Well, folks, like everyone else we are hunkered down and riding out the tidal wave caused by this sh*t storm.

We are working steadily on the books we would have launched at Balticon, normally our biggest convention of the year. It is so surreal…this is the first time in seventeen years we will not be at Balticon, which we consider our home show. It will be the first time in fifteen years we haven’t had our annual launch party there. I can honestly say that one event has become the focal point of my year, prepping the books, making the food. And sadly, this isn’t the only event lost this year. If I had the time, I would be feeling adrift right now. 

Of course, I don’t, as I work in healthcare. But we aren’t going to go there.

I wanted you all to know that life goes on despite the chaos and the uncertainty. Here are some things we’ve already accomplished this year:

We have re-released books 2 and 3 in James Chambers’s Corpse Fauna Series: Tears of Blood and The Dead in Their Masses. The fourth and final book in the series, Eyes of the Dead, is due out in October of this year. Here is a guest post he wrote for Speculative Chic.

We have re-released Megan Mackie’s books Saint Code: The Lost and The Finder of the Lucky Devil. We have one more book to re-release, The Saint of Liars, then we are free to focus on her two new titles, The Devil’s Day and Saint Code: Constable. All of these books take place in an alternate, futuristic Chicago we’ve coined cyber-magical Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Megan, here is a guest post she wrote for Speculative Chic.)


We released Michelle D. Sonnier’s novella, Death’s Embrace, which is a prequel to her debut novel, The Clockwork Witch. (Don’t worry, Michelle is nearly done with the sequel, An Unceasing Hunger.)

Our next re-release is Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale, written by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed. This is a steampunk retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Here is a guest post that Danielle wrote for Speculative Chic.


What We Are Working On Now

Despite how everything has gone topsy-turvy, we are still hard at work on some pretty amazing books. 

First and foremost, we have a nearly complete manuscript for David Sherman’s military science fiction novel To Hell and Regroup, the long-awaited conclusion to his 18th Race trilogy, which also includes Issue In Doubt and In All Directions. Due to health concerns, the final volume is being co-written with Keith R.A. DeCandido.

In conjunction with the above release, we are also working on a new novel by Christopher L. Bennett, Arachne’s Crime, the first book in a brand-new duology, to be followed by Arachne’s Exile.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail is hard at work on Build-A-Book Workshop, a new volume in the Literary Handyman series. This book focuses on the elements that go into professional book design, not how to use book-design software or artistically design a book. She is also working on her first science fiction novel: Daire’s Devils.

And finally, editors Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French are currently working on the upcoming anthology Horns and Halos, tales of devils and angels.

Please stay tuned for more information, and possibly check out some of the above links for great fiction from our authors. Given the need for social distancing and sheltering at home, we have put all of our ebooks on sale for only $0.99 for both eSpec Books titles and Paper Phoenix Press titles.

Not sure if our books are for you? You can still help us out! All of these links are Amazon Associate links, so we receive a portion of your sale no matter what you buy, with absolutely no additional cost to you.

Not a fan of Amazon? We have a link for that! You can order copies of all of our books via our eSpec Books Square Store and we will ship direct as long as the post office is active.


Hard to believe we have been at this for five years, come October. That is a lot of blood, sweat, and cuss words…let me tell you! We have learned a lot and we have grown. We are making a name for ourselves and doing what we love. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we are making too much progress, but then we look back and think “Damn!”

I did that today. My entire day has been nothing but entering and calculating data to see exactly what it is we’ve accomplished, by the numbers. So! Here it goes…

  1. We’ve published nine titles in electronic format only.
  2. We’ve published 39 titles in both print and electronic format.
  3. We have eight titles currently under review or in production.
  4. We have originated three imprints: eSpec Books, Paper Phoenix Press, and AGM Publications.
  5. We have three staff members: Danielle McPhail (publisher), Mike McPhail (art director/graphic designer), Greg Schauer (editor).
  6. Eight times out of eight times, we have paid out royalties either early or on time.
  7. We have zero company debt.
  8. We have a positive balance in each of our company accounts.

Those last three fill us with the greatest sense of accomplishment.

All-Time Top Bestsellers

  1. The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier
  2. The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell
  3. The Weird Wild West
      edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw
  4. Issue in Doubt by David Sherman
  5. In All Directions by David Sherman
  6. Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine
  7. Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  8. The Best of Defending the Future edited by Mike McPhail
  9. Goblin Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  10. Unicorn Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido


In All Directions 2 x 3G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150Proof-DragonPrecinctNew-Proof-DTF1b

Goblin Precinct 2x3Proof-UnicornPrecinctproof-iwhk-coverproof-tbobaf

All-Time Highest Grossing

  1. The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell
  2. The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier
  3. The Weird Wild West 
        edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw
  4. Issue in Doubt by David Sherman
  5. In All Directions by David Sherman
  6. Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine
  7. Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  8. The Best of Defending the Future edited by Mike McPhail
  9. If We Had Known edited by Mike McPhail
  10. Best of Bad-Ass Faeries edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Highlights of the last five years:

