eSpec Books interviews Erik Scott de Bie, contributor to The Awakened Modern, edited by Hal Greenberg and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: Can you tell us a little about your story, Whiteout, from The Awakened Modern?

EdB: It starts like this: The first thing you need to know is that this is not an admission of guilt. It’s not an accusation, a cry for help, or a suicide note. It’s a record.

Magic seems great and all, but it’s just as much a curse as a blessing. On her 19th birthday, my heroine manifested the power to drain away memories at a touch. Her first victim? Her then girlfriend, who doesn’t remember her at all. Since then, she’s been on the run from family, friends, and a mysterious government agency determined to control her devastating power.

eSB: What interested you in writing for this series?

EdB: Aside from it being hard for me to say no to Hal, I find the concept of the Awakened mythology fascinating. We humans have been telling stories about the transition from child to adult for as long as there have been stories, and the Awakened presents a new kind of coming of age story. And applying that logic to our own world? Fantastic.

eSB: If you could have a special power or familiar, what would it be and why?

EdB: Teleportation, no question. The ability to be anywhere at any moment? That would be amazing. And save me a lot of GenCon expenses.

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

EdB: I am the author of several novels in the iconic Forgotten Realms setting, as well as an ongoing post-apocalyptic epic series called the World of Ruin, which I describe as a collision between Game of Thrones and Fallout. I’m constantly writing more, and the best way to keep up with me is online.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

EdB: Read my work, play a game with me, and/or hang out with me at a bar at GenCon. You can find out a lot about a person from how they write, how they game, and how they drink. 

Erik Scott de Bie is an American fantasy author and technical writer who has authored several Forgotten Realms novels. He has a degree in English composition and literature from Willamette University in Oregon. 


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eSpec Books interviews Hal Greenberg, contributor to The Awakened Modern, edited by Hal Greenberg and Greg Schauer, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.

eSB: Can you tell us a little about your story, Silverback, from The Awakened Modern?

HG: It is the story of discovery about the powers and how it affects everyone even those non-Awakened and what I think would happen if these powers just showed up, my main characters are a female college student and a young police office on the Chicago PD.

eSB: What do you like most about The Awakened series, and why?

HG: Well, since I created it I am a little biased, but the truth is watching what others do in my playground, I love seeing what people come up with.

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

HG: If eSB asks for a sequel we have left it so we can jump right back into our characters, so if we are lucky we hope to be asked to go back and continue our story.

eSB: If you could have a special power or familiar, what would it be and why?

HG: I have thought long and hard about this and it changes all the time, sometimes, real life makes me think about one, sometimes it is reading someone else’s story and thinking “man that is sooo cool”.

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

HG: More fun character development and bringing each animal we have shown a distinct and fun personality.

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

HG: I have a few more Awakened fantasy projects coming up, my Sisterhood of the Blade anthology coming out later this year by BPI, and some great card/board games as well, one coming out in August is Approaching Dawn: The Witching Hour.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

HG: Friend me on Facebook.

Hal Greenberg is an ENNIE winning art director, author, game designer, lead on anthologies, and world builder. Some of his works include the world of The Awakened®, Sisterhood of the Blade®, Bluffside: City on the Edge, Approaching Dawn: Witching Hour. Hal has worked with such industry veterans as Monte Cook, Todd Lockwood, Jeff Easley, Jim Butler and many more. He has been a guest at GenCon, Necronomicon, and Salty Bay Con.  
Hal is a divorced father of two, with one dog, who resides in Florida. His hobbies include collecting: books, games, movie and TV props, art (sci-fi/fantasy and animation), watches, knives, and swords. He has also recently taken up the art of Bonsai with his daughter. Hal enjoys playing RPG’s (online and in person), board and card games, and binge watching Netflix® in his spare time. You can find him on Facebook at realhalgreenberg.


