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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information.
Length: 29000 words
List price: 2.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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

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New science fiction story available: Liquid Muse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More information.
Length: 2600 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India and Amazon Mexico.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So prepare to be thrilled by:

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

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

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

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

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

More information.
Length: 2400 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for November 2016

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some Oktober 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. We have a whole lot of horror this month, but also urban fantasy, portal fantasy, YA fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, dystopian fiction, paranormal romance, gay werewolves, aliens, ghosts, FBI witches, aliens, southern monsters, sentient zombies, pods, starships, newcomers, clockwork alchemists 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:

Southern Monsters by Cora BuhlertSouthern Monsters by Cora Buhlert:

Three tales of monsters and terror in the Louisiana bayous.

When a young bride goes missing on her wedding day in Acadiana, the locals blame the Terror, the legendary monster that stalks the Crimson Bayou.
Remy Theriault does not believe in the Terror and he’s pretty sure the bride has done a runner. But the groom is his cousin and family is family. So Remy goes out to look for the runaway bride, only to find that sometimes, the old legends are true…

When their car crashes into the bayou on a dark Louisiana night, the swamp creature known only as Big Puffball might just be one family’s salvation…

When fishing boats go missing on the Mississippi River Delta, few people link these disappearances to the mysterious light that lit up the Louisiana sky only weeks before. But an astronomer from Tulane University makes the connection and discovers the horror that is the sphere that ate the Mississippi delta.

This is a collection of three short horror stories of 7700 words or approximately 27 print pages altogether.

End Game by Lindsay BurokerEnd Game by Lindsay Buroker:

Alisa Marchenko has reunited with her daughter, and even though she hasn’t figured out how to get Jelena to accept Leonidas yet, she dreams of the three of them starting a new life together. They can return the Star Nomad to its original purpose of running freight and staying out of trouble (mostly).

Before that can happen, Alisa must fulfill the promise she made to Jelena: that she and her crew will retrieve young Prince Thorian, the boy who has become Jelena’s best friend. But Thorian was kidnapped by the rogue Starseer Tymoteusz, the man who wants to use the Staff of Lore to take over the entire system—and the man who may have the power to do it. Alisa doesn’t know why he kidnapped Thorian, but Tymoteusz once promised to kill the prince, so she fears they don’t have much time.

Unfortunately, Tymoteusz hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs. Finding him will be difficult, and even if they’re successful, facing him could be suicidal. To have a chance of surviving, Alisa will have to come up with her greatest scheme yet.

Haunted by Stacy ClaflinHaunted by Stacy Claflin:

The summer after graduation SHOULD have been the most exciting time of Mercy’s life.

Instead, on the way to an exciting overseas trip, she’s the only survivor of a tragic accident that claims the rest of her family. Then at her family’s memorial service, a ghostly hooded figure begins to follow her.

Her gorgeous new neighbor, Kit, who happens to run a paranormal blog, helps her discover what the hooded figure is hiding. Mercy thinks he’s angry that she survived the accident.

Could she be right?

Secret of the Master by Robert J. FluegelSecret of the Master by Robert J. Fluegel:

It’s been two weeks since Tommy Travers broke a deadly curse in his town, one he accidentally brought with him from the World of Books. Being trained how to control his new power is more important than ever. As Tommy enters a book under the guidance of his trainer Amelia, however, the repercussions of the curse are not yet over. A wizard escaped from the World of Books read Tommy’s mind and he knows where the Gifted are. If the evil wizard finds a way to unlock his magic, the warehouse, the Gifted—the world—will be his.

Tommy and his new friends must find a way to gain back all they’ve lost. But time is running out, and there’s something Amelia hasn’t told him. A secret—one that makes him, an amateur Gifted who’s hardly begun training, the only one who can defeat Mephitis before it’s too late.

In this sequel to Gift of the Master, join Tommy as he finds his true place among the Gifted and braves his most dangerous book yet.

Generation by J.J. GreenGeneration by J.J. Green:

Humankind entered the age of deep space travel two decades ago, and Earth’s megacorps rushed to exploit the rich resources to be found on unclaimed planets. Prospecting starships roam the galaxy, racing to be the first to lay their hands on the new-found source of wealth.

But unknown horrors lie at the reaches of the great expanse, ready to be awakened by unsuspecting starship crews.

Chief Security Officer Jas Harrington’s job is to protect her shipmates from hostile aliens on new worlds. For the efficient if quick-tempered Jas, that hasn’t been too hard up till now. But her captain is drug-addled, and he’s hungry for the bonuses he gets from finding valuable resources.

When the captain won’t listen to Jas’ fears about a mysterious planet, he is compromised by contact with a strange life form—a life form that threatens to take over the entire ship and return to Earth, where it can spread its deadly infection.

