Two posts on the German publishing world

I know that many of you are not regular readers of the Pegasus Pulp blog, which is more focussed on publishing related subjects. So I’d like to point you to two recent posts about the German publishing world over on the Pegasus Pulp blog.

The first post talks about the German e-book market and the recent news that the market share of Tolino, an e-reader developed and marketed by an alliance of several German booksellers, has surpassed that of Amazon’s Kindle.

The second post tackles the very German publishing phenomenon of the “Romanheft”, novella-length stories published in standalone digest-sized pulp magazines, and draws some parallels to e-book indie publishing. I’ve also included a couple of links discussing the digital strategies of “Romanheft” publishers.

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Flowers in the Attic and some surprising parallels to Game of Thrones

Tonight I chanced to watch the 2014 adaptation of V.C. Andrews’ cult classic Flowers in the Attic, starring Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham and Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper in Mad Men).

I was actually surprised how negative many of the reviews on IMDB were (and how many of them defended the 1987 adaptation, which I’ve only ever heard described as bad), since I felt that the 2014 Flowers in the Attic was a surprisingly good and accurate adaptation of a novel that is not exactly easy to adapt.

Spoilers for both book and movie in the following: Continue reading

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An interview, a new vendor and some awards geekery

First of all, I’ve been interviewed at Book Goodies, so check it out.

And if you’re a reader in the Netherlands, you can now buy my books at the newly established Amazon NL without having to pay Amazon’s international surcharge.

Last but not least, the 2014 World Fantasy Awards have been given out.

Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria won in the best novel category, Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages in the best novella category (this story was also my favourite novella on the Hugo shortlist, though it lost to Charles Stross), The Prayer of Ninety Cats by Caitlín R. Kiernan won in the best short story category (Kiernan also won best collection), the George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois edited anthology Dangerous Women won in the anthology category. Some very good choices all in all, though I haven’t read the Caitlín Kiernan story.

Sofia Samatar has shared the approximate contents of her acceptance speech at her blog. She also addressed the problem that the World Fantasy Award statuette is a bust of H.P. Lovecraft, who was not just a pioneering dark fantasy writer but also a vicious racist, which makes accepting the award awkward for writers of colour.

Plus, once again the majority of the prizes in the fiction categories went to women writers, including a woman of colour, while the best anthology, though edited by two men, focusses on stories with female protagonists. All in all, very encouraging.

Cheryl Morgan says it best in her post on the awards:

You know what this means, don’t you, folks?

OMG! The FemiNazis Have Destroyed Fantasy!!!

Eat cooties, dudebros.

Indeed, this year’s World Fantasy Award winners should annoy a certain fraction of SFF writers and fans quite a bit. But then, those people don’t usually care much about the World Fantasy Awards, probably because they’re juried and have always tended towards more literary fantasy.

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Familienkutsche featured at Kobo Next and other news

Familienkutsche, the German version of my crime short Family Car, is a featured selection at Kobo Next, Kobo’s own promo site, this week, along with a whole lot of other good books such as When the Music’s Over by German SF writer Myra Çakan.

If you’re waiting for more German language books, I have a new one in publishing right now and hope to announce it in time for the anniversary tomorrow, e-book vendor gods willing.

In the meantime, I’ve got a profile on the new social network tsu (where you can get a sneak peak at the new German book), so drop by, if you’re there. What is tsu? Here is an explanation.

Finally, Heidi Garrett, Jessica Rydill and myself keep posting all sorts of interesting content at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, so check it out, if you haven’t already.

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Constantine or when the imitators eclipse the original

We’re living in a strange age where every American comic you ever read, no matter how obscure, is probably going to be a movie or a TV show sooner or later. Want proof? Look at Marvel’s massive line-up of upcoming movies, including a bunch of characters I for one would never have expected to see on the big screen. But hey, we’re living in superhero comic movie utopia these days and I for one like it.

Regarding to Marvel’s competitor DC, I finally got around to watching the pilot episode of Constantine a few days late. Here is a recap from Tor.com and one from iO9.

Like Gotham, Constantine was a comic related TV show I was planning to skip. But then I saw the trailer and it looked pretty good. So I decided to give it a try.

