THE eSPEC BOOKS AUTHOR READING SERIES – 6/19/20


Welcome to your almost weekend! Time to recap the author reading series once more. We have four videos straddling multiple genres. We hope you’ll enjoy them all. If you are interested in the books, they can be purchased via the links provided.

If you are an author and would like to participate in one of these series, please visit the eSpec Books Author Reading Series Facebook page for details.


The eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Megan Mackie reading an excerpt from her novel Saint Code: The Lost, an intriguing tale of the perilous intersection of cyberpunk and magic.

Gordon Linzner reading an excerpt from his short story “Astral Odds” from Footprints in the Stars, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, an interesting take on science fiction noir exploring humanities reaction to proof aliens exist.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Ruby Red” from her ebook collection Flash in the Can. An evocative microfiction that will take you on a sensory journey.

Jeff Young reading his short story “Beyond the Familiar” from his single-author collection Spirit Seeker, steampunk tales following a covert operative who happens to talk to ghosts.


All purchase links in these posts are Amazon Associate links
and we do receive a token commission if you should purchase via these links.

eSPEC BOOKS AUTHOR READING SERIES – 5/15/20


Happy Friday! This is our recap of our two Author Reading series The eSpec Books Author Reading Series, which features eSpec authors reading eSpec content; and The eSpec Guest Author Series featuring authors reading works from outside publishers. We hope you enjoy! If you do, please remember to Like and Subscribe. Thank you.

If you are interested in participating in either series, please leave a message in the comments below (terms apply.)

eSpec Books Author Reading Series

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading chapter one of her novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written by Day Al-Mohamed.

 

A reposting of Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Brothers” from Dogs of War (Defending the Future Book Six). (remastered for sound quality.)

 

Robert E. Waters reads his short story “Child of the Water” from his solo science fiction collection Devil Dancers

 

Danielle Ackley-McPhail reading her short story “Dawns a New Day” from Footprints in the Stars (Beyond the Cradle Book 2).

eSpec Guest Author Reading Series

Carol Gyzander reading her short story “The Clockwork Raven” from Merely This and Nothing More, published by WriterPunk Press. The story is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

STATE OF THE ‘SPEC – APOCALYPSE EDITION


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.

Proof-BabaAli

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.

NEW RELEASE – BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN


Well… not quite released yet, but coming real soon! Releasing in April through eSpec Books’ reprint imprint Paper Phoenix Press, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed. There is a pre-order link available, and the book is currently available on audiobook.

Proof-BabaAli

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined…

In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wishes such secrets to remain hidden.

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali’s very life depend on his success.

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.

“Rich with steampunk, magic, and an enchanting setting, this story casts a spell and won’t let go until the very last page!” —Maria V. Snyder, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Readers of steampunk and Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy alike will adore this lush foray into a world seldom explored by the genre. Buckle up for a wild ride across the deserts of your imagination!” —Tiffany Trent, award-winning author of The Unnaturalists

 “A charming retelling of the famous classic […] Whether you are a fan of Steampunk, of exotic fairytales, or just of good writing, this story should delight.” —L. Jagi Lamplighter, award-winning author

“Beautifully evocative of the fairy tale tradition in parts that the modern, steampunk nature of the tale is completely encapsulated in a wonderful adventure.” —Luke’s Reviews


Kickstarter DMcPhailAward-winning author, editor, and publisher Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books.

Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guides, The Literary Handyman and The Literary Handyman: Build-A-Book Workshop

She is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, Footprints in the Stars, In an Iron Cage, as well as many others. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and three extremely spoiled cats.

To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.especbooks.com.

DayDay Al-Mohamed is an award-winning filmmaker, author, and disability policy executive. She is a host on Idobi Radio’s Geek Girl Riot (https://idobi.com/show/geek-girl-riot/) with an audience of more than 80,000 listeners, and her most recent novella, The Labyrinth’s Archivist, was published July 2019. Her recent publications are available in Daily Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, and GrayHaven Comics’ anti-bullying issue “You Are Not Alone.”

She is an active member of Women in Film and Video and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.  Her most recent film is screening both nationally and internationally: The Invalid Corps (https://invalidcorpsfilm.com). However, she is most proud of being invited to teach a workshop on storytelling at the White House in February 2016.

Day is a disability policy executive with more than fifteen years of experience in both the public and private sector. She is currently a Senior Policy Advisor with the Federal government. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst. For more information on work in disability policy, please check out: www.DayinWashington.com.

Day presents often on the representation of disability in media, most recently at the American Bar Association, SXSW, and New York ComiCon. A proud member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, she lives in Washington DC with her wife, N.R. Brown and guide dog, Gamma. She can be found online at www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed.

COVER REVEAL – BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN


Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn 6X9
The Clockwork Djinn (c) Danielle McPhail, McP Digital Graphics

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined…

 In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wishes such secrets to remain hidden.

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night, a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali’s very life depend on his success.

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn…


“Rich with steampunk, magic, and an enchanting setting, this story casts a spell and won’t let go until the very last page!” —Maria V. Snyder, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Readers of steampunk and Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy alike will adore this lush foray into a world seldom explored by the genre. Buckle up for a wild ride across the deserts of your imagination!” —Tiffany Trent, award-winning author of The Unnaturalists

 “A charming retelling of the famous classic […] Whether you are a fan of Steampunk, of exotic fairytales, or just of good writing, this story should delight.” —L. Jagi Lamplighter, award-winning author

“Beautifully evocative of the fairy tale tradition in parts that the modern, steampunk nature of the tale is completely encapsulated in a wonderful adventure.” —Luke’s Reviews


Kickstarter DMcPhailAward-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).

Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and Footprints in the Stars. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and two extremely spoiled cats.

Day

Day Al-Mohamed is an author, filmmaker, and disability policy executive. She is co-author of the Young Adult novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, is a host on Idobi Radio’s Geek Girl Riot with an audience of more than 80,000 listeners, and her most recent novella, The Labyrinth’s Archivist, was published July 2019 by Falstaff Books. Her recent publications are available in Daily Science Fiction, Apex, Crossed Genres anthology “Oomph – A Little Super Goes a Long Way,” and GrayHaven Comics’ anti-bullying issue “You Are Not Alone.”  

Her current documentary, “The Invalid Corps” is on the festival circuit. 

She is an active member of Women in Film and Video and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.  However, she is most proud of being invited to teach a workshop on storytelling at the White House in February 2016.

Day is a disability policy executive with more than fifteen years of experience. She is currently a Senior Policy Advisor with the Federal government. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Health, Education, Employment, Technology, and International Development. For more information on work in disability policy, please check out: http://www.DayinWashington.com.

