The Obligatory Birthday Post 2015

So today (well, yesterday actually) was my birthday.

Since my parents had to go to the 50th birthday of a colleague of my Dad’s in the evening, I had lunch with them instead at a local Thai restaurant (which is actually run by a family of Vietnamese origin).

And since that meant I was alone in the evening, I settled down with a DVD. Initially, I was planning to watch The Avengers, because it’s a feel-good film. But since my Mom wants to see that one again in preparation for Age of Ultron, I’m going to watch it with her, so I opted for Guardians of the Galaxy instead, which is another largely cheerful feel-good movie.

Coincidentally, I just found last year’s birthday post and realised that I apparently watched The Avengers on my birthday last year. So apparently, it’s almost something of a tradition to watch Marvel superhero movies (but only the happier ones) on my birthday. But then, Marvel superhero movies usually leave you feeling really good afterwards and you want to feel good on your birthday.

By the way, for years I used to watch a Star Wars movie on my birthday, usually timed to coincide with my annual rewatch of the original trilogy (with or without the prequels). I don’t know why I stopped, but I guess it’s because I’ve seen the Star Wars movies a lot more often by now than any of the Marvel movies. Besides, I’m rather over Star Wars at the moment, though I’ll always love the original trilogy.

Okay, so the new trailer for The Force Awakens looks a lot better than I thought it would, especially since I can’t stand J.J. Abrams’ work. I particularly liked the hint at an interracial relationship (plus Han, plus Chewie, plus Luke). And I will probably see it come December. But I’m not nearly as excited about this one as I was about the prequels. For me, Star Wars is a story that has been told.

Talking of trailers, the trailer for Ant-Man also looks surprisingly good, especially considering that this is probably the Marvel movie I am least excited about. I’ll probably see it at some point, but I might simply wait for the DVD.

On the other hand, the trailer for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice looks completely unenticing. I’m not a fan of DC’s grimdark superhero movies anyway (though I like their TV offerings) and this one looks even worse than some of the previous ones. And very, very grimdark.

Finally, here are some photos: Continue reading

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A new fantasy story available and Cora participates in an SF Signal Mind Meld

First of all, I was invited to participate in SF Signal‘s regular Mind Meld feature. The subject this time around was cities in science fiction and fantasy. You can see my answer as well as those of Kelly McCullough, Beth Cato, Joe Sherry, Rachel Aukes, Lisa McCurrach, Howard Andrew Jones and Fran Wilde here.

Then, as I mentioned before, I’ll have a few new releases and promotional posts upcoming, though they were derailed a bit by all the Hugo drama (updates coming soon), my parents’ golden wedding anniversary and Günther Grass dying. Still, here is the first new release.

The story in question is called Albrecht, the Nightmare. It’s both a paranormal romance and a contemporary and it draws quite heavily on North German folklore, particularly on the crossed horse head gables that are a common feature of the Low German farmhouse and the fact that they were intended to ward off evil, particularly in the form of nightmares or alps, a German take on the classic incubus/succubus legend.

Most stories start with “What if…” and this one was no different, for one day I found myself wondering what if the crossed horse head gables really do work as a deterrent against nightmares. It also occured to me that what used to be horror stories – young women being molested by vampires, werewolves, demons, fae, nightmares, etc… – have now been recast as paranormal romances. And in the context of a paranormal romance, the old warding spell represented by the crossed horse head gables could easily become a romantic obstacle.

So I came up with the story of Albrecht, a nightmare who falls in love with Lina, a student and single mom (because nightmares have a thing about breast milk), and finds himself unable to be together with his beloved due to the ubiquitous crossed horse head gables, when they move back to Lina’s home village in rural North West Germany (the village of Altenmarhorst, which is a real place BTW).

I also included a genuine local legend, namely the story of Lambert Sprengepiel of Vechta, a cavalry officer during the Thirty Years’ War, who according to legend made a deal with the devil in order to be able to vanish into thin air (in fact, he merely used guerilla warfare tactics) and was cursed to roam the moors around Vechta in the form of a demonic hellhound after his death.

I’ve been fascinated by Sprengepiel’s story since I first came across it while teaching at the University of Vechta. I’ve always wanted to use him as a character in a historical fantasy (and I will almost certainly do so someday). And since Albrecht, the Nightmare is set in Sprengepiel’s old stomping ground, including him was a no-brainer. In the story, he decides to reenter modern politics by running for mayor, though he occasionally has to be reminded that the Thirty Years War has been over for more than three hundred years.

A word of warning, this story also contains political satire (hey, I insinuate that former German Secretary of Finance Theo Waigel is a werewolf). Plus, it has Albrecht, Lina and Lambert Sprengepiel fighting against bigotry and bureaucracy in the form of a local councillor. In short, it’s one of those nasty pieces of message fiction that are ruining SFF according to some very vocal whiny canines (Lambert Sprengepiel would probably have them for breakfast).

Albrecht, the Nightmare
Albrecht, the NightmareGermany in the near future: When supernatural beings come out of the closet and reveal themselves as having lived among humanity all along, the country quickly adjusts to the new reality after some initial uproar. Romances between humans and supernaturals soon become common, such as the relationship between Lina, a human single mother, and Albrecht, a nightmare demon.

