Cozy Space Opera with Food: “The Taste of Home”, a new “In Love and War” story

Yes, I have a new In Love and War story to announce. It’s called The Taste of Home and the post title says it all, really.

The Taste of Home is another tale to come out of the 2018 July short story challenge, where the objective was to write a short story per day in July 2018. Though unlike most published July short story challenge stories, The Taste of Home is not one but two stories written during the challenge, “Tea and Memories” and “Anniversary Dinner”, which turned out to be companion pieces.

Both stories were inspired by the same combination of two of Chuck Wendig’s writing prompts, namely to write a space opera and to write about food. And since food plays a big role in the In Love and War series, to the point that I have started dubbing it cozy space opera as an analogue to the “cozy mystery” subgenre with its focus on food and recipes, that combination of writing prompts immediately sparked an idea for an In Love and War story or three, since the story “Shipbound”, which can be found bundled with Bullet Holes, was also inspired by the same combination of prompts.

“Tea and Memories”, Mikhail’s section of The Taste of Home, was the first of those three stories written. For due to his deprived childhood, Mikhail has food issues, which makes him the ideal protagonist for a space opera story about food. What is more, Mikhail not only lost his home and his family with the destruction of Jagellowsk, he also lost his entire culture and that includes food. Mikhail can never eat his favourite childhood dishes again, because there is hardly anybody left who knows how to make them.

But even though the vast majority of the survivors of Jagellowsk were children under twelve for reasons explained in Evacuation Order, there also were adult survivors, people who were not on Jagellowsk when the planet was destroyed. Natalya Shepkova, whom we meet in Evacuation Order and later briefly in Freedom’s Horizon is one of them. And wherever you have expat or refugee communities, you have restaurants serving the food of the homeland. Therefore, it makes sense that at least some of those Jagellowski refugees would have opened a restaurant somewhere in the galaxy, serving the cuisine of a dead world. And so I decided to let Mikhail stumble upon a Jagellowski restaurant on the rim.

The people of Jagellowsk are the descendants of Russians who left Earth centuries, if not millennia ago. This history would of course be reflected in their food traditions. So I thought back on my experiences with Russian cuisine and remembered a memorable dinner at Restaurant Bellevue, a more than one hundred years old Russian restaurant in Helsinki, Finland, which I visited during WorldCon 75. The food served at Restaurant Bellevue is largely based on the cuisine of Czarist Russia and therefore fits the theme of food from a lost world. And so the Restaurant Demirdova in the story is very much based on the real world Restaurant Bellevue in Helsinki, down to the description of the street where it is located. And yes, the Restaurant Bellevue offers a Russian tea tray very much like the one Mikhail is served. I even took a photo of it at the time.

Russian Tea Tray

The Russian tea tray at Restaurant Bellevue in Helsinki.

Initially, I had intended to give Mikhail a full meal. But describing a full meal takes time and “Tea and Memories” was still a short story written under the time constraints imposed by the July challenge. What is more, Mikhail would not have a full meal elsewhere, while Anjali was waiting with dinner for him at home. And so I settled for just letting Mikhail enjoy a pot of Russian tea. Which is doubly poignant, for while tea is not exactly rare in the In Love and War universe — though more common in the Empire than in the Republic — hardly anybody makes or serves tea in the way Mikhail is used to. And since Mikhail was a child when Jagellowsk was destroyed, getting to eat the pastries and sweets of his childhood again would have a special meaning to him.

The letter-shaped bukwi cookies really do have their origin in Russia, by the way, though nowadays they are much more popular in Germany than in their land of origin. They are called Russian bread over here and are very much a childhood staple. And yes, spelling out your name in cookies, as Mikhail does, is very much a thing.

I wrote “Anniversary Dinner”, Anjali’s portion of the story, a few days later. On that day, I just happened to make turkey biryani, which is a fairly complicated and time intensive dish to make, though mine is simpler than Anjali’s version. And when the time came to write my story for the day, I thought of the food prompt I had used a few days earlier and started to write a story about Anjali making biryani, while reflecting about her relationship with Mikhail.

Now biryani is very much a festive dish for special occasions — not to mention that Anjali even procured some meat, which is a rare and expensive treat in this universe — so I decided that Anjali’s biryani should be a special meal for a special occasion, too. And since I’ve already given Mikhail and Anjali plenty of adventures since they got together (and yes, the story of how exactly they got together will be written someday), it made sense for them to be celebrating their first anniversary.

Of course, a festive meal needs a festive dessert. Now I’m not much of a dessert person myself (I can whip up a dessert, if necessary, I just rarely bother), so I scanned recipe websites for Indian sweets and desserts and eventually came upon ras malai which seemed suitably tasty and festive. I even found step by step instructions how to make it, on which the description of Anjali making ras malai is based.

As I said above, I like to call the In Love and War series “cozy space opera”. And The Taste of Home is probably the coziest of all In Love and War stories. It has comparatively little external conflict and is mainly a story about memories, family and food.

So if that sounds like something you might enjoy, read:

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

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

Mikhail is on his way home, an anniversary present for Anjali in his pocket, when he suddenly finds himself irresistibly drawn towards an unremarkable storefront and comes face to face with his past.

Meanwhile, Anjali is preparing a special anniversary dinner for Mikhail, only to find that he is late to come home.

More information.
Length: 9300 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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Photos: Autumn Leaves 2018

This past week, we have been experiencing uncommonly warm and sunny weather for mid October. And so I took the opportunity to drive around and admire the fall colours in the area. Of course, I also took some photos, which you can see below:

Autumn field

Fall foliage and a late blooming rapeseed field near the town of Kirchhatten.

Autumn road

A road lined by trees in full autumn glory near Heiligenrode.

St. Ansgar Church in Sandkrug

The modernist bell tower of the Catholic St. Ansgar church in the town of Sandkrug

Nordwestbahn

The Nordwestbahn, a regional train, passes by.

Tree-lined road autumn

Another tree-lined road, this one near the village of Steinkimmen

Red oak tree

A red oak tree in the town of Sandkrug

Fall foliage

A closer look at the foliage of the red oak tree

Agnes maple tree

Agnes, the maple tree, in full autumn glory. I raised Agnes from a seedling I found in my parents’ driveway 35 years ago. This is what she looks like today.

Peppermint sundae

Because it was warm, I also stopped at an ice cream parlour that was still open and had this tasty peppermint sundae.

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Chuck Wendig, James Gunn, Chelsea Cain and the Silencing of Creatives

The following excursion into the past is going to be long, but bear with me, because there is a valid connection to what is happening today.
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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2018

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 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 epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, cozy fantasy, historical fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, science fiction romance, science fiction thrillers, space opera (cozy and not), military science fiction, near future science fiction, science fantasy, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, horror, time travel, witches, wizards, werewolves, vampires, demons, changelings, assassins, space mages, space marines, space princesses, space rogues, haunted shops, magical circusses, wayward saints, lost girls 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:

A Princess Lost by Odette C. BellA Princess Lost by Odette C. Bell:

Andalusia is no ordinary pirate – she’s a runaway princess.
She ran to save her people from her betrothed. He intends to use her to start a galactic war, unless she can stay out of his clutches.
When she runs into one of her old guards, she’s pulled back into the life she disavowed.
She can no longer afford to run. It is time to rise up and do what she should have done from the start – go to war.

A Princess Lost is the first instalment of the Rising Princess series. An action-packed galactic adventure, pick it up today.

Collision Course by Cora BuhlertCollision Course by Cora Buhlert:

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

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living as mercenaries on Metra Litko, an independent world on the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

Anjali and Mikhail are working a routine bodyguard job. But things quickly go awry, when an assassin bypasses all security measures to shoot the wrong target… or does he?

Anjali and Mikhail set off in pursuit, only to find themselves confronted with a figure from Mikhail’s past who could threaten their newfound freedom.

This is a novelette of 8000 words or approximately 27 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

Duty Bound by Lindsay BurokerDuty Bound by Lindsay Buroker:

Crown Agent Jev Dharrow’s good dwarf friend Cutter is missing, as is the city’s master gem cutter. Jev doesn’t know who would want them, but he’s determined to find out.

He hopes his fellow agent, Zenia, can help him locate the missing dwarves. Even though she rejected his offer of a romantic relationship because of their status differences, they have become good friends, and she has years of experience finding criminals.

But this kidnapping is anything but simple. Jev and Zenia find themselves entangled in a snarled plot that threatens the entire kingdom while making them realize their true feelings for each other. If they can’t rescue the dwarves, deter an invasion, and stop an explosive plot to destroy half the city, they may lose everything they love. Including each other.

Demon Fire by Tori CentaniDemon Fire by Tori Centani:

A witch using demon magic? It’s more likely than you think.

My name’s Dani Warren and I’m a witch with demon magic. It’s kind of a long story but if anyone finds out, I’ll be executed on the spot.

I’ve been keeping my head down working as a PI, doing the dirty jobs no one else wants. But then, to solve a murder, I’m forced to work with Conor Ramsey, a sexy demon hunter who’s with the Council. He may be pretty to look at, but he won’t hesitate to cut me down if he learns my secret.

Soon groups of demon-powered mages start attacking us. On one hand, we’re on the right track. On the other, I can’t use my magic to fight back if I don’t want to get caught.

I’m stuck between a smoking hot demon hunter and a pack of dangerous mages. Today really isn’t my day.

Demon Fire is book one of The Brimstone Magic Series. It’s action-packed, suspenseful urban fantasy with elements of humor and romance. Book 2, Demon Shadow, will be out soon.

The Ruby Heart by Ashley CapesThe Ruby Heart by Ashley Capes:

Thomas, Mia and Ethan have finally discovered the long-lost rebellion airship Clara – only to learn that it cannot grant them their freedom, since none know how to fly the mighty ship.

A desperate search for a pilot follows but disaster strikes when Thomas falls into the clutches of their old tormentor, Lady Elisabeth; master of the Sand-Hog and lieutenant to the King. Yet Elisabeth has her own plans for Thomas and they do not involve simply handing him over to her liege.

Mia and Ethan find themselves torn between chasing Thomas and following clues to the Clara’s pilot but hounding Mia every step of the way is her own doubts and fears, her confusion over her feelings for Ethan and worse, dark dreams that hide an even greater threat than King Williams could ever pose.

A steampunk adventure set in a slowly dying land where magic clashes with steam and alchemy.

Court of Shadows by C.N. CrawfordCourt of Shadows by C.N. Crawford:

A girls’ night out means three things to me: drinking whiskey with my best friend, trying not to kill anyone, and keeping my magic hidden. A fae gladiator like me isn’t supposed to exist anymore.

But my Friday night takes a bad turn when a lethally gorgeous fae–Ruadan–tries to assassinate me. He’s known as the Wraith, and he’s taken a vow of silence until he’s slaughtered the outlaws on his kill list. Outlaws like me.

Ruadan lets me live on one condition: I have to earn my place at the Institute of the Shadow Fae. As a powerful fighter, I can take the competition.

But things fall apart when I’m given an impossible choice: betray my mentor Ruadan, or my best friend dies. Now, I face a quandary my gladiatorial past did not prepare me for.

This book is from the Demons of Fire and Night world.

Skyblade's Gambit by Robert DahlenSkyblade’s Gambit by Robert Dahlen:

Captain Annabel Skyblade commands the Peregrine, the most feared pirate airship to sail the skies of Aldarre, plundering the rich and powerful. The rulers of the great sky realms have had enough of her, and Victorie Brassfeld, Cerindel’s top Navy intelligence agent, has a plan to capture the pirate, using a lure too strong to resist—a valuable, beautiful sapphire amulet.

But the amulet hides a great secret, and when it is stolen by sinister forces, Annabel and Victorie must join together to retrieve it. And as they face danger and adventure, they also have to face their feelings for each other, feelings they have never had before, when they discover…

Hearts can be stolen too.

Cut to the Bone by Zen DiPietroCut to the Bone by Zen DiPietro:

Cut off from her team, Fallon will learn some hard lessons about what it means to be a clandestine operative. She and Minho have been tasked with setting up the security system on a brand-new PAC installation called Asimov Station. It’s a lot of work to get done in a short time, and that’s only their cover assignment. Behind the scenes, they’ll be investigating the station’s captain. Either they’ll get to clear his name, or they’ll get to bring him down. Why PAC command has separated her from her team, she doesn’t know. She also doesn’t know where they are or when she will be reunited with them. All she can do is complete the job ahead of her as well and as quickly as possible, so they can once again be a team.

Mirror Flower, Water Moon by Amelia FaulknerMirror Flower, Water Moon by Ameilia Faulkner:

London’s youngest vampire. England’s newest sorcerer. And Ellis’ life is in their hands…

Han Xie had a fatal heart condition, and only the intervention of his best friend Ellis O’Neill could save him. Now Han is an unsanctioned vampire in a city happy to kill him for it, and the one man who could protect him seems to be falling apart piece by piece.

Jay Newfield became a sorcerer too late to cure his husband’s heart problem, and now that Ellis is dying it might be too late for Jay to save him, too. His only hope is the son of the last remaining sorcerer in England, the Duke of Oxford.

