Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2021

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors newly published this month, though some November books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, YA science fiction, historical horror, wizards, mages, dragons, dwarves, fae, wendigos, space princesses, first contact, crime-busting witches, Puritan witch hunter, Lovecraftian horrors 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:

Star's Control by Odette C. BellStar’s Control by Odette C. Bell:

Some people are broken by circumstances. Some people are born to break others. Meet Petunia. The most powerful psychic the Coalition has ever seen and decide for yourself who she’ll become.

When a spy from another universe attacks Guardian Station Alpha, Admiral Forest is forced to use her greatest psychic asset. But Petunia comes with trouble, and the costs might not be worth it. They aren’t for the straight-laced brutish commander sent to control her.

For there’s a problem. Petunia has been content to play the Coalition’s game all these years. Then she meets him. Zane. The cadet with a hero complex and a secret even bigger than hers.

When the station is attacked and Petunia’s past starts to leak out like blood, Zane gets closer. Because ultimately, there will be no keeping these two apart. Kindred spirits, the galaxy has kicked them down for too long. But no one can stay down forever. So tune in and watch Petunia rise like a star.

The Solstice Horror by Cora BuhlertThe Solstice Horror by Cora Buhlert

Massachusetts in the Year of the Lord 1695: Apprentice witchfinder Matthew Goodson, and condemned witch Grace Pankhurst have been on the run from Matthew’s former masters for months now.

Shortly before Christmas, Matthew and Grace find shelter with the Whitelaw family in the town of Cold Hollow. But the witchfinders are on their trail, so Matthew and Grace have to flee again on the day of the winter solstice.

Many dangers lurk in the dense woods of Massachusetts Bay Colony. But which is the greater threat, the witchfinders or the thing from beyond that dwells in the woods and hunts on the darkest nights of the year?

This is a historical holiday horror novelette of 11100 words or approximately 40 print pages by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

Chosen for Power by Lindsay BurokerChosen for Power by Lindsay Buroker:

Jak and his allies venture through the portal in search of the longevity plant their king demands, but all Jak wants is to find the elder dragons.

Some say they’re extinct. Some say they’re in hiding.

If he can’t locate them, there won’t be anyone to teach his hatchling how to fly. Or to protect the dragon eggs preserved within a glacier on another world. Or to help him free his people from the tyrannical rule of the wizards.

Jak has no choice. He must find the dragons.

But some ancient secrets were buried for a reason. What he discovers may jeopardize not only Jak and his allies—the survival of the entire species of dragons may be at stake.

Winter Solstice Murders by C. FarrenWinter Solstice Murders by C. Farren:

Investigating your own death can be murder.

Bea Goldfrapp runs her own magical greetings card business in the small town of Magpie Cove, Maine. She lives with her demon familiar, Widdershins, a cat that can change its breed on a daily basis, and a talking magpie that’s lived for a thousand years. She likes her life and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Then someone poisons her tea and she dies.

Luckily for Bea her father is a powerful sorcerer, and he brings her back to life, losing his own soul in the process. Bea is understandably miffed that someone wanted to kill her, and decides to find out who did it. This only brings more complications to her life, mainly because she never realised she had so many enemies. Can she find out who killed her before the killer strikes again?

Ardulum: The Battle for Pruitcu by J.S. FieldsArdulum: The Battle for Pruitcu by J.S. Fields:

Fifteen years ago, Guard Four stood by and watched her friend, Atalant, be jettisoned into space for questioning their planet’s religion.

Atalant should have died. Instead, she disappeared.

Consumed by guilt, Guard Four trawls space, hopping from spaceport to spaceport, hoping to find and bring Atalant home with exonerating evidence that Ardulum, the traveling planet her people worship, is no mystic deity.

At the edges of the known galaxy, Guard Four finds the shattered remains of a murdered world – a world of her genetic cousins who could have provided the evidence she desperately seeks. Ardulum, it seems, is no fairy tale but rather a bogeyman, set on destroying anyone who gets between it and its biological imperative to reproduce. And in its seat of governance rules Atalant – god to a planet she swore did not, could not, exist.

Guard Four must unravel Ardulan fact from myth to save her friend and the billions of other beings threatened by the Void – a tear in space created from Ardulum’s most recent birthing event. But how does one bring a god of a killer planet home? And how is Guard Four supposed to stop the Void without giving it the only thing it wants – the destruction of Ardulum?