  • One title made it to the Bram Stoker Recommended Reading List.
  • Four titles were finalists for awards.
  • Two of those titles won those awards.
  • We have funded twelve successful crowdfunding campaigns (including one that is running right now – Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way.)
  • We have had the honor of publishing Faith Hunter, Jack Campbell, Brenda Cooper, David Sherman, Jody Lynn Nye, Jonathan Maberry, Bud Sparhawk, James Chambers, Jack McDevitt, Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Jeff Young, Michelle D. Sonnier, Bernie Mojzes, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, John C. Wright, Eric V. Hardenbrook, Christopher M. Hiles, Patrick Thomas, CJ Henderson, Judi Fleming, John L. French, Christopher L. Bennett, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Misty Massey, Mike McPhail, John G. Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott Hungerford, Frances Rowat, Ken Schrader, Bryan C.P. Steele, Wendy N. Wagner, Christine Norris, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, Adam P. Knave, Jesse Harris, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, John Passarella, Jeffrey Lyman,  L. Jagi Lamplighter,  James Daniel Ross, DL Thurston, Lee C. Hillman, NR Brown, John A. Pitts, Jennifer Brozek, Ronald T. Garner, Nancy Jane Moore, Maria V. Snyder, Lawrence M. Schoen, Andy Remic, Charles E. Gannon, John G. Hemry, Ian Randal Strock, Peter Prellwitz, Drew Bittner, Ty Johnson, Torah Contrill, Walt Ciechanowski, Hal Greenberg and Kenneth Shannon III, Erik Scott de Bie, Ed Greenwood, Christopher J. Burke, Jim Knipp, Herika R Raymer, Anton Kukal, Marie Vibbert, CB Droege, David Bartell,  Rie Sheridan Rose, Jean Buie, David M. Hoenig, Jamie Gilman Kress, Jean Rabe, David Boop, Leona Wisoker Robert M. Price, Leona Wisoker, Edward J. McFadden III, Tony Ruggiero, Janine K. Spendlove, Bryan J.L. Glass, James M. Ward, Kathleen David, and Vonnie Winslow Crist
  • We have projects in the works by Robert E. Waters, Christopher L. Bennett, Michelle D. Sonnier, James Chambers, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.
  • We have anthologies in the works with stories by Gordon Linzner, Lisanne Norman, Dayton Ward, and  Russ Colchamiro.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end here, thank you. It’s a lot of content but we are covering five years 😉 We’ll be making periodic posts throughout the year up to the anniversary. Thanks for joining us on this adventure!



edited by Mike McPhail

Beyond the Cradle of mankind, the universe is vast, unknown,
dangerous to the unwary…or those caught in the path of intrepid explorers proceeding without forethought.

Thirteen authors explore what it is to pioneer the future with tales fraught with danger and remorse, tempered with hope, luck, and serendipity. We face the monsters. We face the truth. We face ourselves.

Whether the frontier is that of science or space, there is no doubt that at some point one must ask …If we had known, would we have followed this course?


The Necessary Enemy by Ian Randal Strock

The Steady Drone of Silence by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Last Man on Earth by Jody Lynn Nye

Chasing the Ball by Peter Prellwitz

The Janus Choice by Jeff Young

Between Scylla and Charybdis by Patrick Thomas

The Star Gazers by James Chambers

Giraffe Children by Robert E. Waters

Good Advice by John L. French

Egg by Christopher M. Hiles

Youth by Judi Fleming

Meeting the Other by Nancy Jane Moore

The Third Heaven by Robert Greenberger


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 –


Currently, Kickstarter is running a promotional campaign Make/100. As a part of that campaign, creators launch a project that includes a limited edition, 100-Backer reward.

eSpec is taking this opportunity to launch a project that is near and dear to my heart, a Best of Bad-Ass Faeries anthology commemorating a decade of this award-winning anthology series that has shocked and delighted readers through four epic volumes. The series is out of print, but we will bring you the highlights of its glory. <grin>


The stories selected for inclusion, based on fan and reviewer response, are as follows:

Bad-Ass Faeries  

  • Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano – The Ballad of the Seven-Up Sprite  
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido – House Arrest
  • Adam P. Knave – Futuristic Cybernetic Faerie Assassin Hassballah  
  • Jesse Harris – Hidden in the Folds  

Just Plain Bad  

  • James Chambers – Way of the Bone  
  • CJ Henderson – Do You Believe?  
  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail – Within the Guardian Bell  
  • John Passarella – Twilight Crossing  
  • Jeffrey Lyman- Grimm Necessity  
  • Bernie Mojzes – Moonshine

In All Their Glory  

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter – A Not-So-Silent Night  
  • John L. French – So Many Deaths  
  • James Daniel Ross – The Natural-Born Spy  
  • Robert E. Waters – At The Grasshopper’s Hill  
  • Kelly A. Harmon – Selkskin Deep  

It’s Elemental  

  • DL Thurston – The Face of the Serpent  
  • Patrick Thomas – Looking a Gift Horse  
  • Jody Lynn Nye – Fifteen Percent  
  • Lee C. Hillman – Bad Blood  
  • NR Brown – Melia’s Best Wave

We hope you will help us celebrate these great authors!



Due to recent life events I haven’t posted much about this here, but we are in the final hours of a Kickstarter campaign that was initially for the anthology Man and Machine, book 7 in the award-winning Defending the Future series, with stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, Nancy Jane Moore, Jennifer Brozek, Ronald Garner, Aaron Rosenberg, James Chambers, Patrick Thomas, Jeff Young, Eric Hardenbrook, Robert Waters, Anton Kukal, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and a special Afterword by CJ Henderson (posthumous).

KSC-FrontPageNewNot only did the campaign fund quickly, but it has unlocked sixteen stretch goals, including funding a tee shirt, a mission patch, and two additional books: If We Had Known (book one in the Beyond the Cradle anthology series) and The Best of Defending the Future. 

