Cora is elsewhere yet again and recommends some books

As the title indicates, today I’m elsewhere on the internet again, namely at File 770, where I’m one of eighteen reviewers and fans from different European countries recommending their favourite recent-ish SFF books from their respective countries. The project was initiated by Bence Pintér from Hungary.

So if you always wanted to try some speculative fiction from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain or Ukraine (plus Bulgaria in the comments), check it out.

And by the way, if you’re waiting for an e-mail from me, please be patient, because I’m very busy at the moment, so non-urgent e-mails occasionallyhave to be postponed.

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Cora time travels to 1964 and checks in on Perry Rhodan

Today, I’m over at Galactic Journey again with an article on the latest developments of Perry Rhodan – in 1964. It’s a follow-up to my earlier Perry Rhodan article from last July.

In addition to the latest developments in Perry Rhodan’s Solar Empire, you can also see some historical photos of East German pensioners visiting the West for the very first time as well as of the Bremer Freimarkt, featuring Anton Schwarzkopf’s awesome Sputnik ride, which unfortunately was already long gone by the time I was old enough to be taken to the Freimarkt. But I got lucky and got to ride Anton Schwarzkopf’s Zeppelin in the very few years it was touring.

I have taken a bunch of photos of this year’s Freimarkt and will post them, when I get around to it. Meanwhile, enjoy this video of the 1987 Freimarkt. I remember all of those rides well and rose most of them at some point. Except for Skylab and the Ranger, which were a bit too scary for me at the time. I eventually got to ride a Ranger years later and the ride actually looks much worse than it is. Unfortunately, I never got to ride the Skylab, because it was gone – sold off after two accidents, none of which were the ride’s fault – before I could get my courage together. And since the only surviving Skylab in the world is in Columbia, I doubt I will ever get my chance.

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First Monday Free Fiction: Loot

Welcome to the November edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.

LootNovember is the month for remembering the dead, so here is a humorous crime story set in a cemetery. You can read “Loot” both in a standalone edition and as part of the crime fiction collection Murder in the Family. “Loot” is based on a true story, by the way, which happened to an elderly lady of my acquaintance.

So prepare to accompany Eudora Pennington to the cemetery to bury a loved one and watch pursesnatcher Jack Slater get his comeuppance in…

 

 

Loot

Katrina hadn’t been well for quite a few days. She didn’t eat, she didn’t drink, she didn’t want to go outside, she scarcely stirred from her basket in the bedroom. She did not even enjoy sitting in her favourite spot on her owner’s lap anymore.

Eudora Pennington had been very worried. After a sleepless night, for both her and Katrina, she finally decided to call the vet. The vet came, examined Katrina and then told Mrs. Pennington frankly that there was nothing he could do. Old age was finally taking its toll. The best thing would be to put her to sleep.

Eudora Pennington had refused, of course. If you spent seventeen years with a pet, you didn’t just have it put down, once it became old and ill and useless. It was inhuman and simply wrong. And this was what she told the vet. The young man just shrugged and left. He hadn’t helped Katrina, in fact he hadn’t done anything except making Mrs. Pennington angry and he’d charged her twenty-five pounds for the privilege, too. Typical, those young doctors of today were interested in nothing but money.

But though Eudora Pennington was unwilling to let her sole companion of the past seven years go, the fluffy white Persian cat died peacefully the following night anyway. Mrs. Pennington was heartbroken. Katrina was the only friend she had left, after all, the only living creature to share the loneliness of a large empty house. Her husband Albert was long dead, and they’d had no children. And they’d always had preciously little contact with the relatives on either side. So all that had been left after Albert’s sudden death seven years before were a few friends and the neighbours who dropped in every now and then. And Katrina, of course. But now Katrina was gone as well.

The morning after Katrina passed away, Philip, Mrs. Pennington’s neighbour, came over to offer his assistance. Mrs. Pennington liked her neighbours. They were good people and had always been there for her, when she needed help. But that morning Philip wanted to take Katrina away. And Mrs. Pennington knew only too well where he would take her. He’d take her to the knacker’s. And Mrs. Pennington knew only too well would happen to her then.

“I will not have my poor Katrina end up as glue or as meat and bone meal,” she told him.

Philip had been very understanding. He assured her that he knew how she felt, though he was pretty sure that they did not actually make glue out of dead animals anymore. And meat and bone meal had been banned over that mad cow scare years ago. And he really wished there were some other way. But unfortunately it was forbidden to bury pets in the garden or anywhere else except at designated pet cemeteries.

The idea of a pet cemetery had crossed Eudora Pennington’s mind. Katrina would have a decent grave there, complete with a headstone and flowers. It was what Mrs. Pennington wanted for Katrina, what her trusted companion deserved. But unfortunately there was a grave problem. Pet cemeteries were very expensive. Too expensive for Mrs. Pennington’s small pension.

For two days, Eudora Pennington brooded over what to do with poor Katrina’s body. She considered simply burying Katrina in a nice corner of the garden or in a pleasant spot in the woods. But that was forbidden, just as Philip had pointed out. Besides it might poison the groundwater or something like that. To be honest, she didn’t quite understand all that. All she knew was that burying Katrina in the garden was against the law and Mrs. Pennington didn’t want to get in trouble with the police. She had always been a law-abiding citizen, after all. No, she would have to find another way. Then, on the second night after Katrina’s death, she had an idea.

There was one place where she could give Katrina a decent burial without accidentally poisoning the groundwater. And Katrina would have as nice a grave there as she would have had at a pet cemetery. What was more, she would even rest in the company of somebody who had cared for her almost as much as Eudora Pennington herself had.

Mrs. Pennington would simply take Katrina’s body to the cemetery and bury her in her husband’s grave. Albert would have liked to have Katrina with him. And this way, Eudora Pennington could visit the graves of both her loved ones at the same time. It was the perfect solution.

Of course, it was illegal as well. The cemetery was for humans, not for pets. But Mrs. Pennington had paid for that burial place, and a ridiculously high sum, too, for such a little plot of land. That grave belonged to her and she had the right to do with it as she pleased and to bury whomever she pleased in there.

Once she’d come to this solution, Eudora Pennington set out the very next morning to carry it out. Carefully, she wrapped Katrina’s body in a plastic bag. Then she put the plastic bag into her handbag, the big one of brown leatherette which she always used when she went grocery shopping. Finally, she took a shovel, a rake and a watering can and set off for the cemetery.

On her way she stopped once more to buy some pansies. Albert’s grave needed new flowers anyway, the old ones were dry and faded. Besides, if she were planting flowers, simply slipping Katrina’s little body into the grave would look entirely inconspicuous.

Thus prepared, Mrs. Pennington set out to bury Katrina.

***

Jack Slater spent a lot of time hanging out on cemeteries, purely for professional reasons. However, he was neither a priest nor a gardener nor a gravedigger nor an undertaker. Jack Slater was a thief, a pursesnatcher who stole the handbags of little old ladies. And there were plenty of little old ladies at Shady Grove Cemetery.

And little old ladies tended to be careless, particularly on cemeteries. Most of the time, they were so busy planting flowers and watering them, picking up snails and fallen leaves or simply sitting on benches, lost in memories of some long dead loved one, that they did not pay attention the large handbags they invariably carried. That was Jack Slater’s chance.

Even better, people on cemeteries were usually lost in their own private grief, so they never looked at each other, never paid attention to what was going on around them. Therefore, nobody ever noticed Jack Slater, nobody was ever able to describe him. A thief could not wish for a better turf.

Of course, it was thoroughly rotten, vile and evil. What crime could be more heinous than breaking the holy peace of a cemetery and snatching the purses of grieving old ladies? But everybody had to make a living somehow. And to Jack Slater this seemed as good a way as every other.

Besides, he was only taking from those who could afford it. Old people had money. In fact, people over sixty were the richest group in the entire country, so Jack had read in a newspaper he’d found on the bus. It all had to do with wars and hyper-inflations and how there hadn’t been either in such a long time that nobody lost any money anymore unless they were really stupid. But the ones that were not stupid just kept on amassing wealth. And old people, being old, were the richest of all. Jack Slater didn’t pretend to understand it all, but he got the gist of it. Old people were rich, and when they died, their heirs would become rich. The next generation would be a generation of rich heirs, so the newspaper headline had said.

Unfortunately, Jack Slater was not the heir of anybody, much less of anybody rich. For some reason, his parents and grandparents had missed the memo on amassing wealth for their heirs. Which meant that Jack Slater would never belong to that new generation of rich heirs. Therefore, it was only fair if he balanced the scales a bit by relieving those rich old people of some of the money before they could bequeath it to their heirs.

Armed with this justification cobbled together from half-remembered newspaper articles, Jack Slater roamed the cemeteries in order to take what he believed the world owed him. So far, he’d been quite successful. The loot had been varied, but mostly good. And he’d never been caught. The coppers had even put up signs warning of pickpockets. But people were never watchful on cemeteries and Jack did his best to look inconspicuous.

He always dressed nicely, when he went to “work”. Little old ladies tended to be so bloody judgmental of other people’s appearance. But if you looked proper, no one suspected you of being a crook. And so Jack always wore black jeans, a black shirt and a black jacket. He’d tried wearing a tie, too, but found that he couldn’t bind it the way it was supposed to look. On his feet were Chucks in the most boring black he could find. He’d tried wearing cowboy boots once, but he couldn’t run fast enough in those. And in his line of work speed was important. Furthermore, he always made sure to shower and shave and wash his hair before he went to the cemetery. And so, dressed as properly as he could manage, Jack went about his shady business.

When he roamed the cemetery, he always put on a very solemn expression. Sometimes he strolled along the gravel paths, pretending to look only at his feet. Occasionally he grabbed a watering can and pretended to water the flowers on a grave. And sometimes he just sat on a bench, seemingly lost in sad thoughts. Nobody noticed that he was surreptitiously watching his surroundings, always on the look-out for victims that promised good loot.

That day, Jack Slater sat on a bench enjoying the springtime sun, his legs stretched out before him. His face was hidden behind a newspaper, the Times Education Supplement unfortunately. Why did people never leave anything good like the sports pages on the bus? Still, it made a good disguise. Made him look smart and scholarly. And scholarly looking people were entirely non-threatening.

And so, while Jack was trying to make sense of an article on the higher education bubble, whatever that may be, he happened to notice a fat old lady in a camel hair coat. She was loaded down with a shovel, a rake, a watering can and a box of pansies. More importantly, she also carried a large dark brown handbag, which she clutched tightly to her chest. Surely, there was money in the bag. Perhaps even her pension. Those old birds tended to be so bloody stupid, getting their whole pension paid out in a single swoop. Still, she looked like a very promising catch indeed.

Jack watched intently over the top of his newspaper, as she stopped at a nearby grave, put down the rake, the shovel, the watering can, the pansies and finally also the large handbag. She picked up the shovel and stabbed it into the grave. The handbag was lying behind her in the grass, completely unattended.

This was the moment Jack had been waiting for. Soundlessly as a cat he crept between the gravestones, until he was directly behind the old lady and reached for the handbag. Alas, at that exact moment the old woman decided that she needed something in her handbag very desperately and reached behind her. When she did not find the bag where she had put it, she turned around and saw it in the hands of Jack Slater.

The old woman raised her shovel and opened her mouth to scream, but Jack did not wait for the shovel to come down and the scream to leave her lips. He spun around, still clutching the handbag, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him, jumping over several gravestones in the process.

“Come back, you villain,” the old woman cried after him, “There’s no money in there. There’s nothing in that bag that has any value to you.”

***

Eudora Pennington stopped in frustration, once she’d screamed herself hoarse. It was to no avail anyway. No amount of screaming would stop that punk. She slumped down in front of her husband’s grave, tears running down her cheeks, both from the exertion of screaming at the top of her lungs and from realising what she had just lost.

Mrs. Pennington’s screams might not have stopped the thief, but they did attract the attention of some other people in the vicinity and soon four or five of them were gathered around her to see if she was all right. They were all very sympathetic and completely outraged about the impunity of the thief.

A young woman dressed all in black with heavy make-up and earrings all over her face (Such a pretty girl, Eudora Pennington thought. Why did she have to disfigure herself like that?) called the police on her mobile and soon a young constable arrived to take Mrs. Pennington’s statement.

“We’ve been having a lot of thefts lately,” PC Higgins said, “We even put up signs warning the visitors.” He sighed. “You can never let down your guard these days, cause crime no longer stops at the cemetery gates. It’s a crying shame.”

Everybody agreed, from the retired mayor visiting the grave of his late wife via the Pakistani gardener to the girl all in black.

“So how much money was stolen, ma’am?” PC Higgins asked.

“Oh, he did not steal any money,” Mrs. Pennington replied. She opened her camel hair coat to reveal a pocket made from an old bedsheet sewn into the coat lining. “I always keep my money in here, ever since my Albert, god bless his soul, and I were robbed on a bus in Rome back in sixty-five.”

“That’s very clever of you,” PC Higgins said approvingly, “I wish everybody were that careful. It would certainly make our job easier. But what was in the stolen bag, ma’am?”

In spite of the situation Eudora Pennington had to smile. “You’d be surprised, Constable,” she said, “So will the thief.”

***

Still panting, Jack Slater bounded up the rickety stairs to his shabby flat. That had been too close for comfort. Damn that old bird for reaching for her handbag at the exact same moment Jack was trying to snatch it. And she’d tried to whack him with a shovel, too. So much for little old ladies being harmless.

Once inside, Jack Slater immediately flung himself onto an old green sofa and proceeded to examine his loot. The bag was dark brown, made of cheap leatherette that smelled of plastic and death. As for the design, that hadn’t been fashionable since World War II at least. Why, oh why did old people always have such ugly handbags? With all the money they were supposedly hoarding, would it kill them to spend some of it on a nice Prada or Gucci or Louis Vuitton handbag? Even an imitation, if they were real scrooges. Because there always was a market for designer handbags, real or fake, and no one ever asked where they came from. This ugly thing, however, was only good for the bin.

Well, hopefully the contents were better. So Jack opened the zipper. Immediately, a cloud of cemetery smell hit him, stronger than he’d ever experienced it before. Shit, it smelled as if something had crawled into that handbag and died.

Jack held his nose and looked inside the bag. The first thing he saw was the distinctive blue, white and orange design of an Aldi plastic bag. Probably the old bird’s groceries. He pulled out the bag and flung it rather carelessly on the sofa behind him. He would find out what he’d have for dinner tonight later. But right now, the other contents of the bag were far more interesting. So he examined the inside of the oversized bag and finally found a zipper. Side pocket. Bingo. That was where old people usually kept their money. Probably thought it was safer there. Yeah right.

But as he reached into the side pocket, all he found were two used bus-tickets and a faded library pass. No money. Jack Slater cursed and turned over that brown monstrosity of a bag. He found a lace-edged handkerchief, an imitation tortoiseshell comb, a half-empty roll of mints and a shopping list. No wallet, no chequebook, no credit card, no money. Nothing but junk. A whole day of work and all he had to show for it were some lousy groceries. Damn that old fossil.

To let out his frustration, Jack flung that hideously ugly handbag against the stained wall of his flat. Then he leaned back on the sofa and nearly landed on the plastic bag in the process. Curiously he pulled it on his lap. Might as well see what he’d have for dinner tonight. He just hoped the old lady wasn’t into health food or products for diabetics. That stuff tasted like crap. Jack should know — after all, he had eaten enough of it over the past year.

