AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – DAVID LEE SUMMERS – GREASE MONKEYS


We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

While we are not the first to explore the realm of dieselpunk, it is fair to say there isn’t a lot out there. And I can say with full confidence no one else has gone in this direction! Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running and even mod it out beyond its original capabilities, striving for efficiency and peak performance or just keeping things going.

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be featuring these spotlights so you can get to know our authors—and the projects—better.


eSpec Books interviews David Lee Summers, contributor to Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French, Grimm Machinations, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, AND Forgotten Lore Volume One: A Cast of Crows, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Grease Monkey Questions

eSB: Grease Monkeys is a collection of dieselpunk stories, a genre that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as its older sibling, steampunk. What challenges did you face transitioning from one to the other? What did you find similar, and what was different?
DLS: In some ways, setting a story in the 1930s was a little easier than setting it during the Victorian era because this was the period when my parents grew up in New Mexico. I could draw on their stories of the time period to get the look of things and the mannerisms of the people. It was also a little more challenging in that it was so close to a reality I knew that I had to work a little harder to give it an alternate historical take. In this case, I did what I do with steampunk, I looked for roads not traveled. What if airships had been common for a long time? What if characters like Bonnie and Clyde tried for a new start out west?

eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the dieselpunk connection? Or hey, did you do both?
DLS: In this case, the story was inspired a little by my grandfather, who was a rail car foreman in Silver City, New Mexico during the story’s era. In real life, he realized that when diesel locomotives broke down, they most often needed the electrical generator replaced or they needed the traction motors replaced, so he designed and built a car that would carry both to the scene of a locomotive that was broken down. There was also a real dilemma among the narrow-gauge railroads of Colorado about how they could keep serving remote mining towns while steam locomotives were aging out of service. I used that setting and then gave the railroad workers some stiff competition to motivate them to find a solution.

eSB: What is your favorite dieselpunk fiction? What is your favorite dieselpunk movie? Share with us why.
DLS: My favorite dieselpunk fiction is A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. I love the setting in an early twentieth-century Cairo that’s throwing off a century of colonialism and trying to find its own path, plus Clark gives us a terrific set of characters and a dandy mystery. For movie, I’d probably have to point to Hiyao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky. As with all of Miyazaki’s work, it’s visually stunning, but those stunning visuals are supported by a solid plot about two orphans trying to learn the truth behind the titular castle and a great supporting cast. Captain Dola has to be one of the greatest screen pirates of all time!

eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology? If so, how did you find the experience? If not, what draws you to them?
Web-AfterPunkDLS: I have written for several themed anthologies including Straight Outta Tombstone for Baen Books and both Gaslight & Grimm and After Punk for eSpec Books. What draws me to themed anthologies is the opportunity to bring my experience and my interests to the theme and then see where they lead me. I really love it when I can explore the theme with characters I’ve written about before, as I did with the character of Professor Maravilla for my story “Dreams of Flight” appearing in A Cast of Crows. The good professor is a character in my Clockwork Legion series, which begins in the novel Owl Dance. In the series, Professor Maravilla is something of an enigma. My new story allowed me to use the professor as a point of view character and reveal more about his background and his motivation for doing the things he does throughout the book series. Even if I’m starting with a new set of characters, the theme still helps me shape a story and highlight elements of the story I might not have considered before.

Grimm Machinations Questions

eSB: Grimm Machinations is not the first steampunk faerie tale collection to come along. It isn’t even the first one by this press. What makes it unique?
DLS: What made Grimm Machinations unique to me was the requirement to create a faerie tale with either a maker, some element of political machination, or both. I’ve spent enough time as a fan of faerie tales over the years to know both elements appear frequently, but retellings have tended to deemphasize those elements. Faerie tales were intended to prepare people for life, to know the dangers ahead both personally and in a larger sense, so I really like exploring those elements. Adding the steampunk element makes the emphasis on those elements feel natural.

eSB: As an author, what drew you to participate in a collection of faerie tale-inspired steampunk?
DLS: As someone who first delved into the faerie tales of the Brothers Grimm in my university German literature courses and whose first professional sale was a steampunk retelling of Moby-Dick, which appeared in a 2001 issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine, I’ve always seen steampunk as a great lens through which to view classic stories. I own a collection of the Grimm Faerie Tales in German, which includes notes by the Brothers Grimm. As it turns out, they didn’t write the faerie tales that bear their name, they just collected them, but the notes discuss regional variations and elements of the stories they chose not to include in the final tales for one reason or another. I enjoy going back to those notes and seeing how omitted elements bring new insights to the classic stories. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was a story I translated for my university class, but when I read the notes, I realized the story has a whole political dimension that’s easy to miss if all you’ve seen is Walt Disney’s classic movie. I really wanted to revisit “Snow White” and explore the political side more. I also wanted to explore why exactly Snow White is so hard to kill in the original story. After all, in the original story, the wicked queen makes three separate attempts on Snow White’s life, appears to succeed each time, but ultimately fails. Setting the story in a steampunk world allowed me to come up with a new answer to that question. Plus, it allowed me to bring a whole new dimension to the mirror on the wall!

eSB: Did you base your story in Grimm Machinations on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the faerie connection? Or hey, did you do both?
DLS: For Grimm Machinations, I thoroughly embraced the faerie tale setting and then gave it a steampunk makeover. I started with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” but instead of a small anonymous kingdom, I set it in an industrial city-state where automata and airships are commonplace. Those slight changes then allowed me to tweak the idea of the mirror on the wall and enhance the role the seven dwarfs play in the story. As it turns out, I went to a mining college, so when I think of “miners,” I don’t just think of the guys who do the backbreaking work but the engineers who figure out where to dig and how to get the ore out of the ground. When you start looking at the seven dwarfs that way, they start to have a lot more potential to drive the story in ways you don’t always see!

eSB: What was your favorite aspect of this project, and does it inspire you to continue writing with the characters you created or in the same universe?
DLS: My favorite aspect of this project was reimaging many of the traditional characters from Snow White while keeping them recognizable. The original fairy tale has some odd elements, including hints that Snow White may not be an ordinary human but a witch with powers comparable to her stepmother’s. I really enjoyed exploring that aspect of the tale and pushing the boundaries. What’s more, the traditional version of “Snow White” ends with a very clearly defined and mostly happy ending. That is, Snow White marries the Handsome Prince, and the Wicked Queen has been dealt with. I think one of my favorite elements of this retelling is that while it has a satisfying and comprehensive conclusion, there’s actually room for an in-depth sequel. I really want to know what happens to my version of Snow White after this version, and the political machinations that allowed for the story’s ending could have unexpected ramifications.