Now Jas is in a race against time, struggling to quarantine the alien infection and prevent the aliens from achieving their goal: Generation. She doesn’t realize it yet, but as she fights to save her crew, the future of all humanity hangs in the balance.

Generation is the first of ten books in the Shadows of the Void space opera serial.

PODS! by D.F. HollandPODS! and Other Supernatural Tales by D.F. Holland:

PODS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL TALES will take you on a spine-tingling voyage, where you’ll encounter deadly sea creatures, cursed objects, custom-made Hells, alien killers and other worlds – all in the blink of a gargoyle’s eye!

Hang on tightly as you read this collection of chilling, supernatural horror and fantasy – from the author of TALES FROM THE BEAUMONT HOUSE.

 

Magical Probi by T.S. PaulMagical Probi by T.S. Paul:

Probitionary FBI Agent Agatha Blackmore has just finished three grueling years at the FBI Academy at Quantico. She mastered every skill and task they laid before her. She now begins an Internship of sorts working for the Magical Crimes Division. Assassination, Murder, and Betrayal await her. How will she do in the real world? Will her Magick be enough to save her?

 

 

Clockwork Alchemist by Sara C. RoethleClockwork Alchemist by Sara C. Roethle:

Arhyen is the self-declared finest thief in London. The mission was simple. Steal a journal from Fairfax Breckinridge, one of the greatest alchemists of the time.

Arhyen hadn’t expected to find Fairfax himself, with a dagger in his back. Nor had he expected his automaton daughter, Liliana. Suddenly entrenched in a mystery too great for him to fully comprehend, he must rely on the help of a wayward detective, and an automaton who claims she has a soul, to piece together the clues laid before them. Will Arhyen uncover the true source of Liliana’s soul in time, or will London plunge into a dark age of nefarious technology, where only the scientific will survive?

The Newcomer by Alasdair ShawThe Newcomer: Twelve Science Fiction Short Stories, edited by Alasdair Shaw:

From a young couple struggling to look after their baby to a new captain’s reluctance to take command of her ship, and from a sun-addled stranger’s appearance in town to the emergence of a sentient AI, the twelve tales presented here explore the central theme of an arrival by someone or something new.
There’s even an alien puppy.

The stories are:
Tithe by Griffin Carmichael
Exodus by Alec Hutson
First Bonding by Tom Germann
Ice Dreamer by J J Green
The Nanny by Cindy Carroll
Right Hand by Jonathan C Gillespie
What Make is Your Cat? by Richard Crawford
Kaxian Duty by Cherise Kelley
Lessons Learned by J Naomi Ay
The Humra by Laura Greenwood
The Hawk of Destiny’s Fist by James S Aaron
Repulse by Alasdair Shaw

Journey by Hollis ShilohJourney by Hollis Shiloh:

From the moment they meet, Nat feels a strong connection with the injured wolf…and later with the same gorgeous man. Nat is just an ordinary cop, with his own problems and insecurities, but if he can help Journey in any way, he’d love to.

He’d also love to date the sweet, handsome shifter, although that might be more complicated than he first thought. Two men navigate the waters of learning to trust, love, and accept themselves and each other, as they work to build a life together.

A Shifters and Partners Novel

Daughters of Death by Josiah UptonDaughters of Death by Josiah Upton:

In Zaul’s mind, the game is over. After giving himself up to the APA, his true identity now lays bare before the walls of the nation’s largest Hybrid Reanimate facility, where he will rot for the rest of his undead days under the watch of cruel containment officers. No more disguises, no more deceptions, no more pretending to be human… And no future with the girl he loves.

But Genny cannot accept this new reality as easily. Compelled to repay his sacrifice, she searches for any way possible get Zaul out of the Facility, allying with both the living and the undead to make it happen. Zaul also forges unlikely friendships when he joins the Brains Club, a privileged group of higher-functioning containees who enjoy a better diet, recreational opportunities, contact with the opposite sex – and unsettling attention from the Assistant Director of the APA.

As Genny’s world unravels, Zaul’s becomes stranger. But only one constant is guaranteed: Caesar Ortega is hell-bent on destroying them both. When death and temptation are around every corner, can you keep who you were alive?

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New Collection Available: Southern Monsters

Yes, I know that the US is electing a new president tomorrow (actually today, where I am), but elsewhere the world is still spinning on and I have a new release to announce.

It’s another collection of stories to come out of the 2016 July short story challenge. One thing I have noticed during the two July short story challenges I did so far is that certain themes seem to emerge. And for the 2016 challenge, one of those themes was stories about monsters in the Louisiana bayous.

Now stories about monsters in the Louisiana bayous might seem like an odd thing for someone from Germany to write. However, at the age of five I spent almost a year living in Biloxi, Mississippi, because my Dad had a job there, overseeing the building of some ships. I talk a bit more about that in the Afterword/Author’s Note of Southern Monsters.