But Albrecht’s and Lina’s love is threatened when they leave Berlin for Lina’s home village in rural North Germany. For it turns out that the village is suffused with an ancient magic, a warding spell specifically designed to keep nightmares out.

More information.
Word length: 5800 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Oyster, Smashwords, Inktera, txtr, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Der Club, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Casa del Libro, Flipkart, e-Sentral, You Heart Books and XinXii.

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In Memoriam Günther Grass

Yesterday, German novelist, poet and artist Günther Grass died of a lung infection aged 87. His death caused an outpour of tributes and condolences from writers and politicians worldwide. Deutsche Welle and The Guardian have collected a few of them. The Guardian also shares some of their favourite Günther Grass quotes, while kulturzeit has a wonderful video tribute (in German).

Günther Grass was one of the ten German winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature along with Theodor Mommsen, Rudolf Eucken, Paul Heyse*, Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Herrmann Hesse, Nelly Sachs**, Heinrich Böll and Herta Müller, who with Grass’ death remains the only living German winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, for Elfriede Jelinek, the other German language winner, is actually Austrian.

If you grew up in Germany post 1945, Günther Grass was always there in the background of your life, a mustacchioed pipe-smoking presence that looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s lost doppelgangers. You probably read him in school along with his Gruppe 47 fellow travelers Heinrich Böll, Siegfried Lenz, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Martin Walser, Walter Jens, Ilse Aichinger and Ingeborg Bachmann. Or maybe you secretly read him under the covers by night, looking for the good bits, like my Mom. That scene in The Tim Drum with the sherbet power in Maria’s bellybutton blew a lot of minds and probably caused dozens of imitations. And even if you never read The Tim Drum or the Danzig Trilogy, you probably know who Oskar Mazerath, the boy with the tin drum and the shrill voice who wouldn’t grow up, is. Later, you probably either rolled your eyes or nodded along, whenever Grass decided to wade into the hottest political controversy of the day – again. He probably pissed you off at some point, cause he pissed everybody off. You may have quietly gloated when it came out that Grass, then seventeen, had been a member of the Waffen SS for a few months in 1944/45 (Look, the moral paragon has been revealed to have been a bloody hypocrite), and you’re probably just as pissed off today at the obituaries from foreign papers that reduce his life to just these few months and an ill-advised poem.

Like so many, I first encountered Grass and his Gruppe 47 compatriots in school. He was what I used to call a “German textbook writer”, i.e. a German postwar writer likely affiliated with Gruppe 47 whose sole purpose seemed to be to fill German literature textbooks with dull fiction and even duller poetry that for some reason was always about either Poland or World War II or Poland during World War II. Looking back, it’s not surprising that Günther Grass and his Gruppe 47 pals had little to say to West German teens of the 1980s (okay, I kind of liked Heinrich Böll’s Lost Honour of Katherina Blum). We weren’t interested in reminiscences of lost Eastern Prussia or Silesia or Gdansk, places which had been Polish for decades before we were born and were now mostly associated with war and strikes and protests and martial law. The fact that our teachers didn’t properly explain references that couldn’t make any sense to 1980s teens (Don’t know what a potato fire is? You’re stupid and spoiled. So you stopped asking.) didn’t help either. I had to grow up to appreciate Grass and Lenz and the others. And it makes me sad how many teenagers will be turned off these authors for life by incompetent teachers.

I can pinpoint exactly what it was that made me reappreciate Siegfried Lenz as an adult. I don’t know what it was that made me reappreciate Günther Grass. Maybe it was the realisation that Grass was an SFF writer, though he probably never saw himself as such. Bruce Sterling famously coopted Günther Grass or more precisely The Tim Drum for his Slipstream manifesto, but The Flounder, a fairy tale retelling written before it was cool, and his apocalyptic novel The Rat, in which Grass destroys the world and nukes Oskar Mazerath to finally get rid of him (Didn’t work. Oskar survives), are much better examples.

But what also made me admire Günther Grass as an adult was his absolute fearlessness. Günther Grass was a man who spoke out what he thought, a man who never met a controversial subject he did not have an opinion on. And he usually didn’t care whom those opinions pissed off. He campaigned for the Social Democratic Party back in the 1960s, when this was still controversial, and later broke up with them, when he disagreed with the pro-business and anti-welfare policies of Gerhard Schröder. He pissed off the Turkish state by criticising their treatment of Kurds, Armenians and other minorities. He spoke out against war and against nuclear power. He wrote a poem criticising Israeli politics and got labelled an antisemite for his troubles. He occasionally seemed to be surprised and disappointed by the backlash his airing of his opinions tended to cause, but I don’t think he really cared.

In the speculative fiction community, there is currently a big debate going on about the place of politics in fiction and about whether authors should be allowed to have opinions at all, let alone speak about them in public. There are rightwing authors claiming that they have been discriminated against and shunned (a curious word that has no German translation) for their political and religious views, though there is currently little concrete evidence for this. And there are leftwing authors who are afraid to speak up for fear of attracting trolls and worse to their blogs.

When I heard that Günther Grass had died, my first thought was, “What a pity! Now we’ll never hear his views on the Hugo debate.” Now I strongly suspect that Günther Grass had no idea what the Hugo are. Nonetheless, he was famous or rather infamous for having an opinion on everything. And he was never afraid to state that opinion.

