Fanzine Spotlight: The Drink Tank

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines featured by clicking here.

Today’s featured fanzine is The Drink Tank, a seven-time Hugo finalist (if I’ve counted correctly) and Hugo winner for Best Fanzine in 2011.

And now I’d like to welcome Christopher J. Garcia of The Drink Tank.

The Drink Tank 425Tell us about your site or zine.

I started doing The Drink Tank is in 2005. That series ended in 2015, and I took a 3 year break and started back up with two new co-editors. The concept this time around is that we take a different theme for every issue. Some aren’t SFF, like our issues on The Tower of London or Musicals, but many are, like our look at Science Fiction Comics and Universal Monsters. Our issues range anywhere from 12 to 50-ish pages and tend to be from a wide-range of writers and artists. We’ve been lucky enough to get some amazing material from some amazing people.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

It’s me, Chuck Serface (3 time Hugo nominee!) and Alissa McKersie (2015 Hugo Winner!) as the editorial team, and we’re lucky enough to have a batch of writers and artists like Helena Nash, Vanessa Applegate, Julian West, Kathryn Duval, Chris Duval, Doug Berry, and many more!

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

That, sadly, is a very dull story. I wanted to have a zine to give away when the big fanzine convention, CorFlu, came to San Francisco.

The Drink Tank 425What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

We’re largely PDF, though that allows us to also print paper copies, which we do from time to time. I like the flexibility of PDF to act as an in between the traditional print and online format. I have also started uploading to Issuu, and their flipbook style actually works well with our stuff.

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines and sites are important?

I’m the worst person to ask that question. Fanzines are still a vital part of the community, though what older fanzine folks think of as fanzines are slowly fading away. All you have to do is look at eFanzines.com to see the great material that is still being pumped out.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

I think we’re seeing a lot of Fanzines are gonna look like. I think there will always be a place for a zine-like thing as opposed to the blog format, there’s something in adjacencies and layout that eZines give that no one has really managed to capture in the blog format. No doubt, online is the way it’ll be, but there’s always gonna be multiple forms.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

So many. For Fanwriters, I can’t say enough about John Coxon, the great Helena Nash, Chuck Serface, and there’s Michael Carroll (and every comics fan should read Rusty Staples) and Padraig O’Mealoid. Fan Artist is so much harder, because you have people like Vanessa Applegate, who has done covers for us and interiors for LoLZine and Journey Planet, and Sara Felix, and if you haven’t seen the incredible Espana Sheriff, you really should go looking! (Technically, I guess I’m a fan artist, too!)

THere are so many amazing zines out there, but the ones I have th emost heart for are Rusty Staples, Banana Wings, The Zine Dump (Guy Lillian’s Fanzine Review Zine!) and Lolzine. Fancasts is even harder (I’m also a podcaster!) but I’ll say that the only thing I regularly listen to that would be in Octothorpe. Good folks on that one!

Where can people find you?

The Drink Tank lives at https://claimsdepartment.weebly.com/the-drink-tank—series-deaux. We’re the rare thing that ain’t got a regular social Media account, but we love to hear from folks at DrinkTankEditorial@gmail.com

Thanks, Chris, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out The Drink Tank, cause it’s a great zine.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine or site and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey

As promised yesterday, here is the first Fanzine Spotlight. For more about the Fanzine Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines featured by clicking here.

By the way, DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, has retracted the controversial policy to list only four people per finalist, a policy which would have disproportionately affected the fanzine, fancast and semiprozine categories, where the finalists are often produced by large teams. This is an excellent decision, because the many great people producing fanzines, fancasts and semiprozines for little to no pay deserve the recognition.

Today’s featured fanzine is Galactic Journey, three time Hugo finalist and a site that’s near and dear to my heart, since I’m one of the contributors. However, that’s not the reason why Galactic Journey is the first fanzine/site featured. Instead, they were the first to reply to the call I sent out.

And now I’d like to welcome Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey.

Galactic journey banner

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comics, fashion, art, music, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

A few years ago, we were nominated for the Hugo, and we’ve been on the ballot ever since.  We are very grateful and gratified to have made such an impact!

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

The Journey is composed of some of the most varied and accomplished fans ever assembled in one place.  Demographically, we range from 16 to pushing 80; roughly balanced gender-wise with a slight edge toward women, but including at least one non-binary writer; ethnically diverse; not a little queer; and geographically widespread, with correspondents from the US, the UK, West Germany, Australia, and even the Soviet Union.  Two of us are professional space historians, several of us are professional authors.

The one common element that unites us is that we are all fans.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

There are lots of great fanzines out there, from Nerds of a Feather to Journey Planet to File 770.  They necessarily cover current stuff.  I wanted a site that allowed people to rediscover great works that had been forgotten, marginalized creators who had been eclipsed.  Beyond that, I wanted to create an experience such that people could appreciate these works in context.

The Journey uses the past as a mirror to the current world, showing where we came from, what’s changed, and what hasn’t.

It’s also a lot of fun.  I don’t think there’s anything else like it in existence.

What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

The Journey has a lot of facets now.  We started as a blog, and that’s still the core of our effort.  But we also have a Twitter feed that we keep updated with “current” events.  Last year, we started The Journey Show, a live broadcast variety show set in the past with a bunch of great guests.

We chose to put our presence online to reach the most people, and because it’s the most versatile format.  At the same time, we try to evoke the fanzines of yore, in our format and our writing style.  We challenge anyone to catch us in an anachronism! (and a No Prize for the person who does…)

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines and sites are important?

Back in the day, the line between fanzine and prozine was quite hazy.  A lot of pros would contribute content to the fanzines, and the path from fanzine writer to pro author was and is well worn.  Over the years, as the fan to pro ratio has increased (we’re no longer a community of hundreds, or thousands, but tens of millions), I think the barrier has been nurtured.  Even fan creators are deprecatory of their work (I recall a Hugo-nominated Fancaster a couple of years back reviewing the Hugo nominees of a year and then shrugging their shoulders when they got to Best Fanzine and noting they “didn’t really read those.”)

But fans love discussing their loves.  That’s why we’re fans (short for “fanatics”).  I’ve been on the TrekBBS for twenty years.  AO3 is a second home (and a deserving Hugo winner).  I get my news from File 770.  I get great commentary from Cora Buhlert.  A fan site/zine can cover anything they want; a professional site is limited by financial concerns.  So fan-run sites are the best place to get information on a fandom, to meet other fans, and to geek out.

And, as before, fanzines offer a stepping stone for fan authors to break into the pro world.  Certainly, it’s where I got my start (in fiction, anyway).

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

I feel like “fanzine” is a label that doesn’t make much sense anymore.  I don’t want it to disappear or be subsumed in Other Work because then a whole bunch of worthy entities will simply not make it onto the ballot anymore.  But the age of paper ‘zines, except as a fun affectation, is long gone.  And this from the fellow who helped make a TOS zinelet! 🙂

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Do you have any recommendations for any of the fan categories?

Well, I’m a little biased!  The Journey is eligible for three out of four of these, one way or another.  Also, I spend a lot of time 55 years ago, so I’ve got a better handle on ‘zines like “Yandro”, “Zenith”, and “Science Fiction Times.”

That said, the sites mentioned above are all worthy, and as for Best Fan Artist, someone I really like is Goss:

(https://goss.dreamwidth.org/ and https://archiveofourown.org/users/goss/)

James Nicoll and Alasdair Stuart are great Fan Writers, too.

Where can people find you?

