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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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for December 2021


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 crime 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 hardboiled mysteries, cozy mysteries, holiday mysteries, animal mysteries, historical mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, psychological mysteries, crime thrillers, adventure thrillers, historical thrillers, police procedurals, police officers, amateur sleuths, spies, FBI agents, police psychologists, con artists, vigilantes, serial killers, heists, prison breaks, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, murder and mayhem aboard ocean liners and in New York City, London, New Orleans, Maine, Texas, Arizona, Delaware, Washington state, Cuba, the Caribbean and much more.

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

Murder Above the Silver Waves by Blythe BakerMurder Above the Silver Waves by Blythe Baker:

In the summer of 1923, danger crosses the Atlantic, as Lillian Crawford sets out on a voyage to England…

Banishment from New York aboard a magnificent luxury liner should have been the wealthy socialite’s ideal escape from disgrace, but everything changes when a moonlit stroll leaves Lillian the only witness to a shocking murder.

Could a hot tempered American millionaire be behind the killing? Or perhaps a certain handsome, blind pianist who guards a secret? And what does the victim’s bitter wife have to hide?

Determined to answer questions no one else is asking, Lillian enlists the aid of her twin brother Felix – as often as she can drag him away from the card tables. The Crawford siblings’ idyllic voyage becomes a fight for their lives, as they race to uncover the identity of a killer…before they become the next victims.

A Frosty Little Murder by Beth ByersA Frosty Little Murder by Beth Byers:

Vi and friends are ready to dive into anything but London. The days have turned dreary, and these days they’re proactive about avoiding the blues. So, they pack their bags and head to the country where they’re hoping to find clear skies and cheery days.

They aren’t surprised, however, when a storm rolls in. They’re even excited when they’re invited to a local contest for the best snow sculpture. They find their way to the meadow, and they play in the snow. They drink an excess of cocoa. Except during the celebration, a body is found. A body with something they recognize. Maybe it was an accident? Evidence seems to suggest otherwise and–once again–the murderous hand of fate has struck.

Death under the Perseids by Teresa DovalpageDeath Under the Perseids by Teresa Dovalpage:

There’s no such thing as a free cruise in Cuban American author Teresa Dovalpage’s addictively clever new Havana mystery.

Cuban-born Mercedes Spivey and her American husband, Nolan, win a five-day cruise to Cuba. Although the circumstances surrounding the prize seem a little suspicious to Mercedes, Nolan’s current unemployment and their need to spice up their marriage make the decision a no-brainer. Once aboard, Mercedes is surprised to see two people she met through her ex-boyfriend Lorenzo: former University of Havana professor Selfa Segarra and down-on-his-luck Spanish writer Javier Jurado. Even stranger: they also received a free cruise.

When Selfa disappears on their first day at sea, Mercedes and Javier begin to wonder if their presence on the cruise is more than coincidence. Mercedes confides her worries to her husband, but he convinces her that it’s all in her head.

However, when Javier dies under mysterious circumstances after disembarking in Havana, and Nolan is nowhere to be found, Mercedes scrambles through the city looking for him, fearing her suspicions were correct all along.

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?

Night at the Asylum by Elle GrayNight at the Asylum by Elle Gray:

You better watch your back. You better do your best to hide.
Because at Whitehorn there are strange forces at play.
Someone or something is watching.
And the bizarre death within a secured room is only the beginning…

Within a short period of time FBI agent Blake Wilder has had to overcome many life altering events. From the relief of discovering the truth of her past and having the reunion she had always dreamed of.
To becoming suffocated by the feelings of grief and failure, feelings that nearly resulted in her death.
Safe to say, Blake Wilder is far from looking forward to the festivities to come.

Blake and her team are summoned to a small town in northern Washington to investigate the mysterious death of a patient at Whitehorn.
A case with no prints and no evidence that anyone had entered the victim’s room the night of her death.
A strangely perplexing and unfathomable death. And the patients and staff at Whitehorn believe that it was the spirit of the woman’s boyfriend—a man she’d killed—coming back from the grave to have his revenge.

When Blake discovers that the victim is not what she appears to be and the case takes a more shocking turn. Blake finds herself in an inescapable fight, a fight of the ghosts of the girl’s past and Blake’s very own ghosts of present and future to come.

You better watch out. You better hide.
Because a night at The Asylum could bring forth a darkness that may lead to an untimely demise.

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.

Murder and the Mermaid by L.B. HathawayMurder and the Mermaid by L.B. Hathaway:

Sometimes the truth is as slippery and hard to grasp as a mermaid…

December, 1925

A dark, smog-filled London doesn’t seem very Christmassy, or exciting, but then Posie Parker, London’s premier female Private Detective receives an urgent call from one of her oldest friends; Rufus, Earl of Cardigeon.

Summoned to ‘The Mermaid’, an ancient hotel in Rye, on the Sussex Coast, in the heart of smuggling country, Posie, together with her husband, Richard, finds her friend in a real state.

Rufus has been promised answers about his missing wife, Dolly, but instead there’s simply a bizarre string of events: a priceless car mysteriously driven off a cliff; a missing Frenchman, and telegrams from men who simply don’t exist. While Richard Lovelace, Chief Commissioner of New Scotland Yard tries to work out if Rufus himself is the target of a complicated plot, Posie has her own investigations to make.

The local tragedy of a missing dancer has been dealt with by local police as an open-and-shut case. But Posie soon discovers it is anything but. And she suspects foul play.

And as the snow falls, and Christmas lights go up, secrets are revealed, and Posie becomes involved in perhaps her most personal case so far. She becomes aware that danger lurks at ‘The Mermaid’, and not just for Rufus.

A murderer is on the loose.

The Answer to His Prayers by Ellen KirschmanThe Answer to His Prayers by Ellen Kirschman:

WHO READS PEOPLE BETTER—A COP, A CON, OR A VERY SHREWD SHRINK?

A down-and-out, wheelchair-bound lonely man calls 911 from a trailer that’s just burst into flames. The tragic fire claims the man’s life. It seems like an accident until the cops find a few arguments against that theory. And another puzzler — the dispatcher seems to be keeping some dangerous secrets…

Police psychologist Dot Meyerhoff, on call to counsel police station employees, soon finds herself trying to help the traumatized dispatcher. But as the action-packed investigation accelerates, Dot can’t help but get drawn into an ever-expanding series of crimes seemingly orchestrated by the scariest prison mastermind this side of Hannibal Lecter.

As Dot helps track down the possible arsonist, she proves herself a sensitive yet doggedly persistent sleuth — even when ordered to mind her own business. The gripping case drags her through the seedy underbelly of her small town, and finally to the local prison. During a couple of risky trips to the lockup, she becomes reacquainted with the imprisoned puppetmaster, who also happens — coincidentally? — to be a menacing old friend…

Colleagues and friends keep warning her away from the ruthless and powerful criminal, which is excellent advice, right? If only good advice were easy to take…

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.

The Truth Lies by Duane LindsayThe Truth Lies by Duane Lindsay:

FIRST FIRE ALL THE LAWYERS — THEN PLAN A PRISON BREAK

While unwinding from her most recent criminal masterwork, one-of-a-kind con artist Dani Silver receives some harsh news: her much beloved brother has gone missing. Dani immediately uses her ample resources to dig up his whereabouts: it turns out he’s stuck in prison after being framed as a drug dealer. After being railroaded, the poor guy got doomed to a life sentence in solitary confinement.

Dani won’t stand for this—he’s her favorite brother, after all, and and not only that, just about everybody’s favorite person. A great guy who’s the exact opposite of Dani and her infamous grifter father—an honest man.

And sure enough, it turns out he not only saw something he shouldn’t have–he has proof. Hence the infinite jailtime.

Easy peasy, then—all Dani has to do is assemble a crack team to perform the most unthinkable of cons: a jailbreak. And then clear her brother of his alleged crimes. And incidentally somehow make some cash while doing it—because crack jailbreak teams don’t come cheap.

A recipe for a truly rollicking ride.

Slow Burn by Terrence McCauleySlow Burn by Terrence McCauley:

New York City – August 1932

Caught between the Great Depression and a massive heatwave, New York is a city on the edge. Businesses close up shop, breadlines grow longer, and riots are almost a daily occurrence.

When corrupt NYPD Detective Charlie Doherty is assigned to investigate a dead body in a flophouse, he knows there’s more here than meets the eye. He quickly discovers that the girl’s death is tied to one of the most powerful families in New York, and a kidnapping case that could tear the city apart.

In a chase that takes Doherty from the mansions of Fifth Avenue, to the slums of the Lower East Side, all the way to City Hall itself, Doherty is in a race against time to find the people responsible for putting his city on a slow burn.

Dusk Corners by Dan PadavonaDusk Corners by Dan Padavona:

It takes a killer to catch a killer.

Logan Wolf was the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s most-respected profiler. Then a serial killer murdered his wife and tore his life apart. Now he’s a vigilante fugitive, hiding from the FBI while he hunts the nation’s deadliest criminals.

When a college student and her boyfriend vanish in West Texas, Wolf suspects the Devil’s Rock killer. But the FBI hasn’t captured the murderer, and after a decade of terror, the trail is turning cold.

Posing as the missing girl’s uncle, Wolf investigates the tiny town of Dusk Corners, the last place anyone saw the students alive. But the local sheriff doesn’t trust Wolf, and it’s just a matter of time before he learns Wolf’s true identity.

To solve the mystery, Wolf must dodge the FBI and power-hungry sheriff. But a killer deadlier than any he’s encountered lies in wait.

In Dusk Corners, danger lurks in every shadow.

Dog's Waiting Room by Neil S. PlakcyDog’s Waiting Room by Neil S. Plakcy:

Two parents die and two families mourn, in very different ways.

Amateur sleuth Steve Levitan and his clue-sniffing golden retriever Rochester face two deaths in the 12th full-length novel in this long-running series. An Alzheimer’s patient slips away from home on his own and tumbles into the Delaware River. And then Steve’s love Lili suffers the crushing loss of her mother in a Miami Beach hospital.

Eckhardt Lalor left behind a fortune in real estate, a fractured family, and a bitter legacy as a city slumlord. Does that add up to murder? There’s no question of what killed Benita Weinstock—a dodgy heart—but her death rocks her daughter’s world, and Steve’s.

It will be up to Rochester to solve the crime and heal his humans in this new mystery with heart — and fur!

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.

All Ahead Full by Wayne StinnettAll Ahead Full by Wayne Stinnett:

Jesse McDermitt discovers an environmental nightmare of deception and greed taking place in Central America. A cartel is branching into smuggling things other than drugs. And they’re doing it quite effectively.

The Honduran rain forests and its inhabitants are at peril. The cartel needs hidden places to grow coca, used in the manufacture of cocaine. The exotic and endangered hardwood trees are cut and sold on the black market, along with any creature found dwelling deep in the humid jungle.

Environmental activists in the area who try to intercede are swiftly dealt with in the manner the cartel deals with anyone who stands between them and the almighty dollar—with a sharp machete.

Having so many moving parts and numerous smuggling routes, can Jesse and the crew of Ambrosia, on a dive vacation in the Bay Islands of Honduras, be able to make a difference? Or will the beautiful reef surrounding the island of Utila be Ambrosia’s grave?

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Two new historical horror tales just in time for the holidays: The Witchfinder’s Apprentice and The Solstice Horror

Here is the final new release announcement for 2021. And it’s even a double new release announcement for what turned out to be a new series entitled Witchfinders.

The genesis of this series was this post by horror author Grady Hendrix at com, wherein Hendrix say that the depiction of criminal profilers in popular culture is closer to 17th century Puritan witchfinders than to actual profilers. So I thought, “Why not write a story that’s Criminal Minds, but with Puritan witch hunters?”

That story was The Witchfinder’s Apprentice and features a quartet of witchfinders that is very loosely based on the male members of the Criminal Minds team. Matthew Goodson, the titular appretice, is based of Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and sticks closest to the character in the TV show. Gideon Jacobs is based on Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) with a dash of Inigo Montaya from The Princess Bride (also played by Patinkin) thrown in. Master Caine Hopkins is based on Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) and Fear-God Moody is based on Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), though in the case of the last three nothing except the physical description remained of the Criminal Minds characters (and in the case of Fear-God not even that, because Shemar Moore is handsome, while Fear-God is scarred), largely because the Criminal Minds characters are heroic figures, while the witchfinders are very much not.

Criminal Minds is a mystery show at heart, so I gave my witchfinders a mystery to solve and sent them to the small Massachusetts town of Redemption, which is beset by a wave of mysterious illnesses and deaths. There is a natural explanation for these illnesses and deaths, but to a witchfinder, there can only be one solution to every mystery, namely “witches did it.”

And so the witchfinders arrest two teenaged girls, including Grace Pankhurst, whose torture and impending execution plunges Matthew into a crisis of conscience and faith.

So prepare to meet…

The Witchfinder’s Apprentice
The Witchfinder's Apprentice by Cora BuhlertMassachusetts in the Year of the Lord 1695: Matthew Goodson, eighteen years of age, is apprenticed to a team of experienced witchfinders, who travel from village to village and town to town to uncover witchcraft, examine the evidence, interrogate suspects and stamp out evil.

When a wave of mysterious illnesses and deaths hits the town of Redemption, the witchfinders are called in and quickly arrest a suspect, a teenaged girl named Grace Pankhurst.

Matthew has long been having his doubts about the witchfinders and the righteousness of their mission. The interrogation of Grace brings those doubts to a flashpoint. But is Grace truly innocent or has Matthew fallen under the spell of a comely witch?

This is a historical horror story of 5500 words or approximately 20 print pages by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

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 iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio and XinXii.

The Witchfinder’s Apprentice came out in October, though I forgot to mention it here. It was well received and readers were asking about a sequel.

Meanwhile, I was trying to come up with an idea for my annual holiday and came up empty, because I just didn’t feel the holiday spirit and wasn’t in the mood for a fluffy Christmas romance. Instead, my brain wanted to write horror or sword and sorcery.

Since sword and sorcery tends to have prehistoric or secondary world settings, a sword and sorcery Christmas story was out. However, a holiday horror story should be possible. Matthew and Grace were also still very much on my mind, so I came up with the brilliant idea to write a historical holiday horror story as a sequel to The Witchfinder’s Apprentice.

This plan quickly ran into a problem, because it turned out that the Puritans, notorious killjoys that they are, did not celebrate Christmas and that Christmas was actually banned in Massachusetts for several years. However, there were not just Puritans (and witches) living in Massachusetts, so I could have a Christmas celebration after all and also give Matthew yet more reason to question the prejudices installed by his Puritan upbringing.

Of course, the witchfinders – now reduced to a trio – reappear as well and they’re as dogged and fanatical as ever. We do learn a bit more about Fear-God Moody – who, even though he is the executioner and torturer, is the most sympathetic of the three witchfinders – and how he came to join the witchfinders in this story.

While I was writing The Solstice Horror, I was rereading the adventures of Robert E. Howard’s Puritan avenger Solomon Kane (who is a fascinating character, about whom I should write a standalone post some time), so there is a bit of Solomon Kane in this story as well.

In The Witchfinder’s Apprentice, the only supernatural element was that some witches are real. The Solstice Horror, however, introduces a more overt supernatural element in the form of Lovecraftian monsters. For where would you find them, if not in New England?

So follow Grace and Matthew, as they face down…

The Solstice Horror
The Solstice HorrorMassachusetts 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.

More information.
Length: 11100 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 iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio and XinXii.

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Magic under the Mistletoe 2021 – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Speculative Fiction

Magic under the Mistletoe banner

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, cozy fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction, space opera, time travel, post-apocalyptic fiction, Steampunk, LitRPG, plenty of dragons, vampires, werewolves, were-cougars, were-reindeer, elves, Krampuses, telepathic detectives, crime-fighting witches, Puritan witch hunters, magical cats, holiday body swaps, orphans in danger, fated mates, 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.

Christmas after the End of the World by Cora BuhlertChristmas after the End of the World by Cora Buhlert

It’s Christmas… five months after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted, blacked out the sun and covered most of the western US in ash.

Thirteen-year-old Natalie, her younger brother Liam, baby Olivia and family dog Bud are among the few still holding out in the evacuation zone.

Day to day survival is hard enough, but Natalie is determined to give Liam and Olivia an unforgettable Christmas… after the end of the world.

And who knows, maybe they’ll even get a true Christmas miracle…

This is a post-apocalyptic holiday novelette of 10000 words or approx. 35 print pages.

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.

The Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora BuhlertThe Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora Buhlert:

A legendary monster threatens Christmas…

It’s Christmas time in the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, which is also known as the “Harbour of the Weird”.

Rachel Hammersmith is new to Hallowind Cove and has recently taken over the bakery on Gloomland Street, after Marie Percht, the previous owner, retired.

However, Marie Percht didn’t tell Rachel everything, when she retired. She didn’t mention the fog, for starters, and she also didn’t mention that her bakery plays a vital role during the Christmas season and not just as a provider of holiday cookies either.

For the Krampus, a yuletide monster from alpine folklore, is coming to Hallowind Cove. And the only thing that can keep him from wrecking the town and ruining Christmas are pastries baked according to a secret recipe. Unfortunately, Rachel has no idea what the recipe is.

However, with the help of fellow newcomer Paul MacQuarie, Rachel will bake up a storm to pacify Krampus and save Christmas.

Revolt at the North Pole by Cora BuhlertRevolt at the North Pole by Cora Buhlert:

Rebellion is brewing at Santa’s compound at the North Pole. The elves and the reindeer both are overworked, underpaid and angry, so they unite to take down Santa. However, there’s still Santa’s most fearsome enforcer, the horned, clawed and fanged holiday monster known only as Krampus…

This is a short holiday horror story of 3900 words or approx. 14 print pages by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

 

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.

 

Frosted Croakies by Sam CheeverFrosted Croakies by Sam Cheever:

’Tis the season for great folly…walawalawalawalala…ribbit.

It’s Christmas time at Croakies. The tree is up. The stockings are hung. And Christmas tunes are turning the atmosphere jolly. After a tumultuous Samhain, I’ve found my chi again and I’m starting to enjoy the season of love and giving.

Yeah. You probably know how this is going to end.

When Sebille suggests I open the bookstore up to a small holiday party, I foolishly agree. How was I supposed to know that the hobgoblin would decide it would be fun to hide everybody’s stuff? Or that we’d be hit with a freak winter storm that confined everybody inside for the duration. Or that a “You’re me but who am I?” spell would be released inside the shop, switching everybody’s identities and creating general chaos and hysteria?

I could probably deal with all that if it weren’t for the fact that my friend, Lea…the one person who could possibly reverse the spell…was ensconced in SB the parrot, with no opposable thumbs for spelling.

And me? Of course, I’m sitting fat and squishy inside Mr. Slimy. Thank goodness Rustin isn’t currently in residence, or it would be really crowded in here.