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

For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at: 


Warp Space and Chill

Christopher J. Burke

The wall monitor of my stateroom displayed a stunning view of the spaceport as the ship prepared for its departure. One could almost believe it an actual window, allowing folks on the station to peer into my cabin. I resisted the urge to wave. The rest of the room met, even exceeded, my expectations for the new flagship of the Blue Star Lines. They didn’t skimp, and neither had I when I purchased top-tier accommodations. After all, this would be my home for the next three days.

I had just stowed a few personal effects when I felt a familiar sensation. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the spaceport slip away and sink down the display. Then a red light flashed, accompanied by a three-toned chime.

“This is Irina, your flight attendant,” said a voice from a speaker. “All first-class passengers must report to the common area at this time.”

That sounded like an excellent idea. The common area housed the kitchen and the bar. But food and drink would have to wait. As soon as an attendant – this one was Ashley – spotted me, she checked off her clipboard. “Mr. Fletcher Ward, please sit in seat 8 and buckle in, please. We’re almost ready for the jump to warp space.”

Within a few moments, the ten of us, eight passengers and two attendants, sat securely. I thought them a bit over-protective with the procedures – I’ve taken dozens of voyages before – until they reminded us that of the new warp engine design. No one from the Sol system had ever experienced warp speeds like we would feel on this maiden voyage to Tau Ceti. Just a few ago, this trip would’ve taken weeks, and wouldn’t have been a leisure trip by any means.

Another flashing light and three more tones. “This is your Captain, speaking. Ship time is 2130 hours. In a few moments, I will engage the warp drive. For those of you familiar with our ships to Alpha Centauri, you may be aware of the effects of jumping to warp space. What you may not realize is that this ship with its new drive will cruise at ten times of the speed you’re used to. There may be a little discomfort at first, but it will pass. The drive will be engaged for approximately 12 hours for the first leg of our trip.”

The Captain continued to calm us and the fifty or so on the decks below until the ship was in position. I looked to my left and gave the young lady next to me a reassuring smile. She hesitated, then smiled back and added a little wink. A positive start to the first evening, I hoped. Then the drive engaged. She threw her head back, shut her eyes, and grit her teeth. I felt sorry for her discomfort, but at the same time a little comforted that she couldn’t see I was feeling exactly the same way. Grin and bear it best I could.

When we were free to move about again, she was clearly a little light-headed. Ashley quickly approached. “Ms. Verona, would you like me to escort you back to your cabin.”

She gave a quick nod, and the two eased away. Ms. Verona – I hadn’t gotten a first name yet – was going to be down for the night, alone. Pity. Looking around, Irina was supporting a gentleman in his efforts to walk, and an older couple in matching outfits helped each other.

The evening was young, and I didn’t want to return to my room so early. At least, not alone. As soon as I could, I stood and strolled to the table in the center of the room. A quick glance showed only four of us remained, with me being the only one of Sol ancestry. The others must be of hearty stock.

On the far left, near the bar, was a fellow with brown and amber skin. If that alone didn’t tell you he was from Alpha Centauri, the vestigial cranial horns were a giveaway. He was traveling far from home.

A little closer to me stood a tall, attractive woman with reddish-copper skin. Her dark brown hair hung down to her shoulders. From the few like her that I’ve met vacationing on Mars, I knew she was from one of the inner planets about Tau Ceti.  My guess: this was a ride home for her.

On my right, already seated at the table, was something new to me. Light-skinned with definite bluish tones. From a water planet? Amphibious, perhaps? Not from Tau Ceti. A neighboring system? Epsilon Eridani, maybe. Never met anyone from Ran.

Her smile was warm, charming. Her deep azure eyes, captivating. She invited me to sit before I could ask. Before I could find words to speak actually.

She introduced herself as “Sessastrass”, and confirmed her homeworld with me. She hadn’t been back for a couple of years and decided to do it right. The others joined us. The big guy was “Ro’K” for short, without elaborating. The lovely copper lady was “Amayya”.

Ro’K started the ball rolling, “Have you seen those views yet out the screens?”

Lame, but workable. Sessastrass answered him, “Only regular space. We’re missing the real show. The flashing, swirling lights should be amazing on that big glass.”