While Jay races to keep Ellis from turning to ash, Han discovers that his workplace is on another vampire’s territory. Caught up in more than one race against time, Han and Jay need to master their powers fast, before the Council discover – and execute – them both…

Changeling Magic by Marina FinlaysonChangeling Magic by Marina Finlayson:

For about five seconds there, my life was perfect. The fae king finally allowed me back into the magical Realms of Faerie, and his arrogant knight, the Hawk, was actually thawing towards me.

I should have known it wouldn’t last. When I get back to my childhood home in Autumn, my mother’s gone, our house abandoned. Not exactly the homecoming of my dreams.

Then an injured stranger turns up in the mortal world, claiming to be my mother, but she dies before I can question her. If I want answers, I’ll have to find her killer. And guess what? The killer is looking for me, too—but not for a friendly chat.

Everyone is keeping secrets, and I can’t even be sure who I am anymore—or how dangerous the truth will be when I finally uncover it. Just as well the Hawk has elected himself my protector. Keeping me alive will be a full-time job.

Vengeance by Jennifer Foehner WellsVengeance by Jennifer Foehner Wells:

Five years have passed since Darcy Eberhardt left Raub for dead on Ulream.

Darcy and her ragtag multispecies crew have used those years well, searching for her lost love, Adam, throughout the disreputable fringes of galactic society—though the odds are stacked against them. Along the way, they liberate the vulnerable and accumulate allies, some of them dubious. Meanwhile, Darcy continues to master her newfound powers in secret.

A cryptic message raises a ghost from the past to haunt her, forcing her to a crossroads that could lead to a reunion with Adam, or keep him forever beyond her reach.

Causal Nexus by Dan HarrisCausal Nexus by Dan Harris:

Inauguration Day on Nexus Prime. As Senator Neela Kane becomes the Speaker of the Commonwealth, unseen forces are at work: some seek to control the new Speaker, others would see her term end before it has even begun, and some…

Some just want to watch the world burn.

Yet in times of crisis, help can come from the most unexpected places, and in the galactic capitol, the smallest action can have consequences that no-one could possibly predict.

Bodyguard and politician, urchin and delinquent. Policeman and power broker, assassin and AI. Eight lives, one chain.

Action and reaction.
Cause and effect.
Life and death.

HYPO: Exordium by D.L. JonesHYPO: Exordium by D.L. Jones:

Chauncy and Tre were childhood friends. Tre, who works for a pharmaceutical company, is in town on business. Chauncy hadn’t seen Tre since college and decides they should catch up. After picking Tre up from the airport, they are ambushed and kidnapped. Held hostage in an old abandoned house. With hopes of escape, Tre and Chauncy use an experimental drug from Tre’s company that gives them extraordinary physical abilities.

This will be the first book in the Hypo Series. Hypo: Exordium. It is a Serial Short. There are 3 parts of an ongoing story. The second part will be released within 2 weeks of the first, and the final part soon after!

The Imaginary Worlds of B.R. KingsolverThe Imaginary Worlds of B.R. Kingsolver by B.R. Kingsolver:

Three new worlds. Three exciting adventures.

Three first-in-series Urban Fantasy books from author BR Kingsolver. Explore three unusual imaginative worlds. Travel with a sexy telepath in a world that could be ours, a mutant thief and assassin two hundred years in the future, and an Elven witch stranded on Earth.

Contains:
The Succubus Gift (Telepathic Clans #1)
Chameleon Assassin (Award winning first book in the Chameleon Assassin series)
Gods and Demons (Dark Streets #1)

The Succubus Gift – The Goddess blesses Her people with 25 Telepathic Gifts. In addition to Telepathy, the Gifts include command over Air and Fire, Telekinesis and Teleportation. Brenna’s life isn’t the same after she discovers her unusual and mysterious heritage. In addition to being a telepath, Brenna learns she has the Succubus Gift.

Chameleon Assassin – Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives’ secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation’s network? Libby’s your girl. Voted Best Contemporary/Urban Fantasy of 2017 by eFestival of Words

Gods and Demons – Life’s tough as an Elf girl stranded in Earth’s realm. When a jaguar shifter drops in out of nowhere and asks me for help in tracking down an ancient blood-magic statuette, I say no thank you. I learned a long time ago the key to survival is keeping a low profile. But it’s hard to ignore an artifact of the gods powerful enough to blow holes in reality.

Go for the Juggler by Leanne LeedsGo for the Juggler by Leanne Leeds:

A jarring homecoming.
An uncertain fate.
To save everyone, one witch must perform the juggling act of a lifetime

When Charlotte returns home with Gunther, Devana, and Ethel Elkins in tow, she doesn’t think her life can get any more complicated. But when one of her parents’ Animal Shelter volunteers turns up dead, her control begins to slip as her old human life and her new paranormal life collide.

While racing to come up with a plan to defeat the Witches’ Council, Charlotte must defend her family against an intrusive police investigation that risks exposing their true nature to the human world—an act which will condemn them all.

Go for the Juggler is the fourth book in the hypnotizing Magical Midway paranormal cozy mystery series. If you like eccentric characters, show-stopping magic, and twisty mysteries, then you’ll love Leanne Leeds’ crowd-pleasing whodunit.

Beneath the Lanterns by C. LitkaBeneath the Lanterns by C. Litka:

No good deed goes unpunished.

The historian Kel Cam enjoyed a pleasant life in Azera, the colorful capital of the Azere Empire. In the dark days, he taught classes at the University. In the bright days, he traveled the wide steppes to visit Blue Order communities, seeking clues about the mysterious, long dead civilization of the Elders in their libraries of ancient texts. However, when his best friend, Lefe Sol, the son of the ruler of Azere, discovers that his father has arranged his marriage to Ren Loh, the fourth daughter of the Empress of Jasmyne, Kel offers to stand by and help Lefe deal with his unexpected, and unwanted, bride-to-be. Kel soon finds himself caught up in the intrigues of empires which not only upset his well ordered life – they lay it to ruin.

“Beneath the Lanterns” is an old fashioned novel of adventure and travel set in an imaginary land – a land of colorful cities, sweeping steppes, and lush valleys littered with the ruins of a lost advanced civilization. It is a world of sixteen days of day light under the Yellow Lantern and sixteen days of night lit by the Blue Lantern. And across this wide and wild world under the Yellow and Blue Lanterns, Kel Cam finds that he must flee for his freedom, if not his life.

Things You Need by Kevin LuciaThings You Need by Kevin Lucia:

“Kevin Lucia is this generation’s answer to Charles L. Grant.” – Brian Keene

The things we want are so very rarely the things we need.

Clifton Heights, a modest Adirondack town, offers many unique attractions. Arcane Delights sells both paperbacks and hard-to-find limited editions. The Skylark Diner serves the best home-cooked meals around, with friendly service and a smile. Every August, Mr. Jingo’s County Fair visits, to the delight of children and adults. In essence, Clifton Heights is the quintessential small American town. Everyone knows everyone else, and everyone is treated like family. It is quiet, simple, and peaceful.

But shadows linger here. Flitting in dark corners, from the corner of the eye. If you walk down Main Street after dark, the slight scrape of shoes on asphalt whispers you’re not alone, but when you look over your shoulder, no one is there. The moon shines high and bright in the night sky, but instead of throwing light, it only seems to make the shadows lengthen.

Children disappear. Teens run away. Hunters get lost in the woods with frightening regularity. Husbands go mad, and wives vanish in the dead of night. And still, when the sun rises in the morning, you are greeted by townspeople with warm waves and friendly smiles, and the shivers pass as everything seems fresh and new…

Until night falls once more.

Handy’s Pawn and Thrift sits several blocks down from Arcane Delights. Like any thrift store, its wares range from the mundane to the bizarre. By daylight, it seems just another slice of small town Americana. But in its window hangs a sign which reads: We Have Things You Need. And when a lonely traveling salesman comes looking for something he desperately wants, after normal visiting hours, after night has fallen, he will face a harsh truth among the shelves of Handy’s Pawn and Thrift: the things we want are rarely the things we need.

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

The New Magic by Joseph MalikThe New Magic by Joseph Malik:

“Tell me who you ride beside, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Once dubbed “The Deadliest Man Alive,” Jarrod Torrealday is now Lord Protector of Falconsrealm and a knight officer in the Order of the Stallion. He awakens one glorious fall morning to find his castle under siege and his alliances shattered as a new threat rises in the west: a revolution driven by a sorceress trained to kill and led by an unstoppable swordsman from the world he left behind.

Worse yet, the weapons Jarrod brought with him from Earth are rocking the country on its heels and threatening everything he came to save.

At a candlelit crossroads of dark sorcery and espionage, Jarrod must choose between embracing forbidden ancient magic for the good of the realm . . . or gambling the future of the kingdom in a showdown between profane wizardry and modern steel.

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard by Geoffrey McSkimmingPhyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard by Geoffrey McSkimming:

Phyllis Wong, that brilliant young magician and clever sleuth, is faced with a quest which began in the time of her great-grandfather, Wallace Wong, Conjuror of Wonder! He wanted to track down one of history’s greatest magicians … but does the person even exist? To find the answer, Phyllis will have to Transit across thousands of miles and hundreds of years.

While she follows the trail of the master prestidigitator, a sinister figure haunts her every step. What is the Great Whimpering, and who is the dastardly man intent on bringing it about? Can Phyllis find one of the most mysterious figures from history? Can she complete her mission in time to prevent the greatest calamity ever to befall mankind?

Another astonishing mystery starring Phyllis Wong, from the ever-scrawling pen nib of Geoffrey McSkimming.

The third Phyllis Wong: Time Detective Mystery.

Wayward Saint by J.S. MorinWayward Saint by J.S. Morin:

The galaxy’s worst bounty hunter just might be its most relentless hero.

Esper may dress the part. She has her own ship. She even carries a blaster—not that she ever uses it.

But she violates the cardinal rule of the galaxy’s most cold-blooded profession: get paid.

At least she’s not alone. Her partner Kubu is an alien who gets mistaken for a dog.

One is a wizard on the run from her past. The other is a lovable eating machine. Between them, they haven’t got a ruthless bone in their bodies.

But when a client hires them, they’ll do whatever it takes to bring a target home safely.

This time, it’s a teenage kidnapping victim, and Esper and Kubu will crisscross the galaxy to track her down and make sure she’s safe.

Wayward Saint is the first mission of Black Ocean: Mercy for Hire. It follows the exploits of a pair of do-gooder bounty hunters who care more about saving the day than getting a payday. Mercy for Hire builds on the rich Black Ocean universe and introduces a colorful cast for new and returning readers alike. Fans of vigilante justice and heroes who exemplify the word will love this series.

Grab your copy and support the cause of justice.

Cerenovo by Mike S. NuckolsCerenovo: The Complete Series by Mike S. Nuckols:

A mind-bending series that questions the nature of reality and the depths of human compassion.

Ridley Pierce is as surprised as anyone when a polymorphic phishing virus becomes sentient. As a plague ravages the world, he desperately tries to communicate with the entity. Upon making contact, he compels the intelligence to create technologies unlike any that have ever existed, pushing the world into a sinister new age. As people rot in immersive virtual reality and dark-matter scans reveal the secrets of the brain, Ridley begins to question whether the entity wishes to help, or to destroy, mankind.

This box-set includes the novels “Emergent,” “Exogenetic,” “Entanglement,” and “Entropy.”

Undertow by Brooklyn RayUndertow by Brooklyn Ray:

Port Lewis, a coastal town perched on the Washington cliffs, is home to Crescent Cafe, a slew of micro-breweries, a downtown packed with antique boutiques, and violent, ancient storms. Thunder shakes rooftops and lightning cuts through dark skies, but Liam Montgomery has never been afraid.

Until now.

One night, Liam hears the scream of a kelpie, a Water horse whose cry foretells the beginning of a prophecy. Kelpies have not set foot on shore for decades, but as Liam digs into his magic and his family’s history, he uncovers a mysterious secret that could ripple into the lives of everyone around him.

Liam’s tea-leaves spells out murder. The life of someone he loves is on the line. An unwelcome kelpie speaks in riddles. The Queen of Water demands a sacrifice.

The Montgomery name is soaked in blood and secrets. Liam’s fate is sealed, but he’ll do whatever it takes to change it–even if it risks his circle, his magic, and his life.

Lost Girls by Shayne RutherfordLost Girls by Shayne Rutherford:

Fin McCrae is a finder, someone who can locate lost things with only the power of his mind. When he was a little boy, he swore to never use his talent. Now fifteen, Fin is about to break his word. Because three girls have been taken. Because the police are looking in the wrong place. And because he might be the only one who can find them before they’re lost forever. But getting to the girls is only half the problem. Saving them from the monster who took them might be impossible. And if Fin’s not careful, this might be the last promise he ever breaks.

LOST GIRLS was previously published in horror anthology DESCENT INTO DARKNESS as “Through A Dark Wood”. It is a novelette of 17,000 words.

Breakout by David Ryker and Douglas ScottBreakout by David Ryker and Douglas Scott:

When a meteor strike unleashes an alien intelligence bent on taking over the human race, only a ragtag band of Marines can stop them. The only problem is, they’re in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. For the next 98 years.

