The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Face the “Truth”

It’s time for my episode by episode reviews of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. If you want my thoughts on previous episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, go here.

Thankfully, Disney is about to come to an agreement with Alan Dean Foster about paying him, as Adam Whitehead reports. However, as Gavia Baker-Whitelaw reports, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, who created the Winter Soldier for Marvel, are not getting paid for the use of the character in the series due to bad contracts.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists

So here is my Hugo finalist reaction post at long last. I know it took a bit longer than usual to get the post up, but since I’m a Hugo finalist myself this year, I took some time off to celebrate, congratulate fellow finalists and update everything that needed updating.

So let’s take a look at the finalists for the 2021 Hugo Award. You can also read the reactions by Camestros Felapton, Doris V. Sutherland, Font Folly, Rob Bricken and Alasdair Stuart. And if you want to read/watch the finalists for yourself, the always excellent JJ has you covered and lists where to find the 2021 Hugo finalists online for free (and legally) at File 770.

And now, let’s delve right into the categories:

Best Novel

This is an excellent, if unsurprising ballot, because all six finalists are books that got a lot of buzz and attention last year. Rebecca Roanhorse is one of the most exciting new voices in our genre and Black Sun is great novel.

N.K. Jemisin has won four Hugos in five years. The City We Became is an expansion of her 2017 short story Hugo finalist “The City Born Great”, which I enjoyed a lot.

Piranesi is Susanna Clarke’s first novel after her 2005 Hugo winner Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and got a lot of buzz well beyond the SFF community. I have to admit that I haven’t read Piranesi yet, even though I enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a lot back in the day. However, I’m no longer the same person I was in 2004/05 and my tastes have changed. Also, as Adri Joy and Joe Sherry point out in their analysis of the 2020 Nebula finalists at nerds of a feather, times have changed a lot in the past sixteen years and the Hugo (and Nebula) ballots look very different today, so what felt like a breath of fresh air back then may no longer feel as fresh today. Which dosn’t mean that I won’t enjoy Piranesi, though it explains why I haven’t been moved to read it yet.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Network Effect by Martha Wells and The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal are all sequels to previous Hugo finalists and – in the case of the Murderbot and the Lady Astronaut books – winners. Harrow the Ninth and Network Effect are also both highly enjoyable. I haven’t read The Relentless Moon yet.

I’m a bit surprised that Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia did not make the ballot, but then it was maybe a bit too much horror for the tastes of Hugo voters.

Diversity count: 6 women (which I’m sure will lead to the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth among the usual suspects), 2 writers of colour, 2 international writers*.

Best Novella

Again, the finalists in this category are not particularly surprising, because all of them got a lot of attention and buzz last year.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire is the latest installment in her popular Wayward Children series, which has racked up several Hugo nominations and one win over the past few years. I have to admit that I don’t love the Wayward Children novellas as much as many others obviously do, but they’re clearly popular.

Sarah Gailey is another great new writer who burst onto the scene in the past few years as well as a previous Hugo finalist and winner. The novella seems to be their natural form and Upright Women Wanted is a great story, which also was on my ballot.

P. Djèlí Clark is yet another excellent new writer who came to prominence in the past few years. And yes, I know I’m repeating myself here, but it’s the truth. Ring Shout is part of the current mini-trend of Lovecraftian retellings from the POV of people whose mere existence would have horrified Lovecraft. I liked Ring Shout a lot, though it did not make my ballot in the end.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo, Finna by Nino Cipri and Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi all got a lot of attention last year. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of them, so I can’t say more about the stories. However, I look forward to checking them out.

Last year, it seemed as if the dominance of Tor.com in the novella category had been broken, but this year it’s back with a vengeance, since all six novella finalists were published by Tor.com. I predict wailing and gnashing of teeth among the usual suspects.

Diversity count: 2 women, 2 men, 2 non-binary, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBTQA writers**

Best Novelette

Yes, I know I’m repeating myself here, but this is another excellent selection of finalists.

“Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker is a great story and was also on my ballot.

“Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” by A.T. Greenblatt is a story I enjoyed a lot, though in the end it did not make my ballot.

Whenever I see Naomi Kritzer’s name in the TOC of a magazine, I always know that I’ll get a story that’s well worth reading. “Monster” is not exception here. It’s not a happy story, but a very good one. It was not only on my ballot, it was also the first entry on my personal list of potential Hugo nominees for the year 2020. Sadly, “Monster” was a bit overshadowed by another story that came out in the same issue of Clarkesworld, so I’m glad to see it get its due.

Which brings me to “Helicopter Story” by Isabel Fall. This story, known then as “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter”, caused a massive uproar, since some people felt it was transphobic and thought that it was an attempt to troll Clarkesworld, based on the fact that no one had heard of Isabel Fall before and that her bio was extremly scanty. Things turned ugly, when the Internet suddenly fell on Isabel Fall’s head, leading her to pull the story. It also turned out that Isabel Fall was trans herself, but not yet out, hence the scant bio. Camestros Felapton chronicles the whole saga here.

I actually read the “Helicopter Story” back when it first came out, a week or so before all hell broke loose. At the time, my reaction was, “Nah, I’m not sure what to make of this one. Feels a bit transphobic. Not going to link it in the weekly round-up at the Speculative Fiction Showcase.”

Considering that as many people defended the “Helicopter Story” and nominated it for a Hugo as condemned the story, it truly seems to be a Marmite story. I suspect part of the reason is that Isabel Fall attempted something very ambitious with this story and didn’t pull it off.

Aliette de Bodard is another author whose stories I normally read as soon as they pop up in the TOC of a magazine. Nonetheless, “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” passed me by, probably because it came out at a time when I was very busy. However, I look forward to trying it.

“The Pill” by Meg Elison is a story I haven’t read. It’s also a Nebula finalist this year, so it clearly struck a chord.

We also have a nice distribution of sources here with two stories from Clarkesworld, two from Uncanny, one from Tor.com and one from a collection.

Diversity count: 6 women (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth), 1 writer of colour, 1 international writer, at least 2 LGBTQA writers

Best Short Story

Another selection of fine stories.

“Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher was also on my Hugo ballot, while “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer, “The Mermaid Astronaut” by Yoon Ha Lee and “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Rae Carson made my longlist, but not my ballot in the end, because there are simply too many good short stories out there.

I have read neither “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad nor “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell, though both are also Nebula finalists this year.

Again, we have a nice distribution of venues with two stories from Uncanny, one from Tor.com, one from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, one from Diabolical Plots and one from an anthology.

Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 2 writer of colour, 1 international writer, at least two LGBTQA writers

Best Series

Repeating what I said back in 2019 and 2020, I initially was in favour of the Best Series Hugo, but I don’t think it’s working as intended.

When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series.

October Daye by Seanan McGuire is something of a fixture on the Best Series ballot by now, since this is already its third nomination in this relatively new category. This is also the series that comes closest to the kind of longrunning series the award was initially created for. Besides, it’s a great series.

The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal and The Interdependency by John Scalzi are both very popular series by popular writers. Volumes from both series have been nominated before and Lady Astronaut has won both Best Novel and Best Novelette. I’m not the biggest fan of either series and prefer other series by the writers in question, but I’m not at all surprised to see these series on the ballot.

I enjoyed The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty quite a bit and am happy to see it nominated. I’m afraid The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang doesn’t work for me, though again I’m not surprised to see it nominated, because a lot of people seem to like it and besides, R.F. Kuang won the Astounding Award last year.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 man (but it’s the dreaded John Scalzi, so cue wailing and gnashing of teeth), 1 writer of colour, at least 1 LGBTQA writer

Best Related Work

So far I’ve been very positive about the 2021 Hugo ballot. But I’m afraid I can’t be as positive about Best Related Work.

As I’ve stated several times before, I have a string preference for well researched in-depth non-fiction books in this category. Non-fiction books is also what the category was originally designed to honour, before the definition was expanded to cover things like the online version of the venerable SF Encyclopedia.

However, edge case finalists have appeared in the Best Related Work category for as long as I’ve been voting for the Hugos. And since I enjoy reading genre-related non-fiction, these edge case finalists have annoyed me for almost as long. A lot of those edge case finalists were perfectly fine in themselves, but they’re not what I’m looking for on the Best Related Work ballot anymore than I want a sausage, no matter how good, when I’m craving ice cream.

But whereas we only had one or two edge case finalists per year, when I started voting, by now they have become ever more numerous and edgier, until they’re drowning out what the category was designed for, namely non-fiction books. And I for one find this a pity, not just because I like genre-related non-fiction, but also because non-fiction books often take years to research, don’t pay very well or at all (academic publishing is terrible with regard to paying writers) and are written out of a desire to inform people about the genre or some aspect thereof. Non-fiction writers deserve to be honoured and not snubbed in favour of something that might be a perfectly wonderful projct, but is in no way even remotely non-fiction.

After the lengthy introductory, let’s take a look at the finalists, starting with the one which comes closest to what this category was initially designed for, namely A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler by Lynell George. It’s not only the sole actual non-fiction book on the ballot, but also a vey good one, which means that I will probably rank it highly.

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley got a lot of positive attention last year and is certainly a deserving finalist. However, it is also an edge case, especially since translated works of fiction generally are nominated in the respective fiction categories. See the nominations and wins for Liu Cixin, Hao Jingfang and Thomas Olde Heuvelt and their translators Ken Liu and Lia Belt respectively. However, there were only eight years between the first publication of The Three-Body Problem as a serial in a Chinese science fiction magazine in 2006 and the publication of the English translation, which would go on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015.  The Beowulf manuscript, however, is roughly a thousand years old and the story is probably even older. Not to mention that there are lots of translations and adaptations of Beowulf floating around. So in the absence of a Hugo Award for Best Translation, Best Related Work is the most suitable category.

Another edge case is The Last Bronycon: A Fandom Autopsy, a YouTube documentary by Jenny Nicholson. Now I initially was opposed to documentaries ending up in Best Related Work, since Dramatic Presentation is a better fit and has actually been won by documentary works such as the TV coverage of the first Moon landing before. However, documentaries would likely never even make the ballot in Dramatic Presentation and if they did, they would get squashed by popular Hollywood movies and TV shows. Besides, documentaries and non-fiction use different mediums for the same purpose, to inform or educate about a specific subject. So I’m okay with documentaries nominated in Best Related Work by now.  I can’t say anything about The Last Bronycon specifically, because I haven’t watched it yet.

Blog posts and essays have been popping up in Best Related Work for several years now. One of them – “We have always fought” by Kameron Hurley – even won in 2014. There is no minimum length requirement, after all. That said, I rarely find individual essays or blog posts equivalent to full length non-fiction books or documentaries.

This year, Natalie Luhrs’ blog post “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)” has been nominated in the Best Related Work category. It’s probably the most controversial finalist this year, not so much because it’s only 1600 words long, but because it contains the F-word and metaphorically threatens grieveous bodily harm to a pillar of the SFF community. There are also concerns whether a Hugo finalist whose title insults a Worldcon member might be a Code of Conduct violation. This is an interestingly precedent, largely because Natalie’s sweary post is not the first potentially offensive Hugo finalist. A lot of the finalists during the puppy years, including such gems as “Safe Space as a Rape Room”, Wisdom from the Internet or “If You Were an Award, My Love…”, were a lot more offensive than Natalie Luhrs swearing at  George R.R. Martin. “If You Were an Award, My Love” was also a direct attack against Hugo finalist and Worldcon member Rachel Swirsky.

ETA: My most excellent fellow Best Fan Writer finalist weighs in on Natalie Luhrs’ post and whether it violates the Code of Conduct. Like me, Paul is in the middle with regard to this issue with friends on both sides.

ETA 2: Camestros Felapton also weighs in on Natalie Luhrs’ post and whether it violates the Code of Conduct.

ETA 3: Simon McNeill also weighs in on Natalie Luhrs’ post.