So what is the verdict? Middling. I’ll probably give the show another try (after all, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needed ten episodes or so to become really, really cracking good), but so far I’m not at all convinced. And I’m not sure if it’s the fault of the show itself or just bad timing. Continue reading

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Two new Helen Shepherd Mysteries available: Bank Job and Open Season

I’m still sick, but I’ve still got two new stories in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series to announce. That is, actually I’ve been meaning to announce them this weekend, but I was feeling too sick and even updating the websites and writing the blog posts took spoons I didn’t have at the time.

If you want to read all the Helen Shepherd Mysteries, there is also a discounted series bundle available exclusively at DriveThruFiction.

And if you want to know a bit more about how the Helen Shepherd Mysteries were written, check out this post over at Pegasus Pulp.

Bank Job
Bank Job by Cora BuhlertAt first glance, the robbery in a small bank branch doesn’t seem overly mysterious. After all, the CCTV footage clearly shows a masked robber threatening bank clerk Jim Carling with a gun before disabling the cameras.

However, the robber knew a bit too much about the inner workings of the bank, so Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd quickly suspects that the robber had inside help. But who of the five bank employees is the insider? And what happened to Jim Carling after the robber took him hostage?

 

 
For more information, visit the Bank Job page.
Buy it for the low price of 2.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Der Club, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, Flipkart, e-Sentral, You Heart Books and XinXii.

Open Season
Open Season by Cora BuhlertAbsolutely no one is sorry when the infamous Ruislip Wood Ripper, a serial killer who has already raped and murdered three women, ends up dead in the forest, shot by a hunter while on the cusp of attacking his fourth victim.

But there are just a few coincidences too many in this case for the taste of Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd. Was it really just pure luck that hunter Reginald Hargreaves just happened to be in the right place at the right time? And why did no one warn French tourist Anne Marie Sauvage that there was a killer on the loose in Ruislip Woods?

 

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

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Toadstools in the meadow

I caught a nasty cold just in time for Halloween, hence the light blogging in recent days.

I even had to ask my parents to hand out candy to any trick or treaters who might show up, because opening the door looking and feeling like an extra from The Walking Dead really wouldn’t have been appropriate. We actually got trick or treaters, too, ten of them in fact, which is quite a lot, considering Halloween hasn’t been celebrated in Germany all that long. But kids quickly take to such traditions (and all trick or treaters were under ten, a few were toddlers) very quickly, especially if they involve dressing up and getting free candy.

Meanwhile, we are experiencing an extremely warm autumn this year and had up to 20 degrees Celsius in North Germany this weekend. Autumn is also traditionally mushroom time. And since the area where I live is still semi-rural, I came across these two beauties on the meadow across the road.

Toadstool

A toadstool grows among dead leaves on the meadow across the road.

Baby toadstool

A baby toadstool found on the same meadow.

Apparently, the proper English name for those mushrooms is fly agaric (thanks to Ann Somerville for the hint). In Germany, we call them “Fliegenpilz” (fly mushroom).

They’re very pretty, poisonous and hallucinogenic. They were once used in witches’ brews, served as an early pesticide and are also a traditional good luck symbol in Germany.

According to a pre-Christian legend, toadstools grow where one of Odin’s entourage has fallen from their horse during their wild ride across the sky during the winter solstice. Personally, I wouldn’t mind Thor falling onto the meadow across the road. Or Loki, provided he’s not in full-on Avengers villain mode.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 2014

Indie Speculative Fiction of the MonthIt’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”, this time with a special Halloween edition or rather one that just happens to be published at Halloween.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some September books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have a broad spectrum of titles, featuring science fiction, space opera, horror, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, biopunk, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, Asian fantasy, YA fantasy, weird western, space western, paranormal romance, gothic romance, demons, werewolves, superheroes, psychic powers, GLBT characters, fairy tale retellings and much more.

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

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

Pack of Lies by Annie BelletPack of Lies by Annie Bellet

Let sleeping dogs lie. Wolves, on the other hand…

Recovering from a broken heart and coming to terms with her family history, all sorceress Jade Crow wants is to resume running her comic book store and gaming with her friends. With a town full of strange wolf shifters, a hundred-and-fifty-year-old peace accord hanging in the balance, and the Justice who broke her heart back in her life, Jade’s plans go out the proverbial window.