And their prison is two and a half billion kilometers from Earth on a good day.

Oh, and their fellow inmates want them dead…

Hey, nobody ever said saving the world would be easy.

The Mourner's Cradle by Tommy B. SmithThe Mourner’s Cradle: A Widow’s Journey by Tommy B. Smith:

The tale of a widow’s harrowing journey through grief and peril into the cold remnants of a dead world.

Damon Sharpe had in part found victory, he believed, in his battle to unearth a truth obscured by time. By autumn, he was dead, leaving to his wife Anne a house of unfulfilled wishes, remnants, and the key to the enigma of his obsession, the Mourner’s Cradle.

A journey through grief and peril delivers Anne Sharpe from her home in St. Charles to the faraway skeletons of a long-dead civilization where she will find the desperate answers she seeks…or die trying.

This horror novel is perfect for fans of…

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz
The Fisherman by John Langan
The Grieving Stones by Gary McMahon
Daphne du Maurier
Thomas Ligotti
Shirley Jackson
Dan Simmons

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

Spanish Mission by K.B. SpanglerSpanish Mission by K.B. Spangler:

Hope Blackwell, the world’s second-worst psychic, is tired of dealing with both the living and the dead. Between wrangling the ghosts of the Founding Fathers, medical school, and dodging the paparazzi, she’s got her own problems (and that last attempt on her life left her more shaken than she’ll admit!). So she packs up her friends and heads to Las Vegas for some high-octane escapism.

Their vacation is cut short when paranormal investigators show up with a story about ghost ships in the nearby Sonoran Desert. A desert is a strange place to search for pirates, but Hope knows all too well that the dead are everywhere. She tags along to make sure nobody will run into trouble if they find a homicidal ghost or two.

Hope wasn’t expecting the long-dead Spanish nun, or her pack of vengeful chupacabras. And they are just the beginning—this desert is full of ancient secrets, and psychics must beware.

Agents of Mars by Glynn StewartAgents of Mars by Glynn Stewart:

An enemy hidden in the shadows
A crack in the armor of secrecy
One chance to find an answer

Captain David Rice and the crew of Red Falcon have spent two years infiltrating the arms smuggling underworld of the Protectorate of the Mage-King of Mars. When the co-opted rebellion on Ardennes reveals a supply chain of weapons intended to fight Mars, this makes them the perfect team to investigate.

His new mission brings him across old friends and old enemies alike, but as his suspects start turning up dead, David realizes he isn’t the only one following the loose ends.

As shadowy enemies move to position themselves for civil war, Red Falcon’s crew must chase an ever-shrinking set of clues. If they succeed, they might just buy the Protectorate peace for their lifetime.

But if they fail…

Emerald Forest by Troy StoneEmerald Forest by Troy Stone:

The fate of the world lies in the hands of an inexperienced dryad and a war-weary human.

Kiri’s first assignment nearly gets her captured by a group of centaurs. A mishap placing her 600 years of training to become a Warden at risk. The Elder Dryads grant her a second chance to prove her abilities during a more dangerous task. She needs to discover the cause of a series of unauthorized portal openings and bring those responsible to trial. A fresh trail leads her to a planet long since abandoned by the dryads and a conflict tearing the world to pieces.

Johann lost his fiancee to a businessman while he fought to serve his country and watch longtime friends die in the trenches. His luck goes from bad to worse when a new enemy appear on the battlefield. Johann is caught by the group of nymphs hellbent on wiping mankind off the face of the planet. Of all the people, he happens to get rescued by a dryad that hates his guts.

Wardens are impartial but Kiri can’t help the feelings welling up inside. A part of her wants to leave Johann to die in the forest. Not only is he loud and shows a complete lack of respect for the environment, a complete no go by her books, but he’s also dangerously attractive for a human. Kiri’s heard plenty of stories about falling in love with mortals to know she shouldn’t, but teaming up with him to save mankind makes her question how tough her resolve really is.

Heart of a Dire Wolf by Carol Van NattaHeart of a Dire Wolf by Carol Van Natta:

To stay together, they’ll have to escape prison, outsmart wizards, and solve the mystery of a magical sanctuary town.

Skyla Chekal is in trouble. She’s a prisoner in an illegal underground auction house that sells magical creatures. If they learn she’s a dire wolf with free magic, they’ll hold a special high-roller sale just for her. She needs to keep her head down and escape, but she can’t because she smells someone who stirs her in the way only a true mate can. She can’t leave without him.

Siberian tiger shifter Nic Paletin can’t believe he’s found himself in a cage in an auction house run by wizards. As long as he continues to play dumb, he should be able to get out soon. But the intriguing smell of a woman who calls to his tiger has him tied up more than the shackles on his ankles.

As turned on as Skyla is by Nic’s intoxicating presence, she knows they first have to survive long enough to get free. Unfortunately, threats continue to escalate. In their escape, Skyla is sent somewhere else, and Nic has no idea where or what trouble she might be in. He must find her before the wizards do, plus figure out how to work together if they’re going to crack the secrets of a mysterious new-old town.

And they better hurry, because the greedy wizards not only know where they are, they’re after the fabled treasures of this vulnerable sanctuary town.

Continue the enthralling paranormal romance with Heart of a Dire Wolf, the third book in USA TODAY bestselling author Carol Van Natta’s fun, action-filled, steamy-hot Ice Age Shifters™ series.

Rogue by Robyn WidemanRogue by Robyn Wideman:

A dangerous warrior, living in hiding, wants nothing more than to be left alone, and occasionally extract a small portion of revenge on the royal family who betrayed him. But when assassins try to kill a young girl he intervenes. Now this betrayed warrior must forget his own vengeance and save a kingdom, a kingdom he once almost destroyed.

 

 

 

Space Rogues by John WilkerSpace Rogues by John Wilker:

Wil Calder was an astronaut testing Earth’s first Faster Than Light engine in an experimental space pod when he ended up stranded on the opposite side of the solar system. Even if NASA could come to get him, they didn’t know where to look.

But that was years ago.

Now, Wil is a lonely intergalactic outlaw and smuggler, looking for a crew, because space is lonely and boring. He’s got a ship, now he needs some friends or at least people to work with, maybe boss around a little.

What he isn’t looking for, is a plot that would destabilize the entire Galactic Commonwealth. A scheme he and his new crew aren’t remotely qualified to stop, but who looks at qualifications these days? They can’t just turn their backs on the galaxy, can they?

Between epic space battles, a quest for redemption and a daring heist, the crew uncovers a dangerous secret.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for September 2018

Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some 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.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, culinary mysteries, historical mysteries, medieval mysteries, Victorian mysteries, Asian mysteries, paranormal mysteries, children’s mysteries, police procedurals, crime thrillers, adventure thrillers, spy thrillers, legal thrillers, private investigators, amateur sleuths, spies, assassins, lawyers, kipnappings, intrepid reporters, werewolves and witches in 16th century Germany, murder in Tokyo, Hawaii, Korea and Australia, aboard cruise ships, in Hollywood, in circusses and cupcake shops 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:

Homicide on the Hunt by Stacey AlabasterHomicide on the Hunt by Stacey Alabaster:

When a treasure hunt turns deadly, the hunt for money and a murderer heats up.

The annual Eden Bay treasure hunt is usually a time of great fun. Secrets abound as Alyson and Claire face off, each determined to win the prize. When a dead body interrupts the hunt, the girls must find the killer before they can win the prize. Can their secrets and friendship provide a murder on the treasure hunt?

Homicide on the Hunt is the sixth book in the Hang Ten Australian Cozy Mystery series, a fast paced cozy mystery with an authentic Australian flair. If you quirky characters and unexpected twists, you’re going to love the Alyson and Claire.

Of Witches and Werewolves Trilogy by Cory BarclayOf Witches and Werewolves Trilogy Boxed Set by Cory Barclay:

Of Witches and Werewolves is a box set containing all three of the historical mystery books listed below in one epic tome.

Devil in the Countryside

It’s 1588 and a killer is loose in the German countryside. Is it the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg or something even more sinister? As the body count mounts and the mystery deepens, an unconventional investigator, a savage hunter seeking revenge, a conflicted priest, and a determined farmer’s daughter all search for answers, against the backdrop of a country reeling in religious turmoil.

In the Company of Wolves

In 1592, amid the chaos of regular witch-hunts and continued religious strife tearing Europe apart, three sets of travelers venture out on their own quests for peace and prosperity: A young thief from the slums, a ship of pirates, a priest and his wife. And as power, greed, and family secrets threaten to destroy them, their seemingly separate adventures converge in a place that may hold the key for them all.

The Beast Within

By the end of 1592, the city of Bedburg is still reeling from the horrific werewolf and witch trials that have consumed the city. Offering no comfort, a despotic lord rules with an iron fist and no one is safe. But an unlikely hero emerges, offering a group of improbable misfits their best hope for freedom: Returning to the chaos and tyranny they left behind to confront the face of pure evil head-on.

Sleepers by Mark DawsonSleepers by Mark Dawson:

When a Russian defector is assassinated in a sleepy English seaside town, Group Fifteen agents John Milton and Michael Pope find themselves in a rush to uncover the culprits and bring them to justice.

Their investigation leads them to Moscow and a confrontation with Directorate S, the agency responsible for seeding Russian sleeper agents around the world. When lies and double crossing mean that no-one is what they seem, the two agents – alone and without backup – struggle to achieve their goals under the most dangerous of circumstances.

Set one week before the opening of The Cleaner, this compulsive thriller turns back the clock to Milton as a barely functioning alcoholic, still tormented by the ghosts of the men and women he has killed in the service of his country.

Milton must fight his own demons as well as the Russian assassin sent to eliminate him. Will he be able to complete his mission and escape with his life?

The Highland Murders by J.S. DonovanThe Highland Murders by J.S. Donovan:

Rachel Harroway, a homicide detective with the ability to see the dead, balances the responsibilities of being a mother alongside her life’s calling to guide orphaned spirits home. Teaming up with her long time homicide partner Jensen Peak, she hunts for the latest crafty killer to strike in her little corner of the Appalachian Mountains. The investigation gets personal when her adopted daughter enters the crosshairs. How far will Rachel go to protect her own? How much will she be willing to give up?

 

Michael Gresham Box Set by John EllsworthMichael Gresham Box Set by John Ellsworth:

Enjoy the first three Michael Gresham legal thrillers at 50% off!

Grab the first three of this set of international best sellers while you can for one-half off the cover price. These are the books that made Michael Gresham a household name for those who love legal thrillers. But a word of warning: get ready to stay up late, because the Gresham books are known for portraying characters that readers love and want to follow.

Book 1: Lies She Never Told Me

The story of Michael Gresham’s heritage, beginning with his father’s father. The book features mob wars in 1920’s Chicago; World War II invasions and POW camps; romance between powerful men and beautiful women; the most infamous mass murder in 1960’s Chicago; and the complete growing-up story of Michael Gresham himself, from young boy to young lawyer. The book recounts the first meeting between Michael and his famous investigator Marcel in Operation Desert Shield when both young men are soldiers on the track of Saddam Hussein.

Finally, when Michael’s grandmother comes to him with a request that he track down and kill one man, can he refuse? He’s been trained as a lawyer, he believes in the rule of law, and he believes that no man is above the law. But his grandmother won’t let him go. She tells him a certain man must die for his crimes. Michael loves his grandmother with every cell in his body. Can he refuse her dying wish? Will he honor the vow he makes to this most important woman in his life?

And so the hunt begins.

Who will Michael find first: the killer or himself?

Book 2: Michael Gresham: The Lawyer

Michael Gresham is a criminal attorney with a client accused of murdering a judge’s wife. As the story progresses, the judge whose wife was murdered suddenly tries to hire Michael Gresham for himself. New revelations have the judge backed into a corner in this legal and financial thriller. Can an attorney battle the system and win the notorious case other lawyers turned down? Can Michael Gresham turn the tables on those who would see him dead? And who is going to pay for the injury and disfigurement they left him with?

A legal financial thriller that introduces the first in a five-book series about Michael Gresham, the Chicago lawyer who defends hopeless cases everyday. Watch from your front row seat as Michael walks into this courtroom drama a huge underdog. Cheer him on as he uses all his wit and cunning to defend the indefensible.

Book 3: Secrets Girls Keep

Michael Gresham is a criminal attorney whose priest has fathered a son. The boy is now seventeen, acting-out, and suddenly arrested for first-degree murder. A serious question arises as to the boy’s guilt. The priest asks Michael to take his son into his home so he can be released on bail. Michael and his wife agree and the boy, with his snake and mice, moves in.

One young client who looks more guilty with each new death…
The new houseguest gets questioned by the police for yet a second murder. Michael Gresham and his wife become uneasy and, when the young man begins acting out, they finally move him out. The snake and mice move out with him. What follows is the story of a trial for first degree murder. All pertinent witnesses take the stand and are questioned in this book. The tension mounts. A verdict is rendered by the jury, but the crime doesn’t end there. Now it becomes personal to Michael and Danny.

