Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for December 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 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.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have plenty of cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, animal mysteries, historical mysteries, 1940s mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, humorous thrillers, police procedurals, romantic suspense, noir, private investigators, amateur sleuths, serial killers, kidnappers, missing persons, cold cases, robberies, organised crime, motorcycle gangs, crime-busting witches, crime-busting wedding planners, crime-busting cats, crime-busting frogs, thieving Santas, crime and murder in New Orleans, Charleston, Memphis, Philadelphia, Manhattan, the Bronx, London, Northumberland, the Caribbean 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 Simple Country Deception by Blythe BakerA Simple Country Deception by Blythe Baker:

The violent death of a friend plunges Helen Lightholder into another case of danger and deceit as she struggles to unravel the truth behind the grisly killing. With her own past continuing to haunt her, Helen works to uncover the ultimate answer behind the mystery that has plagued her since the beginning.

Return to the quaint – and deadly – village of Brookminster a final time for the dramatic conclusion to Helen’s adventures.

 

Mustang Sally by Blake BannerMustang Sally by Blake Banner:

The cops at the 43rd called it the unsolvable case.

October, 2010, Sally Jones had been stabbed in the heart in her apartment on Commonwealth Avenue, in the Bronx. Her coat was on the back of her chair. Her shoes were beside her bed, her clothes were neatly folded, and she was dead under the sheets.

The killer had removed Sally’s hands and feet and departed, leaving no trace – except the dismembered body.

October, 2019, as the national media focuses on the 43rd’s unbroken record in cold cases, Detective John Stone, head the unit, decides to tackle the case.

But he and Dehan are soon to discover that this is a case like no other: who were the visitors who came to see her before her death? What was their connection with the shadowy Sacred Brotherhood of Christ? And did her brother, Captain Ewan Jones, seek to help her – or murder her? It soon begins to look like this is indeed the case they will never crack.

And what, Dehan wants to know, happened to the Mustang?

Santa's Sticky Fingers by Cora BuhlertSanta’s Sticky Fingers by Cora Buhlert:

Normally, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd doesn’t deal with petty crime and pickpockets. But when the Christmas market in Kingston upon Thames is hit by a wave of thefts, Helen and her team are called in to help out.

Harry, a homeless man who always hangs around the market, seems to be the most obvious suspect. But there is also the mysterious man in the black leather jacket some witnesses claim to have seen. Or maybe, the thief can be found much closer to home…

Can Helen and her team crack the case in time for Christmas?

This is a holiday novelette of 7800 words or approx. 26 print pages in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, but may be read as a standalone.

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!

Lady in Red by Stacy ClaflinLady in Red by Stacy Claflin:

She appears only at night. Watching. Waiting…

When local children begin to vanish, Officer Alex Mercer is positive the cases are tied to recent threats against his family—especially since the first girl to go missing is his best friend’s daughter.

It all ties back to Alex. He’s sure of it.

The only solid link to the missing kids is a mysterious woman in a red dress. But that isn’t enough to go on, and Alex has orders to focus on another case. As if that will stop him.

He stumbles upon something so chilling, it finally provides the proof that he was right all along—the kidnappings are part of an elaborate worldwide scheme. And he and his family have landed on the bad guys’ radar.

Alex will stop at nothing to take down the dangerous criminal empire… if they don’t end him first.

In Plain Sight by Adam CroftIn Plain Sight by Adam Croft:

A trail of death. A web of corruption. The ultimate betrayal.

A series of armed robberies on local petrol stations leaves Mildenheath CID chasing their tails. But things are about to get a whole lot worse.

When an elderly woman is killed during an armed raid on her jewellery shop, Knight and Culverhouse realise one of their own is involved — a police officer.

With the future of Mildenheath CID at stake and the lives of their loved ones under threat, time is running out — fast.

As they begin to investigate the web of corruption, they discover just how deep it runs — and how close to home. But are they prepared for the truth?

Jocelyn's War by Jason Ryan DaleJocelyn’s War by Jason Ryan Dale:

There’s a war in the streets. The vicious Ghost Knights biker gang, suddenly flush with cash and guns, is challenging the Mob for control of the city. No one is safe as bodies fall and houses go up in flames.

Danny Rinker is a young Mob soldier, but he’s keeping his distance from the fighting. Encouraged by Jocelyn, his new girlfriend, Danny spends his days in the local bar he finally owns after years of struggling. While his friends are out making names for themselves, Danny finds in the velvety touch of Jocelyn’s lips all the action he’ll ever need.

From a chance encounter, Danny learns a secret that goes to the heart of the Ghost Knights’ newfound power. If he can unravel a twenty-year-old mystery, Danny will be the one who takes the bikers down once and for all.

But Jocelyn is not all she appears. She knows things about this war that her lover can’t even imagine. Danny is about to discover that Jocelyn is a warrior, and even if it breaks her heart, she will carry on her fight to the end.

Claus for Celebration by Laura DurhamClaus for Celebration by Laura Durham:

Wedding disasters are one thing. A missing Santa (who is presumed dead) is quite another.

This is no normal holiday season for DC’s top wedding planners. Not only is the weather too warm for their winter wonderland wedding, but their neighborhood’s singing Santa, Kris Kringle Jingle, is missing. On top of that, Annabelle’s engagement party is looming, and someone seems to be sabotaging their wedding plans. Can the Wedding Belles and their colorful crew find Santa, save the wedding, and stop the person who’s trying to make their lives a holly, jolly catastrophe?

Claus for Celebration is the 15th standalone book in the hilarious Annabelle Archer Wedding Planner Mystery series. If you like larger-than-life characters, madcap capers, and an insider’s look at glamorous society weddings, then you’ll love Laura Durham’s award-winning cozy mystery series.

Buy now to cozy up to this funny, festive holiday mystery today!

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.

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.

Golgotha by Guy PortmanGolgotha by Guy Portman:

You can’t keep a good sociopath down.

Dyson Devereux is languishing in prison awaiting trial for murder. Languishing wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the irksome inmates, crowded conditions and distinct lack of haute cuisine.

Only Alegra, his sometime paramour and frequent visitor, shares his desire to see him released. The problem is, she wants Dyson freed so they can start a new life together. But all Dyson desires is to get back home to his treasured mementos.

As judgement day draws ever closer, can Dyson keep up appearances long enough to win his freedom? And at what cost? For hell hath no fury like a sociopath scorned.

Golgotha is a funny, fast-paced crime comedy novel, boasting a sardonic and sinister sociopath at its helm.

Ryan's Christmas by L.J. RossRyan’s Christmas by L.J. Ross:

Christmas can be murder…

After a busy year fighting crime, DCI Ryan and his team of murder detectives are enjoying a festive season of goodwill, mulled wine and, in the case of DS Phillips, a stottie cake or two—that is, until a freak snowstorm forces their car off the main road and into the remote heart of Northumberland. Their Christmas spirit is soon tested when they’re forced to find shelter inside England’s most haunted castle, where they’re the uninvited guests at a ‘Candlelit Ghost Hunt’. It’s all fun and games—until one of the guests is murdered. It seems no mortal hand could have committed the crime, so Ryan and Co. must face the spectres living inside the castle walls to uncover the grisly truth, before another ghost joins their number…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

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.

Chilly Comforts and Disasters by Anne R. TanChilly Comforts and Disasters by Anne R. Tan:

Raina Sun is newly married and enjoying her role as the police station’s unofficial pastry chef. When her husband bought a dilapidated old house on a steal, they are thrown into a whirlwind of construction activities with well-meaning relatives coming into town, permitting issues, and a dead body behind the drywall of the attic.

With all construction activities at a standstill and her husband working overtime to help with the cash flow, Raina must solve this cold case to get her life back on track. With the help of the geriatric Posse Club, will Raina find this hidden killer after all this time or will she become the next victim?

When Raja Met Vinny by Jack ThomsponWhen Raja Met Vinny by Jack Thompson:

Who says oil and water don’t mix?

Before Vinny, Raja worked solo. His unique connection to people and his intuitive brilliance was all he needed to solve crimes. Having a partner never crossed his mind. When he met Vinny that changed.

The death of a prominent banker takes Oxford-educated private investigator Raja Williams on a case to his home turf, the Caribbean. Vinny Moore, a hipster hacker who got caught with her hand in the government’s cookie jar, is pressed into service helping a CIA task force stop a prolific cocaine smuggling operation in the Caribbean.

When the two cases cross, Raja and Vinny meet with explosive results. They are as different as night and day, but together they form a powerfully effective crime-fighting team.

Dateline Memphis by LynDee WalkerDateline Memphis by LynDee Walker:

Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke heads home for the holidays…and learns that crime doesn’t take a day off.

Nichelle detours to Graceland in search of an Elvis Presley souvenir for her mother.

But when a valuable piece of memorabilia goes missing, the historic mansion descends into chaos.

With security swooping in and Graceland on lockdown, Nichelle finds herself shut in with staff, security guards, and Elvis superfans, all in the midst of an unfolding crime. Never one to miss an exclusive scoop, Nichelle whips out her notebook and starts reporting.

Locked behind the famous Graceland gates, Nichelle must work through a long list of suspects with no time to lose. But the closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she finds herself in.

The house of the King offers many clues, but will Nichelle be able to connect the dots in time to save a piece of history…and herself?

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The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents

It’s almost the end of the year, so it’s time to announce the winner of the coveted (not) 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.

Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut: Continue reading

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The End of a Saga: The Rise of Skywalker

So the Star Wars saga has finally come to an end of 42 years. Of course, we thought that Star Wars had ended twice before, in 1983 and 2005 respectively. So is The Rise of Skywalker really the end of the Star Wars saga? Most likely not. But it still marks the end of a significant chapter and is very likely the last time we will see the protagonists of the original trilogy.

Spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars in general. Continue reading

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Christmas 2019

I will share my thoughts on Star Wars and The Rise of Skywalker soon, but first here is the obligatory Christmas post for 2019.

Else waiting for Santa Claus

Else, my department store mannequin is looking out of the window, waiting for Santa.

I spent the holidays with my parents, as usual. My Dad and I cut down the tree on Monday morning and I decorated it on Monday evening, after running some errands and doing some last minute grocery shopping in the afternoon.

Christmas tree on patio

The Christmas tree, still undecorated, on the patio.

Christmas tree ornaments

Some of our many Christmas tree ornaments. These ornaments are some of our oldest and date from 1965, which means that they are about to become contemporary with Galactic Journey.

All in all, this is one of the better trees we’ve had. Very straight and bushy enough to provide plenty of space to hang ornaments. Though decorating the bloody thing still took about three hours, interrupted by a neighbour dropping by to bring presents. When decorating the tree I also realised that we were about to run out of candles. And because you can never buy something when it would actually be seasonally appropriate, there were no Christmas tree candles to be found anywhere on December 23. I guess retailers expect us to decorate our Christmas trees in September, when they stock the Christmas products. And so I had to improvise and mix in two slightly used candles I had saved from last year with the new ones.

Christmas Eve is the main event in Germany, so we had coffee/tea and holiday cookies, followed by the traditional Christmas dinner in my family consisting of herring salad and bread. The recipe for the herring salad goes back to my grandmother. I shared it in this guest post over at the Skiffy and Fanty Show almost two years ago. Though nowadays, I half all the ingredients, because otherwise you’ll have enough salad to last you well into the new year.

Holiday cookies

A platter of holiday cookies.

Herring salad and bread

Herring salad and bread. The bright pink colour is the result of beetroot and raspberry juice.

