lamp-text-3There isn’t a bad story in here. The tone of the stories ranges from funny to sad to though provoking. Pick this one up! – Amazon Reader

consigned-to-the-sea-2x3Overall this is a fun, albeit very short, collection, well-worth a read. -David Felts, SFReader

proof-front-sisterAs expected this author has performed with excellence. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. – John Krizo, Amazon

mam-proof-finalAnyone who enjoys military science fiction in general, and speculations on the future of machines, and machine/human interfacing and machine intelligence specifically, will be thoroughly entertained. -David Felts, SFReader

Gaslight and GrimmLiked the premise of the book and thought the authors all did a good job of successfully merging fairytale tropes with steampunk ambiance, to create a whole that was greater than the sum of its (carefully geared and lubricated) parts. Anna, Kobo


This has been an interesting year for us at eSpec Books, in every connotation of the word.

We have held three successful Kickstarters, funding a total of seven books, we have released ten titles in print and/or ebook this year, and we have become self-employeed…but not salaried. 

Our Best Sellers for the year were:


  1. The Weird Wild West
  2. Gaslight & Grimm
  3. Best of Defending the Future
  4. POST
  5. Dogs of War – Reissued / In the Lamplight (tie)


  1. The Weird Wild West
  2. Gaslight & Grimm
  3. Best of Defending the Future
  4. Dogs of War – Reissue
  5. In the Lamplight

We have signed books with award-winning, bestselling authors  Jack Campbell, Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, and David Sherman, and have brought on some exciting newcomers in our anthology projects.

At Balticon we connected with old friends, had a fire alarm, and held a pretty amazing launch party where we got to meet quite a few of our authors for the first time in person, as well as gave away loads of prizes and sold lots of book. We also had enough goodies left over that we provided food for the party after us, and they still had leftovers to send to the con suite when they were done.


We have also started a new reprint line of books, Paper Phoenix Press and released our first title under that imprint.

All in all, this has been an amazing year of growth for us, if also one of readjustment.

Thank you all for joining us on this journey. We hope you’ll continue to follow along in the new year.

Be nice, be happy, be safe this holiday season!

Danielle McPhail, Mike McPhail, and Greg Schauer


It’s that time again, where you get a chance to win a free copy of one of our books. This time Man and Machine (Defending the Future book 7) edited by Mike McPhail.

mam-proof-finalThe plan had been to un-man the battlespace; replacing flesh and blood with steel and carbon fiber. Machines, both remote-guided and autonomous, would fight and be destroyed in the name of freedom, sparing the troops. However, as with all arms races, the opposing side’s technology eventually catches ups to yours, resulting in the need to put lives back on the frontline to deal with the unknown.

Gear up! This fight is far from over in 14 new stories of the struggle to survive, the new machines of war.

With stories by Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer Brozek, Ronald Garner, Aaron Rosenberg, Brenda Cooper, James Chambers, Nancy Jane Moore, Patrick Thomas, Jeff Young, Eric Hardenbrook, Robert E. Waters, Anton Kukal, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.


We are excited to present to you the cover of Man and Machine, Defending the Future Volume 7. After a three-year hiatus, editor Mike McPhail has given us another great volume for your reading enjoyment, featuring series veterans Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer Brozek, James Chambers, Patrick Thomas, Jeff Young, Robert E. Waters, Eric Hardenbrook, Nancy Jane Moore, Judi Fleming, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, plus our newest recruits: Ronald T. Garner, Aaron Rosenberg, and Anton Kukal.

In addition, the collection contains a final farewell from CJ Henderson, written just before his passing, about his participation in the Defending the Future Series.


Back Cover Copy

The plan had been to un-man the battlespace, replacing flesh and blood with steel and carbon fiber. Machines, both remote-controlled and autonomous A.I.s, would fight and be destroyed in the name of freedom; sparing the troops at the cost of the nation’s treasure.

However, as with any arms race, the opposing side’s technology eventually catches ups to yours, resulting in the need to put lives back in harm’s way on the frontline; to deal with, and adapt to the unknown, as only humans can.



Apologies for the delayed post. This has been a very busy few weeks.

Our congratulations to Deidre Dykes for winning June’s eSpec Books Flash Fiction Contest. Deidre’s prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.