The time spent on the US Gulf Coast certainly had an impact on me and like everything that was important to me at some point in my life, it sometimes comes out in my writing. And during the July short story challenge, it did.

So if you need some relief from the ongoing election circus, why don’t you pick up Southern Monsters?

Southern Monsters
Southern MonstersThree tales of monsters and terror in the Louisiana bayous.

When a young bride goes missing on her wedding day in Acadiana, the locals blame the Terror, the legendary monster that stalks the Crimson Bayou.
Remy Theriault does not believe in the Terror and he’s pretty sure the bride has done a runner. But the groom is his cousin and family is family. So Remy goes out to look for the runaway bride, only to find that sometimes, the old legends are true…

When their car crashes into the bayou on a dark Louisiana night, the swamp creature known only as Big Puffball might just be one family’s salvation…

When fishing boats go missing on the Mississippi River Delta, few people link these disappearances to the mysterious light that lit up the Louisiana sky only weeks before. But an astronomer from Tulane University makes the connection and discovers the horror that is the sphere that ate the Mississippi delta.

More information.
Length: 7700 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Introducing the “In Love and War” trailer

Yeah, it’s NaNoWriMo and all that and I really should be writing.

But instead, I found myself creating a trailer for my In Love and War space opera romance series, using a bunch of stock photos and public domain space art and assembling them into a trailer using the free program Stupeflix.

I talk a bit more about my process for making book and series trailers here. Basically, what you need are some stock images and a story to tell. If you’re a writer, you should already have the latter, and if you’re a publisher, you should know where to find the former.

So enjoy the In Love and War trailer. And buy the books, while you’re at it.

In Love and War

For more videos, visit my YouTube channel.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 2016

Indie Speculative Fiction of the MonthIt’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”, this time with a special Halloween edition.

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 September 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. We have a whole lot of horror this month (well, it is Halloween), but also epic fantasy, urban fantasy, portal fantasy, historical fantasy, Asian fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic science fiction, Cyberpunk, science fiction romance, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, vampires, witches, monsters, aliens, superheroes, nanotechnology, outlaw hackers, smart bullets, perilous hunts, killer viruses, operatic zombies, Greek gods, barbarian generals, druid genes, Singaporean monsters, a whole lot of LGBT characters 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:

Bullet Holes by Cora BuhlertBullet Holes by Cora Buhlert

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

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

When a seemingly routine courier job turns out to be a trap, Anjali is hit by a so-called smart bullet, a Republican weapon that slowly and inevitably kills its victims. Mikhail is given a choice by his former commander Brian Mayhew: Surrender or watch the woman he loves die in excruciating pain.

It is a choice between two equally horrifying fates. But maybe, there is a third option…

This is a story of 6200 words or approx. 22 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

Perilous Hunt by Lindsay BurokerPerilous Hunt by Lindsay Buroker:

After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so.

But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…

Night Conjurings by Harvey ClickNight Conjurings: Tales of Terror by Harvey Click:

For fans of Clive Barker and Laird Barron… Ghosts, vampires, demons, serial killers, and other deadly denizens of the dark haunt this collection of chilling short stories by horror master Harvey Click.
*An unhappy and unloved boy summons a substitute mother–with sharp teeth.
*Two teenage boys learn it’s better to leave a spooky abandoned house alone.
*Can ghosts kill? Denise is about to find out the hard way.
*When her creative writing instructor offers to teach Kathy how to write a horror story, she finds herself trapped inside one.
*A man discovers he may be a killer, though he can’t remember the murders.
*A man with a terrible past, a wizard from the dark side of the moon, and a pitchfork perform a dark drama of murder and madness.
*A time traveler attempts to bring his dead fiancée back to life.
*Many people wish to be ageless, but what happens when an immortal woman begins to lose her mind?
*An artist literally draws a dead woman out of her grave.
*An elderly woman seeks to recover her forgotten past, but some things are better left forgotten.
*A petty swindler tries to buy good luck but ends up with the sort of luck nobody would want.
*And finally, a brief fable about a box of very sharp silence.

The Deep by Amanda CreiglowThe Deep by Amanda Creiglow:

Anna was a psychologist before the world ended. Now, she’s just a member of the not-yet-dead, waiting out the days until sickness takes her. But when an indecipherable signal from the depths of the sea hints at hope, she goes along on a mission to discover its source. She’s supposed to keep the rest of the crew sane, and they’re supposed to keep her alive. But not everything goes as planned…

Will the secrets of the deep hold hope for the future of the human race? Anna’s adventure to discover the truth begins.

 

Monster Maelstrom by George DonnellyMonster Maelstrom – A Halloween Anthology, edited by George Donnelly

24 Extremely Short Halloween Stories for your Briefest Moments

From a Hillary Clinton stripper to mythical beast-women in the harsh Scandinavian tundra and from an unusual band of steadfast teddy bears to the last man in zombie-occupied Chicago, fill your briefest moments with pulse-pounding frights and off-beat chuckles with this collection of 24 flash fiction stories.