Natalie’s post was written in response to the neverending Hugo ceremony from hell of 2020, where toastmaster George R.R. Martin lost himself in endless reminiscences of “the good old days” and lost the audience in the process. A lot of us were angry about the disastrous Hugo ceremony and blogged about it. You can read my reaction, which is less sweary than Natalie’s but no less annoyed about the whole thing, here.

Most of the criticism seems to focus on the fact that the blog post might be offensive to George R.R. Martin. However, George R.R. Martin is a grown man, one of the most famous authors on the planet, has more money than God and should be able to take some criticism from a blogger, even if that criticism is sweary. And George R.R. Martin has certainly earned that criticism, though personally I would have phrased it (and did phrase it) differently. Besides, it’s not as if Natalie Luhrs is really going to build a rocket in her garden and shoot Martin and Robert Silverberg into the sun. She was just venting, like many of us.

That said, I’m not a big fan of inside baseball Hugo finalists, whether it’s Laura Mixon’s report about the internet troll known as RequiresHate (though I did end up voting for Laura Mixon), Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, Chris Garcia’s Best Fanzine acceptance speech or Natalie Luhrs’ angry rant. The Hugos are about the history of our genre, what we consider important and worth preserving. In cases like this, I always wonder whether anybody will even care about this controversy in ten, twenty, thirty or fifty years. Or will these controversies be as opaque to future fans as fanzine controversies of the 1940s are to us? Natalie Luhrs is a fine blogger and I hope we’ll see her on the Best Fan Writer ballot again someday. But maybe not for a single, angry blog post.

Which brings us to the two finalists that stretch the definition of Best Related Work to the breaking point, namely the virtual conventions FIYAHCON and CoNZealand Fringe. Now both virtual cons were projects created out of enthusiasm and love for the genre and brought many people a lot of joy and information. FIYAHCON was a great con. CoNZealand Fringe incurred some justified criticism due to appropriating CoNZealand’s name without asking permission and taking place on the same weekend, though there was no overlap with official CoNZealand programming, since CoNZealand Fringe ran on European time. But even though the organisers made mistakes regarding the name and timing, the project (which I watched come together behind the scenes) was born out of enthusiasm and a desire to cover subjects that the official CoNZealand programming did not cover. However, this category is still called Best Related Work, not Best Convention.

Some people have said that the nominations for Natalie Luhrs’ blog post and CoNZealand Fringe are intended to send a message to Worldcon that some members are dissatisfied with the convention and the way it does things. However, the Hugo ballot is intended to celebrate excellence in the field, not to send a message, no matter how justified.

I’m not the only one who is frustrated with Best Related Work becoming increasingly diluted until its original purpose is lost. Doris V. Sutherland expresses similar thoughts in her post about the 2021 Hugo finalists and indeed, a lot of people are unhappy with Best Related Work being stretched way past its breaking point. There is also an increasingly heated comment thread at File 770.

I expect that there will be one or more proposals to reform the category filed at the DisCon III business meeting. If someone comes up with a good one, I will certainly co-sign. Personally, I think the best solution would be to split Best Related Work in Best Non-Fiction for non-fiction books, documentaries and the like and Best Miscellany or Best Fannish Thing for things like virtual conventions, the Mexicanx Initiative, AO3, acceptance speeches, etc…

Diversity count: 12 women, 2 men, 1 unknown, six finalists of colour, eight international finalists, at least 2 LGBTQA finalists

After all that blather, let’s get on to…

Best Graphic Story

This category has felt a bit stale in recent years with the same popular series being nominated over and over again.

However, the 2021 Best Graphic Story ballot looks a lot more diverse than in recent years, with only two repeat nominees, Volume 5 of the perennial Hugo finalist Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda and Volume 2 of DIE by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, which also was a finalist last year.

The other four finalists are new to the ballot. Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over by Seanan McGuire,  Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe is a new Marvel series by a popular writer featuring a popular character, namely Gwen Stacy, formerly known as Spider Gwen. Invisible Kingdom, Vol. 2: Edge of Everything by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward is an interesting looking space opera comic. Once & Future Vol. 1: The King Is Undead by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora is delightfully strange sounding comic featuring an elderly monster hunter, her grandson and undead Arthurian heroes and villains.  The graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, finally,  got a lot of positive reviews also beyond the usual comics sphere.

In previous years, the Best Graphic Story category was often dominated by Image Comics with the occasional webcomic mixed in. This year, however, we have a nice mix of publishers. Image has two nominations, Marvel, Dark Horse and BOOM Studios have one each, as has Harry M. Abrams.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make comics.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long

2020 was a strange year for cinema, because a lot of the movies we might have expected to see on the Hugo ballot such as Dune, Black Widow, The Eternals, etc… never came out due to the pandemic. This might give smaller indie movies a chance to hit the ballot or it might mean a ballot composed almost entirely of whole seasons of TV shows.

In practice, option 1 is closer to what happened, though sadly none of the fine movies that got an eligibility extension at CoNZealand made the ballot. Now Bacurau was probably too obscure, but I had hoped that The Vast of Night or Color Out of Space might make the ballot.

So let’s take a look at what did make the ballot: The Old Guard is a great update on the old Highlander concept of immortals living among us, featuring a badarse Charlize Theron and the sweetest gay couple you’ve ever seen (they met during the Crusades and kept killing each other, until they found a better use for their time). Honestly, what’s not to love?

I already mentioned my thoughts on Birds of Prey and the very long title and Tenet in the Nebula finalist comments thread. Basically, I had forgotten the existence of Birds of Prey and the trailer didn’t appeal to me. As for Tenet, I have disliked Christopher Nolan’s since Memento. Though a German streaming service as Tenet, so I have no excuse not to try it. Though of the two DC superhero movies to come out this year, I would have preferred Wonder Woman ’84 to Birds of Prey. For movies which made it into the theatres before the pandemic hit, I would have preferred The Invisible Man, which was a great update on a classic story, to Birds of Prey.

I haven’t seen Palm Springs, but it got a lot of positive reactions and I’m looking forward to watching it. I’m not the target audience for Pixar movies, but they’re popular with the Hugo electorate and Soul actually looks more interesting than most. Besides, it’s on Disney Plus, so I should be able to watch it.

The one finalist in this category that really surprised me is Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. In fact, my initial reaction was, “Sure, the Eurovision Song Contest can certainly be genre-adjacent at times, but how can it be nominated, since it was cancelled in 2020?” However, this nomination is not for the actual Eurovision Song Contest, but for a comedy about the contest. Apparently, it has mild fantasy elements. No idea what to make of this one, since I hadn’t even heard of its existence before it was nominated.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make movies.

Best Dramatic Presentation Short

TV was much less affected by the pandemic than movies and so the Best Dramatic Presentation Short ballot is very strong this year – with one exception.

Everybody’s favourite series about bountyhunting and raising alien Jedi babies, The Mandalorian, nabbed two nominations this year for the episode “The Jedi” and “The Rescue”. I would have preferred “The Believer” to “The Rescue”, but I’m still very happy to see Mando and Baby Grogu nominated.

Doctor Who is almost guaranteed a slot on the Hugo ballot, whenever it’s on. And unlike some of the weak episodes nominated during the later Steve Moffat era, “Fugitive of the Judoon” is actually very good.

The Expanse is another perennial Hugo favourite. I’m woefully behind on the show and so I haven’t seen the nominated episode “Gaugamela” yet, but I’m sure it’s good.

The nomination for the two-part series finale of the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power was somewhat unexpected, but then the series is hugely popular and also apparently very good. I haven’t watched it yet – the animation style does not appeal to me – but I’m a She-Ra fan of old and always happy to see a childhood favourite honoured. Besides, She-Ra is the closest to sword and sorcery and traditional planetary romance we’ve seen on the Hugo ballot for a long time, so go She-Ra with the power of Greyskull.

And now we get to the turd in the punchbowl, namely the inevitable episode of The Good Place. Though at least the series ended, so this is the last year we’ll have to deal with it. Now I think The Good Place is a terrible show. I find it literally unwatchable, but apparently lots of others feel differently. But even if a lot of people like The Good Place, can we maybe vote for something else this year? The Good Place has won three Hugos in a row and doesn’t need another, whereas The Mandalorian and She-Ra have never won (and this is the last chance for She-Ra, which has finished as well) and The Expanse and Doctor Who haven’t won in a while now.

I’m a bit surprised by the absence of Lovecraft Country, Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek Picard. Lovecraft Country got a lot of positive buzz last year. It didn’t end as strongly as it started, but it had some outstanding episodes along the way, one of which was on my ballot. The third season of Star Trek Discovery was its best to date and though Star Trek Picard‘s resolution was a bit weak, it had some excellent episodes along the way.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make TV shows.

Best Editor Short

This is one of the categories where we usually get a lot of repeat finalists, simply because there are only so many editors working in the field. That said, Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya are new to the ballot this year as editors of Escape Pod. Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, C.C. Finlay, Jonathan Strahan and Sheila Williams are all people we’ve seen in this category before. They’re all most worthy finalists.

Diversity count: 4 women, 3 men, 1 editor of colour, 1 international editor.

Best Editor Long

This is another category where we have comparatively little churn, because there are only so many editors. That said, a lot of this year’s finalists are younger editors who haven’t been on the ballot twenty times before.

Nivia Evans of Orbit is the only new name on the ballot and officially a Publishers Weekly superstar. Sarah Guan and Brit Hvide are on the ballot for the second time, Diana M. Pho for the third. Sheila E. Gilbert and Navah Wolfe have both been nominated a few times before and Navah Wolfe has also won most deservedly for two years in a row. Once again, they’re all very worthy finalists.

Diversity count: 6 women (duh – book editors are overwhelmingly female), 3 editors of colour (which is great, because publishing is still a very white industry)

Best Pro Artist

Maurizio Manzieri, who does the beautiful covers for Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya Universe novellas among others, is the only brand-new name in this category, though he is an established artist. Tommy Arnold, Rovina Cai and Alyssa Winans were finalists last year, while John Picacio and Galen Dara are relative Hugo veterans. Once again, they’re all excellent.

Diversity count: 3 women, 3 men, 3 artists of colour, 2 international artists

Best Semiprozine

This is probably the category with the most repeat finalists, simply because the pool of potential finalists is limited and the big zines with large reader-/listenerships are privileged over smaller venues.

Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Strange Horizons are three excellent magazines which have been around for a long time now and keep doing good work. FIYAH is not only a great magazine, their editorial staff are also some of the nicest folks in the genre, so I’m always happy to see them nominated. The two fiction podcasts Escape Pod and PodCastle round out the ballot and also show the rise of fiction podcasts. PodCastle is the only new finalist on the ballot. All six are great magazines/podcasts.

No diversity count, way too many people (a whopping 87 in the case of Strange Horizons) are needed to make magazines.

Best Fanzine

The good news is that we have six excellent finalists in this category. nerds of a feather has been offering insightful SFF reviews, interviews and commentary for many years now and has been nominated in this category several times before. Lady Business always offers great genre commentary, recommendations and reviews from a feminist perspective. With Journey Planet, every issue brings something new and it’s always fascinating. Plus Journey Planet is holding up the flag for traditional fanzines in a category that is increasingly dominated by blogs. The Full Lid is Alasdair Stuart’s and Marguerite Kenner’s weekly SFF e-mail newsletter. It’s always interesting and I’m always happy to find a new issue in my inbox. Quick Sip Reviews is one of the few places in the internet where you can find short story reviews (Locus and nerds of a feather also review short stories on occasion. There’s also Tangent Online). Finally, I’m really happy to see my friends Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk of the Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog on the Hugo ballot, because they’ve been doing great work for years and deserve recognition.

That said, I’m a bit disappointed that my friends and colleagues of Galactic Journey did not make the ballot this year. However, there can be only six and Galactic Journey will be represented in my voter packet via some of the articles I wrote for them.