Who spelled my party? What do a pair of Santa’s elves have to do with it? And why have old enemies suddenly become new friends? I apparently have a little holiday mystery to solve inside Croakies, and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it with everybody mixed up and some of us human.

Have I told you I hate this season?

Ribbit!

The NutMacKer Sweet by Kate DanleyThe NutMacKer Sweet by Kate Danley:

The holidays are the sweetest time of year, but not for Maggie and Killian who must return the Nutcracker prince to his proper place when someone tries to make sure the show does not go on.

Come along on this Maggie MacKay Holiday Short Story Special.

 

 

A Merry Maggie Messmas by Kate DanleyA Merry Maggie Messmas by Kate Danley:

Everyone wonders how Santa is able to do his job, but when one of his helpers goes rogue and starts spreading TOO MUCH holiday cheer, it will be down to Maggie and Killian to hop on that sleigh and bring the world a silent night.

A part of the Maggie MacKay: Holiday Special short story series. This stands independently from the main Magical Tracker series and can be read at any time and in any order. It’s just an excuse to hang out with some of your favorite characters.

WARNING: This short story contains cussing, brawling, and unfestive behavior.

Merry Chris Witch by C.K. DawnMerry Chris Witch by C.K. Dawn:

Magic is real and dreams do come true. Be careful what you WITCH for.

Chris Heron is a witch who loathes the holiday season. What’s even worse is getting expelled from private coven school on Halloween and having to attend public magic school, where Santa’s son is visiting and has all the girls in a frenzy. Fairies, mermaids, elves, even the trolls are swooning over Kris Kringle Jr. All except for one girl, and she’s a North Pole mystery that has Chris intrigued. Will he be able to put his prejudices aside in time to see the true magic all around him?

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.

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?

Crimson Yuletide by Rachel FordCrimson Yuletide by Rachel Ford:

Autumn gone off to sleep
And winter her secrets no more keep
Rises he from the deep
Flesh to flay and flesh to eat

Twelve days of Christmas. Twelve days of terror and death.

An ancient evil prowls the quiet streets of Wixcombe. An old man is murdered in the town square. Children disappear in the night. Villagers report sightings of Krampus, the Christmas demon.

For siblings Nan and William Fitzgerald, the season began with a promise of new loves and Christmas magic. But they find themselves in the eye of the storm when their godfather becomes the prime suspect in the killings.

To protect both the women they love and their village, the siblings must discover Krampus’ true identity. But they might not like the answers they find…

DLC by Rachel FordDLC by Rachel Ford:

A fully immersive virtual reality system. A beta testing opportunity that’s the stuff of dreams – or a nightmare that may never end.

Jack Owens is stuck in Marshfield Studio’s newest virtual reality RPG. To escape, he needs to win the game. He knows that. He’s got his team of heroes back, and he’s finally comfortable with the world. He’s ready.

Except someone at Marshfield Studios forgot to cancel the holiday downloadable content test. Jack goes to sleep in a medieval fantasy world, and wakes up in some kind of bizarre winter wonderland where his quest – and his way home – plays second fiddle to holiday festivals, winter pets, and seasonal quests.

But Jack better not let his extended stay or the holiday doldrums distract him too much. Because there’s far worse waiting for him in this magical nightmare than a lump of coal in his stocking…

Christmas Hunger by Piper FoxChristmas Hunger by Piper Fox:

After three days of hosting his vampiric brothers and their mates, Magnus is at his wit’s end. A sworn viking bachelor, he needs a break from the happy couples.

The moment the doorbell rings, he takes the chance to get away from it all. Only to come face to face with a beautiful delivery woman who stirs his blood in a way that only a fated mate could.

Donna knows her vision is true the second she meets Magnus’ gaze. Knowing he could send her away before they really get to know each other, she’s careful to hide her true intentions. She wants Magnus to get to know the real her, not just her witchly title.

Magnus has no interest in being tied down to any woman, fated mate be damned. But her sexy confidence and alluring smiles might just have Magnus’ resolve faltering. The moment he has her in his arms, the pull is too strong. He knows giving into his need, even just for the evening, could lead to more than the vampire is willing to give.

Once her true identity is revealed, Magnus must decide whether the sassy, sexy Donna is worth sacrificing his independent bachelor lifestyle for the love of a witch.

Starlight Web by Yasmine GalenornStarlight Web by Yasmine Galenorn:

Moonshadow Bay…where magic lurks in the moonlight, and danger hides in the shadows.

One month before January Jaxson turns 41, her husband ditches her for a trophy wife. Adding insult to injury, he steals the business she helped build, and kicks her out during the holidays. So when her best friend Ari suggests she move back to Moonshadow Bay—a quirky, magical town near Bellingham WA—January decides to take the plunge.

Born into a family of witches, January accepts a job at Conjure Ink, a paranormal investigations website. The job’s right up her alley but she doubts that everything reported to Conjure Ink really exists. That is, until she’s sent out on her first case.

An abandoned asylum once housed a murderer, who killed an entire family one Yuletide Eve. It’s rumored that every December he returns to haunt the woodland around the asylum, seeking to add new members to his supernatural family. January’s sure it’s an urban legend, but when new victims show up with no logical explanation for their deaths, Conjure Ink sends her in to investigate. Suddenly January finds herself in over her head, staring directly into the shadowed world of the Veil.

Now, January must not only navigate the new life she’s trying to build, but the paranormal beasties she’s sent out to explore, as well as a hot new neighbor, who seems to be hiding a shadowed past of his own.

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.

Angels and Amulets by Nicole GrotepasAngels and Amulets by Nicole Grotepas:

If there’s a way to spoil something, the villains of the 6 Moons will find it.

There’s no rest for the weary. Just when Holly Drake takes a break from searching for more information about her father, a Christmas-related heirloom vanishes. Sure, it’s Christmas on the 6-Moons, but Holly can’t relax. Neither can her team.

Fate forces them to give up their cozy fires, mulled drinks, and holiday feasts to race across the harsh volcanic terrain of the planet Kota to win back the prize before it’s destroyed. If they can’t save the heirloom, the already strained diplomatic relations between humans and the Centau will snap.
If they don’t save Christmas, who will?

Angels and Amulets is a Christmas novella set in the 6 Moons universe.

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.

Fur-miliar Felines by Harper LinFur-miliar Felines by Harper Lin:

Three witches and their magical cats solve paranormal murder cases in the mystical town of Wonder Falls.

It’s Christmastime, but something strange and sinister is in the air. Treacle, Cath’s courageous black cat, can’t see what it is, but he feels a dangerous presence out there in the snow-blanketed streets.

Aunt Astrid also feels dark ripples in the dimensions. The Greenstone witches suspect this creature is somehow tied to the disappearance of two high school students. Soon, one of them turns up dead, half-eaten.

The holiday spirit is in full effect in Wonder Falls, but so is a puzzling and gruesome murder mystery.

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.

The Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona MarpleThe Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona Marple:

What if Father Christmas is on the naughty list?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mystic Springs, but all is not still or calm with the department store Santa.

The amateur dramatics club is full of big egos and legends-in-their-own-heads, so their spats aren’t unusual. But when the theatre owner is shot dead during the Christmas play, it’s Santa who pulls the trigger.

With the arrival of an unwelcome ex, a petition to end Discrimination Against Spirits, and a second attack by St Nick, the chances of a quiet Christmas seem to be quickly disappearing.

Has Santa really gone bad? Or is there more to it?

Town medium Connie and her dead sister Sage are both avoiding their own festive conundrums. A mistletoe murder is just the distraction they need.

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.

A Curse for Christmas by P.A. MasonA Curse for Christmas by P.A. Mason:

Christmas back home in Arkansas sounded like a chance to put my feet up for a few weeks. Little did I know that a magical calamity would threaten the big day.

You know the real kicker? It was Mom—a renowned magical healer—who came down with a mystery malaise on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t remember a time where she had anything worse than a sniffle. To see her bedridden scared me to my core.

To examine the facts and solve the case, I had to think fast before Mom’s condition got any worse. With a new werewolf beau in her life, half the town of Tumbling Springs were whispering behind Mom’s back, the loudest of them a hex witch with a nasty view of weres. On the other hand, a new business rival in the next town over had Mom’s healing services on the rocks. The question was—did either witch have enough motive to do something as awful as all that to Mom?

If you enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries with a seasonal Christmas flair, this holiday special is for you.

A Little Mistletoe and Magic by Marianne MoreaA Little Mistletoe and Magic by Marianne Morea:

Done with grieving the loss of her family, Jenny Mitchell is looking for a fresh start. Life as she knew it is over, but what waits for her in the town of Whisper Falls is more than just quaint charm and an Inn no one wanted. Her near death experience awakens senses she didn’t know she possessed. Senses that both scare and fascinate her, especially when they bring her face to face with a sexy, supernatural truth that spells more than just second chance romance. Sparks fly under the mistletoe, and there’s no escaping the magic of the season, or the cougar shifter destined to help her through the darkness and mend her broken heart, in this modern twist on a holiday classic.

Christmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri MoultonChristmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri Moulton:

A small town has held on to their traditions and celebrates Christmas as if it were 100 years ago…which reporter Jake Logan finds surprisingly charming, but wonders if it’s too good to be true.

Jake has traveled the world but never really felt at home, until he spends time in a town that has its own unique way of celebrating the holidays. The longer he stays, the more he comes to like the town, the people, and one charming B&B owner in particular.

Lorna Sullivan has never met anyone like Jake, but she knows tourists don’t stay once the holidays are over. The more time she spends with Jake, the easier it is to wonder if this could be different…but there are secrets in every town and this one could destroy their chance at happiness.

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…

Flight Before Christmas by Christine PopeFlight Before Christmas by Christine Pope:

They’ll have to fly faster than reindeer to rescue Santa…and save Christmas.

Other than the pleasure of etching delicate tendrils of ice on windows, there’s not much Kai Ulfsen enjoys about life under Jack Frost’s rule. But when he’s roped into serving on a strike team to kidnap Santa and destroy Christmas, Kai’s had enough. Frost must be stopped.

Human witches, the only other beings on Earth with magical powers, are his only hope. He never expected his search would lead him a woman with sky-blue eyes and hair like a river of gold.

Stella Monroe is five minutes away from closing up her tea shop for the holiday when a vision of Nordic male perfection fills the doorway. And, even more surreal, this beautiful man with silver hair, aquamarine eyes, and…pointed ears?…needs her help.

Granted, she flies the fastest broom at the Witch Olympics, but is her magic equal to a task like this? But maybe with a little luck — and a bag of pixie dust — Kai and Stella can beat the clock, beat Frost at his own game, and save the happiest holiday of the year.

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.

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.

Created for Christmas by Joynell SchultzCreated for Christmas by Joynell Schultz:

Need the perfect man? No problem—simply create him!

Ivy wanted nothing more for Christmas than to have someone to come home to…to have a companion to chat about her day with, and someone to show off at her family holiday celebrations.

This Christmas, she’s not going to be alone! Ivy decides to create her perfect companion at Dream Droids, the premier robotics company specializing in sentient humanoids. Ivy spends weeks with Dr. Pierce, creating her dream man, from his appearance, personality, and even his knowledge of her life.

There’s just a few problems: when a special gift she purchased for her father goes missing, and Dr. Pierce agrees to help her find it, she finds herself falling for him. After getting her heart stomped on by her ex-fiancé, there’s no way she can open it up again…besides, she just created the perfect man.

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

All I Want For Christmas is Wicked by Lotta SmithAll I Want for Christmas is Wicked by Lotta Smith:

Trees decorated, stockings full of presents, and another case to crack!

The Rowling family is gearing up for another Merry Christmas, and Mandy has her hands full with holiday prep, but how can she get into the spirit of the season when the victim in her latest case isn’t a ghost?

Twenty years ago, during a Christmas Eve blackout, Kevin Holt, the husband of a rich heiress, lost his memory in a fall down the stairs of their mansion. Now he’s discovered evidence that someone might have been trying to kill him, and all he wants for Christmas is to find out who. Since the resident ghost of the Holt house didn’t witness the attack, Rick and Mandy will have to rely on old fashioned sleuthing (and a little help from Mandy’s paranormal pal Jackie) to find out which of the four suspects is the culprit.

Meanwhile Rick has been saddled with novice investigator Cameron Gibson (call him Ace!) the son of one of USCAB’s wealthiest clients. Ace is trying to catch the creep stalking a New York City fashion model, but despite wanting Mandy to mentor him, one ghostly encounter has him seriously spooked.

A run in with a biker ghost and dancers in danger complicate the case, but the big question on Mandy’s mind is why does little Sophie want a bear trap for Christmas? Find out in this wickedly merry holiday installment of the Paranormal in Manhattan Mystery Series.

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.

Elixirs and Elves by Astoria WrightElixirs and Elves by Astoria Wright:

The elves of Mount Vale are throwing a Christmas Party, and they’ve invited everyone! While the human residents of Moss Hill are excited to attend, many of the sidhe find the invitation beneath them. It’s no secret that they dislike mingling with non-faeries, but are they so hostile toward humans that one of them would commit murder? Carissa has never gotten along with the sidhe guard, but Varick of Vale has helped her on occasion. So, when he asks for her help after suspicion falls on him, it’s up to her to prove his innocence – if, that is, he isn’t guilty after all.

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Murder under the Mistletoe 2021 – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Mysteries and Crime Fiction

Murder under the Mistletoe banner

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, animal mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mysteries, Victorian mysteries, jazz age mysteries, WWII mysteries, romantic suspense, police procedurals, crime thrillers, pulp thrillers, men’s adventure, private eyes, masked crime fighters, telepathic detectives, thieving Santas, crime-fighting witches, crime-fighting bakers, crime-fighting watchmakers, crime-fighting wedding planners, crime-fighting dogs, crime-fighting frogs, magical cats, holiday body swaps, murder in circusses and aboard cruise ships, in ski resorts and cupcake shops, in small towns and the big city, missing children, missing presents, 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 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 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.

Murder at the Mayfair Hotel by C.J. ArcherMurder at the Mayfair Hotel by C.J. Archer:

It was the most fashionable place to stay in London, until murder made a reservation.

December 1899. After the death of her beloved grandmother, Cleopatra Fox moves into the luxury hotel owned by her estranged uncle in the hopes of putting hardship and loneliness behind her. But the poisoning of a guest on Christmas Eve throws her new life, and the hotel, into chaos.

Cleo quickly realizes no one can be trusted, not Scotland Yard and especially not the hotel’s charming assistant manager. With the New Year’s Eve ball approaching fast and the hotel’s reputation hanging by a thread, Cleo must find the killer before the ball, and the hotel itself, are ruined. But catching a murderer proves just as difficult as navigating the hotel’s hierarchy and the peculiarities of her family.

Can Cleo find the killer before the new century begins? Or will someone get away with murder?

The Season for Slaying by Hillary AvisThe Season for Slaying by Hillary Avis:

All is quiet at the Pines and Needles Christmas Tree Farm. Too quiet.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Darla Cooper is merrily preparing for a family holiday when she witnesses a shocking murder in the woods.

Luckily, her son is a police detective. The problem? He doesn’t believe her—and the body is missing.

Darla must prove that a murder occurred, but she has no body, no witnesses, and no evidence except her own memory—which, to be honest, isn’t that great these days. Plus, she didn’t have her glasses on.

Join Darla as she hunts down a killer…just in time for Christmas.

The Season for Slaying is a short holiday cozy mystery story full of suspense, snowflakes, and sleighbells.

The Reluctant Witness by S.L. BeaumontThe Reluctant Witness by S.L. Beaumont:

In the weeks leading to Christmas, Liam McArvey, lead singer of The Fury, falls for enigmatic Bella, a waitress at his local café. However, little does he know that she is hiding a dangerous secret. After a photograph of the couple, taken outside a London recording studio, surfaces on the internet, Bella panics and prepares to move on.

But Liam enlists his friend, and sometimes sleuth, Stephanie Cooper, to help Bella unravel events in her past. Together, they uncover a crime within a crime, and Bella must decide where her loyalties lie.

The Reluctant Witness introduces new characters into the Carlswick world along with some old favorites and can be read as a standalone.

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 Merry Murder at St. Bernard Cabins by Cindy BellA Merry Murder at St. Bernard Cabins by Cindy Bell:

A pet-loving sleuth. A perplexing murder. Will the murder be solved before the clues are buried forever?

Nikki Green is taking a break from walking and pet-sitting her loyal companions. She is going to a ski resort for the holidays for some quiet time with her family. To her delight her solo journey turns into a group excursion. However, the trip doesn’t go according to plan when Nikki lands up in the middle of a snowstorm.

Then things go from bad to worse when someone is murdered, and her brother is the prime suspect. With the roads impassable, and two inexperienced officers on the case, Nikki decides to take matters into her own hands and clear her brother’s name. She plows through a mountain of clues to reveal the truth before the snow melts and the murderer disappears forever.

It’s a slippery slope of suspects and danger as she goes hurtling towards the truth.

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.

 

Santa's Sticky Fingers by Cora BuhlertSanta’s Sticky Fingers by Cora Buhlert:

Normally, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd doesn’t deal with petty crime and pickpockets. But when the Christmas market in Kingston upon Thames is hit by a wave of thefts, Helen and her team are called in to help out.

Harry, a homeless man who always hangs around the market, seems to be the most obvious suspect. But there is also the mysterious man in the black leather jacket some witnesses claim to have seen. Or maybe, the thief can be found much closer to home…

Can Helen and her team crack the case in time for Christmas?

This is a holiday novelette of 7800 words or approx. 26 print pages in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, but may be read as a standalone.

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.

A Jolly Little Murder by Beth ByersA Jolly Little Murder by Beth Byers:

December 1925

Violet Wakefield is determined to dive into the holiday and enjoy every occasion. She’s going to see the live nativity, listen to Handel’s Messiah, and attend the Nutcracker ballet. She’ll cover her house in all the holly and lights. In fact, Vi wants nothing more than to put up the largest Christmas tree she can locate and stuff it with gifts. ??She little expects, however, to stumble across a crime in action. When she gets pulled into the madness, her biggest concern isn’t the crime, it’s keeping Jack from committing a holiday homicide.

Silver Bells and Murder by Beth ByersSilver Bells and Murder by Beth Byers:

December 1926

Violet and Jack take the train to Scotland with their friends for the holidays only to arrive and realize that the village has been exposed to scarlet fever. Given the delicate babies in their family, they determine to insulate themselves at the lodge they’d taken.

Nearly desperate for some peace and holiday cheer, they intend nothing but lolling by the fire, diving into cupfuls of eggnog, and feasting.

Only, once again, they discover a body. The worst of it is that they were alone at the lodge when the crime was committed. Is it possible that one of them is the killer? Join Vi and friends as they determine their loyalties and hunt a murderer.

