prime. Libby’s parents believe that this is a great opportunity for all of them, but Libby is unhappy on Iago Prime. There are no other children on Iago Prime and Libby can’t go anywhere, because she doesn’t even have a space suit. Worst of all, they will spend Christmas on Iago Prime, where there aren’t even any Christmas trees.

However, Libby’s parents, with a little help from Santa Claus himself, conspire to give Libby an unforgettable Christmas on Iago Prime.

This is a science fictional Christmas story of 6600 words or approx. 22 print pages.

The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree by Cora BuhlertThe Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree: A Not Really SF Short Story by Cora Buhlert

Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument about how to decorate the Christmas tree escalates and threatens their marriage.

This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 2900 words or approximately 12 print pages, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s.

 

I Wtich You a Merry Christmas by Snow EdenI Witch You a Merry Christmas by Snow Eden:

A heart-warming story about Christmas, elves, Santa Claus…and a really mad witch.

There are many things Cinnamon Mercy Claus is struggling with this holiday season: the memories of long forgotten holidays when the Christmas season was about family; that she’s just found out her grandfather is Santa Claus; and that her grandmother is a witch—who is bent on destroying Christmas for them all.

This is a 30,000-word novella with a dose of Hallmark warmth and crazy witch mayhem!

It is a ‘clean’ read with no cursing. Situations should be appropriate for all ages.

Carrie Hatchett's Christmas by J.J. GreenCarrie Hatchett’s Christmas by J.J. Green:

It’s Christmas! The alien invasion has begun.

Carrie Hatchett’s hoping for a quiet Christmas. She’s got five times as much food as she needs, and she’s made a catnip surprise and a dogfood cake for her pets.

But there’s no rest for Carrie.

An ancient race seems intent on invading Earth. As a Transgalactic Intercultural Community Crisis Liaison Officer, Carrie’s duty-bound to respond to the threat.

The aliens have been spotted at Santa’s Grotto and in a pantomime. Will Carrie find them in time and send them packing before they ruin everyone’s Christmas?

Carrie Hatchett’s Christmas is a standalone novelette in the comedy sci-fi romp Carrie Hatchett, Space Adventurer.

Follow Carrie on her adventures today.

Bringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle GreyBringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle Grey:

She may not be a dragon, but it was her humanity they needed right now.

With time running out before his clan’s prince is discovered by mining or killed by enemy dragons, dragon shifter Jayrian needs to convince the elders to accept help from the humans. He hopes that the clever librarian, Gretchen, might be able to help him with that. He didn’t count on falling for her—that wasn’t part of his plan at all.

Gretchen longs for adventure outside of the books she reads in her job as a small town librarian. But not the kind that involves her moving to the big city to take the promotion her Aunt Mary offers. The cute guy who’s been hanging around the library seems far more exciting—there’s just something about him that draws her—so on impulse, she invites him to her family’s Christmas celebration. When a dragon lands on the front of her car on the way there, she wonders if she’s gotten more than she bargained for.

Together they must find a way to save his prince and clan, without sacrificing who they are, or their budding relationship.

Meet Douglas Fir by Kyndra HatchMeet Douglas Fir by Kyndra Hatch:

People put objects on trees? As a holiday tradition? The singing tree creature is a threat that needs to be eradicated.

Being human isn’t easy with robotic alien residents misunderstanding the simple stuff. Alex can’t imagine his family life without Bazin and Miaxa, though. Time to show them Christmas holiday traditions, preferably without space aliens blowing things up.

 

 

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

A Mind Reader's Christmas by Al MacyA Mind Reader’s Christmas by Al Macy:

Eric Beckman, a mind-reading private investigator, is spending Christmas in snowy Vermont with his wife and daughter. He needs a break from solving cases, but the townspeople convince him to look into the village mystery: Every holiday season, someone switches the baby Jesus with one of the other figures in the town’s Nativity scene.

