This week’s offering is three videos of classic science fiction and fantasy reads. We hope you’ll enjoy them all. If you are interested in the books, they can be purchased via the links provided.

If you are an author and would like to participate in one of these series, please visit the eSpec Books Author Reading Series Facebook page for details.

The eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Lisanne Norman reading an excerpt from her short story “Hope’s Children” from In Harm’s Way (DTF8) edited by Mike McPhail.

The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading an excerpt from her short story “Mama Bear” from the upcoming anthology Bad Ass Moms, edited by Mary Fan and published by Crazy8 Press.

Gordon Linzner reading his story Masquerade, published in issue #1 of JEET fanzine way back in the day!

All purchase links in these posts are Amazon Associate links
and we do receive a token commission if you should purchase via these links.


Welcome to your almost weekend! Time to recap the author reading series once more. We have four videos straddling multiple genres. We hope you’ll enjoy them all. If you are interested in the books, they can be purchased via the links provided.

If you are an author and would like to participate in one of these series, please visit the eSpec Books Author Reading Series Facebook page for details.

The eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Megan Mackie reading an excerpt from her novel Saint Code: The Lost, an intriguing tale of the perilous intersection of cyberpunk and magic.

Gordon Linzner reading an excerpt from his short story “Astral Odds” from Footprints in the Stars, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, an interesting take on science fiction noir exploring humanities reaction to proof aliens exist.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Ruby Red” from her ebook collection Flash in the Can. An evocative microfiction that will take you on a sensory journey.

Jeff Young reading his short story “Beyond the Familiar” from his single-author collection Spirit Seeker, steampunk tales following a covert operative who happens to talk to ghosts.

All purchase links in these posts are Amazon Associate links
and we do receive a token commission if you should purchase via these links.


We’ve posted a wide variety of work on YouTube over the last week or so, steampunk, paranormal fantasy, science fiction. We hope you’ll find something you enjoy!

Please remember to Like and Subscribe and hit the little bell icon to receive notification of these videos as they go live.

And, as always, if you are an author looking to participate, you can contact us through the Series fan page on Facebook.

The eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “On the Wings of an Angel” originally from In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, and rereleased in Flash in the Can: Speculative Microfiction by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Keith R.A. DeCandido reading an excerpt from his novel Supernatural: Bone Key

Robert E. Waters reading his short story “Giraffe Children” from If We Had Known, edited by Mike McPhail

The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Michael A. Ventrella reading an excerpt from his steampunk novel, Big Stick, from Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press.

All purchase links in these posts are Amazon Associate links
and we do receive a token commission if you should purchase via these links.


Good morning, my lovelies!

We’ve posted a few videos, so it is time for an update on our two reading series.  Below are links to the recent offerings. Now that the channel has been built up a bit we are spreading out the posts every three days, instead of every two days. We hope you enjoy them. If you are interested in the books, we have provided purchase link with each video. 

If you are an author and would like to participate in one of these series, please visit the eSpec Books Author Reading Series Facebook page for details.

The eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Featuring eSpec authors reading works published by eSpec Books.

Keith R.A. DeCandido reading an excerpt from his novel Mermaid Precinct.

Brenda Cooper reading Chapter One from her near-future dystopian novel POST. 

Gail Z. Martin reading her story “Ruin Creek” (co-written with Larry N. Martin) from The Weird Wild West, edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw.

The eSpec Books Guest Author Reading Series

Featuring eSpec and outside authors reading works published by other publishers.

CJ Henderson reading his short story “Seller’s Market” from But Seriously, Folks. (Posted with the permission of the Henderson estate.)

All purchase links in these posts are Amazon Associate links
and we do receive a token commission if you should purchase via these links.


Happy Friday! This is our recap of our two Author Reading series The eSpec Books Author Reading Series, which features eSpec authors reading eSpec content; and The eSpec Guest Author Series featuring authors reading works from outside publishers. We hope you enjoy! If you do, please remember to Like and Subscribe. Thank you.

If you are interested in participating in either series, please leave a message in the comments below (terms apply.)

eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading chapter one of her novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written by Day Al-Mohamed.


A reposting of Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Brothers” from Dogs of War (Defending the Future Book Six). (remastered for sound quality.)