A Frosty Little Murder by Beth ByersA Frosty Little Murder by Beth Byers:

Vi and friends are ready to dive into anything but London. The days have turned dreary, and these days they’re proactive about avoiding the blues. So, they pack their bags and head to the country where they’re hoping to find clear skies and cheery days.

They aren’t surprised, however, when a storm rolls in. They’re even excited when they’re invited to a local contest for the best snow sculpture. They find their way to the meadow, and they play in the snow. They drink an excess of cocoa. Except during the celebration, a body is found. A body with something they recognize. Maybe it was an accident? Evidence seems to suggest otherwise and–once again–the murderous hand of fate has struck.

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!

Reindeer and Robberies by Hope CallaghanReindeers and Robberies by Hope Callaghan:

The Christmas Season is in full swing on board the cruise ship, Siren of the Seas thanks to Andy Walker, the ship’s cruise director who is all in on his new holiday theme, “The Reindeer Games.”

Millie and her co-worker, Danielle, are tasked with taking charge of the holiday theme and everything is running smoothly until one of the reindeer comes up missing. But the missing reindeer is the least of the security staff’s worries after a string of thefts are reported.

Millie jumps in with an investigation of her own that soon turns south when a stalker surfaces, determined to make her life miserable or worse yet.

Despite escalating incidents from the deranged stalker, Millie sorts the clues and discovers a possible link between the mysterious thefts and her stalker that hits close to home.

Can Millie survive the holiday season…or even more terrifying…make it out alive?

Frosted Croakies by Sam CheeverFrosted Croakies by Sam Cheever:

’Tis the season for great folly…walawalawalawalala…ribbit.

It’s Christmas time at Croakies. The tree is up. The stockings are hung. And Christmas tunes are turning the atmosphere jolly. After a tumultuous Samhain, I’ve found my chi again and I’m starting to enjoy the season of love and giving.

Yeah. You probably know how this is going to end.

When Sebille suggests I open the bookstore up to a small holiday party, I foolishly agree. How was I supposed to know that the hobgoblin would decide it would be fun to hide everybody’s stuff? Or that we’d be hit with a freak winter storm that confined everybody inside for the duration. Or that a “You’re me but who am I?” spell would be released inside the shop, switching everybody’s identities and creating general chaos and hysteria?

I could probably deal with all that if it weren’t for the fact that my friend, Lea…the one person who could possibly reverse the spell…was ensconced in SB the parrot, with no opposable thumbs for spelling.

And me? Of course, I’m sitting fat and squishy inside Mr. Slimy. Thank goodness Rustin isn’t currently in residence, or it would be really crowded in here.

Who spelled my party? What do a pair of Santa’s elves have to do with it? And why have old enemies suddenly become new friends? I apparently have a little holiday mystery to solve inside Croakies, and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it with everybody mixed up and some of us human.

Have I told you I hate this season?

Ribbit!

Never Mess with Mistletoe by Edie ClaireNever Mess with Mistletoe by Edie Claire:

Frances Koslow was ecstatic to have her humble abode chosen as stop #3 on the Holiday House Tour. Then everyone drank the cider.

When Leigh’s parents’ house becomes a last-minute substitution on the regional garden club’s famous Holiday House Tour, Frances Koslow is thrilled. But the tour is tomorrow, there’s work to be done, and Frances’s dwindling and aging “Floribunda” chapter is in dire need of reinforcements. Worried about her mother’s blood pressure, particularly as sisterly tensions rise over Leigh’s Aunt Lydie’s upcoming Christmas Eve wedding, Leigh steps in to make sure the tour runs smoothly.

But perhaps Leigh isn’t the ideal choice for the task. Not when a fortune cookie has just portended the return of her infamous “bad karma.” Not when everyone knows the real reason the Floribundas have declined is because every remaining member is a whackadoodle. And not when someone’s idea of Christmas spirit is to add a little something extra to the sweet cider punch.

One dead Floribunda later, Leigh struggles to keep her family calm in the midst of swirling suspicions, flying accusations, and dubious warnings of biological warfare. But when someone threatens to silence her own all-too-curious daughter, mother-rage kicks in. Nobody is ruining Leigh’s family’s Merry Christmas. Not even her family.

The Christmas Key by Philippa Nefri ClarkThe Christmas Key by Philippa Nefri Clark

A hot summer Christmas Day is just around the corner in the Australian seaside town of River’s End. Beachside BBQs and sumptuous dinners are on the menu.

But Martha Blake is like a dog with a bone, determined to solve the last of the cottage mysteries. She and great-niece Christie begin a secret investigation.

Meanwhile, Thomas is busy with his own clues and enlists the help of his reluctant grandson, Martin.

At Palmerston House, loving new couple Elizabeth and Angus face their greatest obstacle, throwing their happy future into doubt.

With everyone working at cross-purposes, who will find themselves in the middle, cast decades back into memories of a terrible mistake?

Is love enough this time, as the beloved residents of River’s End deal with the fallout of the old mystery? Who, or what, will bring them all together in time for Christmas?

The Christmas Key is a heartwarming novella rounding off the Christie Ryan Romantic Mystery series with the last of the secrets revealed, and delightful Christmas magic to touch the favourite residents of River’s End. Read as a standalone, or start the series with The Stationmaster’s Cottage.

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.

Jingle Bells and Deadly Smells by Amber CreweJingle Bells and Deadly Smells by Amber Crewe:

“Each of the Sandy Bay mysteries are great! I think they just keep getting better.”

Christmas is that season…that season of pleasant surprises…delicious smells…and family and friends to share the holidays with.

This Christmas, Sandy Bay’s lovable bakery owner, Meghan Truman, gets a whole lot more than she bargained for…plus a dead body at the door of her favorite restaurant. Some people would rather sweep this murder under the carpet but something smells awfully fishy about the events surrounding it.

Will Meghan join Detective Irvin to find the murderer or will this event serve to etch unpleasant memories of this most wonderful time of the year?

Twelve Days by Mark DawsonTwelve Days by Mark Dawson:

John Milton hasn’t seen Elijah Warriner for three years. The last time they met, Milton’s efforts to keep the boy safe didn’t go exactly to plan. Now Elijah is a promising boxer, preparing for the bout that will take him to the big time. Milton decides that he will spend the week before Christmas in London so that he can watch the fight.

But Elijah’s burgeoning fame has brought him to the attention of old acquaintances with long memories and grudges to bear. They have noticed Elijah, too, and decide that now is the time to settle old scores.

Can Milton keep the young man and his mother safe, or will Elijah’s old running mates get to him first?

Swamp Santa by Jana DeLeonSwamp Santa by Jana DeLeon:

It’s Christmas in Sinful and Fortune is set to participate in all the local hoopla. A Christmas gala, caroling, and a sleigh ride are on the agenda. Murder is not. But when someone bumps off Santa, Fortune is aware a killer is lurking among the holiday cheer. But with no client and no reason to interfere with a police investigation, it looks as if Fortune, Ida Belle, and Gertie will have to sit this one out.Big and Little Hebert might be criminals, but they prefer no competition in their territory, especially someone brazen enough to kill a man at the Christmas gala. When they hire Fortune to investigate the man’s death, she gets her Christmas wish and Swamp Team 3 sets out to solve their final case of the year.

Trepalli's Christmas by Marcelle DubéTrepalli’s Christmas by Marcelle Dubé:

It’s Christmas eve day and Constable Marco Trepalli of the Mendenhall Police Department can’t wait to be off shift. He’s planning a big surprise for his girlfriend, Amanda. Something special. Something romantic.

Then a kid doesn’t return home after sledding and Trepalli forgets all about his plans in the mad scramble to mobilize search parties and interview the kid’s friends. And as hour after hour slips by with no sign of the boy, Trepalli braces himself for what could turn into the worst Christmas ever… for him and the kid’s family.

Claus for Celebration by Laura DurhamClaus for Celebration by Laura Durham:

Wedding disasters are one thing. A missing Santa (who is presumed dead) is quite another.

This is no normal holiday season for DC’s top wedding planners. Not only is the weather too warm for their winter wonderland wedding, but their neighborhood’s singing Santa, Kris Kringle Jingle, is missing. On top of that, Annabelle’s engagement party is looming, and someone seems to be sabotaging their wedding plans. Can the Wedding Belles and their colorful crew find Santa, save the wedding, and stop the person who’s trying to make their lives a holly, jolly catastrophe?

Claus for Celebration is the 15th standalone book in the hilarious Annabelle Archer Wedding Planner Mystery series. If you like larger-than-life characters, madcap capers, and an insider’s look at glamorous society weddings, then you’ll love Laura Durham’s award-winning cozy mystery series.

Buy now to cozy up to this funny, festive holiday mystery today!

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.

 

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?

Murder and the Mermaid by L.B. HathawayMurder and the Mermaid by L.B. Hathaway:

Sometimes the truth is as slippery and hard to grasp as a mermaid…

December, 1925

A dark, smog-filled London doesn’t seem very Christmassy, or exciting, but then Posie Parker, London’s premier female Private Detective receives an urgent call from one of her oldest friends; Rufus, Earl of Cardigeon.

Summoned to ‘The Mermaid’, an ancient hotel in Rye, on the Sussex Coast, in the heart of smuggling country, Posie, together with her husband, Richard, finds her friend in a real state.

Rufus has been promised answers about his missing wife, Dolly, but instead there’s simply a bizarre string of events: a priceless car mysteriously driven off a cliff; a missing Frenchman, and telegrams from men who simply don’t exist. While Richard Lovelace, Chief Commissioner of New Scotland Yard tries to work out if Rufus himself is the target of a complicated plot, Posie has her own investigations to make.

The local tragedy of a missing dancer has been dealt with by local police as an open-and-shut case. But Posie soon discovers it is anything but. And she suspects foul play.

And as the snow falls, and Christmas lights go up, secrets are revealed, and Posie becomes involved in perhaps her most personal case so far. She becomes aware that danger lurks at ‘The Mermaid’, and not just for Rufus.

A murderer is on the loose.

Spirit of the Season by Cynthia E. HurstSpirit of the Season by Cynthia E. Hurst:

In a season of peace and goodwill, it was shocking for residents of the Cotswold town to learn a stranger had been murdered in their midst. It was even more shocking that he died on the doorstep of the town’s police inspector’s home as he was entertaining guests on Christmas Eve. It appeared Daniel Keegan’s only failing had been to fall in love with the wrong person, something that sends a chilling message to two of the inspector’s guests. Newlyweds Jacob Silver and Sarah Simm are used to criticism, but does Keegan’s death mean their own lives may be in danger?

‘Spirit of the Season’ is the eighth book in the Silver and Simm Victorian Mysteries series.

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.

 

 

 

Big Top Treachery by CeeCee JamesBig Top Treachery by CeeCee James:

Christmas at the Circus!

What if the holly berry meant more than a cozy Christmas tradition? When Trixie, billed by the Concello circus as the world’s smallest Lady Godiva, finds a large ruby on the circus grounds, she thinks she’s one of the luckiest people on earth. Until she learns the stone’s past is stained as holly-red as the jewel itself. ??

When the police get involved, suspicion is cast not just on Trixie, but on her other friends at the circus. ??The pressure is on with Trixie getting threats from an anonymous source. When the calliope player is murdered, Trixie knows the threats she has been receiving aren’t just to scare her… she’ll be the next to die if she can’t find out the truth about the stone and unmask the murderer?

Eggnog, Extortion and Evergreens by Tonya KappesEggnog, Extortion and Evergreens by Tonya Kappes:

Welcome to Normal, Kentucky~ where nothing is normal. A Campers and Criminal Mystery Series is another brainchild of USA Today Bestselling Author Tonya Kappes. If you love her quirky southern characters and small town charm with a mystery to solve, you’re going to love her new cozy mystery series!

Mae West is busy this Christmas season. She’s running around Normal getting the town ready for the first Winter Festival, which she hopes will become an annual event for the tourist town.

The freshly fallen snow sure does make the Daniel Boone National Park beautiful and ready for Santa’s arrival, but it also makes the curvy roads through the forest very slick. Unfortunately, Mae finds out just how slick the roads are after her car slides off the road and hits a tree, putting Mae into a deep coma.

Mae is one of the lucky patients who does wake up and happy to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.

One of the patients in the emergency room with Mae didn’t die that night of natural causes, and Hank Sharp has himself a new homicide case on his hands.

Mae starts having memories about the fire that took her family and a memory of a murder plot that she thinks happened when she was in her coma. Only, she’s having a hard time distinguishing between the two memories and the clues seem to have blurred lines. There’s one thing she does know for sure, both incidents come with clues that neither were accidents.

Once again, Mae West with the help of the Laundry Club Ladies put on their ameatur sleuth cap to help solve the mystery of the murders before the killer sends her Christmas gift she can’t return.

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!

Fur-miliar Felines by Harper LinFur-miliar Felines by Harper Lin:

Three witches and their magical cats solve paranormal murder cases in the mystical town of Wonder Falls.

It’s Christmastime, but something strange and sinister is in the air. Treacle, Cath’s courageous black cat, can’t see what it is, but he feels a dangerous presence out there in the snow-blanketed streets.

Aunt Astrid also feels dark ripples in the dimensions. The Greenstone witches suspect this creature is somehow tied to the disappearance of two high school students. Soon, one of them turns up dead, half-eaten.

The holiday spirit is in full effect in Wonder Falls, but so is a puzzling and gruesome murder mystery.

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.

 

Murder on Holiday Lane by London LovettMurder on Holiday Lane by London Lovett:

It’s a warm and sunny Christmas season in Los Angeles. Things are slow at the Starfire Detective Agency, but Poppy is sure things will pick up after the holidays. When a pretty young starlet who works part-time as an elf at Santa’s Workshop on Holiday Lane is murdered, Poppy’s close friend, the up and coming director, Wyatt Blaze, becomes a prime suspect. Wyatt needs Poppy’s help to find the real killer. Gossip travels fast in Tinseltown and an arrest, even a false arrest, will destroy Wyatt’s career for good.

Now Poppy must start from the very beginning to find out just who had it out for the elf. Is it possible Santa himself is behind the diabolical deed?

Iced Inn by Karen MacInerneyIced Inn by Karen MacInerney:

It’s Christmastime at the Gray Whale Inn. The inn’s kitchen smells like ginger and spice, the ground is frosted with snow, and wedding bells are about to ring out for innkeeper Natalie’s favorite niece, Gwen. It’s a joyous time… until the families of the bride and groom descend on the island, bringing nasty tempers and a wicked winter storm with them. Add a baffling rash of thefts, a dash of romantic intrigue, and an unexpected power shutdown, and Natalie’s plans for a magical season are looking more like a recipe for disaster. Can Natalie find the missing gifts before the big holiday? And will the happy couple make it to the altar… or will the wedding go up in flames?

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.

The Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona MarpleThe Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona Marple:

What if Father Christmas is on the naughty list?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mystic Springs, but all is not still or calm with the department store Santa.

The amateur dramatics club is full of big egos and legends-in-their-own-heads, so their spats aren’t unusual. But when the theatre owner is shot dead during the Christmas play, it’s Santa who pulls the trigger.

With the arrival of an unwelcome ex, a petition to end Discrimination Against Spirits, and a second attack by St Nick, the chances of a quiet Christmas seem to be quickly disappearing.

Has Santa really gone bad? Or is there more to it?

Town medium Connie and her dead sister Sage are both avoiding their own festive conundrums. A mistletoe murder is just the distraction they need.

A Curse for Christmas by P.A. MasonA Curse for Christmas by P.A. Mason:

Christmas back home in Arkansas sounded like a chance to put my feet up for a few weeks. Little did I know that a magical calamity would threaten the big day.

You know the real kicker? It was Mom—a renowned magical healer—who came down with a mystery malaise on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t remember a time where she had anything worse than a sniffle. To see her bedridden scared me to my core.

To examine the facts and solve the case, I had to think fast before Mom’s condition got any worse. With a new werewolf beau in her life, half the town of Tumbling Springs were whispering behind Mom’s back, the loudest of them a hex witch with a nasty view of weres. On the other hand, a new business rival in the next town over had Mom’s healing services on the rocks. The question was—did either witch have enough motive to do something as awful as all that to Mom?

If you enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries with a seasonal Christmas flair, this holiday special is for you.

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.

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 on a Midnight Clear by Sara RosettMurder on a Midnight Clear by Sara Rosett:

A snowbound country mansion, a missing butler, and a Christmas case…

Olive and Jasper have never been closer—except in one area. Jasper is still reticent about his frequent disappearances from polite society. With the holidays approaching and no paying client on the books, Olive decides to shadow Jasper when he’s unexpectedly called away. Her search brings her to Holly Hill Lodge where an eclectic group has gathered to celebrate an old-fashioned English Christmas.

The guest list includes a celebrated lawn tennis champion, a fussy scientist studying snowflakes, a persuasive luggage salesman, a famous lady explorer, and the family’s eccentric aunt who has a fondness for the newfangled drinks called cocktails.

When the butler goes missing, Olive and Jasper must work together to solve the Christmas crime—as well as the secret Jasper hides.

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.

 

All I Want For Christmas is Wicked by Lotta SmithAll I Want for Christmas is Wicked by Lotta Smith:

Trees decorated, stockings full of presents, and another case to crack!

The Rowling family is gearing up for another Merry Christmas, and Mandy has her hands full with holiday prep, but how can she get into the spirit of the season when the victim in her latest case isn’t a ghost?

Twenty years ago, during a Christmas Eve blackout, Kevin Holt, the husband of a rich heiress, lost his memory in a fall down the stairs of their mansion. Now he’s discovered evidence that someone might have been trying to kill him, and all he wants for Christmas is to find out who. Since the resident ghost of the Holt house didn’t witness the attack, Rick and Mandy will have to rely on old fashioned sleuthing (and a little help from Mandy’s paranormal pal Jackie) to find out which of the four suspects is the culprit.

Meanwhile Rick has been saddled with novice investigator Cameron Gibson (call him Ace!) the son of one of USCAB’s wealthiest clients. Ace is trying to catch the creep stalking a New York City fashion model, but despite wanting Mandy to mentor him, one ghostly encounter has him seriously spooked.

A run in with a biker ghost and dancers in danger complicate the case, but the big question on Mandy’s mind is why does little Sophie want a bear trap for Christmas? Find out in this wickedly merry holiday installment of the Paranormal in Manhattan Mystery Series.

Christmas in Nuala by Harriet SteelChristmas in Nuala by Harriet Steel:

In the sixth instalment of this popular and charming series set in the 1930s amidst the rolling green hills of colonial Ceylon, the little town of Nuala is full of Christmas good cheer, until murder overshadows the festivities.

The mystery he needs to solve baffles Inspector de Silva. It’s just as well he has his wife, Jane, to support him in his race to unmask the villain and save an endangered romance.