                 Day presents often on the representation of disability in media, most recently at the American Bar Association, SXSW, and New York ComiCon. A proud member of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 24-01 (5th District Southern Region), she lives in Washington DC with her wife, N.R. Brown and guide dog, Gamma. She can be found online at http://www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN


Our campaign is one week in and nearly 300% funded. I can’t tell you how excited Day and I are to bring this book back to the fans. It has always been one of our most popular titles as authors. With three weeks to go, we are hoping we might add illustrations this time around as the book just cries out for visuals to go with the rich language and fairytale esthetic. Currently, we are just $190 away from adding our first two illustrations. For those not familiar with the book, we thought it would be nice to share an excerpt. We hope you enjoy. And if you are curious about the campaign for Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, please do click the link. If you are particularly moved, please consider sharing this excerpt or the link with the world. We would be quite grateful for the boost.  


BabaAliandtheClockworkDjinn
The cover of the previous edition, artwork by Autumn Frederickson

An Excerpt from Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed

The moon lit his way as he scurried down to the oasis. His first instinct was to fill his goatskin and flee back toward Wadi Al-Nejd before the night grew any older, but as he knelt beside the pool, he could not control his gaze. At first, it merely darted toward the dune and back again. His eyes locked upon the slope a while longer, his mind furiously working on the puzzle of how the dune hid a cavern. He longed to go in, to explore. To know for once and certain that this was the place he sought.

The next he knew, Ali stood where the lead thief’s footprints still shaped the sands, between the rock outcropping and the arta bush with the twisted trunk, his hand toying with one of the robust red blossoms from the branch in his hands as his teeth worried his lower lip.

He should not do it. Allah knew he should not do it.

“Open, Sesame.”

The words were but a whisper across his lips, barely spoken before the sands again separated to reveal the rock outcrop. His eyes widened as next the stone facing slowly slid beneath the desert. Ali forgot once more to breathe. He had not believed it would work. He had been sure the sun had baked his brain. But there it was: the secret cavern, spilling its steady light upon the oasis.

The blossom snapped off in Ali’s tightened grip. He barely noticed as he crept into the cave. As he passed the entrance he noted two divots in the chamber floor that mirrored where he’d stood outside. Ali stopped and turned toward the oasis. It would be best to not betray his presence. “Close, Sesame,” he murmured, recalling the leader’s words; hoping they would work from the inside.

And the earth swallowed Ali whole.

His first impulse was to pound upon the rock, to order it open once more. Instead, he turned and allowed his gaze to sweep the cavern. He could see no sign of the guardians his father’s letter had warned about. Perhaps they had been released by his grandfather’s passing, for they were not here. Still, Ali’s hand crept down to rest upon his satchel, which contained the puzzle box, the travel diary, and his father’s letter. Reassured, he took in the wonders of the cave. The first thing he noticed was the camelids standing in ranks against the far wall, their curved brass flanks dully gleaming. He gasped as he realized these were the ‘ships of the desert’ mentioned in his grandfather’s diary. The ache to explore their inner workings was so strong it was almost physical.

Knowing he could not, Ali dragged his gaze away to examine the rest of the treasures. What he saw dazzled his eyes. Without a doubt, this was Nader Shah’s treasure. A jewel-encrusted platform stood in the center of the cavern. Twelve pillars—each capped by two peacocks with fanned tails—supported a canopy, the underside of which was covered in rubies and diamonds, emerald and pearls. The whole of it rested on four gold feet. Ali shivered in awe at that splendor alone. He had heard of the fabled Peacock Throne, but it had not occurred to him that it would be the centerpiece of his family’s sacred charge. Closest to the platform rested elegant urns filled with chalices and golden platters, some plain, others likewise encrusted with gems. Stacked around these were chests made of precious metals and rare wood. Ali marveled at the finely carved cinnabar and ivory that filled them. Part of him had scarcely believed he would find the treasure of Nader Shah hidden in the heart of the Rub-Al Khali. It was evident that part of him had been wrong.

On the fringes of the shah’s treasure, the thieves had piled canvas sacks and ceramic jars brimming with more pedestrian blessings: common-day coins and costly spices, aromatic perfumes and sparkling jewels, bolts of silk and casks of fine tea. There, shoved to the sides, blanketed in dust, he spied bundles of glass, copper, and brass piping that set his artificer’s heart tripping. The things Ali could make with such supplies! He closed his eyes and turned from the sight, lest avarice take root in his soul. If he was meant for such wealth, Allah would provide.

In the corner beyond the camelids, Ali noticed a workbench the likes of which he’d only seen in his dreams. This, more than even the shah’s treasure let him know that he had found the secret place his father had been searching for.

Charcoal sketches similar to those in Al-Jazari’s book were pinned to a board that leaned against the cavern wall, their black marks softened by a thick layer of dust. Half-finished inventions resembling sketches from his grandfather’s diary gathered dust on the work surface. He sighed, knowing he dare touch nothing, lest he betray himself in some way to the thieves.

His fingers hovered above delicate tools and sturdy spanners his meager coin could never afford. Even these were coated in fine dust and sand, as if long without use, though surely the camelids required maintenance. Glancing more closely, Ali could discern initials engraved on the handles. Were these his grandfather’s tools? They looked to have been well-used at one time, but obviously, that time was long past.

With all his heart, he vowed to reclaim his family’s legacy.

Beside the workbench stood a vat of oil and two barrels, one filled with copper gears, the other black tar for fuel. Beyond that, in the shadows, someone had piled a junk heap of scrap metal and defunct parts next to which stood one of the camelids, its body darkened by smoke residue along one side and the torso open on its hinges. He peered within and noticed a bent cog had twisted one of the shafts. A simple enough thing to fix, and yet it was clear by the coating of dust on the camelid’s back that the thieves had neither interest nor skill for such things. Ali resisted the urge to make the repair himself, instead examining the mechanism with a careful eye. Even damaged, the inner workings of the construct enthralled him. The design was similar to some he had seen at Ustad Babbage’s side, but this was more elegant; as much art as engineering. Inside, a compact copper boiler connected to narrow pipes that led from the tank to an intricate assembly of gears, rods, and pistons, two to each side, corresponding to where the legs attached. Another rose through the aperture where the construct’s neck connected to the body. He could not identify what directed the locomotion, but what he did see gave him some understanding of how the smooth, league-spanning stride of the camelid’s walk was achieved. Ali avidly studied the design, storing the knowledge for future use…assuming he ever had enough coin to do more than dream of crafting such complex engineering. Since Kassim had ordered Ali’s return to Wadi Al-Nejd, there had been little opportunity—or coin—for true invention, only the tinkering that supplemented his dwindling reserve. Sighing, he turned away from the workbench, lest he be tempted to touch.

Oh, what Ali would give to linger in this place for the rest of his days, creating magnificent constructs. But no, he had already lingered too long. Even now, his shoulders tightened and he caught himself darting glances around the room.

