Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Release date: January 23, 2018
Subgenre: Urban fantasy, Magical realism

About Smoke City

 

Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He's compelled to volunteer at the local Children's Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.

Oh, and he's also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc's pyre in 1431. He's just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it's ever been . . . but how will he find her?

When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he's picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife's funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with "smokes" (ghostly apparitions that've inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.

In Smoke City, Keith Rosson continues to blur genre and literary fiction in a way that is in turns surprising, heartfelt, brutal, relentlessly inventive, and entirely his own.

 

Excerpt:

 

From the journals of Marvin Deitz:

There’s a grace inherent here. In writing things down. Like a confession signed, maybe. An admission. Nothing so lofty as a salve of the spirit, but at the very least it makes one feel a little better.
My earliest memory is of being in the marketplace in Rouen with my parents. I was probably three or four years old. I was walking with my parents amongst the stalls as fast as I could manage, amazed not at the flood of people, but at how the mass of them, the tide of them, parted for us. Because I’d thought at the time that it was me, right? My mother holding my hand, I thought it was me that made the people part ways for us.
I thought I was magic.
I did not notice at the time (but can imagine now, all too well) my mother’s downcast gaze, the way we stepped hurriedly through the leering crowd. How we did not stop to look at the untold riches of food, the bolts of fabric, the tools for sale. Things we never saw in our own village. I didn’t notice how my father gripped my mother’s arm, nearly dragging her along, her belly huge and rounded as she was pregnant with my sister at the time.
Three, four years old. I noticed the people parting for us, I remember that, but not the revulsion in their eyes, the contempt.
I would realize later, of course, just what it was the townspeople had shied away from, had leered at: my father’s coat, and the stitched image of the sword on the back.
The executioner’s mark.
And as for Joan, those decades later?
She was not loved unequivocally. She just wasn’t. At least not out loud. To do so was dangerous. But her victories, it was true, allowed some of us a rekindling of faith, a brief respite against death’s constant stutter of war and plague and occupation. The hope that God was watching over us all. The idea of it, that He believed in France’s sovereignty. That He might lift His face toward us again.
And thusly the order of her execution may as well have been passed down from the very day of her capture. The moment she was seized there outside the walls of Compiègne, it should have been clear to all that she would be put to death.
When Bishop Cauchon, toady of the English, bought her from the Burgundians after her capture, I knew the trial itself would be a hoax. A mockery. Yet I heard murmurings from serfs and landowners alike—from my darkened corner of the barroom, or on my way down the road to extract another bloody, weeping confession—and some of them hoped, prayed, that such a girl, who had served so obviously as the arm of God in the name of France, would not be allowed to die such a death. That God in His mercy would surely not allow such a thing. They prayed that Charles, their blessed King—after all Joan had done for him—would surely involve himself in the matter. That Burgundy would suddenly bend its allegiance like an arrow in the wind.
But I knew, there in the dim hallways of the heart, that men simply do what they want to do. Men do their darkness and misdeeds and later claim guidance under the banner of God’s will.
Shouldn’t I know that more than anyone? Didn’t I traffic in such matters?
She would die and they would call it divinity, because that’s what people do.
The trial was orchestrated by dozens of assessors and friars and clergymen, an ever-evolving assembly of men. The lot of them little more than castrated politicians hiding behind the guise of theology. English stormtroopers practically leaning over the benches with swords drawn throughout the entire sorry thing.
And Cauchon, ah, you should have seen him. Christ, that man. So puffed up with wine and his own righteousness and the quaking fear of an English blade suddenly tickling his balls in bed some night. Terrified, but paid well for his work, too. He would later die inexplicably in his barber’s chair, and the vengeful part of me still hopes the barber was paid to bleed him. And that it hurt terribly.
I dream of Cauchon nearly as often as I dream of Joan.
But Joan. Every avenue circles back. Everything returns to the mysterious and martyred Joan of Orléans. The young peasant girl who for a brief heartbeat of time was believed to have felt God’s lips pressed to her ear.
What of Joan of Arc?
For all of my grief and heartache and guilt, the truth is I only met her once, and that was the day I burned her alive.