Robert E. Waters reads his short story “Child of the Water” from his solo science fiction collection Devil Dancers


Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Dawns a New Day” from Footprints in the Stars (Beyond the Cradle Book 2).

eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Carol Gyzander reading her short story “The Clockwork Raven” from Merely This and Nothing More, published by WriterPunk Press. The story is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.


Somehow I missed a week. My apologies. Today’s offerings actually combine two different series, The eSpec Books Author Reading Series, which features eSpec authors reading eSpec publications; and The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series, which features eSpec or outside authors reading works not published by eSpec Books. We hope you enjoy this week’s videos. If you are an author interested in participating leave a comment below.

The eSpec Books Author Reading Series


Megan Mackie reading from her novel, The Finder of the Lucky Devil.


Jeff Young reading his story Finder,
from The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson.


Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading from her
nautical fantasy collection Consigned to the Sea.

The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series


Alma Alexander reading from her upcoming science fiction novel The Second Star,
which releases in July from Crossroads Press.


Teel James Glenn reading from his fantasy novel The Bareknuckle Barbarian.

I love you, $3000! ARACHNE’S EXILE is a go!

A succinct update on the current Kickstarter by eSpec author Christopher L. Bennett.

Christopher L. Bennett: Written Worlds

Well, this is astonishing. For the past few days, the eSpec Books Kickstarter for Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, and other fiction was in the inevitable mid-campaign lull, only inching slowly upward. We’d crested the $2700 stretch goal to unlock Keith DeCandido’s “Alien Invasion of Earth!” and had gained our 100th backer to unlock bonus copies of Keith’s Without a License collection, but I’d resigned myself to a slow climb toward Arachne’s Exile over the week or two ahead.

Yet within the last few hours, thanks to one incredibly generous backer and a couple of others, we’ve suddenly jumped ahead nearly $450 in a couple of hours, easily pushing us over the top! Arachne’s Exile is funded! The whole duology is now guaranteed to be published, probably close together. Plus Exile has been added to some of the pledge-tier and add-on bonuses as a new option (and if you took…

View original post 362 more words


eSpec Books interviews best-selling science fiction author Christopher L. Bennett, author of Arachne’s Crime (currently funding on Kickstarter), Only Superhuman, Among the Wild Cybers, and a wide array of media tie-in novels.

eS: Hi, Christopher. Thank you for joining us today. Arachne’s Crime has some pretty detailed tech. How much of the tech is extrapolation and how much is technobabble? Please tell us something about the science of your universe.

CB: I’ve always striven to make the science in the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe (as I’ve finally settled on calling it) as authentic as I can. I allow for a little poetic license with things like faster-than-light travel, but I ground them in real theory with a minimum of fudging. The novelette that Arachne’s Crime is expanded from — “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” my first professional sale back in 1998 — was a concept that came out of the science, when I worked out the asteroid defenses an interstellar colony ship would need and wondered what would happen if an alien ship crossed its path.

However, when I wrote the original story, I didn’t know that the science I based it on was outmoded in some respects. For the novel version, I updated the colony ship Arachne from a Bussard ramjet (which would have too much drag against the interstellar medium) to a magnetic sail craft using a system proposed by Jordan Kare and explained by Paul Gilster in his book and namesake website Centauri Dreams. (The original version of “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” is reprinted in Among the Wild Cybers, albeit with some tweaks to ameliorate the credibility problems.) I also got some invaluable science help from my fellow posters on the ExIsle BBS, including Paul Woodmansee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in working out the nature and technical details of the disaster that opens the story.

eS: Where did you come up with the idea for the duology?

CB: When “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact 21 years ago, it generated some lively reader response, in part because it didn’t have the kind of John W. Campbell-style ending (a clear-cut human victory over aliens) that many Analog readers may have been prone to expect. A couple of readers’ assumptions about what might happen after the novelette were so far off from what I had in mind that it got me thinking I should tell the tale of what really did happen next. It took a long time to get there, though.

For quite a while, this was a single long novel that I could never entirely get right. Eventually, when I started thinking about submitting it to smaller publishers, the need to limit the word count made me consider splitting it into two books, and I finally realized it had been two distinct stories crammed together all along, which was probably why various agents and editors had found it lacking in clear focus. Splitting it at the logical breaking point left the first part too short, which gave me the opportunity to flesh out some important parts I’d rushed through before, deepening my exploration of the alien culture featured in Arachne’s Crime before moving on to the larger-scale, more cosmic adventure of Arachne’s Exile.

eS: How does this series interlock with Only Superhuman? Are they a part of the same over-arching reality or separate unto themselves?