With the help of his ten-year-old daughter, also a mind reader, he soon learns that some of the residents of the small town are not who–or even what–they seem to be. There’s something supernatural going on in Newburn, Vermont.

His investigation causes an escalation of strange happenings, and soon, swapped manger figures are the least of the town’s worries. If Beckman can’t adjust his view of the world–force himself to believe in things he never thought possible–the Christmas vacation could turn out to be his family’s last.

A Mind Reader’s Christmas may be read as a standalone book or as Book Four in the Eric Beckman series.

In Time for Christmas by Monique MartinIn Time for Christmas by Monique Martin:

At a time when interest in the Christmas holiday was waning, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and inspired the world.

But now, history is changing, and the book is never written. When the Council for Temporal Studies asks time travelers Simon and Elizabeth Cross to “save Christmas,” they think he’s joking.

But it’s anything but a laughing matter. Simon and Elizabeth must go back to 1843 London and convince Dickens to write his endearing story, or the Christmas holiday we all know and love will cease to be–forever.

Christmas in New York by Monique MartinChristmas in New York by Monique Martin:

Time-Traveling adventurers Simon and Elizabeth Cross return in an all-new Christmas novella!

Along with their young daughter, Charlotte, the Crosses travel back to 1937 New York City to visit an old friend, Charlie Blue. But Charlie’s in trouble — holiday-sized trouble — and their plans for a pleasant little Christmas vacation soon fly out the window.

Christmas in New York is the fast-paced and heartwarming tale of the true meaning of Christmas — and the importance of the people we share it with.

Not His Christmas by Annie NicholasNot His Christmas by Annie Nicholas:

It’s Eoin and Angie’s first Christmas together and he wants to make it special. But his dragoness is lacking holiday spirit and doesn’t want anything to do with celebrating. Does Angie think Eoin is the type of dragon who could ignore her unhappiness? Clipping on his jingle bells and grabbing the mistletoe, Eoin is on a mission.

 

 

 

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia NovaSnowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia Nova

A Christmas without warmth…
Rachel hates her life in Alaska. She hates the weather, but even more, she hates her job which requires her to stay in the sodden state even for the holidays! Instead of going to visit her family in sunny California, she will be spending the holidays alone in the cold north. But when she encounters an unconscious, golden alien on the way home from work – amidst a massive snowstorm to top it all off – it looks like the holidays might not end up as boring as she’d thought after all!

A dragon paralyzed by cold…
Captain Erro of Traag never thought to go down in a battle. Even less did he think to find his mate on the surface of the planet he crashes on! Trapped in the planet’s frozen wasteland, Erro can hardly function in the cold climate. He’s a dragon, for heaven’s sake! He needs some heat! And yet, despite the icy weather seeping into his bones, every time the strangely beautiful alien female smiles at him, his inner flame burns stronger than ever. She is his mate, there is no question about that.

Now, if only he could understand what the hell she was saying…

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon is a standalone sci-fi romance novella with a scorching hot dragon, a HEA and no cliffhangers. Intended for mature audiences only.

When Birdie Babysat Spider by Kristen PainterWhen Birdie Babysat Spider: A Jayne Frost Short Story by Kristen Painter:

Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year.

Jayne Frost is a lot of things. Winter elf, Jack Frost’s daughter, Santa Claus’s niece, heir to the Winter Throne and now…private investigator. Sort of.

But none of that matters at the moment, because Jayne is headed back to the North Pole to visit her family, and leaving everyone’s favorite werewolf, Birdie Caruthers, to watch her cat, Spider.

With the heartfelt promise that all will be well, Birdie follows Jayne’s instructions to the letter. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop Spider from getting into trouble.

