Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Secret of the Master (The Master of Books, Book 2) by Robert J. Fluegel

Release date: November 25, 2016
Subgenre: Portal fantasy, Young adult fantasy

About Secret of the Master


It’s been two weeks since Tommy Travers broke a deadly curse in his town, one he accidentally brought with him from the World of Books. Being trained how to control his new power is more important than ever. As Tommy enters a book under the guidance of his trainer Amelia, however, the repercussions of the curse are not yet over. A wizard escaped from the World of Books read Tommy’s mind and he knows where the Gifted are. If the evil wizard finds a way to unlock his magic, the warehouse, the Gifted—the world—will be his.
Tommy and his new friends must find a way to gain back all they’ve lost. But time is running out, and there’s something Amelia hasn’t told him. A secret—one that makes him, an amateur Gifted who’s hardly begun training, the only one who can defeat Mephitis before it’s too late. 

In this sequel to Gift of the Master, join Tommy as he finds his true place among the Gifted and braves his most dangerous book yet.



I looked at Yalta’s body, the swelling seemed to have subsided, he looked more like the curly haired young man I had gotten to know the past few days.  Yalta had insisted on being the last one to make sure nobody got left behind.  The children began to hum and sway back and forth, still bowing their heads.  Fala suddenly broke into a slow mournful song, the other children repeated the lines after her.

To the four winds we commit our brother
To the four winds we let him go
Up to the stars his spirit keeping
Down to the mother he must go
Dear Turona take him safe into thy bosom
Dear Turona take him from this place
Keep him safe until all things fail
Keep close our memories of his face
Life is but a fleeting moment
Life is but the changing from winter to spring
Dear Turona keep him safe in thy keeping
Keep him safe until death has no sting

The song ended and the children didn’t move.  They stood in silence around the body of their brother.  I didn’t know what affected me more, the sad song or the silence.  “He is in Turona’s hands now.” Fala said, turning from the group and walking back up the path.  I squeezed Kara’s hand and smiled at her before letting go and following Fala.  Many of the group stayed behind, their heads bowed, and their eyes closed.  Many tears flowed freely.
“I’m sorry,” I said when I reached Fala.  Her lip quivered, her eyes welled with tears.  She threw herself into my arms and broke down, sobbing.  I patted her back and held her tightly, feeling the same ache.  After some time Fala calmed and pulled away.  “It was my fault,” I said, “It was my idea, if I hadn’t come along Yalta would still be alive.”
“Nonsense!”Fala’s eyes were swollen and red from her tears, “You have helped us escape the clutches of this evil place.  We all knew the risks when we attempted escape, Yalta more than most.  Why do you think he always insisted on being in the back?”
“I know, but . . .”
“There is no but, if it weren’t for your leadership we would have spent the rest of our days walking in circles.  In a way, we were all already dead and you have saved us.” Fala’s red eyes were adamant. 
“I just feel so bad about this,” I countered, “I should have been able to get all of you out.”
“Pride,” Fala accused.
“Do you think that you are a God?  That you cannot fail?  You led us boldly, you tried your best and your best saved all but one of us.  Do not diminish Yalta’s sacrifice by belittling it with could-have-beens.  I would have given my life to see my brothers and sisters to freedom, Yalta did so purposefully.  Let us honor his sacrifice not with regret, but with gratitude.  He has bought our freedom with his life.  What more honor can a person have?”



About Robert J. Fluegel:

Robert J. Fluegel is an American author, father of 8 wonderful girls and 1 very special little boy. This is the second in his popular World of Books series with many more expected. He will keep writing until the world ends or death takes him, whichever comes first.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instafreebie

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

Release date: December 5th 2016
Sub-genre: Epic fantasy

About The Crimson Queen: 

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.
The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.
But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.
In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age… 
 A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…
Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…
And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…


Alyanna extended a filament of sorcery into the riftstone, sliding inside it like a key into a lock. She gave a twist, and the stone’s power blossomed.
Before her a circle of air began to shimmer and undulate, as if it was a length of silk caught in a strong wind. The quartz pillars and awakening garden encompassed by this floating portal slowly faded, and was replaced by another scene from a very different place. 

It was darker there, hundreds of leagues to the west, a few stars still visible in a charcoal sky. Shadows draped huge, tumbled rocks and pine trees, and the silhouettes of mountains in the distance bulked stark and black against the gray dawn. A chill wind slipped through the rift, and Alyanna shivered, pulling her cotton robe – the heaviest clothing she kept in the gardens – tighter around herself.