He sniffed at the bag. Whatever she’d bought, it smelled awful. Plus, she shopped at Aldi. Cheap, she was too. Still, maybe she had bought some meat, sausages maybe or perhaps even a frozen steak. There might even be a bottle of wine or, if he was extremely lucky, something harder.

His curiosity aroused, Jack reached into the plastic bag, when to his great surprise his fingertips touched something soft and fuzzy. He looked into the bag and saw nothing but thick white fur. Jack smiled. Perhaps the day’s loot was not as bad as it had seemed after all.

For there was no mistaking what the plastic bag contained. This was clearly a fur coat. Chinchilla or silver fox or something similarly luxurious by the looks of it. Of course, the market for fur coats was not what it used to be — screw those animal rights people. But a nice coat like this would still bring a good enough price. Perhaps he could even take it to one of those vintage fashion shops. Vintage was in — Jack had read it in a Fashion and Style supplement he’d found on the bus last week.

Briefly, Jack wondered why on Earth an old woman would carry a fur coat wrapped in a plastic bag around in her handbag at a cemetery on a warm and pleasant April day. Old people truly were weird.

But his attention quickly returned to more important matters, namely the loot, and so he proceeded to examine his prize. Gingerly, he reached into the plastic bag. His hand closed around the furry object to pull it out.

He held the day’s loot up to the light and immediately recoiled in horror. Disgusted, he dumped the furry thing on the floor. For there, in the middle of his fake Persian carpet lay the decomposing carcass of a furry white cat.

The End

***

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

Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 2019

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

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

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, dark fantasy, Asian fantasy, paranormal fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, time travel romance, science fiction romance, space opera both gritty and cozy, military science fiction, dystopian fiction, Cyberpunk, sword and sorcery, fairytales, Renaissance magic, reality show demons, space pirates, space marines, bounty hunters, mercenaries, intergalactic cops, undead cops, crime-busting witches, tyrant slayers, literary characters come to life 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:

Star Pirate II: The Wrath of the Queen by Mia ArcherStar Pirate II: The Wrath of the Queen by Mia Archer:

Get the loot. Save the day. Get the girl.

That should’ve been Flynn’s happily ever after. It should’ve been a simple matter of selling off the haul from the greatest heist ever pulled in the civilized galaxies.

If only it were that easy.

It turns out selling off a stash of gems stolen from the most powerful and homicidal royal family in the civilized galaxies isn’t as easy as she’d thought. Sure there are plenty of fleets out there looking to take them off her hands, but they’re paying in turbolaser blasts and Flynn isn’t interested in selling at that price.

Her only hope is to get in touch with the mysterious Selevas Separtists and hope they’re stupid enough to buy her gems and paint the target on their back. The only problem? This is one rebel alliance that seems more comfy hiding out than they are in blowing shit up. What’s the most notorious pirate in the civilized galaxies to do?

Escape her mother. Strike out on her own. Get the girl.

That should’ve been Seleya’s happily ever after. All she wanted was to fade into obscurity and live her life far from the center of galactic power with the girl of her dreams.

Too bad the girl of her dreams is now the most notorious pirate the civilized galaxies has ever known!

Now she’s having the time of her life, but that life is always on the edge of ending thanks to the never ending battle fleets her mother is sending at them. Not to mention she’s discovering it’s a big adjustment going from the Selevas palace to a dingy modified pirate freighter where their idea of room service is fixing the food replicator!

A notorious pirate on the run. An exiled princess trying to find her place in this strange new world. All they have is each other, but that might just be enough to conquer galaxies!

Mementos and Memories by Cora BuhlertMementos and Memories by Cora Buhlert:

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

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

At a market on the tropical ocean world of Sentosa, Anjali and Mikhail come across a dagger for sale. This dagger is the signature weapon of the Imperial Shakyri Corps, and Anjali knows that no Shakyri warrior would ever willingly part with their dagger. So Anjali and Mikhail go in search of the lawful owner of the dagger and come across a long forgotten tale of forbidden love…

This is a story of 7300 words or approximately 25 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.

Forever, Lately by Linore Rose BurkardForever, Lately by Linore Rose Burkard:

1816, England
Julian St. John needs a wife. An oath to a deceased guardian must be kept. Miss Clarissa Andrews, a vexatious beauty, has dangled after him all season but he has no intention of choosing such a she-devil.

Maine, Present Day
Author Claire Channing is desperate to write a bestseller to save her failing career. She moves into her grandmother?s abandoned cottage to write the book, but a local resort baron wants to raze the place. Without the deed, the clock is ticking on how long she can stay. She thinks she’s writing St. John?s story. But when she discovers an old prayer shawl and finds herself in his Regency world, she falls in love with him, a man she thought she invented! Miss Andrews, however, is also real—and she’d rather see Julian dead than in another woman?s arms!

Claire must beat the clock to prevent a deadly tragedy, but can love beat the limits of time itself?

Half a Dream by E.P. ClarkHalf a Dream by E.P. Clark:

Magic meets mystery in a Renaissance fantasy!

The dark gods of battle are cruel and capricious, and require sacrifices worse than blood.

It’s been four years since Giacomo, bodyguard to Prince Luca of Fiori, followed his charge down into the shadowy world of forbidden magic. When Luca disappears once again, Giaco must cast aside his disbelief and delve into the world of fortune-telling and shadow-walking in order to find Luca and bring him back to safety.

And beyond that, he must face up to his own worst fears. Everyone considers Giaco to be a hero, but he is about to learn the true meaning of heroism. More than his own life depends on it.

Set in a magical world inspired by Renaissance Florence, this fantasy thriller will appeal to fans of dark and urban fantasy, as well as paranormal and occult suspense. This 35,000-word novella is the second book in the Giaco & Luca series, but can be read as a standalone.

Return to Kapteyn's Star by M.D. CooperReturn to Kapteyn’s Star by M.D. Cooper:

Tangel has decided the time is ripe for the ISF to strike out against the Hegemony. Given its significance, there is no better place to start than Kapteyn’s Star. With the Lantzer repaired, she gives the mission to Jessica and Sera. It should be a walk in the park….

 

 

 

Blink by David DelaneyBlink by David Delaney:

A thrilling prequel to the unputdownable Paragon Society Series

Fireball blasting battle-mages, shapeshifting soccer moms and a best friend who is more than happy to throw punches now and ask questions later—Wyatt Murphy is in for a supernatural thrill ride of reality-bending proportions.

If he can just avoid the school bully, survive the big dance and outrun blood-magic wielding bad guys, his night may turn out great.

Slaying a Tyrant by Mel DunaySlaying a Tyrant by Mel Dunay:

Journey to the country of Jaiya, in a world not quite like ours. Here the humans wield magical powers and fight against an Empire which seeks to enslave them, but they share their world with insect people and trollfolk, and stranger things lurk in the shadows…

Vanti would be happy to spend her life in dance and choreography, but her family chooses her as their champion in a deadly gladiators’ tournament. To save her country from enslavement, she must defeat King Obiar the Conqueror and his magical powers. But will the brooding trainer named Gurion be her guide in the battle to come…or a dangerously handsome distraction?

Note: Tyrant is meant as a standalone with a “happily ever after” ending. However, the heroes in the later books in this series are descended from Vanti and Gurion, who are also the ancestors of some of the characters in the original Jaiya series. The romance is on the sweet side, but there is some violence due to the villains’ actions and the tournament in which the main characters fight.

Humanity's Fight by J.J. GreenHumanity’s Fight by J.J. Green:

Fighting for freedom from galactic tyranny

General Cherry Lindstrom is responsible for the defense of the colony world, Concordia. This last outpost of human civilization lives under constant threat of attack from hostile aliens who claim the planet as their own.

But decades have passed since the last assault, and the colonists have grown complacent. Thanks to the effects of time dilation, only Cherry and a handful of others remember the devastation wreaked on Concordia previously.

The Concordians don’t understand the danger the colony is in. Cherry must find a way to convince them and to build effective fighting force—before it’s too late.

Two galactic civilizations. One planet. Who will win?

Kiss of Eon by Anna HackettKiss of Eon by Anna Hackett:

When the vital alliance between Earth and the Eon Empire depends on her playing war games with an arrogant, infuriating Eon warrior, what could go wrong?

Terran Captain Allie Borden has her orders. Take her ship, the Divergent, and strengthen the alliance with the Eon by carrying out training exercises with the Eon warship, the Desteron. The only problem…one annoying warrior who gets on her nerves like nobody else. Forced to work with Second Commander Brack Thann-Felis, Allie finds her diplomacy skills stretched to the limit…and her body betraying her with a white-hot desire that’s getting hard to ignore.

Brack Thann-Felis is dedicated to his ship, his warriors, and his job. Watching his parents’ disastrous marriage has ensured that he will never mate or fall in love. Working with feisty, opinionated Allie tests his patience, but the more time he spends with the dedicated captain, the more he finds he can’t stay away from her.

As mysterious, dangerous sabotage events strike their ships, it becomes evident that someone wants their alliance to fail. They might have traitors among their crew and they both know it has to lead back to their enemy—the ravenous insectoid Kantos. Soon, Brack and Allie find themselves in a fight for their lives, with only each other to depend on, and a growing desire that will not be denied.

A Fistful of Demons by Lily Harper HartA Fistful of Demons by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok is slipping into her new life as owner of Casper Creek – a cosplay western town – and newly-minted witch. She thinks she has everything under control … until demons come calling.At first, she’s not even certain what she’s dealing with. A freak accident claims the life of a father, leaving him exposed during a sudden sandstorm, and his son’s reaction (complete with glowing red eyes) leaves a lot to be desired.Cooper Wyatt, head of security for the resort, wants to believe her when she explains what she saw but it’s not exactly easy for him. As the evidence starts to mount, though, demon possession becomes the name of the game.As a new witch, Hannah has no idea what she’s supposed to do. That doesn’t stop her from wanting to be proactive. Unfortunately for her, the emergence of new powers – coupled with the realization that something beyond a simple demon possession is going on – quickly becomes overwhelming.The workers at Casper Creek are going to have to join together – maybe even enlist some outside help – to figure out all the answers and solve the ultimate dilemma.A young boy’s life hangs in the balance and Hannah is determined to make sure she doesn’t lose an innocent soul so early in her reign as Casper Creek’s head witch. All she has to do is survive until the end and then everything will be revealed.That’s easier said than done.

Shadow Magic by Jayne HawkeShadow Magic by Jayne Hawke:

Looking for a kick-ass bounty hunter? You found her.

I’m the best at what I do. If a shifter goes feral, or a fae kills the wrong innocent, then I’ll be the one to hunt them down. It’s a dangerous gig, but I do what’s necessary to keep the roof over our heads.

Unfortunately, I’m at the bottom of the bounty hunter pay scale thanks to the need to keep my heritage hidden. If anyone ever found out what I am, and what I can do, the entire fae territories would be coming for my head. That means we live from pay cheque to pay cheque. So when the most dangerous fae in the country chooses me to help him with a case, I have no choice but to say yes.

Ethan Hale is a cu sith, one of the finest assassins in the fae territories. If he finds out what I am, he’ll have me begging for death. And yet, I accepted the job to work with him so I can figure out who’s stealing god magic and selling it. People are dying, and it’s down to us to put at end to it.

Now, I have to work alongside the sinfully-sexy fae while trying to keep my secrets under wraps. The closer we get to unravelling this mystery, the closer I am to losing everything. One wrong step and it’ll all be over.

Crown of the Sundered Empire by J.C. KangCrown of the Sundered Empire by J.C. Kang:

Only the demon in Tomas’ glass eye can save his village.

It might cost him his soul.

In a broken land where conquerors dream of empires, Tomas dreams of a day when the townsfolk won’t taunt him. After all, he’s the fishing village kid with a misshapen face.

Only the Rune vendor’s daughter treats him well. To win her heart, he relies on a quick wit and local superstitions to convince her he has Diviner’s Sight.

But if he did, he would’ve foreseen magic-fearing invaders plucking out his mismatched eye.

Or the demon trapped in the glass replacement. It reveals a world beyond human vision, while whispering temptations in his mind.

Now, with his village caught between the advancing armies of the Sun God’s mortal descendants and His Chosen People, Tomas must use a combination of calculation, cunning, and demonic insight to maneuver the forces of his world against each other—prince against prince, princess against princess, army against army—or see his home crushed forever beneath the wheels of war.

But to do so carries a dire risk.

Because using a demon could condemn your soul.

Only the Lost by Amanda M. LeeOnly the Lost by Amanda M. Lee:

Izzy Sage is settling into her new job, enjoying her new romance, and only has one thing on her mind: Choosing a new assistant to help her at Belle Isle’s death gate. All of that changes when the gate malfunctions. Instead of dragging someone over, though, it sends five people back.Years ago, a group of trainees disappeared while on a tour of the facility. There was no rhyme or reason to what happened and the higher-ups assumed they died during the malfunction. Five of them have returned though, and they haven’t aged a day.Naturally, the reaper world is buzzing with the news. Izzy, however, thinks something bigger might be going on. Her belief only becomes stronger when another creature shows up in the middle of the night and attacks.The malfunctioning gate is hiding a sinister secret, and it might just have something to do with what happened to Izzy’s parents so many years ago. Oliver has ties to the initial incident, too, and even though he knew the men way back then, he’s discombobulated by what’s happening now. When you add to that the arrival of Paris Princeton, Izzy has her hands full.Thankfully she’s not alone on the job. She has the Grimlocks to back her play … and serve as emotional sounding boards. Together, Izzy and the Grimlocks are neck deep in trouble and searching for answers. They need to find them before the unthinkable happens and they lose one of their own, because when the gate starts acting weird again, someone is going to have to cross over to the other side – face death itself – and reclaim the most valuable prize imaginable.Izzy’s life is about to take a turn. Somehow, she needs to stay on her feet to see it through. That’s easier said than done when death is your business but if anyone can make it to the other side and live to tell the tale, it’s Izzy.It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Blood Harvest by Russ LintonBlood Harvest by Russ Linton:

Hunted by Death, one man will face the forces of Hell to get back home.

Former Baltimore cop Eustace “Ace” Grant is on a quest to find lost sorcery. An apprentice shaman, Ace walks the spirit realm in search of a cure for his terminal illness.

When asked to recover a Civil War sword, Ace finds traces of a magic more potent than he’s ever experienced. Forged in England by a smith in possession of the Primal Flame, the blade had been intended for a different battle entirely – the one at the end of time.

That battle upon us, it’s up to Ace to recover the sword. Without it, the world as we know it will be plunged into a nightmare. He’ll find the sword or die trying. That is if his ghostly mentor, Atofo, will only let go of his soul…

Unfinished Business by Catherine LundoffUnfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic by Catherine Lundoff:

Haunted houses. Vengeful spirits. Wronged women. A glimpse of a grim future and a visit to a terrifying past. Step inside for a taste of nightmare, a bit of the unexpected and a touch of the weird. 12 stories by award-winning author Catherine Lundoff including:

The Mask and the Amontillado
A Splash of Crimson
Bluebeard’s Wife
Duchess
Medium Méchanique
Miss Lucy’s Glass
Cherubim
Preserves
Haunted
Home Staging, with Phantasm
Firebird
The Temporary

Unfinished Business marks the launch of Queen of Swords Press “Mini” series. These books will be shorter books that feature single author short story collections or novella length works, each grouped around a single theme or shared set of characters. Essentially, they will function like a tasting menu to introduce authors to new audiences. This particular volume represents a sample of award-winning author Catherine Lundoff’s short horror, dark fantasy and weird stories in a mix of reprint and new work.

