Try an app and get Mercy Mission for free

The good people of Page Foundry who sell e-books via various apps as well as via the Inktera and Versent Books online stores, are running a promotion for their e-book apps. And one of the books you can get for free with a promotional code is my own Mercy Mission.

And here is how it works: Download any of the Page Foundry e-book apps onto your Android or iPhone (no Windows phone apparently, sorry). The link is for the Morgan Rice Books app, which is a speculative fiction focussed app, but they have several other apps available, e.g. TribBooks, the e-book store of the Chicago Tribune, Caffeine Nights, Ever After, Diversion Books, Cricket eBooks, and IndieReader.

After you’ve installed the app, tap on any book, click redeem and enter the PIN code “buhlert” and you’ll get a free copy of Mercy Mission. Best of all, I’ll still get paid for the book, since Page Foundry covers the costs.

The PIN Code is good for eleven downloads (ten plus one for testing purposes, but since my family only has Windows phones, we can’t use it, so I’m putting it up for offer as well.), so what are you waiting for. Get your free copy of Mercy Mission now.

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Gone Girl, femme fatales and fear of women

Last week, I thought I was the only person in the world who found the success of Gone Girl, both as a novel and a film, troubling.

But it seems I’m not the only person who dislikes Gone Girl after all. First, Robert Jackson Bennett expressed his discomfort with the misogynist undertones of Gone Girl (see this post for details). And now Cath Murphy points out at Lit Reactor that the enormous success of Gone Girl reveals some troubling things about contemporary society.

Unlike Robert Jackson Bennett, Cath Murphy actually enjoyed the novel Gone Girl as a cleverly constructed and well written thriller. Indeed, this matches what I’ve heard from most people who’ve read Gillian Flynn’s novel. It’s allegedly well written, cleverly constructed and full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, it’s also chock full of misogyny. And indeed, Cath Murphy’s problem is not so much with the novel itself or even the film adaptation, but with the fact that a story about a psychopathic, scheming, manipulative woman who confirms every men’s rights activist’s worst beliefs about women is such a huge success today.

Cath Murphy compares Gone Girl‘s protagonist Amy to the scheming villainous femme fatales of the classic film noir of the 1940s and early 1950s and its literary models, hard-boiled detective and noir fiction. And indeed there are certain parallels between the classic noir femme fatales and Amy. Both are women who use sex to get what they want, who seduce and entrap men to get them to do their bidding, which usually involves murder, often of the woman’s husband. Their motives are often hazy – wouldn’t divorce or just dumping the guy and starting over be a cheaper and less risky option? What is more, both Amy and the classic noir femme fatales reflect social anxieties about women and particularly uncontrolled female sexuality.

To quote an iconic femme fatale, the lovely Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

Unlike Gone Girl, the femme fatales of classic noir fiction and film have never much bothered me. For starters, because they were simply glorious. They were not the woman you hated, they were the woman you wanted to be – except for the crime and the murder part, of course.

Besides, by the time I discovered them as a budding cineast in the late 1980s, the femme fatales of the old noir films were no more real than Jessica Rabbit. Look at these two clips from Gilda, a 1946 classic starring Rita Hayworth. She is Jessica Rabbit become flesh or rather Jessica is Rita Hayworth turned cartoon.

Though in retrospect, something did bother me about those old films noir after all. It wasn’t the femme fatales – after all, they were beautiful, stunning and wore some of the most gorgeous gowns known to mankind. No, what bothered me about many old Hollywood films of the 1930s, 40s and 50s was what I now recognise as rank misogyny. Though at the time, I couldn’t articulate my feelings beyond “The men in those movies are always so mean to the women and treat them badly, even though the women have done nothing to deserve it.”

Take for example, Gilda, the movie from which the two clips above were taken. Those two clips are wonderful, but the film itself isn’t. It’s the story of a guy named Johnny (played by Glenn Ford) who really, really hates Gilda, but at the same time wants her. Unfortunately, Gilda also happens to be married to Johnny’s boss and best friend, on whom Johnny seems to have a crush as well (honestly, Gilda makes so much more sense, if you assume that Johnny and Gilda’s husband are both bisexual). There is a happy end of sorts, when the friend is revealed as a villain, freeing Gilda for Johnny. I still didn’t like the ending, because Johnny was a jerk and Gilda deserved so much better than him

It’s quite telling that I had to look up who played two male protagonists in Gilda, but have absolutely no problems remembering who played Gilda. It’s similar for other films with femme fatale characters. I can usually remember who was the female star, but have problems remembering the male stars, unless it was Humphrey Bogart (who is notable for treating women decently in his movies) or Clark Gable (usually played massive jerks). Because at least for me, the women were the main attraction of these films, while the men were interchangable square-jawed dudes in suits. Coincidentally, I also know without prompting that the female protagonist of Gone Girl is called Amy, but always have to look up what her husband is called.

As an adult, I recognise that viewed through the lens of the 1930s through 1950s, the women in these old Hollywood films had done something to deserve the bad treatment they got. Namely the dared to use their bodies and their sexualities to get what they want. They dared to have sex, though you never saw any of it. And though they were usually portrayed as nightclub singers or dancers or bar waitresses, many of them were actually prostitutes, only that the Hays Code meant that you couldn’t utter the P-word on screen, which led to some mighty confusion among my teenaged self (“It’s forbidden for women to cross state lines in the US? It’s forbidden to drink sugar water? And what’s so bad about being a nightclub singer anyway?”).

The femme fatale is still with us as a character, too, and not just in her natural habitat, the retro-style hardboiled noir novel and its variations. No, she exists all over. Kathleen Turner, coincidentally also the woman who voiced Jessica Rabbit, played a string of femme fatales in several 1980s and early 1990s movies. Every James Bond film ever features at least one villainous femme fatale trying to entrap Bond and sometimes falling for him. And it’s certainly no coincidence that Rosamund Pike, the actress who plays Amy in Gone Girl, first came to international attention playing a villainous temptress in a Bond movie, Pierce Brosnan’s final outing Die Another Day. And who could forget Christina Hendricks, a woman born to play a classic femme fatale if there ever was one, as the marriage-hungry Saffron in Firefly?

Even superhero comics, a genre originally aimed at kids and teenagers, are full of femme fatales. Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mystique, Black Widow, Emma Frost, the Enchantress all started out as femme fatales. They’re all still present in the latest editions of the comics as well as th successful film and TV franchises based on them, too. Only the Enchantress is conspicuous by her absence in the Thor movies, though we did get her sister Lorelei doing a classic femme fatale turn in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, it’s interesting that though all of the characters listed above started out as villainesses, most of them have reformed by now. Black Widow and Emma Frost are pretty much full time on the side of the angels these days, Mystique and Catwoman at least part of the time. Though you can still see Black Widow employing some classic femme fatale seduction techniques in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers.

Black Widow, Emma Frost, Mystique, etc… are one example of the evolution of the femme fatale into a heroic character. Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is another example of that evolution, though a far more problematic one, from femme fatale to full blown psychopath.

