The “Is my book a romance?” flowchart

Because this question keeps popping up on writers forums and the like, here is a handy flowchart to answer the question “Is my book a romance?”

Romance flowchart

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Snow 2015

This morning, we had our first real snow of the winter, about two centimetres. It supposedly won’t last long, but it looked quite pretty. Shovelling it away was quite tiring though.

I wish I could go hiking today, but I don’t have the time. Maybe tomorrow, if we still have snow by then.

Meanwhile, enjoy these snowy photos I took in my neighbourhood: Continue reading

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Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel Movies and Found Families

Now that Guardians of the Galaxy is out on DVD, I rewatched it with my Mom. She liked superhero movies, particularly those of the Marvel variety, but really doesn’t like movie theatres, so I keep her supplied with slightly out of date blackbusters via DVD.

Coincidentally, my Mom has been expressing her desire to watch Guardians of the Galaxy with a fervour usually reserved only for films starring Robert Downey Jr. (she’s a fan), ever since seeing Rocket Raccoon in the first trailer. She’s also eager to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron next year (but then it has Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth), though she has zero interest in Ant-Man, because – quote – that’s a stupid name for a superhero.

Spoilers, obviously, for Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel movies: Continue reading

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Indie Publisher Mega Bundle

I’m a big fan of DriveThruFiction and particularly their bundling option. I already offer several series and theme e-book bundles at DriveThruFiction and also participate in multi-author/publisher bundles, if the opportunity arises.

And so Mercy Mission, the first novella in my Shattered Empire series, is now available at a drastically reduced price in the Indie Publisher Mega Bundle, together with fiction by Nicholas Andrews, T.M. Bilderback, Max Booth III, Percival Constantine, Robert Dahlen, Julie Ann Dawson, Sarah Ettrich, Edward M. Grant, Tess Mackenzie, Scott Marlowe, Landon Porter, Joe Vasicek and Misti Wolanski.

The bundle covers a broad spectrum from space opera via dystopian and post-apocalyptic science fiction via steampunk via horror via urban fantasy via epic fantasy all the way to time travel romance. The bundle has a retail value of almost 60 USD, but is available at DriveThruFiction for only 21.99 USD.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your bundle now!

Indie Publisher Mega Bundle

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Hugo Awards Debate 2015 – earlier every year

Yes, I know I already said last year that the inevitable Hugo Awards debate starts earlier every year, but it’s still true.

Indeed, it seems by now that we are having at least three big Hugo debates every year, one early in the year during the nomination period, one when the nominees are announced and one when the Hugos have been awarded.

This year’s first Hugo debate is driven by pretty much the same issues as last year’s, namely political bloc voting and whether awards consideration and eligibility posts are tacky or necessary.

Let’s start with the debate about eligibility posts: Continue reading

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A few words on VAT and pricing

As you may or may not know, from January 1 on, the European Union has changed the way that VAT (value added tax, similar to sales tax in the US) is calculated for cross-border transactions, including online sales. Previously, VAT was charged according to the applicable rate in the seller’s country, now it’s charged according to the applicable rate in the buyer’s country.

Now this change does not affect the average consumer (and indeed this very long lists of German laws changing on January 1, 2015, never once mentions the VAT changes), but it is a big deal for online vendors, freelancers and any business trading across European borders, because it makes online sales a lot more complicated and/or not viable for smaller vendors. For more from a UK perspective, see these posts by Juliet E. McKenna and Hannah Kate as well as this article from the Telegraph. For more from a German perspective, see this post at the German e-reader news site Lesen.net.

The reactions among indies ranged from a complete lack of understanding (which wasn’t helped by the badly formulated e-mails sent out by the big vendors) via sheer panic to sputtering hatred of the European Union (one dude even claimed that a massive war would wipe out all of Europe within five years at most anyway and got huffy when I pointed out that he was rather offensive, not to mention wrong). A lot of indie authors also vowed that they would raise their prices to offset the projected income loss due to the VAT changes. And since Amazon still isn’t able to grasp the principle of VAT inclusive prices, they also randomly raised everybody’s prices in the various European Kindle stores, forcing me to waste two hours to reset all my prices to the previous level.

Because I will not raise the prices of my e-books to account for the changed VAT rates. The prices for all my books will remain the same as before, only that they are now VAT inclusive.

If you are a European customer buying via Amazon.com rather than via one of the European stores, Amazon will probably still slap the applicable VAT in your country as well as the two US-dollar international surcharge on top of the list price. Unfortunately, I cannot prevent them from doing this. In this case, I will point you to one of the many other fine retailers, where my books are available. And since my e-books do not have DRM, you can even convert them to your desired format.