A Cast of Crows Questions

eSB: A Cast of Crows is unique in that it is a key part of the upcoming Tell-Tall Steampunk Festival, a first-year event kicking off with a Poe theme. What challenges did this present when choosing what to write?
Cover FinalDLS: Literally, the invitation to this anthology and the event popped up on my phone while I was camping at the Grand Canyon. Edgar Allan Poe was almost literally the furthest thing from my mind so just getting my mind rolling toward Poe-inspired storytelling was a challenge. However, ravens are all over the place at the Grand Canyon, and they fly right up to you and take a strong interest in your activities. What’s more, my daughter, who is a geology major at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, wanted to find a less-populated trail in the canyon. One of the trails the rangers recommended was the Grandview Trail, which used to be used by miners in the canyon in the nineteenth century. Within about twenty-four hours, the idea of a steampunk story set at the canyon involving ravens came to mind. I had recently re-read Poe’s “The Mysterious Case of M. Valdemar” and one of the raven names suggested was “The Great Winged Valdemar.” Poe’s story is about supernaturally and mysteriously extending life through mesmerism. I realized the character from my works who would have reason to be at the Grand Canyon also had baggage that made that theme appropriate. So, once the pieces started falling into place, the story came together very quickly for me.

eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the Poe connection? Or hey, did you do both?
David Lee Summers Owl DanceDLS: For my story in A Cast of Crows, I both embraced the Poe connection and used my own previous literary setting. My novel Owl Dance is set in the wild west and tells the story of a former sheriff, Ramon Morales,  and a healer, Fatemeh Karimi, who have struck out to find their place in the world just as the Russians prepare to invade the United States. In an early chapter, they encounter Professor Maravilla using a clockwork wolf to study wildlife. In a later chapter, they find him in the Grand Canyon with a prototype flying machine. My story bridges the gap in Professor Maravilla’s story. The Poe connection comes from Maravilla being an admirer of Poe and being a man who has suffered great loss. He is drawn to Poe’s themes and knows the stories well.

eSB: Are there any interesting details that you incorporated in your story to harken to the historic aspect of the genre? Are you the kind of ’punk who reveals in the period-appropriate technobabble, or do you dig deep into the research to include period-accurate touches?
DLS: As I say, I actually was at the Grand Canyon when the idea for this story came to me, so in a way, I literally walked in the steps of my characters and spoke to the ravens of the Canyon to write this story. I also picked up a copy of John Wesley Powell’s The Grand Canyon Expedition to learn more about what the Canyon was like in the days before it became a popular National Park. I read the whole thing while drafting the story. His non-fiction account provided the tools geologists of the period would have on an expedition, plus he helped me see the canyon through the eyes of a nineteenth-century explorer.

David Lee Summers Questions

eSB: What is it about steampunk that you like most as an author? And what do you like about it as a reader, (presuming the answer isn’t the same)?
DLS: In a very real way, I’ve been a steampunk my whole life. I grew up with stories of my dad and grandfather working for the railroad in the days steam power gave way to diesel. My first job as a professional astronomer in 1987 was taking glass-plate photographs of variable stars through a nineteenth-century telescope with a hand-wound clock drive on Nantucket Island. After experiences like that, it’s easy to see the world and stories through a steampunk lens. What’s more, the Victorianesque trappings of steampunk make it easy to look at comparatively recent history and tell stories of roads not traveled. In reality, geologists explored the Grand Canyon for its mineral wealth. What if a practical means to get that wealth out of the canyon presented itself? You can also update settings and give the readers new insights. In “Snow White” you see the Wicked Queen from a new perspective when you imagine her commanding a wealthy and powerful industrial City-state and not simply being jealous and vain. I like making these explorations of roads not traveled and looking at things from a new perspective, both as a reader and a writer.

eSB: What other events are you doing this year—steampunk or otherwise?
DLS: I am scheduled to be at Wild West Con in Tucson, Arizona from March 9-12. After that, I’ll be at Tell-Tale Steampunk in Baltimore, Maryland from April 1-2. Then I’ll be at El Paso Comic Con in West Texas from April 21-23.

eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
DLS: In addition to my background in astronomy and writing, I’ve also worked as an actor. I appeared in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries back in the 1980s and, more recently, I had a small part in the award-winning indie movie The Revenge of Zoe, which also features author Timothy Zahn. The movie’s available to watch for free at TubiTV.com. I even have a listing at IMBD.

eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
SP - Breaking the Code 2 x 3DLS: My steampunk novels are the Clockwork Legion series: Owl Dance, Lightning Wolves, The Brazen Shark, and Owl Riders. Breaking the Code is a novella that imagines a skinwalker preventing Marines from recruiting Navajo code talkers at the beginning of World War II. My Space Pirates’ Legacy series imagines a band of space pirates and their heirs who find themselves embroiled in a galaxy-spanning mystery. Those novels are Firebrandt’s Legacy, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. A prequel to this series, The Solar Sea, tells the story of humanity’s first voyage across the solar system in a solar sail spacecraft. My Scarlet Order Vampire series tells the story of a group of vampire mercenaries who ultimately must fight an evil greater than themselves. Those novels are Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. I took inspiration from my work in astronomy and told a horror story using an observatory as the haunted house in The Astronomer’s Crypt. Of course, you can find even more good stuff on my website.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
DLS: I’m currently working on a third Scarlet Order vampire novel called Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through and have been having fun exploring the depths of New Orleans vampire lore for this novel.


ThumbnailDavid Lee Summers became a steampunk in 1987 when he used a nineteenth-century telescope on Nantucket to examine the evolution of distant pulsating stars. Since that time, he has published a dozen novels and numerous short stories and poems spanning a wide range of the imagination. Owl Dance, Lightning Wolves, The Brazen Shark, and Owl Riders comprise the Clockwork Legion steampunk series. His other novels include The Astronomer’s Crypt, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, and Firebrandt’s Legacy. His latest novella is a World War II-era cryptid tale called Breaking the Code.

David’s short stories have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Realms of Fantasy, Cemetery Dance, Straight Outta Tombstone, Gaslight & Grimm, and After Punk. He’s been twice nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award.

In addition to writing, David has edited the science fiction anthologies: A Kepler’s Dozen, Kepler’s Cowboys, and Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales. When not working with the written word, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Learn more about David at http://www.davidleesummers.com.

Learn more about David Lee Summers here:

Website  *  Blog  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page

Follow David Lee Summers on social media: 

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eSPEC EXCERPTS – DANIELLE ACKLEY-McPHAIL – A CAST OF CROWS


We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running, but more on those later.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’ style.


Cover Final

Ángel de la Muerte

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Aleta Angelina Fabricio knelt before her family’s graves for a very long time.

Long enough, the end of one day became the beginning of the next. Long enough, the murmurs of the surrounding Día de los Muertos celebrations faded away as families went home or lay down to rest beside their loved ones’ graves. Long enough, the autumn night’s chill seeped through her cotton robe and into her bones. Lina nearly tumbled away at the barest touch on her shoulder, calling her back to the dark blanket of night and the low, smoldering embers of nearly spent candles glinting throughout the graveyard like fireflies. She would have fallen if not for the thick, sturdy haft bracing her. Her grip tightened on the smooth wood handle of Santa Muerte’s scythe, which had replaced the cobbled-together prop Lina had left home with.

Slowly, as if fighting to turn against thick, clinging aether, Lina glanced up over her shoulder. Her right eye burned where the thin glass lens attached to her father’s spirit goggles hugged its surface. The left merely burned from spent tears, as it bore no lens. She blinked and swayed, disoriented as the fading wisps of lingering spirits wafted in plain sight, though her goggles shouldn’t function without being paired with those worn by her father’s crow, Beltran.

Lina bit back a sob. She had lost both father and crow in one brief slash by her own hand, their spirits freed from an unfettered evil that had possessed them.

Shuttering that fresh pain, she focused on the moment, looking up at the one standing over her, nearly too far away to touch. Lina blinked and pushed the goggles to the top of her head, removing the glass disk from her eye so she could better see.

Much in the way of the restless spirits, the gaze she met swirled with intense emotion, in this instance, a mix of anger and hurt and concern. For a moment, reality seemed to flux between the spirit and mortal realm as if Lina’s prolonged use of the goggles had caused the two to overlap. Wisps of aether clung to her grandmother’s features, but Lina blinked, and they faded away. Even so, something seemed off with Abuela’s color.

