MONTHS IN REVIEWS


I haven’t done one of these in a while. Life gets in the way and you never know when some kind soul will post a review. Delighted with those that have appeared recently.


 

Editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has put together a sweet collection [ . . . ] with, in my opinion, one of the most striking SF covers I’ve seen in many a year [ . . . ] There’s something here to delight any SF reader.

Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog


Final-Crone

A rather personal kind of story, a mix between urban fantasy and coming-of-age-again story.

Hélène Louise, GoodReads

A good paranormal with an interesting cast of characters and an entertaining plot. I liked the style of writing and the world building. Recommended.

Annarella, GoodReads


Dead Bear Witness-6x9

 

 

If you like zombies, this is a novel to read. [ . . . ] It’s an interesting novel that is well written.

Susan, GoodReads


FROM THE PUBLISHER – IN HARM’S WAY


Congratulations to the contributors to In Harm’s Way, book 8 in the Defending the Future anthology series, for recognition in Publisher’s Weekly of a job well done.  Highlighted in the review were authors Brenda Cooper, David Sherman, and James Chambers.


This impressive anthology of 12 military science fiction stories pairs suspense with heart, showcasing oppressive regimes, deeds of heroism in the wake of alien invasions, and the depths of limitless, unknown space. – Publisher’s Weekly

(Click on the above link for the full review.)


Back Cover Copy

When fire and steel meet flesh and bone, a soldier learns a hard truth: you’re not fighting for Glory and Honor, but for survival, for you and your comrades, and you will be damned if you’re going to leave any of them behind.

Join us for twelve tales of military heroism and courage in the face of a hostile enemy.

With stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, David Sherman, Robert E. Waters, Jeff Young, James Chambers, Lisanne Norman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher M. Hiles, Eric V. Hardenbrook, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail


If you are a reviewer, bookseller, or librarian interested in a review copy, the book is currently listed on NetGalley through the end of August. 

 

COVER REVEAL – DTF 8 – IN HARM’S WAY


Once more, eSpec is proud to announce our newest title, just now off to press: In Harm’s Way edited by Mike McPhail, the next in the award-winning Defending the Future anthology series.

With hope, the book will process in time to also debut at Shore Leave, where authors Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail will be in attendance, along with editor and cover artist, Mike McPhail.

FB-McP-IHW-CoverAll
Cover art and design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics.

No One Left Behind

When fire and steel meet flesh and bone, a soldier learns a hard truth: you’re not fighting for Glory and Honor, but for survival, for you and your comrades, and you will be damned if you’re going to leave any of them behind.

Join us for twelve tales of military heroism and courage in the face of a hostile enemy.

With stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, David Sherman, Robert E. Waters, Jeff Young, James Chambers, Lisanne Norman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher M. Hiles, Eric V. Hardenbrook, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail

COVER REVEAL – FOOTPRINTS IN THE STARS


eSpec is proud to announce that this title has gone to press. Isn’t this a gorgeous cover by Mike McPhail of McP Digital Graphics? We certainly think so!

64638996_2467758666581282_4806693154461843456_o

To follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars

With stories by Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass

The following authors will be at Shore Leave, where the book will be debuted: Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Christopher L. Bennett, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, and series editor and cover designer, Mike McPhail.

eSPEC EXCERPT – ROBERT GREENBERGER – THE OATH


Just four days left to score some amazing bonuses. The below excerpt is from one of the stories featured in In Harm’s Way. Robert will have a story in Footprints in the Stars as well. Please consider checking it out on Kickstarter, or perhaps helping us spread the word. 


The Oath

Robert Greenberger

The deck plating rattled, adding to the cacophony that made it difficult to concentrate. There were concussive sounds coming from all directions although it appeared there were few direct hits on Biânjìng itself, but Jasmine Yue found it difficult to discern anything with assurance. All she knew was that the red alert klaxon woke her far too soon after her twelve-hour shift ended, then she was back in her scrubs and out the door of her cabin in under five minutes. As she hustled into the Emergency Room, adjacent to the colony’s clinic, it was clear casualties, other than nerves, were light – for now.

