Obi-Wan Kenobi Goes On a Rescue Mission in Part IV

Here are my thoughts on the fourth episode of the Disney Plus Obi-Wan Kenobi series. For my thoughts on previous episodes, go here.

Warning! Spoilers under the cut! Continue reading

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Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: “Dinosaurs and Fists of Steel”

The next Star Trek Strange New Worlds and Obi-Wan Kenobi reviews are coming, but I had a stressful day, somewhat relieved by the mail person bringing me toys, so here is another short Master-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre photo story. The name “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre” was coined by Kevin Beckett at the Whetstone Discord server.

The background is that in 1987, Mattel was planning to send He-Man back in time and produced three bionic dinosaurs for the Masters of the Universe figures to ride, including a triceratops called Bionatops. The dinosaurs were never made again in any of the later Masters of the Universe lines, but I had the idea that maybe a Schleich triceratops would work as well, so I ordered one and he (or she) arrived today. And even if the triceratops wouldn’t work for my Masters of the Universe figures, it’s still an awesome dinosaur and you can never have too many dinosaurs:

Schleich triceratops“Don’t mind me, I’m just grazing here and enjoying the grass and the flowers.”

The mail person also brought me Jitsu, a rather underdeveloped member of Skeletor’s Evil Warriors, who only appeared once in the 1980s Filmation cartoon and not at all in any of the subsequent cartoons, probably because he was portrayed very much as a racist stereotype in the Filmation cartoon, so no one wanted to tackle him in later incarnations. And yes, it’s depressing that the only Asian character in Masters of the Universe is an underdeveloped bad guy. Though come to think of it, there also was a ninja character who was even more underdeveloped.

That said, Jitsu does make a great action figure, so I put him next to my new triceratops.

Jitsu with a triceratops

“Ah, what a fearsome beast! I shall tame you and ride you to Snake Mountain to strike fear in the hearts of my enemies.”

“Eat shit and die, mammal.”

Jitsu is often considered Fisto’s archenemy, probably because they both have a prosthetic metal hand. So of course, I had to pit them against each other and this is what happened:

Jitsu versus Fisto, while Ram-Man and a triceratops look on.

“So we finally meet again, Fisto, my old enemy. And this time I shall vanquish you with my deadly steel chop.”

“Well, I’ve got a steel fist of my own.”

“But mine is shinier.”

“And mine is bigger.”

“I have a dinosaur.”

“And I have Ram-Man.”

“Actually, mammal, you don’t have a dinosaur. I just happened to be passing by, minding my own business, when you showed up.”

Fisto fights Jitsu, as Ram-Man and a triceratops look on.“Eat steel knuckles, Gold Boy.”

“Feel my golden chop.”

“Hey, that’s my boyfriend you’re beating up there.”

“Ah, the sweet smell of testosterone. Mammals, so predictable.”

Jitsu has knocked out Fisto and faces Ram-Man, while the triceratops wishes she were somewhere else.“Leave Fisto alone or I swear I’ll ram you into the ground.”

“Bring it on, Bucket Head!”

“Look, mammals, could you maybe do that somewhere else, cause I only wanted some peace and quiet in the sun?”

Ram-Man knocked out Jitsu, while Fisto and the triceratops look on.

“Take that, Gold Hand Dude.” Rammm!

“Oww, my head. Krass, what happened?”

“He knocked you out and then I knocked him out, Malcolm. But we won.”

“That’s it. I’m leaving and finding a quiet place far away from all of those brawling mammals.”

I did put a Masters of the Universe figure on the Schleich triceratops and it does work, though Fisto looks a bit like Lee Marvin’s drunken cowboy from Cat Ballou when riding the triceratops. Though as these picture show, the original 1987 Bionatops wasn’t all that big either.

Fisto rides the triceratops“I was born under a wand’rin’ star… la, la, la, la…”

“Shut up, mammal! Your voice is terrible and besides, that song isn’t even from Cat Ballou, but from Paint Your Wagon.”

“And what does a dinosaur know about music from movies released on another planet?”

“I’m a very culturally interested dinosaur. And besides, what does a grumpy and drunkard loser like you know about movies from another planet?”

“Queen Marlena holds regular movie nights at the royal palace. Krass and I always attend. Anyway, can’t you go any faster, boy. I’ll be late for dinner.”

“I’m not a boy, I’m a girl, idiot.”

“Well, can’t you go any faster, girl? I promise, I’ll give you a nice big lamb chop, when we get back to the palace.”

“I’m a herbivore, idiot.”

“Well, then I’ll give you a pot of potatoes. Or maybe carrots?”

“A big bowl of salad and we’re in business.”

“Okay, deal. I was born under a wand’rin’ star… la, la, la, la…”

“Oh, not again!”

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this Masters-of-the.Universe-Piece Theatre Photo Story. There’ll be more stories, including the already announced She-Ra story, since the Evil Horde has gained a few more members in the meantime.

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I just bought some toys, took photos of them and wrote little scenes to go with those photos. All characters are copyright and trademark their respective owners.

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A Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special: “Fisto’s Significant Other”

I’m interrupting the steady stream of Star Trek Strange New Worlds and Obi-Wan Kenobi reviews for another Masters of the Universe action figure photo story. I was always planning to do more of these and I also posted a few on Twitter, but blog posts are less ephemeral.

The name “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre” was coined by Kevin Beckett at the Whetstone Discord server, by the way, based on the Masterpiece Theatre series of random British TV dramas presented by PBS in the US. I like the name and adopted it with thanks to Kevin.

Initially, I was going to continue the Secrets of Eternia series with a look at the backstory of She-Ra, He-Man’s long lost twin sister, but that was somewhat stymied by the fact that though I have a great She-Ra figure, the Evil Horde was rather anaemic to the point that Hordak had to borrow henchpeople from Skeletor.

So instead, you get a different story today. My photo story about the origins of Teela and particularly who her biological parents are ended with Fisto (whom the people behind the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon planned to reveal as Teela’s biological father for reasons best known to themselves) coming out as gay to his estranged brother Man-at-Arms. The fact that Fisto and Man-at-Arms are brothers was established in the 2002 cartoon. However, Fisto being gay is purely my head canon, because with a name like that, how can he not be?

“The Origin of Teela” story ended with Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms and Malcolm a.k.a. Fisto going for a drink. And here is a sequel, where we finally learn who Fisto’s significant other is:

Fisto and Man-at-Arms having tea

“Well, Duncan, when you said, let’s have a drink, I expected a tavern and beer, not… Wait a minute, is that mother’s prized tea set? I had no idea that thing still existed.”

“I kept it. For Teela, for when she gets married.”

“If that idiot Prince Adam ever gets a move on and pops the question, you mean?”

“He’s not an idiot. He’s just… shy.”

“Well, I doubt that the future Queen of Eternia needs mother’s old tea set, considering she’ll inherit a palace full of fine china and silverware. Besides, I don’t think Teela is the type for fancy tea sets anyway.”