“Abuela…”

Her grandmother frowned down at her. Then she took in the goggles perched on Lina’s head, paired with the calaveras mask and faded blue cotton robe she wore in a silent plea to Santa Muerte for her blessing, and the frown deepened. Lina and her grandmother had fought earlier over her manner of dress, and Abuela’s disapproval clearly had not softened. The frown turned into a scowl, and Abuela quickly shuffled away to fuss over the oferenda, though she herself had arranged the altar earlier in the day.

“You plan to stay up all night, niña?”

Niña, not mija. The surface of Lina’s heart cracked like aged porcelain.

She pushed to her feet. The hand she reached out to her grandmother trembled faintly as guilt pinched her belly. Her mother’s mother shrugged away before they could touch. Lina frowned as a small ache settled in her chest. Her grandmother was all she had left, yet the two of them only seemed to spark like flint to steel.

Bad enough, they had fought on this of all days, but worse, the precious moment she had deprived Abuela of through her obstinance. If not for Lina’s insistence on dressing as she had, her grandmother might have come with her tonight. Might have been there to greet the spirits of her daughter—Lina’s mother—and her grandson, whom neither of them had ever seen among the living; of course, if not for Papa’s goggles, of which Abuela most definitely did not approve, perhaps neither of them would have been blessed with that sight.

Lina moved to where her grandmother stood before the oferenda. “Please, Abuela. Don’t worry about that. We can take care of it tomorrow.”

“Nonsense. It is shamefully in disarray.”

Lina closed her mouth on her pointless argument, lips pressing in a thin line. She leaned her scythe against a nearby tree and bent to straighten up the altar as her grandmother wished before laying out their straw pallets for sleeping beside the grave, as the other families around them had already done. It would be an uncomfortable night, but it showed honor to the spirits of their loved ones to spend these precious hours in their presence before Death’s shroud separated them once more, until the next year.

“The food…” Abuela called out, her voice rife with censure. “Why have you not placed the food on the oferenda? Ay, dios mios! Who will do this properly when I am gone?”

Frantic, Lina glanced around in the dark for her basket, dropped in the battle with the evil spirit that had stolen her father’s form, whom she had vanquished with the help of Lady Death herself. Puzzled, Lina found the basket sitting nearby as if set down neatly and not dropped. As she knelt to pick it up, a gentle rustle reached her ears, along with a faint, familiar muttering she thought never to hear again.

Her breath trapped within her throat, she opened the basket and peered inside.

Satiny darkness and the faint gleam of a polished brass cowl stared back.

Gasping, Lina nearly tumbled back in shock.

Beltran. Her father’s crow. His spirit’s prison. Still wearing the cowl Papa had engineered to work with the goggles Lina wore, allowing the wearer to glimpse across the Veil to the spirit realm. Just hours before, Lina had cradled the crow as her scythe severed its life’s bonds and set her father’s soul free. And yet, that wicked beak now darted out and lightly pinched her finger as it had so often before. Lina laughed a startled laugh before raising her gaze to the heavens. She sent a prayer of thanks to Santa Muerte, for surely only she could have restored the crow. But why? For a moment, Lina would swear she saw a satisfied grin beneath a crown of roses among the branches overhead, followed by a shimmer of rich blue velvet fluttering out of sight.


Danielle Ackley-McPhailAward-winning author, editor, and publisher Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with Mike McPhail and Greg Schauer to form eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).

Her published works include eight novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, Daire’s Devils, The Play of Light, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, The Kindly Ones, Dawns a New Day, The Fox’s Fire, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guides The Literary Handyman, More Tips from the Handyman, and LH: Build-A-Book Workshop. She is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and Footprints in the Stars. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections. She is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and four extremely spoiled cats.

Learn more about Danielle Ackley-McPhail here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page  *  BookBub  *  Newsletter  *  YouTube

Follow Danielle Ackley-McPhail on social media: 

Facebook  *  Twitter  *  Pinterest  *  Instagram

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – FARPOINT 2023


cropped-FarpHeaderEvenBetterAll the cool kids are doing it, so here go our schedules for Farpoint taking place February 10 – 12 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Really hope to see you all there! We will be celebrating the release of Aaron Rosenberg’s Yeti Left Home and Keith R.A. DeCandido’s upcoming Phoenix Precinct, among other titles, as well as spreading the word about our Kickstarter campaign, Full Steam Ahead! which will be in the final days of its funding period.

Many eSpec authors will be there that weekend, and where possible, I have included links to their schedules as well.


Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Friday

5:00 PM – Salon D
Salvaging Old Ideas

Saturday

1:00 PM – Salon D
Developing A World 
 
6:00 PM – Salon D
Build A Book Workshop

Sunday

Noon – Derby
Author Readings (McPhail, Woosley, Abbott) – 

Mike McPhail

Saturday
Noon Salon D
Write What You Know 
Sunday
Noon Salon D
Publishing Nightmares And Cautionary Tales

Related Schedule Posts

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – CHRISTINE NORRIS – GRIMM MACHINATIONS


We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Grimm Machinations is a fun follow-up to our collection Gaslight & Grimm. More steampunk faerie tales, only this time all of the tales the stories are based on are about makers or conmen, playing with the dual meanings of “Machinations.”

The other two books funding through the campaign are A Cast of Crows, Poe-inspired fiction created in conjunction with the Tell-Tall Steampunk Festival; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, our first foray into dieselpunk.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be featuring these spotlights so you can get to know our authors—and the projects—better.


eSpec Books interviews Christine Norris, contributor to Grimm Machinations, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer.

eSB: Grimm Machinations is not the first steampunk faerie tale collection to come along. It isn’t even the first one by this press. What makes it unique?
CN: I think the theme is different—con men and makers. I don’t know that anyone’s ever thought about fairy tales in that specific way before? Most people think of wicked stepmothers and fairy godmothers. It’s definitely a new perspective.

eSB: As an author, what drew you to participate in a collection of faerie tale-inspired steampunk?
CN: Danielle said “hey, we’re doing this, wanna come?” and I thought of a story and said, “sure!”

eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the faerie connection? Or hey, did you do both?
CN: This is a completely made-up setting, but also keeping with fairy tale lore. FYI, I’m a librarian, and I teach students about the commonalities of fairy tales. Many fairy tales take place in a forest or a castle, and this story has both! It also includes a multiple of 3 (Six Swans), a tangential wicked stepmother, and a bit of magic.

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology? If so, how did you find the experience? If not, what draws you to them?
CN: No, actually, this is my third. I have a story in Gaslight & Grimm, and I contributed to Beware the Little White Rabbit, an Alice in Wonderland anthology for the 100th birthday ofChristine Norris Beware the White Rabbit that book. I don’t know that I’m drawn to them as much as accidentally find myself doing them? I am not really a short story writer, and yet, here we are.

eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?
CN: Don’t shy away from it! The best part is once you have a theme, you can build around that, so you’re not starting from scratch. It’s actually a nice way to jumpstart a story.

eSB: What other events are you doing this year—steampunk or otherwise?
CN: I’ll be hanging around for the launch at Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival in Hunt Valley on the weekend of April 1 for sure. And usually, they invite me to Philcon in November, so I’ll show up there.

eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
CN: I have a series for middle grade/YA called The Library of Athena, there are four books in that series. There are some ancient backlist titles too, the Zandria duology and some wizard academy-type books that I ended up publishing myself after the publisher that wanted them collapsed.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
CN: Weeellll if you unlock it, we’ll see the reprint of  A Curse of Ash and Iron, my steampunk retelling of Cinderella. I’ve kind of taken a hiatus, so I don’t have a lot of new anything. There’s a manuscript floating with my agent that hasn’t found a home yet. And notes on a new book…


NorrisOnce Upon a Time, Christine Norris thought she wanted to be an archaeologist but hates sand and bugs, so instead, she became a writer. She is the author of several speculative fiction works for children and adults, including The Library of Athena series, A Curse of Ash and Iron, and contributions to Gaslight & Grimm and Grimm Machinations. She is kept busy on a daily basis by her day job as a school librarian in New Jersey. She may or may not have a secret library in her basement, and she absolutely believes in fairies.