*The example the VAT mess always reminds me of is how in the mid 1990s, the German government raised the taxes levied on artists, musicians, actors and other performers, who are not German residents, for performances given in Germany. The background was that some successful German entertainers had taken up residence in countries with lower tax rates, most notably one Margarethe Schreinemakers who hosted a then massively popular TV talkshow and who had a very public fight with the German tax authorities (Ms. Schreinemakers insisted that the tax authorities were after her, because she had interviewed the ex-wife of the then German secretary of finance on her show, where that lady had some rather uncomplimentary things to say about her husband). Ms. Schreinemakers’ popularity soon faded, but the law her tax antics had helped to bring into being had the unintended effect of making performing in Germany drastically more expensive for all non-German actors, artists and musicians. As a result, the big international stars stopped coming or gave fewer performance, if they did, whereas unknown artists and musicians were taxed so highly that they could barely make a living wage with their performances. In the end, the cultural scene in Germany was greatly diminished because of the quarrels of one host of a (very bad) talkshow with the German tax authorities.

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A new release for the new year: Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café

I didn’t stay idle in the time between the years. Instead, I used the time to write and so I have a new release to announce already. Though the release is no longer quite so new. I published the story on Boxing Day and only had to wait for the slower vendors to catch up.

The background is that I find holiday stories a lot easier to write during the holiday season, when I’m actually in the holiday spirit, rather than in September or October, when you are supposed to write them in order to have them ready for a holiday season release. And as it was, I had an idea for a short and sweet lesbian holiday romance, while I was decorating the Christmas tree. So I thought, “I’ll start writing the story now, until I run out of inspiration, and then I’ve a headstart for next year.

However, I didn’t just start writing the story. I actually finished it on Christmas Day. Now I had a problem, because I found myself with a finished holiday romance at a point in time, when the holidays were almost over. So the question was: Publish the story now or wait almost an entire year?

I polled a few indie writer pals and they all said unanimously: “Don’t wait! Publish it now and get what sales you can.”

So I published Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café on Boxing Day. And it turned out that my writer pals had been right, because the story started selling almost immediately.

I know that traditional publishing wisdom insists that lesbian romance doesn’t sell. But in my experience, that’s wrong, because there is a small but hungry readership for lesbian romances and lesbian fiction in general out there. And that readership is seriously underserved because of the belief that lesbian romance doesn’t sell. At any rate, every lesbian story I’ve ever written has sold well.

So if you’re in the mood for a sweet holiday romance and not horified by the idea of two women holding hands, dancing or – gasp – even kissing, check out Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café.

Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl CaféAfter a massive row with her parents over intolerable relatives, Katie finds herself all alone for the holidays. So she heads for the one place in town where everyone is welcome on Christmas Eve, the legendary Purple Owl Café.

The Purple Owl Café has a chequered sixty-year history. These days it’s not just a place for good music and conversation, it also happens to be a lesbian bar.

Katie doesn’t mind, though so far her life was too busy for romance of any kind. But that’s about to change when Katie meets Jess at the Christmas Eve party at the Purple Owl Café…

For more information, visit the Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café page.

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

And if you want to read all my holiday stories at a reduced price, check out the Happy Holidays Bundle at DriveThruFiction.

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Happy New Year 2015

Here in Germany, the New Year is almost twelve hours old already, so time for the first post of 2015.

And if you’re looking for something to read, the good folks at OmniLit/All Romance e-books are running a New Year’s Day sale, which means you get 50% off many e-books, including all of mine.

I celebrated New Year’s Night by watching Dinner for One. Afterwards, we headed out to have dinner at our favourite local Italian restaurant. They had a special four course New Year’s Eve menu. Here are some photos:

Antipasto platter

As a starter, we had an antipasto platter.

Pasta

Pasta course: Fettucine with pesto and parmesan

Rumpsteak

Main course: Rumpsteak with tomato cream sauce with capers, potatoes, mediterranean vegetables and salad.

Panna Cotta

Dessert: Panna Cotta

Hot chocolate

And an after-dinner hot chocolate.

We were home by about half past ten. I got on the computer to check my e-mail and talk to people in places where the new year had already started or where it wouldn’t start for several hours yet.

At midnight, we toasted the new year with champagne and then went outside for the fireworks. I tried to take photos and even managed to get a few decent shots – not easy with fireworks, particularly unplanned ones.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

More fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks with moon.