In the light of the current ugly climate in the SFF community, Günther Grass strikes me as even more amazing. Because here was a writer who was also a highly political person and who was not afraid to speak out, even if it cost him awards and nominations and got him shunned. He was involved in a couple of long running literary feuds without the whole thing descending into abuse and death threats. I think we could do worse than take him as a role model.

By the way, The Tin Drum was published in 1959 and became a worldwide bestseller and as well as a genuine mainstream success. Even my grandmother read it and she usually tended more towards bloated family sagas and fluffy historical fiction. Günther Grass won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, so he only had to wait for forty years to finally receive recognition. Take that, whiny puppies.

Comments closed because I neither feel like dealing with whiny puppies nor people who feel that Grass was a Nazi and nothing else.

*Don’t worry, if you have never heard of Mommsen, Eucken and Heyse. Hardly anybody has, except for German scholars.

**Hesse and Sachs held Swiss and Swedish citizenship respectively, when they were awarded the Nobel Prize, but are usually considered German writers.

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My Parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary

This past week was not just Hugo kvetching week, but there were also other things going on.

For example, yesterday, my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. The actual anniversary was on Thursday, April 9th, but because most people are working on Thursdays, they decided to hold the big party on the weekend.

And before anybody wonders, nope, I’m not that old. My parents had me several years after they got married.

Now I’m an introvert and not a party person at all. Nonetheless, the party was nice. Plus, I finally had an excuse to wear that really great dress that I rarely get to wear and use my beaded evening bag, which unfortunately dates from the pre-cellphone era, so I had problems stuffing mine into the bag.

I’m not going to bore you with photos of the party, but here is the invitation I made for my parents. I took some scanned wedding photos (the originals are here) and added some psychedelic graphics for that full sixties feeling, though only one person among the thirty-five guests got what I was trying to do:

My parents' golden wedding anniversary invitation

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Iron Man goes West

Today, while I was grocery shopping I perused the “Romanheft” spinner rack at the supermarket and came across this western novelette, the title of which made me do a doubletake.

G.F. Unger cover

Now I’m pretty sure the title is a coincidence. For starters, because the series in question is a reprint line which republishes some of the more than 700 western novelettes penned by Gert Fritz a.k.a. G.F. Unger. I suspect this one dates from the 1970s, though there is no copyright date to be found. And since Unger died in 2005 (here is his obituary), he cannot have been inspired by the Iron Man movies. I also doubt that he was inspired by the Marvel comics, since US superhero comics were only available sporadically in Germany well into the 1990s. Of course, it’s possible that Unger somehow came across some Iron Man comics (the height of his writing career coincided with the silver age of comics) and simply borrowed the name because he liked it. Also note that Unger’s Ironman is spelled differently than Marvel’s.

I actually bought the novelette in question – how could I not? The story has a first person narrator named Jake Ringold, though it would have been amusing if his name had been Stark. The plot BTW involves Ringold being made the the sheriff of a small town in the Old West and tasked with protecting the town against bandits. In short, standard western stuff. Though I generally find the G.F. Unger westerns surprisingly readable.

On the other hand, maybe the protagonist of Unger’s Ironman is the grandfather of Howard Stark and therefore great-grandfather of Tony.

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The obligatory 2015 Hugo nomination reaction post

So the 2015 Hugo nominations were announced this weekend and the noxious Sad Puppies as well as the even more noxious Rabid Puppies managed to push many of their choices onto the ballot and completely dominate all three short fiction categories as well as best related work and the two editing categories.

A lot of people are understandably furious about this. There are even suggestions that the Hugo Awards are irrevocably broken.

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“Heartache” has a gorgeous new cover and Cora celebrates an anniversary

There’ll be a few promotional posts this long holiday weekend, so I’ll just preemptively ask everybody to bear with me, especially since there will be other content as well.

First of all, Heartache, my collection of three short stories of broken hearts and love gone wrong, has a new cover.

I was actually supposed to make placecards for my parents’ upcoming golden wedding anniversary (no, I’m not that old. I was born several years after my parents got married) and looking at grungy vector graphics in colour schemes which happen to match the table decoration and also came across a few heart graphics, so I made a new cover for Heartache instead, especially since the old one never worked all that well. The concept is still the same, but the new cover is much better IMO. Take a look:

Heartache by Cora Buhlert

Coincidentally, the title story in Heartache also happens to be my first published piece of fiction ever. It was written for a creative writing workshop I took at university and eventually published in issue 2 of newleaf, the English language literary magazine of the University of Bremen.

The editorial of said issue is dated May 1995, though I didn’t actually see a copy until a lot later, because I was in London for a semester when the issue in question came out and later had to pester the editor for my contributors’ copies. newleaf‘s print run was very small, particularly in the early years, and so it was mostly sold out by the time I got back from London. The editor eventually scrounged up two copies from his personal stash for me.

If you take a look at the date of the editorial, this means that I’m coming up on my twentieth anniversary as a published author, which is pretty freaking amazing, if you think about it. Of course, that first publication was in a university magazine with a tiny print run and a cover that makes my early efforts look great (around issue 11, newleaf got a graphic design student on board and the covers got a lot better) and I didn’t sell anything again for another five years or so, but it’s still a reason to celebrate.