After dinner, we lit the Christmas tree, including the handful of real beeswax candles that had given me such trouble earlier. The candles only burn for about half an hour under constant supervision. Real live candles are still pretty popular in Germany, even our President has some on his official office tree. And every year, the most exciting thing about his Christmas address is wondering whether the tree will catch fire, especially since Steinmeier gets way too close to the burning candles for comfort and some of those straw stars are also way closer to the candles than I would ever put them.

Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree, fully lit.

Christmas tree

And here is a shot of the Christmas tree taken without the flash.

Christmas tree close-up

A closer look at the Christmas tree with its vintage ornaments. Notable pieces include a Hallmark Tasmanian Devil, a pair of vintage woodshavings angels and a Wedgewood ornament I bought as a student in London.

Christmas tree close-up

And another close-up look at the Christmas tree. There are lots of angels and other wooden figurines from the Erzgebirge region here. I took these pictures without the flash, which resulted in that neat purple halo effect around the candles.

Christmas tree close-up

And another Christmas tree close-up, highlighting several vintage ornaments from the 1960s as well as a set of glass ornaments I got in elementary school.

Christmas tree close-up

And one more Christmas tree close-up. You can see my cherished woodcut Disney ornaments here.

My Dad with Christmas tree

My Dad with the Christmas tree in the background.

Once the live candles on the tree had been extinguished, it was time to open the presents.

Wrapped presents

Wrapped Christmas presents (my Dad’s).

Wrapped Christmas presents

Wrapped Christmas presents (my Mom’s).

Wrapped Christmas presents (mine)

Wrapped Christmas presents (mine).

Dad unwrapping presents

My Dad is unwrapping Christmas presents.

Mom unwrapping Christmas presents

My Mom is unwrapping Christmas presents.

Me unwrapping Christmas presents

I am unwrapping Christmas presents.

Unwrapped Christmas presents

Unwrapped Christmas presents (my Dad’s). I used the socks as an improvised censor bar to hide a stray boob.

Unwrapped Christmas presents

Unwrapped Christmas presents (my Mom’s). The Murderbot book is the German omnibus edition. As for the Robert Galbraith novel, I bought that before the recent transphobia controversy errupted, because my Mom liked the first one.

Crochet Christmas tree

In case you’re wondering about the crochet Christmas tree, here is a closer look at it. I made it myself (and the quilted tablerunner, for that matter). The baubles are actually little silver bells, so it jingles.

Unwrapped presents (mine)

Unwrapped Christmas presents (mine). Lots of books (and a package of tea), which is just as I like it.

For those who are wondering about the lone German language book, that’s the brand-new Niegeschichte (Neverhistory) of Science Fiction by German SF writer and critic Dietmar Dath. I’m a big fan of Mr. Dath’s work both as a writer and critic (see his review of The Rise of Skywalker here as well as this video interview with Denis Scheck about Niegeschichte and this radio interview with Max Oppel) and therefore his history of science fiction topped my Christmas list this year. Thankfully, Santa delivered.

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Two New Holiday Stories Available: Christmas after the End of the World and Santa’s Sticky Fingers

It’s the last new release announcement for 2019. And what would be more fitting for a new release announcement that goes out on Christmas Eve than a holiday story? And this year, I have not one but two holiday stories to announce.

As the title implies, the first new release Christmas after the End of the World is a post-apocalyptic holiday story. Now post-apocalyptic fiction is not a subgenre you’d expect to fit in with holiday stories, but I hope that I managed to pull it off.

As for how Christmas after the End of the World came about, I try to write a holiday story every year. However, this year I was racking my head trying to come up with an idea for a holiday story, because inspiration for holiday stories usually doesn’t strike me until two or three weeks before the holidays.

However, I chanced to listen to this recording of the post-apocalyptic fiction panel at the 20Booksto50K Vegas writers conference. The panellists – all male, by the way – declared that post-apocalyptic fiction should have male protagonists, preferably ex-military, and lots of action to appeal to the prepper crowd. Now as anybody who has read After the End or The Hybrids knows, I don’t write that sort of post-apocalyptic fiction at all. Mine is more quiet and cozy and people actually help each other rather than shooting at each other. My protagonists are all civilians, often female, often young, sometimes children and teenagers. And then I thought, “Why don’t I write a post-apocalyptic holiday story? About a family trying to celebrate Christmas after the apocalypse.” And so Christmas after the End of the World was born. And because I’m a contrarian, I made the protagonist a thirteen-year-old girl.

So follow along as Natalie tries to prepare as good a holiday as she can for her younger siblings in…

Christmas after the End of the World
Christmas after the End of the World by Cora BuhlertIt’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.

More information.
Length: 10000 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

***

The second holiday story, Santa’s Sticky Fingers, is also the latest entry in my Helen Shepherd Mysteries series. It is also the second Christmas mystery in the Helen Shepherd series after A Bullet for Father Christmas.

The inspiration for this story was a news report about pickpockets operating on Christmas markets, which is a recurring problem during the holiday season. Now I had already considered writing a mystery set at a Christmas market, but was still looking for a suitable plot. And when I heard that news report, I thought, “That’s it. Why not write a mystery featuring the hunt for pickpockets terrorising a Christmas market? After all, it doesn’t always have to be murder.”

The hunt for pickpockets of course requires someone to do the hunting. And since I already had a series featuring a regular investigative team, I thought, “Why not make it a Helen Shepherd Mystery?”

Now Christmas markets were originally a very German phenomenon, but they have become a lot more popular abroad during the last ten to fifteen years or so, particularly in the UK. And so many British cities now have Christmas markets of their own, often with vendors coming over from Germany. Therefore, it was absolutely no problem finding one in the greater London area for Helen and her team to investigate.

And so I sent Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd, Detective Constable Kevin Walker and Scene of the Crime Officer Charlotte on a tour across the Christmas market to interview vendors and witnesses and find the pickpocket who has been ruining many people’s holiday cheer.

So follow along as Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team investigate…

Santa’s Sticky Fingers
Santa's Sticky Fingers by Cora BuhlertNormally, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd doesn’t deal with petty crime and pickpockets. But when the Christmas market in Kingston upon Thames is hit by a wave of thefts, Helen and her team are called in to help out.

Harry, a homeless man who always hangs around the market, seems to be the most obvious suspect. But there is also the mysterious man in the black leather jacket some witnesses claim to have seen. Or maybe, the thief can be found much closer to home…

Can Helen and her team crack the case in time for Christmas?

This is a holiday novelette of 7800 words or approx. 26 print pages in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, but may be read as a standalone.

More information.
Length: 7800 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

I only finished Santa’s Sticky Fingers early on Sunday morning, so the book isn’t up at all vendors yet.

If you want more holiday stories, you can get all of mine in a handy bundle at a reduced price over at DriveThruFiction. The bundle contains ten holiday stories ranging from romance via science fiction and fantasy to mysteries and thrillers.

And if you want even more holiday stories, I just posted my annual round-up of my favourite holiday speculative fiction and holiday mysteries and crime fiction by indie and small press authors.

Finally, if you’re looking for some free science fiction and fantasy e-books, there is a giveaway going on at StoryOrigin, where you can get more than forty e-books for free, if you subscribe to the author’s newsletter (don’t worry, you can always unsubscribe). The Crime Thriller and Vigilantes giveaway also still going on at StoryOrigin.

That’s it for this year, at least with regard new releases. There will still be blog posts, of course. I’ll probably write a post about Star Wars (both The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian) and I also have an announcement to make that has nothing to do with my books for once.

Next year, there’ll be more In Love and War stories, more Thurvok adventures, more Silencer stories, including one where the Silencer meets a John W. Campbell stand-in. I’m also planning to launch a new series called Raygun Romances and I hope that I’ll finally get the long delayed After the End 2 – More Stories of Life After the Apocalypse out.

But until then, have a very happy holiday season, whichever one you celebrate.

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Magic under the Mistletoe 2019 – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Speculative Fiction

Magic under the Mistletoe banner

Our monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite holiday science fiction, fantasy and horror by indie authors.

These holiday stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, cozy fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction, space opera, time travel, post-apocalyptic fiction, Steampunk, plenty of dragons, werewolves, were-reindeer, elves, Krampuses, telepathic detectives, crime-fighting witches, magical cats, holiday body swaps, orphans in danger, troubled marriages, musketeers in space, alien invasions, Christmas in space and after the apocalypse, robots, sentient starships playing Santa and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set around the holidays.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday mysteries is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog 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:

A Dark Root Christmas by April AasheimA Dark Root Christmas: Merry’s Gift by April Aasheim

When ten-year-old Merry Maddock makes a holiday wish on a shooting star, she has no idea how her life will change.
Suddenly, she’s become the parent to a strange baby owl, and the caretaker of what appears to be an enchanted tree.
But will her wish for a family Christmas be granted? Or will her mother’s desire for a year without a holiday win out?
Magick, mystery, and family take center stage in this charming witchy novella featuring the Maddock girls when they are young.
This 20k word novella is a prequel story to the popular Daughters of Dark Root series and can be read as a stand alone novel.

A Very Mercy Christmas by M.Z. AndrewsA Very Mercy Christmas: A Witch Squad Holiday Special by M.Z. Andrews:

It’s Christmas time at the Paranormal Institute for Witches. Excited to go home for the holidays and be reunited with their families, Mercy, Jax, Holly, Sweets, and Alba say their goodbyes. However, when an unpredicted snowstorm ravages Aspen Falls, the girls must scramble to figure out their next move. Tempers flare as blame is placed and feelings are hurt. By the looks of it, Christmas will surely be ruined.

But when a surprise visitor arrives, the girls are forced to find out what friendship really means and decide whether or not it’s worth saving. Visited by some blasts from the past, the girls are given glimpses into each other’s pasts and find out what life would have been like if they’d never met and formed the Witch Squad on the first day of classes.

A Very Mercy Christmas is the 5th book in the Witch Squad Cozy Mystery series – there is no mystery to solve, instead sit back and enjoy a Christmas story about what went down over the Witch Squad’s first winter break and get a glimpse into the lives of each of the girls before they met.

The Journey of Joseph Winter by John AnthonyThe Journey of Joseph Winter: A Christmas Fairy Tale by John Anthony:

A heartwarming Christmas story in the tradition of the holiday classics It’s a Wonderful Life and A Miracle on 34th Street.

Take a personal journey to discover the true magic of Christmas.

Joseph Winter is a good and gentle man, but he carries with him the pain and regret of a childhood mistake.

When a package mysteriously arrives on his doorstep, he is invited on a path to redemption.

Traveling far from his cozy little home in St. Paul, Minnesota, into the snowy landscapes of the Arctic, his touching Christmas journey takes him in search of the one man who may be able to help him find peace—Santa Claus.

An inspirational family Christmas tale in the style of the classic Christmas stories shared by families every holiday season, The Journey of Joseph Winter: A Christmas Fairy Tale is the inspiring story of a man in search of Santa Claus, his childhood, and ultimately—himself.

A Tale of Christmas Past by Katelyn A. BrownA Tale of Christmas Past by Katelyn A. Brown

A woman from the future, trapped in the past…

Avery Lawson expects to spend another holiday alone, with only memories of her parents and her abandoned faith for company. One chilly day, she reads an old journal that once belonged to a pioneer named Kathleen. Avery is captivated by the story, but she never imagined how much her own life would be turned upside down after reading it. In a strange twist of fate, she finds herself transported to a Kansas homestead in the year 1880, with no conceivable way to get home to the future.