After the fireworks, we headed over to our neighbours for an hour and had a glass of Hugo (the cocktail, not the rocket-shaped award). After that, I was a bit tipsy and went home, checked the internet once more and went to bed.

So here’s a happy and healthy new year to all my readers and blog followers!

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2014

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

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

Once again, we have a broad spectrum of titles, featuring hard science fiction, science fiction romance, paranormal romance, Steampunk, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Asian based fantasy, Native American based fantasy, Egyptian mythology, young adult fantasy, fairytales, werewolves, witches, dragons, telepaths, ghosts, healers, thieves, pirates, atomic seas, magical cupcakes, time travel and much more. Once again, we also have a broad spectrum of authors hailing from countries as diverse as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Trinidad, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

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:

Two Crows by David Dakan AllisonTwo Crows by David Dakan Allison

Lucky Two Crows is Portland’s best, and only, Native American Private Investigator. Hired to solve an attempted murder on the Blackfeet reservation, Lucky returns to Montana, to the tribe of his birth. With the help of the mysterious millionaire Clarence Two Moons, and his beautiful daughter Summer, Lucky must confront the inheritance of poverty and loss that has cursed his people, and his own terrifying and history-altering destiny.

In 1876, Grandfather Wolf Eyes looks in to the fires of the Blackfeet tribe and sees the return of his grandson. As a child, Two Crows was taken by the Crow Indians, and grew up to serve as a scout in the 7th Calvary. Foreseeing the Battle of Little Big Horn, he deserts and returns home to his people, and to his childhood sweetheart White Feather. As visions of past and future collide, Two Crows must choose between the Way of War—and the Seventh Path, the Way of Medicine.

Across centuries of violence, two Indian warriors must save their people from military aggression and corporate greed, as they journey together in to the fifth dimension.

Look for book two of the Shambala Mysteries, High Pony, in February 2015.

Foxworth Terminus by J. Drew BrumbaughFoxworth Terminus by J. Drew Brumbaugh

Reggie Foxworth, brilliant bio-chemist, has spent the last fifteen years working on a top secret project to enhance paranormal brain function. With success in sight, the project is being cancelled. Knowing his career and future are about to be terminated and with nothing to lose, Reggie takes the mind expanding drug himself before they can destroy it.

Initially, the physical consequences are not evident but as time passes Reggie finds out just how powerful the mind can be. More like magic than science, Reggie discovers that he can do impossible things. These strange powers don’t go unnoticed and soon every government on Earth is out to steal the secret and eliminate Reggie as a threat, including his own. They send assassins, turn his friends against him, alienate his girlfriend, try anything to stop Reggie. How can he escape, end the attacks and find a way to win back the love of his life?

Darkness's Fury by Tiffany CherneyDarkness’s Fury by Tiffany Cherney

Despite the rather turbulent year, Liz and her fellow Segennyians look forward to the future as their rebuilding efforts continue. Still, whispers and shadows of plots continue to reach her ears, and those that know their unseen enemy won’t—or can’t—give the needed information to reveal them. Only one thing is certain: A storm is brewing and now it’s a matter of being able to stop it.

Even with the threat hanging over her head, Liz refuses to give into fear. Life goes on, and soon the first true holiday Segennya has celebrated openly in years is upon them. It is a time to reflect, to hope, and to make new promises as everyone gathers together once more. As the land awakens for spring the first rumblings of the storm come. The old allies are split, as magic gathers in the south near the old Uranysian capital. Regardless, all of Segennya marches to war; to hopefully force their enemy finally into the open.

This is the sequel to Vengeance of Segennya.

Sword and Silence by Joyce ChngSword and Silence by Joyce Chng

With the loss of her loved ones strong in her mind, Torin, a young swordswoman, finds her life changed when the Two-Headed arrive to conquer her planet.

 

 

 

 

The Atomic Sea by Jack ConnerThe Atomic Sea by Jack Conner

A thousand years ago, the sea began to change, and the change spread.

Now the boiling, toxic, lightning-wreathed Atomic Sea has encompassed every ocean on the planet, and the creatures that live in it have become mutated and unnatural. The sea’s taint can infect any human who comes in contact with it or with unprocessed seafood, killing them . . . or altering them. No one knows why the sea has become this way or what it portends, only that it’s irrevocably changed the world.

