AUGUST FLASH FICTION CONTEST – MYTHIC


horn-dog2Magical Beasts…time to get things done…equal representation…All things we’ve heard of but rare few have seen. This month’s theme is Mythic.

Give us an inventive story in 1500 words or less by August 31. Email your submissions to especbooks@aol.com.

One lucky winner will receive publication on the eSpec Blog and an electronic copy of the eSpec Books/Paper Phoenix Press title of their choice.

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JUNE FLASH FICTION WINNER


Sorry for the delay, this has been a hectic month.

Congratulations to David M. Hoenig, winner of the June Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec Blog and a digital copy of the eSpec Books title of his choice.

The flash fiction contest will resume in August with Mythic.


WITH A SMILE
David M. Hoenig

“C’mon, brother!  I overheard the Captain and Arsenault saying it’s the hottest place on the station.”

“But, yanno, is it safe, Gord?”

Gordon Blaive stared incredulously at his shipmate just outside the neon-lit club, Rubbed Elbows, as music from inside washed over them.  “The Kaethra are the friendliest species you could ever hope to encounter.  I know it’s your first trip with us, but you’ve heard the stories, right?”

Jax Tanner shrugged like it was no big thing, but managed to look uncomfortable nonetheless.  “Sure, but actual sex with them?  What about diseases and stuff?”

Gord laughed.  “Diseases… and stuff?” he gasped between paroxysms.  “It’s a totally alien biology, man!  It’s impossible to catch something from them.  We go in, buy a few drinks, and when a willing Kaeth sidles up to you and lets you know it’s interested, you just pay for a room and go at it.”

“Uh, how does it actually…work?”

Gord clapped a hand on Jax’s shoulder.  “Don’t tell me you haven’t watched any of them pornos on the Luck!  Basically, you stick your dick in one and fuck it til you’re done.  Then you go back to the ship with some once in a lifetime memories and more interesting stories than hauling ice and jerking off in your cabin for the last four months.”

Jax blushed.  “But…?”

“Shit.  You going to ask questions all night, or are we going to get some alien poon?”  Without waiting for a reply, Gord grabbed the other man’s wrist and tugged him into the club.

Inside the music was louder, but not uncomfortable.  There were weird harmonics in it, along with a sweet scent in the air.  “I’d swear that was honeysuckle,” Jax said wonderingly.

A Kaeth ‘hostess’, delicate wings shimmering prismatically in the club’s light, moved to greet them.  Its eyes glittered like faceted crystal as it handed them each a translator to pin to their clothes.  It then hummed an interrogative at the two men, and the devices did the rest.  “Welcome, gentlebeings.”

Jax couldn’t take his eyes from the Kaeth’s insectoid body.  Gord elbowed him.  “Gives new meaning to the term wasp-waisted, don’t it?”  He grinned at the hostess.  “Thanks.  You’ll have to pardon my friend; he hasn’t met one of you before.”

The Kaeth hummed something which the translators rendered as tinkling laughter.  “And you’re the expert, hmm?”

It was Gord’s turn to blush.  “Well, I, uh…How could you tell?”

The hostess interrupted with more musical speech.  “We know many things.”  It motioned peremptorily with a wing, and another Kaeth approached them bearing a tray with glasses on it.

Gord and Jax each took one, and sniffed at the amber liquid within.

The new alien kept its eyes downcast but trilled a response.  “Whiskey,” the translators rendered.

The spacers drank as the hostess stretched its gossamer wings forward to lightly brush them.  “Please be welcome.  You understand our customs?”

The men glanced at each other before Gord answered.  “Yes.  We wait to be approached before we find a, uh, partner.”

“Excellent.  Enjoy yourselves, gentlebeings.  We thank you for servicing us.”  Both Kaethra moved off.

Jax let out a breath.  “Whoa!”

“Totally hot, right?”

“Uh, I guess.”

Gord grinned lasciviously.  “Like the man said, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’, brother.  Let’s find us some company.”

They moved further into the club, where a white fog rose from vents in the floor to lend a magical ambiance.  The wreathing vapor teased them with half-revealed glimpses of both humans and Kaethra waiting alone, or together.  “What’d she mean by ‘servicing us’, Gord?” Jax whispered.