It was as if eyes were upon him, causing the skin across his back to crawl. Ali turned to examine the cavern in its entirety, rather than just the riches it held. He spied no one, but for the first time, he took note of the cave itself, marveling at the workmanship. This was no natural cavern but had been crafted by human hands. He could almost make out tool marks, likely from some rock-boring construct. The walls were only partially visible for the lattice of steam pipes crisscrossing overhead and down to the floor. Most of them were copper, but intermixed were glass tubes emitting a soft yellow light from no source Ali understood. Those pipes framing the entrance to the cavern were all glass, thick and gleaming, with brass fittings. To either side of them, Ali saw a complex assembly of great-toothed gears in a variety of sizes, interlocked and showing signs of wear. They appeared to operate a pulley system as a massive metallic cable ran up to the ceiling and down into the ground. He recognized elements of the design from The Book of Knowledge. He would have examined these workings more closely as well, only a sudden movement distracted him.

Inside those pipes by the entrance swirled lavender mist too delicate to be mistaken for steam. For a brief instant, Ali would have sworn there was a flutter, as of eyes blinking. Surely he was mistaken…and yet, the sensation of being watched increased.

Trying to ignore it, Ali continued wandering. Repeatedly, he had to remind himself not to touch each new thing he discovered. He told himself he was blessed just to be here in the secret place his grandfather had created and his father had long sought; it was enough to feel surrounded by their spirits, to see such glorious things, to smell the fragrance of the spices and costly perfumes that sweetened the chamber. Almost, Ali believed the lie. Thinking of the thieves, he fought the urge to lash out. This was his family’s responsibility, his family’s charge, his family’s treasure to guard. That last bore remembering. These riches were not his and never would be, but he could not help but wish just once to hold such wealth in his hands, to know, however briefly, what it felt like to be a rich man. No. No good could come of such thoughts.

Ali sighed. The sound echoed in the chamber until he nearly overlooked the softer sigh that followed his own. And then the light brightened and Ali stiffened as a woman’s voice filled the cavern.

“What have you in your hand, Child of Adam?” The voice was like the crackle of a fire, darker notes beneath the light.

Ali spun. He saw no one.

“What have you in your hand?” the voice repeated. Sweeter than a nightingale, the surging power in that voice sent Ali to his knees, fervent supplication to Allah on his lips, though he had no breath to utter them. His gaze fell upon the glass pipes by the entrance where the roiling mist had taken on a darker, violet hue.

“Tell me!” All sweetness and light fled both the woman’s voice and the chamber.

Ali thought desperately. He did not pick up anything. He purposely had not touched even one piece of treasure. No, not even the bent cog. In the darkness, he focused, startled to realize he did, in fact, cup something in his right hand. Slowly, he reached over with his left and ran his fingers across the sturdy anthers of the arta blossom he had plucked from the bush outside the cavern.

He tried to speak and it was as if the desert itself once more filled his throat.

The darkness took on more weight at his continued silence, but the voice did not speak again. Ali frantically coughed and cleared his throat.

“A flower…” His voice sounded harsh and grating to his ear.

A gasp answered him. The longing in that single sound tightened his chest. Light once more flooded the chamber. Before him, the mist swirled in agitation. Following instinct, Ali crept forward, still on his knees, and laid the flower beside the pipes, the small anthers only slightly bent for having been clutched in his hand.

When he looked up, a woman formed out of the swirling mist; perfect in all proportions, but no larger than a ferret, her body cloaked in smoky robes. The glass tube held a djinni. Her solid black gaze locked on the blossom. Here, at last, one of the guardians of which his father wrote, though Ali wondered how well she could guard from within her encasement.

“He planted them for me,” she whispered. “My master planted them for me. It has been so long since I have seen evidence of his gift. Not since his passage into Death’s Garden.”

FROM THE PUBLISHER – BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN


 

We’re at it again. In the next day or so we will be launching a campaign to fund Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, a unique retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, written by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed. Previously published by Dark Quest Books, the title has been out of print for a number of years, but interest has never seemed to wain. We plan to re-issue the novel under our Paper Phoenix Press imprint. Below is the cover from the previous edition. Sadly, we can’t afford the artist’s price to reuse it, though it was custom art for this book. However, we’re sharing it here because it is lovely and we don’t have anything to replace it with yet (thus the need for funding 😉

We are hoping to raise enough money not only for new custom art but also interior illustrations, which we weren’t able to include the first time around. If we do real well we will also fund a new novella by Michelle D. Sonnier set in the same universe as her novel, The Clockwork Witch… If we do crazy well beyond our wildest imagination we may just do a limited edition numbered hardcover edition…heck…maybe even a handful in full color! Why not? If the funds are there we are more than glad to reach for the moon! Can you help us get there? The campaign isn’t live yet, but please feel free to share the link in this post with your friends if you think they might be interested in Middle Eastern Steampunk or Faerie Tale retellings with a mechanical flare. Once the project goes live, this link will redirect to the active campaign page.

BabaAliandtheClockworkDjinn
The cover for the previous edition, art by Autumn Frederickson.

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined…

 In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wishes such secrets to remain hidden.

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali’s very life depend on his success.

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.


Praise for Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn

“Rich with steampunk, magic, and an enchanting setting, this story casts a spell and won’t let go until the very last page!” —Maria V. Snyder, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Readers of steampunk and Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy alike will adore this lush foray into a world seldom explored by the genre. Buckle up for a wild ride across the deserts of your imagination!” —Tiffany Trent, award-winning author of The Unnaturalists

 “A charming retelling of the famous classic […] Whether you are a fan of Steampunk, of exotic fairytales, or just of good writing, this story should delight.” —L. Jagi Lamplighter, award-winning author

“Beautifully evocative of the fairy tale tradition in parts that the modern, steampunk nature of the tale is completely encapsulated in a wonderful adventure.” —Luke’s Reviews


Kickstarter DMcPhail

Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).

Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and Footprints in the Stars. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, and three extremely spoiled cats.

To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.especbooks. 

Day

Day Al-Mohamed is an author, filmmaker, and disability policy executive. She is co-author of the Young Adult novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, is a host on Idobi Radio’s Geek Girl Riot with an audience of more than 80,000 listeners, and her most recent novella, , was published July 2019 by Falstaff Books. Her recent publications are available in Daily Science Fiction, Apex, Crossed Genres anthology “Oomph – A Little Super Goes a Long Way,” and GrayHaven Comics’ anti-bullying issue “You Are Not Alone.”  

Her current documentary, “The Invalid Corps” is on the festival circuit. 

She is an active member of Women in Film and Video and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.  However, she is most proud of being invited to teach a workshop on storytelling at the White House in February 2016.

Day is a disability policy executive with more than fifteen years of experience. She is currently a Senior Policy Advisor with the Federal government. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Health, Education, Employment, Technology, and International Development. For more information on work in disability policy, please check out: http://www.DayinWashington.com.

Day presents often on the representation of disability in media, most recently at the American Bar Association, SXSW, and New York ComiCon. A proud member of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 24-01 (5th District Southern Region), she lives in Washington DC with her wife, N.R. Brown and guide dog, Gamma. She can be found online at http://www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed.

michelle d. sonnierMichelle D. Sonnier is a fiction writer with a specialty in mythic fiction, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and classic horror. She delights in giving a giggle and a shiver. Her debut novel, The Clockwork Witchreleased through eSpec Books in 2018. Look for upcoming projects from Sam’s Dot Publications and Otter Libris.