Galactic Journey

The Journey Show

The folks who do Galactic Journey

Galactic Journey on Twitter

Galactic Journey on Facebook

Thanks, Gideon, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Galactic Journey, cause it’s a great site. Also check out their eligibility tweet.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine or site and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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Introducing Fanzine Spotlights

Hugo season is upon us. Nominations are not yet open, but DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, has just announced its Hugo Award related policies to some controversy, particularly with regard to limiting the number of names listed per finalists to four, which disproportionately impacts the fanzine, semiprozine and fancast categories, who often have large teams.

Some of you may remember that last year I started the Retro Reviews project to raise the profile of potential candidates for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The project did move the needle a bit, though not as much as I’d hoped.

The 1946 Retro Hugos were already awarded in 1996, so there will be no Retro Hugos this year. I will still continue to do Retro Reviews, because I enjoy (re)discovering great forgotten stories, but not with the same intense frequency and focus as last year.

However, the Retro Hugos are not the only Hugo-related thing that could use a boost. There are also regular Hugo categories that get little attention and few votes and nominations. Particularly the Best Fanzine category could use more love, since it consistently gets the fewest nominations and votes and is actively endangered by the 5% rule.

So I decided to do my part to raise the profile of the Best Fanzine and give more attention to the many worthy sites and zines out there. And so I decided to start a new project called “Fanzine Spotlight”, for which I will interview Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them.

The first Fanzine Spotlight will go live tomorrow and I have another scheduled for Friday. I will also continue to interview eligible fanzines throughout the Hugo nomination period. Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine or site and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

So check out all the great zines, sites and newsletters that will be featured and consider nominating your favourites for the 2021 Hugo Awards.

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First Monday Free Fiction: The Ghosts of Doodenbos

The Ghosts of Doodenbos by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the January 2020 edition of First Monday Free Fiction. And yes, I know it’s one week late, but I was ill last week.

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

Winter has finally come to North Germany. And since winter is also traditionally the season for spooky stories, this month’s free story is a wintery tale of historical horror called The Ghosts of Doodenbos.

So let’s travel back in time to the Spanish occupied Netherlands of the year 1571 AD, where the young widow Ann and her little son Florentijn have a close encounter with…

 

The Ghosts of Doodenbos

 

“Never go into the woods, especially not alone.”

Like everybody in the Dutch village of Doodenbos, Ann had grown up with those words, had heard them since she was old enough to walk.

“Don’t go into the woods alone or they will get you.”

Ann didn’t know who “they” were. No one else did either, since no one had ever seen them and lived to tell the tale. All she knew was that something fearsome and terrible lived in the woods that surrounded the village of Doodenbos.

Oh, the road that led to the neighbouring villages and the nearest market town was safe enough. Though even on the road, it was safer if you travelled with a caravan or armed guards and never ever by night.

But take one step off the road and you were doomed. Like Jan Renneboom, who’d gone into the woods on a dare and never returned. Or Dineke de Boer, who’d followed a runaway cow into the woods and never came back and neither did the cow. Or so many others from the village who had ventured too close to the woods and had been taken by the creature that lived there.

Ann didn’t know whether any of those stories were really true. But better to stay safe and keep to the village and the roads. So Ann had been told since she was a small child.

She was no longer a child. Ann was a grown woman now, a mother herself and — at twenty-six — a widow before her time. Her husband Martijn had gone off to fight for Willem of Orange, fight to throw the Spanish oppressors out of the Low Countries. He had never returned.

But at least he’d left Ann a gift to remember him by, the child she’d carried under her heart when he left, her little son Florentijn. He was three now, a pudgy golden-haired boy who was the joy of her life, her sun and her moon, her everything.

Once the mourning period ended, there had been other suitors. Widowers from the village, looking for a wife and mother for their orphaned children. Farmers in need of a wife and even the occasional merchant passing through. But Ann had turned them all down. For even though it had been three years now, she still wasn’t ready to forget Martijn, still wasn’t ready to move on and find someone else. Maybe she’d never be ready.

After all, there were stories of men who’d been thought lost in war or at sea and who’d nonetheless returned home, after years or even decades. What if Martijn was still out there, still alive, languishing in a Spanish prison, hoping to escape and return to her someday.

“It’s not good for a woman to live alone,” one of her would-be suitors, a widowed farmer named Pieter Ten Bos, had said, “Especially not in a house that’s so close to the edge of the woods. You know that they are out there, waiting, hunting.”

“Yes, they’re out there, in the woods,” Ann had replied. Sometimes, she thought she could see them, strange shapes moving around between the trees at dusk, watching and waiting. “Not here, not in the village, not in my house. I keep the fire and the lanterns burning all night, so we’re perfectly safe.”

And besides, she wasn’t alone. After all, she still had Florentijn.

When her little boy started to walk, it was a challenge. For like all children, Florenitjn was curious and eager to explore the world around him. And like all children, he was fascinated by the big trees at the edge of her small plot of land. He was quick, too, running on his little pudgy legs as fast as they would carry him.

There had been a few near misses, where Florentijn took off towards the woods and Ann only managed to catch him at the very last moment, so close to the deadly treeline that she could already hear them shuffling and moaning among the birch trees.

As a woman living alone, Ann had to be inventive. And so she took a piece of string, bound one end around Florentijn’s waist and the other around her own. That way, he had enough freedom to run and play like a little boy should, but she could still keep him close, keep him safe.

And besides, it was only for a few years. For soon, Florentijn would be old enough to understand that he must never ever go into the woods, especially not alone, that he must always keep to the village and the roads. Besides, it wasn’t a bad life for a child. There were plenty of things to do in the village, lots of places to explore, lots of children to play with.

So Ann and Florentijn lived peacefully in their little house at the edge of the woods. In summer, Ann tended the vegetable garden and in winter, she did needlework. And every morning, when she woke up at the crack of dawn, the first thing she did was to milk the cow Klementientje. Florentijn always tagged along, firmly bound to his mother by a piece of string.

***

It was a cold morning in December of the Year of the Lord 1571. Snow had started to fall overnight, the first snow of the winter, and continued to fall throughout the morning. Thick, fluffy flakes were swirling around the little house at the edge of the woods, like women in lace caps dancing in the freezing air.

Florentijn was beside himself with joy. He ran in circles around the yard, giggling and chasing snowflakes, the string that connected him to his mother tugging on Ann’s waist.

Ann would have loved to chase snowflakes with her little boy or maybe have a snowball fight or build a snowman. But first things first. For Klementientje was already mooing in her pen, her udder heavy with milk. So Ann headed for the stable, pulling a reluctant Florentijn behind her.

She grabbed the wooden stool, placed a bucket under Klementientje and began to milk. Occasionally, she felt a tug on her waist, as Florentijn reached the end of his rope in his quest to chase snowflakes. She heard him laugh and giggle and promised to herself that they’d build a snowman later on, once she’d milked Klementientje and done the other household chores.

The bucket was nearly full of fresh, still warm milk, when Ann realised that she hadn’t felt a tug on her waist in a while now. Nor had she heard Florentijn giggle and laugh and play. Instead, the stable and the yard were deadly silent, the only sounds the satisfied chewing of Klementientje and the beating of her own heart.

Filled with dread, Ann turned around and looked out over a silent yard, where the snow was already covering Florentijn’s little footsteps and her bigger ones. She looked down at herself, at the string that was always tied around her waist, linking her to Florentijn just as the umbilical cord had once linked them together. She reached for the string and found only a frayed end, where the cord had snapped.