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New Charity Anthology Available: For Whom the Bell Trolls, edited by John L. Monk and Lindy Moone

April Fool’s Day is already over in my part of the world, but I still have a new release to announce, because I have a story in the charity anthology For Whom the Bell Trolls, edited by John L. Monk and Lindy Moone.

For Whom the Bell Trolls, edited by John L. Monk and Lindy Moone

For Whom the Bell TrollsFunny, touching, suspenseful—sometimes romantic, titillating and shocking—there’s something for all adult readers in this unique illustrated anthology from 23 authors. Arranged from light to meaty fare, the antrollogy’s “menu” offers up fanciful and farcical stories, family-oriented tales, romance, mystery, high peak adventure, even magically surreal literary stories—starring all sorts of trolls, from the all-too-real Internet variety to the mythical mountain and bridge-dwelling trolls of legend. Readers will laugh nervously at Humphrey the half-breed’s unfortunate beginnings, and bite their nails on behalf of Fergus Underbridge, hard-boiled troll detective. They’ll cheer a not-so-ordinary troll-fighting girl and want to hug—or slap—a woman lost in her own neighborhood. And whatever should be done about the boy with the head of a dragon…?

Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India and Amazon Mexico.

As the title and blurb suggest, this is an anthology or rather an antrollogy about trolls, mostly of the mythological kind. Here, editor and illustrator Lindy Moone talks about the project, while fellow contributor Victoria Leybourne talks a bit about her story here.

My story in this anthology is called “Troll Dating”. It’s the tale of Isnogrod, a very modern troll (even though he lives in a cave in Iceland), who goes looking for love on the Internet and eventually finds it much closer to home.

As mentioned above, For Whom the Bell Trolls is a charity anthology, which means that all proceeds go to Equality Now, an organisation that fights discrimnation of and violence against women worldwide.

Isnogrod, the troll, very much agrees with this, since Joss Whedon is a prominent supporter of Equality Now and Isnogrod is a huge fan of The Avengers. He even writes Loki/Hulk slash – and no, the story doesn’t include a sample.

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for March 2015

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

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

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have science fiction, space opera, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, Norse mythology, alternate history, time travel, young adult SFF, Steampunk, vampires, witches, mermaids, dwarves, vengeful Norse gods, South African werewolves, post-apocalyptic owl queens, fox shifters, magic schools, superheroes, airships, interstellar archeologists, plucky teenaged cooks in outer space and much more. This month’s round-up also features authors from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Bulgaria.

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:

Time Slip by ML BannerTime Slip by M.L. Banner

His invention would have changed the world…
if the world hadn’t ended first.

By accident, Dr. Ron invented a time slip, a way to travel through time. When he finds out his wife is dying of a rare cancer and the cure is five years
away, he decides to slip forward in time and bring the cure back to the present. Only, this is a one-way trip and he arrives right after an apocalypse has brought the world back to a new Stone Age.

Survival for Dr. Ron, his wife and even that of the rest of the world, just became a race against the clock.

Elves and Escapades by Eleanor BeresfordElves and Escapades by Eleanor Beresford

In some disgrace after the events of the preceding term, Charley is determined to redeem herself, and resolve her complicated love life. The Christmas holidays change her life forever, but before she finds her feet again, she and her friends are drawn into dark, old magic.

A magical YA school story with a sapphic twist, the second in the Scholars and Sorcery series, following Pegasi and Prefects.

Scholars and Sorcery is a series of young adult fantasy novels set in an alternate version of 1950s England in which elves invaded in the far past, leaving magic and mythical creatures such as fairies and dragons behind them. It features lesbian heroines and a sweet dollop of romance.

The Shard by Ted CrossThe Shard by Ted Cross

A dying king. A mysterious invader. The seer’s vision was clear: find the lost shard from the Spire of Peace or the realm would drown in blood.

The problem: eight hundred years ago the elven hero Kathkalan took the shard with him into the lair of the most vicious dragon ever known to mankind…and he never returned.

Reluctantly drafted to lead the quest is the minor noble Midas, torn between his duty to the realm and the desire to protect his sons. With an unlikely band of heroes, including two elderly rangers and a young tinker’s son, Midas must risk losing everything he loves if he is to locate the shard and save the Known Lands.

Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael DeckerEdifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker

Inbound on an interstellar flight, Archeologist Nosuma Okande sees far more ancient sites to excavate on Achernar Tertius than the Institute has on record. Setting out to unearth these sites proves more of a challenge than she realizes, bringing her into conflict with local villages and ancient traditions—and with a shadowy force called the Madziva Mutupo, the Hippopotamus Totem.

 

 

Cast in Stone by A.F. DeryCast in Stone by A.F. Dery

After her parents are murdered by a brutal warlord, Celia makes it her ultimate mission to bring him to justice, but she can’t do it alone.

Rupert is a criminal mage whose sentenced execution is commuted if he agrees to serve as Celia’s Guardian until her mission is complete.

But what looks like the perfect opportunity for them both quickly turns into the perfect catastrophe. In the fall out, she is betrayed by those she trusted most. Now on the run, Celia and Rupert find not only their lives in jeopardy, but also their hearts.

Torn between her old vow and a new love, Celia must choose justice…or vengeance.

