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#SFINCS

The Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship

A Hired Blade

by J.C. Rycroft

A sellsword’s bargain.

A burgeoning desire.

A future balanced on the point of a blade.

Sellsword Des is travelling alone in a dry and dusty southern land, after a spectacular bust up with her best friend. She’s running low on coin, so when former client Karina offers her a job leading her caravan’s security through brigand country, it feels like a gift.

Des has done the route before, but she isn’t sure about leading solo. She recommends Karina hire Cap, a rugged old mercenary, to head up the crew. Maybe she’ll even learn a thing or two about how to lead, in between the delightful distraction of Karina’s flirtations and keeping the marauders at bay.

As they head off on their long trip across Rescalin, though, the wheels start to come off Des’s plan. The crew is drinking too much, even on duty, and Cap is dismissive of the dangers she identifies. Des worries she’s made the wrong call by putting Cap as the lead, and Karina is in her ear, wanting her to take over.

As brigands close in, will Des back the merc she put in charge? Or will she take over — and risk the caravan’s safety resting on her blade alone?

If you enjoy badass, sword-wielding women, an Australian-inspired setting, sapphic fantasy, and untrustworthy mercenaries, pick up A Hired Blade today, and join Des on her journey.

The Stars Within

by Alex Arch

Life finds a way, they say. Well, maybe life went too far. A dying star always shines brightest.

Thomas fights to beat cancer. Colette fights to save the human race.

A colonial miner crippled with debt, Thomas must flee his home to cure his recurring cancer. With his health declining at an alarming rate, his options are limited. Spend his last days surrounded by his loved ones or leave them behind for a slim chance to live. The choice is impossible, the prospect grim, and not for him alone.

A pragmatic military hero, Colette enrolls in a mission to thwart an alien invasion. She always gets the job done… unless Mia’s involved. She must then put her feelings aside as always or risk jeopardizing her assignment for the woman she once loved.

Two battles. Two realities. For one to succeed, the other must fail.

Hot Button Issue: An Opposites Attract, Paranormal Romance Novella (Roller Derby Witches)

by Catrina Bell

Good Blanca is a high-profile lawyer with a brilliant legal mind. She’s everything her parents hoped she would be – impressive and successful. Bad Blanca is a beautiful mess. She dresses in fishnet tights, flirts with sexy werewolves, and just made the Hel Stars roller derby team. Oh, and she’s secretly a witch.

Thorin is her opposite in every way. The happy-go-lucky flirt struggles with supernatural aggression he can’t quite control. His attraction to Blanca makes things even more complicated.