Learn more about Christine Norris here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page

Follow Christine Norris on social media: 

Facebook  *  Twitter  *  Instagram

eSPEC EXCERPTS – BERNIE MOJZES – GREASE MONKEYS


We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Kickstarter image

Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running and even mod it out beyond its original capabilities, striving for efficiency and peak performance or just keeping things going.

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, but more on those later.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’s style.


Grease Monkeys 6 x 9Hyena Brings Death
Bernie Mojzes

Hyena circles the smoking wreckage, wary of any movement within the cockpit, of any flicker of flame from under the crumpled nose of the biplane. There is none—no ragged breath from the figure slumped over the instrument panel, and though the cooling engine billows clouds of burnt oil into the cold desert night, there’s no telltale scent of spilled petrol in the air.

Hyena cracks open the rumpled fuselage with a crowbar. Inside are valves and pistons, tubes and wires. There is no one around, so Hyena unwraps her tagelmust, the long, indigo scarf that covers her head and face. Better to keep the precious fabric clean than waste water washing it, especially when it comes to engine grease, which, she learned long ago, never comes out.

Hyena works with practiced ease, even in the dark, stripping the engine of its parts. She drains the oil pan into a clay jug and siphons petrol into glass bottles set (carefully) in a wooden crate, before loading them into her truck.

Sadly, the propeller is damaged beyond repair. Maybe next time, but luck hasn’t been with Hyena when it comes to propellers; more often than not, these machines tend to kiss the ground nose first.

Hyena climbs the fuselage and examines the pilot. The blood is sticky-wet on his face and on the instrument panel, but it no longer flows. In the moonlight, it looks like wet ink. The pilot is a slight man, maybe half a hand taller than Hyena, she estimates, and not too much heavier. Hyena grips the leather of his jacket and heaves, pulling him half out of the cockpit, flopping him over the side and letting gravity drag him to the soft Sahara sands, where her sisters and brothers cackle with anticipation of the feast.

The stick is broken, snapped where the pilot’s body slammed into it on impact, and one end has smashed the altimeter.

Hyena leaves the stick and the altimeter and takes the rest: compass, airspeed indicator, rudder controls. The connecting cables. She uncouples the Lewis gun from atop the upper wing and stores it safely away, along with its ammunition.

Oh, but there’s more, and Hyena wonders that there was anything left for her to salvage at all. Four twenty-pound bombs are stored under the pilot’s seat, having miraculously survived the impact. She packs them carefully in buckets of sand and loads them into her truck.

The moon is low in the sky when Hyena is done. She wipes the grease and blood from her hands, and then puts the veil back on, wrapped around her head and neck and over her face. Hyena climbs into her truck, and leaves the rest, the shell of the aeroplane and the pilot, for other scavengers.
#
In the old stories, Hyena brings death into the world.

The world was young, then, and a very different place: green and verdant, and people and animals lived happy and healthy lives in the shadow of heaven. When you grew old, you had only to climb the rope that bound Earth to Heaven, and you would be restored.

One day, while Hyena was climbing to Heaven, she grew hungry. But there was nothing to eat, nothing but the rope that she climbed.

“Just one bite,” she thought, “to ease my hunger.”

And then, “Just one more bite.”

When the rope snapped and Hyena fell back to the Earth, she was still hungry, and Heaven drifted off into the sky, far away and unreachable.

Now the Earth is dry and brown, a place of shifting sands and loyalties, of thirst and starvation, of war and murder and insufficient resources.

This is how Hyena brought death to the world.
#
Hyena has been doing this for some time: collecting, taking what people no longer need, what’s been thrown out, lost, or misplaced. Scavenging. Her truck she found half-buried after a sandstorm. The truck had belonged to two Frenchmen. She found them the following day, not far off, by following the vultures.

She lives through luck, and so what if that luck is someone else’s misfortune? The Frenchmen died, the vultures lived, and Hyena got a truck.

The sun is rising behind her as she drives, hazy through the dust her tires kick into the air. It is a long way to her den in the Aïr Mountains, and she has much to do.
#
There is another version of Hyena’s story, but it isn’t one that’s often told. It’s a tale of hunger, of a world where the people and animals lived and bred and kept living, until they had eaten everything green and growing, leaving nothing but sand and dust. And still they lived on, stick thin, with jutting ribs and spines and hollow cheeks and stomachs.

Do you remember that time?

Hyena does.


MojzesMuch to his embarrassment, Bernie Mojzes has outlived Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Janice Joplin and the Red Baron, without even once having been shot down over Morlancourt Ridge. Having failed to achieve a glorious martyrdom, he has instead turned his hand to the penning of paltry prose (a rather wretched example of which you currently hold in your hands), in the pathetic hope that he shall here find the notoriety that has thus far proven elusive. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, including Bad-Ass Faeries II and III, Gaslight & Grimm, Betwixt Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and What Lies Beneath. In his copious free time, he published and co-edited Unlikely Story (www.unlikely-story.com) and the ever-timely Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, as well as editing The Flesh Made Word for Circlet Press. 

Learn more about Bernie Mojzes here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page

Follow Bernie Mojzes on social media: 

Facebook

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – EF DEAL – A CAST OF CROWS


We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Kickstarter image

This one is unique in that A Cast of Crows, one of the collections being funded, has been created in conjunction with a first-year steampunk event called Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, in Hunt Valley, MD. Excerpts from all of the stories in the book will be used for an interactive scavenger hunt at the festival. We hope you’ll check out both the Kickstarter and the convention. Many of the authors will be in attendance, some of them coming from as far away as New Mexico!

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, our first foray into dieselpunk.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be featuring these spotlights so you can get to know our authors—and the projects—better.


eSpec Books interviews Ef Deal, a contributor to Forgotten Lore Volume One: A Cast of Crows, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

eSB: This collection is unique in that it is a key part of the upcoming Tell-Tall Steampunk Festival, a first-year event kicking off with a Poe theme. What challenges did this present when choosing what to write?
ED: I think Kolleen Kilduff and Donna McClaren came up with a wham-bang idea of a Great Conjunction of fiction, questing, and conning. What an exciting event that’s going to be! I didn’t feel challenged so much as inspired to dig deep. The odd coincidence is that for years I had been tossing around an idea for a story about the raven complaining to Poe about some of the phrases in the poem not making any sense. What made the days of yore saintly? At first, he calls the bird “stately” and then later says it’s “ungainly.” These were old arguments from a variety of literary critics, the most damning of which was “Quoth” since the Raven isn’t quoting anyone. I had a lot of fun using those commentaries throughout the dialogue.

eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the Poe connection? Or hey, did you do both?
Proof-Esprit-de-CorpseED: I did both! Some of the later theories on Poe included the possibility of petit mals, the treatment for which was electroshock therapy, which was also used to treat melancholia, Poe’s notable failing. Once I saw electricity involved, my mind automatically went to Jacqueline Duval, my heroine of Esprit de Corpse. In Book 2 of the Twins of Bellesfées, Jacqueline reveals she is a lover of Poe and recommends his work to Charles Baudelaire, who later did get involved with translating Poe’s works. It just felt natural to bring Jacqueline into a story about Poe looking for electroshock technology.