Once Upon a Rose by Lorri MoultonOnce Upon a Rose by Lorri Mouton:

In this clean/sweet fairytale, a princess uncovers a plot against her kingdom and tries to stop it with the help of her friends.

 

 

 

 

The Brothers of Redemption by D.E. MurrayThe Brothers of Redemption by D.E. Murray:

The Journey You Start Isn’t The One You Finish

It’s 2165. The family is gone. The world is ruled by the ferociously competitive, hierarchical Council of the Brotherhood Orders. Sons are bred in cohorts created by Alphas and surrogates.

Half-brothers Jed and Max Kleer are middle-aged burnouts who share little except an Alpha and a mysterious, unbreakable bond.

When an abducted girl drops into Jed’s life, the brothers resolve to guide her home.

What could possibly go wrong?

Everything.

The journey they start won’t be the one they finish.

The Sundering by Vanessa NelsonThe Sundering by Vanessa Nelson:

Nowhere and no one is safe.

Stripped of her rank and her calling by some of her most trusted friends, Yvonne is left shocked and bleeding.

Worse is to come. Not only are children still going missing, but she learns that the death of an old friend might not have been natural.

With old friendships torn apart, Yvonne must work out who she can trust if she is to find the truth.

The Sundering continues the story started in The Gathering. If you like your fantasy with plenty of mystery and magic, and a strong heroine, you’ll want to continue this fantasy series by Vanessa Nelson.

Unseen Voices by Christine PopeUnseen Voices by Christine Pope:

Project Demon Hunters is canceled…but apparently no one told the demons.

Knowing how the horrifying events that took place while filming Project Demon Hunters shook his friend Michael Covenant to the core, Will Gordon readily says yes to Michael’s request to be ready — as a friend and as an Episcopal priest — in case psychic Rosemary McGuire calls for help.

Rosemary doesn’t know exactly why the show was canceled…other than a demon murdered the show’s producer, and the network buried every scrap of harrowing footage under a ton of hacker-proof security.

When an independent filmmaker shows up at Rosemary’s metaphysical bookshop with tantalizing clues that a backup copy of the missing footage exists, she promises Michael she’ll call some crusty old priest “in a pinch,” and begins following a trail of impossibly tiny bread crumbs.

But that trail doesn’t just lead her somewhere. It leads something to Rosemary, alarming enough that she calls Michael’s priest friend…who turns out to be way younger and heroically handsome than she could have ever anticipated. But the heat between them may be no match for the demonic fire that grows hotter and more dangerous the closer they get to the truth.

Carpe Glitter by Cat RamboCarpe Glitter by Cat Rambo:

A novelette from Cat Rambo, author of The Tabat Quartet. What do you do when someone else’s past forces itself on your own life? Sorting through the piles left behind by a grandmother who was both a stage magician and a hoarder, Persephone Aim finds a magical artifact from World War II that has shaped her family history. Faced with her mother’s desperate attempt to take the artifact for herself, Persephone must decide whether to hold onto the past–or use it to reshape her future.

 

Tetrach's Dilemma by Jaxon ReedTetrarch’s Dilemma by Jaxon Reed:

Raleigh and his crew are tasked with guarding an outlying planet from enemy incursions, when they capture an old friend off a smuggler’s ship. The possibilities for an enormous sum of gold prove tantalizing . . . if they can survive the League Navy’s attempts at eradication.

Meanwhile the frontier planet of Halcyon stretches its wings, and pulls in support from Lute to begin a new planetary alliance. And Sergeant Wilcox teams up with Julia Thrall to help soften up the Republic’s next target . . . if the Ultima Mule can successfully port them in without detection.

Don’t miss the latest installment of this action-packed space opera serial!

The Frontier by Chris TurnerThe Frontier by Chris Turner:

Two space mercenaries face down crooks and corruption in the frontier worlds of the far future.

Yul Vrean visits his home world only to get embroiled in a corporate conspiracy to cheat a ranch owner out of his estate. Regers gets caught in the crossfires of a gang war over deadly alien contraband. Two unlikely allies on a much greater mission…

 

 

Chalenge of Steel by James David VictorChallenge of Steel by James David Victor:

In a world of genetic engineering, fantastic aliens, and faster than light travel, conspiracies and the quest for unlimited power can still tear the galaxy apart.

Anders Corsigon has spent his life bringing galactic criminals to justice. When a bizarre murder turns into a string of assassinations, he has to run an off-books investigation to try and find a killer who is protected from the highest levels of the empire. In a world where genetic engineering and clones are real, he must find a truth that could cost him his life.

Challenge of Steel is the first book in the Memories of Earth space opera series. If you enjoy stories in fantastic worlds of aliens, space travel, and genetic engineering, the Memories of Earth series will be right up your alley.

The Collected A.E. WilliamsThe Collected A.E. Williams: Volume 1 by A.E. Williams:

For the first time, all A.E. Williams’ published works are available as one single volume!

This is the perfect gift for the science fiction reader, science nerd or irascible curmudgeon in your life!

Terminal Reset – The Coming of the Wave

The breakout science fiction novel that explores an alternate history where everyone one earth regresses forty years in age! Dr. David Harding and Dr. Tatania Golovonov must find a way to survive in a world gone mad! Regressed to teenagers, the two fight to find a way to reverse the effects of The Wave, a force from out of Time and Space. Filled with excitement and action, Terminal Reset will have you on the edge of your seat!

Terminal Reset – Return of the Wanderers
A strange spaceship enters the outer boundaries of the Solar System, returning from an eons long mission. But, who are the inhabitants and what do they want with Earth?

Taking place in the same universe as Terminal Reset, this story explores the implications of ancient civilizations and how they have affected our evolution. Mars isn’t just our neighbor in space! Another exciting tale for your science fiction enjoyment!

Rocket Surgeon
A.E. Williams essays on AGW, the Space Race, Hollywood and other tales to entertain and fascinate you! Get a behind the curtains peek at Relativity, rocket science, jet engine testing and other cool nerdy things that A.E. has done! Find out why the world probably won’t end tomorrow, but is sure to do so in the distant future! Travel in space and time and maybe learn a thing or two about our Universe. Climb aboard for another wild ride from the redoubtable A.E. Williams!

The Unholy Trinity Series
The infamous trilogy of cutting, biting satires that lampoon today’s headlines!

Second Coming – Jesus bets His half-brother, Lucifer that the bet God made with him regarding Job can be done, again, and better. The implications are breathtaking! Does the Big J wind up the victor? Or, does the Devil get his due?

Anno Domini – Jesus and Lucifer’s betting is getting out of hand! This time, Jesus bets that the souls of the most outstanding humans ever born can redeem Mankind from original Sin. But, there’s a catch! A Virgin Birth is part of the scheme, but maybe Jesus didn’t think everything through?

Imperius Wrecks – A satirical and humorous look at one possible future! A nightmare or a dream – you get to decide.
In the far distant future, a nun is tasked with ancient rituals descended from one man’s egotistical grasp for power and immortality. Could this really happen?

Filled with religious references, popular concerns of the day, and a cast of totally fictional characters, this satire puts a spin on current events that will have you spitting coffee all over yourself in shock, from laughing or pure unadulterated rage. You’ll be aghast at the content, the implications and the mirror held up to our world.

Come along as A.E. Williams once more pulls no punches as he slams the One Percent, Religion and Political parties of all stripes!

BLUB by Bradley WindBULB by Bradley Wind:

If light records everything we do, can even shadows hide our secrets?

Imagine your entire life is available for review.
Imagine each day any event can be watched over and over again – your birth, your first kiss, your recent shower, that private itch – all replayable from any angle. Now imagine these can be viewed by anyone at any time.

Is a world where there is far less ego, little crime, and even the smallest moments are recorded and available publicly through the ‘Grand Archive’ a Utopia or a Dystopia? Traumatized by memories he does not want to recall, artist Ben Tinthawin is recruited by the enigmatic, Grand Archive creator Dr. Mamon, who seeks help for his nextgen designs to enhance the world. Ben stumbles across a secret revealing the doctor’s true scheme in all its surreal splendor and questions whether the doctor really is the benevolent soul he claims to be.As the paths of a broken man and a brilliant revolutionary cross, the world shifts and cracks start to appear. Even our most fundamental codes can be encrypted – or corrupted. If the wrong information is discovered, more than Ben’s life will be in danger of total shut down.

Prepare yourself for full exposure.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for October 2019

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

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

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have harboiled mysteries, cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, animal mysteries, historical mysteries, Victorian mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, action thrillers, psychological thrillers, spy thrillers, legal thrillers, disaster thrillers, police procedurals, romantic suspense, police officers, private investigators, amateur sleuths, lawyers, spies, thieves, assassins, cults, kidappings, heists, forbidden love, pregnant vigilantes, murderd Santas, crime-busting witches, crime-busting clock repairers, crime-busting hotel managers, crime-busting Jane Rochester nee Eyre, murders in small towns and big cities, in country manors and the circus, in New Orleans, Miami, Alaska, California, the Cotswolds and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

Sand, Sea and a Skeleton by Cindy BellSand, Sea and a Skeleton by Cindy Bell:

Best friends, Suzie and Mary, love running Dune House, the majestic bed and breakfast on the beach, with their adorable, yellow Labrador, Pilot, by their side. They are enjoying living and working together and are looking forward to hosting a national walking group in Garber for a few days.

But when they stumble across a skeleton, they find themselves right in the middle of a baffling mystery. Who is the victim? Who is the murderer? And why? Then something from the crime scene disappears.

Suzie and Mary have to traverse a maze of clues and suspects in order to unravel the mystery. But will the trail lead the sleuths down the wrong path. They find themselves juggling running the bed and breakfast, their developing romances and helping crack the mystery.

Suzie and Mary walk straight towards danger. Will they be able to stay alive long enough to solve this perplexing whodunit?

What I Did For Love by Mickey J. CorriganWhat I Did For Love by Mickey J. Corrigan:

What happens when a teacher falls for her student?

After her seventeen-year-old student fails to live up to his potential in class, Cathriona O’Hale conducts a parent-teacher meeting with the boy’s widowed father. He is attractive, intelligent, and exceedingly wealthy, everything an unmarried middle-aged woman would normally find appealing. But O’Hale is not your average forty-something. She’s a wild card who has a crush on the man’s teenage son.

As the relationship between O’Hale and the man blossoms, she finds herself juggling father and son while battling the true source of her lust and forbidden love.

So when the father proposes, O’Hale has a choice to make –

Love or crime?

And when her decision is made, the consequences might just be deadly…

Swamp Santa by Jana DeLeonSwamp Santa by Jana DeLeon:

It’s Christmas in Sinful and Fortune is set to participate in all the local hoopla. A Christmas gala, caroling, and a sleigh ride are on the agenda. Murder is not. But when someone bumps off Santa, Fortune is aware a killer is lurking among the holiday cheer. But with no client and no reason to interfere with a police investigation, it looks as if Fortune, Ida Belle, and Gertie will have to sit this one out.Big and Little Hebert might be criminals, but they prefer no competition in their territory, especially someone brazen enough to kill a man at the Christmas gala. When they hire Fortune to investigate the man’s death, she gets her Christmas wish and Swamp Team 3 sets out to solve their final case of the year.

Guest from Hell by Mike FaricyGuest From Hell by Mike Faricy:

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!
Roxy LaRue is in deep weeds…

She’s on the hook for 1.2 million.
Some not very nice guys want their money NOW!

Ever the gentleman, Dev Haskell offers to help.

The police are pounding on his door at two in the morning!
There’s a drive-by shooting on his front porch!
Someone firebombs his house!

Things quickly go downhill from there.

A Fistful of Demons by Lily Harper HartA Fistful of Demons by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok is slipping into her new life as owner of Casper Creek – a cosplay western town – and newly-minted witch. She thinks she has everything under control … until demons come calling.At first, she’s not even certain what she’s dealing with. A freak accident claims the life of a father, leaving him exposed during a sudden sandstorm, and his son’s reaction (complete with glowing red eyes) leaves a lot to be desired.Cooper Wyatt, head of security for the resort, wants to believe her when she explains what she saw but it’s not exactly easy for him. As the evidence starts to mount, though, demon possession becomes the name of the game.As a new witch, Hannah has no idea what she’s supposed to do. That doesn’t stop her from wanting to be proactive. Unfortunately for her, the emergence of new powers – coupled with the realization that something beyond a simple demon possession is going on – quickly becomes overwhelming.The workers at Casper Creek are going to have to join together – maybe even enlist some outside help – to figure out all the answers and solve the ultimate dilemma.A young boy’s life hangs in the balance and Hannah is determined to make sure she doesn’t lose an innocent soul so early in her reign as Casper Creek’s head witch. All she has to do is survive until the end and then everything will be revealed.That’s easier said than done.

Letter of the Law by Cynthia E. HurstLetter of the Law by Cynthia E. Hurst:

Alfred Sutton’s past is catching up with him – in the form of the wife he thought he’d left behind twenty years earlier. But now she stands between him and the wealthy woman he wants to marry, and no one will emerge unscathed from this legal and marital triangle, least of all Sutton.

When Sutton collapses and dies on the street of a Cotswold market town, one of the eyewitnesses is clock repairer Jacob Silver. But what exactly did he see? Jacob and his wife Sarah join forces with the police to probe Sutton’s tangled love life and discover who has managed to commit a murder without leaving a clue behind.

Agent Assassin by Ethan JonesAgent Assassin by Ethan Jones:

Can an assassin have a conscience?

While hunting for the truth about his past, former Russian FSB agent Max Thorne has lost any sense of innocence or hope. But striving for redemption, he joins the Special Operations Team, an elite international assassins team so secret even top level FSB brass doesn’t know it exists and so deadly that few leave alive.

Reeling from inexcusable mistakes and now working with even darker forces, Max is confronted with insidious choices and inescapable scenarios. With no way out, will Max be able to suppress his conscience to execute his harrowing assignments? Or, will he fail, putting his family in peril and betraying his own?

Join Max as he faces the darkness that is the secret service the only way he knows how … head on.

Savage Grace by Emily KimelmanSavage Grace by Emily Kimelman:

The only thing more terrifying than taking a life is creating one.

The positive pregnancy test rocks my world harder than any bomb or bullet. Like the hurricane bearing down on Miami, it threatens total destruction.

I’m confident I can escape Miami, evade the mercenaries intent on killing me, and uncover the people who hired them. But telling the father I’m pregnant… raising a child…

I’m not cut out for motherhood.

I know I’ll survive. It’s everyone I love who dies.

That changes now.

The Hour of Fatality: A Jane Rochester MysteryThe Hour of Fatality: A Jane Rochester Mystery by LeAnne McKinley:

Thornfield Hall is not the only mansion hiding a perilous secret.

Charlotte Brontë’s literary heroine, Jane Eyre, is newly married to Mr. Rochester, but her honeymoon bliss is marred when a dangerous outbreak of typhoid fever threatens her life. To escape their disease-ridden house, Mr. Rochester departs with her to the nearest refuge open to them: Ingram Park, home of the haughty and beautiful Blanche Ingram.

