AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – AARON ROSENBERG


The next in our Spotlight series, in conjunction with our current Kickstarter campaign for Fantastic Novels, is author Aaron Rosenberg. If I’m not mistaken, I first met Aaron at one Farpoint or another. We didn’t get to chat much at first because we were both veteran dealers at that point manning our respective tables. Aaron is one of the masterminds behind Crazy8 Press, which just celebrated their tenth anniversary.

Aaron is a veteran author of both media tie-in and gaming content, having won several awards for his work. He is also prolific in his original fiction, novels, nonfiction, children’s fiction, short stories, and articles. Franchises he has written for are Star Trek, Shadowrun, Eureka, World of Warcraft, and Stargate Atlantis, among others.

Aaron joined the eSpec list of authors in 2015 with a story in The Side of Evil, and he has continued to delight us ever since. Below is a growing list of the titles he has written or contributed to for eSpec Books. Yeti Left Home, the novel we are currently funding, is the first in a planned series of cryptid-in-the-city novels, and I can assure you it is like nothing you have seen before!

  Rosenberg


AaronRosenberg

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.

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – CAPCLAVE 2022


Wow! It has been a while, but we are back! Mike McPhail and I are very excited to be attending Capclave in just a week. We hope to see all of you there. In addition to us, there will be a number of eSpec authors there this year, including Jack Campbell, Charles Gannon, Ian Randal Strock, Jean Marie Ward, Lawrence M. Schoen, Randee Dawn, and Ty Drago. You can find everyone’s schedules here on the Capclave website, but for your convenience, Mike’s and my schedule are as follows:

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Friday
10:00 PM  25 Min        Monroe 
Author Reading: Danielle Ackley-McPhail   
Saturday
10:00 AM  1 Hr 30 Min  Wilson
Book Design 101 
1:00 PM    1 Hr          Truman
Anthology Builder   
4:00 PM    1 Hr          Eisenhower
Ask the Editors   
Sun
10:00 AM  1 Hr          Eisenhower
Alternatives to Traditional Publishing   

Mike McPhail

Friday
4:00 PM    1 Hr          Eisenhower
The State of Small Press Publishing 
Sunday
11:30 AM  1 Hr          Truman
Gaming and SFF 

eSPEC EXCERPTS – ESPRIT DE CORPSE


This might be Ef Deal’s debut novel, but she is by no means a novice! Esprit de Corpse displays much of the literary prowess she has already established in her short fiction. It is funding right now though our eSpec Books Fantastic Novels campaign, along with Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Phoenix Precinct and Aaron Rosenberg’s Yeti Left Home. We’ve already met our base goal and are working our way through bonuses and production goals. Here is an excerpt from Ef’s French Provincial steampunk adventure, Esprit de Corpse. Again, no cover yet… but that would be part of what we are funding, so let’s jump in!


Esprit de Corpse by Ef Deal (an excerpt)

Angélique grew restless, confined to the little coach in the stifling mid-July heat. Jacqueline could scarcely blame her. If they had taken the road coach from Paris, her sister would have been free to run about on the frequent stops. Never mind the trip would have taken two days and would have left them both filthy with road dust. Of course, Angelique and her antics held the blame for their manner of transport. Not that Jacqueline minded, as a polytech and master of the forge, she felt it her duty to give her patronage to the industrial marvel that was the new Paris-Orléans Railroad, particularly since she made frequent clandestine use of its rails.

“At least we’re not locked into a compartment car, like the unfortunates in the Versailles disaster last year,” Jacqueline said to her sister.

The man looked up from his sketch pad. “Indeed, madame. What a horror, unable to free themselves as their train caught fire. These new coaches are much safer and a relief to my rheumatic bones.”

Jacqueline turned her head and chewed the inside of her cheek. She had meant her comment to reassure Angélique, not initiate conversation with a stranger. Angélique pawed lightly at her leg, teasing her for her social inhibitions. Jacqueline ignored her and returned to her nap.

The locomotive suddenly lurched with an ear-piercing squeal. Gasping, Jacqueline pitched forward as the brakes dug in. Angélique yelped as she fell to the floor, growling her displeasure as she climbed back up on the cushion. Cries of alarm rose from the adjacent first-class coaches, the Versailles tragedy uppermost in everyone’s thoughts. Jacqueline peered through the dissipating smoke. The train had halted in the middle of a vast meadow. Frightened goats darted forward, charging the invader, some stiffening and dropping to the ground, others bounding to hide behind the stolid cows. Off beyond the fields, a simple church spire rose above gray roofs.

She looked at Angélique and shook her head. “Not yet.”

“Probably cows on the track,” said the man seated across from her. He set his sketchbook down and stood stiffly. “Just in time.” He opened the carriage door and peered about. “I could do with some fresh air.”

He turned back to retrieve his fez from the corner of his seat. As he set it on his head, he turned to Jacqueline to offer a hand. When she recognized Eugène Delacroix, she suddenly realized why Angélique had found their situation so amusing. Delacroix counted among the coterie of artists whose salons Angélique frequented. Jacqueline demurred, looking away.

Delacroix turned and stepped down, then jumped the remaining meter to the tracks through hissing billows of steam. As he descended the rail bed, he drew a silver cigar case from his vest pocket and placed a panatella to his lips.

Jacqueline chuckled. “Fresh air, indeed.”

Angélique growled.

Jacqueline stroked her sister’s brow. “If you didn’t have half the Paris prefecture looking for the notorious Angélique Laforge, you could have ridden in your human form, so you can very well quit your growling. And no, I have no wish to engage with your friend.” She rubbed Angélique’s ear to calm her. “Patience, mon Ange, we’ll soon be there. And I wired ahead for a diligence to convey us to Bellesfées, so it will await us. We should be home in time for supper.”

Her smile turned to a determined pout. “Time for some new designs.”

Thinking of her draughting board, Jacqueline leaned over to see what the artist had been sketching. To no surprise, she saw her own face in several casts of repose or gazing out the carriage window, along with various poses of Angélique, maw to paws or head resting on Jacqueline’s lap. Delacroix had focused on Jacqueline’s curls and the roundness of her eyes, but she wasn’t happy with his depiction of her wide cheeks or her strong jaw and mouth. The sketches accentuated her less-than-feminine features. He had also insisted on portraying her bosom rather décolleté, despite the fact she wore a travel coat. Thank goodness he hadn’t seen her without her coat: Her arms, large and firm and muscular from years at the forge, would have made him wonder if she were a woman at all.

“Delacroix is probably on his way to Nohant to referee the bouts between Madame Sand and Chopin.” She chuckled drily. “Shall we demand payment if our likenesses end up on display in a certain someone’s salon?”

Angélique’s ears perked up and flickered; she pawed at them and whined. Sliding from the seat, she panted her sudden anxiety. Jacqueline stood to leave their coach, watching as several second- and third-class passengers, mostly men, passed the forward first-class cars to see what had stopped the train. None of the other first-class passengers seemed curious enough to leave their coaches. Angélique leapt from the car. Jacqueline was about to step down but halted when her poised foot knocked a tall grey hat off a gentleman hurrying past below the rail bed. She managed to catch the hat.