Here is a list of all the bonus rewards all backers at the $5 or higher level will now receive in DRM-Free format:

  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s short story “By Any Means” a prequel to her story in Man and Machine.  
  • Jennifer Brozek’s short story “Found on the Body of a Solider”.  
  • Robert E. Waters’ short story “Old Soldiers Never Die”.  
  • Soothe the Savage Beast (anthology), 
  • “A Second Away” by John L. French (short story), and 
  • “Mercenary” by Bud Sparhawk (short story)  
  • David Sherman’s story “Going After Yeechiphooie” ACHIEVED! 
  • Time Traveled Tales 2 (anthology), 
  • “Grilg Friendly” by James Chambers (short story), and 
  • “Sign of Iron” by Peter Prellwitz, writing as HK Devonshire (short story).  
  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s short story “Last Man Standing” a prequel to her story in Man and Machine.  
  • Nancy Jane Moore’s short story “Borders”.  
  • Brenda Cooper’s short story “A Hand and Honor”.  
  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s solo science fiction collection A Legacy of Stars, 
  • “Written in Light” by Jeff Young (story), 
  • “12:70” by Peter Prellwitz, writing as HK Devonshire (story)  

We have also unlocked the following production goals which are available via the add-on section of the campaign or select pledge rewards that have been added:

  • If We Had Known (Book 1 in the Beyond the Cradle series)
  • Dogs of War custom Tee Shirt
  • Defending the Future Mission Patch
  • Best of Defending the Future anthology

And, I made an executive decision. I’d really LOVE to see From the Archives funded so I have reshuffled the rewards so all our lovely backers have a chance at even more great fiction than they are already getting. That means we are just $170 away from unlocking a FOURTH book! With five hours to go, that should be no problem! I have also added From the Archives to the pledge rewards and add-on section. Now, there are just FIVE hours left…What mischief can we get up to? Here are the remaining stretch goals:

220 Backer Bonus – DRM-Free copies of all five Radiation Angels: The Mission Files stories by James Daniel Ross.

$5000 – At this stretch goal we will fund a fourth book: From the Archives, a short story collection edited by Greg Schauer and including stories by Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.  

$5300 – A Man and Machine Mission Patch will be produced and added to the Pledge rewards and Add-on section.  

$5600 – A DTF Man and Machine Challenge Coin will be produced and added to the Pledge rewards and Add-on section.  

$6000 – DOUBLE UP BONUS #4

Can you help us spread the word, or maybe even chip in a dollar or ten? Everyone wins in this campaign!

Thank you,



Whew! Can you say exhausted? I took yesterday off to recover and I’m still beat!

Balticon was a series of new experiences this year. After almost 15 years of attending, the last ten or so at the same location, the convention moved back down to Baltimore’s inner harbor for it’s celebrated 50th con.

This was a big one, folks. Loads and loads of guests, new venue, bonus Guests of Honors from years past. Needless to say all of these changes elevated the level of chaos this year as everyone scrambled to figure out what they were doing, when and where. There was a lot of walks down long corridors and wandering the maze to figure out where such programming rooms were, but all in all–other than my feet–the experience was less painful than I feared it might be.

On Friday night my first panel was Starting Your Own Small Press. This was very well attended for 5pm on a Friday night. The discussion was informative and well received and the audience had loads of great questions. If only it hadn’t been such a hike to find the room.

The only other thing I had on Friday was Meet the Guests. I showed up at the right room a little early to find a sign saying it had moved to the con suite, but never did see any of those who were supposed to participate and so wandered off to the bar with Jennifer Povey and The Weird Wild West contributor Ken Schrader, after waiting about fifteen minutes for something to happen.

Oh…and a fire scare. The whole building was evacuated around 7:30pm. I’m told someone one thought a smoke machine would really add some atmosphere to a concert going on…they were right. But no one was there to enjoy it once the alarm went off.

Me, Mike McPhail, John L. French, and Patrick Thomas waiting for the chaos to resume.

No programming for me on Saturday…or so I thought. Discovered that was when my reading was, and fortunately I discovered in time to actually attend because the room was pretty packed for the four authors reading. My Meet eSpec Books panel, however, had been moved to Saturday night without my knowledge and so I hung out for a little while in my room, then went to the game room where my good friends Alf and Cynthia regretted teaching me to play Ascension, then wandered off for a little while to Gail Z. Martin’s impromptu pre-release party for Modern Magic…instead of being where I was supposed to be.

0529161430a-1Now Sunday…we’ll have to talk about Sunday. The crazy descended. Con: I had to wake up uber early for a Book Design and Layout panel I was slated to give. That went REAL well, but was nowhere near long enough. Then right off to the dealer’s room where I got to meet Jody Lynn Nye and hug Larry Niven.

I participated in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, organized by Randee Dawn, then I rushed off to organized everything for the Gaslight and Grimm launch party. Discovered a bunch of supplies weren’t showing up, then arrived at the party room to discover everything was half tables…only about one foot wide! We pushed two together for all the food tables and left the congregating tables as is. We had loads of people and load of authors0529161317b-1 showing up to oggle our books and covet the impressive array of raffle prizes we gave away at the end of the night. Everyone was wonderful helping out, especially the Chrises Hiles (squared) Alf and Cynthia, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Jean Marie Ward, Wrenn Simms, Vickie DiSantos and loads of other people I can’t remember now because my brain was on overload.

The party was a huge success and surprisingly we were able to donate food to the Game of Thrones party following ours. Many, many books were sold and happy authors and attendees abounded.

Back (left to right): Danny Birt, Jonah Knight, Jeff Young, Robert E. Waters, David Lee Summers, Chris Hiles, Eric Hardenbrook, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dustin Blottenberger, Drew Bittner, Christine Norris, Ken Schrader. Front (left to right): Greg Schauer, me, Mike McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Gail Z. Martin, and John L. French. Not pictured here: Vonnie Winslow Crist, Brigitte Winter, Kelly A. Harmon, Bud Sparhawk.