Wolf Logic by Masha du ToitWolf Logic by Masha du Toit

Never trust a werewolf. That’s Gia’s first lesson as she enters the wolf cages at Special Branch, the police force that deal with the illegal use of magic. But working with the tracker-werewolves is not the greatest danger she faces: Gia is a spy. She risks torture and death if her secret is discovered.

Then Gia receives shocking news. Her little brother has disappeared, taken out of his bed, in the middle of the night. She doesn’t want to believe that Special Branch is responsible, but who did take Nico? Could it be the magical terrorists, the Belle Gente? Or is there another, even stranger explanation?

Contemporary fantasy set in Cape Town, South Africa: Wolf Logic is the sequel to Crooks and Straights.

Heart of the Kraken by A.W. ExleyHeart of the Kraken by A.W. Exley

Legend says if you consume the heart of a mermaid, you will know all of a man’s secrets

Ailin doesn’t care if the legend is true or not – she’s stuck in a crate on her way to feature as the main course at a lavish banquet. Her heart to be served while still beating for a cruel noble while the rest of her is sliced into sashimi. Unless she can escape.

Across the ocean, Fenton longs for a different release. Sold as a child by men who labelled him a mistake, a failed experiment. Except he has one valuable skill, he can summon the dreaded kraken. Bought by a pirate, he has only known life at sea, wielded as a tool by the captain.

Two lives collide when the pirates capture the vessel holding Ailin. The kraken holds the key to Ailin’s freedom but in summoning the beast one last time, Fenton must choose between losing his life or his heart…

The Last Mermaid by Ian FraserThe Last Mermaid by Ian Fraser

The Last Mermaid is about the coming of age of a young girl in a small island community off the coast of Maine. It is set in an alternative1940’s. Hitler has conquered Europe, and the US faces an imminent invasion. A German-speaking family struggles to maintain a semblance of normality as the possibility of internment draws near.

 

 

 

Ragnarok by C. GockelRagnarok by C. Gockel

Loki vowed Asgard would burn.

Bohdi Patel, latest incarnation of Chaos, wants nothing to do with Loki’s psychotic oath.
Stranded on the icy world of Jotunheim with Amy Lewis, his friend Steve Rogers, and an unlikely band of civilians, magical beings, and elite military, Bohdi just wants to keep himself and his friends alive … but when you’re Chaos incarnate, even the simplest goals are complicated.

If Jotunheim doesn’t kill them, Odin will, and if Odin doesn’t, the secrets they harbor might.

In the final installment of I Bring the Fire, Bohdi, Amy, Steve, and their companions learn that Chaos cannot be contained, some secrets cannot be kept, and some vows cannot be broken.

The Fires of Yesterday by Mark R. HealyThe Fires of Yesterday by Mark R. Healy

The Earth is in ruins. Cities and nations are destroyed.

Brant is a synthetic, a machine made in the image of man who dreams of bringing humans back into the world. Close to achieving his goal, his tiny cradle of life is now threatened by ominous black clouds that roll in from the north and bring darkness to the land.

In the wasteland, the cannibalistic Marauders begin to escalate their war with the resistance fighters of Ascension. As resources dwindle, both sides become more ruthless, endangering all within the region.

Brant will be forced to once again return to the wasteland and into the midst of the battle to confront the source of the darkness in an attempt to save all that he has created.

This is book 3 of the Silent Earth series, following After the Winter and The Seeds of New Earth.

Nestor deNeffo by R.D. HendersonNestor deNeffo by R.D. Henderson

A fantasy novella that is second in a series that follows the exploits of the conniving, calculating, and corrupt black elf intelligence operative as he expands his criminal activities to the surface when he is involved in a scheme to sell weapons up there.

 

 

 

The Pyramids of London by Andrea K. HöstThe Pyramids of London by Andrea K. Höst

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the New Republic’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton makers, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

Dwarf's Ransom by M.L. LarsonLay of Runes: Dwarf’s Ransom by M.L. Larson

Jari, a young dwarf from an isolated kingdom, is sent out to find his trouble-making brothers. After being saved by a stranger from being trampled by a horse, Jari finds himself with a new companion in this strange land. As they search for Jari’s kin, they find more trouble made than either of them had anticipated. Soon, Jari’s missing brothers are implicated in the murder of a god, making their return home all the more urgent. But when they are finally found in a distant land, troubles only seem to get worse for Jari and the companions he’s picked up along the way.

This is book 2 of the Lay of Runes series, following Sky Treader.

The Other Car by Paul LevinsonThe Other Car by Paul Levinson

James Oleson is beginning to see everything in perfect duplicate – two identical models of cars which are the same down to scuff marks and license plate, two old philosophy books with the same torn pages and inscription in old ink, and twin mail men. Is he losing his mind, or experiencing the birth of a new alternate reality via binary fission?

 

 

 

Dissident by Cecilia LondonDissident by Cecilia London

She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.

In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.

Part One of a Six Part Series. Each part is a full length novel between 60,000-120,000 words and ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This saga contains adult situations, including non-gratuitous violence, explicit (consensual) sex, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes dark and gritty plot (particularly in part two).

Back to the Viper by Antara ManBack to the Viper by Antara Man

The Jackal had the chance to shoot to the top of the charts”
” until they blew their live showcase in The Viper Room.