Commuting to work? Grabbing a quick coffee? Each story tells a complete tale in but a few short minutes with the added promise of a lifelong introduction to new indie writers.

You never know, you might just find your next favorite author.

Monster Maelstrom, the second anthology in the Flash Flood series, is a hand-picked selection of master works in humor, horror and fantasy themed for Halloween and guaranteed to keep you engaged.

Sign up now to get free copies of book 1, Bite-Sized Stories, and future flash fiction anthologies themed for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, May the 4th and Independence Day.

Eidolon by Carlyle EdmundsonEidolon by Carlyle Edmundson:

After Lance’s contact, Wyatt, is driven underground by the followers of a crusading hacker known only as Eidolon, Lance gets saddled with the unenviable task of digging up dirt on them—one made even less tolerable as he finds himself working alongside a clickbait blogger whose only concern is the next big controversy.
But as Lance gets to know Eidolon and what he stands for, he becomes less and less sure that he’s on the right side. Is Wyatt merely taking advantage of him, or could there really be a dark secret at the heart of Eidolon’s attempts to right the world?

Eidolon is the second book in the Lance Canela series, following The Arcology. It features a special bonus short, Thoughts as Gray as Ash.

Stolen Magic by Marina FinlaysonStolen Magic by Marina Finlayson:

Lexi Jardine may be a thief, but she’s not stupid. When a crooked fireshaper wants her to steal a ring from the boss of his order, she knows it’s a one-way ticket to sleeping with the fishes. Her answer is to drop off the face of the earth.

Safely hidden in a quiet seaside town, she just needs to keep her head down and pretend to be a regular human. Since her only magical ability is the power to control animals, that should be easy, right?

Then a new fireshaper shows up in town. He’s hot as hell but oddly hostile. With his suspicious eyes watching her every move, her safe haven starts feeling more like a trap. When her best friend disappears, Lexi knows the time for hiding is over. Though the fireshapers are more powerful, Lexi’s not one to abandon a friend—but it will take everything she’s got to save them both from the flames.

The Druid Gene by Jennifer Foehner WellsThe Druid Gene by Jennifer Foehner Wells:

Darcy has a ten-thousand-year-old secret buried in her genetic code.

As a second year medical student, her life revolves around classes, studying, and her boyfriend Adam—until she treks through the desert, touches some mysterious stacked stones, and a network of glowing blue lines radiates under her skin.

Then she saw the spaceship. And it was coming for her.

She faces impossibly bad choices and a missing boyfriend.

Darcy struggles to accept her heritage and master her newfound powers as she navigates deception, betrayal, and danger in order to prevail in the galaxy’s most dangerous game—and survive to save Adam.

This new series also takes place in the Confluence Universe.

Repulsive by Brian W. FosterRepulsive by Brian W. Foster:

Zack Zurick loves superheroes. Lives them. Knows everything about them. And hey, he is a classic underdog and has an alliterative name, so maybe he could one day be chosen to join their ranks.

His life drastically changes when he becomes Repulsor. He’d hoped the fame and money would make Hayli see him as more than a friend. Instead, she can’t even look at him without literally getting sick. And the whole saving-the-world thing turns out to be harder than he thought, too. The villains have teamed up, and the heroes have a traitor in their midst. Zack must figure out who’s betraying them, defeat the bad guys, and, oh yeah, not get killed.

Right. Why not just go ahead and win the girl while he’s at it?

Maybe he could. If she weren’t dating the most popular, most famous, and most handsome superhero of them all. And if only he weren’t … Repulsive.

Mind Behind the Mind by Alexa GraveMind Behind the Mind by Alexa Grave

A witch who believes one of her own kind could never kill…

In a world where people believe the crimson sun is a dead witch’s head and the witch hunter who killed her stalks the night sky, a witch who ventures outside of Haven risks losing her life. Tessa is one such witch. Like many of her kind, she hopes to help the people of Leera, not harm them, and she’s on her first mission to heal an ailing man named Jeremiah. But when she crosses paths with a witch hunter, instead of avoiding him like she knows she should, she succumbs to her desires and ends up in his bed.

The local Enforcers believe a witch is behind Jeremiah’s sickness, so they call Bastian to town. He’s a young witch hunter who normally has a knack for sniffing out witches. But when he runs into the striking Tessa, she scrambles his senses. He’s inexplicably drawn to her and abandons his usually cautious nature.

As Tessa and Bastian uncover clues about Jeremiah’s illness, Tessa has to face the possibility that another witch may have had a hand in the incident. And if Bastian learns she’s a witch, he may point his finger at her. Then her head will surely roll.

