eSPEC EXCERPTS – ARACHNE’S EXILE


This week’s excerpt is from Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Exile, the sequel to Arachne’s Crime.


Arachne's Exile 6 x 9

Chapter One

Stephen Jacobs-Wong had spent most of the journey from Shilirrlal on autopilot, putting up the front of leadership and charisma that came effortlessly, but not really letting anything outside his ship and crew engage him even as the wonders of the galaxy passed them by. His thoughts were still preoccupied by the series of tragedies for which he blamed himself—and by the schism between himself and Cecilia LoCarno, Arachne’s captain and his dearest friend, over their responsibility for making amends. With the onset of the migration, Stephen and Sita had finally begun to reconnect and heal each other’s grief at the loss of their baby, easing the burdens on his spirit. Yet that effort had required keeping his focus inward.

But in time, the sky became too beautiful to ignore. The caravan had entered the Upper Scorpius subgroup of the Scorpius-Centaurus OB Association, a lively star-formation region dominated by bright young stars like Antares and Sigma Scorpii and vast clouds of nebular matter surrounding them. The nebulae were barely visible to the unassisted eye at close range, but those stars were far brighter than they’d ever appeared from Earth, and with a little adjustment of their adaptive optics and a little enhancement from Arachne’s viewports, the Arachnen could see the beauty of the yellow-orange and magenta hazes surrounding them, a mix of reflection and emission nebulae. Stephen soon found himself gazing out raptly with the rest of the crew.

Yet once they reached the Antares system—a journey of over 550 light years from Shilirrlal, made in only eight days—the fleet’s port of call made the sky around them look positively dull. The habitat, orbiting the blue-dwarf companion star Antares B at some fifteen AUs, was a sphere nearly fifty kilometers in diameter, a garish starburst of incredibly tall fairy-tale castles, impossibly slender spires, and massive, clear-roofed aerodromes, all crafted from gleaming crystals, metals, and metamaterials and festooned with vivid, multicolored lights. It was like a cross between Escher’s Tetrahedral Planetoid, the skyline of old Shanghai before the floods, and a sea urchin dressed up for Mardi Gras. The interplay of illumination from the piercing blue star nearby, the bloated red-orange Antares A nearly six hundred AUs away, and the dense planetary nebula surrounding them both made the habitat gleam with particular resplendence, and its architecture strove to match the grandeur of its surroundings. Twelve enormous towers jutted from its equator, supporting a scintillating docking ring over a hundred kilometers above the surface and tapering dozens of kilometers further into elegant launch spines, slender threads that gleamed in the multidirectional light. It was a gorgeous vista, albeit a bit garish to Stephen’s eyes. But Sita wept at the sight, and they were the first tears he’d been happy to see her shed.

“It’s a Star Palace,” Arachne’s voice announced over the cockpit speakers. The humans reacted to the name with recognition.

Mediator Broadwing blinked his lower two eyes in surprise. “You know of them?”

“Human astronomers have imaged several megastructures of this design around various giant and supergiant stars,” the shipmind answered. “A few are internally lit, but most are detectable only by reflected starlight and are believed abandoned. As yet, we have been unable to make contact with the species that constructed them.”

“In fact, you have,” Broadwing fluted in his elegant calliope voice, produced in resonating cavities within his three iridescent headcrests. “One spreads his wings before you even now.” The lean-bodied, silver-hued pterosaurian matched his actions to the words, clicking his three beak mandibles together as he did so.

“The Zenith built the Star Palaces?” Sita asked.

“Yes.” Broadwing refolded his wing dactyls and membranes back along his forearms, leaving his shorter dactyls to function as fingers. As always, he moved with a grace that made the zigzag shape of his legs, and the way his wing-arms went up from his shoulders before bending back down, look totally right even to human eyes. His crests sang again, the translation appearing as subtitles in Stephen’s retinal HUD. “As Seekers of the Zenith, my people were naturally drawn to space. When we reached the stars, we built aeries around the brightest and most impressive ones so that all would know of our majesty.”

“That explains a lot,” Stephen said. For decades, human astronomers, engineers, and xenobiologists had debated how and why the structures were built in this configuration. Given the Zenith’s acrophilic nature, it went against their grain to build Chirrn-style habitats where the sky was inward. No doubt, he realized, the Star Palaces used programmable quark matter to generate artificial gravity. If PQM could take on the properties of the exotic matter necessary to make warp cages and wormholes possible, then surely it could also, say, generate gravitons with a greatly increased coupling constant, allowing a relatively small mass to exert the pull of a planet-sized one. The Zenith most likely lived only on the surface of the Star Palace, competing with one another for increased status and the privilege to live higher up in one of its many ornate spires.

“Hold on,” Haim Silbermann said. “Isn’t Antares A due to go supernova sometime in the next few million—I mean, the next yanarrenn or so?”

“Enough time to relocate,” Broadwing told the gray-bearded engineer. “For now, this is the most glorious star in the region, so naturally the Zenith must claim this height.”

“With your technology, couldn’t you prevent the supernova? Lift away enough of the star’s hydrogen to reduce the pressure on the core and prolong its life?”

“Why would we want to do that?” R’nilinnath wondered. “Supernovae create heavy elements. They promote evolution on planets. If we stopped supernovae, we’d prevent new species from evolving. Few enough worlds spawn sophonts as it is.” Nilly shook her mane, a Chirrn smile. “Now do you see why smart civilizations don’t live on planets? It’s hard to move a planet out of danger.”

Stephen recalled Sita’s musings about the Fermi Paradox, the mystery of why evidence of alien activity had been so hard for humanity to detect. What the old Kardashev theories of galactic-scale engineering had overlooked, it seemed, was that the civilizations that survived to the interstellar age were the ones that learned to live in harmony with their environments rather than forcibly reshaping them. Nilly’s words drove home that the galaxy had its own ecology of star and planet formation, one that galactic society took care not to disrupt, so that its footprint was nearly invisible except at a fine scale.


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.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – DRAGONS (2 of 2)


We posted an excerpt from this book earlier, but that was pre-edit and we now have a cover, so I wanted to give another sneak peek. Enjoy!


FB-Proof-New-Dragon

TWO – Days 1-2

Conceal and Protect.

Those words, always capitalized in my mind, were drilled into my head from toddlerhood—so much so that I, as Tony and Bonnie Brand’s son, grew up thinking of it as our family motto. Back when I was in fourth grade, I learned about familial coats of arms. Afterward, totally jazzed, I drew one for my family. It depicted a fire-breathing dragon shooting flames out over a charred and blackened field. I even wrote the words “Conceal and Protect,” very carefully, above it in big block letters.

Eight-years-old and largely friendless, I showed this “masterwork” to my mom, who immediately paled.

“It’s beautiful, sweetheart.” My father was at work, and we were alone in the house. Even so, I remember the way my mother looked furtively around as if worried that someone might see. “You’ll be a great artist someday if that’s what you want. But… this isn’t something that you can ever show to anybody.”

I was crest-fallen, pun intended. “But… I thought we could put it above the fireplace!”

Without warning, Mom pulled me into a desperate hug. “I wish we could, Andy. Your father and I would be so proud to have it there. But it’s too dangerous. We’ve talked about this.”

I squirmed and pulled away. “Dad says we shouldn’t be ashamed of what we are.”

“And he’s right,” Mom replied tearfully. “But we’re not the only ones in danger.”

“Why do we have to hide? If we’re not supposed to be ashamed, then why are we always hiding? I’m so sick of hiding!”

