Book Review: Wilders, by Brenda Cooper

Here’s a great review on Wilders by Brenda Cooper (POST, eSpec Books).

The Skiffy and Fanty Show

Author Brenda Cooper describes herself as a futurist and as being passionate about the environment, and you’d better believe she’s dead serious about it. Which is to say that, unlike most of the books I’ve gotten to review for Skiffy and Fanty this month, Wilders is many things, but fun isn’t one of them. Like so much ecological science fiction (or ecopunk, if that’s a thing? I’m pretty sure it’s a thing), Wilders is written in deadly earnest. Look elsewhere for lighthearted escapism.

Refreshingly, though, unlike a lot of books I’ve stumbled across in this genre, Wilders manages not to get too preachy. Herein, Cooper works under the assumption that her readers are proficient singers in the choir, and proceeds to focus on telling us a story rather than trying to persuade us that wilderness matters, that the environment matters, that extinction hurts us, etc., etc.

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…Just wanted to share our exciting news…

Here is the cover for The Awakened Modern, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.

The sudden appearance of a second moon in Earth’s sky awakens latent abilities in humanity…a link to a familiar, control of the elements, and so much more becomes possible as the second moon takes effect. What impact will this sudden change have on society? Only time will tell.

With stories by Ed Greenwood, James Chambers, Jennifer Brozek, Torah Cottrill, Ty Johnston, Hal Greenberg, Kenneth Shannon III, Drew Bittner, and Walt Ciechanowski.

About the Artist – Jhoneil Centeno is a Los Angeles based artist. A graduate of the renowned Art Center College of Design, he primarily works in digital media but recently found a new enthusiasm in working with oil paint again. His paintings have been featured in numerous books, galleries, and websites. In his spare time, he plays the ukulele badly, takes pictures of random things, and explores LA’s diverse food culture. He loves all things archery, specially the Asian variety and can hit an apple consistently at 20 yards using a traditional recurve bow. “My work explores the relationship between the body and romance tourism. With influences as diverse as Rousseau and Sriracha Marconi, new combinations are created from both traditional and modern textures. Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the unrelenting divergence of the mind. What starts out as triumph soon becomes manipulated into a carnival of lust, leaving only a sense of dread and the dawn of a new synthesis. As shimmering derivatives become transformed through studious and diverse practice, the viewer is left with a testament to the possibilities of our world.” His website is


proof-front-sisterAdult author Campbell (the Wrath of the Great Guilds) makes a foray into YA with a breezy contemporary fantasy. […] [The Sister Paradox]  is a light, zippy escapade. Publisher’s Weekly

Wow. This is the best example of the guy who gets sucked into another world that I’ve read lately. 5 Stars, Amazon Customer

New-Proof-DTF1bIf you like to read military science fiction this is a great book to add to your collection! 5 Stars, L. Pierce, Amazon




Just FIVE days left to enter!

eSpec Books

groundhog-day-2014-ftrIn time-honored tradition, February 2 is Groundhogs Day, where all across the country, we wait with bated breath for a furry rodent to tell us how soon winter will end. While the tradition is much older, Groundhog Day was adopted in the U.S. in 1887. honor of this and other cherished rituals, this month’s theme is Superstition. Our theme…your take. You have a maximum of 1887 words. Deadline: February 28.

Click here to learn more aboutGroundhogs Day.

Entries should be mailed to as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment. Please include your name, story title, and contact information on your manuscript itself. If we cannot identify your entry from the file you will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are permissible, but reprints are not. Winning entry will be published on the eSpec Books blog and the winner will receive a free ebook copy of the eSpec Books title…

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heliosphere_logo_wptheme5Hard to believe Heliosphere is just two weeks away, in Tarrytown, NY. I was pretty sure I had at least three weeks to get ready. :::sigh::: 

If you aren’t familiar with the convention don’t feel bad. This is the first year. I’m excited to say I am one of the guests of honor, along with David Gerrold and Jacqueline Carey. I don’t have locations, but below is the current schedule for both myself and Mike McPhail.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Autograph Signing – Friday 4:45 – 5:45pm

Meet and Greet – Friday 8:00 – 10:00pm

Reading – Saturday at 10:00am.

Guest of Honor Spotlight (with Keith R.A. DeCandido) – Saturday 2:30 – 4:00pm

The Die Is Cast Launch Party – Saturday 6:00 – 8:00pm – There will be food, fun, and prizes, as usual, but this time around the only cooking I need to do is make some nummy baked goods to supplement what will already be there.

