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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


What We Are Working On Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Are you a fan of The Clockwork Witch? Have we got a treat for you! Death’s Embrace, by Michelle D. Sonnier, is a brand-new prequel novella set in the Clockwork Witch universe.

Cover Design: Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics, Cover Image: Vladimir Sazonov


There is no aspect of life that magic does not touch, including death.

Raised to follow in her mother’s footsteps, groomed to be a proper hedgewitch, Macaria longs to blossom and bloom both into womanhood and her magic. But deep inside, doubts have begun to take root.

During a springtime ritual meant to ensure a fruitful growing season, fate conspires to redirect Macaria’s path. Falling victim to ill omen after ill omen, she returns home bloody and bruised to meet her destiny.

With the dawn, and an unfortunate sacrifice, her magic unfurls and her new vocation as a death witch is revealed.

Can Macaria learn to see the beauty in Death?
Or will the Council of Witches force her into its final embrace?

A prequel novella in the universe of The Clockwork Witch

michelle d. sonnier

Michelle D. Sonnier writes dark urban fantasy, steampunk, and anything else that lets her combine the weird and the fantastic in unexpected ways. She even writes horror, although it took her a long time to admit that since she prefers the existential scare over blood and gore. She’s published short stories in a variety of print and online venues and has upcoming projects with eSpec Books and Otter Libris. You can find her on Facebook (Michelle D. Sonnier, The Writer) or at She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a variable number of cats. The Clockwork Witch is her first full-length novel.


Just out of curiosity, we looked over our sales for the year and are delighted to share with you the following bestsellers to date for 2018. You can click on the image to check out the book.

eBook Best Sellers – from left to right


lg-book-wwwSister Paradox web















Print Book Best Sellers – from left to right


Goblin Precinct 2x3

















It has been a while since I have done one of these so the span is more like a month in reviews, rather than just a week. We are very pleased to share with you the accolades some of our titles have recently received. Congrats to the authors for this recognition of their hard work.



“Intriguing magic, gender politics, and historical detail weave together in this coming-of-age fantasy debut […] Readers will especially enjoy Sonnier’s inventive worldbuilding.
Publisher’s Weekly







“All the familiar and fun elements of the previous book are there […] Unicorn Precinct was enjoyable.”
SF Reader






“…DeCandido has presented is a police procedural set in a standard Dungeons & Dragons world. And I’m OK with that. […] A pleasant way to spend a few hours with characters that come to life in a world you can easily lose yourself in.” –SF Reader







“A fascinating premise, one that plays teasing meta-games with the whole notion of fiction and story. […]There’s certainly something here for everyone.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)





“These stories tackle the emotional minefields that await military personnel in the reaches of space. If you like David Drake, Joe Haldeman, or Jack Campbell, you’re bound to like this anthology.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)


“Danielle teaches a great path for any stage of writer.” -JAnn Bowers, Goodreads

“The conversational tone is appealing and accessible. This book is worth reading as a very broad overview of the writing and publishing process.” -Darcysmom, Goodreads

The Literary Handyman by Danielle Ackely-McPhail is filled with great advises for aspiring writers. The book is structured in small articles and very easy to read.”
– Guy Lou, Goodreads

“Much of the information included in this volume might be a bit basic for more accomplished or connected authors, but I think this could be a handy reference guide for just about anyone — sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics when you’re stuck in a rut.” – Jane, Goodreads



“All in all, an enjoyable collection of steampunk tales.” – David Lee Summers, Goodreads








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?


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.


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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 


 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.