Murdered by News by Dianne HarmanMurdered By News by Dianne Harman:

He was a Pulitzer Prize winning publisher. She was a celebrity newscaster. Someone hated one of them enough to commit murder.

Kat’s shocked when she’s asked to help solve the murder but it looks like her daughter may be marrying into the decedent’s family. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. Nice to know there’s a Rottweiler at your back!

 

 

Dangerous Seas by Lily Harper HartDangerous Seas by Lily Harper Hart:

Ten years ago, Rowan Gray’s father didn’t return from a routine day at work. The police believed he accidentally drove into a nearby lake thanks to inclement weather, but no sign of him or the car he was driving was ever found.

Now, Rowan Gray is a photographer on a cruise ship. She’s in love with the head of security Quinn Davenport, and living a life she never thought possible. Things are going well … and her father is back. Paul Gray is going by another name but he’s a guest on The Bounding Storm, which happens to be hosting a group of high-profile authors from across the world. And, yes, Rowan’s father is among them.

The reunion process doesn’t exactly go smoothly, especially when the most famous author in the bunch turns up dead. Julia West wasn’t a pleasant woman, but she had a legion of fans.

The problem facing Rowan and Quinn is they can’t figure out who’s to blame. Was it one of the other authors? An errant fan who somehow snuck on board? Or the diabolical enemy that forced Paul Gray to abandon his only daughter a decade before? The stakes are high as the truth comes out. The only thing that’s absolutely certain is that Rowan and Quinn’s lives will never be the same again … if they can hold onto their lives, that. Nothing is a given in this brave new world.

Slash in the Pan by CeeCee JamesSlash in the Pan by CeeCee James:

Georgie Tanner and her best friend, Kari have known each other their whole lives. Georgie was maid of honor at Kari and Joe’s wedding, so when Joe is accused of a horrific murder, Georgie is determined to learn the truth.

The details look bad- a body was found in the subdivision under construction where Joe is the general contractor. The body has Joe’s favorite knife sticking out of it. To make things worse, the dead man is Devon Walters, Joe’s professional rival.

Joe doesn’t have a good alibi, and the DA quickly discovers that Devon was about to file a lawsuit against Joe. As Georgie finds out when she digs deeper, Devon had a good reason to file a lawsuit. Despite Joe’s underhanded dealings, Kari begs Georgie to prove he didn’t do it… but the more Georgie digs, the worse things look.

Worse, Georgie unearths clues that seem to tie back to her fiancé, who died years ago… this may be one case where the truth is too hard to face.

On Deadline and Under Fire by Amanda M. LeeOn Deadline and Under Fire by Amanda M. Lee:

There’s nothing Avery Shaw loves more than a challenge … at least when it comes to tracking down a story. The challenge she’s facing this time is the one thing she might not be able to overcome, though.

Vacation. That’s right, not only is Southeastern Michigan’s busiest reporter off work for a week … but she’s also on the receiving end of a visit from her boyfriend’s mother.

Eliot Kane is tough as nails but he’s obviously nervous about the two most important women in his life crossing paths. The fact that he’s nervous makes Avery agitated … and she worries about very little other than who she can upset and how quickly she can make her enemies cry.

As luck would have it, Avery stumbles on a story when she should be enjoying her time off. A high-rise apartment fire leaves one dead … and ties to organized crime are abundant. The only thing Avery knows about the mob is what television and movies have taught her. That doesn’t mean she’s not keen to learn.

Avery is in a pickle. She has to uncover the motives behind a murder, get her boyfriend’s mother to like her without losing herself, and keep her family out of trouble even though they’re sniffing around and causing mischief. Oh, and she has to pull it all off without melting down or letting Eliot know what she’s up to.

Things are about to get wacky and dangerous in Avery’s world. She wouldn’t have it any other way … even if it ultimately kills her.

Go for the Juggler by Leanne LeedsGo for the Juggler by Leanne Leeds:

A jarring homecoming.
An uncertain fate.
To save everyone, one witch must perform the juggling act of a lifetime

When Charlotte returns home with Gunther, Devana, and Ethel Elkins in tow, she doesn’t think her life can get any more complicated. But when one of her parents’ Animal Shelter volunteers turns up dead, her control begins to slip as her old human life and her new paranormal life collide.

While racing to come up with a plan to defeat the Witches’ Council, Charlotte must defend her family against an intrusive police investigation that risks exposing their true nature to the human world—an act which will condemn them all.

Go for the Juggler is the fourth book in the hypnotizing Magical Midway paranormal cozy mystery series. If you like eccentric characters, show-stopping magic, and twisty mysteries, then you’ll love Leanne Leeds’ crowd-pleasing whodunit.

Lady Rample and the Silver Screen by Shéa MacLeod Lady Rample and the Silver Screen by Shéa MacLeod:

When an invitation to a Hollywood wedding arrives in London, Lady Rample and Aunt Butty are living the glamorous life among the rich and famous in California. But when their movie producer host is found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, they find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving a silver screen starlet, a conniving butler, and kidnapping gangsters!

Suspicious from the start, Lady Rample is determined to prove that their friend didn’t commit suicide. Unfortunately, proving murder might end in another murder…her own.

Lose yourself in 1930s Hollywood with the latest installment of the popular historical cozy mystery series, Lady Rample Mysteries.

Overboard by Dawn Lee McKennaOverboard by Dawn Lee McKenna:

Due to a past trauma, Lt. Maggie Hamilton has a paralyzing fear of sharks that has kept her out of her beloved Gulf all her adult life.

When a group of drug dealers dumps the Sheriff’s Office investigator overboard one night, leaving her to her fate, Maggie finds herself in the middle of her most terrifying nightmare, with no hope of waking up safe in her own bed.

To survive, Maggie must not only meet her fear head on, but overcome it, so that she can stay alive long enough to be rescued or make her way back home.
Maggie’s husband, former Sheriff Wyatt Hamilton, and the town’s most notorious criminal, Bennett Boudreaux, join forces in a desperate search for Maggie.

They’re in a race against time to save her before the Gulf, her fear, or the thing she fears most takes her life.

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard by Geoffrey McSkimmingPhyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard by Geoffrey McSkimming:

Phyllis Wong, that brilliant young magician and clever sleuth, is faced with a quest which began in the time of her great-grandfather, Wallace Wong, Conjuror of Wonder! He wanted to track down one of history’s greatest magicians … but does the person even exist? To find the answer, Phyllis will have to Transit across thousands of miles and hundreds of years.

While she follows the trail of the master prestidigitator, a sinister figure haunts her every step. What is the Great Whimpering, and who is the dastardly man intent on bringing it about? Can Phyllis find one of the most mysterious figures from history? Can she complete her mission in time to prevent the greatest calamity ever to befall mankind?

Another astonishing mystery starring Phyllis Wong, from the ever-scrawling pen nib of Geoffrey McSkimming.

The third Phyllis Wong: Time Detective Mystery.

Curse of the Poppy by Emily OrganCurse of the Poppy by Emily Organ

A woman dies in a burglary in Fitzrovia. A man is murdered in an opium den in Limehouse. Gutsy Fleet Street reporter Penny Green suspects the two deaths are connected, but how can she prove it?

The answer may lie in Whitehall where the India Office reaps the benefits of Britain’s opium trade. But when Inspector James Blakely of Scotland Yard begins investigating, an unforeseen danger looms.

Soon Penny is forced to act alone and is put to the ultimate test when her quest becomes personal.

The Moving Blade by Michael PronkoThe Moving Blade by Michael Pronko:

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

THE MOVING BLADE is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.

The Tiger Awakens by L.P. RingThe Tiger Awakens by L.P. Ring:

Senior Inspector Choi only wants to keep his head down and lick his wounds after his latest investigation went horribly wrong. So when he picks up a simple home invasion angle with a ready-made prime suspect, it looks like this will be an easier day than most. Except someone wanted Young-bae Kim to suffer. And Choi can’t shake the feeling than there is more to this than a simple burglary gone wrong.

 

 

The Tequila Killings by Robert W. StephensThe Tequila Killings by Robert W. Stephens:

A deadly fall. A dodgy past. Can Poe uncover the truth before a match made in paradise ends in disaster?

Edgar Allan “Poe” Rutherford has the luxury of picking and choosing the cases that spark his curiosity. So when his love-struck mother-in-law demands he trail her latest squeeze, he thinks he’s wasting his time. Until a mysterious woman from the boyfriend’s past falls off his balcony to her death.

As he digs deeper, he discovers a chain of underground connections starting with a rising tide of corruption in Miami and washing up on Maui’s white sandy beaches. But Poe’s solved enough cases to know dodgy dealings don’t necessarily make the man a murderer…

With the body count climbing, can Poe protect his mother-in-law and solve the case or will a killer destroy a chance at a happy ending?

The Tequila Killings is the eighth standalone novel in a series of murder mysteries with an island state of mind. If you like charismatic private eyes, lighthearted humor, and tropical-storm-grade twists and turns, then you’ll love Robert W. Stephens’ Murder on Maui series.

You Won't Find Him by Cyrus WintersYou Won’t Find Him by Cyrus Winters:

It’s been 20 long years since a night of horror where Detective Jess Antler’s 10-year-old brother Billy was abducted. Despite Jess seeing the intruder face to face, neither he or her brother were ever found. After enduring a terrifying adolescence at the hands of her abusive Aunt, Jess has learnt to push away her feelings about her brother, and her drive to find him.

As everyone says, Billy’s never coming back. It’s time to move on.

However after uncovering Billy’s secret diary, Jess begins to unravel the mystery further and discovers shocking truths about her family and what Billy was really mixed up in.

False Justice by Larry A. WintersFalse Justice by Larry A. Winters:

A powerful corporation. A legal system bought and paid for. A prosecutor willing to risk everything for justice…

In a courthouse hallway, assistant district attorney Jessica Black runs into an old law school friend. Jessie is excited to catch up with Kelly … until she realizes the lawyer is terrified.

Kelly is representing grieving parents against a large corporation whose failure to meet safety standards caused a child’s death. The company stands to lose a lot of money, and Kelly fears someone is following her, watching her, and preparing to harm her. But without an actual threat, the police won’t help. Jessie offers to talk to her friends in the police department to try to get Kelly some protection, at least temporarily.

But that night, Kelly is found dead in what looks like a random car accident.

Now, Jessie must prove Kelly’s accident was actually a murder, find the killer, and protect the grief-stricken parents from a corporation willing to do anything to silence them. But can she succeed against a corrupt judicial system, an indifferent police force, and a bloodthirsty killer? Or will her fight for justice cost her everything?

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Cora time travels to 1963 again

I’ve got another article up at Galactic Journey. This one is about The Silent Star a.k.a. First Spaceship to Venus, an East German/Polish science fiction film based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel Astronauts. So hop over there and check it out.

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Two and a Half New “In Love and War” Stories Available

Yes, it’s a new release announcement and there will be more of them to come, as I get the stories from the July short story challenge ready for publication. But don’t worry, this blog is not about to turn into “Sell, sell, sell” all the time and there will also be some SFF analysis and geekery coming up, not to mention a new post at Galactic Journey.

But first of all, let’s have a commercial break, because the good folks at Kobo are holding a “3 books for 5 bucks” sale in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, where you can get three e-books, including some of mine, for five bucks in the local currency. And indie author C.B. Maurice is also running a “Sweet Firsts” cross promo where several indie authors are selling their first published romances for 99 cents. Mine is The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade, by the way.

And now let’s return to my own new releases, both of which are new stories in the In Love and War series (I’ll explain the half new release later). The first of these, Evacuation Order, is a prequel novella and chronologically the earliest story. Yeah, so I’m writing the series out of order, but then so did Lois McMaster Bujold, Fritz Leiber and many others.

Evacuation Order takes us back to an event that’s very important to the In Love and War series, namely the destruction of Mikhail’s homeworld Jagellowsk. We meet Mikhail at the age of eight as well as his parents, his grandmother, his older sister Katya and family dog Laika. We also meet Brian Mayhew in his days as a fleet captain and learn just why there is such a bond between Mikhail and Mayhew, regardless of everything that happens later.

Initially, I had intended for Brian Mayhew to be merely a recurring antagonist, a thorn in Mikhail and Anjali’s sides. However, the character refused to cooperate and insisted that he was not a villain, even though he very much behaves like one at times. Non-cooperative characters can be a pain in the butt, though the story is usually more interesting for letting them have their way. And Brian Mayhew as a man whose desire to end the war and make the galaxy a safer place leads him to some very dark places and gradually causes him to abandon pretty much every ideal he ever had is a lot more interesting than Brian Mayhew, the one note villain. Evacuation Order shows Mayhew at his most unambiguously heroic, for he and his crew try very hard to do the right thing, even though they’re completely overwhelmed by the situation. You can argue with their decisions, but you cannot argue with the fact that they try to save as many lives as they can.

Oh yes, an Mayhew’s crack that should it become necessary to throw someone out of the airlock, so everybody else aboard the Fearless Explorer can survive, he’s volunteering, is of course a reference to Tom Godwin’s classic science fiction story “The Cold Equations”. Because there’s always time to make a swipe against “The Cold Equations”. Coincidentally, that remark makes Mayhew, who was once supposed to be the embodiment of everything that pisses me off about the typical square-jawed male science fiction hero, a lot less awful than a very famous example of the breed.