Widower Jacob Cole is in desperate need of a housekeeper and nanny for his three young children. When the mysterious Miss Lawson shows up at his farm, his instincts tell him to trust her, despite the bizarre circumstances surrounding her arrival. She quickly becomes an important part of his world. Could she be just what his hurting family needs?

But being from the future, Avery has a dreadful secret. With Christmas fast approaching, can she stop another terrible tragedy from befalling the family? Will she ever make it home to the future? Or–with the Cole children and Jacob steadily breaking down the walls around her heart–does she even want to anymore?

Christmas on Iago Prime by Cora BuhlertChristmas on Iago Prime by Cora Buhlert

Eight-year-old Libby has come with her parents to spend a year at the newly established colony on the planet Iago Prime. Libby’s parents believe that this is a great opportunity for all of them, but Libby is unhappy on Iago Prime. There are no other children on Iago Prime and Libby can’t go anywhere, because she doesn’t even have a space suit. Worst of all, they will spend Christmas on Iago Prime, where there aren’t even any Christmas trees.

However, Libby’s parents, with a little help from Santa Claus himself, conspire to give Libby an unforgettable Christmas on Iago Prime.

This is a science fictional Christmas story of 6600 words or approx. 22 print pages.

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.

The Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora BuhlertThe Bakery on Gloomland Street by Cora Buhlert:

A legendary monster threatens Christmas…

It’s Christmas time in the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, which is also known as the “Harbour of the Weird”.

Rachel Hammersmith is new to Hallowind Cove and has recently taken over the bakery on Gloomland Street, after Marie Percht, the previous owner, retired.

However, Marie Percht didn’t tell Rachel everything, when she retired. She didn’t mention the fog, for starters, and she also didn’t mention that her bakery plays a vital role during the Christmas season and not just as a provider of holiday cookies either.

For the Krampus, a yuletide monster from alpine folklore, is coming to Hallowind Cove. And the only thing that can keep him from wrecking the town and ruining Christmas are pastries baked according to a secret recipe. Unfortunately, Rachel has no idea what the recipe is.

However, with the help of fellow newcomer Paul MacQuarie, Rachel will bake up a storm to pacify Krampus and save Christmas.

The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree by Cora BuhlertThe Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree: A Not Really SF Short Story by Cora Buhlert

Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument about how to decorate the Christmas tree escalates and threatens their marriage.

This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 2900 words or approximately 12 print pages, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s.

 

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!

Merry Chris Witch by C.K. DawnMerry Chris Witch by C.K. Dawn:

Magic is real and dreams do come true. Be careful what you WITCH for.

Chris Heron is a witch who loathes the holiday season. What’s even worse is getting expelled from private coven school on Halloween and having to attend public magic school, where Santa’s son is visiting and has all the girls in a frenzy. Fairies, mermaids, elves, even the trolls are swooning over Kris Kringle Jr. All except for one girl, and she’s a North Pole mystery that has Chris intrigued. Will he be able to put his prejudices aside in time to see the true magic all around him?

I Wtich You a Merry Christmas by Snow EdenI Witch You a Merry Christmas by Snow Eden:

A heart-warming story about Christmas, elves, Santa Claus…and a really mad witch.

There are many things Cinnamon Mercy Claus is struggling with this holiday season: the memories of long forgotten holidays when the Christmas season was about family; that she’s just found out her grandfather is Santa Claus; and that her grandmother is a witch—who is bent on destroying Christmas for them all.

This is a 30,000-word novella with a dose of Hallmark warmth and crazy witch mayhem!

It is a ‘clean’ read with no cursing. Situations should be appropriate for all ages.

Crimson Yuletide by Rachel FordCrimson Yuletide by Rachel Ford:

Autumn gone off to sleep
And winter her secrets no more keep
Rises he from the deep
Flesh to flay and flesh to eat

Twelve days of Christmas. Twelve days of terror and death.

An ancient evil prowls the quiet streets of Wixcombe. An old man is murdered in the town square. Children disappear in the night. Villagers report sightings of Krampus, the Christmas demon.

For siblings Nan and William Fitzgerald, the season began with a promise of new loves and Christmas magic. But they find themselves in the eye of the storm when their godfather becomes the prime suspect in the killings.

To protect both the women they love and their village, the siblings must discover Krampus’ true identity. But they might not like the answers they find…

Carrie Hatchett's Christmas by J.J. GreenCarrie Hatchett’s Christmas by J.J. Green:

It’s Christmas! The alien invasion has begun.

Carrie Hatchett’s hoping for a quiet Christmas. She’s got five times as much food as she needs, and she’s made a catnip surprise and a dogfood cake for her pets.

But there’s no rest for Carrie.

An ancient race seems intent on invading Earth. As a Transgalactic Intercultural Community Crisis Liaison Officer, Carrie’s duty-bound to respond to the threat.

The aliens have been spotted at Santa’s Grotto and in a pantomime. Will Carrie find them in time and send them packing before they ruin everyone’s Christmas?

Carrie Hatchett’s Christmas is a standalone novelette in the comedy sci-fi romp Carrie Hatchett, Space Adventurer.

Follow Carrie on her adventures today.

Bringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle GreyBringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle Grey:

She may not be a dragon, but it was her humanity they needed right now.

With time running out before his clan’s prince is discovered by mining or killed by enemy dragons, dragon shifter Jayrian needs to convince the elders to accept help from the humans. He hopes that the clever librarian, Gretchen, might be able to help him with that. He didn’t count on falling for her—that wasn’t part of his plan at all.

Gretchen longs for adventure outside of the books she reads in her job as a small town librarian. But not the kind that involves her moving to the big city to take the promotion her Aunt Mary offers. The cute guy who’s been hanging around the library seems far more exciting—there’s just something about him that draws her—so on impulse, she invites him to her family’s Christmas celebration. When a dragon lands on the front of her car on the way there, she wonders if she’s gotten more than she bargained for.

Together they must find a way to save his prince and clan, without sacrificing who they are, or their budding relationship.

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.

Meet Douglas Fir by Kyndra HatchMeet Douglas Fir by Kyndra Hatch:

People put objects on trees? As a holiday tradition? The singing tree creature is a threat that needs to be eradicated.

Being human isn’t easy with robotic alien residents misunderstanding the simple stuff. Alex can’t imagine his family life without Bazin and Miaxa, though. Time to show them Christmas holiday traditions, preferably without space aliens blowing things up.

 

 

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

Fur-miliar Felines by Harper LinFur-miliar Felines by Harper Lin:

Three witches and their magical cats solve paranormal murder cases in the mystical town of Wonder Falls.

It’s Christmastime, but something strange and sinister is in the air. Treacle, Cath’s courageous black cat, can’t see what it is, but he feels a dangerous presence out there in the snow-blanketed streets.

Aunt Astrid also feels dark ripples in the dimensions. The Greenstone witches suspect this creature is somehow tied to the disappearance of two high school students. Soon, one of them turns up dead, half-eaten.

The holiday spirit is in full effect in Wonder Falls, but so is a puzzling and gruesome murder mystery.

A Mind Reader's Christmas by Al MacyA Mind Reader’s Christmas by Al Macy:

Eric Beckman, a mind-reading private investigator, is spending Christmas in snowy Vermont with his wife and daughter. He needs a break from solving cases, but the townspeople convince him to look into the village mystery: Every holiday season, someone switches the baby Jesus with one of the other figures in the town’s Nativity scene.

With the help of his ten-year-old daughter, also a mind reader, he soon learns that some of the residents of the small town are not who–or even what–they seem to be. There’s something supernatural going on in Newburn, Vermont.

His investigation causes an escalation of strange happenings, and soon, swapped manger figures are the least of the town’s worries. If Beckman can’t adjust his view of the world–force himself to believe in things he never thought possible–the Christmas vacation could turn out to be his family’s last.

A Mind Reader’s Christmas may be read as a standalone book or as Book Four in the Eric Beckman series.

The Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona MarpleThe Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona Marple:

What if Father Christmas is on the naughty list?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mystic Springs, but all is not still or calm with the department store Santa.

The amateur dramatics club is full of big egos and legends-in-their-own-heads, so their spats aren’t unusual. But when the theatre owner is shot dead during the Christmas play, it’s Santa who pulls the trigger.

With the arrival of an unwelcome ex, a petition to end Discrimination Against Spirits, and a second attack by St Nick, the chances of a quiet Christmas seem to be quickly disappearing.

Has Santa really gone bad? Or is there more to it?

Town medium Connie and her dead sister Sage are both avoiding their own festive conundrums. A mistletoe murder is just the distraction they need.

In Time for Christmas by Monique MartinIn Time for Christmas by Monique Martin:

At a time when interest in the Christmas holiday was waning, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and inspired the world.

But now, history is changing, and the book is never written. When the Council for Temporal Studies asks time travelers Simon and Elizabeth Cross to “save Christmas,” they think he’s joking.

But it’s anything but a laughing matter. Simon and Elizabeth must go back to 1843 London and convince Dickens to write his endearing story, or the Christmas holiday we all know and love will cease to be–forever.

Christmas in New York by Monique MartinChristmas in New York by Monique Martin:

Time-Traveling adventurers Simon and Elizabeth Cross return in an all-new Christmas novella!

Along with their young daughter, Charlotte, the Crosses travel back to 1937 New York City to visit an old friend, Charlie Blue. But Charlie’s in trouble — holiday-sized trouble — and their plans for a pleasant little Christmas vacation soon fly out the window.

Christmas in New York is the fast-paced and heartwarming tale of the true meaning of Christmas — and the importance of the people we share it with.

Christmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri MoultonChristmas in Silver Birch Valley by Lorri Moulton:

A small town has held on to their traditions and celebrates Christmas as if it were 100 years ago…which reporter Jake Logan finds surprisingly charming, but wonders if it’s too good to be true.

Jake has traveled the world but never really felt at home, until he spends time in a town that has its own unique way of celebrating the holidays. The longer he stays, the more he comes to like the town, the people, and one charming B&B owner in particular.

Lorna Sullivan has never met anyone like Jake, but she knows tourists don’t stay once the holidays are over. The more time she spends with Jake, the easier it is to wonder if this could be different…but there are secrets in every town and this one could destroy their chance at happiness.

Not His Christmas by Annie NicholasNot His Christmas by Annie Nicholas:

It’s Eoin and Angie’s first Christmas together and he wants to make it special. But his dragoness is lacking holiday spirit and doesn’t want anything to do with celebrating. Does Angie think Eoin is the type of dragon who could ignore her unhappiness? Clipping on his jingle bells and grabbing the mistletoe, Eoin is on a mission.

 

 

 

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia NovaSnowed in with the Alien Dragon by Sonia Nova

A Christmas without warmth…
Rachel hates her life in Alaska. She hates the weather, but even more, she hates her job which requires her to stay in the sodden state even for the holidays! Instead of going to visit her family in sunny California, she will be spending the holidays alone in the cold north. But when she encounters an unconscious, golden alien on the way home from work – amidst a massive snowstorm to top it all off – it looks like the holidays might not end up as boring as she’d thought after all!

A dragon paralyzed by cold…
Captain Erro of Traag never thought to go down in a battle. Even less did he think to find his mate on the surface of the planet he crashes on! Trapped in the planet’s frozen wasteland, Erro can hardly function in the cold climate. He’s a dragon, for heaven’s sake! He needs some heat! And yet, despite the icy weather seeping into his bones, every time the strangely beautiful alien female smiles at him, his inner flame burns stronger than ever. She is his mate, there is no question about that.

Now, if only he could understand what the hell she was saying…

Snowed in with the Alien Dragon is a standalone sci-fi romance novella with a scorching hot dragon, a HEA and no cliffhangers. Intended for mature audiences only.