It takes the help of a gentlemen friend (and a few others), for Birdie to make things right again. But not before her love life takes a very interesting turn…

The Krampus Hunters by J.P. ReedmanThe Krampus Hunters by J.P. Reedman:

Krampus, haunter of the dark winter’s nights before Yule, comes bearing a switch to beat ‘bad children’…

Young Snoefrith, daughter of the Erl-King, leaves her homeland on a quest to find her lost mother…and a life. As she travels in wild, unfamiliar lands, she is accosted by Old Nickor, a red-robed goblin who flies the wintry skies in a sleigh pulled by coal-black deer, and his bestial companion, Krampus. Nickor sets Krampus upon Snowfrith, seeking to capture her to sell to the Kobold King who dwells under the mountains.
Rescued by Red Roo, a feisty girl who is the best archer in the Wandron tribe, Snoefrith believes she is now safe.
But Krampus is determined to capture his prey and please his master, Nickor. Under cover of darkness, he destroys the Wandron’s caravans and sends Snoefrith and Red Roo fleeing into the forest and beyond.
Soon they learn that they cannot flee forever.
The hunted must become the hunters….

KRAMPUS HUNTERS

A short fantasy novelette for all ages, 15,000 words.

Joyeux by Tansy Rayner RobertsJoyeux: A Musketeer Space Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts

There’s mistletoe growing out of the walls, it’s snowing inside the space station, and a sex scandal is brewing that could bring down the monarchy. Must be Joyeux!

Joyeux on Paris Satellite is a seven day festival of drunken bets, poor decision-making, religious contemplation and tinsel. But mostly, poor decision-making. Athos and Porthos aren’t going to sleep together. Aramis is breaking up with her girlfriend because it’s that or marry her. Athos is not ready to deal with the ghost of his ex-husband. Oh, and no one wants Prince Alek to break his marriage contract by hooking up with a sexy Ambassador…

It’s down to the Musketeers and the Red Guard to save the space station and the solar system from disaster. So… that’s not going to end well.

This novella is a festive prequel to Musketeer Space, a genderflipped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

Jingle Stars by Jenny SchwartzJingle Starr by Jenny Schwartz:

When a starship decides to play Santa Claus…

Ahab is a mLa’an artificial intelligence embedded in the starship, Orion.

The campaign for AIs to be recognized as full citizens of Galaxy Proper is within reach of its extraordinary goal. The only thing that could stop it now is if an AI did something foolish…like take a space station hostage to save eight orphaned children.

***
And this is the letter to Santa that starts it all:

Dear Santa

I don’t know if yourreindeers work in space. But if you have room in your sleigh after you finishdelivering presents to the lucky kids with parents and homes, can you come and getme and my friends? Please?

We’ve been good. Well,we haven’t been really bad. We’re on Station Elphame, in the junkyard, and Zoeis sick. She’s bad sick. I think she’d be better on a planet. We don’t needpresents. We just need a way out of here. Ollie tried to sneak onto atrampship…he died.

Please, Santa, I don’twant any more of my friends to die.

Aiden.

Elves and Deer by Hollis ShilohElves and Deer by Hollis Shiloh:

Greer is a reindeer shifter working at a magical shipping hub up North. He has little use for or understanding of elves—such delicate, short-lived creatures—but he tries to do his best by the ones in his life. And it seems like more and more are coming into his life, confusing and frustrating him, needing help, needing rescued.

Since Greer is always busy, it’s easy to overlook the things he doesn’t want to acknowledge—until a terrible danger gives him unwanted time to think…and to realize there’s just one elf who means more to him than he’s ever wanted to admit.

A Christmas tale
38,000 words
Heat level: very low

Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. StevensBlood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens:

Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.

Ivy Granger, psychic private investigator, returns to the streets of Harborsmouth in this addition to the bestselling urban fantasy series.

Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Five Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common–they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind–a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim’s blood.

The holidays just got interesting. Too bad this case may drive Ivy mad before the New Year. Heck, she’ll be lucky to survive Christmas.