I tapped the table. “Plenty of time. That will be going on all night. And for most of the next three days.”

By this point, Irina and Ashley had returned. Drinks were served. Scotch for me, vodka for Ro’K, white wine for the red lady, and a seltzer for the blue woman. Now it started to be a party.

After a little more chatting, I reached inside my jacket and pulled a deck of cards from my pocket. “Anyone up for friendly games? No wagering, just ‘points’.”

Ro’K laughed. “I don’t know how ‘friendly’ you want to be, but I generally shy away from men who travel with their own cards. I heard an old story about getting an earful of cider that way.”

I didn’t get the reference but I put the deck down and slid it away from me. “Fair enough. I’d wager that there are sealed decks behind the bar, complete with Blue Star logos on them.”

Minutes later, we broke the seal and played started dealing. Card games are a great way to relax and read people, something I tend to excel at among humans. I’m less experienced with other races but always up to the challenge. Genuine curiosity feeds conversation, and it didn’t hurt my card playing either.

Ro’K was the first to fall. He’d already been traveling for days before just to get to this ship. He announced he was retiring. He made a slight bow in Amaya’s direction and then turned and locked eyes with Sessastrass for a moment. Then he burst out in a laugh and turned to me. “So how do we settle up these ‘points’? I don’t want to leave in anyone’s debt, and I need to make good.”

I started to protest, but he insisted.

“Irina, a round of drinks for the table. On me.”

Amayya spoke up, “The drinks are free.”

Ro’K pointed to a locked cabinet behind the bar. “Not all of them. Enjoy the ‘Top Shelf’. It’ll be a new experience.”

Irina poured out four measures of some kind of Centaurian brandy. Ro’K took his and returned to his room. Sessastrass demurred and pass hers to me. Amayya slowly savored her drink, opened her eyes wide and asked, “Who’s ready for another round?”

I raised an eyebrow and then I realized she meant the cards. But I was ready to score more “points” with the ladies. Oddly, I fared better than I’d planned despite the buzz and my usual slow-playing the cards. I won near every hand, Amayya winning the rest. My poor, dear blue lady tried but just wasn’t getting the hang of it. I wondered if she feared buying the next round.

Not that I could drink another. As I finished the second glass – and I was determined to finish – I knew I could either sleep in my own bed or the floor of the common room. I announced it was my last hand.

“Our last chance to even the score, is it?” Amayya asked with a coy smile. The brandy made me hopeful she was flirting. In reality, she slow-plays better than I do. When the cards hit the table, I realized I’d been hustled, and glad no actual money was on the table.

“Not good at mixing cards and brandy, are we?’ she laughed. “Come on. Let me help you to your room, and we can figure out how to settle up those points.”

I didn’t protest too strongly. Standing up, on the second try, I said good night to Sessastrass, mesmerized once again by her dark blue irises until Amayya pulled me away.

When my cabin door opened, we were greeted by an amazing warp space light show coming through the window, the likes I’ve never seen. Flashing white bursts, streaks of blue, the entire spectrum of color swirling on the monitor and through my brandy-addled brain.

Amayya closed the door and helped me to the center of the room, then stood facing me, holding me gently but firmly. “So how are we to settle? I believe the old Earth expression is that you ‘lost your shirt’. Seems fair enough to me. I’ll take it.”

With one quick motion, both her hands flew to pull my shirt open, popping a button or two. Before I knew what had happened, my shirt and jacket were on the floor by the bed. I started to wish I’d lost more. And drunk less.

I was so absorbed by Amayya’s hands on my chest, I hadn’t heard the door open. In our stumbling, neither of us had a thought to lock it. We didn’t realize that we weren’t alone until Sessastrass cleared her throat. She stood there wearing a simple floral silk robe, tied at the waist. Stunned, we said nothing.

“If Fletcher’s losses cost his shirt, I’m sure that mine cost more.” With a pull of the drawstring, her robe fell to the floor.  Shades of blue, swirling in patterns like the window behind us, all the way down.