When Blanca’s powerful client, a state senator, proposes new legislation restricting reproductive rights, the line separating the good and bad in her life becomes blurry. Derby is chaos, and soon everything goes off the rails. She has to decide, once and for all, how far she’ll go to defend her values and the people she loves.

~~~~
This steamy, cozy, paranormal romance has a strong pro-choice (bodily autonomy) theme.

Merchant Magician

by John Champaign

Exiled from his family of traders in mystical goods and services on his 23rd birthday, the merchant magician must make his way in the world: meeting mermaids in San Francisco, Midwestern leprechauns, Icelandic dwarves and the girl of his dreams, who happens to be a cultist devoted to the rise of the great old ones who will consume the world in ash and fire when they awaken.

Blending real-world negotiation theory with a coming of age story in an urban fantasy setting, this book will appeal to fans of Jim Butcher, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

The Collector

by Stjepan Varesevac Cobets

2019 Nominees: Bookish Readers Choice Awards

Victoria wakes up to find herself trapped in a mysterious vault, naked and covered in transparent tubes. The pipes retract, and instructions appear on a wall – get dressed and follow the path to your destination. After a typically human first reaction, resistance she met with pain, Victoria complies.
Victoria will soon realize that she is not the only one kidnapped and no longer on Earth.
Who abducted her and other people? Victoria will need to find out when she reaches the dome on the horizon. But the question is whether she will like the answer.

The Re-Emergence: An Augment Saga Novella

by Alan K. Dell

“It was just a myth. Just a damn legend passed down from corrupted databanks…”

A strange probe from a long-forgotten satellite network appears in the P’hori star system. Its message: a dire warning signalling the return of an ancient mythological evil. Imperator Da’kora Corasar and the crew of the Qesh’kal are sent to determine the probe’s origin, and find that the satellite is not as they had expected. Corasar trusts the satellite’s data, but not everyone aboard agrees. Tensions rise and loyalties are tested as they track down the source of the signal. Thrust into conflict, the crew of the Qesh’kal must chase their foe across the galactic arm and save their home from certain destruction.

The Horror at Camp New Woods

by Aurora Dimitre

“It was just a myth. Just a damn legend passed down from corrupted databanks…”

A strange probe from a long-forgotten satellite network appears in the P’hori star system. Its message: a dire warning signalling the return of an ancient mythological evil. Imperator Da’kora Corasar and the crew of the Qesh’kal are sent to determine the probe’s origin, and find that the satellite is not as they had expected. Corasar trusts the satellite’s data, but not everyone aboard agrees. Tensions rise and loyalties are tested as they track down the source of the signal. Thrust into conflict, the crew of the Qesh’kal must chase their foe across the galactic arm and save their home from certain destruction.

Of a Strange World Made: Colony of Edge Novella Book 1

by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

On the cutting edge of humanity, rules are made for one thing.
No, it is not “to be broken.”
Biologist Ash Morgan loves breaking rules, but this is ridiculous. Edge is humanity’s bastion on the frontier of space and science. She plays fast and loose with the Edge’s ultra-strict governing AI, but even she’s willing to admit that maybe there are some laws not meant to be broken.
When a fellow colonist asks for help delivering a child, Ash agrees against her better judgment.
But something’s not right.
The birth will exceed the precise population cap set by the colony AI. Somehow those numbers need to balance.
And the child is born strange. Too strange. What experiments could produce a child like this? Who would do this?
When the mother descends into depression and madness, Ash must decide which rules can be broken, which rules must be obeyed, and which rules will inevitably lead to the colony’s ultimate destruction.
On the cutting edge of humanity, rules are made for one thing: to be followed perfectly with zero deviation.
Always.
Or else.

From the Ashes: The Heart of Quinaria Novelette

by B. S. H. Garcia

The civil war ends now.

Igtheos and his rebels have fought tirelessly against a would-be dictator and his army for almost two years. The city they’ve holed up in has become a prison, soon to be a tomb if they cannot arrange a means of escape.

When the enemy leader offers an armistice that’s too good to be true, Igtheos reluctantly accepts, thinking it will buy him enough time to smuggle those loyal to him out of the city. But he quickly learns the cost of choosing hope over caution as he finds himself caught in his enemy’s sinister plan, fighting a final unexpected battle. Failure means death, or worse, the loss of his loved ones.

And he only has one night to determine everyone’s fate.

From the Ashes is a prequel novelette that takes place over two thousand years prior to the events in Of Thieves and Shadows—volume one in the epic fantasy series, The Heart of Quinaria.

The Strange Task Before Me: Being an Excerpt from the Journal of William J. Upton

by Sean Gibson