She looked at me, stricken, and suddenly my newly found, pre-pre-adolescent fury vanished like smoke.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said. “I know you want to be like the other children. But you’re not. Our family is Kind, and we need to remember how few we are and how many they are. Andy, human beings scare so easily, and they always strike out at what scares them. This means that to live among them, we have to try to appear human… even though we never will be. But it’s not about shame. It’s never about shame.”

Now, alone in this strange cell, my mother’s words echo. That day’s conversation was a pivotal one, grimly transformative, and I never forgot a word of it.

We have to try to appear human… even though we never will be.

This, of course, is how my captors must see me.

Inhuman.

When I wake up after being “vectored,” whatever that means, I’m stretched out on the tile floor where I fell. The room is unchanged. I have no idea how long I’ve been asleep. Hours, certainly. Maybe longer. Without a clock or window, time’s a bit of a mystery.

What isn’t a mystery is how hungry I am.

“Hello, Andy.

The Voice—yeah, I’m capitalizing it now—makes me jump a little. I try to hide the reaction and don’t reply.

“You must be hungry.”

This time, not replying’s harder. My stomach growls.

“No? Well, let’s skip breakfast then.”

“Wait!” I call, jumping to my feet. “Yes, I’m hungry.”

I immediately hear a scraping sound, and another wad of paper lands on the floor in front of me.

“Breakfast is waiting. All we ask in return is a little cooperation.”

My stomach growls louder. “What do you want me to do?”

“You know the answer to that question.”

“So… what? You’re not going to feed me unless I obey?”

“Cooperate,” the Voice corrects patiently.

I glare down at the new wad of paper. Then I kick it into the corner with the first one.

“No hurry, Andy. When you’re hungry enough, just say so. I’ll keep your food warm.”

The Voice goes silent.

I wait, but it doesn’t return.

Time passes furking slowly. The growling in my stomach deepens. I struggle to ignore it. Drinking water helps. Every so often, I go to the sink and fill my belly from its tap. But the feeling doesn’t last and, before long, I have to pee like a racehorse. After a while, I get into a torturous rhythm. I wait until my stomach’s too empty to bear, and then I drink myself full and, later, pee myself silly.

Rinse and repeat.

It makes for a brutal day. I keep expecting the Voice to return, maybe to tempt me, first with lunch, then dinner. But it doesn’t. They’re letting me, as my mother sometimes likes to say when I’m being a snot, “stew in my own juices.”

It frankly sucks.

But they want me to break Conceal and Protect.

And. That. I. Will. Not. Do.

Eventually, and without warning, the lights dim. They don’t go out completely. If they did, I’d be in pitch darkness in this windowless room. But they drop low enough that I sense this is supposed to be “nighttime,” that I made it through a full day without eating. I wish I could call it a win, but every second of the ordeal feels like a minute and each minute like an hour. And I have no reason to think the night’s going to be any easier.

I do my best to sleep. Cramps twist my guts, forcing me to lay curled up in a tight ball.

I’ll never know how, but eventually, sleep finds me.

In the “morning,” after a fitful night of pain and terrible dreams that left me sobbing in the dark, I awake to find a big bowl of oatmeal waiting for me.

I run to it and eat greedily, shoveling the food into my mouth with the included spoon.

As I do, the Voice says, “You’re a stubborn young man.”

I don’t reply as I lick the bowl clean. I half-expect to vomit, but I don’t. The stuff tasted like paste, thick and sticky but easily digestible. Maybe they don’t want me puking either.

Nice of them.

“This would all go so much easier if you’d just cooperate.”

“How?” I ask.

“You know how.”

“What I know is that you want me to somehow start a fire without a match. If you’re expecting me to use my heat vision, then I suggest you try a big guy in a cape and with a red “S” on his chest.”

The Voice says nothing more.

Sometime later and without ceremony, my lunch arrives.


Ty Drago

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

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

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

eSPEC EXCERPTS – WHEN THE MOON SHINES


Something a bit different than our usual fare. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from John L. French’s When the Moon Shines, which includes a bonus reading by the author at the end.


SP - When the Moon Shines 6 x 9

Prologue

They had been asleep for several years. Resting, renewing their strength, living off the fat they had stored prior to their slumber. But now it was their time. Their bodies stirred, their hearts beat faster, and their blood warmed. Soon, they began to awaken.

Kona woke first, looking about, smelling the air, listening to the sounds of the woods. She sensed danger, there was always danger, but others could not get close to the place they had chosen for their nest, not like the cave.

The cave. She remembered the sorrow of the cave, and if she could have, she would have wept. But weeping was not in her nature. The past was a painful memory, but the present was all that now mattered.

Kona wanted to cry out, to announce to the forest creatures that their queen had awakened, but it was not yet time. He must awaken, then they must feed to restore their strength.

A low whistle sounded, one heard only by her. Forra was stirring, his blood warming. Soon his eyes would open. He would see her, and the bond between them would be renewed.

Forra’s eyes opened, and he gazed into hers. Both felt the warmth that was not caused by blood. A yearning for each other that could not yet be satisfied as neither had the strength.

He raised his head, looked around at the place they had chosen. It was good. Clear ground, high up, difficult to approach unseen. Not like the cave.

~*~

The cave had been well hidden to the eyes of men and common beasts, but not to the hairy ones. They had sniffed and felt them out. When the chicks arrived but before they could fly, when Forra was out hunting, the hairy ones came.

The cave was narrow, and there was no escape from the back. Two by two, they attacked, trying to get past her, trying for the hatchlings. Kona fought. Lacking the room to use her wings or tentacles, she ripped at them with her sharp, shiny beak. She killed some, but others came and kept coming. She fought for their lives, a fight she could not win, not with the numbers against her. Her hatchlings—one like Forra, two like her—would be devoured, as would she.

Knowing that her death would not save her offspring, and with the cold reasoning of her kind, she fought her way through, killing more of the hairy ones but taking injuries from claw and tooth, wounds that would take a long sleep to heal. Once free of the cave, she lifted into the sky to escape the overwhelming pack. As she fled, her children called to her. Their young minds reached out to hers with desperate pleas for help. Their cries pierced her heart, but Kona could not save them. She could only avenge them.

When Forra felt her mind seeking him, when he saw her flying toward him, he knew that the cave and the young had been lost. Kona would not have left them otherwise. Their eyes met as they felt their bond, but this was not a time for the dance and the embrace. Together they flew from the cave, hunting the hairy ones. They caught three in a clearing, old ones that could not keep up with the pack. They would do.

Swooping down, she lifted one in her claws. She did not feed on it, did not pull the blood from its body, for it had fed on her offspring, and she did not want to taste her own.

The others Forra destroyed. One he tore apart with his teeth. The other he carried high as he searched for the pack. Once he found it, he dropped the corpse in their midst.

Their vengeance, such as it was, would not bring their offspring back. But it did show the hairy ones the cost of their attack.

Abandoning the cave, they flew south and, after a search, found the high ground. Landing, they searched by scent, sight, and mind. Not finding any trace of the hairy ones, they hunted and ate until they were more than full. Then it was time for the sleep. Their wings folded, Kona’s tentacles holding Forra close to her, they used their minds to fade away, to become part of the landscape, a part that would be ignored by anyone who came upon them. Only then did they sleep.

~*~

The pack was starving. They were too great in number, and there was not enough prey. There were fights, and leadership changed many times.

To survive, they dared to attack the nest of the flying ones. The female fled, leaving her small ones. The three strongest of the pack had feasted on these. The ones that did found their minds strengthened, their senses heightened, their power to freeze and compel prey increased.