So did my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight initiative make a difference? I’m not sure. The number of nominations for Best Fanzine is still low, the second lowest behind Fan Artist. That said, I featured four of the six finalist (plus two Journey Planet contributors for their individual zines). I also suspect that if the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight had an impact, it will become more apparent on the longlist than on the actual ballot, which is also what happened with the Retro Hugo project last year.

No diversity count, too many people are involved in making fanzines.

Best Fancast

The fancast category tends to be a bit stale with the same podcasts getting nominated over and over again. This is a pity, because there is an embarrassment of great genre podcasts out there.

This year, however, we have a nice mix of repeat finalists and newcomers. Be the Serpent, The Coode Street Podcast and my friend of The Skiffy and Fanty Show have all appeared in this category before and I’m happy to see them on the ballot again, because they do great work. Worldbuilding for Masochists is new to me (and to the ballot). I look forward to checking it out. Finally, we have Claire Rousseau and the first time finalist Kalanadi representing the Booktube community.

I featured only one of the six finalists as a Fancast Spotlight and sent the questions out to another who didn’t get around to replying yet. However, I’m working on interviewing the others. This is also as good a place as any to announce that I will continue to do Fanzine/Fancast Spotlights, because there are a lot of great fanzines, blogs and fancasts out there I didn’t get around to featuring in the first round.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make fancasts.

Best Fan Writer

This is my category and once again, I’m in most excellent company. Paul Weimer is a good friend, insightful reviewer, great photographer and one of the nicest folks in the SFF community. I got to know Alasdair Stuart when we were ballot buddies last year and am always looking forward to finding The Full Lid in my inbox. Charles Payseur has been doing great work for years reviewing short fiction. Elsa Sjunneson always offers great insights about the intersections between disability and SFF such as the portrayal of disabled characters. Finally, Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapevine column is a must-read. Jason was also the one who broke the story that Baen’s Bar, the forum of SFF publisher Baen, was being used by a handful of members to advocate political violence. He got a lot of crap up to and including death threats as a result, so I’m really happy to see him on the ballot. Besides, this is Jason’s first Hugo nomination, though he has been a Nebula finalists a few times.

I did see some grumblings online that the wrong people had been nominated and that it’s just the usual suspects. Of course, there are always complaints about the fan writer category and last year, 41 Hugo voters hated all of us so much that they no awarded the entire category. But then, no one has to like what I or my excellent fellow finalists write and they’re free to criticise our work.

However, I don’t think we’re “the usual suspects”. Paul, Elsa and I are on our second nomination, Charles and Alasdair on their third. For Jason Sanford, it’s his first nomination. None of us has ever won in this category, though Elsa won for her work with Uncanny. Dave Langford we’re not and indeed, the fan writer category has not had a single repeat winner since Dave Langford’s last win in 2007. And this is a good thing, because it means that we have a vibrant fan writing scene out there.

Diversity count: 2 women, 4 men, 2 international writers

It is notable that Fan Writer is the only category, which is male dominated, which should appease the “Wah, where are the poor widdle menz?” brigade. On the other hand, they’re probably not happy with Paul, Charles, Alasdair and Jason either.

Best Fan Artist

Once again, we have a great selection of very different artists here.

Iain J. Clark has created some great artwork for the Dublin Worldcon and the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon bid. Check out “Shipbuilding over the Clyde”, which he did for the Glasgow in 2024 bid. Sara Felix creates beautiful jewellery, sculptures and other artworks. She has also designed several Hugo bases, but never won one. Laya Rose and Grace P. Fong both create beautiful fantasy art. Finnish artist Maya Hahto is best known for the humorous illustrations and mascots she created for Worldcon 75 and DisCon III. Cyan Daly is the only new name in this category. Her name was also new to me, but her work was not, because I had admired it on the cover of FIYAH Magazine.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 man, 2 artists of colour, 4 international artists.

Best Video Game

This is a special one-off Hugo given out by DisCon III. I’m not a gamer, so I can’t really say much about the finalists except that I’ve heard about all of them and that I’ve heard only good things (except for some aggrieved fanboys complaining about The Last of Us, Part II). The finalists also seem to be a nice mix of big budget games by big studios and small indie games.

For those who like me are not gamers and have problems properly evaluating this category, DisCon III has promised to put up some demo and gameplay videos on their YouTube channel.

Lodestar Award for Best YA Book

This is the first of the two not-a-Hugos, which are awarded and administered alongside the Hugos according to the same rules.

I’m not a big YA reader, so I have read only one of the finalists, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher, which was delightful.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik got a lot of buzz, though I haven’t read it yet, because her work is hit and miss for me and besides, I don’t particularly like stories about magic schools. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn also seems to start out as a novel about magic at an exclusive school, but then it takes a turn into Arthurian territory. It also sounds really interesting.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger and Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko are also finalists for the Andre Norton Award and so I discussed them in my overview of the 2020 Nebula finalists.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is completely new to me, though it looks interesting.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 non-binary, 4 writers of colour, at least 1 LGBTQA writer

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

The renamed Campbell Award continues to offer up excellent finalists. Jenn Lyons and Emily Tesh are the only repeat finalists and I enjoyed their work very much last year. The debut novels of Micaiah Johnson, Simon Jimenez and A.K. Larkwood got excellent reviews last year and are also really great books.  Lindsay Ellis is a popular YouTuber and film critic with a huge following. She also was a Hugo finalist two years ago for her documentary about The Hobbit films and self-published a novel with a co-author in 2013, which did not meet the SFWA requirements and therefore doesn’t count towards the Astounding Award. I haven’t read her debut novel Axiom’s End, but I’m looking forward to trying it.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 man, 2 writers of colour, 2 international writers

And that’s it. All in all, the 2021 Hugo ballot looks excellent and not just, because I’m on it. There are a few finalists I don’t particularly care for, but that’s always the case. Best Related Work is the only category I’m not really happy with.

Unlike previous year, I don’t see any particularly strong themes on this year’s ballot. We have several robot stories and two very different takes on the Arthurian legend, but otherwise the ballot is highly varied, covering the various flavours of science fiction, fantasy and even horror.

I’ll keep the comments open for now, but if things get rude or people start fighting each other, I reserve the right to close them.

 

*I identify “international” as a writer/creator living outside the US. If we include writers who are first or second generation immigrants, there would be several more.

**The number of LGBTQA people on the ballot might be incorrect, because I don’t know everybody’s orientation. Not to mention that not everybody is out.

 

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Cora Goes to Flights of Foundry

Flights of Foundry banner

I promise you that the detailed analysis of the 2021 Hugo finalists is coming, but for now I want to focus on a completely different convention.

Because this weekend, April 17 and 18, 2021, I will be at Flights of Foundry, a virtual SFF convention for people all around the world to enjoy. Registration is free, though donations are encouraged.

You can find me on the following panels:

Sunday, April 18 • 17:00 – 17:50 UTC: Making Your Reader Hungry: Food in SFF

For a long time, speculative fiction rarely engaged with food. Over on the science fiction side of the fence, protagonists lived on food pills or ordered “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” from the replicator, while fantasy characters subsisted on the ubiquitous stew and quaffed tankards of ale. However, this has changed in recent times and now detailed food descriptions are a lot more common in SFF. Nor are we just seeing only stereotypical western and American food anymore, but also dishes from non-western cuisines and food traditions. This panel will discuss how food is portrayed in science fiction and fantasy and how this parallels real world developments, whether it’s meal replacement products like the unfortunately named Soylent or trends like pandemic baking.

Moderator: Cora Buhlert
Panelists: Nibedita Sen, Shweta Adhyam, Georgina Kamsika

Sunday, April 18 • 21:00 – 21:50 UTC: Romance in SFF

Romance has been a part of speculative fiction since its earliest days, even though SFF and romance are often viewed as polar opposites. Nowadays, SFF romance is a broad and varied field, encompassing anything from fantasy and paranormal romance via time travel romance to science fiction and post-apocalyptic romance. But even though speculative romance is popular and very successful, it is often ignored by the SFF community. This panel will give you an overview of the spectrum of SFF romance and discuss why speculative romance still doesn’t get the respect it deserves. And of course, we’ll also offer you reading recommendations.

Moderator: Cora Buhlert
Panelists: Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven, Cassie Hart, Elle Ire

Sunday, April 18 • 22:00 – 22:50 UTC: The Unique Challenges of Speculative Translation

Translation is always challenging, but translating the weird, fantastic, and out of the world elements of speculative fiction presents its own special test of skill. This panel will discuss the trade-offs, linguistic tricks, and techniques these translators have utilized when working with speculative material.

Moderator: Fabio Fernandes
Panelists: Janna Ruth, Julia Meitov Hersey, Marina Berlin, Cora Buhlert

So what are you waiting for? Register and join us at Flights of Foundry.

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Cora is a Hugo Finalist Again!

Hugo Award Logo

As you probably know, the finalists for the 2021 Hugo Awards have just been announced. You can watch the announcement video on the DisCon III YouTube channel. And I promise you that the detailed analysis of the finalists, which I know you’re all waiting for, is coming as soon as I can get it done.

But for now, I want to focus on just one category, namely the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Cause if you take a look at that category, you will find – among most excellent company – my name.

Yes, I’m a Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer again!

I’ve known about this for about three weeks now (for those who don’t know, the Hugo coordinators contact you beforehand to ask if you want to accept the nomination). Indeed, I got the mail from DisCon III about three hours after I posted my Open Letter to the 2021 Hugo Finalists on this blog.

It’s a great honour to be a Hugo finalist for the second time and I want to thank everybody who nominated me. I’m also in the excellent company of Paul Weimer, Alasdair Stuart, Jason Sanford, Charles Payseur and Elsa Sjunneson, all of whom are great fan writers.

Unfortunately, DisCon III recently moved their dates to the fourth advent weekend, which is way too close to the holidays for me to attend, even if the German and US government will let me travel. So sadly, I will lose out on my chance to attend the Hugo ceremony in person as well as the reception beforehand and the Hugo Losers’ Party afterwards again. That said, I got the full Hugo finalist experience in Dublin in 2019 as the designated accepter for Galactic Journey. But I’m still sad I can’t go, though on the plus side I don’t have to buy a new evening gown.

I also have a request. Like all Hugo finalists, I will be asked to put together a selection of writings for the Hugo voters packet. And that’s why I need your help. Which 2020 articles, essays or reviews of mine should go into the Hugo Voters packet? There is a full list here, so let me know in the comments which ones you think should go into the packet. You can still download my 2020 Hugo Voter Packet for free here BTW.

How can you vote for the 2021 Hugos? I guess pretty much everybody here knows how it works, but for those who don’t, it’s quite simple. If you buy a supporting membership for DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, you can vote for the Hugo Awards as well as vote to select the location of the 2023 Worldcon. You also receive all of the convention publications and get access to the Hugo Voters’ packet, which contains most of the nominated works either in part or as a whole. If you buy a virtual membership, you can also attend the virtual panels and other events online. If you want to attend in person, you’ll need an attending membership.

As I said above, the detailed analysis of the 2021 Hugo ballot is coming soon. But for now, I just want to say thank you for nominating me.

ETA: Many thanks to Malka Older for pronouncing my name (and those of the other finalists) correctly. Her unicorn hat as well as Sheree Renée Thomas’ cyberpunk headgear were also a delight.

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“The Whole World Is Watching” The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

First all, I have a new article up at Galactic Journey today. This time around, I review the classic East German fairy tale movie King Thrushbeard, which stars a very young Manfred Kurg.

It’s time for my episode by episode reviews of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. If you want my thoughts on previous episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, go here. Also, may I remind you that Disney is still not paying Alan Dean Foster and others.

ETA: Camestros Felapton briefly weighs in on the episode as well.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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First Monday Free Fiction: Angoraphobia

Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the April 2021 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month.