If you’re looking for adventure and a touch of romance across time and space, filled with diverse alien species, deep emotions, and science fact and fiction, don’t miss the next book in J.S. Field’s Ardulum Series!

Fomori Invasion by Chris FoxFomori Invasion by Chris Fox:

The Morrigan Hunts the Prince of Demons

I am the reincarnation of a dark god. I cannot escape that now. The prince of demons come again. And I am hunted. The Fomori have a prophecy about my return, and have been so kind as to dispatch the Morrigan herself to slay me. She’s even forging a special divine sword.

Their armies of beastmen and giants march upon Hasra, and the ailing empire is in no shape to hold. They need new troops. They need us. My friends and I are being sent off to the other Catalysts we control to gain more magic so that we can resist the Fomori advance.

First we’ll journey to Calmora, to gain air from the Breath of Shu. Then we will fly to Enestius to gain dream from the Hoard of Lakshmi. If we survive, then we’ll move on to the strongest Catalyst on the continent, the legendary Hammer of Reevanthara.

Once we have secured our powers we’ll return to the war, and break the Fomori…or die trying. I will find a way to drive them from our lands, for my family. For my people. For the darkness living inside me.

Once in a Brew Moon by Lily Harper HartOnce in a Brew Moon by Lily Harper Hart:

Ofelia Archer has a lot on her plate. Between building renovations for her new business endeavor and plans to move in with her boyfriend for the duration of the construction, she doesn’t have time for anything else. All that changes when a teenage girl is almost abducted in front of her bar.

Ofelia and her boyfriend Zacharias “Zach” Sully intervene, save the girl, and believe they have the kidnapper caged in … only to find that he’s somehow escaped in plain sight. When digging further, they find there have been a string of disappearances from the outer parishes, something someone is working hard to keep under wraps.

Ofelia and Sully are on the case, but the harder they look, the more trouble they find. It seems the girls that are being targeted are from poorer areas. The only girl from an opulent family to be targeted is the one they managed to save. But why?

Ofelia may be comfortable in the French Quarter but Bywater is where she’s needed. Unfortunately, the people there aren’t open to trusting newcomers. As she tries to ingratiate herself, she befriends a local artist … who may just be a target herself.

Ofelia lives in a magical world, a world where she’s often the queen. This time, she may be in over her head. The stakes are too high to abandon the mission, though, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth … even if it will leave a scar on the city she loves so much.

Buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy – and magical – ride.

Friends in Low Places by Lily Harper HartFriends in Low Places by Lily Harper Hart:

The Morgan family is taking their first family vacation, and since they let their youngest member pick the place, that means Mammoth Cave National Park is on the menu. Ivy Morgan-Harker and her husband Jack aren’t exactly excited about exploring caves, but they’re committed to making sure the vacation is a success.

The first stop on their trip is Casper Creek, a cosplay western town perched atop a mountain. There Hannah Hickok, a witch like Ivy, runs things. The Casper Creek workers have their hands full. It seems local kids are going missing – three in only a few weeks – and the cause of their disappearances might be supernatural in nature.

Ivy’s nephew JJ is the one who uncovers the biggest clue when he inadvertently stumbles over one of the missing kids. Unfortunately, the child who returned isn’t the one who disappeared. There’s something off about him, although nobody can ascertain exactly what.

Hannah and Ivy recognize each other for what they are on first meeting, and it’s a good thing, because they’re going to have to work together to solve a huge mystery … and keep JJ safe in the process.

There are more than witches and demons haunting the hills surrounding Casper Creek. Ivy and Hannah are going to find out exactly what sort of horrors are being hidden in one small community.

They’re determined to make things right. They just have to survive to do it.

The Wendigo Whoop-De-Doo by Amanda M. LeeThe Wendigo Whoop-De-Doo by Amanda M. Lee:

Charlie Rhodes has the one thing she always wanted but was afraid to admit. The parents who gave her up for adoption are back in her life, but the transition from orphan to adult child isn’t going to be an easy one. Before she can commit to the process, however, a new job pops up for the Legacy Foundation and she’s whisked away to upstate Washington.