Coincidentally, Evacuation Order is also the most Star Trek like story I’ve ever written. Considering how much Star Trek I have consumed over the years, I’m surprised that it took me so long to write a Trek-like story, but for some reason both Star Wars and Raumpatrouille Orion have been a bigger influence on my work. But Evacuation Order is very much Star Trek influenced, since we have a ship, a captain, a crew, a mission, an ethical dilemma and the characters doing their best to deal with it. Of course, the Fearless Explorer and her crew are serving a regime that’s very much not a utopian society like the Federation, but then the Federation isn’t much of a utopia anymore either these days, if it ever was. While writing the story, I also became quite fond of the crew of the Fearless Explorer and I’d certainly like to revisit some of those characters some day. For that matter, I’d also love to revisit baby Svetlana to see what became of her. Though Mayhew’s first officer Natalya Shepkova does show up in Freedom’s Horizon as captain of the battlecruiser Dauntless Courage.

I started writing Evacuation Order in early 2018 and I’d known about the arbitrary age divisions in the Republic’s evacuation procedures, which cause Mikhail to be separated first from his parents and later his sister, for a long time before I wrote the story. But while I was writing the story, the news about the ICE separating children from their parents by order of the Trump administration hit and sharply brought home that separating children from parents and caregivers except in the most dire of emergencies (though a planet about to be destroyed certainly qualifies as a dire emergency) is a really bad idea. Though to be fair, pretty much everybody in Evacuation Order is aware that separating families is a really bad idea and both Anna Kim and Dana Gibson explicitly say so. They just don’t know what else to do, given the circumstances.

So if you’re curious to see just what exactly happened on Jagellowsk, how Mikhail and Brian Mayhew first met and just why this whole event was so traumatic for Mikhail or maybe if you’d simply like to read my take on a Star Trek type story, then check out…

Evacuation Order
Evacuation Order by Cora BuhlertAfter the test of a planet killer weapon goes awry, the light cruiser Fearless Explorer is ordered to the planet Jagellowsk to evacuate the scientists in charge of the test before the planet breaks apart. But in defiance of orders, Captain Brian Mayhew and his crew decide to aid the civilian evacuation efforts instead.

Meanwhile, on Jagellowsk, thirteen-year-old Katya Grikova is desperate to get herself and her little brother Misha to safety from the ever stronger seismic shocks that are rocking the planet.

The Fearless Explorer is Katya and Misha’s only chance to get away from Jagellowsk. But Captain Brian Mayhew and his crew cannot evacuate all the children waiting for rescue…

More information.
Length: 29000 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

Collision Course, the other new In Love and War story, was written during the 2018 July Short Story Challenge, where the aim was to write a short story per in July 2018. Like many stories to come out of the July short story challenges, Collision Course was inspired by a piece of concept art or rather two. The first of those was this piece by Owen Freeman showing two futuristic snipers on a roof. They don’t look very much like Mikhail and Anjali, but when I started writing, I quickly realised that this was an In Love and War story and so I wrote a scene of Anjali and Mikhail bantering and eating tuna salad on a roof, while waiting for something to happen. Coincidentally, we also get to see Mikhail in full space marine mode in this story, complete with cool power armour.

Eventually, I felt the need to describe the surroundings a little more and so I went through the folder of inspirational images on my harddrive, which also has a lot of images of futuristic cities both shiny and gritty, and hit upon this rainy cyberpunk cityscape by Tim Blandin and quickly realised that the roof of the hotel in the image could be the very roof where Mikhail and Anjali were stationed. And then, when it came to writing the chase scene, I of course needed to have Anjali and Mikhail chase the assassin somewhere. So I looked at the cityscape image again and quickly decided that fleeing into the doughnut shop and out the back was the most logical escape route.

In Freedom’s Horizon, there is a throwaway line about how Anjali and Mikhail ran into a Republican spy at a place named the Plasma Café and that’s why they have to leave Metra Litko so quickly. So when I sent Mikhail and Anjali chasing the assassin into the doughnut shop, it suddenly occurred to me that this doughnut shop could just as well be the Plasma Café mentioned in Freedom’s Horizon. So what if Anjali and Mikhail ran into the Republican spy while chasing the assassin? And what if the assassin was the spy? The story pretty much wrote itself from there.

Chronologically, Collision Course is set just before Freedom’s Horizon and indeed leads directly into the latter story. So if you want to know just what exactly happened to force Anjali and Mikhail to leave Metra Litko, read…

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

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living as mercenaries on Metra Litko, an independent world on the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

Anjali and Mikhail are working a routine bodyguard job. But things quickly go awry, when an assassin bypasses all security measures to shoot the wrong target… or does he?

Anjali and Mikhail set off in pursuit, only to find themselves confronted with a figure from Mikhail’s past who could threaten their newfound freedom.

More information.
Length: 8000 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

That makes two new In Love and War stories. So what about the half story mentioned in the title? Well, first of all, it’s not half a story, it’s a complete story, albeit a short one. It is, however, half of a book.

The story in question, “Shipbound”, is another story to come out of the 2018 July Short Story Challenge. This one was inspired by one of Chuck Wendig’s writing prompts, namely to write about food. That prompt was certainly a fruitful one, for it generated four stories altogether during the challenge, but then I really like writing about food. I also combined the food prompt with another of Chuck Wendig’s writing prompts, namely “space opera”, and got an In Love and War story.

And so I started writing a scene featuring Pietro Garibaldi, the hapless pilot from Freedom’s Horizon, grumbling that he’s stuck aboard the ship, while everybody else is out and about, which he suspects is because Pietro is a screw-up with a gambling problem. Then, Pietro makes dinner – the only dish he knows how to make – for himself and Sabrina Cho. Pietro’s spaceport pasta is based on this recipe, by the way, which is one of my go-to quick and tasty pasta dishes. Though Pietro also adds olives (as do I). I usually also add a swig of white wine. Pietro doesn’t, because piloting spacecraft and alcohol don’t mix.

The result was a nice little story, but it was also a very short story, only 2900 words long, and very much a side story featuring two supporting characters. So it wouldn’t really work as a separate entry in the In Love and War series. However, “Shipbound” also happens parallel to Bullet Holes, so Pietro is making pasta, while Mikhail and Anjali are fighting for their lives. So I simply decided to bundle both stories together and add “Shipbound” as a bonus story to Bullet Holes.

If you have already bought Bullet Holes and would like the updated version with the bonus story and the vendor won’t update it (cause not all of them do), drop me a line and I’ll mail you the updated version in the e-book format of your choice.

Meanwhile, here is the cover again (because it’s one of my favourite) plus the updated blurb:

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

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

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

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

Bonus story: Shipbound

Pilot Pietro Garibaldi is frustrated to be stuck aboard the freighter Freedom’s Horizon, holding the fort, while everybody else gets to enjoy themselves on the rim world of Varishka. What annoys him most is the suspicion that he wasn’t chosen to keep watch at random, but because he is considered unreliable, someone who cannot be trusted in port.

But when trouble comes calling, it becomes clear just why Pietro and his crewmate Sabrina Cho were exactly the right people to stay aboard the ship.

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

And that’s it for today. However, there’ll be more new releases coming up, including another In Love and War story as well as more Helen Shepherd Mysteries, more Two-Fisted Todd Adventures, more Hallowind Cove, more tales of The Day The Saucers Came…, two more stories set in the dystopian future of The Shantytown Robin Hoods as well as a brand-new sword and sorcery series.

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Comments on the 2018 Dragon Award Winners

Dragon Con, a convention in Atlanta that is a curious mix between massive media con, inclusive cosplay con and conservative con for wargamers and military SF fans, took place this weekend.

Dragon Con is also the home of the Dragon Awards, the popular SFF awards that represent the tastes of real fans (TM) and will be so much better than the Hugos (according to certain folks, at any rate), once they get their act together at any rate. The Dragon Awards were first awarded in 2016 and in the three years since then, the results have been variable. You can see all my posts about the Dragon Awards here and my comments on this year’s shortlist here.

But before I talk about the 2018 Dragon Award winners, let’s take a look at some other awards given out at Dragon Con this year: The 2018 Eugie Foster Memorial Award goes to Fran Wilde for her short story “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand”, which was also nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award. The winners of the 2018 Julie Award and the 2018 Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award were announced as well.

ETA: Apparnetly, the winner of the 2018 Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF Readers’ Choice Award (now that’s a mouthful) was announced at DragonCon as well. The winner was a short story by Kacey Ezell, who was also nominated for a Dragon Award, but lost out.

The winners of the 2018 Dragon Awards were announced tonight (well, afternoon in Atlanta). The Red Panda Fraction was at the ceremony and livetweeted the winners. The official site hasn’t been updated yet, but you can find the winners at File 770 and at Camestros Felapton’s blog. There’s also a bit of discussion in the comments at both places.

Now the problem with the Dragon Awards in its first few years has always been the near total lack of nomination and voting controls which allowed fairly obscure books with dedicated fanbases to garner themselves a Dragon Award nomination via heavy campaigning. As a result, the Dragon Awards shortlist were a curious mix of broadly popular works and obscure titles with dedicated fanbases. In the first year, those obscure finalists were even able to win via dedicated campaigning and outright ballot stuffing, though in the second year the broadly popular finalists prevailed.

This year, the Dragon Award shortlist was a similar mix of broadly popular finalists with mass appeal and niche finalists with dedicated fan bases as before, though the various overlapping puppy groups and their offshoots, who had dominated the “Who the hell is this?” Dragon Award nominees during the first two years, were largely shut out this year, replaced by prolific indie authors and indie author collectives who rank high in the Amazon Kindle charts and are very little known outside the Kindle Unlimited eco-system. These writers and collectives are excellent self-promoters, so it’s no big surprise that they can get themselves nominated for an award that thrives on self-promotion. The question is, can they also win it?

As with the puppies before them, the answer is no. For while the Dragon Award nominations are still vulnerable to campaigning by him or her who can mobilise the most nominations, the winners usually are the sort of broadly popular works that the award was designed to honour.

So let’s take a look at the individual categories:

The 2018 Dragon Award for best science fiction novel goes to Artemis by Andy Weir. It’s not exactly a surprising choice, since Andy Weir is a very popular author, though I don’t get the appeal at all. My own vote was for Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best fantasy novel goes to Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, another choice that is hardly surprising, because Sanderson is a massively popular author. What is more, Brandon Sanderson was the only big name author nominated in this category, everyone else was more or less obscure. My own vote was for Pippa DaCosta, by the way, because I found the Stormlight Archive series, to which Oathbringer belongs, dull when I tried to read it for the Hugos earlier this year.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best young adult or middle grade novel goes to Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s a highly deserved win for a very good YA fantasy novel that got a lot of buzz this year and also happens to be both critically acclaimed and popular. Coincidentally, this book also got my vote and I fully expect to see it on the shortlist for the Andre Norton Award and the Lodestar/YA not-a-Hugo next year.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best military science fiction novel goes to A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope. Now I have to admit that I’ve never read David Weber (I have read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, because pretty much everybody has), because his books aren’t easy to find in Europe due to Baen’s well known distribution issues and I’ve never been interested enough to order one. And the whole ConCarolinas mess hasn’t exactly made me more likely to give him a try. Nonetheless, he is extremely popular and the winning novel is a prequel to his popular Honor Harrington series. Weber was also the biggest name in this category. I also think that David Weber has won a Dragon Award in this category before, though with another series and possibly another co-author (he did, in 2016 and for a solo work). For that matter, what’s up with three authors for a single novel anyway? Co-author teams are pretty common, but three authors for a book that’s not an anthology is really stretching it. My own vote in this category was for Joe Zieja, by the way, because he actually tries to do something interesting with the common tropes of the military SF subgenre.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best alternate history novel goes to Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah Hoyt (come to think of it, there are a whole lot of co-authored books among the Dragon nominees and winners). This is the closest thing to a puppy win in the 2018 Dragon Awards, because Sarah Hoyt was prominent in the sad puppy movement, before they faded away, their site taken over by Italian slot machine spam. Though I doubt that the puppies had much to do with this win, because Kevin J. Anderson is very popular, though once more I don’t get the appeal (actually, this sums up my reaction to many of the winners this year: Popular, but I don’t get the appeal). And besides, I don’t recall any of the still active puppy offshoots actively campaigning for this book, though I may be mistaken there. My own vote was for Witchy Winter by D.J. Butler, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best media tie-in novel, a new category introduced this year, goes to Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray. It’s a fine choice that also got my vote.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best horror novel goes to Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King. Once again, this isn’t exactly a surprising choice, because Stephen King’s name pretty much is synonymous with horror and besides, horror isn’t really the Dragon Awards’ forte. My own vote was for Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best comic book went to The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron and James Harren. No idea, if this is still the Jane Foster as Thor comic that had the usual suspects so outraged some time ago or already the Thor Odinson returns arc, but either way, it’s not an unreasonable choice. My own vote was for Saga, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best graphic novel goes to White Sands Volume 1 by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin and Julius M. Gopez. This one was a bit of a surprise to me, for while Brandon Sanderson is popular, he is popular for his novels and not for comics and graphic novels. But then, last year both graphic story categories went to Dresden Files tie-in comics, so the Dragon Awards have the tendency to award big name authors best known for prose fiction in the graphic categories. For awards tied to a big multi media con, the Dragon Awards’ comic choices are odd to say the least, which suggests that the vast majority of Dragon Con attendants are probably not voting for the Dragon Awards. My own vote was for Monstress, by the way.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best movie goes to Black Panther. It’s an excellent choice and besides, Black Panther was a huge, worldwide hit and is one of the highest grossing movies of all time. I also just chanced to rewatch Black Panther tonight, together with my Mom who hasn’t seen it yet, and was reminded yet again how very good the film is. And unlike the other big Marvel film of the year, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther largely stands alone and can even be enjoyed, if you’ve never seen a single Marvel movie. I can’t remember whether I voted for Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War in the end, since the decision was pretty much a coin toss.