eSB: No spoilers, but what was your inspiration for your story and did you introduce any easter eggs for either the Poe aspect or your own body of work?
ED: Lots of easter eggs for those who know their Poe inside and out. I had to double-check my memory on specific quotations from a full array of his works both before and after The Raven, so they might be seen as thoughts floating in his mind waiting to be used in a future work. I’m not going to give away any clues because that would defeat the purpose of an easter egg, but I’ve quoted several different Poe works as well as incorporated details that have only recently come to light.

eSB: Are there any interesting details that you incorporated in your story to harken to the historic aspect of the genre? Are you the kind of ’punk who revels in the period-appropriate technobabble, or do you dig deep into the research to include period-accurate touches?
ED: My goal in writing steampunk is to stay within the boundaries of the historical setting. That’s why you’ll find the reference to the odd goggle-eyed spectacles rather than the word “goggles” since they hadn’t been invented yet in reality. Then, in doing research on electricity of the 1800s for my novel, I discovered the first experiments of electroshock therapy were conducted (hehe, pun) by a man named Golding Bird. Seriously, how could I pass that up?

eSB: What was your favorite aspect of this project and does it inspire you to continue writing with the characters you created, or in the same universe?
ED: No spoilers, but I had a crazy idea midway through chapter 3, and it took me days to nail down what I wanted in there. I’m not sure I could pull off something like that again, although when I was writing Book 4 of the Twins of Bellesfées, I did compose an entire sub-chapter as lyrics to Chopin’s Revolutionary Étude. If you know the piece, you can hear Angélique’s thoughts roiling to the famous melody, ending the finale with her shout, “I am Angélique Laforge, the finest pianist who lived! And no one has the right to make me feel that I am less than who I am—NOT THIS TIME!” If you listen to the recording, you’ll see what I mean. I do love writing parody and alternate lyrics. I’m no Weird Al or Allen Sherman, but I have my fun.

Ef Deal Dangerous WaterseSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology? If so, how did you find the experience? If not, what draws you to them?
ED: What I like about themed anthologies is that I have so many ideas from years and years of writing I need more focus, and the themed works force me to do that. As I said, I had already thought about Poe arguing with the raven, so this anthology forced me to put the argument into a context. Once I did that, the story flowed. Another anthology, Dangerous Waters: Deadly Women of the Sea, made me think of a flash piece I had written some 30 years ago, so I fleshed it out into a full story, and it was accepted. Similarly, I was coming home from one of my monthly trips to Nutley, and as always, the three lanes got blocked by cars doing 64 mph on the Jersey Turnpike. I said out loud, “It’s a conspiracy. They always know when I’m on the road.” When I got home, there was an invitation to Charles Barouch’s anthology Conspiracy and Cryptids. I was up and rarin’ to write that one, I was so mad!

eSB: What is it about steampunk that you like most as an author? And what do you like about it as a reader, (presuming the answer isn’t the same)?
ED: The historical details dovetailing with out-of-the-box visions make for the most fun. In the case of my writing, much of what Jacqueline can accomplish could have been accomplished in her time period if the engineers had had the financing or a broader vision. The Paris-Orléans railroad, for example, was brand spanking new in 1843, but the idea of a locomotive wasn’t new, and Jacqueline had already built her own steam-powered rail coach and a private track. I try very hard to make sure there are no anachronisms, other than Jacqueline’s visionary flights of fancy. Clockwork figures had been around for centuries, but once Jacqueline spoke with Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace, she could use the basic theory of the Analytic Engine to create autonomous androids, even though Lovelace’s publication, the foundation of computer programming, was ignored by the scientific community until the 1980s.

I also love doing the research. I meet amazing people. In Book 4, Jacqueline has to blow up a huge ship while she’s in a submersible boat. I needed to know how far away the sub had to be for her to survive the blast. Every Google search I made brought me back to an RPG and told me to roll a 4-sided die! Digging deeper, I learned about the Hunley, a Confederate sub. The mystery of how the men aboard died in the explosion they created defied all logic until Rachel Lance, a grad student, was assigned the task of solving it. Her book, published in 2020, supplied what I needed, but more importantly, I wrote to her and asked more detailed questions. She was so gracious to write back and chat with me about the novel.

Awareness of the historical language is another aspect of steampunk I enjoy. An early critique pointed out that I used the word “unconsciously” when it should have been “subconsciously.” The only problem is, the word “subconscious” had not been coined yet. I reworded the sentence, but I refused to budge on using anachronisms in language. When writing about the East End of London, I couldn’t use the word “slum”; the term was “back slums.” I knew doughnuts were invented in England, but I was surprised to know they were originally called “dimsdales.”

That awareness of historical settings is central to my reading as well. I have thrown steampunk books across the room when they break protocol with anachronisms both in setting and details. Imagine a woman in 1888 saying, “You’re so uptight.” or “Oh my god, that’s gross!” I shudder. To me, it’s indicative of sloppy research and disregard for both the genre and the reader.

eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?
ED: I would say, don’t force it. It should be a theme that you feel you can address comfortably. There’s nothing worse than trying to write a story that just doesn’t fit, unless it’s reading one. When I began writing, it was all high fantasy or sword and sorcery. I had never written a zombie story, although I loved zombie movies. Then at Philcon in 2003, I heard Gordon Van Gelder say, “We don’t get enough humor, and we don’t get any innovative zombie stories.” Boom. Since most zombie stories are pretty bleak, I figured I’d combine zombie and humor. The result was my first pro sale to F&SF, “Czesko.” On the other hand, I still can’t write urban fantasy, and when I tried my hand at it for a call, I failed utterly, and that piece remains in the drawer. Even I don’t like it!

eSB: What other events are you doing this year—steampunk or otherwise?
ED: Well, beside the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, I’ll be at Heliosphere at the end of April. I’m really looking forward to the New Jersey unveiling of Esprit de Corpse. I’ll also be coordinating the Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading, and I’m hoping to have a Horror Writers reading as well. Then in September, I’ll be back in Maryland for the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Con. This is a wonderful con for authors and fans organized by Austin Camacho. The unique thing about it is that authors and fans all share meals together. The dialogue is heady; I always come away from C3 supercharged and ready to dive into the work again.

eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
ED: Probably that I play a soprano bugle. When I was growing up, the Audubon All-Girl Corps, the BonBons, were a nationally ranked corps. I joined when I was ten, and by the time I was twelve, I was winning medals in individual contests. I went on to become a soloist, then left to join Blue Rock, another top contender, where I was part of an amazing lead line. In 2013, my husband (also a Blue Rock soprano) and I joined the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights Alumni corps. Unlike the modern DCI performers, we are an old-school drum and bugle corps. Jack and I play on the valve-rotor bugles of the early 1970s. It’s absolutely thrilling to make music.

eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
ED: I have a delightfully wicked short piece “From the Bridge” in Dangerous Waters: Deadly Women of the Sea from Brigid’s Gate, available now on Amazon. Christopher Ryan invited me to submit a story to the upcoming Soul Scream Ef Deal - Soul ScreamAntholozine with a “female protagonist confronting the supernatural,” which gave me a chance to bring my first series to light featuring Gwynna Lionshadow, a minstrel-mage, in “One More Ghost Story.” She is my favorite protagonist, and it’s sad my novels with her never found publication. Finally, I have another bloody wicked short “Passing Thoughts” coming in an anthology from Charles Barouch called Conspiracies and Cryptids, Vol. I.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
ED: I’m pursuing the Twins of Bellesfées series with Book 2 submitted and Books 3 and 4 completed. I’m starting work (meaning research and planning, not yet writing) on Book 5. I am utterly drunk on the Twins, and they just keep coming up with more adventures for me to chronicle. How can I refuse them? Even though Book 1 Esprit de Corpse has a limited release so far, many readers have commented how much they love the Twins, their story, the whole thing. They already want more, and so do I.


