Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for December 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 November books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, Steampunk, lots of holiday books, crime-busting witches, crime-busting cats, crime-busting frogs, demons, the devil himself, ghosts, quests, pirates on the high seas and in space, magical body swaps, Christmas after the end of the world 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:

Mercy's Trial by Sever BronnyMercy’s Trial by Sever Bronny:

Grasping at a sliver of hope, a group of friends undertake a perilous quest last attempted thousands of years ago . . . a quest to summon dragons.

A ruthless enemy has conquered Augum’s kingdom. Sheltered beneath a protective dome, the Academy of Arcane Arts stands as the sole remaining stronghold.

And Augum and his friends are about to abandon it.

Little does he know escaping will be the easy part, for a harrowing adventure awaits. Along the way, he’ll have to evade an enemy that always seems one step ahead—while dealing with an ally questioning his leadership.

But his greatest challenge?

Learning when to show mercy . . . and when to drive in the sword.

Christmas after the End of the World by Cora BuhlertChristmas after the End of the World by Cora Buhlert

It’s Christmas… five months after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted, blacked out the sun and covered most of the western US in ash.

Thirteen-year-old Natalie, her younger brother Liam, baby Olivia and family dog Bud are among the few still holding out in the evacuation zone.

Day to day survival is hard enough, but Natalie is determined to give Liam and Olivia an unforgettable Christmas… after the end of the world.

And who knows, maybe they’ll even get a true Christmas miracle…

This is a post-apocalyptic holiday novelette of 10000 words or approx. 35 print pages.

Frosted Croakies by Sam CheeverFrosted Croakies by Sam Cheever:

’Tis the season for great folly…walawalawalawalala…ribbit.

It’s Christmas time at Croakies. The tree is up. The stockings are hung. And Christmas tunes are turning the atmosphere jolly. After a tumultuous Samhain, I’ve found my chi again and I’m starting to enjoy the season of love and giving.

Yeah. You probably know how this is going to end.

When Sebille suggests I open the bookstore up to a small holiday party, I foolishly agree. How was I supposed to know that the hobgoblin would decide it would be fun to hide everybody’s stuff? Or that we’d be hit with a freak winter storm that confined everybody inside for the duration. Or that a “You’re me but who am I?” spell would be released inside the shop, switching everybody’s identities and creating general chaos and hysteria?

I could probably deal with all that if it weren’t for the fact that my friend, Lea…the one person who could possibly reverse the spell…was ensconced in SB the parrot, with no opposable thumbs for spelling.

And me? Of course, I’m sitting fat and squishy inside Mr. Slimy. Thank goodness Rustin isn’t currently in residence, or it would be really crowded in here.

Who spelled my party? What do a pair of Santa’s elves have to do with it? And why have old enemies suddenly become new friends? I apparently have a little holiday mystery to solve inside Croakies, and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it with everybody mixed up and some of us human.

Have I told you I hate this season?

Ribbit!

Race Across Spacetime by M.D. CooperRace Across Spacetime by M.D. Cooper:

The Alliance has suffered an unimaginable loss: Tangel is dead.

The crew of the I2 struggles to carry on, dealing with the impending occupation of New Sol and surrender of the Orion Freedom Alliance. But Bob harbors a suspicion, a kernel of hope, and sends the Falconer in search of additional survivors.

Back at Star City, Finaeus and Earnest reel at the news that Tangel died to save her family and people—until they are visited by a mysterious AI from the past who presents them with a way forward.

Now the race is on. Sera chases after a Caretaker ship headed to the galactic core while Finaeus and Earnest travel beyond the galaxy to save a future Bob can no longer see.

Only time will tell if they can forge a new path forward.

Best Friends by Laurann DohnerBest Friends by Laurann Dohner:

Working together has forged a strong friendship between Melinda York and Mary Muller. So much so, they’re more like sisters. When two men burst into their diner with murder on their minds, Mel doesn’t hesitate to act. She’ll do anything to protect her friend, as well as their New Species customers…especially the one she’s been crushing on for months.

A single act of bravery sparks a series of events that result in Snow getting to know the waitress he’s been obsessively thinking about. He just wants to keep Mel safe. And convince her he’s the male for her.

Mary is the brunt of jokes because of her extreme fear of animals. Phobias aren’t funny. Is she the only one who understands that? When Mel’s actions link them both to New Species, she’d like to hide from those scary men with fangs. That would make her a crappy best friend, though. She’ll try to be brave…right up until the moment she comes face to face with a lion man named Lash. He’ll make her confront her fears in the most unexpected ways possible.

