eSPEC BOOKS AUTHOR READING SERIES – CATCHUP


Wow… hadn’t realized exactly how crazy things had gotten until I discovered it has been eight months since I’ve posted one of these. But by no means has it been eight months since I posted videos. Here’s to getting caught up. I’ll try and do it a little at a time.

Please do Like and Subscribe when you on the playlist enjoying the following videos.

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

Keith R.A. DeCandido reading an excerpt from his novel All-the-Way House, Volume 4 in the Systema Paradoxa series, as featured in Cryptid Crate. https://amzn.to/3tsIOWs (this is an Amazon Associate link.)

There are creatures lurking in our world. Obscure creatures long relegated to myth and legend. They have been sighted by a lucky—or unlucky—few, some have even been photographed, but their existence remains unproven and unrecognized by the scientific community. These creatures, long thought gone, have somehow survived; creatures from our nightmares haunting the dark places. They swim in our lakes and bays, they soar the night skies, they hunt in the woods. Some are from our past, and some from other worlds, and others that have always been with us—watching us, fearing us, hunting us.

These are the cryptids, and Systema Paradoxa tells their tales.

***

When there are talks of a monster sighted in the waves off the Atlantic City boardwalk, Coursers Valentina Perrone and Sarah el-Guindi—supernatural hunters-for-hire—are called in by the local Boss to… handle it. But echoes of the past send them into the heart of the Pine Barrens, where more than one secret hides, along with their answers. Will history repeat itself? Or will the monsters find safe haven? Either way, in the end, they discover there is always more than one way to deal with a problem.

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written several other tales of Coursers (or Slayers) and their work keeping the world safe from supernatural threats, including the novels A Furnace Sealed and the forthcoming Feat of Clay (both from WordFire Press) and the short stories “Under the King’s Bridge” in Liar Liar (Mendacity Press), “Materfamilias” in Bad Ass Moms (Crazy 8 Press), and “Unguarded” in Devilish and Divine (eSpec Books). His other work includes media tie-in fiction in more than thirty different licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as fiction in his own worlds, including fantastical police procedurals in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End and Super City, as well as urban fantasy tales in the somewhat real locales of Key West and New York City. He also writes pop-culture commentary, primarily for the award-winning site Tor.com, but also for various books and magazines. Recent and upcoming work includes the novels Phoenix Precinct (the next in his series of police procedurals in an epic fantasy setting, from eSpec Books), Animal (a thriller written with Dr. Munish K. Batra, from WordFire), To Hell and Regroup (a military science fiction novel written with David Sherman, from eSpec Books), and the aforementioned Feat of Clay; short stories in the anthologies Pangaea Book 3: Redemption (Crazy 8), Footprints in the Stars (eSpec), Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles (Fantastic Books), and Turning the Tied (a charity anthology from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers); and new graphic novels from TokyoPop in the world of Resident Evil, tying into the Netflix animated series Infinite Darkness. Keith is also a third-degree black belt in karate (he both teaches and trains), a professional musician (currently percussionist for the parody band Boogie Knights), an editor of many years’ standing (though he usually does it sitting down), and probably some other stuff he can’t recall due to the lack of sleep. Find out less at his website at DeCandido.net.

Jeff Young reading his short story “The Offering” from his single-author collection Written in Light. https://amzn.to/3sVjasg (this is an Amazon Associate link.)

Eighteen stories that span from the near future to the far, from next door to the deeps of space. Meet aliens who struggle to determine if we are a threat or equals. Discover what really makes us happy. Join the war effort to free the outer planets. Find out how far a man is willing to change to gain a true talent. Uncover the gift and the danger of memories.

Includes the Writer’s of the Future award-winning story “Written in Light.”

About the Author

Jeff Young is a bookseller first and a writer second – although he wouldn’t mind a reversal of fortune. He is an award-winning author who has contributed to the anthologies: Writers of the Future V.26, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, Man and Machine, In Harm’s Way, If We Had Known, After Punk, In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, Clockwork Chaos, Gaslight and Grimm, Fantastic Futures 13, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson, TV Gods & TV Gods: Summer Programming and the forthcoming Beer, Because Your Friend’s Aren’t That Interesting. Jeff’s own fiction is collected in Spirit Seeker and TOI Special Edition 2 – Diversiforms. He has also edited the Drunken Comic Book Monkey line, TV Gods and TV Gods –Summer Programming and now serves as the CMO for Fortress Publishing, Inc. He has led the Watch the Skies SF&F Discussion Group of Camp Hill and Harrisburg for more than eighteen years. Jeff is also the proprietor of Helm Haven, the online Etsy and Ebay shops, costuming resources for Renaissance and Steampunk.

The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Will McDermott reading an excerpt from Chapter One of his novel Soulless Fury, a part of the Necromunda series, by Black Library https://amzn.to/3cVnALq (this is an Amazon Associate link.)

No one knows murder like Mad Donna. Where she goes, death follows – she is a force of nature, leaving devastated settlements and shell casings in her wake. But even Necromunda has its limits for senseless, unsanctioned violence. Scrutinator Primus Servalen, armed with the personal seal of Lord Helmawr – to which no request can be denied and no door barred – is dispatched to bring the misbegotten scion of House Ulanti to justice, but first she has to track her down… and how do you find one murderer in amongst the bloodshed of the Underhive?

About the Author

Will McDermott turned an early love of mystery, fantasy, and games into a career. He has published eight novels and sixteen short stories, and helped create innumerous worlds, characters, and stories for card, board, and video games. His fiction is often set in gaming universes, including Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer 40K, and Mage Wars. He is known for bringing larger-than-life characters alive on the page, including Warhammer’s Kal Jerico and Mad D’onne, Magic’s Balthor the Stout, and the Night Stalker’s Carl Kolchak (who can be found in the pages of Will’s upcoming Night Stalker novel, Strangled By Death, coming in March 2021). Find out more at willmcdermott.com. Follow him on Instagram at @w_mcdermott.

Mike Allen reading an excerpt from his story “The Cruelest Team Will Win” from the Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19, https://amzn.to/3hYeWwL

In the midst of the 2020 shutdown, Ravencon had to cancel a mere three weeks before their event, after they had spent their budget on the space and supplies needed to run the convention. This anthology will help make up the loss so that the event can return once in-person events are safe.

About the Author

Two-time World Fantasy Award finalist Mike Allen edits and publishes the Mythic Delirium Books imprint. His short stories have been gathered in three collections: his Shirley Jackson Award-nominated debut Unseaming; The Spider Tapestries; and newly-released Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella “The Comforter,” a sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated horror story “The Button Bin,” has just appeared in an anthology of four dark long-form tales, A Sinister Quartet. He’s also a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry. You can follow Mike’s exploits as a writer at descentintolight.com, as an editor at mythicdelirium.com, and all at once on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.

KICKSTARTER UPDATE – DAIRE’S DEVILS – 10/16/21


We are past the halfway point in the campaign, going slow but steady. Now is when we settle back and try not to obsess, and occupy ourselves get started on the production work. This time around we are creating the characters and making them our own–and when I say we, I actually mean Mike McPhail (McP Digital Graphics). Here is an amazing test render he’s done with the character of Kat, branded with custom squad icon and name and rank. These are just early test shots, so some change is possible, but I love being able to *see* this soldier I have gotten to know so well. Now when I read over the book looking for any errors we all missed, I see her face.

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If you want to be among the first to hear Kat’s story, it’s not too late to get in on the campaign. We are working our way through the stretch goals, and there are stills some backer bonuses left to be had. You can check it out at DAIRE’S DEVILS. We are just $135 away from unlocking a custom embroidered version of that bad-ass squad patch on Kat’s arm.