When Birdie Babysat Spider by Kristen PainterWhen Birdie Babysat Spider: A Jayne Frost Short Story by Kristen Painter:

Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year.

Jayne Frost is a lot of things. Winter elf, Jack Frost’s daughter, Santa Claus’s niece, heir to the Winter Throne and now…private investigator. Sort of.

But none of that matters at the moment, because Jayne is headed back to the North Pole to visit her family, and leaving everyone’s favorite werewolf, Birdie Caruthers, to watch her cat, Spider.

With the heartfelt promise that all will be well, Birdie follows Jayne’s instructions to the letter. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop Spider from getting into trouble.

It takes the help of a gentlemen friend (and a few others), for Birdie to make things right again. But not before her love life takes a very interesting turn…

The Krampus Hunters by J.P. ReedmanThe Krampus Hunters by J.P. Reedman:

Krampus, haunter of the dark winter’s nights before Yule, comes bearing a switch to beat ‘bad children’…

Young Snoefrith, daughter of the Erl-King, leaves her homeland on a quest to find her lost mother…and a life. As she travels in wild, unfamiliar lands, she is accosted by Old Nickor, a red-robed goblin who flies the wintry skies in a sleigh pulled by coal-black deer, and his bestial companion, Krampus. Nickor sets Krampus upon Snowfrith, seeking to capture her to sell to the Kobold King who dwells under the mountains.
Rescued by Red Roo, a feisty girl who is the best archer in the Wandron tribe, Snoefrith believes she is now safe.
But Krampus is determined to capture his prey and please his master, Nickor. Under cover of darkness, he destroys the Wandron’s caravans and sends Snoefrith and Red Roo fleeing into the forest and beyond.
Soon they learn that they cannot flee forever.
The hunted must become the hunters….

KRAMPUS HUNTERS

A short fantasy novelette for all ages, 15,000 words.

Joyeux by Tansy Rayner RobertsJoyeux: A Musketeer Space Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts

There’s mistletoe growing out of the walls, it’s snowing inside the space station, and a sex scandal is brewing that could bring down the monarchy. Must be Joyeux!

Joyeux on Paris Satellite is a seven day festival of drunken bets, poor decision-making, religious contemplation and tinsel. But mostly, poor decision-making. Athos and Porthos aren’t going to sleep together. Aramis is breaking up with her girlfriend because it’s that or marry her. Athos is not ready to deal with the ghost of his ex-husband. Oh, and no one wants Prince Alek to break his marriage contract by hooking up with a sexy Ambassador…

It’s down to the Musketeers and the Red Guard to save the space station and the solar system from disaster. So… that’s not going to end well.

This novella is a festive prequel to Musketeer Space, a genderflipped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

Created for Christmas by Joynell SchultzCreated for Christmas by Joynell Schultz:

Need the perfect man? No problem—simply create him!

Ivy wanted nothing more for Christmas than to have someone to come home to…to have a companion to chat about her day with, and someone to show off at her family holiday celebrations.

This Christmas, she’s not going to be alone! Ivy decides to create her perfect companion at Dream Droids, the premier robotics company specializing in sentient humanoids. Ivy spends weeks with Dr. Pierce, creating her dream man, from his appearance, personality, and even his knowledge of her life.

There’s just a few problems: when a special gift she purchased for her father goes missing, and Dr. Pierce agrees to help her find it, she finds herself falling for him. After getting her heart stomped on by her ex-fiancé, there’s no way she can open it up again…besides, she just created the perfect man.

Jingle Stars by Jenny SchwartzJingle Starr by Jenny Schwartz:

When a starship decides to play Santa Claus…

Ahab is a mLa’an artificial intelligence embedded in the starship, Orion.

The campaign for AIs to be recognized as full citizens of Galaxy Proper is within reach of its extraordinary goal. The only thing that could stop it now is if an AI did something foolish…like take a space station hostage to save eight orphaned children.

***
And this is the letter to Santa that starts it all:

Dear Santa

I don’t know if yourreindeers work in space. But if you have room in your sleigh after you finishdelivering presents to the lucky kids with parents and homes, can you come and getme and my friends? Please?

We’ve been good. Well,we haven’t been really bad. We’re on Station Elphame, in the junkyard, and Zoeis sick. She’s bad sick. I think she’d be better on a planet. We don’t needpresents. We just need a way out of here. Ollie tried to sneak onto atrampship…he died.

Please, Santa, I don’twant any more of my friends to die.

Aiden.

Elves and Deer by Hollis ShilohElves and Deer by Hollis Shiloh:

Greer is a reindeer shifter working at a magical shipping hub up North. He has little use for or understanding of elves—such delicate, short-lived creatures—but he tries to do his best by the ones in his life. And it seems like more and more are coming into his life, confusing and frustrating him, needing help, needing rescued.

Since Greer is always busy, it’s easy to overlook the things he doesn’t want to acknowledge—until a terrible danger gives him unwanted time to think…and to realize there’s just one elf who means more to him than he’s ever wanted to admit.

A Christmas tale
38,000 words
Heat level: very low

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.

Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. StevensBlood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens:

Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.

Ivy Granger, psychic private investigator, returns to the streets of Harborsmouth in this addition to the bestselling urban fantasy series.

Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Five Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common–they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind–a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim’s blood.

The holidays just got interesting. Too bad this case may drive Ivy mad before the New Year. Heck, she’ll be lucky to survive Christmas.

Cloaked in Christmas by T.F. WalshCloaked in Christmas by T.F. Walsh:

After fleeing her abusive ex, wulfkin Cacey Varg and her daughter settle happily with a new pack in Finland. As Christmas approaches, Cacey learns her ex has found them and is on his way to take their daughter back. But a massive snowstorm prevents her from packing up and leaving town – and instead delivers a sexy stranger to her doorstep. Can she trust that he isn’t one of her ex’s henchmen?

Second-in-command to Europe’s most powerful wulfkin, hunter Vincent Lyall’s spur-of-the-moment decision to check on his ailing mother soon finds him marooned at a cabin in the woods by the blizzard of the century. Trapped with this spirited vixen, resisting temptation is easier said than done . . . But she refuses to believe he is who he says he is.

Is love powerful enough to win when two sexy wolf shifters, an unwelcome past, and animalistic urges wreak havoc on the holiday season?
Sensuality Level: Sensual

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas by Phil WilliamsA Most Apocalyptic Christmas by Phil Williams:

On the night before Christmas, mercenary Scullion’s ride home is ambushed halfway between the last surviving cities in America. Concerned only with getting drunk for the holiday, his attempts to abandon his fellow passengers to bandits lead him on a collision course with a barbaric community who have utterly distorted the seasonal spirit. This is one madcap night he cannot survive alone, challenging his perceptions of the meaning of Christmas.

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas is a near-future dystopian novella, set in a war-ravaged land where chaotic city states are all that are left of once powerful countries. Born fighters like the thug Scullion are the predominant survivors in this desolate world devoid of resources, comforts and hope.

This is a Faergrowe Free State novella, set in the same world of the screenplay The Faergrowe Principle.

Elixirs and Elves by Astoria WrightElixirs and Elves by Astoria Wright:

The elves of Mount Vale are throwing a Christmas Party, and they’ve invited everyone! While the human residents of Moss Hill are excited to attend, many of the sidhe find the invitation beneath them. It’s no secret that they dislike mingling with non-faeries, but are they so hostile toward humans that one of them would commit murder? Carissa has never gotten along with the sidhe guard, but Varick of Vale has helped her on occasion. So, when he asks for her help after suspicion falls on him, it’s up to her to prove his innocence – if, that is, he isn’t guilty after all.

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Murder under the Mistletoe 2019 – A Round-up of the Best Indie Holiday Mysteries and Crime Fiction

Murder under the Mistletoe banner

Our monthly round-ups of new speculative fiction and new crime fiction releases by indie authors are a perennially popular feature. Therefore, we now offer you a round-up of our favourite holiday mysteries by indie authors.

The holiday mysteries cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have plenty of cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, culinary mysteries, animal mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mysteries, Victorian mysteries, jazz age mysteries, WWII mysteries, romantic suspense, police procedurals, crime thrillers, pulp thrillers, men’s adventure, private eyes, masked crime fighters, telepathic detectives, thieving Santas, crime-fighting witches, crime-fighting bakers, crime-fighting watchmakers, crime-fighting wedding planners, crime-fighting dogs, crime-fighting frogs, magical cats, holiday body swaps, murder in circusses and aboard cruise ships, in ski resorts and cupcake shops, in small towns and the big city, missing children, missing presents, orphans in danger and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set around the holidays.

As always with my round-up posts, this round-up of the best indie holiday mysteries 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 Very Mercy Christmas by M.Z. AndrewsA Very Mercy Christmas: A Witch Squad Holiday Special by M.Z. Andrews:

It’s Christmas time at the Paranormal Institute for Witches. Excited to go home for the holidays and be reunited with their families, Mercy, Jax, Holly, Sweets, and Alba say their goodbyes. However, when an unpredicted snowstorm ravages Aspen Falls, the girls must scramble to figure out their next move. Tempers flare as blame is placed and feelings are hurt. By the looks of it, Christmas will surely be ruined.

But when a surprise visitor arrives, the girls are forced to find out what friendship really means and decide whether or not it’s worth saving. Visited by some blasts from the past, the girls are given glimpses into each other’s pasts and find out what life would have been like if they’d never met and formed the Witch Squad on the first day of classes.

A Very Mercy Christmas is the 5th book in the Witch Squad Cozy Mystery series – there is no mystery to solve, instead sit back and enjoy a Christmas story about what went down over the Witch Squad’s first winter break and get a glimpse into the lives of each of the girls before they met.

The Season for Slaying by Hillary AvisThe Season for Slaying by Hillary Avis:

All is quiet at the Pines and Needles Christmas Tree Farm. Too quiet.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Darla Cooper is merrily preparing for a family holiday when she witnesses a shocking murder in the woods.

Luckily, her son is a police detective. The problem? He doesn’t believe her—and the body is missing.

Darla must prove that a murder occurred, but she has no body, no witnesses, and no evidence except her own memory—which, to be honest, isn’t that great these days. Plus, she didn’t have her glasses on.

Join Darla as she hunts down a killer…just in time for Christmas.

The Season for Slaying is a short holiday cozy mystery story full of suspense, snowflakes, and sleighbells.

Fatal Festive Donuts by Cindy BellFatal Festive Donuts by Cindy Bell:

Christmastime at the holiday market means mistletoe, colorful lights and…a dead body.

It is almost Christmas and Joyce and Brenda are excited to get a coveted spot at the local holiday market. Business is thriving and they are looking forward to celebrating the holidays.

But Christmas becomes the last thing on their minds when a dead body is found on ‘Donuts on the Move’. Not only is their truck shut down, but they become the prime suspects. With the evidence stacking up against them and a detective who thinks they’re guilty, they decide to take things into their own hands and find the murderer.

Joyce and Brenda’s investigations lead them straight towards danger. Will they find the killer before they land up in handcuffs or even become victims themselves?

Recipe Included: Baked Gingerbread Donuts with Ginger Glaze

A Merry Murder at St. Bernard Cabins by Cindy BellA Merry Murder at St. Bernard Cabins by Cindy Bell:

A pet-loving sleuth. A perplexing murder. Will the murder be solved before the clues are buried forever?

Nikki Green is taking a break from walking and pet-sitting her loyal companions. She is going to a ski resort for the holidays for some quiet time with her family. To her delight her solo journey turns into a group excursion. However, the trip doesn’t go according to plan when Nikki lands up in the middle of a snowstorm.