Ann jumped to her feet, kicking over both the stool and the milk bucket and causing Klementientje to moo in protest. She dashed out into the yard, looked around. No Florentijn. And then she ran, ran towards the woods where she knew he must have gone, because that was where he always wanted to go. She ran and prayed, prayed to the good Lord above that he’d keep her little boy safe from the things that lived in the woods.

Ann reached the edge of the forest. At the treeline, she stopped and called Florentijn’s name, again and again. But there was no answer.

“Don’t go in,” a voice inside her mind said, a voice that sounded suspiciously like her father, dead five years now, “Run and get help. Run over to Pieter Ten Bos or Henrik de Klerk. They’re big strong men and Henrik even has an old musket. They can help you.”

But running over to the Ten Bos or De Klerk farms would take time, time that she did not have. For every moment that she hesitated was a moment that Florentijn could venture ever deeper into the woods and ever closer towards doom.

So Ann took a deep breath and crossed the threshold she’d sworn she’d never cross. She stepped into the woods.

In the thick, fresh snow, she could barely make out the little footprints that had to be Florentijn’s. Nonetheless, she followed the faint trail. It took only a few steps, then she was completely surrounded by birch trees, their white trunks melding with the snowy ground and their barren branches stark against the grey sky. She turned around and looked back, towards her house, towards safety, only to find that she could not see the house anymore. High above, a jay circled, calling out its warning.

Onwards, she trudged, deeper into the forbidden woods. Branches slapped her in the face, leaving angry red marks. Snow seeped into her wooden shoes and her toes became numb, but still she went on, following the trail that was getting fainter with every step.

By now, the undergrowth was getting thicker, making her progress more difficult. Brambles grabbed for her, tearing her dress and scratching her legs, as if they were trying to trap her in place. But Ann always tore herself loose again.

Undaunted, she went on, ever deeper into the woods. At times, she felt as if someone or something was watching her. But whenever she turned around, there was nothing there. Nothing except for trees and brambles and undergrowth.

Once, Ann spotted a movement between the barren branches. She froze and braced herself for an attack, but it was only a crow that fluttering away, croaking in protest.

And then, just as Ann was about to loose the trail for good, she heard something. Florentijn. He was crying.

With renewed speed and vigour, Ann followed the sound and stumbled upon a small clearing in the middle of the forbidden forest. And there was Florentijn, sitting in the snow and making snowballs, oblivious to the cold and the danger as only a child could be. And he wasn’t crying, he was laughing, laughing and clapping his little hands in delight.

But Florentijn wasn’t alone. For there were others with him. Creatures vaguely shaped like humans, with arms and legs and bony hands. Their faces were skeletal, their flesh grey and crumbling. They stared hungrily at Florentijn with hollow black holes, where their eyes should be.

Once, when Ann was but a young girl, heavy rains had flooded the small cemetery of Doodenbos and washed up coffins and corpses. She remembered seeing a corpse in his broken coffin, remembered the grey decaying flesh, the hollow eyes and the wisps of strawy hair that still clung to the skull.

The things that encroached upon Florentijn looked just like that washed up corpse Ann had seen as a child so long ago. They looked like the dead, because that’s what they were. Revenants, unquiet corpses, the dead returned to prey on the living. And now they had come for Florentijn, their bony hands reaching for him, stroking his beautiful golden hair.

Ann burst into the clearing, heedless of the danger. “Leave him alone,” she cried, “If you must take someone, take me, but leave my boy alone. He’s just a child.”

Florentijn turned to her and smiled his broad baby smile. “Mama?”

“Leave him alone,” Ann cried again. She dropped down to knees in the snow and tried to pull Florentijn away, pull him away from the dead hands that gripped him. But the dead held him fast, hissing at her with their tongueless mouths. More of them emerged from the woods all around, steadily advancing upon her and Florentijn, surrounding them.

One corpse, a woman wearing the remnants of a lacy cap, grabbed Florentijn’s little hand, hissing and spitting. Ann recognised her or at least she recognised the lacy cap.

Her name had been Mieneke van Zand, a wealthy widow, skilled lacemaker and secret heretic who would not abandon the Protestant faith. Three years ago, the Spaniards had sentenced her to death by drowning. Normally, heretics were drowned in ponds, rivers and creeks — those that were not burned at the stake, that was. But it had been the depth of winter and icy cold and so the Spaniards had simply drowned her in a large barrel of water. Mieneke van Zand had gone unrepentant to her death, with her head held high, wearing her very best lacy cap. The same cap that the undead corpse was wearing.

Ann forced herself to look at the other corpses and saw more evidence of violent death. There was a woman with long black hair clad in the tatters of a penitent’s gown, the mark of the garotte still visible on her throat. A girl with a swollen belly and deep cuts on her wrists. A man who still wore the hangman’s noose around his neck. A soldier, half his arm torn away by a musket shot. A man in fine, if tattered clothes, carrying his severed head under his arm. The charred body of a heretic burned at the stake. And suddenly, Ann understood.

These were the bodies of those who’d died violently — by the hand of the hangman or at the end of a musket or a blade or maybe by their own hand. They’d been sinners, criminals, heretics, suicides or soldiers who’d fallen in battle and they’d all been buried in unconsecrated ground right here in the forest. And because they hadn’t been given a proper Christian burial, they had come back to avenge themselves upon the living.

And now they wanted to take her child, her one and only, her Florentijn.

“Let go off my boy, Mieneke,” Ann yelled at the corpse with the lacy cap, “You made a cap for my Florentijn, when he was but a baby, so have mercy on him now.”

At sound of her name, the thing that had once been Mieneke van Zand paused, almost as if her rotting ears could still hear, her rotting brain still understand.

Encouraged, Ann continued. “My Florentijn is just a child. He’s not to blame for what happened to you. Take the Spaniards or take me, if you must, but leave my boy alone, I beg you. After all, you were human once, all of you.”

The corpses paused and seemed to confer amongst themselves, confer in a language no living ear could hear. And while they did not let go off Florentijn, not yet, they no longer held him in a death grip either. Ann took the opportunity to pull the boy to her, to crush him to her chest and wrap her arms around him.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with crying, “I… I’d help you, if I could. Cause what was done to you is wrong.”

But how, how could she help those who were already dead and doomed to roam the woods of Doodenbos for all eternity?

“If I bring the priest — not the papist priest the Spaniards foisted on us, but the proper priest, Father van der Poort — and he blesses the ground, blesses you, will that help?”

The thing that had once been Mieneke van Zand nodded, the rotting lace cap bobbing on her head.

“I’ll come back with Father van der Poort, I swear. Just let us go, please.”

The corpses stood still for a moment, then they suddenly parted. Ann picked up Florentijn, though he was almost too heavy to carry by now, and made a run for it. But before she could get away, a corpse stepped in front of her.

It was a man or at least, it had been one once. A tall man, with dark hair that fell to his shoulders. He’d probably been handsome in life, but now he was dead like all the others. And like all the others, he’d died violently. Part of his chest and shoulder were missing, torn away by a musket shot or maybe even a cannon ball. The scorched and tattered remnants of his doublet hung over the wound. It was a fine doublet, made from good thick wool by loving hands. Ann recognised it at once. Because those loving hands had been hers, more than three years ago.

“Martijn…” she stammered, “…is that really you?”

The corpse did not speak. It could not. But it nodded. And then it reached out, its long bony hands, hands which had been so wonderfully gentle, when he’d been alive, touching her cheek. And though Ann knew she should be afraid, she found that she wasn’t.

“Oh my God, you tried to get back to me, to us, didn’t you? Only that you never made it. A Spanish musket ball found you and then they just dumped you here in the woods, not even a mile from home.”