Meanwhile, world war has erupted, and the small country of Ghenisa, like many others, is tottering on the brink of collapse under the onslaught of the Empire of Octung. Dr. Francis Avery, a middle-aged widower, is aboard a military whaling ship far out on the Atomic Sea when a series of murders onboard propels him down the rabbit-hole of danger and terror unlike any other.

Soon he becomes aware of a spy on the ship, but that’s just the beginning. With the help of the grizzled whaler Janx and a mysterious woman named Layanna, he will embark on an epic quest to save Ghenisa from Octung and unravel the secrets of the Atomic Sea.

Part 2 is here.

The Witching Elm by C.N. CrawfordThe Witching Elm by C.N. Crawford

At a Boston school brimming with centuries’ worth of magical secrets, New England’s buried past rises up to grab the present by the throat.

Fiona Forzese walks the halls of prestigious Mather Academy with a deep yearning for a more exciting life. Her wish is suddenly granted when she meets an intriguing new student named Toby Corvin—who just happens to be a sorcerer. Toby soon introduces Fiona to an astonishing universe of ancient spells, talking ravens, and sinister bone wardens.

When a deadly army from Toby’s strange world descends upon Boston, he and Fiona race desperately to stop the slaughter. In the process, they face unspeakable danger while unearthing New England’s darkest secrets.

The Dark of Twilight by Kate DanleyThe Dark of Twilight by Kate Danley

Aein always longed to become a member of Lord Arnkell’s army, ever since she was a child working in the stronghold’s kitchen. When that day finally comes and she is sent to patrol the border’s swamp with fellow warrior, Lars, it seems like her dream has come true. But something has followed her home. When Lord Arnkell’s wedding is interrupted by a werewolf attack, the dream shifts into a nightmare… and Aein is the only one awake.

Book One in the Twilight Shifters series.

 

Twiceborn by Marina FinlaysonTwiceborn by Marina Finlayson

Still grieving her beloved son, Kate O’Connor’s just going through the motions. She doesn’t care that strangers often shadow her on the unorthodox courier jobs she does for a friend. She doesn’t even care what’s in the packages until the day she returns from a special rush job with no memory of the event. But it must have been pretty wild, because now there’s a werewolf in her kitchen trying to kill her—and he’s just the first in line.

Dragged into a supernatural war of succession between the daughters of the dragon queen, Kate discovers a Sydney she never knew existed, peopled by all kinds of strange half-human creatures. To have any hope of surviving she must uncover the explosive secret hidden in her memory—but first she has to live through the night.

Twiceborn is the first book in the urban fantasy trilogy The Proving.

The Blood of Brothers by Domino FinnThe Blood of Brothers by Domino Finn

In the bucolic town of Sanctuary, a body is strung up to a tree outside the local high school. The only thing more shocking than the crime is its heinous nature: the mysterious victim has been skinned and drained of all his blood.

Detective Maxim Dwyer knows the murder is a message, but who it’s from is not so clear. The few clues he has point to his friends, the Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. Diego de la Torre is part of that pack now, but brotherhood comes at a price when blood is spilled. Meanwhile, Kayda Garnett returns home with a college degree to find her family torn apart by the same tragedy. Only half-Yavapai, she is considered an outsider, but finding a peaceful alternative to the violence may finally win her the respect of the tribe.

Despite best laid plans, California bikers incite a gang war, the FBI undermines local police, and vigilantes take the fight to the streets. What starts out as a simple murder may soon run Sanctuary red with the blood of brothers.

This is the sequel to The Seventh Sons.

The First Ark by Chris FoxThe First Ark by Chris Fox

“There is a voice in my head, slithering through my mind like a serpent. It whispers dark things. Tells me to feed.” -Osiris, Egyptian Lord of the Underworld.

Were the Egyptian gods fanciful imaginings of primitive people, or something more? Some believe that they once walked the earth as mortals, that they warred and loved just as any of their worshippers.

This is their story, the tale of how Isis gained the power of shaping. How mighty Osiris died and lived again. How they discovered the fabled First Ark, a structure older than man. It is the tale of us all, the story that shaped our race from cave dwellers into the people we are today.

Are these fanciful tales? Or long lost truth wrapped in myth? Only time knows.

This is the prequel to the Deathless series.

To Whatever End by Claire FrankTo Whatever End by Claire Frank

The thriving kingdom of Halthas was founded by Wielders and Shapers: people who can manipulate either energy or matter. Cecily’s noble birth and strong Wielding ability made her a favorite of the king, until she and her husband Daro were caught up in the war that saw him deposed. Although they were hailed as heroes and a new king sits on the throne, Cecily and Daro chose to leave the politics of the Halthain court for a peaceful life, far outside the city.