“What do you think, numbnuts?  Just hold onto your pecker—it’s all good.”

“But…?”

“Quiet!” Gord hissed, as a Kaeth loomed out of an eddy of fog.  It reached one appendage out towards them.  Gord glanced at Jax, then licked his lips.  “Well, if you won’t, I’m gonna.”  He put his hand out to hold the alien’s delicate hand-appendage, and it turned to lead him away.  “See you back at the ship,” he called back over his shoulder.

“Shit!  Don’t leave me here all alone!”

Gord didn’t answer, but disappeared into the fog.  Jax began to breathe more rapidly, and backed slowly away.  “Shitshitshit,” he muttered.  “This is crazy!”

Then another Kaeth came out of the mist, and held out its hand-appendage to him, and the spacer looked at it helplessly before he took it.  He shuddered as it turned to lead him through the fog to a hatchway with a cred reader on the wall beside it.  It leaned close and trilled.  “Rent us a room so we can be together, lover.”

Half dazed by the whiskey, the scents, and the alien music, Jax fumbled out his credit chip and swiped it at the reader.  The hatch unlocked and the Kaeth led him inside.

The alien closed the door behind him, letting him hear music which sounded like the alien speech playing softly in the small room.  He turned.  “What do I…?”

It raised its hand-appendage and touched his lips softly, then stepped in to press itself against him.  “You feel so warm.”  The Kaeth rubbed its pelvis against his and hummed something the translator didn’t bother with.

The alien proceeded to strip him from his jump suit, gooseflesh rising all over even as his phallus jutted out eagerly.  His eyes bulged as he felt the soft, warm flesh of the Kaeth press against him.

Then it had turned and fallen back against the bed, pulling him down on top.  Its humming came now with a certain urgency.  “I want you inside me, lover.”

“Uh, where…?” Jax began, but exhaled sharply as it guided him into a wet, warm, soft place which enveloped him completely.  He began to thrust over and over, and the alien clung to him and moaned a complex scale of harmonics as he rode it.

The orgasm hit him like a supernova, causing him to gasp with its intensity.  His hips kept shoving as the pleasurable spasms went on and on, and the Kaeth moved with him, the sounds of its own apparent pleasure chorusing with his.

Jax’s face reddened as he looked down at the alien below him.  “Uh, I’m sorry…it’s, it’s just been a long time, and, and I…”

The amusement in the Kaeth’s musical reply needed no translation.  “Do not fret; I’ve enjoyed myself immensely.  Thank you for servicing me.”

The spacer’s uncertain expression relaxed into a hesitant smile.  “Then it wasn’t, uh, too fast?”

“Just right, lover, just right.”

Jax worked his jaw like he wanted to say something more, but no words came.  He pulled out and stood up.  There was something pathetic about the man as he looked at the alien reclined on the bed, now that the deed was done.  It watched him languorously as he awkwardly got his jumpsuit, then turned back.  “Uh, is there a place…?”

It pointed past him to the corner of the room, and when he looked that way he saw a sink and towels.  He cleaned himself and dressed hurriedly, then looked back to see the Kaeth regarding him appraisingly with its crystalline eyes.  “Uh…”

“Farewell, traveller,” it trilled.

The spacer hunched his shoulders and left, closing the hatch behind him.  Outside he saw Gord exiting from a similar hatch nearby.  “Hey!” he called out.

His shipmate looked over and grinned.  “Was that amazing or what?”

Jax shrugged, arms crossed tight.   “Yeah, I guess.”

Gord snorted.  “Shit, try to sound more excited after banging your first freaking alien, okay?”

“First??”

Gord just laughed as the ‘hostess’ who’d greeted them earlier arrived through the mists.  “I trust all was to your satisfaction, gentlebeings?”

“Hell yeah!” said Gord.

Jax nodded wordlessly.

The ‘hostess’ gestured with its wing, and another Kaeth came over, eyes downcast.  “This one will lead you out.  Please return the translators and farewell, gentlebeings.”  The two men unpinned the small devices and handed them over, then left; one strutting, the other with hunched shoulders.