Jane isn’t expecting a warm reception from her aristocratic hosts, but she hardly anticipates a stranger on the garden path with a bullet wound in his chest—and an inexplicable confession on his lips. The residents of Ingram Park are concealing a secret, and at least one of them is willing to sacrifice a man’s life in order to hide the truth.

Aided by Mr. Rochester’s long experience, Jane must rely on her courage, wit, and intuition if she is to identify the vindictive shooter, or the next attack will surely prove to be fatal.

Snow Laughing Matter by Wendy MeadowsSnow Laughing Matter by Wendy Meadows:

Will Sarah fall victim to a deadly killer set on destroying her life? Or will she force herself to use her cop instincts to outsmart the riddles of a clown who turns laughter into screams?

While Conrad is away helping a friend in New York, Sarah and Amanda go see a circus that is visiting the small town of Snow Falls. Even though Sarah is sad because her attempts to become pregnant have yet to bear fruit, she decides to enjoy the circus show. After the show, Sarah and Amanda find a pie in Sarah’s jeep, and another one waiting at Sarah’s cabin door. Suddenly the fun night turns mysterious and dangerous. A killer has left a deadly message for Sarah to find.

Events turn worse when a circus worker is murdered. The killer’s style of murder tells Sarah exactly who he is. Sarah is torn, caught between the desire to walk away from being a cop and the need to catch a killer. The hunger to become a mother blocks her skill to think clearly. But after having a talk with Pete, Sarah gets back on track and begins to track down the killer. Only the killer has a new face and a completely new identity—along with a secret trick up his sleeve.

Dangerous Stakes by G.K. ParksDangerous Stakes by G.K. Parks:

After three months undercover, Detective Liv DeMarco isn’t any closer to closing her case. Her target, Axel Kincaid, is smart and ruthless. His forte – stealing cars. His temperament- violent. And his legitimate business keeps half the judges and city officials entertained, so collecting enough evidence to put him behind bars is nearly impossible.

But when a parking attendant is murdered and two exotic sports cars are stolen, all bets are off. There’s just one problem. Axel claims to have an airtight alibi, but there are more than a few holes in his story.

The only thing Liv knows for sure is someone is determined to get away with murder, and now the killer has set his sights on her.

Will she stop the murderous thief before he strikes again? Or will she become his next victim?

Murder in the Rain by Stephen RandorfMurder in the Rain by Stephen Randorf

Baseball was not a sport Detective Bass understood, nor was he familiar with the fine art of the fashion industry, but when a small-time hoodlum’s body was pulled from a frozen river on a cold February morning, that he understood.

In this unsettling case of a murdered informant, one murder led to another, and passions heightened as Detective Bass closed in on kidnappers, gamblers, and a love-obsessed baseball player.

 

Men Like Us by Hollis ShilohMen Like Us by Hollis Shiloh:

Ollie Boyd enjoys Jack Finley’s company, likes to make him laugh, and wants to work with him…and maybe something more than that. It sure is confusing to have these feelings for another guy, and in the homophobic 1950s, it’s not really safe.

Jack Finley finds time for Ollie, sure, but he’s just humoring a friend. He’s a tough private eye. He’s certainly not indulging secretly in a crush, no matter how attractive or charming Ollie might be. Jack’s smart and careful, and he’s been around the block. It’s hard enough to be who he is without taking on extra trouble.

But now Jack needs some help, after a botched Good Samaritan act leaves him broken in body and spirit. Ollie wants to be the one who’s there for him. He also wants to figure out these feelings—even if they mean he’s in pretty deep trouble.

A whole lot of bumps in the road—including blackmail and murder—might take these two down more dangerous streets than they’d guess…together.

The Trial by Rachel SinclairThe Trial by Rachel Sinclair:

A young boy dying of a lethal disease…

A corporation’s greed is the cause…

Avery Collins must get justice and possibly find the person who can save his life…

Avery Collins, social justice warrior, has a new case, only it’s not a criminal case.

Not yet, anyway.

12 year old Frankie Jamison is dying, and nobody quite knows why. Avery knows Frankie through Regina, as Frankie is the son of Lorinda, one of Regina’s best friends from the street. Lorinda has nothing in her life, nothing but her young son, and now she’s losing even that.

With nobody to turn to, Lorinda tells Avery her story, and Avery at first dismisses it. It’s a sad story, but what can she do?

But, with Regina’s persistence, Avery decides to look a little deeper. And what she finds is corruption and greed at the highest level. Not to mention a cover-up that goes higher than Avery could ever imagine.

Is there a chance that this young kid can find justice and a cure? Avery becomes determined to find out, while also being determined that the bastards who are behind this kid’s illness are brought to justice.

And Avery always gets justice, no matter how she has to do it.

The Big Crazy by Julie SmithThe Big Crazy by Julie Smith:

August 29, 2005 – Doomsday: New Orleans is eighty per cent under water—no electricity, no phones, no 911 service, no rules. Facing the complete breakdown of systems and normality, New Orleans homicide Detective Skip Langdon is on her own to interpret and execute the only direction she’s given: Get out there and keep the peace.

With communications down and all emergency services on search and rescue, all Skip can hope to accomplish is helping the person right in front of her. More than once that person turns out to be Billy, a gutsy 15-year-old from Treme who’s in greater danger of being swamped by his chaotic home life than the Cat 5 hurricane Skip shelters him from.

When she escorts him home and discovers the scene of a possible homicide, homicide detecting must take a back seat to maintaining order—if not peace. Outrageous rumors are swirling, stirring up unrest, but what really bothers her is the one about a police department order to use the chaos as a cover for “cleaning up” by rounding up criminals and assassinating them. Now that just can’t be true. Can it?

But after she hears it for the third time, Skip teams up with the only cop in the city she’s positive she can trust, her former partner, movie-star handsome, kickass, praline-sweet Adam Abasolo. They may not be able to fix everything, but, as the bodies pile up, they are damn sure going to hit back at the guys who’re giving their department a black eye.

On any regular weekday, New Orleans lives up to its billing as The Big Crazy. In post-Katrina New Orleans, where the dirty cops and lunatics are running the asylum, author Julie Smith also takes us inside the actual asylum, Charity Hospital emergency psych unit, an unexpected oasis of comfort in stark contrast to endless amounts of ever-present filthy water and hordes of half-drowned people.

ill-fated by Jody Wennerill-fated by Jody Wenner:

When Shana’s father joins a cult, she tries to find someone, anyone who will help her. Unsuccessful, she takes on the monumental task of fixing it herself. Eventually, she gets some support from the families of the other followers. Adding to her problems, the person she connects with the most is the leader’s son. She figures that’s the worst of it, until the rest of the group is found dead, and her dad is charged with eleven counts of first-degree murder and arson. With the trial looming, everything starts to nosedive as new revelations about the cult and their bizarre philosophies come to light. Shana’s confidence in her dad begins to waver. Maybe he isn’t a victim after all?

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Old Directors Yell at Clouds – Pardon, Superheroes

This October seems to be “aging directors lash out at superhero movies” month. Martin Scorsese, director of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Casino and others, fired the first volley during an interview to promote his latest film, The Irishman, which is – big surprise – a drama about gangsters, when he said:

“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”

He continued: “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

My initial reaction to Martin Scorsese’s remarks was, “I could say the exact same thing about his films. I tried to watch them, I really tried, and I’ll never get the hours I spent sitting through Taxi Driver or Gangs of New York back. But I’m sorry, I just cannot connect with the kind of white dude arseholes who are the protagonists of Scorsese’s movies.” I may never have been a superhero, but I find Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and the rest of the gang much more relatable than anybody in Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy or Goodfellas or Casino.

Also, Scorsese and his ilk don’t have a monopoly on cinema. Scorsese movies are cinema, Marvel movies are cinema, Star Wars movies are cinema, Casablanca is cinema, shitty sequels that no one ever asked for like Hangover 3 and Police Academy 6 are cinema, so bad it’s funny junk like Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Terminal Velocity or Beyond the Law are cinema (and some of the reviews for Beyond the Law are not nearly as bad as that movie deserves). The infamously inept Plan 9 From Outer Space is cinema. Even a hateful piece of Nazi propaganda shit like Jud Süß is still cinema. Many of these are not good cinema and some of them are extraordinarily bad cinema. Cinema is the medium, not a quality indicator. And quality is at least partly subjective anyway – see the positive reviews for Beyond the Law, which has been sitting on my personal “worst movies of all time” list for more than twenty years now. Though I seriously hope that there is no one out there who actually likes Jud Süß.

Scorsese later attempted to clarify his remarks and only succeeded in digging the hole even deeper. Apparently, Scorsese thinks that Marvel movies are amusement parks who are trying to invade movie theatres and that cinema owners should stop showing so many Marvel movies and show more “narrative movies”.

And we shouldn’t be invaded by it. So, that’s a big issue. We need the theater owners to step up for that to allow theaters to show more films that are narrative films. A narrative film can be one long take for three hours, you know. It doesn’t have to be a conventional beginning or end.

Scorsese contrasting superhero movies with narrative films is really rich considering that even the worst superhero movies still manage to tell coherent stories and that Marvel managed the feat of telling a serialised story over 23 films. Meanwhile in Scorsese’s films, things just randomly happen with no real regard for any rules of storytelling.

For example, in Taxi Driver (I told you I tried to watch his movies) I expected that the political candidate Robert De Niro’s character tries to assassinate would turn out to be connected to the child prostitution ring from which he tries to rescue a very young Jodie Foster, but those two threads never connect. But it was only when I sat through three hours or so of Gangs of New York, waiting for the climactic battle between Leonardo di Caprio and Daniel Day Lewis and their respective gangs, the battle the entire movie had been building towards, only for a battleship to show up, shell New York City and shoot all the combatants dead, that I realised that Scorsese cannot tell a story. The man has a great talent for visuals, but he cannot tell a satisfying story. Because no one sits through three hours of film that builds to a climactic battle, only for that climactic battle to be cut short by battleship ex machina. And indeed, the only Scorsese movies that tell satisfying stories are those where he has borrowed a story from elsewhere, e.g. Hugo, which is the only Scorsese film I ever enjoyed, or The Last Temptation of Christ where he borrowed from one of the most famous stories of all time, or The Departed, which won Scorsese an Oscar and borrows the plot from the vastly superior Infernal Affairs. That said, there is another Scorsese movie I kind of liked, namely his early attempt Boxcar Bertha. Okay, so it’s a typical late 1960s/early 1970s movie supposedly set during the 1930s, which looks nothing like the 1930s, but it’s entertaining enough. But even Boxcar Bertha has a weird and unsatisfying ending, where David Carradine is crucified against the side of a boxcar, because of reasons.

Francis Ford Coppola was the next to weigh in on superhero movies, when he said in an interview:

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.”

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Mind you, Coppola is still talking about Marvel movies, when he is calling them despicable, not about Nazi propaganda movies or their Soviet or American equivalents, which truly are despicable. As for audiences watching the same movie over and over again, that’s rich coming from the director who made three Godfather movies and recut Apocalypse Now umpteen times and somehow managed to make the movie worse every time (and I actually liked Apocalypse Now, when I first saw it).

Ken Loach, British director of socially conscious working class dramas, also felt the need to weigh in on superhero movies in an interview with Sky News:

They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating and it’s not about sharing our imagination.

It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise.

They’re market exercise and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said ‘when money is discussed – art is impossible’.

Now Loach doesn’t really fit in with Coppola and Scorsese, since he’s from another country and another continent, though he came up at the same time and all three directors focus a lot on the plight of the overwhelming white, overwhelmingly male working class, though Ken Loach’s characters are usually less awful than Scorsese’s or Coppola’s. Also, I’m pretty sure that even if Ken Loach doesn’t care about making a profit, his producers do or he’d be out of a job.

Quite a lot of directors and actors affiliated with Marvel have weighed in by now, either with disappointment along the lines of “I like your movies and defended you against the haters about The Last Temptation of Christ, so why do you trash my movies without ever having seen them?” or with statements along the lines of “Well, they can say whatever they want and we can disagree.”

As I said above, taste is subjective and Scorsese, Coppola and Loach have every right not to like superhero movies, just as I have every right not to enjoy most of their movies. And if those directors had simply responded to the question how they feel about superhero movies with a simple, “Sorry, not my thing.” reply, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But they decided to be condescending about it and so the internet blew up.

Somewhere in this debate someone also pointed out that Scorsese and Coppola really shouldn’t complain about superhero movies being all the same, considering that they have both made the same gangster movie over and over again. Whereupon someone else pointed out that while Scorsese and Coppola had both made several movies about organised crime, all of those movies were completely different.

Now of course, there is a huge spectrum of superhero movies. Superhero movies range from the charming goofiness of Guardians of the Galaxy to the grimness of The Dark Knight and Logan, from the childlike sweetness of Shazam to the raunchiness of Deadpool, from small stories like Ant-Man to huge universe-shattering spectacles like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Nor are gangster movies all the same. The gangster movies of the 1930s (which I quite like) are completely different from those of the 1970s and 1980s, just as The Godfather, Goodfellas and Casino are all different from each other. However, if you don’t like superhero movies, all of them look the same and blur together into “this thing I don’t like”. And if you don’t like gangster movies, particularly the 1970s/80s auteur variety thereof, they all tend to blur together as well.

I don’t even exclude myself here. Now the “New Hollywood” era that lasted from approx. 1967 to 1980 and the equivalents in other countries such as the New German Cinema of roughly the same time is probably my most disliked movie era of all time. I’ve repeatedly tried to watch the highly regarded movies of that era, most notably as a budding teenaged cineast, and I inevitably disliked them. One or two movies might have been a fluke, but ten or twenty? Whatever it was that made critics praise those movies so highly, I just couldn’t see it. The protagonists were always arseholes who behaved abominably and became criminals because of reasons, they were inevitably played by unattractive men and they inevitably died at the end, usually shot down in a hail of bullets and a spray of Kryolan blood. There usually were women and some of them were even played by attractive actresses, but they played no real role except as the long suffering girlfriend/wife of the protagonist. Often, they died as well. The colour palettes were beige, washed out and ugly, supposedly historical movies looked nothing like the period they were allegedly set in. Even the entertainment movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s – the big Irving Allen disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno, the various dystopian science fiction movies of that era like Soylent Green or Rollerball, the German Johannes Mario Simmel adaptations, sappy romances like Love Story, action movies like The French Connection, Dirty Harry or Death Wish, musicals like Saturday Night Fever or horror movies like The Exorcist – were invitably ugly, depressing and dull with protagonists so unlikeable you wished they’d just hurry up and die already. Never mind that many of what are now regarded classics of the New Hollywood era – The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now – were genre films and often considered violent, disposable trash when they first came out.

Those movies often blur together, because the same few actors appeared in all of them – Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and if it was a dystopian SF film, Charlton Heston. The directors – Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Cimino (whom I expected to weigh in, until I remembered that he was dead), William Friedkin, Brian de Palma – also blur together and I usually have to look up who made which movie, because I honestly cannot remember. After plenty of attempts to watch the so-called “New Hollywood” movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, I eventually decided that some unknown brain virus must have infected the whole western world (because similar patterns can be observed in other countries) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, until it was cured when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (both of whom ironically started out as New Hollywood directors as did Sylvester Stallone) came along and finally made good movies again.