“I’m so sorry,” she cried.

“Your pardon, mademoiselle,” he said at the same time. “I didn’t see—” 

He broke off his sentence with a dazzling smile as he looked up into her face. “Madame Duval? What a pleasure to meet you!”

Jacqueline didn’t recognize him and could not fathom how he would know her. She turned her head and mumbled, hoping to avoid conversation.

“From the Brussels Exposition last year?” he pursued. “Forgive me, we haven’t met, but I found your presentation on the conservation of engine emissions fascinating.”

Jacqueline looked again to assess his features. She was never good with names unless they came attached to commissions for her engineering designs, but she considered making an exception for this man. He was older than she, probably by at least ten years, and his wild, curly blond hair suggested he was of that fashion called “Romantic” by the effete. He stood tall and muscular, with a long, earnest face, clean-shaven, bright brown eyes, a Greek nose, and a bow to his upper lip that fascinated her as he smiled hopefully. Jacqueline curtsied with a slight nod, and she couldn’t help returning his smile with equal warmth. “Please,” she said, “just Duval.”

“Alain de Guise,” he returned. “I work with the railway. Your designs are quite revolutionary, if you don’t mind my use of the word.”

She smiled even wider, blushing. “At least two investors thought so as well.”

“Ah, that explains why the prefect was so interested in you,” he said. “I let him know his error. Imagine France’s foremost engineering genius stealing some bauble from a Moroccan prince.”

Jacqueline’s breath caught. Angélique whined and circled. Embarrassed for her sister’s sake, Jacqueline curtsied again and excused herself, but de Guise stayed where he was and extended his hand. “Please allow me.” 

Jacqueline gathered her skirt and petticoats and accepted de Guise’s hand to guide her down the steps. He caught her as she jumped from the bottom step, holding onto her waist until she regained her balance. Unaccustomed to such intimacy, Jacqueline pulled away. De Guise then offered his arm.

She considered it with a growing sense of discomfort. “Thank you, but I need—”

Angélique nosed between them and pushed Jacqueline forward. De Guise stared in astonishment as Jacqueline set her hand on the wolf’s head instead of on his arm.

“Thank you again, Monsieur de Guise,” she called as she took her leave of him.

Mud pulled at her short boots and spattered her stockings and hem as she hurried forward. De Guise followed, which made her worry she had offended him, for he had been nothing but charming for those brief moments. Surprisingly, she rather enjoyed his attentions. But for the nonce, she was more concerned with the annoyance of the delay.

“If I’m eating supper at midnight, I shall be very put out.”

Angélique snorted an agreement.

Jacqueline’s complaint was mollified somewhat when she came around the front of the great green locomotive and saw what had halted the train. The men who had gathered formed a wide circle beside the track, ignoring the engineer’s admonitions to keep back. As she pushed her way forward, they parted to allow plenty of room for the she-wolf at her side. Jacqueline smirked, sensing their dilemma in deciding which was the more bizarre sight, the girl and her wolf or the metal form lying across the tracks, clanking almost as much as the locomotive. Its legs jerked and twitched as if an interior engine had caught somehow.

“A mechanical man?” she said, puzzled.

“Please, madame, return to your coach.” The engineer turned to de Guise, “Just came barreling up the rails, sir. I couldn’t avoid it. It fairly threw itself at the locomotive.”

“That’s all right, René. We’re all safe. That’s what matters.”

At this exchange, Jacqueline took a second glance at de Guise, evidently someone of status in the railroad. She thought she knew everyone associated with the Paris-Orléans, from executives to designers to coal-stokers. Still, his name was not familiar, and surely if they had met, however briefly, she would have recalled that lovely smile. 

The automaton hammered its fists into the rail, refocusing Jacqueline’s attention. As the engineer continued conferring with de Guise, Jacqueline ventured closer to examine the clockwork mystery. 

A suit of armor but cast in something far heavier. Not iron. Bronze perhaps? That would make for an incredibly heavy machine for any delicate clockwork drive, yet the form was too refined to contain a full set of mechanical engines. A full two and a half meters in length—or rather, height when it stood—with a barrel chest and well-defined limbs of burnished metal, the machine probably weighed a bit more than a hundred kilos.

Jacqueline knelt beside the figure to feel the armor.

“Careful, mademoiselle,” a conductor warned, blocking her with his arm. “It’s very hot. You’ll burn yourself.”

Jacqueline moved his arm aside. The calluses on her fingertips protected her from much of the heat, and her gloves, though trimmed in dainty lace, were thickly padded with insulation, a precaution she’d devised to protect herself from her own impulsive curiosity in cases such as this. Nevertheless, she tested warily. Bronze indeed, and extremely hot.

The arms and legs were cylindrical and articulated, attached to the metal torso in cogwork designed to regulate speed. The torso seemed surprisingly slender for so ambitious a machine. She could not figure out how any system of steam or coal fuel could be tucked away in so small a confinement. The head resembled a helmet similar in construction to a diver’s casque, with a hinged faceplate riveted shut. Three dials notched by degrees sat positioned where the left ear would be, with two gauges in place of the right ear. The needle of the upper right gauge hammered emphatically into the red, while the lower gauge’s needle sat idle at zero, but since they lacked marking, she had no idea what they indicated. To Jacqueline’s shock, no vapors hissed from the rivets along the body’s seams.

“The pressure is tremendous. No regulators? That’s insane. But what powers the boiler?” she muttered. “I hear no pistons, no engine. It will explode at any moment without some system to…”

She tried to turn the form over, to the gasps and protests of the gathered crowd.

The engineer spluttered. “Mademoiselle, the danger! Come away now.”

But Jacqueline remained intent on the automaton. “Help me, monsieur. It’s far too heavy for me alone.”

“Please, Madame Duval,” de Guise argued. “Let us worry about this machine.”

“But I’m not worried,” she replied. “Won’t someone help me?”

Three dashing fops came forward to help, one wrapping his hands with his cravat, the others using riding gloves. Over the engineer’s protests, they rocked the massive body until it finally heaved to its back with a violent clatter. The fops backed off again, congratulating one another’s masculine show even as they skittered away.

Jacqueline wiped the glass faceplate and tried to peer into the suit to find the secret of its workings. White vapors swirled about inside the casque, but just as the train’s billowing smoke had obscured the countryside on her ride, the vapors confounded her view.

“There’s nothing here. Nothing I can see. Perhaps lower? Behind the breastplate? If I could open…”

Her voice trailed off as the vapors suddenly coalesced to the image of a face, deathly grey sunken flesh, like one recently dead. The shifting vapors obscured any details of its features except its eyes, wild and terrified, pleading in an awful expression of agony and anguish. They met Jacqueline’s gaze in wordless communion. As their awarenesses connected, the erratic clanking of the bronze suit eased. She caressed the glass, half in fear, half in consolation. The figure’s taut lips moved, but Jacqueline couldn’t make out the silent words.