Since it’s Easter Monday, what could be more appropriate than a seasonal story? And so this week’s free story is “Angoraphobia” from my SFF collection Operation Rubber Ducky. No, the title is not a typo, though the story was inspired by someone mistyping “agoraphobia” as “angoraphobia”, whereupon I wondered, “So what would angoraphobia be then? A pathological fear of fluffy sweaters?” The story grew from there.

But what exactly makes a story about people suffering from a pathological fear of fluffy sweaters appropriate to the Easter season? Well, because there are also fluffy killer bunnies from outer space, ’nuff said.

So read all about the shocking new psychiatric condition known as…

Angoraphobia

“And this…” Professor Pohland came to a halt in front of a locked patient room. “…is a particularly interesting case. For you see, this patient suffers from an extreme form of angoraphobia.”

“Ahem…” One of the interns, a young man with pale skin and shaggy dark hair, raised his hand. Of course. There was always one. “Don’t you mean agoraphobia, Professor?”

“No, Mister…?”

Professor Pohland turned the full force of his glare onto the intern, who promptly crumbled.

“Zach… Zacharias.”

“No, Mr. Zacharias, I meant angoraphobia.” Professor Pohland turned on the rest of the interns, eyes blinking furiously behind his little round glasses. “So who knows what angoraphobia is? Anybody? Anybody?”

The interns exchanged glances, clearly confused. Finally, one of them, a young dark-skinned man with a chubby face, stuck up his hand. The clown of the group. Of course.

“Yes, Mr. Wendell?”

“Pathological fear of fluffy sweaters,” Mr. Wendell said, obviously barely able to keep himself from giggling.

“Well, this is surprisingly accurate, Mr. Wendell,” Professor Pohland said, “I’m stunned, I truly am. Though the official definition of angoraphobia is a bit wider than just pathological fear of fluffy sweaters. Indeed, angoraphobia involves a pathological fear of any products made from angora wool or similar materials due to the delusional belief that giant fluffy rabbits are trying to take over the Earth.”

Mr. Wendell broke down first, erupting into a fit of laughter. Soon all the interns were giggling.

“And that’s like… a thing?” Mr. Zacharias wanted to know, “I mean people believing that giant rabbits are trying to take over the Earth is honestly a thing?”

“Yes, angoraphobia is really a ‘thing’ as you so eloquently put it, Mr. Zacharias. The condition is on the rise with people being hospitalised for it all over the country, perhaps even all over the world.”

There was a new round of giggles.

“But shouldn’t it rather be ‘the delusional belief that giant fussy goats are trying to take over the world’?” Mr Wendell pointed out, “After all, angora wool comes from goats, doesn’t it? Or was it sheep?”

“No, Mr. Wendell, angora wool is indeed produced from the coat of the angora rabbit,” the Professor explained, “You are thinking of mohair, a similar fibre produced from the hair of the angora goat.”

“But whether it’s goats or sheep or rabbits doesn’t really matter does it?” another intern, a serious young woman with straight dark hair and thick glasses, pointed out, “I mean, the big question here is why are we suddenly seeing an epidemic of psychiatric cases of people suffering from the delusional belief that giant fluffy rabbits from outer space are trying to take over the world? Cause that’s a rather bizarre delusion to have, isn’t it?”

Professor Pohland turned his glare on her. “Delusions are bizarre by definition, Miss Krueger.”

“Yes, but why fluffy rabbits from outer space? Why not goats or sheep or turtles or ducks or something like that? Why rabbits? That’s rather specific, isn’t it?”

This one was smart. She knew what questions to ask. Time to defuse her.

“Miss Krueger here asks the right questions,” Professor Pohland said. In response, Miss Krueger’s thin lips actually condescended to form a smile. “Indeed, we do not know why we are seeing a rising incidence of this very particular phobia. But if I were to hazard a guess, I would suspect that it has something to do with some kind of Internet conspiracy theory similar to the Slender Man phenomenon.”

“Uhm, Slender Man is totally real, dudes,” Mr. Zacharias said. A glare from Professor Pohland silenced him.

“So is there a website or anything about this ‘fluffy bunny from outer space’ story?” the ever astute Miss Krueger continued, “Cause I really refuse to believe that such a bizarre idea simply develops in a vacuum.”

“Well, I suppose there is,” Professor Pohland replied, “Though I am not in the habit of visiting websites peddling delusional beliefs.”

Mr. Wendell tapped onto his smartphone and announced, “Eighty-two thousand hits for ‘fluffy bunnies from outer space’, though many of these seem to be for some kind of videogame.”

“But in the case of this patient, wouldn’t it be helpful to check those websites — well, not the ones about the videogame obviously — to investigate the origin of this particular phobia?” Miss Krueger wanted to know.

“Miss Krueger, it is not the psychiatrist’s job to take a patient’s delusions seriously,” the Professor snapped, “In fact, taking delusions seriously might seriously harm the patient’s recovery.”

Miss Krueger took a look through the small window in the door of the patient room. “Well, he certainly doesn’t look as if he’s on the way to recovery,” she remarked, “And anyway, I would simply like to understand why. I mean, how do we know about his phobia at all? Did he just walk into the clinic one day and started babbling about fluffy bunnies from outer space?”

“Actually, she has a point,” Mr. Zacharias added.

“With regards to this particular patient…” Professor Pohland consulted his file. “…he was arrested after going on a rampage in a store selling women’s knitwear, where he attacked both customers and staff, while yelling ‘You’re one of them’.”

Mr. Wendell was about to erupt into giggles again, but a glare from the Professor silenced him.

“Afterwards, the patient was committed for endangering himself and others.”

“And we have no idea how he came to fear angora sweaters and believe in fluffy bunnies from outer space?” the ever irrepressible Miss Krueger wanted to know, “All we know is that he rioted in a knitwear store?”

“I assure you, Miss Krueger, the patient’s symptoms are only too visible,” the Professor countered, “Perhaps a little demonstration is in order.”

Professor Pohland looked from intern to intern and finally settled on a quiet blonde girl who hadn’t said anything so far. “You there! Yes, you. I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

“Jenkins,” the girl said in a voice like a cartoon character. Oh yes, she would do very well indeed. “Jessie Jenkins.”

“Would you please come over here, Miss Jenkins?”

Miss Jenkins walked over to stand beside the Professor, who showed an inordinate amount of interest in her fluffy pink sweater.

“Well, it’s not real angora, of course…” The Professor wrinkled his nose. “But it’ll do. Come on, Miss Jenkins, let’s meet the patient.”

As if on cue, Professor Pohland unlocked the door and opened it. The patient, who up to now had been sitting on his bunk in a straightjacket, suddenly looked up.

“You’re one of them,” he screamed, “One of them.”

He probably would have launched himself at Miss Jenkins and the Professor, if the straightjacket hadn’t held him back.

“You’re one of them and you’ve come to get me,” the patient screamed, “But you won’t. I won’t let you.”

Professor Pohland shut the door in his face, while Miss Krueger put an arm around the trembling Miss Jenkins.

“You see?” Professor Pohland exclaimed triumphantly, “A mere glimpse of Miss Jenkins’ sweater was enough to trigger a fully blown psychotic break.”

“That was cruel,” Miss Krueger hissed, while still comforting Miss Jenkins.

“Cruel, but a necessary demonstration,” the Professor countered, “And I assure you that if Miss Jenkins were to go back into the patient’s room without her sweater, he would be perfectly docile.”

“You want her to go back in there?” Miss Krueger demanded.

“And you want her to take off her sweater?” Mr. Zacharias added.

“Merely for demonstrative purposes,” Professor Pohland replied.

Miss Krueger patted Miss Jenkins’ back. “It’s all right, Jessie. I’ll go with you.”

After approximately five minutes, Miss Krueger and Miss Jenkins returned. Miss Jenkins had taken off her sweater and was now sporting a pale pink blouse topped by a lab coat.

“Fine.” Professor Pohland flashed Miss Jenkins an encouraging smile. “Come on. I assure you, he won’t bite.”

Miss Jenkins took a hesitant step forward and then another, Miss Krueger always by her side.

Professor Pohland handed her the keys. “Here, Miss Krueger. If you’d like to do the honour…” Then he hung back, moving out of sight of the door.

Miss Krueger unlocked the door and cautiously opened it a crack. The patient was sitting on his bunk again, slowly rocking back and forth. As the door opened, he looked up.

Miss Krueger took a step inside, followed by a hesitant Miss Jenkins.

“Hello,” Miss Krueger said, “I’m Sarah and this is Jessie. We just wanted to see if you needed any help.”

The patient scrutinised first Miss Krueger and then Miss Jenkins. “You were with one of them,” he finally said, “Just a minute ago, you were here with one of them.”

“Yes, we were here a minute ago,” Miss Krueger said, “Jessie was here. Do you remember?”

“Of course, I remember,” the patient said, “You were with one of them. The two of you, a skinny white boy and a chubby black boy and one of them.”

“And who would ‘they’ be?” Miss Krueger wanted to know.

“One of the fluffy bunnies from outer space who’ve come to conquer Earth and exterminate us all,” the patient said, “Come on, you must have seen him. I mean, a six foot tall fluffy bunny is kind of hard to miss, isn’t he?”

He lowered his voice. “They’re dangerous, you know? You should keep away from him, keep far away from him. Cause they want to kill us all.”

Miss Krueger retreated, Miss Jenkins in tow. Once outside, she quickly closed and locked the door.

Miss Krueger shook her had. “Totally barking mad,” she said.

***

Two hours later, Professor Pohland was alone in his office, speaking into his computer.

“No, sir, we still have no idea why our glamour fails to affect a certain percentage of humanity. But our attempts to discredit those who can perceive our true nature has been a rousing success. Operation: Conquest and Extermination is still on track.”

A fluffy white paw rested on the mouse.

The End

***

That’s it for this month’s edition of First Monday Free Fiction. Check back next month, when a new free story will be posted.

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tangle with the “Power Broker”

Apparently, I am doing episode by episode reviews for the entire series of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, so if you want my thoughts on previous episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, go here. Also, may I remind you that Disney is still not paying Alan Dean Foster and others.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Clues and Easter Eggs 2021 – A Round-Up of Indie Easter Mysteries and Crime Fiction

Clues and Easter eggs bannerOur monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite Easter mysteries, crime novels and thrillers by indie and small press authors.

The holiday mysteries cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, culinary mysteries, animal mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mysteries, police procedurals, crime thrillers, police officers, amateur sleuths, drug dealers, vanished bodies, stolen Fabergé eggs, missing children, kidnappings, deadly Easter egg hunts, crime-fighting bakers, crime-fighting hairstylists, crime-fighting dogs and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set on or around Easter.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday mysteries is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

The Easter Evader by Mathiya AdamsThe Easter Evader by Mathiya Adams:

MacFarland has been asked to solve a murder–but the body has disappeared!

The Easter Evader, a special holiday novella, just in time for those enjoying the Easter holidays who want something short to read. MacFarland must find out what happened to the body of a deceased teenager. Was it stolen for nefarious purposes, or is something even more sinister going on? Rufus and MacFarland join forces to solve the case of the Easter Evader.

 

The Easter Make Believers by Finn BellThe Easter Make Believers by Finn Bell:

When an innocent family is taken hostage in their home no one is prepared for how fast it all goes terribly wrong.

With the small community of Lawrence still reeling from shock, detectives Nick Cooper and Tobe White stand among the dead bodies knowing it’s not over. Relief that the two young daughters have survived quickly turns to fear for their missing father, somehow impossibly vanishing from a house surrounded by police.

The mystery deepens as Nick and Tobe realize they know every gunman lying dead here – up to last night they were the leaders of the biggest criminal gang in the country. The desperate search and rescue efforts soon collide with their own challenging investigation into a deeper, older tragedy.

Where they begin to learn just how far someone will go for those he truly, dearly hates.