Martijn looked at her and Ann thought she saw a flash of sadness in the hollows where his eyes had once been. His hand still touched her, tracing her face. Then he reached for the son he’d never seen, the bony fingers gently ruffling the child’s golden hair.

“This is our boy. I named him Florentijn, after your father, just as I promised before you left. I would have named him after you, but…” Tears were streaming down her face now, choking off her voice. “…I still thought, still hoped you’d come back.”

Martijn patted Florentijn on the head once more. Then he reached out for Ann and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. He nodded at her in encouragement and stepped aside, joining the ranks of the undead once again.

And Ann ran. She ran through the woods, carrying her little son, tears for the husband she’d lost more than three years ago streaming down her cheeks. She ran from the dead, cold winter woods, ran for the little house at the edge of the wood, where there was warmth and life and love that even death could not extinguish.

The End

***

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

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Star Trek Discovery realises “That Hope Is You, Part II” in its season 3 finale

We’ve reached the season finale of Star Trek Discovery, so here is the last installment in my ongoing episode by episode reviews of season 3 of Star Trek Discovery. Reviews of previous episodes may be found here.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Star Trek Discovery realises that “There Is a Tide…”

Yeah, this review is two days late, since the powers that be at CBS All Access apparently believe that all their viewers have nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve than watch TV (or that they all have families who want to watch Star Trek Discovery, too). Still, here is the latest installment in my ongoing episode by episode reviews of season 3 of Star Trek Discovery. Reviews of previous episodes may be found here.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Happy New Year 2021

First of all, a happy new year to everybody who reads my blog! May 2021 be better than 2020 and bring you health, happiness and success!

If you want to know what I’ve been up to in 2020, here is a handy overview of all the blogposts, articles, reviews and fiction I published in 2020. And if you’re waiting for my take on this week’s episode of Star Trek Discovery – well, that’s probably not coming until tomorrow.

Good luck New Year's Night decorations

Some New Year’s Eve decorations. The candle holder is handmade and was a present from a friend more than 20 years ago. The figurines are all good luck charms of sorts.

Here in Germany, the new year is a little over a day old now and started with a foggy night and a cold, but largely clear day. I had dinner with my parents at home, because the restaurants were all closed anyway. Furthermore, because there were only three business days between Christmas and New Year and German farmers decided to stage a blockade grocery chain warehouses to protest against low prices for agricultural products (which I theoretically agree with, but this is not the right time), so the grocery store shelves were often empty, which made some ingredients difficult to come by. And so we had a selection of deep-fried vegetables with Manchurian sauce.

Breaded vegetables for deep frying

A selection of breaded vegetables for deep frying. Clockwise from top left, we have cauliflower, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and peppers.

Gobi Manchurian

Gobi Manchurian, i.e. deep-fried cauliflower with Manchurian sauce.

After dinner, my parents watched TV, while I did some work on my laptop. At midnight, we drank some champagne and then went outside to watch the fireworks. And yes, there were fireworks.

Champagne

Champagne and good luck charms to ring in the new year.

As I mentioned in last year’s New Year post, welcoming the new year with fireworks has a long tradition in Germany. However, that tradition has come under fire in recent years, because some people really, really hate fireworks and come up with various reasons (dangerous, a waste of money, bad for animals and environment, might trigger people with PTSD) why they should be banned. And this year, the pandemic finally gave the fireworks haters a reason to ban the sale of fireworks, because supposedly people gathering in the streets to light fireworks might spread the virus and people managing to hurt themselves with fireworks would put extra strain on hospitals. Of course, the pandemic is just a pre-text in this case.

Of course, people gathering in the streets in larger groups only happens in those city centre areas where fireworks are banned anyway because of the fire risk. Meanwhile, in suburban and rural area, what happens is that families stand in their own driveways and light fireworks and wish the neighbours a happy new year. The infection risk involved is no worse than when taking the trash out, as long as you don’t hug your neighbours.

As for the accident risk, the overwhelming majority of fireworks accidents happen with unlicensed fireworks imported from Eastern Europe or with homemade fireworks. And if you ban legal fireworks sales, guess what happens? The people who really, really love fireworks will find a way to procure illegal fireworks or try to make their own, which is a lot more dangerous. And so, a 19-year-old in Eckernförde on the Baltic Sea coast managed to blow up himself and his parents’ winter garden, while trying to make fireworks.

But even though sales of fireworks were banned, a lot of my neighbours did manage to get hold of fireworks. There was less firework than last year, but not that much less. The one difference was that there were comparatively few fireworks to be heard early on New Year’s Eve and on the days before – instead the fireworks were concentrated on the hour around midnight. And this is a development I actually welcome, because while I like fireworks, I also think they should be limited to a few hours on New Year’s Eve.

Mostly, the people who didn’t light fireworks this year were the casual fireworkers like me who buy a package of rockets at the supermarket, but don’t stockpile (though I did have some sparklers and half a package of firecrackers from previous years) and don’t look for alternate sources. Meanwhile, the folks who light hundreds of Euros worth of fireworks every year continued to do so this year. And I’m pretty sure that what was blown up last night was not just stockpiles, because I cannot imagine someone stockpiling dozens of rockets and fireworks batteries. No, there likely were ways to get fireworks in spite of the ban. Though thankfully, almost all the fireworks blown up last night were licensed ones. Cause you can usually distinguish the unlicensed illegal fireworks, because they’re louder, smell worse and the leftovers look different. And I noticed very little of that.

Last night’s fireworks display also showed that many people are no longer willing to accept nonsensical anti-covid measures (I hope they will continue to accept those measures that do make sense). Because the ban on sales of fireworks was largely nonsensical. It did little to nothing to combat the pandemic, especially since the vast majority of infections and deaths still happen in nursing homes whose residents are among the least likely to light fireworks. Instead, the pandemic was used as a pretext to push through an agenda that some people have had for a very long time.

But anyway, here are some fireworks photos. They might be a bit blurry, because the night was foggy and I couldn’t use the flash.

Fireworks

Fireworks in my neighbourhood

Fireworks battery

Some neighbours have lit a firework battery on the street.

Fireworks

Fireworks and fog make for some interesting views.

Fireworks

More foggy fireworks, this time in green.

Fireworks

No, the garage hasn’t exploded. A neighbour has lit one of those massive 100 shot fireworks batteries.

Fireworks and fog

More fireworks and fog.

Fireworks

And one last fireworks photo.

On New Year’s Day itself, some of the mist lingered, but otherwise it was a clear but cold day. So I drove down to the river Weser this afternoon.

Misty meadows in winter

The low winter sun shines down on misty meadows near Arsten.

River Weser near Dreyhe

A look across the river Weser near Dreyhe.

River Weser near Dreyhe

Another look across the river Weser near Dreyhe. On the far bank, you can see a kilometre marker. This is kilometre 356 since Hannoversch Münden of 451.4 kilometres altogether to the North Sea.

And that’s it for 2021 so far.

What can you expect on this blog for this year? More fiction, more genre commentary, more TV reviews, more Retro Reviews, more new release round-ups, a new project to highlight fanzines and sites eligible for the Hugo and much more.

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A handy guide to all SFF-related posts and works of 2020

I never felt particularly comfortable with eligibility posts, but I posted such an overview for the first time in 2016, when someone added my name to the Hugo Nominations Wiki. Eventually, it paid off, because I was a Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer in 2020.

So if you’re interested in what I write, here is an overview of all SFF related blogposts of 2020, in chronological order, as well as a list of all the SFF and other fiction I published.