My adult self has a view that is a bit more nuanced, though I still don’t like the movies of the “New Hollywood” or the “New German Cinema” era and never will. My adult self can see that many of those movies, particularly those by Scorsese and Coppola, have a lot of visual flair. And there are movies from that era that I like quite a bit (The Graduate, American Graffiti, A Clockwork Orange, many of the dystopian SF movies, some Italian westerns, the Billy Jack movies and some of the cheap and trashy grindhouse and Blaxploitation movies of the time) and often liked even as a teen, only that I never realised that they played in the cinema alongside the movies I disliked so much. And even for many movies I don’t like, I can see what the appeal was once upon a time, because the action in 1970s movies was more dynamic than in earlier films, the violence was bloodier, the horror more visceral. Chase scenes like in French Connection, visceral horror like in The Exorcist or Carrie or blood baths like in Bonnie and Clyde or The Wild Bunch were not something that had been seen in movies before the late 1960s/early 1970s, though even by the 1980s, they had been eclipsed by the action and horror movies of that very action and horror heavy decade. As as so often, when you see the imitators first (or at least have heard of them, since I was too young to watch most of the 1980s action and horror movies in the theatre), the original pales in comparison.

Because movies do borrow from each other and techniques which first appeared in auteur movies later seeped into entertainment cinema and vice versa. Michael Ballhaus invented his iconic circling shot for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s movie Martha, a lesser entry in the annals of the New German Cinema, and later deployed it again in After Hours by – yes, Martin Scorsese. However, the most iconic use of the Ballhaus circling shot – though not helmed by Ballhaus himself – in recent times is in Avengers, when the Avengers assemble for the first time to face down the Chitauri invasion. Joss Whedon seems to be a fan of the Ballhaus circling shot anyway, since it also appears in Serenity, though that scene isn’t available online.

As for the brain eating virus that infected the whole western world, that virus was simply television, more precisely colour television, since colour was the one thing that movies had that TV didn’t. For movie quality took a nosedive wherever television and particularly colour television reached a certain saturation point. This is why movie quality begins to decline in the US before it happened in Germany and elsewhere, because in the US TV reached its saturation point first. The end of the cinematic doldrums also happened at different times. The US begins to emerge from the doldrums by the mid 1970s, whereas in Germany they’d last throughout the 1980s. But it is a pattern that is observable throughout the western world and probably beyond as well. Indeed, when I asked my parents and other people who had been old enough to watch adult movies in the 1960s and 1970s just what possessed them to watch such awful movies, the answers were either “sex” (for softcore trash like the Schulmädchen-Report series) or “We didn’t watch those movies” (for pretty much everything else). For example, my Mom can recall watching Hitchcock, James Bond and Edgar Wallace movies as well as an endless stream of German Heimatfilme in the cinema, but she cannot recall watching any of the big name movies of the 1970s in the cinema or indeed anywhere at all. Because like many other people, my parents stopped going to the cinema at some point in the late 1960s and didn’t start going again, until I was old enough to be taken to Disney movies.

And as the numbers of theatregoers crashed and TV took over many of the bread and butter genres – westerns, cop dramas, musicals, family fare – young directors, often straight from film school, jumped in and filled the void. They were often given carte blanche and with hardly any strictures, they followed their personal visions and made whatever movies they liked. A handful of which were good, some of which were innovative and many of which were pretty bad. And the studios let those directors do whatever they wanted, as long as they made a profit. And with rapid inflation in the 1970s, which drove up ticket prices, they usually did. Until several of those movies grossly exceeded their budget (Apocalypse Now and most notably, Heaven’s Gate) and flopped, whereupon the studios took the reigns in hand again. Meanwhile, some of those young directors had hit by experimentation upon something that cinema could still do better than TV, namely the sort of spectacle (Star Wars, Jaws) you want to see on the big screen rather than on TV. And thus the blockbuster era began in the US.

So in short, the New Hollywood era was a transitional period where movies tried to find their role in a world increasingly saturated by television. A lot of experiments were tried, most failed, some were successful and others eventually led to something completely different than what their creators had envisioned, e.g. the action movies of the 1980s have their roots in semi-serious movies of the 1970s. Eventually, movies found their equilibrium again and the world moved on. However, the adoration for the New Hollywood movies among critics and self-proclaimed cineasts is still excessive, considering that the New Hollywood era only lasted a little over ten years and that a lot of the movies of that time have huge issues with regard to gender, race and violence. After all, a lot of New Hollywood movies are about conservative leaning white men violently destroying other white men as well as anything that is not a white man. The thing that horrified me most about Taxi Driver was the fountain of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks that came out of Robert De Niro’s mouth during his famous monologues. His character was clearly a horrible person and potentially murderous psychopath. Ditto for Don Vito Corleone and his family or the trio of soldiers from The Deer Hunter.

And I strongly suspect that part of the reason why we are seeing such a backlash against superhero movies now, led by directors who came up in a previous era, is because Scorsese, Coppola, Loach et all know that they’re long past their prime. All three of them were once innovators, but they have been making increasingly pale copies of the kind of movies that once made them famous for years now. The working class dramas of Ken Loach haven’t been new in a long time and in the era of Brexit I increasingly find that I don’t care what happens to those people. Martin Scorsese had become the butt of the joke that he’d never win an Oscar and when he finally won one, people wondered why he was still making movies. When the first trailers for The Irishman arrived, the most common reaction was, “Hasn’t he made that movie like three times already?” As for Coppola, the last movie he made that got any kind of attention was Bram Stoker’s Dracula back in 1992. The money is no longer flowing as freely either. Coppola’s magnum opus Megalopolis has been in development hell for years now and Scorsese had to go to Netflix to get The Irishman made.

Furthermore, as time passes the faults of the New Hollywood era are becoming increasingly apparent, as more and more people realise that the New Hollywood emperor has no clothes and never had any to begin with. Younger viewers and film students are no longer swallowing the dogma that those movies are great works of art and that anybody who says otherwise has no taste. Just as I didn’t swallow that dogma thirty years ago.

Because for all their flaws, today’s superhero movies are a lot more diverse in front and behind the camera, then the highly touted movies of the New Hollywood era, which were made by and for a very narrow slice of people. It’s no accident that directors, actors and characters of those movies are all white and male and either Italian-American or members of some other immigrant group (the characters in The Deer Hunter are all descendants of Russian immigrants). There are a lot of people who never saw themselves reflected in those movies – women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, people who are not American – and who likely never much cared for those movies either, because the big Scorsese or Coppola fanboys are mostly white dudes themselves.

Saladin Ahmed says it best in the following tweet:

Yes, superhero movies are still overwhelmingly white and male, but we get the occasional Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Aquaman in front of the camera and the occasional Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi and Patty Jenkins behind the camera. As for why they are so popular at the moment, there are a lot of hot takes involving September 11, 2001, and people craving black and white morality and the general infantilisation of the US/the West. However, I think the answers are far simpler. For starters, the Marvel movies, which are the gold standard here, as well as the better examples from other studios are extremely well made and highly entertaining. Marvel movie always give you a good time and leave you feeling elated afterwards. Those movies also work, because they tap into decades of comic storytelling, distilling what made those stories so compelling to generations of readers and transferring it to a different medium (which many of the earlier pre-2000 superhero movies failed to do).

Superhero tales usually have a handful of core narratives which pop up over and over again. Marvel’s core stories are the story of the jerk with a heart of gold who must undergo an ordeal in the wilderness to learn that with great power comes great responsibility (Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange), the story of the hated outsider who nonetheless fights to protect a world who fears and hates them (Hulk, the X-Men, the Submariner and again Spider-Man), the story of the physically weak or disabled person who suddenly gains powers and uses them to make the world a better place (Captain America, Daredevil, Professor X), the story of the reformed villain who redeems themselves (Black Widow, Loki, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Rogue, Gamora, Nebula, Hawkeye in the comics) and the story of the band of lonely misfits who come together and become greater than the sum of their parts (Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy and every team book ever). Furthermore, the Marvel movies in particular have another core message that appears in every single movie, often explicitly stated in the dialogue, namely that it’s not the powers, the costume or the gadgets that makes the hero, but the person inside. It’s a message aimed at every single person in the audience that tells them, “You don’t need powers or a costume. You can be better. You can make a difference. You can be a hero.” Is it any wonder that we want to hear that message over and over again? Because considering the difficult times we live in, this is a message we need.

And now take a look at the messages that movies by Scorsese, Coppola, Loach, etc… convey. Their message is “Life is unfair and crap and you have no power.” Loach usually stops there, but Scorsese, Coppola and the rest of the New Hollywood bunch go one step further and add, “Because life is unfair anyway, you might as well stop following the rules and just take what you want and attack those who annoy you. Of course, you’ll probably get killed in the end, but did we mention that life is unfair?” And they honestly wonder why people no longer want to listen to that message over and over again?

Not that there aren’t plenty of issues with the current flood of superhero movies and the current era of cinema with its reliance on sequels, reboots and remakes in general. Disney’s market dominance is a problem, both with regard to their ability to silence or blackball creatives, though they eventually took James Gunn back, and with regard to their ability to just pull movies from the market and place them into their vault, as this article explains.

Now I am a comic fan of old and like superhero movies. And so the current golden age of superhero movies is a dream come true for me, where I finally get to see plenty of characters on the big screen that I never expected to see there, in well made movies with excellent actors, great production values and stories that capture what made the comics so compelling. However, I also realise that not everybody likes superhero movies and I know the pain of cinemas being full of some genre of movies you don’t like. After all, I felt the same during the glut of westerns (and anybody who hates superhero movies should remember that the glut of westerns lasted from the silent era into the 1970s, i.e. almost fifty years), the glut of Vietnam war movies in the 1980s (and WWII movies in the 1960s), the glut of gangster movies in the 1970s/80s (and the 1930s) or the glut of romantic comedies in the 1990s. Oddly enough, however, I never hear the usual suspects complaining about too many westerns or war movies or gangster movies, though romantic comedies, Star Wars knock-off space operas and even the mini-trend of YA novel adpatations approx. ten years ago all got dinged. Gee, I wonder why that is.

That said, the range of movies in the cinemas has become more narrow and yes, the focus on tentpoles and blockbusters is to blame for this. However, what’s being squeezed out are not the Oscar-baits and arthouse movies. Those still get made, though they may have to go to Netflix for financing. And Netflix will make sure that those movies are long enough in the theatres to be eligible for Oscars and other awards. Martin Scorsese will likely nab an Oscar nomination for The Irishman, though he probably won’t win. However, what is being squeezed out is the middle range of movies, the bread and butter entertainment stuff, that rarely broke box office records, but still made enough money to be profitable. What’s missing are the romantic comedies, the serial killer thrillers, the gritty cop dramas, the action films, the relationship and family dramas, the teen comedies, the soap operatic romances, the horror movies, the kiddie films that are not Disney, the science fiction movies that are not part of a franchise. There still are movies like that being made, but much fewer than there used to be. And many of them sink without a trace. And that is a pity, because enjoyable as Marvel movies are, there only are about two or three of them every year, plus maybe four or five other superhero movies (mostly DC based, but also non-Marvel movies about Marvel characters and the occasional independent), half of which will be bad, as well as a handful of non-superhero blockbusters (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Pixar/Disney kiddie movies, Harry Potter tie-ins, etc…), half of which will also be bad. That leaves a lot of room for other films.

But the fault here lies not with superhero movies, but with a filmmaking climate that is almost exclusively focussed on blockbusters and tentpoles on the one hand and awards bait on the other and ignores the middle ground. And the ones suffering are not the Scorseses, Coppolas and Loaches. After all, their place in cinema history is assured. No, the Scorseses, Coppolas and Loaches of the future are the ones suffering, because with the whole middle ground of movies breaking away, they never even get a chance. But the solution is not fewer superhero movies, but more other movies and a greater variety of them.

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Time Travel, Bond Rip-offs and the Fashion for Folksy Rural Themes in the 1960s

Blogging has been light over here for the past two weeks or so, but today I am over at Galactic Journey again, where I review the post-apocalyptic novel Davy by Edgar Pangborn in a double post together with Victoria Silverwolf, who reviews No Man on Earth by Walter Moudy, an author I’d never heard about before today. According to ISFDB, Moudy’s career was brief. In addition to his lone novel, he published a handful of short stories in the mid 1960s in the SFF magazines edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli. After a promising start, he vanished from the SFF scene and died much too early at the age of only 43. And in fact, one thing I have noticed since I started reviewing for Galactic Journey is how many SFF authors died much too young.

Davy is the first novel that I ever read by Edgar Pangborn, though he had a respectable science fiction career lasting from the late 1950s to the 1970s and wrote mysteries and crime fiction for the pulp under a pen name (which no one seems to know) before that. Davy was a Hugo finalist in 1965, losing out to Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer by only four votes in one of the more baffling Hugo races of all time. Now Fritz Leiber has written many stories and novels I love, but IMO The Wanderer is a lesser work (Jason Sacks, who reviewed it for Galactic Journey, was not impressed either) and I’ve never understood why it won the Hugo, since it’s not even the best Fritz Leiber work of 1964 (“The Lords of Quarmall” is better, though it’s a novella rather than a novel), so I found it hard to believe that The Wanderer was the best science fiction novel of 1964. I initially assumed that 1964 was simply a weak year for science fiction novels (it happens), but Davy – though not without flaws – is definitely better than The Wanderer and The Whole Man by John Brunner seems to be better, too. Not sure about the fourth finalist, The Planet Buyer by Cordwainer Smith, which is better known as the first half of Nostrilia these days.

Edgar Pangborn’s works are still in print, but nonetheless he seems to have fallen somewhat into obscurity. Part of the reason may be that post-apocalyptic nuclear war stories are no longer as popular as they once were. Older examples of the breed also suffer from having become obsolete futures, now that a) we know more about the effects a large scale nuclear war would have, and b) a large scale nuclear war is much less likely than it was pre-1989, though more likely than it was around approximately 1995. It’s also interesting that when I think of nuclear war stories, I usually think of the complete downers of the 1980s – stories like Threads or The Day After, where everybody dies horribly – and less of the earlier, slightly more optimistic stories of the 1950s and 1960s. But while other post nuclear war tales of the period such as A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, On the Beach by Nevil Shute (which is of course an “everybody dies” downer, as the entire population of Australia commits suicide), The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett or “That Only a Mother” by Judith Merril (or, for a filmic example, Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick) are all considered classics these days, Davy remains somewhat obscure, probably because even though it shares some themes with the others, it’s not really a typical nuclear war story at all. The fact that the sexual politics are badly dated doesn’t help either. And in fact, science fiction from the 1960s is often worse in terms of how sexual relationships are portrayed than earlier works. Because the earlier works usually didn’t have any sex at all or only highly euphemistic descriptions, whereas stories from 1960s do depict sex, but are often highly problematic with regard to issues like consent, gender and sexual orientation. Unlike many stories from the period, Davy is not offensive, but the novel does have some eye-roll worthy moments.

After reading Victoria’s review of No Man on Earth, I was struck by how there were certain similarities between the two books aside from the fact that they both happened to be science fiction novels published in 1964. Both novels are science fiction novels that don’t feel very science fictional, both are post-apocalyptic of sorts, even though nuclear war is but a distant memory, and both start out in low tech settings in the Eastern US, where superstition is strong. Victoria compares No Man on Earth to Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories from the same period (and of course, Davy also spends a significant part of the novel as a wandering musician just like Silver John), while I compare Davy to 18th century (set) works such as Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones (which has a hugely successful film adaptation in 1963) and The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth.