Then things go from bad to worse when someone is murdered, and her brother is the prime suspect. With the roads impassable, and two inexperienced officers on the case, Nikki decides to take matters into her own hands and clear her brother’s name. She plows through a mountain of clues to reveal the truth before the snow melts and the murderer disappears forever.

It’s a slippery slope of suspects and danger as she goes hurtling towards the truth.

A Bullet for Father Christmas by Cora BuhlertA Bullet for Father Christmas by Cora Buhlert:

When two men dressed up as Father Christmas rob a London jewellery store and one of them ends up dead on the floor, shot by his own accomplice, it’s certainly one of the more unusual cases for Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team. But as Helen begins to investigate, it turns out that the case is even more bizarre than she suspected.

This is a mystery novelette of 9300 words or approx. 30 print pages.

 

Santa's Sticky Fingers by Cora BuhlertSanta’s Sticky Fingers by Cora Buhlert:

Normally, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd doesn’t deal with petty crime and pickpockets. But when the Christmas market in Kingston upon Thames is hit by a wave of thefts, Helen and her team are called in to help out.

Harry, a homeless man who always hangs around the market, seems to be the most obvious suspect. But there is also the mysterious man in the black leather jacket some witnesses claim to have seen. Or maybe, the thief can be found much closer to home…

Can Helen and her team crack the case in time for Christmas?

This is a holiday novelette of 7800 words or approx. 26 print pages in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, but may be read as a standalone.

St. Nicholas of Hell's KitchenSt. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen by Cora Buhlert:

Christmas time in 1930s New York. After escaping through the chimney of an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen, Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer is mistaken for Santa Claus by one of the children and learns that the orphanage is under siege by both a gang of brutal racketeers and an unscrupulous landlord.

Richard vows to help the children and their guardians. However, it turns out that the attacks on the orphanage are only part of a much larger plot, when Richard’s quest for justice leads him into the upper echelons of Manhattan’s high society.

Soon, the Silencer finds himself face to face with one of the most powerful men in the city, while Richard and Constance struggle to save the orphanage and give the children of Hell’s Kitchen an unforgettable Christmas.

This is a novella of 30000 words or approximately 100 pages in the Silencer series, but may be read as a standalone.

A Jolly Little Murder by Beth ByersA Jolly Little Murder by Beth Byers:

December 1925

Violet Wakefield is determined to dive into the holiday and enjoy every occasion. She’s going to see the live nativity, listen to Handel’s Messiah, and attend the Nutcracker ballet. She’ll cover her house in all the holly and lights. In fact, Vi wants nothing more than to put up the largest Christmas tree she can locate and stuff it with gifts. ??She little expects, however, to stumble across a crime in action. When she gets pulled into the madness, her biggest concern isn’t the crime, it’s keeping Jack from committing a holiday homicide.

Merry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope CallaghanMerry Masquerade in Savannah by Hope Callaghan

Carlita, Mercedes, and Tony are gearing up to celebrate their first Thanksgiving at their new home in historic Savannah, Georgia. Along with the excitement of the upcoming holiday season, there’s a lingering sadness because part of their family won’t be there to celebrate.

When Carlita’s friend, Victoria “Tori” Montgomery, invites the Garlucci family to her “Merry Masquerade” party at Montgomery Hall, Carlita is thrilled to have something to take her mind off the approaching holiday.

Despite a recent theft and an assault on her butler, Tori moves forward with her party plans, a grand affair and a gathering of Savannah’s elite. The Merry Masquerade turns out to be everything it was billed to be and more, when one of Tori’s employees is found murdered inside the pool house.

Is the murder linked to the recent break-in and the butler’s attack at Montgomery Hall? Could the killer be living under Tori’s roof? Or was it a masked party guest trying to make it look like an inside job?

Join the Garlucci women as they help one of Savannah’s most prominent residents track down a killer!

Reindeer and Robberies by Hope CallaghanReindeers and Robberies by Hope Callaghan:

The Christmas Season is in full swing on board the cruise ship, Siren of the Seas thanks to Andy Walker, the ship’s cruise director who is all in on his new holiday theme, “The Reindeer Games.”

Millie and her co-worker, Danielle, are tasked with taking charge of the holiday theme and everything is running smoothly until one of the reindeer comes up missing. But the missing reindeer is the least of the security staff’s worries after a string of thefts are reported.

Millie jumps in with an investigation of her own that soon turns south when a stalker surfaces, determined to make her life miserable or worse yet.

Despite escalating incidents from the deranged stalker, Millie sorts the clues and discovers a possible link between the mysterious thefts and her stalker that hits close to home.

Can Millie survive the holiday season…or even more terrifying…make it out alive?

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!

Never Mess with Mistletoe by Edie ClaireNever Mess with Mistletoe by Edie Claire:

Frances Koslow was ecstatic to have her humble abode chosen as stop #3 on the Holiday House Tour. Then everyone drank the cider.

When Leigh’s parents’ house becomes a last-minute substitution on the regional garden club’s famous Holiday House Tour, Frances Koslow is thrilled. But the tour is tomorrow, there’s work to be done, and Frances’s dwindling and aging “Floribunda” chapter is in dire need of reinforcements. Worried about her mother’s blood pressure, particularly as sisterly tensions rise over Leigh’s Aunt Lydie’s upcoming Christmas Eve wedding, Leigh steps in to make sure the tour runs smoothly.

But perhaps Leigh isn’t the ideal choice for the task. Not when a fortune cookie has just portended the return of her infamous “bad karma.” Not when everyone knows the real reason the Floribundas have declined is because every remaining member is a whackadoodle. And not when someone’s idea of Christmas spirit is to add a little something extra to the sweet cider punch.

One dead Floribunda later, Leigh struggles to keep her family calm in the midst of swirling suspicions, flying accusations, and dubious warnings of biological warfare. But when someone threatens to silence her own all-too-curious daughter, mother-rage kicks in. Nobody is ruining Leigh’s family’s Merry Christmas. Not even her family.

The Christmas Key by Philippa Nefri ClarkThe Christmas Key by Philippa Nefri Clark

A hot summer Christmas Day is just around the corner in the Australian seaside town of River’s End. Beachside BBQs and sumptuous dinners are on the menu.

But Martha Blake is like a dog with a bone, determined to solve the last of the cottage mysteries. She and great-niece Christie begin a secret investigation.

Meanwhile, Thomas is busy with his own clues and enlists the help of his reluctant grandson, Martin.

At Palmerston House, loving new couple Elizabeth and Angus face their greatest obstacle, throwing their happy future into doubt.

With everyone working at cross-purposes, who will find themselves in the middle, cast decades back into memories of a terrible mistake?

Is love enough this time, as the beloved residents of River’s End deal with the fallout of the old mystery? Who, or what, will bring them all together in time for Christmas?

The Christmas Key is a heartwarming novella rounding off the Christie Ryan Romantic Mystery series with the last of the secrets revealed, and delightful Christmas magic to touch the favourite residents of River’s End. Read as a standalone, or start the series with The Stationmaster’s Cottage.

Merry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey ColeMerry Buried Christmas by Lyndsey Cole:

Murder always ruins the best baked plans . . .

Annie Hunter has a lot on her plate just before Christmas, but it’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice! With an open house at her aunt’s new Blackbird Bed and Breakfast, all Annie hopes for is a drama-free day.

Of course, events never go as planned.

On top of preparing a whirlwind of food, holiday decorating, and keeping to a tight schedule, a surprise visitor is also on the menu. When that visitor turns up dead, Annie must search for the killer to keep everything from crumbling like a stale Christmas cookie.

Annie’s plan to flush out the murderer includes one tasty bribe, a pinch of needling, and a heaping tablespoon of accusation. When she is threatened, it’s time to put it all on the back burner.

But the killer has other ideas.

While the snowflakes fly, Annie finds herself caught between a cookie and a crazy person. This time, it looks like she bit off more than she can chew.

***Merry Buried Christmas is volume 12 in the Black Cat Cafe Cozy Mystery Series. Lyndsey’s books can be read and enjoyed in any order.

The Cop Who Stole Christmas by Christie CraigThe Cop Who Stole Christmas by Christie Craig:

It’ll take a tall, hot Texan and a little holiday spirit to mend a broken heart and catch a Christmas killer . . .

Savanna Edwards is feeling downright Scrooge-like. Who can blame her? A truly unjolly Santa—suit, beard and all—just repossessed her car because of her ex’s shady business dealings. She’d like to murder the no-good lying cheat, but somebody already did that for her—and left him right in the middle of her kitchen, wrapped up with a bow.

Detective Mark Donaldson has a rule against getting involved with his neighbors. He can look—and he’s studied every sweet curve of Savanna from across the street—but he can’t touch. So when she lands on his doorstep in need of help, he finds himself torn between being naughty or nice, and fights every urge to unwrap her like a shiny new Christmas present.

Trouble is, even Mark can’t resist a little holiday magic . . . and there’s definitely something magical happening between him and the girl next door.

Jingle Bells and Deadly Smells by Amber CreweJingle Bells and Deadly Smells by Amber Crewe:

“Each of the Sandy Bay mysteries are great! I think they just keep getting better.”

Christmas is that season…that season of pleasant surprises…delicious smells…and family and friends to share the holidays with.

This Christmas, Sandy Bay’s lovable bakery owner, Meghan Truman, gets a whole lot more than she bargained for…plus a dead body at the door of her favorite restaurant. Some people would rather sweep this murder under the carpet but something smells awfully fishy about the events surrounding it.

Will Meghan join Detective Irvin to find the murderer or will this event serve to etch unpleasant memories of this most wonderful time of the year?

Twelve Days by Mark DawsonTwelve Days by Mark Dawson:

John Milton hasn’t seen Elijah Warriner for three years. The last time they met, Milton’s efforts to keep the boy safe didn’t go exactly to plan. Now Elijah is a promising boxer, preparing for the bout that will take him to the big time. Milton decides that he will spend the week before Christmas in London so that he can watch the fight.

But Elijah’s burgeoning fame has brought him to the attention of old acquaintances with long memories and grudges to bear. They have noticed Elijah, too, and decide that now is the time to settle old scores.

Can Milton keep the young man and his mother safe, or will Elijah’s old running mates get to him first?

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.

Trepalli's Christmas by Marcelle DubéTrepalli’s Christmas by Marcelle Dubé:

It’s Christmas eve day and Constable Marco Trepalli of the Mendenhall Police Department can’t wait to be off shift. He’s planning a big surprise for his girlfriend, Amanda. Something special. Something romantic.

Then a kid doesn’t return home after sledding and Trepalli forgets all about his plans in the mad scramble to mobilize search parties and interview the kid’s friends. And as hour after hour slips by with no sign of the boy, Trepalli braces himself for what could turn into the worst Christmas ever… for him and the kid’s family.

Claus for Celebration by Laura DurhamClaus for Celebration by Laura Durham:

Wedding disasters are one thing. A missing Santa (who is presumed dead) is quite another.

This is no normal holiday season for DC’s top wedding planners. Not only is the weather too warm for their winter wonderland wedding, but their neighborhood’s singing Santa, Kris Kringle Jingle, is missing. On top of that, Annabelle’s engagement party is looming, and someone seems to be sabotaging their wedding plans. Can the Wedding Belles and their colorful crew find Santa, save the wedding, and stop the person who’s trying to make their lives a holly, jolly catastrophe?