CMO Dhruv Naccarato, tall, dark-complected, and with impossibly straight black hair, nodded at her arrival, her hands attending to a leg wound. Yue immediately donned surgical gloves and awaited instructions.

As the pair silently worked on the victim, a man Yue did not recognize, she was given the highlights: a score of small alien spacecraft had arrived, somehow avoiding Quatrième’s planetary defenses, and opened fire on the Biânjìng colony. They had been firing back and forth for the last half hour.

There had been archaeological remains found on two of the other colony worlds, but they dated back centuries or millennia, confirming humans were far from alone in the universe. Yue settled on Biânjìng, the fourth human establishment on an alien world, helping establish the Quatrième colony. She arrived just as the last of the dome was completing, allowing oxygen to flow and humans to breathe. The scope of the years-long project astonished her along with the promises of new discoveries, never anticipating she would be part of the first contact with a living alien species after just four years. This was not how anyone had hoped for a living first contact to go, although it did confirm the worst fears of some factions still on Earth.

“Focus,” Naccarato snapped, forcing Yue to blink twice and study her colleague’s hands. They were carefully repairing vein damage to the man’s left leg and Yue needed to keep the area sponged clean. Noise around them increased as more injured arrived, more than the small medical staff could reasonably handle.

“I need more hands,” Naccarato snapped, her voice betraying a trace of her Indian heritage. “Tell Rocky to send whoever he can spare.”

Another nurse confirmed the order and hurried off to signal the deputy commander while Yue began arranging the dermaplast that would be packed around the wound to protect it from infection and help new skin grow.

As the pair began to close the torn skin, the loudest whoomph yet reverberated through the casing. Heads snapped up, brows knit in concern, and everyone hushed leaving the various machines to hum by themselves, waiting for someone from CentComm to let them know what just happened. Seconds later, the speakers flared to life and the red alert signal was cut off.

“Remain in place,” the stern voice ordered, one Yue didn’t recognize. “Alien vessel down half a klick from Biânjìng. Other ships are either destroyed or fled. Remain on highest alert.”

After the message repeated, silence fell over the Emergency Room but that lasted only seconds as doctors and nurses resumed work, giving orders, receiving confirmations although everyone’s voices were now subdued. Volunteers, anyone with EMT or even basic First Aid training, were beginning to arrive. Naccarato, to her credit, afforded them a quick acknowledging look and then directed them without pausing with her patient; freeing the more experienced medical staff to tend to the direst of injuries. The colony had three operating rooms, all of which were in service, which was why she and Yue were working in the ER. The energy level rose but there was efficiency, not panic.

Still, Yue worried what would happen to the colony and to the inhabitants of the alien starcraft that lay just a short walk away.


Bob_Greenberger copyRobert Greenberger is a writer and editor. He has worked for Starlog Press, where he created Comics Scene, the first nationally distributed magazine to focus on comic books, comic strips, and animation, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Weekly World News, Famous Monsters of Filmland, ComicMix.com, and is a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. His dozens of books, short stories, and essays include Hellboy II: The Golden Army, for which he won the IAMTW’s Scribe Award, and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, co-written with Steven Savile. He is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Bridgeport and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing & Literature for Educators from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

FROM THE PUBLISHER – STATE OF THE ‘SPEC 2019


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

Proof-4-5-Clockworkproof-front-sisterlg-book-wwwes-iid-final-proof

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!

FROM THE PUBLISHER – WE’RE AT IT AGAIN…


Where has the year gone? Already a quarter of the way in and it hardly seems we’ve gotten anything done at all! Time to fix that. We have launched our next campaign.