Cloaked in Christmas by T.F. WalshCloaked in Christmas by T.F. Walsh:

After fleeing her abusive ex, wulfkin Cacey Varg and her daughter settle happily with a new pack in Finland. As Christmas approaches, Cacey learns her ex has found them and is on his way to take their daughter back. But a massive snowstorm prevents her from packing up and leaving town – and instead delivers a sexy stranger to her doorstep. Can she trust that he isn’t one of her ex’s henchmen?

Second-in-command to Europe’s most powerful wulfkin, hunter Vincent Lyall’s spur-of-the-moment decision to check on his ailing mother soon finds him marooned at a cabin in the woods by the blizzard of the century. Trapped with this spirited vixen, resisting temptation is easier said than done . . . But she refuses to believe he is who he says he is.

Is love powerful enough to win when two sexy wolf shifters, an unwelcome past, and animalistic urges wreak havoc on the holiday season?
Sensuality Level: Sensual

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas by Phil WilliamsA Most Apocalyptic Christmas by Phil Williams:

On the night before Christmas, mercenary Scullion’s ride home is ambushed halfway between the last surviving cities in America. Concerned only with getting drunk for the holiday, his attempts to abandon his fellow passengers to bandits lead him on a collision course with a barbaric community who have utterly distorted the seasonal spirit. This is one madcap night he cannot survive alone, challenging his perceptions of the meaning of Christmas.

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas is a near-future dystopian novella, set in a war-ravaged land where chaotic city states are all that are left of once powerful countries. Born fighters like the thug Scullion are the predominant survivors in this desolate world devoid of resources, comforts and hope.

This is a Faergrowe Free State novella, set in the same world of the screenplay The Faergrowe Principle.

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Murder under the Mistletoe – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Mysteries and Crime Fiction

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

The holiday mysteries cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have plenty of cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, culinary mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mysteries, romantic suspense, police procedurals, pulp thrillers, men’s adventure, private eyes, masked crime fighters, telepathic detectives, crime-fighting witches, orphans in danger and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set around the holidays.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday mysteries 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:

A Very Mercy Christmas by M.Z. AndrewsA Very Mercy Christmas: A Witch Squad Holiday Special by M.Z. Andrews:

It’s Christmas time at the Paranormal Institute for Witches. Excited to go home for the holidays and be reunited with their families, Mercy, Jax, Holly, Sweets, and Alba say their goodbyes. However, when an unpredicted snowstorm ravages Aspen Falls, the girls must scramble to figure out their next move. Tempers flare as blame is placed and feelings are hurt. By the looks of it, Christmas will surely be ruined.

But when a surprise visitor arrives, the girls are forced to find out what friendship really means and decide whether or not it’s worth saving. Visited by some blasts from the past, the girls are given glimpses into each other’s pasts and find out what life would have been like if they’d never met and formed the Witch Squad on the first day of classes.

A Very Mercy Christmas is the 5th book in the Witch Squad Cozy Mystery series – there is no mystery to solve, instead sit back and enjoy a Christmas story about what went down over the Witch Squad’s first winter break and get a glimpse into the lives of each of the girls before they met.

Fatal Festive Donuts by Cindy BellFatal Festive Donuts by Cindy Bell:

Christmastime at the holiday market means mistletoe, colorful lights and…a dead body.

It is almost Christmas and Joyce and Brenda are excited to get a coveted spot at the local holiday market. Business is thriving and they are looking forward to celebrating the holidays.

But Christmas becomes the last thing on their minds when a dead body is found on ‘Donuts on the Move’. Not only is their truck shut down, but they become the prime suspects. With the evidence stacking up against them and a detective who thinks they’re guilty, they decide to take things into their own hands and find the murderer.

Joyce and Brenda’s investigations lead them straight towards danger. Will they find the killer before they land up in handcuffs or even become victims themselves?