Wolves are killing wolves, innocent human lives are caught in the crossfire, and not everyone in town is who they appear to be. As the bodies stack up and the doubts build, Jade and her friends race to find the true killer.

And then Jade’s evil ex-lover makes another move…

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

Wave Links by Randall BoleynWave Links by Randall Boleyn

They feared how the truth might alter Llad Fleck. No one told him about his talented ancestors, their extraordinary heritage, or how they died. He never learned that a powerful research institute in London considered him a lethal threat. Other than the need to move on to the safety of a different city every few months, the only thing Llad knew for sure was that the men he played ball against said he had “mad skills not suitable for a fifteen-year-old.”

When Llad meets an eccentric parapsychologist, Dr. Jemma Rask, she explains that she has waited decades just to teach him how to expand his mind and utilize the unique traits which she believes he has inherited. Even though Dr. Rask and her stories come across as way too weird for Llad, he begins studying her techniques. He quickly realizes that just because the link might be there, it doesn’t mean he actually has the talent or the patience to develop his abilities.

After multiple killings shatter Llad’s life, he still doesn’t know who is behind the brutal murders or why he’s involved. But he knows now that he’s fighting for his life against a fanatical enemy. He must discover more about his family tree and learn how to control his psychic gifts?if he has any. Alone with his grief, Llad searches for clues about his cryptic lineage while being haunted by reoccurring dreams of a mysterious girl trying to help him master the bizarre talents he will need to survive.

Once Upon a Time at the End of the World by S. Elliot BrandisOnce Upon a Time at the End of the World by S. Elliot Brandis

Meet the android with no name. Seventy years ago, he was freed: his permission chip was removed and a gun placed in his hand. He was sent to fight for his country.

It was the war that ended the world.

Now, America is a wasteland. Wild towns have emerged across the frontier, lawless places filled with drunks and opportunists. The android rides from town to town, collecting warrants and seeking justice. Life is violent and meaningless—full of blood, whiskey, and dust.

When he meets Sierra—a fiery southerner with a chip on her shoulder—they embark on an unlikely journey, a dangerous search for vengeance.

Heart of Fire by J. DamaskHeart of Fire by J. Damask

Jan Xu, wolf and pack leader, faces more dangers when she saves a foreign male wolf in love with one of her ancient enemies, a jiang shi, a Chinese vampire. Throw in a love-struck drake—and Jan finds her situation suddenly precarious, with her reputation and health at stake. How much is a wolf going to take when everything is out of control again and her world thrown into disarray? How is she going to navigate the complexities of Myriad politics while keeping her pack and family intact without losing her mind? The third book of the Jan Xu Adventures will see Jan Xu’s continual fight as pack leader, her clan’s Eye (seer) and mother of three young children. Her mettle, courage and love for her family will be tested to her utmost limits.

This is the sequel to Wolf at the Door.

Blades of Illusion by Terah EdunBlades of Illusion by Terah Edun

Sara Fairchild, duelist and combatant, is out for vengeance. Her father was betrayed. Her mother is dead. All she has left is her desire for revenge and a quest for answers.

Now a member of the Mercenary Guilds’ elite guard, she fights on the front lines of her empire’s first civil war. But Sara’s priority isn’t winning the war for the crown or empire. It’s finding out the true circumstances of her family’s downfall while keeping one mild-mannered curator alive.

As emotionally detached as she is from everyone around her, Sara can’t seem to shake the stubborn affection of her one friend. When she stumbles upon the secrets of not one but two Kade mages, she soon finds out that neither of their lives is worth anything to either side.

As she fights to outmaneuver a group of fiendish imperial assassins and win a war that grows more complicated by the day, Sara Fairchild knows that no matter what, the empire will never be the same.

This is book 2 of the Crown Services series, following Blades of Magic

Wizard of Ends by Vanessa FinaughtyWizard of Ends by Vanessa Finaughty

When Lashlor Leaflin offers to escort Queen Narraki Dragonsbane to the Jeltar Woods, he’s unwittingly caught up in a magical adventure of the type he would rather not have.