They should have fought, should have battled each other until two submitted. But their minds connected, and they joined their thoughts. As one, they directed the pack in the hunt.

No leader could bring food that was not there. In desperation, they led the pack away from the shadows and darkness that was their home and into the open ground to prey upon placid beasts as they grazed and slept. But then came their protectors, men with the power of thunder and pain. The pack was driven away; some were hurt, some left the pack forever. One of the three that lead them surrendered his essence to the earth.

Knowing there was only one path to survival, the pack split, some of its members following one leader north, some following the other south, back to where their kind had come, but where they had not been for many seasons.

~*~

In the light of the fat Moon, Kona and Forra left their nesting place and soared through the sky. They saw foxes and rabbits and once chased an owl from the sky, from their sky. Later they would share it with other raptors, but that night it was theirs alone.

Foxes and rabbits were too small to feast on that night. So they flew low, sending the prey their thoughts, awakening them, and sending them running in fright. Forra chased a doe out of hiding and into the open. Kona swooped and grabbed it in her talons. She did not take it home. Instead, she flew high and fastened her tentacles around it. In the air, she drained it dry, then let its bloodless body fall to the ground. Forra saw cattle sleeping in their pen. They were restless, nervous, knowing something was not right, but unaware of what it might be. He too swooped. Using both claws, he lifted one of the beasts and flew it back to their high ground where he let his mate drink her fill before his razor-sharp teeth ripped the carcass apart so he could devour its meat.

Having fed well, Forra and Kona launched themselves into the sky as one. Once aloft, they became one in fact, her tentacles wrapping around him, taking pleasure from him and returning it to him. Rejoicing in their awakening, in their meal, and in each other, they cried out their delight, announcing their presence to all.

~*~

The pack had been in the woods for a half cycle of the Moon. To the other dwellers of the forest, the ones with instinct but no inherited memory, easy prey upon which the pack would grow fat, they were death on two legs.

More creatures came, creatures that walked like pack but moved like prey. They spoke loudly and made their way without caution so that all knew of their presence. Pack memory called the creatures “Man.” Night after night, the pack watched them from the darkness but took no action. Man knew of the pack but had not seen them for many, many seasons. They were legend and myth, cautionary tales to frighten Man’s young into obedience.

Verr, the pack leader, recalled that Man possessed the power of thunder and pain. They also called light to their command. Light that burned bright and hurt the pack’s eyes. Still, Verr thought, they are in our territory and have marked it, and this cannot be.

We will attack them, kill them, devour them, Verr thought to his pack. When you charge, close your eyes and be guided by their scent. Feast well.


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.

eSPEC BOOKS AUTHOR READING SERIES – 2/5/2021


So…this is what happens when you keep your authors busy. They have no time to create promotional content and your options are mostly to listen to me read. I like to think that’s not a bad thing, but we are working on generating more content, so 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

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading an excerpt from her story “Casualties of War,” from her upcoming collection Dawns a New Day.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading an excerpt from her story “The Fox’s Fire” from the collection of the same name.

Dance Among the Embers, But Don’t Get Burned… From a kitsune slinking through the mists… to an elven champion tied to every crossroad in the moment of Midnight… to the heir of Underhill ruling the road on a Harley, the mystical and magical intersect nearly unrealized with the world of man. Do you dare to walk among them with open eyes? Do you seek a glimpse of their power? Take care and proceed with soft steps among the folk of magic and moonlight. Fickle is the least of what is said of them. But well worth the risk, for those looking for something more…

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading an excerpt from her story “The Kindly One,” from the collection of the same name.

Guilt, the venom running through humanity’s veins, The cancer eating mankind’s soul. Death, both courted and earned, well fed upon denial. Balanced on the delicate edge between madness and damnation, clarity comes to us all. There is one thing more terrifying than the darkness at the edge of your vision staring back. The seed of that darkness peering from within your heart. What is real? What is imagined? Right, or wrong, the price of your answer is your soul.

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 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’ 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 two extremely spoiled cats.

David Lee Summers reading an excerpt from his story “The Steampowered Dragon” from Gaslight & Grimm, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine.

Once Upon a Time, ageless tales were told from one generation to the next, filled with both wonders and warnings. Tales of handsome princes and wicked queens, of good-hearted folk and evil stepmothers. Tales of danger and caution and magic…classics that still echo in our hearts and memories even to this day, told from old, cherished books or from memory at Grandma’s knee. Oh yes, tales have been told…but never quite like these. Journey with us through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.


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

ARACHNE’S EXILE on NetGalley


Looking for a new read? Did you enjoy Arachne’s Crime? For the month of February, the sequel, Arachne’s Exile, is available for request on NetGalley.

Christopher L. Bennett: Written Worlds

A quick heads-up for reviewers, librarians, and book vendors: Arachne’s Exile is available for review on NetGalley through the month of February 2021.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/215070

Arachne's Exile cover

I appreciate any efforts to get the word out about this novel and Arachne’s Crime. Professional reviews are welcome, as are reader reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

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SYSTEMA PARADOXA UPDATE


We have had a bunch of new activity on this series as the first book under the NeoParadoxa imprint has premiered this month in the January Cryptid Crate. As today is a catch-up day, I wanted to share the relevant videos that have come out within just the last week or so. Two author readings from different volumes in the series, and two interviews featuring the first book, John L. French’s When the Moon Shines. We hope you enjoy!

And speaking of interviews… Are you curious about #SystemaParadoxa? Want to meet our authors? We would love to hear from you! Just drop us a message and we can set something up.


Author Readings


Interviews

eSPEC EXCERPTS – TALES FROM DRAGON PRECINCT


For those who are more into short fiction than novels, this week’s excerpt comes from Tales from Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the first short story collection in the Dragon Precinct Series. Currently there are five novels and one short story collection, but more of each are planned. This series has been described as “Dungeons and Dragnet” by one reviewer and “JAG meets Lord of the Rings” by another. In either case, you get the idea. These are fantasy police procedural fun.


Tales from Dragon Precinct 6x9

GETTING THE CHAIR

“What’ve we— lord and lady, what is that smell?”

Lieutenant Danthres Tresyllione of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard stopped short in the doorway of the cottage. Behind her, Lieutenant Torin ban Wyvald, her partner, had to do likewise to keep from being impaled on the standard-issue longsword scabbard that hung from her belt. He found himself staring at the brown cloak with the gryphon crest of Lord Albin and Lady Meerka that Danthres (and Torin, and all lieutenants in the Guard) wore.

Torin was about to ask what she was on about when he, too, noticed the smell.

Danthres was half-elf, so her senses were more acute. Torin could only imagine how much worse the stench was for her—it was pretty wretched for him. He detected at least four different odors competing to make his nose wrinkle, and only one matched the expected stench of decaying flesh.

The guard who had summoned the two lieutenants was a young man named Garis. Like most of the guards assigned to Unicorn Precinct—which covered the more well-to-do regions of Cliff’s End—Garis was eager to please and not very bright. “Uh, that’s the body, ma’am.”

“Guard, I’ve been around dead bodies most of my adult life. They don’t usually smell like rotted cheese.”

“Uh, no, ma’am,” the guard said.

A brief silence ensued. Danthres sighed loudly. “So what is the smell?”

“Ah, probably the rotted cheese, ma’am. It’s on the table. Or it could be other food items we’ve found.”