 

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About Keith Rosson:

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels THE MERCY OF THE TIDE (2017, Meerkat) and SMOKE CITY (2018, Meerkat). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.

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About Meerkat Press

 Meerkat Press is an independent publisher committed to finding and publishing exceptional, irresistible, unforgettable fiction. And despite the previous sentence, we frown on overuse of adjectives and adverbs in submissions. *smile*

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Multi Author Fantasy Book Event



Currently, there is a huge multi author fantasy cross promo going on, organised by fantasy author Andrea Pearson. More than fifty books for all age ranges and in all subgenres from epic via urban  to dark fantasy are available, so everybody is sure to find something that matches their taste. Most of the books are steeply reduced or free.

A list of the participating books may be found here. 

 

 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for January 19, 2018


It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with political science fiction, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (spoilers mostly marked, but reader beware), Star Trek Discovery (spoilers again mostly marked, but reader beware),  Black Mirror, Black Lightning, Hard Sun, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, tributes to Peter Wyngarde as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, con reports, crowdfunding campaigns, science articles, free online fiction and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general: 

Comments on Star Trek Discovery:

Comments on Black Mirror

Comments on Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams:

Comments on Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

Comments on Black Lightning:

Comments on Hard Sun:

Tributes to Peter Wyngarde:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lessons Learned (A Changed World, Book 4) by Alice Sabo

Release date: January 18, 2018
Subgenre: Post-apocalyptic fiction

About Lessons Learned:

 

While a wildfire threatens High Meadow, an uninvited guest sows seeds of dissent.

The president arrives at High Meadow with his entourage of bureaucrats and faux-military. Tillie and Angus don’t have time for any distractions as a massive wildfire bears down on their settlement. It will take more than hard work and good intentions to get them through this catastrophe.

Martin is leery about sending all of his men to aid those in the path of the fire thereby leaving their borders unprotected. They are most vulnerable in their commitment to help others.

Wisp and Nick work the fire lines seeking out people fleeing the raging flames. Only Wisp can find those lost in the heavy smoke, risking his life to bring them to safety.

Behind their backs, certain people are questioning every decision. At a time when they most need to work together, the outsiders are creating divisiveness.

 

Excerpt:

 

A siren screamed out into the night. Ted ran to the window with Nixie right behind him. The latest batch of rescued children clustered around them. He pushed the curtains aside, so they could all get a look.
“What is it?” one of the littlest children asked.
Red lights strobed in the darkness. The heavy rumble of a big engine approached. “It’s a fire truck.” The siren changed octave as it raced past them down the road.
“What’s that?”
A tumble of emotions hit Ted. The youngest ones had been born after Zero Year when public services had disappeared. In the chaos after the flu had whittled down the human race, emergency services had sputtered and failed. These children couldn’t understand the undertaking Angus had initiated. It had required a major effort to get this one small vestige of normalcy back into action. The vehicle had needed work. People had to be found who knew how to operate the equipment. And the road had to be cleared and repaired, so they could drive quickly to where they might be needed. So much had gone into preparation for this singular event.
Nixie slipped her hand into his. “Can’t remember something you never saw,” she said gently. As usual, she saw the crux of the matter. The children didn’t care about what it took to get to this moment. They wanted to know about now.
He tried his best to narrow it down to something that they could understand. Half of them were feral, having few memories of a home or safety. Their lives had balanced on warmth, food and clean water. Anything else was superfluous. “If there’s a fire that might hurt somebody, the firemen get in the fire truck and go put it out.”
“They didn’t need to run the siren,” Nixie grumbled. “Who would be in their way?”
“It’s a warning.” Ted said. “Now we all know there’s a fire somewhere. Anybody who wants to help can go after them.” The loud wail had frightened him bringing with it the memories of crisis and peril. He’d gotten so used to the silence of the new world without any traffic or construction or manufacturing. This was an old sound of warning in a world with different dangers. He forcibly shook off the worry. The old fears had no place in Angus’s bright new domain.
“Do we need to go?” Nixie asked.
Ted looked at all the eager faces watching him. His young charges were clearly marked by the changes in the world with eyes the color of flowers, gold, burgundy and lavender. They were a reminder of how different the future would be. “I think we should,” he said. Even if they weren’t needed to lend a hand, it was important for these children to be there. This was a historic event in some ways. It was probably the first response by a working fire truck since Zero Year. “They might need our help.”