Kickstarter 101 – Sunday 10:00 – 11:30am


Mike McPhail

Starting Your Own Small Press – Saturday Noon – 1:30pm

The Die Is Cast Launch Party – Saturday 6:00 – 8:00pm

Breaking into the Industry as an Artist – Sunday Noon – 1:30pm

Books-n-Brews – to be scheduled



proof-tbobafThis is a part of our series of excerpts connected with our campaign for The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries. All of the authors have been selected based on fan and reviewer recognition as some of the best examples of Bad-Ass Faeries, representing over a decade of this award-winning series. If you are interested in learning more about The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, please check out our Kickstarter. #Make100


Bernie Mojzes

In this room, Prohibition was suspended. Booze flowed like the music at Pogo & Bud’s: hot and sultry, drums and bass laying down the groove as the piano tinkled like ice on glass, saxophone splashing across the bar and into darkened corners. Bryn Mawr debs in feathers and fringe danced with nattily dressed Negroes from the city. Tobacco and marijuana mingled in the hot June air, blown around by lazy fans.

Tom Marich leaned back against the bar with closed eyes, letting the music wash over him, fingers tapping echoes of the melody against his whiskey glass. He wasn’t the only regular attracted more by the music than the speakeasy’s other offerings. Young musicians who pushed the boundaries wouldn’t find work at respectable venues like the Dunbar. Bud McGarritty made a point of booking some of the most innovative jazzmen in the country.

“It’s what makes having that,” McGarritty had said to Tom once, glancing toward an unmarked door at the back of the room, “bearable.”

Through that door and down a corridor was another world, one of men with haunted eyes, and sometimes girls in giggling pairs or threesomes. Tom had been there once, enticed by a pale slip of a girl whose name he’d never known. He’d paid a man for passage to a place where something akin to heaven awaited. The opium was sweet as nectar, the sex sweeter, but one look at the wasted men, too lost in dream and decay to appreciate the willing flesh around them, made him swear to stick to jazz and whiskey.

Tom chain-smoked through the set, watching the flappers dance as he sipped his drink. When his last smoke threatened to burn his lips, he caught the attention of the tantalizing redhead with the cigarette tray. He tossed three nickels on the tray and tapped a cigarette out of the pack of Lucky Strikes, smiling as the girl leaned forward with a lighter. She grinned and winked at him.

“My name’s Mary,” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked away.

After the set, Tom waved his empty glass at McGarritty, but the bartender was down at the end of the bar in distracted conversation with a small man that Tom had never seen before. Tom reassessed—there wasn’t even a hint of stubble on the boy’s face as he looked up innocently at McGarritty’s scowl. His oversized jacket and pants made him seem even skinnier than he probably was. Tom drew his bar stool closer for a listen…and for a place at the front of the queue once McGarritty was pouring again.

“That ain’t the way things’re done,” McGarritty was saying. “In this world there’s rules; even a punk like you knows it’s bad for your health to go making side deals.”

The kid took off his hat. Fine brown hair fell to his shoulder.

Tom blinked in surprise. All thoughts of the Lucky Strikes girl vanished.

“Mr. McGarritty,” the kid said in a woman’s low alto, the words falling like music from his—her—lips, “I’m not asking you to do anything on any side at all. I’d simply like you to sample my wares. I believe that with the endorsement of a fine businessman such as yourself, and perhaps some of your more discriminating customers, I shall be able make the arrangements necessary for a long and lucrative partnership for all those concerned.”

There was something slightly alien in her voice: the accent of a girl who had come to America in early childhood. Tom struggled to place it. A first-generation Serb growing up in a neighborhood of immigrants, he had experience with accents, but this one eluded him with a familiarity that lingered just out of reach.

McGarritty hesitated. “I dunno….”

Tom set his empty glass on the bar between McGarritty and the girl. She jumped, just slightly, surprised by the sudden intrusion.

“I’ll try it,” he said with a playful smile, “if you’ll join me. Hell, right about now, seems like it’s the only way to get a drink around here.” The last he directed to McGarritty, though his eyes never left her face.

“Excellent,” she said, pulling a tall, thin bottle from inside her jacket. The liquor that poured from the dark green glass was a translucent, milky white that glowed in the dimly lit bar.

“Is that Absinthe?” Tom asked.

She smiled. “Not quite, though it’s quite potent in its own way. We call it Moonshine. That’s what gives it that glow. I’m told that it’s also a pun. This recipe has been in my family for a long time, and it’s time to share it with the world. So, here I am.” She raised her glass and clinked it against Tom’s. “To world domination,” she said, and her eyes glittered.