The sorceress Assassa believes the Land of Ends to be rightfully hers, but King Lanaran refuses to hand over his crown. In retaliation, the sorceress conjures creatures of darkness to hunt the queen and end her life. Lashlor helps where he can, but it isn’t easy when the Guards of Ends who protect the queen believe him to be false.

A confrontation with Assassa will be the death of him, Lashlor is certain. However, the king insists on his help and it soon becomes apparent that he may have no choice.

King Ruins by Michael John GristKing Ruin by Michael John Gist

“The twists & drama of this roller coaster ride are wild from the start.” – Bethany.

The Arctic ice is gone, blasted apart in decades-long resource wars, and global tsunamis have scoured the world into ruin. Survivors hide in utopian cities behind vast flood-walls, or on lawless floating slums on the open ocean, living in fear of the next big wave.

Ex-Arctic marine Ritry Goligh isn’t afraid. His enemy Mr. Ruins is dead, crushed by a tsunami at the edge of the slums, and Ritry’s long nightmare is finally over. Then comes an explosion that makes no sound, but blows all his thoughts to shreds. In an instant Ritry is prey again, hunted by a power so vast he can’t even comprehend it.

This is King Ruin, and before him all Rit can do is run, so far and so fast he starts to forget who and what he is. Soon half of his mind is gone, the King is closing in, and the souls of billions are at stake. Because King Ruin wants the Bridge, a direct path into the minds of every living thing, and only the lost and broken Ritry Goligh can stand in his way.

This is book 2 in the Ruins Sonata series, following Mr. Ruins.

After the Winter by Mark R. HealyAfter the Winter by Mark R. Healy

The Earth is in ruins. Cities and nations destroyed. Those who survive the onslaught succumb to the cold blackness of winter. A handful of machines finally emerge into the light, lost and directionless. They are the last remnants of civilisation.

Brant is a synthetic – a machine who has the appearance and emotions of the humans who made him. He is hunted across the wasteland by cruel scavengers known as Marauders who are intent on cannibalising his body to prolong their own lives.

Brant carries a great burden as he tries to return home: a secret that can change the world. Against the unforgiving desert, the twisted denizens of this new world and his own dark past he needs to find a way back at any cost.

Consumption by Michael Patrick HicksConsumption by Michael Patrick Hicks

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

Sol Shall Rise by G.P. HudsonSol Shall Rise by G.P. Hudson

The Sol System was conquered and humans lived as slaves for 500 long years.

Now, after years of brutal warfare, humanity has been liberated. Liberation, however, comes at a cost. And the Sol System has become nothing more than a puppet state for a vast galactic empire.

For Jon Pike, a war hero who has lost everything, there is no substitute for freedom. And he blames the aliens for humanity’s troubles, especially the one living inside him.

But when he is sent on a top secret mission into unexplored regions of the galaxy he discovers that humanity’s troubles are just getting started.

Can he find freedom for himself and humanity?

Diabolical Taste by Ros JacksonDiabolical Taste by Ros Jackson

Kenssie just wants her fellow demons to respect her. A little hero worship now and then wouldn’t go amiss either. But as the lowly thrall of Rak, an embarrassment demon, she’ll take whatever crumbs she’s offered.

When the demon council turns against her master, Rak and Kenssie are forced to relocate to the countryside. It seems Rak has been holding out against his thrall and keeping a secret that will shake her trust in him forever.

When someone from Rak’s past returns to claim him, Kenssie has to fight for much more than his attention. The lives of innocents and not-so-innocents are on the line. How much of herself is she willing to sacrifice for someone else’s happiness?

The Registry's Secret by Jana JaneawayThe Registry’s Secret by Jana Janeaway

“I feel lost in the middle of a weird dream I can’t wake up from. Where everything is upside down, and all the rules have changed.”

Jessica Mitchell didn’t know just how true that statement would turn out to be.

Living the carefully constructed life that the Registry dictated, under their firm thumb and watchful eye, was starting to feel more and more like a prison sentence. The stifling existence had only one redeeming factor, amid the endless restrictions and constant scrutiny; Craddock Daniels, Jessica’s husband for all intents and purposes.

Even as discontentment spurs despair, they continue to find solace in each other, clinging to the hope that their imagined future together might still be possible.

But they soon learn that not everything is as it seems. It is much, much worse.