“Who found the body?” she asked, still standing in the doorway blocking Torin. Since she was half a head taller than him, and had a wide mane of blond hair, he had no view of the interior. Under other circumstances, he might have complained. Instead, he was happy to enjoy the less unpleasant aroma of the street a while longer. At least this murder wasn’t in Dragon Precinct or, worse, Goblin Precinct, where a rotting corpse constituted a step up in the local odors.

“Next-door neighbor, ma’am,” Garis said. “The, ah, smell got to her—”

“No surprise there.”

“—and, ah, when he didn’t answer the door, she summoned the Guard. I came, broke the door in, and found this body. He’s the only one here, and there’s only one bedroom upstairs, so he probably lived here alone.”

“You didn’t ask the neighbor that?”

“Uh, no, ma’am, I thought that you—”

“Would do all your work for you. Naturally. Did you at least have the wherewithal to summon the M.E.?”

“Yes, ma’am, the magickal examiner sent a mage-bird saying he’d be here within half an hour—and that was about a quarter of an hour ago.”

Danthres finally moved into the house, enabling Torin to do likewise. He surveyed the sitting room, which seemed to take up most of the ground floor. To his left, a staircase led, presumably, to the second level. To his right was a wall taken up almost entirely with shelves stuffed to bursting with books, scrolls, papers, and other items, interrupted only by two windows. The wall opposite where he stood was the same, those shelves broken only by a doorway. Directly in front of Torin was a couch, festooned with papers, dust, writing implements, and wax residue from candles. Perpendicular to it on either side were two easy chairs, one in a similar state of disarray as the couch, the other relatively clean. A table sat in front of the sofa, covered with a lantern, papers, books, scrolls, candles, bowls, and foodstuffs—including the cheese responsible for keeping Torin’s nostril hairs flaring.

Lying facedown on the floor was the body of an elderly man, already decomposing, which meant he’d been dead at least a day. The corpse wore a simple—but not cheap—linen shirt and trousers. Most importantly, the man’s head was at the wrong angle relative to the rest of his body.

“The question now,” Danthres said, “is whether he broke his neck or if someone broke it for him.”

“I’d say the latter.” Torin pointed at the body. “Look how neatly he’s arranged—almost perfectly parallel to the couch, with his arms at his sides. He was set there by someone.”

Danthres nodded in agreement, then looked around. “Probably too much to hope for that it was a robbery. Not that we’d be able to tell if something was missing in this disaster.” She turned to look at Garis, folding her arms across the gryphon crest—a match for the one on her cloak—on the chest of her standard-issue black leather armor. “Why haven’t you opened a window?”

Garis seemed to be trying to shrink into his own armor, which was a match for Danthres and Torin’s, save that he wore no cloak and the crest on his chest was that of a unicorn, denoting the precinct to which he was assigned. “Well, er, uh, I didn’t want to disturb the scene. I remember that robbery in Old Town last winter and I tried to close a window, and—well, ma’am may not remember, but ma’am tried to cut my head off for interfering with possible evidence before she had a chance to, ah, to examine it.”

Danthres snorted. “That’s ridiculous. I never would have tried to cut your head off—there’d be an inquiry.”

Torin grinned beneath his thick red beard. “I think it will be safe for you to open it, Guard.”

“If you say so, sir.”

Garis walked to the window, and found that it wouldn’t budge.

“Honestly, they have got to raise the standards during those recruitment drives,” Danthres said scornfully. Her not-very-attractive face looked positively deathly when she was angry, and Garis tried to shrink even further inside his armor. Danthres’s features were rather unfortunate combinations of her dual heritage. The point of her ears, the elegant high forehead, and the thin lips from her elven father were total mismatches with the wide nose, large brown eyes, and shallow cheekbones she’d inherited from her human mother.

“I’m sure,” Torin said before Danthres truly lost her temper, “that it’s just stuck.” He walked over and saw that there was no locking mechanism. That, in itself, was odd. True, this was Unicorn Precinct—people didn’t need to virtually seal themselves into their homes for safety around here—but an unlocked ground-floor window was still unusual. Especially if this old man did indeed live alone.

Torin braced himself against the window and heaved upward. It still wouldn’t budge.

“It won’t work, you know.”

Whirling, Torin looked for the speaker, his right hand automatically moving to the gryphon-head hilt of his longsword. The only people in the room were Garis, Danthres, and himself. And the corpse, of course, though he was unlikely to speak.

“Who said that?” Danthres asked. Her left hand was also at her sword’s hilt.

“I did.”

Torin realized that the voice came from the area of the couch.

“Come out from behind there.” Torin walked around to behind the sofa.

“Uh, sir, there’s nobody there,” Garis said. “I checked.”

Torin saw that Garis was right.

“It’s the couch,” Danthres said. “The couch talks.”

“Brava to the woman,” the couch said.

“Hell and damnation,” Torin said, “our corpse is a wizard.”

“And bravo to the man,” the couch added. “Yes, my dear, departed owner was a mage. His specialty, as you might have already deduced, is animating furniture. He also hated the very concept of fresh air, so he magicked the windows shut.”

Another voice said, “You’d think just once he’d take pity on us, but no.” This, Torin realized, was the lantern.

Then the cleaner of the two chairs made a noise. “All you ever do is complain. Efrak gave you life, and now that he’s dead you spit on his grave.”

Danthres turned to Garis. “I don’t suppose the M.E.’s mage-bird is still here?”

“No, ma’am, it discorporated as soon as it gave the message.”

Another noise from the chair. “It really is a shame about poor Efrak.”

“It’s not that much of a shame,” the couch said. “I mean, really, what did he do for us?”

“Well, he did give us life,” the lantern said.

“I don’t think—”

“That’s enough!” Danthres bellowed, interrupting the furniture.

Torin added, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to question each of you individually.”

“What’s the point?” Danthres asked him. “He’s a wizard. The Brotherhood will claim jurisdiction, perform their own investigation and keep us completely out of it, like they always do whenever one of their own is involved. And honestly, they’re welcome to it. I hate magick.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” said another voice, this time from the doorway. Torin recognized this one: Boneen, the magickal examiner. The short, squat old man was on loan from the Brotherhood of Wizards to provide magickal assistance to the law-enforcement efforts of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard.

“Good afternoon, Boneen,” Torin said with a grin.

“What’s so damned good about it? I was having a perfectly fine nap when one of those blasted children woke me with another damned thing for you lot.” Several young children—troublemakers, mostly orphans that had been arrested and pressed into service in lieu of incarceration in the work-houses—served as messengers and/or informants for the Castle Guard. Most of the Guard called them “the youth squad,” except for Boneen, who usually had less flattering terms. Garis had no doubt sent one such to fetch Boneen. “And what in the name of Lord Albin is that horrendous smell?”

“A combination of various slovenly habits,” Torin said.

“Not surprising,” Boneen said as he entered. “Efrak makes the gutter rats in the Docklands look positively pristine by comparison.”

“You know him?” Danthres asked.

Boneen nodded. “A tiresome little old man who dabbles in useless magick for the most part. He’s not actually a member of the Brotherhood.”

Torin blinked in surprise. “I didn’t think that sort of thing was permitted.”

“With new wizards, it isn’t.” Boneen reached into the bag he always carried over his shoulder. “But Efrak’s a couple centuries old—he predates the Brotherhood, and they let him be as long as he registered with them and stayed out of mischief.” He pulled the components for his spell out, chuckling bitterly. “That certainly won’t be an issue anymore.”

Torin led Garis toward the back doorway, which presumably led to the kitchen. “Come on, let’s give him some room.”

