Monthly Archives: November 2015

An excerpt from Send in the Clones

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here:  Now enjoy an excerpt from one of our authors!

An excerpt from Send in the Clones
A tale of the Super City Police Department by Keith R.A. DeCandido
(From The Side of Evil)


Who’s in the interrogation room?”

Detective Kristin Milewski, who simply had not had enough coffee yet, stared intently at Officer M.C. Cunningham as she asked the question.

For her part, Cunningham looked very reluctant to answer. “I think it’s the Clone Master.”

“You think?”

“Well, he looks just like him, but he’s dressed up in that silly white outfit that all his henchmen wear.”

“And he just showed up?”

Cunningham nodded. “Came in, went straight to Sarge’s desk, wearing the whole outfit, saying he had to talk to a detective about the Clone Master. Then he took off the mask, and it was the Clone Master. Sarge had me take him up to Interrogation 2, and—well, you two are the only ones here.”

Milewski turned to face her partner, Detective Jorge Alvarado, who held up both hands. “Whatcha lookin’ at me for? I don’t even remember which one the Clone Master is.” Alvarado recently moved to Super City from Baltimore, and he still hadn’t gotten all the superheroes and supervillains straight in his head.

Though he should have recalled this one, as he was the scourge of the homicide squad. “Clone Master’s the one who keeps dying and then coming back. He’s probably the most reckless of the costumes out there, and he’s always getting himself knocked off. Every time that happens, one of us has to perform a death investigation, because the annotated code says that every time a body falls in Super City, the SCPD must perform an investigation. Which, for the Clone Master, is a huge waste of time, because somehow he always comes back.” She turned back to Cunningham. “And he’s in there now?”

“Disguised as one of his henchmen, yeah. I don’t get it, either, but he said he wanted a detective, so…” The uniformed officer shrugged.

Milewski stared at Alvarado, then stared at Cunningham, then declared, “I need more coffee.”

Once she’d poured more of the squadroom sludge into the mug her mother gave her when she made detective, she led Alvarado into the video room. The interrogation rooms all had cameras that fed to monitors here.

In her years on the job, Milewski had never actually encountered the Clone Master in person. The last two times he died and there was the usual abortive investigation, Fischer and Billinghurst had handled it. Both instances were right after she got promoted to homicide from vice. She had seen his face a few times, though, in news reports, and once in the morgue when the M.E. was working on one of his clones.

The person she saw on the monitor for Interrogation 2 matched her memory of that face: large nose, weak chin, beady eyes, and tiny ears. He was drumming his fingers on the battered metal table in the center of the room, and rocking back and forth in the metal chair. That seat was uneven and squeaky and uncomfortable, all of which was quite deliberate, since the people who sat there were intended to be made as uncomfortable as possible.

The one difference was that this one didn’t have a right eyebrow.

“That’s the guy?” Alvarado asked.

Milewski nodded. “And he’s wearing the same outfit his thugs wear. All the guys who help him on his jobs wear that froofy all-white thing that makes them look like low-rent Jedi, plus hoods to hide their faces.”

“That’s gotta fuck up their peripheral vision.”

“Prob’ly, yeah.” Milewski gulped down the rest of her coffee, which burned her throat a bit. “Let’s dig out the casefiles on the last couple Clone Master deaths, and then we’ll see what he’s got to say.”

They went to the file cabinets and retrieved the files in question, and then went into the interrogation room. The Clone Master stopped drumming his fingers and sat up straight. “Finally!”

“I’m Detective Milewski, this is Detective Alvarado. You must be the Clone Master.”

“I’m Markos Balidemaj, yes. Or, rather, I’m Clone Number 78. I mean, I’m both. I’m a clone of the Clone Master.”

Milewski sat down across from him, placing the two folders in front of her, while Alvarado chose instead to lean against the far wall. “So what do we call you. ‘Mr. 78’? Or can we be casual and call you ‘Clone’?”

“I wish I could answer, but I’m having trouble keeping track of who I am.”

“Okay. Well, you came to us, so why don’t you tell Detective Alvarado and I what it is you want to say?”

He took a very deep breath. “I want to enumerate all the crimes committed by all the various versions of Markos Balidemaj since 2007.”