Fisto and Man-at-Arms having tea

“You’re right. She’d only use it as target practice. Talking of which, I could have sworn there used to be more cups. Anyway, Malcolm, do you want tea? And some pastries maybe?”

“Actually, I want a beer, but since tea and pastries are all I get, I guess the answer is yes.”

Man-e-Faces interrupts Duncan and Fisto

“Anyway, you wanted to know if I have someone and the answer is yes and it’s…”

“Man-e-Faces.”

“What? No. Oh, hi Manny. Bad timing.”

“Am I interrupting anything?

“Yeah, you could say that.”

Duncan, Fisto and Man-e-Faces

“I won’t be long. I just wanted to let you know that I’m off for a few days to play Hamlet in Avion. You know, my real job, before I got drafted into this whole saving Eternia thing.”

Duncan, Fisto and Man-e-Faces

“Also, just because I’m an actor doesn’t mean I’m gay. Why do people always assume that? Does not compute. Anyway, I’m off. See you in five days. Nice tea set, by the way.”

“All right, so where were we? Oh yes, you wanted to know if I have someone and the answer is yes I do and it’s Ram-Man.”

Fisto, Ram-Man and Man-at-Arms

“Hi boss. Yup, Malcolm and I are together. Hope you don’t mind. Nice tea set, by the way. Oh, pastries. Munch, munch.”

“Sure, help yourself. Why not? After all, you’re apparently part of the family now.”

Adam and Teela walk in on Duncan, Fisto and Ram-Man

“Hi, Dad, Uncle Malcolm, Rammy. Did we miss a tactics meeting? Anyway, Adam and I are going to borrow the Wind Raider, if you don’t mind, Dad. We’re going to… uhm… patrol the outer perimeter.”

Teela puts her hand over Adam's mouth.

“Hey, Teela, isn’t that the ugly tea set that we… mumble.”

“Shush! Dad is really weird about that tea set. If he finds out that we broke some of the cups…”

Man-at-Arms throws a sceptical look at Adam and Teela

“Do you two have anything to say for yourselves? For example, why two cups of your grandmother’s prized tea set went missing?”

“Uhm…”

“I’m waiting, young lady.”

“Ahem, actually, I have something to say. I’m gay and Ram-Man and I are together.”

Adam shakes hands with Ram-Man and Fisto, while Teela and Man-at-Arms look on.“Hey, that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for both of you.”

“Thanks for covering for us, Uncle.”

“No problem. I know how weird your father is about that tea set.”

“Anyway, Dad, we’re off to… ahem… patrol the outer perimeter.”

“See you later, Duncan. Oh pastries! You don’t mind, if we take some, do you? The outer perimeter is very far out.”

“Sure, take my pastries. Why not? It’s not as if I ever get any of my own cake.”

Fisto and Ram-Man holding hands

“Well, all things considered that didn’t go too badly. I mean, your brother wasn’t mad at us and that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Plus, we got pastries”

“Duncan only isn’t mad because he was too busy worrying about Mom’s old tea set. Though I have to say ‘patrolling the outer perimeter’ is a great excuse. I wish we would have thought of that one.”

“You mean, Adam and Teela are not…?”

“Trust me, the only perimeters those two are patrolling are each other’s bodies.”

Adam and Teela leaning against a Wind Raider and kissing

Patrolling the outer perimeter.

“Hmm, those pastries are really good. And Fisto and Rammy are an item. That’s… unexpected. I mean I had no idea. Did you?”

“No, but I’m happy for them. Dad always says that Uncle Malcolm needs someone to look after him and now he has someone. Plus, they no longer have to hide, neither from Dad nor from anybody else.”

“So… uhm… do you think we should tell our parents? About us, I mean?”

“Oh dear, Dad would give me the birds and the bees lecture. The one he obviously ignored or I wouldn’t exist.”

“Come to think of it, Duncan would probably kill me. And I’m no match for him as Adam.”

“Dad would never kill you. He loves you. You’re the son I failed to be. But I suspect your parents wouldn’t be too happy. They probably wanted someone else for you. Someone with a royal title like those pink and pretty princesses your sister always hangs out with.”

“Don’t say that! My parents love you. Dad’s always going, ‘Why can’t you be more like Teela, son?’ But if we told them, Mom would start making wedding plans and Dad would drop hints about grandchildren and preserving the royal lineage.”

“That’s scary.”

“So we don’t tell them? At least not yet.”

“No, it’s wonderful as it is and I… well, I don’t want to jinx it.”

“You know, we could just elope. Find a priest and a temple in some village, get married and then tell our families. No pressure, no party, no big ceremony, just you and me.”

“Come on, Adam, you’re being silly. And now kiss me.”

***

As for how Ram-Man ended up becoming Fisto’s significant other, the initial spark was this tweet by John Chu

So I put the Fisto and Ram-Man figures next to each other and they made a cute couple. Besides in the 2002 He-Man cartoon (the same one which retconned Fisto into Man-at-Arms’ brother), Ram-Man is very protective of Teela, second only to Duncan and Adam. So it makes sense, if they were family of sorts.

The tea set was a lucky accident. For while I didn’t have a miniature mug or beer jug for Man-at-Arms and Fisto to share a drink, I remembered that I had a miniature tea set, which is exactly at the right scale. So I used the tea set and the story became much funnier as a result. The bit that Man-at-Arms doesn’t get to eat any of his own pastries is a reference to the time he won the 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award and didn’t get a single slice of Martha Kent’s famous apple pie, which serves as a trophy.

Unfortunately, the male figures are too bulky to get them to hug or kiss each other (and Ram-Man is extra bulky), but they can hold hands and look deep into each other’s eyes. Though it does work with Adam and Teela, as you can see.

The Adam and Teela coda wasn’t part of the original Twitter thread. However, I realised that “patrolling the outer perimeter” sounds an awful lot like an excuse to sneak away for some private time together. Especically since this episode of the original cartoon shows that the bedroom arrangements in the royal palace make nightly visits nigh impossible, because Adam or Teela would have to sneak past both their respective parents and Cringer, too (bonus Man-at-Arms without his helmet, Randor and Marlena in 1950s TV appropriate separate beds and Teela in a sexy pink nightgown). So if Adam and Teela want to spend some qaulity time together, they’d have to leave the palace. And yes, I do have a Wind Raider.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this Masters-of-the.Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special. There’ll be more stories, including the already announced She-Ra story, since the Evil Horde has now gained a few more members.

As a bonus, here is Man-e-Faces, who has always been protrayed as an actor turned heroic defender of Eternia, performing Hamlet, specifically, act V, scene 1.

Man-e-Face holds Skeletor's skull, performing Hamlet

Alas, poor Keldor! I knew him, He-Man: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rims at it.

Man-e-Faces performing Hamlet while holding Skeletor's skull

Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?

Man-e-Faces holds Skeletor's skull and performs Hamlet

Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I just bought some toys, took photos of them and wrote little scenes to go with those photos. All characters are copyright and trademark their respective owners. Also, apologies to William Shakespeare.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds meets the “Ghosts of Illyria” and uncovers some dark secrets of the crew

It’s time for the next Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review. Reviews of previous episodes (well, just two so far) may be found here.