Star Rage by M.R. ForbesStar Rage by M.R. Forbes:

Events on Naraka leave Grayson exhausted but hopeful. The invaders may not be as unstoppable as he thought, and the entire weight of the Alliance is about to enter the fray. Rejoining the Navy should bring closure to his ordeal and allow him to return to his life as a pilot.

Except his mesh partner is still stranded on a freezing planet.

Except his past refuses to let go of his future.

Except the man he trusted to rally the defenses may have sabotaged them instead.

Humankind is on the verge of extinction, and if Grayson is going to stop it, he’ll have to outmaneuver opposition from every side of the equation.

Otherwise, there will be nothing left.

Angels and Amulets by Nicole GrotepasAngels and Amulets by Nicole Grotepas:

If there’s a way to spoil something, the villains of the 6 Moons will find it.

There’s no rest for the weary. Just when Holly Drake takes a break from searching for more information about her father, a Christmas-related heirloom vanishes. Sure, it’s Christmas on the 6-Moons, but Holly can’t relax. Neither can her team.

Fate forces them to give up their cozy fires, mulled drinks, and holiday feasts to race across the harsh volcanic terrain of the planet Kota to win back the prize before it’s destroyed. If they can’t save the heirloom, the already strained diplomatic relations between humans and the Centau will snap.
If they don’t save Christmas, who will?

Angels and Amulets is a Christmas novella set in the 6 Moons universe.

The Hexorcist by Lily Harper HartThe Hexorcist by Lily Haper Hart:

Ofelia Archer has a full life … which only gets fuller when a dead body lands in her backyard.

As owner of New Orleans’ premier supernatural speakeasy, Ofelia is always in the thick of things when the witch hits the fan. That’s no exception now … even when the local police start breathing down her neck.

Zach Sully has a colorful background. As a panther shifter, he keeps his true origins secret while walking the colorful streets of the French Quarter keeping law and order. A tourist murder draws him into new and uncharted territory, and a feisty witch is at the center of it.

Sully and Ofelia circle one another … warily … as they both try to solve a mystery that revolves around an outsider who somehow had ties to their little corner of the world. Eventually, they’re going to have to join forces … and it’s not exactly a comfortable meeting of the minds.

Chemistry is one thing. Trust is another. Ofelia and Sully will be forced to get over their inner misgivings and unite if they want to solve the crime … and stay alive in the process.

Welcome to a magical world, where the characters are colorful, the magic is fantastical, and the drinks are poured strong.

It’s Bourbon Street, baby, and you’ll never be the same again.

Well of Magic by B.R. KingsolverWell of Magic by B.R. Kingsolver:

I never expected to see a mage battle on national TV.

When the ley lines—the orderly rivers of magical energy that circle the globe—went wild, chaos ensued.

Magic hid in the shadows for hundreds of years, but then a secret order took control of one of the world’s largest religions. Their goal is to rule the world, and the first step is to control the ley lines and magic users.

I didn’t escape the Illuminati just to become a slave to the Knights Magica. If they want me, they’re going to have a fight on their hands.

The Incubus Impasse by Amanda M. LeeThe Incubus Impasse by Amanda M. Lee:

Charlie Rhodes is at a crossroads in her life. Her big secret is out – at least with the most important person in her life Jack Hanson – and now they have to deal with a whole new reality.

Things are going relatively well when the Legacy Foundation is sent on a mission to Charleston. It seems women are dying under strange circumstances: open windows, no immediate sign of violence, locked doors. The leader of their group is convinced it’s an incubus, and even though he was the chief naysayer before, Jack has no idea what to believe given the reality of his magical girlfriend.

It’s a new world and Charlie is excited to embrace it. Jack wants to keep her close while exploring her abilities. They make a fearsome twosome … although there’s danger at every turn.

It seems Charlie resembles the dead women, and even though local police thought they had nothing in common … it seems they actually did. They were bucking for a reality television show and it appears someone in that business may be a murderer.

Charleston is a new environment and Charlie and Jack are embracing a brand new world. Things are going to be fine … as long as they live to tell the tale.

A murderer is stalking Charleston, death is close, and only Charlie can save the day. She’s going to need those closest to her to do it. Luckily, they’re up for the challenge.