If you love entertaining and absorbing mysteries, spiced with colourful characters and a dash of humour, don’t miss The Inspector de Silva Mysteries. Christmas in Nuala makes a great short read for the busy holiday season. Treat yourself to a copy today.

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!

Pineapple Gingerbread Men by Amy VansantPineapple Gingerbread Men by Amy Vansant:

Sheriff Frank asks newly-minted private detective Charlotte to help him crack the case, but she has no idea those darn gingerbread men will start showing up everywhere. What did Santa do that made them so angry? And what’s the secret in his colorful Christmas-themed bureau?

Charlotte is forced to split her time between searching for Santa’s killer and helping Declan’s crazy ex-Stephanie stop a corrupt district attorney in exchange for a book that could help solve more crimes in the future. She never thought she’d help calculating Stephanie with anything…but as this story comes to it’s shocking ending, you’ll find it could be Stephanie who’s finally bitten off more cookie than she can chew…

Tangled Destiny by Jenny WheelerTangled Destiny by Jenny Wheeler:

A promising proposal. A life-changing secret. Will she live out a lie or follow her heart?

New York, 1847. Elanora dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart Eustace. The proposal on her 21st birthday is everything she hoped for, until her fiancé’s father dispatches him to the West Indies. After the promise of a white Christmas with the man she loves evaporates, she stumbles upon a secret that could tear Eustace’s family apart…

After a sudden death further sends Elanora reeling, she’s as vulnerable as ever until a gifted photographer comes to her rescue. With the tragic love triangle forming before her eyes and the secret burning within her, she has an impossible Christmas choice. Will Elanora obey the powerful men who want to control her or will she trigger generations of consequences by exposing the truth?

Tangled Destiny is a prequel novella to the Of Gold & Blood historical mystery series.

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.

'Tis the Season to Be Murdered by Valerie Wolzien‘Tis the Season to Be Murdered by Valerie Wolzien:

The appetizers were to die for.

Exhausted after shopping for teenagers, struggling with cappuccino machines, and eating way too many cookies, Susan Henshaw is glad she hired “The Holly and Ms. Ivy” to cater her annual New Year’s bash.

But when half the team, the blond and buffed Z Holly, chef extraordinaire and notorious ladies’ man, is found strangled in a van full of helium balloons, Susan starts hunting for a killer—and a way to save her party.

Though kept in the dark by the police, Susan crashes the holiday parties of the area Hancock, nibbling her way through epicurean delights and sordid tales of sin. Will she discover if really,’Tis the Season to Be Murdered?

Elixirs and Elves by Astoria WrightElixirs and Elves by Astoria Wright:

The elves of Mount Vale are throwing a Christmas Party, and they’ve invited everyone! While the human residents of Moss Hill are excited to attend, many of the sidhe find the invitation beneath them. It’s no secret that they dislike mingling with non-faeries, but are they so hostile toward humans that one of them would commit murder? Carissa has never gotten along with the sidhe guard, but Varick of Vale has helped her on occasion. So, when he asks for her help after suspicion falls on him, it’s up to her to prove his innocence – if, that is, he isn’t guilty after all.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for November 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 October 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, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, cyberpunk, alternate history, horror, Norse mythology, Greek mythology, werewolves, zombies, aliens, cyborgs, psychics, elf rangers, space marines, the afterlife, first contact, alien abductions, crime-busting witches, killer clowns, witchy weddings, roadtrips with aliens, post-apocalyptic mermaids 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:

Woman of Destiny by Michele AmitraniWoman of Destiny by Michele Amitrani:

Not all gifts are meant to be opened.

In the workshop of the blacksmith god Hephaestus, the first woman comes to life. The Olympians name her Pandora, ‘All-Gifted,’ since each of them has endowed her with a gift: beauty, poise, self-possession and cunning, among others.

Zeus gives her two gifts: a burning desire to learn—and a jar she is ordered never to open.

Pandora is fostered by gods but raised to live among men. When she marries the Titan Epimetheus—brother of the gods’ worst enemy, Prometheus—her fate appears to be sealed.

Although her life with Epimetheus is full of happiness, Pandora is besieged by nightmares carrying omens of dark things to come: destruction, famine, death and the end of the young race of mankind.

With the fate of humanity at stake, will Pandora surrender to the destiny that haunts her, or challenge her nature and become what no god ever imagined she could be?

Stone Magic by Thea AtkinsonStone Magic by Thea Atkinson:

She’s a fraud. She’s a crook. But she’s no killer. Even if she’s being framed as one.

When three well-known psychics are murdered in her city, Brie Duncan starts to wonder if pretending to be magical is such a great idea after all. She’s no witch, but she does make good money using her fake powers to read her clients’ futures. Money that’ll do her no good if she turns up dead next.

So far, she’s managed to keep up the pretense, but when a gruff detective enters her shop, she fears she’s about to get busted. Unfortunately, his reasons for being there are far worse than she imagines.

Since she’s a member of the psychic community, he thinks she should be able to provide some insight into the murders and the victims. The trouble is, all the evidence seems to point in one direction, and unfortunately for Brie, those roads all lead to her…

Captain's Call by Odette C. BellCaptain’s Call by Odette C. Bell:

Two captains, one chance.

Misty Rogers has a problem. She has run into ancient alien technology – and it has… altered her. When Special Captain Matthew Armstrong runs into her on a dirt-bucket world, he’s thrown heart-first into the adventure of his life.

The Coalition faces a new threat, an emerging technology from a far-flung realm that threatens to destabilize the little peace they still have. When Matthew and Misty join forces to track it down, they face a threat like no other – an ancient force and one charming admiral standing behind it.

They will have one chance – and so will the rest of the universe. Team up, thrust their petty disputes and playful hatred aside, or die at the hands of the greatest threat the multiverse has seen.

Drone Rider by Ginger BoothDrone Rider by Ginger Booth:

A new-made cyborg, with laser-eyed attack bunnies.
A sentient AI with a secret.
As the AI Wars begin…

Betta Graham loves her work as a drone rider. By day, she operates animal drones remotely from her cubicle in dismal 22nd century Chicago Dome. She herds human migrants via her laser-eyed recon bunnies and attack dogs. By night, she meets her boyfriend in virtual. He’s too good to be true.

He claims his work is ‘classified.’

When Betta discovers rebels infiltrating her herds, an injury forces her to become a cyborg. Her world turns upside down. Nothing is as it seems, including Valentin.

Malicious AIs have gained control of cyberspace. They launch rocks in a kinetic strike against the Northern League domes. Only Betta and her cyborg team realize the danger in time, thanks to her renegade AI lover.

In the opening salvo of the AI Wars, can they deflect the rockfall and save Chicago?

Gritty non-stop cyberpunk action you can’t put down, with a likable kick-butt anti-hero. A miserable future collides with overpowered sapient AIs.

An Alliance Reforged by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. ChaneyAn Alliance Reforged by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. Chaney:

This is a new kind of war.

The MDS and allies have withdrawn from the CoH, and they now want to become the center of gravity for humankind.

The goal is to obtain localized wins, draw in more allies, and achieve victory no matter the cost.

With the alliance undone, Rev must fight a seemingly unwinnable war.

But Marines never quit. They never falter. They never give up.

Humanity is about to experience a pivotal turning point in its history—one that will culminate in a discovery so profound that it may very well change everything.

Any Witch Way by lindsay BurokerAny Witch Way by Lindsay Buroker:

Thanks to her grandmother’s legacy, Morgen Keller has spent the summer learning about her witch heritage. She’s also spent the summer falling for the sexy werewolf next door.

As an unemployed divorcée, she never expected to find love again, but the gruff Amar has been her protector since she arrived in Bellrock. He’s fierce, loyal, strong, and he hardly ever rolls his eyes at her vegetarian ways. He’s a keeper.

There’s just one problem:

Witches and werewolves are mortal enemies.

When her mentor turns her back on her, and the coven delivers an ultimatum, Morgen must choose between her heritage and the man—the werewolf—she’s falling in love with.

Cold Eyes by Peter CawdronCold Eyes by Peter Cawdron:

Cold Eyes is an original First Contact novel, written as a tribute to the 1974 science fiction classic, The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

The UN warship Magellan is twelve light-years from Earth, exploring a cold eye, a tidally-locked super-earth called Bee. At least two advanced, intelligent species evolved on the planet, but the crew’s attempts at radio communication result in garbled replies. No one is waiting for them in orbit. The crew has to figure out why. Any misunderstandings could lead to war.

Warning: The most absurd part of this story is true and accurately portrayed.

High Water Mark by Evelyn ChartresHigh Water Mark by Evelyn Chartres:

“When humanity has been driven into the sea, what lurks above the waves?”

Anna is a humanoid mermaid who spends her days with the local timekeeper until a podmate comes to her with a proposal. They hatch a plan to head out into the watery ruins of humanity in search of lost technology and materials. For a young mermaid living in the dredges of society, the promise of riches from such a find is just too big to pass up.

Armed with nothing more than an old map and some rusty road signs to follow, they are soon reminded that adventure often brings forth more than its fair share of rough waters. Her friend gets captured, leaving Anna alone in a world where mermaids are nowhere near the top of the food chain.

Follow Anna as she makes landfall and learns why her ancestors abandoned the surface. Lost in a world that is perpetually covered in a thick fog, Anna must navigate through what remains above the high-water mark. What will she find? An ally? A foe? Or will she find nothing more than death and destruction?

So You Survived the End of the World by K.C. CordellSo You Survived the End of the World by K.C. Cordell:

Earth may be a nightmarish landscape, but that’s no reason to stop the music.

Generations after civilization crashed and burned, life ain’t all doom and gloom for eighteen-year-old Sebastian Yun. He’s got his brilliant but prickly traveling companion, an epic tour bus to call home, and an endless supply of dope tunes.

From behind the wheel of his sweeeeet, double-decker ride, Sebastian lives for broadcasting his music to the end-of-world-weary masses. When making a pit stop at a small, dusty town, the self-made radio DJ runs into a shady old nemesis who totally kills his good vibes. This seasoned flimflam woman claims she can send the bloodthirsty creatures that prey on mankind back to hell.

But when Sebastian’s completely-not-selfish attempts to unmask the phony hit the wrong note, the very real danger is cranked all the way up to 11.

If you like charismatic characters, offbeat humor, and killer monsters, then you’ll love this YA twist on a post-apocalyptic future perfect for fans of Zombieland.

Steal the Wind by Jocelynn DrakeSteal the Wind by Jocelynn Drake:

Everything Caelan knows about his world is a lie.

A war is brewing. As the crown prince of Erya, it’s only natural that Caelan is sent on a secret diplomatic mission to support one of the kingdom’s allies. With his advisor, his bodyguard, and his best friend as traveling companions, what could go wrong?

Everything.

Everything goes wrong.

Now they are on the run, dodging assassins, setting secret meetings, and even making deals with a sleeping god.

So, this is probably a really bad time to cave to feelings he’s been fighting for his best friend. But Drayce has owned his heart for more years than he can count and if he’s going to die, shouldn’t he have just one kiss?

The fate of the world is on the line, and only Caelan holds the power to save them all.

Steal the Wind is the first book in the six-book Godstone Saga fantasy series and is not a standalone. The story contains explosions, secrets, cranky gods, hidden romance, a prince on the run, a possessive ex-boyfriend, magic, and lots of delicious angst.

Eli: A Ranger's Tale by Marc Alan EdelheitEli: A Ranger’s Tale by Marc Alan Edelheit:

A dangerous mission. A war of the Gods. An epic destiny.

When elven rangers Eli’Far and Mae’Cara are dispatched to hunt down the dangerous criminal Mik’Las, the mission seems simple enough. Mik’Las has committed the unthinkable crimes of murder and kidnap, and though he’s a former ranger and skilled in the deadly arts, Eli is confident they will bring him to justice.

But after Mik’Las flees into the human kingdom of the Castol, Eli and Mae find their mission suddenly wrought with complications. Lord Edgun, an oppressive man grinding his people under the heel of his boot, has left its people desperate. Things grow even more complicated when the elves run into Jitanthra, a strange human girl being hunted by Edgun’s men, and who has connections to a mystical outcast, an elf currently imprisoned by Edgun.

Soon, Eli and Mae find themselves unexpectedly drawn into the middle of a rebellion, a struggle between gods, and the opening stages of the dreaded Last War.

Madame Antic's Hotel Grotesque by Milo James FowlerMadame Antic’s Hotel Grotesque by Milo James Fowler:

In an alternate Victorian era, factory worker Anthony Reynolds seeks to improve his station in life for the sake of his young bride-to-be. Against his better judgment, he joins Richard, a gregarious coworker with social connections, for a night on the town after their late shift. Richard leads them deep into the city’s underworld to a brothel of sorts specializing in the illegal art of mutilation. There Anthony witnesses victims skinned, broken, and mangled without lasting damage due to a special drug that returns them to their original state. Anthony immediately wants to leave, but before he can, Constables raid the establishment. While trying to flee the scene, Anthony runs into a giant tumor of a man who spills a viscous fluid on him. Anthony is disfigured by the strange substance, and when the authorities capture him, he is unable to identify himself, let alone speak. What follows is a mind-bending adventure of mistaken identity, multiple realities, and paranoia as Anthony fights to reclaim a simple life he never truly appreciated but now wants more than anything else. Once he learns the truth of his world, nothing will ever be the same again.

Obviously, Aliens by Jennie GoloboyObviously, Aliens by Jennie Goloboy:

This is not how anyone expected their day to go…

What happens when Dana drinks the wrong soda on her way to Spokane? Before she knows it, she and Jay O’Toole are sharing the same body. Jay’s boyfriend, Adam, wants him back at any cost, and Dana just wants to find a new body for Jay so she can get to Spokane and pitch her new line of Doge of the Month collectibles to Rainbow Daydreams.

To do that and stop the bad guys, they’ll have to embark on a wild and hilarious road trip where they’ll meet up with a lot of aliens, the clone of Dana’s dead rock star dad, evil plumbing executives and their minions, government agents and talking corgis. Will Dana manage to get Jay out of her head, sell her Doge designs and maybe meet a decent boyfriend? Can Adam turn his skills as a thief and a hit man into a force for good and settle down with Jay and Jay’s new alien pals? Will the aliens be able to rebuild their lives on Earth? What are the corgis up to? Hop in and ride along to find the answers to these questions and more!

“Goloboy takes us on a delightful, madcap adventure full of fights, heists, schemes, riffs on pop culture, love, moments of self-discovery, and one of the most unconventional found families I’ve had the joy to encounter. You’ll never look at Queen Elizabeth’s corgis the same way again. Fans of Valerie Valdes’ “Eva Innocente” books and Catherine Valente’s “Space Opera” will love this too.” – John Appel, author of ASSASSIN’S ORBIT

“OBVIOUSLY, ALIENS is zippy, clever, and full of hilarious surprises, with a warm heart and an edge as sharp as cut glass — or the perfect meme.”
– Karen Osborne, author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion

Wicked Forever by Lily Harper HartWicked Forever by Lily Harper Hart:

Ivy Morgan-Harker has everything she’s ever wanted, including a devoted new husband and an upcoming break from her nursery business for the Michigan winter. Then the unthinkable happens.

Upon arriving at Morgan Nursery early one morning, she finds a body strung up in the middle of her happy sanctum … and there’s a message attached telling her that she’s next. The victim is the son of a well-known bar owner, a bar that Ivy helped bring down when she broke up a local prostitution ring.

Worried and afraid, her husband Jack Harker digs in deep, and what he finds has him terrified for his wife.

Somebody is holding a grudge regarding what happened at the bar, and the number of potential suspects looms large. Ivy and Jack must work together and follow a dark trail if they want answers … and it’s a trail that seemingly leads right back to them.

Ivy is a target. Jack is determined to keep her safe. Together, they’re an unbelievable force.

Ivy may be learning how to master her magic but it’s the darkest form of human nature working against her this time. To survive, she’s going to have to figure out who has the most to lose from the bar going down, and then she’s going to have to fight the enemy she didn’t see coming if she expects to get her happily ever after.

The big finale is finally here!

Starfighter Down by M.G. HerronStarfighter Down by M.G. Herron:

A rogue Overmind is on the loose.

A million souls hang in the balance.

The Solaran Defense Forces make the difficult decision to evacuate the colony of Robichar in order to avoid a direct confrontation. But when Captain Elya Nevers gets shot down during the evacuation, his squadron and the admiral in charge have to think fast to rescue their pilot before the Kryl overrun the system.

Fighting to survive in hostile territory, Captain Nevers discovers what the rampaging Overmind is really after—and it changes everything.

An extinct species known as the Telos fled the galaxy eons ago. What caused them to vanish in such a hurry? And more importantly, what ancient relics of alien power did they leave behind?

Exiles' World by Robert I. KatzExiles’ World by Robert I. Katz:

Rann McGaran and his older brother Gerald are the heirs to the McGaran dynasty, the traditional rulers of Garan, a small but wealthy city on the recently re-discovered world of Carnelian.

Rann’s telepathic abilities are weak, while Gerald is a prodigy. Gerald is the Director of the Garan Corporation, and he intends to keep his position, no matter what it takes. In three weeks, Rann will attain his majority, and must fight his brother for control of the Corporation, a fight he has little hope of winning, or leave Garan forever.

Thaddeus Franklin is the Imperial Ambassador to Carnelian, charged with bringing the new world into the Second Empire, and if that proves unfeasible, to help destroy it. The Empire is at war with an alien race that has so far proven to be unstoppable. Franklin is expendable, and he knows it.

Behind the scenes, plots are being hatched and ambitious men are weighing the odds, and Franklin and Rann McGaran find themselves suddenly major players in an unexpected game.

Garan seems an unlikely place to serve as the center of an Empire wide conspiracy, but what happens here could prove to be the Empire’s salvation…or its destruction.

Beneath the Veil by Martin KearnsBeneath the Veil by Martin Kearns:

In a battle between two ancient evils, can one naïve young man become the last hope against powerful creatures of legend?

David Dolan thinks he’s already got the world figured out. But when a collapsed bridge plunges him into the icy Hudson, he’s pulled deep into the deadly realm that exists between life and death. And with his earthly form trapped in a coma, he’s vulnerable to the horde of demons hell-bent on his utter destruction.

Traversing the road to the afterlife, David seeks the wisdom and skills he needs to fight the demonic forces reigning havoc on his allies above ground. But as one hellish threat closes in on his defenseless body, David must defeat another terrifying fiend waiting in the shadows to use him…

Can David escape the world beneath the veil in time to stop the bloodshed?

Beneath the Veil is the gripping first book in The Valor of Valhalla dark urban fantasy series. If you like reluctant heroes, infernal myths, and bloody epic clashes, then you’ll love Martin Kearns’s formidable foray into the unknown.

My Big Fat Witch Wedding by Amanda M. LeeMy Big Fat Witch Wedding by Amanda M. Lee:

The big day is finally here.