 

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About the A Changed World series: 




About Alice Sabo:

Alice Sabo is the author of the post-apocalyptic series A Changed World, the space fantasy series Transmutation and traditional mystery series Asher Blaine Mysteries. She lives in Asheville, NC, where she gardens and tries to outwit the squirrels. 

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The City of Ashes (The Chronicles of the Second Interstellar Empire of Mankind, Book 2) by Robert I. Katz

Release date: January 15, 2018
Subgenre: Space opera

About The City of Ashes

 

Douglas Oliver has survived the siege of Aphelion but the threat posed by the nation of Gath is far from over.

Every five years, Gath sponsors a Grand Tournament, where future leaders are pitted against each other in a series of violent contests. No outsider has ever won the Grand Tournament. Douglas Oliver is determined to change that.

All across the continent, nations are making alliances and choosing sides. War is coming, and Douglas Oliver’s participation in the Grand Tournament represents the opening gambit. Meridien intends to win the game that Gath has started, and Douglas Oliver is his country’s chosen weapon.

You will love this fast-paced science fiction adventure from Robert I. Katz, the award winning author of Edward Maret and The Game Players of Meridien.

Excerpt:

 

Chapter 1


Two weeks after the siege of Aphelion finally ended, we set out for Gath. It was a boring two weeks. The streets were cleaned, the power grid fixed and reinforced. The city’s infrastructure was inspected, repaired and made sound. Our allies’ troops were wined and dined and given the keys to the city, which they richly deserved. As for myself, I had little to do  except tend to my business interests and think about the future. I was eager to get started.
Guild Master Anderson had meant it when he said that we would be putting on a show. We travelled in one of the largest airships in the fleet, named the Endeavor, re-painted for our trip in all the colors of the Meridien flag, festooned with rippling pennants and banners flapping in the breeze. The personnel, however, were intended to put on a very different sort of show, all either elite military or secret service, about a third female. All of them moved with quiet confidence. All of them looked like they could punch through walls and probably most of them could.
“Bring somebody with you,” the Guild Master had said. “Gath is a chauvinist culture. They will expect a young, virile man like yourself to have a sexual outlet.”
“Why should we care what they expect?” I said, though I had no objection in principle to a sexual outlet.
“Think of it as an insurance card. If you bring a woman along, it will make it harder for their spies to seduce you.” He shrugged. “No doubt, they’ll still try, but why make it easy for them? If you don’t have anybody in mind, we’ll assign a member of the military.” He got a far-away look on his face. “That might be best, actually, a combination mistress and bodyguard.”
I looked at him, not quite scandalized. “That seems above and beyond the call of duty.”
“We wouldn’t insist that she have sex with you. She could pretend.”
I declined his offer of military assistance for my libido but did ask Jennifer to come along, though I felt it wiser to not mention the Guild Master’s comments regarding our hosts’ expectations in the bedroom. “Sounds interesting,” she said. “Sure.” She grinned. “I’m looking forward to it.”
So, we drifted over Imperion, Cuomo, Valspur, Neece and the desert kingdom of Kush, which, like Gath, preferred to maintain the old ways. Kush rejected most modern technology outside of health care and genetically engineered crops. And air conditioning, pretty much a necessity when the average daily temperature during most of the year hovers over forty degrees Celsius. The Kushians trailed below our ship on horseback, carrying long rifles to protect themselves against sand-tigers and the lizard-like morions, drawing pictures with wax stylets on sheaves of paper and talking among themselves. They had one unusual but obviously useful modification: like chameleons, they could change color to blend into their surroundings, which varied from tan sandstone to red, iron rich rock. They seemed interested in our passage and thankfully didn’t try to shoot us down. I wondered if they had holo connections and were fans of the upcoming games.
We took our time. We wanted to be seen. The ship stopped twice, both times to pick up passengers. Denali was a small mountainous nation in the center of the continent, lumber, harvested from enormous hardwood trees, being their principal product. McClain was the only city, neatly laid out in a grid around the government center. The Endeavor floated to a mooring atop the Parliament building. We exited the ship, met the Prime Minister and his cabinet, had lunch at a restaurant that specialized in wild game, and trooped back into the ship before nightfall.
John Mead was the passenger, a big man with a perpetual smile, he moved slowly, as if careful not to damage other, more delicate human beings. I knew of John Mead. He had trained at the same dojo as Master Chen and owned a chain of martial arts academies that spread across the continent.
Denali, like so many nations in the wake of Gath’s challenge, had suddenly awakened to their own danger. Alliances were being made. Denali had entered into negotiations with the Guild Council and it had been decided that I would not be alone in entering the Grand Tournament.
Fine with me, not that I had anything to say about it.
John Mead looked at me with mild interest when we first met, as if wondering what made me think that I might have a chance at winning against the best fighters in Gath. I smiled back and let him wonder. At least, he was polite.
The mountains turned into foothills, then a high plain and a day later, we came to Hayden, a town on the edges of Lake Sierra, the third largest body of fresh water on the continent. Hayden was the home town of Alessandro Abruzzi. I had heard of him, as well. Five years before, he had entered the Grand Tournament of Gath, the only foreigner that year, and he had done better than anybody had expected, ranking forty-fifth out of the nearly five thousand who had entered. Apparently, he had decided to try again, and we were elected to help him do it.