CB: The Arachne books, Only Superhuman, the stories in Among the Wild Cybers (excepting “No Dominion”), and the other two Troubleshooter stories (“The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of” from Footprints in the Stars and “Conventional Powers” in Analog) are all part of the same continuity. It’s always been the default continuity where I put everything that I don’t have a reason to put elsewhere, so it hasn’t really had a clear defining theme, though it’s now largely coalesced around the Troubleshooter sequence (basically everything taking place in the Sol system before the mid-22nd century) and the interstellar-era stories that all connect at least tenuously to the Arachne duology, which is why I’ve decided to name it the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe. However, there are some Troubleshooter connections in Arachne due to shared worldbuilding; a few of the novel’s characters come from the Strider (asteroid dweller) civilization of the Troubleshooter stories, and one supporting character is the granddaughter of a lead character from Only Superhuman. There are also some themes and ideas introduced in one of the Troubleshooter stories that come into play in Arachne’s Exile.

Basically, this duology is the linchpin that connects to everything else published in my primary universe to date and thereby gives it the unifying element it lacked before, as well as painting a larger picture of the galaxy that puts the rest in context and gives me a foundation for future storytelling. There are some stories I’ve wanted to write for years but didn’t feel I could move forward until I’d gotten Arachne published to lay the foundations.

eS: Though you are known for your media tie-in work, you have quite a few works of your own creation. Can you tell us about some of your other works?

CB: The Troubleshooter series beginning with Only Superhuman is a hard science fiction superhero series set in the Asteroid Belt in the late 21st and early 22nd century, the wild and woolly frontier era where the lack of unified government and law enforcement creates a void filled by the Troubleshooter Corps, a non-governmental group of transhuman peacekeepers who embrace the trappings of superheroes to earn the trust of the highly nationalist Striders in a way that a more conventional paramilitary force could not. My fellow author Glenn Hauman describes it as “The Expanse with superheroes,” which is a good elevator pitch, though the concept predates The Expanse. I’ve also done three Troubleshooter short stories, including two prequels and one sequel to the novel, and I’m working on a couple of other projects in the series as time permits.

The other stories in Among the Wild Cybers are in a mix of settings from the interplanetary era to the age of FTL expansion across the galaxy. If there’s a unifying theme, it’s the exploration of a basically optimistic future where seemingly intractable problems still arise even when everyone involved is trying to do the right thing, and improvement is won through hard work and hard choices.

Beyond the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe, my other ongoing original creation is the “Hub” series of comedy SF stories published in Analog over the past decade and collected in two books from Mystique Press, Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub.

eS: What authors do you like to read for your own personal enjoyment? And why?

CB: These days I tend to read a lot of comic book collections from the library. I’m particularly fond of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, written by Ryan North, and Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson. In prose, I’ve enjoyed the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan, the memoirs of a naturalist investigating the biology of dragons in an alternate world paralleling the 19th-century age of British exploration.

eS: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

CB: It’s a cliché to say “don’t quit your day job,” but it’s true. I’ve managed to squeak by as a full-time writer thanks to my Star Trek work, but only with a modest lifestyle and little in the way of savings, and it’s become harder in recent years as that work has become less regular. If you aspire to authorship for material reasons rather than the love of the craft, then you’re in the wrong line of work. Only a very few authors get a lot of money out of it.

But if you love writing, then keep at it. Don’t be disheartened by rejection, because it’s a learning opportunity, an incentive to raise your game. It took me five years of submitting stories before I improved enough to make my first sale. And that’s the other thing: Never assume your work is perfect or the criticisms of it are unfair. There’s always room to improve and learn from others. So listen to the critiques you get. Assume they’re meant to help you do better, because they are.

eS: What upcoming projects would you like to tell us about?

CB: All I really have lined up in prose at the moment, besides the Arachne duology, is Star Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier, which is due out in March 2020. It’s the first time in many years that I’ve gotten to return to the post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture time frame I previously explored in Ex Machina, Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again, and portions of Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History.