KICKSTARTER UPDATE – DAIRE’S DEVILS


Yes! We have just unlocked our first stretch goal, scoring all backers pledging $5 or more a free digital copy of Christopher J. Burke’s In a Flash 2020. We are also just 30 backers away from achieving our second early backer bonus, where the first 100 backers receive a free digital copy of The Die is Cast, edited by Greg Schauer, with stories by Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

But what we are *really* excited about is our next stretch goal. We are just $372 away from unlocking our next production goal: a full-color custom embroidered patch based on the squad icon from Daire’s Devils. This would represent the unofficial squad icon that the team designed themselves, rather than one assigned them in an official capacity by military command. The company we use is American Patch Company. If you’ve seen the patches we’ve produced in the past, you know they do amazing work!

Patch Comparison

The white version is the original icon that prefaced the Daire’s Devils stories that appeared in the Defending the Future anthologies edited by Mike McPhail, the color version is the redesign McP Digital graphics produced based on the novel. This is the version that will be turned into an actual patch. It will automatically be added to every physical reward over $100, and will also be added to the add-on section of the campaign. That is going to make one sweet addition to our patch collection… and hopefully yours,  as well!

To check out the campaign and get in on the action, visit Daire’s Devils: Give the Enemy Hell!

COVER REVEAL – BEST LAID PLANS


This one is something of a reboot. Best Laid Plans, edited by Mike McPhail, was the fifth volume in the Defending the Future series, originally published by another publisher and since out of print because that publisher went under. This happened to a number of books we were affiliated with and some of them we just let go because we weren’t in a position to do anything about it at the time. 

Well, we’ve had a number of requests for this one, and situations have changed, so here we go!


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No (battle) plan survives contact with the enemy. Winning a war has never been just a cold collection of numbers on a tally sheet. The Faiths always play their part in fifteen stories exploring when things go wrong.

With stories by James Chambers, Nancy Jane Moore, Maria V. Snyder, Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry), Bud Sparhawk, Peter Prellwitz, John L. French, Jeff Young, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Sherman, Jeffrey Lyman, Judi Fleming, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Eric V. Hardenbrook, and CJ Henderson.

“The “things go awry” theme makes for a great book, spotlighting the ingenuity and plucky wit that has long been a hallmark of science fiction. Pick this one up!” Sam Tomaino, Space and Time


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Author and editor Mike McPhail is the co-owner of eSpec Books LLC, Electronic Speculative Fiction Publishing (since 2014). 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 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 artist, as well as supporting related organization in their efforts to help those “who have given their all for us.”

SNEAK PEEK – DAIRE’S DEVILS


This post is something a little different. We are working with Mike McPhail of McP Digital Graphics on the cover for Daire’s Devils by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and for the first time ever we are creating from scratch characters specific to the book and universe.

These are just early character concepts, but I give you Master Sergeant Kevin “Sarge” Daire, Corporal Katrion “HellKat” Alexander, and Tech Sergeant Jackson “Scotch” Daniels of the 142nd Special Operations Team, better known as Daire’s Devils!Daires-Devils-2

We posted this excerpt yesterday if you want a taste of the story: eSPEC EXCERPTS – DAIRE’S DEVILS

The book is currently funding on Kickstarter and we would love to see you among the supporters.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – DAIRE’S DEVILS


This one is so new we don’t even have a cover yet. Heck, the book is still funding on Kickstarter (Hint…Hint…) but we’ve enjoyed Daire’s Devils by Danielle Ackley-McPhail so much, we really wanted to share it with you while you still had a chance to get in on the action. This is an action-packed, character-driven military science fiction novel based on the Alliance Archives MRPG developed by Mike McPhail in the early ’80s. 


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Chapter 1

Corporal Katrion Alexander could see no stars.

Well, not from the command deck of the Groom Experimental Complex, anyway. The filter of the protective shielding and the harsh electric glare lighting the compartment rendered anything that would have been visible to her unaided eye imperceptible. Two hundred and seventy degrees of pure, inky black surrounded her. That’s why she liked being in space so much lately. It matched her mood.

Like tonight, for instance, brand-new to this post, she’d barely been on the station two hours when the officer of the watch tapped her to cover a shift for someone named Simmons who had reported to sickbay. Kat hadn’t even requisitioned her kit from stores yet.

What a classic SNAFU. Everything was off-kilter. Schedules delayed, launch sequences misaligned, posts vacant. With typical military efficiency, everyone’s signals had been crossed. Kat had a recall out for the deck crew mistakenly given liberty, but she didn’t hold much hope they’d surface. Just as well. She could use the solitude, and one command console operated pretty much like any other in the military. The United States Aerospace Command, or AeroCom, favored consistency… in their tech, anyway. Besides, she’d opted for computer infiltration specialist for her military occupational specialty. There wasn’t a system in service or development she couldn’t run, take apart, or break into.

She was familiarizing herself with this particular setup when a change in the outside ambiance drew her attention.

“Oh, mercy!” She let out an appreciative breath as the ship she’d just cleared for departure came into view directly overhead. If the flight path hadn’t crossed a few klicks above her observation dome, she likely wouldn’t have seen the ship’s movement. The Galloway, a prototype Chamberlain-class attack vessel built and outfitted right here at the research-and-development end of the station, blended into the texture of space. Her running lights flickered, the only glimmer against the darkness, barely illuminating the dull matte finish of the hull in microbursts. The black surface’s engineered tincture all but absorbed the flashes, further dampened by the almost cellular hatch markings engraved on the ablative hull plating. The ultimate in space camo for ships. AeroCom’s systems registered the vessel—they knew what to look for—but, as of yet, no one else could. If it weren’t for alert beacons used during conventional flight, the ship would have been a hazard. Shielded against every form of observation short of up-close visual sight, the vessel represented a covert marvel, the prize of any fleet. The trade-off to achieve the equivalent of a sniper ship: the Galloway sacrificed heavier armor for speed, advanced stealth, and weaponry. So, basically, she wasn’t any more difficult to disable than her less stealthy counterparts once the adversary knew her coordinates.

Of course… by then, it was theoretically too late.

Ping. Ping.

Kat didn’t even twitch as the comm system alert tone sounded through the chamber. That would be Tac Stanton, commander of the Alexi, the ship that should have been the next to deploy. Let him stew. She’d encountered him before. Never a pleasant experience. In fact, he seemed to go out of his way to be as difficult as possible, no matter the situation. He should be grateful his ship was getting out of here any time this solar week, given the mess she’d had to sort through when she came on shift.

As the Galloway deployed, Kat’s gut flared with the burn of pre-battle tension. She should be on that ship. Instead, they’d stuck her on this station while others… while her team went off to patrol the stars.

The resentment still burned raw. She had just climbed from the ranks of combat infantry to special ops, only to be notified that she had psych-tested out of her team after only a month. Kat expected that her mother actually had something to do with that ruling. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d called in favors to interfere with Kat’s “reckless” career choices. Hell, Kat had journeyed all the way to the Tau Ceti star system to enlist with AeroCom. Not that the distance had proven completely successful. Kat had more than enough points to have earned her sergeant’s stripes but Mother had her papers so tied up in red tape that Kat might be retired before she ranked up. Not that she had any proof of that, beyond past experience…

In any case, for reasons military command wouldn’t explain, they had given Kat two options: punch a keypad, or push a broom. Rebelliously, she’d nearly grabbed for the broom. Let them waste years of intensive military training and proven combat experience, right along with her multi-million-dollar transport fee.

Only her honor stood in the way of such retaliation. She had sworn an oath to stand between the common people and the harm they might suffer from not only the Legion but at the hands of pirates and corporations and the faceless, as-yet-undiscovered dangers lurking in space. AeroCom might have forgotten this. Kat could not.

Kat swallowed her bitterness and grudgingly accepted her unsought role of station support staff. She would diligently work every shift she could pull to bring her closer to the day she earned her ticket home. Heck, she hadn’t even unpacked her duffle before she clocked in on the roster. She’d still have to stick around until she served her tour, but at least she’d have a ride out of here at the end.