The Tyro by Carol Holland MarchThe Tyro by Carol Holland March:

Larreta, home of the dreamwalkers, is being torn apart.

Rifts are forming and swallowing everything in their path. People, structures, entire villages, are disappearing. No one knows where the rifts come from or how to stop them. And they are getting worse.

Leo, a Senior Dreamwalker, is recalled from Earth, where he fled rather than face his failures. His heightened ability to connect with the past is crucial to combat the rifts. He’s drafted to train a handsome new dreamwalker, Jesse: a young man whose own talents are part of the solution to stopping the destruction.

Together, the two must form a complicated passage through time and space, and they can only succeed with mutual trust. First, Leo needs to overcome his personal demons in order to make the necessary connection. But getting closer is not something he wants to do, in spite of his attraction to Jesse. However, the fate of more than one world rests on their success. And time is running out.

From the Ashes by Michael Patrick HicksExtinction Cycle: From the Ashes by Michael Patrick Hicks:

In an effort to contain the spread of the Hemorrhage Virus, the United States government launched an attack on its nation’s cities. Hundreds of thousands of lives, and a number of major cities, were lost in Operation Reaper but the monsters created by the bioengineered virus remained.

A small team of Army Rangers have entered the ruins of Detroit in an effort to save whatever refugees they can, and stop whatever creatures they encounter. In an all-or-nothing gambit, the Rangers will soon discover that in the heart of the Motor City, evil rises from the ashes.

All Roads Lead to Hell by S. Hunter NisbetAll Roads Lead to Hell by S. Hunter Nisbet and Artemis Fay:

Good intentions only go so far.

Regretting his decision to let Simon Flaherty leave Buchell without admitting his feelings, Mick Perry follows his ex-fighting student to Scioto City looking for closure.

What Mick finds is a teenager barely coping with his new life, adrift in a metropolis that pays lip service to progress while accepting bribes from all-powerful criminal syndicates.

Mick thinks he’s prepared to do anything to help Simon, but his own past is catching up, from the family that betrayed his beliefs to the war he can’t seem to stop fighting in his dreams. Not to mention the contracts he’s bent on securing with the city bosses. The right move forward has never been less clear.

When the local syndicates realize exactly who Simon’s father was, all bets are off for the future. Mick will have to choose—does he want Simon as a lover, or does he want to use the power of the Petrowski name?

Or do all roads lead to hell?

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

When Rachel Farran accepted her calling to become a new Beacon, a reborn Fate and weaver of ley magics, she barely understood the world she was diving into. Lost souls, poltergeists, an ancient magical journal, and more await her in her journey, and she has to balance all of that with time for her girlfriend, training her magical ally Malcolm, and oh yeah, also trying to find a job to help make ends meet. It’s enough to make a girl go crazy!

Beacon’s Hope is the second book in Potomac Shadows, a paranormal fantasy series set in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

The Keeper of Pulau Purba by Brian J.W. LeeThe Keeper of Pulau Purba by Brian J.W. Lee:

From an emerging writer in Singapore, a Military-Horror Novel just in time for a harrowing Halloween.

Alex Kee is an author. As he is working on his magnum opus, he is called up for military reservist duties. At 35 years old, this is far from the first time he is doing this – Except he has been transferred to a new branch of the military camped at Pulau Purba, a previously undeveloped island south of Singapore.

Unable to write, he finds solace instead in his old army buddies. The closest amongst them is Nur Aidah, who is voluntarily serving despite the law requiring only men to do so. While old wounds are reopened, new ones emerge:

Alex finds that there is something wrong with Pulau Purba. The soldiers stationed there are tense even by conscript standards. Anger boils in the hearts of many and violence is common. Meanwhile, a grotesque creature stalks Alex in his sleep. Although he suspects that he isn’t alone, no one talks about it.

A thunderstorm’s coming, and it will threaten everything that Alex holds dear.

Aizli: Between Worlds by Lindsay McKinneyAizli: Between Worlds by Lindsay McKinney:

Tom Miller always thought of himself as being as average as they come. He had resigned himself to the job he hated and the little town he had grown up in. His stale life is turned on its head when his friend tells him of a strange stone box hidden in a nearby cave. In the process of attempting an amateur archaeological investigation, he finds a beautiful young woman in the sarcophagus. To his shock, she is very much alive. As she explains her story, Tom finds himself questioning everything he had ever dared to think about the universe. It isn’t long before he finds himself part of a painful choice between love and responsibility.

Aizli: Between Worlds is a novella with a length of approximately 30,000 words.

Four Barbarian Generals by T.A. MilesFour Barbarian Generals by T.A. Miles:

Han Quan’s dragon has been put to rest. The Empire beholds a moment of peace, a brief hour of victory, though at great cost.