As I’ve mentioned above, femme fatales rarely bothered me, even though I could see the misogynist implications inherent in the stereotype. And a large part of the reason was that femme fatales were clearly fiction. Surely, no one believed that women really are that way.

Only that people did believe it. Double Indemnity, the 1944 noir classic about a scheming, spouse-murdering femme fatale that Cath Murphy mentions in her article, was inspired by an actual case, that of Ruth Snyder who persuaded to her lover to help her murder her husband and was executed for her troubles. The same crime also inspired The Postman Always Rings Twice, another novel which became a classic noir film.

Worse, the femme fatale stereotype also influenced the reporting of court cases involving female defendants who matched the femme fatale stereotype, as the examples of Barbara Graham and Vera Brühne show. Now Vera Brühne very likely was not guilty, while Barbara Graham’s guilt is still disputed. Did the fact that both women matched the then popular stereotype of the murderous femme fatale influence judges and juries? We can but speculate.

Women pressing charges of domestic abuse or rape are already often branded as liars, especially if the perpetrator is wealthy, influential or a celebrity. And the popularity of a novel like Gone Girl, where a woman fakes rape and abuse to get back at men for various imagined slights, might well influence public opinion even further against rape and abuse victims.

Finally, I agree with Cath Murphy that it’s not so much the existence of the novel and the movie which is problematic, but its runaway popularity. Combine Gone Girl‘s image of women with the image of women postulated by that other big bestseller of 2012, namely Fifty Shades of Grey, and you get a very troubling picture. According to the most popular novels of 2012, women are either scheming manipulative psychopaths or clueless virgins longing to be spanked by domineering billionaires, because she alone can save him. And that’s a truly depressing picture, especially considering that the most popular female literary characters of previous years were Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (okay, and Bella Swann), i.e. two much more progressive characters.

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David Fincher, Gone Girl and Misogyny

Robert Jackson Bennett has a great post about the movie Gone Girl and his massive issues with the film and particularly the portrayal of female sexuality as a weapon wielded against “innocent” men. Found via Natalie of The Radish.

Now I haven’t read the book and I’m not going to watch the film. Nonetheless, I know what happens in Gone Girl due to cultural osmosis – you pick up knowledge because people in your spaces talk about a thing. And there was a lot of talk about Gone Girl, the novel, long before the movie came out. Indeed, I think the first time I came across Gone Girl was on a romance readers forum, where the posters – overwhelmingly women, given romance reader demographics – talked about this new thriller and how absolutely horrible the female protagonist was for tricking and mistreating the poor poor male protagonist. A few posters also said that they disliked both characters equally, because they were both horrible people.

Now romance readers – and this was a forum that catered to more conservative romance readers – are often unreasonably harsh on female characters, while giving male characters a pass for even the worst sort of behaviour. So given the reaction to Gone Girl at that forum, I suspected that the female protagonist might well be problematic, but the male protagonist most definitely was. Eventually, I heard more about the book and its plot and learned that yes, the female protagonist was clearly a psychopath. But the male protagonist was a clearly a jerk, too.

But what bothered me most about Gone Girl was not that the characters were unpleasant – after all, I didn’t intend to read it – but that such a book existed at all, that a woman had written it and that plenty of people, many of them women, were gobbling it up.

Now I have a couple of narrative total dealbreakers, plots and tropes I hate so much that I will not only refuse to read or watch anything containing said trope and will never writer about said trope, but believe that the existence of said trope is incredibly harmful. One of these tropes is murdering children – I hate “The kid did it” plots so much I will probably stop watching the TV show (it’s really common on TV crime dramas) altogether.

Another of my personal total dealbreaker tropes is “A woman makes up allegations of domestic abuse and/or rape”. Because we live in a world where rape convictions are still incredibly rare, where domestic violence and sexual abuse are still routinely ignored, where the victims are still scrutinised. We live in a world where something like the Jörg Kachelmann case can happen (here is a more detailed German language article). And the last thing a world where the Kachelmann case and many similar less high profile cases can happen on a regular basis needs is a Gone Girl dropped into it. Because the police, courts, the media and the public already aren’t believing women who find the courage to report rape and abuse. And a high profile novel like Gone Girl in which a woman makes up rape and domestic abuse allegations will only excarbate this problem.

Now I assumed that Gone Girl would fade away within a few months like other mega bestsellers have faded before it, that people would just stop talking about it and move on to talk about something else, something hopefully less problematic. Plus, the popularity of Gone Girl gave an unexpected boost to what was termed “literary high concept thrillers” written by women, books like The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes.

But then the movie came out and because Gone Girl was filmed by David Fincher, a man who has a reputation as a great director, it got a whole lot of attention in places that had ignored the novel. Even Germany’s notoriously snooty and highbrow cultural press and TV programs talked about Gone Girl the movie in fawning reports that called the movie “a psychogram of a marriage”, which made it sound like an updated version of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage* and will likely leave some very confused viewers behind.

I was quite upset about the amount of attention the film adaption of Gone Girl was getting from cultural programs that never talk about Hollywood films that are actually good to the point that my Mom, who is one of those people who can’t understand why anybody would get worked up about something that is “just entertainment” in her view, asked me just why I was so bothered by the movie and that I just shouldn’t watch it.

“I’m bothered because it’s a high-profile movie adaptation of a misogynist novel made by a director known for problematic portrayals of women and yet these people are praising it, while ignoring other better movies”, I said.

Because let’s face it, David Fincher has a history of making movies which portray women in a problematic way. Let’s start with his Oscar winning The Social Network which only features women in supporting roles as “girlfriends who dump our hero and prompt him to create Facebook” and portrays Mark Zuckerberg as a misogynist jerk obsessed with women, their looks and their relationship status. Now it’s possible that Zuckerberg actually is a misogynist jerk in real life – I know very little about the man. But this article from Rebecca Davis O’Brien about misogyny in The Social Network points out that the film only treats women as prizes and props, though she blames scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin rather than director David Fincher. She might be even be right about that, since I’ve always found Sorkin’s work incredibly problematic long before I knew his name (a friend wanted to watch A Few Good Men and I went to see it with her and found that I hated the film with a passion), which largely mirrors how I feel about Fincher.

But let’s get back to David Fincher. I have seen neither The Curious Case of Benjamnin Button nor Panic Room nor Fincher’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I can’t comment on them. I have seen Zodiac, but until I just looked up Fincher’s IMDB entry, I didn’t know it was one of his films. And back when I watched Zodiac, I didn’t know it was based on a real, still unsolved case and thus was mightily confused why what was otherwise a rather neat serial killer thriller failed to capture the killer. Of course, nowadays Zodiac is most notable for featuring everybody’s favourite science bros in a pre-Avengers appearance together. Indeed, you could probably sum up the film as “Even two Avengers are not enough to apprehend a serial killer”**. Nonetheless, Zodiac is probably my favourite Fincher movie and the only one I can imagine watching again, though it’s still a testosterone heavy movie in which women only appear as victims or wives.

