JANUARY FLASH FICTION WINNER


My apologies for the long delay in posting this. 

Congratulations to Christopher J. Burke for winning the January Flash Fiction contest.

Honorable mention goes to Erin Penn for her story Countdown.


The Feast of Groggry the Cronaut

Christopher J. Burke

Walking to the beat of the music playing solely within his head, Gregory climbed the front stoop to his building and beelined to the first door on the left, at the base of the staircase, across from the lift. Waving his left palm over the jamb panel, he unlocked the door bolts on apartment 1B. He and Alex couldn’t afford the high-floor views and fresher air, consigned themselves to life stuck in this noisy corridor where tenants came and left at all hours. The added soundproofing on the door did little to alieve the problem.

Gregory barely broke his stride as his hand moved from the sensor to door, which opened at with the slightest of touches. He nearly stumbled in the doorway, though, when the music in his earpiece a missed beat as the connection switched to the apartment’s infostream from the free municipal roaming service. Data instantly started flowing into his head. He tapped behind his ear to shut the music, and concentrated on the incoming messages. He sorted through them quickly, storing some, deleting most.

Gregory blinked two times when he was done to clear his vision. That’s when he saw Alexandra standing in from him, smiling, twirling some of her tight brown curls about her finger.

“What are you smiling at?” he asked.  “And how long have you been standing there?”

“A few minutes. Right after you came in.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

She laughed. “Because I could see your eyes darting back and forth as you went through your mail! You’re like the only person I know that still does that! Anyway, I didn’t want to interrupt. I knew you’d finish quick.”

Gregory shrugged his bag from his shoulder, dropped it on the counter and went to the fridge. “I’m not the only one with a tell. What’s up with you?”

“Moi? What ‘tell’ do I have?”

He grabbed a drink, and then pointed at her hand. “I’d be shocked if you can untangle your finger before I crack this open. What’s up?”

More smiling. This time her entire face lit up. “Okay, you got me. I was going to tell you at dinner. I’ve finished it, Greg! I’m actually finished!”

Greg smiled and tried his best to keep his eyesight fixed while he scanned both internal and external memory. He failed.

“For Net’s sake!” she yelled. “Stop before you pierce the Cloud!” 

Alex made a pouty face, walked over and punched his arm. Then she grinned, leaned up and kissed him. “Idiot. You’re lucky I love you.”

Gregory welcomed the kiss, even as he held his arm. “Am I?”

That earned another punch.

“My big project. The time dial!” She pushed up her sleeve so to reveal a black band around her wrist like some 20th Century enthusiast might wear. In the middle of it was a black disc with a small arrow on a dial.  She ran to the couch and grabbed her stuffed bear. “I already tried it out with Mr. Buttons. He traveled through time.”

“Traveled through time? He’s still here. How’d he get back?”

She sighed, and then held the bear up high. “He didn’t ‘get back.’ He just got here, right before you came in. I sent him a day into the future. Yesterday!

“Yesterday?”

“Yes. Yesterday. I sent him one day into the future!” Alex returned Greg’s blank stare. “Which is today.”

Time travel? One day into the future? Hard to believe.

“That’s … that’s amazing. Incredible, if it’s true … No, I mean …”

Alexandra was furious. “What? Do you think I’m making this up?”

“Alex, no! That’s not what I meant.”

“Never mind what you meant. It still needs one more test. I was going to wait, but now is as good a time as ever.”

By the time Gregory realized what she was saying, Alex had grabbed her left wrist with her right hand. Her thumb over the disc, she pressed the button.

And disappeared.

It was a few moments before Gregory realized that his mouth was hanging open. He waved his hands in front of him, not sure if the brief ghost image he saw was actually there or just an afterimage burned into his lenses. Or maybe his brain just wasn’t comprehending what had happened. What else could possibly have happened?

Grasping for ideas, Gregory dropped to his knees.  He crawled across the rug to where Alex had been standing, and ran his hand through the fibers. No debris. She hadn’t disintegrated. Alex had teleported somewhere else. Or somewhen else. Was that possible?

Over the next few hours, he frantically searched through Alex’s notebooks and tablets. Thankfully, she enjoyed working with such electronic and physical relics rather than keeping it all stored on internal devices. Unfortunately, he could find little information about her project, and couldn’t make sense out of what he did find.

By midnight, he’d resigned himself to a cold night alone in their bed, not feeling her warmth next to him. By two o’clock, he wondered how many nights it might be without her. Would he see her again? And what would she be like?