Bay and Landon’s wedding day has arrived.

Unfortunately, a tragedy stands in the way of their happily ever after, and it comes in the form of reports of an armed gunman at the local high school. Bay, ghosts at her side, braves the scene to save the kids … and uncovers something horrific.

She. The boy with the gun says he needs to find her. The teacher in the room with him says the same thing before taking his own life. There’s a magical being in Hemlock Cove, and she’s wielding a great deal of power as she forces people to kill in her name.

Bay refuses to back down, convinced that the magical explosion they can’t get under control at Hollow Creek is partially to blame. The problem is so big, another witch needs to be tapped to help them solve it.

Scout Randall, part of the Spells Angels group in Hawthorne Hollow, is more than happy to lend her services. She owes the Winchesters a favor after all. She simply might not be enough.

Bay and Landon have been through more than any couple should have to survive … and they’re not done.

Here comes the wedding … and Clove’s baby … and the worst enemy they’ve ever fought.

The Winchesters are strongest together, and this time they’re going to prove that there’s no keeping a good witch down.

I do? It’s coming, because nothing can stop these witches when love and family are on the line.

A Curse for Christmas by P.A. MasonA Curse for Christmas by P.A. Mason:

Christmas back home in Arkansas sounded like a chance to put my feet up for a few weeks. Little did I know that a magical calamity would threaten the big day.

You know the real kicker? It was Mom—a renowned magical healer—who came down with a mystery malaise on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t remember a time where she had anything worse than a sniffle. To see her bedridden scared me to my core.

To examine the facts and solve the case, I had to think fast before Mom’s condition got any worse. With a new werewolf beau in her life, half the town of Tumbling Springs were whispering behind Mom’s back, the loudest of them a hex witch with a nasty view of weres. On the other hand, a new business rival in the next town over had Mom’s healing services on the rocks. The question was—did either witch have enough motive to do something as awful as all that to Mom?

If you enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries with a seasonal Christmas flare, this holiday special is for you.

Defiant Space by Richard RimingtonDefiant Space by Richard Rimington:

One starship against the galaxy.

The crew of Fidelity are the only hope to save their planet from destruction.

When an armada of predatory warships comes to annex their world, the inhabitants of planet Vale Reach are forced to confront the dreaded threats that stalk their galaxy. Terrors lurk in the uncharted depths of space, ready to crush their world and enslave its people. A lone starship is sent on an impossible journey. But is it already too late?

Caladon Heit wants to prevent the destruction of everything he knows. Together, the ship’s crew must overcome the ferocious marauders and brutal empires that seek to eradicate them all.

In space, they will discover a harsh and remorseless environment. Unimaginable enemies await behind every moon and asteroid. The starship Fidelity will demand sacrifices from every crew member to reach its destination, as they encounter horrific enemies across unknown star systems.

Will they emerge with their resolve and their starship intact? Or will Fidelity and their homeworld be annihilated?

This is the first novel in the Infinite Void Series.

Send In the Clown by David J. SchmidtSend In the Clowns by David J. Schmidt:

Javier is a professional ghost-hunter who doesn’t believe in the paranormal.

When his editor asks him to visit a haunted “Clown Hotel” in the Nevada desert, it sounds like easy money. Sure, the hotel is hundreds of miles from civilization. Sure, it’s next door to an ancient cemetery and is full of hundreds of clown dolls—dolls that seem to have a mind of their own, according to some employees. Still, what’s the worst that could happen?

As Javier travels to the remote Clown Hotel, he learns of a strange outbreak of “clown sightings” across the nation. This is a time when things make less and less sense. When logic no longer applies, even for a skeptic like Javier.

This is when things fall apart.

Evasion by Glynn StewartEvasion by Glynn Stewart:

A captain on the run from the horrors of his past
A girl on the run from the trap of her present
A ship that will bring them together

Captain Evridiki “EB” Bardacki was once a nova fighter pilot for a nation he truly believed in. Betrayal and failure sent him into exile and flight. Now owner-operator of the freelance star freighter Evasion, he treks the edge of human space, taking cargos that lead him ever onward—but there are lines he will not cross.

When those lines are challenged, EB makes enemies of the most powerful crime syndicate for a hundred light-years. When one of their victims stows away on his ship, he finds himself pursued by an enemy with assets everywhere he turns.

Caught between the devil and the deep dark void, EB has run out of places to run—but in a child looking to him for salvation, he may have found something to fight for!

CONTENT WARNING: This novel deals with themes and details of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

An Impossible Abduction by Ed TejaAn Impossible Abduction by Ed Teja:

Investigations take a strange twist in southwestern New Mexico

When things blow up on Matt Cramer, they can be messy. This time, the mess might be blood. Or not. But he is a private investigator… or will be if he can ever get his office open. Right now that bloody mess is all over the walls.

Josh, the painter is missing and that’s not a good sign. Nor is the ominous attitude of Officer Ravenwalk, or the fact that the local coffee shop is owned by witches, or that Matt somehow has found himself partnering with a shaman and the blood, if it is blood, is somehow tied to a woman’s disappearance—a disappearance that might involve aliens.

After all, this is Silver City, New Mexico, where things are seldom truly wrong, but never quite right, either.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for November 2021


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 crime fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some October 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, holiday mysteries, humorous mysteries, historical mysteries, Regency mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, science fiction mysteries, psychological mysteries, crime thrillers, action thrillers, adventure thrillers, spy thrillers, legal thrillers, police procedurals, noir, police officers, amateur sleuths, spies, district attorneys, con artists, assassins, hitmen, human traffickers, serial killers, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, crime-busting psychics, murder and mayhem in New York City, London, Boston, Dublin, Louisiana, Wyoming, Michigan, New Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean and much more.

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

Stone Magic by Thea AtkinsonStone Magic by Thea Atkinson:

She’s a fraud. She’s a crook. But she’s no killer. Even if she’s being framed as one.

When three well-known psychics are murdered in her city, Brie Duncan starts to wonder if pretending to be magical is such a great idea after all. She’s no witch, but she does make good money using her fake powers to read her clients’ futures. Money that’ll do her no good if she turns up dead next.

So far, she’s managed to keep up the pretense, but when a gruff detective enters her shop, she fears she’s about to get busted. Unfortunately, his reasons for being there are far worse than she imagines.

Since she’s a member of the psychic community, he thinks she should be able to provide some insight into the murders and the victims. The trouble is, all the evidence seems to point in one direction, and unfortunately for Brie, those roads all lead to her…

An Inelegant Death by Blythe BakerAn Inelegant Death by Blythe Baker:

When Miss Jane Pemberton joins her uncle’s household as a companion to her invalid cousin, she does not realize what a dangerous world she is stepping into.

From the moment she enters the house, Jane senses secrets and unresolved tensions hanging like a shadow over the Pemberton family. Worse, citizens of the sleepy, seaside town of Ebonport do not lead the peaceful lives Jane expected. They seem to hide beneath shadows of their own, motivated by avarice and revenge.

When a shocking murder rocks this uneasy society, Jane vows to protect her uncle’s family—whether they deserve it or not.

Thing of Darkness by Beth Byers Thing of Darkness by Beth Byers:

Smith knows a lot of things. He knows about crimes and why they occur. He knows where to find the best pint of ale and the coffee houses that cater to the criminal class. He knows where to find people who don’t want to be found. And he has–somehow–come to know about the lives of the spoiled and well-connected.

What he doesn’t know is how someone even he finds objectionable has also slithered into the lives of his friends. Nor does he know when they became friends or why he’s worrying about them. Or what to do about their antics when it comes to his enemy.

He only wishes he were surprised when his wife, Beatrice, knows exactly what to do.

Dead for Life by Stacy Claflin and Nolon KingDead for Life by Stacy Claflin and Nolon King:

Caught between a CIA sting and a boss who may want him dead…

Brad Morris has finally been promoted at work. It seems like his hard work and talents have at last been recognized. But nothing is ever simple when you’re an assassin.

Especially not when you’re also secretly working for the CIA to spy on your boss and colleagues. And your oldest daughter will go to jail for murder if you fail.

When poor Hadley starts to crack under the pressure, Brad is forced to check her into a psych ward — but she’s still threatening to confess. Meanwhile, the CIA sting gets more complicated by Agent Bancroft’s insistence that Brad hire her to be BlueBlade’s newest assassin.

Can Brad and Hadley keep their stories straight long enough to get Bancroft the answers she’s looking for? And will Brad finally solve the mystery of his own father’s murder?

Swamp Sweets by Jana DeLeonSwamp Sweets by Jana DeLeon:

Just Desserts?

It’s November in Sinful and everyone is gearing up for Thanksgiving. But when Fortune, Ida Belle, and Gertie bag a body on their turkey hunting trip, the quiet enjoyment of fall is over. No one really knew Miles Broussard well, and as he’d recently sold the building his business was in to retire in another state, no one could explain how he’d ended up murdered and dumped in the bayou.

Ally Lemarque has been waiting her entire life to open her bakery, and that day finally arrived when she purchased the building from Miles. But when she visits the site late at night and interrupts an intruder, she comes away with a crack on her head and concerns about why someone would break into an empty building.

Fortune doesn’t think for a minute that Miles’s murder and the attack on Ally are unrelated. And Swamp Team 3 won’t rest until they’re sure Ally is safe.

Unknown Assailant by J.L. DoucetteUnknown Assailant by J.L. Doucette:

Dr. Pepper Hunt and Detective Beau Antelope team up again to investigate a tragic murder/suicide in a prominent ranch family in the small town of Farson, Wyoming. As they explore events leading up to the night of the disturbing crime they are drawn into the dark heart of a troubled family touched by a legacy of trauma.

 

 

 

Lettie Portman: The District Attorney by John EllsworthLettie Portman: The District Attorney by John Ellsworth:

Like the victims who pass through her office, this attorney’s own past demands justice.

When an eleven-year-old girl is savagely attacked by her mother’s live-in boyfriend, attorney Lettie Portman is called to the hospital. She meets a sweet, young girl whose only goal is to go to school and come home to a safe environment. But the abuse gets worse, the case goes to trial by jury.

And Lettie stumbles. To help this girl in need, she must first deal with her own abuse from years before.

Meanwhile, Detective Antonio “Tony” Reedy lets her know he’s interested in more than just investigating the abused girl’s case. But Lettie’s background makes it all but impossible to trust again. As Tony slowly begins to gain her confidence, can she learn to love again?

Mystery Woman by Mike FaricyMystery Woman by Mike Faricy:

US Marshall Jack Dillon, assigned to An Garda Síochána, Special Branch, and his partner, Paddy Suel, are sent down to County Cork to investigate the murder of American gangster Dennis ‘Punchy’ Sheehan. Things turn out to not be as suspected. CCTV evidence moves the investigation to Dublin where the body count begins to grow on an almost daily basis. The killer seems to be a step ahead of the investigators. With barely a handful of clues can Dillon possibly find whoever is responsible?

 

Wicked Forever by Lily Harper HartWicked Forever by Lily Harper Hart:

Ivy Morgan-Harker has everything she’s ever wanted, including a devoted new husband and an upcoming break from her nursery business for the Michigan winter. Then the unthinkable happens.

Upon arriving at Morgan Nursery early one morning, she finds a body strung up in the middle of her happy sanctum … and there’s a message attached telling her that she’s next. The victim is the son of a well-known bar owner, a bar that Ivy helped bring down when she broke up a local prostitution ring.

Worried and afraid, her husband Jack Harker digs in deep, and what he finds has him terrified for his wife.

Somebody is holding a grudge regarding what happened at the bar, and the number of potential suspects looms large. Ivy and Jack must work together and follow a dark trail if they want answers … and it’s a trail that seemingly leads right back to them.

Ivy is a target. Jack is determined to keep her safe. Together, they’re an unbelievable force.

Ivy may be learning how to master her magic but it’s the darkest form of human nature working against her this time. To survive, she’s going to have to figure out who has the most to lose from the bar going down, and then she’s going to have to fight the enemy she didn’t see coming if she expects to get her happily ever after.

The big finale is finally here!

Unextracted by Ethan JonesUnextracted by Ethan Jones:

When stabbed in the back, Jack bleeds rage.

When a burned deep-cover CIS agent needs extraction from Southern Europe before classified intelligence is exposed, Jack Storm is sent in. Soon, supposedly friendly MI6 begins to subvert the retrieval operation. Jack suspects he has become a pawn in a dirty political power play when he discovers the agent holds more than just CIS secrets.

Moreover, Jack needs to determine if his neighbor-turned-close-friend is playing a double game—or has his job truly left him incapable of trusting anyone? Now, with the extraction sabotaged and his friends-turned-enemies out for blood, how will Jack focus his rage after being betrayed… again?

Love and Bullets by Nick KolakowskiLove & Bullets by Nick Kolakowski:

Bill is a conman with a taste for high-end cars, beautiful suits, and top-shelf liquor. But he’s getting tired of the cons he needs to maintain that lifestyle—and he’s sick of the violence that’s sometimes part of the job.

Bill’s girlfriend Fiona doesn’t have a problem with violence, though. She’ll crush anyone who stands in her way—and some days, it seems like the whole world wants a piece of her. She loves Bill, but she’s tired of cleaning up after him.

When Bill decides to “borrow” a couple million from one of New York City’s most vicious gangs and flee for the tropics, it puts their relationship to the test—and while they’re working out their issues, they’ll also need to fend off crooked cops, dimwitted bouncers, and an irate assassin in the midst of the world’s weirdest midlife crisis.

“Love & Bullets” is the story of a 21st century Bonnie & Clyde, a wisecracking duo who’ll blast their way from Brooklyn to Cuba and back in order to stay alive. It’s a wild ride.

Smoked Mullett by Margaret LashleySmoked Mullet by Margaret Lashley:

It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity…

When Bobbie and Grayson go in search of a new RV, a chance encounter at a homeowner’s fire sale ignites a hidden flame burning deep within Grayson.

And it’s not Spontaneous Human Combustion …

Or is it?

People in St. Petersburg, Florida keep mysteriously bursting into flames. While the pair investigate potential causes, sparks soon begin to fly between them as well, threatening to snuff out their budding romance.

Hot pockets. Total burnouts. Suspicious ash holes.

As Bobbie and Grayson sift through the grisly clues, will they realize they’re fated to be twin flames? Or will the fireworks between them fizzle out like a dud?

With the heat on to solve the case, they’d better keep a close eye on each other. If not, they could both end up in the dead-letter office marked, “Return to Cinder.”

My Big Fat Witch Wedding by Amanda M. LeeMy Big Fat Witch Wedding by Amanda M. Lee:

The big day is finally here.

Bay and Landon’s wedding day has arrived.

Unfortunately, a tragedy stands in the way of their happily ever after, and it comes in the form of reports of an armed gunman at the local high school. Bay, ghosts at her side, braves the scene to save the kids … and uncovers something horrific.

She. The boy with the gun says he needs to find her. The teacher in the room with him says the same thing before taking his own life. There’s a magical being in Hemlock Cove, and she’s wielding a great deal of power as she forces people to kill in her name.

Bay refuses to back down, convinced that the magical explosion they can’t get under control at Hollow Creek is partially to blame. The problem is so big, another witch needs to be tapped to help them solve it.

Scout Randall, part of the Spells Angels group in Hawthorne Hollow, is more than happy to lend her services. She owes the Winchesters a favor after all. She simply might not be enough.

Bay and Landon have been through more than any couple should have to survive … and they’re not done.

Here comes the wedding … and Clove’s baby … and the worst enemy they’ve ever fought.

The Winchesters are strongest together, and this time they’re going to prove that there’s no keeping a good witch down.

I do? It’s coming, because nothing can stop these witches when love and family are on the line.

A Fatal Bragg by Craig MartelleA Fatal Bragg by Craig Martelle:

Marines are being murdered…

…and it takes someone outside the government to fix the problem.

It’s a race against the clock to dismantle a group that’s been in place for years. They’re well-funded, too and armed with weapons they shouldn’t have. Authorities are stymied. Ian and Jenny Bragg are not so constrained.

It’s supposed to be a single target. What if the target may not be the target at all, but a pipeline to those who deserve what Ian Bragg has to offer?

In an organization like the Peace Archive, contracts tend to take on a life of their own. When it comes to imparting justice, the operators become the last line of defense with only one chance to get it right.

Ian Bragg. A hitman with a conscience.

A Curse for Christmas by P.A. MasonA Curse for Christmas by P.A. Mason:

Christmas back home in Arkansas sounded like a chance to put my feet up for a few weeks. Little did I know that a magical calamity would threaten the big day.

You know the real kicker? It was Mom—a renowned magical healer—who came down with a mystery malaise on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t remember a time where she had anything worse than a sniffle. To see her bedridden scared me to my core.

To examine the facts and solve the case, I had to think fast before Mom’s condition got any worse. With a new werewolf beau in her life, half the town of Tumbling Springs were whispering behind Mom’s back, the loudest of them a hex witch with a nasty view of weres. On the other hand, a new business rival in the next town over had Mom’s healing services on the rocks. The question was—did either witch have enough motive to do something as awful as all that to Mom?

If you enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries with a seasonal Christmas flair, this holiday special is for you.

A Twisted Case of Murder by Emily QueenA Twisted Case of Murder by Emily Queen:

Murder is for the crows.

There’s a mass murderer loose on the streets of London, and he’s dead set on making Rosemary Lillywhite his next victim. After receiving a second death threat, she should have gone straight to her chief inspector beau, Max Whittington–but Rosemary is sick and tired of being treated like she’s made of glass.

How many murder investigations does a lady detective need to solve to earn a little respect?

Rosemary wishes she hadn’t asked that question when another dead body turns up–this time, on her own doorstep–and the papers insinuate she’s the responsible party. In order to clear her name, Rosemary will have to delve deep in to a murderer’s sordid past.

She’ll also have to continue keeping secrets–no matter what it does to her relationship with Max.

Now, everyone’s a suspect in a case that’s even more twisted than murder.

Lost Charity by Wayne StinnettLost Charity by Wayne Stinnett:

After a long hiatus, Charity Styles is itching to get back into the fray. She’s had a succession of minor assignments, none of which provided her with the action she craves.

After months of recharging and rethinking her position in the Armstrong organization, she’s on the verge of walking away, returning to what could be a more normal life. But what’s a normal life look like for a former covert assassin?

Then she gets two assignments, which have nothing to do with each other. The first is to ferry a group of people out to a large mega-yacht. When it turns out that one of those people is the girl she thinks of as a niece and the mega-yacht is captained by an old friend, she sets her sails and is quickly underway.

What the second assignment is, will not only test Charity’s abilities as an undercover asset to the giant Armstrong Research conglomerate, but will also assess her ability to keep a lid on her emotions when faced with the type of people she most loathes.