Warning: Spoilers under the cut! Continue reading

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Road Trip with Jedi and Princess: Some Thoughts on Part III of Obi-Wan Kenobi

Here are my thoughts on the third episode of the Disney Plus Obi-Wan Kenobi series. For thoughts on previous episodes (well, there only are two), go here.

Warning! Spoilers under the cut! Continue reading

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A Trio of Links: Vintage Crime Fiction, 1960s Protests and New Sword and Sorcery

The next Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Trek reviews are coming, but first of all, here are some links to new work by me that may be found elsewhere:

The Drink Tank Issue No. 439

To begin with, issue 439 of the fanzine The Drink Tank has just come out. The theme of this issue is crime fiction before 1950 and I have an article in it about Harald Harst, a forgotten Weimar Republic era pulp detective. You can also read articles by Christopher J. Garcia, Julian West and Ian Nicholas about topics as varied as Sherlock Holmes, J.G. Reeder or the Moon Man. There is a noir title generator as well.

So what are you waiting for? Download the issue here and start reading.

Yesterday, I was also over at Galactic Journey again with an article about the protests against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Berlin and the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg in 1967. This was the moment where the peace and love sixties turned violent in (West) Germany and would have reverberations into the 1970s and beyond. It’s also a truly horrifying story, even more horrifying than I knew.

Content warning for photos and descriptions of police violence as well as a photo of a body, because you can’t write about the murder Benno Ohnesorg without the iconic photo of him dying in a West Berlin backyard.

Whetstone Magazine of Sword and Sorcery No. 5Finally, I also have a story out in issue 5 of Whetstone Amateur Magazine of Sword and Sorcery.  It’s called “Village of the Unavenged Dead” and is a dark story about a cruel emperor, a vengeful necromancer and a spooky village.

You’ll also find new sword and sorcery stories by G.T. Wilcox, Michael Burke, George Jacobs, Dariel Quiogue, T.A. Markitan, Robert O’Leary, Charles Dooley, Jason M. Waltz, Gregory D. Mele, H.R. Laurence, Anthony Perconti, Chuck Clark, Nathaniel Webb, Patrick Groleau, J. Thomas Howard, B. Harlan Crawford, Rev. Joe Kelly, Rett Weissenfels and Scott Oden and an evocative cover by Jake Kelly in this issue. If you’re interested in what the sword and sorcery genre looks like today, you could do worse than check out Whetstone. Best of all, it’s 100% free.

So what are you waiting for? Download issue 5 of Whetstone right here.

ETA: J. Thomas Howard shares a lovely review of issue 5 of Whetstone, just in case you needed an additional incentive to download it.

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First Monday Free Fiction: The Beast from the Sea of Blood

The Beast from the Sea of Blood by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertWelcome to the June 2022 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

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

June is the first month of summer, so here is The Beast from the Sea of Blood, a summery sword and sorcery story of a trip to the seaside, a crab boil on the beach… and a monster.

So accompany Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna and Lysha as they face…

The Beast from the Sea of Blood

From the ocean called the Sea of Blood for its red waters the colour of freshly shed blood rose a small rocky island. Nothing and no one lived here except for a colony of noisy seagulls and some crabs, which scuttled across a narrow strip of sandy beach. This was the Desolate Isle, a place avoided by sailors far and wide, because it was believed to be cursed. At least, that’s what old Danvalk said. But then Danvalk would believe his own bed was cursed, should he happen to fall out of it in a drunken stupor.

Thurvok the sellsword, on the other hand, did not believe in curses. But nonetheless, the red waves, so very much like the fresh blood sprouting from an enemy’s cut throat, unnerved him. As a son of the Eastern steppes, he did not much care for the sea in general. Any body of water larger than a well, a puddle or bathing pond tended to make him nervous. But the Sea of Blood with its eerie gory colouring made him even more nervous. Water should simply not be that colour and only the cannibals of Grokh bathed in fresh blood.

Nonetheless, he was stuck here for the time being. For the Mermaid’s Scorn, a small fishing sloop that Thurvok and his friends had purchased from the one-legged sailor Danvalk, sole survivor of an ill-fated expedition to the lost city of Nhom’zonac, had run aground on the sands just off the Desolate Isle. Until the tide rolled in, she would not sail again. At least, that’s what Sharenna had said and she prided herself in her knowledge of the sea. Even though she had run the Mermaid’s Scorn aground, come to think of it.

Worse, the quest that had brought them here, a great pirate treasure supposedly hidden among the seagull nests, had proven to be a bust. Thurvok’s friend and companion Meldom — thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin — had gotten the story of the treasure from an old acquaintance, who’d claimed that he’d been right there, when it was hidden.

“Well, if the treasure really is so great, why doesn’t he get it himself then?” Thurvok had asked.

Meldom had no answer to that, probably because there was none.

Not that it mattered much. For as usual, Thurvok’s objections had been overridden. For Meldom had never heard a rumour of a treasure he did not want to go chasing after. His lover Lysha inevitably sided with him and besides, she was forever concerned about replenishing their dwindling funds. And the sorceress Sharenna, who would normally have been the voice of reason, liked feeling the sea wind in her hair a little too much. And so Thurvok was outvoted and the quartet set sail for the Desolate Isle. Only old Danvalk, whom the foursome occasionally took along on their quests to take advantage of his sailing skills, flat out refused to come.

“I’m not setting a foot, let alone two, on the Desolate Isle,” Danvalk had insisted, “That place is cursed. Cursed, I’m telling you, and beset by monsters and evil powers.”

Of course, Danvalk only had one foot left — as Meldom was about to point out, when a jab from Lysha silenced him. Nonetheless, the old sailor had a point. For there was something very off about the Sea of Blood and the lone rocky island that rose from its waters.

As soon as the quartet reached the blood-red waters, things started to go wrong. The wind became erratic, alternating between eerie calm and violent gusts. And then, when they reached the Desolate Isle, the Mermaid’s Scorn had run aground. Meldom and Sharenna were still arguing about whose fault that was.

But whoever was to blame, they were all stuck here until the tide rolled in, which should happen in approximately eight hours. And so Thurvok and Meldom had busied themselves scaling the slippery rocks to look for the legendary pirate treasure. They found lots of seagull nests and even more seagull shit. What they did not find, however, was even a hint of any treasure.

“All this bother and nothing to show for it,” Thurvok grunted as he and Meldom sat side by side on top of the highest rocks looking out across the tiny island and the bloody sea roiling all around as far as the eye could see.

“Maybe the seagulls ate the treasure,” Meldom mused, “After all, they seem to eat everything else.”

“And shit it out again,” Thurvok added, “No, if there was a treasure here buried in a pile of bird shit, we would have found it.” He sighed. “This whole expedition has been a waste of time.”

“Would you rather sit in The Rusty Nail in Neamene and drink yourself into a stupor?” Meldom countered.