Beyond that, I have an ongoing gig writing game campaigns for the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game. All my campaigns to date have been published, but I have several more in the outline stage.

eS: What do you do for fun?

CB: Mainly what I’ve been doing for recreation the past year or so is watching a lot of Japanese tokusatsu (live-action superhero/monster) shows, mainly Super Sentai (the franchise Power Rangers is adapted from) and its sister series Kamen Rider. For all their silly, toy-based monsters and weapons and formulaic fight scenes, they often have strikingly sophisticated writing, rich characters, impressive production values and cinematography, and terrific music, and I quite enjoy them.

Christopher L. Bennett

Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati. A fan of science and science fiction since age five, he has spent the past two decades selling original short fiction to magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact (home of his “Hub” series of comedy adventures), BuzzyMag, and Galaxy’s Edge. Since 2003, he has been one of Pocket Books’ most prolific and popular authors of Star Trek tie-in fiction, including the epic Next Generation prequel The Buried Age, the Enterprise — Rise of the Federation series, and the Original Series prequel The Captain’s Oath. He has also written two Marvel Comics novels, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. His original novel Only Superhuman, perhaps the first hard science fiction superhero novel, was voted Library Journal‘s SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month for October 2012. He has three collections reprinting his original short fiction, Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman from eSpec Books (containing an original Only Superhuman prequel novelette) and Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub from Mystique Press. 


We are excited to share with you the newest cover design by Mike McPhail and McPDigital Graphics for our newest release in the Literary Handyman series, Build-A-Book Workshop by Danielle Ackley-McPhail. The book is a guide to the elements of professional book design.

In keeping with the theme, it has been constructed to reflect a blueprint for a book and the designer did an amazing job of capturing what we were looking for!

The image from the original Literary Handyman cover was created by artist Bryan Prindiville and was adapted with his permission to continue the brand.

Cover Spread

Are you starting a new venture as an independent publisher?

Or are you already running a small press and you want to up your game?

Maybe you are an author planning to go it on your own
for whatever reason inspires you.

If any of those apply to you, this book is a good starting point for doing the job.
The Literary Handyman: Build-A-Book Workshop takes decades of experience in book design and layout and parses it into an easy-to-understand blueprint for constructing a book that will only stand out for the best reasons.


Please note, this is a guide to understanding the basic elements of
professional book layout, not a step-by-step tutorial on how to use publishing
or art programs or how to artistically design a book.

Other Books in the series:


Kickstarter DMcPhail

Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (

Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, 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’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and 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 two extremely spoiled cats.

To learn more about her work, visit or www.especbooks


As we get the reading series up and running the posts are going to be rather close together at first so we can populate the playlists, so we are going to be sharing these links in groups of three or so for the time being. Here is the next batch!

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story Turtles All the Way Down from The Die is Cast, edited by Greg Schauer.

Christopher L. Bennett reading from his novel, Arachne’s Crime, which is currently funding on Kickstarter. (We about to fund the second book in the duology, Arachne’s Exile!)

James Chambers reading his short story The Last Great Monologue of Evil Intent from The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer.



eSpec Books interviews best-selling author Keith R.A. DeCandido, co-author of To Hell and Regroup, (co-written with David Sherman and currently funding on Kickstarter) as well as author of The Precinct Series and a wide array of media tie-in novels.

eS: Hi, Keith. Thank you for joining us today. To Hell and Regroup is very decidedly military science fiction. What challenges did you face helping to write it, being of a non-military background?

KRAD: Well, being of a non-military background, mostly. I’ve known enough to fake my way through fictional militaries in the past, in the worlds of places like Star Trek and Farscape and such, but to do a novel that’s almost 100% from the POV of military personnel was on a whole ‘nother level. But I enjoyed that challenge, as it forced me to really up my game. I’ve learned a lot, honestly.

eS: While you have extensive experience with media tie-in work, 18th Race has the added complications of being the third and final book in the series, as well as being co-written with the originator of that series. What was the experience like? How did it differ from your usual types of projects?

KRAD: It’s actually very much like writing a media tie-in, because it’s a world created by someone else, and my responsibility as an author is to write a story that fits in the mode of that universe. So it doesn’t really differ from my tie-in work—or my other work in shared universes like V-Wars and Scattered Earth—hardly at all. I’ve written in forty different universes that other people created, so plugging myself into someone else’s vision is pretty much second nature after 25 years of this…

eS: How much creative input did you have in shaping the storyline? Please tell us a bit about it.