Their quiet retirement is interrupted by an unexpected attack, leaving Daro captive and Cecily injured after a narrow escape. With no trail to follow and few clues, Cecily desperately tracks rumors of a madman who is trying to bend the laws of Wielding magic. The subjects of his human experiments rarely survive with their sanity, if they survive at all.

Only their bonded soul assures Cecily that Daro is still alive – but for how much longer and in what condition, she can’t tell. Her best hope is to gather old friends, try to repair the bridges she burned when she left her old life, and muster every resource to find her husband. No sacrifice is too great to bring Daro back, if his mind isn’t already gone.

Cupcakes and Kisses by Heidi Garrett and Billie LimpinCupcakes & Kisses by Heidi Garrett and Billie Limpin

One bite of her luscious cupcakes and you just might fall in love…

Nineteen-year-old Glynna Balcora’s super power is baking. A young witch, she’s lived her entire life tucked away in the quaint city of Spokane, WA with her domineering aunt and sweetheart of a grandmother. It’s not an ideal situation. Although Glynna loves her grandmother dearly, and treasures the special times they spend in their magical greenhouse, Glynna’s aunt keeps her niece on a tight leash using threats of vague enemies.

Since Glynna graduated from high school a few a months ago, her aunt’s be-home-before-dark curfew seems more ridiculous every day. It isn’t doing much for the young witch’s social life, either. With encouragement from her best friend, Glynna sneaks out one night to go to a bonfire party at the lake. There she has an unexpected encounter with Spokane’s most eligible bachelor, Ashton Bass. Glynna’s been crushing on Ashton since she was five years old. But when they share their first kiss, thunderstorms and lightning follow… and Glynna’s aunt realizes it’s time to tell the young witch the truth about who she really is.

Two Heirs by Peter KensonTwo Heirs by Peter Kenson

Denied his usual array of hi-tech weaponry, agent David Held is sent to a backwater planet, seeking a royal baby who vanished years earlier. Now grown up, the heir is threatened by hostile agents hunting the last claimant to the throne.

In the race to find the missing heir, Held is forced to help another prince, Jeren, secure the claim to his own throne. Over time, the destinies of the two heirs become intertwined.

To accomplish his mission, Held faces a deadly enemy with no qualms about bringing hi-tech warfare to a pre-industrial world. Armed with only his sword and telepathic ability, he is reminded of advice from his old weapons master:

“Never take a sword to a gun-fight.”

Deadly Love by Wesley Robert LoweDeadly Love by Wesley Robert Lowe

I’m Jasmine Huang. Five years ago, I was murdered in Beijing when I was twenty. I gave birth eight months later. I was haunted by not knowing who the real killer was and stalked my ex for years, finally winding up in Vancouver’s Chinatown when I discovered the truth. That allowed me comfort in leaving the natural world and I was en route to the Next Place when I heard my daughter Mei-Mei call me back to earth. She’s all that’s important to me and I will not leave unless she is with me.

In the first place I look is this old Chinaman ghost. This horny lech tells me I’m beautiful and wants me to help him. Ugh! I keep looking for Mei-Mei but find nothing but a fourteen-year-old hooker and her demon pimp. Surly, obnoxious, evil.

But I need these sick, twisted creatures to help me find Mei-Mei in this dangerous spiritual netherworld. I hate it.

This is the first book in the Chinatown Haunting series. The sequels Guilty Love and Deceitful Love are available as well.

The Thief Who Knocked On Sorrow's Gate by Michael McClungThe Thief Who Knocked On Sorrow’s Gate by Michael McClung

After surviving Thagoth and returning rich to Lucernis, Amra and Holgren have settled down to a very comfortable, if decidedly unexciting life — until the night Amra receives an old enemy’s head in a box. A longstanding debt calls her back home to Bellarius, the scene of many childhood horrors she would much rather forget about.

But as bad as memories of the past might be, present-day Bellarius is rapidly becoming worse, for the Eightfold Goddess has not forgotten about Amra, and another of Her Blades, the Knife that Parts the Night, has been discovered and threatens to tear the very fabric of reality apart.

All that stands in the way of utter destruction is one small, scarred thief and her mage companion…

This is the third installment in the Amra Thetys series, following The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids and The Thief Who Spat In Luck’s Good Eye

Mirrorheart by Grace McDermottMirrorheart by Grace McDermott

Stef Mimosa died.