On the run again, joined by old and new friends, Jessica and Craddock try to reclaim their lives… by taking on the Mengliad community’s most powerful agency.

THE REGISTRY’S SECRETS is book two of THE MENGLIAD SERIES, following The Mengliad.

The Idiot King by Patty JansenThe Idiot King by Patty Jansen

Johanna, Roald, Nellie and Loesie have come to Florisheim finding many of their kinsmen there. The survivors from the burning of Saardam who have come here are the nobles who were never great supporters the old king, and it is likely that they won’t support his son either, even if he was normal. They support his marriage to Johanna even less and Johanna’s position as the new king’s wife would be improved immensely if she produced an heir, but so far that’s not happening.

Florisheim is alive with evil magic, and that magic is starting to affect the Saarlanders who are unused to it. They suffer apparitions of ghosts, people driven to injure themselves, or taken prisoner to work in a mysterious hole in the ground. Johanna knows that they have to get out of that evil place, but where can they go when the violence covers the entire known world?

This is part 3 of the series For Queen and Country, following Innocence Lost and Willow Witch.

Mission: Lights of Langrenus by V.A. JeffreyMission: Lights of Langrenus by V.A. Jeffrey

Something is rotten in Langrenus.

Or technically, north of the city.

Bob has settled down into work and family life but beneath the surface things have changed. He’s a secret agent now, building a budding network of people searching for the alien shadow groups on Earth and working to stop the coming alien invasion from beyond the solar system. But for now, all of that is far away.

The Boss, the mysterious head of Vartan, Inc. sends Bob to the moon city of Langrenus to investigate the Transient Lunar Phenomenon, which has changed pattern and intensity over recent years. No one knows why. At first, Bob suspects he’s been sent on a fluff mission. But the more he investigates, the more questions are raised in his mind as to what is really going on. The heart of the problem lies within the lunar mining communities and the increased frequency of the beautiful lunar lights are the result of something far more sinister than Bob ever imagined.

This is the sequel to Mission: Flight to Mars.

Hellcat's Bounty by Renae JonesHellcat’s Bounty by Renae Jones

Lesbian romance meets adventure in the first Rosewood Space Western.

The hellcat of Rosewood station is the best of the best. Anelace Rios is a good old-fashioned troublemaker, fiercely independent, and best of all, a steady hand with a flamethrower. Carnivorous amoeba are slowly taking over the half-abandoned mining port, and the freelance exterminator rakes in big bounties killing them off—then she spends those bounties in a grand way. Work hard, play hard.

Meidani Sintlere’s reputation is exactly the opposite of her wild friend. She’s the station’s hardworking black market doctor. She’s shy. She’s nice. She’s got a weakness for imported chocolate and pastel dresses. And she gets mad as a sani-vacced cat when Anelace shows up missing chunks of skin.

The hellcat never lacks for a willing partner. Even so, Meidani’s got notions to cut to the front of the line and stay there. She upends everything Anelace knows about good girls and the bad girls who don’t deserve them, and in a blisteringly hot night they go from friends to lovers.

But their new closeness forces the kind of reckoning even tough Anelace can’t escape unscathed. She thrives on her job, relishes the payoff, but now she’s endangering more than her own adrenaline-junkie hide—every run risks Meidani’s happiness. For the first time, Anelace is risking her shot at love.

Praying for the Surgeon by Frank D. LawrencePraying for the Surgeon by Frank D. Lawrence

“Praying For The Surgeon” is a fast-paced novel with lots of twists and turns that keep smashing its reader’s head against the wall… It is full of action, drama, and suspense – all set in a future where genetic engineering and total data control is running rampant. It combines cyberpunk, 80s retro style and the modern genre of biopunk into a thrilling ride of a book!

Witness what happens when Philip K. Dick meets Mickey Spillane… Deckard and Mike Hammer are about to have a little baby – and it is nasty!

The Commorancy: Orientation by Al K. LineOrientation and Contamination by Al K. Line

Nobody noticed as it swept around the globe – until billions began to die. Then it got a name: The Lethargy. Everyone just gave up, all interest in life relentlessly gnawed away. 15 generations later humanity is on the brink of extinction.