KSC-IHW-FrontPage

This go-around we have three books we want to do: In Harm’s Way (Defending the Future Book 8) edited by Mike McPhail, Footprints in the Stars (Beyond the Cradle Book 2) edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and Devil Dancers, a single-author collection by Robert E. Waters. If we hit our goal the first one will be funded. From there we work to unlock the other books via the stretch goals.

To learn more, please visit our page on Kickstarter.

Not your thing? Or not the right time? Don’t have the extra in your budget?

We understand. We’ve been there! But you can still help us by spreading the word.

Thank you,

Danielle

PROJECT UPDATE – IF WE HAD KNOWN


proof-iwhk-cover

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?


Contents

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

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – FARPOINT (FEBRUARY 12-14)


In just five days eSpec Books and several of our authors will be hanging out at Farpoint, along with Sean Maher and David Gerrold. If you’re going to be there, please look us up. eSpec will be in the dealer’s room and many of the authors will be found in the FARPBooks Lounge located in the Dulaney Valley 1 room. When we all aren’t on panels, that is. I’ve listed preliminary schedules below (these are subject to change). We weren’t given locations, so please check your program for room assignments once you are at the con.

Ackley-McPhail,Danielle

(1403)Readings: Danielle Ackley-Mcphail, David Krauss Friday 5:00 PM
(1061)Publishing On A Budget: Spending Your Money Wisely Friday 7:00 PM
(1308)Becoming a Mainstream Super Hero Saturday 2:00 PM
(1317)Struggles with Building an Audience & Fan Base Saturday 9:00 PM

McPhail,Mike

(1313)Enter the Hobbit Saturday 7:00 PM
(1319)Advice for New Writers Sunday NOON

David,Kathleen

(1056)Fantastical Shows And Where To Watch Them Friday 5:00 PM
(1323)Hows Twelve Doing? Saturday NOON

David,Peter

(1416)Autographs: Rigel Ailur, Peter David, Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson Saturday 10:00 AM
(1417)Readings: Peter David, Jennifer Povey, Joseph Berenato Saturday 11:00 AM
(1305)Aliens: Beyond Pointy Ears & Bumpy Heads Saturday 3:00 PM
(1345)Crazy 8 Press Saturday 4:00 PM
(1422)Autographs: Joseph Berenato, Peter David, Keith DeCandido, Dave Galanter Saturday 6:00 PM
(1320)Star Trek Turns 50! Sunday 10:00 AM
(1325)Whats Changed with the All-New All-Different Marvel Comics Sunday NOON
(1315)World Building 101 Sunday 2:00 PM

DeCandido,Keith

(1459)Prometheus Radio Theatre Tech Rehearsal Friday 3:00 PM
(1321)Holy Golden Anniversary, Batman! Saturday 3:00 PM
(1421)Readings: Michael Ventrella, Kim Headlee, Keith DeCandido Saturday 5:00 PM
(1422)Autographs: Joseph Berenato, Peter David, Keith DeCandido, Dave Galanter Saturday 6:00 PM
(1311)Writing Inclusively vs. Token Characters Saturday 8:00 PM
(1361)Keith DeCandido Self-Defense Demo Sunday 11:00 AM
(1372)Sci-Fi Fights! Sunday 1:00 PM
(1431)Autographs: Ben Anderson, Keith DeCandido, Don Sakers, Richard White Sunday 2:00 PM
(1312)Writer Beware Sunday 3:00 PM

Greenberger,Bob

(1336)Bob Greenberger Saturday 10:00 AM
(1218)Writing Workshop Saturday NOON
(1219)Writing Workshop Saturday 1:00 PM
(1321)Holy Golden Anniversary, Batman! Saturday 3:00 PM
(1345)Crazy 8 Press Saturday 4:00 PM
(1359)The Bob & Howie Show Sunday 11:00 AM
(1372)Sci-Fi Fights! Sunday 1:00 PM

Rosenberg,Aaron

(1053)Changes In Business Of Speculative Fiction Friday 6:00 PM
(1345)Crazy 8 Press Saturday 4:00 PM
(1309)Writing for the Game Industry Sunday 11:00 AM
(1314)Collaborations Sunday 1:00 PM

eSPEC BOOKS WEEK IN REVIEWS


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.