I don’t have any photos of the party, other than this one of the editors, authors and artists, but hope to share some once they are sent to me.

All in all a great time, though the added expense of parking and eating was a blow, as was the inaccessibility of places to pick up last-minute party supplies.  



As we have already mentioned, Gaslight & Grimm will be launching at Balticon 50 this year, along with our other three anthologies: The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Weird Wild West, and Dogs of War – Reissue.

The convention has moved back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, at the Renaissance Hotel, over Memorial Day Weekend. The launch party will be the Sunday of the convention.

  • Where: MD Salon B (The New Garden Room)
  • When: Sunday, May 29th
  • Time: 7pm to 9pm

As usual we will strive to outdo ourselves with food, fun and prizes. I can guarantee we will outdo ourselves with authors!

Here is a list of those contributors who will be attending the launch:

Gaslight & Grimm

  1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  2. Danny Birt
  3. Kelly A. Harmon
  4. Jonah Knight
  5. Gail Z. Martin
  6. Bernie Mojzes
  7. Christine Norris
  8. Jody Lynn Nye
  9. Jean Marie Ward
  10. Jeff Young

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil

  1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  2. Greg Schauer
  3. Keith R.A. DeCandido
  4. John L. French
  5. Gail Z. Martin
  6. Drew Bittner

The Weird Wild West

  1. R.S. Belcher
  2. John Hartness
  3. Emily Lavin Leverett
  4. Gail Z. Martin
  5. Misty Massey
  6. Ken Schrader
  7. Robert E. Waters

Dogs of War

  1. Mike McPhail
  2. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  3. Judi Fleming
  4. John L. French
  5. Eric Hardenbrook
  6. Chris Hiles
  7. Bud Sparhawk
  8. Patrick Thomas
  9. Robert E. Waters
  10. Jeff Young



As we get ready to run off to our final convention of the year (DerpyCon) this has been a week of running around scrambling to get things done. In the midst of all of that reviews of our newest releases have started popping up.

We’d like to share with you some of our favorite blurbs. Click on the provided links to read the full reviews.

Congrats to all our authors for jobs clearly well-done!

TW3-COVER-REVAMP“[In The Weird Wild West] eSpec Books has pulled together a fine collection of tales with just enough weirdness, fandom is bound to enjoy every page.” Ricky L. Brown, Amazing Stories

“[The Weird Wild West] is a show of skill by the authors who wrote short stories with skill and flair.” Ailyn, Good Reads

“[The Weird Wild West] takes the grit and glory that epitomizes the old west and gives it many delightful speculative spins.” Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Good Reads


Good-Evil“[The Side of Good / The Side of Evil] is a very highly entertaining book and a very enjoyable read.” Sam Tomaino, SFRevu

“In The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, villains get their time in the sun and are also painted with more depth and humanity than usual.” Meredith, Good Reads

“[The Side of Good / The Side of Evil] is definitely a keeper, and worth making into a doujinshi/ comic.” Ailyn, Good Reads

Our thanks go out to all the reviewers not only for liking our books, but for taking the time to tell the world.


 by Rachel Fernandez

lg-book-flip-SoGEWe are proud to announce the release of the highly anticipated flipbook anthology The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. Sure, heroes get remembered, but sometimes the tales and legends of even the darkest villains will never die.

Whether rooting for the courageous superhero or secretly siding with a malicious scoundrel, this epic journey captivates and excites as it delves deep into the perspectives of two classic yet diverging tales of both good and evil, extenuating on the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

The collection features original stories by comic book legends and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Drew Bittner, John L. French, and Kathleen David. This flipbook also includes in an exclusive, never-before-published Furious short story!

Inspiration for this mythological American classic came easily to co-editor and award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. “I am an idea person, I love to develop themed projects and find all the intricate ways to play to the theme. When someone suggested a collection of superhero fiction the idea for The Side of Good / The Side of Evil immediately came to mind and there was no question that it had to be a flipbook anthology, similar to the classic Ace Doubles from the ’80s. It took me three years to make it happen but the end result is even better than I’d envisioned.”

Now available on Amazon.

NOTE: To get this book in ebook look for the individual ebooks The Side of Good (B016Z5GEF8) and The Side of Evil (B016X95RC2)


Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference. 

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Drew Bittner, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story! 


CJcover-Mockup_lgAn excerpt from
What Tales He Knows
by John L. French
(From The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson)

Conor of Scotia walked through the fair of Nieves enjoying the dry air and warm weather. Elsewhere storms raged, storms that kept him from boarding a ship and crossing the Norman Sea to Carney, and from there to Caerleon where he hoped to meet brothers-in-arms and perhaps revive an ancient tradition. That the rain and wind had not visited itself on the town and fairgrounds might have been explained by luck. However, the “after storm” smell and a certain tingling in the air told the knight that it was more likely magic at work, magic that guaranteed good weather for the fair at the expense of foul weather elsewhere.

He confirmed this when he sought a room at the Stone Moon Inn. “It’s the Wizard’s doing,” the landlord explained. “Two seasons ago the rains came and washed us all out. No money was to be made that year. And this town depends on what the fair brings in. So does the Wizard, for he gets a share of our earnings. Since then, well, look outside. Even those who don’t care to make merry come to Nieves if only to escape the foul mess outside it.”

“And the fact that others pay the price for your good weather?”