The primary duty of the magickal examiner at a crime scene was to cast a “peel-back” spell—it read the psychic resonances on inanimate objects and showed him what happened in the recent past. This generally meant he was able to see what happened, how it happened, and, most importantly, who did it.

Danthres followed him into the kitchen, which smelled worse than the living room. The place was an even bigger mess, with several part-full mugs of various liquids (or congealed messes that were liquid once), plates of partly eaten food, and still more papers and books freely distributed about the table, chairs, countertop, and cupboard. The cupboard itself was the source of the worst stench. Torin recognized the sigil on the cupboard door as that of a freezing spell, but he also knew that it had to be renewed every few days—something Efrak was no longer in a position to do.

“Why would anyone want to have animate furniture?” Danthres asked.

Torin shrugged. “It gave him someone to talk to? If he lived alone, shunned even by other wizards, he probably didn’t have much by way of social interaction.”

“We should talk to his neighbors—starting,” she said with a look at Garis, “with the one who called you. Take us to her.”


Precinct Series


Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collections Tales from Dragon Precinct and the forthcoming More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include A Furnace Sealed, the debut of a new urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx; the Alien novel Isolation; the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels starring Marvel’s versions of Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, TV Gods: Summer Programming, X-Files: Trust No One, Nights of the Living Dead, the award-winning Planned Parenthood benefit anthology Mine!, the two Baker Street Irregulars anthologies, and Release the Virgins!; and articles about pop culture for Tor.com and on his own Patreon.

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

COVER REVEAL – DRAGONS


This has been a busy year! We share with you the cover for Ty Drago’s Dragons, an exciting science fiction take on the lore.

Dragons 6 x 9

Cover art and design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphic.

They aren’t what you think they are…

Conceal and Protect. His whole life, Andy Brand has been taught to hide his true self from everyone around him, for his own safety, and that of his Kind. But all the pretending in the world can’t shield him from powerful people who already know what he is…and what he can do.

Kidnapped and pushed beyond his limits, Andy comes out blazing.

However, all is not as it seems and he soon finds himself struggling to navigate a maze of lies, otherworldly wonders, and deadly betrayals that will test not just his power, but his courage and intellect as well.

For lives are at stake, and only a Dragon can save them…


Ty Drago

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

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

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

eSPEC BOOKS AUTHOR READING SERIES – 1/23/21


This has been one crazy transition and I am well behind on my postings. My apologies for that… and for how long this one is just to catch up. Just because of the natural theme here, all of today’s videos are from authors who have contributed their work to Corvid-19, a fundraising anthology for the northeast convention RavenCon, which has not only been forced to cancel their in-person convention twice due to the pandemic, but the first cancellation was mere weeks before the event… after all of the budget was spent in preparation. This anthology will help them refund registration fees to guests and vendors, and help cover the mantainence costs associated with the convention, such as storage and annual fees. The anthology is being funded through Kickstarter and you can check it out here, if you are interested: Corvid-19.

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

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading an excerpt from her story “Windows to the Soul” originally published in After Punk: Steam Powered Tales of the Afterlife, and reprinting in the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.

The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Samantha Bryant reading an excerpt from her story “If the Moon is Real” from the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.

Debbie Manber Kupfer reading an excerpt from her story “Jenny” from the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.

Jennifer Povey reading an excerpt from her story “A Warning of Crows” from the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.

Toi Thomas reading an excerpt from her story “A Song of the Raven” from the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.

Heather Ewings reading an excerpt from her story “Raven’s Sacrifice” from the upcoming Ravencon Fundraising anthology Corvid-19.


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

eSPEC EXCERPTS – MERMAID PRECINCT


This week’s feature has the distinction of being the first Precinct novel published exclusively by eSpec Books. Fortunately, it will not be the last, as it was originally intended to be. We present to you Mermaid Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido, book five in the Dragon Precinct Series. Currently there are five novels and one short story collection, but more of each are planned. This series has been described as “Dungeons and Dragnet” by one reviewer and “JAG meets Lord of the Rings” by another. In either case, you get the idea. These are fantasy police procedural fun.


HaftScale-Proof-MermaidONE

An early autumn breeze tickled Lieutenant Danthres Tresyllione’s blonde hair as she stood impatiently on Albin Way wishing Lord Doval would hurry up and finish his speech.

As he’d only just started talking, Danthres was less than optimistic that its end would come any time soon.

“Today happens to be the first anniversary of my ascension to the lordship of this great city-state,” Doval was saying, standing in front of the entryway to the newest construction in Cliff’s End. “When I inherited the post following the death of my father, the great Lord Albin, I didn’t imagine the first year would be so very eventful.”

Danthres snorted. Next to her, Lieutenant Torin ban Wyvald, her partner in the Cliff’s End Castle Guard, glanced at her and smiled inside his thin red goatee. The breeze barely stirred his close-cropped red hair.

She whispered to him as Doval carried on, “Funny how he’s completely ignoring Blayk now.”

“Can you blame him?” Torin whispered back.

The reign of Doval’s older brother Blayk had begun with Albin’s death and ended with Blayk’s arrest and condemnation when it was revealed that he’d been responsible for his father’s death, as well as an attempt on the life of the king and queen. His reign had been barely a month long.

“No, but I can be annoyed, since we were the ones who found Blayk out and had him arrested.”

Doval was still droning on. “…at midwinter, the incorporation of the prison barge into the Castle Guard as Manticore Precinct, and most recently the expansion of the docks. Then, of course, there was the fire in Barlin. I must say that I am very proud of how this great city-state responded to the sudden influx of refugees from our sister city, resulting in, among other things, this grand new section of town, named after my great father.”

Again, Danthres snorted. Officially the neighborhood was called Albinton, but everyone had been calling it “New Barlin,” since it was made up almost entirely of refugees from there. The origin of the fire that had devastated the city-state located to the west of here was still a mystery, as it had somehow managed to work past the fire-suppression spells provided by the Brotherhood of Wizards. However, that was a problem for Barlin’s lord and lady and their people.

“The work done by the people of Cliff’s End in clearing this section of the Forest of Nimvale and in constructing the buildings and thoroughfares of Albinton is a testament to why this is truly the finest city-state in all of Flingaria.”

Danthres rolled her eyes. Looking around, she saw that all of her fellow lieutenants, as well as Captain Dru, looked just as uncomfortable as she felt.

Well, not quite all of her fellow lieutenants. Horran was conspicuously absent and would remain so—which made his lack of a replacement somewhat frustrating.

“Having said that,” Doval continued, “our expansion has not been without its—ah, growing pains.”

Dru let out a breath, but that was the closest anyone came to a groan. Danthres was grateful that at least nobody laughed at the awful joke.

“The riot during midsummer, the rampage of the so-called Gorvangin, and the general rise in crime since the establishment of Albinton, has forced us to expand the Castle Guard. Our recruitment drive has been quite the success, and today we officially open our newest branch: Phoenix Precinct!”

That prompted applause from the gathered crowd, which was mostly those selfsame new recruits, as well as a bunch of more experienced guards. Most of the latter were being assigned to this new precinct—they were all wearing the new phoenix crest on the chest of their leather armor. The new recruits had mostly been sent to Gryphon and Unicorn Precincts, which were the castle and the upper-class district, respectively. Those two precincts had the lightest duty—mostly it involved catering to the insane whims of the rich and tiresome—and Lord Doval, Sir Rommett (the member of the lord and lady’s court in charge of appropriations and such for the Castle Guard), and Captain Dru all agreed that it was best to put the new recruits there rather than in the new precinct. Phoenix was instead staffed by transfers from Dragon Precinct, the middle-class district; Goblin Precinct, the lower-class district; and Mermaid Precinct, the docklands.