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

Meldom shook his head. “Some adventurer you are.”

“Better a happy, well fed and drunk adventurer, then hungry, thirsty and shipwrecked.”

***

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

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Down and Out in Tatooine and Alderaan: Some Thoughts on Obi-Wan Kenobi Parts I and II

Since last weekend was a long holiday weekend in the US, Disney Plus in its infinite wisdom has decided to give us the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi in one go and then the next episode dropped today. Though the first episode begins with what is basically a recap of the prequel trilogy in five minutes.

But before we get started, fellow Hugo finalist Camestros Felapton is currently doing profiles of all the 2022 Best Fan Writer finalists and today it was my turn. Also check out Cam’s profiles of Chris M. Barkley, Bitter Karella and Alex Brown with Jason Sanford and Paul Weimer still to come.

But now, let’s get back to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Warning: Spoilers after the cut! Continue reading

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for May 2022

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

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

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, near future science fiction, dystopian fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, horror, magical realism, LitRPG, wizards, dragons, immortals, assassins, exorcists, first contact, alien abductions, super soldiers, space marines, stargates, crime-busting witches, crime-busting ghosts, pirates of the sea, the air and space and much more.

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

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

And now on to the books without further ado:

Wizard's Tower by Gregory AllantherWizard’s Tower by Gregory Allanther:

The humans call me Nemon Fargus. They call me wizard, and [Elementalist] and [Enchanter]. They call me teacher. They call me adventurer.

But I don’t care. Not anymore.

For more than 150 years I’ve served the Kingdom of Sena. Through four Kings and a Queen. Two wars and a rebellion. I’ve founded and taught at a magic school. I’ve fought against beast waves and dungeon breaks.

But now? Now, the one close friend I had left has passed. So, I’m done with their politics and their economics. The short and busy lives of humans are more burden than benefit on the weary soul of this half-elf.

Now, I’m looking for a refuge, a place that can well and truly be my own. Away from the growing cities and the bustling markets, away from the pointless wars, away from the eager students and the arrogant adventurers.

I’m seeking the peaceful life of a wizard in his tower, studying magic to advance my spellcraft…We’ll see if that happens.

Experience the start of a LitRPG Series from Gregory Allanther, the bestselling author of An Old Man’s Journey. With millions of views previously on Royal Road, this hit web serial is new and improved on Kindle & Audible.

Adrift in Starlight by Mindi BriarAdrift in Starlight by Mindi Briar:

When set adrift in the universe, some things are worth holding onto.

Titan Valentino has been offered a job they can’t refuse.

Tai, a gender-neutral courtesan, receives a scandalous proposition: seduce an actor’s virgin fiancée. The money is enough to pay off Tai’s crushing medical debt, a tantalizing prospect.

Too bad Aisha Malik isn’t the easy target they expect.

A standoffish historian who hates to be touched, she’s laser-focused on her career, and completely unaware that her marriage has been arranged behind her back. This could be the one instance where Tai’s charm and charisma fail them.

Then an accidental heist throws them together as partners in crime.

Fleeing from the Authorities, they’re dragged into one adventure after another: alien planets, pirate duels, and narrow escapes from the law. As Tai and Aisha open up to each other, deeper feelings kindle between them. But that reward money still hangs over Tai’s head. Telling Aisha the truth could ruin everything…

Their freedom, their career, and their blossoming love all hang in the balance. To save one might mean sacrificing the rest.

Sky on Fire by Lindsay BurokerSky on Fire by Lindsay Buroker:

The dragons of eld, once benevolent allies to mankind, have been infested by a magical parasite that makes them cruel and aggressive. They’ve flown through the ancient portal to invade Torvil and plan to kill or enslave all of humanity.

If Jak and his allies can’t figure out how to destroy the parasite, a parasite the powerful dragons themselves were helpless to thwart, everyone they care about—everyone in the world—will be doomed.

Panacea Genesis by L. Ana EllisPanecea Genesis by L. Ana Ellis:

Mariela Stafford’s life just hit rock bottom. Her boss, the CEO of Panacea Corp, created a digital clone of himself, demoted Mariela, gave the clone her job, and told Mariela to train it. Now the clone wants her to help it kill the CEO.

In 2115, embedded chips, virtual reality, and the threat of extreme weather have led to a market for businesses that keep a person’s body alive in a habitation pod while the person lives entirely in the metaverse. But not everyone embraces technological advances– a group of people have adopted the tech of 2005 while isolating themselves from the temptation of advanced technology. Panacea Corp – the world’s most powerful corporation – connects both worlds through providing the metaverse, the pod warehouses, and the land to the technology resisters.

Mariela Stafford, a vice president for Panacea Corp, is demoted after her new boss assigns his digital clone to take over her job. Assisted by Amoco, an eccentric polymath who also works for the corporation, she schemes a way to get rid of the clone. To delete it, they’ll need to recruit a team to access an eighty-year-old server farm in a remote location—which would be a lot easier to do if the records on the location of the server farm hadn’t been lost.

This ‘earth’ opera—a tale with all the drama, expansiveness, and varied cast of a space opera, but set on earth—will appeal to anyone who’s ever felt out-of-control of the technology in their lives.

Inquisitor's Bane by Rachel FordInquisitor’s Bane by Rachel Ford:

The Inquisitor is dead. But Black Port’s problems are only just beginning.

Knight Protector Portia Daysen returns to the South, she’s a new woman, with new secrets. She means to continue the work of Black Wyvern, the secret order intent on rescuing elves and dragons from captivity and death.

Meanwhile, Captain Valia Iceborn struggles with her growing feelings for Portia – and how they may be impacting her judgement. Should she stay in Black Port, and risk detection? Or should she go to ground now, before the king’s men – and a new inquisitor – show up?

When the pair learn of the kidnapping of a rare black wyvern hatchling, a hatchling who can communicate with mortals and immortals alike, they realize his rescue must be priority number one.

But if there’s one thing the nations of North and South can agree upon, it’s the danger to their own power that such a wyvern poses. To rescue the missing hatchling, the two women will need to contend with more than inquisitors.

They’ll need to outwit and outrun the forces of two nations, hellbent on stopping them by any means necessary.

Ghostly Shadows by Lily Harper HartGhostly Shadows by Lily Harper Hart:

Harper Harlow has it all, including a new business, a husband she adores, and a best friend she’s determined not to murder even though he’s determined to be the groomzilla to end all groomzillas. Life is good … until it’s not.

Everything is thrown into doubt when her former boyfriend, a grifter on trial for murder, escapes from the county courthouse and starts terrorizing Whisper Cove.

Her husband Jared Monroe is on edge. Quinn Jackson has proven himself to be a threat more than once, and it’s clear Quinn is gunning for Harper because he blames her for being caught in the first place. That means Zander and Shawn – who are in the midst of preparing for their wedding – have to move in so everybody is safe.

It’s a full house and the stakes are high. A dead courthouse guard is their only guide, and he’s not enough.

Harper is determined to get her happily ever after, as well as Zander’s too. That means they have to grapple with Quinn before the big day arrives.