The alert tone sounded once again, somehow seeming more insistent. Again, Kat ignored it. Only an emergency signal obligated Control to respond to hails from vessels waiting in the queue, and this gave no indication of an emergency.

Hands splayed over the keypad—set below flush, into the hip-high console—she entered the final release sequence and sent the Galloway off ahead of schedule with a silent salute. After all, the timetable was already screwed up. The quicker they departed, the sooner she could adjust to her exile. The vessel drifted the proscribed distance before engaging its drive system. From the command deck, her sensors registered the telltale vapors bubbling in the ship’s wake as the Galloway initiated its electrogravitic drive envelope.

With her brown eyes burning, she smothered her resentment anew. Her team—the 142nd Mobile Special Operations Team, informally known as Daire’s Devils—counted among the vessel’s complement of regular troops and special ops teams. Though she had been the newest member of her team, they already felt like family. Being parted from them stung like a betrayal. Whether on her part, theirs, or the bureaucracy’s, she couldn’t say, but it didn’t sit well. Had she rung out of training, no one would have blamed her for knowing her limitations. But to have her superiors determine her—an experienced operative—substandard didn’t sit well. To be labeled, out of all those in her team, as unacceptable, and not even know why…

Her fingers clawed the console housing, thankfully in no danger of triggering the recessed keypads. With a deep breath and hard discipline, she forced her bitterness back into its crater and mentally rolled a rock over it. She then turned her focus back to the task at hand.

With the Galloway clear, she began to process the next vessel. This time, she opened the channel as the alert tone persisted.

“You incompetent fool! Can’t you follow a deployment schedule?”

Kat’s lips tightened into a thin, hard line and her hands fisted reflexively. Her mood darkened even further at the thought of dealing with the notorious Commander Tac Stanton. Pompous ass. They had had dealings with one another when she’d shipped to the Tau Ceti system, and occasionally since then. She would never understand how such a slug had risen to command level.

“A glitch in the deployment systems required minor adjustments to get things back on track, commander,” she responded across the open channel in her own carefully neutral tone.

“Glitch?! Station Commander Trask will—”

Kat cut him off. “The Alexi’s next in the queue. Is your vessel ready to deploy? If not, I can process the incoming Hirobon transport…”

“Yes!” he snapped out the single word hard and tight, cutting her off. “We are more than ready.” Kat’s eyes narrowed. Stanton was way too worked up over a simple delay, even for him.

“Commencing pre-deployment scans, now… position your craft for launch,” she instructed him as she reviewed the datafeed for anomalies. She noted a small mass registering out near Tagalong, just cresting the planetesimal’s horizon. She initiated second-tier scans, but they revealed no recognizable mechanics or transmissions. Density analysis suggested low mineral content and no ferrous deposits. Just a rock… roughly the size—if not the shape—of a good-sized yacht. It fell outside of the scheduled flight path, so she made a note of her observations and beamed a copy of the report to the Alexi’s flight crew, along with their release codes.

“You are clear to deploy.”

She did not linger to watch this vessel. Turning back to her monitors, she started on the next flight plan. She didn’t get far. The console in front of her registered an unauthorized communications burst tight-beamed to the station. It ended before she could intercept it through one of the perimeter sensors.

Probably Stanton griping to Trask because she’d made him wait.

Great. She’d been on-station only a few hours and the first complaint had already been added to her docket.

Kat shrugged off her annoyance. She might not be happy with the turn her career had taken, but she had duties to fulfill and too much honor not to care. Turning back toward the transparent shielding that allowed her a direct visual of her domain, Kat scanned the deep-black oblivion. Toward her distant left, in the direction the Alexi had launched, she saw a ghostly glimmer, like the after-image of a camera flash, and nothing else. Had the Alexi had enough time to engage its drive and rocket out of range? Kat didn’t think so. The older vessel ran with fusion impulse engines.

Something didn’t feel right. Kat sequenced a full-system scan, engaging all the remote sensors linked to her console. Reviewing the ’feed as it processed, her every muscle tightened like the steady ripple of a python’s coils. She sent a secure quick-burst query to the Alexi’s comm and waited for the security-coded confirmation.

The deck comm remained silent.

If her dark brown hair wasn’t already bristle-brush short, it would have stood on end. Adrenaline sharp-focused her thoughts in an instant. A growl rumbled in her throat. Her left hand reflexively itched for her gauss rifle, currently locked away in a weapons locker aboard the Galloway, probably already assigned to someone else. Instead, she hit the print button on her console, and the report scrolled out on a thin slice of durable acrylisheet. The hardcopy confirmed her suspicions. Readings showed no sign that the Alexi had initiated its drive system. The ship couldn’t have moved beyond visual on conventional thrusters. It definitely should still be within hailing range.

“Control to Commander Trask,” she sent out a hail to the station commander. Precious minutes passed with no response. She needed his clearance to initiate High Alert status. “Control to Commander Trask, please come in, sir,” she repeated as she keyed in an urgency code linked to the message.

Still no response. Her internal alarms went into overdrive. On station, there was no time Trask could call completely his own. Moments of crisis superseded everything. Station commanders were always online, their personal comms bonejacked directly into their jaw, just below the ear, same as ships’ captains or elite military squads. Her hand went to the site of her now-deactivated, subdermal comm. She missed the buzzing sensation of someone’s words transmitting along her jaw. Sometimes, she thought she felt the faint vibration indicating a live feed, but she attributed that to wishful thinking.

Kat set the hail on auto-replay. Then, uncertain of the commander’s status, and faced with a high probability of threat to station security, she snapped into action without command authorization, a risky choice. Flipping open the cap that covered the alert toggle, she notched it to the next level, setting off a klaxon throughout the security zones of the station. No need to panic the civvies… yet.

Not three minutes after the alarm sounded the station’s first defense, a wing of Condor-class scout vessels jetted from their hangars like canned air from a hull breach.

“Control to Wing Command, do you copy?”

“Mustang Sally readin’ you loud and clear, Control, where we headin’?”

Neither the flatness of the transmission nor the gravity of the situation took the color out of the pilot’s irrepressible Texas twang. Finally, a friendly voice. And bonus, one clearly from Earth. Kat allowed herself the briefest of smiles and responded, “Spread your wing out in a vector scan of quadrant 0689Alpha looking for unaccounted debris, followed by a deep-space scan from that location targeting the vessel Alexi, ident-code ND-061. Presume hostiles are in the area. Should you make contact with the Alexi, secure absolute confirmation of the ship’s status. Over.”

“Gotcha, Sally off.” As they headed for the coordinates she beamed to them, Kat initiated the High Alert protocol.

Her fingers flew over the keypad. First, she punched in the locator sequence keyed to Commander Trask. A schematic of the station appeared on the monitor before her. The spiraling design corkscrewed around a central maintenance tube, with pairs of directional thrusters running along the coils’ outer edges. The Command, or C-deck, in the head, angled out into space to allow Control an unobstructed view of the docking area, the shipyard, and most approach vectors, with auxiliary C-decks at key points along the complex.

Commander Trask’s designation did not register on any coil.

Nervous tension sizzled the length of her. No way Trask had left the station. From just the short time she’d spent in his presence as she handed over her orders, she recognized him as too hardcore, too dedicated. She sent a priority-coded message to the head of station security, with a secondary request to search for the commander once they had confirmed the station secure from outside threat.

Extremely uneasy, Kat took the perimeter sensors off standby and set them to full sector scan. One keystroke transformed the transparent observation dome into a split-screen display, allowing her to view the Groom Experimental Complex’s total perimeter via the remote sensors while monitoring the constant datafeed. She then initiated the security fields around the station defense hubs and essential operations. The personnel manning those stations ran through their own checklists. She initiated next-stage High Alert protocols, triggering orders activating all security squads, off-duty and on. Incoming and outgoing ship traffic paused—which caused more than a little uproar until Kat turned off the non-station transmissions—and all station personnel were on standby, waiting, as her PawPaw would say, for the shit to hit the fan.