Recipe Included: Baked Gingerbread Donuts with Ginger Glaze

A Bullet for Father Christmas by Cora BuhlertA Bullet for Father Christmas by Cora Buhlert:

When two men dressed up as Father Christmas rob a London jewellery store and one of them ends up dead on the floor, shot by his own accomplice, it’s certainly one of the more unusual cases for Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team. But as Helen begins to investigate, it turns out that the case is even more bizarre than she suspected.

This is a mystery novelette of 9300 words or approx. 30 print pages.

 

St. Nicholas of Hell's KitchenSt. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen by Cora Buhlert:

Christmas 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.

This is a novella of 30000 words or approximately 100 pages in the Silencer series, but may be read as a standalone.

Merry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope CallaghanMerry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope Callaghan

Carlita, Mercedes, and Tony are gearing up to celebrate their first Thanksgiving at their new home in historic Savannah, Georgia. Along with the excitement of the upcoming holiday season, there’s a lingering sadness because part of their family won’t be there to celebrate.

When Carlita’s friend, Victoria “Tori” Montgomery, invites the Garlucci family to her “Merry Masquerade” party at Montgomery Hall, Carlita is thrilled to have something to take her mind off the approaching holiday.

Despite a recent theft and an assault on her butler, Tori moves forward with her party plans, a grand affair and a gathering of Savannah’s elite. The Merry Masquerade turns out to be everything it was billed to be and more, when one of Tori’s employees is found murdered inside the pool house.

Is the murder linked to the recent break-in and the butler’s attack at Montgomery Hall? Could the killer be living under Tori’s roof? Or was it a masked party guest trying to make it look like an inside job?

Join the Garlucci women as they help one of Savannah’s most prominent residents track down a killer!

Merry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey ColeMerry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey Cole:

Murder always ruins the best baked plans . . .

Annie Hunter has a lot on her plate just before Christmas, but it’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice! With an open house at her aunt’s new Blackbird Bed and Breakfast, all Annie hopes for is a drama-free day.

Of course, events never go as planned.

On top of preparing a whirlwind of food, holiday decorating, and keeping to a tight schedule, a surprise visitor is also on the menu. When that visitor turns up dead, Annie must search for the killer to keep everything from crumbling like a stale Christmas cookie.

Annie’s plan to flush out the murderer includes one tasty bribe, a pinch of needling, and a heaping tablespoon of accusation. When she is threatened, it’s time to put it all on the back burner.

But the killer has other ideas.

While the snowflakes fly, Annie finds herself caught between a cookie and a crazy person. This time, it looks like she bit off more than she can chew.

***Merry Buried Christmas is volume 12 in the Black Cat Cafe Cozy Mystery Series. Lyndsey’s books can be read and enjoyed in any order.

The Cop Who Stole Christmas by Christie CraigThe Cop Who Stole Christmas by Christie Craig:

It’ll take a tall, hot Texan and a little holiday spirit to mend a broken heart and catch a Christmas killer . . .

Savanna Edwards is feeling downright Scrooge-like. Who can blame her? A truly unjolly Santa—suit, beard and all—just repossessed her car because of her ex’s shady business dealings. She’d like to murder the no-good lying cheat, but somebody already did that for her—and left him right in the middle of her kitchen, wrapped up with a bow.

Detective Mark Donaldson has a rule against getting involved with his neighbors. He can look—and he’s studied every sweet curve of Savanna from across the street—but he can’t touch. So when she lands on his doorstep in need of help, he finds himself torn between being naughty or nice, and fights every urge to unwrap her like a shiny new Christmas present.

Trouble is, even Mark can’t resist a little holiday magic . . . and there’s definitely something magical happening between him and the girl next door.

Winter Downs by Jan EdwardsWinter Downs by Jan Edwards:

Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?

In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.

 

Potluck by Cynthia E. HurstPotluck by Cynthia E. Hurst:

The R&P Labs staff members are planning their Christmas potluck lunch when a stranger arrives on the doorstep with an announcement that threatens to turn several lives upside down. ’Tis the season to be wary, and in this short story, the five scientific sleuths have to do some rapid research to discover whether one of them will be getting a very unusual Christmas present.