The 2018 Dragon Award for best TV series goes to Game of Thrones. It’s another safe and unsurprising choice. Well, not so unsurprising after all, since my first thought was, “But Game of Thrones hasn’t aired in ages, so was it even eligible?” But it turns out that season 7 of Game of Thrones aired in July and August of 2017, inching just into the eligibility period for the 2018 Dragon Awards. My own vote was for Lucifer, by the way.

I can’t really comment on any of the winners in the four game categories, since I’m not a gamer. I didn’t vote in those categories either except in the best boardgame category where I voted for Azul, which – though not even remotely SFF – has just won Spiel des Jahres and was created by two game designers from Bremen. In the end, Azul lost out to a game called Red Dragon Inn 6: Villains. I’m sure they’ll survive – after all, they won Spiel des Jahres, which is the biggest award a boardgame can win.

In general, the 2018 Dragon Awards results are a continuation of the trend that we’ve been seeing these past two years, namely that fairly obscure works with niche appeal and engaged fanbases can get nominated for the Dragon Awards, but that they don’t win. So the Dragon Awards are on a good way towards fulfilling their stated purpose of awarding broadly popular works that are overlooked by other awards. Of course, it would help if they found a way to fix the multiple nomination problem (because it is possible to nominate several times for the Dragon Awards, provided you use a different e-mail address every time), so that there are more than just one or two finalists with name recognition per category. Another positive development is that the 2018 Dragon Awards are less of a white dude sausage fest than last year. This year, the winners in the fiction categories include three women and one or two (depending on how one of them self-identifies) writers of colour plus another winner of colour in the film category. It’s still a very male and very white award, but getting less so.

Of course, the Dragon Awards also tend to go to safe and a little dull choices. There also are several repeat winners (David Weber, Game of Thrones, Larry Correia, Magic: The Gathering) after only three years. But then, innovation is not what the Dragon Awards are supposed to be about and popular, safe and a little dull may be exactly what they want to be.

Comments are closed, because awards posts tend to attract trolls.

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Cozy Space Opera, Cozy Mysteries and the Domestic Sphere

At Strange Horizons, Joyce Chng hosts a round-table about domestic space opera, featuring Ann Leckie, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Judith Tarr and Foz Meadows. It’s a great discussion and I urge everyone to read it.

Now domestic space opera is a subgenre in which I have a lot of interest, partly because I like to read it and partly because I also consider some of my writing domestic space opera. Though I tend to use the term cozy space opera for the In Love and War series, though it also applies to the Shattered Empire series and the Iago Prime stories.

I already explained in this post why I tend to call the In Love and War series cozy space opera. In short, I put the recipe for a dish enjoyed by the characters in the back of Freedom’s Horizon. And because recipes in the back of the book are mainly found in the cozy mystery genre, I half-jokingly said, “Well, it looks like I’m writing cozy space opera.” And then I realised that yes, that’s very much what I’m writing.

Now cozy mystery is probably the most domestic of the many subgenres of the mystery/thriller/crime/suspense mega-genre. Not that suspense and psychological thrillers can absolutely be domestic, too, and often are, from old-sytle gothic suspense like Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca or Mary Stewart’s gothics (after all, Joanna Russ once said that gothics are stories about women afraid of their husbands) via the romantic suspense subgenre to modern psychological thrillers in the Gone Girl and Girl on the Train mode. And the proliferation of “girl” titles of course codes the modern psychological thriller as feminine, even if the authors are actually men writing under female pen names. What is more, long-running mystery series spend more and more time on the detective’s home life the longer they go on, see the Inspector Lynley Mysteries by Elizabeth George, the Commissario Brunetti Mysteries by Donna Leon, the Kurt Wallander Mysteries by Henning Mankell and many more in the same vein.

However, while gothics and psychological thrillers focus on the dark side of the domestic sphere and the home life of series detectives is rarely happy and features a lot of heartbreak, whether it’s Thomas Lynley’s troubled relationship and eventual marriage to Helen and her tragic death (spoiler whiteout) or Kurt Wallander struggling with his relationship to his daughter, his dementia stricken father and in the last book, his own slow slide into dementia, cozy mysteries celebrate the domestic.

The protagonist of the typical cozy mystery series is inevitably a young woman. Many series focus on traditionally female coded domestic activities such as cooking, baking, sewing, quilting, knitting, etc… and even offer recipes and patterns in the back of the books. Cozies also celebrate community. Cozy heroines are rarely loners or at least not for long. They live in small towns with closely knit communities, they have plenty of friends and family, including female friends and older women who support them. These communities are mostly supportive rather than hostile. The cozy heroine tends to fall in love over the course of the series and sometimes gets married and even has children, but the relationship is portrayed as positive and enriching, rather than limiting. There are no murderous husbands in cozies and while tragically dead spouses are not unheard of (Charlaine Harris had a series along those lines), they are rare and tend to really piss off the readership. In short, cozy mysteries are stories about communities and the domestic, which happen to contain a few murders to spice things up a little.

And like all things that are female coded and focus on domesticity, cozy mysteries are widely derided. Here is Otto Penzler, eminence gris of the mystery genre, ranting about cozies back in 2005 and again in 2006 as well as Lee Goldberg offering a rebuttal. And what is Otto Penzler’s problem with cozy mysteries? They are lightweight, they have pun-laden titles and bright, cartoony covers, they focus on trivial matters such as fashion or food, while male authors, even the humorous ones, deal with weighty matters such as the destruction of Florida’s environment. Sound familiar?

Cozy or domestic space opera faces many of the same criticisms as cozy mysteries. Take for example, this article by one Paul Cook, which was published at Amazing Stories back in 2013 (discussed in detail with rebuttals here), in which he declares that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series is not science fiction, because it pays too much attention on frivolous matters such as fashion, food, balls, courtships, etc… and does not focus enough on whatever Paul Cook thinks is relevant. Thankfully, Hugo voters in 2017 disagreed and awarded the Vorkosigan series the first ever Best Series Hugo.

Or look at some of the extremely rude and dismissive comments by the 2017 Shadow Clarke jury regarding A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, which once again was dismissed as “not science fiction” (in spite of taking place in a technologically advanced multi-species intergalactic civilisation and having an advanced AI in an illegal android body and an artificially created clone as its protagonists), because it was considered too lightweight (apparently, the question of who counts as human/a citizen is not serious enough) and too much like a science fiction TV series.

Or look at how both A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers and Provenance by Ann Leckie finished fairly far down the ballot at the 2017 and 2018 Hugo Awards respectively, because they were considered lightweight books, even though both books actually have a lot to say about identity, history and who does and does not count as human. Of course, the winner in those years, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, does address those very same issues and is at its heart a story about family, a story about a mother and her daughter, and also in many ways a domestic tale, though not a space opera. But the trilogy is also a lot grimmer than either A Closed and Common Orbit or Provenance even in their darkest moments and darkess is still valued higher than light.

As for space opera, let’s not forget that the term was originally coined as a derogatory one (you can view the first usage by Wilson Tucker here), an analogue not just to horse operas a.k.a. westerns but also to soap operas, which in those days meant melodramatic radio serials sponsored by washing powder and detergent companies. So “space opera”, from its very earliest use on, refers not just to Bat Durston type westerns in space but also to domestic melodramas set in outer space. It was also very much intended to differentiate the “good stuff” (serious business hard SF) from the “bad stuff” (space opera).

And even though the vast majority of authors who committed Bat Durston style stories were probably male, space opera very quickly became coded female, when it was derided, and male, when it was not. In the Strange Horizons round-table linked above, Foz Meadows says the following:

I don’t agree that space opera has always been perceived as masculine, and especially not hyper-masculine. Quite the opposite: in my experience, space opera has traditionally been viewed as feminine, which usually sees it pitted against the more “masculine” subgenres of hard or military SF.

Foz Meadows’ remark very much echoes this 2013 comment by Ann Leckie in an interview (together with Rachel Bach) with Romantic Times:

So I was pretty surprised when I was first introduced to the idea that girls didn’t like science fiction. And more than a little confused. But I figured that must be because I mostly read space opera, and that was where the science fictional women hung out. Of course, often enough these days I hear that space opera is quintessentially manly. I don’t know, I guess I don’t read the right sort.

Also note that approximately fifteen years ago, when the New British Space Opera ruled supreme and space opera was written mainly by white British dudes, the subgenre was very well regarded. Fast forward ten to fifteen years and the very same critics who praised the umpteenth pale Iain M. Banks imitation to high heavens are falling over their own feet to complain about Ancillary Justice winning all the awards, even though it’s not really all that original, and to complain that Becky Chambers was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award two years in a row and also got a Hugo nomination and a nomination for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, even though the books are unoriginal and basically just fanfiction and probably not science fiction at all (just read the Shadow Clarke links above). And anyway, all this newfangled space opera that does not worship at the altar of Iain M. Banks (who really does not deserve the toxic fan club he ended up with) and does not care about details a certain author considers important is just doing science fiction wrong.

Let’s have another quote from the Strange Horizons round-table, also by Foz Meadows:

When I think about stories that lack domesticity, their defining characteristic isn’t a total absence of human moments, because that’s not really possible when you’re writing about people; rather, it’s the presence of an unchallenged monoculture whose specifics are, by and large, considered unimportant to the narrative: where the story is fixated on roles and hierarchies (commanders, kings, advisors, weapons specialists), and on grand ideas and intellectual conceits, but without any real discussion or investigation of how they interact with everything else in that setting. When that happens, it’s like someone has gone in and sliced away all the bits of humanity they don’t find interesting—all the art and childbirth and psychology and food and other such ‘soft science’ tchotchkes—and has attempted to define a culture, or an empire, or a spaceship, by what’s left.

This very much mirrors how I feel about the so-called New British Space Opera. The worlds and the characters inevitably felt flat and underdeveloped to me, for all the miraculous technology portrayed and for all the meticulously developed economic systems and equally meticulously plotted out orbital mechanics. Even if there was character development and conflict, e.g. two people falling in love or a father seeking out his estranged son, there was no real emotion behind it. In many ways, those books felt as if highly advanced AIs had attempted to write fiction, even though they’d never interacted with actual human beings before. Though I suspect that Murderbot or Computron from Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s story “Fandom For Robots” would do better than that.

The gulf between New British Space Opera and military science fiction, particularly the cookie cutter stuff that clogs up the Kindle store, could not be greater and yet both subgenres often share the same sense of flatness. In bad military science fiction, there is the military, which is patterned either after the US Marine Corps or British Royal Navy of the Napoleonic era, because there have been no other ways of organising military forces ever, there is maybe a vaguely described government, usually some kind of empire or maybe a confederation/republic that is the US in all but in name, and nothing else. Weapons and ships and sometimes uniforms (but not too often, because uniforms equals fashion equals girl cooties) are described in loving detail, but everything else remains vague. The books describe heroic soldiers fighting and dying to defend Earth/their homeworld/humanity from the evil invading insectoid or reptilian aliens or occasionally from evil space communists, but you have no idea what they’re even fighting for, because their world has no art, no music, no food, no sports, in fact there doesn’t even seem to be any world outside the military at all. Sometimes, there is a wife or in the really progressive stories a husband waiting at home, but we never see them and they never impact the plot. Nor do we ever see what those wifes and husbands are doing while their heroic soldier partners are away. The enemy, whether it’s evil aliens or evil space communists, equally seems to have no real reason to fight for, no motivation beyond “they’re evil because they’re evil” or “they’ve evil because they’re communists”. Not that the authors have even the slightest idea what communists are.

The crime fiction equivalent to this BTW is the flat detective. The flat detective is inevitably an older white man with zero defining characteristics , no hobbies or quirks and absolutely no life outside his job. If the flat detective has a wife, a husband, a family or even a home, we never see any of that. The flat detective only exists to solve crimes and then to shuffle off into whatever closet he is stored in during his off-times. The crimes investigated by the flat detective are curiously flat as well, undefined upper middle class people killing each other in undefined suburbs. When I was younger, I used to call these characters robo-investigators, but that’s not fair, because unlike the flat detective, R. Daneel Olivaw and Raymond Electromatic actually do have personalities.