Fight Club is pretty similar to Gone Girl, a thriller with a lot of twists and turns based on a novel which is hugely problematic in itself. It’s also dripping with testosterone and contains a lot of lamentations about the fate of the poor put upon white men, which didn’t just make my eyes roll. As with Gone Girl and possibly The Social Network, the problem already lies with the source material. But the fact that David Fincher keeps adapting problematic source material does mean something, especially since a director of his reputation has a choice what to adapt.

The Game is a movie I immensely disliked and indeed confirmed my dislike of David Fincher as a director whose films I hate. It was his third movie and the last one I watched at the theatre, because I figured out a director who made three movies I hated didn’t deserve another chance. Coincidentally, The Game also has some parallels with Gone Girl. Again, it’s a twisting thriller where nothing is as it seems at first glance. It’s also a story where a man is hounded and accused of crimes he didn’t commit and it all turns out to be a sham. However, unlike Ben Affleck’s character in Gone Girl, Michael Douglas’ character in The Game is supposed to be not just immensely grateful to have been sent on such a great adventure, he’s even expected to foot the bill for the whole thing. Indeed, this was why I hated the movie, because I thought, “If my brother had done something like that to me, I’d kill him rather than hug him.” As for women, I’m sure there were women in The Game. I’ve just completely forgotten about them, while I can offhand recall the male stars.

I saw Se7en in one of the most fabulous places to see a movie worldwide, on the balcony of the Odeon Leicester Square. Now the Odeon Leicester Square is a fabulous movie theatre, so fabulous that I went there as often as possible as a student, even though other theatres were playing the same movies at cheaper ticket prices. But not even the wonderful Art Deco surroundings of the Odeon Leicester Square could make Se7en a better movie.

Like Zodiac, Se7en is a serial killer thriller with an unsatisfying conclusion. And like Zodiac, it’s a film where women only appear as victims or wives or both at once. Yes, Zodiac is the film in which Fincher had Kevin Spacey cut off Gwynneth Paltrow’s head and put it in a box. I repeat, he cut off Gwynneth Paltrow’s head and put it in a box. And the movie didn’t just kill Gwynneth Paltrow’s character, but used her as a prop to push Brad Pitt over the edge in a classic case of fridging. Of course, Gwynneth Paltrow wasn’t the star she’d eventually become back then***, she was just that young blonde actress with the funny looking face. None of which makes what happens to her character in Se7en any more acceptable.

Coincidentally, I recently saw a report on TV in which Austrian writer Clemens Setz pointed out parallels between a scene in Se7en and IS beheading videos. Now Fincher is absolutely not responsible for IS copying his imagery, but it’s still rather disturbing.

Finally, we come to the film that lies at the root of my intense dislike for David Fincher and his oevre, namely Alien 3 a.k.a. the film that killed a franchise. Now Alien 3 didn’t actually kill the Alien franchise – no, it’s still going strong after 35 years. However, most people like Alien and Aliens, though opinions vary with regard to which is better. Meanwhile, comparatively few people like Alien 3 or the increasingly diminishing returns that followed. And some people even say, “Alien 3? There was no Alien 3? The series ended with Aliens.” If only…

Alien 3 was the first film of the franchise I saw at the theatre, I was too young for the previous installments and only saw them on TV. I was really excited about getting to see it in the theatre, too, because at the time I was a big fan of the Alien series. And I hated Alien 3. Oh, how I hated it, even though my twenty-year-old self couldn’t quite express just why I hated it so much.

Now I’m twenty years older and can express just why I hated Alien 3 so much. The reason is that Alien 3 took a franchise that had created one of the great iconic strong women of SF and planted a misogynist turd right on top of it.

For starters, Fincher killed off Newt and Hicks, both beloved characters, off screen, because they didn’t fit the movie he wanted to make. Then he crashlanded Ripley on a prison planet full of men, men with a double Y chromosome (i.e. so masculine they’re criminally insane) at that. Depressingly enough, those male prisoners are played by some very fine actors such as Charles Dance, Charles Dutton, Paul McGann, Pete Postlethwaite, etc… There are only two female characters in Alien 3 (three, if you count Newt’s briefly glimpsed corpse), Ripley and the alien queen. To add further humiliation to Ellen Ripley, she has to shave her head, because apparently they don’t have effective anti-lice agents in the future. Never mind that shaving a woman’s head is traditionally a way of marking female criminals and women deemed sluts. There are plenty of references to Ripley’s childbearing capabilities or the lack thereof (since her biological kid is dead and Newt is dead, too), Ripley is impregnated by the alien queen and in the end kills both the queen and herself, while a baby alien bursts from her womb. In short, Alien 3 is a film about the hatred of women and their ability to bear children.

Indeed, when I told my Mom following that TV report about Gone Girl that I hated Fincher, because he kept making misogynist movies, fridged Gwynneth Paltrow and put her head in a box and was responsible for the fucking disgrace that was Alien 3, the film where he first shaved Ellen Ripley’s head and then killed her off, she said, “What does it matter? If you hate Alien 3, just don’t watch it.”****

But it does matter. It matters because David Fincher destroyed the Alien franchise and tried to humiliate and kill off one of the few female iconic SF characters. Worse, Alien 3 tarnished even the two good movies. Before Alien 3, I had watched both Alien and Aliens several times. I had the movies on video. I watched them whenever they showed up on late night TV somewhere. Some time after Alien 3, Alien was on TV again. But when I tried to watch it, I found that I didn’t like it anymore. Ditto for Aliens. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them in full in the past twenty years.

Does this make David Fincher a misogynist? I honestly don’t know, because I know nothing about the man as a person. But I know that he keeps making problematic movie after problematic movie.

*I will forever refer to Scenes from a Marriage as “Tendrils of a Toe”, because a popular comedy program on German TV had a thing about switching initial sounds of phrases and titles for comedic effect, so Scenes from a Marriage (“Szenen einer Ehe” in German) became “Tendrils of a Toe” (“Sehnen einer Zehe” in German). You don’t want to know what I call Kentucky Fried Chicken.

**Given the current flood of superhero films starring high profile actors, a lot of older movies start looking distinctly strange when viewed through the superhero lens. For example, try “Hank Pym fails to finish a novel he’s promised his publisher, so the publisher sends Tony Stark to put the pressure on Pym. Batman’s doomed girlfriend Rachel tries to seduce Pym, while Pym’s genius student Peter Parker winds up in bed with Tony Stark” – yes, this is a real movie, based on a novel by Michael Chabon who would probably get a kick out of this summary. Or how about “Hank Pym has a one night stand with Nova Prime who turns stalker and makes his life hell” – yes, this was a massive hit in the 1980s.