KRAD: David plotted the storyline out and wrote many of the chapters. My main job was to finish the story, and also come up with some of the specific details of the climax beyond the general outline I got from David. All this was done, of course, in consultation with and collaboration with, not just David, but also editor Mike McPhail at eSpec. Both David and Mike are ex-military, unlike my civilian self, so both were very useful at backstopping my screwups.

eS: Though you are known for your media tie-in work, you have quite a few works of your own creation. Can you tell us about some of your other works?

KRAD: I’ve got several original universes I’m working in right now. The biggest is one I’m doing for eSpec, the “Precinct” series of fantasy police procedurals. These books are about two detectives in the Cliff’s End Castle Guard who maintain law and order in the city-state. It’s an epic fantasy setting, but the plots are straight-up mysteries, albeit with fantasy elements. It’s fun to mix the fantasy chocolate with mystery peanut butter. I’ve done five novels so far (the latest is Mermaid Precinct) and a short-story collection, with at least two more novels and another short-story collection due over the next several years.

In addition, I kicked off a new urban fantasy series in 2019, the Bram Gold Adventures, about a guy from the Bronx who hunts monsters for a living. Book 1, A Furnace Sealed, came out in early 2019 from WordFire Press, and I’m working away at Book 2, which doesn’t have a title yet.

I’ve got another fantastical police procedure series, the Super City Cops, which takes place in a modern city that is full of superheroes and super-villains. I’ve got four new novellas in that series coming out soon from Falstaff Books.

Finally, I’m doing a cycle of urban fantasy stories set in Key West, Florida about a woman named Cassie Zukav, who’s a bit of a weirdness magnet. The stories involve scuba diving, rock and roll music, Norse gods, folklore, and beer drinking. The first batch of stories were collected into a book in 2013 from Plus One Press called Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, and once I’ve got enough stories for a second collection, Plus One will release that, as well, which will be called Ragnarok and a Hard Place.

eS: What authors do you like to read for your own personal enjoyment? And why?

KRAD: I’m addicted by Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books. I also love the novels of Carl Hiaasen and George Pelecanos, and also books about baseball.

eS: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

KRAD: Finish what you start. It’s much easier to revise and improve a finished story than it is a fragment. And yes, it’s hard—if it was easy, everyone would do it. This is work—treat it like work, and you’ll have more success.

eS: What upcoming projects would you like to tell us about?

KRAD: Well, the big ones next are Phoenix Precinct and the second Bram Gold book. Beyond that, nothing I can talk about in any detail quite yet…

eS: What do you do for fun?

KRAD: Cook. Watch baseball. Take karate classes at the dojo. Go to museums and zoos and botanical gardens (of which we have many of all three here in New York). Travel.


Keith R.A. DeCandido is a writer and editor of more than three decades’ standing (though he usually does them sitting down). He is the author of more than 50 novels, more than 100 short stories, around 75 comic books, and more nonfiction than he is really willing to count. Included in those credits is fiction in the worlds of Star Trek, Alien, Farscape, Doctor Who, Andromeda, BattleTech, and many other science fiction milieus, as well as in universes of his own creation (such as the “Precinct” series of fantasy police procedurals, also published by the fine folks at eSpec). As an editor, he has worked with dozens of authors, among them Mike W. Barr, Alfred Bester, Margaret Wander Bonanno, Adam-Troy Castro, Peter David, Diane Duane, Harlan Ellison, Tony Isabella, Stan Lee, Tanith Lee, David Mack, David Michelinie, Andre Norton, Robert Silverberg, Dean Wesley Smith, S.P. Somtow, Harry Turtledove, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Roger Zelazny. Having edited David Sherman’s first two 18th Race books, Issue in Doubt and In All Directions, he is honored to assist him in finishing the trilogy by coauthoring To Hell and Regroup with him. Keith is also a martial artist (he got his third-degree black belt in karate in 2017), a musician (currently with the parody band Boogie Knights), and a baseball fan (having avidly followed the New York Yankees since 1976). Find out less about Keith as his cheerfully retro web site at