I don’t think the flat detective was ever particularly common in literature beyond the short mysteries found in the backpages of German magazines, where every character is thinly sketched. But in the 1970s and well into the 1980s, pretty much ever German TV detective was a flat detective. Derrick, Der Alte, Der Kommissar, the various early Tatort detectives, none of them had much in the way of personality. It’s probably telling that I couldn’t even tell you the names of the lead characters in Der Alte and Der Kommissar without looking them up. Coincidentally, the proliferation of flat detectives on German TV is also why Horst Schimanski, though about as far from cozy mystery as you can get, was such as breath of fresh air, when he burst onto West German TV screens back in 1981. Because here was finally an actual character investigating crimes in realistic looking Duisburg working class neighbourhoods, not a cardboard cutout investigating crimes in paper towns. Coincidentally, we first meet Schimanski in a domestic setting, puttering about in his kitchen and mixing himself an anti-hangover drink before heading out into the mean streets of Duisburg Ruhrort to fight crime. The Schimanski Tatorte were also the first to move away from bland white middle class people committing bland crimes and took the viewer into Turkish and Polish immigrant communities and into the sort of white working class communities that were rapidly vanishing at the time those films were made. They would also have featured the first prominent gay character on German TV, if star Götz George had his way.

I don’t want to read or write about flat people living in flat worlds. When I was younger, I was willing to give a lot of older flat world science fiction a pass, because science fiction was not easy to come by, and simply did the work of fleshing out the work and the characters myself, as often becomes painfully clear, if I revisit a book I read as a teen and find that many details I so clearly remembered just aren’t there and never existed except in my own head. For example, I was absolutely convinced that Gregory Powell, one half of the troubleshooting duo Powell and Donovan from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, was black. But when I reread “Runaround” for the 1943 Retro Hugos, I realised that Powell’s race is never mentioned. Neither is Donovan’s, for that matter (I imagined Donovan as an attractive white man, by the way, and Powell as an attractive black man). Gregory Powell was only black in my head, because I imagined him that way.

But while I may have been willing to do the work of fleshing out flat worlds and flat characters myself in my teens, I’m no longer willing to do so today. Because there are so much better books out there these days, books with fully realised worlds, worlds which have art and food and fashion and crappy soap operas and pop music and most importantly, women of all ages, people of colour, LGBT characters, children and communities.

I also strive to create fully realised worlds, at least the little slices of them that we see, in my own stories, even though I usually couldn’t tell you anything about the orbital mechanics of the worlds we visit unless it becomes important for the plot somehow. But I can tell you about all about their culture, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their entertainment preferences, the games and sports they play and the music they listen to. And so Anjali and Mikhail aren’t just soldiers, they’re people. Sure, Anjali is very much into weapons, which is rather annoying to write, because I have to come up with all sorts of details that matter to her, when all that matters to me is “Does it do what I need it to do?” I even have a cheat sheet with all the various names and model numbers of the output of the House of Marcasona, finest gunsmiths in the Empire. Mikhail is more pragmatic about weapons, using whatever is at hand, though he also remains stubbornly attached to his Special Commando Forces edition blaster, even though it’s objectively not all that good.

But Anjali also loves to cook and has very strong opinions about proper food. She loves the melodramatic vid dramas of her homeworld, much to Mikhail’s bemusement, and idolises Stella d’Anvers, the great diva of the Imperial Opera House (but then the entire galaxy adores her and even the people of the Republic eagerly follow her performances). Anjali also likes pretty clothes, though so far the plot hasn’t given her much of a chance to wear anything except utility clothes. Due to spending most of his life in one institution or another, being forced to do as he was told, Mikhail had less chance to develop personal likes and dislikes. Plus, as a spy he has been trained to fit into whatever role he’s playing at the moment (I’d initially planned for the Special Commando Forces to be more like space marines and they sometimes are that, but as the series developed it turned out that a lot of what they did were undercover missions in hostile territory). Still, there are things about Mikhail that are uniquely him, such as his insistence to wear his hair long, a small act of defiance against regulations that forced him to wear it short for much of his life. Mikhail has serious food issues due to his deprived childhood, which is why it’s perfect that I partnered him with someone who likes to cook and feed people. Mikhail also has something of a sweet tooth, another result of his deprived childhood. He clings to the culture of his lost homeworld and the language that hardly anybody speaks anymore, so he seeks out worlds that are a little bit similar (there is a reason that there are so many East European flavoured worlds in the In Love and War series) and drinks vodka, though he doesn’t even like it. Mikhail also has a thing for the long-running vid drama Starship, which is a bit as if Star Trek was a soap opera (well, more of a soap opera than it already is) and had been running continuouly for a hundred years or so.

I like stories about outsider and loners finding each other and forming communities and found families, so that’s what I write. This found family aspect is strong in both the Shattered Empire stories (and I’m gonna write more of them some day, though I can only write in one space opera universe at the time) and the In Love and War stories. One of my big themes that plays out in both space opera series is people who have lost their homes and usually families, either due to death and violence (Ethan, Mikhail, Elijah Tyrone, even Brian Mayhew, who was supposed to be a villain) or rejection (Anjali, Carlotta) or never had one in the first place (Holly and very likely Arthur Madden) and try to rebuild what they lost on their own terms. Once I figures this out, by the way, it became a lot clearer to me why my characters, even if they were supposed to be fugitives on the run like Anjali and Mikhail, quickly did start to build communities of friends around them and eventually families. Okay, so I’m not there yet, but then it’s still quite early in Mikhail and Anjali’s relationship (they celebrate their first anniversary in an upcoming story) and having children is not something they’ve even talked about at this point, beyond the fact that it would be a really bad idea given their current circumstances. Of course, the universe doesn’t really care about that.

But even though my main characters are a childless couple, there are children in the In Love and War series, from Tasha and Spencer Tyrone from Freedom’s Horizon to Anjali’s younger sisters Lalita and Sundari and the other children Mikhail meets in the camp for war orphan where he grows up in Dreaming of the Stars. And in the prequel novella Evacuation Order, which is already out, though not yet officially announced, we meet Mikhail’s older sister Katya as well as a very young Mikhail, and a whole spaceship full of refugee children, including newborn babies. We also finally get to see what really happened to Jagellowsk and just why there is such a bond between Mikhail and his former commander Brian Mayhew, no matter what Mayhew does later on.

And of course, Brian Mayhew was one of the biggest surprises to me, since he was originally simply intended to be a fairly one note villain, existing solely to hunt down Mikhail and Anjali (which he does, with greater zeal than is justified), until I wanted to have him do a villainous thing and he flat out refused and told me that this is not who he is and how could I ever think he’d do such a thing. He became a lot more interesting from there on, a man who essentially wants to do the right thing (and Brian Mayhew is very much the hero of Evacuation Order) and eventually got pulled into doing horrible things in the name of what he believes is good and right. He’ll eventually get his redemption arc, but it won’t be easy, because he really has done some awful things.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for August 2018

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 authors newly published this month, though some July books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, YA fantasy, cozy fantasy, portal fantasy, paranormal mystery, science fiction thrillers, space opera, military science fiction, science fantasy, dystopian fiction, prehistoric fiction, horror, Steampunk, Mannerpunk, time travel, witches, dragons, robots, haunted houses, ghost marines, dinosaurs in love, planetkiller weapons, pirates, airships, kidnapped maidens, UFO conspiracies, space mages, prison breaks, magical portals, haunted music venues and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

The Codex of Desire by Lauren AlderThe Codex of Desire by Lauren Alder:

Love and violence, war and lust, lies and betrayal — even intelligent feathered dinosaurs fell prey to such savage impulses, more than 67 million years ago.

When Raoul Deguchi, a human palaeontologist, touches the alien-forged metal band wrapped around the forearm of a small theropod dinosaur fossil, he is mentally transported back in time to experience the tragic intersection of five dinosaur lives. Girn’ash, a shrewd and secretive female slave, falls in love with Tir’at~Esk, a dashing military prisoner — and will do anything in her meagre power to win his freedom. But Girn’ash’s queen is determined to coerce the handsome warrior into her harem, and when so many ferocious desires collide it might doom an entire civilization to nuclear extinction.

Fleet Commander Recon by Shane Lochlann BlackFleet Commander Recon by Shane Lochlann Black:

For starship captains, there are some things more important than capital weapons and mechanized infantry.

Jayce Hunter’s flagship is grounded. The majority of the battleship Argent’s space wing is either missing or destroyed, and the Judge Advocate is preparing a defense against the possibility of a general court martial aimed at Jayce and the rest of Admiral Powers’ so-called “alarmist” political allies.

Meanwhile, with her mentor veteran cruiser captain Patrick Enright in a coma from which he may never awaken, Jayce vows to hunt down the ambush fleet responsible for the destruction of the starship Revenge and the possible murder of her twin brother, Captain Jason Hunter.

After doing her best to comfort her shaken mother, and even as she fights her own worst fears Jason may truly be gone, the former Perseus Task Force Flag and skipper of the advanced strike cruiser DSS Fury pushes her authority to the limit and re-classifies her command Skywatch Special Forces Recon. Now all she needs is a team willing to share the risk of piracy charges to return to Bayone and finish what the traitorous Colonel Atwell started.

Argent’s amphibious forces are fighting to survive on the surface of an inter-dimensionally trapped planet overrun by treacherous enemies. A previously unknown alien faction armed with destructive riflecutter weapons has blockaded the sector. Now it is up to two stranded marines, a recon K-9, ten fugitive officers and an unexpected ally to fight their way through spacetime and venture deep into the unexplored labyrinth under the Lethe Deeps planetary defense base.

There they may finally discover the secrets of the mysterious Ithis technology and use it to learn the true fate of the one man who can beat Colonel Atwell at his own game.

Unification by Jonathan P. BrazeeUnification by Jonathan P. Brazee:

The Corps has been integrated by imperial decree—but that doesn’t mean everyone accepts the wyntonan Marines. Despite an impressive combat record as a grunt, Corporal Leif Hollow struggles to become an effective NCO and leader of Marines.

When then the trumpets of war sound, however, Marines forget about differences and come together to accomplish the mission. But when the odds are stacked against them, and the empire’s very existence is at stake, will that be enough?

The Lord of Always by David BrianThe Lord of Always by David Brian:

Can this really be the remains of an angel? And if it is, shouldn’t we all tremble in anticipation of what awaits at our end?

For Frank and Roz Tanner, booking a honeymoon at Penhale House, set amid beautiful Cornish landscapes, should have been the perfect getaway. But the house sits on a nexus point; a gateway to demonic realms.

Amid a turbulence of twisting realities, and facing legions of fallen angels and nightmarish servitors, Frank and Roz become separated. Frank turns to a local pensioner for assistance. But the enigmatic George Smoke is a man who offers more questions than answers.

Confronted by dark gods and cosmic abominations, Frank faces a battle for his wife’s soul. It seems a fight he is destined to lose… but he must succeed. Saving Roz is the key to everything.

Evacuation Order by Cora BuhlertEvacuation Order by Cora Buhlert:

When the test of a planet killer weapon goes awry, the light cruiser Fearless Explorer is ordered to the planet Jagellowsk to evacuate the scientists in charge of the test before the planet breaks apart. But in defiance of orders, Captain Brian Mayhew and his crew decide to aid the civilian evacuation efforts instead.

Meanwhile, on Jagellowsk, thirteen-year-old Katya Grikova is desperate to get herself and her little brother Misha to safety from the ever stronger seismic shocks that are rocking the planet.

The Fearless Explorer is Katya and Misha’s only chance to get away from Jagellowsk. But Captain Brian Mayhew and his crew cannot evacuate all the children waiting for rescue…

This is a prequel novella of 29000 words or approximately 100 print pages in the “In Love and War” series, but may be read as a standalone.

Eye of Truth by Lindsay BurokerEye of Truth by Lindsay Buroker:

After ten years at war, Jev Dharrow looks forward to hanging up his sword, relaxing with a cool mug of ale, and forgetting that the love of his life married another man while he was gone. But when his ship sails into port, a beautiful woman wearing the garb of an inquisitor from one of the religious orders waits to arrest him.

His crime?

He’s accused of stealing an ancient artifact with the power to start another war. Jev would gladly hand over the artifact to stop more suffering, but he has no idea where it is or even what it looks like. The inquisitor woman definitely has the wrong person.

Inquisitor Zenia Cham grew up with nothing, but she has distinguished herself as one of the most capable law enforcers in the city, and she’s next in line to become archmage of the temple. All she has to do is find the Eye of Truth, and her superiors are certain that Jev has it.

He tries to charm her with his twinkling eyes and easy smile, but she’s not letting any man get between her and her dreams. Especially not a thief.

If Jev can’t convince Zenia they’re on the same side, find the artifact, and clear his name, his homecoming will turn into a jail sentence. Or worse.

Missing Signal by Seb DoubinskyMissing Signal by Seb Doubinsky:

From Seb Doubinsky, author of The Song of Synth, The Babylonian Trilogy, White City, Absinth, Omega Gray and Suan Ming, comes his highly anticipated next installment in the City-States Cycle.