***What is it with David Fincher and future Marvel Cinematic Universe characters?

****I should note that my Mom really hates the entire Alien franchise, can’t tell the movies apart and is still annoyed more than twenty years later that I made her watch three of them.

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Introducing the new Silencer trailer

The old Silencer trailer is no longer quite up to date and so I decided to make a new one, using Stupeflix, the same program I also used to make the Shattered Empire trailer as well as a short general video about me and my books.

Over at Pegasus Pulp, I have a detailed post about how to make book trailers using free online services. But for now, enjoy the new Silencer trailer.

The Adventures of the Silencer

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Photos: Winschoten in the Netherlands

Yes, I know you’re waiting for the Birmingham photos, but those will have to wait a bit longer. In the meantime, here are some photos of Winschoten in the Netherlands, taken during a visit on October 3.

Now October 3 is a public holiday in Germany, namely the Day of German Unity. It is, however, a regular work day in the Netherlands. As a result, many Germans living close to the border use the public holiday for a shopping trip to the Netherlands. On Dutch public holidays such as Konigsdag, our Dutch neighbours make the opposite trip and flood German border towns. And indeed every second person on the streets of Winschoten was German.

However, the reason I went to Winschoten was because I had a business appointment. The fact that it was a public holiday in Germany and a work day in the Netherlands was just a lucky coincidence. As for why Winschoten, it was simply the closest town that had a branch of the respective business, since Winschoten is located only about 15 kilometers behind the Dutch-German border, a one and a half hour drive from Bremen.

In my lifetime, border controls on the Dutch-German border were always light and most of the time, the customs and border officers would wave you right through. Young people were more likely to be stopped, particularly somewhat scruffy looking young people in big cars, because the border officers suspected they might be smuggling drugs.

However, since the Schengen Agreement went into force, border controls are a thing of the past in the European Union (except for the UK and Ireland who refuse to join, since their citizens apparently enjoy queuing up at the airport to have their passports scanned). As a result, the old border control checkpoint on the highway A280/A7 has been transformed to a coffee shop (the sort that sells coffee, not other stimulants*). The border is only denoted by a sign. On the way back, we crossed the border on a country road, because there was a traffic jam on the highway. The border station on the Dutch side lay abandoned, the one on the German side had been torn down altogether.

What still exists, however, is the last gas station before the border. There is always a gas station just behind the border, allowing drivers to take advantage of lower gas prices before crossing the borders. In the 1980s, gas was cheaper in the Netherlands. Nowadays, it’s cheaper in Germany. In the Netherlands, the last gas station also used to be the last place to get LPG autogas (ubiquitous in the Netherlands and very uncommon in Germany), though in recent years German gas stations near the border have begun offering LPG autogas as well.

Walking through the town centre of Winschoten, I was surprised how many retail chains I remember from my teens in Rotterdam are still around. There was a HEMA discount department store, the household good chains Blokker and Xenos, the healthfood and drugstore chain Kruidvat (albeit with a new logo), the clothing chains Miss Etam and MS Mode (their clothes are still boring as well), the clothing discounter Zeeman and the bookstore chain Bruna. Considering how many long established retail chains have been lost in Germany in the past twenty-five years, I find it comforting to see so many familiar names on a Dutch high street.

I resisted the lure of Blokker and Xenos (“You don’t need any of this.”) as well as HEMA (“You don’t need to buy cheap costume jewellery anymore – you can actually afford the good stuff.”), but I couldn’t resist the Bruna bookstore. Alas, this one didn’t have any English language books, unlike my old Bruna store in Rotterdam. It did have comics, including some of my old favourites like Franka, Suske en Wiske, Blake en Mortimer, Thorgal or Largo Winch. In the end I resisted buying any, though I can actually afford them now (as a teen, I just read them in the store, because I didn’t have enough money to buy comics). But I’m happy to see them still going strong after all those years.

In the end, the only thing I bought was two bags of rice crackers, because I love rice crackers. At least, you can actually get rice crackers in Germany these days, but the selection is still better in the Netherlands.

So let’s have some photos: Continue reading

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Meet My Character, Holly di Marco

“Meet my Character” is a new blog hop similar to the speculative fiction blog hop, only that it allows a writer to introduce a particular character.

Previous entries include Jamie Maltman, E.W. Pierce, Stacy Claflin and Jessica Rydill, who introduced us to her character Yuda Vasilyevich before handing over the baton to me.

Jessica Rydill is one of my compatriots over at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the author of Children of the Shaman, The Glass Mountain and Malarat. Here is her bio:

Children of the Shaman by Jessica RydillJessica Rydill writes fantasy and collects Asian ball-jointed dolls. This makes her living room an unnerving place to visit.
Many of the dolls are based on characters from her books. The bad guys stay locked in the cabinet.
Jessica wishes she could write like Russell Hoban. In the mean time, she has got a crossover going on between mediaeval fantasy with warlords, and steampunk adventure with lightning-wielding shamans. Plus Golems, Dybbuks, Kabbalistic demons and other nasties from Jewish folklore.

Visit her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and buy her books at Amazon.


1) What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

Her name is Holly di Marco and she’s entirely fictional.

2) When and where is the story set?

In the far off future during the dying days of the Fifth Human Empire.

3) What should we know about her?

Holly is a mercenary and has been one since she was eighteen (she’s twenty-one now).

Holly has had a hard life. Mercenary is actually the most respectable job she’s ever had. Before that, she was a small-time thief and con-artist and lucky enough never to get caught.

She was born on a planet she calls “a poisonous hellhole”. Holly ran away from home at fourteen and never talks about her life before that point. She still has nightmares about it, though.

At the moment, she’s in the employ of the Galactic Rebellion against the Fifth Human Empire. She joined in a rare fit of conscience, even though the pay isn’t all that good. But now Holly is beginning to regret that decision, because joining the Rebellion has put her in the crosshairs of the Empire. And even though the official line of the Rebellion is “Everybody is equal. Everybody matters”, those who joined the Rebellion for political reasons tend to look down on the mercenaries who joined for monetary reasons. Holly knows she shouldn’t really be upset about that, after all no one likes or trusts mercenaries. But she is.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

There has never been a time, when Holly’s life wasn’t a mess. But what messes it up at the moment is actually one of the few good things she’s ever done, namely saving a life.

Because during a mission for the Rebellion, where she ended up guarding some service tunnels, while everybody else got to have the real fun, Holly rescued a traumatised young man from an Imperial death squad. This young man turns out to be Ethan Summerton, only survivor of an aristocratic family with rebel sympathies, and a rather important person for the Rebellion. Saving his life not only brings Holly to the attention of the rebel leaders, it also messes up her own life, when rebel leader Arthur Madden bullies Holly into taking care of Ethan, because – as they used to say on Old Earth – saving someone’s life means being responsible for him for the rest of your own.

Of course, Holly suspects that Arthur Madden just makes up those Old Earth sayings of his on the fly. Nonetheless, she’s now stuck with Ethan who seems to have imprinted on her like a baby duckling, not that Holly would know what that is. Nor does she really mind much, because Ethan and Holly quickly became fast friends.