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 husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).

Her published works include seven novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, Daire’s Devils, 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, The Fox’s Fire, The Kindly One, 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.

KICKSTARTER ALERT – DAIRE’S DEVILS


It has been a while, folks. An entire year since we ran a Kickstarter campaign (loooong story). We have broken our dry streak! We just launched DAIRE’S DEVILS: Give the Enemy Hell, funding a brand-new military science fiction novel by Danielle Ackley-McPhail! About an hour in and we are nearly a third funded already. Can you check it out, maybe help us spread the word? 

In addition to the novel, the stretch goals include two science fiction collections by James Chambers, custom patches, and the re-release of Best Laid Plans, volume five of the Defending the Future anthology series.

We don’t have cover art yet, but here is an early concept of the squad patch, and the promo copy for the book:

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Give ’em Hell!

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

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

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

COVER REVEAL – THE CLOCKWORK SOLUTION


This has been awhile in coming, but let me tell you, well worth the wait! We are delighted to share with you the cover for Michelle D. Sonnier’s The Clockwork Solution, sequel to her debut novel, The Clockwork Witch. Artwork by Mike McPhail/McP Digital Graphics. The book will release in Spring 2022, but we will have a lovely excerpt for you soon.


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The Legacy of the Sortilege Line

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

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

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

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


Michelle D. Sonnier

Michelle D. Sonnier writes dark urban fantasy, steampunk, and anything else that lets her combine the weird and the fantastic in unexpected ways. She even writes horror, although it took her a long time to admit that since she prefers the existential scare over blood and gore. She’s published short stories in a variety of print and online venues, and has upcoming projects with eSpec Books and Otter Libris. You can find her on Facebook (Michelle D. Sonnier, The Writer). She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a variable number of cats. The Clockwork Witch is her first full-length novel.

COVER REVEALS


Yes… plural. We’ve been a little busy getting ready for ChessieCon in November. We will be having a special launch event that will include two of our Systema Paradoxa books, which just went to press in preparation. The books will not release until February 2022, but con goers will get an early shot at these volumes. One of the books, Chessie at Bay, by John L. French, was written specifically for the convention and features the local cryptid the convention was named for. And Maryland resident Robert E. Waters is going to make a special trip to the convention to showcase his upcoming volume, Eyes of the Wolf. We hope you will join us all in this celebration.

First, a bit on the Systema Paradoxa Series, which was created in conjunction with the Cryptid Crate monthly subscription box to feature cryptids that don’t receive as much attention:

There are creatures lurking in our world. Obscure creatures long relegated to myth and legend. They have been sighted by a lucky—or unlucky—few, some have even been photographed, but their existence remains unproven and unrecognized by the scientific community.

These creatures, long thought gone, have somehow survived; creatures from our nightmares haunting the dark places. They swim in our lakes and bays, they soar the night skies, they hunt in the woods. Some are from our past, and some from other worlds, and others that have always been with us—watching us, fearing us, hunting us.

These are the cryptids, and Systema Paradoxa tells their tales.

(Each cover, with its encyclopedic style, features original artwork by Jason Whitley.)


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Same ol’ Syn, all new mischief…

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

Something is out there, frightening fish and fishermen alike.

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


John L. French

JOHN L. FRENCH is a retired crime scene supervisor with forty years’ experience. He has seen more than his share of murders, shootings, and serious assaults. As a break from the realities of his job, he started writing science fiction, pulp, horror, fantasy, and, of course, crime fiction.

John’s first story “Past Sins” was published in Hardboiled Magazine and was cited as one of the best Hardboiled stories of 1993. More crime fiction followed, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, the Fading Shadows magazines and in collections by Barnes and Noble. Association with writers like James Chambers and the late, great C.J. Henderson led him to try horror fiction and to a still growing fascination with zombies and other undead things. His first horror story “The Right Solution” appeared in Marietta Publishing’s Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak. Other horror stories followed in anthologies such as The Dead Walk and Dark Furies, both published by Die Monster Die Books. It was in Dark Furies that his character Bianca Jones made her literary debut in “21 Doors,” a story based on an old Baltimore legend and a creepy game his daughter used to play with her friends.

John’s first book was The Devil of Harbor City, a novel done in the old pulp style. Past Sins and Here There Be Monsters followed. John was also consulting editor for Chelsea House’s Criminal Investigation series. His other books include The Assassins’ Ball (written with Patrick Thomas), Souls on Fire, The Nightmare Strikes, Monsters Among Us, The Last Redhead, the Magic of Simon Tombs, and The Santa Heist (written with Patrick Thomas). John is the editor of To Hell in a Fast Car, Mermaids 13, C. J. Henderson’s Challenge of the Unknown, Camelot 13 (with Patrick Thomas), and (with Greg Schauer) With Great Power

 You can find John on Facebook or you can email him at him at jfrenchfam@aol.com.


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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.


Robert Waters 2020Robert 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 designer, producer, and writer. In the late 90’s, he tried his hand at writing fiction, and since 2003, has sold over 7 novels and 80 stories to various on-line 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 which includes the novels The Masks of Mirada and The Thief of Cragsport (Ring of Fire Press).

For e-Spec 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 which 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.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – DEMONTECH: THE LAST CAMPAIGNS


Welcome to another sneak peek at what we are up to! Today we have an excerpt from David Sherman’s recently released Demontech: The Last Campaigns, a collection of reprinted DemonTech shorts including “Surrender or Die”, “Delaying Action” and the novella, Get Her Back!. Our excerpt is specifically from the latter.

Also, for those of you with NetGalley accounts, this book is available for review copy request this month: DemonTech.


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CHAPTER ONE

 “What did you say?”

Startled, the newly arrived refugee jerked around to look toward the demanding voice. He blinked at the sight that met his eyes—a magnificently beautiful woman, golden from crown to toe. The spun-gold color of her hair, the amber of her eyes, and the honey-sunshine glow of her copiously exposed skin combined to deceive the eye into seeing her clothing as golden as well, although she wore nothing of gold. The fillet that held her hair in place was a simple leather strip. The short vest that didn’t quite close between her breasts, and the pantaloons that hugged her hips so low as to leave her entire midriff open to the air before billowing gracefully about her legs were all a parti-colored patchwork.

“L-Lady!” the refugee stammered. Even though no lady he’d ever caught a glimpse of dressed so like a houri, this woman’s bearing was such that she could only be a lady. He snatched his cap from his head and held it crushed in his hands. “I said—I said that I heard the music of a sothar before I escaped from the Desert Nomads’ camp.”

The golden woman thrust her face close to his. “Did you see the musician? Was he with a dancer?”

The refugee took an involuntary step backward. “N-No, Lady.I only heard the music.”

The woman stepped forward to keep her face close to his. “Did you see a dancer with this musician?” she repeated.

“N-No, Lady. As I said, I only heard the music.”

“Then how do you know it was a sothar that you heard?” she demanded, staying close to intimidate the man.

“I-I’m a merchant seaman, Lady. One time my s-ship made port in Frangeria. I saw a Djerwolh dancer, and heard her musician.  Sh-She,” he took two brisk steps back so he could look more widely at this woman, “she looked a lot like you, only her clothes were gold.” His face reddened as he contrasted the lady’s splendid patchwork with his own seaman’s rags.

The woman stood erect and stared hard at the refugee. After a short moment she demanded, “Where is the Desert Nomads’ camp that you escaped from?”