Deal 3 x 3Ef Deal is a new voice in the genre of speculative steampunk with her debut novel, Esprit de Corpse, but she is not new to publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in various magazines and ezines over the years. Her short story “Czesko,” published in the March 2006 F&SF, was given honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, which gave both her and Gardner great delight. They laughed and laughed and sipped Scotch (not cognac, alas) over the last line.

Despite her preoccupation with old-school drum and bugle corps ~ playing, composing, arranging, and teaching ~ Ef Deal can usually be found at the keyboard of her computer rather than her piano. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Abyss & Apex magazine and edits videos for the YouTube channel Strong Women ~ Strange Worlds Quick Reads.

Esprit de Corpse from eSpec Books is the first of a series featuring the brilliant 19th-century sisters, the Twins of Bellesfées Jacqueline and Angélique. Hard science blends with the paranormal as they challenge the supernatural invasion of France in 1843.

When she’s not lost in her imagination, Ef Deal can be found in historic Haddonfield, NJ, in a once-haunted Victorian with her husband and two chows. She is an associate member of SFWA and an affiliate member of HWA.

Learn more about Ef Deal here:

Website  *  Blog  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page

Follow Ef Deal on social media: 

Facebook  *  Twitter  *  Instagram

COVER REVEAL – GREASE MONKEYS


Some of you may have noticed, but we have a campaign going on right now, Full Steam Ahead! funding three amazing steampunk/dieselpunk books: A Cast of Crows, Grimm Machinations, and Grease Monkeys. For once, we have covers for all three right off the bat, or at least working covers, with some possible modifications down the line.

We wanted to showcase those covers that are to all effects done, and today we are looking at  Grease Monkeys.


Grease Monkeys 6 x 9

We don’t have cover copy yet, but Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk is a collection of stories about the mechanics that keep the tech running or tear it down to make it work better, all in the midst of the war-torn World War I and II era. The collection is edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French, with stories by Bernie Mojzes, Misty Massey, Maria V. Snyder, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Derek Tyler Attico, James Chambers, Aaron Rosenberg, David Lee Summers, John L. French, and Ken Schrader.

Cover design and composition by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics.

COVER REVEAL – A CAST OF CROWS


Some of you may have noticed, but we have a campaign going on right now, Full Steam Ahead! funding three amazing steampunk/dieselpunk books: A Cast of Crows, Grimm Machinations, and Grease Monkeys. For once, we have covers for all three right off the bat, or at least working covers, with some possible modifications down the line.

We wanted to showcase those covers that are to all effects done, and today we are starting with A Cast of Crows.


Cover Final

We don’t have cover copy yet, but this is an anthology of Poe-inspired Steampunk fiction with stories by David Lee Summers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Judi Fleming, Aaron Rosenberg, Ef Deal, Dana Fraedrich, Jessica Lucci, Doc Coleman, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail. This collection is being produced in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, which takes place the weekend of April 1-2 in Hunt Valley, MD. This is planned to be a series with each volume on a different theme each year based on the theme chosen for the event. The series name is Forgotten Lore and the frame on the picture will be the basis for each book, with the inset image changing based on the theme.

Cover design and composition by Danielle McPhail, McP Digital Graphics.

KICKSTARTER ALERT!


Kickstarter image

We just launched FULL STEAM AHEAD! a new campaign for two–maybe three–anthologies.

A Cast of Crows – Poe-inspired Steampunk fiction. This collection is being produced in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, which takes place the weekend of April 1-2 in Hunt Valley, MD. Authors: David Lee Summers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Judi Fleming, Aaron Rosenberg, Ef Deal, Dana Fraedrich, Jessica Lucci, Doc Coleman, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Grimm Machinations – steampunk faerie tale retellings, the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, with many of the same amazing authors, plus some equally amazing new ones. And, of course, all new tales! Authors: James Chambers, Patrick Thomas, David Lee Summers, Christine Norris, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Cynthia Radthorne, Jeff Young, Gordon Linzner, N. Renee Brown, Bernie Mojzes, and Michelle D. Sonnier. Edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer.

And… if we hit the right stretch goal…

Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk – a collection of stories about the mechanics that keep the tech running or tear it down to make it work better, all in the midst of the war-torn World War I and II era. Authors: Bernie Mojzes, Misty Massey, Maria V. Snyder, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Derek Tyler Attico, James Chambers, Aaron Rosenberg, David Lee Summers, John L. French, and Ken Schrader. Edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French.

And when I tell you they have gone above and beyond anything we have ever received before, I am not talking hype.

I hope you might consider checking this project out.

2022 NEBULA AWARDS – ELIGIBLE TITLES


It is award season once again. For those interested, here is a list of our qualifying titles by publication month. For those eligible to nominate and vote for the Nebula Awards, files have been posted to the relevant SFWA forums, or you can contact the publisher.


February

Clockwork Solution 2 x 3NOVEL CATEGORY –
The Clockwork Solution by Michelle D. Sonnier

The Legacy of the Sortilege Line

Treated with disdain by her family her entire life for not living up to their expectations—or prophesy—Arabella Leyden forges her own path and attains her greatest wish: to join the Sisterhood of Witches, doing so in a manner no one ever anticipated.

As the first-ever technomancer, the way before her is fraught with peril. Can she survive the machinations of her order, or be ground between the gears of reluctant progress?

More important yet, can she succeed at her first assignment: find the root cause of the famine sweeping through Ireland? And end it. A task that has already claimed two witches of the Sortilege line.

Her future hangs in the balance… perhaps even her very life…


FB-McP-DairesDevils

NOVEL CATEGORY –
Daire’s Devils by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Give the Enemy Hell!

At the ass-end of the galaxy, Allied Forces—including the 142nd Mobile Special Ops Team, better known as Daire’s Devils—stand ready to defend the contested colony planet Demeter from military invasion and corporate exploitation.

But when the ranks are infiltrated by those determined to secure the top-secret designs of AeroCom’s new prototype flagship, the Cromwell, the newest member of the Devils, Corporal Katrion Alexander, finds herself facing off against an unexpected menace, synthetic operatives indistinguishable from living beings.

She and the Devils must neutralize this new threat, but how when the enemy wears a trusted face?


April

SP - Chessie At Bay 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Chessie At Bay
by John L. French

Same ol’ Syn, all new mischief…

Just when Theodore Syn starts thinking about sinking roots, the military comes calling, needing a man with his… unique qualifications to deal with a need-to-know problem that’s cropped up in the Chesapeake Bay.

Something is out there, frightening fish and fishermen alike.

But that’s not the real problem. Someone is masquerading as a military official on American soil, and with war on the horizon, steps need to be taken to safeguard the East Coast, before the Axis Powers drive a U-boat—or something more unexpected—right up the mouth of the Bay.


SP - Eyes of the Wolf 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Eyes of the Wolf
by Robert E. Waters

When a sudden trail of death and desolation sweeps through south and central Texas, elements of the case trigger an alert with a division of the FBI that tracks possible supernatural influence.

Agent Chimalis Burton, a specialist in cryptids of the Americas, has a history of vanquishing such monstrous creatures. When she is assigned the case, she scrambles to find answers before the situation worsens.

Evidence begins to suggest an evil that has festered for centuries; an evil that now rises to reclaim its power.

An evil that rests in the soulful eyes of a wolf.