“A pry bar,” she cried. “Please, we must open this casque at once.”

At the urgency in her voice, the crowd backed even further, fearing the machinery would indeed explode as she had said. The engineer folded his arms and shook his head.

De Guise came forward to stand behind Jacqueline. “A pry bar, please, René.”

The engineer glared, but he stomped back to the locomotive and returned with the large tool, which he grudgingly handed to de Guise.

“Will this do?” de Guise asked, offering it to her. “Or shall I?”

Jacqueline grabbed the bar from him and placed its claws at the seam of the faceplate, catching a rivet. The figure within began to thrash, desperate to be freed from the confining helmet. The entire form rattled all the more.

Behind her, Angélique gave a low moan. Jacqueline ignored her sister’s warning, intent on the eyes behind the glass. She tried leaning to the pry bar, but her corset, with its steel-and-bone stays, prevented her from bending enough to gain leverage.

“Such a stupid fashion,” she grumbled.

She threw off her travel coat and reached around to untie the lacing knot, fumbling through the fabric of her skirt to undo it. The few women in the crowd cried out aghast and moved away from the scandalous scene, dragging their escorts with them. The younger men laughed, catcalling.

Again, de Guise came close and assisted her, unknotting the laces and loosening them. “I only wish to help,” he reassured her. He even took up her coat to cover her again.

Jacqueline didn’t answer, too engrossed with her goal to be embarrassed. She drew a deeper breath, braced her stance, and pressed to the pry bar once more. This time she succeeded. The rivet popped, and the faceplate flew open.

A high-pitched scream more ghastly than the locomotive’s whistle burst from the bronze mechanical man. The compressed vapors billowed from the opened mask in an explosion of steam and sound. As the others fled with echoing cries, de Guise pulled her closer. Jacqueline covered her ears, keeping her eyes fixed on the surreal sight before her. The pressure gauge dropped to five hundred, two-fifty, and finally zero as the vapors within cleared, revealing nothing. Literally, nothing. No face, no form. No more than a shriek fading on the summer breeze.

Restrained by de Guise, Jacqueline leaned closer to peer inside the casque. From the depths, a gleaming skull peered back, gleaming white, polished, as it were, affixed atop a copper pipe that disappeared down into the cavern of the chest.

“Did you see that?” she cried. “Did anyone see that?” 

She looked to de Guise, but he shook his head, confused. 

KICKSTARTER NEWS


Just five days in and we are doing wonderful. The campaign for eSpec Books Fantastic Novels (Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Phoenix Precinct, Aaron Rosenberg’s Yeti Left Home, and Ef Deal’s Esprit de Corpse) is funded and has already unlocked two stretch goals and completed two bonuses.

There are a lot more things lined up that we are excited about, not the least of which is an original illustration for Aaron Rosenberg’s Yeti Left Home which we are just $175 from unlocking. Beyond that we have a number of bonus stories and new original stories by each author just waiting to be unlocked.

What I am really hoping for is to reach those hardcover goals… it could happen! We hope you’ll take a look and possibly even help us out! In an effort to hit that goal, we are trying something new…

Times are trying, and efforts like this get harder and harder. We in the community are trying to uplift each other to ease the burden making our goals.

communalsupportThe people behind two other current Kickstarter campaigns are good friends with excellent track records of their own: Fantastic Books’ campaign to fund Jewish Futures: Science Fiction from the World’s Oldest Diaspora, and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers campaign for Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups. So, in an effort to lift all the boats on a rising tide, we’re offering this special, perhaps-never-before-attempted, Communal Support opportunity.

Back all three campaigns (Fantastic Novels, Two-Fisted Team-ups, and Jewish Futures) at their $7 or higher levels, and you will receive one original Keith R.A. DeCandido short story, one eSpec bonus digital book of your choice, and a classic Michael A. Burstein story, in addition to your chosen reward in each campaign. Simply make your pledge and select the Communal Support Add-on. The reward will only be issued once all three campaigns are complete and your support collected for all of them is confirmed.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO


Given our current campaign for Fantastic Novels on Kickstarter, I thought now was a good opportunity to get to know the authors involved a little bit better.

Icon 22 - 2003The first up under the microscope is Keith R.A. DeCandido, the author I have known the longest in this campaign. In fact, I remember the exact moment I met Keith. It was on a panel at I-CON 22… or a number of them. We were among a mere handful of authors participating in the literary track, so we saw a lot of one another that weekend. I am best described here as an enthusiastic young pup with no clue as to etiquette or professionalism. (Why, yes… yes, I am sitting on the panel table instead of behind it! ::: groan :::) Keith was very gracious, as were the other panelists. No one said a thing, for which I am eternally grateful.

But we aren’t here to talk about me. Twenty years ago, Keith was already a well-established name in the realm of media-tie in franchises as both an author and an editor. Some of the franchises he has written for include Star Trek, Supernatural, Marvel, Buffy, Aliens, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, Doctor Who, and so very many more. The list has only grown since.

In 2013, Keith began working with us professionally, writing for the Defending the Future anthologies and exploring his own original fiction. The most popular is his Precinct series of fantasy police procedural novels, the first of which, Dragon Precinct originally published with Simon  & Schuster in 2004. In fact, the sixth novel in the series, Phoenix Precinct, is the one we are funding with this campaign.

In the years since, we have gone from being his editors to being his publishers (and, of course, also his friends). As you can see, we have a lot of faith in Keith and his writing. While he continues his work with the franchises, he has branched out considerably into original fiction. The following are his works published by eSpec, as well as our anthologies he has contributed to.

DeCandido

Those of you who support our endeavors will recognize many of these. We have faith the list will grow as we continue to explore exciting new concepts and the unexpected ways Keith finds to take them on.


Keith R.A. DeCandido

Keith R.A. DeCandido is a white male in his late forties, approximately two hundred pounds. He was last seen in the wilds of the Bronx, New York City, though he is often sighted in other locales. Usually, he is armed with a laptop computer, which some have classified as a deadly weapon. Through use of this laptop, he has inflicted more than fifty novels, as well as an indeterminate number of comic books, nonfiction, novellas, and works of short fiction on an unsuspecting reading public. Many of these are set in the milieus of television shows, games, movies, and comic books, among them Star Trek, Alien, Cars, Resident Evil, Doctor Who, Supernatural, World of Warcraft, Marvel Comics, and many more.

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin PrecinctGryphon Precinct, Tales from Dragon Precinct, and the forthcoming Manticore Precinct and More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include an urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx (A Furnace Sealed and the forthcoming Feat of Clay, with more threatened); the urban fantasy short story collection Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet; the Systema Paradoxa novella All-the-Way House; the graphic novel prequel to the Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness TV series, The Beginning; short stories in the anthologies Devilish and Divine, Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, The Fans are Buried Tales, and in the Phenomenons and Thrilling Adventure Yarns series; and nonfiction about pop culture for Tor.com, the Subterranean Blue Grotto, Outside In, and Gold Archive series, and on his own Patreon. Among his known associates are collaborators in his crimes against humanity: Dr. Munish K. Batra (the serial-killer thriller Animal), David Sherman (the military SF novel To Hell and Regroup), and Gregory A. Wilson (the award-winning graphic novel Icarus).