The refugee swallowed. “In the High Desert. Three or four days walk from here. Maybe more. I wasn’t keeping track of how long I ran.” He swallowed again. “I ran and walked, and napped when I found safe places to stop.” He shook his head. “I can’t even say how many times I ate, I only ate what little I could grab as I ran.”

“I don’t care how many times you ate,” she snapped. “I want you to tell me where the camp is!”

The seaman swallowed. “I think th-three or four days w-west of here.”

“Then you will guide me to the place. Prepare to leave at first light.” The woman, Alyline, also called “the Golden Girl,” spun on her heel and strode toward the wagon that held her belongings.

The refugee looked after her, gape-mouthed, for a long moment, then spun around and ran, looking for a hiding place. There was no way he was going to return to the camp of the fierce nomads of the High Desert.

CHAPTER TWO

The long column compressed as it stopped for the night. With close to eight thousand people together on the move, fleeing before the invading Jokapcul army that had already conquered half the continent, it took time for the column to telescope closed. And for those who had them to erect tents. That meant the end of the marching day had to come correspondingly early. Spinner, one of the two Frangerian Marines in charge of the refugee train, fretted over the lost marching time. He knew that the enemy forces had to be getting ever closer behind them; those forces would be marching faster than the refugees were moving. He didn’t want the train caught before it reached the safety that was offered by the city of Handor’s Bay.

Well, the early halt did give time for a commander’s call before dinner, which was a benefit.

Spinner had spent the day as was his want, riding a horse up and down the length of the column, seeing and being seen in his familiar double-reversible, four-sided cloak, which he wore red-side-out for increased visibility as he moved along the column. Spinner didn’t simply see the people and be seen by them, he talked to them as well. “Do you have enough food?” he asked. “Do you have enough to drink?” “Do you have clothing other than what you are wearing?” “Is anybody in your group ill? Injured?” Everybody knew him by sight, not only from his red-side-out cloak, but also by his slightly taller than average height and his dusky complexion.

A time or two he had to settle a dispute, but not as often as he had when the column was much shorter. Now the people were too tired from the long trek to fight among themselves.

When Spinner returned from his final circuit of the day, the tent he shared with Haft, with whom he shared leadership, the largest and richest-looking tent in the train, was already set up.

Spinner, as always, shook his head when he saw the tent.  He thought it was far too grand for use in a refugee train. But the others in the command group thought that he and Haft, as the leaders, needed symbols to make it clear to everybody that they were in charge. The big tent was such a symbol.

In recent weeks the command group had grown too large to meet inside the tent, so a circle of campstools was set up in front of it. Fletcher, Zweepee, and Xundoe the mage were already there when Spinner reached the tent—they must have set out the stools. He saw the company commanders arriving. There was Captain Geatwe, who still wore the blue tabard of the Zobran Prince’s Swords; Captain Mearh in the yellow of the Zobran Light Horse; Captain Phard wore the bear fur-trimmed maroon-striped tabard of the Skraglander Bloody Axes; and Sergeant Rammer, the training commander, distinguished by his Frangerian Marine reversible, double-sided cloak, worn mottled-green-side out, with its gilt rank chevrons on its shoulders.

Alone among the company commanders, Rammer had refused to accept an officer’s rank. He had been the commander of the Marine contingent on the ship Sea Horse, and Spinner and Haft had been part of his unit. They were separated when the Jokapcul attacked the port of New Bally; while Rammer was captured, Spinner and Haft managed to escape. By the time they were reunited on the north side of the Princedon Gulf, Spinner and Haft were leading several thousand refugees, many of whom either were soldiers or were being trained. Everybody knew that under the circumstances, Sergeant Rammer had to be subordinate to the two men who had been under his command.

Spinner knew it would be a few more minutes before Haft showed up; he had to come all the way from the rear guard where he spent most of his time on the march. And he knew that Silent, of the giant nomads of the Northern Steppes, was, as he usually was, ranging far afield on a reconnaissance.

As soon as Spinner dismounted a hostler took the reins of his horse and led it off to be curried and fed. Spinner suppressed a grimace—he thought that a horseman should see to his own mount. But this was another instance where the rest of the command group thought that the leaders needed the symbolism of having someone else take care of mundane matters. He stifled a groan when he eased himself onto his campstool, one of only three that had a back. The other two were currently empty. Haft would sit in one when he arrived, and the other…

“Where’s Alyline?” he asked. “I haven’t seen her all day. And where’s Doli? She’s usually one of the first here.”

The others looked questioningly at each other. But none of them knew where the Golden Girl was, or could recall having seen her that day.

“Here comes Doli,” Rammer said, nodding in the direction of the column’s end. “And it looks like she’s bringing someone with her.”

Doli was indeed bringing someone, dragging him along by the scruff of his shirt collar like a disruptive student being hauled by his teacher to the headmaster’s office. The man may have once been a seaman, if the cut and colors of his ragged clothes were to be believed.

Doli marched with an unaccustomed firmness to the center of the circle and halted in front of Spinner. The man whose collar she clutched dropped to his knees and whipped off his sailor’s cap to twist between his hands.

“Are you aware that Alyline is gone, that she has left the caravan?” Doli demanded of Spinner.

“What?” Spinner shouted, leaping to his feet. “Where did she go? When did this happen?” He looked about for his gear, ready to take off after the Golden Girl. Doli slammed the flat of her palm into the middle of his chest and he plopped back into his chair with a startled expression on his face.

“We were just talking about that,” Rammer said dryly, “wondering where she—and you—were.”

“This one claims to know.” Doli sniffed, nudging the one-time sailor with her knee. “Tell him what you told me,” she ordered.

“L-Lord—,” the man began, tugging his forelock and bobbing a bow at Rammer.

“Don’t tell me,” Rammer interrupted, “tell him,” and jerked a thumb toward Spinner.

The man was briefly confused, he’d sailed enough to have seen the uniforms of the Frangerian Marines. He didn’t understand why the older Frangerian with the sergeant’s rank insignia deferred to the younger one, whose only insignia was the trident-bearing merman riding on the waves that held his cloak closed at the neck. The lack of any other insignia indicated that he was very junior indeed. But he quickly recovered. It wasn’t up to him to wonder why the man who looked most like a commander deferred to someone who clearly looked to be his junior.

“L-Lord,” he began again, this time addressing Spinner. “Last eve a woman most beauteous and golden accosted me. She had me repeat what she’d overheard me say about hearing a sothar being played. Then she demanded that I take her to that place.” He averted his eyes while speaking, and hung his head at the end.

“But you didn’t take her?” Spinner growled.

“N-No, Lord.” The man cringed, not sure admitting that he hadn’t done the Golden Girl’s bidding wouldn’t get him into trouble.

“Good,” Spinner said with a whoosh of relief, thinking that Alyline must be somewhere nearby.

“How do you know she went without you?” Fletcher asked.

“L—, S-Sir,” he said hesitantly, unsure how to address this third person, “I hid last night so the lady c-couldn’t find me and make me g-go with her this morn. But I hid in a p-place wh-where I could see her leave.”

“Now for the most important question,” Rammer said, looking directly at Spinner.

“Where did she go?” Spinner asked, needing to know, but unsure that he wanted to. “And did she go alone?”

“She went to the High Desert, Lord.” The man paused to moisten his suddenly dry mouth and throat. “Seeking the camp of the Desert Nomads.”

Rammer grinned wickedly and leaned toward the man. “That’s why you hid, isn’t it,” he said. “You escaped from the Desert Nomads, didn’t you? And you’re afraid to go back to their camp. Now, tell us who was with the Golden Girl. Surely she didn’t leave by herself.”

“N-No, Sir, she wasn’t alone. There was small troop of mounted men with her.” He hesitated, then added, “They wore blue surcoats.”

All eyes turned to Captain Geatwe. There were blue-clad horsemen in his company.

Geatwe dropped his head into his hands. He sighed, then looked up. “Was their blue the same as mine, or was it a light blue?” he asked.