The only safe refuge is the fabled Commorancy, where Marcus Wolfe, tyrant, oligarch and absolute ruler offers those lucky enough to pass Orientation one of the seven Rooms, where life extension, knowledge of The Noise and more is there for the taking. But running such a home is not without its consequences – Marcus is institutionalized and has to fight daily with a madness that threatens his very reality.

As The Commorancy comes under attack young Letje finds herself out of her depth amongst a group of strangers with a millennium of experience between them. Haughty goats, an almost mythical man obsessed with changing his clothes at every available opportunity, and doors that go whoosh don’t help her situation as the very future of mankind hangs in the balance.

Now Marcus has to protect not only The Commorancy and his guests, but try to hold on to his sanity as well.

Moons of Solisticia by K.A. MadisonMoons of Solisticia by K.A. Madison

Ten years ago, humans created machines so powerful that they became aware of the world around them. The bots improved themselves until their intelligence far surpassed all of humanity’s. They used this intellect to take over everything. Their awakening ushered in a time of darkness for all mankind.

Now, Aiden is determined to find a way to help the resistance infiltrate the bots’ network. Working with his soul mate, Kyra, he must find a way to harness the unimaginable power of the Nether for his fight against the machines.

The fate of two worlds hangs on their shoulders. They must not only face an unbeatable foe on Earth, but race to find a traitor on Solisticia that will stop at nothing to do the unthinkable.

This is book 2 in the Nether Chronicles, following The Awakening.

Chase the Dark by Annette MarieChase the Dark by Annette Marie

Piper Griffiths wants one thing in life: To become a Consul, a keeper of the peace between humans and daemons. There are precisely three obstacles in her way.

The first is Lyre. Incubus. Hotter than hell and with a wicked streak to match. His greatest mission in life is to get Piper into bed and otherwise annoy the crap out of her. The second is Ash. Draconian. Powerful. Dangerous. He knows too much and reveals nothing. Also, disturbingly attractive — and scary. Did she mention scary?

The third is the Sahar Stone. Top secret magical weapon of mass destruction. Previously hidden in her Consulate until thieves broke in, went on a murder spree, and disappeared with the weapon.

And they left Piper to take the fall for their crimes.

Now she’s on the run, her dreams of becoming a Consul shattered and every daemon in the city gunning to kill her. She’s dead on her own, but there’s no one she can trust — no one except two entirely untrustworthy daemons . . . See problems one and two.

CHASE THE DARK is the first book in the Steel & Stone series. BIND THE SOUL, Steel & Stone Book 2, is now available for pre-order.

The Final Solution by R.M. MarshallThe Final Solution: A Half Way Home Story by R.M. Marshall

They started with five hundred, but their numbers are decreasing every day. Exponentially.

Science Officer Brent and Medical Officer Kelley are tasked with discovering who – or what – is picking off colonists from their expeditionary settlement on the seeming Eden of this alien planet.

But science and logic are no match for their rapacious nemesis, as they race to find a solution before their colony becomes unviable and the unthinkable becomes reality.

“The Final Solution” was a finalist in the Hugh Howey / Booktrack fanfic short story competition, and is set in a new colony in the “Half Way Home” universe, with Hugh’s kind permission.

Mirrorfell by Grace McDermottMirrorfell by Grace McDermott

Magnolia Hammond encounters Solstice, Blue Earth, and even a god whilst the mirror is falling – and a poison that slows Agent Taylor enough to take him out of the field, and away from combat.

This is a short companion story to Mirrorfall.

 

 

 

Island of Glass by Ruth NestvoldIsland of Glass by Ruth Nestvold

Seventeen-year-old Chiara Dragoni is a master glassmaker of Venice, a position that is both a privilege — and a trap. For the glassmakers of Murano are forbidden to ever leave the islands of the Venetian lagoon.

When Chiara’s uncle is caught on the mainland and thrown into the dungeon of the Doge’s Palace, she must use all her talents, including magic, to help free him. But the gift she creates for the prince of Venice has unintended consequences, and now Chiara must decide whether to give up everything — and everyone — she knows and loves in order to save her dream.

Set in an alternate historical Venice with alchemists, witches and magic, the story uses familiar motifs from the beloved fairy tale “Cinderella” to tell a tale with a very different message.