“What do you think? Look around, my inn is full and I’ll make enough to carry me until spring. Yes I know there’s no such thing as a free meal, but as long as I don’t have to pay for the piper’s tune it’s all right with me. And even if it wasn’t…” the landlord looked in the direction of the Wizard’s keep, “…it’s all right with him and there’s naught anyone can do about that.”

Conor knew differently. As a wandering knight and sometimes sword-for-hire, he had fought and overcome magic and its users. But he said nothing. It was not his fight. He had stopped at Nieves only because he had to.

“But enough talk about the weather,” the landlord said. “What else can I get you? Another ale?”

Conor nodded. “That and a room. From what you tell me I’m here until the fair is over and the weather breaks.”

The ale was good and easily poured. The room was somewhat harder to come by. Crowded as the inn was, as all the inns were, Conor settled for a space on the floor of the common room. It was better than sleeping outside, not that it was likely to rain, at least until the week was done.

So with nothing to do and a week to do it in, Conor walked the fair, enjoying what entertainment there was and examining the goods for sale. Most of the latter were from the locals but there were vendors from other parts of the continent as well. A couple from Stratford with what they claimed were fairies in a cage. A brewer from Barrie. Conor was at the stall of a leather smith’s trying to decide whether to replace his worn scabbard when he heard;

“Don’t walk by. Come, hear the stories. Welcome all to the big, fat, wonderful world of me!”

Conor turned toward the noise. On a makeshift stage he saw a large man in modified jester’s garb enticing people to gather round with promises of songs and stories—told and sung for a price of course.

“He’s been at that all day,” the smith complained. “Every half hour the same rant. It’s getting so if he should suddenly go mute, may the saints will it so, I could step in and say it for him.”

“But is he any good? Are his tales worth the telling?”

“Who can say? Once the crowd is large enough and there’s money in his bowl, his voice drops so that only those who paid can hear him. Now about that hide you hold in your hand. I can fashion you a nice scabbard from in that in no time at…”

But the knight was not listening, his attention now on the storyteller. “Thank you,” he told the smith absently. “I’ll think about it and be back.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

A small group had gathered around the stage, mostly children whose parents had left them while they shopped or sold. The bowl in front of the storyteller was mostly empty, the few coins in it either brass or debased copper.

The minstrel sighed. “For this I could tell a short tale of pirates or dragons.”

“Pirates and dragons,” suggested a young lad in the crowd.

“Would that I could, young sir, but the length of the story depends on the coins in the bowl, and for what I see before me I could only…” he looked out, appealing to what few adults were standing behind the children. No help was forthcoming, but unable to disappoint an audience, no matter its size or age, the storyteller sighed and said, “Perhaps I could tell the tale of Jac and Her Beanstalk.”

There were moans and groans and cries of “Not again” and “We’ve heard that one.” And indeed they had, for it had been told twice before and mostly to the same crowd of children.

Conor could wait no longer. “Hold up, Sir Bard,” he called and walked up to the stage. Drawing a gold coin from his purse, he dropped in the bowl. “Your finest tale if you would, one of sword, sorcery, and daring deeds. A lengthy tale, one suitable for these fine young people.”

Smiling in delight at the coin that shone in the bowl, the storyteller winked and said;

“Many thanks, Sir Knight. What is your name so I can sing your praises at a later time and perhaps add you to a tale or two?”

“I am Conor of Scotia and you do me honor by accepting my coin. In my country, bards and shanachies are revered and it is considered a duty and privilege to support them.”

“We are well met, Sir Conor. I am called Seejay, son of Hender and if what you say is true then when this fair is over I may travel with you, if you will have me.”

“Let us talk of that another time, Sir Bard. For now you have young folk waiting for a great tale.”

“About that, Sir Conor. While the tale I’m about to tell is complete in itself, it would be even better with song. For another coin…”

Laughing, Conor added silver to the gold then sat with the children to enjoy the tale of Princess Eliza and the Dragon Lord. The Bard even made sure to include a few pirates. And in no time at all Seejay had his audience laughing, crying, and singing along.

The noise of enjoyment from the small crowd drew a larger one, then one larger still. Within two turns of the glass it seemed that half the fair had gathered around Seejay’s stage where he talked, sang, told jokes, and danced like a monkey whenever a small coin was added to the now-overflowing bowl.

Enjoying himself more than he had since leaving his native land, Conor sat through tales of Jacques of The Hague and London Teddy before deciding to see the rest of the fair. Thanks to Seejay, there were fewer buyers around the other vendors and so Conor was able to bargain for better prices on food, drink, and some of goods he would need for his journey. A man of his word, he did return to the pleasantly surprised leather smith and commissioned a new scabbard to be delivered at fair’s end.

Night came, the fair closed. While most vendors were closing their booths and covering their wares, Conor heard;

“Sir Conor.”

Turning he saw the storyteller walking toward him. “Master Seejay, was it a good day for you?”

“One of the best, though it could always be better. Still, I am weighed down by the coin that came my way. Could I perhaps trouble you to escort me? I hear there are thieves about, and I speak not just of some of the vendors.”

“Again, it is my honor. And as a bard stands higher than a simple knight, call me Conor.”

“And I am to one and all simply Seejay.”

“Where are you staying?”

The bard at least had the grace to look sheepish before saying;

“The thing is, I failed to make arrangements for proper lodging. Perhaps I could share yours? I’ll take up as little room as possible and I do not snore, at least, I have never heard myself doing so.”

Again the knight laughed. “You can share whatever part of the floor the landlord has allotted me.”

“The floor? Not even a couch?”

“The floor it is. Of course, your golden tongue can probably talk the landlord out of his own bed and into leaving his wife behind.”

Seejay smiled at the challenge. “I might at that. A bed would be nice, but as for the wife, tonight I am too tired.”