Because I wrote so many pieces for my Retro Reviews project this year, I separated the Retro Reviews from the other blogposts

At this blog:

The Complete Retro Reviews:

At Galactic Journey:

Elsewhere:

Fiction (SFF):

Fiction (other genres):

*published under the name Richard Blakemore

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By Popular Demand: The 2020 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award

As you know, I have been giving out the prestigious (not) Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents for a long time now.

However, I have received a request to also hand out a Fictional Parent of the Year Award, for why should only horrible fictional parents get recognition?

So I present you the inaugural Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award:

As I said in my previous post, there was quite a bit of competition for the Fictional Parent of the Year Award in 2020, more than for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in fact, which suggests that popular culture is moving towards portraying more loving parents, which is a very good thing.

So let’s take a look at the potential candidates:

Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, formerly of Starfleet, became an unexpected contender, when he found himself responsible for the young synth Soji Asher and the young Romulan Elnor and didn’t do too badly, considering that Admiral Picard famously doesn’t like children. However, Soji and Elnor, though traumatised and confused, are already in their late teens and therefore require less parenting. Besides, Admiral Picard had the competent help of Seven of Nine and Raffi Musiker, so no award for him.

Another unexpected contender was Sherlock Holmes of all people, when he found himself the guardian of his much younger sister Enola Holmes, while his brother Mycroft and his mother Eudoria both made an unsuccessful push for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award. However, Enola proves herself to be a very intelligent and resourceful young lady, who doesn’t require much parenting, so it’s no award for Sherlock.

A very strong contender was the Witcher Geralt of Rivia, who unexpectedly found himself guardian and protector of the young Princess Ciri due to the law of surprise. And though Geralt does his best to successfully evade the responsibility he was unexpectedly given, he does come to the aid of Ciri, when she needs him. This certainly earns Geralt of Rivia an honourable mention, but since we don’t actually see him doing any parenting, this year’s winner is another grumpy single Dad.

So the The 2020 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award goes to…

Drumroll

Din Djarin

As chronicled in The Mandalorian, Din Djarin is a bounty hunter who one day finds himself hired by a shady ex-Imperial client to hunt down a bounty that turns out to be a fifty-year-old alien toddler with Force abilities named Grogu.

Handing a young child over to a cruel fate at the hand of the former Empire violates Din Djarin’s personal code and so he goes on the run with Baby Grogu, while trying to deliver the kid one of the elusive Jedi knights who should know what to do with a Force-sensitive toddler.

In the course of his adventures, Din Djarin has to deal not only with ex-Imperials, pirates and bounty hunters trying to kidnap his young charge and monsters trying to eat him, but also with the everyday challenges of single parenthood such as changing nappies, feeding a hunry kid and cleaning up baby puke as well as the insatiable desire of little Grogu to stick everything in his mouth, including a lot of very inappropriate things. And through it all, Din Djarin bonds with Grogu to the point that they truly become a Clan of Two and that it doesn’t matter that they’re not even the same species.

That sort of dedication to parenting deserves an award and therefore Din Djarin of Mandalore is the highly deserving winner of the 2020 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.

Applause

In spite of accidentally finding himself king of the Mandalorians (it’s a long story), Din Djarin nonetheless took the time to appear in person to accept his award, clad in his shiny beskar armour. And no, he did not take the helmet off.

He then proceeded to give his acceptance speech, looking a little lost:

Honestly, I don’t know what to say. After all, I did nothing special. I only took in a foundling and delivered him to his kind, because this is a way.

Besides, Grogu was in danger and needed help, because Moff Gideon and his Imperial leftovers wanted to capture him and drain his blood for their unsanctioned experiments. And since the New Republic isn’t very competent at… well, anything really, someone needed to step up and keep the kid safe. Cause this is the way.

I know that Grogu is better off at that Jedi school, because the Jedi can teach him how to do all the inexplicable things they do, while I cannot. However, I still miss the little fellow.

I also hope Grogu behaves himself in Jedi school and doesn’t steal any shiny objects and doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t.

Jedi knights, if you’re watching this, Grogu only wears Bantha-Soft diapers, he likes bone broth and seafood chowder, sticks things in his mouth, if you don’t watch, and only falls asleep, if you sing “Ten little Ewoks” to him.

So take good care of Grogu. Because you hurt Grogu, know that I’ll be coming for you, because this is the way.

Thank you.

And we thank you, Din Djarin, for providing such a stellar example for all single parents as well as every parent who finds themselves faced with a very special child.

So accept this award for all your hard work to keep Baby Grogu safe. Instead of a trophy, here is a slice of Martha Kent’s famous apple pie.

***

And that’s it for this year’s Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award. Who will win next year? You’ll find out in this space.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 2020

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

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors (as well as the occasional Big 5 book) 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 new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, portal fantasy, historical fantasy, sword and sorcery, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction mysteries, science fiction thrillers, space opera, military science fiction, humorous science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, time travel, weird western, horror, LitRPG, speculative poetry, non-fiction, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, aliens, dragons, elves, banshees, sirens, assassins, alien invasions, interstellar wars, space marines, metal warriors, crime-busting witches, crime-busting ghosts, magical bakeries, magical swords, bad Santas, three-headed ogres and much more.

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

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories by Eugen BaconThe Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories by Eugen Bacon:

Eugen Bacon’s work is deemed cheeky with a fierce intelligence in text that’s resplendent, delicious, dark and evocative. NPR called her novel Claiming T-Mo ‘a confounding mysterious tour de force.’ The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories imbues the same lushness in a writerly language that is Bacon’s own. This peculiar hybrid of the untraditional, the extraordinary within, without and along the borders of normalcy will hypnotize and absorb the reader with tales that refuse to be labeled. The stories in this collection are dirges that cross genres in astounding ways. Over 20 provocative tales, with seven original to this collection, by an award-winning African-Australian author.

The Lost One by Jonathan P. BrazeeThe Lost One by Jonathan P. Brazee:

A slave. A collector’s piece. Kimi has no idea who she is, only that she’s the only one of her kind she’s ever seen.

If she disobeys her captor, the punishment is immediate and excruciating. So, she learns to simply survive.

Until another of her kind appears on a mission. Can Kimi reclaim her birthright, or will she be stuck forever as a prisoner on display?

The Depik tell tales of their past to their kita to keep their story alive. Kimi’s is just one of these stories.

Revolt at the North Pole by Cora BuhlertRevolt at the North Pole by Cora Buhlert:

Rebellion is brewing at Santa’s compound at the North Pole. The elves and the reindeer both are overworked, underpaid and angry, so they unite to take down Santa. However, there’s still Santa’s most fearsome enforcer, the horned, clawed and fanged holiday monster known only as Krampus…

This is a short holiday horror story of 3900 words or approx. 14 print pages by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

 

Secrets of the Sword II by Lindsay BurokerSecrets of the Sword II by Lindsay Buroker:

For ten years, I’ve been using a magical sword that I won in battle to ruthlessly slay enemies, break evil artifacts, and open stubborn pickle jars, but I don’t know much about it.

That’s about to change.

Thanks to the fact that I’m dating a powerful dragon, I can get a ride to the dwarven home world, and we’re going to research the sword’s roots. Not that I care much about its history, mind you, but several allies and enemies have suggested it can do a lot more than whack things. Considering the magical bad guys I fight are always stronger, faster, and more powerful than I am, I need every advantage I can get.

There’s just one problem: a half-dwarf thief has shown up and says she’s the rightful heir to the sword.