COVER REVEAL – AFTER PUNK


eSpec Books is delighted to present to you:

Web-AfterPunk
(cover design by Mike McPhail of McP Digital Graphics)

AFTER PUNK:
Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife

edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer

While mankind can scarce hope to pierce the Veil without crossing it, a few intrepid souls will ever bend their will against the aether, combining artifice and the arcane to uncover its secrets. 

From voodoo death cults to the Day of the Dead, mummy parties, the wheel of reincarnation, the practice of death portraits, and so much more, these tales leave no gravestone unturned. 

Be it heaven or hell or the limbo in between, the hereafter is about to get ‘Punked.

With stories by Jody Lynn Nye, David Sherman, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, James Chambers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jeffrey Lyman, Bernie Mojzes, Travis I. Sivart, Jeff Young, David Lee Summers, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – GAIL Z. AND LARRY N. MARTIN (AFTER PUNK)


eSpec Books interviews Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, contributors to After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What can you tell us about the story you have written (or plan to write) for After Punk?

GZ&LN: It will feature an archeological dig, an Edison cylinder to record the voices of the dead, Isaac Pease’s Spirit Telegraph Dial, and some other surprises!

eSB: Why did you chose that particular aspect of the afterlife to ‘punk up? How did it lend itself to the theme?

GZ&LN: Whenever there’s an archaeological dig, particularly for a culture we’re unfamiliar with, we make so many assumptions about what things were used for, how people lived. Imagine if part of the dig was also calling up their spirits and recording their narrative, although of course, you’d have to be sure they weren’t lying…..

eSB: Does you story introduce new characters, or are they old friends you revisit often…to torment mercilessly?

GZ&LN: There will be some new characters, but it will be a Storm and Fury Adventure, so set in the world of our Iron & Blood books.

eSB: Do you see this story being a one-off, or has it inspired you to further storylines? Do tell 😉

GZ&LN: When we come up with secondary characters in the short stories/novellas, they usually hang around and become part of the ongoing gang.

eSB: What traditions or beliefs were you raised on regarding death or the afterlife? Did that influence your story at all?

GZ&LN: We had the very traditional mainline Protestant upbringing, so we’ve got that in common with the characters in the story, although what they find will rock their boat and make them consider that what they’ve been told might not be the whole story.

eSB: Describe your ideal vision of the afterlife.

GZ&LN: All the people and pets we’ve ever loved, endless books, and food that tastes great with no calories!

eSB: The coffin or the pyre, which one for you and why?

GZ&LN: Pyre. Go out in style—with fireworks!

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

GZ&LN: We have Iron & Blood: A Jake Desmet Adventure, the first novel in our steampunk series (with a second novel in the works), plus all of our related short stories/novellas (which are available individually as ebooks) have now been collected for ebook and print in Storm and Fury.

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

GZ&LN: Lots! Vengeance is the second book in the Darkhurst epic fantasy series, and it will be out in April. Larry’s new Salvage Rat military SF series will be out later this year, as well as the first book in Gail’s new buddy flick epic fantasy series, Assassin’s Honor. We have new Deadly Curiosities collections in print/ebook (Trifles and Folly plus Trifles and Folly 2) and a third Deadly Curiosities novel, Tangled Web, will be out this spring.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

GZ&LN: http://www.JakeDesmet.com


Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, and Falstaff Books. Series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cyclethe Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, the Assassins of Landria and Deadly Curiosities. Newest titles include Scourge, Trifles & Folly2, and Assassin’s Honor.

Larry N. Martin is the author of the new sci-fi adventure novel Salvage Rat. He is the co-author (with Gail Z. Martin) of the Spells, Salt, and Steel/New Templars series; the Steampunk series Iron & Blood; and a collection of short stories and novellas: The Storm & Fury Adventures set in the Iron & Blood universe. He is also the co-author of the upcoming Wasteland Marshals series and the Cauldron/Secret Council series.

SOCIAL MEDIA USER IDs

Facebook – Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms

Twitter – @GailZMartin and @LNMartinAuthor

Goodreads – GailZMartin

Blog Address – http://www.DisquietingVisions.com

Pinterest – pinterest.com/Gzmartin

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – MICHELLE D. SONNIER (THE CLOCKWORK WITCH)


eSpec Books interviews Michelle D. Sonnier, author of The Clockwork Witch, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What inspired your concept for this novel?

MDS: The very first thing that inspired me for The Clockwork Witch was a necklace. It was a brass and silver chunky chainmail choker with gears and a large Lucite domed oval pendant that had small replicas of old Victorian keys suspended in it. I adored it then, and still do. My then boyfriend, and now husband, bought it for me in the Katsucon Dealer’s Room in 2010. I started to get a tickle of a Steampunk idea because of the keys and the gears, and since I usually write fantasy those elements started to creep in in the form of witches. And I started thinking, what would witches be doing in a Steampunk world? Why would keys be important to them? The first part that seemed to fall into place was the grand conclusion, which involved the keys, but as I developed the world and characters the keys and the conclusion I’d originally imagined for them drifted further and further away from the characters and plot lines that actually spoke to me. So, I’ve actually diverged quite significantly from what I originally imagined, but who knows? Perhaps my characters will lead me back to the keys and the original ending I envisioned, or perhaps they will take me somewhere even grander.

eSB: What is your favorite part of this universe?

 MDS: My favorite part of this universe is the shades of gray – in relationships, in characters, in the decisions the characters have to make. Much like in real life, almost no one is pure evil or pure good, and every decision has multiple consequences, some of them good, some of them bad, and some a mix of good and bad. Stark black and white decisions, worlds, and characters have never really interested me. It’s the shades of gray that fascinate me and make me want to dig deeper.

eSB: What makes it different from your standard steampunk realm?

MDS: Probably the political interplay between those who champion technology and wish to usher in an Industrial Revolution much like the one in our own timeline, and those who wish to keep to the old ways and keep technology small or non-existent. Of course, Arabella blows a hole right in the middle of this political jousting with her new powers and a shaky foot in each world.

eSB: What was your most unexpected development when writing this book?

MDS: The softening of Arabella’s mother was something that caught me by surprise. When I first outlined the book Minerva was strict, stiff, and completely intractable. She was most definitely Arabella’s biggest adversary. Then came the scene where Arabella’s father explains to Arabella why her mother is as tough as she is. We see Minerva in a more human light as we see the damage from her past that served as motivation for her emotional and psychic armor in the present. Minerva is still just as much as an obstacle for Arabella as she ever was, but there is a change in how Arabella sees her and deals with her as she begins to see her mother as fallible and human rather than a cold, monolithic presence in her life.

eSB: Which character did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

MDS: I think the twins, Jessamine and Josephine, were the most fun to write. They are playful and a bit secretive and appear a bit mad, so that’s fun, but are they really mad or are they playing at it for their own complex end game? And there is a bittersweetness to writing the twins in all their playful glory right now because I know what’s coming for them in future books. There is a darkness coming into their lives and I know I will cry for them when I have to write those scenes.

eSB: Which character surprised you the most, and how?