Bloody Easter by Ray BoxallBloody Easter by Ray Boxall:

Crime thriller set in London in the present. Taking place over an eight day period during Easter, what starts as a massive police effort to finally end the criminal career of London’s biggest home-grown drug dealer turns into a nightmare as lives are lost, reputations destroyed, and personal relationships are shattered.

Nineteen years ago, as a teenager, Detective Inspector Ray Chalmers applied to join the Metropolitan Police Force, arguing it needed people like him from the City’s huge social housing estates as they could best relate to the criminals’ outlook and lives. But he told lies on his application form. Now, when agreeing to join the Serious Crime Squad that is after London’s biggest drug dealer, he omits to mention he once lived with the man’s sister-in-law.

In attempting to get his revenge on the man for destroying his teenage years, Ray leaves no stone unturned, using his private knowledge of the man. But no-one is prepared for the murderous response of the dealer’s secret Russian business associates.Then Ray’s secret past returns to haunt him when he meets the nineteen year old girl that he abandoned when she was only five months’ old. She has all the answers to the case, but is also the go-between for the drug dealer and his Russian associates, and has long written off her life as valueless. She also has her own secret agenda and, clashing with Ray, unleashes her resentment on him without caring about the possible consequences to herself. It leaves a guilt-stricken Ray with no choice but to prevent her from self-destruction, and stake everything on bringing the dealer and his associates to justice.

The Fabergé Easter Egg by Sharon E. BuckThe Fabergé Easter Egg by Sharon E. Buck:

Parker Bell is being yanked back to Po’thole once again. This time she’s involved in an international mystery surrounding a Fabergé Easter Egg and a Russian billionaire.

Snowbirds Anne and Chauncey Livingstone aka Tsar Chauncey and Tsarina Anne winter in Po’thole, pronounced Po Ho by the natives and Pot Hole by anyone north of the Georgia state line, from the frigid tundra north (Maine). They have a Fabergé egg. Is it real or is it a fake? What does Russian billionaire Anatoly Petrov have to do with it?

Bestselling author and computer company owner Parker Bell is back in her hometown for international mystery, intrigue, and, of course, Po’thole’s own brand of craziness with the Lady Gatorettes – Misty Dawn, Mary Jane, Rhonda Jean, Flo, and Myrtle Sue – five hormonal caffeine-and-sugar infused women who are die-hard University of Florida football fans.

Why are the Russians so intent on trying to kidnap or kill everyone over the Fabergé Easter egg? Why in Po’thole of all places?

A hilarious romp with crazy characters and believable enough that it might be true. The Fabergé Easter Egg is the 3rd book in the Parker Bell Cozy Mystery series.

Egg Hunt by Cora BuhlertEgg Hunt by Cora Buhlert:

When a priceless Fabergé egg goes missing from a locked room in the London townhouse of Russian oligarch Yevgeny Ivanov, everybody quickly suspects Eva Hart, Ivanov’s cleaning lady and single mother.

But Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd has her doubts about this theory, for Eva Hart has no motive, since the egg is unsellable on the free market. But what does Eva’s little daughter Emily know? And what happened to the egg?

This is a mystery novelette of 7500 words or approx. 25 pages.

Easter, 1929 by Frank W. Butterfield:

Sunday, March 31, 1929

Mrs. Wilson Jones (Louise) of Albany, Georgia, wakes up on yet another Sunday morning to discover her husband didn’t come home after carousing down at Louray’s by the river.

But she doesn’t have time to worry. Easter dinner will be at her sister’s house and Mrs. Jones has biscuits to bake. So, she turns on the radio, begins to sing with The Chambers Family Quintet, broadcasting over WSJ in Atlanta, and gets the buttermilk out of the icebox. There’s work to be done and Mrs. Jones is a good cook, keeps a clean house, and always delivers on her promises.

Welcome to a year of holidays with Nick Williams and Carter Jones!

This is the eight in a series of short stories all centered around specific holidays.

Each story is a vignette that stands on its own and takes place from the 1920s to 2008.

Easter Buried Eggs by Lyndsey ColeEaster Buried Eggs by Lyndsey Cole:

The smell of burnt cake is not a good omen for Annie when she arrives at the Black Cat Cafe. But little does she know that her Aunt Leona’s cooking disaster is only the first of many problems she’ll be served in a big basket of cracked Easter eggs.

Annie quickly learns that being in charge at the Black Cat Café isn’t all chocolate-covered strawberries and carrot cakes. In addition to the variety of tasty pastries she needs to make for Easter, she stumbles on a body and what appears to be a robbery.

With money disappearing from bank accounts, snooping seniors appearing out of the blue, and clues turning up in the most unlikely places, Annie’s problems sizzle more than Leona’s hot cross buns.

Determined to help her new friends, Annie and her therapy dog land in the middle of a murder investigation. Clues pile higher than a basket of Easter eggs, all pointing to one of the seniors. Annie searches for something to keep her friend from landing in a jail cell but instead, Annie ends up right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Easter Hair Hunt by Nancy J. CohenEaster Hair Hunt by Nancy J. Cohen:

Hare today, dead tomorrow… Can a stylish sleuth pull a rabbit out of her hat to solve an Easter murder in this to-dye-for cozy mystery?

When hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor, she’s only there to fix hair for a client, Bonnie “Blinky” Morris. But when she’s asked to comb the grounds for leftover goodies, Marla discovers more than just a few dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. And Blinky seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole.

When trying to solve a murder, everyone needs a friend who’s all ears. For Marla, that’s her husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail. They make an eggcellent team. Dalton isn’t the kind to leap to conclusions, but with his wife seven months pregnant, and knowing Marla finds crime-solving to be irresistible, he worries about her running off on another hare-raising adventure.

Marla’s peeps are hoping for a happy ending, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can she crack the case before Blinky becomes the next victim?

Big Bunny Bump Off by Kathi DaleyBig Bunny Bump Off by Kathi Daley:

Spring is in the air and with the warm weather comes an abundance of babies; human and otherwise. Things seem to be right on course until Jack Frost comes to town throwing the entire town of Ashton Falls into chaos. When Zoe sees the Easter Bunny running from a murder scene during a freak snowstorm she must track down the ‘Cartoon Bandits’ in order to catch a killer.

 

 

Easter Escapade by Kathi DaleyEaster Escapade by Kathi Daley:

In the first ever crossover episode, Zak and Zoe join forces with Hawaiian visitors Luke and Lani, to find out who killed a historian visiting Ashton Falls in order to find a treasure map left by his grandfather a hundred years earlier. Meanwhile, Ellie and Levi move in with Zak and Zoe while the boathouse is being renovated and Alex helps Ellie prepare the nursery for baby Eli who is due to be born any day. Throw in some humor and Easter fun and you have a Zak and Zoe crossover mystery.

 

Hippity Hoppity Homicide by Kathi DaleyHippity Hoppity Homicide by Kathi Daley:

It comes down to a few critical seconds as Zoe is forced to either outsmart a genius or watch her husband die.

With Easter only a week away, Zoe is pulled into a dangerous game after Zak is kidnapped, and the person who kidnapped him, challenges Zoe to The Sleuthing Game. Zoe is told that the only way to gain Zak’s freedom is to complete the challenges in the time allotted.

If she fails, Zak will die.

Zoe had promised she would retire from sleuthing now that she had an infant to care for, but the stakes are high, so she leaves the kids with Ellie, while she and Levi set out to beat a madman at their own game.

Lord James Harrington and the Easter Mystery by Lynn FlorkiewiczLord James Harrington and the Easter Mystery by Lynn Florkiewicz:

Meet Lord James Harrington and his delightful wife, Beth; residents of the tiny village of Cavendish, deep in the heart of West Sussex in England. They adore hosting seasonal events, running their country hotel, keeping the local folklore alive and listening to the latest murder mystery on the wireless. But mysteries don’t always remain on the airwaves…

It’s Easter and the Cavendish residents are discussing the traditional festivities along with the proposed Easter egg hunt on the Harrington estate. But when the vicar’s dog digs up a bone, things take a turn for the worse. Retracing the dog’s walk, James uncovers a skeleton buried in the woods. Studying the remains, he identifies a number of expensive items. With the likelihood that the victim could be someone well-to-do, James is concerned that he may know the victim and puts his sleuthing hat on.

With investigations under way and a long list of suspects with motive and opportunity, James is confident that it won’t take long to solve the mysterious death. But a chance conversation turns the whole enquiry on its head. With his good friend, DCI Lane, involved in a current murder enquiry, James takes it upon himself to delve deeper. His questions take him from the quiet village of Cavendish to the beautiful city of Boston where more surprises await. James calls upon many of his contacts to help him track down the murderer. Will he bring the killer to justice or is he on a wild goose chase?

Join James, Beth and the Cavendish regulars as they enjoy the Easter events and embark on another adventure.

Easter Sunday by Thomas HollydayEaster Sunday by Thomas Hollyday:

A father’s love and family anguish. Hank Green’s young son, Bobby, is lost in a cave beneath a water-drenched swamp of the Chesapeake Bay. The wilderness is known for Native American mystery as well as an unsolved World War Two secret. Even worse, a powerful Easter Sunday storm with its flood surge is barreling down. Hank rushes to join the team of experienced local firemen and friends who will try to find and rescue his son before the boy drowns. Yet he feels once again his own numbing personal terror. He is overcome by a lifelong claustrophobic fear of entering closed spaces like caves. It’s a phobia he inherited from his immigrant father, a displaced person from the 1945 European war, and his own Vietnam experience. He knows if the others lose hope and fail, he will go on alone and risk his life to save his child. He must find a way to conquer his weakness but time is running out.

Killer Easter Pie by Carolyn Q. HunterKiller Easter Pie by Carolyn Q. Hunter:

When a jewelry shop in the Old Market is robbed, and an expensive jeweled egg is stolen, it seems someone might be out to ruin Easter.

For pie shop owner Bertha Hannah, however, she has very little time to think about crime as she is preparing for the annual city Easter Egg Hunt at the community gardens. Businesses and churches from all over the city are contributing to the event, and Bert has a new pie recipe planned for the day.

Festivities are brought to a screeching halt, however, when a body is found in the bushes. Is this new death connected to the egg robbery? When the finger of accusation seems to be pointed in the direction of a friend, Bert knows it is up to her to solve this mystery before the Easter Bunny hops away with all the clues.

Easter Eggs and Shotgun Shells by Madison JohnsEaster Eggs and Shotgun Shells by Madison Johns

Being in charge of the annual Easter Egg Hunt is challenging enough for Agnes and Eleanor, but even more so when they assist Bernice in finding rabbits for the event. Unfortunately for the sleuths, instead of bunnies, they stumble across a body.

The sleuths are hunting for the killer now, but soon it appears the killer is hunting for them too. Can Agnes and Eleanor outsmart the killer or will they become the next victims?

 

Bunny Drop by Linda P. KozarBunny Drop by Linda P. Kozar:

To bunnies everywhere! From jackrabbits to cottontails to lovable lop-eared cuties, chinchillas, harlequins, dwarfs, angoras and each and every breed, I dedicate this mystery to the rascally rabbits of the world. Oh, and especially to chocolate Easter bunnies. My favorite kind.

 

 

 

The Easter Egg Ennui by Katy LeenThe Easter Egg Ennui by Katy Leen:

It’s almost Easter. Time for bunnies, bonnets, and bonbons. Not bedlam. Unless you’re Lora Weaver, that is.

With the scent of spring in the air and the promise of a long weekend looming, Lora is looking forward to a few days relaxing with her beau Adam, taking long walks and short naps snuggled together in the warm glow of Easter chocolate wrappers.

Until Lora spots a bouquet of Easter lilies at the home of bff Camille Caron’s aunt and soon finds herself donning a bunny suit and slinging more than Easter eggs.

Whiskers deep in a mêlée of sparring seniors, Lora must keep herself from falling into a rabbit hole she can’t escape. All while grappling with the clamorous Caron clan, mama-to-be Tina, and Lora’s enigma of a boss, Laurent, who may be hiding more secrets than a Kinder egg.