A group of teens celebrating graduation and preparing for college have gone missing in Nighthawk, a former boomtown that has exactly one resident, a crazy old bootlegger who wanders the area dropping ominous warnings before disappearing into the darkness.

The Legacy Foundation is called out when several bodies are found, all with the sort of injuries that can’t be easily explained, and local law enforcement officials find themselves stumped. From the first day at the town, Charlie knows they’re in trouble as the memories of one of the missing teens threaten to overwhelm her. Is the girl still alive? Did she fall with the others and simply hasn’t been found? More importantly, what are they dealing with?

The specter of an evil witch hangs over Charlie and she’s eager for something else to focus on. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done when it becomes apparent that Sybil knows exactly where they are.

There’s more than one killer in the Washington woods, and both serve as a significant threat to Charlie. She’ll need to overcome two threats to keep her team safe … and figure out the one thing that’s so far evaded her.

What does Sybil want? You’re about to find out, and the answer might shake the foundation of everything Charlie believes she knows.

Guardian by W.J. MayGuardian by W.J. May:

What you are looking for is not out there, it’s in you…

Stass had told her the story a thousand times.

She was ten years old when he found her, lost and alone in the harsh wilderness of the northern Cascades with no memory of who she was. For the past eight years, Amber has lived with him above his martial arts studio in Seattle, slowly losing hope that her family will ever come for her.

Everything changes the day Stass is murdered.

Alone and hunted, with no idea where to turn or who to trust, Amber finds herself connecting with Raven, a young woman, who claims to know her history. The kicker: according to Raven, Amber is an alien princess exiled to Earth by a civil war that claimed the lives of her entire family. To regain her past and go home, she needs to find a relic hidden somewhere in the very mountains Stass claimed to have rescued her from.

With the help of a former member of the Royal Guard and her distractingly attractive trainee, Amber and Raven race to find answers.

But not everyone is who they claim to be, and a betrayal in a critical moment will put everything on the line.

Can a girl without a past win the fight for her future?

At First Contact by Janice L. NewmanAt First Contact by Janice L. Newman:

The Fantastical Romances You’ve Been Craving

Hugo Finalist Janice L. Newman presents a touching trio of romances in a speculative vein. From the edge of space, to the shadows of the paranormal, to the marvels of the mystical:

At First Contact: A germaphobe and an android are assigned a mission to survey a planet together. Will they discover new life or a new love?

Ghosted: Leo is searching for the soul that used to haunt his grandmother’s house. Did Will ghost him?

A Touch of Magic: What if love could alter the fabric of existence? A fraught romance between two teachers just might be helped along by a touch of magic.

“A refreshing take on romance…surprising characters bring a human quality to alien settings.”
~Robin Rose Graves, The Book Wormhole

An Iron Fist by Nazri NoorAn Iron Fist by Nazri Noor:

Might and magic, fist and flame, to send evil back from where it came.

Jackson Pryde and Xander Wright delve into the mountain halls of the dvergar, the dwarven people of Norse myth known for their mining and metalwork. Seeking jewels and ore, they make a deadly discovery instead: a cluster of Chrysanthemysts. How did they grow underground? Where are they from? And who sent them?

The masters of the Black Market’s guilds grudgingly unite to stop the fatal flowers at their source. But digging deeper only reveals another conundrum: a legendary gemstone known as the Heart of Oberon. The fae haven’t walked the earth in forever. Why has the Heart resurfaced now?

And why is the gemstone whispering?

An Iron Fist is a 70,000-word M/M urban fantasy romance with a HFN ending. Join a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer, childhood friends who become bitter enemies, then lovers, as they explore a world filled with strange flora, mythical fauna, and magical murders. If you like your urban fantasy with humor, horror, and a whole lot of heart, you’ve come to the right place. Experience An Iron Fist today.

Descendant of War by G.J. OgdenDescendant of War by G.J. Ogden:

The descendant of history’s most infamous soldiers will inherit his ancestor’s war.

Frustrated by restrictive rules, maverick warship commander, Dalton Reeves, has crossed the line one time too many. Disciplined for violating orders, Reeves is packed off to “The Abyss” – a dangerous and isolated space city named Concord Station, and officially the worst assignment in the galaxy.