Decades before the events of The Camelot Shadow, a young William Upton is intent on ensuring that his late father’s bookstore continues to thrive, even if that means taking a commission from a mysterious client who tasks him with finding an arcane—and possibly magical—tome. With time running out and a large reward hanging in the balance, Will chases down every possible lead, braving the macabre underground laboratory of a sadistic nobleman before embarking on a daring, late-night library break-in.

Told through Will’s own diary and with his characteristic wit, “The Strange Task Before Me” is an intense race against the clock that mixes action, humor, and a bit of magic—all while laying the groundwork for momentous events to come, expanding on the mythology of The Camelot Shadow, and introducing a key new character in the unpredictable Baron Frederickson.

The Godmother: A Starfire Express Prequel

by Katherine D. Graham

Flames rise on the horizon. The Godmother rises to meet them.

Eliza Farrington the Third is the top Fairy Warrior in the universe, undefeated in both magic and physical strength. She is also The Godmother — the protector and trainer of the Fairy Crown Princess.

For twenty years Eliza has prepared her charge to bring change to the rule of terror the tyrannical Fairy King and Queen have inflicted upon the worlds. The Princess’s kindness and mercy are already renowned, and her coronation is only a month away.

But the Dragon Emperor’s legions landing on their doorstep threatens everything.

When the Dragon Emperor presents the sole remaining royal Dragon Egg to the Fair Folk with a deadly proposal, can Eliza change the fate of her beloved Princess?

Or will the hate of multiple generations snuff out their only flame of hope?

**The Godmother is a prequel to the Starfire Express series by Katherine D. Graham, author of the Amazon bestselling Epic Fantasy novel The Vow That Twisted Fate.**

Trial Run

by S. Lynn Helton

A Wild Heritance prequel novella from a time before Duplicity of Power.

An impossible theft, a dangerous duel, and a scheme that could too easily fail… all for a place among the Shadowers, guild of rogues…

Just shy of her eighteenth year, Namid has been preparing for this moment for two years. Her chance to become a Shadower!

Before she can take her place in this select guild of rogues in Rhadanthus, city of thieves and thugs, she faces her Trial: a demanding ordeal designed to test the limits of her skills with weapons and thievery.

All Namid must do is overcome this final test – survive and succeed at it – to earn acceptance within the Shadowers as one of their own. With challenges facing her both in the city and from within the guild itself, Namid is determined that nothing will keep her from her goal.

She only hopes that she’s not outmatched…

The Annals of Skorne

by Joshua Killingsworth

I am the champion of the hated – the embodiment of scorn.
Through the abyss of the veil lies knowledge beyond imagination. Steam powered mechanisms, flying vessels, and medical marvels flood Baldric’s mind. The banished prince is joined by his beloved, and the information they obtain could revolutionize humanity and bring forth a new age. If only they possessed the means to make it a reality.
The sole hope of forging the new age, requires his submission to the Guardian who has spent the last ten thousand years maintaining stability through an iron fist. Following the Guardian’s massacre of the Koroks, the world erupts into chaos as nations rebel against his authority.
It is a fruitless effort as the Guardian possesses overwhelming numbers. The only hope for survival lies in the resolve of the banished prince who maneuvers his way into the Guardian’s top echelon. Baldric must peer further into the abyss, if he is to prevent another massacre and forge the new age.

To Nurture & Kill: An Ellderet Tale

by E. M. Markoff

Gritty heroes, blood-soaked promises, and family bonds put to the test. Logan meets The Mandalorian in this “expansive, edgy” tale of love and loss. (Kirkus Reviews)

2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards novella finalist

Eutau Vidal owed nothing to anyone and lived his life as he wanted. But then his sister died, leaving her newborn son Kira in his care, and everything changed. The Purging sweeps on, spreading misery across the Land of Moenda as the Ascendancy wages its war of extermination against the Deadbringers. Now, torn between a promise to his dying sister and the desire to regain his freedom, Eutau struggles to care for his young nephew even as the babe begins to manifest dark powers of the most dangerous kind.

Will Eutau find meaning in the promise he reluctantly made amid the ashes of war, or will he turn his back on the innocent?

To Nurture & Kill is a standalone prequel to The Deadbringer, the first book in The Ellderet Series. It is a story about hope and family bonds tested in a violent world, filled with damaged heroes and imperfect villains.

For more from E.M. Markoff, check out:

The Ellderet Series
To Nurture & Kill (standalone prequel novella)
The Deadbringer (book 1)
The Faceless God – Part One: Spirits & Ash (book 2)
The Faceless God -Part Two (forthcoming)

Praise for The Deadbringer
“The interpersonal conflicts are some of the best I’ve ever encountered.” -RedStarReviews

“[A] dark and intriguing blend of fantasy and horror, with elegant prose, and blood and gore aplenty.” -Whispers & Wonder (SPFBO5)

“A fantastic action-adventure, tinged with Mexican folklore, that will appeal to fans of A Game of Thrones.” -Booklist

The Collector’s Lost Things

by Jessica A. McMinn

Blind Those Who See…

Rei-Hai Shaw is a Collector, and he is very good.