If you see DeCandido, do not approach him, but call for backup immediately. He is often seen in the company of a suspicious-looking woman who goes by the street name of “Wrenn,” as well as several as-yet-unidentified cats. A full dossier can be found at DeCandido.net

KICKSTARTER ALERT!


bigWe are at it again! And wow… I haven’t even had a chance to tell you about it yet and we are already just $129 from funding! 

We have some new titles for you to fall in love with. One is the continuation of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Precinct series, the others are brand-new adventures, a cryptid novel by Aaron Rosenberg, and a  debut French supernatural steampunk novel by Ef Deal.

Want to go adventuring with us?

Keith R.A. DeCandido is a white male in his early fifties, approximately two hundred pounds. He was last seen in the wilds of the Bronx, New York City, though he is often sighted in other locales. Usually, he is armed with a laptop computer, which some have classified as a deadly weapon. Through use of this laptop, he has inflicted more than fifty novels, as well as an indeterminate number of comic books, nonfiction, novellas, and works of short fiction on an unsuspecting reading public. Many of these are set in the milieus of television shows, games, movies, and comic books, among them Star Trek, Alien, Cars, Resident Evil, Doctor Who, Supernatural, World of Warcraft, Marvel Comics, and many more.

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin PrecinctGryphon Precinct, Tales from Dragon Precinct, and the forthcoming Manticore Precinct and More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include an urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx (A Furnace Sealed and the forthcoming Feat of Clay, with more threatened); the urban fantasy short story collection Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet; the Systema Paradoxa novella All-the-Way House; the graphic novel prequel to the Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness TV series, The Beginning; short stories in the anthologies Devilish and Divine, Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, The Fans are Buried Tales, and in the Phenomenons and Thrilling Adventure Yarns series; and nonfiction about pop culture for Tor.com, the Subterranean Blue Grotto, Outside In, and Gold Archive series, and on his own Patreon. Among his known associates are collaborators in his crimes against humanity: Dr. Munish K. Batra (the serial-killer thriller Animal), David Sherman (the military SF novel To Hell and Regroup), and Gregory A. Wilson (the award-winning graphic novel Icarus).

If you see DeCandido, do not approach him, but call for backup immediately. He is often seen in the company of a suspicious-looking woman who goes by the street name of “Wrenn,” as well as several as-yet-unidentified cats. A full dossier can be found at DeCandido.net

First sighted in the wilds of New Jersey, the cryptid known as “Aaron Rosenberg” or “the Gryphon Rose” has been seen as far afield as New Orleans and Lawrence, Kansas, but for the past twenty-five years has been primarily found in and around New York City. Though a sociable creature, Rosenberg has been known to unleash cutting wit and biting sarcasm, often upon those pulled into his expansive social circle. When not utilizing such weapons on the unwary, or camouflaging himself as the web content manager for a financial trade organization (previous disguises have included “college professor,” “animation studio creative director,” “film studio script supervisor,” and “children’s book publisher desktop coordinator”), the Gryphon Rose can most often be found pounding the keys of a battered laptop or equally dilapidated desktop, engaged in his most beloved activity—writing.

Over the past thirty years, Rosenberg’s particular brand of storytelling has been traced to more than two hundred publications, including roughly four dozen novels in a variety of imaginative genres, from horror to comedy to action-adventure to mystery to various shades of science fiction and fantasy. His unique approach has been conclusively linked to the bestselling sci-fi comedy series The Adventures of DuckBob Spinowitz, the Anime-esque epic fantasy series the Relicant Chronicles, the space-opera series Tales of the Dread Remora, the period cryptid mystery Gone to Ground, the pirate fantasy mystery adventure Deadly Fortune, the historic dark fantasy Time of the Phoenix, and, in a rare collaboration with unsuspecting human David Niall Wilson, the occult thriller series OCLT. Rosenberg is also believed to be responsible for the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, the bestselling Finding Gobi: Young Reader’s Edition, the #1 bestseller 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, and the original children’s book series STEM Squad and Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles.

Nor has this strange and prolific creature limited himself to original work. Rosenberg has also inveigled himself into various tie-in worlds, producing novels for such properties as Star TrekWorld of WarcraftWarhammerStargate: AtlantisShadowrunEureka, and Mutants & Masterminds, and short stories for The X-Files, James Bond, Deadlands, Zorro, and many more. The Gryphon Rose has even made his mark on roleplaying games, writing the original games AsylumSpookshow, and Chosen, and doing work for other games by Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle Entertainment, and many others—he won an Origins Award for the book Gamemastering Secrets and an ENnie for the Warhammer supplement Lure of the Lich Lord!

When Rosenberg is not writing at breakneck speeds, working alongside regular folk, or deploying snark against those who call him friend, he can be found reading, watching TV and movies, eating, and spending time with his mate “Jenifer” and their two offspring.

To follow more of this strange creature’s adventures, monitor him through his site at gryphonrose.com, observe him on Facebook at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and watch his antics on Twitter @gryphonrose. Just be prepared for frequent dad jokes and daily writing updates.

Ef Deal has lived her life lost in her imagination to the point of being oblivious to the rest of the world. She comes to us a bright new voice in the realm of speculative steampunk; which is not to say she has not published, her stories have published in various magazines and ezines, over the years. In fact, 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.

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 online magazine and edits videos for Strong Women ~ Strange Worlds Quick Reads, which can be found on YouTube.

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, Ef Deal can be found in historic Haddonfield, NJ, in a once-haunted Victorian with her husband and two chows.

SEPTEMBER EARLY REVIEWERS LISTINGS


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. Sadly, we did not discover this in time to take full and best advantage of this, but we did manage to get a fair number of books up that will be featured over the next few months. For September, we are offering two titles! See below…


SP - Found Footage 2 x 3

Found Footage, as accounted 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?

About the Author

Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series (Red Adept Publishing), the Flynn Nightsider YA dark fantasy series (Crazy 8 Press), the Starswept YA sci-fi series (Snowy Wings Publishing), and Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon, a YA steampunk fantasy (Page Street Publishing).

She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls YA sci-fi anthology series about girls in STEM (proceeds are donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund). In addition, she has had numerous short stories published in collections including MINE!: A celebration of liberty and freedom for all benefitting Planned Parenthood (ComicMix), Magic at Midnight (Snowy Wings Publishing), Tales of the Crimson Keep (Crazy 8 Press), and Thrilling Adventure Yarns (Crazy 8 Press).

In her spare time, when she has any, she can usually be found in choir rehearsal, at the kickboxing gym, or tangled up in aerial silks.


SP - Play of Light 2 x 3

The Play of Light, as accounted 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…

About the Author

Award-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, 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.

SEPTEMBER NETGALLEY LISTINGS


Do you like free books? I guess I already know the answer 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 book to review, some of them before they’ve even released! From large publishing houses and small. Here’s a link to NetGalley in case you want to sign up. 