Though Holly sometimes catches Ethan looking at her and suspects that he sees her as more than just a friend. And those are complications she really doesn’t need. Besides, there is also the little fact that the Empire wants them both dead.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

All Holly really wants out of life is a decent standard of living and reaching old age in good health and with all her limbs still attached or at least replaced by cyber-prosthetics. Unfortunately, she lives in a universe where even such commonplace desires can be almost impossible to achieve.

Holly is well aware that she can’t work as a mercenary forever. So she hopes to eventually promote herself to a desk job running her own mercenary company, together with her friend Carlotta and maybe Ethan. And someday, she might even have saved enough money to retire to a nice warm pleasure planet somewhere.

Family and a committed relationship are not in her plans for the future. Of course, the future doesn’t necessarily care about plans.

Even though she works for the Rebellion, Holly isn’t a particularly political person. She’s unhappy with the Empire and its unjust system, but then pretty much everybody is or at least everybody who doesn’t directly profit from the injustice of the system.

If you asked Holly what she hopes the Rebellion will achieve, she’d probably give you a vague answer along the lines of “Kill the Emperor” or “Burn it all down and start over”. She doesn’t have any particular ideas regarding what that starting over should look like.

Besides, Holly figures that it doesn’t really matter what she wants anyway. Because there is a big chance that she and everybody she cares about will get killed while fighting the good fight.

6) What is the title of the novel, and where can find out more?

It’s actually a series, the Shattered Empire series. The first book is called Mercy Mission. Further stories featuring Holly and Ethan are Seedlings and History Lesson. There is also a fourth book in the series called Debts to Pay, which stars Holly’s friend and fellow mercenary Carlotta Valdez. And there are more on the way.

7) When was the book published?

Mercy Mission was published in 2013. Seedlings, History Lesson and Debts to Pay were all published in 2014. So far the series is only available in e-book form at all the usual places, but print editions are forthcoming, as are further Shattered Empire stories.

That’s it from me. I’d have loved to show you what Holly looks like, but she’s not on any of the Shattered Empire covers to date (only Ethan and Carlotta are featured), probably because it’s difficult to find suitable SF stock art that doesn’t feature women in full fetish gear.

Next up is Steampunk writer SB James, author of The Inventor’s Son series. Here is her bio:

The Inventor's Son by SB JamesSB James, formerly of the (in)famous Jersey Shore and now a resident of Florida, has been writing since she was in seventh grade. She is currently working on the five (and a half) book Steampunk series The Inventor’s Son. She also dabbles in graphic design and artwork when she has the time, mostly in between chapters.

Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest and buy her books at Amazon.




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The Shattered Empire trailer and revolutions in the fantasy genre

First of all, Seedlings is today’s featured new release at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, so come on over to read an exclusive excerpt.

The Speculative Fiction Showcase features new releases, author interviews, guest posts, a weekly link round-up and much more, so visit often.

However, this is not the only news I have to share today, for the Shattered Empire series has also acquired a book trailer. I made it with Stupeflix Studios, using some stock art of space imagery.

You can see the result below:

The Shattered Empire series tells the story of a galactic revolution through the eyes of those who fought it.

Now I’ve always been a sucker for stories about revolutions, preferably in space, as I explain in this post. Such stories were hard to find for a while, but lately the topic of rebellions and revolutions seems to be seeping back into the zeitgeist, since there have been a couple of blog posts about the subject of late.

At iO9, Esther Inglis-Arkell points out how many fictional YA dystopias ignore the lessons of real life revolutions. In response, I wrote this lengthy post, in which I grapple some more with my fascination for such stories.

Now Canadian fantasy writer C.P.D. Harris has taken up the thread and offers his thoughts on revolutions and rebellions in the fantasy genre.

He makes a couple of interesting points, starting with the fact that stories of revolutions are rare in the fantasy genre – unlike SF, where they are fairly common, at least at certain times. C.P.D. Harris believes that the reason for this might be that revolutions are linked to urbanisation and epic fantasy usually eschews urbanisation. Though I suspect that the fact that the epic fantasy genre tends to presuppose a feudal system, a system which would be destroyed by a large scale revolution, has something to do with that as well. Hence you get the one true king overthrowing the dark lord only to take the throne for himself and rule just as absolutely as his predecessor, but with less random arrests, executions and massacres. No one ever considers installing a constitutional monarchy in a fantasy novel (unless the book was written by Simon Green, who has a constitutional monarchy with regular elections in his Hawk & Fisher novels, much to the fascination of his protagonists who come from a traditional feudal system) let alone a republic.

In fact, I suspect that reason that revolutions are so rare in epic fantasy is because a revolution would irrevocably break the furniture of the genre.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month: September 2014

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some 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, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have a broad spectrum of titles, featuring hard science fiction, space opera, Steampunk, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Wuxia fantasy, Arabian Nights retellings, demons, werewolves, vampires, shape-shifting dragons, superheroes, immortals 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 Heidi Garrett, 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:

Voyage by Ellisa BarrVoyage by Ellisa Barr

In this harrowing companion novel to Ellisa Barr’s book, Outage, the devastating effects of an EMP attack are experienced all over again, only this time the story unfolds on a cruise ship far out to sea.

Sena Morgan has just begun the voyage of a lifetime, but she’ll never reach her destination. A terrorist-launched EMP destroys the ship’s power and communication systems and starts a fire onboard, leaving thousands of passengers stranded in the cold, northern Pacific.

As food and water dwindle, strangers with a deadly secret are brought aboard the ship. Sena’s only hope of survival is to get as far from them as possible. At sea, there’s nowhere to run.

Sena meets a couple trying to get home to their daughter in a small town in Washington. Together they will face unspeakable challenges as they try to reunite with their families despite a terrifying new reality.

Written for all fans that love apocalypse stories, Voyage is a Young Adult survival novel that mixes an action packed story with themes of family, hope, and determination.

Murder of Crows by Annie BelletMurder of Crows by Annie Bellet

They say you can never go home again. If only that were true…

Game store owner and nerd sorceress extraordinaire Jade Crow knows death stalks her in the form of her murderous ex-lover, Samir, a sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her power. With the help of her friends, and sexy tiger-shifter Alek, Jade trains for the inevitable confrontation.

Until her estranged father shows up begging for help. Someone or something is murdering the crow shifters of Three Feathers ranch and her father believes sorcery is the only way to stop the killings.

Faced with an unknown foe, a family that exiled her decades before, a deepening relationship with Alek, and Samir’s ever-present threat, Jade will need all the power she’s gained and then some to stop the Murder of Crows.

Murder of Crows is the second book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series, following Justice Calling.