The Easter Egg Ennui is a holiday novella from the Lora Weaver series.

The Easter Sunday Slaughter by Imogen PlimpThe Easter Sunday Slaughter by Imogen Plimp:

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS
And a bouquet of murderous intrigue…

Amateur sleuth (and ace baker) Claire Andersen is back! Winter melts to spring in scenic Galway, Maryland, uncovering blooming friendships new and old, a shyly budding romance, the rotten stench of organized crime, and family drama more garish than Claire’s emerging blood lilies.

Settling in just fine to her new Appalachian digs (and getting the hang of this whole proprietress of a B&B thing, too!), NYC native Claire Andersen is living a cozy small town fairy tale. There are quirky local characters and adorable little shops, not to mention a kitchen full of mouth-watering baked goodies. She’s a veritable June Cleaver—if Leave It to Beaver were nestled in the mountains and June were a recently retired empty nester, that is.

There’s just one problem. Claire can hardly say “Gee, golly” before her newly-acquainted and much-beloved neighbor winds up murdered in cold blood, right before Galway’s annual Easter parade. Hot off the heels of her last murder, Claire can’t help but get involved (much to the chagrin of the well-meaning albeit bumbling town sheriff). She can hardly help herself, after all. The murder did take place right next door … and the victim’s family is staying in her B&B… Ever the hostess, poking around is the least she could do.

Little does Claire know the victim’s family is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg consists of age-old secrets so duplicitous, they’d make Eddie Haskell run for the hills.

Mix in Claire’s feisty sidekick Evelyn, her ever-lovable bloodhound Rupert, and a mountain of mocha and strawberry buttercream cupcakes—and Claire finds she’s in business. The sleuthing business. Perhaps even the mafia business. But she’d better tread carefully—or she’ll wind up another discarded, frozen body in the aforementioned iceberg (with a spring thaw nowhere in sight).

Chicory is Trickery by Sheri RicheyChicory is Trickery by Sheri Richey:

It’s springtime in Spicetown and Mayor Cora Mae Bingham discovers there may be trouble blooming along with the rhododendrons!

With construction in full throttle in the new subdivisions and the income tax filing deadline looming over her head, Mayor Cora Mae Bingham is revamping the Annual Easter Eggs-Travaganza and trying to figure out who is in the Easter bunny suit this year, when a dead body has to be added to her To-Do list.

 

The Easter Egg Murder by Patricia Smith WoodThe Easter Egg Murder by Patricia Smith Wood:

Harrie McKinsey and her best friend and business partner Ginger Vaughn discover that some secrets are best left buried when retired Senator Philip Lawrence hires their editing firm to assist him with a book about the famous unsolved 1950 murder of a cocktail waitress that led to the end of illegal casinos in New Mexico. When the Albuquerque newspaper announces that Senator Lawrence is writing the book, one person with a connection to the case is murdered and another narrowly escapes death. Despite the best efforts of Ginger’s husband and an FBI agent Harrie finds infuriatingly attractive, the energetic pair cannot resist trying to discover who is so anxious to destroy the book, the senator and his big secret. But will their proficiency and pluck be up to the challenge when they land in a dark house with a cold, calculating killer who has nothing else to lose?

A Medium's Easter Epiphany by Chariss K. WalkerA Medium’s Easter Epiphany by Chariss K. Walker:

A boyfriend changes everything!

In book five of the Becky Tibbs cozy, ghost mystery series, Becky must learn how to juggle her personal and business life now that she has a real boyfriend! This is a first for Becky and her new schedule sometimes feels overwhelming.

At Becky’s encouragement, Bobby and Barbara have finally decided to accept their special ability too. At least, they are open to using their gift if the opportunity presents itself.

Barbara actually manages to help someone new with their ghost problem and the meeting turns into something more. Unlike Marty, Barb’s ex-boyfriend, this new person, Christopher, accepts Barbara and her capabilities exactly as she is. In fact, he is impressed.

Jealousy rears its ugly head!

Marty finally goes off the deep end and Becky must help Patty come to terms with his rage.

Becky’s epiphany, or sudden realization, is a concept that would be beneficial to everyone.

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Magic and Easter Eggs 2021 – A Round-up of Indie Easter Speculative Fiction

Magic and Easter Eggs bannerOur monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite Easter speculative fiction by indie and small press authors.

These Easter stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, children’s fantasy, science fiction, horror, dragons, werewolves, were-reindeer, Easter elves, magical geese, crime-busting mediums, fluffy killer bunnies from outer space and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set on or around Easter.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday speculative fiction is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora BuhlertOperation Rubber Ducky by Cora Buhlert:

Three short tales of anthropomorphic terror, featuring Trojan toys, axe-wielding ducks and fluffy killer rabbits from outer space.

When the world is besieged by Kaiju, the only weapon that can stop them turns out to be a rubber ducky with a deadly secret…

His name is whispered in terror: Mock Duck, the mad axe-man of Chinatown, deadly enforcer for the triads. No one has ever seen his face and lived to tell the tale. Which is probably for the better, because Mock Duck’s nickname is more accurate than anybody could have guessed…

It’s the latest psychiatric epidemic to sweep the nation: Angoraphobia, a pathological fear of fluffy angora sweaters. Those who suffer from the disorder claim that fluffy killer rabbits from outer space are trying to conquer the Earth and exterminate humanity. Are they merely deluded or could they perchance be right?

Three bizarro short stories of 7000 words or approximately 24 pages altogether.

Legend of the Easter Dragon by Kelsey HodgeLegend of the Easter Dragon by Kelsey Hodge:

Alwyn

Secrets and ancient prophecies are all make-believe, right?

I’m nobody special, just your average person looking forward to the one day a year I get to spend with my best friend. Suddenly, when fairytales and prophecies storm into my life, everything changes… quite literally.

Llewellyn

Some secrets are necessary when the truth is unbelievable.

Alwyn’s always been special to me, but there are things I keep hidden from him. Revelations that are too unbelievable for the human world. When my best friend is suddenly thrust into my world, the truth must be told, and our friendship and future change in ways I never expected—but always secretly hoped for.

Collected Easter Horror Shorts, edited by Kevin J. KennedyCollected Easter Horror Shorts, edited by Kevin J. Kennedy:

From the darkest recesses of some of the horror world’s most chilling minds, Kevin J. Kennedy brings back together some of the authors that brought you Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, alongside several new authors, from upcoming indie stars to Amazon top sellers.

Whether you like Easter or not, you’ll certainly have a different view of it after you read the stories contained within these pages.

Grab an Easter egg, dim the lights, get cosy and get ready for some chilling tales by some of the horror world’s finest.

C.S.Anderson – He Has Risen
Christopher Motz – Magic Awaits
Veronica Smith? – It’s Not All About Bunnies and Chocolates
Peter Oliver Wonder? – Easter Gunny
Mark Cassell? – The Rebirth
Andrew Lennon? – Trying To Write A Horror Story
Mark Lukens? – Mia’s Easter Basket
Lex Jones? – SonnesHill
JC Michael? – Lord of The Dance
Steven Stacy – Echoes of The Bunny-Man
Weston Kincade? & David Chrisley – An Easter Prayer
Christina Bergling? – Hatch
James Matthew Byers? – Killer Jelly Beans from Outer Space (poem)
Jeff Menapace? – Paying It Forward
Jeff Strand? – Rotten Eggs
Lisa Vasquez? – Bunny and Clyde
Mark Fleming? – Sulphur
Suzanne Fox – Last Supper
Briana Robertson? – Baby Blues
Latashia Figueroa – Easter Eggs
Amy Cross – Lamb to Slaughter
Kevin J. Kennedy – A Town Called Easter

Georgie's Eggcellent Adventure by Sam E. KraemerGeorgie’s Eggcellent Adventure by Sam E. Kraemer:

Georgie Peppermint

What’s an elf gotta do to get respect?

When I’m called to Administration, I’m skeptical that the summons is related to any appreciation the Claus’ feel about how hard I work in the Porcelain Department as a detail painter. I believe it’s somehow in retaliation for my misunderstood relationship with Jingle Bell. Much to my surprise—and concern—I’m given a new assignment to become the Ambassador to the Mystical Convention… I’m being sent to the South Pacific to assist the Easter Bunny.

What awaits me isn’t clear, but I’m determined to shine at my task and show all the nay-sayers that Georgie Peppermint is destined for greatness.

***

Remy Beauchamp

Spring. A symbol of rebirth with blooming flowers, trees, and the arrival of babies in every species. It was always my favorite time of the year, but this year it’s bittersweet. I have a lovely life that’s idyllic to everyone who sees it, but all I see when I look around is loss.

For years, I’ve provided the eggs for Peter Cotton, a local import/exporter on Rapa Nui—Easter Island to outsiders—who holds a worldwide food drive every Spring to celebrate the rebirth on the planet. Sadly, I lost my partner last year, and unless I can find some help, I won’t be able to produce nearly enough eggs to help feed the masses.

Enter the oddly beautiful man wearing tourist clothes and a strange little straw hat. He’s nice and hard-working, a friend of Mr. Cotton’s, and has been sent to the island to assist me. I’m not sure how he can help, but with the sweetly cynical man around, I’m a lot less lonely.

People say there’s magic on Easter Island, thanks to the gods and goddesses who watch over its inhabitants, but never did I believe I’d come face-to-face with the manifestation of the mystical forces. And it all starts with the arrival of Georgie Pepper.

This work of fiction is approximately 32,000 words in length and doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. It is part of the Easter series, “Elves After Dawn.”

The Elf's Easter Wolf by Beau LeFebvreThe Elf’s Easter Wolf by Beau LeFebvre

What’s a wolf to do when he’s the spare and not the heir to the Alpha of the pack?

Markos was looking forward to Easter, and now it’s been ruined by his father’s announcement that he is to be mated to an omega from another pack.

Not gonna happen.

Leaving his pack behind, Markos becomes lost and, guided only by his wolf’s instincts, finds himself in a valley filled with the colors of spring, the smells of chocolate, and a meadow full of numerous fluffy puffballs… Bunnies?

What was Fate thinking?

Estienne never expected his mate to show up out of nowhere, or to be a wolf, for that matter. And right before Easter of all times.

Maybe ignoring the big bad wolf would be the best idea for now…

But the Easter Bunny has other ideas, and Estienne’s own bunny isn’t so averse to the idea of Markos as a mate. Throw in the arrival of an entire wolf pack, and Easter preparations are tossed completely off the rails.

Just great.

The Elf’s Easter Wolf is a Paranormal MM romance of around 30,000 words featuring a workaholic elf bunny shifter and his surprise Easter wolf shifter mate.

My Clearwater Elf by Morgan MasonMy Clearwater Elf by Morgan Mason:

After a split with his business associate, Matthew moves in with his dad, determined to help him restore his old farmhouse. His world is turned upside down when a small stranger with pointy ears trespasses on their land and steals off with an injured rabbit they’d rescued. Together with his dad, Matthew goes for a hike into the forest near their property in search of the mysterious but gorgeous bunny thief.

Calaet is a conscientious, hard-working elf, who’s committed to helping his colony make every Easter into a success. The newly appointed hare in charge threatens to topple all of his hard work when he fails to show up in time to oversee the preparations for Easter. Cal sets out in search of the missing delegate and stumbles upon the most stunning brute he’s ever laid eyes on. When the same man turns up ill outside their protected grove, Cal feels compelled to help him. Even if that means bringing humans into their colony for the first time … ever.

With their mutual attraction growing, what begins as an offer that can’t be refused turns into an unexpected bond. Can Matt and Cal make what they’ve discovered last, or will their unorthodox mating be too much to handle?