NEW RELEASE – THE SIDE OF GOOD / THE SIDE OF EVIL


 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)


PROMO COPY

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! 

SNEAK PEEK – MAKING A DIFFERENCE BY ROBERT GREENBERGER (THE SIDE OF GOOD / THE SIDE OF EVIL)


SoG6x9an excerpt from
Making a Difference
by Robert Greenberger

(from The Side of Good)

Gravel and grit forced their way into his mouth as he felt his boots drag along the street, kicking up the debris as the car picked up speed. He held on tight to the front bumper, willing his hips and legs to swivel into action, letting him scale up to the hood. His mind fought to control multiple inputs, starting with the foul taste in his mouth, the ache in his calves, and the strain in his biceps.

Willing his body to behave, he once more moved into action and somehow wound up exactly where he wanted to be: riding a speeding car, weaving in and out of light Manhattan traffic at three in the morning, with police sirens beginning to fill the air. His gloved hands gripped the sides of the tapered hood and he stared through the windshield at the driver, a greasy-haired, pock-mocked kid of maybe twenty. Normally, he wouldn’t have bothered with a simple car theft except for the other occupant in the vehicle—a screaming infant, safely buckled in the car seat in the rear.

The driver’s eyes bulged and the hero saw his mouth work and finally form the name: “Crusader”.

He hated the name but it had been pinned on him on the very first night he sought to make a difference. When he decided to don the black-and-gold outfit, he had been mulling over names but after stopping a riot in the wake of an unfavorable legal decision, a reporter quipped, “Hey, caped crusader, where’s your cape?” And, that was all it took, suddenly he was the Crusader.

There were worse names, he supposed, and he’d grown accustomed to it, but he’d much rather have had a say in his alter ego’s name.

A sharp swerve to the right shook him from his reverie and he nearly lost his grip on the polished metal surface. With a severe gesture, he made it clear he wanted the panicky driver to pull over and surrender.

Rather than obeying the command, the driver braked hard and came to a sudden stop, the momentum dislodging the hero. Crusader rolled to the street, taking the brunt of the impact on his right shoulder, but the sound of the door opening, sneakers hitting the pavement, and the wail of the frightened infant shocked him into action. With an effort he regained his footing, checked to make certain the infant was still in the car, and took off after the thief, certain the impending arrival of the police would mean the kid would be looked after. The scumbag who stole the car, though, needed some justice. And the way the Crusader felt right then, it would be rough justice.

~ * ~

Harmony looked up in alarm when the Crusader appeared in the doorway to her bedroom. He tended to call ahead or at least knock to alert her of his arrival. Instead, given the late hour, the costumed figure slipped a key from a belt compartment and let himself in, the sound waking her.

“Its 4:30 in the mor…” her complaint trailed off when she saw him somewhat stagger to the edge of the bed where he heavily let himself down. “My god, you look terrible.”

“Feel worse,” he said in a hoarse voice. She turned on the night-table lamp and in the illumination saw the black streaks from his most recent activity. His mouth was bruised and swollen and even the skin was raw, trickling blood, adding a new color to the gold piping on his outfit. She noted that spots were worn through the costume and his boots were scuffed. The stylish outfit was one of the first things she focused on when they initially met. It was thick leather, providing him with some protection, creased and crinkled here and there but being mostly black you needed a strong light to notice. The helmet and faceplate cowl had a gold design that led to piping down both sleeves, disappearing under tight gloves. It was far less garish than some of the outfits other heroes appeared in, especially the women who clearly were using their cleavage to distract criminals from their fists.