I was too stunned to smile like schoolboy, still unable to move. Amayya smiled wide enough for the both of us. I heard nothing but was certain this siren was singing her tune. Sessastrass approached us more like a model on the runway than the fish I’d thought to reel in.

She stepped up to Amayya first, their eyes locked. Blue hands caressed red shoulders. Then Sessastrass’s lips drew back, and that was first time I noticed…my, what sharp teeth she had. Amayya had no reaction. Then again, neither had I.

Nor did I move an inch when she struck, biting into the base of Amayya’s neck. I can hear her slurp greedily. When she pulled away, barely a drop of blood showed, and the wound seemed already cauterized. The hold on Amayya slipped as she started to buckle at the knees. Sessastrass caught her and carried her to the bed, and then returned to me.

“I saved you for last. I like the blood of the humans in this system. It’s so … exotic.”

She leaned in, stood on her toes, and pulled me down toward her. She gave me a kiss on the lips first. “When on Earth …” she laughed. Then she flashed her teeth again, and that little pinch was the last I remembered.

When I awoke it felt like the entire ship had shuddered. The room was dark, except for the flashing red warning light. The swirling lights on the monitor had switched to black with a few pinpoints of light.

I lay on the bed with Amayya draped over me. She was wearing my shirt. It might’ve been the night of my life but I couldn’t recall. My head hurt when I lifted it, so I lay there listening to Amayya’s breathing. Thank God, she was breathing.

Slowly, her hands started to feel their way across my chest as she realized where she was. Then she reached out and gripped my arm tightly and moved closer. I think we’d stay in for breakfast.



On May 2511, in the Firefly universe, the Battle of Serenity Valley begins during the Unification War, to be considered to be the final decisive battle in the war. In commemoration of that fateful day, tell us your tales of Misbehavin’ in 2511 words or less. Deadline: May 31.

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 of their choice. Prize can be reserved for a future book if the winner already has the available titles.

Visit for a list of titles.


eSpec Books interviews Ty Johnston, contributor to The Awakened Modern, edited by Hal Greenberg and Greg Schauer, currently funding on Kickstarter.

eSB: Can you tell us a little about your story, Cold Snap, from The Awakened Modern?

TJ: An old cop and a young cop team up to face a brave, new and deadly world of criminals with super powers. That’s the basics of Cold Snap, and it sounds like something out of a comic book, but I wanted to go deeper than that, to become more personal. How would law enforcement handle such situations? How would an older person, here a detective, find himself in such a world? I wanted Cold Snap to be real, down to earth, not exactly gritty, but to focus on everyday people dealing with new, unusual situations. I hope I’ve succeeded and readers will find something to enjoy.

eSB: What do you like most about The Awakened series, and why?

TJ: The mundane character who discovers they are actually something special, or that they have unique abilities, is a common enough trope in the fantasy genre, but in The Awakened series this has expanded beyond the simple individual to a larger scale. Practically anyone can become an Awakened. Practically anyone can find out, literally overnight, that they have special powers, and that their future, their destiny, will be changed forever. This is one of the big draws to me for this series. It opens up possibilities, as a writer, and as a reader it keeps me guessing.

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

TJ: When working on short stories, I tend to focus upon smaller events and, in a certain manner of thinking, smaller people. I stay away from the big sweeping stories and the larger-than-life characters, the royal figures, the movers and shakers. That stuff is for novels where there is room to expound. So, one of my challenges with The Awakened series was to take these potentially powerful characters and keep them in settings and situations that would not stretch too far beyond rather small environs. At first I found this daunting, but then when I realized the potentials, the rest came relatively easy.

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

TJ: With The Awakened series, I prefer each of my stories to stand on its own. This way, I get to explore different facets of the world, the different emotional parameters my characters find themselves in. So, each of my stories should be a different experience for the readers.

eSB: If you could have a special power or familiar, what would it be and why?