I want to believe it’s a scam and can’t possibly be true, but I didn’t get the sword in the most legitimate manner. If I have to give it up, I might not be able to do my job anymore, and just as bad, I’ll be a target for all the bad guys who have been waiting for an opportunity to take me down.

Baking Magic by Melinda CraigBaking Magic by Melinda Craig:

Starry Valley has been anything but calm since Lindsey moved in. She’s tackled thieves walking through walls, and just last month, she faced down a killer. Not to mention, she had a short romance with one of the handsome police officers and an unusual friendship is blossoming with a maybe detective…she’s still trying to figure that one out. It’s all Lindsey can do to stay sane, yet these people, this town, is more home to her than any place she’s ever been.

She’s still getting used to being open with people about her ability. After all, reading memories is no cakewalk, and it’s definitely not conversation for dinner. But Starry Valley isn’t like other places. She can be real with a select few others, and that is heaven…to finally not hide.

So when Felmira asks for Lindsey’s help in finding a friend’s husband, it’s no surprise she says yes. Helping is a given; delivering is another thing. Lindsey promised Sarah she’d find her husband before Christmas…she only hopes he’s still alive.

A Merry Maggie Messmas by Kate DanleyA Merry Maggie Messmas by Kate Danley:

Everyone wonders how Santa is able to do his job, but when one of his helpers goes rogue and starts spreading TOO MUCH holiday cheer, it will be down to Maggie and Killian to hop on that sleigh and bring the world a silent night.

A part of the Maggie MacKay: Holiday Special short story series. This stands independently from the main Magical Tracker series and can be read at any time and in any order. It’s just an excuse to hang out with some of your favorite characters.

WARNING: This short story contains cussing, brawling, and unfestive behavior.

Og-Grim-Dog: Ogre's End Game by Jamie EdmundsonOg-Grim-Dog: Ogre’s End Game by Jamie Edmundson:

‘We have saved this world and travelled to worlds beyond it! We have deployed weapons of death beyond your imagination!’

Join everyone’s favourite three-headed ogre in their world-hopping, climactic, final adventure.

After The War of The Dead, things could not have ended more bleakly for Og-Grim-Dog and the broken land of Gal’azu.

But they’ll still save their friends, save the world, complete a satisfying character arc and tie up all the loose ends from the rest of the series…

Won’t they?

Of a Strange World Made by Anthony W. EichenlaubOf a Strange World Made by Anthony W. Eichenlaub:

Scientist Ash Morgan doesn’t mind breaking rules, but this is ridiculous.

The colony of Edge is a bastion on the frontier of space and science, governed only by laws designed to bring humanity to the stars. Successful laws. Outdated laws, if Ash has anything to say about it.

But when a child is born strange, Ash must decide which of the colony’s rules must be followed, which ones can be broken, and which ones will inevitably lead to Edge’s ultimate destruction.

Solar Flares and Tax Snares by Rachel FordSolar Flares and Tax Snares by Rachel Ford:

An old friend. A new world. A terrible calamity.

When the Interdimensional Bureau of Temporal Investigations discovers a planetary event that will have cataclysmic interdimensional effects, they know there’s only one man for the job: Alfred Favero, Senior Analyst for the Internal Revenue Services.

Alfred is neck deep in a thorny tax case. But he’ll have to set the case aside, and maybe miss out on his chance for a big promotion, in order to save an old friend in a terrible future on a faraway planet.

And maybe the entire multiverse too.

DLC by Rachel FordDLC by Rachel Ford:

A fully immersive virtual reality system. A beta testing opportunity that’s the stuff of dreams – or a nightmare that may never end.

Jack Owens is stuck in Marshfield Studio’s newest virtual reality RPG. To escape, he needs to win the game. He knows that. He’s got his team of heroes back, and he’s finally comfortable with the world. He’s ready.

Except someone at Marshfield Studios forgot to cancel the holiday downloadable content test. Jack goes to sleep in a medieval fantasy world, and wakes up in some kind of bizarre winter wonderland where his quest – and his way home – plays second fiddle to holiday festivals, winter pets, and seasonal quests.

But Jack better not let his extended stay or the holiday doldrums distract him too much. Because there’s far worse waiting for him in this magical nightmare than a lump of coal in his stocking…

Dryker's Fall by Chris FoxDryker’s Fall by Chris Fox:

Humanity’s End is Upon Us

The Tigris have declared a Sacred Hunt against Earth. During the last battle Dryker’s daring plan turned back their vanguard, but now the entire fleet has arrived.

Thousands of Tigris vessels converge upon our world, with only a few dozen battleships, and our remaining orbital defense platforms to shield us.

Captain Dryker is placed under the command of the sadistic Doctor Reid, and sent to reactivate an ancient Void Wraith factory. Within this factory slumbers an army of Void Wraith, and a fleet of harvesters. But if he succeeds those forces will not work for Earth.

They will begin the Eradication, and wipe out everything.

Christmas Hunger by Piper FoxChristmas Hunger by Piper Fox:

After three days of hosting his vampiric brothers and their mates, Magnus is at his wit’s end. A sworn viking bachelor, he needs a break from the happy couples.

The moment the doorbell rings, he takes the chance to get away from it all. Only to come face to face with a beautiful delivery woman who stirs his blood in a way that only a fated mate could.

Donna knows her vision is true the second she meets Magnus’ gaze. Knowing he could send her away before they really get to know each other, she’s careful to hide her true intentions. She wants Magnus to get to know the real her, not just her witchly title.

Magnus has no interest in being tied down to any woman, fated mate be damned. But her sexy confidence and alluring smiles might just have Magnus’ resolve faltering. The moment he has her in his arms, the pull is too strong. He knows giving into his need, even just for the evening, could lead to more than the vampire is willing to give.

Once her true identity is revealed, Magnus must decide whether the sassy, sexy Donna is worth sacrificing his independent bachelor lifestyle for the love of a witch.

Starlight Web by Yasmine GalenornStarlight Web by Yasmine Galenorn:

Moonshadow Bay…where magic lurks in the moonlight, and danger hides in the shadows.

One month before January Jaxson turns 41, her husband ditches her for a trophy wife. Adding insult to injury, he steals the business she helped build, and kicks her out during the holidays. So when her best friend Ari suggests she move back to Moonshadow Bay—a quirky, magical town near Bellingham WA—January decides to take the plunge.

Born into a family of witches, January accepts a job at Conjure Ink, a paranormal investigations website. The job’s right up her alley but she doubts that everything reported to Conjure Ink really exists. That is, until she’s sent out on her first case.

An abandoned asylum once housed a murderer, who killed an entire family one Yuletide Eve. It’s rumored that every December he returns to haunt the woodland around the asylum, seeking to add new members to his supernatural family. January’s sure it’s an urban legend, but when new victims show up with no logical explanation for their deaths, Conjure Ink sends her in to investigate. Suddenly January finds herself in over her head, staring directly into the shadowed world of the Veil.

Now, January must not only navigate the new life she’s trying to build, but the paranormal beasties she’s sent out to explore, as well as a hot new neighbor, who seems to be hiding a shadowed past of his own.

Betelgeuse Dimming by Jean-Paul GarnierBetelgeuse Dimming by Jean-Paul Garnier:

Science Fiction Poetry / comes with free musical audiobook download.

Poetry by Jean-Paul L. Garnier
Music improvised by RedBlueBlackSilver & Field Collapse
Recorded live at Joshua Tree Art & Music
Mixed and co-produced by RedBlueBlackSilver

 

 

Witch Is the New Black by Lily Harper HartWitch Is the New Black by Lily Harper Hart:

Ofelia Archer has faced demons, evil witches, and freaky zombies, but nothing could prepare her for the horror of meeting her boyfriend’s mother, Madeline Sully. She thinks she’s ready and able, but she’s really not.