Murder is on the menu and Quinn has nothing to lose. It’s a race to the finish – and down the aisle – and winner takes all.

Strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Alondra by A.L. HawkeAlondra by A.L. Hawke:

I fell in love with a goth, but she’s a witch.

Starting school at Hawthorne University was not going well, until I met my classmate Alondra. Allie was different. She was goth. But she was also mysterious, confident and fun. I was into that. My name’s Liam. My friends call me Lee.

Things got weird after I accompanied her to her haunts. Poltergeists and demons attacked little girls. I watched Alondra help exorcise these ghosts, but some of their evil stuck to me.

Well, being attracted to a witch was one thing; dating one was quite another. It seemed the closer I got to Allie, the more her witchcraft endangered my friends. And my soul. You decide. I chronicled everything here in her book.

Alondra is a prequel to the internationally bestselling Hawthorne University Witch series. The novel takes place twenty years before Broomstick.

Content warning: Alondra is a new adult college paranormal romance containing profanity, sexual scenes, adult situations, and, of course, witchcraft.

Ambassador: The Unfolding Army by Patty JansenAmbassador: The Unfolding Army by Patty Jansen:

For three months, Cory and his team have hung with Asto’s military in orbit, watching as drone armies attacked Earth.

They could have helped more had Nations of Earth communicated with the fleet or if they could only find out where these drones come from, who controls them and from where. The enemy is smart, enmeshed with sections of Earth’s population and Asto’s military severely hamstrung by Nations of Earth playing chicken.

Three months ago, the president contacted Cory asking for help. The connection was interrupted and never re-established.

It’s as if they don’t want help.

Cory’s got gamra breathing down his neck with the requirement that Nations of Earth officially approves the presence of Asto’s military in orbit.

Something has to give.

He and his team return to a battle-scarred Earth on a hare-brained mission to talk to Nations of Earth, to check on the president, to get him to sign for approval. Getting there is hard. The state of the Nations of Earth assembly is deeply troubling. But getting out, that’s where it gets truly interesting.

The Obanaax by Kirk A. JohnsonThe Obanaax and Other Tales of Heroes and Horrors by Kirk A. Johnson:

“The Obanaax” is a collection of two novelettes and two short stories that take the reader on a journey to the world of Aaduna on the great northern continent of Mbor. This novel’s imaginative sword and sorcery world, influenced by several West African languages, sets this book apart from other stories explored in this genre. These narrative elements, naming conventions, and heart-pounding prose makes “The Obanaax” an adventure that will ignite a passion for exploring this undreamed-of new world far beyond the last page has turned. These tales from far afield will introduce to you the adventurous daring-do of those unaccustomed to the monstrous chaos of the unnatural and, at times, its alien desires. An epic for those willing to brave far and away from the world we know.

Dark Factory by Kathe KojaDark Factory by Kathe Koja:

Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club’s wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader’s creative mind. www.Darkfactory.club

Sun & Dreams by J. Steven LampertiSun & Dream by J. Steven Lamperti:

Anise has power in her dreams – too much power.

When your dreams can change the world, you need to learn to control them.

Anise’s uncle Sebastian takes her to the Academy, the school where the wizards of Liamec learn to use their powers.

But the people in Anise’s small village are not the only ones who notice the young girl’s abilities. Who is the Watcher, the malevolent presence Anise feels in her dreams, and why is Helios, the sun-god, protecting her?

While Anise studies the ways of the wizards, a dark secret that hangs over the founding of the Academy threatens to unravel reality and destroy the land of Liamec.

Death's Touch by Erme LanderDeath’s Touch by Erme Lander:

Centuries ago Tomas made a promise and has kept it out of cowardice. He has lived under the radar for all this time, hiding from the authorities where he can. Recipient of a terrible gift, his belief that he is the only one like himself is about to be exploded. The gods’ favoured are corrupt, power hungry and know how to find him.

 

 

 

Friday the Witchteenth by Amanda M. LeeFriday the Witchteenth by Amanda M. Lee:

Bay Winchester is newly married and happy. Things have been quiet since she returned from her honeymoon, which means trouble is just around the corner. When it comes, it takes the form of a despondent man on a bridge. Despite her best efforts, Bay and the hostage negotiator can’t save him, and death is swift.

That should’ve been the end of it, but a weird symbol on the dead man’s hand piques Bay’s interest, and when the negotiator turns up sick with the same symptoms, she knows that they have a problem on their hands.

Suicide as a contagion? It’s not the fight Bay was expecting, and it’s definitely not the one she was looking for. Still, it’s the problem that keeps on giving … especially when it spreads to Mrs. Little.

In her heart, Bay knows that she shouldn’t care about the woman who has hurt her family at every turn. Ignoring the problem isn’t an option though. If she stands back and does nothing in an attempt to end the chain, she’ll never be able to live with herself. If she gets too close, she could get infected herself.

Bay has never doubted her magic, but the current fight is out of her wheelhouse. Magic is at the core of what’s happening, but their enemy is invisible.

The Winchester witches have never met an enemy they can’t fight … until now. Will they be able to pull together and save Hemlock Cove? Or is the town doomed to fall to a curse without a name and an evil without a soul?

Strap in, because the answer is more than anybody is expecting, and if everybody is to survive, the fight will have to move to an entirely new level.

The game is on. In this one, the winner will take all.

Fire by L.C. MawsonFire by L.C. Mawson:

It only takes one night for the world to turn on its head…

Finishing my second degree was supposed to be a quiet time of wrapping up my academic work and maybe making a friend or two before everyone left town. That was before the monsters started attacking.

I’ve always ignored the strange occurrences that tend to happen around me, but now these creatures are hunting me, everything I touch is erupting into flame, and all I’ve got to help is a guy I barely know, his reclusive sister, an invitation to train with a secretive magical faction, and a strange necklace that apparently belongs to the magical world’s most wanted…

I’m not used to trusting anyone, but as monsters close in, I don’t think I have a choice.

Iron Paws and the Tinker's Forced Marriage by Juli D. RevezzoIron Paws and the Tinker’s Forged Marriage by Juli D. Revezzo:

A year ago, Vesta Bartlett received a rather unusual assignment.

Now, as if perfecting her clockwork puppies for Queen Victoria weren’t enough, a surprise invitation to present them to the Texas Republic president makes Vesta question a number of things, including will the president accept the clockwork from a woman? Unsure, she agrees to allow Henry to go along, as her spokesman and husband, regardless of how her father may feel about a fake marriage.

But they have bigger problems than her father’s anger when an anti-alchemist group takes issue with her clockwork creations and decide they need to stop Vesta’s work. By any means, no matter how violent.

Speed of Dark by Patricia RickettsSpeed of Dark by Patricia Ricketts:

Mary Em Phillips has decided to end it all after losing her beloved Mamie, who raised her; her husband, Jack, who has left her for another woman; and her only son, Petey, who has died as a result of a freak bacterial infection. But when Mosely Albright, a black man from Chicago’s South Side, comes to her back door one morning needing a drink of water and seeking directions back to the train, her plans are derailed . . . to the chagrin of Mishigami (so named by the Ojibwe, also known as Lake Michigan), who has been trying to lure Mary Em into his icy depths in the hopes that she will save him.