Built to foster diplomacy between the six galactic realms, Concord is now nothing but a debauched, corrupt hellhole infested by crime lords, degenerates and outright failures. It’s also Commander Reeves’ last chance to do something significant with his life.

Amidst escalating interstellar tensions, a long-forgotten enemy emerges from the mysterious Shadow Space to threaten war. Events are quickly set in motion that will propel Concord Station from obscurity to the most strategically important outpost in the galaxy.

But as the secret of Reeves’ dark origin is revealed, he’s thrust into the center of the conflict in more ways than one. Dalton Reeves is a descendant of war, but he’s not the only one.

The ancient enemy not only seeks conquest, but to exact vengeance upon the sole descendant of two infamous soldiers that annihilated the alien’s homeworld a millennium ago.

With the six realms on the brink of all-out war, can Commander Reeves face both his demons and his bitter rivals to become the warrior and the leader the galaxy desperately needs him to be?

Jingle Spells by Christine PopeJingle Spells by Christine Pope:

Sweet baby Jesus, someone’s stolen a lot of Christmas dough!

All is calm and bright as Globe, Arizona’s holiday celebrations approach. Selena Marx should have known it wouldn’t stay that way. The painted snowflakes on her shop window are barely dry when her best friend, Josie Woodrow, bursts in with news that the baby Jesus is missing from the crèche in front of St. Ignatius.

Selena has enough on her mind without having to use her psychic powers to suss out the culprit. Her boyfriend Calvin Standingbear’s parents are still on the snow-covered fence about accepting her, which throws a dimmer on the town’s highly anticipated Festival of Lights. And when Calvin springs a surprise on the solstice, Selena realizes she has some work to do to reconcile the two men in her life: Calvin, and her cursed cat, Archie.

The last thing she needs is a spontaneous vision that indicates the baby Jesus theft was more than just a prank. And if someone doesn’t spill the beans soon, someone’s getting away with…well, not murder (this time), but a whole lot of dough — and we’re not talking cookies.

A Bullet Ballet by Orlando A. SanchezA Bullet Ballet by Orlando A. Sanchez:

Jericho Porter was done. Out. Retired.

Porter had managed the impossible: retiring from the Gatekeepers…alive. Now, he was ready to slow down and live life on his terms. He was finally free.

He was also mistaken.

When Malkah Hafeez, an ex-lover and fellow Gatekeeper, calls in a favor, he knows he should refuse. She saved his life once, right before betraying him, gifting him with two neutralizing bullets center mass and leaving him for dead. He knows the smart play is to cut his losses, walk away, and disappear.

He’s done it before; he can do it again.

If he does, he dies.

Against every sense of self-preservation, he agrees to one more contract, joining Malkah’s elite team as she completes the erasure of a high value target. Outgunned and outmanned, Porter must risk it all, unleashing the fearsome power of the Gatekeepers once again.

In order to survive, he will have to step into his old world for one last dance with death.

Rebel by Jenny SchwartzRebel by Jenny Schwartz:

Life is complicated along the Hadrian Line. Decisions made on the border will decide the fate of the entire Human Sector.

Nora is adjusting to her new role as a player in the games of the powerful. She’s gained some interesting enemies and some even more dubious allies. She has also been presented with a unique opportunity, courtesy of Jonah. The question is, who can she trust to explore it with her?

Independent action is a necessity for the sole Royal Capitoline Navy captain patrolling the border region. But Liam will have to defend his actions later in front of the Admiralty board. How can he best serve his realm? By a rigid definition of duty and defense of the status quo, or is there a greater cause, one worth his career and his very life?

Wizard's Rise by Phillip TomassoWizard’s Rise by Phillip Tomasso:

For over two hundred years, the Rye Empire outlawed the use of magic. Now, the empire has fallen and a new, sinister power is rising.

Ambitious and corrupt, The Mountain King will stop at nothing to reach his goals. Enslaving a sorceress to do his bidding, he begins his hunt for lost talismans that can help him bring the wizards back, and harness their power.

To save the Old Empire from this growing, sinister magic, seventeen-year-old farm boy Mykal and his friends begin a desperate journey: they must collect the talismans before the Mountain King. On their way, Mykal will have to face fears and accept truths he never knew existed.

A war is coming, and their time is running out. And if they fail, a terrible darkness will steal the light from the Grey Ashland Realm… forever.

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