Anyway, thanks to the folks at SFWA, we can list our books on NetGalley for a nominal fee, without paying a substantial monthly subscription. For September, we have two more of our Systema Paradoxa titles, created in conjunction with the Cryptid Crate monthly subscription box. You should check them out. The series is great fun (and so is the box!). Click the titles below to request a free review copy on NetGalley.


SP - Found Footage 2 x 3

Found Footage, as accounted 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?

About the Author

Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series (Red Adept Publishing), the Flynn Nightsider YA dark fantasy series (Crazy 8 Press), the Starswept YA sci-fi series (Snowy Wings Publishing), and Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon, a YA steampunk fantasy (Page Street Publishing).

She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls YA sci-fi anthology series about girls in STEM (proceeds are donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund). In addition, she has had numerous short stories published in collections including MINE!: A celebration of liberty and freedom for all benefitting Planned Parenthood (ComicMix), Magic at Midnight (Snowy Wings Publishing), Tales of the Crimson Keep (Crazy 8 Press), and Thrilling Adventure Yarns (Crazy 8 Press).

In her spare time, when she has any, she can usually be found in choir rehearsal, at the kickboxing gym, or tangled up in aerial silks.


SP - Play of Light 2 x 3

The Play of Light, as accounted 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…

About the Author

Award-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, 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.

AUGUST EARLY REVIEWERS LISTINGS


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. Sadly, we did not discover this in time to take full and best advantage of this, but we did manage to get a fair number of books up that will be featured over the next few months. For August, we are offering four titles! See below…


From eSpec Books

VA - When Clouds Die 2 x 3Vox Astra: When Clouds Die
James Chambers

The Stars Will Sing Our Songs Long After We Are Gone… 

…but who will remain to listen? Who will hear the stories they tell of the wisdom of species dying to protect worlds against a cosmic threat, to witness the crisis of warriors faced with unconscionable acts and soldiers determined to cling to hope amidst violence and despair?

Open your ears to these tales of heroes both fantastic and ordinary, who travel among the planets or dwell deep in the canyons of city streets. Hear the voices of the stars as they speak of lost loves, long-slumbering guardians, brutal conflicts, wars beyond time, and the powerful ties that hold people together in the face of violence. Though humanity may one day vanish, the stars forget nothing. We can only hope they will be kind when they tell our stories. 

About the Author

James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, science fiction, and other genres. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for his story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills.” Booklist described his collection On the Night Border as “…a haunting exploration of the space where the real world and nightmares collide,” and, in a starred review, said of his collection On the Hierophant Road: “For fans of the new breed of dark-speculative-fiction writers who actively play with genre confines to create reads that are inventive, thought-provoking, and creepily fun.” Publisher’s Weekly gave his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas, The Engines of Sacrifice, a starred review and described it as “…chillingly evocative….”

He has also written and edited numerous comic books, including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow House, and The Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley.

He lives in New York. Visit his website: www.jameschambersonline.com.


From NeoParadoxa

SP - Eyes of the Wolf 2 x 3Eyes of the Wolf
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.

About the Author

Robert E Waters is a technical writer by trade but has been a science fiction/fantasy fan all his life. He’s worked in the computer and board gaming industry since 1994 as a designer, producer, and writer. In the late ’90s, he tried his hand at writing fiction, and since 2003, has sold over 7 novels and 80 stories to various online and print magazines and anthologies, including the Grantville Gazette, Eric Flint’s online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire Alternate History series.

Robert’s first 1632/Ring of Fire novel, 1636: Calabar’s War, (co-authored with Charles E Gannon), was recently published by Baen Books. Robert has also co-written several 1632 stories, including the Persistence of Dreams (Ring of Fire Press), with Meriah L Crawford, and The Monster Society, with Eric S Brown.

Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their two precocious little cats, Snow and Ashe.


SP - Forget Me Not 2 x 3Forget Me Not
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?

About the Author

Carol Gyzander read classic science fiction and Agatha Christie mysteries non-stop as a child. Now that her own kids have flown the coop, she writes and edits horror, suspense, dark fiction, and sci-fi stories from the outskirts of New York City. Twisted tales that touch your heart!

Her story, “The Yellow Crown,” was nominated for the HWA Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Short Story. It can be found in the Stoker-nominated anthology, Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign from Hippocampus Press.

Carol’s a member of Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Broad Universe, and Historical Novel Society. Find her at http://www.CarolGyzander.com or on Twitter and Instagram @CarolGyzander.


RagsByTyDrago_Front

Rags
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.

About the Author

Ty Drago is a full-time writer and the author of ten published novels, including his five-book Undertakers series, the first of which has been optioned for a feature film. Torq, a dystopian YA superhero adventure, was released by Swallow’s End Publishing in 2018. Add to these one novelette, myriad short stories and articles, and appearances in two anthologies. He’s also the founder, publisher, and managing editor of ALLEGORY (www.allegoryezine.com), a highly successful online magazine that, for more than twenty years, has featured speculative fiction by new and established authors worldwide.

Ty’s currently just completed The New Americans, a work of historical fiction and a collaborative effort with his father, who passed away in 1992. If that last sentence leaves you with questions, check out his podcast, “Legacy: The Novel Writing Experience,” to get the whole story.

He lives in New Jersey with his wife Helene, plus one dog and two chickens.

AUGUST NETGALLEY LISTINGS


Do you like free books? I guess I already know the answer 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 book to review, some of them before they’ve even released! From large publishing houses and small. Here’s a link to NetGalley in case you want to sign up. 

Anyway, thanks to the folks at SFWA, we can list our books on NetGalley for a nominal fee, without paying a substantial monthly subscription. For August, we have two more of our Systema Paradoxa titles. You should check them out. The series is great fun. Click the titles below to request a free review copy on NetGalley.


SP - Eyes of the Wolf 2 x 3

Eyes of the Wolf, as accounted 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.

About the Author

Robert E Waters is a technical writer by trade but has been a science fiction/fantasy fan all his life. He’s worked in the computer and board gaming industry since 1994 as a designer, producer, and writer. In the late ’90s, he tried his hand at writing fiction, and since 2003, has sold over 7 novels and 80 stories to various online and print magazines and anthologies, including the Grantville Gazette, Eric Flint’s online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire Alternate History series.

Robert’s first 1632/Ring of Fire novel, 1636: Calabar’s War, (co-authored with Charles E Gannon), was recently published by Baen Books. Robert has also co-written several 1632 stories, including the Persistence of Dreams (Ring of Fire Press), with Meriah L Crawford, and The Monster Society, with Eric S Brown.

Robert is the author of The Mask Cycle, a Baroque fantasy series that includes the novels The Masks of Mirada and The Thief of Cragsport (Ring of Fire Press).

For eSpec Books, Robert has written several stories which have appeared in the widely popular military science fiction anthology series, Defending the Future. All seven of his stories that appeared in the series were recently collected into one volume titled Devil Dancers.

Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their two precocious little cats, Snow and Ashe.


SP - Forget Me Not 2 x 3

Forget Me Not, as accounted 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?