Mary Em wants nothing more than to end her anguish. Mosely is searching for the love he’s been missing most of his life. And Mishigami—who fears he is dying from rampant pollution and overfishing—seeks a champion.

A story of friendship, survival, connection and the unquestioning power of nature told through three distinct voices, Speed of Dark affirms a love of humanity that transcends all else, including race and background.

The Exorcist's House by Nick RobertsThe Exorcist’s House by Nick Roberts:

This psychological thriller follows a family to their Appalachian farmhouse, where they encounter an unimaginable horror.

In the summer of 1994, psychologist Daniel Hill buys a rustic farmhouse nestled in the rolling hills of West Virginia.

Along with his wife and teenage daughter, the family uproots their lives in Ohio and moves south. They are initially seduced by the natural beauty of the country setting. That soon changes when they discover a hidden room in the basement with a well, boarded shut and adorned with crucifixes.

Local legends about the previous owner being an exorcist come to light, but by then, all Hell has broken loose.

This 1990s horror novel is perfect for fans of family thriller books, stories of demonic possession, exorcism fiction, the occult, or thrillers like The Exorcist, A Head Full of Ghosts, and The Amityville Horror.

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

Huntress by Glynn StewartHuntress by Glynn Stewart:

A peaceful world in the crosshairs
A rising threat armed by an old foe
A call to arms she can’t ignore…

Admiral Kira Demirci lost the coin toss with her second-in-command and was supposed to be taking a holiday. That meant waiting in the Redward System while Memorial Force’s new carrier Huntress was commissioned and turned over to the mercenary space fleet.

But when a stranger arrives looking to hire Memorial Force to protect her homeworld, Kira finds money, boredom and altruism combining to bring her into action. The majority of her fleet is elsewhere, but she has two heavy warships, including Huntress. More than enough to protect the pacifist system of Samuels from their neighbors.

Those neighbors were armed by Kira’s old foes in the Brisingr System, and she smells the hand of the Equilibrium Institute behind the scheme. A chance to protect the innocent and frustrate two old foes at once is hard to turn down—and even if things go wrong, the rest of her fleet is on their way.

She’s planned for everything. Hasn’t she?

City in the Sky by Glynn StewartCity in the Sky by Glynn Stewart:

“Killing a man isn’t an easy thing to live with, no matter the cause.”

Erik Tarverro is a skilled blacksmith, a better swordsman—and hated for his mixed aeradi parentage. Denied mastery of his craft in the human city he grew up in, he accepts a risky contract from a dangerous stranger.

With new enemies at his heels, he leaps at the chance to join his father’s people in the sky city of Newport. Despite his human blood, he finds his place among the aeradi: heir to an ancient noble family.

His duty leads him to sailing the skies and learning what it means to lead soldiers. But Erik’s enemies will have blood, and the peace between his people and the Draconan dragon riders is like a powder keg. All it would take is one spark—and dragons will fly on his newfound city in the sky.

Reclamation Mind Jack by E.L. StrifeReclamation Mind Jack by E.L. Strife:

Marci, a super soldier and escapee of the Astral’s bio-enhancement military program Zedger, has found a new purpose in rescuing others like her. But she can’t do it alone, and not without parts. Marci must travel to the last standing city of Tellurians in the irradiated expanse of Zion. There, in EsoTerra, she must fight for her right to trade with others for what she requires.

She tries to hide her identity, mask her skills, play down her expertise, but too many have heard rumors of her. Marci can’t hide from the truth forever.

Soon, she finds herself helping other soldiers dumped from Zedger. Recent “disposals” have lost their minds to the Genesis program Astrals use to control their creations. Marci must deep dive the soldiers’ cerebral enhancements to figure out why and salvage everyone she can.

What she discovers when searching Genesis streams alerts Astrals to her position. Lead rain soon falls from the sky in the form of BloodTitans.

Can Marci save the soldiers and her people? Or is this the Tellurians’ last stand?

With Slight Tremors by Ed TejaWith Slight Tremors by Ed Teja:

It’s time to take a break from the world you think you know and to step through into another one. These five stories offer a guided tour of new possibilities and different places. They rely on magic, science, and sleight of hand, and will betray your trust at every opportunity. But just because they are fantastic, doesn’t mean they aren’t real (somewhere).

You can stay tucked away on a safe perch and let this book unveil the genre-bending consequences of rather minor changes to a world that might be the one you live in, or might not; you can follow the way events unravel when cause and effect aren’t quite so boringly predictable.

Stories of ideas are, however, always dangerous. Consider yourself warned.

Martian Jump Gate by James David VictorMartian Jump Gate by James David Victor:

Humanity has opened a door that allows for instantaneous travel through the stars. What they find on the other side might mean the end of all mankind.

The invention of jump-gates has allowed instantaneous travel throughout the solar system, and beyond. Captain Shoji Mora will lead the first expedition through the jump-gate to Mars in a gigantic space robot known as Tin Man. Their mission soon turns from mining and exploration to defending humanity from an alien invasion. Can the giant space robot defend mankind from certain destruction at the hands of a superior alien armada?

Mars Jump Gate is the first book in the Tin Man Space Opera Adventure. If you like fast-paced sci-fi adventures, make Tin Man your next epic space adventure.

The Orion Abduction by Dylan WhiteThe Orion Abduction by Dylan White:

He’s either the key to our evolution or our destruction. And they’re coming for him.

For most of his fifteen years, Joshua Fox believed he was being abducted by aliens.

Just searching for normalcy in his small Kansas town, he discovers he’s unwittingly been involved in something much bigger and everything he thought he knew is now in question.

All Josh really knows is he must find out the truth before it’s too late—not just to save himself and his friends, but the entire world.

Grayshade by Gregory A. WilsonGrayshade by Gregory A. Wilson:

For ten years, the assassin Grayshade has eliminated threats to the Order of Argoth, the Just God. Within the towering walls of Cohrelle, all bow to the Order’s authority, even while the city officials publicly distance themselves from its actions.

As the supreme executor of the Order’s edicts, Grayshade dispatches his targets with protocol and precision. But when an assignment breaks these rules, he does the most dangerous thing an Acolyte of Argoth can do: he asks why. Now a target of the Order he so long served without question, he must use all of his skills not only to kill . . . but to stay alive.

Grayshade is a novel of violent faith and shifting loyalties, a story about whether we can rise above our pasts to craft new futures.