“It was much lighter than yours, Sir.” The seaman paused for a moment’s thought, then added, “They carried lances instead of great swords like the one you have.”

Geatwe shook his head and mumbled, “When I didn’t see all of them this morning, I thought they had gone ahead to scout the way.”

Rammer asked, “Are they in the habit of going ahead without letting you know?”

“Sometimes,” Geatwe admitted.

“We’ll have to do something about that,” Rammer murmured, “when we get them back. If we get them back.”

Spinner seemed to look inward for a moment, then looked at the sailor and said, “You wouldn’t guide Alyline, and that’s good because now you can guide me to that nomad camp.”

Ignoring the man’s wailing insistence that he didn’t think he could find the Desert Nomads’ camp again, Spinner stood up to make his preparations for going into the High Desert. Before he even got out of the circle, though, he had to stop because Haft arrived, and Spinner had to tell him what was happening.


David Sherman

David Sherman is the author or co-author of some three dozen books, most of which are about Marines in combat.

He has written about US Marines in Vietnam (the Night Fighters series and three other novels), and the DemonTech series about Marines in a fantasy world. The 18th Race trilogy is military science fiction.

Other than military, he wrote a non-conventional vampire novel, The Hunt, and a mystery, Dead Man’s Chest. He has also released a collection of short fiction and non-fiction from early in his writing career, Sherman’s Shorts; the Beginnings.

With Dan Cragg he wrote the popular Starfist series and its spin off series, Starfist: Force Recon—all about Marines in the Twenty-fifth Century.; and a Star Wars novel, Jedi Trial.

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

After going to war as a U.S. Marine infantryman, and spending decades writing about young men at war, he’s burnt out on the subject and has finally come home. Today he’s writing short fiction, mostly steampunk and farcical fantastic Westerns.

He lives in sunny South Florida, where he doesn’t have to worry about hypothermia or snow-shoveling-induced heart attacks. He invites readers to visit his website, novelier.com.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW – DANIELLE ACKLEY-McPHAIL (REBLOG)


Danielle Ackley-McPhailSean Taylor of the Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action blog is running a month-long feature on eSpec Authors, starting with yours truly. To read the interview and get into my twisted inner thoughts, click on the link!

More interviews will be available every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday during the month of August. Maybe even more, if other authors step up to join the fun! We hope you’ll join us!

NEW RELEASES


Just the other day we posted the NetGalley Listings for these titles, which happens to include all the same information we would normally include here, so we won’t hit you with all of that again, but in the last week all these titles also went live and we wanted to recognize that and congratulate the authors for their amazing work being released into the world, instead of just teasing the fans!

For those interested in these books, the following links will take you to the Amazon listing.

Written in Light by Jeff Young

DemonTech: The Last Campaigns by David Sherman

Devil in the Green (Systema Paradoxa Volume 5) by James Chambers

AUGUST NETGALLEY LISTINGS


Wow! Guess I lost track of things there. We have THREE listings in NetGalley this month. Usually, I try not to do more than two at once. The listings are more difficult to promote adequately when there are too many of them. If you have a moment, can you help spread the word? Going to be tricky getting the word out there evenly. 
 
If you have a NetGalley account you can request your free review copies today for the following eSpec titles, just click the title to go directly to the listing. We have a little something for everyone this month with science fiction, cryptids, and military fantasy by Jeff Young, James Chambers, and David Sherman! NetGalley accounts are free and quick to register. It is a great way to discover new-to-you authors.
See you next month for even more review copy opportunities!

Proof-Young-SF

Written In Light

by Jeff Young

Eighteen stories that span from the near future to the far, from next door to the deeps of space. Meet aliens who struggle to determine if we are a threat or equals. Discover what really makes us happy. Join the war effort to free the outer planets. Find out how far a man is willing to change to gain a true talent. Uncover the gift and the danger of memories. Includes the Writer’s of the Future award-winning story “Written in Light.”

“18 stories that ably demonstrate [Young’s] versatility and ability to imagine convincing alien societies […and] reliably provide both entertainment and food for thought.” —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Jeff Young is a bookseller first and a writer second – although he wouldn’t mind a reversal of fortune.

He is an award-winning author who has contributed to the anthologies: Writers of the Future V.26, After Punk, In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, Clockwork Chaos, Gaslight and Grimm, If We Had Known, Fantastic Futures 13, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson, TV Gods & TV Gods: Summer Programming, the Defending the Future Military SciFi Anthologies and the forthcoming Beer, Because Your Friends Aren’t That Interesting. Jeff’s own fiction is collected in Spirit Seeker and TOI Special Edition 2 – Diversiforms. He has also edited the Drunken Comic Book Monkey line, TV Gods and TV Gods –Summer Programming and now serves as the CMO for Fortress Publishing, Inc. He has led the Watch the Skies SF&F Discussion Group of Camp Hill and Harrisburg for nineteen years.


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Devil in the Green

by James Chambers

Summer on Long Island—hot, humid, idyllic… and terrifying?

When fledgling photojournalist Ben Keep lands a freelance assignment to document the rediscovery of supposedly long-lost cryptid remains, he partners with biologist Annetta Maikels for the story—but the strange bones only open the door to deeper mysteries and dark secrets.

As Ben and Annetta continue to investigate, evidence of more than one living, breathing cryptid surfaces in what wildlands remain between the summer hotspots of Eastern Long Island, leaving them wondering…

Will they solve this decades’ old mystery, or become one more vanishing chapter in the ongoing tale?

About the Author

James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.

His short stories have been published in over forty anthologies and magazines. He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow HouseThe Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.

He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.

He lives in New York.

Visit his website: http://www.jameschambersonline.com.


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DemonTech

by David Sherman

Devil Dogs Snap at the Heels of the Demon Lord

When a renegade prince and his demon hordes set out to invade the world, you better believe the defenders call in the Marines!

Surrender or Die

A demon delivers an ultimatum to a port city under siege. The infernal messenger is sent away to lick its wounds, but will reinforcements come in time?

Delaying Action

Sometimes it isn’t about stopping the enemy so much as slowing them down.

Haft and Spinner are on the march, coming to the aid of those beset by the Dark Prince’s forces. Along the way, they use cunning and distraction to slow the enemy’s advance, but will it be enough to turn the tide?

Get Her Back!

When headstrong Alyine sets off on her own to find her left-behind musician, life gets interesting for those who must go after her. Angry nomads, great hunting cats, and desert death matches stand between the Golden Girl and her rescuers. Using every trick at their disposal, Haft and his men are more than up to the challenge!

The final chronicles in David Sherman’s Bestselling DemonTech Series.

About the Author

David Sherman is the author or co-author of some three dozen books, most of which are about Marines in combat.

He has written about US Marines in Vietnam (the Night Fighters series and three other novels), and the DemonTech series about Marines in a fantasy world. The 18th Race trilogy is military science fiction.

Other than military, he wrote a non-conventional vampire novel, The Hunt, and a mystery, Dead Man’s Chest. He has also released a collection of short fiction and non-fiction from early in his writing career, Sherman’s Shorts; the Beginnings.

With Dan Cragg he wrote the popular Starfist series and its spin off series, Starfist: Force Recon—all about Marines in the Twenty-fifth Century.; and a Star Wars novel, Jedi Trial.

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

After going to war as a U.S. Marine infantryman, and spending decades writing about young men at war, he’s burnt out on the subject and has finally come home. Today he’s writing short fiction, mostly steampunk and farcical fantastic Westerns.

He lives in sunny South Florida, where he doesn’t have to worry about hypothermia or snow-shoveling-induced heart attacks. He invites readers to visit his website, novelier.com.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – DEVIL IN THE GREEN


An excerpt from our newest Systema Paradoxa release, Devil in the Green: A Tale of the Montauk Monster, by James Chambers. This is volume 5 in the series and was featured in the July 2021 Cryptid Crate monthly subscription box. 