About the Author

Carol Gyzander read classic science fiction and Agatha Christie mysteries non-stop as a child. Now that her own kids have flown the coop, she writes and edits horror, suspense, dark fiction, and sci-fi stories from the outskirts of New York City. Twisted tales that touch your heart!

Her story, “The Yellow Crown,” was nominated for the HWA Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Short Story. It can be found in the Stoker-nominated anthology, Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign from Hippocampus Press.

Carol has stories in over a dozen other anthologies, including Stories We Tell After Midnight from Crone Girls Press; Across the Universe: Tales of Alternate Beatles from Fantastic Books (amidst stories by Cat Rambo, Spider Robinson, and David Gerrold); Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse from Camden Park Press; and The Lost Librarian’s Grave: Tales of Madness, Horror, and Adventure from Redwood Press.

As editor-in-chief and one of the founders of Writerpunk Press, she’s edited four anthologies of punk stories inspired by classic tales, including Merely This and Nothing More: Edgar Allan Poe Goes Punk and Hideous Progeny: Classic Horror Goes Punk. She co-edited the Even in the Grave anthology of ghost stories, with James Chambers, from the NeoParadoxa line of eSpec Books.

She works with James Chambers as Co-Coordinator of the Horror Writers Association New York Chapter and as co-host of the HWA-NY Galactic Terrors online reading series (on the second Thursday of every month—see HWANY.org for details). She is also one of the overall Chapter Program Managers for HWA.

Carol’s a member of Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Broad Universe, and Historical Novel Society. Find her at http://www.CarolGyzander.com or on Twitter and Instagram @CarolGyzander.

 

eSPEC EXCERPTS – RAGS


Good morning! And happy book birthday to Rags by Ty Drago

We are excited about this edgy and nostalgia-forward horror novel. As the author already shared Chapter One, we are giving you a deeper peek with Chapter Two. We hope you enjoy!

And if you love the cover as much as we do, check out more of Lynne Hansen’s work. She takes commissions and has pre-made art just ready for your text treatment.


“The Shadow meets Joe R. Lansdale’s God of the Razor. Yes, it’s that good.”
John L. French, award-winning author

Chapter 2

My Parents Named Me Abigail

—Abigail Lowell. Of course, why they named me that—if Abigail was my grandmother, some favorite aunt, or just a nice name they got out of a baby book—is something I’ll probably never know.

At the age of four, I was found wandering through the crowds on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. It was a bright summer afternoon, and I had on shorts and a dirty t-shirt. I was skinny like I hadn’t eaten in days.

And I was crying.

A cop found me and took me to “Family Services,” two words that, to me, will always mean blank grey walls and overworked, underpaid suits who try to be nice but can’t quite pull it off. There I got questioned but couldn’t tell anybody where my folks might be or how I ended up alone on the boards.

I knew my name and how old I was, but almost nothing else. Over the next several hours, my photo got passed around in the shops all up and down the boardwalk. They even checked with the local elementary schools, though they were closed for the season. But, in the end, they found zip. Nothing at all. Finally, yet another official stranger who was “there to help” showed up and whisked me off to a foster home—the first of many.

I remember none of this.

My earliest memory is of getting spanked. I don’t recall where I was at the time or even why I was getting hit. But I know it was by someone named Judith who didn’t like me, probably one of the hundred foster mothers I burned through during the early years. Okay, maybe it was closer to a dozen. But when you’re a little kid, it seems like more—an endless parade of cramped, shared bedrooms, cheap food, and the learned habit of carrying everything you own from place to place in a green trash bag.

At least, that was how it was until I came to the Nelsons.

Nick and Kelley. For years they ran a state-funded orphanage out of a former hotel they owned half a block from the Boardwalk. Since 1962, when the State of New Jersey abolished orphanages in favor of the “kinder and better” foster care system, Aunt Kell and Uncle Nick went from being “caretakers” to “foster parents,” and the average of a dozen kids under their roof went from being “orphans” to “children of the state.”

I was eight when I got delivered to the lobby of what the neon sign atop the roof announced to be “THE CALM SEA ARMS.” By then, I’d been in the System for four years, and the constant upheavals—a new foster home every few months—had left me, well, broken.

I stole stuff, usually from stores but sometimes from my fosters, which was probably the main reason I got moved around so much. I also hoarded food, having learned that eating regularly could be a luxury in a house crammed with foster kids who were just as messed up as I was. My foster parents would rail at me whenever they found moldy bread or half-empty cereal boxes under my bed. They’d tell me I was “selfish.” They’d tell me I was “bad.”

After a while, I guess I believed it.

Eventually, you get yourself a rep in the System. I was a “problem kid”—so the social workers kind of got used to moving me around. It became a routine. I’d hit a house, get into trouble, get into more trouble, and finally get moved.

Over and over again.

If it sounds like a pretty shitty childhood, well, you’re right.

But everything changed when I found the Nelsons.

They were old, older than any fosters I’d ever had, and the moment I met them, they scared me. Truth is, they were only in their mid-fifties, but to me, that was ancient. Besides, old people always scared me back then. I still don’t know why. I remember standing in that lobby—with its shabby-but-clean furniture. There were, as I’ve said, something like a dozen kids already living in the place, and the lobby was a common area where everyone pretty much did whatever they felt like doing: board games, Lincoln Logs, even hopscotch. The hotel’s only working television was in there as well.

You get the idea—noisy and busy.

A girl my age waved at me and smiled. I stared back at her, clutching my trash bag a little tighter.

Uncle Nick talked to the social workers. He’s a big dude, Nick Nelson, tall and broad-shouldered. Not scary exactly, but imposing, hair shaved close and skin even darker than mine.

He seemed—solid to me.

Then, while I watched him, Aunt Kell came up and took me aside. She was kind of short and, not fat, exactly. Just round, with a big bosom that, at that age, I found weirdly comforting. Her hair was long and white, tied up and held with a ribbon. Her skin, lighter than her husband’s, looked like old rawhide, but there was something about her smile that almost cracked the walls I’d built around myself—and that’s saying something.

I remember she handed me a small tin box. It had a picture of Princess Leah from STAR WARS on it. “Abby,” she said in a kind, soft voice. “This is yours. You can put anything you want in it. If you want to put food in it, you can… as much as will fit. And you can keep that food for as long as you want. But you’ll need to be careful because keeping the wrong kind of food too long can make you sick.”

I knew that from bitter experience. I expected her to lecture me on why I didn’t have to hoard anymore, or even tell me what kind of foods were safer to store than others. But she didn’t. She just handed me the box and then pulled a wristwatch out of her apron.

The watch wasn’t a cheap digital, but had actual hands and a leather band. “This is yours, too,” she said. “All my children get one. You can wear it or not. That’s up to you. Personally, I think it’s good to always know what time it is. But, Abby, it’s a wind-up. No battery. So, you’ll want to remember to keep it wound every few days.”

Then she turned the watch over and let me see the back. My initials were there—scratched in, not engraved. But to me, it looked like a miracle.