As Conor had expected, the Inn of the Stone Moon was already crowded. Ale and wine flowed and the exhausted barmaids grew tired of serving drinks and dodging the drinkers.

Catching the landlord’s eye, Conor told him of the great honor that had been bestowed upon his establishment. The famed storyteller, the most celebrated bard of the continent, the very talk of the Nieves’s Fair, had deigned to visit his inn, and for the small price of a comfortable place to sleep and enough mead and ale to keep his throat wet, he would entertain his guests and keep them eating and drinking until the watch ordered the inn closed. When the landlord hesitated, Conor added;

“Or Seejay Hender’s son can go elsewhere, but I cannot guarantee that he will not draw your patrons away with him. As I am staying here it would pain me to have to eat and drink alone.”

The landlord quickly agreed to the knight’s terms. On hearing what Conor had done, Seejay was, for once, speechless. Once he found his voice, his only words were “How?”

“You are a bard, I took training with them. I can tell a tale when I must.”

“And a pretty tale it was. Now let us eat and drink before,” Seejay looked at the crowd, “I must get to work.” He sighed, as if being the center of attention was a great burden to him.

After he had eaten, Seejay began earning his keep by singing a few songs. His rendition of “Stab Them in the Back” soon had most of the crowd, especially what guardsmen were present, singing along. He then told a tale about two men who journeyed to the moon in a giant saucer, until finally he said;

“More later. My throat is dry and demands ale. But while I satisfy my thirst, I present to you a young knight, one trained not only by the feared Red Branch itself but by the very bards of Scotia. He will tell you stories of his great deeds.”

Unlike Seejay, Conor did not like to be noticed. He would have demurred, but as a knight he was trained to meet all challenges. So while the storyteller ate and drank, Conor told of a genie who betrayed his master and was then bested by one more clever than he. He followed this with a tale of the merfolk and how a near war between land and sea was narrowly averted. While speaking, he noticed that Seejay listened intently, no doubt making mental notes of the knight’s stories so as to add them to his repertoire. Conor ended with a bawdy song about a mermaid and a tortoise before nodding to Seejay that it was again his turn.

“Well,” began the storyteller, “as my friend and companion has told a tale of the sea and sang a song about a tail of the sea,” he waited while those who got the jest laughed, “allow me to continue the theme. Has anyone here present heard of the Deep Ones?”

Conor had, as part of his knightly training. In his travels he had heard them spoken of in whispers and rumors. Conor looked around. Everyone else shook their heads; all save two guardsmen who began listening intently. Seejay spoke of the fish-like creatures that lured men to destruction with promises of gold and power.

The bard’s story ended with the navy of the Doge of Venice using Greek Fire to eliminate a town that had been overrun by the creatures. On seeing his audience’s fascination with such horrors he began telling of the Old Ones, beings forgotten by creation, cast out of existence, and now lurking on the other side of the world’s threshold, waiting to again enter and devour all.

Seejay was speaking of a Sleeper whose awakening would mean the end of all when one of the guardsmen nodded to another. The one who nodded then left but not before saying something to his fellow. Although Conor could not hear what was said by their actions he imagined it was something like “Watch him. I’ll bring the others.” The knight hoped he was wrong but loosened his sword in its scabbard just in case.

A turn of the glass and Seejay was still speaking. Conor was only partly listening, instead alternately watching the remaining guardsman and the inn door, waiting for something to happen. From what little the knight heard the bard’s story was one of fairies and cockroaches.

“Enough for now,” the storyteller announced, “for I need my rest if I am to thrill the fairgoers tomorrow with tales of daring deeds.”

“One more,” shouted several members of his audience.

“I don’t know…”

A coin hit the floor near Seejay, then several others.

“Well, if you insist. In the opening days of the Trojan War, an ominous tome falls into the hands of the Trojan High Command. Can our heroes ….

“Seejay, son of Hender …” interrupted a voice from the doorway.

Damn, thought Conor as what was clearly a lieutenant of the guards stepped into the inn. Several guardsmen followed. The one who had remained behind moved to join them.

“Seejay, son of Hender,” the lieutenant said again.

“Do you mind? I’m in the middle of a story. If there’s a tale you wish told, then come to the fair tomorrow and drop a coin in my bowl.”

“You will come with us,” the lieutenant said as if the storyteller had not spoken.

Damn, the knight again thought, then stood. “Where are you taking him and by whose authority?” he demanded of the lieutenant.

“What business is it of yours?”

“This man, this noble bard, this honored storyteller, is under my protection.”

By now the crowd that had gathered around Seejay to hear his tales dispersed as best they could. Some went upstairs, others hid under the tables, most hugged the walls.

“And who are you and why should I care?”

“I am Conor, a knight of Scotia, son of Seamus, son of Liam, son of Conor and you should care because I will not permit this man to be taken where he does not wish to go.” Turning to Seejay, Conor asked;

“Do you wish to go with them?”

Seejay shook his head. “It has been my experience that going with guardsmen in the middle of the night seldom leads to pleasant consequences. I would just as soon stay with you.”

“It matters not what either of you wish. The Wizard Maldon demands this man’s presence in his Keep.”


“I would still rather not.”

“Behind me then.”

“Sir,” Conor said to the lieutenant. “Please tell your master that Bard Seejay will await his pleasure tomorrow on the fairgrounds. If it is a story he wants, the bard will tell it gratis, in thanks to the Wizard for hosting the fair in such pleasant weather. Anything else can be discussed at that time.”

The lieutenant shook his head. “That, Sir Knight, is not an option.”