A guard in a green cloak stepped toward the front as Doval waited for the applause to die down. Danthres tried not to snarl. “I still can’t believe they promoted that shitbrain,” she muttered.

Again, Torin smiled at her discomfort. “He did save young Dal Wint during midsummer.”

“Which is the first useful thing he’s done in fourteen years on the job.”

“And now,” Doval said, “may I present the officer in charge of the day shift at Phoenix Precinct, Sergeant Rik Slaney!”

Slaney waved to the crowd, with the same stupid smile he’d had on his face when he’d left Danthres to subdue a troll all by herself, back when they both served together in Goblin Precinct twelve years previous. He’d had a mostly uneventful career, working first in Goblin, then Dragon Precinct. It was serving there during midsummer that he saved the life of the son of the construction ministers, Sir and Madam Wint. Given all the new buildings and roads going up all around the demesne, the Wints had become two of the most influential and powerful members of the court. Slaney’s promotion to sergeant was inevitable.

Doval went on: “He will be joined by Sergeant Ander Kaplan, who will be taking the night shift. He’s home in bed right now, of course, resting up for his first shift this evening. Sergeant Slaney, please say a few words.”

The smile fell from Slaney’s face, and a look of abject fear spread across his features. That change was proportional to Danthres’s own improvement in mood, as she went from annoyance at Slaney’s promotion to total glee at how scared and helpless he suddenly looked at the thought of speaking in front of all these people.

“Well, uh, I mean—” Slaney swallowed. “I ain’t much for, uh, for public speakin’, really, but, uh—well, I guess I just wanna say ’at ’s’an honor to, uh, t’be in charge’a this, well, this new, um, precinct, and I’m ’opin’, um, this’ll mean, y’know, that New Barlin’ll be, um, safer and, ah, sounder, like, y’know?”

Doval visibly winced at Slaney’s use of “New Barlin,” which gave Danthres even more joy.

From the other side of her, Lieutenant Manfred whispered to her, “Roll call’s gonna be a nightmare if that’s how he talks to the troops.”

Danthres chuckled. “And that’s one of his more lucid speeches.”

“Tell me about it—I had to work with him in Dragon, back in the day.”

Captain Dru shot them both a look and put a finger to his lips.

“Er, well, thank you, Sergeant.” Doval had obviously been expecting a longer speech. “Without further ado—guards of Phoenix Precinct, consider your first day shift to have officially begun!”


Precinct Series


Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collections Tales from Dragon Precinct and the forthcoming More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include A Furnace Sealed, the debut of a new urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx; the Alien novel Isolation; the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels starring Marvel’s versions of Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, TV Gods: Summer Programming, X-Files: Trust No One, Nights of the Living Dead, the award-winning Planned Parenthood benefit anthology Mine!, the two Baker Street Irregulars anthologies, and Release the Virgins!; and articles about pop culture for Tor.com and on his own Patreon.

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

COVER REVEAL – WHEN THE MOON SHINES


We have been sitting on this one for a while out of necessity, but are now cleared to reveal to you the full cover for When the Moon Shines, by John L. French, the premiere novella in our brand-new Systema Paradoxa series, which also launches our new imprint, NeoParadoxa, which will feature all things creepy, cryptid, and horror related. The series will be featured in the monthly subscription box Cryptid Crate four to six times a year. This new venture brings us much excitement, which we hope you will share.


SP - When the Moon Shines 6 x 9

Series design by Danielle McPhail, McP Digital Graphics
Cover art based on an illustration by Jason Whitley, Under Current Art

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.

***

In the dark days of Prohibition, in the wilderness just outside Harbor City, not all ‘monsters’ walk on two legs, and the ones that do aren’t all men up to no good. Creatures that long ago retreated into the venue of folklore have crept from their dark corners of the world to harry the ’Shiners minding their illicit business in the deep woods.

A faithful few recall the legends of the snallygasters and the dwayyo, and try their luck working for the roadhouses that seek to skirt the law. But life among the crime syndicate can be harrowing.

The wise get out, those that don’t, gamble their tomorrows against today…even before the Bosses get the idea to weaponize the living legends lurking in the heart of the forest in a bid to win their bootleg war.

Because when the moon shines, danger is afoot…or awing.


john-l-frenchJOHN 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.

FROM THE PUBLISHER – CRYPTID CRATE


As many of you already know, eSpec Books has partnered with Cryptid Crate to generate exclusive content for their monthly subscription box. January was their first exclusive box featuring one of our brand-new Systema Paradoxa novellas, When the Moon Shines, by John L. French.

This has been an exciting process and by necessity we haven’t shared too many details to preserve the surprise for the subscription box recipients. Now, however, they should have all received their goodies, so we are free to share a bunch of content with you. This first post shares a link to a cool interview with Matt Gorton and Mike Oreszczyn of Box Mountain LLC, the company that produces the crates.

And the next thing is our apologetically amateurish unboxing video of the January Cryptid Crate…I promise to do better in the future ;).

For those who would like a better look at the loot…or might want to score some of it for yourself…here is the official content of the January Cryptid Crate:

CryptidCrate_Jan2021_All_540x

And here is where you can order the above content while supplies last: January 2021 Cryptid Crate.

We are very much looking forward to creating both creepy and magical content and being a part of this venture. We also hope that all of you will join us in the journey, either here, or by subscribing yourself to the Monthly Cryptid Crate.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – GRYPHON PRECINCT


This week we are featuring Gryphon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido, book four in the Dragon Precinct Series. Currently there are five novels and one short story collection, but more of each are planned. This has been described as “Dungeons and Dragnet” by one reviewer and “JAG meets Lord of the Rings” by another. In either case, you get the idea. These are fantasy police procedural fun.


HaftScale-Proof-GryphonPROLOGUE

Lord Albin was late.

This distressed his chamberlain, Sir Rommett, no end, because Lord Albin was never late for the first appointment of the day.

Oh, as the day wore on, the lord of the demesne’s ability to be punctual deteriorated, and engagements scheduled for the end of the day were postponed about a third of the time. As the person who ruled the city-state of Cliff’s End, Lord Albin was in great demand. (Technically, he co-ruled with his wife, Lady Meerka, but she limited herself to overseeing financial matters. Her husband had to deal with everything else.)

That Lord Albin had agreed to see Sir Rommett first thing in the morning underlined the importance of the meeting. To make matters worse, Rommett had no idea what the meeting was about. Lord Albin had been unusually mysterious, saying only that it was “a grave matter.”

When the time chimes rang nine times, Rommett decided to take action. Normally, one waited for the lord to arrive at his leisure. To do aught else would be highly improper, and Rommett prided himself on his propriety. But Lord Albin was now an hour late, and worse, had sent no notice of his tardiness.

Stepping out of his office, he saw his secretary sitting at his desk, writing on a scroll. “Bertram, has there been any word from Lord Albin?”

Looking up from his writing, Bertram said, “I’m afraid not, sir.”

“He’s an hour late.”

“Yes sir, he is.”

“No message, nothing?”

Bertram shook his head. “No, sir.”

“Damn. This is very unlike him, don’t you think, Bertram?”

“I would never presume to say, sir. His scribe did come by.”

“What, that gnome?” Rommett asked with a frown.

Nodding, Bertram said, “Yes, sir. He hadn’t seen his lordship yet this morning, despite having gone by his office twice. I sent a pageboy to check with the house faerie, and his lordship did get up and leave his bedroom at seven this morning, along with Lady Meerka. They had breakfast together, and then her ladyship went to the eastern wing to speak with the magickal examiner. I’m not sure where his lordship went, I’m sorry to say.”