SP - Alone in the Muck 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Alone in the Muck
by Anton Kukal

After what felt like a lifetime in the sewers, Inspector Max Dalton would have thought he’d seen everything. He would have been wrong. When his trainees discover something inexplicable in the muck, life changes radically for all of them, including Max’s granddaughter, Gwen.

News of their discovery gets out and bounty hunters invade the tunnels beneath the city, forcing Max’s cooperation in their search. With life and love and liberty in the balance, Gwen will need help from an unexpected source to evade those looking to capture her new friend.


SP - Forget Me Not 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Forget Me Not
by Carol Gyzander

What is legend? What is truth?

A monster is said to lurk beneath the waters of Lake Erie. Jane and her twin brother Rob are haunted by just that. As children, they lost half their family to a terrible boating accident. They haven’t left dry land since. Only, at the age of sixteen, they allow friends to lure them onto the lake.

But should they have held their ground?

When something nearly swamps their boat, years of secrecy are swept away and the children’s father shares their family history with the supposed Monster of Lake Erie.

Will the tale bring closure or just more tragedy?


SP - Found Footage 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Found Footage
by Mary Fan

The camera doesn’t lie… but it has been known to hold a secret or two.

High-school student Jenny Chen captures a glimpse of an unbelievable creature when filming a student movie in the woods near Princeton, New Jersey. Despite her proof, only her best friend believes her.

Determined to reveal the truth about the strange creature, Jenny returns to search the woods, only to end up in a terrifying game of hunt and chase. Someone wants her discovery silenced…but who?


July

SP - Play of Light 2 x 3NOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: The Play of Light
by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Life and Death and Family Secrets…

Sheridan Cascaden faces more than memories when she receives a call in the darkest hours summoning her home.

Sent away five years prior to safeguard her from the evil that claimed her mother, Sheridan hasn’t been back since. She returns to find her childhood home in a disturbing state and her father straddling the Veil, with nothing to explain what happened. Now not only must she deal with her own demons, but she will have to delve into his if she is to unlock the mystery and save Papa’s life.

But wherein lies the line between truth and madness? Sheridan must find out before it’s too late… for both of them…


August

RagsByTyDrago_Front

NOVEL CATEGORY –
Rags by Ty Drago

Atlantic City, 1982

One cold December night, sixteen-year-old Abby Lowell and her foster sister are rescued by a mysterious and deadly figure in rags and a large hood. Abby never learns his name and never sees his face, but he’s obviously good with that black-bladed knife of his, very good.

Abby dubs him “Rags.”

But Rags isn’t done, not by a long shot. With her foster family under threat from the ruthless Bernards, who are determined to tear down their dilapidated hotel in favor of yet another casino, Abby finds herself in desperate need of a defender. A part of her is relieved when Rags returns to protect her again. And again. And again.

Now, with an army of thugs and a terrifying Voodoo witch hunting her, Abby must not only understand the dark truth behind Rags. She must accept that truth, frightening as it is, before it’s too late.


November

SP - Hell's WellNOVELLA CATEGORY –
Systema Paradoxa: Hell’s Well
by Sean Patrick Hazlett

Astrophysicist Dr. Kate Gavin Weaver’s life was hard enough fighting for tenure at Caltech while raising a four-year-old daughter as a single mother. It was even harder living under the shadow of her estranged father, Mack Gavin, the host of the wildly popular television series, The Cryptid Hunter.

But when Mack disappears while researching the subject of his next episode in a secluded wilderness town in California, Kate decides to leave the relative safety of Pasadena to find her father.

What she uncovers there shakes the very foundation of her reality and forces her to grapple with an adversary she could’ve never imagined.

JANUARY NETGALLEY LISTINGS


Do you like free books? I guess I already know the answer to that one…

Do you have a NetGalley account? If so, great! If no, they are free to sign up for, and once you have one, you can request all kinds of books to review, some of them before they’ve even been released! From large publishing houses and small. Here’s a link to NetGalley in case you want to sign up. 

Unintentionally, eSpec has three offerings in January, Yeti Left Home (cryptid/urban fantasy) by Aaron Rosenberg, Phoenix Precinct (fantasy police procedural) by Keith R.A. DeCandido, and The Corpse Fauna Chronicles (zombies) by James Chambers. You can read more about these books below. Once you do, we hope you will click the links below to head over to NetGalley and request them.


Yeti Left Home

Aaron Rosenberg

Yeti-CoverFront

Small-Town Yeti, Big-City Problems

Peaceful, unassuming Wylie Kang—a Yeti with an appreciation for more human creature comforts—lives a quiet life in his self-built sanctuary on the outskirts of Embarrass, Minnesota. But when violent dreams disturb his peace, and a series of strange murders plague the area, a Hunter comes to town, nosing after Wylie’s trail.

Fleeing pursuit, Wylie packs up his truck and heads for the Twin Cities, hoping to lose himself in the urban jungle, only to find a thriving supernatural community.

Just as he begins to settle in—with the help of some new-found friends—he discovers the bloodshed has followed… as has the Hunter.
Can Wylie catch the killer, before the Hunter catches him?


Phoenix Precinct

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Proof-NeuPhoenix-FrontCoverHumans and elves, dwarves and gnomes, wizards and warriors all live and do business in the thriving, overcrowded port city of Cliff’s End, to say nothing of the tourists and travelers who arrive by land and sea, passing through the metropolis on matters of business or pleasure—or on quests. The hard-working, under-appreciated officers of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard work day and night to maintain law and order as best they can.

A fire in the neighboring city-state of Barlin has resulted in hundreds of refugees pouring into Cliff’s End, forcing the creation of a new neighborhood—Albinton, which everyone calls “New Barlin”—and a new police precinct—Phoenix Precinct. Violence against the refugees is on the rise. Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald are called to the latest act of brutality, which has resulted in a vicious murder. But what appears to be a simple hate crime turns out to be far more complicated, as Danthres and Torin’s investigation leads them to corruption in the Castle Guard—and in the castle itself!

An all-new adventure of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard!


The Corpse Fauna Chronicles

James Chambers

Corpse Fauna 2 x 3A chronicle of survival in a world of the living dead.
There is no Heaven or Hell; there is only blood and the dust of flesh.

The Corpse Fauna Chronicles

A vast, malevolent darkness streams across the cosmos. A plague of the living dead sweeps over the Earth. Those left alive scramble for survival like insects feasting on a corpse. And from dead flesh stare a million unnatural eyes. Will the balance of the world tilt to life—or death? Only a handful of the living will decide. Manipulated by undead powers, they travel rough roads of deprivation and danger, finding themselves snared in a web spun by saints and sinners with control of the reanimated dead.

Cornell, one-time bank robber seeking only freedom.

Della, nurse escaping the prison of her past.

Burke, former military scientist clinging to the last of his sanity.

Vale, abandoned, finding her true strength in the world of the dead.

These four and a handful of others must discover the truth behind what brings the dead back to life and what they desire from the living.

Forget the meek. Will the living or the dead inherit the Earth?

Find out in The Corpse Fauna Chronicles. Collected here for the first time in one volume is the complete Corpse Fauna cycle of novellas, short stories, and illustrations, a saga of horror and survival more than twenty-five years in the making.

 

JANUARY EARLY REVIEWER LISTING


Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this before. LibraryThing, a free personal library management site, has been around for a while. I believe it even predates GoodReads, but it wasn’t as flashy or as easy to use, so it didn’t take off as well. But you know, it’s still around and constantly improving its game. In some ways, it’s better than GR, now that the great Zon has taken over. Signing up is free, and the platform has gotten much easier to use, though still a little difficult to navigate, in comparison.