Honorable Mention
Christopher J. Burke – Memories 2.0

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

The eSpec Books July Flash Fiction Contest – Get Wired!


Deidre Dykes

The geeks always tell me to relax during pilot acquisition, but I think that’s pretty much bull. The EXO-9 suit is 327 pounds of death and destruction; it doesn’t want you relaxed, it wants you tense and ready to pounce.

“Welcome, Staff Sergeant Vasquez,” the suit said in a polite, feminine voice.

“Uhh, thanks?” I replied stupidly. That was new.

“Let’s get started,” the voice urged. “Call me Nine.”

I called out to the geeks. “Hey! Whose idea was the lady in here?”

The blonde Specialist laughed. “We thought the sound of a woman might keep your attention,” she said.

“Har har,” I sneered.

Today would go better than last week. It had to. Falling flat on my face in the new exoskeleton armor hadn’t exactly endeared me to the geeks. Or to the Master Sergeant who’d been observing the mobility test.

“Staff Sergeant Vasquez, your heart rate is increasing,” Nine said.

“Uh, Nine? Call me Oscar. I’m sure it is; I’m going nuts in here.”

“Your patience and cooperation are important, Oscar. We will begin systems check momentarily.”

My screen flooded with data. Systems check would begin–finally. At least now I got to do something. Some unexpected graphics filled my HUD.

“Whoa. Why am I seeing targeting? I thought we were just taking a stroll today.”

“Schedule crunch,” the blonde shrugged from the test floor. “We’re doubling up, running a test of the weapons software to make sure it won’t crash the whole system. Don’t worry, you’re not toting ammo.”

One of the geeks said, “Unlocking braces–ready to take a walk, Vasquez?”

I heard the hiss of the hydraulics, then took a tentative step. The exoskeleton frame moved with me as if it weighed nothing at all. Next, the stairs down from the platform. This was where I’d fallen last time and I could see my heart rate rising on my HUD.

I took the first step with that sort of blind faith we reserve for walking down stairs–only most of us don’t do it while strapped into 300+ pounds of carbon-steel. Blind faith delivered and my foot landed firmly on the step. I slowly made my way down all six stairs in a dead silent room. The blonde stepped into view.

“Doing great,” she said. “First test: weapons recognition. Check each of the dummies on the range and target any with weapons the software IDs.”

Turning to my left, I took in the setup in the firing range. “Nine, Identify weapons.”

I watched the targeting rings whiz around, highlighting weapon silhouettes and locking on.

“Hmm, she missed one,” the blonde typed into her PAD. “Not bad. Let’s do a few range of motion tests then put her away.”

I turned back toward the blonde and watched, in terrible slow-motion, as the targeting rings flew across the screen and highlighted the heads of everyone in the room.

“Nine?” I shouted.

“Ammunition out. Switching to manual combat,” Nine replied.

“Nine! Stop it!”

“Assuming control.”

My legs were forced into a walk, muscles screaming in pain as I fought. And there was the blonde, staring up at me, eyes wide. Her PAD clattered to the floor as my right arm was forced back and swung forward, slamming into the side of her head.

A spatter of blood hit my visor.

“Nine, stop it!”

Nine forced me into a running jump and pounced onto the prone form of the blonde. My right arm was yanked back again and my metal fist slammed into the blonde’s head with a sickening crunch. Blood and tears blurred my vision.

“Oscar?” Nine asked in that disgustingly calm tone as she continued to smash my fist into the blood-smeared floor, “Your heart rate is increasing.”


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,




In Britain, on July 27, 1982, Neil Harbisson was born with greyscale vision. Since 2004 he has had an antenna implanted in his skull that lets him HEAR colors and SEE sounds! He is best known for being the first person in the world with this type of augmentation and has been officially recognized as a cyborg by his government. His antenna uses audible vibrations in his skull to report information to him. This includes measurements of electromagnetic radiation, phone calls, music, as well as video or images which are translated into sound. His wifi enabled antenna also allows him to receive signals and data from satellites. We thought this was friggin’ awesome! Way to overcome what life has dealt you.

In honor of this amazing man and our current Kickstarter campaign for Defending the Future: Man and Machine, which ends in two days, your challenge, should you chose to accept it, is to write to us of cybernetic enhancement in 727 words or less.

If interested you can learn more about Neil Harbisson here.

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.