The Imperial City has suffered significant damage from the dragon’s assault, the turmoil between the Five Kingdoms has escalated in the face of a continuing rise of dark forces now attributed as a curse upon the Song Dynasty, and Han Quan himself remains at large. Pursuit of the geomancer uncovers secrets connected to the persisting influence of the late Scholar General, and to the School of the Seven Mystics itself.

While the Phoenix continues to rise through Xu Liang, the dragons of the mortal plane begin to awaken. And as the southern kingdoms unite and rise against Xu Liang and his barbarian allies, the people of Ji continue to look to their ‘Silent Emperor’, some believing that he is favored by the gods, even above the Empress herself.

With Ying threatening to turn away from the Mandate and Du promising to join the southern rebellion, it seems that the heart of the Empire stands alone, unaware that the efforts of the Barbarian Generals will help determine the outcome of this battle between kingdoms.

War to the Knife by T.S. PaulWar to the Knife by T.S. Paul:

War is on the horizon for the Galaxy. The Empire of Man has been thrust into civil war as the Cabal makes it’s presence known. Earth is on the rise as plans within plans come to fruition. Mars and the new Alliance intends to take the war to Earth directly and Athena Lee is smack-dab in the middle of it all. Again. Will she survive or will Earth and its clone army win as they reconquer the galaxy?

 

 

Poseidon and Cleito by Andrew J. PetersPoseidon and Cleito by Andrew J. Peters:

He became a god. Her story was forgotten.

From the shore of a frozen steppe, an outcast hunter embarks for the otherworld to ask his ancestors how to bring the mammoth back to the fields of sedge.

In a shining, island kingdom of wonders, the daughter of a high priest fights for her claim to wealth and power after her father is assassinated by the king.

Together they will build an empire recalled as an ancient legend and a cautionary tale. But how did he become a god while she became a mere footnote in history?

From the publisher: Poseidon & Cleito is the engrossing first book of a fantasy trilogy of myth and legend exploring the rise of the lost civilization of Atlantis. In the best traditions of an epic journey, one man’s struggle to discover his place in the world takes him across perilous seas into the epicenter of political strife in a foreign land. But a legend is not made of deeds alone. Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay’s historical fantasy and David Gemmell’s Troy series will enjoy this fantasy novel as it sets out to reimagine the inception of a Greek myth.

Determination by L.D. SilverDetermination by L.D. Silver:

Skye Denali promises herself that she’ll never enter The Highlands. But then her sister Bree is taken by a vampire, and her mother is overwhelmed by grief.

She has no choice. To help her family, Skye will have to face her fears. She’ll have to go into The Highlands – a town that’s governed by vampires. And once she crosses the border and leaves the human sector, she’ll lose her rights.

Any vampire can demand her blood and by law she can’t refuse.

She’ll have to avoid attracting attention, search the town, and free her sister. All without getting caught.

Because getting caught means an automatic death sentence, or worse…

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Free Halloween themed anthology “Monster Maelstrom” available

Yes, I have another new release announcement to make. I promise that eventually there will be regular blogposts again, but at the moment, the new releases are coming hard and fast, so please bear with me.

Today, I am pleased to announce Monster Maelstrom, a Halloween themed flash fiction anthology edited by George Donelly. There are 24 stories about monsters in this anthology, including one of mine.

Monster Maelstrom – A Halloween Anthology
Monster Maelstrom, edited by George DonellyFrom a Hillary Clinton stripper to mythical beast-women in the harsh Scandinavian tundra and from an unusual band of steadfast teddy bears to the last man in zombie-occupied Chicago, fill your briefest moments with pulse-pounding frights and off-beat chuckles with this collection of 24 flash fiction stories.

Commuting to work? Grabbing a quick coffee? Each story tells a complete tale in but a few short minutes with the added promise of a lifelong introduction to new indie writers.

You never know, you might just find your next favorite author.

Monster Maelstrom, the second anthology in the Flash Flood series, is a hand-picked selection of master works in humor, horror and fantasy themed for Halloween and guaranteed to keep you engaged.

Best of all, it’s free, so grab your copy now at the retailer of your choice:

Get 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, Smashwords and Google Play.

***

Our editor George Donnelly blogs a bit about the anthology here. Monster Maelstrom is part of a whole series of flash fiction anthologies and you can find out how to get the first volume, Bite-Sized Stories, and the next one, Christmas in the Family, for free at George’s blog.

My story in Monster Maelstrom is called “The Reanimated Reunion Tour” and is another story to come out of the 2016 July short story challenge. It’s a comedy horror story about a group of zombie opera singers, The Undead Tenors, post-humously reunited for one final performance.

Like many other stories to come out of the July short story challenge, “The Reanimated Reunion Tour” was inspired by a piece of fantasy art, namely this one.