It certainly seems as if there was a mini trend of folksy, rural SFF in the early to mid 1960s, as evidenced by Davy, No Man on Earth and the Silver John stories, which all date from this period. This trend may have been part of a larger cultural interest in folksy, rural settings and stories as well as modern reimaginings of 18th century works. After all, the Tom Jones movies came out in 1963 and The Sot-Weed Factor came out in 1960, based on an 18th century poem by Ebenezer Cooke. The early 1960s were also the heyday of rural set US TV shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres as well as the Tammy films and TV series. So yes, there’s definitely a general cultural trend there that spilled over into science fiction, though I’m not quite sure what it means. The popularity of rural set TV sitcoms in the US in the 1960s is usually considered a mental retreat to a highly idealised, simpler, more wholesome time as well as pandering to white rural audiences in the US, which is probably also why none of these shows ever made it to Germany (not that German viewers didn’t long for simpler, more wholesome times, but they preferred to see them in their own country), except for Tammy, which ironically wasn’t even a hit in the US, though it was seemingly perpetually rerun on German TV well into the 1980s.

But while the rural US sitcoms of the 1960s may have been wholesome – and grossly offensive, at least based on what little I have seen of them, since they make fun of the people they thought were their audience – the positively bawdy reimaginings of 18th century literature such as Tom Jones or The Sot-Weed Factor were anything but. Davy is not wholesome either – and neither are the Silver John stories, for that matter. So what’s going on here? Did SFF tap into the early to mid 1960s fashion for folksy stories old and new from the rural US and subvert it? Whatever the reason, it’s certainly interesting. I’m also very interested now whether more folksy SFF stories will pop up at Galactic Journey in the future.

Coincidentally, I just realised that I completely forgot to link to last month’s Galactic Journey article, where I go a bit into current events of 1964 (the one millionth migrant worker came to West Germany and Martin Luther King visited Berlin) and review two German movies which came out within three weeks of each other in the late summer and early fall of 1964, namely the Edgar Wallace movie The Ringer and The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse. I already reviewed The Ringer from a contemporary POV on this blog a few years ago, but my Galactic Journey article offers a 1960s perspective.

These days, The Ringer is usually considered the high point of the Edgar Wallace series – a movie that has been much derided (like all the Edgar Wallace movies), but is still beloved and highly watchable and frequently rerun on TV. Meanwhile, The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse marks the end of Artur Brauner’s Dr. Mabuse series of the early 1960s (there were four more filmic outings for Dr. Mabuse up to 1990, but none of them is considered part of the official series) and is generally considered one of the weakest films in the series.

The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse is usually considered a James Bond rip-off. I had also wholly internalised the narrative that The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse is a Mabuse film pretending to be a Bond film to the point that I never questioned it, especially since there are so many parallels to the Bond movies. After all, Death Ray has a dashing secret agent, a devious villain (and Mabuse is one of the most devious of them all), beautiful women, an “exotic” setting, a super weapon, underwater fights – all elements we know from the Bond movies. Besides, the 1960s were littered with Bond rip-offs, some great (The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), some okay (Death Ray falls into this category) and many forgettable (the Kommissar X movies or the Matt Helm movies, which recently got dragged up again, because Sharon Tate happened to be in one of them). In many ways, the spy novels, movies and TV shows of the 1960s are the anti-thesis to folksy rural stories discussed above.

However, when reviewing The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse for Galactic Journey, I also happened to check the release dates for the Bond movies and realised to my suprise that there had only been two Bond movies – one of them the atypical From Russia With Love – shown in Germany by the time Death Ray came out, while Goldfinger had its UK premiere on the exact same day as Death Ray (as did Winnetou 2, which not only kept Karin Dor from appearing in either The Ringer or Death Ray and also likely contributed to Death Ray underperforming at the box office) and wouldn’t be shown in Germany until January 1965. So when Death Ray was made, there was no James Bond series. There were only a movie and its sequel with a third in production. And while many elements seen in Death Ray – the extensive underwater fights and scenes, the mysterious island, the superweapon that can eradicate whole cities – have popped up in the Bond movies lots of times, they all appeared later. Underwater fights are mainly associated with Thunderball, which came out more than a year after Death Ray, though The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only also have extensive underwater scenes. And while Dr. No‘s radio beam (and I had to look up what Dr. No’s weapon actually did, since I mainly remember the world’s most stylish nuclear reactor) is a bit similar to Dr. Mabuse’s death ray, the superweapons from Diamonds Are Forever, which came out in 1971 – seven years after Death Ray, and The Man With the Golden Gun, which came out in 1974, a full ten years after Death Ray, are much more similar, as is the killer satellite from Golden Eye (1995). So what’s going on here then? How – short of time travel – could The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse borrow from Bond movies, which hadn’t even been made yet? And no, the Bond novels aren’t the answer, because the Bond movies in general are very loose adaptations and the ones in questions all have next to nothing in common with the source material apart from the titles.

The answer is that the influence wasn’t a one way street. Yes, The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse was clearly influenced by the two Bond movies that had appeared to date. However, the Mabuse series – and the Edgar Wallace movies, for that matter – also influenced the Bond movies. Considering how many actors appeared in two or even all three series – Gert Fröbe and Karin Dor, most notably, but also Ilse Steppat, Christopher Lee and Ingrid Back – it’s clear that the Bond producers were familiar with the Mabuse and Wallace movies, for how else would they even have found Gert Fröbe, Karin Dor or Ilse Steppat? So it’s no surprise that themes and plot points from the Wallace and Mabuse movies would also show up in the Bond films and vice versa. And indeed, Death Ray didn’t invent the underwater fight scenes we now associate with the Bond movies either – they first show up in the 1962 Edgar Wallace film The Inn on the River, which has a remarkably similar plot to the 1988 Dutch thriller Amsterdamned, whose speedboat chases through the canals of Amsterdam borrow heavily from the Bond film Live and Let Die as well as from the Alistair MacLean adaptation Puppet on a Chain.

The Edgar Wallace movies and to a lesser degree the Dr. Mabuse movies of the 1960s are often dismissed as fluffy entertainment these days and glossed over even in histories of West German postwar cinema. This is a huge mistake, for not only were those films extremely popular and usually well made, they were also influential way beyond the limits of German cinema.

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First Monday Free Fiction: The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock

Welcome to the October edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.

The Revenant of Wrecker's Dock by Cora BuhlertBecause October is a spooky month, what would fit better than a spooky story? And so this month’s free story is The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock, the first story in the Hallowind Cove series about a permanently fog-shrouded seaside town, where strange things happen.

The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock was originally written for a shared world which fell through. About a year later, I pulled out the story again, removed all links to the shared world setting and published it. And because I liked the quaint seaside town Hallowind Cove, also known as the harbour of the weird, I eventually wrote four more stories set there.

The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock introduces Paul MacQuarie, a newcomer to Hallowind Cove who moves to the town, when he inherits the house of a distant uncle. Alas, things are never quite as simple as they seem in Hallowind Cove and so Paul has inherited not just a crumbling mansion, but also a family curse and a vengeful zombie – pardon revenant – who wants to kill him.

So accompany Paul, as he faces…

The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock

Paul pulled up the collar of his coat against the ever-present fog that enveloped the town of Hallowind Cove. His hair was damp, his skin clammy, every bone in his body ached and the cough he’d developed shortly after coming to Hallowind Cove was back, worse than ever.

One day, this town was gonna be the death of him.

He turned onto Wrecker’s Dock in Hallowind Cove harbour or what passed for it, cause these days, the docks were mostly deserted with only the occasional fishing boat moored at the quay.

The fog was even thicker here, rolling in from the sea in waves of white. Walking along the seafront probably wasn’t the best of ideas, considering that the fog was making him sick. But Paul did not care. He was headed for The Croaking Foghorn, a harbourside pub that offered beer and stronger drinks as well as some of the best and freshest seafood dishes Paul had ever seen.

A raven set perched on one of the tar-covered bollards along the quay, fixing Paul with unnerving eyes.

“Wa-atch out,” the raven croaked, “Wa-atch out!”

Or at least that’s what it sounded like. For of course birds couldn’t talk, even though this one gave a pretty good impression of it. Paul had seen the raven before, hanging around town and emitting croaks that sounded uncannily like words.

He’d once asked Ian, landlord of The Croaking Foghorn and the closest thing Paul had to a friend here in Hallowind Cove, about the raven.

“Oh, that’s just Hugo,” Ian had said, “Never mind him. He likes to pretend he’s a harbinger of doom, but he’s really quite harmless.”

“Wa-atch out,” Hugo croaked again, “Wa-atch out.”

“Shut up, Hugo,” Paul said good-naturedly, “I’m no longer a newbie. I won’t fall into the harbour basin.”

“Wa-arned you,” the raven croaked.

Paul shook his head. “I’m really going crazy,” he thought, “Hell, I’m talking to a bird.”

He held on steady towards the lights of The Croaking Foghorn, blurred by the dense fog. A dark figure stumbled towards him, emerging from the mist and gradually coalescing into a solid form. The figure was clad in a seaman’s oilskin jacket and sou’wester.

Probably a fisherman headed out to sea, Paul thought. He shouted a friendly greeting as he passed the stranger, but then his words caught in his throat, as he got a closer look at the dark figure.

For the dark figure’s oilskin jacket and sou’wester were encrusted with molluscs and draped with seaweed. Its skin had a pallid and faintly greenish cast, the sort of look that only the long dead should have. And where its eyes should be, there were only two black holes.

“Murrrderrr,” the figure moaned, its voice sounding as if it came straight from the bottom of the sea, “Deathhh. Deceit.”

The creature reached out for Paul and where its hand should be, there was only a hook, a rusty iron hook.

***

This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.

Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2019

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

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

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires 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:

Courting Darkness by L.R. BradenCourting Darkness by L.R. Braden:

Deeper into the shadows. . .

The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she’s got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect.

Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust.

She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.

Conscientious Objector by Jonathan P. BrazeeConscientious Objector by Jonathan P. Brazee:

Capernica is invaded.

Locals are conscripted into the militia.

How can a conscientious objector carry a rifle and still uphold his convictions?

Capernica has welcomed the Taymon family, refugees who follow the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. First and foremost is that Assisians will not take another life.

When the planet is invaded, Harris Taymon is conscripted into the planetary militia against his will. He knows he owes a deep sense of loyalty to the planet, but can he bear arms against the enemy with intent to kill?

And if he doesn’t, can he survive his own side where desertion and cowardice are punished by execution?

Download this novella and read how he deals with this internal conflict.

How to Hex a Halo by Elena BryceHow to Hex a Halo by Elena Bryce:

Being a witch can make friendships rather fraught!

One best friend attacked by a werewolf and now howling at the moon, while the other has joined a cult and thinks she’s an angel.

Except she actually might be…

When Verity suddenly gets powers and starts targeting paranormals, I know it’s only a matter of time before she figures out that I’m more supernatural than super normal.

I need to stop her before she hurts anyone else. Or worse, before something retaliates. Divine intervention I’m not, and my help is more hex than heavenly, but sometimes a witch has got to wade in before things get hotter than spell.

Gate Quest by Lindsay BurokerGate Quest by Lindsay Buroker:

Roboticist extraordinaire Casmir Dabrowski has a new nemesis: astroshaman leader Kyla Moonrazor.

She’s stolen the ancient wormhole gate the king ordered Casmir to retrieve, and she’s entrenched in an underwater base on a forsaken moon. Moonrazor is more educated and more experienced than Casmir, and she has legions of killer robots and cyborg defenders on her side. Casmir has his friends and… a submarine named the Waddler.

As if his task wasn’t daunting enough, his old competitor, mercenary Captain Tenebris Rache, is on the same quest, and he’ll do anything to keep the Kingdom from getting that gate.

If Casmir can’t find a way to defeat them, the king will never let him return to his home, his family, and the career he loves.

Between the Teeth by Jeff C. CarterBetween the Teeth by Jeff C. Carter:

Between the Teeth collects 16 tales of horror and science fiction from author Jeff C. Carter that will sink their fangs into you and won’t let go.

– A serial killer ends up in an emergency room, but a heart attack may be the least of his problems.

– A researcher hunts a rare spider in the jungles of Myanmar.

– A greedy dentist gets the most interesting client of his life.

Witness soldiers trapped in a crocodile infested swamp, a preacher hunting demon outlaws, and karma catching up to a Bangkok body snatcher. Whatever flavor of the macabre you crave, you will find it Between the Teeth. Buy it now!

Engines of Empire by Max CarverEngines of Empire by Max Carver:

In the future, humanity has colonized hundreds of star systems. The upstart colony Carthage has conquered most of the human-settled worlds–including Earth itself–with fleets of autonomous, AI-driven warships and armies of robotic infantry. Freedom from their empire is found only in rough outer worlds on the distant fringes of settled space.

On Galapagos, a free world, newly elected Minister-General Reginald Ellison had hoped he’d seen the end of war. He spent his youth fighting in battles across his planet’s vast oceans and small islands, and his later years working to build a coalition of peace among the world’s fragmented nations. Now the arrival of an unnerving android ambassador from the distant imperial planet of Carthage threatens his world’s hopes for a free and peaceful future.

On Earth, the machines patrol the post-apocalyptic ruins of bombed-out megacities, left over from Earth’s war with Carthage. In the fallen megalopolis of Chicago, a young scavenger makes a discovery that could empower Earthlings to finally fight back, but could also endanger everyone he loves.

On Carthage, the rulers of humanity enjoy extreme wealth and luxury, while machines carry out all forms of labor and provide for their every whim. Audrey Caracala, daughter of Carthage’s top political leader, has led a protected existence, groomed to help her family rule the known galaxy. Now her family’s enemies hunt her as she searches for her missing brother in the dangerous, unfamiliar territory of the Carthaginian underworld, where she begins to face hard truths about the machines and about her own family’s legacy.

Three people, on three very different worlds, must confront alternate faces of the ever-evolving machines, which spin their own designs beyond the vision of their human masters, forging a new kind of empire that will be ruled by no man.

Amythea: Rise of Wingtar by Aaron CoatesAmythea: Rise of Wingtar by Aaron Coates:

Once in every thousand years, a hero is born who is destined to save the world.

The inhabitants of Almytheans, are forced to act as slaves, mining rare refractive crystals for the malevolent Lost One. The Almytheans are comprised of both humanoid and non-humanoid species, many having been brought to Almythea by the Lost One’s reptilian, thug-like armies of Latchers. They live simple, oppressed lives as most have had their memories wiped before commencing their enslaved existence. However, they still possess an abiding belief that their prophesized savior, known as The Astra, will one day rescue them.

Banished from the community for a crime he did not commit, as Little Hawk approaches his twenty-first birthday a mysterious shaman warrior, Grey Paw, rescues him from depression, self-doubt and the deadly addictive bittercups in the Badlands before preparing him for a secret tournament. The winner will be named The Astra and sent on a quest to find the fabled Arrow of Truth, the only weapon capable of ending the Lost One’s rule. All Almytheans expect the self-serving and duplicitous Gyeder to be named The Astra. This honor and responsibility includes the hand of a headstrong, capable young woman (and last of the pure blood Accipitridae race) named Broken Arrows, the woman Little Hawk has secretly loved.