Missing Signal—a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a government conspiracy? Agent Terrence Kovacs has worked for the New Petersburg Counter-Intel Department propagating fake UFO stories for so long that even he has a hard time separating fact from fiction. Especially when he’s approached by a beautiful woman named Vita, who claims she’s been sent from another planet to liberate Earth.

Prison Break by Rachel FordPrison Break by Rachel Ford, narrated by Jill Myers:

Mercy is weakness. Forgiveness is blasphemy. Sin is crime. The unholy trinity – monotheists, polytheists, and technotheists – rule in unison. Justice is not blind, but soulless.

In a city of stratified wealth and endemic poverty, Father Edlin tries to make a difference. His little church and free clinics provide a flicker of hope to the downtrodden populace. But not for long.

The men with guns show up, and it’s only a matter of time before a forced confession of heresy is extracted. Now Father Edlin sits in a cell, awaiting the fulfillment of his death sentence. But somewhere in the night, a friend lurks, waiting for the chance to pay off an old debt….

War Mage by Chris FoxWar Mage by Chris Fox:

The Krox have finally reached their end game, and the sector will never be the same. Their relentless fleet darkens the skies of New Texas, home of the fabled Ternus shipyards. Their only hope lies with their sworn allies, the Shayans. But the Shayans refuse to help.

Only Aran and his company can keep their leadership alive long enough for Voria to bring reinforcements and the fabled Spellship. If they fail, the entire world burns, and Ternus morale will collapse with it.

But the war is merely a smokescreen for something much more sinister. Teodros, Guardian of Krox, plans to use the distraction to resurrect his dark father. If he is not stopped, Krox will live again.

Behind it all Talifax schemes, and Nara will pay the price.

The Fila Epiphany by J.J. GreenThe Fila Epiphany by J.J. Green

Humanity’s first deep space colony.

Humanity’s last hope.

Treachery and sabotage have dogged the early days of the Nova Fortuna colonization project, and worse problems lie in wait.

The data the colonists received about their planet was wrong. No one knows what predatory life forms threaten the colonists. Ethan makes it his job to find out. At the same time, geneticist Cariad tries to root out any remaining saboteurs while also working to rebuild the colonists’ gene pool.

If Cariad and Ethan don’t succeed in securing the colony’s safety the last surviving flame of humanity will be snuffed out.

The Fila Deception is book two in the compelling, provocative space colonization series, Space Colony One.

A Portion of Dragon and Chips by Simon HaynesA Portion of Dragon and Chips by Simon Haynes:

“An insane, inspired blend of high fantasy and low humour”

When a battered old robot washes up on the shores of the Old Kingdom, it signals the end of a fragile alliance amongst the four ancient lands.
It turns out dragons are really tasty, and having filleted, boned and baked their scaly allies to the very brink of extinction, no single kingdom can hope to win out against the other three.
Into this shaky impasse steps the mechanical man, impervious to crude weapons, magic, suspicious wedding feasts, poisoned wine, and fire of any colour, be it wild, angry or just slightly annoyed.
Each kingdom stakes their claim to the mechanical marvel, convinced the mysterious creature will lead them to a crushing victory against the others once they teach it to fly. And breathe fire. And, you know, ignore the Three Laws.
It’s just a pity none of them thought to ask the robot what it wants.

Featuring Clunk – the beloved robot from the Hal Spacejock series – as well as the oddball protagonists from The Desolator and Thonn!, this novel promises to bring you the biggest laughs of the year.

Welcome to the Show, edited by Matt Hayward and Doug MuranoWelcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories – One Legendary Venue, edited by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano:

17 horror Stories. One legendary music venue.

We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable. This is the story of the (fictional) San Francisco music venue, The Shantyman.

In Welcome to the Show, seventeen of today’s hottest writers of horror and dark fiction come together in devilish harmony to trace The Shantyman’s history from its disturbing birth through its apocalyptic encore.

Featuring stories by Brian Keene, John Skipp, Mary SanGiovanni, Robert Ford, Max Booth III, Glenn Rolfe, Matt Hayward, Bryan Smith, Matt Serafini, Kelli Owen, Jonathan Janz, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, Alan M Clark, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering and Jeff Strand.

Compiled by Matt Hayward. Edited by Doug Murano.

Bring your curiosity, but leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is about to begin…

Queen of the Shining Sea by Miranda HonfleurQueen of the Shining Sea by Miranda Honfleur:

Enemy mages and ships. An all-powerful organization gone rogue. One woman refuses to stand aside.

After the Divinity reveals its dark intentions, Rielle and her friends patrol the Shining Sea, doing all they can to stem the tide of gold flowing into Magehold and the dangerous goods flowing out. Facing Immortals and pirates at every turn, they wage battle after battle against clandestine Divinity ships in an effort to weaken its ability to grasp for power.

Meanwhile, Veris draws near and the Dragon King hunts Jon, whose life hangs in the balance as Olivia and Samara seek answers to heal his heart. As the werewolf presence in Emaurria escalates, Brennan is forced to confront both sides of his werewolf–noble identity and choose whether to reject it or embrace it. In a harsh and deadly wilderness, Leigh and Ambriel search for clues about the Sundering ritual, hoping to seal away the violent Immortals and save the land for good.

But the Divinity does not accept defeat — and when the Grand Divinus strikes back, it is not at Rielle but at Emaurria. Will she give up her war against the Divinity, or will Emaurria fall?

A Splash of Truth by Amy HopkinsA Splash of Truth by Amy Hopkins:

A boy is missing, and Emma needs to find him fast. The High Seat’s request to hunt down a traitor on the Council will just have to wait.

When Emma’s search leads her to the gritty underground where half-blood children are made to fight for sport, she’ll require every ounce of cunning and skill she has to bring the operation down. She must not only mingle with the arrogant nobles who run the operation but finally face down the one person who means her the most harm – her sister, Aveline.

Putting off the High Seat’s task, however, may be a bigger risk than she bargained for…

Witch Out of Water by Amanda M. LeeWitch Out of Water by Amanda M. Lee:

Hadley Hunter is the new witch in a town overflowing with paranormal beings. She’s ready to settle, but odd things keeping cropping up and knocking her off her game.
In addition to dating Moonstone Bay’s sheriff Galen Blackwood, Hadley has her hands full when she helps discover a body at a local festival and uncovers a decades’ old feud between two warring families.

The stories are flying fast and furious and the suspects are racking up. At the top of the list is local enigma Booker, a mysterious soul who Hadley is determined to chase until he starts giving answers about his hidden past.

Galen and Booker are at odds – and it’s over more than just the dead body – and Hadley feels caught in the middle. When another witch shows an interest in her magical development, Hadley is eager for a breather. Unfortunately for her, the old witch in town might not be on the up and up.

Hadley has a lot to do. She needs to solve a murder, figure out what’s up with the other witch and get to know a few more locals. That’s on top of bonding with a grandfather she didn’t even know she had. She doesn’t have a job but she’s always working at something … as long as she survives to see another fantastic island sunrise, that is.

Step Into Magic by Day LeitaoStep Into Magic by Day Leitao:

Not special. Not chosen. But she’s got magical shoes.

14-year old Karina doesn’t know what she wants, but knows what she’s found—fascinating silver shoes. Fascinating, dangerous, and potentially evil. On the upside, they do bring cool visitors. When a princess invites her to go to Whyland, of course she accepts. There’s that little “let’s destroy the shoes” detail she’s not crazy about, but hey, free trip. Alternate world.

But Whyland is nothing like she expected. Karina finds herself stuck in a kingdom she doesn’t understand, with no clue on who to trust. Before saving anyone, she’d better save herself—if she figures out how.

For 16-year-old Cayla, destroying the shoes is her much-wanted chance to prove her worth to her father, the king, and gain freedom. It might also be her chance to see Darian after more than one year apart. Does he still like her? Did he ever? But these are not the only questions she finds an answer for. Soon she realizes that all her learning and fighting skills are no match for the truths she’s about to face.

Step into Magic is a fun YA portal fantasy adventure. If you like books with friendships between girls, subtle romance, and some mystery, get Step into Magic now.

Spells & Death by Rachel MedhurstSpells & Death by Rachel Medhurst:

Part witch, part ghost, total book nerd.

I’m a dead witch. Sort of. As a pure Essex witch, I’m permanently attached to Mother Earth’s ley lines. Pure magic equals life force. Which is the only thing that’s stopping my body from dying and my soul from moving on.

A Paranormal MI5 agent, my life work is to protect the ley lines. The magic contained within them is sacred, pure. When a serial killer starts leaving clues for me, I quickly realise that not only does he know my secret, he’s trying to steal the magic out from under me.

As each new body is found, I feel the lessening of magic that keeps me alive. I have no choice but to tell the one person I trust. Dave, the cute admin guy. Although he sits behind a desk, his geeky mind could solve anything. Together, we have to find the serial killer, before he drains the Earth of magic, and kills every living thing on it.

Virtue at Market Price by M.E. Meegs and E. Pluribus Van SkyeVirtue at Market Price by M.E. Meegs and E. Pluribus Van Skye:

In April 1924, airship pirates descend on the luxury liner S.S. Paris and make off with twenty-odd female captives. When the various authorities appear powerless to act, one man steps forward, pledging himself to recover said booty and thereby render American womanhood secure.

Unfortunately for all concerned, that man is E. Pluribus Van Slyke….

Motivated by his twin appetites for personal enrichment and female companionship, this trans-oceanic con man and cashiered naval officer deftly persuades a succession of equally ignoble characters of his suitability for the task. Then, given command of a decrepit airship, Van Slyke heads into the empyrean with a crew of halfwits, misfits, and felons.

But this voyage into the unknown is doubly so, for it soon becomes obvious the pirates who raided the Paris descended from fictional skies. In this parallel world our would-be hero finds himself at the mercy of rum-running cutthroats and throat-cutting buccaneers. Will he survive his confrontation with the fastidious Jack Tigue, a pirate renowned for his tasteful wardrobe and his habit of eviscerating opponents? Not to mention the anachronistic Jean Lafitte and his diabolical manicure of torture?

Barely. But most dangerous of all is yet to come: Captain Bonnet, the mad pirate of Barbados. For on departing his company, Van Slyke finds himself betrothed to not one, not two, not three, but five of the Mortal Sins!

The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee MohamedThe Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed:

It is the turn of the century in an England that never was. Bright new aqua-plants are generating electricity for the streetlights; news can be easily had on the radio-viz; and in Gundisalvus’ Land, the war is over and the soldiers are beginning to trickle home. Amongst these is Lt. Benjamin Braddock, survivor of the massacre that ended the war, and begrudgingly ready to return to a world that, well, doesn’t seem to need him any more than it did in peacetime. His friends have homes and families to return to, while he’s got nothing but his discharge papers and a couple of unwanted medals. Oh, and one new thing: the furious ghost of his commanding officer.

Fortunately, since the officer’s family is so vehemently adamant that Braddock join their rich and carefree fold, he doesn’t have much time to fret about being haunted. But the secrets of the war are about to catch up to them all.

Betrayed by Vanessa NelsonBetrayed by Vanessa Nelson:

A missing war mage. Death in the heartland.

Settling into her new life in the human world, the last thing Arrow expects is a request for aid from the Erith. The Erith’s favourite war mage is missing and Arrow is asked to investigate.

For the first time in her life, she is allowed into the Erith’s fabled heartland. It does not take long for Arrow to realise that the heartland is like the Erith themselves. Full of wonder, breathtakingly beautiful, and deadly.

Arrow is drawn into investigating a death at the very heart of the Erith’s homeland with the growing sense that there is far more wrong and far more at stake than a simple murder and missing mage.

Klone's Stronghold by Joyce Reynolds-WardKlone’s Stronghold by Joyce Reynolds-Ward:

In a world of supernatural beings, not knowing what you are is dangerous.

After Reeni Dutta’s ex-husband Karl attacks her at a music festival, she finds a refuge teaching cryptid construct children at Klone’s Stronghold in northeastern Oregon’s isolated Bucket Mountains. But things are not as they seem at the Stronghold, from the older proprietors of a nearby store and the Stronghold’s leader Alexander Reed Klone, to Reeni herself. She discovers it’s not just Karl who seeks to control who and what she is, but forces from her past that threaten her present. Can she learn the truth about herself and do what is needed in time to defend the Stronghold?

A Quiet Rebellion: Restitution by M.H. ThaungA Quiet Rebellion: Restitution by M.H. Thaung:

Jonathan burns for revenge after fleeing the city with only a stolen uniform and shoes—and a murder charge hanging over him. Unscrupulous scientist Silvers imprisoned him to experiment on, because Jonathan’s cursed with a secret, dangerous power. Jonathan will have to survive, reach Silvers and kill him to prevent him from doing further damage.

Rural herbalist Annetta is mortified after accidentally triggering Jonathan’s power the last time he visited her town. Convinced he’s a threat, she throws her efforts into developing a remedy to prevent him from killing again.

An escaped murderer is just another headache for Eleanor. It’s not easy being queen. She needs to negotiate the moral maze that curses raise and avoid being assassinated like her father.

With such disparate goals, will the right people come out on top?

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