Amazon


About Robert I. Katz:



I grew up on Long Island, in a pleasant, suburban town about 30 miles from New York City. I loved to read from a very early age and graduated from Columbia in 1974 with a degree in English. Not encouraged by the job prospects for English majors at the time, I went on to medical school at Northwestern, where in addition to my medical degree, I acquired a life-long love of deep dish pizza. I did a residency in Anesthesiology at Columbia Presbyterian and spent most of my career at Stony Brook University, where I ultimately attained the academic rank of Professor and Vice-Chairman for Administration, Department of Anesthesiology.

When I was a child, I generally read five or more books per week, and even then, I had a dim sense that I could do at least as well as many of the stories that I was reading. Finally, around 1985, with a job and a family and my first personal computer, I began writing. I quickly discovered that it was not as easy as I had imagined, and like most beginning writers, it took me many years to produce a publishable work of fiction. My first novel, Edward Maret: A Novel of the Future, came out in 2001. It won the ASA Literary Prize for 2001 and received excellent reviews from Science Fiction Chronicle, InfinityPlus, Scavenger’s Newsletter and many others.

My agent at the time urged me to write mysteries, as mysteries are supposed to have a larger readership and be easier to publish than science fiction. Since I have read almost as many mysteries as science fiction and fantasy, and since I enjoy them just as much, I had no objection to this plan. The Kurtz and Barent mystery series, Surgical Risk, The Anatomy Lesson and Seizure followed between 2002 and 2009. Reviewers have compared them favorably to Patricia Cornwell and Robin Cook and they’ve received positive reviews from The Midwest Book Review, Mystery Review Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Lady M’s Mystery International, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and many others.

In 2014, I published a science fiction short story, To the Ends of the Earth in the Deep Blue Sea on Kindle for Amazon. Since then, I have made all of my previously published novels available for purchase on Kindle. A new science fiction novel, entitled The Cannibal's Feast, was published in July 2017. The next, entitled The Game Players of Meridien, a tale set far in the future after the collapse of the First Interstellar Empire of Mankind, is the first in a projected seven book science fiction series, and will be published on December 16, 2017. The second novel in the series, The City of Ashes, will appear early in 2018. In addition, a fourth novel in the Kurtz and Barent mystery series, The Chairmen, will also be published in the first half of 2018.


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