I felt my eyes light up. I couldn’t help it.

That’s how it began at the Calm Sea Arms. I ended up staying there longer than six months, longer even than six years. This old hotel’s become the only home I’ve ever known, and Uncle Nick and Aunt Kell are the only parents I remember.

I don’t tell them I love them, though I do.

I don’t call them ‘’‘Dad’ and ‘’Mom,’ though I want to.

I have eleven foster brothers and sisters. Some I like. Some I don’t.

A couple I even love.

And Corinne is one of those.

In fact, loving her is kind of what got us into trouble under the pier tonight in the first place.

The craziest thing is: we somehow get away with it.

Corrine and I make it back to the hotel, climb atop the dumpster in the alley to the fire escape ladder, and then in through that “special” second-floor window without anybody knowing a thing.

She clings to me almost the whole way back, neither of us saying much. I let her do the climbing ahead of me and, once we’re safe in the hallway, I see her to her bedroom as quietly as I can. She and I are both in the “Girl’s Dorm,” which is really just the hotel’s second floor. The boys have the third. The idea is to keep us nice and separated. Uncle Nick and Aunt Kell sleep on the lobby floor, and the boards creak something fierce, especially when the hotel’s quiet. So, each of us learns pretty quick how to shuffle our feet when we walk at night and to keep to the threadbare carpet when we can.

Both dorms have eight bedrooms, which means there’s enough to let each foster kid have one of our own. It’s pretty amazing. Most of us have never had a private room in our lives, something that the Nelsons know perfectly well. Honestly, it’d be so much simpler for them to cram us in, three or four to a room. That would surely make cleaning and upkeep easier.

But they don’t do that. They never have.

It also means I’m able to get Corinne into her bed without worrying about waking anyone else. She slips under the covers without complaint, most of her tears and shakes having stopped. I wonder how much of what happened tonight she’ll remember in the morning. Hopefully, not much at all. Corinne might be nine, but, like a lot of fosters, she’s younger between her ears. “Emotionally stunted,” they call it, which is as freaking stupid a term as there ever was. Corinne’s become what she needs to be to survive in the System, what works for her. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t need a label.

Just like Corinne doesn’t need more bad memories to fill her dreams.

“Abby?” she whispers when I kiss her forehead.

“Yeah, pumpkin?”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For getting us in trouble.”

“It’s okay.”

“You’re not mad?”

“Nope. Now, goodnight. We’ve got school in the morning.”

She nods. Then, as I straighten and turn toward the door, she says again, “Abby?”

“What?”

“Are you gonna tell Aunt Kell?”

I feel my heart sink. “About what?”

“About you going out with me to look at the moon on the water?”

That was the start of it. Corinne loves the moon. Some nights, when a few of us sneak up to the hotel’s roof after lights out to smoke, drink, or whatever, she follows us. To be honest, it used to bug me. But then I found out that she’s not interested in us at all. Instead, she just sits under the big neon Calm Sea Arms sign that’s mounted up there in letters ten feet tall and stares at the moon.

Tonight, after lights out, she snuck into my room and begged me to take her out to the beach so she could see the moon on the water. “Tomorrow’s my birthday,” she announced, though I know for a fact that, like me, she doesn’t know her birthday. “So, please, Abby?”

I knew it was a bad idea when I agreed.

I just didn’t realize how bad.

“Do you want me to?” I ask her cautiously, standing halfway between her bed and the door. “Talk to Aunt Kell, I mean.”

“No. She’ll be mad. I don’t want her mad at me on my birthday.”

“Then I won’t say nothing.”

She smiles sleepily. “Thanks, Abby.”

“Sure thing, pumpkin. Good night.”

“G’night.”

I slip out of her bedroom and down the hall to my own. Around me, the second floor is graveyard quiet.

This may sound weird, but it’s not until I’m safe in my room and pull off my clothes, until I look down and see blood—honest-to-God human blood!—on my black sneakers, that I start seriously freaking out.

How did I even get blood on me? I wasn’t anywhere near Pimples when Rags dragged him behind that pillar. Thirty-Eight had to have been something like a dozen feet away when he got stabbed from behind. And Butterfly, unlike his homies, got broken instead of cut.

Then I remember Rags standing in front of me, still holding his knife. His bloody knife.

Was he really that close?

I didn’t think so at the time, but—

Feeling suddenly nauseous, I take off my shoes and run down the hall to the toilet.

I don’t throw up, though I want to. Instead, I end up splashing cold water on my face and then my shoes, rubbing them with paper towels until there’s not a trace of red. Then, feeling a lot less better than I’d like, I go back to my room, pull on my cotton jams, and climb under the blanket.

That’s when I lose it.

Not completely, mind. I mean, I cry, but I don’t sob. I don’t make noise. I don’t wake anybody.

It’s a thing you learn when you grow up in the System.

You cry alone.

The terror I felt when those drugged-up bangers closed around us on the beach, corralling us under the pier like dogs trapping a pair of rats, runs through me like ice. Weirdly, it isn’t almost losing my own life that freaks me out the most. It’s Corinne. The idea that she might have ended up just another dead orphan was almost enough to send me down to the bathroom again for another round of “Will She or Won’t She?”

Yet, if Rags hadn’t shown up, that’s exactly what would have happened.

Rags.

That dude frightens me, no lie. But not because he threatened me. Instead, it’s what he did to protect me, to protect my little foster sister, that scared me, and not a little bit because some part of me, and I get how this sounds, appreciated his brutality. But no. “Brutality” isn’t the right word. Savagery. What he did to those dudes under the pier was savage but not brutal. Until tonight, I didn’t know there was a difference.

But there is.

The tears flow for a while. Finally, as my heart rate slowly slips back to normal and what Tyrone calls my “scare buzz“ drains off, I sit up, wipe my face, and spend just a minute looking out through my window at the night.

Only to scream—almost—when I see him staring back at me. My hands shoot to my mouth, my eyes going wide. I feel my stomach clench and, all of a sudden, the scare buzz is back with interest.

Rags.

Rags is right there.

Except… no, he’s not.

I blink, shuddering. Then I stand on wobbly legs and step closer to the window. By the light of the moon, which hangs waning in the late fall sky, I can see that the fire escape’s empty. But he was there. I spotted his shape, crouching in the gloom, his heavy hood hiding his face, his long, black-bladed knife in his hand. He was there! I know it!

It takes me a while to fall asleep after that, but eventually, I manage. And, strange as it sounds, I don’t dream about Rags or bangers or blood and carnage. Instead, I dream of the sight of the massive pier, as we saw it from the beach—big and blocky, mysterious and amazing. It always looks to me like an enormous treasure chest, full of history and secrets rather than gold. And, in the dream, like when I’m awake, I’m drawn to it.

See? Strange.

But there’s a lot about the pier I haven’t told you yet, a lot you need to know. For now, though, let’s just say that I love that place, as rundown and derelict as it’s become. The truth is that when Corinne came to my bedroom after lights out and begged me to take her to the late-night beach, I did it partly for her and partly for me.