From the Cayman Islands to the Eastern Caribbean, the coast of Brazil, and finally, the U.S. Virgin Islands, her mental state is constantly being tested. Will she find the one person who is at the head of a vast sex trafficking operation? Or will she become just another victim to the traffickers? Will she even be able to restrain her inner demons when she encounters the worst of the worst of human society?

Death by Dancing by Lee StraussDeath by Dancing by Lee Strauss:

Death’s a jig!

When a brutal dance marathon in the suburbs of Boston in 1932 turns deadly, Dr. Haley Higgins is surprised to discover the deceased is the widow of a man whose body still lies in the cold cabinets of her morgue. She has reasons to believe the man’s death wasn’t natural, and now, with his wife having succumbed to the same symptoms, her convictions of foul play are stronger than ever.

With the help of investigative reporter Samantha Hawke, Haley works to determine which contestants in the dancing contest had means, motive, and opportunity. And most of all, how to keep the killer from striking again.

***

A spin off from the acclaimed Ginger Gold Mystery series, this clever, feisty, depression-era whodunit readers call “serious and suspenseful” and “entertaining mystery series” will keep you turning pages until the surprising yet satisfying end.

An Impossible Abduction by Ed TejaAn Impossible Abduction by Ed Teja:

Investigations take a strange twist in southwestern New Mexico

When things blow up on Matt Cramer, they can be messy. This time, the mess might be blood. Or not. But he is a private investigator… or will be if he can ever get his office open. Right now that bloody mess is all over the walls.

Josh, the painter is missing and that’s not a good sign. Nor is the ominous attitude of Officer Ravenwalk, or the fact that the local coffee shop is owned by witches, or that Matt somehow has found himself partnering with a shaman and the blood, if it is blood, is somehow tied to a woman’s disappearance—a disappearance that might involve aliens.

After all, this is Silver City, New Mexico, where things are seldom truly wrong, but never quite right, either.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 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 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. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, portal fantasy, science fantasy, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, YA science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, science fiction romance, fantasy romance, time travel romance, gothic romance, LitRPG, historical horror, zombies, aliens, shapehshifters, climate change, virtual reality,  assassins, paladins, sellswords, Pluto, Puritan witch hunters, crime-busting witches, crime-busting skeletons, Oz revisited 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:

An Old Man's Journey by Gregory AllantherAn Old Man’s Journey by Gregory Allanther:

At the end of his life, Charles was left with one question: What was it all for?

After his tour of duty and an unremarkable post-Army business career, Charles spent his twilight years watching old movies and waiting for his grandkids to call. He’d lived a good life, been a decent man, but now that his wife was gone he was… Lonely.

Until his old friend Bert introduced him to Crossroads, the new VR sensation. In this virtual world he can move without pain, explore new lands, and most importantly – see his family again. For as long as he can hold their interest, in this fast-paced modern world of instant gratification and VR thrills.

The solution: Build a place his family wants to visit. Armed only with a magic stick with game-breaking powers that should be nerfed, Charles sets out on a journey to find a place to call his own. Along the way, he will be mistaken for an NPC quest giver, become the antagonist in epic questlines, and attempt to teach the next generation proper behavior – even if he has to beat it into them.

This is the story of one man’s search for belonging in his second virtual life. A search for a place to belong, and what it takes to get there. It’s also a hilarious romp through online fantasy cliches that will appeal to fans of Ready Player One, The Wandering Inn, and slice-of-life comedies.

Because at the end of a man’s life: What’s more important than family?

The Emerald Republic by J.D. AndersonThe Emerald Republic by J.D. Anderson:

When a teen from Kansas is chosen as the king in a world filled with fantastic cities and extraordinary creatures, some of his ideas don’t go over well. Now he faces a divided Emerald City, a rebellion and the threat of a new Witch – and he’s doing everything he can to fight back.

As the situation in Oz grows desperate, Roy’s friends and family face a dire situation of their own: booze, lies, and an emerging war in 1930’s Europe, in the world Roy left behind.

Join Roy and the talking trees and hotheaded munchkins of Oz on a hilarious and thrilling quest to return the Emerald City to its former glory, by any means necessary…

A Deadly Winter by Kody BoyeA Deadly Winter by Kody Boye:

The last word my mother ever said to me was, “Go.”

That was after I’d escaped the initial outbreak at my school. After I managed to find my mother and make my way home. After I thought I was safe.

But when my mother is bitten by a zombie, and I am forced to flee into the apocalyptic wasteland of South Texas, I find that survival means more than just being able to be strong. It’s about building bridges. Making connections. Finding friends. But will those friends help me save my life?

The Witchfinder's Apprentice by Cora BuhlertThe Witchfinder’s Apprentice by Cora Buhlert:

Massachusetts in the Year of the Lord 1695: Matthew Goodson, eighteen years of age, is apprenticed to a team of experienced witchfinders, who travel from village to village and town to town to uncover witchcraft, examine the evidence, interrogate suspects and stamp out evil.

When a wave of mysterious illnesses and deaths hits the town of Redemption, the witchfinders are called in and quickly arrest a suspect, a teenaged girl named Grace Pankhurst.

Matthew has long been having his doubts about the witchfinders and the righteousness of their mission. The interrogation of Grace brings those doubts to a flashpoint. But is Grace truly innocent or has Matthew fallen under the spell of a comely witch?

This is a historical horror story of 5500 words or approximately 20 print pages by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

Remnants, edited by Stephen CoghlanRemnants, edited by Stephen Coghlan:

Strange clouds on the horizon herald the coming of the swarm. The undulating masses of the horde cannot be stopped. Terrifying creatures roam the Earth, seemingly with no aim but to devour all that stands before them. Experience the end of the world as we know it with these seventeen tales of horror, survival, and hope. The world ends in a frenzy of death and miasma of terror, but what will become of the remnants of humanity?

Seventeen tales of post-apocalyptic survival horror!

 

Magnitude by Dean M. ColeMagnitude by Dean M. Cole:

A team of military special operators. A lost race of advanced beings. An invading swarm of land-hungry sentient robots.

An elite team of SAS special operators battle across the multiverse after a plague of land-hungry sentient robots invade today’s Earth. But, when an aircraft carrier-based counterattack goes horribly wrong, it traps the team in an alien universe with a top-secret group who’ve already saved the world twice. After discovering a dark plot that threatens humanity’s very existence, the two groups jump into action, fighting both on the surface and in orbit in a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy before time runs out.

With the fate of two Earths hanging in the balance, the combined teams must pull a lost race of advanced beings off history’s scrapheap, or humanity will join them in oblivion.

Magnitude combines sleek starships, strange aliens, and high-tech weaponry to pit heroes, zeroes, and a smart-assed battlebot against powerful enemies

Auntie Mags by Kate DanleyAuntie Mags by Kate Danley:

Maggie’s a now an auntie and ready to show this new nugget all the awesomeness of being a World Walker. But when the child is kidnapped as part of an ancient prophecy, Maggie and Killian must save the kid before nap time means a permanent sleep. The creatures of the Other Side are about to get a hands-on lesson in why you don’t mess with the MacKay girls.

 

 

Itinerant by Marco de HooghItinerant by Marco de Hoogh:

A storm is coming. There is no escape…

It is a time of discovery, as our heroes venture forth on expeditions.

General Theodore Davies rushes to meet an ally, but will it be for naught? Olympus is but a shell, ready to be crushed under the heel of Rosae Crucis. The enemy is at the gates.

John Miller leads a team in search of answers. He knows the coordinates of his goal but doesn’t know if they will make it to their destination and back, or what they will even find.

New characters step out of the shadow and into the light. Their stories are told, and revelations made. What are the things that link them together? A mosaic is slowly being laid; Tile by tile.

In the meantime, the undead continue their mission. They snuff out all life that they find. They heed the call of the collective. They mass together, forming a tide that will wash over the living.

Now they come.

Follow along as events unfold in Itinerant, the third volume in Apocalypsis Immortuos

Legacy of Seven by P.J. FlieLegacy of Seven by P.J. Flie:

A world filled with magic, wizards and, enchanted beings—or the ashes of a highly advanced civilization?
The truth is much more complicated.

Zairoc, a dark wizard

Sir Francis, a benevolent wizard

Trick Mark, captain of the guard

and the construction robot CD-45.

Their destinies will collide at the city of Bastion. But concealed from everyone, a young woman holds the key to each of their fates.

Ondreeal has lived her whole life on the farm with her callous adoptive father. She longs to see the world and witness for herself the magical wonders that fill it—and she’ll soon get her wish, thrust into an adventure that carries her to heights she never dreamed possible, and to the depths of despair and loneliness. Ondreeal can never become the hero the world wants her to be.

But will she become the hero it needs?

No Bones About It by Rachel FordNo Bones About It by Rachel Ford:

He’s a skeleton who used to be a cop. I’m a Freak who used to be a detective. Together, we’re going to find the woman I love.

Technically, the PD hasn’t fired me yet. But when my girlfriend, the star witness in the biggest embezzlement case in a century, went missing, I stepped on some toes. And maybe busted a senior detective’s nose.

He had it coming. He’s hiding something. I’m going to find out what, and I’m going to find my fiancée. But I can’t do it alone.

In a world of magic and undead beings, Normies avoid Freaks like me like the plague. Our magic terrifies them.

But there’s one place I know I can turn to find the help I need: the undead. So here I am, trusting the fate of my career and the love of my life to the bony hands of a 150 year old undead investigator.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. No bones about it.

Love Sickness by Rachel FordLove Sickness by Rachel Ford:

A mysterious newcomer. Strange new infatuations. A cursed treasure.

A beautiful stranger arrives in Little Eerie asking questions about an ancient treasure. The jarl is smitten at first sight. He’s sick with love for her.

But when she doesn’t even recognize him the next day, Apprentice Wizard Idun Wintermoon knows there’s some kind of sorcery at play.

As more people succumb to the love sickness, Idun and the sellsword Liss Forlatt are in a race against time to find the culprit – and discover what her real motives are. Before she unleashes a curse on the jarldom that’ll make love sickness seem like a minor inconvenience.

The Ghoul, the Bad and the Ugly by Lily Harper HartThe Ghoul, the Bad and the Ugly by Lily Harper Hart:

Zombies in Casper Creek? Say it ain’t so. Unfortunately, it looks to be true … and Hannah Hickok and her motley crew of helpers have a mess on their hands.

As Cooper Wyatt struggles with the perfect way to propose, his girlfriend is buried in zombie lore … and seemingly having a good time digging up solutions.

The bodies are rising from two different cemeteries, one so old it hasn’t seen a new resident in thirty years. Why, though?

Needing help, Lindy suggests her brother David join the team. He’s a paranormal investigator, and he has an interesting set of skills. He also seems to be sparking with animal wrangler Tyler James, which has all the women in a tizzy in an effort to help him make the ultimate connection.
Love is in the air. Zombies are on the streets. Trouble is afoot.

It’s a normal day in Casper Creek, but the stakes are ratcheting up. Hannah’s magic is off the charts, but this time the monsters she’s facing are like nothing she’s ever seen.

Death may be stalking Hannah but she’s not afraid to stand her ground. Survival isn’t a given, but if she makes it through to the end, Cooper has a surprise for both of them.

Poisonous Paws by CeeCee JamesPoisonous Paws by CeeCee James:

Murder can reach out and touch you when you least expect it.

The mysterious death of a town founder rocks the Thornberry Estate. Miss Janice is the main suspect and everyone is up at arms. How was she to know the truce she formed with her neighbor put the target squarely on her? Coupled with a strange box that shows up out of nowhere and filled with bizarre things beyond imagination, and strange footsteps at night has everyone anxious.

…then there’s the bit of the skeleton in the closet. Literally.

The book club group is determined to discover who the real culprit is, and who is sending them disturbing messages. Especially since no one is supposed to know the club exists.

Little do they know, that’s only the beginning of their problems.

If you like cozy mysteries with all the feels, good friendships, giggles and snorts, you’ll love this heartwarming series.

Emanations: When a Planet Was a Planet, edited by Carter KaplanEmanations: When a Planet Was a Planet, edited by Carter Kaplan:

The ninth volume of the critically acclaimed Emanations literary anthology series, Emanations: When a Planet was a Planet presents stunning new art, illustrations and writing from around the world. The forty-two contributors represent South Korea, Canada, India, Oman, France, Nigeria, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Germany, Spain, the Philippines, Sweden, Japan and the United States. Comprising a broad range of graphic and literary expressions, this new volume wonderfully sustains International Authors’ commitment to innovation and experimentation, with unusual visual pieces, intriguing artists’ statements, idiosyncratic memoirs, dynamic poetical constructions and cutting-edge speculative fiction.

Published by International Authors.

A Dark Dawn by Ralph KernA Dark Dawn by Ralph Kern:

Far from the fury of The Great War, the citizens of the Liberty Federation live in peace and prosperity.

The Dawn Empire’s light is fading. Admiral Ikson Koto has one chance to renew the flame before it is extinguished forever. To save the Empire from a slow death, he must destroy the Federation’s fleet in one fell swoop. His plan calls for a brutality that has never been seen before.

For Lieutenant Shannon Reeve, the horrors of battle still burn strong in her mind. Her posting to a fighter squadron in the paradise of the Federation’s premier base, Azure Anchorage, should be a welcome respite. Instead, she will witness her fears come true as it comes under a relentless assault by Koto’s overwhelming Imperial forces.

Deep in the expanse of space known as the Great Void, a place far from home, civilian engineer Winston Grant has been tasked with upgrading a lonely base’s defences. Soon, he will find himself holding the line in a desperate last stand against an armada.

Both will play their parts in these darkest of days.

The golden age of the Federation will soon end, and instead be engulfed in the raging fire of war as Koto’s grand plan comes to fruition.

Paladin's Hope by T. KingfisherPaladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher:

Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the maze of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

Nostalgia is Heartless by Sarah LaheyNostalgia is Heartless by Sarah Lahey:

Earth, 2050. Pregnant, unemployed, and living back home with her father, climate scientist Quinn Buyers wonders how she got to this point in her life. Her famous scientist mother is mysteriously missing, the planet is at risk from a massive solar storm, the Transhumans want to take a colony to Titan, and her assisted living companion, a robotic meerkat, is showing clear signs of anxiety and depression. But her biggest challenge is her partner. How can she reconcile her long-distance relationship with this reserved, enigmatic cyborg?

The sequel to Sarah Lahey’s debut novel and the second book in the Heartless Series, Nostalgia is Heartless delves into the world of near future, exploring a society on the brink of climate catastrophe.

Warlord of Ackbarr by Erme LanderWarlord of Ackbarr by Erme Lander:

“You can’t just invade, they’ll have men with crossbows looking out for you. They use poisoned arrows, they can fell your outriders in seconds.”

Cassai has managed the unthinkable by killing thousands and Ackbarr can no longer ignore the tiny country defying them. Mika must make a choice who she stands with – her adopted country or the homeland who expelled her as an animal. In the meanwhile, her grip on the human world is sliding…

The Medici Chronicles follows Mika through nearly twenty years of her life as she disguises herself as a boy to survive, learns to become a Medici and struggles to find where she belongs.

Follow the Crumbs by Amanda M. LeeFollow the Crumbs by Amanda M. Lee:

There’s a prominent threat on the block … and he might just be sharing Stormy Morgan’s roof.

She’s a new witch but she has a big problem … and it talks. Her new roommate Krankle may look cute but he’s a huge pain in her posterior. He’s also hiding something. Before she can focus on that, however, the unthinkable happens.

On the highway leading out of town, three vehicles are involved in an accident. One belongs to Harold Lautner, the former head of the senior center who went missing months before. He was presumed dead in a hunting accident, but now the truck he was driving at the time he fell off the face of the earth is front and center … and emergency crews say there’s nobody to save inside.

Hunter Ryan, Stormy’s boyfriend and a police officer in Shadow Hills, is chasing lead after lead but they’re going nowhere … and then things get worse.

A magical shadow, the type Stormy isn’t ready to fight, is taking over the town. The Winchester witches, who are eager to help, can’t offer much in the way of aid because their magic is being affected by the shadow. That leaves Stormy to solve things, and she has no idea how to do it.

Stormy is eager to learn but the curve is steep. Alone, she knows she will fail. That means her new friends have to pitch in and help … including Krankle.

Someone is lying. Someone is playing games. The answer to the question might be closer than it seems.

Stormy has a fight on her hands. Will she survive long enough to answer all the questions, or is she doomed to disappointment … and death?

Sirena by Gideon MarcusSirena by Gideon Marcus:

One starship, six friends, 10,000 lives in the balance

Young captain-for-hire Kitra Yilmaz has gotten her first contract: escort the mysterious Princess of Atlántida beyond the Frontier and find her a new world. It’s a risky job, fraught with the threat of pirates, dangerous squatters, and rising romantic tensions.

Still, Kitra and her crew are up for anything — until they find a lush world, perfect for settlement…with an enormous ghost ship already in orbit.

What secret does the crippled vessel hide? And is Kitra ready to take responsibility for its precious cargo?

The Lighthouse by Christopher ParkerThe Lighthouse by Christopher Parker:

Enchanting, mysterious, and deeply romantic, The Lighthouse follows a young woman’s breathtaking journey far from home to discover where she truly belongs.

Something strange is happening in Seabrook. The town’s lighthouse–dormant for over thirty years and famously haunted–has inexplicably started shining, and its mysterious glow is sparking feverish gossip throughout the spooked community.

Amy Tucker is only visiting for the night and has no plans to get caught up in the hysteria, but that changes when she meets Ryan, the loyal, hard-working son of a ranch owner who lives on the outskirts of town.

Their chance encounter turns into an unforgettable weekend, and against the backdrop of the lighthouse-obsessed town, the two of them forge a deep connection, opening their hearts, baring their souls, and revealing secrets long kept hidden.

But as they grow closer, and as the lighthouse glows ever brighter, a startling discovery about Ryan leaves Amy questioning everything she thought she knew. To uncover the truth about her new friend, Amy will need to enter Seabrook’s ominous tower, where waiting inside she will not only find the reason why fate has brought them together… but a shocking secret that will change the course of their lives forever.

The Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. PenmanThe Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. Penman:

Book 3 in the Witch of Empire series

In the aftermath of the war, Iona “Sully” Sullivan has lost everything; her job, her friends, her fiancé and even her magic. But when an old friend shows up on her doorstep, offering her the chance to undo one of her long litany of mistakes, there is still enough of the old Sully left to get her on the first boat to Hong Kong. A stranger in a strange land, Sully must navigate alien customs, werebear chefs, the blossoming criminal underworld, religious extremists, Mongol agents, vampire separatists, and every other freak, maniac or cosmic leftover with an iota of power as they all compete for a chance at the most valuable prize in all the world; a little sailor doll named Eugene, and the last wish on earth.

Digital Death by Jaxon ReedDigital Death by Jaxon Reed:

The Republic’s AI controls a clone on one planet. The League controls a bot on another . . .