Four misfits in a music band called The Jackal — single mother Ashley on the vocals, Hollywood stuntman Wane the guitarist, computer techie Craig banging the drums and Chad the ‘bent’ photographer doing the back vocals. And then they blew their live debut on The Viper Room. Now ten years on, the four are roiling in their own mud of guilt and regret. They’re not built to be prisoners of their own making, that’s for sure.

Then an oddball scientist turns up with an offer they can’t refuse – time travel. Can it make a difference? Will it? Who’s to say what they’re letting themselves in for?

No man is free who cannot control himself. Will time travel make any of those four anyone’s favorite person?

Awakened by C. Steven ManleyAwakened by C. Steven Manley

Chicago journalist Israel Trent and Erin Simms- a woman with a life she’d rather not have -awake in a modern day dungeon and are thrust into a world of shadowy government agencies, secret societies, and fringe sciences so far beyond understanding they might as well be magic. To survive in this secret world, they must face down a powerful doomsday cult intent on opening a gateway for their alien masters while simultaneously coming to grips with the unearthly power locked deep within their own DNA.

 

Our Fair Eden by Harry MannersOur Fair Eden by Harry Manners

Welcome to Eden, citizen. The fate of the world is in your hands. Don’t forget to wipe you feet!

Our Fair Eden is a near-future dystopian mystery, marrying technothriller with hard sci-fi against a background of climate change and spellbinding narrative.

It’s 2087, and the Earth’s climate is in wild fluctuation. The Amazon Basin is a sun-baked graveyard, the Gobi is blossoming into tropical beauty, Europe is buried beneath icy tundra, and Manhattan is a swamp of the risen Atlantic. Old paradises are becoming new wasteland, old wasteland a new breed of paradise.

Nowhere is safe. Millions flee the world’s cities. But where do they run to?

The UN has an answer: the Eden Projects, colonies drawn from all nations, leading the charge in beginning anew, and developing new technologies to help start over.

Desh can’t believe his luck when he wins the lottery to Eden Prime, most famous of all the Projects, hidden in the heart of Mongolia. But when he arrives in Eden, he finds himself caught in a struggle against a cruel autocracy, divided into gentry and peasants, all under the watchful eye of mysterious Texan matriarch, Mother Eden.

Hidden Falls by Stephanie MarksHidden Falls by Stephanie Marks

All that Seline Michaelson needed was some time to get away from the city to clear her head. She never expected to meet a man that could make her forget about her ex-boyfriend while staying with her cousin, until she met James.

But what started as a simple vacation in the small town of Hidden Falls, quickly became a lesson that would put everything Seline thought she knew about the world to the test. Because everything seems to grow bigger in the mountains, especially the wolves.

Protector by Christine PopeProtector by Christine Pope

Caitlin McAllister has been keeping a secret. While her clan suffers for lack of a seer, she’s been hiding her gift of second sight—hiding and running away from a destiny she does not want and has done her best to escape. Unfortunately, she finds that keeping secrets carries its own price when she and two of her friends end up in the hands of three evil warlocks who seem intent on using the young witches for their own dark purposes.

Far from her clan’s territory, Caitlin turns to Alex Trujillo, whose grandmother is the prima of the de la Paz witch clan and whose own gift is the ability to cast a unique kind of protective spell, to help her with tracking down the warlocks who planned the kidnapping.

As Alex and Caitlin work together to save her friends, they find themselves falling under one another’s spell. But their combined talents may not be enough to save the kidnapped witches… or to stop a murderous conspiracy that threatens the safety of all the Arizona witch clans.

This is book 5 of the Witches of Cleopatra Hill series.

Company Daughter by Callan PrimerCompany Daughter by Callan Primer

A girl. A saucepan. A plan to conquer the universe.

Aleta Dinesen doesn’t see the point of hanging around home, not when she can cook a mean paella. But her plan to conquer the universe one meal at a time runs afoul of her overprotective father, commander of a tough mercenary company. And when he puts his foot down, he’s got the firepower to back it up.

Undeterred, Aleta escapes the dreadnaught she calls home one step ahead of the gorgeous, highly disapproving Lieutenant Park, the unlucky young officer tasked with hauling her back. But the universe isn’t the safe place she thought it was. Stranded in a dangerous mining community, she clings to survival by her fingernails. Only by working with someone she can’t stand will she have a chance to escape, proving to everyone that a teenage cook can be the most dangerous force in the universe.

No Way Home, edited by Alex Roddie and Luca BaleNo Way Home, edited by Alex Roddie and Lucas Bale

Stories From Which There is No Escape.

Nothing terrifies us more than being stranded. Helpless, forsaken, cut-off. Locked in a place from which there is no escape, no way to get home.

A soldier trapped in an endless war dies over and over, only to be awakened each time to fight again – one of the last remaining few seeking to save mankind from extinction.

In rural 70s England, an RAF radio engineer returns to an abandoned military installation, but begins to suffer hallucinations, shifts in time and memories that are not his own.

A widower, one of ten thousand civilian space explorers, is sent alone to determine his assigned planet’s suitability for human colonisation, but stumbles across a woman who is part of the same programme and shouldn’t be there at all.