At just thirteen years old, Rei became the youngest recruit ever to join the ranks of the Tower, the shadowy organisation that oversees the fulfilment of Whyt’hallen’s darkest requests.

Favoured by the masters but distrusted by his peers, Rei comes to learn the price of his accolades when the Tower demands more than the simple procurement of trinkets.

They want him to steal lives, too.

When his latest missions thrusts him back into the world of his childhood, Rei is painfully reminded of all he left behind—and what he can’t bear to lose again.

Includes additional short story, The King & His Shadow.

Promise of Fire

by Raina Nightingale

A HOPELESS FIGHT. A HORROR WORSE THAN DEATH.   WERE-DRAGONS BORN FROM THE PROMISE OF FIRE.   The last stand of the Dragonrider-mages is over. The people they fought to protect have been slain and enslaved, and their own numbers have been culled in accident and battle. Every death has added to the power of the Wizard-King, and their doom seems inevitable.   But a glimmer of hope has fanned the gloom into a flame, and despair is fuel for the fire. All seems lost, but the human Laisly and the dragon Caldera have slain a death-bound dragon, and suddenly their way is clear.   They may all be slain and enslaved, but they must journey into the heart of Eltaes, homeland of the Wizard-King, and give all they have to kill him. It is their last chance.   And is the triumph over fear victory enough?

The Wasp Child

by Rhiannon Rasmussen

Kesh is afraid-of his classmates, his abilities, and his prospects for the future.

Born into Meridian Colony, where corporate values dictate human worth, Kesh longs to escape. Then, his classmates kidnap and dump him in the middle of the alien rainforest. Alone.

Faced with certain death, Kesh locates the sansik, giant bugs native to the planet. Though the sansik seem to care for him at first, they set off a horrific metamorphosis in Kesh, and when they trade him back to Meridian, he becomes a living scientific curiosity. A bleak future of analysis without autonomy awaits him.

Trapped between the grasp of Meridian’s laboratories and a harsh alien world, Kesh must escape to have any chance of finding his purpose-and place-in the world.

Balfair’s Confinement

by Phil Williams

Kesh is afraid-of his classmates, his abilities, and his prospects for the future.

Born into Meridian Colony, where corporate values dictate human worth, Kesh longs to escape. Then, his classmates kidnap and dump him in the middle of the alien rainforest. Alone.

Faced with certain death, Kesh locates the sansik, giant bugs native to the planet. Though the sansik seem to care for him at first, they set off a horrific metamorphosis in Kesh, and when they trade him back to Meridian, he becomes a living scientific curiosity. A bleak future of analysis without autonomy awaits him.

Trapped between the grasp of Meridian’s laboratories and a harsh alien world, Kesh must escape to have any chance of finding his purpose-and place-in the world.

Sunset at Maior Pales – A Sci-Fi Western Novella

by Benjamin X. Wretlind

CYN-4329-2316-ACBS-092134853a–known to itself as Cletus and assigned a male gender in one of its first acts as an AI consciousness–has a bug in its programming. Against all logic, the ghost of a young man has muddled its circuits and promised to give it a soul…provided one small thing that only a self-aware robot with a yearning to self-actualize can do.

After centuries of exploration, humans are finally on the move to settle new worlds. To better facilitate settlement, advance teams of sentient robots have been sent ahead to build new towns and roll out the red carpet for the arrival of their masters. Now, just one month before the big event known as Arrival, Cletus is about to mess it all up.

The ghost of Boone Richards claims his family was murdered hundreds of years ago, and on board the shuttle that will deliver the humans to the western-themed town of Free Point, the direct descendant of that murderer has put together a gang of other outlaws to wreak havoc on the newly dubbed planet Maior Pales. When the ghost of Boone’s sister, Delphine, speaks up, Cletus finds himself faced with a dilemma for which its programming is incapable of processing.

How do you follow orders when doing so would break one law but not doing so would break another? And just how does a robot gain a soul?

The Bayou

by Arden Powell

“Eugene didn’t know if he believed in the devil beyond the wicked things people did of their own accord, but if the devil had a face, it would look like Johnny Walker’s.”

Small-town Louisiana, 1935.

When Eugene was twelve, a girl from town disappeared. Everyone said the gators must have got her when she strayed too near the bayou. No foul play, just a terrible accident. But Eugene can’t shake the conviction that Mary Beth’s death had something to do with the man who used to haunt her—the man no one else could see.

Now, nearly two decades later, there are more dangerous things than gators in Chanlarivyè. People are disappearing again, and this time, no one can find the bodies. As the town’s unease grows, charismatic fugitive Johnny Walker arrives on the scene, shedding bullet casings and stolen bank notes in his wake.

He tangles himself up in Eugene’s life and awakens memories Eugene thought he had laid to rest years ago. Memories of the mysterious man who followed Eugene into his dreams, and memories of the bayou—

And of the horrifying entity that lurks beneath the water’s surface, slowly seeping into the town like a stain.

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