It’s a race against time. Little Hawk feels the weight of his destiny to destroy the Lost One, his reptilian Latcher army and his curiously beautiful yet sinister lieutenant Raven Weaver, before they destroy him. With the help of Grey Paw, his best friend, the wise-cracking Laughing Eyes, and a curious pixie-like, mess-up creature called a fleaf, Little Hawk must not only save Almythea but also rescue Broken Arrows from a terrible fate.

Raven's Moon by J.B. DaneRaven’s Moon by J.B. Dane:

Otherworld evil is loose in the real world. Bram Farrell, Private Investigator, must track it down and destroy it before it destroys him.

Bram Farrell has starred in twenty bestselling novels by writer—and witch—Calista Amberson. Her fans love the tall, dark, and handsome PI who vanquishes supernatural bad guys using his magical powers. So, when Calista uses her magic to pull Bram from his fictional world into real-world, modern-day Detroit, she rocks both worlds.

Every supernatural being on Earth felt his arrival in this dimension. They don’t trust Calie’s intentions and Bram doesn’t either. When the supernatural community hands him the job of discovering who killed the beings in the real world that match those he killed in each volume of The Raven Tales, he takes on the task. It’s a job he’s done in twenty books—he’s up to the familiar challenge.

Bram’s investigation turns up a lot of suspicious characters grouchy bar-owning trolls, a thirsty vampire godfather, a couple of murderous x-cage fighters, a suspicious minister¬¬—and the Devil himself. Things are getting dicey: Bram could use some help with this job—but whom can he trust?

Fans of Jim Butcher will fall hard for Bram and Raven’s Moon.

J.B. Dane is a recovering romance writer with over two dozen titles under her belt. So when “Bram Farrell” walked into her office, she hired him on the spot. Together they kick Otherworlders’, er, nether regions, and write the second book in the Raven Tales series.

Trailblazer by Zen DiPietroTrailblazer by Zen DiPietro:

Equip new adventurers. Send them out to find their way in Everternia. Sally’s purpose had always been clear.

Newly awakened from that repetitive existence, she now sees her world from a new perspective. Life has become a puzzle, and there’s nothing she loves more than a good puzzle.

The two people responsible for her awakening are as fascinated by Sally as she is with Everternia. She’s not sure why that is, but she’s giving the pair the benefit of the doubt, for now. Their foreign ways can be confounding, but with time, she’ll figure out what makes them tick.

She has so much to learn about Everternia and about herself that she barely knows where to start. She wants to do it all, immediately, with great enthusiasm, and maybe even while wearing a pair of really nice pants. Her new curiosity and sense of adventure are growing by the minute, like cogs fitting together to transmit torque.

With nothing but her bravery, two natural-born adventurers, and her unusual skills as a streetmonger, her future is anything but certain.

That’s okay. She’s ready to leave behind her old life and certainty to out what she’s made of. She’s got her goggles, so she’ll be looking at what everything else is made of, too.

She’ll be a brand-new type of adventurer, like nothing Everternia has ever seen.

Troubled Waters by Rachel FordTroubled Waters by Rachel Ford:

No good deed goes unpunished.

Kay Ellis is looking forward to returning from a six-month supply run. She’s looking forward to being back in the safety of Union space. And she’s looking forward to her wedding with Captain Magdalene Landon.

But when the Black Flag receives a distress signal from a scuttled alien transport, their return is temporarily postponed. The mission of mercy enters troubled waters as a mysterious pursuer appears.

The longer the new guests stay onboard, the more Kay begins to question their hard luck story. And the more she wonders if the Black Flag will survive to see Union space again.

Mila's Shift by Danielle ForrestMila’s Shift by Danielle Forrest:

Nothing’s as Deadly as a Secret…

Mila has suffered frigid winters, starvation, and soul-crushing loneliness, but she’s safe and free. The government would have stolen that from her if she’d stayed, all for an accident of birth.

Then after ten years on the run, an old friend calls. Now, her friend is dead, and she’s taken her place as pilot of a decrepit space ship. But the ones who murdered her friend think she’s still alive, and now they’re gunning for Mila.

She escapes each attack by the skin of her teeth, her life and secrets on the line. But with a Captain increasingly suspicious, security dogging her every move, and a shape-shifting assassin lurking somewhere on board, will she survive long enough to discover why someone killed her friend?

Gripping and action-packed, Mila’s Shift is a story of loyalty and friendship that crosses all boundaries, including the law, to uphold what’s right.

Ghostly Fears by Lily Harper HartGhostly Fears by Lily Harper Hart:

Ten years ago, Harper Harlow lost a classmate. Jennifer Jessup was sweet, nice, and seemingly aimless in life. She came from a good family, lived on an island, and was spoiled with every material gift that could possibly be bestowed upon her.She was still unhappy.Now, a decade later, her father Byron Jessup has approached Harper with a business opportunity. He wants her – and the rest of her operation, of course – to spend a long weekend on his island. Other psychics and ghost hunters will be there, as will his family. The goal? To find out what happened to Jennifer.Harper feels weighed down with guilt, enough so that she can’t see straight. She feels bad about not reaching out to Jennifer when she was still alive and even worse about not looking for her once she went missing.Harper is out of her element. The other psychics are driving her crazy … and making her nervous. She can’t even decide if she believes Jennifer is missing or dead. When another woman on the island disappears, Harper is left with nothing but endless questions.She’s determined to find the answers, even if she has to delve into the past to do it. Someone doesn’t want her getting those answers, however, and it’s going to be a fight to the death to see who comes out the other side.

Three Days by Travis HillThree Days by Travis Hill:

His future will be her past, three days at a time…

Once every nine years, Chase Matthews and Patricia Wellesley find themselves compelled to step out of their normal lives and into each other’s for three days of passion, desire, and curiosity at the strange phenomenon that binds them together. Outside of those three days, each has a normal life: a career, a family, love, loss, trials and triumphs, yet the universe seems determined to conceal them from one another.

Neither understands what is happening, only that as one of them moves forward through time, growing nine years older, the other moves backward, somehow becoming nine years younger, forcing them to question the potential pitfalls of revealing each other’s futures–futures that might not be set in stone, but could potentially cause the collapse of reality itself if the unknown rules they are bound by are broken.

Rare Birds by L.S. JohnsonRare Birds by L.S. Johnson:

From 2017 World Fantasy Award finalist L.S. Johnson, the eight short stories in this collection look at the ties that bind and the transformations they provoke. Whether bound by love, blood, or violent circumstance, the characters in these tales are fundamentally altered by those closest to them … and not always for the better.

Two mothers become entwined in revenge against a violent man, with unexpected consequences. A roving gang of sirens finds themselves challenged from without and within. In a last, desperate act of love, a young surgeon goes under the knife. And in a distant territory, a mother and daughter struggle to survive—but the aid they summon is far more dangerous.

At turns brutal and tender, subtle and shocking, these stories blend realism, fantasy, and horror to create an unsettling—and unforgettable—experience.

The School for Humans by Vanessa KittleThe School for Humans by Vanessa Kittle:

Our epic journey begins in Bronze Age Ireland.

Ellene is a servant to one of the great Calean leaders.
The Caleans are opening a school for the young from Ellene’s village, but not all of the Caleans want to teach the humans.
Some have much darker plans, and the school may be the last chance for peace between the two peoples.

 

 

No Crones About It by Amanda M. LeeNo Crones About It by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall is settling in with the northern Lower Michigan branch of Spell’s Angels. She’s feeling bold, brash … and just a little bit flirty thanks to her burgeoning relationship with Gunner Stratton, a shifter whose father happens to serve as the chief of police in Hawthorne Hollow.

Things are going well … until they’re not.

A group of shifters who used to live in the area have returned and they’re up to something. Right from the start, Scout is suspicious but she can’t quite explain why. Then, when a local homeless man is found dead – with Scout’s name literally carved into him – she starts to believe that she’s being set up to take a fall.

Gunner is determined to help. His history with the shifters in question makes things difficult, though. On top of everything else, it becomes apparent that the dead guy’s ties to Scout run deep … like genetically deep. He’s related to her, and for a woman who was abandoned as a child, it’s a hard blow to absorb.

Gunner is determined to stick close as the warring wolves close ranks and start issuing threats. It’s going to take everybody working together to find the answers Scout desperately needs, including uncovering the secret of her past. When one of their own is taken, Scout has no choice but to put her full cache of magic on display.

It’s going to be a fight to the finish, rival gangs going at one another, and only one side will be victorious.

Which one will it be?

Street Cultivation by Sarah LinStreet Cultivation by Sarah Lin:

In the modern world, qi is money.

The days of traveling martial artists and mountaintop masters are over. Power is controlled by corporations, modernized martial arts sects, and governments. Those at the bottom of society struggle as second class citizens in a world in which power is a commodity.

Rick is a young fighter in this world. He doesn’t dream of immortality or becoming the strongest, just of building a better life for himself and his sister, who suffers from a spiritual illness. Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy…

The Pale White by Chad LutzkeThe Pale White by Chad Lutzke:

After being held against their will in a house used for trafficking, three girls plan their escape.

Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.
Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow captives the only family she’s ever truly had.
Kammie: The youngest of the three—a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.

But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?

A coming-of-age tale of revenge and survival that explores a friendship and the desperate measures taken to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.

This contemporary Suspense Thriller / Horror novella with an all-female cast is the perfect read for fans of Robert R. McCammon, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum.

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

Shields in Shadow by Andy PeloquinShields in Shadow by Andy Peloquin:

Burdened with legend. Hardened by battle scars. Hellbent on bloody revenge.

As the son of a famous general, Aravon is proud to captain his own company against his people’s enemy. But the experienced veteran’s march toward glory dissolves into pain as ruthless barbarians massacre every last one of his soldiers. Burning for vengeance, he leaps at the chance to spearhead a specially-trained company and pay back his tragic defeat with blood.

Desperate to not repeat his tragic past, Aravon trains his new warriors relentlessly. But the captain fears that all the tactical drills in the world may not matter when they’re forced to defend a helpless village against overwhelming odds. As his quick raids sow chaos amongst the enemy, the bloodthirsty savages threaten to make Aravon’s nightmarish history repeat itself…

Can the captain take command of his fighting spirit before the kingdom falls to barbarous invaders?

Shields in Shadow is the first book in the action-packed Silent Champions military fantasy series. If you like square-jawed heroes, well-oiled military action, and epic world-building, then you’ll love Andy Peloquin’s gripping novel.

Choices of Honor by Joyce Reynolds-WardChoices of Honor by Joyce Reynolds-Ward:

SOMETIMES VENGEANCE BECOMES MORE COMPLICATED THAN EXPECTED.

Avenging the death of co-Leader Inharise of the Two Nations appears straightforward at first for Katerin Leader and Rekaré Kinslayer. The curse that killed her points directly to the Witches Council of Waykemin. Therefore, they’re responsible. But as Katerin and Rekaré lead a small avenging force to Waykemin’s capital city of Formis, they discover that things are not quite as they seem.

At the same time, Waykemin’s overseas ally, Chatain, Emperor of Daran, sends an invading force that Katerin’s daughter Witmara must counter. But is Chatain’s sortie a distraction from the attack on Waykemin, or does it serve a deeper purpose? Katerin must choose between her daughter and the challenge that Waykemin presents—and hope she made the right choice.

Sword in the Throne by Helen SavoreSword in the Throne by Helen Savore:

Merlin knew Arthur would return, but at what cost?

Jamie, a med school drop out, discovers his hallucinations are fae spirits stealing life. His childhood friend has spent her life in a quest to summon the Phoenix in order to banish the fae. He joins her, but along the way accidentally unlocks a traitor’s healing ability, who in turn uses it as a sign to prove he is King Arthur returned.

In order to oppose this false Arthur, and still hunting the Phoenix, they ally with a sect of Faerie Smiths. Amid navigating an unfamiliar world of new creatures and capabilities Jamie must learn to craft his own healing magic into a weapon. But can they stop the impostor Arthur’s crusade when the one thing they need most to stop the fae is the most sure sign of Arthur’s return itself… to draw the Sword from the Throne.

Sundered Soul by Rick ScottSundered Soul by Rick Scott:

Not all fates are created equal…

Kenji’s only dream in life is to become a great rebirther like his father. But with no talent for the mystic arts, the age-old tradition of cultivating essence by returning things to their newborn state, to grow a second and third time, is far beyond his grasp.

Worse still, he is yet to be rebirthed himself and stands a dullard of a giant among his diminutive peers. Relegated to working the orchards as a common laborer, Kenji settles into a life of lowered expectations; with no chance for advancement and no chance of pursuing the woman he loves.

But when a mystic warrior from a distant land enters his village, pursued by a powerful demon, Kenji discovers a truth about himself that will not only question who he is, but perhaps everything he can become.

With a chance to make his dreams come true, Kenji must choose between following the fate laid out before him…or defying the heavens to forge his own path.

Doing so will mean finding a way to cultivate and fighting powerful enemies to protect the ones he loves, but failure could mean the very fall of the heavens themselves.

Join Kenji as he uncovers the fate of the Sundered Soul…

Imperium Defiant by Glynn StewartImperium Defiant by Glynn Stewart:

The enemy promises conflict and annihilation
Their allies threaten betrayal and devastation
A daughter of Earth raises the call of defiance
And the Imperium has never knelt!

When the Taljzi’s genocidal invasion brought promises of aid from the oldest and greatest of the Core Powers, humanity and the Imperium looked to the Mesharom for salvation. But that salvation turns to ash as the Mesharom demand the surrender of the very weapons that saved the Imperium.

Defiance leaves the Imperium facing the Taljzi without the aide of the galaxy’s wisest race, but with their old enemies the Kanzi at their side, they have no choice but to end this war at any cost.

But Mesharom and Taljzi alike have scattered fire and death across the stars. The Imperial forces under Fleet Lord Harriet Tanaka will need every scrap of firepower and cleverness not only to defeat their enemies…but to find them in the first place.

Betrayal by James David VictorBetrayal by James David Victor:

Just when you thought you could trust your enemies.

Jack and Sam have again found themselves with their backs against the wall with enemies on every side. With the alliance with the Devex crumbles, they find themselves alone and unsure of who to trust. And that’s before an enemy from within returns to exact her revenge on Jack. Can Jack escape from the belly of the beast that seeks to destroy all of humanity or will he be the next in a long line of vanquished humans?

Betrayal is the fifth book in the Jack Forge, Lost Marine series. If you like fast-paced military science fiction, you will love watching Jack fight for the freedom of all.

100 Word Horror Book 3, edited by Brandy Yassa100 Word Horrors Book 3: An Anthology of Horror Drabbles, edited by Brandy Yassa:

Book 3 of the 100 Word Horrors Series

Over 100 drabbles by some of the finest horror authors writing today.