MDS: Julian Pattersby, without a doubt. When I started writing the novel I had no intention of giving Arabella a love interest so soon. She’s only 17 when the book begins, and while that wouldn’t be considered too young at all for courting and preparing for marriage in the Victorian time period, I didn’t want a romance being the central point of the narrative. I wanted Arabella’s growth and journey of self discovery to take center stage. But the first time Julian and Arabella come together, the look in their eyes and the spark between them was undeniable. I couldn’t not write Julian as a love interest for Arabella. He sees her as a force of nature to be honored and respected, and her power as a thing of beauty, which is very new for Arabella since everyone else in her life regards her and her power as either a burden or something to be used.

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

MDS: Absolutely! I have at least six more novels to write with Arabella as the main character (check out the grandfather clock scene in the novel, it will give you clues as to where we’re going), and I am currently finishing up a novella set in the same world but earlier in the timeline than Arabella’s story. The novella started out as a character study of an important character, named Macaria, who appears later in Arabella’s series. But Macaria kept talking to me and showing me her origins and poof I had a novella. Look for Macaria to make an appearance in book 3 or 4 of Arabella’s storyline, as a much older and wiser witch.

It’s also quite likely I’ll write more in this universe as time goes along. It’s a very rich world and it truly fascinates me. There are so many corners of that world yet to explore.

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

MDS: I have a short story collection called Charmed City: Thirteen Tales of the Peculiar and Obscure from Otter Libris, and many other short stories scattered through various anthologies, magazines, and websites. The Clockwork Witch is my first full-length novel.

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

MDS: I have a novel tentatively titled How the Night Ends that’s in editing with Otter Libris and expected out late summer or early fall 2018, and I’m working on a collection of novellas centered around the theme of death, tentatively titled Love Notes to the Reaper.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

MDS: I am most active on FaceBook, although I am in the process of rebuilding my website after it got eaten by gremlins. I’m also trying hard to get better at blogging regularly, but that is a work in progress.


Michelle D. Sonnier

Michelle D. Sonnier is a fiction writer with a specialty in mythic fiction, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and classic horror. She delights in giving a giggle and a shiver. Look for upcoming projects from Sam’s Dot Publications and Otter Libris.

SOCIAL MEDIA USER IDs

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/michelledsonnier/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/michellesonnier

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MDSonnier

 

Blog Address – http://michelledsonnier.com/

 

WE’RE BACK!


After a bit of a hiatus while we relocated and regrouped, eSpec Books is back with three delightfully punky tomes for your reading enjoyment. Won’t you help us make these fantastical books a reality? We bring you familiar favorites and shiny new names, but as always wonderful fiction. This campaign will allow us to cover production costs, pay the authors, and possibly include artwork in these books. It hasn’t launched yet, but you can check out the campaign here. And below you can read about the upcoming books…. 

 THE CLOCKWORK WITCH by Michelle D. Sonnier 

 The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Arabella is destined to disappoint, when she was expected to shine. Though she descends from a long line of gifted witches she has earned the moniker of a “brown bud” showing no sign of magical talent. 

 When it truly seems her lot can grow no worse, she discovers an unnatural affinity for…of all things…technology. Not only are the mysteries of the mechanical world open to her, but her new-found ability allows her to manipulate them, making her the first ever clockwork witch and anathema to the nature of the witching world. 

 How will she come to grips with her new power when she must question if she will survive the judgement of her family and her peers? 

 SPIRIT SEEKER by Jeff Young 

SpiritSeeker

 The Kassandra Leyden Adventures 

 The Leydens were people of extraordinary means. The father a well-known adventurer. The mother a spiritualist oft consulted by the government of New Britain. 

The daughter, Kassandra, inherent of both the skill and sense of adventure that made her parents great. But when her mother vanishes without a trace, and her father turns toward spirits of a fluid nature as he loses himself in memory, Kassandra is left to find her own way and purpose. She quickly learns a sense of caution as she discovers there is as much intrigue as adventure about the world she lives in. And not all those she’s had faith in are to be trusted. 

 With the whispers of spirits in her ear and unlikely allies at her back, Kassandra strives to defend both the living and the departed…after all… It’s the Spirit of the matter…

 AFTER PUNK: STEAMPOWERED TALES OF THE AFTERLIFE edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer 

 While mankind can scarce hope to pierce the Veil without crossing it, a few intrepid souls will ever bend their will against the aether, combining artifice and the arcane to uncover its secrets. 

 From voodoo death cults to the Day of the Dead, mummy parties, the wheel of reincarnation, the practice of death portraits, and so much more, these tales leave no gravestone unturned. 

 Be it heaven or hell or the limbo in between, the hereafter is about to get ‘Punked. 

 With stories by Jody Lynn Nye, David Sherman, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, James Chambers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jeffrey Lyman, Bernie Mojzes, Travis I. Sivart, Jeff Young, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.  

Once again, you can preview the campaign for Tales of Paranormal Steampunk here, it should be launching in just a few days.

Best,
Danielle

PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENT


eSpec Books and author Jeffrey Lyman are proud to announce the release of The Troll King, a novella-length steampunk interpretation of The Troll King’s Daughter, now available on Amazon.

JL-TTK-CoverFinal

Life is no faerie tale under the rule of the Troll King.

Each year the eldest sons of the conquered kingdoms must present themselves at the court of King Klamp. If they survive three days of challenges against armored ogres they will receive enough gold to buy their village. Most will be lucky to make it one hour. Given his physical challenges, Jack is not expected to last five minute.

Just goes to show, they don’t know Jack.

Please enjoy the below excerpt.


The Troll King

Jeffrey Lyman

Jack followed the forty-seven other young men across the drawbridge and into the mighty castle of Klamp the Magnificent, The Troll King. It wasn’t the scarred granite wall above, target of many catapult attacks, which slowed him. Or the heads on spikes, in a horrific row stretching to left to right across the battlements. Or even the massive ogres standing guard on either side of the gate. No, what slowed him were his twisted and uneven legs, which weren’t cooperating today.

He’d already accepted his fate, and refused to let himself cry like some of the others. He was the eldest son in his family, after all, and at nearly eighteen, he knew he had to set an example for his brothers and sisters, and for his village. Next year it would be some other boy’s turn on this drawbridge—some other eldest son.

Leaning on his stout hickory staff, making his feet move, Jack passed the two ogres all decked out in gray steel and leather straps. Jack stared enviously at the pistons and tracking gears at their knees. If he had something like that, he could walk behind the plow as well as his father. He could court one of the village girls.

Wishes were useless. Might as well wish he could fly as wish he had steam-driven legs like the ogres.

Jack passed from sunlight into the shadows of the entry tunnel, then back into the bright light of the castle’s courtyard. Crowds clustered to watch the parade of eldest sons. Guards of all shapes and sizes stood everywhere: imps and ogres, trolls, even a fair number of men. They had tried to maintain a path for the boys to walk, but with the main crowd of sons already through and Jack lagging behind, the path had begun to break down. Grieving parents who had accompanied the boys moved toward the inner gate. Jack wished his family had come, but there was no money for travel and they couldn’t leave the farm untended for days on end.