Conor’s hand went to his sword. “Then blood must be spilt.”

With Seejay safely behind him in a corner, Conor positioned himself so that the guardsmen could come at him only singly or in pairs. He tried not to kill, recognizing that his foes of the evening were simply men doing their job. He wounded when he could but there were those who fell never to rise again. Slowly he reduced his enemy. A dozen became nine, then six, then three until there was only the one.

“Well fought, Sir Knight,” the lieutenant of the guard said. “I told the Wizard that the Guard would be no match for one such as yourself.”

“Why fight me then?’

“Because the Wizard ordered me too. Because he needed time.”

Conor did not ask “time for what?” As soon as the lieutenant spoke he knew that he had been duped, that the men he fought, the ones he had injured or killed, had been sent merely as a distraction.  Behind him came a rumble, then the sound of air rushing through a hole. Conor did not have to turn around to know that Seejay was gone.

Anger almost took the knight. He nearly struck out with his sword to remove the lieutenant’s head from his shoulders. But his training held. Anger in battle only got one killed.

“You have until daybreak to leave Nieves,” the lieutenant told him. “Accept your defeat gracefully, Sir Conor, and move on. You did your best, but there is now nothing you can do to save your friend.”

“I will give you until daybreak,” Conor calmly replied, “to deliver my message to this Wizard Maldon. He has until tomorrow eve to return the Bard Seejay—unharmed, unspelled, and with a purse twice as heavy as he had when taken.”


“Ask your master if he knows exactly of what a Knight of the Red Branch is capable. Our training goes deep. If I must, I will raise armies of the dead. I will call on the spirits of Fairie. I will mortgage my soul to whatever demon I must to fulfill my vow to one under my protection. Tell your master this. Tell him to return the bard or prepare for war.”

Looking into the knight’s eyes the lieutenant read truth in what had been said. “I will tell him.” He then looked past Conor at his fallen men.

“They will be cared for. Now go.”

After the lieutenant left, those remaining gathered around Conor. They all began to talk at once.

“Are you really going to do all those things? Can you?…Will you usurp the Wizard?… You will be killed…You should leave; the storyteller is no doubt already dead…what of the fair?…What of my inn? Who’s paying the damages…What about these men?…

With a shout and a wave of his arms Conor silenced them all. “The less you all know the better. Someone fetch a healer for the wounded. Landlord,” gold and silver hit a table, “that should be payment enough for what is needed.” Looking over the dead, Conor selected one. Picking up the corpse, he slung it over his shoulder.

“What do you want him for?” asked one of the wounded guardsmen.

Conor looked at the man with cold eyes. “Sometimes an offering is needed. Thank your gods that I do not need a living one.” Addressing those remaining he said, “Warn your loved ones. Tomorrow will be a dark day.  I go now to summon my forces and prepare for battle. Let none follow or disturb me.”

~ * ~

Read the whole thing:

Available on Amazon.
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On July 4th, 2014 the world lost CJ Henderson, an iconic author and all-around great guy. He lost his battle with cancer, but he did not go quietly and he will not be forgotten. His work is immortalized in over 70 novels and works of non-fiction, and at least as many collections, anthologies, and magazines. In fact, new works by CJ Henderson will publish for years to come thanks to his heroic efforts to finish and find homes for those projects as-yet unpublished at the time of his illness, two of which are printed here. CJ always did what he could to give other authors a boost. Encouraging them, mentoring them, sending opportunities their way. With that in mind those of us who called him friend feel there is no better tribute we can raise in his memory than an anthology filled with people he has helped over the years, writing stories inspired by CJ or his work. We hope you enjoy these tales of fantasy, science fiction and horror, and that they might inspire you as well. Featuring stories by: John L. French, Jean Rabe, Patrick Thomas, David Boop, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeff Young, Leona Wisoker Robert M. Price, Leona Wisoker, James Chambers, and, as always, CJ Henderson.


Good-EvileSpec Books is very pleased to announce that The Side of Good / The Side of Evil has come off the presses and is on it’s way to our hot little hands. We are excited about this project and hope you are as eager to see it as we are. The official release date is December 1, 2015.

If you just can’t wait, there are several things you can do.

First – you can join us at Philcon, a science fiction convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey the weekend of November 20 – 22. We’ll be launching the book there and will have copies on hand for sale. Our party is scheduled for Saturday, November 21, in the Con Suite, from 7pm to 9pm. Not only will there be food, fun, and PRIZES, but editors Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer will be there, along with authors Gail Z. Martin, Keith R.A. DeCandido, James Chambers, Drew Bittner, Aaron Rosenberg and artists Jason Whitley and Mike McPhail, all of us ready to celebrate with you.

Second – Pre-order the print book on the eSpec Books Store: The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. All orders will be shipped out right after the launch.

Third – Pre-order the ebooks (there are two) on Amazon. They will deliver to your ereader as soon as the calendar flips over to December 1.

SoG6x9The Side of Good with stories by Robert Greenberger, Bryan J.L. Glass, Kathleen David, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, John L. French, Walt Ciechanowski, and James Chambers, (includes an SideofEviloriginal Furious! short story!)

The Side of Evil with stories by James M. Ward, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Janine Spendlove, Drew Bittner, and James Chambers (includes an original SCPD short story!)


Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference. 

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Drew Bittner, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story! 


Our current kickstarter campaign, THE SIDE OF GOOD / THE SIDE OF EVIL, is approaching the home stretch.

We really want to see this happen, and we also want you all to know how much we appreciate your support. With just two weeks to go we are instituting our pre-funding bonus reward program.