Anyway, earlier this year, they started Early Reviewers, a new program where authors and publishers can offer new titles to reviewers anywhere up to six months after publication. This month we have only one title on offer, but snap it up. It’s a good one!


Yeti Left Home by Aaron Rosenberg

Yeti-CoverFront

Small-Town Yeti, Big-City Problems

Peaceful, unassuming Wylie Kang—a Yeti with an appreciation for more human creature comforts—lives a quiet life in his self-built sanctuary on the outskirts of Embarrass, Minnesota. But when violent dreams disturb his peace, and a series of strange murders plague the area, a Hunter comes to town, nosing after Wylie’s trail.

Fleeing pursuit, Wylie packs up his truck and heads for the Twin Cities, hoping to lose himself in the urban jungle, only to find a thriving supernatural community.

Just as he begins to settle in—with the help of some new-found friends—he discovers the bloodshed has followed… as has the Hunter.

Can Wylie catch the killer, before the Hunter catches him?

 

 


Aaron Rosenberg is the author of the best-selling DuckBob SF comedy series, the Relicant Chronicles epic fantasy series, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and—with David Niall Wilson—the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. Aaron’s tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, World of WarCraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Eureka, Mutants & Masterminds, and more. He has written children’s books (including the original series STEM Squad and Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles, the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books on a variety of topics, and over seventy roleplaying games (such as the original games Asylum, Spookshow, and Chosen, work for White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle, and many others, and both the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets and the Gold ENnie-winning Lure of the Lich Lord). He is the co-creator of the ReDeus series, and a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. Aaron lives in New York with his family. You can follow him online at gryphonrose.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and on Twitter @gryphonrose.

 

 

 

 

 

OBITUARY – DAVID SHERMAN, AUTHOR


We have already posted our Memoriam for David Sherman, but with the support and assistance of his family, we have put together this brief obituary. Apologies for the delay in posting, as we needed to confirm some of the details.


David ShermanDavid Sherman, aged 78, passed away quietly in the company of his friends and loved ones on November 16, 2022, in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, due to prolonged health complications. He was born on February 27, 1944, in Niles, Ohio. He joined the Marine Corps out of high school and served in Vietnam. David Sherman NamFrom April 1966 to September 1966, he was a squad leader with Combined Action Platoon and received numerous medals and citations.  After leaving active service, David moved to Philadelphia where he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, becoming, for a brief time, an award-winning sculptor.

In 1983, David began his writing career with the novel Knives in the Night, published by Ivy Books, a division of Ballantine Books. He would go on to write over thirty novels, including the best-selling Starfist and Starfist: Force Recon series and the Star Wars novel Jedi Trial with co-author Dan Cragg, and his solo series, DemonTech. His short fiction appeared in Weird Trails, the award-winning Defending the Future series, and the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. Much of his fiction drew on his combat experience. For years, David was a fixture at many east coast science fiction conventions, including Philcon and Balticon.

His books have been translated into Czech, Polish, German, and Japanese.

In his later years, he found it difficult to continue to write about war, focusing instead on weird western and steampunk short fiction, but with the help of author Keith R.A. DeCandido he did complete his original novel series The 18th Race trilogy (Issue In Doubt, In All Directions, and To Hell and Regroup). In a nod to those who served, every character mentioned in the series was named after a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Vest of the Pecos, a collection of his steampunk short stories, will be published posthumously by eSpec Books, under their Paper Phoenix Press imprint.

David is survived by his siblings, Bev Taylor, Robert Towles, Mary Carano, and their respective families. He leaves behind many friends and fans to give tribute to his memory.

COVER REVEAL – ESPRIT DE CORPSE


Have a copy of this book already? Then you have a collector’s item. Only forty copies were printed with the temporary cover, created to allow us to hold a book launch at the author’s home convention. It took a little longer than we would have liked to complete the final one, but it was important to get the details just right on characters with at least a four-book arc. Future covers should proceed much more apace.

For now, I give you Esprit de Corpse by Ef Deal, stunning cover art by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics.


Proof-Esprit-de-Corpse

What secrets lay beneath Parisian Streets?
And who will kill to keep them?

When a malfunctioning automaton runs full force into their locomotive on the new Paris-Orléans railway, Jacqueline Duval and her bohemian twin sister Angélique Laforge become embroiled in a mystery deeply rooted in their tragic past.

A polytech and famed engineering prodigy, Jacqueline is fascinated by the metal man, even more so when she discovers it is powered not by steam, but by the supernatural. Her investigation puts the sisters on a path both dangerous and mysterious as they must foil a plot to employ the dead to power a mechanical army aimed at international conquest. 

Aid comes from unexpected sources as the twins rush to avert this engineered war, but will they be in time?


Ef Deal

Ef Deal is a new voice in the genre of speculative steampunk with her debut novel, Esprit de Corpse, but she is not new to publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in various magazines and ezines over the years. Her short story “Czesko,” published in the March 2006 F&SF, was given an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, which gave both her and Gardner great delight. They laughed and laughed and sipped Scotch (not cognac, alas) over the last line.

Despite her preoccupation with old-school drum and bugle corps ~ playing, composing, arranging, and teaching ~ Ef Deal can usually be found at the keyboard of her computer rather than her piano. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Abyss & Apex magazine and edits videos for the YouTube channel Strong Women ~ Strange Worlds Quick Reads.

Esprit de Corpse from eSpec Books is the first of a series featuring the brilliant 19th-century sisters, the Twins of Bellesfées Jacqueline and Angélique. Hard science blends with the paranormal as they challenge the supernatural invasion of France in 1843.

When she’s not lost in her imagination, Ef Deal can be found in historic Haddonfield, NJ, in a once-haunted Victorian with her husband and two chows. She is an associate member of SFWA and an affiliate member of HWA.

Advance Reviews

“Steampunk, werewolves, spirits, and romance. All the ingredients a reader needs for a fast-paced, action-packed adventure.” —Maria V. Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of Navigating the Stars

“A wild, steampunky adventure with laugh-out-loud moments and a perfect set of heroines. Hold on and enjoy the ride!”
—Gregory Frost, author of Rhymer and Shadowbridge

 “A rollicking steampunky romp through post-Revolution France.
Most delectable!”

—Tiffany Trent, author of The Unnaturalists

“A meticulously-built world awaits readers in this
delightful steampunk mystery.” 

—A.C. Wise, author of Wendy, Darling and Hooked

“A truly delicious story. Deal confidently establishes her world and characters with small historical details and revealing turns of phrase, and leads you through the story’s twists to a satisfying end. *Chef’s kiss!*”
—Miriam Seidel, author of The Speed of Clouds.

“A delightful romp suffused in period details […] Great for readers who love steampunk, are Francophiles, strong women with amazing talents, or just who love a ripping yarn of a tale.”
—Randee Dawn, author of Tune in Tomorrow

“A fun steampunk adventure that fans of Indiana Jones are sure to love.” 
—John L. French, author of Chessie at Bay

BOOKSHOP.ORG


Booksho

As some of you might know, we support indie bookstores and indie authors. One way that we have found to do this is by offering our books through Bookshop.org, a site you might already be familiar with as an alternative to ordering from the dreaded Zon. Today we laid the groundwork for that, and we hope you will check out our shop eSpec Books.

between

We have chosen Between Books 2.0, owned and run by eSpec editor Greg Schauer, to receive a percentage of the sales placed through our lists. So… if you have some holiday money to spend and there are titles from the eSpec Library that you want to add to your shelves, please consider ordering through Bookshop.org.