“Odd business. The meeting with the guild leaders is still at half past nine, yes?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’ll never be able to reschedule that.” Rommett shuddered. Finding a time when the leaders of all the guilds that controlled various occupations throughout Cliff’s End could meet had been almost impossible. Postponing and finding a new time would take weeks, and the guilds had already been threatening work stoppages if they didn’t get to meet with Rommett soon. “If he’s not in his bedchambers and he’s not in his office, he’s likely in the sitting room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to have to check there myself. If he is there, it’s best he not be disturbed by a mere pageboy.”

Bertram’s eyes widened with shock. “Is that—is that wise, sir?”

“We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?” Rommett sighed. “It’s just so unlike him not to send word if he’s this late.”

“Yes, sir.” Bertram sounded dubious, but Rommett studiously ignored him and started down the corridor toward Lord Albin’s sitting room. He noticed that the guard who was usually posted near Rommett’s office wasn’t present. Indignant, Rommett whirled around to face his secretary again. “Bertram! Where is the guard?”

“I’m afraid the guards assigned to the castle are a bit short-handed this morning, sir. Today is the funeral.”

Bertram had said that as if Rommett would know what funeral he was referring to.

Apparently deciphering the quizzical expression Rommett gave him, Bertram continued: “One of the lieutenants in the Castle Guard was killed during that, ah, unfortunate incident at the bank?”

Rommett vaguely remembered a report about something like that. In fact, thinking about it, he recalled a requisition from Captain Osric for permission to promote one of the guards to lieutenant to replace the detective in question—Hawk, was it? He still hadn’t approved that requisition. In any case, while the chamberlain was not happy at the notion of the castle being short-handed of protection, he also was not so churlish as to deny people the right to attend the funeral of a comrade. “I assume this funeral will not extend past lunch?”

“No, sir,” Bertram said confidently.

“Very well.” Nodding, Rommett again turned his back on his secretary and proceeded through the castle halls until he reached Lord Albin’s study.

The double doors at the end of the corridor were closed. That was meaningless in and of itself, as the doors were rarely open. If Lord Albin was inside, it was usually a meeting that he did not wish people to eavesdrop on (more public meetings were held in the dining room or in his office); if he wasn’t inside the doors were not just closed, but locked.

Rommett hesitated, then knocked.

There was no response.

Praying to Temisa that he was not making a career-ending mistake, he grabbed the left-hand door and pulled down the handle. The door creaked as Rommett gingerly pulled it open to reveal Lord Albin sitting in the plush chair, currently turned to face the fireplace, which was roaring, as it was a chill autumn day. Lord Albin hadn’t been well lately, and in retrospect, Rommett shouldn’t have been surprised that his lordship had decided to take refuge in front of a fire.

Oddly, Lord Albin was simply staring straight ahead, as if lost in thought. He had an odd expression on his face, but Rommett couldn’t figure out for the life of him what precisely was odd about it, merely that it was.

“My lord, I’m sorry, but we were supposed to meet an hour ago to discuss that—that grave matter of yours, and I need to meet with the guild leaders in just half an hour, so I was hoping . . .”

Rommett trailed off, as Lord Albin had made no response of any kind to his chamberlain’s words. In fact, he hadn’t blinked, hadn’t moved, hadn’t twitched his mouth, hadn’t done anything.

Not even breathe.

His voice a strangled whisper, Rommett said, “Oh, Temisa, no . . .”

Hesitantly, he approached the body. Afraid to touch it, he instead just looked at it. Lord Albin’s eyes stared unblinkingly ahead, his body as still as a statue. Rommett briefly felt dizzy and had to steady himself on the frame of the fireplace—only to quickly remove his hand and almost fall forward, as the bricks were hot from the fire.

Filled with a sudden urge to be away from the sitting room as fast as possible, Rommett turned and practically ran, his legs carrying him toward the main entrance to the castle. Only as he entered the vestibule did he realize that his legs knew where to take him even when his conscious mind did not: Bertram had said that Lady Meerka was with Boneen, the magickal examiner, and his lair was in the basement of the eastern wing of the castle.

Coming in through the main entrance at the same time were two members of the Castle Guard, a human man and a half-human, half-elven woman. They wore black leather armor as all guards did. A medallion on the chest included a stylized gryphon, the family crest of Lord Albin and Lady Meerka, indicating that they were assigned to the castle. They both wore earth-colored cloaks with the same crest, the color denoting them as lieutenants in the Guard. Rommett could not remember their names.

The male half of the pair had a thick red beard and long red hair, which obscured all but his aquiline nose and penetrating eyes. He looked concerned upon seeing Rommett, and the chamberlain realized that his devastation was etched on his features.

“Sir Rommett,” he asked, “are you all right?”

Flexing his hand, which still burned from the fireplace frame, Rommett said, “No. None of us may ever be all right again.”

“What’s wrong?”

Rommett hesitated, as if saying it made it more real.

Then he looked down at his hand, which was starting to get red. Saying it or not saying it would have no effect on anything, he forced himself to admit. Temisa had already taken him away.

“Lord Albin,” he finally said, “is dead.”

Both detectives’ eyes went wide, and the half-elven detective, who was one of the ugliest women Rommett had ever seen—not just in face, but also in personality, as the woman had no respect for her betters—put her hand to the hilt of her sword, hanging from a belt scabbard. “How was he killed?”

Rommett stared at the woman for a second—Tresyllione, that was her name. “He wasn’t killed! He’s been ill, and he died in his sitting room.”

“You’re sure?” Tresyllione asked insistently. “His body had no markings on it, no indication of foul play?”

“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous!” Rommett shook his head, wondering why he had even stopped to talk to these two idiots. “I must go inform Lady Meerka.”

Flexing his left hand some more, he made a mental note to see a healer after he talked to her ladyship.

He also wondered if he wasn’t too snappish with Tresyllione and her partner. In fact, he didn’t investigate the body all that closely, and it was Lord Albin himself who proclaimed the law that any time someone died in Cliff’s End, it should be investigated by the Castle Guard.

But no. His lordship had been sick. That was all.


Precinct Series


Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collections Tales from Dragon Precinct and the forthcoming More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include A Furnace Sealed, the debut of a new urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx; the Alien novel Isolation; the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels starring Marvel’s versions of Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, TV Gods: Summer Programming, X-Files: Trust No One, Nights of the Living Dead, the award-winning Planned Parenthood benefit anthology Mine!, the two Baker Street Irregulars anthologies, and Release the Virgins!; and articles about pop culture for Tor.com and on his own Patreon.

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

eSPEC EXCERPTS – GOBLIN PRECINCT


Hitting the midway point. This week we are featuring Goblin Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido, book three in the Dragon Precinct Series. Currently there are five novels and one short story collection, but more of each are planned. This has been described as “Dungeons and Dragnet” by one reviewer and “JAG meets Lord of the Rings” by another. In either case, you get the idea. These are fantasy police procedural fun.


Goblin Precinct 2x3PROLOGUE

Oddly, given how miserable he’d been the past few years, Elthor lothSerra was happier than he’d ever been in his century-plus of life when he died.

Once, many years ago, Elthor was a member of the Elf Queen’s court. He had a charming wife, a beautiful mistress, dozens of servants, hundreds of slaves, all the food he could consume (and then some), and enough gold to drown himself in.