Sighing, she stepped through the portal and into the forest that bounded the southern Frostlands.

The grass was coarser, the dew colder. There was the faint sound of swift-running water from somewhere nearby, no doubt one of the countless small rivers that veined the north and carried snowmelt down from high in the Bones. She summoned a small orb of wizardlight so that she wouldn’t trip over anything on the uneven ground, and cast about for the other half of the riftstone. It did not take her long to find.  

The genthyaki was propped against a rock near the edge of a stream. It was motionless, its head slumped forward, an impossible tangle of scales and thorns and sharp angles. Alyanna brought her wizardlight closer, and clucked her tongue when she saw the state her servant was in.

What scales were left on its hide glistened wetly, but most had been sloughed off by some terrible heat, leaving charred black patches across its body. Under one of these wounds, which spread over much of its left shoulder, Alyanna could clearly see bone beneath the blistered flesh.

To her surprise, the creature stirred as she approached.

“Mistressssss,” it hissed, with great effort lifting its ruin of a face.

“Slave,” she replied, shaking her head as if in great disappointment. “You have failed me.”

A harsh, wet coughing wracked the creature, until it finally spat up a wad of black phlegm that landed in the grass near her feet. Wrinkling her nose in disgust, Alyanna stepped farther away.

“Mistress, it burns . . .”

“I should think so. It smells like someone’s bathed you in dreadfire.”

“Burnssssss . . .”

A frozen wind gusted, and she knew that they were no longer alone. Three ragged shapes now crouched among the rocks, watching.

mistress, the false man dies.

“I can see that,” she said. “But I need to know who did this.”

About Alec Hutson:


Alec Hutson was the Spirit Award winner for Carleton College at the 2002 Ultimate Frisbee College National Championships. He has watched the sun set over the dead city of Bagan and rise over the living ruins of Angkor Wat. He grew up in a geodesic dome and a bookstore, and currently lives in Shanghai, China. The Crimson Queen is his first book. He has previously been published in Ideomancer Magazine and the anthologies The Newcomer and You Are Here: Tale of Cartographic Wonder. He has a short story appearing in the next issue of Timeless Tales Magazine.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for December 2, 2016

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with discussion about Arrival and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, SFF themed holiday decorations as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on Arrival:

Comments on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Newcomer, edited by Alasdair Shaw

Release date: November 28, 2016
Subgenre: Science fiction anthology

About The Newcomer


The world is nothing but a dry husk of itself. Jacob Heinlein has lost his home, everyone he knew, and hope. While on a journey to the mythical ocean, an unforgiving sun beating down on him, Jacob finds himself in a town with a source of fresh, clean water. However, there is a “Tithe” to pay for the privilege of staying.

In “Exodus”, the orphaned children of Old Earth are scattered across the solar system, protected from the darkness by god-like beings fashioned from lost technologies. But something has changed. Ancient rules have been broken, and after centuries of isolation one of these beings approaches Mars with overtly hostile intent. A defence must be marshalled, and the coming conflagration could result in the destruction of one of the last bastions of man.

Humanity had aimed for the stars and a glorious future in space. The alien’s arrival had tarnished that shiny dream. Now the first AIs are fully coming online, even while the government tries to block their use, and humanity is once again looking to the future. “First Bonding” tells of the illegally-created level 8 AI known as Genghis, and his reactions to an alien attack.

In “Ice Dreamer”, lab technician Prussis has dreamed all her life of reviving someone from the past. Whilst no-one understands why she keeps trying, she works long hours defrosting heads.  In her latest attempt, what happens is the last thing she expects.

Then in “The Nanny”, the first natural birth in over two hundred years brings a new life to Cardea’s family. Despite the risks, she and her husband are determined to raise a family the old fashioned way. But social habits die hard.

The war with a forgotten conqueror has been over for decades, but that doesn’t mean the Earth has recovered. Life in the American Midwest is only getting more dangerous. His town besieged by hunter-killer drones left over from the conflict, gifted high school senior Daniel Bell would give his “Right Hand” to make the Army believe that the machines are somehow not being harmed by their operations.

“What Make is Your Cat?” welcomes you to London-Atlantis where, after the tsunami, your cat has higher social status and earning power than you do, and evolution is an elite, designer trend you can’t afford to join.