SP - Devil in the Green 2 x 3Chapter One

I never intended to hunt monsters.

That strange summer that found me combing Long Island’s south shore beaches and wandering through its nearby Pine Barrens forever changed my life. The resolution to every mystery I encountered during those hot and humid months only led to greater enigmas, each one branching, hydra-like, when I believed it resolved, sprouting new lines of investigation that led me farther from the certainty of the ordinary world into one overshadowed by phenomena few people ever encounter.

The events of that summer provided me a glimpse at the inner workings of the universe and awakened in me a deep dread and understanding of humanity’s cosmic insignificance, although with too little information to make any sense of it. Perhaps there is no sense to it. Perhaps chaos defines all existence, a string of random biological, chemical, and physical actions and reactions. Atoms and molecules colliding, binding, reinventing their substance. The ceaseless transformation of energy. Mistakes of awareness. Sentience nothing more than a glitch in space and time. I don’t believe these things, but if existence does possess purpose, it reaches far beyond mere human experience and comprehension.

All of this, I realize, sounds like something out of a century-old pulp magazine or the liner notes for some Sixties prog-rock album, but to this day, I still grapple with how to describe my experiences. I struggle to explain, even to myself, how opening a shoebox full of old bones knocked my entire world off its axis.

I wonder if Dr. Annetta Maikels, who brought me to that time and place, suspected what her investigation into an animal carcass more than a decade old might uncover. Did she seek to open Pandora’s box? Or did she, as she explained when we first met, mean only to debunk a local legend?

A quirk of chance brought Annetta to my door late that June. Ethan Scapetti, a college friend of mine and a reporter for a Long Island daily newspaper, introduced us after he broke his leg and four ribs in a car crash. Two days before his appointment to cover Annetta’s viewing of the remains of the so-called Montauk Monster, a black sedan sideswiped his car off the road into a telephone pole, a hit-and-run accident. I had freelanced for his paper, shooting photo features of local events for its website. Ethan hoped to throw the work my way, knowing I sorely needed it and hoping I’d take the assignment more seriously than any of the jaded staff reporters who might cover it for him.

After wishing him a speedy recovery, I brushed up on the lore of the Montauk Monster, finding blessed little to learn. The infamous photo from the 2008 sighting of its carcass at Ditch Plains Beach, Montauk looked to me exactly as most experts described it: the remains of a small dog or raccoon, grotesquely distorted by decomposition and several days floating in salt water. The remains vanished soon after the sighting, reportedly removed by a local resident who then buried them on their property or stored them in a garage. They were never seen again. Thanks to a Gawker.com headline, the picture went viral and sparked the imaginations of millions around the world.

The group of young women who snapped the photo offered little information. After first embracing the limelight, they later shied away from it and the Montauk Monster altogether.

That single image, however, birthed an unforgettable beast. Reports of similar creatures followed from around the world, as close as Staten Island and as far away as Asia. None of them offered proof of anything other than that a few days of ocean exposure could dramatically alter the appearance of a small, dead mammal. Still, something in that first photo, in the deformed body and more so in the sharp, unnatural lines of its muzzle leading to a sort of beak nagged at me enough that I couldn’t firmly close the door on the possibility of another explanation. That odd head and beak conjured memories of illustrations in childhood books about prehistoric giant mammals, so out of place in 2008 that I understood why it fascinated many who saw it. More than a decade later, a second Ditch Plains sighting reignited interest in the so-called Montauk Monster.

A couple walking the beach discovered the second carcass, which resembled the original creature in almost every detail, except that it retained a bit more of its fur, bleached gray by sun and salt water. They shot a photo with a composition similar to the 2008 image, but it failed to achieve the same viral popularity. With all the grim, depressing news in the world that year, perhaps no one had the heart for monster stories. But for those already interested in Monty, as Annetta liked to call the thing, it offered hope of validation, opening a new chapter in the legend. More importantly, it inspired Annetta, a biology and zoology professor at King’s College in Brooklyn, to use her summer break to indulge her infatuation with cryptozoology and investigate an enticing lead. For that, I am forever grateful—because it brought her to my door.

Chapter Two

Annetta arrived at my house in Hicksville early on a Saturday morning.

Her stature and confidence intimidated me from the moment I saw her. Close to six feet tall, she almost matched my own height. She wore hiking boots and khaki shorts, a green T-shirt under a light, short-sleeved jacket loaded with pockets, and a satchel slung across her torso. With dark, brown skin and close-cut hair, she looked smart, adventurous, and official. The sight of her immediately altered my impression of the assignment, and I regretted answering the door in faded college sweatpants and an old Adventure Time T-shirt.

“Benjamin Keep?” she said.

“That’s me.” I invited her in for a cup of coffee while I changed clothes and gathered my camera, a high-quality digital SLR that had set me back several months’ worth of student-loan payments, and soon we hit the road. Annetta drove a Prius that seemed too small to contain her. She refused to share with me the address of our destination.

“I promised I’d keep it a secret,” she said, and when I pointed out that I’d learn it when we got there, she grinned and said, “Maybe.”

We merged into highway traffic and sped east along the Long Island Expressway, another furious insect joining the frantic scurry along the asphalt ant trail.

“What do you know about cryptozoology?” Annetta asked me.

“What the average person knows from watching Bigfoot documentaries and looking at pictures of the Loch Ness Monster online,” I told her. “But I’ve read up on the Montauk Monster.”

“Yeah? So, tell me what you know about Monty.”

I ran down what I’d learned from my research.

She nodded. “Well done, Ben, and yeah, I’ve heard all the explanations for why Monty isn’t a cryptid. Publicity stunt, dead raccoon, latex hoax. Maybe one of them is right—but maybe none of them are.”

“You hope to prove it one way or the other?” I slid a notebook and pen from my camera case. “This is for the record, by the way.”

“Nope, not looking to prove anything. Only theories require proof, and I have no theory yet. But I don’t like the other theories. I’m gathering evidence to form my own theory.”

“How did you learn the location of the remains, and what makes you believe they’re authentic?”

“The owner called me out of the blue. Said she heard about my interest from mutual acquaintances. But I don’t believe anything yet. I mostly expect at the end of this trip out to the ass-end of Long Island we’re going to wind up looking at a collection of squirrel bones. If we’re lucky, they’ll be dressed up to look like something weird, and we’ll be entertained.”

“Like the Feejee Mermaid.”

“Exactly. PT Barnum at his finest. Gold star for you. If we’re very, very lucky, though, they’ll turn out to be something special.”

“The remains of the 2008 creature?”

“Wouldn’t that be nice?”

I agreed it would, then shifted gears. “What attracted you to cryptozoology?”

Annetta laughed. “Now there’s a long story.”

“We’ve got a long drive.”

The nomadic tribes of summer thickened and forced us to slow down, to fall into place with the great migration of beach-seekers, wine-tasters, and antique-hunters fleeing stifling New York City and suburban boredom for Long Island’s once-pastoral East End. As a native Long Islander, I made a point of avoiding Montauk, the Hamptons, and the transplanted city social scene that flooded the Island every summer. Upper-East- and West-Siders, for whom most of the Island counted as the local flyover country, looked down their noses at we suburbanites. The “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd, they called us, but their snobbery never hindered their annual invasion of the South Fork from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Annetta frowned at the mass of surrounding cars, but as the sunlight warmed my face and I eyed the clear blue sky, it surprised me traffic moved anything above an absolute crawl on such a near-perfect summer day.

“Damn this traffic. We need to be there before noon. The owner was insistent about that. I don’t want to roll up at 12:05 and have a door slammed in our faces.”

The dashboard clock read 10:12. “We’ll make it. Might cut it close, but this traffic’s got to thin out sometime. Tell me your story and take your mind off all this.”