Once they’d gone, the hatches to the rooms they had occupied opened and the Kaethra emerged to stand with the ‘hostess’.  “How did we do this cycle?” trilled one, the musical sounds translated incidentally by the devices.

“Quite well.  Six sixes plus a third of a six.”

“So many!” marvelled the other.

The hostess peered in the direction of the departed spacers.  “Yes.  These humans are astonishing creatures, aren’t they?  All thanks to the Universe for bringing them to us.”

The others made appropriate sounds of agreement.

After some moments of silence, the one which had lain with Jax spoke.  “Do you think it will hurt them much?”

“Not until the very end.  Why do you ask?”

“The one I mated with tonight seemed different than the others; hesitant, most unsure of itself.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.  I wonder if that will affect the eggs I laid in him.  I’d hate my young to be defective.”

“The Universe provides as it will.  Now, back to work.”

“Yes my queen,” the two chorused.

COVER REVEAL – MERMAID PRECINCT


HaftScale-Proof-Mermaid


“A fascinating excursion in genre-bending; worth a try even for readers who usually take either their procedurals or their fantasies unadulterated.” —Booklist

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

As Cliff’s End struggles to deal with a massive influx of refugees following a devastating fire in the neighboring city-state of Barlin, the docklands are rocked by a stunning tragedy: the legendary Pirate Queen has been murdered! Long the scourge of the Garamin Sea, the Pirate Queen’s death has ripple effects beyond Cliff’s End. Even as Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald investigate her murder, they find themselves embroiled in conspiracies, politics, and the arcane law of the sea—and of the land!

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

“Dungeons and Dragnet… As a take-off of the standard crime drama, Dragon Precinct succeeds nicely. Dressed in sword-and-sorcery trappings, the clichés of the genre are given a fresh twist.”

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society Authors and Editors


Keith R.A. DeCandido is a white male in his early forties, approximately 200 pounds. He was last seen in the wilds of the Bronx, New York, 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 short stories, comic books, nonfiction, novellas, and anthologies on an unsuspecting reading public. Many of these are set in the milieus of television shows, movies, games, and comic books, among them Star Trek, Cars, Doctor Who, Supernatural, World of Warcraft, Orphan Black, Alien, Marvel Comics, and many more. We have received information confirming that more stories involving Torin, Danthres, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Mermaid Precinct, Phoenix Precinct, and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include the urban fantasy novel A Furnace Sealed; the Orphan Black coffee-table book Classified Clone Report; the Alien novel Isolation; the Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels featuring Marvel’s Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, the two Baker Street Irregulars volumes, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, Nights of the Living Dead, The X-Files: Trust No One, among others; and writing about pop culture for Tor.com and Patreon. If you see DeCandido, do not approach him, but call for back-up 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.

THE WEEK(s) IN REVIEWS


It has been a while since I have done one of these so the span is more like a month in reviews, rather than just a week. We are very pleased to share with you the accolades some of our titles have recently received. Congrats to the authors for this recognition of their hard work.


Proof-4-5-Clockwork

 

“Intriguing magic, gender politics, and historical detail weave together in this coming-of-age fantasy debut […] Readers will especially enjoy Sonnier’s inventive worldbuilding.
Publisher’s Weekly

 

 

 


Proof-UnicornPrecinct

 

 

“All the familiar and fun elements of the previous book are there […] Unicorn Precinct was enjoyable.”
SF Reader

 

 

 


Proof-DragonPrecinct

 

“…DeCandido has presented is a police procedural set in a standard Dungeons & Dragons world. And I’m OK with that. […] A pleasant way to spend a few hours with characters that come to life in a world you can easily lose yourself in.” –SF Reader

 

 

 


proof-iwhk-cover

 

 

“A fascinating premise, one that plays teasing meta-games with the whole notion of fiction and story. […]There’s certainly something here for everyone.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)

 

 

 


proof-tdis-final

“These stories tackle the emotional minefields that await military personnel in the reaches of space. If you like David Drake, Joe Haldeman, or Jack Campbell, you’re bound to like this anthology.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)


cover

“Danielle teaches a great path for any stage of writer.” -JAnn Bowers, Goodreads

“The conversational tone is appealing and accessible. This book is worth reading as a very broad overview of the writing and publishing process.” -Darcysmom, Goodreads