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for May 2022


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 crime fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some April 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 cozy mysteries, animal mysteries, historical mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, action thrillers, adventure thrillers, horror thrillers, police procedurals, detective novels, police officers, ex-cops, private investigators, amateur sleuths, thieves, con artists, serial killers, organised crime, drug dealing, human trafficking, heists, sleazy megachurch ministers, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, crime-busting ghosts, crime-busting dogs, deadly writer retreats, murder and mayhem in London, Rutland, the Pacific Northwest, Florida, Texas, Kansas, Calgary 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:

Murder Over the Cold Grave by Blythe BakerMurder Over the Cold Grave by Blythe Baker:

When a serial killer draws Lillian Crawford into a deadly game, she and Eugene Osbourn must team up one final time to thwart their mysterious foe. But will they stop the murderer’s twisted game in time to prevent one more death?

 

 

 

Iconoclast by Laurie BuchananIconoclast by Laurie Buchanan:

Burdened by the pressing weight of survivor’s guilt, Sean McPherson, an ex-cop, is desperate for redemption. At Pines & Quill, a writer’s retreat in the Pacific Northwest, he and his fiancée, Emma Benton, are planning their lives together. He wants to go back into law enforcement. She plans to walk again.

Georgio “The Bull” Gambino, head of a Seattle-based crime family, has a long reach. Like cockroaches, his minions infiltrate even the most inaccessible of places to do his bidding. With Seattle to the south, the Canadian border a stone’s throw to the north, and Bellingham Bay—a gateway to the Pacific Ocean—immediately to the west, Bellingham is the ideal location for the Gambino crime family to traffic drugs, weapons, and humans. But McPherson’s in Gambino’s way, which means he must be eliminated.

The writers in residence at Pines & Quill include an Afghanistan War veteran, a professional photographer, a civil rights attorney, and a gourmet chef. But McPherson suspects that there’s more going on than the joy of creating plot twists. Is one of them conspiring murder outside the pages of their manuscript?

Murder with Daffodils by Beth ByersMurder With Daffodils by Beth Byers:

Vi and friends have traveled to a nearby village to see the flowers. These aren’t just any spring bulbs. They are fields of flowers planted as a living love poem. People who know of their existence travel from miles around to witness the beauty.

If only they could be surprised when they discover a mystery along with the blossoms. Vi and friends are also not surprised when, once again, they can’t leave things alone. This time they’re intrigued by the very person the flowers were planted for, and the one who planted them.

As the case progresses, they wonder if it’s a romance or a horror story. Violet uncovers clues and chases down secrets, delving into the darkness amidst the beauty. Only as they draw closer to the killer, they discover that maybe they don’t want to know what happened after all.

The Megachurch Heist by L.W. CadleThe Megachurch Heist by L.W. Cadle:

1.4 million in stolen cash. It should be a simple heist to steal from a thief. What could go wrong?

Darla Doyle could have retired with the money she made from her last heist. But her partner in crime, Flynn, comes to her with an offer she can’t refuse.

Andrew Curtis, a sleazy megachurch minister, has stolen 1.4 million in donations and hid the cash, and Flynn knows exactly where. Darla has a personal grudge to settle with religious scammers, so she signs on.

But when they get to the Kansas church, posing as a preaching couple wanting business advice, Darla finds it nearly impossible to keep up the persona they’ve created for her. She’s no actress, she’s a getaway driver! And worse, the megachurch’s head of security, Silas Flecke, is far sharper an operator than she expected to encounter.

Flecke is a pro at securing the church against crime. Darla and Flynn are pros at stealing. Who will come out on top when they break into the church at night to retrieve the stolen cash?

Watch Your Back by Stacy ClaflinWatch Your Back by Stacy Claflin:

Even perfect neighborhoods have deadly secrets.

Ariana and Damon moved to the gated neighborhood of Rosy Hills to leave behind their traumatic pasts. Now they have their dream jobs and are part of a tight group of friends. All of that crumbles when their neighbor Rita disappears without a trace.

Now it looks like one of their own could be a killer. Ariana and Damon must figure out who it is, or they risk never finding Rita alive. If they don’t reach her in time, they could all end up dead…

Kiss of Death by Adam CroftKiss of Death by Adam Croft:

An elderly woman collapses and dies during a Sunday morning church service in Oakham. But things aren’t quite as innocent as they seem.

Within hours, there’s a second unexplained death in Rutland. Then a third. But the victims appear to be completely unconnected.

With the body count rising by the day, DI Caroline Hills and DS Dexter Antoine need to uncover the link before more innocent people die.

Only one thing is certain: a killer walks the streets of Rutland. But no-one knows who the next victim will be, when they will be killed — or why.

The Bus to Beulah by E.C. HanesThe Bus to Beulah by E.C. Hanes:

On her way to a new job in America, Maria Puente accidentally discovers a human trafficking ring. Fearing exposure, the American company that manages the operation—with the help of their Mexican partners—kidnaps Maria.

Maria’s disappearance triggers a desperate search, by her family and local law enforcement, to find her before the kidnappers can permanently dispose of her. As the investigation unfolds, long-time Hogg County high sheriff Will Moser confronts Albert Waters, a powerful businessman who Will suspects knows about Maria’s disappearance—but Albert and his Mexican cartel partners prove to be brick walls.

At the urging of his wife, Lana, Will calls on Elijah Kahn, a man he got to know while serving in Vietnam who now runs one of the largest international security firms in the world. The idea of working with men who are rightly known as mercenaries troubles Will, but he knows he’ll never find Maria without Elijah’s help—and when Lana reminds Will of the debt they owe to Tomas Delgado, Maria’s uncle, his hesitation evaporates.

Organized in an hour-by-hour structure, The Bus to Beulah is a taut thriller that culminates in a massive, heatrt-pounding chase to save Maria—before she disappears forever.

Ghostly Shadows by Lily Harper HartGhostly Shadows by Lily Harper Hart:

Harper Harlow has it all, including a new business, a husband she adores, and a best friend she’s determined not to murder even though he’s determined to be the groomzilla to end all groomzillas. Life is good … until it’s not.

Everything is thrown into doubt when her former boyfriend, a grifter on trial for murder, escapes from the county courthouse and starts terrorizing Whisper Cove.

Her husband Jared Monroe is on edge. Quinn Jackson has proven himself to be a threat more than once, and it’s clear Quinn is gunning for Harper because he blames her for being caught in the first place. That means Zander and Shawn – who are in the midst of preparing for their wedding – have to move in so everybody is safe.

It’s a full house and the stakes are high. A dead courthouse guard is their only guide, and he’s not enough.

Harper is determined to get her happily ever after, as well as Zander’s too. That means they have to grapple with Quinn before the big day arrives.

Murder is on the menu and Quinn has nothing to lose. It’s a race to the finish – and down the aisle – and winner takes all.

Strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Deceived by Mary KeliikoaDeceived by Mary Keliikoa:

PI Kelly Pruett finally feels like she’s coming into her own. With her personal life well on track, a gig uncovering what drove a client’s granddaughter underground could be good for business. But after her undercover operation at the homeless shelter reveals rampant drug dealing, she’s suddenly kicked off the case… just as another girl goes missing.

Vowing to expose the truth even if it means pro-bono work, Kelly is taken aback when her half-sister helps her hunt down answers in a tent city brimming with distrust. When her investigation doesn’t move quickly enough to save a second woman from a vicious murder, Kelly doubles her efforts unwilling to accept defeat.