Claus for Celebration is the 15th standalone book in the hilarious Annabelle Archer Wedding Planner Mystery series. If you like larger-than-life characters, madcap capers, and an insider’s look at glamorous society weddings, then you’ll love Laura Durham’s award-winning cozy mystery series.

Buy now to cozy up to this funny, festive holiday mystery today!

Winter Downs by Jan EdwardsWinter Downs by Jan Edwards:

Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?

In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.

 

Spirit of the Season by Cynthia E. HurstSpirit of the Season by Cynthia E. Hurst:

In a season of peace and goodwill, it was shocking for residents of the Cotswold town to learn a stranger had been murdered in their midst. It was even more shocking that he died on the doorstep of the town’s police inspector’s home as he was entertaining guests on Christmas Eve. It appeared Daniel Keegan’s only failing had been to fall in love with the wrong person, something that sends a chilling message to two of the inspector’s guests. Newlyweds Jacob Silver and Sarah Simm are used to criticism, but does Keegan’s death mean their own lives may be in danger?

‘Spirit of the Season’ is the eighth book in the Silver and Simm Victorian Mysteries series.

Potluck by Cynthia E. HurstPotluck by Cynthia E. Hurst:

The R&P Labs staff members are planning their Christmas potluck lunch when a stranger arrives on the doorstep with an announcement that threatens to turn several lives upside down. ’Tis the season to be wary, and in this short story, the five scientific sleuths have to do some rapid research to discover whether one of them will be getting a very unusual Christmas present.

 

 

Zukie's Gift by Cynthia E. HurstZukie’s Gift by Cynthia E. Hurst:

All sorts of things were donated for St Augustine’s Christmas bazaar — books, second-hand clothes, cookies, murder weapons …

Zukie’s Gift is a short story and part of the Zukie Merlino Mysteries series.

 

 

 

Big Top Treachery by CeeCee JamesBig Top Treachery by CeeCee James:

Christmas at the Circus!

What if the holly berry meant more than a cozy Christmas tradition? When Trixie, billed by the Concello circus as the world’s smallest Lady Godiva, finds a large ruby on the circus grounds, she thinks she’s one of the luckiest people on earth. Until she learns the stone’s past is stained as holly-red as the jewel itself. ??

When the police get involved, suspicion is cast not just on Trixie, but on her other friends at the circus. ??The pressure is on with Trixie getting threats from an anonymous source. When the calliope player is murdered, Trixie knows the threats she has been receiving aren’t just to scare her… she’ll be the next to die if she can’t find out the truth about the stone and unmask the murderer?

How Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. LeeHow Aunt Tillie Stole Christmas by Amanda M. Lee:

Fourteen years ago, Christmas hit Walkerville with a bang. Or, rather, a big ball of fire.
When a local group home for orphaned children goes up in smoke right before the holidays, Tillie Winchester volunteers her family to take in some kids – even though her arch nemesis Margaret Little is dead-set against it. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for Tillie so she’s considering it a win.

Three boys – all of them with a little attitude – have no idea what to expect from the Winchester household. No matter what, Tillie is sure they’re about to get more than they bargained for. In short order, they’re welcomed into the family at the same time the town is on edge due to a second fire.

Tillie is determined to prove the boys are innocent while also finding them a forever home … even if she has to take on a local judge and declare all out war to do it.

So, hang your stockings by the fire and sit back for another Christmas with the Winchesters. You’ll never be the same again.

Note: This is a 28,000-word novella set in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world. It’s set back in the past so it can be read in any order.

Cremas, Christmas Cookies and Crroks by Harper LinCremas, Christmas Cookies and Crooks by Harper Lin:

It’s almost Christmastime in Cape Bay, and another murder has everyone in town talking. A despised new drama teacher at the local high school is killed in the school’s parking lot. The police arrest a beloved teacher, Mrs. Crowsdale, but everyone else thinks she is too nice to murder anyone. Mike, however, says they have solid evidence that proves she did it.

Sammy is particularly devastated. Mrs. Crowsdale was her favorite teacher and still her hero. Sammy begs Fran to find the real culprit. Fran isn’t so sure. Mike would be angry with her for butting in on another case. And what if more danger befalls her? After all, there are some pretty dangerous people in town…

Includes 3 special recipes!

Fur-miliar Felines by Harper LinFur-miliar Felines by Harper Lin:

Three witches and their magical cats solve paranormal murder cases in the mystical town of Wonder Falls.

It’s Christmastime, but something strange and sinister is in the air. Treacle, Cath’s courageous black cat, can’t see what it is, but he feels a dangerous presence out there in the snow-blanketed streets.

Aunt Astrid also feels dark ripples in the dimensions. The Greenstone witches suspect this creature is somehow tied to the disappearance of two high school students. Soon, one of them turns up dead, half-eaten.

The holiday spirit is in full effect in Wonder Falls, but so is a puzzling and gruesome murder mystery.

Pilfered Promises by M. Louisa LockePilfered Promises by M. Louisa Locke:

Holiday cover edition: It is November, 1880, and the future looks promising for Annie and Nate Dawson. Nate’s law practice is taking off. Annie has made the transition from pretend clairvoyant to a successful financial consultant. And they are looking forward to spending their first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays together.

For Robert Livingston, the owner San Francisco’s newest grand emporium, the holidays don’t look so promising. Not if he can’t figure out how to stop whoever is stealing from his department store, the Silver Strike Bazaar. However, when he hires the Dawsons to investigate, they discover that behind the doors of his “Palace of Plenty,” nothing is quite what it seems.

Pilfered Promises, a sweet cozy historical mystery, is the fifth novel in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series featuring Annie and Nate Dawson and their friends and family in the O’Farrell Street boarding house and it comes right before the newest novella, Kathleen Catches a Killer

Kathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa LockeKathleen Catches a Killer by M. Louisa Locke:

It’s the very end of December, 1880, and the servant Kathleen Hennessey expects to spend a quiet week taking care of the O’Farrell Street boarding house while her employers, Annie and Nate Dawson, are off spending the Christmas holidays with Nate’s family. However, when she agrees to help out one of her friends, Kathleen discovers that a simple case of a servant being dismissed without notice has turned into a complicated puzzle that she is determined to solve.

While featuring minor characters from Locke’s Victorian San Francisco mystery series, Kathleen Catches a Killer contains all the light romance, humor, and suspense of the longer works. Chronologically, this novella comes right after the events in Pilfered Promises, but it can be read as a stand-alone and an excellent introduction to this mystery series about the gas-lit world of the late 19th century.

'Tis the Season by Jean Louise and Michael Yaworsky‘Tis the Season: Two short holiday stories by Jean Louise and Michael Yaworsky:

Heartwarming stories of comfort and joy….

In Stealing Christmas, two modern-day Robin Hoods use a little fa-la-la-la-larceny to bring cheer to those who could use it most.

Tipping Point is the story of a single act of generosity that sets a series of acts into motion, touching a surprising number of people with the holiday spirit.

 

Iced Inn by Karen MacInerneyIced Inn by Karen MacInerney:

It’s Christmastime at the Gray Whale Inn. The inn’s kitchen smells like ginger and spice, the ground is frosted with snow, and wedding bells are about to ring out for innkeeper Natalie’s favorite niece, Gwen. It’s a joyous time… until the families of the bride and groom descend on the island, bringing nasty tempers and a wicked winter storm with them. Add a baffling rash of thefts, a dash of romantic intrigue, and an unexpected power shutdown, and Natalie’s plans for a magical season are looking more like a recipe for disaster. Can Natalie find the missing gifts before the big holiday? And will the happy couple make it to the altar… or will the wedding go up in flames?

A Mind Reader's Christmas by Al MacyA Mind Reader’s Christmas by Al Macy:

Eric Beckman, a mind-reading private investigator, is spending Christmas in snowy Vermont with his wife and daughter. He needs a break from solving cases, but the townspeople convince him to look into the village mystery: Every holiday season, someone switches the baby Jesus with one of the other figures in the town’s Nativity scene.

With the help of his ten-year-old daughter, also a mind reader, he soon learns that some of the residents of the small town are not who–or even what–they seem to be. There’s something supernatural going on in Newburn, Vermont.

His investigation causes an escalation of strange happenings, and soon, swapped manger figures are the least of the town’s worries. If Beckman can’t adjust his view of the world–force himself to believe in things he never thought possible–the Christmas vacation could turn out to be his family’s last.

A Mind Reader’s Christmas may be read as a standalone book or as Book Four in the Eric Beckman series.

The Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona MarpleThe Santa Claus of Mystic Springs by Mona Marple:

What if Father Christmas is on the naughty list?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mystic Springs, but all is not still or calm with the department store Santa.

The amateur dramatics club is full of big egos and legends-in-their-own-heads, so their spats aren’t unusual. But when the theatre owner is shot dead during the Christmas play, it’s Santa who pulls the trigger.

With the arrival of an unwelcome ex, a petition to end Discrimination Against Spirits, and a second attack by St Nick, the chances of a quiet Christmas seem to be quickly disappearing.

Has Santa really gone bad? Or is there more to it?

Town medium Connie and her dead sister Sage are both avoiding their own festive conundrums. A mistletoe murder is just the distraction they need.

Frostycake Murder by Summer PrescottFrostycake Murder by Summer Prescott:

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MISSY AND CHAS!!!

Life is full of surprises in the sleepy beachside town of Calgon, Florida, and the holiday season proves to be no exception. Echo faces a new reality that could change her life forever, Missy and Chas wrestle with the pain of facing their own limitations and uncertainties, while Spencer finds himself in a sticky situation relationally.

In the midst of all of the personal turmoil, a gruesome murder is discovered, and Chas once again has to take charge and hope that he finds the ruthless killer, before tragedy strikes a bit closer to home.

North Pole Unlimited by Elle RushNorth Pole Unlimited: Decker and Joy by Elle Rush:
Jaded P.I. Decker Harkness must track down a missing prototype if he wants a shot at a corporate security contract. Sexy cat-lady Joy McCall has her own investigation running after someone breaks into her animal shelter. When they cross paths during a triple kitten-napping, they’ll have to work together to close their cases. Will everyone make it home to celebrate a merry Christmas together?

Only Santa knows.

 

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.

Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. StevensBlood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens:

Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.

Ivy Granger, psychic private investigator, returns to the streets of Harborsmouth in this addition to the bestselling urban fantasy series.

Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Five Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common–they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind–a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim’s blood.

The holidays just got interesting. Too bad this case may drive Ivy mad before the New Year. Heck, she’ll be lucky to survive Christmas.

Gusty Lovers and Cadavers by Anne R. TanGusty Lovers and Cadavers by Anne R. Tan:

Gusty winds…and a trail of destruction.

Graduate student Raina Sun is in for a season of mayhem and murder. When she volunteered to take the new foreign exchange student shopping on the last weekend before Christmas, she ended up in a riot for the last hot toy of the season and an abandoned baby. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a Good Samaritan.

But calling the mysterious phone number in the diaper bag leads to more questions than answers. A strange man claims to be the child’s father, and his alleged mother turns up dead. The local police are more interested in keeping the town’s good name out of international news than considering if there’s foul play. And to make matters worse, she has less than a week to find his birth parents before the FBI takes over the case.

Raina summons her sleuthing skills to protect this baby and soon discovers everyone has a few skeletons in their closets. With her pimp-cane-toting grandma, she must track down a hidden killer before she becomes the next victim. There’s no place for an amateur when it comes to murder…

Don’t miss out on Raina’s new adventure–get your copy of “Gusty Lovers and Cadavers” today!