“What happened?” She rose and kneeled beside him, totally unconscious that she was wearing her oversized Crusader night shirt, his grinning, cowled face looming large from shoulders to hips.

He began to speak of the evening’s activity but she placed two fingers on his lips, silencing him as she headed into the bathroom and came back with all the usual first-aid supplies. By then, he had peeled out of the leather and Kevlar-fitted jacket, exposing the various older yellow and fresh black bruises that created a pop art image on his body. She deftly applied antiseptic cream and bandages. His breathing slowed and resumed a regular rhythm.

“Was it worth it?”

“I saved a baby, so yeah,” he told her, which caught her attention. Children always do that to heroes and civilians alike, it must be hardwired into humanity, Mike Kinnard thought. Finally loosening his cowl and peeling it away, his brown eyes met hers and they silently communed for a minute.

“You’re a mess,” she said, breaking the silence which had been growing uncomfortable. “You never used to finish the night like this. You must be getting sloppy or…”

“…or old,” he finished for her. This had recently become the centerpiece of their conversations when it came to his colorful alter ego.

She nodded, closing up the first aid kit. “How much longer do you think you can keep this up?” she asked, the anger clear in her tone.

This was far from the first time she raised the question but tonight, this morning, was the first time he actually considered a real response. He ached. Seriously ached and not for the first time this year, he realized. He was not healing as quickly as he used to.

“There’s still work to be done,” he began before she could cut him off. “As long as I can make a difference.”

“That’s a pat, bullshit answer. You’re closing in on forty and are still trying to act like someone half your age. It’s no longer safe. You go out, beat the shit out of the bad guys, and come back here to be patched up. You make time for me as convenient, but even then you’d have to be inside me before you’d consider staying, rather than answer a cry for help.”

“Harm, that’s not true or really fair.”

She pulled a stray lock of hair away from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. “Fair? Fair is us being together, making a life for ourselves, actually planning more than a few hours out. I fell for you, Mike, not the Crusader.”

“I am the Crusader,” Mike Kinnard told her, some heat of his own in the words. “You knew that from the moment I yanked the rapist off you.” That had been four years ago, when he could still patrol the streets for hours, bust some heads, and go to work without getting tired. He felt strong and vital then; in love, real love, for the first time in his life. Mike could not now imagine his life without Harmony St. James, but she was challenging that idyllic vision and he was not in the mood to consider it. Letting a deep breath out slowly through his nose, Kinnard kept his mouth shut, not daring to let this escalate into something ugly. He was weary and sore and did not need a fight with his lover to finish off a tough night.

“Yeah, I knew you as the Crusader first,” Harmony went on, clearly not reading his mind or his body language. “But I came to love Mike Kinnard and you’re making that very hard right now. Before you, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find someone I could imagine growing old with, but then you swooped in and became my personal hero. But for us to grow old together, you need to stay alive and, you know, healthy.”

He winced at that, much as he winced at the aching muscles that screamed for Ben Gay or a whirlpool. His local gym was a 24-hour place and he wanted to go there before he had to make an appearance at Count on Kinnard, his private accounting company.

“I can’t do this without you,” he began. When she shot him a look, he let the sentence die mercifully.

“Do you want us to stay together? Get married, settle down, skip the picket fence and kids, but experience things as a couple? Answer yes and that will tell you what you need to do. Answer no then you’ve set the timer on our relationship starting tonight.”

He didn’t answer her and he didn’t believe she truly expected an answer at this late hour. She deserved one and he wanted to say the former but knew full well he was not done fighting for his city. The Blockade, Doctor Bizarre, Lightspeed, and the other heroes were still going strong and together, they were keeping Manhattan from becoming more dangerous. It felt like he’d be betraying them but then again, they had their powers to protect them. He was just an extraordinarily gifted athlete with an above-average intellect. Right now, though, he was not feeling particularly smart.