The Literary Handyman by Danielle Ackely-McPhail is filled with great advises for aspiring writers. The book is structured in small articles and very easy to read.”
– Guy Lou, Goodreads

“Much of the information included in this volume might be a bit basic for more accomplished or connected authors, but I think this could be a handy reference guide for just about anyone — sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics when you’re stuck in a rut.” – Jane, Goodreads


spiritseeker.jpg

 

“All in all, an enjoyable collection of steampunk tales.” – David Lee Summers, Goodreads

 

 

 

 


JUNE FLASH FICTION WINNER


Our congratulations to Christopher J. Burkethe winner of eSpec Books’ June Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list. 


Cyber Where
by Christopher J. Burke

“Cyber What?” I only paid half-attention even before I started raiding Melanie’s fridge, when she lost most of the rest of it, but I caught the word “cyber”.

“No, Cyber Where!” she said, thrusting her hands out at me for emphasis. “It’s a pun. And it’s the new idea I’m developing.”

I plopped myself onto her couch with a pilfered bottle of water. Feeling between the cushions, I fished out the remote. “It doesn’t work.”

Mel glanced at the screen and saw it come alive as I fingered the keypad in my hand. “What doesn’t work? You mean my idea? Of course, it doesn’t. It’s in the planning stages.”

“Not that.” I dropped the remote, then cracked the bottle and took a long draught. “The pun doesn’t work. What’s it mean?”

She grabbed her earpiece from the desk and held it up, the dongle hanging between her fingers. Unlike the usual short-range antennas, that one probably had a much greater range than regular low-end devices. Likely had faster data transfer, courtesy of a few firmware hacks.

“Duh! The equipment is cyberware. Hardware, software, cyberware!” Almost as a reflex action, she hooked it over her left ear. When she glanced down to see the cord rubbing against her shoulder, her first instinct was to swing the plug behind her head.

“Could you not?”

“Hannah, join the 22nd century already.”

“I did. Three years ago, like everyone else. I had my experimental phase back in college, just like you. Okay, and a little bit in high school, too, but you started enjoying those Naughty Nineties sooner than me.”

Mel laughed at the memories. She was probably accessing these from storage even as I mentioned it. “I always was the prodigy of our group.”

I couldn’t help but grinning for a moment at that. “I’m just saying that I wished the hole in the back of my neck has closed instead of the ones on my lobes.”

My mouth was dry, so I took another swig from the bottle, then grabbed the remote and flipped channels until I saw some extreme weather. It had a calming effect that lasted until Melanie snorted.

“You complain about me plugging in. You’re doing the same.”

“This is just background noise and pretty pictures. You were about to immerse yourself, and contrary to what you think, you suck at multitasking.”

I kicked off my shoes and tucked my feet under me on the sofa. “So what’s this idea? What ‘where’ are you talking about?”

“Any ‘where’! Any place you’d like! What would you like?”

I flipped channels, stopping on some old vid. A rom-com from the looks of it. You could guess the decade from the hairstyles.  He was kind of cute, and she was kind of cuter, but they were my age now before I was born.

Mel grabbed her tablet from the desk, swiped her hand across it and stole the big screen from me. I was looking at a pretty park and some old buildings.

“How about Paris? How would you to experience Paris?”

I went to toss the bottle and look for food. “Already have. Didn’t take a lot of time or money, either.”

France disappeared, replaced by Iceland from the looks of it. “Have you seen the Northern Lights?”

My head was in the cupboard where I knew she hid the good snacks. “On a screen. What would be different?” I looked back at the television. “You realize it’s daytime over there, right?”

Mel put the tablet back on the desk, exasperated. The earpiece, once unhooked, joined the tablet, along with the dangling dongle. She started to say something, but instead leapt onto the couch, stealing my spot. I mean, sure, it’s her couch, but I’d been sitting there, like, thirty seconds ago.

“I want to develop a service that will let you be in Iceland, be in Paris, without the time and money.”