Three-month-old Clem faces his first day of “Kaxian Duty” with anxiety. He is keen to find out what his assignment will be, but runs into distractions on the way to headquarters. Training will be hard. Mistakes will be punished. Oh, and his tail has a mind of its own, which doesn’t help matters any.

Ary had known he was destined to be a starship captain his whole life. After all, his mother was Captain Sandy and his father was the guy who was supposed to be Fleet Admiral. However, the prospect of attending the Spaceforce Academy was daunting. Enough to make Ary question his future. In his first few weeks there will be quite a few “Lessons Learned”.

Bounty hunter Braillen takes a new job on “The Humra” to get close to her mark. When the crew discover her identity she is whisked in front of the captain. She must face her nightmares if she wants to finish the job and realise her deepest desire.

New captains take command in a variety of situations. Sometimes the passage isn’t an easy one. In “The Hawk of Destiny’s Fist”, Asarik Leah is sent to replace ShipLord Till and lead his InquiryShip on a dangerous new mission. Tradition demands she proves herself fit to take his place.

And in our last story, newly-promoted Commander Olivia Johnson is posted to the destroyer “Repulse”. Most of the officers are dead and the remaining crewmembers are exhausted. Johnson must step up to the mark and lead them back into battle despite her personal misgivings.



“Two minutes to docking.”
Commander Olivia Johnson relished another few seconds rest, then opened her eyes and leant forward to peer into the shuttle’s cockpit. “Thank you, Lieutenant. It’s been a smooth flight.”
The pilot raised his hand in thanks.
Johnson opened up a translucent window in her inner vision, and scrolled through the standing orders she had written for her new command.
I hope Captain Jeffries won’t mind that I’ve borrowed most of his.
“Do you think it will be bad... Ma’am?”
Johnson closed the text window and focused on the sub-lieutenant strapped into the seat on the opposite side of the hold. She’d only been vaguely aware of his presence since they’d left Conqueror. He must have been about sixteen, with close-cropped hair and no hint of stubble on his chin. Fresh out of Command School.
Repulse took heavy damage,” she said. “I don’t expect it will be pretty.”
The young man frowned.
“They’ll have cleared away the bodies by now,” Johnson said, guessing his worry. “And the badly injured have been moved to other ships.”
“What happened?”
She queried his ID and a brief summary of his record appeared, floating beside his head.
“They volunteered to go in advance of the task force and nose around. When they found the Republican fleet bugging out, they realised the ships of the line wouldn’t arrive in time to catch them and decided to do some damage on their own.” Johnson paused and studied the boy’s face. “To put it simply, Mr. Hanke, the Repulse is a plucky little bulldog that bit off more than it could chew.”


“Welcome aboard the Repulse, Ma’am.”
Johnson returned the salute from the grime-streaked marine corporal, and stepped aboard. The airlock hatch closed with a dull clank. Seconds later, the Electronic Interface System grown into her brain supplied her transfer orders to the ship’s network, and status reports flooded her awareness.
“I’m sorry none of the officers are here to meet you,” the marine continued, falling into step beside her. “Those who are left are too busy supervising the refit.”
Johnson sighed internally, keeping her face and body neutral. “Understood. If you’d show me the way to the bridge, I’m sure the sub-lieutenant here will find his own way to his quarters...”
She’d memorised the layout on the shuttle trip over, but cycles of battle damage and repair often lead to changes.
I don’t think I’ve ever served on a ship where the plans matched reality.
Johnson followed the corporal through the ship, pausing occasionally to exchange encouraging words with crewmembers they met. It was impossible to miss the mixture of fatigue and pride on their faces. At one intersection, Johnson stopped to examine a recent patch on the wall, tapping a few places and scratching at the edges.
Very nicely done.
Her guide stopped by a ladder recessed into the wall. “Sorry, Ma’am, but the lift’s not been cleared by engineering yet.”
“Not a problem, Corporal. Two floors, isn’t it?”
He nodded as she grabbed hold of a rung. “At least they got the floor hatches responding to EIS again. Hand cranking them was getting rather tedious.”

Official website

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About the Authors:


This anthology was edited by Alasdair Shaw and includes stories by the following authors:
  • James S. Aaron
  • J. Naomi Ay
  • Griffin Carmichael
  • Cindy Carroll
  • Richard Crawford
  • Tom Germann
  • Jonathan C. Gillespie
  • J.J. Green
  • Laura Greenwood
  • Alec Hutson
  • Cherise Kelley
  • Alasdair Shaw