A Call to Arms by Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H.A Call to Arms by Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H.

War is brewing on the eastern border of Arden. The shaky truce between Arden and the neighboring realm of Shiraz has all but dissolved, and both sides are building their forces for battle. But in the quiet farming community of Willowdale, the rumors of war are the least of young Gibben Nemesio’s concerns. With both parents dead and two younger brothers to care for, Gib doesn’t have time to focus on anything besides keeping food on the table. Everything changes the day he receives a conscription notice and must report to Arden’s capital.

In Silver City, Gib is forced to leave his life as a farmer behind when he enters the legendary Academy of Arden as a sentinel trainee. If called to war, he will have no choice but to go, for the Sentinels of Arden are the realm’s first line of defense against the evils beyond the border.

A newcomer to this breathtaking city of stone, Gibben finds himself thrown into a world of cutthroat politics and scandals that run deeper than he ever imagined. Caught between the responsibilities to his family and to his country, Gib struggles to find balance. When he unwittingly overhears a sinister plot–that if seen to fruition will bear dire consequences for all of Arden–the young sentinel trainee must find a way to warn those in power before it is too late.

Talking with the Dead by K.L. PhelpsTalking with the Dead by K.L. Phelps

Having recently come to terms with her psychic gift of communicating with the comatose, all Kat Parker wanted was a bit of relaxation and to replace her broken cell phone. But her uncle’s death reveals a new and potentially dangerous wrinkle to her abilities — she can see and talk with the dead.

Phoneless, fed up, and worried for her sanity, Kat is still determined to help her uncle. Discovering he had more than a few secrets, she embarks on a treasure hunt for the one object she believes will help him rest in peace. Standing in her way is the CIA, a Mexican drug cartel kill squad, a group of mask-wearing gang members, and a wild alligator determined to eat her pet turtle.

As things spiral out of control, the absurdity of it all has Kat wondering if she hasn’t already gone insane, if she’ll be forever saddled with babysitting her uncle’s spirit, and if she should even bother to replace her phone.

This is book 2 of the Kat Parker series, following Mind If I Come In.

Sympathetic Magic by Christine PopeSympathetic Magic by Christine Pope

Some guys have all the luck….

Warlock “Lucky” Lucas Wilcox has a gift that ensures his success in all things, but his magic fails him completely when it comes to sexy Margot Emory, the vibrant “elder” of the McAllister witch clan.

Margot’s own magical gifts weren’t enough to protect her from a terrible romantic betrayal, and she’s wary of repeating past mistakes—especially with a Wilcox—even if it means she’s destined to live her life alone.

When Lucas sets his sights on the one woman he wants but can’t have, it may take a bit of sympathetic magic for the couple to have the happy ending they deserve.

This is book 4 in the Witches of Cleopatra Hill series, following Darkangel, Darknight and Darkmoon.

First Daughter by Susan Kaye QuinnFirst Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn

With the war begun, Aniri, Third Daughter of the Queen, has to battle not only a prince with a deadly skyship, but her own sister, the First Daughter, who finally sees her chance to become Queen. With their mother gravely ill and the Second Daughter kidnapped along with Aniri’s husband-to-be, Aniri embarks on a desperate mission to save the people she loves from a war that will tear all three countries apart.

First Daughter is the third book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy following Third Daughter and Second Daughter. This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

The Body Electric by Beth RevisThe Body Electric by Beth Revis

The future world is at peace.

Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift–the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother–to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things–images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience–and influence–the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love–even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…

Someone’s altered her memory.

Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

So who can she trust?

Dirt Magic by Hollis ShilohDirt Magic by Hollis Shiloh

Trey has dirt magic. It’s messy and not very fun. But some miners in his old hometown are trapped underground, and he feels duty-bound to see if he can help. He doesn’t expect to meet a nerdy, weird gay romance writer who just might have a talent or two of his own. But Leo has a way of growing on Trey—and together, they might just have what the situation requires. Not to mention each other…

A quirky gay paranormal romance
Length: 18,000 words
Heat level: low

Naked Moon by Brian SpanglerNaked Moon by Brian Spangler

An unexpected storm.
A sudden distraction.
For one traveler, the sight of a naked moon might just mean the difference between life and death.