The Reindeer's Easter Family by Elizabeth Ann PriceThe Reindeer’s Easter Family by Elizabeth Ann Price:

Tank, the largest and possibly most patient reindeer shifter in his herd, finds himself with a new task – guarding the charity center where a fellow reindeer’s mate works. Not a problem… that is, until two unspeakably adorable twins clamp themselves on his legs and their sister lets slip that she knows he happens to be a reindeer shifter.

Worried about their shifter secret leaking, Tank investigates and when he sees their mother in danger, well, what else is a reindeer to do but save the day?

But can Tank save Marion and her unbelievably cute offspring before a wolf shifter takes them away from him forever?

Elfing Up Easter by Sophie E. RussellElfing Up Easter by Sophie E. Russell

Arlo and Mr. Santa are enjoying their new life together, but when the actual Santa Claus asks them to help find the missing Easter Bunny, their relationship is put to the test. Arctic Elf twins, Finn and Torr, lead them on a wild duck(?) chase through the Appalachian Mountains while they try to get their new toy business off the ground and locate the missing rabbit(?) before the land dies, taking the magic of Easter with it.

 

 

The Goose That Laid Golden Easter Eggs by Emily Martha SorensenThe Goose That Laid Golden Easter Eggs by Emily Martha Sorensen

The family has a magical new goose. One that quacks and moos and lays magical eggs. So what happens when Junior feeds it his sister’s watch?

 

 

 

 

A Medium's Easter Epiphany by Chariss K. WalkerA Medium’s Easter Epiphany by Chariss K. Walker:

A boyfriend changes everything!

In book five of the Becky Tibbs cozy, ghost mystery series, Becky must learn how to juggle her personal and business life now that she has a real boyfriend! This is a first for Becky and her new schedule sometimes feels overwhelming.

At Becky’s encouragement, Bobby and Barbara have finally decided to accept their special ability too. At least, they are open to using their gift if the opportunity presents itself.

Barbara actually manages to help someone new with their ghost problem and the meeting turns into something more. Unlike Marty, Barb’s ex-boyfriend, this new person, Christopher, accepts Barbara and her capabilities exactly as she is. In fact, he is impressed.

Jealousy rears its ugly head!

Marty finally goes off the deep end and Becky must help Patty come to terms with his rage.

Becky’s epiphany, or sudden realization, is a concept that would be beneficial to everyone.

Blueberry Bunny Boy by Leona WindwalkerBlueberry Bunny Boy by Leona Windwalker:

Mallow is a walking disaster when it comes to all things Easter, and for an elf in Bunnyville, that’s the worst thing possible!

Mallow

I’ve tried every Easter production station possible. I sneezed the chickens bald, and there’s no way they are letting me anywhere near the ducks or bunnies now. Basket weaving? The less said about my attempts there, the better. Preparing the real eggs? I set the water to boil them on literal fire, and when they moved me to egg painting, I broke out in hives. I swelled up so big, they had to bring me down from where I floated up to the ceiling. If we’d been outside, I’d have drifted off like some errant cloud! Candy testing is out as I hate sweets, so it all tastes disgusting to me.

I’m such a disaster as an Easter Elf that Peter Cottontail himself had a meeting with Kris Kringle to figure out where in Kringle Enterprises they could safely put me. That’s how I found myself assigned to the human world, working for the Feed and Seed department. Arranging and collecting deliveries of fresh greens and stuff for the bunnies and chicks should be fine, right? I knew I’d struck gold when on my very first day, I found it- a place called Rabbit Food. And the human working there? Oh wow…I think he might just be my mate!

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for March 2021

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors newly published this month, though some February 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, Asian fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, science fiction thrillers, space opera, military science fiction, YA science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, dragons, leprechauns, valkyries, aliens, telepaths, interdimensional portals, interstellar wars, space mages, space colonisation, menopausal werewolves, crime-busting witches, King Arthur in space, alien monster spiders from beyond 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:

Monster of the Dark by K.T. BeltMonsters of the Dark by K.T. Belt:

Carmen Grey always knew she was different.

None of the other children seemed able to read minds. None of the other children were able to manipulate their toys without touching them. On the morning of her sixth birthday, three men dressed in black arrive to remove her from the loving care of her parents.

She is taken to an underground facility meant for others like her, for Clairvoyants. Stripped of her name and identity, over the years she is fashioned into something scary—something lethal. Each day is an endless struggle and every night is plagued by nightmares. Yet Carmen’s ultimate battle won’t be to save her life but to keep her soul.

Spelunkers by Cora BuhlertSpelunkers by Cora Buhlert:

During a holiday in Belgium, college students Evan and Matt decide to explore an uncharted cave in the Ardennes. Also along for the ride is Evan’s sister Kate, who has been tasked with looking out for her brother since early childhood.

Deep inside the cave, Kate, Evan and Matt stumble upon a portal to another world. But does this portal represent the greatest adventure of their lives or a terrible danger…?

This is a science fiction short story of 3800 words or approximately 15 print pages.

Earth's Fury: Our Last Thanksgiving by Declan ConnerEarth’s Fury: Our Last Thanksgiving by Declan Conner:

WHEN THE SUN FLARES — EARTH’S MANTLE HICCUPS — SOCIETY SUFFERS

Rob Bell is financially screwed, although his wife doesn’t know it yet. His only hope is to sell a house that he’s constructed near to the beach. With one day to go to the sale, his, and everyone else’s world comes crashing down. Severe movement in the Earth’s tectonic plates caused by sun flares discharging positive charged particles into the mantle, go on to create a disaster that scientists failed to predict in its enormity. EMPs destroy the grid. Ash from volcanos darken the land. Floods divide the nation, with new mountain ranges created. The USA will never be the same again, changed forever.

Their home in a gated community is high in the hills of Santa Monica, overlooking the Pacific. They decide to stay put. Survival is the new game, money no longer an issue as death casts its shadow over the World and their community.

As their food supplies run low, and constantly under attack from outsiders, Brogan the head of their community security creates a mini fiefdom, with Rob’s wife in charge of rations. Under attack, and falling foul of Brogan, and with death stalking him, Rob knows the only way out is for them to travel to his dad’s bunker. Trouble is, io get there is a thousand-mile journey fraught with danger and his wife doesn’t want to go. Fiercely loyal, he will have to decide if he should leave or to stay.

His life and others will depend on the outcome

Leprechaun Luck by Addison CreekLeprechaun Luck by Addison Creek:

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Lemmi, Charlie, and Liam are determined to have some fun before going to watch the guys play baseball.

What happens next is unexpected, to say the least, but Lemmi and Charlie are determined not to miss the baseball game. Now if only the leprechaun would tell them where Liam is . . .

This is a short story coming in at about 12,000 words.

 

Witchy Reservations by Stephanie DamoreWitchy Reservations by Stephanie Damore:

There’s nothing practical about magic—which is why I ditched my wand years ago.

Thirteen years, to be exact.

The day I left Silverlake.

Except now, a family emergency has called me back home, and quite frankly, I’d rather be anywhere but here.

But when my aunt raises her wand to cure a friend and he ends up dead, it becomes abundantly clear I’m not leaving anytime soon.

Welcome to Silverlake, a place where nothing is EVER as it seems… and where a witch can find, and lose, a lot more than herself.

Phantom Echo by Eldon FarrellPhantom Echo by Eldon Farrell:

His search for a killer will put him in the crosshairs.

The body of a college student is dumped in an alley far from campus. Is it a case of bad timing, or a drug deal gone wrong?

As the detective assigned to the case, Nathan Miller suspects something more sinister behind it. Convincing his superiors of this won’t be easy, though, and following his instincts will require more than just bending the law. He may need to break it.

But when his pursuit leads him to Syria, and then London, he’s forced to seek aid from the Phantoms—allies who might be enemies. Will they help the killer he’s after, or join him in seeing justice served?

First Runes by Rachel FordFirst Runes by Rachel Ford:

The war is over. The chaos is just beginning.

The North won, but peace is a distant dream. Youngling dragons plague the countryside. On the border to No Man’s Land, Knight Protector Ana Derel negotiates a tenuous peace between the slave warriors turned refugees, for whom only a death sentence waits at home, and the local populace, which wants no part in feeding or aiding their former foes. Far to the North, Knight Protector Brynja Evansdatter struggles with the ambitions and mistrust of the elven mages she freed from captivity. They’ve sworn off the Southern king who shackled them, but they’re not ready to swear fealty to the Northern queen.

And at the heart of all the chaos, with the power to command the races of dragons and destroy whole armies of men, are the most powerful weapons ever devised by men or elves: first runes.

Whoever controls them, controls the fate of the known world. Derel and Evensdatter fought side-by-side in the war. Now, they will need more than blades to bring peace.

Foxwood by Joe FleckFoxwood by Joe Fleck:

In an alternate future, fourteen-year-old Victoria has lived in a bunker for all her life, convinced that beyond the metal walls of her home is a mysterious “Nowhere.”

When she escapes, she is thrown into the futuristic city of Foxwood, rebuilt over Seattle after a catastrophic earthquake. Victoria was never supposed to leave her bunker and isn’t in the Network. Without a Network Chip implanted in her head, Victoria has no identity, an no place in Foxwood.

Despite lacking social skills or street smarts, she gets a job at a massive 3D printing business. This company is targeted by a terrorist team of humanoid machines that are indistinguishable from ordinary humans.

In an effort to prove her worth as a bunker child, Victoria attempts to expose an infiltrator before the terrorists get a chance to attack. On top of that, the education system controls overpopulation by killing the least intelligent people with a terrifying Birthday Exam.

Orange City by Lee Matthew GoldbergOrange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg:

Imagine a secret, hidden city that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the city forever. You can never leave.

Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

After ten years as an advertising executive, Graham Weatherend receives an order to test a new client, Pow! Sodas. After one sip of the orange flavor, he becomes addicted, the sodas causing wild mood swings that finally wake him up to the prison he calls reality.

A dynamic mash-up of 1984 meets LOST, ORANGE CITY is a lurid, dystopian first book in a series that will continue with the explosive sequel LEMONWORLD.

The Fearless by J.J. GreenThe Fearless by J.J. Green:

Space opera meets Arthurian legend.

The Britannic Alliance has been brought back from the brink of disaster by Taylan Ellis, a Royal Marine fighting to win back her homeland.

During one of the battles, the Fearless, the BA flagship, mysteriously disappeared and is now adrift in the Asteroid Belt. Taylan joins the expedition sent to find out what happened.

What she discovers out there is another clue in the riddle of the reappearance of King Arthur. What’s more, it means the Alliance could win back the Britannic Isles, but only if Taylan plays her cards right.

The fight goes on!

Wicked Honeymoon by Lily Harper HartWicked Honeymoon by Lily Harper Hart:

Jack Harker and his new wife Ivy have beaten the odds, and with that comes a little rest and relaxation. They have a two-week honeymoon planned, and the first leg involves a glamping trip down the river.

Jack has never been one for camping, and the truth is, he would’ve preferred anything but what they’ve got planned. Ivy, however, is desperate to prove that camping can be fun. What Jack wants most is for Ivy to have everything, so he gives in.

He may live to regret it. That is if he doesn’t die first.

What should’ve been an idyllic kayaking trip down the river, complete with gourmet meals and glamorous tents, turns into a mystery when one of the other guests finds blood on the ground on the second day. Jack and Ivy are instantly suspicious … but they seem to be the only ones.

There’s no body, so no reason to worry, and yet Ivy’s dreams won’t let her rest. Can you prove murder when there’s no body and nobody is missing?

That’s the plan for Ivy and Jack, although the trip will have them questioning more than their fellow travel-goers. It will have them questioning their instincts, too.

Strap in. Just because it’s a honeymoon, that doesn’t mean the ride won’t be bumpy.

Songs of Insurrection by J.C. KangSongs of Insurrection by J.C. Kang:

Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the world. Only an awkward girl with the perfect voice can rediscover it.