Elthor’s wealth was inherited, but he also invested wisely, and one of his concerns was in swordmaking—a boom business during war, and the Elf Queen was always at war with someone.

Then, of course, came the biggest war of all, as the Elf Queen tried to extend her grasp to all the dwarven and human lands. And she would have succeeded, too, had it not been for the betrayal of her nephew, Olthar lothSirhans.

Elthor had always considered Olthar to be a dear friend and comrade. His betrayal had stung at the time.

Said betrayal was the beginning of the end for the Elf Queen, which meant it was also the end for Elthor. His fortunes were tied entirely to his being a favorite of the Elf Queen, and when things took a turn for the worse, his own lifespan—once guaranteed to last a couple of centuries—was now measured in hours.

Unless, of course, he got out. He had sufficient cash reserves, and barely enough people who thought highly of him, to get out of the elven lands. When the Elf Queen was brought down by human soldiers led by the legendary Gan Brightblade, Elthor was long gone.

Olthar, for all that he and Brightblade had become comrades, was not among those who brought the Elf Queen down. Indeed, he never set foot in elven lands again after his betrayal. Up until his own hasty departure, Elthor had thought that to be cowardly.

But how could he go home after leaving in ignominy? For decades, he had traveled in lavish coaches drawn by the finest horses. When he left home, for what turned out to be the last time, it was hiding in a merchant’s carriage drawn by one slow, elderly horse. He was surrounded by assorted badly packed dry goods and the ride east nearly destroyed his back.

Finding somewhere to go proved more problematic than he had first thought. In the past, all he’d had to do was say he was a member of the Elf Queen’s court and he could stay in the best accommodations with serving staff at his beck and call. Now, the very mention of a connection to the Elf Queen would like as not put him on the wrong end of a sword. With his luck, it would be a blade made by one of his own swordmasters.

Eventually, he found himself in the city-state of Cliff’s End. A nominally human metropolis—it was run by Lord Albin and Lady Meerka, who served the human king and queen—it was, in fact, an incredibly diverse place where elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings mingled with humans with little difficulty or revulsion.

Elthor had been pretty disgusted when he arrived, but given his current station in life, he wasn’t in a position to be fussy. And the ease of blending in proved useful.

He had come to the port city with the thought of hiring a boat to one of the islands on the Garamin Sea where they didn’t ask questions, but by the time he arrived, he’d gone through all his cash reserves, with poor lodgings eating through his remaining coin in a week’s time.

Only a year after escaping his home with his life, Elthor lothSerra found himself reduced to begging on Haven’s Lane. It was his only option, as being a nobleman for a great empire left one without very many marketable skills. His attempts at securing employment proved pathetic and short-lived.

So he begged. And grew more and more unhappy.

As the years passed—Elthor honestly had no idea how many, as his sense of time had atrophied from lack of caring—he got progressively better at begging and proportionately more unhappy.

One of the other beggars he occasionally shared space with on Haven’s Way was a gnome whose name Elthor had never bothered to learn. On one occasion, the gnome asked Elthor, “Why aint’cha happy?”

Elthor just stared at him. “Are you mad? What could I possibly be happy about?”

“What ain’t there t’be happy about?” The gnome shook his head. “This is the life, innit? You sit around all day and people just throw coins at you for lookin’ pathetic. Shit, all’s you have to be doin’ is lookin’ like your usual self, and it’s good for a couple gold a day. What could be better?”

“Almost anything.”

The gnome laughed and shook his head. “You gotcherself entirely the wrong attitude, you do. Know whatcha need?”

“A boat to take me away from this cesspit of a city?”

“Naw, you’re needed somethin’ for cheer. An’ I know someone’s got just the thing.”

Elthor had ignored the gnome for the rest of the day, but on the next, he offered Elthor a pill.

“What is this?” Elthor asked, pointedly not taking the proffered item.

“It’s called ‘Bliss.’ It’ll put the smile back on your face, it will. Just costs a copper.”

At first, Elthor was going to reject the gnome’s offer out of hand. After all, he was truly endeavoring to save up to hire that boat.

But how realistic a notion was that? He’d been begging for years now, and—once he’d spent what he needed for food, drink, and the occasional awful accommodation, usually during winter—he’d only scraped together a few gold. While he’d attempted to keep his personal spending down, it still wasn’t enough. He’d been absolutely ruthless in paring his spending down. Indeed, the only time he’d indulged himself was to buy a celebratory drink when he heard the news that Olthar lothSirhans had been killed.

He was decades away from even considering the possibility of hiring a boat, and he was fairly sure that he’d go completely mad long before then.

There was also the stark realization that the only day he’d been truly happy since coming to this city-state was the day he learned that Olthar had been murdered. On that day, his only sadness was that he had not been the one to wield the weapon that killed the betrayer.

So, at once both reluctant and eager, Elthor took the pill that the gnome offered in exchange for a copper recently dropped in his hat by one of his regulars.

At first, nothing changed, and Elthor was about to demand his copper back—then suddenly he was utterly suffused with joy! The sun, formerly an unwelcome intrusion of light, was now bright and lovely! The stinks of Haven’s Way became pleasurable, the drab colors of Goblin Precinct’s buildings became bright and vivid, and the sussurus of the downtrodden voices of the Cliff’s End poor became a symphony of noise!

For the first time since Olthar’s betrayal, Elthor truly felt joy!

The day passed by quickly, and Elthor got many fewer coins than usual—after all, who would give money to so happy a beggar?—but he found that he didn’t care.

At least until roughly sundown, when it all just stopped. The scents became odors once more, the noise became oppressive, the sights dull. As miserable as he’d been before taking Bliss, it was as nothing compared to how he felt now, with the knowledge that such transcendent happiness had been his just minutes ago.

His sleep was troubled, his dreams filled with images of people he hadn’t seen in years, but the most prominent was Olthar lothSirhans, laughing at him.

The next morning, he sought out the gnome and bought a dozen of the Bliss pills, figuring they would keep him going for a week or so.

But the second pill only lasted a few hours, and the third only two. With each pill, the high was of a shorter duration, the crash harder and nastier. It got to the point where Elthor was taking a pill every quarter-hour, desperate to maintain the joy and stave off the doom.

One morning, the gnome, whose name was Chobral, wandered into Haven’s Way to inquire as to whether or not Elthor wanted more pills, only to find that he lay dead in the alley.

With a sigh at losing a paying customer—Chobral got twenty percent of the take from any direct sales he made, and Elthor had the makings of a good regular—the gnome went to find a member of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard to report the dead body.


Precinct Series


Keith R.A. DeCandido

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

We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collections Tales from Dragon Precinct and the forthcoming More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include A Furnace Sealed, the debut of a new urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx; the Alien novel Isolation; the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels starring Marvel’s versions of Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, TV Gods: Summer Programming, X-Files: Trust No One, Nights of the Living Dead, the award-winning Planned Parenthood benefit anthology Mine!, the two Baker Street Irregulars anthologies, and Release the Virgins!; and articles about pop culture for Tor.com and on his own Patreon.

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

COVER REVEAL – DAWNS A NEW DAY


We are ahead on this one. The book isn’t quite done yet, but once again we have found the perfect artwork, so I am thrilled to share with you the cover for Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s upcoming science fiction collection Dawns a New Day: And Other Futuristic Tales. While this one is primarily reprints, there will be a few new stories in it as well, thus the delay on the book and cover copy. Please do enjoy the pretty picture in anticipation of the book to follow!


FB-McP-DawnsANewDay


Kickstarter DMcPhail

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 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’ 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 two extremely spoiled cats.