Struck down by a shard of mirror – a literal piece of solid potential – Agent Ryan makes a wish for her to live, and is left with a corpse whose soul is slowly finding its way home, one that he must hide at all costs.

Ryan is under scrutiny for the death of his recruit – an audit that could lead to his execution.

Within the Agency, Curt – who helped initiate the investigation – sees only life going on without Stef, and Ryan’s apparent lack of care on subject.

Following immediately from the events of Mirrorfall, wishes have consequences in Require: Cookie, Book #2 – Mirrorheart.

Jacob's Odyssey by Russ MelroseJacob’s Odyssey by Russ Melrose

For Jake, a perilous journey of survival will soon turn into a quest for redemption…

A terrible virus has struck and the world has deteriorated into chaos. And with the infected outnumbering their human counterparts, chances for survival lessen with each passing day. After running out of food in his condo, Jake must make his way across the Salt Lake Valley to reach the safety of the mountains, and he must use his wiles to avoid the packs of infected roaming the streets. But Jake is haunted by a devastating personal tragedy, and his journey of survival will soon turn into a quest for redemption. Just as he’s about to reach the safety of the mountains, a phone call changes everything. A woman and her child need help and Jake finally sees his opportunity for redemption. But will his helping them put them in harm’s way? Jake is being stalked by a brutal and sadistic alpha (by far the most dangerous of the infected). And in the end, Jake will have to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep them safe and earn the redemption he seeks.

Solatium by Becca MillsSolatium by Becca Mills

Beth Ryder’s dangerously sexy and seemingly all-powerful boss has disappeared, leaving an increasingly desperate group of Nolanders — and one inept Second — in charge of policing other-worldly activity across much of North America. What better time for a legendary monster to emerge from the Second Emanation and make New York City its hunting ground? But little does Beth know that dealing with the voracious Thirsting Ground will pale in comparison to a shocking betrayal that threatens to destroy her new life among the Nolanders.

Solatium is the second book of the Emanations series. The first book, Nolander, is available at no cost on all platforms.

Ghost Box by Derek NevilleGhost Box by Derek Neville

In the summer of ’92, a young girl named Isabelle disappears into a vacant building and is never seen again. She becomes another name alongside many others who have vanished when stepping through the building’s doors.

Boyd Dwyer knows a thing about missing people. At least he did when he was a cop, but that was before Morgan died, and before his ‘little drinking problem’ forced him into an early retirement. Now the only job he can get is the one no one else wants — protecting a building with a violent and disturbing history.

It’s not so bad until he starts getting phone calls late at night. It seems someone really wants to talk to Boyd and confess something awful.

Will he answer?

Back Again by Andrew NicolleBack Again by Andrew Nicolle

Tom Granger, a prisoner trapped in Kingsworth penitentiary, finds himself defending the prison against an alien invasion.

He soon discovers the situation is even worse than he’d realized when he encounters the enemy’s most terrifying weapon yet…

Back Again is a short story of 3000 words.

 

 

The Return of the Key by Alisha NurseThe Return of the Key by Alisha Nurse

16 year old Eliza Aurelio grapples with her mixed race identity amid rising racial tensions on her little island. For their safety, Eliza’s grandfather sends her and her grandmother to a quiet town in Southwest England to stay with a relative. But this otherwise quiet town has been turned upside down by people mysteriously disappearing. Eliza eventually encounters a magical but dangerous realm accessible through a doorway in the town, and sees its connection to the abductions. She intends to put things right, only wanting to protect her family. To do this, she must return a stolen key to lock the open doorway. But Eliza has to overcome her own inner conflicts if she is to stand any chance of being successful and leaving the other realm alive.

Suspenseful and enchanting, The Return of the Key explores the power of love, sacrifice and the journey to self acceptance.

The Mainframe by Simone PondThe Mainframe by Simone Pond

The hunt for Morray continues . . . Book three picks up in the year 2345, seventeen years after the disappearance of former city center leader, Chief Morray. There has been peace among the West Coast regions for years, but in Ojai Village there is very little peace between Ava and her sixteen-year old daughter Grace. Both have different ideas about what it takes to maintain independence. Ava spends hours inside the mainframe searching for Morray, while Grace focuses on the art of combat. Grace’s dream is to get accepted into the Silicon Valley Academy and become a soldier like her father General Joseph Strader. During tryouts for the academy Grace comes across some digital footprints inside the mainframe, convincing Ava that Morray has returned to seek revenge and reclaim control. When Ava goes missing, Grace assembles a motley crew of cadets to go on a search and rescue mission up north in Seattle to save her mother and take down Morray. Grace soon learns that independence comes at a price.