 

 

Zukie's Gift by Cynthia E. HurstZukie’s Gift by Cynthia E. Hurst:

All sorts of things were donated for St Augustine’s Christmas bazaar — books, second-hand clothes, cookies, murder weapons …

Zukie’s Gift is a short story and part of the Zukie Merlino Mysteries series.

 

 

 

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

Cremas, Christmas Cookies and Crroks by Harper LinCremas, Christmas Cookies and Crooks by Harper Lin:

It’s almost Christmastime in Cape Bay, and another murder has everyone in town talking. A despised new drama teacher at the local high school is killed in the school’s parking lot. The police arrest a beloved teacher, Mrs. Crowsdale, but everyone else thinks she is too nice to murder anyone. Mike, however, says they have solid evidence that proves she did it.

Sammy is particularly devastated. Mrs. Crowsdale was her favorite teacher and still her hero. Sammy begs Fran to find the real culprit. Fran isn’t so sure. Mike would be angry with her for butting in on another case. And what if more danger befalls her? After all, there are some pretty dangerous people in town…

Includes 3 special recipes!

Pilfered Promises by M. Louisa LockePilfered Promises by M. Louisa Locke:

Holiday cover edition: It is November, 1880, and the future looks promising for Annie and Nate Dawson. Nate’s law practice is taking off. Annie has made the transition from pretend clairvoyant to a successful financial consultant. And they are looking forward to spending their first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays together.

For Robert Livingston, the owner San Francisco’s newest grand emporium, the holidays don’t look so promising. Not if he can’t figure out how to stop whoever is stealing from his department store, the Silver Strike Bazaar. However, when he hires the Dawsons to investigate, they discover that behind the doors of his “Palace of Plenty,” nothing is quite what it seems.

Pilfered Promises, a sweet cozy historical mystery, is the fifth novel in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series featuring Annie and Nate Dawson and their friends and family in the O’Farrell Street boarding house and it comes right before the newest novella, Kathleen Catches a Killer

Kathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa LockeKathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa Locke:

It’s the very end of December, 1880, and the servant Kathleen Hennessey expects to spend a quiet week taking care of the O’Farrell Street boarding house while her employers, Annie and Nate Dawson, are off spending the Christmas holidays with Nate’s family. However, when she agrees to help out one of her friends, Kathleen discovers that a simple case of a servant being dismissed without notice has turned into a complicated puzzle that she is determined to solve.

While featuring minor characters from Locke’s Victorian San Francisco mystery series, Kathleen Catches a Killer contains all the light romance, humor, and suspense of the longer works. Chronologically, this novella comes right after the events in Pilfered Promises, but it can be read as a stand-alone and an excellent introduction to this mystery series about the gas-lit world of the late 19th century.

'Tis the Season by Jean Louise and Michael Yaworsky‘Tis the Season: Two short holiday stories by Jean Louise and Michael Yaworsky:

Heartwarming stories of comfort and joy….

In Stealing Christmas, two modern-day Robin Hoods use a little fa-la-la-la-larceny to bring cheer to those who could use it most.

Tipping Point is the story of a single act of generosity that sets a series of acts into motion, touching a surprising number of people with the holiday spirit.

 

A Mind Reader's Christmas by Al MacyA Mind Reader’s Christmas by Al Macy:

Eric Beckman, a mind-reading private investigator, is spending Christmas in snowy Vermont with his wife and daughter. He needs a break from solving cases, but the townspeople convince him to look into the village mystery: Every holiday season, someone switches the baby Jesus with one of the other figures in the town’s Nativity scene.

With the help of his ten-year-old daughter, also a mind reader, he soon learns that some of the residents of the small town are not who–or even what–they seem to be. There’s something supernatural going on in Newburn, Vermont.