Excerpt
I DIED THIS morning on a winding road in the Ohio Amish Country. Rainy daylight spilled around me while heaping clouds piled high into the sky. In the distant west, the sky bore a giant bruise, sending a curtain of stormy green and black over my head. When the winds became sudden, a howling gale blew leaves and twigs across the road like a child throwing a tantrum. That is when I should have slowed down. That is when I should have eased into the turns and the sharp curves. But I never let up on the gas and marched forward without giving it a second thought.

The weather fronts played together in thundery efficacy while sunlight peered in through a closing blue window, hinting that the storm might soon pass. A torrent of rain and hail came then, pelting the road and ticking off of my windshield and roof. The hollow sound bounced in my car and rang in my ears like an old mechanical phone…

Mists of Seacliffe by Rosselyn SparksMists of Seacliffe by Rosselyn Sparks

Amanda Shorr, 32, lands a job as the private teacher to the children of action movie star Jace Jencks. When she arrives at his coastal California estate, it seems the ideal job: sunny California with a view of the ocean, on-site swimming pool and gym, and a talented private chef.

But the sun is often hidden behind the mists, the star’s son has emotional problems, and Amanda begins to have bad dreams–about a young woman, her French lover, and her cruel industrialist husband. As her dreams grow stranger and begin to invade her waking hours, her lifelong skepticism about ghosts crumbles.

Then comes a series of accidents, ones that she suspects are not accidental at all. Is someone is out to scare her? Is it the star himself, his son, the gray-haired housekeeper, the chef, the handsome estate manager, or the bodyguard? Is she being haunted? Or is it just possible that Amanda is losing her mind?

Gifted by H.S. StoneGifted by H.S. Stone

In a kingdom where the Gifteds are captured and thrown into fights to the death, Voima is fortunate that she is just a Regular. However, her brother, Vendd, isn’t so lucky. Since his Power started manifesting itself, the siblings have lived a life on the run, barely escaping the king’s soldiers.

Just as Voima and Vendd have settled into a new home, a fleeing Gifted enters their lives, begging for help but bringing soldiers after him. Despite the siblings’ efforts, the soldiers discover Vendd’s Power. Now Voima, an outmatched Regular girl, must find a way to defeat the kingdom’s most dangerous Gifteds in order to save her brother from certain death.

Frost by J.E. ThummelFrost by J.E. Thummel

Ember Frost kills demons. It’s what she knows, and she’s damned good at it. Lately, though, the job isn’t doing it for her like it used to, and after a quick fling begins to look more serious, she’s flirting with the idea of finally getting a life outside of work. Unfortunately, there are a couple of catches.

First: a slight misunderstanding at work just might have landed her on top of her employer’s hit list

and…

Second: a Black Hood named Lazarus. He’s made a pact with a powerful demon and is looking to tear down the Rule of God. But first he’s coming after Ember, and he’s willing to destroy everything she cares about to get to her.

Trying to survive life, work, and keep the faith can be a real bitch. But then again, so can Ember.

Kill Me, Red by Kelsey Warren-BryantKill Me, Red by Kelsey Warren-Bryant

Red Riding Hood: A Tale of Horror

Red is determined to find her best friend who was dragged into the woods by a giant wolf. She doesn’t know the source of the mysterious growling outside her window every night. She doesn’t know why all evidence of the wolf seems to vanish into thin air.

She doesn’t know if she’s being hunted.

 

The Very Last Days of Mr. Grey by Jack WorrThe Very Last Days of Mr Grey by Jack Worr

When Mason signs up for an experimental drug to treat his insomnia, he hopes he’ll finally be able to fall asleep when he goes to bed that night.

Instead, he falls into another dimension.

Now he must battle super-powered government agents and risk his sanity to unravel the mystery of why they are after him. His only guidance comes from a fair-weather ghost who speaks in riddles and appears only at peak inconvenience, and a mysterious woman who seems intent on killing him.

The Very Last Days of Mr Grey is a fast-paced science fiction thriller about reality, the mysteries of our world, and why some things are better left unknown.

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Try an app and get Mercy Mission for free

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

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

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

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

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Gone Girl, femme fatales and fear of women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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