Once we hit the designated goals outlined below all backers will receive the indicated bonuses. These are digital rewards that you receive regardless of whether or not this project funds…though we really hope it does for everyone’s sake!

So, if you love great fiction, classic comics, or superheroes (villains) please consider taking a look at our campaign. You could help make an awesome project possible, and get loads of free bonus fiction as well!

$2000 Pre-Funding Bonus
A free digital download of
1. Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Dragon Precinct short story “Gan Brightblade vs. Mitos the Mighty” (This is currently only available through this kickstarter)
2. Donald J. Bingle’s short story “Hell to Pay”
3. Gail Z. Martin’s Deadly Curiosities novella “The Final Death”

$3000 Pre-Funding Bonus
A free digital download of
1. John L. French’s short story “Hero”
2. Mike McPhail’s short story “Beyond Imagine”
3. Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s short story “Purgatory”

$4000 Pre-Funding Bonus
A free digital download of
1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s microfiction collection Flash in the Can
(This is currently only available through this kickstarter)
2. John L. French’s short story “The Right Betrayal”
3. Jean Marie Ward’s short story “Glass Transit”

$4500 Funding Bonus SuperHero Bundle
Once we fund, one backer pledging $20 or more (randomly selected by the backers themselves) will win a prize pack of superhero loot, including:
1. A FURIOUS print signed by Bryan J.L. Glass.
2. A complete set of FURIOUS comics, issues 1-5, signed by Bryan J.L. Glass.
3. An original Furious Sketch autographed by Bryan J.L. Glass.
4. An assortment of Superhero DVDs.
5. An assortment of Superhero related goodies.

We are just $95 away from unlocking the first bonus bundle. Can you help us spread the word? We love to give stuff away, but we can only do it with your help. AND there are only EIGHT slots left for the 100 Backer Bonus!

Please share:


eSpec Books interviews John L. French, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology,


eSB: What drew you to this project?

JLF: I’ve always been interested in superheroes.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?

JLF: Truth, Justice, and the America Way, what else?

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?

JLF: I like stories of crime and adventure. In all of these there are, or should be, good guys and bad guys. This is especially so in superhero fiction with the lines between he two more clear-cut than usual

eSB: Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your story.

JLF: Some time ago I was asked to write a story for an anthology about phoenixes and firebirds. As one of my series characters is a pulp fiction hero called The Nightmare I created a story in which he helps a man who’s been cursed by immortality and rescues a phoenix. I like the character so much that I write two more stories about her and this Phoenix trilogy became the last three stories in my collection The Nightmare Strikes. I thought that was the (literary) end of The Phoenix. But as you know, a phoenix cannot die and so when I was asked to do a story I found myself brining her back.

eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?

JLF: I would be able to read, speak and understand every language there was, is, and will be

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?

JLF: Poor penmanship

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.

JLF: That depends on the hero and his mission. Heroes like Superman need something bright, something people can look up to. Heroes like Batman, the Shadow, and (ahem) the Nightmare need something dark so they can blend in with the darkness. I think the best super suit out there today is the Flash’s

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?

JLF: Batman and if you need to ask why you don’t know Batman.  My second favorite is anybody from Astro City. And if you don’t know about Astro City, you need to stop reading right now, go to a comic book store and buy the trade. Go ahead, I’ll wait …

eSB: Who is your real-life hero and why?

JLF: In general, it’s the people who keep us safe on a daily basis – the members of the police and fire department. Specifically it’s anyone who’s got the guts to do the right thing no matter the cost. There’s damned few of them these days and none of them hold elected office.

eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?

JLF: Keyser Söze – if you don’t know who that is, you need to watch The Usual Suspects as soon as possible. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?

JLF: Raymond Chandler said it best – “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
Anyone who meets this standard has the makings of a hero.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?

JLF: Someone who cares only for himself without regard to the consequences to the world or those who live in it. There are too many of these people around and, yes, some of them are in elected office.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?

JLF: I think a direct punch to face works better than a side kick. Oh, you mean people like Robin. Let’s get one thing straight – heroes like Tonto and Kato were not sidekicks (sidekick is what Kato did) they were partners. Maybe they were not always treated as equal partners but they were partners. It’s kids like Robin who were sidekicks. They are good dramatic derives that give the hero someone to explain things the reader need to know as well as gives the hero someone to rescue on a regular basis.

eSB: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?

JLF: I don’t know if this counts but right now it’s Daredevil: Season One. Why? Because they got (most of) it right.

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?

JLF: I’ve written two superhero hero stories (Turquoise: The Right Betrayal” and “Hero” that can be found in my short story collection Paradise Denied and which will also be available as goals for this book.

eSB: What was your most exciting moment working in the comic industry?

JLF: My major contribution to the “comic industry” has been buying too many comics for far too long. But other than that, I have been in the three Batman comics written by the late, great C. J. Henderson. I “play” a crime lab technician for the Gotham PD and work for Captain James Gordon. It mirrors my real life job as a crime scene investigator for a large, east coast city. In addition, I am the co-editor of With Great Power … an anthology about people with superpowers.

eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?

JLF: While Batman is my favorite I’d like to take over either the Superman or Green Lantern franchises. Both of these have gotten away from fighting for truth, justice, etc. and have been too involved in fighting personal battles.

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?

JLF: There’s this Romany fortune teller down the street who pretty good … but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I like books. The kind that come with just words and no pictures. I get to use more of my imagination.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.

JLF: I write short stories and edit anthologies. My books include The Nightmare Strikes, The Grey Monk: Souls on Fire, Here There Be Monsters, The Devil of Harbor City, and (with Patrick Thomas) The Assassins’ Ball.

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.