Friday the Witchteenth by Amanda M. LeeFriday the Witchteenth by Amanda M. Lee:

Bay Winchester is newly married and happy. Things have been quiet since she returned from her honeymoon, which means trouble is just around the corner. When it comes, it takes the form of a despondent man on a bridge. Despite her best efforts, Bay and the hostage negotiator can’t save him, and death is swift.

That should’ve been the end of it, but a weird symbol on the dead man’s hand piques Bay’s interest, and when the negotiator turns up sick with the same symptoms, she knows that they have a problem on their hands.

Suicide as a contagion? It’s not the fight Bay was expecting, and it’s definitely not the one she was looking for. Still, it’s the problem that keeps on giving … especially when it spreads to Mrs. Little.

In her heart, Bay knows that she shouldn’t care about the woman who has hurt her family at every turn. Ignoring the problem isn’t an option though. If she stands back and does nothing in an attempt to end the chain, she’ll never be able to live with herself. If she gets too close, she could get infected herself.

Bay has never doubted her magic, but the current fight is out of her wheelhouse. Magic is at the core of what’s happening, but their enemy is invisible.

The Winchester witches have never met an enemy they can’t fight … until now. Will they be able to pull together and save Hemlock Cove? Or is the town doomed to fall to a curse without a name and an evil without a soul?

Strap in, because the answer is more than anybody is expecting, and if everybody is to survive, the fight will have to move to an entirely new level.

The game is on. In this one, the winner will take all.

Scavenger Hunt by Duane LindsayScavenger Hunt by Duane Lindsay:

It looked like taking candy from a baby. Until it didn’t…

For a con artist like Dani Silver, the mark’s low-hanging fruit—a recently signed basketball prodigy suddenly worth millions—and too young and naïve to know who to trust. Only one problem–so many people are already trying to scam him there’s literally no way to get to him.

Except, that is, to make a deal with the devil— aka Greville Norquist, a fixer with a reputation as the prince of darkness. The deal: Greville will arrange an intro and in return, Dani must provide him with four seemingly worthless items scammed or stolen from people Greville specifies—one of them being a snuffbox.

It’s a perfect set-up for author Lindsay to work his comic magic, deftly twisting one plot around the other like a couple of puppies in a box. But there are two obstacles— first, the snuffbox owner turns out to be nearly as hard to find as the mark.

And second, the mark turns out to be a sweet kid with an even sweeter fiancée— Leticia’s so lovely Dani’s ally, Foster Stevens the gay apy, more or less falls for her. In fact, pretty soon the whole gang balks at scamming these two. And Dani herself has taken a vow never to cheat a good guy.

So how are they supposed to turn a profit on this one?

As it turns out, it’s the least of their worries—Greville’s declared war on them.

Dog's Honest Truth by Neil S. PlakcyDog’s Honest Truth by Neil S. Plakcy:

Steve and Rochester seek the truth about a neighbor’s murder

There’s a new dog in town – a golden retriever named Luke, in training to be a seeing-eye dog. He and Rochester immediately bond, but there’s something odd about Luke’s human, Ben Ji. How can someone so young afford an expensive townhouse on Sarajevo Way? When Ben is shot, Steve begins to discover the lies he has been telling.

Steve’s also forced to tell the truth about his past, when he deals with a student plagiarist at Eastern College, a professor locked in the stone age, a climate activist with dangerous habits, an angry bartender—and a rifle-wielding assassin.

Will he and Rochester be able to dig up the clues to all these mysteries? Or will a deadly killer go unpunished?

The Exorcist's House by Nick RobertsThe Exorcist’s House by Nick Roberts:

This psychological thriller follows a family to their Appalachian farmhouse, where they encounter an unimaginable horror.

In the summer of 1994, psychologist Daniel Hill buys a rustic farmhouse nestled in the rolling hills of West Virginia.

Along with his wife and teenage daughter, the family uproots their lives in Ohio and moves south. They are initially seduced by the natural beauty of the country setting. That soon changes when they discover a hidden room in the basement with a well, boarded shut and adorned with crucifixes.

Local legends about the previous owner being an exorcist come to light, but by then, all Hell has broken loose.

This 1990s horror novel is perfect for fans of family thriller books, stories of demonic possession, exorcism fiction, the occult, or thrillers like The Exorcist, A Head Full of Ghosts, and The Amityville Horror.

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

Elusive Charity by Wayne StinnettElusive Charity by Wayne Stinnett:

Since the recent death of a wealthy but perverted businessman, Charity Styles has been hiding in plain sight, as if challenging anyone to come after her.

She’s on her own once more, living day to day on her beloved Wind Dancer, anchored near a quaint little Gulf Coast town in the Florida Panhandle. But when the son of a fishing client ends up dead, the father’s employer hires Charity to find the person responsible.

Intrigue mounts faster than the list of suspects and Charity finds new purpose and direction, and possibly a guide. But will her new outlook make her fall prey to the local crime boss? Very few know of her abilities and many have come up short in trying to take her. Will this be Charity’s final downfall from grace?

Murder at the Circus by Lee StraussMurder at the Circus by Lee Strauss:

Murder’s a spectacle!

When Ginger Reed ~ aka Lady Gold ~ and Basil Reed’s son Scout runs away to join the circus, it’s not all fun and games. As a disgruntled teen unhappy at boarding school, Scout intends to work with his cousin Marvin, newly (and dishonourably) discharged from the navy. An animal lover at heart, Scout is tickled to assist the animal trainer and develops a particular bond with the matriarchal elephant, Tulip.

The big top event pleases the crowds, but when a performer dies under suspicious circumstances, Scout and Tulip find themselves in real, three ring trouble!

Pineapple Podcast by Amy VansantPineapple Podcast by Amy Vansant:

Pineapple Podcast is packed full of Pineapple Port surprises!

Charlotte hunts a killer with a curious cookie-cutter calling card who seems to be out to impress the local true-crime podcaster. The work keeps her from concentrating on the fact her boyfriend has been acting strange…it seems Declan is ready to make a few major life decisions.

Meanwhile, Mariska and Darla take over a local restaurant while the owner’s out of town, and can’t help but add a few things to the menu… bad idea, since the owner belongs to a true crime club that roots for the killers…

Mix in an earbud-wearing puppy, a starry-eyed deputy, and white-knuckle action and you’ll find yourself wanting to move to Pineapple Port…again!

Immersed in the View by P.D. WorkmanImmersed in the View by P.D. Workman:

A Wake Up Call

Detective “Parks” Pat is back. Now an established and accepted member of the homicide squad, she unexpectedly brings a new case to the table when she stumbles across a body as Canada Day dawns. While it was initially assumed to be an accidental drowning, the autopsy results say otherwise.

Margie is soon off and running, but the lack of witnesses has her going in circles. Meanwhile, the brass wants the investigation put to bed before the city is flooded with Calgary Stampede tourists and dignitaries.

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