This is part 3 of the New Agenda series, following The City Centre and The New Agenda.

Star Crossed by Christine PopeStar Crossed by Christine Pope

Grace Rinehart has known for most of her life that she isn’t quite like anyone else — her father was a human/alien hybrid, and although she might look like a normal young woman, she still carries the alien trace within her blood. Even so, she’s done her best to ignore her not-of-this-world heritage…until she returns home to Sedona and loses her heart to the one man she knows she shouldn’t love. But as more secrets are revealed, and she finds herself doubting the choices of her heart, she finds herself caught between the expectations of those around her and the deepest truths within her soul. In the end, she’ll discover that the stakes are even higher than she imagined… not just for her and the man she loves, but the entire world.

Mother by Jennifer R. PoveyThe Silent Years: Mother by Jennifer R. Povey

Dorothy Mayling thought her worst problem was the long-standing family feud over her sister’s choice of husband. Or her sons’ grades. Then the rumors started – bird flu in Seattle, SARS in Washington State? The truth is a hideous, terrible disease, one that slowly steals away the ability to speak and reason, turning people into nothing more than zombies. Worst of all, it was meant to be a weapon. Can Dorothy hold her family together as the world ends around them and people fall, one by one, to the silent plague?

 

Dry Land by Carina SanfeyDry Land by Carina Sanfey

“There was no way out of Centralia. The fibreglass walls and ceiling had been built with containment in mind. None of the Founders had wanted to risk an encounter with the Beasts, nor had they wanted us to be able to damage the environment, or the environment to be able to damage us. Nobody wanted a repeat of what had happened on Earth. Of course, nobody had ever wanted to leave. Until now.”

When a water shortage threatens the existence of the last humans in the known universe, Katchia and her friend Frost must go out in search of a new water supply. Nobody has left the settlement since the Founders first settled on Mars. The go in search of water, but instead find a dark secret that will change their world forever.

Clockwork Gold by Jenny SchwartzClockwork Gold by Jenny Schwartz

There’s a conspiracy in the Goldfields of Western Australia, and the money men of London don’t like it. Dirigible pilot Rebecca Jones likes it even less. She has a messenger service to run, justice to pursue in a lawless land, and she can do without Special Agent to the Crown, Nathan Burton, hijacking her dirigible—and her heart—and disrupting her carefully laid plans. The result is adventure, romance and explosions.

A Steampunk novella.

 

Mystery at Skeffield Manor by Hollis ShilohMystery at Skeffield Manor by Hollis Shiloh

Old friends, new friends, magic and mystery…

Join Wes and Kit, Robert and Louie, and their friends and family at Skeffield Manor. Except that there is mischief afoot here…in the beautiful country home and with a mysterious magical object.

A story told from multiple points of view.

Takes place after “Wes and Kit” and “Robert and Louie.” Other stories set in the same universe: “Like A One-Eyed Cat” and “Gear Heart.”

This story contains some magic, some steampunk elements, and has a low-medium heat rating.

Length: approx. 62,000 words

Scrapplings by Amelia SmithScrapplings by Amelia Smith

Darna shouldn’t have been born – priestesses aren’t supposed to have babies – and she most certainly shouldn’t see dragons. After all, no one else does, except in Anamat, or so the minstrels say.

She sets out for the city of Anamat. Along the way, she meets Myril, an older girl with frequent premonitions and an eerie sense of hearing.

Then there’s Iola, who is so dragon-struck that she actually wants to be a priestess. She’s blind to the corruption in the temples.

Thorat is Iola’s champion. He sees dragons as much as the girls do, but unlike them he blends easily in to a crowd.

Apart from these four, the city seems to be nearly as dragon-blind as the provinces. Darna scavenges for scraps, but apprenticeships cost more than she’s likely to earn. When she’s offered a sack of gold beads for a small bit of thieving, she takes her chances… and ends up angering the dragon herself.

We Are Watching by M. Stephen StewartWe Are Watching by M. Stephen Stewart

Seven years after his father’s death, Planetary Link Trainee Technician Henry Malone repairs the neural implant of a stranger, and finds her mind isn’t like any other. She’s in possession of illegal memories, unauthorized knowledge, and a message: speak to me later, and tell no one.

He’s thrust into the center of a growing conflict between the domineering Planetary Link Corporation and Sever, a violent organization devoted to Plink’s total destruction.