Pineapple Gingerbread Men by Amy VansantPineapple Gingerbread Men by Amy Vansant:

Sheriff Frank asks newly-minted private detective Charlotte to help him crack the case, but she has no idea those darn gingerbread men will start showing up everywhere. What did Santa do that made them so angry? And what’s the secret in his colorful Christmas-themed bureau?

Charlotte is forced to split her time between searching for Santa’s killer and helping Declan’s crazy ex-Stephanie stop a corrupt district attorney in exchange for a book that could help solve more crimes in the future. She never thought she’d help calculating Stephanie with anything…but as this story comes to it’s shocking ending, you’ll find it could be Stephanie who’s finally bitten off more cookie than she can chew…

Tangled Destiny by Jenny WheelerTangled Destiny by Jenny Wheeler:

A promising proposal. A life-changing secret. Will she live out a lie or follow her heart?

New York, 1847. Elanora dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart Eustace. The proposal on her 21st birthday is everything she hoped for, until her fiancé’s father dispatches him to the West Indies. After the promise of a white Christmas with the man she loves evaporates, she stumbles upon a secret that could tear Eustace’s family apart…

After a sudden death further sends Elanora reeling, she’s as vulnerable as ever until a gifted photographer comes to her rescue. With the tragic love triangle forming before her eyes and the secret burning within her, she has an impossible Christmas choice. Will Elanora obey the powerful men who want to control her or will she trigger generations of consequences by exposing the truth?

Tangled Destiny is a prequel novella to the Of Gold & Blood historical mystery series.

Run-A-Way for Christmas by Victoria L.K. WilliamsRun-A-Way for Christmas by Victoria L.K. Williams:

Christmas is all about children, but usually not all the children at once.

Megan and her faithful beagle Barney meet a gang of runaway children at the beach. Soon the investigative duo learn of exploitation, injury, and murder and with the help of FBI consultant Aiden and his dog, Gypsy, begin to investigate.

Megan’s family and friends rally round and share the joy of Christmas with the children who need it most, while Megan finds that Christmas is truly a time of love.

Elixirs and Elves by Astoria WrightElixirs and Elves by Astoria Wright:

The elves of Mount Vale are throwing a Christmas Party, and they’ve invited everyone! While the human residents of Moss Hill are excited to attend, many of the sidhe find the invitation beneath them. It’s no secret that they dislike mingling with non-faeries, but are they so hostile toward humans that one of them would commit murder? Carissa has never gotten along with the sidhe guard, but Varick of Vale has helped her on occasion. So, when he asks for her help after suspicion falls on him, it’s up to her to prove his innocence – if, that is, he isn’t guilty after all.

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The Nativity, Rendered in Playmobil

It’s been a long time, since I had a nativity scene for the holidays – unless you count glass figurines depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph. However, my issue is that the woodcarved nativity scenes I like are hugely expensive and that the plastic ones pretending to be wood just don’t look very nice.

This Monday, I chanced to walk into a toy store in Oldenburg that had a “going out of business” sale. And as I browsed the store, I noticed that they had a Playmobil nativity scene and the matching Three Wise Men set at a highly reduced price. And since I like Playmobil figures and have a small collection, I decided to buy it.

When I set up the nativity scene at home, I noticed that it was missing a shepherd and his flock. But that shouldn’t be a huge problem, since Playmobil has lots of sets featuring farm animals and wild animals and the people who care for them. So I checked out the local stores that carry Playmobil toys, only to find that while there were a lot of sets featuring horses and dogs and even a mini-zoo, there was no shepherd (though there had been one in the past) and no sheep except as part of the big farmhouse set.

Eventually, I got lucky and found something that will work. Of course, the shepherds are women and children now and some of them wear dirndl and lederhosen (the Playmobil manufacturer Geobra Brandstätter is headquartered in Bavaria), which are not exactly attire found in Palestine more than 2000 years ago, but then nativity scenes inevitably are fantasies that have little connection to historical reality anyway. For example, the elaborate Christmas mountain nativity scenes from the Erzgebirge region (here is the Crottendorf Christmas mountain and here is the Niederwürschnitz Christmas mountain) always include miners, who used to be very common in the Erzgebirge 100 years ago and not at all common in Palestine 2000 years ago. Also, it’s very unlikely that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were as pale-skinned and light-haired as they’re often depicted. Though Playmobil at least made Mary and Joseph dark-haired.

My shepherds have a variety of different farm animals now, including two sheep. I also dug into my collection of Playmobil stuff and added some rabbits, a family of cats and even a little dog. I’m really happy with the result and I also like the idea of the “shepherds” being farm women and their kids who deliver much more practical gifts than the three wise men. One of the farm women even came with a baby bottle (to feed a lamb), which Mary now holds in her hand.

So take a look at my incredibly cute and absolutely not historically accurate nativity scene. The star even lights up, courtesy of two batteries.

Playmobil nativity scene

Playmobil nativity scene

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The Women Science Fiction Fans Don’t See

Today, I’m over at Galactic Journey again, where I review the 1964 science fiction books Message from the Eocene and Three World of Futurity, both by Margaret St. Clair as part of the December Galactoscope. Furthermore, our editor Gideon Marcus also reviews The Greks Bring Gifts (not a typo) by Murray Leinster, The Arsenal of Miracles by Gardner F. Fox and Endless Shadow by John Brunner, all of which sound more promising than they evidently were. Meanwhile, I hit the jackpot, because I got to review two excellent books.

Margaret St. Clair is one of several women science fiction writers from the Golden and Silver Age who have sadly fallen into the cracks of genre history. From that era, the only women authors who are still widely remembered and reprinted today are Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore and Andre Norton – everybody else is more or less obscure. Furthermore, Brackett and Moore have undergone something of a rediscovery in recent times – at any rate I remember a time in the late 1980s/early 1990s when their work was out of print and very hard to find. It’s also notable that while Brackett and Moore have done well in recent Retro Hugo Awards, they were almost completely ignored in the Retro Hugo Awards given out in the 1990s, in spite of having eligible works that are often better than what actually made the ballot. As for Andre Norton, the reason she is still remembered fairly well is because she was so very prolific and because much her work was aimed at young readers, so her books were a gateway into science fiction for many fans.

Margaret St. Clair was about the same age as Brackett, Moore and Norton. She debuted several years after Brackett and Moore, around the same time as Norton, but is much less remembered today. I knew her mainly as the author of the Wiccan-influenced Sign of the Labrys (Margaret St. Clair and her husband were both Quakers and Wiccan, which is certainly an interesting combination), but hadn’t read anything by her otherwise. Which is a pity, because – at least based on the sample of her work I’ve read – Margaret St. Clair was really, really good and a lot more versatile than just writing Wiccan inspired fantasy.

Of the two books I reviewed, the novel Message from the Eocene is very trippy, very 1960s and very good. It literally spans billions of years, the main protagonist is a disembodied alien spirit with massive communication issues, who eventually helps to usher in the Age of Aquarius. That’s not all, the novel also is at turns a Hal Clement style “truly alien aliens in an alien environment” story, a Victorian ghost story, a galactic suburbia style science fiction tale which attempts to grapple with the consequences of colonialism and even contains a bonus comment on the Vietnam War, which was just heating up as the story was written, and a mid 1960s space exploration story in which a multinational, Iron Curtain overcoming spaceship crew finds something amazing during the second mission to Venus. And Margaret St. Clair manages to pack all this and more into a short novel (114 mass market paperback pages) by modern standards. In fact, Message from the Eocene was so good that I wondered, “How the hell did this not even make the 1965 Hugo shortlist, especially since it’s much better than the book that eventually won?”

The second half of this Ace Double is a collection of short stories, originally published between 1949 and 1962, which really showcase the breadth and versatility of Margaret St. Clair’s work. Two are galactic suburbia stories, a term I couldn’t use over at Galactic Journey, because Joanna Russ only coined it in 1970, even though it is perfect to describe a certain type of domestic science fiction, often sharply satirical, occasionally dystopian or tragic, that usually focusses on the travails of typical suburban American mid century couples or families in a very mid century vision of the future and that was mostly, though not exclusively, written by women. Joanna Russ’ use of the term is perjorative, but that’s unfair, because I have read some very fine galactic suburbia stories. Yes, they are very much artefacts of their time – literally Mad Men era science fiction – but they are usually critical of the suburban middle class mid century lifestyle and sometimes downright subversive. One of the stories, “The Rages” mixes galactic suburbia science fiction with the consumerist dystopias of Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. “The Rages” also casually predicts the hormonal birth control pill, but that isn’t such a remarkably feat considering that the pill was already in development when the story came out in 1954, though it would not become available to the general public until 1960. Coincidentally, “The Rages” is also where Equilibrium, the 2002 dystopian movie which borrowed from every dystopian novel it could find and added good martial arts choreography and a fine performance by Christian Bale, stole the bit with the mandatory behaviour modifying drugs from. Well, I guess it was too much to expect that a movie as derivative as Equilibrium contains a single original idea.

Another story “The Island of the Hands” is very much Leigh Brackett type planetary romance adventure and in fact so reminiscent of the slightly earlier Leigh Brackett story “The Moon That Vanished” that I’m pretty sure Margaret St. Clair must have known the story, if she didn’t know Brackett personally. They both lived in California, after all. And then there is a story (“The Everlasting Food”) which mixes Leigh Brackett style planetary romance and galactic suburbia science fiction, a subgenre combination I haven’t sene before. Even Leigh Brackett wrote straight galactic suburbia science fiction in the few instances that she did (“The Tweener” is probably the best known), but did not mix both styles.

Finally, there are two truly remarkable stories, if for very different reasons. One story, “Idris’ Pig” is pretty much a screwball comedy set on Mars. It’s delightful, hilarious and – as I wrote over at Galactic Journey – pretty much Bringing Up Baby on Mars, with a blueskinned and sacred Martian pig instead of a lost dinosaur bone. Now the funny side of the Golden Age is often forgotten today, partly because the humor is badly dated and partly because science fiction is a serious genre, dammit, and we will have no laughs here, unless written by Douglas Adams. But while I have read quite a few examples of funny Golden Age science fiction, none of them were as charming and delightful as “Idris’ Pig”. So why is this story not the beloved classic it deserves to be?

The other remarkable story in this collection is “Roberta”. It is a science fiction story with a transwoman protagonist – from 1962! And it is not one of those magical/semi-magical sex change stories that occasionally pop up during the Golden Age – no, the titular character has had sex reassignment surgery, though I could not use that term over at Galactic Journey, because it didn’t yet exist in 1964. Of course, sex reassignment surgery was hardly science fiction even back in 1962, but had been science fact for more than thirty years at that point. It wasn’t even that taboo a subject in popular culture – Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda came out in 1953, nine years before “Roberta”. But it was not a subject science fiction chose to tackle at the time. But while “Roberta” was a clearly pioneering story (the word “abortion” is even uttered on the page and implied to be a regular and not very bad occurrence, which is something that is rare even today), it is also highly problematic, because the transwoman protagonist is also mentally ill and tends to kill random men (to be fair, they were arseholes). Joachim Boaz is unsure what the make of the portrayal in his review of Three Worlds of Futurity and Rich Horton, who reviewed the same Ace Double here, found the story transphobic. He is correct, for viewed through a modern lens, it absolutely is.