However, “The Reanimated Reunion Tour” also draws on the love for opera I developed as a teenager. Because the five Undead Tenors (only three of whom are actually tenors, the other two are a baritone and a basso) were once the greatest opera stars of their time, they played all the great parts in all the big houses and festivals and they sure as hell won’t let anybody forget that. Resemblances to any actual opera singers living, dead or undead are entirely coincidental, of course.

I even managed to sneak in a reference to my all-time favourite opera aria, “Oh, wie will ich triumphieren” from The Abduction from the Seraglio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with lyrics by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner. You can see and hear it here, performed by the master himself, Kurt Moll (sorry, Anselmo).

However, my little quirky tale of zombie opera singers is only one of 24 stories about some common and very uncommon monsters to be found in Monster Maelstrom.

Oh yes, and did I mention that the anthology is free?

So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy today.

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“Bullet Holes” and the Creativity Pressure Cooker

This is the fairly straightforward version of the idea generation process. See image, start writing. However, sometimes an image would also sink into a great stewpot of my subconscious and spark an idea further down the line. This is what happened in the case of Bullet Holes.

The story was written fairly late in the challenge. It was July, a hot night and even hotter day, and I was trying to fall asleep. But the heat made it difficult and so I drifted in and out of sleep, while my mind was hard at work combining story ideas.

Now I had been writing a short story per day for almost a month at this point, so my brain was in story generation mode anyway. What is more, two of the stories I had written plus one I set aside (which later became Graveyard Shift) had been in the same series, the In Love and War space opera/science fiction romance series, so Anjali and Mikhail were also pretty close to the surface of my mind.

The 2016 Hugo votes also happened to be due by July 31, so I did part of my Hugo reading during the challenge period and had in fact just filled out my Hugo ballot. And while I was drifting in and out of sleep, my mind was fishing for story ideas, mentally reviewing the concept art writing prompts again and also thinking about the Hugo nominees and the way I’d ranked them.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about one particular story, Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds, a nominee in the novella category. At the start of that story, the protagonist is tortured with a so-called “slow bullet”, a projectile/data chip which slowly bores its way through her body. Now the “slow bullet” idea isn’t exactly new – I’ve come three variations in the past year or so – and the novella eventually went off into a completely different direction. Nor was Slow Bullets the top-ranked story on my novella ballot – I think I ranked it at number 3. Nonetheless, the opening scene stuck with me and so I found myself thinking about it, while drifting in and out of sleep.

Meanwhile, my mind in its infinite wisdom dug up an image I had seen among io9‘s concept art writing prompts, namely this one of a very dodgy Cyberpunk clinic/treatment room. Once again, this image did not speak to me immediately. In fact I initially dismissed with “Uhm, nope, next one please” after a quick glance. I didn’t even bookmark the image and had to hunt it down again. Nonetheless, my brain remembered it and combined it with the smart bullets from the Alastair Reynolds story and came up with an idea about someone hit in the leg with a smart bullet that was slowly boring its way towards their heart. And the only hope to remove the bullet lay in a dodgy backalley cyber-clinic.

While I was drifting in and out of sleep, my mind mused over the idea and eventually it hit me that this would make a great In Love and War story. Once I had that realisation, I was instantly a lot more awake. I worked over the idea, while lying awake in bed, and came up with a basic plot. Then I got up, switched on the air-conditioning (because I needed to work, damn it), sat down at my computer and wrote the story pretty much straight through with only a handful breaks to make tea and eventually lunch (because writing always makes me hungry).

Bullet Holes is the fourth story in the In Love and War series to date (you can get all four at a reduced price in this neat bundle available exclusively at DriveThruFiction, by the way) and the second to feature Anjali and Mikhail having adventures as an established couple.

In addition to Anjali and Mikhail as well as the new characters Draco and Sladjana Dragovich (Sladjana was named for a teacher colleague of mine, by the way), we also meet (well, hear, since he only appears as a voice in Mikhail’s ear) Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces, Mikhail’s former commander and mentor, again, who also appears in Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift.

When I first came up with the idea for what would eventually become the In Love and War series, Mayhew was something of a one-note villain, an SF-nal version of the doggedly relentless pursuer so common in “troubled difter solves problem of the week and moves on” TV-shows such as The Fugitive, The Pretender and the 1970s version of The Incredible Hulk (and indeed, such TV-shows were an influence on the In Love and War series).

However, as I wrote more stories in the In Love and War series, something odd happened, namely Brian Mayhew flat out refused to cooperate and made it very clear that he did not want to be a one-note villain or even a villain at all. And so Mayhew became an a lot more complex character, which thoroughly messed up some of my plans, but also made the overall storyline so much better.

The version of Brian Mayhew seen or rather heard in Bullet Holes is about as close to my original conception of the character, as he is likely to get. Because in Bullet Holes, he needed to be a fairly one-note villain, though even here it becomes noticeable that Mayhew isn’t entirely happy with all the things he’s forced to do in the name of the Republic.