Junkyard Pirate by Jamie MacFarlaneJunkyard Pirate by Jamie MacFarlane:

Knocking at death’s door. Bargaining for a second chance. Seems like a heck of a way to find out about an alien invasion…

Vietnam vet Albert Jenkins is battling a bulging waistline and a passion for drink. So when a towering pile of scrap rocket parts falls and crushes the stubborn curmudgeon, he thinks it’s finally the end. But just as he’s about to take one final breath, a snarky alien parasite offers him a deal: his life in return for sharing his body.

With a little coaxing from his new pop-culture-loving inner resident, AJ’s broken carcass improves so much that even an old flame is impressed. But his bright outlook fizzles when he discovers he’s at ground zero of a galactic conspiracy to strip Earth of precious resources humans don’t even know exist.

Can the unlikely partners join forces and use AJ’s rusty military skills to raise the alarm? Or, will the alien invaders put him down once and for all?

Junkyard Pirate is the first book in an imaginative space opera series. If you like grizzled soldiers, clever twists and turns, and intergalactic tactical pairings, then you’ll love Jamie McFarlane’s fast-paced alien adventure.

Scent of Revenge by Mina MaiaScent of Revenge by Mina Maia:

Tamsin has a score to settle and she isn’t waiting any longer…

An elite combatant and tracker, Tamsin’s life is one built upon the ashes of her former one. However, she has unfinished business, the kind that an oath of revenge won’t let her forget.

It means she has to return to Vectis, a planet where she is considered less than human. Where she left behind a man who has probably forgotten all about her now.

Tamsin must fulfill her destiny, right past wrongs and possibly find closure all at the same time.

SCENT OF REVENGE is a science fiction romance novella with a medium heat level and an MF HEA.

Emperor's Throne by Shannon MeyerEmperor’s Throne by Shannon Meyer:

Three against one is not the best odds in any fight.
But does she dare gamble on making an enemy into an ally?

There might be no rest for the wicked, but there’s no rest for the exhausted either. We’ve barely survived one fight, and we have another blade at our throats-strike that, three blades.

I can see only one possible chance at surviving the three evils we face, no matter how much I might hate it.

I have to make my peace with one of them and pray that they will help me take down the other two before we turn on each other.

The only question is…who do I trust not only my life but with the life of my family? Because I have all those I love the best at my side.

Maks.
Lila.
Bryce.

Or do I leave them, and take the danger with me to face it all on my own?

One thing is for sure…even if I go down, it’ll be swinging with everything I have.

Charmed, I'm Sure by Christine PopeCharmed, I’m Sure by Christine Pope:

Is their love the perfect Christmas gift…or a curse?

Allan D’Alessandro thought he had his ticket out of Hell secured. Until his alleged “soul mate” bailed, leaving him only three weeks — three weeks — to lose his heart and be loved in return. For real. Or for real he can kiss the Hollywood glamor, the hilltop house, the Tesla roadster goodbye. And say hello to his old job as Asmodeus, object of his fellow demons’ eternal derision.

But there’s that aquamarine-eyed wedding planner who pulled off Lucifer’s nuptials without a hitch. She’s all about romance, right? Wooing her should be a piece of cake. Wedding cake, if he plays his cards right.

Belinda Carson has had to get used to letting men walk out of her life. She has no choice — any man who falls in love with a Carson witch is guaranteed a gruesome fate. So she uses her magic to create perfect weddings…just not her own.

But surely there’s no harm in indulging in a harmless holiday fling with the sandy-haired Hollywood agent whose megawatt smile lights up her world. After New Year’s, they’ll go their separate ways. They’ve agreed. It’s all set.

Except he’s dismantled all her defenses. And this time, her heart isn’t letting go….

The Lady of Kingdoms by Suzannah RowntreeThe Lady of Kingdoms by Suzannah Rowntree:

Magic made her a warrior.

Justice will make her a legend.

Jerusalem, 1180: A catastrophe destroyed Marta Bessarion’s family and whisked her away from everything she once knew. Now, armed with a magic spear and a burning thirst for justice, Marta vows to protect her new home and family, no matter the cost.

But trouble is brewing in the glittering palaces of Jerusalem…

The young Leper King, Baldwin, is dying. Before he goes, Baldwin must choose a successor…but every choice is a bad one. An innocent child, exploited by stronger men? A crafty cousin who has already tried to snatch the crown? Or his brilliant, passionate sister who is determined to rule – even if it triggers a war?