You see, Corinne went for the moonlight.

But I went for the pier.


Ty Drago

Ty Drago is a full-time writer and the author of ten published novels, including his five-book Undertakers series, the first of which has been optioned for a feature film. Torq, a dystopian YA superhero adventure, was released by Swallow’s End Publishing in 2018. Add to these one novelette, myriad short stories and articles, and appearances in two anthologies. He’s also the founder, publisher, and managing editor of ALLEGORY (www.allegoryezine.com), a highly successful online magazine that, for more than twenty years, has featured speculative fiction by new and established authors worldwide.

Ty’s currently just completed The New Americans, a work of historical fiction and a collaborative effort with his father, who passed away in 1992. If that last sentence leaves you with questions, check out his podcast, “Legacy: The Novel Writing Experience,” to get the whole story.

He lives in New Jersey with his wife Helene, plus one dog and two chickens.

AUTHOR NEWS – 7/22/22


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We are delighted to announce that eSpec authors Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail have been accepted as Full members to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. While best known for their anthology work, Mike McPhail as the editor of the award-winning Defending the Future Military Science Fiction series, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail as the senior editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries series, both have been professionals in the publishing industry for decades.

Please join us in congratulating them on this professional milestone.


MikeMcPhail-USAF

Author and editor Mike McPhail is the co-owner of eSpec Books LLC, Electronic Speculative Fiction Publishing. Although involved in numerous projects, he is best known as the creator and series editor of the award-winning Defending The Future series of military science fiction anthologies—now in its second decade of publication.

His love of the science fiction genre sparked a life-long interest in science, technology, and developing an understanding of the human condition—all of which play an important role in his writing, art, and game design—these in turn are built upon his training as an aeronautical engineer and dreams of becoming a NASA mission specialist.

As a former Airman, he is a member of the Military Writers Society of America, and is dedicated to helping his fellow service members (and those deserving civilians) in their efforts to become authors, editors, or artists, as well as supporting related organizations in their efforts to help those “who have given their all for us.”


Danielle Ackley-McPhail 2021

Award-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.

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, 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.

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.

 

CONVENTION RECAP – SHORE LEAVE 42


Wow… Just wow!

20220715_133636This weekend was our return to Shore Leave after the two-year hiatus. Man, were we glad to be back! We had tons of new titles and tried a few new things set-up and procedure-wise. One of which was trying out the new Square Terminal. I balked real hard at the price, but after this weekend I have zero regrets. At the last few shows, we struggled with connecting the Square to our phones and keeping it connected. This weekend, we messed with 20220622_210318none of that. All the sales went through fast and fine. And bonus, neither of us had to leave our phones/clocks behind when we went on panels.

We also got to connect with our friends/authors and meet potential new ones in person. Not to mention discuss potential projects to both produce or participate in. Beyond being on panels and chatting in the dealer’s room, there was an amazing author dinner on Saturday night, hosted by Keith R.A. DeCandido and Wrenn Simms and catered by Andy P. Nelson’s BBQ!

Our panels went well, New and Upcoming Titles, Cryptozoology: Making Our Monsters or Proving Them, and Crowdfunding Your Book for me, and panels on Anthologies, Freelancing, and Cover Art for Mike. Then there was the mass eSpec Books panel, well-represented by Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher L. Bennett, Russ Colchamiro, Hildy Silverman, Robert Greenberger, Mike McPhail, and myself. All in all, the panels were well attended and enjoyable to participate in.

20220716_100402Overall, it was amazing to be back among like-minded individuals, sharing our joys and passions, as well as networking and connecting with fans. And it seems like it was the year to show some love because every time we turned around, someone treated us or presented us with a gift. 20220716_135922Don’t worry… we won’t let it go to our heads and start expecting to be showered with tribute wherever we go, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t warm our hearts and fill us with love. Hiatus aside, it is easy to lose track in this industry of what kind of impact we have as authors and professionals because so much of what we do involves solitary work. When you tell us or show us how we have touched your life as a fan or a professional, it galvanizes us for future great works 🙂 We feel seen in a good way, and we can’t thank you enough for such moments because it is so easy to become disheartened.

20220715_20092020220717_125428Even better, we received tokens of appreciation for our staff, who greatly appreciated it, to our everlasting delight. We are so glad that Spot, Spec, Karma, and Shiloh have a soft spot in your hearts, as they do ours. They work hard to ensure you have your daily dose of cuteness and they do expect to be showered with tribute (from us) and these tokens have taken some of that burden off of us for the time being 😉

Don’t bother with the sound. It’s just background noise, but posting it to YouTube was the only way WordPress would let me share a video. Thank you, Bradi, for all of the wonderful toys! The office staff is much appreciative.

COVER REVEAL – RAGS BY TY DRAGO


We are very fortunate to work with some amazing artists, and none more amazing that the acclaimed Lynne Hansen. What this woman can do with a horror cover is nothing short of phenomenal. She has completed two covers for us this year, and we can not be more pleased with the finished results. Check out her site, Lynne Hansen Art. She does commissions, and also has pre-made art just ready for your cover treatments. 

Today we present to you her artwork for Ty Drago’s Rags. The book releases August 1, but you can preorder it from the eSpec Books online store via the above link.


“The Shadow meets Joe R. Lansdale’s God of the Razor. Yes, it’s that good.” John L. French, author

RagsByTyDrago_Front

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.


Ty Drago

Ty Drago is a full-time writer and the author of ten published novels, including his five-book Undertakers series, the first of which has been optioned for a feature film. Torq, a dystopian YA superhero adventure, was released by Swallow’s End Publishing in 2018. Add to these one novelette, myriad short stories and articles, and appearances in two anthologies. He’s also the founder, publisher, and managing editor of ALLEGORY (www.allegoryezine.com), a highly successful online magazine that, for more than twenty years, has featured speculative fiction by new and established authors worldwide.
Ty’s currently just completed The New Americans, a work of historical fiction and a collaborative effort with his father, who passed away in 1992. If that last sentence leaves you with questions, check out his podcast, “Legacy: The Novel Writing Experience,” to get the whole story.
He lives in New Jersey with his wife Helene, plus one dog and two chickens.

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – SHORE LEAVE 2022


So very excited to be getting back to this convention this year. I miss mingling among my fan/family in a familiar and comfortable environment. A lot of fond memories at the Hunt Valley hotel. Really looking forward to celebrating new book releases along with many new-to-SH titles that released over the 2-year hiatus.

  • Gone to Ground (Systema Paradoxa Volume 2) by Aaron Rosenberg
  • All-The-Way House (Systema Paradoxa Volume 4) by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Found Footage (Systema Paradoxa Volume 11) by Mary Fan
  • The Play of Light (Systema Paradoxa Volume 12) by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • Daire’s Devils by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • Devilish & Divine (edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with stories by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and others.)

For those of you joining us for Shore Leave 2022 this year, below are our panel schedules. Outside of those times, please do come looking for us in the dealer’s room!

We are going light on the horns this year, but heavy on the books and the ginger!


DanielleMike