Jade Thrall is the League’s Tetrarch but she holds a secret even she does not realize. She is a highly advanced droid, formerly known as Miriam.

Few military assets are available to Jade in her effort to wrest back League planets lost during the war. But one potent tool remains in her arsenal: assassins . . .

Join this rip-roaring, action-packed space opera adventure! Featuring space marines, rotten villains, fist fights, gun battles and sharp political intrigue, Digital Death kicks off a brand new series by veteran science fiction and fantasy author Jaxon Reed set in the Milky Way Universe.

Valkyrie's Daughter by John E. SiersValkyrie’s Daughter by John E. Siers:

The Otuka are hunting a most dangerous game!

The alien Akara have a secret. They’ve discovered the location of a planet that is home to a primitive human civilization, another ancient “seeding” of the legendary Progenitors. But this planet lies in the territory of the Otuka, spacefaring alien predators who consider human flesh to be a delicacy and the planet to be their private hunting preserve.

Unwilling to confront the Otuka, the Akara have passed the problem to their human allies, the Lunar Free State. Now, the LFS needs to decide what to do about it. Are the “Moonies” willing to take responsibility for an entire planet’s population?

One thing seems certain: a favorite food of the Otuka is about to get much more expensive, as the LFS Marines stand ready to teach the Otuka hunters a hard lesson in the perils of hunting the humans in this part of the galaxy. But no one knows the technology state of the Okuta. Will the Marines be the hunters, or find themselves being hunted in turn?

Escape by Rosalind TateEscape by Rosalind Tate:

A Bloody Revolution. Hard Choices. Fatal Consequences.

Sophie Arundel is stranded in a parallel universe, stuck in a grand house in an alternate 1925 England. Thankfully, she has her faithful dog, Charlotte. Oh, and Hugo Harrington who is stranded too — and Sophie’s fallen for him, head over heels.

Hugo’s entirely uninterested, but Sophie has bigger problems.

As a revolution threatens the Manor and everyone in it, Sophie finds the hidden portal to the twenty-first century. When she opens it, one man’s deadly secret will be exposed.

And he’ll kill to stop her.

Songbird Rising by R.K. ThorneSongbird Rising by R.K. Thorne:

Commander Ellen Ryu, Lieutenant Kael Sidassian, and the crew of the starship Audacity have met every challenge thrown their way, from super soldiers, to telepaths, to rivals with axes to grind.

Each step has brought them closer to Ellen’s ultimate goal—finding and defeating Dr. Arakovic, the scientist who destroyed her unit, her brothers- and sisters-in-arms, and her promising Union career. The woman who nearly stole Ellen’s sanity.

But Arakovic’s Songbirds grow more powerful each day. The clues are adding up. And the Audacity crew is discovering that Songbird’s influence reaches deeper and farther than they ever expected.

They’ll dive into battle—but this time they may find themselves underwater.

Not every battle can be won. Ellen Ryu has never let that stop her from trying.

But with his newfound daughter and new friends to protect, will the cost be too high for Kael to stay by her side?

Jump into this epic adventure in a galaxy where abuse of science is rampant and hope is all some people have left. Character-driven space opera with a mix of humor, action, and romance, SONGBIRD RISING is the fourth book in the Audacity Saga.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for October 2021


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 crime 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.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, holiday mysteries, humorous mysteries, historical mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, action thrillers, historical thrillers, revenge thrillers, noir, romantic suspense, police officers, amateur sleuths, FBI agents, CIA agents, reporters, assassins, human traffickers, vigilantes, serial killers, severed heads, Puritan witch hunters, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, crime-busting journalists, crime-busting skeletons, murder and mayhem in London, Galveston, Silicon Valley, Massachusetts, Hong Kong, Colombia, at a science fiction convention 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:

The Witchfinder's Apprentice by Cora BuhlertThe Witchfinder’s Apprentice by Cora Buhlert:

Massachusetts in the Year of the Lord 1695: Matthew Goodson, eighteen years of age, is apprenticed to a team of experienced witchfinders, who travel from village to village and town to town to uncover witchcraft, examine the evidence, interrogate suspects and stamp out evil.

When a wave of mysterious illnesses and deaths hits the town of Redemption, the witchfinders are called in and quickly arrest a suspect, a teenaged girl named Grace Pankhurst.

Matthew has long been having his doubts about the witchfinders and the righteousness of their mission. The interrogation of Grace brings those doubts to a flashpoint. But is Grace truly innocent or has Matthew fallen under the spell of a comely witch?

This is a historical suspense story of 5500 words or approximately 20 print pages by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

Murder on a Girl's Night Out by Beth ByersMurder on a Girl’s Night Out by Beth Byers:

Vi is one of those women lucky enough to have good friends. In fact, Kate, Rita, and Lila are closer to Vi than her own sister. With children arriving and what feels like an endless cycle of trouble, their friendship has been pushed to it’s limit. It’s long past time to get together–just the girls.

Is it even surprising when things go sideways? Or when they find themselves looking over their shoulders? Or when they find, one again, that they’re stronger together?

 

1414° by Paul Bradley Carr1414° by Paul Bradley Carr:

The billionaire predators of Silicon Valley always get what they want.
Now someone is giving them what they deserve.

Journalist Lou McCarthy has spent her career exposing powerful predators in Silicon Valley. Her crusade has cost her everything: Her apartment, friends, relationships, and any hope of promotion. And for what? Readers don’t care, her boss and workmates pity her, and the billionaire bro-ciopaths she writes about continue to fail upwards.

But when two of her highest profile subjects are killed on the same night, their deaths staged as gruesome public suicides, Lou’s work is suddenly and violently thrust into the spotlight. Blamed for the deaths, fired from her job, and pursued by vengeful trolls who have already attacked her mother, Lou has only one chance of survival: To find the killer obsessed with her work, and stop them before anyone else dies.

Or perhaps not. Because the more Lou discovers about the ingenious killer’s past, and their methods, the more she becomes determined to help them succeed.

Tight-Lipped by Erik CarterTight-Lipped by Eric Carter:

THE MURDERS BEGIN SUDDENLY…
BUT THE SECRET HAS BEEN KEPT FOR YEARS.

Vigilante assassin Silence Jones is accustomed to hunting people who escaped justice. But nothing can prepare him for the depths of deceit he’s about to face.

People are being murdered across the United States, and law enforcement is powerless to stop it. The victims’ only connection: they’re all survivors of a military training disaster years earlier.

As Silence feverishly chases the killer around the country, he uncovers a sinister coverup and the dark forces willing to do anything to maintain the secret. If Silence is going to stop the slaughter, he’ll have to tear down a web of lies that powerful people have held in place for years.

The next standalone action thriller in the pulse-pounding new series. Enter the world of Silence Jones. Hold on tight…

Wake the Dead by Stacy Claflin and Nolon KingWake the Dead by Stacy Claflin and Nolon King:

There’s no cross like a double-cross. Except maybe a double-double-cross.

Assassin Brad Morris has finally been arrested for murder, but not for a murder he actually committed. Now he’s cooling his heels in jail — his lawyer seems to have forgotten him, and his boss might have betrayed him.

Just as he’s starting to lose hope, he gets a visit from the CIA. Agent June Bancroft has an offer for Brad: full immunity, if he’s willing to spy on his boss and fellow assassins for her. Worse, Bancroft wants his daughter Hadley’s help, too.

Brad agrees, but soon finds out how hard it is to answer to two bosses while pursuing an agenda of his own.

Can Brad keep his family safe while operating as both a CIA asset and an assassin? Or will his double life destroy everyone he loves?

No Bones About It by Rachel FordNo Bones About It by Rachel Ford:

He’s a skeleton who used to be a cop. I’m a Freak who used to be a detective. Together, we’re going to find the woman I love.

Technically, the PD hasn’t fired me yet. But when my girlfriend, the star witness in the biggest embezzlement case in a century, went missing, I stepped on some toes. And maybe busted a senior detective’s nose.

He had it coming. He’s hiding something. I’m going to find out what, and I’m going to find my fiancée. But I can’t do it alone.

In a world of magic and undead beings, Normies avoid Freaks like me like the plague. Our magic terrifies them.

But there’s one place I know I can turn to find the help I need: the undead. So here I am, trusting the fate of my career and the love of my life to the bony hands of a 150 year old undead investigator.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. No bones about it.

The Ghoul, the Bad and the Ugly by Lily Harper HartThe Ghoul, the Bad and the Ugly by Lily Harper Hart:

Zombies in Casper Creek? Say it ain’t so. Unfortunately, it looks to be true … and Hannah Hickok and her motley crew of helpers have a mess on their hands.

As Cooper Wyatt struggles with the perfect way to propose, his girlfriend is buried in zombie lore … and seemingly having a good time digging up solutions.

The bodies are rising from two different cemeteries, one so old it hasn’t seen a new resident in thirty years. Why, though?

Needing help, Lindy suggests her brother David join the team. He’s a paranormal investigator, and he has an interesting set of skills. He also seems to be sparking with animal wrangler Tyler James, which has all the women in a tizzy in an effort to help him make the ultimate connection.
Love is in the air. Zombies are on the streets. Trouble is afoot.

It’s a normal day in Casper Creek, but the stakes are ratcheting up. Hannah’s magic is off the charts, but this time the monsters she’s facing are like nothing she’s ever seen.

Death may be stalking Hannah but she’s not afraid to stand her ground. Survival isn’t a given, but if she makes it through to the end, Cooper has a surprise for both of them.

Poisonous Paws by CeeCee JamesPoisonous Paws by CeeCee James:

Murder can reach out and touch you when you least expect it.

The mysterious death of a town founder rocks the Thornberry Estate. Miss Janice is the main suspect and everyone is up at arms. How was she to know the truce she formed with her neighbor put the target squarely on her? Coupled with a strange box that shows up out of nowhere and filled with bizarre things beyond imagination, and strange footsteps at night has everyone anxious.

…then there’s the bit of the skeleton in the closet. Literally.

The book club group is determined to discover who the real culprit is, and who is sending them disturbing messages. Especially since no one is supposed to know the club exists.

Little do they know, that’s only the beginning of their problems.

If you like cozy mysteries with all the feels, good friendships, giggles and snorts, you’ll love this heartwarming series.

Murder at the Galvez by Kathleen KaskaMurder at the Galvez by Kathleen Kaska:

Eighteen years after discovering the murdered body of her grandfather in the foyer of the historic Galvez Hotel, reporter Sydney Lockhart returns to Galveston, Texas to cover a story. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery.

Something fishy is going on in Galveston, Texas, and Sydney is smack dab in the middle of it when she checks into the historic Galvez Hotel, a place that stirs her most uncomfortable memories. She’s there to cover the controversial Pelican Island Development Project conference, but soon after her arrival, the conference is canceled, the keynote speaker is missing, and a body turns up in the truck of Sydney’s car. Next, Sydney’s hauled to the police station for questioning.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, just a few blocks from the hotel at her parents’ home, people are gathering, sparks are flying, another controversial event is in the planning, one that just might rival the Great Storm of 1900.

Sydney is helped and obstructed by her cousins, Ruth and Marcela, and Dixon, her beloved partner-in-solving-crime. But ultimately it’s up to Sydney, armed with wit and bravado (and Dixon’s .45), who must discover who killed the man in the trunk and why her father’s new friend is floating face-down in a fish tank with a bullet in his head. Her father’s odd behavior and the anonymous threatening notes delivered to her hotel room lead Sydney to suspect that her grandfather’s unsolved murder and the present murders might be connected.

Follow the Crumbs by Amanda M. LeeFollow the Crumbs by Amanda M. Lee:

There’s a prominent threat on the block … and he might just be sharing Stormy Morgan’s roof.

She’s a new witch but she has a big problem … and it talks. Her new roommate Krankle may look cute but he’s a huge pain in her posterior. He’s also hiding something. Before she can focus on that, however, the unthinkable happens.

On the highway leading out of town, three vehicles are involved in an accident. One belongs to Harold Lautner, the former head of the senior center who went missing months before. He was presumed dead in a hunting accident, but now the truck he was driving at the time he fell off the face of the earth is front and center … and emergency crews say there’s nobody to save inside.

Hunter Ryan, Stormy’s boyfriend and a police officer in Shadow Hills, is chasing lead after lead but they’re going nowhere … and then things get worse.

A magical shadow, the type Stormy isn’t ready to fight, is taking over the town. The Winchester witches, who are eager to help, can’t offer much in the way of aid because their magic is being affected by the shadow. That leaves Stormy to solve things, and she has no idea how to do it.

Stormy is eager to learn but the curve is steep. Alone, she knows she will fail. That means her new friends have to pitch in and help … including Krankle.

Someone is lying. Someone is playing games. The answer to the question might be closer than it seems.

Stormy has a fight on her hands. Will she survive long enough to answer all the questions, or is she doomed to disappointment … and death?

The Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. PenmanThe Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. Penman:

Book 3 in the Witch of Empire series

In the aftermath of the war, Iona “Sully” Sullivan has lost everything; her job, her friends, her fiancé and even her magic. But when an old friend shows up on her doorstep, offering her the chance to undo one of her long litany of mistakes, there is still enough of the old Sully left to get her on the first boat to Hong Kong. A stranger in a strange land, Sully must navigate alien customs, werebear chefs, the blossoming criminal underworld, religious extremists, Mongol agents, vampire separatists, and every other freak, maniac or cosmic leftover with an iota of power as they all compete for a chance at the most valuable prize in all the world; a little sailor doll named Eugene, and the last wish on earth.

The Heist and Crimes of Shackleton Manor by Daniel J. ReevesThe Heist and Crimes of Shackleton Manor by Daniel J. Reeves:

Sitting fully clothed in his tepid shower and busily dwelling on his romantic misfortune, Seamus is not ready for much of anything. Above all, he is certainly not ready to find the severed, bloody head of an old industry magnate stuffed inside of his university backpack. Seamus has his vices, but a severed head enthusiast he is not.

Chuck, a new acquaintance of his, reacts with perplexing enthusiasm to this turn of events, and together they plunge into a twenty-five year old mystery of love and betrayal at the decadent Shackleton Manor. Will Seamus solve the crime, accidentally implicate himself in it, or simply drink himself to sleep whilst hiding in the basement?

Oy Vey, Maria! by Mark ReutlingerOy Vey, Maria! by Mark Reutlinger:

Rose Kaplan and her sidekick Ida are at it again. It’s the holiday of Purim, and almost everyone at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors is in costume for the Purim play. All except one, who will instead have to be fitted for a shroud. Once again, “Mrs. K” and Ida are called upon to solve the puzzle of a mysterious death at the Home. Described by Chanticleer Book Reviews as “at times more Lucy and Ethel than Holmes and Watson, with a soupcon of Miss Jane Marple,” these geriatric amateur sleuths will keep you laughing, guessing, and maybe even learning a bissel Yiddish!

So We Lie by Willow RoseSo We Lie by Willow Rose:

What do we do when the truth hurts too much?

Fresh out of the national academy – mother of two – FBI profiler Eva Rae Thomas is in over her head on her first assignment in multi-million-copy bestselling author Willow Rose’s breath-taking mystery.

When the mother of two, Arlene Wood, crashes her car against a tree at four in the morning, the case seems pretty straightforward.

But evidence found in the remains of the car soon raises the question of whether this was really an accident.

Shortly after, her husband is taken in and later convicted of having murdered his wife.

But many questions remain unanswered.

Why was Arlene driving in the middle of the night?
Why did she leave the house, her husband, and her sleeping children, get into her car, and drive away?
Was she meeting someone?

A friend?

A lover?

A killer?

Six years later, Special Agent Eva Rae Thomas is new on the job when she stumbles upon something that suddenly blows this case wide open.

But can she persuade anyone to reopen the case even when the husband has admitted that he is guilty?

And will she be able to do it in time before this killer strikes again?

My Emerald Jungle by Adler StevensMy Emerald Jungle by Adler Stevens:

Having my daughter, Haley, and her old high school sweetheart, Steve, kidnapped is the right thing to do. If anybody deserves a second chance at romance, it’s those two. And there’s nothing like a frightening adventure to bring two people together.

But something terrible has happened. Haley and Steve never arrived on the secluded island near Puerto Rico. Instead, they’re somewhere in Colombia, in the jungle, being held by human traffickers.

I’m afraid for the safety of my lovely little girl, but I know Haley is in Steve’s very strong and capable hands.

Or is it the other way around?

Framed in Blood by Ed TejaFrame in Blood by Ed Teja:

It’s a messy, bloody, crime. It’s a proper crime.

A pimp and drug dealer is found tortured and shot. That makes for a messy scene, but not a striking crime. Discovering that someone is trying to make it seem that the prostitute who tortured him also killed him — that grabs Sherry Proper’s attention, makes it a proper crime.

Anytime a crime is textured, layered, and fascinating, it provides glimpses into the dark underbelly where people from all social strata, as well as their money, ambition, and greed can intersect. Sherry calls these Proper Crimes.

It’s a passion. A passion with only dark sides, and one that can take her up to her neck in danger and trouble in a heartbeat.

A Conventional Murder by Nathaniel WebbA Conventional Murder by Nathaniel Webb:

It’s a Daylight Savings Crime!

Kit Morrison just wants to enjoy her hometown sci-fi convention, but things keep getting in the way: con drama, annoying fans, murder… Sci-fi/fantasy author Nathaniel Webb takes on the cozy in his mystery debut, featuring a hilarious amateur sleuth and a tricky, twisty mystery worthy of the classics.

Art teacher, single mom, and geek girl Kit Morrison hasn’t been to her hometown sci-fi con in a decade. All she wants is to sell some art and catch up with old friends. But when a legendary fantasy author is murdered, Kit’s detective brother makes her his nerd sherpa. Kit’s happy to guide him through the weird world of con life—until he makes her favorite student his prime suspect. And then there are the threatening notes that keep appearing in her hotel room…

Kit will confront crazy fans, navigate major drama, wait for the elevator, learn about industrial laundry machines, and try her best to get a croissant—and with luck, prove her student’s innocence before the convention ends!

You’ll laugh—you’ll cheer—you’ll stay up late and fall asleep in a work meeting the next day. Come meet Kit, a sleuth like no other.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 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 August 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, adventure fantasy, YA fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, fairy tales, space opera, military science fiction, planetary romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, cyberpunk, biopunk, LitRPG, cosmic horror, historical horror, psychological horror, vampires, dragons, demons, angels, fae, giants, space marines, aliens, fae princes, space mages, Martian invasions, Victorian zombies, crime-busting witches, crime-busting ghosts, amnesiac jailers, troubled insomniacs, Cthulhu 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:

Floaters by Gareth BoatmanFloaters by Gareth Boatman:

Fire and plague. Certainly no strangers to London Town. But when legions of living dead rise from the Thames’ fetid waters to feast upon the living, the city teeters on the brink of antihalation. And while floaters seek blood, another army takes advantage of the chaos. Boiling out of their rookeries of crime, marauders swarm through London’s affluent neighborhoods looting and burning.