His investigation causes an escalation of strange happenings, and soon, swapped manger figures are the least of the town’s worries. If Beckman can’t adjust his view of the world–force himself to believe in things he never thought possible–the Christmas vacation could turn out to be his family’s last.

A Mind Reader’s Christmas may be read as a standalone book or as Book Four in the Eric Beckman series.

Frostycake Murder by Summer PrescottFrostycake Murder by Summer Prescott:

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MISSY AND CHAS!!!

Life is full of surprises in the sleepy beachside town of Calgon, Florida, and the holiday season proves to be no exception. Echo faces a new reality that could change her life forever, Missy and Chas wrestle with the pain of facing their own limitations and uncertainties, while Spencer finds himself in a sticky situation relationally.

In the midst of all of the personal turmoil, a gruesome murder is discovered, and Chas once again has to take charge and hope that he finds the ruthless killer, before tragedy strikes a bit closer to home.

North Pole Unlimited by Elle RushNorth Pole Unlimited: Decker and Joy by Elle Rush:
Jaded P.I. Decker Harkness must track down a missing prototype if he wants a shot at a corporate security contract. Sexy cat-lady Joy McCall has her own investigation running after someone breaks into her animal shelter. When they cross paths during a triple kitten-napping, they’ll have to work together to close their cases. Will everyone make it home to celebrate a merry Christmas together?

Only Santa knows.

 

Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. StevensBlood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens:

Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.

Ivy Granger, psychic private investigator, returns to the streets of Harborsmouth in this addition to the bestselling urban fantasy series.

Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Five Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common–they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind–a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim’s blood.

The holidays just got interesting. Too bad this case may drive Ivy mad before the New Year. Heck, she’ll be lucky to survive Christmas.

Gusty Lovers and Cadavers by Anne R. TanGusty Lovers and Cadavers by Anne R. Tan:

Gusty winds…and a trail of destruction.

Graduate student Raina Sun is in for a season of mayhem and murder. When she volunteered to take the new foreign exchange student shopping on the last weekend before Christmas, she ended up in a riot for the last hot toy of the season and an abandoned baby. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a Good Samaritan.

But calling the mysterious phone number in the diaper bag leads to more questions than answers. A strange man claims to be the child’s father, and his alleged mother turns up dead. The local police are more interested in keeping the town’s good name out of international news than considering if there’s foul play. And to make matters worse, she has less than a week to find his birth parents before the FBI takes over the case.

Raina summons her sleuthing skills to protect this baby and soon discovers everyone has a few skeletons in their closets. With her pimp-cane-toting grandma, she must track down a hidden killer before she becomes the next victim. There’s no place for an amateur when it comes to murder…

Don’t miss out on Raina’s new adventure–get your copy of “Gusty Lovers and Cadavers” today!

Run-A-Way for Christmas by Victoria L.K. WilliamsRun-A-Way for Christmas by Victoria L.K. Williams:

Christmas is all about children, but usually not all the children at once.

Megan and her faithful beagle Barney meet a gang of runaway children at the beach. Soon the investigative duo learn of exploitation, injury, and murder and with the help of FBI consultant Aiden and his dog, Gypsy, begin to investigate.

Megan’s family and friends rally round and share the joy of Christmas with the children who need it most, while Megan finds that Christmas is truly a time of love.

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And Another Announcement: New Poem Published

Yes, as the title indicates, this is another announcement post. Well, I warned you there might be a few of those in the run-up to the holidays.