Much to his embarrassment, Bernie Mojzes has outlived Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Janice Joplin and the Red Baron, without even once having been shot down over Morlancourt Ridge. Having failed to achieve a glorious martyrdom, he has instead turned his hand to the penning of paltry prose (a rather wretched example of which you currently hold in your hands), in the pathetic hope that he shall here find the notoriety that has thus far proven elusive. His work has appeared in Bad-Ass Faeries II and III, Dragon’s Lure, Dead Souls, Clockwork Chaos, In An Iron Cage, and New Blood. Should Pity or perhaps a Perverse Curiosity move you to seek him out, he can be found at


eSpec Books interviews John L. French, contributor to The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, currently funding on Kickstarter as a part of the #Make100 campaign.

eSB: What is your idea of a bad-ass faerie?

JLF: My idea is something like Tolkien’s elves or Irish heroes like Cuchulainn and the Red Branch. A warrior race that prizes the literary, mystic, and scientific arts as much as it does the art of combat.  (Note: For truly bad ass, read The Raid by Randy Lee Eickhoff.)

eSB: Can you tell us a little about your story, “So Many Deaths”, that was selected for The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries?

baf3front-smJLF: “So Many Deaths” appeared in BAF 3 – In All Their Glory. I’m a crime scene investigator for an east coast city. I also started out writing crime fiction. So most of my stories, regardless of genre, usually have a crime element to them. Danielle knows this and for In All Their Glory she asked me to write a faerie story about a SWAT team. And so I did, setting the story in Baltimore and making sure it had both faeries and a SWAT team. When I sent it to her she liked it but … “John, what I really wanted was a faerie SWAT team.”

So I wrote another one, tying it into the first. The two stories were then combined and published as “So Many Deaths.” So Danielle, and the readers, get two Swat teams for the price of one.

angelThe names of the faeries in in the story came from two different sources. The male names were taken from Tom Holland’s The Forge of Christendom. The female names from my daughter’s fashion magazine. The name of the lead faerie detective and the style of his part of the story were inspired by the old TV series Dragnet. (art by Linda Saboe,

The name of the lead detective on the mortal side, Beth Steele, came from the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

eSB: What would your fae character’s signature drink be and why?

Guardsman Fredag, appreciates good wine. However, being an underpaid law enforcement officer he drinks the cheap stuff.

eSB: What kind of challenges did you find writing for this series?

First there was an argument with Danielle, I’m sorry, a professional disagreement, about the spelling of the word “Faerie.” It ended the way all such discussions end with “I’m the editor and you’ll spell it my way.”

The part of the story set on Earth was not a problem. For the scenes set in Faerie I had to build a culture, a mythology, and a political structure to make the story work.

eSB: What is your first recollection of faeries growing up?

Tinkerbelle, and clapping my hands in front of the TV so she wouldn’t die. When the 2003 movie came out I found myself the only one in the theater clapping to save Tink when she was poisoned. (I clapped quietly so as not to embarrass my daughter.) I like to think I alone saved her life.

eSB: What interested you in writing for this series?

Danielle asked. When Danielle askes it’s hard to say no.

eSB: Tell us something about yourself that is bad-ass.

I work crime scenes. I’ve helped catch murderers, rapists, and serial killers. Plus I was in three Batman comics.

eSB: Do you have any plans to expand your story…or write in the same universe? If so, what more can your readers expect?

Detective Beth Steel has worked her way into my Bianca Jones supernatural mystery series. One day I might tell the story of what happened to her immediately following the end of “So Many Deaths” then send her and Bianca into Faerie seeking justice and vengeance.

eSB: What are some of your own works readers can look for?

John L. French Here There Be Monsters.jpgThere are my pulp fiction based books The Devil of Harbor City, The Nightmare Strikes, and The Grey Monk: Souls on Fire. And there’s the Bianca Jones series – Here There Be Monsters, Bullets and Brimstone, Rites of Passage, and Blood is the Life.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?

Along with Patrick Thomas, I’m currently editing Camelot 13, due out in 2018. And a new Bianca Jones collection, Monsters Among Us, should be out this spring, hopefully before the Memorial Day weekend.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

I’m on Facebook, and readers are free to email me at


John L. French has worked for over thirty years as a crime scene investigator and has seen more than his share of murders, shootings and serious assaults. As a break from the realities of his job, he writes science fiction, pulp, horror, fantasy, and, of course, crime fiction.  

In 1992 John began writing stories based on his training and experiences on the streets of Baltimore. His 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), Paradise Denied, Blood Is the Life, The Nightmare Strikes, and Monsters Among Us. John is the editor of To Hell in a Fast Car, Mermaids 13, C. J. Henderson’s Challenge of the Unknown, and (with Greg Schauer) With Great Power…  

You can find John on Facebook or you can email him at him at


Facebook – John French

Amazon Author Page –