However, one of the issues with older science fiction (and indeed any older fiction) that tries to be more progressive than what was common at the time and features marginalised people that were rarely depicted elsewhere is that quite often, the results are badly stereotyped and sometimes downright offensive to modern readers, even if it is clear that the story was well intentioned. You can see this at several points in this Ace Double. For example, the parts of Message from the Eocene that are clearly critical of colonialism and state that the anger of the colonised at their colonisers is justified nonetheless manage to present the colonised people the narrative clearly sympathises with as superstitious and backwards and in need of a white, if not American saviour. Early attempts to address issues that are either taboo or rarely discussed often tend to be offensive – see how badly Dynasty handled Steven Carrington, one of the first gay characters in mainstream television. Maybe the first writers to address a subject that hasn’t been talked about before need to seek out every pitfall and put their foot in it first, before those that can come after can do better. And that process can take a long time.

So even if the magical sex change stories of the golden age and later works like Glen or Glenda (I’m sort of coopting it for SFF here) or “Roberta” are offensive to modern readers, they remind us that trans people (and women, people of colour and LGBTQ people in general) were always there, always a part of our genre and did not simply fall from the sky in approximately 2010.

Message from the Eocene and Three Worlds of Futurity were both huge and pleasant surprises for me and make me all the more sad that Margaret St. Clair isn’t better remembered. Of her three better women SFF writer contemporaries, Andre Norton was named an SFWA grandmaster, C.L. Moore was offered grandmaster status, but her husband declined on her behalf and Leigh Brackett died too early. Maragret St. Clair lived until 1995. She never became an SFWA grandmaster, though at least some of her works are in print (again).

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Two new In Love and War stories and a new Thurvok story

It’s another commercial break of sorts, because I have not one but three new releases to announce. One of them is even a short novel. In fact, I’d hoped to announce those new releases before, but one vendor (24symbols – cough) was really dragging their feet to get the books up.

Let’s start with the two new In Love and War stories.

Mementos and Memories is another story to come out of the 2019 July short story challenge. The inspiration for this story was was the backcover blurb of a Jack Reacher novel, The Midnight Line by Lee Child, of all things. According to the blurb, Jack Reacher spots a West Point class ring in the window of a pawn shop and sets out to locate the owner, because no one would ever willingly give up such a ring. When I read the blurb, I thought, “Wow, this would be a great plot for an In Love and War story.” So I sent Mikhail and Anjali shopping in an intriguing environment and had them come across a Shakyri dagger.

Now I haven’t read The Midnight Line (I’m way behind on the Jack Reacher series), so I have no idea where Lee Child took his story. According to the summary, it involves the opoid crisis. Knowing the Jack Reacher series, I suspect there will be quite a lot of action and violence. That said, I’m pretty sure that Anjali and Mikhail would get along just swimmingly with Jack Reacher, should they ever find themselves in the same universe.

I sometimes call the In Love and War series cozy space opera and Mementos and Memories definitely falls onto the cozier end of the series. For following the trail of the dagger leads Anjali and Mikhail to a sweet elderly couple and a decades old tale of forbidden love. Because in an eighty-eight year war (actually, eighty-nine years by now), it’s kind of obvious that Anjali and Mikhail can hardly be the first to fall in love across the lines.

So follow along, as Anjali and Mikhail investigate…

Mementos and Memories
Mementos and Memories by Cora BuhlertOnce, 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.

More information.
Length: 7300 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

If Mementos and Memories sits on the cozy end of the In Love and War series, Honourable Enemies sits on the opposite end, since it’s grimmer, grittier and has a lot more action. And gladiator fights in space, because who doesn’t love gladiator fights in space? Though there is also a food scene, because it wouldn’t be an In Love and War story without a food scene.

The basic idea behind Honourable Enemies was “What if Anjali and Mikhail were forced to work together with their greatest enemy, Mikhail’s former commander Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces?”

Now Brian Mayhew was initially conceived as as a rather one-dimensional antagonist whose only purpose it was to hunt down Anjali and Mikhail, a task he was very zealous about. You can see this version of Brian Mayhew in action in Bullet Holes and also in Freedom’s Horizon to a certain degree.

However, one day I was musing about the overall arc of the In Love and War series, particularly about a later novel in the series and something Mayhew does in that novel. I can’t say what exactly, because that would be a spoiler, but let’s just say it’s something pretty awful.

And suddenly, I heard Brian Mayhew’s booming voice in my head (yes, my characters talk to me on occasion), saying, “I wouldn’t do that. What do you take me for? I’m not a villain and I’m certainly not a monster.”

“Ahem, actually you are a villain,” I pointed out. “Or how do you explain all this?” And then I listed a lot of questionable to downright villainous things he had done.

“Well, about that…” Mayhew said and gave me a variation of the “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it and besides, I was just following orders” monologue.

I listened to all that and finally said, “All right, so let’s assume for a moment that you’re not a villain. Nonetheless, you’ve manoeuvred yourself into a situation where you have to do something awful. And you really can’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. So if you’re not a villain, what are you going to do about it?”

So he told me. And I suddenly realised just who this character was, namely the grizzled maverick space captain who is the hero of so many traditional space operas, turned reluctant villain. He became a lot more interesting as a character after that.

In the prequel novella Evacuation Order, we get see an unambiguously heroic Brian Mayhew before he joined the Special Commando Forces and also learn just why there is such a strong connection between him and Mikhail. There’s a little bit about Mayhew’s ongoing conflict with the Santerna brothers in that story, too.

And in Honourable Enemies, we finally learn what it takes to make Mayhew act against orders and go AWOL, ironically the very same offenses for which he persecutes Mikhail and Anjali so very mercilessly. A lot of the novel is told from his point of view, so we get a lot more insight into who Brian Mayhew is and what makes him tick. We also get to see Brian Mayhew in hero mode once more (even Anjali has to admit that) and we get the first hint that Mayhew is no more happy with the things he’s forced to do for the greater good than Mikhail.

Another strong influence on Honourable Enemies were the Italian sword and sandal epics that filled the airwaves when I was a kid. Now I grew up in the era of only three TV channels, which mostly focussed on wholesome and educational programming and felt that even Porky Pig of all things was too violent. However, for reasons best known to themselves, these wholesome and educational channels would broadcast Italian sword and sandal movies, which were anything but and a lot more violent than Porky Pig, too, on Sunday afternoons.

Those 1960s sword and sandal films were one of the most exciting things on TV in those days, featuring attractive women with fabulous hairstyles, scantily clad muscular men I found oddly pleasant to look at (there is a reason Arena fighters have to wear synth-leather shorts in the novel) and danger, death traps and narrow escapes galore. And at the climax, there was always a huge fight in the Arena, where the hero, his lover and all their friends were about to be executed and yet triumphed against all odds over wild beasts, enemy gladiators and death traps (unless it was a Hollywood attempt at a sword and sandal film, where everybody would die in the end and ascend to heaven singing Christian hymns).

I loved those movies and like anything you consume during an impressionable age, they left their mark on me and eventually found their way into my writing. And so I not only wrote a space gladiator novel, but I also named the world and many of its people after characters and actors from vintage sword and sandal films.

Maciste is the hero of a long-running series of sword and sandal movies that goes all the way back to the silent era. Maciste first appeared in 1914 in a historical epic called Cabiria, which was written by none other than Gabriele D’Annunzio himself. Cabiria eventually became the name of the capital of Maciste. The actor who portrayed the character of Maciste in all his silent film appearances was named Bartolomeo Pangano and was a dockworker before his film career. I borrowed his name for the Arena champion (who also used to be a dockworker before his gladiator career). And in fact, all Arena fighters are named after actors who played Maciste in various movies.

So follow along as Anjali and Mikhail are forced to work with their greatest enemy, Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Special Commando Forces, and have to face certain death in the Great Arena of Maciste in…

Honourable Enemies
Honourable Enemies by Cora BuhlertOnce, Colonel Brian Mayhew was the deputy commander of the Republican Special Commando Forces. But now he’s gone AWOL to take out crime lord Rick Santerna, the man who murdered his family.

Mayhew’s quest for vengeance brings him to the rim world of Maciste, where he runs into his former protégé Mikhail Grikov, now wanted as a traitor and deserter for eloping with enemy soldier Anjali Patel.

Mayhew knows that it’s his duty to bring in Mikhail and Anjali. But with Santerna hot his tail, he finds that he needs their help.

Mikhail and Anjali know that Brian Mayhew is a threat to their freedom and their new life together. But now they are faced with a hard choice. Should they risk their lives to help a man who could condemn them both to death or should they let Mayhew die in the Great Arena of Maciste?

More information.
Length: 57000 words
List price: 3.99 USD, EUR or 2.99 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

However, I’m not the only one who has a new release to announce. Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp fiction writer by day and the masked vigilante only known as the Silencer by night, also has a new release to announce.

Now one of the risks of having a character who’s also a writer is that he occasionally wants you to write one of his stories for him. This is how the Thurvok series came to be. And now Richard wants to branch out into science fiction, too, though you won’t get to see the results until next year. Initially, I never wanted to use a pen name, but by now I actually like having a name under which I can publish deliberately retro stories and distinguish them from my other work. And besides, I make it very clear that Richard is me.

Like most of the Thurvok stories to date, The Temple of the Snake God came out of the July short story challenge. Like many of the July short story challenge stories, The Temple of the Snake God was partly inspired by a piece of fantasy art, namely the 1970 painting “Green Death” by Frank Frazetta.

The other inspiration was what eventually became the first line of the story, as uttered by Meldom, “It’s an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.” Of course, anybody who has read any of the Thurvok stories knows that Meldom’s easy jobs inevitably come with a catch.

Zanya did not appear in the initial draft of the story. But when I was looking for cover art, I came across the perfect image. There was only one problem. The image featured a beautiful black warrior woman, but there was no such character in the story itself. So I thought, “Why don’t I write such a character into the story?” And so, Zanya was born, a young woman who wants to save her sister from being sacrificed to the snake god Tseghirun. In retrospect, the story works actually better with the addition of Zanya, because she gives our heroes a concrete reason to deviate from their original plan and rescue the girls. The girls actually did get rescued in the original draft, too, but our heroes simply deciding to do the right thing made for a weaker story overall. Not to mention that I like Zanya a lot and will certainly revisit her one day.

Some people will probably believe that a black woman would never have appeared as a heroic character in an actual 1930s pulp story. They are wrong, for in fact, there were quite a few pulp stories which featured characters of colour in non-stereotyped and even heroic roles. The most famous examples are probably Eric John Stark, Leigh Brackett’s interplanetary adventurer, and Josh and Rosabel Newton, an educated African American couple who aided the pulp hero The Avenger, but there are several others. Of course, Zanya would likely not have been featured on the cover of an actual 1930s pulp magazine. Even Eric John Stark was not depicted as a black man on the covers of his own adventures until 2008, almost sixty years after the character was introduced in the pages of Planet Stories.

So accompany Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna, Lysha and Zanya as they venture into…

The Temple of the Snake God
The Temple of the Snake God by Cora BuhlertIt was supposed to be an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.

But the temple of the snake god Tseghirun turns out to be unexpectedly busy, when Thurvok, the sellsword, and his friends, Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, the sorceress Sharenna and Meldom’s sweetheart Lysha attempt to steal the eye. Not only is there a ceremony going on at the temple, no, the cultists are also about to sacrifice several young girls to the snake god Tseghirun. And so what started out as a simple heist quickly turns into a rescue mission.

This is a short story of 6200 words or approximately 22 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

More information.
Length: 6200 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, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

By the way, you can also get both the entire In Love and War series and the entire Thurvok series in a handy bundle at a reduced price at DriveThruFiction.

And that’s it for today. There will be at least one more new release announcement before the holidays. I hope to publish a Christmas story this year – after all, I have been publishing a holiday story every year since 2013. And Richard Blakemore has also been busy, both as the Silencer and the author of the Thurvok stories. I’ll also have some non-book announcements to make.

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