This time, the announcement concerns an aspect of my writing that I don’t indulge as much anymore as I once did, namely poetry. As the Haiku Box at the Cora Buhlert site indicates, I actually do have a history of writing poetry and also had a couple of poems published. However, ever since newleaf magazine, which automatically got the first look at any new poem I wrote, went on indefinite hiatus, any new poem I wrote usually ended up in the “poetry” folder on my harddrive with a note “Find a place to submit this later”. Alas, “later” often turned into “never”.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw a call for submissions for a poetry webzine called Umbel & Panicle that focusses on photography and poems about all things botanical, largely because I follow their editor-in-chief Joyce Chng and their social media manager Jen Zink on Twitter. I checked out the magazine, liked what I saw and thought, “Botanical poems on the theme of ‘graft’? Let’s check the poetry folder.” So I submitted a poem, had it accepted and now you can all read it in Issue 6 of Umbel & Panicle.

My poem is called “Experiment” and you can read it here, illustrated by a beautiful photo of a hybrid fruit tree in bloom. However, you should really read the whole issue, which also contains some wonderful poems by Eva Papasoulioti and Jessica Seaborn as well as stunning photos by Darin Wahl. And while you’re at it, why don’t you check out the back issues, too, because Umbel & Panicle does some very good work.

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And another new release announcement: Steaks, Walls and Dossiers: The Best Trump Anthology Ever

Yes, I have another new release to announce, this time another anthology in which I have a story. This release rather snuck up on me, since I only heard today that the anthology was out. Otherwise, the announcement would have gone into yesterday’s big announcement post.

This is anthology has been almost a year in the making. For last year, shortly after the US presidential elections, editor George Donnelly sent out a call for submissions for a Donald Trump themed flash fiction anthology. I initially intended to sit this one out – not my president, not my problem. But then I had an idea, so I wrote a little flash fiction story, sent it out and had it accepted. And then the waiting began. However, as we say in Germany, what takes a long time, will eventually be good.

So here it is: Steaks, Walls and Dossiers, an anthology of not quite serious flash fiction stories about Donald Trump. And it’s not just any old Trump anthology either – no, this is the very best Trump anthology ever. Okay, so I only know of one other Trump anthology, but based on the sample for that one, I’d say that ours is definitely better.

Steaks, Walls and Dossiers: The Best Trump Anthology Ever
Steaks, Walls and Dossiers: The Best Trump Anthology EverTime assassins. The entire nation of Scotland. Satan himself.
You thought President Donald J. Trump was outrageous? See 13 fictional Trumps combat absurd enemies in these amazing 16 short stories — the BEST ever.
Some classy but most downright ludicrous, these tremendously winning stories are going to take care of your need for entertainment, Little Reader Man. Believe me!
We’re making fiction great again for billions and trillions of incredible readers just like you. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Grab your copy now!
These stories are imploding, and soon will explode. To miss out would cause an absolute and total catastrophe. Buy the book now before the price goes up!
WARNING: Not suitable for low-energy types, weak men, losers, lightweights, zeros, Crazy Megyn, Crooked Hillary or Lyin’ Ted!
What are you waiting for? Do your thing, Little Reader Man!

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 and Amazon Mexico.

***

My story in this anthology is called “The Trump That Ate the Solar System”. In this story, Trump goes Galactus/Dark Phoenix on the solar system. Other shocking developments include Mike Pence accidentally getting electrocuted into gayness and Melania breaking a fingernail. So really, what are you waiting for? Grab your copy today!

The story was inspired by this cover of the German political magazine Der Spiegel, which is only one of several marvellous Trump covers Der Spiegel ran over the past year. Honestly, you could fill a whole anthology just with stories inspired by those covers.

Coincidentally, “The Trump That Ate the Solar System” is not the first time that the current president of the US has made an appearance in my fiction (and it probably won’t be the last time either). For almost a year ago, I published the Silencer holiday novella St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, in which the Silencer tangles with a crooked real estate magnate named Reginald Rumpus atop Rumpus’ dark tower on 5th Avenue. At the time, I described Reginald Rumpus and his wife Melody as “Donald and Melania Trump as portrayed by Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow”. So if you’re not satisfied with reading 16 flash fiction stories about Donald Trump in various guises or if you’re looking for a thrilling and heart-warming holiday novella, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen is the story for you.

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