For his part, Zacharias “Zach” Sully isn’t any more thrilled by his mother’s visit than his girlfriend. He’s simply better at dealing with Madeline’s brand of madness.

After one meal, a magical barrage of fire rains down on the group as they’re walking down Bourbon Street. When the flames clear, a young woman is left for dead, and the only thing they know about her is that she was part of a multi-level marketing scheme called Hexential Oils.

Before they realize what’s happening, Sully and Ofelia find themselves knee-deep in an odd world that neither of them really understand … and it leads straight to trouble, as usual. It seems New Orleans is teeming with suspects, and they have no idea which one to focus on.

Ofelia and Sully have a bond that can’t be broken. That won’t stop outsiders from trying. When the hierarchy of Hexential Oils leads to long-forgotten magic and a creature of mythical proportions, they realize they’re in over their heads.

They’ll die to protect one another … and someone desperately wants to make that a reality. It will take both of them working together to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Ghostly Graves by Lily Harper HartGhostly Graves by Lily Harper Hart:

Maddie and Nick Winters are embarking on the biggest adventure of their lives: parenthood. They’re nervous, excited, and prepared to go shopping. That leads them to a special baby boutique in Whisper Cove, where they just happen to participate in a cemetery tour run by Michigan’s most famous ghost hunter.

Maddie and the tour guide Harper Harlow recognize each other for what they are right off the bat, although they don’t initially say anything. Everything spills out in the open, though, when a ghost leads Maddie to the body of a local plastic surgeon.

The dead doctor has an interesting reputation with the women around town, and Maddie recognizes him from her days of nursing. Before anybody realizes what’s happening, the two women have formed a crime-fighting team and they’re determined to uncover answers.

Nick would prefer Maddie shop and embrace their incoming baby but he knows when her inner detective can’t be silenced. While the men bond – and discuss loving a magical woman – the women (and Zander, of course) dig deep and uncover exactly how sordid the tale of an unethical doctor can be.
Get ready for some fun. Maddie, Harper, and Zander are ready for adventure … and they’re dragging absolutely everybody along for the ride.

Church of the Assassin by Ross HarrisonChurch of the Assassin by Ross Harrison:

KILL ONE TO SAVE A HUNDRED

Alexiares spends her time killing, tinkering with a car she never drives, and wondering if she’s a sociopath. This simple life is complicated by a deadly purge of her sect and she finds herself on the run, trying to make sense of the slaughter. She’s not alone: the broken-minded assassin has inherited a baby girl. But how can hands that know only how to squeeze necks and strip engines ever nurture a child? When painful revelations, betrayals, and secrets show Alexiares that her life can only cause Baby pain and suffering, she’ll have to make a difficult choice.

Across the galaxy, one seemingly natural death puts rookie Intelligence officer Ryan Blake on a collision course with Alexiares. His journey into desperation and madness will reveal a world he’ll wish had stayed hidden. One full of mysteries and death. As his mentor says, there are cases to make your career and there are cases to make you look over your shoulder for the rest of your life, right up until it ends abruptly and violently.

KILL A HUNDRED TO SAVE ONE

Relentless hunters want both her and Baby, and they will tear worlds apart to get them. They are bigger, stronger, and more resourceful. But Baby is more than a newfound vulnerability to Alexiares: she is a reason to live. A reason to kill.

When you take a shot at an apex predator, do not miss.

The Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia by Maddie Harrisi and Misha ErwinThe Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia by Maddie Harrisis and Misha Herwin:

Poppy and Amelia didn’t set out to be witches. That happened quite by accident, and it’s a secret they must keep from their family and friends. Then there is Mia, the new girl in class. Pale, strange and deadly serious, she’s in need of a couple of equally weird friends. Poppy and Amelia are happy to oblige. Together, the three of them must thwart the plans of the sinister Miss Mortimer and her evil companions.

 

The Hawthorne WitchThe Hawthorne Witch by A.L. Hawke:

Sometimes I’d rather shield my eyes than see darkness in light.

It was my senior year at Hawthorne University when everything fell apart. I mean, all my witch friends got along fine—sort of. But I was nervous about my love life. I just had to get into Hawthorne’s graduate program, because my boyfriend was going to be a professor. I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want to lose anyone.

And things got weirder. A witch was threatened with sacrificial murder. Another witch spent all day murmuring to herself, in the center of a circle of candles, on a pentagram she painted in her dorm room. It all pointed to the wicked witch of the Abaddon coven. If I was right, it might just take a full-fledged witch showdown to stop her.

So? Bring it on. What did I have to lose? Just everyone I love. And maybe my soul.

Foxtrot Hotel by Simon HaynesFoxtrot Hotel by Simon Haynes:

First a dead body shows up on Harriet’s favourite beach.

Then she discovers the whole place is going to be bulldozed for an apartment complex.

She’s convinced the two are connected, but she’ll have to untangle a web of lies and corruption to reach the truth.

Meanwhile, someone has decided that the best way to avoid discovery is to silence Harriet… for good!

 

Bright of the Moon by Miranda HonfleurBright of the Moon by Miranda Honfleur:

Wrath consumes him as the dark does the night… Until she rises. But can she chase away his darkness?

Most would say the “sweet” and “quiet” Signorina Arabella Belmonte has lived a quiet life as a young noblewoman in her family’s castello. But little do they know she pens treatises criticizing the realm’s warmongers… and now there’s a price on her head. As she struggles to hide her seditious activities, a chance encounter with a unicorn leaves her with four hooves and a horn of her own—and a form she can’t control. The dark-elf queen has offered her a chance to acquire that control… if Bella can find the unicorn who turned her.

Prince Dhuro of Nightbloom has never met a problem he couldn’t solve with his fists—that is, until he fought his sister for a place in the army’s elite forces and lost. When the light-elves defeated them and his father was executed, Dhuro’s inner demons laid claim to the whole of him. Now Immortal beasts are growing in power and threatening his people.

Dhuro has a chance to help his people win, but his mother, the queen, sends him on a fool’s errand instead—helping a human newly turned unicorn find her sire, and asking the impossible: whether the Elder of the pacifistic unicorns will stand with them against the beasts ravaging his people. Making things worse, Bella challenges his every decision, argues with him, infuriates him… until beneath the full moon, she shifts to her human form… and enchants him.

A war is raging, Dhuro must marry for political advantage, and only Bella’s sire can help her… And when the bounty hunters hunting her find them, Dhuro and Bella’s worldviews collide like life and death. But can he be the answer to helping her control her form, and can she chase away his darkness? Can they find a way to be together and fight the war threatening to devour the land… or will it swallow them too?

Elevation by Patty JansenElevation by Patty Jansen:

Verona Rupes, on the ice moon Miranda, is the tallest cliff in the solar system. If you jump off the top, it takes 700 seconds to reach the bottom. What can you do in the most important 700 seconds of your life?

Jonathan and Gaby arrive at the ice moon Miranda to work with a local researcher and find that adventurists have snuck into an area infected with alien bacteria and have gotten themselves in trouble.

Do these people have to be stopped because they’re about to spread a bacterial infection to the human settlements or are there other factors at play?

A tale of petty vindictiveness, competition and jealousy. Oh, and a wedding.