Mr. Buttons “returned” from wherever it is he had gone, but the bear was an inanimate object. It didn’t need to eat or breathe. It had no fear of what it saw. How much time was Mr. Buttons in that other place while he was “gone”? Was it just minutes or did an entire day pass for him? Was it like a quick walk through a door, or a slow shuttle ride through a tunnel?

He didn’t fall asleep until nearly four. He woke two hours late for work, but called in sick. Messages started downloading into his head as soon as his eyes fluttered open. The Sun had risen high enough to clear the buildings across the street and shine in the front window, cast a striped shadow pattern. He sat for a time on the edge of the bed and watched it creep along.

Late afternoon, he sat and stared at a blank wall, out of ideas.

“Did it work?” a voice called out. “It did work! You’ve moved to the couch.”

Gregory snapped his head about and blinked several times. Alex was standing there, in the same spot, as if nothing had happened.

“But wait – you’re wearing the same clothes! Isn’t it tomorrow? Why are you wearing the same clothes? Was I gone a full day?”

His sour mood evaporated. Gregory jumped up and hugged Alex, lifting her from the floor for a moment that seemed like a day, before settling her back down.

Alex looked around the room. “So, am I here?  Or did I decide not to meet myself when I got back. Because I didn’t meet myself in the future?”

“Got back?” Gregory shook his head. “You didn’t ‘get back’? You’ve been gone for an entire day. You didn’t go back to yesterday.”

Alex was stunned. She took off the disc to take a closer look at it. Her eyes flickered as she accessed data. “But the reverse should work? Why wouldn’t it have worked? Why didn’t I make it back?”

She placed the wristband on the counter and walked toward the bedroom. “I need to check my notes.”

Gregory grabbed the disc to inspect it. He noted the number of marks on the dial. She’d only gone one day, but she could’ve gone a week or more. How would she feel had she been the one left behind? And why stop at one day? Her next test would naturally be longer!

He twisted the dial six more clicks and held it up for her to see. “Why don’t I give you a week to figure it out!”

She turned about, horrified. “What? No!” As he pressed the button, the last words he heard were, “That’s not a wee—“

Her image froze in time like another ghost, but she wasn’t there. Nothing was “there”. Darkness. Did he imagine colors and streaks of light? He stood there, frozen. Afraid to move, or unable to move? Long enough to hunger.

And then, light. Music. Silhouettes of people that took shape as an actual crowd. He appeared on a platform, in what seemed to be a large hall. A young white-haired woman shouted out, “He’s here!” All music and movement stopped as everyone turned toward him. Everyone dropped to their knees and bowed their heads.

“In the language of your day, ‘Haydood’!” she greeted him. “Welcome, Groggry! I am Astrania. Many did not believe that this Day would come. But we, the Faithful, believed! And waited. And this was the Day!”

Groggry?

“Uh… what day is this? What … year?”

Astrania was pleased to answer. “It is the 15th of Elvano in the Year of the Union Fifteen Hundred Thirty Seven.” She glanced at a prepared notecard. “By your reckoning, it is 5035.”

Music started playing again. It sounded oddly familiar. A mid-22nd century song transcribed onto 51st century instruments.

“Come! Let us feast! And you can explain the sacred text.” She pulled out another card and read it. “Thus are the words of Lexa: ‘Reverse works fine. Idiot.’”

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COVER REVEAL – THE REDCAPS’ QUEEN


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The Hunt is On!

When strength becomes weakness…

And hope becomes doubt…

As the past collides with the future…hard…

Can Suzanne—Wild Hunt biker chick and one-time member of the fae High Court—stand strong as her world falls apart? She survived an assault by redcaps, an all-out battle with the High King’s armies, and her first encounter with roller derby… but how will she fare against her inner demons? Caught in the midst of a transformation she scarcely realizes and does not understand, her hard-won convictions are tested as never before.

Suzanne is left with only one question—what if they’re wrong?

The truth could mean the difference between saving her sanity and losing her soul…

Coming Soon!


Other Series Titles


Award-winning author and editor 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 A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, and Transcendence, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and three extremely spoiled cats. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.sidhenadaire.com or http://www.especbooks.com.

MARCH FLASH FICTION CONTEST – BETRAYAL


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On March 15, 44BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by his senators and best friend, Brutus. To mark the occasion, tell us your tales of Betrayal in….I know…you think I’m going to tell you 315 words, but that would be cruel…Okay, so I am that cruel. 315 words, and Go! Submit your stories by March 31 for a chance to win. Stories can be in any speculative genre.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com 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.