All the while, Henry begins hearing the voice of his dead father.

Using their implants, Planetary Link sees what you see, hears what you hear, and knows everything you know.

WE ARE WATCHING.

The Highwayman Incident by Kristy TateThe Highwayman Incident by Kristy Tate

Celia Quinn’s business lies in ruins at the hands of Jason West, the latest in a long line of scoundrels. As she seeks to restore her family’s livelihood, Celia stumbles upon lore about the local Witching Well, whose water is said to cause hysteria and psychosis. When a mysterious stranger slips Celia water from the well into her drink, she’s transported to Regency England. Her timeless adventure spans miles and centuries from modern-day New England to Merlin’s Cave in Cornwall, England. Only Jason West can save her.

But Celia and Jason must tread carefully, as what happens in the past can reverberate through the ages. Their lives, hearts and futures are caught in time’s slippery hands.

The Dragons Return by J.J. ThompsonThe Dragons Return by J.J. Thompson

Over 3 years ago, the old Earth began to die. Technology started to break down. Electricity failed. Machines stopped working. Planes, trains and cars became useless hunks of metal. And then the dragons came. On the Night of Burning, the world’s great cities were reduced to slag and rubble by dragon fire. Civilization, as we knew it. ceased to be.
But before the end came, there were the Changlings. A few humans, children and adults alike, began to mutate into…something else. Ears became pointed, fingers fused or elongated. Their old languages were lost to them and they began to babble in unknown tongues. Perhaps one in a hundred thousand Changed. Simon O’Toole was one of them.
Back then, he was a large middle-aged man. Now he’s a skinny, awkward teenager, Simon has lost everything; his family, his friends, the world that he knew. But he has gained something as well. Through hints in dreams, he has learned magical runes that can summon elementals. He can cast fireballs and lightning. In short, Simon has become a wizard.
Slowly, carefully, he is learning to use this new power. It will take years to master his magic. Years that Simon may not have.
The dragons are still on the hunt. They search for survivors of the human race, and when they have been exterminated, the dragons will turn on the last remnants of humanity: the Changlings themselves.

Blood in the Water by Tami VelduraBlood in the Water by Tami Veldura

Kyros Vindex, treasure-hunter, has a problem. He’s carrying a torch for a fellow pirate with the sexual awareness of a teaspoon. Rumors say the man has killed hundreds. He’s determined to knock some sense into the work-a-holic that captains the Midnight Sun, but damned if he knows how.

Eric Deumont has more pressing concerns than the treasure-obsessed Kyros. There’s a creature inked into his chest that no witch in the seas will lay hands on for all the gold in the world. He knows it gives the Midnight Sun a cursed reputation and that doesn’t make living any easier. He has heard stories of spirits trapped for lifetimes inside spelled puzzle jars. Eric tracked down three of the pieces for such a jar with a lead number four. The fifth is still out there.

Even then, the spirit of vengeance that lives in Eric’s skin has no intention of giving up such easy access to the mortal realm. It craves blood and the light of the moon allows it to wreak unchecked havoc. Cursed is an insult. This is madness.

My Lovesick Zombie Boyband & weirder tales by Damien WalterMy Lovesick Zombie Boyband & Weirder Tales

Fred is a goth. A real goth, descended from a real Visigoth tribe, not one of those mopey kids in black eyeliner she ignores at school. But when her talents as a witch and her fetish for stupid boys with spikey hair get out of hand, Fred finds herself on the run from her very own lovesick zombie boy band. Nine weird tales of lost gods, demonic dating sites and dusty antique shops all in one tiny book.

A minuscule collection of teeny weeny stories by Damien Walter.

CONTAINS ADULT THEMES

Hopebreaker by Dean F. WilsonHopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.

First Lights by Regan WolfromFirst Lights by Regan Wolfrom

It’s been over twenty years since Elgin and Singhal and their crowdsourced sunshield saved the world from runaway climate change. Or at least bought the world a little time.

Now, in a bold new world where the people have started to gain power over the old elites, and the first uncertain steps are being taken to move offplanet, there are alliances at work to take control of the sunshield — even if that means destroying it — and to reverse the progress that has been made.

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Photos: Magical Light in the Westermark Woods

The Westermark woods near the town of Syke are my favourite local hiking spot and have been featured several times in these pages before.

Today was frosty and sunny, i.e. ideal hiking weather, so I drove out to the Westermark woods. I also took my camera along and managed to capture some truly magical light in the woods. So take a look: Continue reading

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