After a sigh, Annetta said, “Okay, you ever hear stories about the alligators in the sewers?”

“Where? In the City?”

“Right. People bring home baby alligators as pets from trips to Florida or Georgia or wherever. Their kids love them for a few weeks, then get bored and forget about them. The baby gators grow a little too big, flash some teeth, and then suddenly, a light bulb goes on in Mom or Dad’s head. This thing will get huge and need food. They don’t want to deal with it, and their kids hardly remember they have it. So, one night while everyone’s asleep or some afternoon while the kids are at school, they flush the poor gator down the toilet, good riddance.”

“Yeah, I know this one. There’s an old movie about it. The gator survives its toilet ride, winds up in the sewer, where it grows to full size, and roams around under the city, chowing down on sewer workers. It’s a classic urban legend.”

A tractor-trailer, finding a miraculous opening amongst the cars, flew by us, shuddering Annetta’s Prius with its backdraft. To either side of the road sprawled the Pine Barrens, dark and unkempt, one of the last great spaces of Long Island yet to face bulldozers and conversion into strip malls and townhome developments. Protected, for now, it persisted under development rumors that circled like sharks. Proposals for a 600-acre golf course, a casino, eco-housing, and even an adventure park had all tested the strength of the law protecting more than 100,000 acres of wilderness. Surrounded by it, Annetta’s story sounded like a campfire tale, and a shiver ran through me.

“My grandmother told me about the alligators when I was in second grade,” Annetta said. “Scared me silly. I refused to ride the subway for a month after that. My mother was furious with her because I made us walk everywhere or take the bus. One time we even took a cab because I cried so hard when she tried to carry me down the stairs at Jay Street Station. Eventually, my fear gave way to other worries, schoolwork, who was coming to my birthday party, other kid stuff. My mom promised me a Snickers if I took the subway again. She figured I’d see there wasn’t anything to be afraid of, and we could get back to normal. My first time back, though, wouldn’t you know it? I saw an alligator down there.”

“Wait, seriously?”

“Seriously, yes, but not really. My mother liked to board at the front of the train. We always waited near the end of the platform, with a view of the tunnel, and I saw all sorts of stuff on the tracks. Cockroaches. Rats. Litter. And that one time, in the darkness where the rails curved out of sight into the gloom, I saw something big and frightening with a mouth full of ugly, glistening teeth slither between the rails. I had no doubt it would climb the three little steps at the platform’s end and devour me. I grabbed my mother’s hand, too frightened to speak. Tears in my eyes. I looked up at her, pleading, and she gave me one of those ‘it’s all right, honey’ smiles parents use when they see you’re upset but don’t know why. I pointed to the monster in the tunnel, and when I looked back at it, do you know what I saw?”

“I’m guessing not an alligator.”

“A black trash bag blowing on the track. Our train pulled in then, funneling the air ahead of it, banishing that plastic bag into the subway depths. My mother hustled me onto the train. I never did tell her about my ‘alligator’—but I never forgot it.”

“Okay, but you saw what you saw because of the power of suggestion, the ideas your grandmother planted in your head. Your mind drew them onto a scrap of trash. How’d that lead you to cryptozoology?”

“The psychology of it isn’t the part of the experience that stuck with me. It’s the question, see? However briefly, I believed an alligator was on the train tracks. It was one hundred percent real to me until it wasn’t, but it left a question in my mind. Could an alligator really survive a flush down the drain then live in the New York City sewers?”

“No, right? It would be caught in filters along the way or snagged at a treatment plant, and that’s that.”

“Did you know how sewers worked when you were in the second grade?”

“No.”

“Me neither. Anyway, that’s what got me hooked. And here is our exit.”

Annetta’s story had distracted us from the traffic, and now she guided her Prius up the exit ramp, off the Expressway. A fair number of cars and trucks came along and stayed with us. My parents often spoke about their trips out to Montauk or Orient Point, the South and North Forks of the Island when they were young, back when potato farms occupied more acreage than vineyards. Then city people and tourists “discovered” those places, the Hampton Jitney started shuttling eager, summer-struck Manhattanites on a regular schedule every Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, and everything changed. I imagined the place undeveloped, like Annetta’s subway tunnel, a place where you could mistake a trash bag for a monster. An untamed place that had still existed not so long ago and maybe remained under the surface.

I don’t know if it came down to Annetta’s story setting the right mood, me simply getting caught up in her telling of it, or the shadows of the Pine Barrens, but barreling down Route 24, through Flanders, I believed that at the end of our drive, we might actually find that very special thing.


James Chambers2020

James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.

His short stories have been published in the anthologies The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the CrucibleBad-Ass Faeries, Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Bad Cop No Donut, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Breach the Hull, By Other Means, Chiral Mad 2, Chiral Mad 4, Dance Like A Monkey,  Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour, Deep Cuts, The Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, Dragon’s Lure, Fantastic Futures 13, Gaslight and Grimm, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, Hear Them Roar In An Iron Cage, Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, Man and MachineMermaids 13 No Longer DreamsQualia Nous, Shadows Over Main Street (1 and 2), The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, So It Begins, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare, TV Gods, Walrus Tales, Weird Trails, and With Great Power; the chapbook Mooncat Jack; and the magazines Bare BoneCthulhu Sex, and Allen K’s Inhuman.

He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow HouseThe Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.

He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.

He lives in New York.

Visit his website: http://www.jameschambersonline.com.

 

COVER REVEAL – DEVIL IN THE GREEN


I am a little late with this. My apologies. Life keeps getting away from me recently. I present to you the cover for the newest volume in the Systema Paradoxa series: James Chambers’ Devil in the Green (click the link to order). This volume featured in the exclusive July Cryptid Crate subscription box, and released on July 21. We hope you enjoy these cryptid novellas as much as we enjoy bringing them to you!


SP - Devil in the Green 2 x 3

There are creatures lurking in our world. Obscure creatures long relegated to myth and legend. They have been sighted by a lucky—or unlucky—few, some have even been photographed, but their existence remains unproven and unrecognized by the scientific community.

These creatures, long thought gone, have somehow survived; creatures from our nightmares haunting the dark places. They swim in our lakes and bays, they soar the night skies, they hunt in the woods. Some are from our past, and some from other worlds, and others that have always been with us—watching us, fearing us, hunting us.

These are the cryptids, and Systema Paradoxa tells their tales.

***

Summer on Long Island—hot, humid, idyllic… and terrifying?

When fledgling photojournalist Ben Keep lands a freelance assignment to document the rediscovery of supposedly long-lost cryptid remains, he partners with biologist Annetta Maikels for the story—but the strange bones only open the door to deeper mysteries and dark secrets.

As Ben and Annetta continue to investigate, evidence of more than one living, breathing cryptid surfaces in what wildlands remain between the summer hotspots of Eastern Long Island, leaving them wondering…

Will they solve this decades’ old mystery, or become one more vanishing chapter in the ongoing tale?


James Chambers2020James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.

His short stories have been published in the anthologies The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the CrucibleBad-Ass Faeries, Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Bad Cop No Donut, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Breach the Hull, By Other Means, Chiral Mad 2, Chiral Mad 4, Dance Like A Monkey,  Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour, Deep Cuts, The Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, Dragon’s Lure, Fantastic Futures 13, Gaslight and Grimm, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, Hear Them Roar In An Iron Cage, Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, Man and MachineMermaids 13 No Longer DreamsQualia Nous, Shadows Over Main Street (1 and 2), The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, So It Begins, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare, TV Gods, Walrus Tales, Weird Trails, and With Great Power; the chapbook Mooncat Jack; and the magazines Bare BoneCthulhu Sex, and Allen K’s Inhuman.

He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow HouseThe Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.

He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.

He lives in New York.

Visit his website: http://www.jameschambersonline.com.