Hooligans vs the Living Dead: A Victorian Zombie Adventure!

With the beleaguered police and the Queen’s army battling twin plagues—human and inhuman—London’s criminal youth gangs join forces to save their city. Will Tagget, leader of the Lambeth Lads, together with his enemies Bill Drummond of the Drury Lane Gang, bull-necked George Fish of the Elephant and Castle Gang, shillelagh-wielding Dirk Bogart of the New Cut Gang, Quincy Bird of City Road, along with their female counterparts—Lambeth Kate, Queen Jane, New Cut Beth, Razor Lil and Dirty Deidre—set out on an adventure the telling of which might earn a man a lifetime of free drinks. If he lives to tell it.

Will these violent gangs put aside their rivalries long enough to get the job done?

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

Mind over Magic by Lindsay BurokerMind Over Magic by Lindsay Buroker:

As a bookish, introverted database programmer, Morgen Keller never thought she was a candidate for a midlife crisis. That was before her husband divorced her, her boss let her go, and her grandmother died. Forty wasn’t supposed to look like this.

When Morgen heads up to the small town of Bellrock, Washington, to settle the estate, she looks forward to taking a peaceful break from life and figuring out what she’s going to do next.

But peace isn’t to be had. The old farmhouse is full of witch paraphernalia, a fearsome werewolf has claimed the property, and contrary to what the family was told, Grandma didn’t die of natural causes.

Embroiled in a mystery, and heir to powers she knew nothing about, Morgen must turn to the only person who might be able to help: the werewolf who threatened to rip her throat out for trespassing.

This isn’t the fresh start on life that Morgen had in mind.

A Witch in Wolf Wood is perfect for fans of mystery, magic, slow-burn romance, and second chances.

Realmshaker by A.J. EpikosRealmshaker by A.J. Epikos:

Rhonda is a noble giant, a huge savage beauty learning to become a ranger and a chieftess. But five centuries after a terrible war eliminated the noble giants’ civilization, Rhonda wakes up alone on a runic ritual site far from home. Her culture is plundered, erased, and nearly forgotten. Terrible beasts roam the land, and smaller beings are taking over. Stranger yet, there’s a mystical mechanism revealing to Rhonda her class, attributes, perks, star power, and more.

It’s the Star System!

And its master could be an eldritch thing covering the world, unknown to all except the giantess herself.

Follow Rhonda and her friends on an epic CONQUEST to collect star power, go berserk on their enemies, and make an impact no one can ignore. The noble giants’ civilization may have fallen, but it’s Rhonda’s birthright to shake the realm.

The Recruit by Rachel FordThe Recruit by Rachel Ford:

How much is freedom really worth?

The world ended five years ago. Caleb Franks has lived in the shadows ever since, scraping together a meager existence on his homestead with his faithful friend, a Great Pyrenees named Elim.

Then the North American People’s Army shows up, promising a new way of life: ready food, security, community, and maybe even a family someday, if he proves himself worthy. All they ask in return is absolute loyalty.

Caleb will need to make a choice: security, or freedom. All that hangs in the balance is everything.

This is a post-apocalyptic novelette. It is a work of speculative fiction and though in no way graphic, may contain elements that some readers will find disturbing.

Simultaneous Times Vol. 2.5 edited by Jean-Paul GarnierSimultaneous Times Vol. 2.5., edited by Jean-Paul Garnier:

From Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, California: A free e-book companion to the Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times science fiction anthology podcast.

Featuring stories by: Cora Buhlert, Kim Martin, Brent A. Harris, Renan Bernardo, RedBlueBlackSilver, Robin Rose Graves, Douglas A. Blanc, Michael Butterworth & J. Jeff Jones – with illustrations by: Austin Hart, Dante Luiz, Chynna DeSimone, Douglas A. Blanc, & Zara Kand.

Once Bitten by Tina GlasneckOnce Bitten by Tina Glasneck:

He saved my life, only to steal it away with his dragon’s blood.

Midlife was supposed to be steady, where I’d find everything I needed and finally get it together.

Nope. Hollywood lied. Because here I was, again, trying to get my legs under me.

Literally.

I’d lost my job, fallen into the Atlantic, and woken up changed forever. Forever as in eternity forever because the blood my rescuer gave me to save my life had one itty bitty unforeseen consequence.

It made me a vampire.

I know, fang my life.

Now I’d need a miracle just to get through the day. And that miracle is Alistair, the handsome dragon shifter who saved my life and really shouldn’t exist. But he is very much a real man–and a real temptation.

And he’s offering me a fresh start that comes with a secret organization of supernaturals who live in the shadows.

Looks like I’m getting a chance to start over.

I just had to die to finally start living.

Ghostly Endeavour by Lily Harper HartGhostly Endeavour by Lily Harper Hart:

Harper Harlow is ready to move forward with her business, which just so happens to include taking ownership of the beleaguered Whisper Cove Cemetery. She and her partner Zander Pritchett have big plans … until the day they close on the property and discover a body on one of the well-worn pathways.

Cassie Clifton is recently divorced, a devoted runner, and an individual with a lot of secrets. She was estranged from her parents before her death and apparently desperate to get out of town. Why, though? Harper is determined to figure answers, no matter how hard she has to dig.

Harper’s husband Jared Monroe is on the case but the proximity of death to his new wife has him spinning. It was supposed to be a fun business endeavor, a way for Harper to continue running her cemetery tours without oversight. It’s turned into so much more.

Harper and Jared join together, and when they uncover ties between Cassie and one of their closest friends, they’re thrown for a loop. Have they embedded themselves with a killer?

It’s a race to the finish to find Cassie’s murderer and bolster Harper’s new business in the process. It’s going to take everything they have – every member of their motley crew of friends working together – to cross the finish line safely.

Death is stalking Whisper Cove again. Will they all survive to see another day?

Phantom Masquerade by A.L. HawkePhantom Masquerade by A.L. Hawke:

And here is where I fall.

Mina Daaé dreams of performing on Broadway. Like her great ancestor, Christine Daaé, who sang at the prestigious Palais Garnier a hundred years before, Mina has the voice of an angel. But after graduating from Conservatoire de Paris, fortune fails her. Until the circus comes to town.

Mina’s close friend Toni Vollini offers her a role in his new Broadway play mixing Mozart with clowns. Known as The Harlequin, the musical is an inimitable adaptation of the opera Don Giovanni. Toni says Mina will soar, but with pathologic acrophobia, she’s afraid she’ll fall. And the ghost in her head says she will.

Toni and a ghost vie for her love, but Mina thinks her ghost is just another hallucination. Or is her ghost a phantom of the opera?

Phantom Masquerade is a contemporary adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera integrating romance and the paranormal.

Cthulhu Wants You by Rhys HughesCthulhu Wants You by Rhys Hughes:

A collection of short stories inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. These stories are not parodies or pastiches but darkly ironic fantasies that connect with the Mythos at a tangent. Open-minded devotees of Lovecraft may find amusement in the offbeat ideas, paradoxical plots, whimsical language and strange originality of these tales. But whether you know what you want or not, be assured of one thing: Cthulhu wants you!

 

 

A Dance with the Fae Prince by Elise KovaA Dance with the Fae Prince by Elisa Kova:

She knew her hand in marriage would be sold. She had no idea a fae prince was the buyer.

Katria swore she’d never fall in love. She’s seen what “love” means through the cruelty of her family. So when she’s married off to the mysterious Lord Fenwood for a handsome price, all Katria wants is a better life than the one she’s leaving. Feelings are off the table.

But her new husband makes not falling in love difficult.

As their attraction begins to grow, so too do the oddities within her new life: strange rules, screams in the night, and attacks by fae that Katria never thought were real. When she witnesses a ritual not meant for human eyes, Katria finds herself spirited away to the land of Midscape.

Surviving the fae wilds as a human is hard enough. Katria must survive as a human who accidently pilfered the magic of ancient kings – magic a bloodthirsty king is ready to kill her for in order to keep his stolen throne – and her new husband is the rightful heir in hiding.

The power to save the fae is in her hands. But who will save her from a love she vowed never to feel?

A Crone to Pick by Amanda M. LeeA Crone to Pick by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall knows what she is, more than a witch, more powerful than she ever thought imaginable. She’s only hit the tip of the iceberg on what she can do. Now she has to grapple with another problem.

When her former partner Evan was believed dead in a vampire attack, she blamed herself, mourned, and tried to move on. Now he’s back, and he’s more than anybody ever imagined, too. Unfortunately, nobody can find him.

When news reaches Scout that there’s been a potential vampire attack in neighboring Hemlock Cove, she packs her bags and hits the parnormal tourist destination with her boyfriend Gunner as backup. She’s not prepared for what she finds, including a gaggle of witches who like to cause trouble wherever they go.

Evan is there, lurking in the shadows and struggling with an identity he didn’t ask for, but death is stalking the town from multiple directions. Murder, mayhem, and monsters are afoot and Scout is determined to get to the bottom of it all … even if her life is in danger in the process.

The baddest motorcycle gang in the Midwest is about to meet the Winchester witches. The world will never be the same.

Blood and Jade by Ken LizziBlood and Jade by Ken Lizzi:

When an ancient sorcerer pursues an enchanted blade at any cost, only one man stands in his way.

Archaeologists uncovering a lost Mayan city unearth a magic artifact. An earthquake disturbs the operations of neighboring narcotraffickers. An ancient sorcerer and his mercenary henchmen arrive to claim the artifact.

When these three factions converge, Karl Thorson, ex-Special Forces, is thrust into action.

Dexicos Megistos, a nigh immortal sorcerer, wants to retrieve a mystical jade dagger. Alejandra Matamoros-Lopez wants to smuggle narcotics through the tunnels beneath the ruins, avoiding the notice of rival cartels. Professor May Chen wants to see if any sparks remain from her relationship with the head of the archaeological dig.

Karl Thorson just wants to do his job, and maybe have a cold beer.

Can he safeguard the archaeologists, especially the lovely Professor May Chen? Can he defeat a murderous band of narcotraffickers? And can he deprive the sorcerer Dexicos Megistos of the jade dagger?

The Black Parade Boxed Set by Kyoko M.The Black Parade Boxed Set by Kyoko M.:

Praised by Publishers Weekly as “slickly paced” and “overflowing with witty banter,” The Black Parade (Book One), She Who Fights Monsters (Book Two), and The Holy Dark (Book Three) tell the tale of Seer Jordan Amador, her snarky partner and paramour Michael, and a siege of ghosts and murderous demons out to cause Hell on Earth.

The Black Parade (Book #1):
Jordan Amador. 21. New Yorker. Waitress. Mild alcoholic. Murderer.

Two years ago, Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can see, hear, and talk to ghosts with unfinished business. Her crime came with a hefty price, too. She has two years to help a hundred souls cross over to the afterlife or her soul is bound for hell. Tough break.

As if that weren’t bad enough, two days before her deadline a handsome pain-in-the-ass poltergeist named Michael strolls into her life. His soul is the key to her salvation, but the cost just might be more than she can handle. Solving his death puts her right in the crosshairs of Belial: a vain, bloodthirsty archdemon who won’t rest until she’s his slave. Can she rescue Michael and save her own soul, or will they both be dragged down into the clutches of the eternal black parade?

She Who Fights Monsters (Book #2):
The dynamic supernatural duo of Seer Jordan Amador and her husband the archangel Michael is back in the sequel to the bestselling urban fantasy novel, The Black Parade, trying to solve a deadly case. Someone is methodically hunting down and murdering Seers one by one. After six months with no leads on the killer, Jordan and Michael are forced to work with their worst enemy—the archdemon Belial: a self-professed Prince of Hell who is dead set on stealing Jordan for himself. However, with the archdemon’s help, they pick up on the trail of the serial killer and plan to stop him no matter what the cost.

When the shocking truth behind the murderer’s identity is revealed, Jordan begins asking herself if she is still fighting for the good guys or has she become one of the monsters she is desperately trying to stop?

The Holy Dark (Book #3):
Sarcastic demon-slayer extraordinaire Jordan Amador has been locked in a year-long struggle to hunt down the thirty silver coins paid to Judas Iscariot. The mere touch of these coins is enough to kill any angel.

Jordan’s demonic opposition grows more desperate with each coin found, so they call on the ultimate reinforcement: Moloch, the Archdemon of War. Moloch puts out a contract on Jordan as well as her estranged husband, the Archangel Michael. Now Jordan and Michael will have to find a way to work together to survive against impossible odds and stop Moloch’s plan, or else he’ll wage a war that will wipe out the human race.

Flight to Bern Village by Jason OsiarFlight to Bern Village by Jason Osiar:

While a war rages in space, a revolutionary group of humans, shapeshifters, and telepaths gather to prove their races can live together in peace. They believe in peace enough to erase their memories and begin a primitive city on a secluded planet, Vastus.

Generations later, conflicts on Vastus force people to flee their city. Meanwhile, a few Peace Bringers arrive on a broken-down space station to observe the inhabitants on Vastus. What they see is anything but encouraging, and they must deal with problems of their own. Vastus Station is falling apart, and the relationships between the occupants are equally precarious.

The Awakening by Dusk PetersonThe Awakening by Dusk Peterson:

Barrett Boyd has awakened from death to a new and baffling life. He knows that he is a guard in the queendom’s royal prison, the Eternal Dungeon. But why do the prisoners matters so much to him? Who are these other guards who appear to have claims over him? And how will he survive while he finds his new place in this world?

As Barrett seeks to make sense of his surroundings, he must contend with a would-be love-mate, a grumbling rebel, deadly enemies, and the challenge of how to wield his expanded skills.

This suspenseful novel can be read on its own or as the first volume of Dungeon Guards, an alternate history series about nineteenth-century prison workers who seek love and companionship as they fight together against danger.

Dungeon Guards is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as in a future that never existed, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times.

Now the Midcoast nations of this world have reached a turning point: the old order is about to be overthrown. Brought together in friendship and romance by the danger of rising events, the people of the Midcoast nations must learn to adjust to a new world.

Honored six times in the Rainbow Awards for LGBTA literature, Turn-of-the-Century Toughs presents an epic tale of adventure, friendship, romance, and class struggles.

Black As Night by Anthea SharpBlack As Night by Anthea Sharp:

One princess. Two realms. And a reckless choice that could destroy kingdoms…

Rose Valrois has escaped the sorcerous red priests and returned to the castle beside the enchanted Darkwood, but her troubles are far from over. Her stepsister, Princess Neeve, is more secretive than ever, and as war threatens, Rose’s mother pushes her toward a political alliance, even as her heart is torn between a heroic prince and the Dark Elf guardian of the forest.

But when Neeve makes a terrible choice, the fate of two kingdoms hangs in the balance. Rose must risk her freedom, her world, and even her heart to save her sister. Can she bear to make that sacrifice? Does she even have the choice?

Mage Commander by Glynn StewartMage Commander by Glynn Stewart:

Some soldiers are the shields of innocent souls
Others are the fanatics of their cause
And for them…no war is ever truly over!

Tempered on the anvil of the war against the secessionist UnArcana Worlds and tested against the evil of Project Orpheus, Mage-Commander Roslyn Chambers has risen through the ranks of the Royal Martian Navy to serve as second-in-command of one of their most prestigious battlecruisers, Duke of Magnificence.

A desperate call for help sends Roslyn and her new ship deep into the frontiers of Protectorate space, where they discover that hold-outs of the UnArcana Worlds’ fleets have returned to plunder innocent ships across the Fringe.

To protect the innocent and serve her Queen, Roslyn Chambers must rise to the task before her. She must learn to command—both herself and a warship of the Mage-Queen of Mars!

Murder at Magic Lake by Sandra Ulbrich AlmazanMurder at Magic Lake by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

After losing her job, twenty-nine-year-old Abigail Ritter isn’t looking forward to returning to her hometown of Magic Lake, Wisconsin, for her grandmother’s birthday party. All she has to offer her family is her own special fruit juice and tea blend. But when Grandma suffers a fatal accident in her apartment building, The Grand, Abigail’s cousin Brian is blamed. Abigail will have to step up and investigate with the help of her best friend Sam, an intriguing detective, and a magical stuffed fox named Sherlock. Abigail’s got a plan for the Grand and its shuttered restaurant, but will she solve the case or drown in a sea of suspects?

Armagarden by Bryon VaughnArmagarden by Bryon Vaughn:

Getting away from NeuralTech was the easy part.

Staying out of the far-reaching sight of Brenna and the Garden is another matter. It doesn’t help that the Department of Defense is still hunting Jenny Mercado and her man Leo like dogs, and now there is a new mysterious force that threatens to destroy everyone they hold dear.

The very concept of escape is quaint in this brave new world of surveillance, and when their world is brutally shattered, Jenny and Leo must decide whether to keep running, or to find the courage to punch back.

ARMAGARDEN is the thrilling conclusion to the NeuralTech Rising trilogy, and will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they have read the last page.

Martian Invasion by James David VictorMartian Invasion by James David Victor:

The stakes are escalating and no place in the galaxy seems to be safe, but Earth still has the Breaker Marine on their side.

Holly Cropper and her squad of Marines are finally being recognized for their accomplishments, but not even an awards ceremony is safe. When they are attacked by more of the very robots they just defeated, the entire planet of Mars might become collateral damage. Can Holly and her team track down and destroy all these robots or will they destroy everything on the red planet?

Martian Invasion is the third book in the Star Breaker series. If you like fast-paced space adventures with interesting characters who battle aliens, evil corporations, and space pirates, Holly Cropper and her team of Marines are ready to share their epic adventure with you.

Evolving Crane by Dave WelchEvolving Crane by Dave Welch:

An alien massacre brings the multiverse to war…

When Agent Lawson moves to London, Crane (her known felon boyfriend) is left to raise their child alone.

But as matters send him over the edge, Crane is abducted by aliens.

Now, trillions of galaxies away, the battle rages on, steering death across the stars. Uncanny events occur when Crane is molecularly augmented and shoved into this cosmic war.

Chrystine's Sleep Solution by Daniella WilliamsChrystine’s Sleep Solution by Danielle Williams:

It’s been over a year since insomniac Chrystine Brown got a full night’s rest. So she’s astounded—and relieved—when her new sleep music app puts her in a sound slumber and keeps her there.

But the app’s soothing interface conceals a horrifying secret.

A secret that’s become a part of her.

A secret she may never escape…

* * *

If you’re looking for scares that unnerve instead of nauseate, look no further. Horror stories from Danielle Williams lean towards slow-burn scares and the unsettling. If you take your creeps with a PG-13 sensibility—think The Sixth Sense, The Outer Limits, or The Twilight Zone—this is a story for you.

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