TJ: Hmm, some sort of time travel would probably be my preference. That way I could explore the ancient world, re-discover things we have lost or forgotten, see events, and maybe meet a few people from the past. I likely wouldn’t be as interested in meeting the famous — no Caesars or Khans or religious figures for me — but there are a handful of writers with whom I wouldn’t mind having a chat.

Ty Johnston copyOriginally from Kentucky, Ty Johnston is a former newspaper journalist of 20 years who now spends his days writing fiction in North Carolina along with memories of his loving wife. When not writing or reading, he enjoys longswording, tabletop role-playing games, and hiking. He is the author of several fantasy series, including The Kobalos Trilogy, The Sword of Bayne Trilogy, and The Walking Gods Trilogy.


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eSpec Books interviews Ed Greenwood, contributor to The Awakened Modern, edited by Hal Greenberg and Greg Schauer, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.

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

EG: Cutting back on my natural urges to write madly off in all directions, detailing lots of territory and writing about the intertwined lives and subplots of a huge cast of characters. I cut down to a single focus, and had fun that way, instead.  

eSB: What interested you in writing for this series?

EG: Hal Greenberg asked me to, I thought the central idea was fun, and I liked my co-contributors…and have liked them more with each GenCon breakfast with them I’ve managed to attend. It’s been a blast so far!

eSB: If you could have a special power or familiar, what would it be and why?

EG: I would want the special power of being able to stop time (with objects frozen in mid-fall, cars and people in mid-rush, and so on) so I could improve my failing-with-age powers of doing sixteen things at once. Without dropping anything.

eSB: Sunrise or stargazing?

EG: Both. As a writer and late-night reader, I see the stars often. And as a husband with a day job and a wife to care for, I see the sunrise all too often!

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

EG: As a young boy, I created the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting, later adopted as the “world” of the Dungeons & Dragons game, and have published over 20 Realms novels. I’ve also written five Aglirta novels about The Band of Four, a Falconfar trilogy, a Niflheim duology, a steampunk novel entitled The Iron Assassin, and many more; I’ve written, co-written, or contributed to over 300 books thus far. Yes, my house is groaningly crammed full of books. And I’m taking it easy, these days: I’m writing only a novel a month.


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

EG: I’ve started a new transmedia publishing venture, The Ed Greenwood Group, for creatives interested in working in new genre settings I’m creating, such as Hellmaw (daemons lurking among us on Earth, who consider us food; dark urban fantasy); Stormtalons (a medieval-cum Renaissance world in which a tyrant archwizard tries to control other wizards, and is defied by priests of the Six gods, as magical mists, the Stormtalons, ravage the world, and the mighty Sleeping Dragons stir; high fantasy), and almost 30 other settings.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

EG: On the web, drop in on (where I blog at “The EdVerse”) or, or find me on Facebook (I’m, yes, Ed Greenwood) and on Twitter at @TheEdVerse

Ed Greenwood is a New York Times-bestselling Canadian writer, game designer, and librarian best known for creating The Forgotten Realms® fantasy world fifty years ago. His 350-plus books have sold millions of copies worldwide in more than three dozen languages. Ed was elected to the Academy of Adventure Gaming Art & Design Hall of Fame in 2003, and has won multiple ENNIE and Origins and other awards. Through The Ed Greenwood Group, he now helms many shared storytelling worlds he’s created; they can be found at


Our next campaign is about to launch:  

eSpec Books is working in conjunction with The Awakened editor and game designer Hal Greenberg to bring you the first-ever incursion of The Awakened phenomenon in the modern world.  

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.  


  • Wolves Run by Night by Ed Greenwood  
  • Little Sisters of the Hourglass by James Chambers  
  • Cold Snap by Ty Johnston  
  • Return of the Devis by Torah Cotrill  
  • Silverback by Hal Greenberg and Ken Shannon  
  • Whiteout by Erik Scott de Bie  
  • Details in Death by Jennifer Brozek  
  • Song of Tyrta by Drew Bittner  
  • Fire and Brimstone by Walt Ciechanowski  

If you would like to check it out, the URL is