Jack hurried, using his strong arms and his staff to push his legs more quickly. A few in the crowd jeered at him, no more than normal, but most were already focused on the spectacle inside. Some of their sons would survive, some always did, and the crowds loved to bet.

Beyond the inner gate, the crowds were shunted by a truly massive ogre toward the side stairs and the upper viewing galleries. Jack looked up warily at the fat, green beast towering over him. This one didn’t even wear armor, and rested a huge maul hammer on its shoulder. Jack barely came up to its bellybutton.

He sped up again as a well-dressed young man in crimson velvet gestured impatiently from the door into the inner court. Jack was careful to keep his feet under him, planted as best they could, but he wanted to stop and touch that velvet. He’d never seen anything like it up close.

“You won’t last five minutes,” the young man smirked as Jack struggled by.

Jack held up for a moment, balanced carefully on his feet, and whipped his staff around into the back of the man’s knees. As the man pitched forward, Jack smoothly continued the rotation of the other end of the stick across the man’s ribs, then spun it around again and planted it before he toppled over.

“You didn’t last one minute,” Jack said to the man gasping and wheezing on the cold stone floor. He didn’t think he’d broken anything. He’d learned the hard way how to handle the boys who wanted to cause trouble, after years of being shoved and tripped and punched. And once he’d started using his staff, he’d also learned not to hurt them so badly they couldn’t work their fathers’ farms. Life depended on the harvest, and you didn’t do that to a family. Just before Jack reached the inner door of the ballroom, the young man hurriedly limped past him with a glare. He couldn’t retaliate with everyone watching, but Jack gripped his stick and touched the wall with his fingertips for balance just in case. He never took the shame of a beaten man for granted.

Emerging from the narrow entry hall like a cow into the slaughterhouse, Jack stopped, agape. He craned his head. He’d never imagined you could be in a space so large and still be inside. It was like standing in a vast field surrounded by towering trees, only the trees were stone and the sky was too. Great banners hung from every mighty column. The skins of the six kings the Troll King had defeated, along with those of their sons and their generals, were arrayed across the high walls. Stone Ribs crisscrossed the ceiling in ornate patterns. Gas flames danced in braziers along every wall. The hall dwarfed the group of eldest sons and their guards. It dwarfed the crowded galleries of spectators. It dwarfed the six captive kings—younger sons or dissolute nephews of those originally defeated six—on small thrones flanking the Troll King. It even dwarfed the Troll King himself, despite the mechanical armor that made him thrice as large as life.

Men made this? It had truly been a golden age of art and engineering before the Troll King arrived. There was even an ornate, raised pond built next to the king’s throne.

“Eldest sons,” boomed the Troll King from his throne of granite slabs, “approach. Be honored this summer solstice.”

The guards had to push and shove to get the terrified group into motion. Even then the pace was so reluctant and broken that Jack had little problem keeping up. Feet shuffled across square flagstones as broad as a man was tall. Jack kept his head high as the swelling cheers and shouts and whistles from the galleries drowned out the other boys’ whimpers. The galleries were alive with waving arms and smiling faces. Jack’s attention was pulled from the vast room by the spectacle of drunk nobles thronging the upper galleries and commoners the lower. The whole six kingdoms must be here. He’d never seen clothing in such vibrant colors, all the colors of the six kingdoms in their loudest hues. One moment he felt naked in his linen tunic and trousers, and the next he wondered how you could move with so much fabric tangling your legs and arms.

The Troll King stood and the galleries quieted. He was smaller than a grown man, misshapen, but he sat resplendent in the armor’s seat with each of his limbs sheathed in leather and black iron, riveted brass and chains, gears and linkages. His legs extended three times as long as nature had gifted him, and where his feet lay visible in tight stirrups, massive geared knees bent backward like a rooster’s. Likewise, each of the long, mechanical toes of the armor’s feet ended in sharp, curved talons. How could the six subjugate kings bear sitting next to him?

Jack, used to being far to the rear of crowds, found himself at the front as boys shoved back. He felt exposed.

“Now,” the Troll King rumbled, “you are the finest young men of your small kingdoms.” His gaze drifted across Jack and he felt himself blush. “Or you are the ones lucky enough to get chosen by your councils. You will prove yourselves in three contests over the next three days. Those who survive will be granted six purses of gold, one from each kingdom. Enough to buy your home villages.” He laughed to himself, a chuffing, grunting laugh. With a clanking clatter, his legs unfolded and he rose higher than the armored trolls standing at his right and left. “The one I deem the winner will be granted an additional boon, if you amuse me.”

His left arm, with an elbow near at his natural hand just as the mechanical legs were knee-hinged at his feet, ended in a wooden cudgel embedded with iron spikes instead of a hand. His right arm ended in a mockery of a hand, each finger a knife blade. The knives clattered restlessly and tiny puffs of steam continually erupted from the armor’s joints.

Those nervous knives rose delicately and tapped a measure on the Troll King’s armored chest. There was an occasional wet splash from the raised pond beside him as something breached the surface and then subsided again. The king leaned down and brushed the reflective water with the bare tips of his finger-knives, trailing ripples as everyone watched, mesmerized. Jack jumped along with everyone else as the king drove his knives down through the surface up to the wrist of the armor.

He swiveled back to his audience and raised his grotesquely elongated arm, lifting a large fish on the ends of the blades. Jack thought it looked like a carp, but it was mottled with brilliant golds and ivory whites. Then the king tugged his flesh-and-blood arm out of the armor and yanked the fish free. He bit deeply into its side.

“Even though they are my beloved pets,” he said, chewing, “they exist for me to eat. Remember that.” He tossed the fish onto the floor and shoved his arm back into the harness of the armor.

“I have had suits of armor made for you,” he continued. “Three suits, one for each day of the challenge. Tomorrow you will be released into the King’s Wood to be hunted by my hungry ogres, also in armor.” Faces drained of color. No one wanted to face the ogres, their hunger was legendary. “Different challenges will greet you on the later days. Some of you will survive, many will not, so try to enjoy yourselves.

“Let the feast begin!”

Cheers from the galleries greeted his pronouncement.

The group of boys was quickly divided into six, one group for each kingdom, and seated at tables in a side room of a more modest size. The feast was greater than any of them had ever seen, though Jack knew that quite a few of his companions, as eldest sons of their villages, had some money. But village wealth was not city wealth, and meat was reserved for holy days in the villages. Jack dug into a great slab of pork with fervor.