Edited by Brandy Yassa

T.O.C.
Andrew Lennon – Enter Night
P. Mattern – The Fungus Among Us
RJ Meldrum – Invasion
RJ Meldrum – One Night Stand
C.A. Verstraete – A Mother’s Love
Valerie Lioudis – Too Many
Steve Stred – Click
Steve Stred – Cursed
D.E. McCluskey – Work
Mark Matthews – A Vampire and Her Jar Full of Leeches
Dennis Mombauer – The Rusted Island
Theresa Jacobs – The Muse
Michael D. Davis – June Bug
Michael D. Davis – The Doctor’s Hobbies
Chad Lutzke – Nothing
J.C. Michael – True Potential
DS Ullery – Number Thirteen
Scott Paul Hallam – The Crate
Anthony Giordano – La Lamentación
Kevin Cathy – The Tree
Kevin Cathy – Narrative
Kevin Cathy – Admitted
Ellen A. Easton – Into the Woods
Sheldon Woodbury – The Altar of Bones
Sheldon Woodbury – Halloween Ride
Sheldon Woodbury – The Midnight Circus
P.J. Blakey-Novis – Stray
Chris Hall – The Evacuation
Larry Hinkle – Three Wishes
J.C. Michael – The Dead that Lived
Joe X. Young – Black Light
Terry Miller – Dollface
Evans Light – That’ll Show Her
C.S. Anderson – The Difference
Alyson Faye – The Necklace
RJ Roles – Tits to Die for
RJ Roles – Passing the Torch
RJ Roles – Delicious
RJ Meldrum – The Apocalypse Will Be Televised
Kerry E.B. Black – Blood and Ashes
Ron Davis – Crimson and Clover
Rhys Hughes – The Special Day
Tristan Drue Rogers – Flightless
John Boden – A Fleeting Thing
John Boden – After
Ryan Colley – Masks
Ryan Colley – Operation
Kerry E.B. Black – Flames
Kerry E.B. Black – As He Was
Toneye Eyenot – Sleep, My Darling
David Owain Hughes – The Rich Get Richer
Simon Cluett – Bait
Toneye Eyenot – Dirt Nap
John T. M. Herres – A Place I Know
Ryan Woods – The Room Upstairs
Howard Carlyle – Painting the Walls
James Matthew Byers – A Penny’s Penance
Andrew Lennon – Possessed
Terry Miller – Death Rattles
Dean M. King – Too Late
Terry Miller – Dead Girl Speak
Jason M. Light – Gun Control
Justin M. Woodward – Gravemakers and Gunslingers
Aron Beauregard – Hot Car
Matthew Cash – My God Lives on the Mountain Top
David Owain Hughes – Tribal Beard
Hazel Lennon – Picnic
Martin P. Fuller – Die, Die, Dead
Howard Carlyle – The Tools of His Trade
Duncan Thompson – A Bedtime Story
Jim Goforth – Hack
Stuart Conover – Be Careful What You Wish For
S P Oldham – Noisy Neighbours
Ron Davis – Machines of War
Becky Narron – Mistaken Identity
Chris Miller – The Thing Beyond the Veil
Norbert Góra – Houston, I Have a Circus Here
Leigha Desmond – The Call
Patrick Winters – The Dolmen of Austburg
Paul Wennersberg-Løvholen – The Dead Don’t Die
Paul Wennersberg-Løvholen – 158 Days Later
Andrew Lennon – Honey, I’m Home
C.M. Saunders – Naughty Step
Zoey Xolton – The Arena
Theresa Derwin – Used Parts
Martin Zeigler – Blackout
Andrew Lennon – Dreams
Robin Braid – Loch
Robin Braid – Next Door
Suzanne Fox – Sweet Dreams
Essel Pratt – Somniphobia
Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – Wooden Suit
Veronica Smith – Post Halloween
Cindar Harrell – Sea Foam Blood
Justin Hunter – Mine
Michael Anthony Lee – The Lost Ones
G. Allen Wilbanks – Webs
Amber M. Simpson – Show Time
Kevin J. Kennedy – Karma Monsters
Kevin J. Kennedy – The Apocalypse Bar
Eric J. Guignard – Three O’Clock a.m.
Julian J. Guignard – Dog Lover Doom
Josh Darling – The Sword Swallower
Brandy Yassa – Happy Birthday
Ryan Colley – Masks
Ryan Colley – Operation

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for September 2019

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

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

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have noir, harboiled mysteries, cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, animal mysteries, culinary mysteries, historical mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, action thrillers, horror thrillers, police procedurals, private investigators, amateur sleuths, forensic specialists, FBI agents, reporters, stalkers, serial killers, human trafficking, organised crime, cold cases, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, crime-busting dogs, kidnapped teens, missing mothers, murdered techies, murders in small towns and big cities, in New Zealand, Minnesota, Las Vegas, Boston, Florida, India and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

A Missing Mom and Mutt Munchies by Aleksa BaxterA Missing Mom and Mutt Munchies by Aleksa Baxter:

Maggie May Carver is done with murder. She’s sworn that if she finds another dead body she’s just going to step right over it and continue on her merry little way. But when a little boy with sad eyes and freckles shows up asking her to find his mom, she just can’t say no.

Once more Maggie is in the thick of things, this time trying to find a little boy’s mom in time for his birthday with the help of her cranky grandpa, the handsome local cop, and his charming but criminally-inclined brother. Oh, and of course, her incorrigible Newfoundland, Miss Fancypants.

Chestnuts, Camping and Culprits by Cindy BellChestnuts, Camping and Culprits by Cindy Bell:

Kerri was looking forward to camping with her grandfather. Too bad their campsite just became a crime scene.

Kerri Gale is excited to be going camping with her grandfather, George, and her cute Yorkshire Terrier, Cashew. She is looking forward to a relaxing break and is leaving her nut shop, Nuts about Nuts, in the capable hands of her best friend and employee, Natalie. But when there are protesters and loggers at loggerheads in the Cascade Grove State Park, their idyllic camping trip isn’t as drama free as she had hoped.

Then things go from bad to worse when someone is found murdered on the mountain. Foul play is suspected, and her grandfather is one of the main suspects. With George having many secrets he can’t reveal and his nemesis, Detective Colleen Carver, on the case, Kerri knows that she must do everything she can to keep her grandfather out of jail. But when the murderer has their eyes on another victim, George and Kerri know that there is far more at stake than George’s freedom.

Will Kerri find the murderer before her grandfather lands up behind bars? Or there is another victim?

Recipe included: Ginger Chestnut Cookies

Danger Zone by Stacy ClaflinDanger Zone by Stacy Claflin:

Someone is going to great lengths to destroy Alex Mercer’s life.

On the surface, the Mercers are finally settling into a comfortable routine—Alex’s job is going great, he’s accepted his unusual family dynamics, and they’re even planning a dream vacation. Things couldn’t be better.

Or could they?

Dig a little deeper, and the problems are growing out of control. Someone is threatening to ruin Alex, his wife is harboring a shocking secret, and their daughter is hiding a dangerous new relationship.

If Alex’s cyber-stalker doesn’t get him first, his family could implode on its own. If he can’t unravel the tangled mess in time, he might lose everything—and everyone—he holds dear.

Bright Lights by Mark DawsonBright Lights by Mark Dawson:

Is John Milton on the path to redemption or the road to revenge?

John Milton has done some bad things in his life. Very bad things. Now he’s looking for ways to make amends. But trouble always seems to be looking for him.
Heading from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Milton’s solo road trip takes an unexpected turn when he picks up Jessica Russo, a young woman in distress at the side of the road. She urgently needs a ride and he’s happy to help her out.

But what starts out as a simple favour quickly becomes something more sinister. Once they get to their destination, it’s clear something isn’t right. Working for the Vegas casinos has got Jessica’s father wrapped up with the wrong people. A mistake that could prove fatal for him and his family.

This is just the beginning of a dangerous journey that will take Milton from Sin City to Siena and beyond. As Milton goes deeper into a world of violence, ruthlessness and revenge, will he finally put his demons to rest? Or is he about to awaken the devil he’s been trying to smother for so long?

Ghostly Fears by Lily Harper HartGhostly Fears by Lily Harper Hart:

Ten years ago, Harper Harlow lost a classmate. Jennifer Jessup was sweet, nice, and seemingly aimless in life. She came from a good family, lived on an island, and was spoiled with every material gift that could possibly be bestowed upon her.She was still unhappy.Now, a decade later, her father Byron Jessup has approached Harper with a business opportunity. He wants her – and the rest of her operation, of course – to spend a long weekend on his island. Other psychics and ghost hunters will be there, as will his family. The goal? To find out what happened to Jennifer.Harper feels weighed down with guilt, enough so that she can’t see straight. She feels bad about not reaching out to Jennifer when she was still alive and even worse about not looking for her once she went missing.Harper is out of her element. The other psychics are driving her crazy … and making her nervous. She can’t even decide if she believes Jennifer is missing or dead. When another woman on the island disappears, Harper is left with nothing but endless questions.She’s determined to find the answers, even if she has to delve into the past to do it. Someone doesn’t want her getting those answers, however, and it’s going to be a fight to the death to see who comes out the other side.

The Mystery of a Techie's Murder by Vijay KerjiThe Mystery of a Techie’s Murder by Vijay Kerji:

Priya, a software engineer, is found dead in her apartment when her flatmate Julia is away on a weekend. Detective Mayur finds a Pizza Hut cap with the strand of hair in it at the crime scene along with a cigarette butt and shoe prints. Krishna Raj, Priya’s manager, says Priya became close to her colleague, Praful, who has been sacked by his previous employer because of the sexual harassment charges. Mayur also learns that Priya’s fiance loves someone else and is forced to marry Priya by his parents. He also comes across Priya’s ex-friend and her uncle, who were also interested in Priya. He finds that her younger sister has a motive to become a sole proprietor of their father’s assets. Will Detective Mayur find the murderer in spite of hitting the dead end?

Oracles and Obituaries by Amanda M. LeeOracles and Obituaries by Amanda M. Lee:

Halloween is Avery Shaw’s favorite time of year. What’s not to love? Slasher movies, hot chocolate and corn mazes. She’s addicted to them all.

During a visit to one of those mazes, she runs across several men trying to kidnap a teenage girl. In true Avery fashion, she intervenes … resulting in a severe injury. While she’s on the mend, she starts tracking information on a group of people working in the area.

Avery can’t decide if she’s on to something or imagining things. The attack leaves her weaker than she would like, something she refuses to acknowledge, and questioning her investigative mind.

Eliot Kane, her live-in love, decides to help. As much as he wants her safe, he understands she needs to take control. Together, they’re going to dig until they find the information they need. Unfortunately for both of them, the deeper they get, the more they start to wonder just how big of an operation they’re dealing with.
Information pours in, leading to questions about missing girls from years before … and an odd woman serving as an oracle for the Halloween fans in the present. She’s keeping a secret, too, and Avery is determined to figure out what it is.

As she’s proven her entire life, Avery won’t quit until she wins. This time, however, the battle is going to be long, dark and deadly.

She won’t ever give up … even if the search for the truth ultimately kills her.

No Crones About It by Amanda M. LeeNo Crones About It by Amanda M. Lee:

Scout Randall is settling in with the northern Lower Michigan branch of Spell’s Angels. She’s feeling bold, brash … and just a little bit flirty thanks to her burgeoning relationship with Gunner Stratton, a shifter whose father happens to serve as the chief of police in Hawthorne Hollow.

Things are going well … until they’re not.

A group of shifters who used to live in the area have returned and they’re up to something. Right from the start, Scout is suspicious but she can’t quite explain why. Then, when a local homeless man is found dead – with Scout’s name literally carved into him – she starts to believe that she’s being set up to take a fall.

Gunner is determined to help. His history with the shifters in question makes things difficult, though. On top of everything else, it becomes apparent that the dead guy’s ties to Scout run deep … like genetically deep. He’s related to her, and for a woman who was abandoned as a child, it’s a hard blow to absorb.

Gunner is determined to stick close as the warring wolves close ranks and start issuing threats. It’s going to take everybody working together to find the answers Scout desperately needs, including uncovering the secret of her past. When one of their own is taken, Scout has no choice but to put her full cache of magic on display.

It’s going to be a fight to the finish, rival gangs going at one another, and only one side will be victorious.

Which one will it be?

The Pale White by Chad LutzkeThe Pale White by Chad Lutzke:

After being held against their will in a house used for trafficking, three girls plan their escape.

Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.
Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow captives the only family she’s ever truly had.
Kammie: The youngest of the three—a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.

But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?

A coming-of-age tale of revenge and survival that explores a friendship and the desperate measures taken to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.

This contemporary Suspense Thriller / Horror novella with an all-female cast is the perfect read for fans of Robert R. McCammon, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum.

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

Deception by Jason RichardsDeception by Jason Richards:

It started as a simple case . . . then the bodies started piling up.

Elizabeth Barlow hires private investigator Drew Patrick to gather evidence of her husband’s affair. But the truth is even more devastating. Nevin Barlow is entangled with some of Boston’s most dangerous figures, and Drew’s investigation leads deep into a shadowy world of money-laundering and murder.

When an informant is run down in the streets of Boston, Drew realizes just how far Nevin Barlow and his associates will go to keep their secrets from coming to light. But in a world of lies and deception, nothing stays secret forever. A surprise twist will either help Drew prove his case or get him killed.

Witty and tough hard-boiled detective Drew Patrick returns in this gripping crime thriller novel that keeps the pages turning.

Say You Love Me by Willow RoseSay You Love Me by Willow Rose:

Former FBI-profiler Eva Rae Thomas is back and embedded in a true nightmare reaching deep into her own family.

What would you do if your brother was accused of a horrible crime, and you were certain he didn’t do it?

Life is not done throwing Eva Rae Thomas curveballs.

A phone call turns her life upside down – once again. The call is from her father, the man she hasn’t seen in thirty-six years, not since he kidnapped her sister in a supermarket.

Now, he is back in Florida, and he needs her help. Her younger brother – who she didn’t know existed – has been arrested on Amelia Island. The boy is in a coma after being shot by an officer during the incident. But his father doesn’t believe the police, and he asks for Eva Rae’s help to prove it.

At the same time, a serial killer is planning one of the most horrific mass killings in history.

Will Eva Rae find it in her heart to help her father after what he did to her? Will facing him again set her free or pull her under?

Dead Cat Bounce by Robert WhiteDead Cat Bounce by Robert White:

Old Mrs Bello lived above the family grocery store all her life, she worked hard, was frugal and lived an ordinary life. There was one thing that people knew about Mrs B though – she absolutely didn’t trust banks.

When she died at the age of 88 there was only one question on everyone’s lips – what happened to the family money?

Despite frantic searching from her surviving relatives, not a single cent was ever found and the missing family fortune passed into local legend.

Butchie Parmenter doesn’t believe in legends.

Experience has taught Butchie not to believe in anything except himself, so when good fortune unexpectedly lands at his feet he grabs the opportunity with both hands, determined not to let go. No matter what.

Butchie should have figured that nothing worth having ever comes easy and if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

A Dark and Painful Mystery by Wendy M. WilsonA Dark and Painful Mystery by Wendy M. Wilson:

NEW ZEALAND, 1878: Has the missing man been murdered in the dense bush, or has he simply abandoned his wife and children for another woman?

Sergeant Frank Hardy and his new wife Mette attempt to solve two real mysteries from nineteenth century New Zealand: the whereabouts of Peter Kane, who left his home to look for work and did not return, and the brutal murder of an accommodation house owner who was splitting palings in the bush. Were they connected? If so, how?

As one newspaper said at the time about the Peter Kane disappearance:

“…the fate of the poor fellow may be cleared up, and the state of horrible suspense in which his unfortunate wife has been kept in for months brought to an end; and we would ask not only the people of Woodville, but of the other districts he may have visited, to take all possible steps to throw light upon what at present appears to be a dark and painful mystery.” The Manawatu Times, Volume III, Issue 81, 20 July 1878

This engaging novella is perfect for readers who have enjoyed the other three Sergeant Frank Mysteries. For readers who have not read the series already, the novella includes a backstory/history of the two main characters.

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