When enemy armies muster on the kingdom’s borders, Marta charges into battle. But when Baldwin’s choice puts her newfound family at risk, Marta finds herself fighting a new kind of battle – one in which intrigue, deception, and betrayal are the weapons.

To save the kingdom, she’ll need more than a magic spear to destroy its enemies.

She’ll need a saint to save its soul.

Stemming the Tide by Rosie ScottStemming the Tide by Rosie Scott:

They may have lost their ship and cargo after audaciously challenging the pirates that rule the sea, but Calder Cerberius, Koby Bacia, and their crew of misfits refuse to surrender. The pirate leader’s right-hand man, Cale Woodburn, plans to establish a stranglehold in the wildlands and steal its precious local resource: ferris, the herbal drug shapeshifting beastmen rely on to prevent the agony of transformations from breaking their minds. Calder and Koby’s crew pursue Cale across the seas to regain control of the lucrative ferris trade and save the wildlands from ruin.

Indigenous tribes of beastmen rise up to defend their homeland. Shapeshifters on both sides transform into beasts of the land, sea, and sky to brawl to the death. A run-in with an ancient sea creature of apocalyptic size gives Calder the idea to spark a massive rebellion against the pirates using dangerous and unconventional means, but other mercenaries will only agree to come to his aid once he defeats the deranged Cale Woodburn and restores peace to the wildlands. When Calder finally catches up with Cale, two mentally unstable captains will clash in beast form until only one emerges the victor from a pool of blood.

All I Want For Christmas is Wicked by Lotta SmithAll I Want for Christmas is Wicked by Lotta Smith:

Trees decorated, stockings full of presents, and another case to crack!

The Rowling family is gearing up for another Merry Christmas, and Mandy has her hands full with holiday prep, but how can she get into the spirit of the season when the victim in her latest case isn’t a ghost?

Twenty years ago, during a Christmas Eve blackout, Kevin Holt, the husband of a rich heiress, lost his memory in a fall down the stairs of their mansion. Now he’s discovered evidence that someone might have been trying to kill him, and all he wants for Christmas is to find out who. Since the resident ghost of the Holt house didn’t witness the attack, Rick and Mandy will have to rely on old fashioned sleuthing (and a little help from Mandy’s paranormal pal Jackie) to find out which of the four suspects is the culprit.

Meanwhile Rick has been saddled with novice investigator Cameron Gibson (call him Ace!) the son of one of USCAB’s wealthiest clients. Ace is trying to catch the creep stalking a New York City fashion model, but despite wanting Mandy to mentor him, one ghostly encounter has him seriously spooked.

A run in with a biker ghost and dancers in danger complicate the case, but the big question on Mandy’s mind is why does little Sophie want a bear trap for Christmas? Find out in this wickedly merry holiday installment of the Paranormal in Manhattan Mystery Series.

Crusade by Glynn StewartCrusade by Glynn Stewart:

A newborn Alliance, forged to stop the destroyers of worlds
A potential ally, with secrets hidden by a thousand lies
A long-doomed star, whose ruins hold a vital answer

Isaac Lestroud, Admiral of the Exilium Space Fleet, has spent the last three years working with Ambassador Amelie Lestroud to build an alliance against the Rogue Matrices, AIs bent on converting every world into a paradise—regardless of whether anyone lives on it.

As Isaac hunts the Rogue that destroyed one of their allies’ homeworlds, Amelie begins negotiations with a potential new ally that could tip the balance. The Governance is a power to rival the human homeworlds the Lestrouds were exiled from—but like those homeworlds, not all is as it seems.

And far from the war, Octavio Catalan leads an expedition into the shattered wreckage of the home system of the Matrices’ builders. Among those dead worlds, he hopes to find the answer to the question that haunts the survivors of that race: why did their AIs go genocidally insane?

The Black Hole by James David VictorThe Black Hole by James David Victor:

It turns out pirates might not have been the biggest scourge on the galaxy after all.

The pirate lord Parallax was defeated and his flag ship, the Black Hole, was utterly destroyed. This should have ushered in an era of galactic peace. Instead, a far worse conflict between the Federation Navy and the Byers Clan has torn the galaxy apart. Those that are left must find a way to fight on and save the galaxy from something far worse than space pirates. Can a new batch of hero’s step up and save the galaxy or will the remnants of the pirate lords reassert their control of a galaxy at war?

The Black Hole is the fifth book in the exciting Deep Black space opera. If you like fast-paced space adventure, rogue pirates, and stories more complex than good vs. evil, you are going to love your visit to the Deep Black.

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