The Disillusioners by Adam BishopThe Disillusioners by Adam Bishop

Jarvis is an investigative journalist with a penchant for making ill-advised sarcastic remarks to powerful government officials. He works for a small, rebel newspaper called The Disillusioners whose approach to tackling the news is explained in their motto: “Dispelling the Illusions of power.” A large amount of money from the government’s budget has mysteriously gone missing, and Jarvis is trying to figure out why. But the Hammers – the aristocrats who control Cirilia’s government – are determined to make sure the story never comes out.

A political mystery set against the backdrop of a magically-powered industrial revolution, The Disillusioners chronicles the economic upheaval sweeping across Cirilia. Small, family-owned businesses struggle to keep up with the ruthless efficiency of the magicorporations. The old order is overthrown as money, not magic, becomes the dominant form of social control. And a few powerful men believe the changes are a signal that progress must be brought to every corner of the globe, by force if necessary.

As Jarvis races to uncover the fate of the missing money, he will confront the role that magic has played in determining who has power and how they get to wield it. He will be challenged to figure out where the line is drawn between luck and intention. And he must fight to reveal his government’s secrets and hope that in the absence of power, truth is enough.

Lokte by K.J. BryenLokte by K.J. Bryen

Marianne Garcia is a struggling actress in New York City. With a dead career and her mother dying of cancer, she begins to lose faith in a better life.
That is, until Logan Lokte shows up.
The mysterious Logan offers her everything she has dreamed of, promising that he can not only make her a famous actress, but can stop the cancer spreading in her mother’s body. All Marianne has to do is sign a contract.
Marianne doesn’t believe in magic, and she has lost all faith in miracles. So why does she find herself strangely drawn to him? Who is Logan Lokte? And if she were to sign the contract . . . what would the consequences be?

In this tale of passion, murder, and deceit, Marianne’s decision thrusts them both into a spiral where choices are crucial, and evil comes from within.
But they also must learn that, in life, not every door is locked.

Chronocrime by K.M. CarrollChronocrime by K.M. Carroll

Indal, chronomancer and werewolf, has been in exile for six months, and survived everything the desert could throw at him.

Now he has to survive multi-world gangsters.

His friends, Carda and Michelle, drag him home and present him with Michelle’s corpse–sent back in time from the near future. But Indal’s efforts to check out the timeline reveals that the corpse is a killer construct, out to murder them all.
While trying to discover who sent it, Indal stumbles into a crime ring of smugglers, blind alchemists, magic-stealing elves, and breakdancing gravity mages. They want him and his friends dead.

Because plans are in motion to that will shake the entire multiverse. And only Indal and his friends can stop them.

This is book 2 in the Spacetime Legacy series, following Storm Chase.

Mindguard by Andrei CherascuMindguard by Andrei Cherascu

I have always disagreed with his following into my father’s footsteps and becoming a mindguard. I said to him, ”Son, the mind can be a very powerful enemy.” He never listened, though. I remember his answer was always, ”It might be your enemy, father – he never called me dad – it might be your enemy, but it isn’t mine!”
– Robert Ayers, father of suspect Sheldon Ayers – Enforcement Unit Archives, File number 986697714, Investigation of Ayers-Ross Thought-Protection Agency on one count of treason against the IFCO, with intention to overthrow the Council of Presidents.

In a future world where telepathy has left the human mind exposed and mindcrimes are a constant threat to information and privacy, powerful telepaths specialize in protecting their clients’ thoughts.
Before his mysterious early retirement, Sheldon Ayers had been the world’s most accomplished mindguard, a legend in the field of thought-protection. Now, he is merely an eccentric recluse.
When influential businessman Horatio Miller requests his services, Sheldon is convinced by his former partner to come back for one more mission.
The assignment is to protect an information package located inside the mind of a young woman who claims the knowledge she holds is vital to the future of mankind. Sheldon and his team must help her cross the most dangerous territory in the man-inhabited universe – the Djago Desert.
Meanwhile, Tamisa Faber, a tough and determined army cadet with a troubled past, struggles to climb the ranks of the Enforcement Unit and become the first successful female enforcer in over two decades. When she is granted her first field command, she sees an opportunity to finally prove herself. Her orders: stop the delivery of Horatio Miller’s information package.
Threatened by the brutal Desert Dwellers and relentlessly hunted by Tamisa and the enforcers, Sheldon’s team must fight to keep the carrier alive and guard the integrity of her mind. But nobody suspects that Sheldon also has a dark secret, and it could end up changing the fate of the mission.

Kill It With Magic by J.A. CiprianoKill It With Magic by J.A. Cipriano

Sixteen-year-old Lillim Callina is good at two things: running away and magic.

Now, Lillim’s half-demon ex-boyfriend is contacting her for help, she has somehow gotten herself mixed up in a kidnapping, and her long-dead rival has risen from the grave.

So when a dragon plotting to take over the world offers her a choice- work for him or else-

Lillim Callina is going to choose else.

Puck you, Mr. AshburyPuck you, Mr. Ashbury by Cian Garrett

Puck You, Mr. Ashbury is a 8300-word light comic fantasy novelette.

When hired to track down a delinquent vampire, Mr. Ashbury tries to untangle the fallout of that job while trying to get out of his forced partnership with the trickster fairy Puck. But will he succeed when a troll crashes Puck’s morning shopping, their friend is kidnapped, and Oberon calls in an ancient favor?


The Sunken by S.C. GreenThe Sunken by S.C. Green

In the heart of London lies the Engine Ward, a district forged in coal and steam, where the great Engineering Sects vie for ultimate control of the country. For many, the Ward is a forbidding, desolate place, but for Nicholas Thorne, the Ward is a refuge. He has returned to London under a cloud of shadow to work for his childhood friend, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Deep in the Ward’s bowels, Nicholas can finally escape his strange affliction – the thoughts of animals that crowd his head. But seeing Brunel interact with his mechanical creations, Nicholas is increasingly concerned that his friend may be succumbing to the allure of his growing power. That power isn’t easily cast aside, and the people of London need Brunel to protect the streets from the prehistoric monsters that roam the city.

King George III has approved Brunel’s ambitious plan to erect a Wall that would shut out the swamp dragons and protect the city. But in secret, the King cultivates an army of Sunken: men twisted into flesh-eating monsters by a thirst for blood and lead. Only Nicholas and Brunel suspect that something is wrong, that the Wall might play into a more sinister purpose–to keep the people of London trapped inside.

Return to Innocence by Travis HillReturn to Innocence by Travis Hill

An unexpected visit from Davis, Elian’s closest companion, reveals a frightening tale that is impossible to believe. Except Davis is becoming mortal again, and The Ellensburg Group, the ancient enemies of night walkers, are behind the “infection” that goes far beyond any threat immortals have faced before. When Davis comes up missing, Elian travels to the Ellensburg’s compound near Missoula, Montana to exact revenge.