A suicidal woman in a poverty-stricken near-future America, where political apathy has allowed special interests to gain control of the country, takes part in a particularly unpleasant crowd-funding platform, established by the nation’s moneyed elite to engage the masses.

An assassin from the future, sent back in time to murder an insurgent, is left stranded when he fails in his mission and knows he will soon cease to exist.

These sometimes dark, sometimes heart-warming, but always insightful stories and more are to be found in No Way Home, where eight of the most exciting new voices in speculative fiction explore the mental, physical and even meta-physical boundaries that imprison us when we are lost.

Call of Kythshire by Missy SheldrakeCall of Kythshire by Missy Sheldrake

The existence of the fairies of Kythshire is a secret kept for over a century…

Azaeli has trained from a young age in order to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a Knight of His Majesty’s Elite. When she finally becomes a Squire, her name is mysteriously left off of the list for the King’s Quest. Her parents set off without her, but the simple quest goes awry leaving tragedy in its wake. With the help of her lifelong friend, Rian, a Mage apprentice, Azaeli must unravel a sinister plot that threatens both the existence of Kythshire and the peace that her people have celebrated for generations.

Call of Kythshire includes over a dozen beautifully rendered illustrations in this author-illustrator’s debut novel. Enjoy full color illustrations in the digital version and black-and-white images in the Paperback.

Joey and the Fox by Hollis ShilohJoey and the Fox by Hollis Shiloh

Asshole cop. It’s Joey’s role, and one he’s comfortable with. Joey tells gay jokes. He’s crude, tough, and thick-skinned. But now he’s got a chance to work with a fox shifter—and he doesn’t want to lose that opportunity.

Dylan is a mess: clingy and broken, cheerful but lost, seriously unpredictable…and very gay. But Joey desperately wants the partnership to succeed. He’s not willing to lose the fox shifter for any reason, even when Dyl drives him crazy.

Is there any way to make it work? And will the weird attraction he feels to the cute redhead ever go away?

57,000 words

Grand Master's Pawn by Aurora SpringerGrand Master’s Pawn by Aurora Springer

A thousand years in the future, wars and portal failures disturb the fringes of the galaxy. On Terra, twenty-two year old Violet Hunter seems an ordinary student of the Space Academy, who dreams of exploring unknown planets. She applies to serve as the pawn of one of the twelve Grand Masters, although her hidden talent of empathy makes her ineligible. Violet has defied the prohibition against psychics for half her life. Why should she stop now?

Isolation is the penalty for a Grand Master’s great power because their touch is deadly to a normal person. The Grand Master with the griffin avatar selected the girl with the star-shaped birthmark in spite of her father’s dire prophesy. He is suspicious about his disobedient pawn, yet he cannot deny the success of her missions to strange planets where she finds more than he expected.

Violet seeks the truth about the mysterious Grand Masters. Who or what are they? Do they threaten or benefit civilization? While searching for answers, Violet does the unthinkable. She makes a bargain with her obnoxious Grand Master and challenges him to meet her face to face, risking her secret to discover his purpose. She plunges into an impossible love and a world of intrigues. Can she survive the vicious conflicts?

Acorn 666 by Josh St. JohnAcorn 666: Episode 1 by Josh St. John

The Human Apocalypse has Ended…
Within the destruction left from the fire that fell from the sky, only the animals remain. Prophesied by the Owl Queen and her loyal army for years, the Apocalypse has started a war of control between the various factions of animals left behind — revealing ancient magic passed down from generation to generation. From the noble woodland creatures led by a quiet and mysterious council, to the domesticated animals who were once companions for humankind everywhere.

The Animal Apocalypse Begins…
Outside of the warring factions of animals left behind, the owls who foretold of the Apocalypse have regrouped. With the return of magic, the war has grown into a struggle of power. Not only power over the arcane, but power over life… and death. The Owl Queen has foretold of a new prophecy. One where owls rule the land under her command. In order to grow her army, the Queen comes up with a painful curse. A curse that will transform anyone who ingests it into a bloodthirsty and frenetic owl, hellbent on destruction. A curse that will make this prophecy come true. The prophecy of Acorn 666.

Don’t eat the acorns.

Sac'a'rith: Rebirth by Vincent TrigiliSac’a’rith: Rebirth by Vincent Trigili

All Zah’rak wanted to do was train and work with Narcion, but now Narcion is dead, leaving Zah’rak and the others without guidance or a plan. Cyborgs, Resden, and many others are after their blood, while Phareon tries to be their puppeteer.

Before Zah’rak can get far, Raquel reappears and offers them their dream: to be real wizards and full members of the Wizard Kingdom, but Zah’rak does not trust her or the offer.

Meanwhile, the Korshalemian sorcerers are up to their old tricks again, and it is up to Zah’rak, Raquel, and the others to discover their new plan and prevent a new great war.

The Lost Tales of Power is an open-ended series of Sci-Fi/Fantasy books set in a vast multiverse featuring a mixture of traditional fantasy and science fiction elements.

Never Sleep by Cady VanceNever Sleep by Cady Vance

127 days without sleep…

Thora Green had a life once upon a time. But that ended the day her parents enrolled her in sleep clinic prison. At the facility, her chronic months-long insomnia is observed by scads of doctors, but she is never actually treated for her dire disease. In a feat of desperation, Thora escapes and heads straight for New York City. Buried deep in the city’s underbelly, there is rumored to be a secret haven called the Insomniacs’ Café: a place where people like Thora can find relief.