He had hoped the six kings might appear to offer a benediction, and he wanted to see his king in Taurriggen blue up close. Instead they endured a steady stream of lords and ladies and merchant princes sizing them up for the betting. The lords bore the same look on their faces as his uncle did when sizing up dogs at the dogfights. Who’s fastest, strongest, hungriest? Some boys huddled over their food, heads down, others preened at the attention. Jack watched everything. A lady in flouncy Adhenion yellow could barely fit her skirts down the aisles between tables, while the lady in narrow-cut, Ghurian white behind her looked annoyed. An elegant, young woman in brilliant green with long, thick, chestnut hair stood by the far wall, her eyes far away.

One of the ogres clomped by in steam-armor, pounding the floor in wheezing, piston-driven steps, its bald head nearly touching the high ceiling. Flouncy yellow struggled to get out of the aisle while green’s expression turned fierce and angry. She watched the ogre pass and then caught Jack looking at her. She turned and walked from the room at a controlled pace. Jack watched her go and then looked at the ogre. How fast could they run in that kit? They’d beaten the armies of men when the Troll King arrived from the west, but those knights had been running at the ogres, not away.

He jumped, startled, as someone tapped him brusquely on the shoulder. It was an older lord in a teal-checkered waistcoat with broad lapels and high collar. “Excuse me, boy.”

“I’m Jack, son of…”

“Do you think you’ll last more or less than five minutes?” The man held up a gold pocket watch on a chain. He smelled of sweet liquor. “I need to place my bet.”

Jack glanced at the two bemused men standing behind and then back to the lord. “I plan on winning.”

The man stood and barked a loud laugh.

“Oh,” said Jack, faking a smile, “then by all means bet everything you have that I’ll trip in less than a minute.”

“Cheers.” The man raised a pretend-glass and staggered off.

“Don’t mind him,” said one of the other two as they started to follow. “He gets excited during these games. It’s all we’ve got.”

The gas lights along the walls burned with a steady, sulfurous light, so unlike the warm tallow candles of his mother’s table. Jack watched the trio go, disliking everything about this cold stone place and the notion that these were just games.

SNEAK PEEK – “THE PERFECT SHOES” BY JODY LYNN NYE (GASLIGHT AND GRIMM)


Brown leather textured background with side light.

an excerpt of “The Perfect Shoes”
by Jody Lynn Nye

from Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine, funding now on Kickstarter.

 

The ballet company stood poised on the stage that smelled of chalk and sweat, awaiting the ballet master’s command to dance. Monique Dortmond hovered on tiptoe in her taped pink toe shoes, her hands above her head in fifth position, her body stretched into the perfect attitude of ethereal majesty. Her wavy, dark hair had been scraped fiercely back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck to show off the slenderness of her neck and the scalloped hollows underneath her cheekbones. Her slim but muscular body displayed utter grace, unlike Nedra, to her left, whose heavy hips and thick ankles made her look more like a tree trunk than a sylph. Then, the twitching began. Monique felt her left foot wobbling ever so slightly. She had exercised her arches again and again. Her legs were as strong as steel cables. Her stamina was excellent. Why, then, the trembling?

Because she was not concentrating on her performance. All the ballerinas of the Paris Opera Ballet had their eyes not on the middle distance, but on Mademoiselle Henriette Malinois, the prima ballerina of the company, who was dancing the part of Giselle. Her posture was ideal. Her arms seemed as though they were two reeds swaying in the wind. Her long, slender neck suggested the blossom of an arum lily. But her body, however it may seemed to have come from the very sketches of the artists and sculptors who sat in the darkened theater, did not excite the jealousy of the rest of the company. No, Monique and the others coveted her shoes.

Ballet dancers wore out pair after pair of toe shoes, almost one a week, rehearsing and performing. It was the greatest single expense that the Ballet de Paris had. The slippers on Monique’s feet were on their fifth day. As such, the wooden toe-boxes had begun to rub hard against her skin as their meager padding wore away. She wouldn’t have been surprised when she took them off later to discover blood among her toes. No dancer showed her unshod feet in polite company. Their toes became misshapen, and the scarred, ridged flesh seemed at odds with the beauty and grace of the dancer above. But Henriette’s perfect shoes of bright red silk never hurt her. They never wore out. She could depend upon them to bear her up through the longest and most complicated recitals. While the others sat in the wings and importuned the shoemakers to hurry and fit them next, Henriette was able to continue flitting, leaping and spinning.

As the principal female danceuse, naturally Henriette would be given the most beautiful costumes, shimmering silk sewn with priceless Bruges lace and studded with jewels, crystals, pearls and gold. Her partner, Jean-Marie, with his sweep of dark, wavy hair and deep-set dark blue eyes, was so handsome that Monique’s breath caught in her chest whenever she saw him. But those shoes! Monique knew that if she had them, she could dance across the very stars.

It was almost impossible to concentrate with those beautiful shoes twinkling before her. As the tallest of the junior dancers, she performed in the center of the tableau behind Henriette, so it was unavoidable that the principal ballerina would not constantly be in her eyeline. Monique did her best to ignore the shoes, pretending that they were made of hot coals or burning pitch, or a network of poisonous red spiders, and that every step Henriette took brought her closer and closer to painful death. The brilliant smile Henriette wore wasn’t a smile at all, but a rictus, a grimace, a stifled scream. But, no. It was a smile of supreme satisfaction in her work, and not a little because of the knowledge that the rest of the company envied her so much they would bleed pea green if poked with a pin.

In contrast to the illusion of perfection that it appeared to be from the audience, the ethereal images of Fairyland were no thicker than a piece of wood. Only Henriette was the untouchable fairy princess she seemed to be. People from across Paris and beyond came to sit in the darkness and watch her spin and soar. The music died away and the company came to a halt. Monique could hardly contain her jealousy as the watchers in the darkness were moved to applause. The ballet master dismissed the company with a sharp clap of his hands.

“Return at three, without fail!” he commanded.

The dancers didn’t hesitate, lest they be called back individually for criticism. Monique and the others retreated down the stairs into the crowded dressing room and sat down to undo their shoes. The cafés to the north and south of the theater awaited, with meals that were nourishing but not too heavy, nor too expensive for a junior dancer’s purse. The cobblers and costumiers rushed to the benches to measure the dancers for new shoes and costumes. Monique was at the far end of the line nearest the door. The cobblers would not reach her for an hour. She watched out of the door as a cluster of reporters and admirers surrounded Henriette, standing before her solo dressing room. The prima ballerina nodded and smiled, responding to their compliments and accepting bouquets of red and pink roses.

“I saw the way you stared at Mlle. Henriette’s shoes,” a low and raspy voice said. “What would you give for them?”

Monique looked up in alarm. Before her stood a gray man. His suit was gray, as was his hair. Holding fast to the bridge of his pale nose was a pair of pince nez with silver rims. His upright collar of pure white was tied with a silver ribbon. His boots, too, were silver gray, and shimmered as though no speck of dust or mud would dare to adhere to them. He looked like a ghost in the backstage shadows.

“Who are you to care?” Monique asked, tossing her head in defiance.