The Ellensburgs have laid numerous traps, but Zedira, Elian’s maker and an original Priestess of Alem, along with a small group of other immortals in the area, arrive to lend a hand, hoping to destroy their mortal enemies once and for all. Zedira’s display of true supernatural power evens the odds, but The Ellensburg Group has always played the long game…

Survival in Shades of Orange by Patty JansenSurvival in Shades of Orange by Patty Jansen

Humanity has expanded. Interstellar colonies exist in the far-flung frontiers of space.

After an interstellar war, Mauro and Gabriela arrive at the frontier base on the world Vittoria. But before their arrival, the space fleet commander shares a secret: The previous settlers were not victims of the war, but they have mysteriously disappeared.

Alone in a hostile environment, they have to find out why…

A hard science fiction short story first published in Analog, November 2012

Elevated by Daniel S. KaplanElevated by Daniel Solomon Kaplan

Rose doesn’t want to be an Elevated. She refuses to have her power unlocked on Elevation Day, unlike her other classmates. The irreversible treatment reveals powers that range from a benefit or a nuisance. For her father, it transformed him into an Unsound, forcing him to a life of exile.

Her hand is forced after a chance encounter with a previously undiscovered power activates her ability. Living as an Undocumented Elevated, Rose needs the help of others who hide under the government’s radar to learn to control her unwanted power. Among them, she unravels secrets about the treatment, the powers, and what happened to her father. Fed up with lies, Rose wants nothing more than to learn the whole truth–even if it means accepting her fate as an Elevated.

Flower's Fang by Madison KellerFlower’s Fang by Madison Keller

In the Kin-Jegera Empire the strength of your magic or your claws determines your destiny – too bad our heroes are short on both!

Prince Se’ls, one of the magical flower Kin and only child of Queen Se’uan, has a terrible secret – he has no magic. Forced by his mother, the Queen, to tour the empire to search for his magical companion, Se’ls is terrified of returning home empty handed.

Arara, long-furred runt and joke of her pack, is dreading the upcoming hunt, where the young Jegera show off their strength by taking down one of the fearsome armored hukra by claw alone. Arara is terrified that her superstitious pack will tear her apart if they learn her secret, that she was born telepathic and telekinetic.

With assassins and dark plots threatening the empire, Prince Se’ls and Arara must band together to save it, or perhaps to destroy it.

Danny Dirks by S.A. MulraneyDanny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon by S.A. Mulraney

Danny Dirks wants nothing more than to play baseball in his father’s orchard now that school is out, but he’s finding out that he is no ordinary boy. With the approach of his fifteenth birthday, Danny’s begun hearing voices and seeing visions of his dead mother. He’s also fairly certain that the cute girl next door is really a shape-shifting dragon. All of these things lead Danny to the discovery that he is the heir of the legendary Arthur Pendragon and the linchpin in a pact established between man and dragon centuries ago. Now, rogue dragons threaten that pact and the peace that comes with it. They aim to reopen the portal through which they originally came to Earth in order to bring back a rebel dragon army. It’s up to Danny to learn to channel the power that is Excalibur and, with his new friends, prevent the portal from being opened.

A Chronetic Memory by Kim O'HaraA Chronetic Memory by Kim O’Hara

In 2215, the science of chronography allows researchers glimpses of the sights, sounds, and smells of the past, as recorded in chronetic energies. But these promising explorations have become mired in politics and greed. When seven-year-old Jored Wallace goes missing, only one person, chronography intern Danarin Adams, realizes he’s gone. Soon she finds out that Jored’s disappearance is only the first of many timestream disturbances. Who can she trust to help her set things right?


Little Gou and the Crocodile PrincessLittle Gou and the Crocodile Princess by Robyn Paterson

“Every last member of the Mao family will die by the Hour of the Rat a fortnight from now.”

With these words begins a race against time, as the roguish martial artist called Little Gou hunts across the back roads and waterways of Old China to find a young bride-to-be who has become a pawn of the mysterious Lady Moonlight. He must outwit friends and foes alike, all of whom are dancing to the Lady’s song, and unravel a scheme that could see thousands dead or enslaved and the Middle Kingdom aflame with rebellion if he fails. But, worst of all, he has to face the woman who abandoned him in the name of family duty- the love he can never be with, or forget.

Influenced by Legendary Wuxia novel writers Gu Long and Jin Yong; and in the spirit of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Little Gou and the Crocodile Princess is a martial arts action & adventure thriller set in the Jianghu martial underworld of Old China. Through a combination of wits, swordplay and kung fu, the martial artist Little Gou, and his companion the warrior nun Sister Cat, must uncover the truth behind a deadly plot to bring the martial underworld to its knees, or die trying.

One Thousand Nights by Christine PopeOne Thousand Nights by Christine Pope

Lyarris Deveras, Crown Princess of Sirlende, takes a leap of faith and accepts an offer of marriage from the ruler of the far-off kingdom of Keshiaar, although she knows it means she will never see her family or her homeland again. Betrayed by his first wife, her new husband has vowed never to love again. But with a little luck — and a bit of magical intervention — Lyarris plans to melt her new husband’s stony heart in this novel inspired by the Thousand and One Nights, set in the world of the Latter Kingdoms.


Heir Expectant by B.J. PriestHeir Expectant by B.J. Priest

Ten days have passed with no sign of the rebellion.
Alone, Asher waits
as new Knights are made
and festivities are raised.
Hannah’s coronation approaches,
and the Queendom makes ready,
but everyone knows
the Scion is coming.

Book #4 in a series of fantasy novellas.

Novum: Exile by Joseph RheaNovum: Exile by Joseph Rhea

Beneath the surface of a distant water planet in the last human colony of Civica, fears of an ancient enemy walking among them have brought tension levels to a boiling point.

Captain Jacob Stone wants nothing more than to live a peaceful life aboard his ship, the Rogue Wave, but while on a routine cargo haul, he and his crew discover a dark secret that could unravel the fabric of their society and ignite civil war.

When an act of sabotage kills thousands and throws the colony into chaos, Jake is caught in the middle, and must seek answers in a place no one believes exists. Can he find them before it’s too late?

Exile is the second book in the Novum series and sequel to Novum.

Outlaw by Edward W. RobertsonOutlaw by Edward W. Robertson

IN THE YEAR 2010, an alien virus nearly wiped out the human race. A thousand years later, mankind has recovered and ventured into space. There has been no sign of the aliens since. Humanity remains confined to the Solar System.

All that is about to change.

Mazzy Webber is a lowly janitor on a third-rate cargo ship. Deeply in debt, when his captain decides to turn pirate, he leaps at the chance.

A modern Robin Hood–minus the part where he gives back to the poor–Webber lays down a few ground rules. No attacking manned ships, and no stealing from anyone who can’t afford it. Within months, he and the crew are out of debt. Their next target will make them rich.

But the attack goes all wrong. The target’s cargo could be the death of them–or it could be the key to reaching the stars.

The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M. RossThe Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M. Ross

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

The Alukah by Jessica RydillThe Alukah by Jessica Rydill

When student Jim Hopkins gets the bus home to Stoke Newington one night, he has an encounter that changes his life – and his views on magic and vampires.