As Thora joins forces with Aiden and Florence, two fellow insomniacs, their midnight quest will take them from the dusty bookshelves of The Strand, to the smokey underground clubs in the Lower East Side, to countless taxi and subway rides. Clues leading to their final destination are waiting for them at every turn. But so are Sleepers–a powerful core of sworn-enemies to all Insomniacs– who wish to see Thora and her friends destroyed at any cost.

Flashpoint by Indigo WilderFlashpoint by Indigo Wilder

Caia is a fresh college graduate who has the power to start a fire with the snap of her fingers. She isn’t ready to grow up and settle down in real life. But ready or not, real life is coming for her. When out-of-towner Brandt bumps into her too many times to be coincidence, Caia begins to realize that her parents might not be who they say they are. They have a secret, one they are willing to die to protect.

Ash is a Guardian, genetically enhanced to be stronger, faster, and smarter than an ordinary human. Cool, collected, and highly trained, Ash is one of the Agency’s best. But when a long time missing Guardian draws the attention of the Guild, an organization of powerful rune masters, things get personal for Ash. Very personal.

Caia is swept up into Ash’s world of super soldiers and rune masters and propelled toward an uncertain future. But one thing is always certain when playing with fire – someone is bound to get burned.

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Cora engages in some Hugo kvetching – and a great George R.R. Martin interview/feature

The nominations for the 2015 Hugo Awards won’t be announced until April 4th, but the annual Hugo kvetching has already begun. Okay, so it already began back in January, but it’s currently ramping up for the second round of kvetching.

And so I’m on the 2014 Hugo-nominated podcast The Skiffy and Fanty Show this week, discussing the Hugos and particularly how the often confusing categories and nomination process could be made more transparent, with The G., Jason Snell and host Shaun Duke (who also has a great post on Jupiter Ascending, Agent Carter and character agency at his blog).

You can also download the podcast in iTunes, though I’m not sure why it is labelled as “explicit”. Okay, maybe one of us uttered a rude word or two, but with a label like “explicit” I’d expect a massive transatlantic phonesex orgy, which this most definitely wasn’t.

For more pre-nomination Hugo kvetching, check out this post at Making Light, which hints that several of the Sad Puppy nominee may have made the shortlist and not just the decent ones like Jim Butcher’s Skin Game either. Apparently, one of them broke the embargo and talked about his nomination, which shows how little in tune with the award and its policies they are.

ETA: Martin Wisse also comments on the Hugo rumours that have been flying around and suggests that another batch of sad puppies on the shortlist might lead to counter movements and do some lasting damage to the award in the future.

Also related to the upcoming Hugo kvetching is this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch in which she implores writers to just keep out of genre controversies, because that sort of thing leads to lasting feuds and might destroy careers. And besides, writers shouldn’t talk about politics and religion anyway.

Now I have a lot of respect for Kristine Kathryn Rusch and indeed I credit her and her husband Dean Wesley Smith for persuading me to give this whole indie writing thing a go. However, I’m afraid I disagree with her on this particular point. For while it may be problematic, not to mention extremely time-consuming, to engage with every single genre dust-up, I don’t think writers should remain silent on every single issue ever. Because writers are also people, people with political opinions and religious views. And expecting them never to address these views ever is rather unrealistic.

What is more, like everybody who grew up in West Germany post 1968, I was raised to speak out against things that strike me as wrong (which often caused conflicts with our parents’ generation who did not believe that speaking out against things that are wrong should include telling off the Nazi uncle at the dinner table or refusing to have dinner with him altogether). And what I’m seeing in this particular fight is not just another genre dust-up that will seem quaint to incomprehensible twenty years from now, but very real attempts to silence people on the part of those who find their position under threat. So no, I’m not going to shut up.

However, Kristine Kathryn Rusch also makes a very good point, namely that writers should let one fraction or another’s ideas what is and isn’t appropriate to write about influence their own work. Now this is a point that I heartily agree with (with the caveat that a writer should also do their best not to be blindly offensive to large swathes of people), if only because I know how liberating it was for me to throw off received ideas of what did and did not make for good SFF and simply write whatever the hell I wanted to write.

But as calls for just ignoring the whole Sad Puppy controversy and focussing on one’s own work go, I vastly prefer this series of tweets by Nebula nominee Usman T. Malik:

Finally, for something quite different. arte, the French/German cultural TV channel has a regular feature called Durch die Nacht mit… (Into the night with…). The concept is simple. Two creative people (artists, musicians, writers, actors, etc…) meet in a given city and just talk and explore the town, while the camera follows them around.

Now the latest edition of the program features George R.R. Martin and Sibel Kekilli, the Turkish-German actress who played Shae on Game of Thrones, wandering through Santa Fe and talking about Game of Thrones, writing, acting, politics, religion, art, food and anything under the sun really. It’s a great program and entirely in English with German subtitles (there are a few German language film clips, but that’s it). I watched it on TV with someone who has never watched Game of Thrones nor read the books and yet was still charmed by Martin and Kekilli interacting.

Comments disabled, because these posts tend to bring out the trolls.

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