But enough blathering about the writing process. Let’s get to the story itself (yes, this is a new release announcement, albeit one with a little bit of extra added) and follow Mikhail and Anjali onto the streets of the rim world of Varishka, as they deal with some very lethal…

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

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

When a seemingly routine courier job turns out to be a trap, Anjali is hit by a so-called smart bullet, a Republican weapon that slowly and inevitably kills its victims. Mikhail is given a choice by his former commander Brian Mayhew: Surrender or watch the woman he loves die in excruciating pain.

It is a choice between two equally horrifying fates. But maybe, there is a third option…

More information.
Length: 6200 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Aldi does e-books

The name Aldi has long been synonymous with discount groceries, both in Germany and abroad. However, Aldi‘s activities have long since expanded into other fields. For example, Aldi is the 8th biggest clothing retailer in Germany and is a big player in the field of consumer electronics (Medion was originally an Aldi brand). Aldi offers household goods, sporting equipment, gardening equipment and pretty much anything under the sun as part of their weekly special offers. Aldi has its own mobile phone network, Aldi Talk, they sell package holidays, insurance policies and recently started up their own music and media streaming service. In Germany, pretty much everybody shops at Aldi, at least on occasion.

Today, I was at my local Aldi store for my weekly grocery haul and picked up the flyer/broshure with the weekly offers, while I was at it. As I flipped through the flyer at home, I came across an announcement that made me do a double-take: Aldi‘s music streaming service Aldi life will now also offer e-books. And to start you off, they’ll be offering a Medion tablet for 129 Euros, which includes a 10 Euro store credit for e-books at the Aldi life store and a month of free music streaming.

It’s not an offer that’s of any interest to me, but nonetheless this has the potential to be big, because a lot more people in Germany and the neighbouring countries shop at Aldi than ever enter a bookstore or visit Amazon.de. Will the new Aldi life e-book store persuade these people to give e-books a try? I don’t know. Though Aldi‘s weekly specials frequently include both paperbacks and audiobooks. And given how many people shop at Aldi and peruse the weekly flyer, I’m pretty sure the sales numbers for those books are impressive.

The announcement that Aldi will start selling e-books has the German book world all atwitter, as these articles at Lesen.net, e-book-news.de, Heise Online and Börsenblatt show. The only English language article about the Aldi announcement I was able to find is this one by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader. Nate Hoffelder compares Aldi‘s venture into the e-book market to Tesco’s failed attempt in the UK with a similar scheme. Sainsbury’s also recently closed down its e-book business and handed it over to Kobo.

So will Aldi life eventually go the same way? It’s certainly possible, but personally I don’t think so. For starters, Aldi is neither Tesco’s nor Sainsbury’s. And Germany is not the UK. Because in Germany, Amazon is not nearly as dominant as in the UK. Instead the German e-book market is split between the two big players Amazon and tolino, whereby tolino‘s marketshare is slightly ahead of Amazon‘s.

Personally, I suspect that Aldi life will be more of a challenge to tolino than to Amazon and the Kindle. Because Aldi life isn’t going after the early adopters, high volume readers and people who read obscure niche titles in foreign languages, which form a large part of Amazon‘s German customer base. Aldi life is going after the casual readers, the people who only read a handful of books per year, most of them bestsellers and only in German. And these casual readers, if they have an e-reader at all, mostly have a tolino. Will they switch to Aldi life, especially since tolino offers a superior hardware experience (and hardware-wise, tolino readers are excellent – my second e-reader is a tolino shine)? Time will tell.

Of course, the question is: What does all this mean for indies? And I must confess that my first thought upon reading the announcement that Aldi life will be offering e-books in the Aldi flyer was, “Who is their supplier? And how can I get in?”

Turns out I wasn’t the only person asking that question. And so Börsenblatt, a magazine of the German publishers’ and booksellers’ association asked Aldi that exact same question and received the answer that Aldi life is working with various distributors and aggregators in order to offer a broad range of titles, but that they can’t name any specific partners. Do these distributors and aggregators include some that carry indie e-books? I have no idea. Though I strongly suspect that the answer is “no”, since Aldi life allegedly offers “more than one million e-books” (including English language e-books), whereas Amazon offers more than five million. The discrepancy is very likely due to indies.

Besides, even though tolino is embracing indies now and have their own upload portal, for most indies tolino sales are much lower than they should be, based on tolino‘s marketshare. And if Aldi taps into the same demographic or an even more bestseller focussed one, it probably won’t be a very good market for indies. Nonetheless, I will be checking the Aldi life e-book store for my books, when it goes live on October 20. I also think Smashwords or Draft2Digital would do well to see if they can get Aldi life to carry their titles – after all, they both distribute to tolino.

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