Robert and Louie by Hollis ShilohRobert and Louie by Hollis Shiloh

Hired to redecorate the Skeffield country home, Louie is both attracted to Robert Skeffield and abashed by him in equal measures. Louie, who favors bright clothing and has never been called butch in his life, has little in common with gorgeous, masculine, and closeted army officer Robert. But not everything is as it appears, at Skeffield Manor or in their hearts…

Takes place after “Wes and Kit”

This story contains some minor steampunk elements, magical elements, mysterious elements, flirting, a dog, and a strawberry-colored waistcoat.

Sensual rating: very low
Length: 30,500 words

What Follows, edited by April Steenburgh and C. LennoxWhat Follows, edited by April Steenburgh and C. Lennox

How would an Immortal deal with the End Times?

The world will inevitably come stumbling into apocalypse, and They will be there to witness it. Dryads, demi-gods, deities of every pantheon- is it possible for the Eternal to handle an ending with grace?

Should it come through disease, disaster, or religious fervor, discover What Follows…

Stories by Lyn Thorne-Alder, M.J. King, Joyce Chng, Kate Larking, Nina Waters, K Orion Fray, E.V. O’Day, Crystal Sarakas, Sarah Lyn Eaton, and Ross Bennett.

Buddy by Jeff TanyardBuddy by Jeff Tanyard

Kevin just wants to finish his senior year of college and graduate.

Before he can do that, though, he must finish his summer internship. When his boss’s genetic engineering experiment goes awry, Kevin gets sucked into an adventure he never wanted.

It will change him forever… if it doesn’t kill him first.

Buddy is a 10,000-word story. It contains some violence and adult situations.

Strangers in Flight by Joe VasicekStrangers in Flight by Joe Vasicek


For countless ages, Reva Starchild has slept in perfect cryostasis. Frozen in secret to escape a catastrophic death, she awakens only to find herself the sole survivor of a people whom history never remembered. Light-years from her homeworld, among a culture she finds both perverse and obscene, she must somehow build a new life for herself where misplacing her trust could be fatal.

With nowhere safe to run, she finds refuge on a small starship with a mysterious young man who seems to be fleeing something as well. Where others have sought to enslave her, though, he treats her with unexpected kindness. As they slowly open up to each other, she learns that he too carries a burden—one she can barely comprehend.

Isaac Deltana indeed carries a burden. The failure of his mission at Colkhia has brought untold calamity to the Outworld forces and almost certainly led to the death of his brother. Now, he flees from the Gaian Imperials to prevent them from obtaining the secret technology he carries—one that will change the face of interstellar war forever.

Little does he know, the Imperials aren’t the only ones hunting him in

This is book 3 of the Sons of the Starfarers series, following Brothers in Exile and Comrades in Hope.

Facade by R.M. WebbFacade by R.M. Webb

Claire Jacoby is desperate to remember who she is and where she comes from. Isolated by the fact that she can’t remember her past, she builds a life, however hollow, out of the fragments of herself that remain. In the seven years since awaking alone and confused in the woods, she’s learned to hide behind social customs, creating a facade to protect the secret she hides from the rest of the world.

Claire is struggling with disconcerting flashes of information, unsettling thoughts and images that she fears are memories. When William Foley comes into Claire’s favorite cafe, his very presence demanding her attention, she’s overcome by the sense that she knows him. He sweeps into her bitter, colorless little life, unconcerned about hiding his unnaturally quick movements and cold skin, and starts putting Claire back together piece by piece.

William knows Claire and has the answers to questions she’s been asking for seven years. He also knows she has dangerous enemies. William must protect Claire as she learns more about herself, each piece of the puzzle bringing her ever closer to those who have sworn to see Claire dead.

1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg

“A girl deeply wounded, more afraid of life than of death, may just be the best hope for mankind’s survival.”

Remnants of humanity are scattered high in the mountains, far from the deadly disease that wiped out ten billion lives. While everyone claws for survival, Micka cuts lines and numbers into her skin. The day she decides to press the blade deeper, a stranger steps into her life and makes an offer she finds hard to decline.

Warning: This book is not for the faint of heart. Do not buy if you abhor violence, intense language, and non-explicit sex.

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A new release and a new series: Overdose

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the Birmingham photos, because today I have a new release to announce, a short mystery called Overdose.

Overdose is the result of another eight hour fiction challenge, which you may remember from previous times I took part. You can read some more about the process of writing the story over at Pegasus Pulp.

And since Overdose features Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd, Police Constable Walker, who even acquires a first name, Kevin, and forensic medical examiner Dr. Rajiv, all of whom you may remember from The Cork and the Bottle, I even seem to have committed a new series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries. The Cork and the Bottle has also gotten a new branded series cover.

But for now, here is Overdose:
OverdoseWhen Caroline Murray is found dead in an underground parking garage with a needle in her arm, the case seems clear. Caroline died of a drug overdose.

However, everybody who knew Caroline insists that she was vehemently opposed to drugs and would never have taken any. And what was Caroline doing at 544 Grant Road, a building to which she had no known connection?

Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd is quickly convinced that Caroline Murray’s death was not a simple drug overdose. But who had reason to want Caroline dead and why?

For more information, visit the Overdose page.

Buy it for the low price of 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Der Club, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Flipkart, e-Sentral, You Heart Books and XinXii.

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Back from Birmingham, mixed announcements and some brief thoughts on Doctor Who

As the title indicates, I’m back from Birmingham. That is, actually I came back on Wednesday (on a 7 AM flight – ugh), but I’ve been too tired and busy for blogging until now.

There’ll be more observations and photos soon. But for now, here are some announcements:

I have begun uploading my books to Smashwords, following some recent policy changes on their part. I’ve also done one of their self-serve interviews.

If you’ve been interested in trying the e-book subscription service Scribd, you can now get a free 3-month trial via Teleread. Of course, you can also read some of my books while you’re at it.

Finally, three books in the Shattered Empire series simultaneously hit some category bestseller lists at Amazon Australia.

And now, let’s talk about Doctor Who.

As you may know, I stopped watching Doctor Who regularly sometime towards the end of David Tennant’s tenure, when I realised that the Doctor was no longer a character I liked, let alone wanted to watch. Ever since then, I’ve watched only intermittently, when there’s some kind of landmark episode such as those written by Neil Gaiman or when I find myself within the broadcast range of BBC1 while Doctor Who is on. Every single time, the verdict inevitably is, “This is really shit. Looks like a Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy episode.” and “Crap, was Doctor Who always this bad?”

When Peter Capaldi took over as the Doctor, I was pretty sure that would be the end of my more than ten year enjoyment of the show, because I had serious issues with Capaldi (outlined here) and disliked the direction the show was taking in general.

However, I once again found myself in the UK, while Doctor Who was on. And so I thought, “Why not watch for old times’ sake? Who knows, maybe it’s better than expected?”

You can imagine how well that one went. Continue reading

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