“Mike…you have to slow down. Take some nights off. Make some time for us. I don’t want to make an ultimatum, but we’re getting really close to having that ‘me or the mask’ conversation. The one you told me you never wanted us to get to.”

That conversation started about a year back, after he fought to stem a gang war while still wearing a splint, a trophy from battling the Gentleman. It was then he began to notice the wear and tear on his body and the impending onset of serious middle age. He always joked forty was when the warranty would end and his body would fall apart. What he didn’t realize at the time was that he wasn’t being sardonic but prophetic.

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.

PROMOTIONAL COPY

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, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, 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! 

PROJECT UPDATE – THE SIDE OF GOOD / THE SIDE OF EVIL


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!)

PROMO COPY

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! 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – ROBERT GREENBERGER


eSpec Books interviews Robert Greenberger, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, http://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.

Bob_Greenberger copy

eSB: What drew you to this project?

RG: Danielle’s winning smile as she explained what the book was about so I asked her if I could come play. After all, I grew up on comics and super-heroics is in my DNA.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?

RG: I’m writing for the side of good. Most super-hero comics are serialized and with the reboots and all, the major heroes never retire, never really question when the time comes. With the freedom of a short story, I decided that would make for an interesting story.

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?

RG: I was six and home sick with bronchitis. Mom brought me an issue of Superman and I was hooked. Something about the colorful figure, the super-powers, and – I am guessing here – the not being ill was really appealing. Since then I like the larger than life figures, which is why I am also drawn to mythology.

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

RG: I usually say I want a power ring which can do so many things, great and small. Or, I would love to fly. First, it would cut down on my commute to school and second, it would just be damn cool.

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?

RG: My current weakness is peanut M&Ms. A bag of those and I weaken, my will becomes shot.

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.

RG: Something akin to speedskaters, sleek in design, not overly colorful. Or something with a cloak so I can hide the paunch from the M&Ms.

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?

RG: I am drawn to many but usually will tell you its Green Lantern. First of all, he’s fearless (save the psychobabble about that for another time) plus out of billions of people, the ring chose him to join this corps that is out to protect the universe. That’s an awesome power matched with an awesome responsibility.

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

RG: I don’t think I hate any one villain, but I do hate the C-list guys who have a cheesy name or poor motivation. They’re badly conceived by lazy or desperate writers then hang on when other writers need cannon fodder.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?

RG: Using power (however it has been derived) for the greater good. Willing to sacrifice yourself for higher ideals. Doing what must be done regardless of the obstacles.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?

RG: Using power (however it has been derived) for selfish gain. Unwilling to serve society and acting entirely against the public good.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?

RG: Many benefit from having someone to watch your back or someone to talk to. There’s a great deal of loneliness that comes with power so this can help ground the hero. Of course, not all sidekicks should be minors, that brings up other issues.

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

RG: 20 years at DC and 1 year at Marvel mean tons of heroes and villains have crossed my desk. I am particularly proud of a series I helped create, Suicide Squad, now becoming a feature film. As a writer, I have written an Iron Man novel, The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, co-written The Batman Vault and The Essential Superman Encyclopedia; and two young reader Batman books. I’ve also done short fiction with Zorro and Captain Midnight so I get around.

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

RG: Can I say the entire DC Universe? If not, the one series I always wanted was Green Lantern (are you detecting a thread here?).

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

RG: They both appeal in different ways. Fiction is you and your imagination, using strictly words to bring your reader to other places. Comics is collaborative (which I love) and blends words with pictures which is a unique storytelling experience.

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

RG: I am a cofounder of Crazy 8 Press, a digital press hub where I write original fiction. The next work there will be a story in the Pangaea anthology, debuting at Shore Leave. I am also a high school English teacher in Maryland. As an author, I have co-written The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, with Steven Savile, due out in December from Titan Books.

eSB: Please let us know where you can be found on social media.

RG: I can be found at www.bobgreenberger.com or on Facebook or twitter @bobgreenberger

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