The Dragon Singers of old summoned typhoons and routed armies, liberating mankind from the orcs before fading into legend. Now, with the world again facing a new cataclysm, the power of music stirs in Kaiya, a naïve misfit with the perfect voice.

Without a master to guide her, she must rely on Hardeep, a disgraced foreign paladin, to help awaken her latent magic. His motives might not be entirely noble. When he leads her to the fabled Dragon Scale Lute, which only a Dragon Singer can wield, it is up to Black Lotus Clan to intervene.

Because the instrument’s fell power can save the world…

Or destroy it.

Romancing the Crone by Amanda M. LeeRomancing the Crone by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall has lived her life in the shadows, always wondering who abandoned her when she was a child and where the magic she boasts came from. Finally, she is about to get some answers.

It won’t be easy, though.

After a wild fight that saw shifters and vampires joining together to battle under an eclipse, things in Hawthorne Hollow are relatively quiet. Scout’s newly-found sister is locked in a cell, her grandfather is laying low, and the enemy appears to be regrouping.

That allows Scout and her boyfriend Gunner to make a trip to her childhood home. Upon their return, a shifter attacks and throws their world into a tailspin. He’s easily dispatched but appears to be suffering from a magical infection that has his body wasting and his mind collapsing.

It’s up to Spell’s Angels to figure out what’s going on, and because nothing is ever easy for Scout, the investigation is going to be harder than she imagined.

It seems there’s a new top vampire in town, and his powers are extensive for a creature who wasn’t born into his legacy. On top of that, he’s crossed paths with Scout before and knows exactly how to push her buttons.

Scout is a fighter but the world is closing in on her. She’s going to need her new co-workers and the family she doesn’t know to help her out on this one … and even then nothing is a given.

The road before her is winding but answers are finally here. Scout will finally know what she is. Whether she survives long enough to benefit from the knowledge is completely up in the air.

Death Kiss by Naomi E. LloydDeath Kiss by Naomi E. Lloyd:

With one kiss I can see when, where and how you will die.

Some would call it a gift. But not me.

My death kiss is a curse that has branded me a witch, with no human rights, and has turned me into the most wanted girl on earth.

Why? Because in a world where a vicious movement of sadistic killers are murdering random people to stop overpopulation, my kiss holds the power for salvation.

And makes me a prime target for abduction.

Which is where I am now. Captured by three brothers, burning with grief after witnessing my parents’ murder, and tormented with fear of what is yet to come…

For something doesn’t add up.

I’m trapped inside a deadly game of kiss and tell, but I know there’s a darker agenda at play.

What it is? I just hope I can live to find out.

Death Kiss is an adult, dark fantasy, romance novel which draws you into a world of magic, deception, seductive twists, and desire.

Blood Moon by Catherine LundoffBlood Moon by Catherine Lundoff:

The Wolf’s Point werewolf pack, born from the magic that calls small groups of middle-aged women to embrace their inner and outer wolves, has been protecting the town for generations. Now Becca Thornton and the Pack have their hands (and paws) full of all the trouble they can handle. Plus a bit extra. Pack member Erin Adams just found a dead body in the trunk of her car and confessed to murder. But no one’s sure who the victim is and Erin can’t remember what happened. Did Erin fall off the wagon and murder a former foe? She doesn’t trust herself and Becca’s beginning to have her doubts.

If that wasn’t enough, Becca’s ex-husband sold their old house and their new neighbors are clearly up to something. Can the Pack get the mystery solved and Erin’s name cleared before the next full moon? Or do the town’s new residents have other plans?

Valkyrie by David NethValkyrie by David Neth:

The end of the world might be sooner than they think.

The valkyries secretly hand-select fallen heroes to bring back to Valhalla to prepare for the final battle. While out at a nightclub, Kathy witnesses a valkyrie collect a dying man’s soul. Thinking the valkyrie is doing harm, she tries to fight her off, but loses.
Back in Valhalla, the valkyries view their lapse in secrecy as a sign that the final battle is beginning. They capture Kathy and bring her back to Valhalla while they rally their army to send into battle.

Meanwhile, Samantha is reeling from having told Steven she’s a witch. But when she discovers Kathy’s gone missing, she puts her strained relationship aside to save her sister, only to end up in just as much danger as Kathy.

With the valkyries preparing for war, Samantha and Kathy must prove that they mean no harm in order to return to their normal lives. But the end of the world might be sooner than they think.

Valkyrie is the third book in the Coven series, which serves as a prequel series to the Under the Moon series.

Heaven Fall by Leo PetracciHeaven Fall by Leo Petracci:

Draysky was born to die in the mines.

Like his father before him, his fate was to harvest treasures until the dust claimed his lungs. He’d die the lowest of society, a Knotted, buried with their thin cord still around his neck. He would never advance as a mage, never to learn of the forbidden runes of the kingdom magicians. But when he looks away from the northern mountains, he allows himself to dream that one day, he’d buy his freedom and escape the mines forever.

But the mines don’t relinquish claimed lives so easily. They draw him in deeper, pulling him into their depths, and when Draysky discovers the source of their treasures, he’s left with a choice.

Return to his labor, and be grateful for the years he has left, or risk his life by seizing the mines’ power. Becoming a threat to those who thrive supported on the backs of his people.

And discovering why runes are forbidden.

Chiral Justice by L.L. RichmanChiral Justice by L.L. Richman:

Old enemies never die.

The unthinkable has happened: an Akkadian assassin has helped broker peace between her star nation and the Alliance. Micah and the rest of Task Force Blue watch the peace talks with guarded optimism—but they know one thing the rest of the settled worlds don’t.

Clint Janus has vanished — with the Alliance’s most closely-held secret.

Micah Case is that secret.

Janus is now allied with Akkadia’s new premier, Asher Dent, but the man is not as peace-loving as he might seem. It’s going to be up to Micah Case and Task Force Blue to prevent Dent from achieving that which he wants most: total space supremacy over all the settled worlds.

Chiral Justice is the third book in the Biogenesis War series, and completes this first story arc in the Biogenesis Universe.

Lycan Legacy: Paladin by Veronica SingerLycan Legacy: Paladin by Veronica Singer:

Across the width of the world, Logan’s agony screams in my soul.

Shackled in silver which burns his flesh, he is trapped in a foreign country, lured to captivity by the kidnapping of his human daughter.

I am Luna, the leader of the pack, and it falls on me to lead a rescue mission.

Still, politics would stay my hand. After all, Logan isn’t family, just the runt of my pack; disobedient, combative, and always in trouble.

Wrong. Dead wrong. Pack is family.

Politics decree that I can’t bring the rest of my pack to avoid an international incident.

But nobody said I couldn’t bring Mike, my superhuman bodyguard, an ex-SEAL with the skills to survive anywhere.

And nobody knows about my magical talents, talents that would make the most vicious werewolf seem tame.

Screw politics. Luna White doesn’t leave a packmate in captivity.

The Blackwing War by K.B. SpanglerThe Blackwing War by K.B. Spangler:

Three thousand years ago, the Deep appeared without warning. This alien life form was quickly put to service teleporting people and cargo across great distances, which allowed mass colonization throughout the galaxy. It has also allowed Lancaster, the organization which controls access to the Deep, to grow wealthy and powerful. Cross Lancaster, and you are forced to travel between planets using standard faster-than-light technologies. Nobody wants that!

Tembi Stoneskin is having a very bad day. A Witch in service to the Deep, she spends her time disarming bombs in shipping stations. On her way home to Lancaster, the Deep shows her the aftermath of a weapons test powerful enough to slice a moon in half. While the Deep is a vast intelligence, it is a terrible communicator, and relies on its Witches to translate humanity’s requests into thoughts, moods, and impulses that it can understand. Tembi is a young Witch, but she is a skilled translator and she has learned how to speak with her powerful alien friend.

As they set off to find the source of the weapons test, Tembi and the Deep are pulled into the ongoing war between Earth-normal humans and genetically modified humans. But all wars are founded on excuses, and the Blackwing army has much more to hide than a simple shattered moon.

Last Light by Paul StephensonLast Light by Paul Stephenson:

The year is 2107. Earth is dying. For Wyn, Lois, and Judd, that’s the least of their problems.

Wyn is the pilot on the ISS Minos. Its mission: a race to the ice moon of Europa to cure the disease destroying humanity’s crops. But not everyone on board seems to have the same agenda.

Lois is an Interpol agent investigating the world’s worst criminals – those rich enough to get whatever they want and powerful enough to murder without consequence – and her cover’s been blown.

Judd is hiding as far away from humanity as he can, working in a cheap tourist attraction on the Moon. But when an old man pries a long-forgotten secret from his head, he can no longer hide from the truth he’d buried even from himself. Because Judd is a telepath, and a weapon badly wanted by both sides of an unseen war.

They might not know it, but each holds a key to Earth’s cure… and humanity’s survival.

If you like pulse-quickening action, blood-soaked science fiction, revelations, and revolutions, you’ll love this first episode in Paul Stephenson’s Sunset Chronicles, the new monthly sci-fi horror serial from the author of the bestselling Blood on the Motorway saga.

A Darker Magic by Glynn StewartA Darker Magic by Glynn Stewart:

A bloody war has ended in a restored peace
And the shield of Martian magic guards the stars
Two centuries of spell and steel to ward all humanity

Two years ago, Lieutenant Commander Roslyn Chambers stood witness to the surrender of the last remnants of the Republic. Fueled by atrocity against Mage and mundane alike, the secessionists who waged war against the Protectorate of Mars are finally defeated.

Now, a special commission from the Mage-Queen of Mars takes Roslyn deep into the former Republic to hunt the architects of that atrocity. Mages who betrayed their own, the creators of Project Prometheus must be brought to justice.

But hidden from even the Republic, Prometheus has woven magic and technology together once more. Here, hidden from all prying eyes, they have created a monster…one that even a Protectorate forged by the spell must call black magic.

Marauders by T.S. ValmondMarauders by T.S. Valmond:

How far is too far to save the human race?

Captain Dana Pinet is struggling to put her demons to rest while carrying the last of humanity still reeling from the loss of their world onboard the Starship Hope.

She and the crew will be tested yet again when they come into contact with a group of plucky aliens enthralled by their circumstances and eager to befriend them. Things turn ugly when the aliens make off with precious cargo and half their dwindling supplies.

In pursuit of the thieves, the crew discovers they’re not the only ones after the pirates, and getting caught in alien cross-fire will only make matters worse. If Dana can’t track down the pirates and their stolen cargo, it may bring about the extinction of the human race.

Marauders is the thrilling second book in the science fiction series Starship Hope. If you like intriguing first contact with aliens and survival at all-costs scenarios, you’ll love this second book by T.S. Valmond.

Katana of Trust by A.C. WardKatana of Trust by A.C. Ward:

Escaping death by her father’s hand was only the beginning…

Determined to prove herself to the gods, Shou will do anything to forget the journey that brought her to the island of the kami. Now is her time to rise up and take her place as the true chosen one.

But when enemies try to destroy Shou, another human saves her. She’s shocked that he bears the same mark as she. Suddenly, Shou questions everything about her history. Is she truly the chosen one of the prophecy?

Teaming up with Masaru, heir to the Date clan, is her only option to uncover the truth and save herself from death. As Masaru and Shou grow closer, one thing is certain: they’ve been wrong about the prophecy all along. Nameless and desperate, will Shou find her courage and fight for her place among the kami or forge a path of her own?

The Eighth Key by Laura WeyrThe Eighth Key by Laura Weyr:

The magic is gone…or is it?

Lucian is a jaded flirt and professional bard who knows all the old songs about sorcery. When he meets Corwin, a shy mage who can still use magic despite the Drought, Lucian finds his desire growing with each passing day—not just for answers, but for Corwin himself.

Sparks fly as they find themselves passionately entangled in adventure and each other. But learning the true origin of the Drought and the Key to ending it comes at a price that their bond may not survive…

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