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – FARPOINT


For those heading to Farpoint this upcoming weekend, or just in the area and feel like saying Hi!, below is our schedule. As always, when we aren’t on panels during the day, we are in the dealers room. And, at some point, I’m sure you can find me in the bar! Just hanging out, of course 🙂

Ackley-McPhail, Danielle

Farpoint Book Fair – Fri 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Hallway

Reading (McPhail; Mack; Ransom) – Sat 1:00 PM – Salon E

Using Social Media Effectively – Sun 10:00 AM – Salon D

Writing Genre Mash-Ups – Sun NOON – Salon C

McPhail, Mike

Farpoint Book Fair – Fri 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Hallway

Come As You Are – Sat 3:00 PM – Salon F

Military Fact V. Fiction – Sat 5:00 PM – Salon C

 

If we are lucky, we will be featuring two new books next weekend, Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Mermaid Precinct, and the re-release of James Chambers’ Three Chords of Chaos. Both books release later this year, so these are pre-publication copies.  James won’t be at the convention, but Keith will.

FEBRUARY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – OBSESSION


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In keeping with the season, in 900 words or less, tell us your tales of Obsession! Stories can be in any speculative genre. Stories must be received by February 28.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com 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.

COVER REVEAL – THREE CHORDS OF CHAOS


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Cover design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics

Once, lord of lyrics;

once, prince of peace…

Now a demon let off his leash…

No greater musician than Gorge ever lived in the Realm of the Sidhe.

No faerie musician ever delved so deeply into the taboo songs and the forbidden music—the Way of the Bone. Yet, Gorge refused to deny himself their temptations.

In reward his true love betrayed him, and the faerie kings and queens who once praised him stripped him of his magic and exiled him to the mortal world. Left to go mad and die, Gorge discovered new life in the arms of a mortal woman, Delilah—and new magic in the music that sings in the souls of mortals. Decades later, Gorge walks a dark path through the musical underground of New York City. He lives a secret life, hiding from the fae, waging a guerilla war of punk rock, and wielding his guitar like a weapon as he gathers magic and recharges his power. Until the day he’s strong enough to return home and open the Way of the Bone to all the Faerie Kingdoms. But the mortal world is far more dangerous than it seems

Gorge never expected to discover such raw power, almost beyond his control, among the mortals who worship his music. Nor did he count on a mortal wizard to discover his secrets or turn the ancient weapons of the fae against him. Caught in a dangerous game of magic, music, and lies, Gorge must find the truth and uncover the source of his enemy’s magic. Survival and love hang in the balance. And Gorge has only his music to protect him, only a song for any hope of salvation….  

Praise for the work of James Chambers:

 “…chillingly evocative writing…” Publisher’s Weekly

“James Chambers writes stories that are paced fast enough to friction burn a reader’s eyeballs.” —Horror Reader.com

Three Chords of Chaos is a darkly rich story, starring an exiled faery and his lady love. Mr. Chambers has created a cast of intriguing and charismatic characters in a music and magic fueled world.” —Bibliophilic Book Blog 

Three Chords of Chaos is a well-written, compelling story interwoven with an authentic description of the famed punk rock culture that developed in the early 80s. A very entertaining and enlightening novella. Highly recommended.” –Gene O’Neill, The Cal Wild Chronicles

“In this dark urban fantasy James Chambers plays a thrilling riff on the razor’s edge where music and magic meet. Sex, drugs, Faustian bargains, and rebellious Fae make Three Chords of Chaos my kind of faery tale.” –Douglas Wynne, author of The Devil of Echo Lake and Steel Breeze


James Chambers_2017James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

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

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

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

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

He lives in New York.

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

FROM THE PUBLISHER – MERMAID PRECINCT


eSpec Books is proud to announce that Mermaid Precinct, the latest in Keith R.A. DeCandido’s fantasy police procedural series, has gone to press. This is our first book for 2019 and it is an auspicious beginning to the new year. The official release is June 2019, but we hope to have pre-publication copies in time for Farpoint Convention, February 8-10, 2019, where both the author and the publishers will be in attendance. The official launch party for the book will be held at Balticon just prior to the official release date.

About the Book

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!

(cover by Mike McPhail – McP Digital Graphics)


Other Books in the Series – Click below to see Amazon Listing.