“I am one who might be able to grant your wish,” the man said. He pursed his thin, pale lips in a tiny smile. She noticed then that behind his spectacles, his eyes were of two different colors. One was as gray as his hair. The other was almost golden bronze. “If you will permit me to introduce myself, mademoiselle, I am Monsieur Thierry de Raymond.” He handed her a small square of pristine white pasteboard. On it was the single word, “Inventor.”

Monique regarded it curiously.

“What do you invent, monsieur?” she asked.

“Wonders. I have been commissioned to create a dancing doll after the image of Mademoiselle Henriette. One cannot doubt the marvel that she is, but I have been more captivated by you.”

“Why?”

“Answer my first question, then I will answer some of yours, perhaps. Those shoes. What would you do for them?”

Monique stared as Henriette’s feet clad in the exquisite red silk pumps disappeared behind the dressing room door, and it felt as though a part of her heart was torn away.

“Anything!” she burst out.

“What would you give for them?” the gray man asked.

“Anything!”

“Your soul?”

Monique glared up at him.

“What is my soul worth compared with those shoes? They will make me the perfect dancer!”

“But that is in the wrong order, mademoiselle. You will never have those shoes until you can outdance Henriette, and that will never happen in your lifetime. Her every move is already perfection.” The man’s eyes widened behind his curious glasses. “But I can assist you. If you will become my mistress, I will ensure that you will become the principal ballerina of the company. Your dancing will be flawless, and the red shoes will be yours.”

Monique peered at him. Men of means, and women, too, often sought lovers from among the ballet company. The dancers’ bodies provoked great interest in the public, sometimes seeing them as goods on display for purchase. Bargains had been struck, to good results on both sides, but she had also heard of dreams that were shattered the morning after. Still, she had risen as high as she could in her present circumstances. What harm could it do? He was far from her ideal, being too old and too homely, with his narrow shoulders, protuberant front teeth, weak chin and receding hairline, but if he could help her to achieve her dream, he was good enough. The kindness in his eyes appealed to her. But she held her head high.

“I will not trade myself for an illusion,” she said. “I’ll agree to your terms, but you may only have me once I have become the principal ballerina of this company.”

The man’s small mouth pursed again.

“Agreed, Mademoiselle Monique. After tonight’s performance, then?”


Nye

Jody Lynn Nye lists her main career activity as ‘spoiling cats.’ When not engaged upon this worthy occupation, she writes fantasy and science fiction books and short stories.

Since 1987 she has published over 45 books and more than 140 short stories.  Her newest books are Rhythm of the Imperium, third in the Lord Thomas Kinago series; an e-collection of cat stories, Cats Triumphant! (Event Horizon), Wishing on a Star, part of the Stellar Guild series,with Angelina Adams, (Arc Manor Press) and a collection of holiday stories, A Circle of Celebrations (WordFire Press) , and her novella in the second in the Clan of the Claw series,Tooth and Claw

Coming next in the pipeline is the next Myth-Adventures novel, Myth-Fits, scheduled for June 2016. 

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody has taught in numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has also spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at DragonCon. 

Jody lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, with her husband Bill Fawcett, a writer, game designer, military historian and book packager, and a black cat, Jeremy. Check out her websites at www.jodynye.com and mythadventures.net. She is on Facebook as Jody Lynn Nye and Twitter @JodyLynnNye.

KICKSTARTER – GASLIGHT AND GRIMM


eSpec Books is proud to announce the campaign for their upcoming book of steampunk faerie tales has gone live: Gaslight and Grimm.

Back in 2012 Diana Bastine approached me with a fantastic idea for an anthology of steampunk faerie tales. The moment the suggestion left her mouth the title Gaslight and Grimm popped out of mine. Little did Diana know what she was getting in to… I agreed to do the collection as long as she joined me as co-editor.

If we would have been able to produce the book back then we would have broken the trend. Sadly, life happened. We did all the work and even had one of the stories outgrow the collection and become a novel, but the project sat the shelf for much longer than we would have liked. 

Since the anthology’s inception loads of steampunk faerie tale novels and collections have come out. Does that matter to us? NO! It was a cool idea then and it is still a cool idea now. We can’t wait to bring you this wonderful, fully illustrated collection in the fine tradition of all those classic fairy tale books we all grew up on, not because of any trend, but because we believe in it and our authors believe in it. Because we enjoy taking amazing ideas and making them a reality.

After all…books are the magic we make.

Want to help us make this happen? Consider backing us on Kickstarter. Not in a position to do that at this time? You can help just as much by spreading the word: http://kck.st/1PJu6mB


PROMO COPY

Once upon a time… ageless tales were told countlessly from one generation to the next. Tales of brave heroes and common men. Of beautiful princesses and good-hearted youths. Tales of danger and caution and magic…classics that still echo in our hearts and our fondest memories even to this day, told from worn, cherished books or from memory at Grandmother’s knee.

Oh yes, tales have been told…but never quite like these. Journey with us through the pages ofGaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.

In Wolf’s Clothing by James Chambers based on Little Red Riding Hood

The Clockwork Nightingale by Jean Marie Ward based on The Nightingale

When Pigs Fly by Christine Norris based on The Three Little Pigs

From the Horse’s Mouth by Bernie Mojzes based on The Goose Girl

A Cat Among the Gears by Elaine Corvidae based on Puss n’ Boots

The (Steamy) Tale of Cinderella by Danny Birt based on Cinderella

The Steampowered Dragon and His Grandmother by David Lee Summers based on The Dragon and His Grandmother

All for Beauty and Youth by Kelly A. Harmon based on Hansel and Gretel

The Giant Killer by Jonah Knight based on Jack the Giant Killer

The Walking House by Jeff Young based on Baba Yaga

The Hair Ladder by Diana Bastine based on Rapunzel

Featuring original artwork by Dustin Blottenberger

NEW RELEASE – THE FALL OF AUTUMN BY JEFFREY LYMAN (eSHORT)


We are proud to announce the release of Jeffrey Lyman’s eShort, The Fall of Autumn, a tale of steampunk ingenuity and courage.

FallofAutumnFINALebook

So many lives are changed or lost as one by one the ancient bridges fail, succumbing to time and attacks by horrific beasts from inside the trans-dimensional gates. Just one bridge remains—Autumn—and should it fall all connection between the far-flung cities will be lost, sundering families and leaving the populace bereft of resources.  Can Julia Destora, a visionary engineer and cool hand with a multi-barrel flechette cannon, rediscover the secret of the gate’s geared technology before the final bridge falls? As she helps defend Autumn, the memories of those left behind, her mother’s death, and the teeth scars across her own body feed Julia’s resolve. 

Now available on Amazon.

About the Author

Jeffrey Lyman is an engineer in the New York City area. His work has appeared in the anthologies Sails and Sorcery from Fantasist Enterprises, New Blood from Padwolf Publishing, and Breach the Hull, So It Begins, By Other Means, Best Laid Plans, and Dragon’s Lure from Dark Quest Books. He was co-editor of No Longer Dreams and all four volumes of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series. He is a 2004 graduate of the Odyssey Writing School, and won 2nd place in the fourth quarter of the 27th Annual Writers of the Future Award.