“How would it work?” I was legitimately asking at this point. There were times Mel needed a sarcastic friend and times she needed a devil’s advocate. Now was time for the latter. I ripped the wrapper from a fruit bar, took a bite and thought about it. “You might see in Paris, but you wouldn’t be there. And you can do that with a phone and a cardboard headset.”

“I’m not talking about a toy with canned images or hacked visuals from local cameras. I want to experience it. To feel it.”

Feel it? “Mel, I get seeing something, somehow, somewhere, and maybe hearing it, too, but how are you supposed to feel?” Let’s put aside taste and smell for the moment. But could you really experience a city without some fine dining and, oh my God, the pastries?

She reached behind the sofa, and pulled out a higher end “brow” piece, which sits on a person’s forehead, stretching nearly from ear to ear. It could plug into the neck or …

Mel pushed back her bangs, revealing a series of ports right below her hairline. I knew of few people who actually needed that kind of interface. Until now, I wouldn’t have thought Mel was one of them. I still wasn’t convinced that she was.

“When did you –?”

“I was ahead of my time.” She placed the brow piece before I could object and jacked in. I was so shocked I didn’t notice the television switch. “Wait, what are we looking at?”

“Lubbock, Texas.”

Out of every strange thing that had come to pass in this afternoon, I could honestly say, that was probably the least expected of all of them. The image was normal eye-level, and it was moving down the street. I glanced around for a remote, wondering how to control it, pan around, zoom, but realized that Mel just had to think about it to make it happen.

Or so I thought until she called out.

“Simon, can you hear me?”

A male voice answered through the TV. “You don’t need to shout. You don’t even need to talk for me to hear you.”

“My friend, Hannah, is here. I didn’t want to be rude. I have you on speaker, okay?”

 “That’s fine. Hi, Hannah. I think you have something on your blouse.”

I’d been walking toward the screen, but I stopped in my tracks. I stared at the TV for a moment, before glancing down. A glob of fruit jelly had fallen on me. I snatched a tissue from the box and wiped it off.

I looked back at the set. “You can see me?”

Mel laughed. “Over here, Hannah.”

“He can see me through your cyberware?”

“No. He can see you through my eyes. And you’re seeing what he’s seeing through his.”

Could that work? 

“I can see, hear, and even smell what Simon is experiencing. And I can do this instantly with at least a dozen friends that I’ve already connected with. And there are thousands more out there.”

Incredible. “But I don’t see the logistics of it. People getting implants to be connect with a relative handful of people with implants? And how would you monetize something like that?”

“Automatons. We set up municipal docking stations that people can rent and move anywhere around town, like they do now for transit, and …”

I put up a hand. “Hold it. You’re not talking about bicycles. You’re talking robots with expensive cybertech. Do you think any city – even, Lubbock – sorry, Simon – would put up the capital for such a … fantasy?”

Melanie’s face fell. The devil came due. “I said I just started developing the idea. There are other ways …”

“Excuse me, ladies.” For the moment, I’d forgotten about Simon. I knew looking at Mel meant looking at both of them but I chose the screen anyway. “I need to break the connection. I do still have some matters that I don’t broadcast.”

Just before breaking the connection, I saw something in a store window. “Simon, before you go, could I see what you look like? Could you show me your reflection?”

“Sure.” He happily obliged. His reflection was clear enough to see his was well-dressed, well-groomed. But I noticed the gear he had equipped. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill gray or chrome. And it was much easier on the eyes than the clumsy piece that Melanie wore. Hell, it even made me think twice about accessorizing, without the modifications and upgrades.

“That set-up looks incredible. Where do you get your tech?”

“Lots of places, but the look is purely my design. No reason that cybers can’t be stylish, right?”

He signed off and the screen went black. Mel removed her gear and rubbed her forehead. She seemed to have mild euphoria mixed with a headache.

I took the brow piece from her and looked it over. “Mel, you’re working on the wrong pun.”

She tilted her head up at me. “What?”

“You need to develop a line of cyber-wear. If people are going to use this stuff, they should look good doing it. Get me some paper, we’re sketching out some designs.”