Beachcombing by David LangfordBeachcombing by David Langford:

Beachcombing is David Langford’s first collection of (mostly) SF fanzine-published essays, speeches and silliness since the long-ago The Silence of the Langford (1996), edited by Ben Yalow, which was a Hugo finalist for best nonfiction in 1997. Over the years this author has won 29 Hugo Awards for his work in fanzines, science fiction newsletters, short SF, and SF reference works. Beachcombing comprises over 78,000 words of vintage Langford.

The contents include the much-acclaimed convention talks “Live Thog’s Masterclass”, “The Secret History of Ansible” and “Twenty Years of Uproar” (a ramble through favourite fanzine humour); offbeat pop-science articles for Fortean Times and elsewhere, on such subjects as perpetual motion, violet-ray healing machines, St Hildegard of Bingen, and how to detect the Number of the Beast in practically any name you choose; a handful of recipes and another handful of Drabbles; several introductions to SF books; and many instalments of unreliable autobiography.

The Banshee Brouhaha by Amanda M. LeeThe Banshee Brouhaha by Amanda M. Lee:

Charlie Rhodes has spent her entire life wondering who her birth parents were, why they abandoned her, and where the magic she’s been learning to hone came from.

She’s finally going to get some answers.

With proof that the new member of the Legacy Foundation is really her brother, Charlie sets off to visit Salem with him and her boyfriend Jack Hanson. She’s never been to the city before and finds that the history swirling is only one of the things that has her excited.

Not long after landing, a body is strung up in Salem Common, and witnesses say it was ghosts doing the dirty work. Jack is intrigued enough to call in the rest of the team. Since Charlie’s parents are supposedly taking refuge within the city limits, the investigation makes for a nice cover.

It’s not long before Charlie realizes that there’s more going on in Salem than witches and white magic. Something dark is festering under the surface, and whatever it is seems to be taking aim at her.

Charlie wants answers. She’s also afraid to get them. During the search for what she’s lost, though, she becomes more determined than ever to hold onto what she has.

There’s evil afoot, and a woman who looks like an older version of Charlie is stalking the group. Could the two things be connected? Charlie won’t leave until she knows for certain.

Salem’s history might be coming back to haunt those who venture into the city and it’s up to the Legacy Foundation to figure out why … that is if they survive long enough to uncover the answers.

Hold onto your broomsticks, because it’s going to be a witchy ride.

A Little Mistletoe and Magic by Marianne MoreaA Little Mistletoe and Magic by Marianne Morea:

Done with grieving the loss of her family, Jenny Mitchell is looking for a fresh start. Life as she knew it is over, but what waits for her in the town of Whisper Falls is more than just quaint charm and an Inn no one wanted. Her near death experience awakens senses she didn’t know she possessed. Senses that both scare and fascinate her, especially when they bring her face to face with a sexy, supernatural truth that spells more than just second chance romance. Sparks fly under the mistletoe, and there’s no escaping the magic of the season, or the cougar shifter destined to help her through the darkness and mend her broken heart, in this modern twist on a holiday classic.

Primary Targets by Rick PartlowPrimary Targets by Rick Partlow:

Old Marines never die…they just become Space Marines

I thought the hard part of helping the Helta defeat the rampaging Tevynians would be the fighting. How wrong I was.

To the Helta, we Earthers look just like the Tevynians, their mortal enemies. And convincing their government to ally with humans may be even beyond the crew of the starship James Bowie.

But the clock is ticking, because the Tevynian fleet is bearing down on the Helta homeworld. If we can’t talk the Helta into accepting our help to fight them off, then Helta Prime will fall…

And Earth will be next.

Flight Before Christmas by Christine PopeFlight Before Christmas by Christine Pope:

They’ll have to fly faster than reindeer to rescue Santa…and save Christmas.

Other than the pleasure of etching delicate tendrils of ice on windows, there’s not much Kai Ulfsen enjoys about life under Jack Frost’s rule. But when he’s roped into serving on a strike team to kidnap Santa and destroy Christmas, Kai’s had enough. Frost must be stopped.

Human witches, the only other beings on Earth with magical powers, are his only hope. He never expected his search would lead him a woman with sky-blue eyes and hair like a river of gold.

Stella Monroe is five minutes away from closing up her tea shop for the holiday when a vision of Nordic male perfection fills the doorway. And, even more surreal, this beautiful man with silver hair, aquamarine eyes, and…pointed ears?…needs her help.

Granted, she flies the fastest broom at the Witch Olympics, but is her magic equal to a task like this? But maybe with a little luck — and a bag of pixie dust — Kai and Stella can beat the clock, beat Frost at his own game, and save the happiest holiday of the year.

Blood Ward by Glynn StewartBlood Ward by Glynn Stewart:

A chosen servant left for dead
A pair of hunters with hidden secrets
A fateful choice of who to trust…

The young cowboy Teer has joined the rogue El-Spehari demigod Kard in his work as a bounty hunter. Both have powers they conceal, but they are determined to guard the people of the Unity’s Eastern Territories.

When a favored servant of the Unity’s Spehari ruler is beaten and left for dead, the two bounty hunters are hired to track the attacker into the wilderness. The Unity has betrayed them both, but they still believe in justice.

Capturing the fugitive is only the first step. Teer faces a harsh question: when a beautiful young woman begs for protection, what is more important—her crimes…or why she committed them?

City of the Dead by Xina Marie UhlCity of the Dead by Xina Marie Uhl:

A warrior trapped by the past.
A priest hunted by hidden enemies.
A city haunted by old gods’ magic.

Battle-scarred and cynical, Conyr survives as a guard in Eretria’s foulest prison for one reason. He watches his back. When he’s blackmailed into breaking Dru out of prison, staying safe becomes impossible.

A young priest from an enemy city, Dru has come to Eretria on a mission. But he has a big problem. He can’t remember what his mission is. And the ruling elite of both cities intend to discover it by any means necessary.

Together, Conyr and Dru must navigate a maze of power-hungry rivals, desert assassins, and magical attacks if they wish to live.

Deep beneath the city itself long-dead gods kindle to life—and they are angry. For the young priest’s lost memory holds more than the key to his past, but also the fates of two cities.

Metal Warrior: Steel Trap by James David VictorMetal Warrior: Steel Trap by James David Victor:

When human allies are enemies and invading aliens are friends, you can only count on one thing. There’s going to be a betrayal somewhere.

A military sci-fi adventure from Amazon All-Star author James David Victor

Dane and the Mechanized Infantry Division have taken their mech suits into space. Their plan? Attack the Exin before they can attack Earth again. And they have inside information from an Exin alien to make sure everything goes as planned. Can they stop the next invasion or are they walking into a trap?

Metal Warrior: Steel Trap is the third book in the Mech Fighter series. If you like fast-paced space adventures with engaging characters and exciting battles, you will definitely want to see how the Metal Warriors save mankind, or if they can.

Escaüed by Magic by R.L. WilsonEscaped by Magic by R.L. Wilson:

A sassy siren. A stolen blade. A paranormal conspiracy. An unexpected romance.

The way I saw it, I had two choices: retrieve my pack’s stolen blade or spend another night wishing I had. The plan was simple the execution was an epic failure.

Before I knew what hit me, I was behind bars in Bethune. Home to the most savage inmates, disgusting food, and hot guards in body-hugging uniforms. If I could keep my head straight, I could do my time and go home. But no one ever accused me of following Rules. Nothing could prepare me for what happened next.

I desperately need to escape. I have a plan, I know I can make it. Except there is one tiny problem-I’m head over heels in love with one of the guards. I can ask him to come with me but what if he refuses?

I need to make a decision and fast. But I’m not exactly in a place known for inspiring brilliant decisions.

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