Alvarado asked, “Is that when the Clone Master first showed up?”

“Of course,” the clone said as if it was the stupidest question ever.

“He’s new,” Milewski said quickly. “I remember when he—or you, whatever—first showed up. You took on Old Glory and got your ass kicked, but you got away. Two weeks later, the Bruiser fought you and you were killed. Everyone figured that was the end of it, and nobody understood why you were called the Clone Master.”

“And then another Clone Master arrived to do battle with the Superior Six.”

“When you also died.”

Balidemaj smiled. “Well, I—or, rather, the Clone Master—can afford to be reckless.”

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.


Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!

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Join the Shadow Alliance (and Other Cool Stuff)


Join the Shadow Alliance–it’s the most fun you can have without a secret decoder ring!

The Shadow Alliance is my street team. Plenty of contests, prizes, exclusive sneak peek excerpts and updates on what I’m working on next, and other secret members-only cool stuff you have to join to discover! And, oh yeah, Alliance members help to spread the word about my books. Did I mention members-only get-togethers at select cons and cookies? Join now, have fun, help get the word out! Sign up here

Next up–Holiday giveaway!  Win books and gift cards! Authors include me, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, John Hartness, Stuart Jaffe, Laura Anne Gilman, Darynda Jones, Christina Henry, Jennifer Estep and Mindy Mymudes. Easy to enter, and the more you enter, the more chances to win! Happy Holidays giveaway

You can find the book giveaway links here where you can enter

To win the gift card, go to one of these participating blogs and comment!

Slippery Words  November 24th, 2015 I Smell Sheep  November 25th, 2015 Literal Addiction  November 27th, 2015 Cherry Mischievous November 29th, 2015 Drey’s Library November 30th, 2015 Tome Tender December 1st, 2015 London’s Scribbles December 2nd, 2015 Fantasy Fun Reads  December 3rd, 2015 Rabid Reads December 10, 2015

Shopping for the holidays? Books are the best presents! Vendetta, the new Deadly Curiosities novel, is available for pre-order now and comes out in stores December 29! Other new books this year include War of Shadows in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series and Iron & Blood, for the Steampunk lover on your list!


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An excerpt from The Shtick

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here:  Now enjoy an excerpt from one of our authors!

An excerpt from
The Shtick
by Aaron Rosenberg
(From The Side of Evil)

Proof-SideofEvil “Those stupid do-gooders will never— aw, come on!” Walter C. Shticklemeyer whined as the costumed duo burst into the heart of his lair. “How’d you even find me?”

“Seriously, Eraserhead?” Twilight the Shade Prince asked, sharing a surprised but amused glance with his mentor and partner, Midnight King. “You stole the second-most valuable gem in the world—Number Two—from the Ticonderoga Museum. And now you’re holed up in an abandoned pencil factory?”

“Let’s face it, chum,” Midnight King added in that distinctive growl of his as he strode across the room toward where Walter cowered behind his desk, “you’re predictable. But then, evil always is.”

“Oh, yeah?” Walter straightened as the dark-clad hero approached. “Well, predict this!” he raised his voice. “Pencil-necks, get them!”

Twlight giggled, arms crossed over his chest. “We already took care of your henchmen,” he reported. “So you can go ahead and write them off.” He laughed at his own joke, and Midnight King joined in with his raspy chuckle.

“Curse you, Midnight King!” Walter cried. The hero reached for him, but Walter managed to pull free, wailing—and punched Midnight King full in the face.

“Owwww!” The skinny little villain cradled his injured hand as the hero dragged him from the room. “That hurt!”

“Crime always does,” Midnight King rasped down at him. “Crime always does.”

~ * ~

“You’re who, now?” The big bruiser who’d just cut in front of Walter asked, peering down at him with beady little eyes. “Erasermate?” Several of the other inmates in the prison cafeteria laughed.

“Eraserhead!” Walter replied indignantly, hands tightening on his lunch tray. “Eraserhead!” he pointed at his hair, which stood up several inches and was still cut in a perfectly circular flat top, thanks to First City’s policy of letting inmates retain their distinctive looks as much as possible. Looking around him, he could see plenty of others with unique hairstyles, face paint, eyewear, and even a certain degree of jewelry. The big guy in front of him, however, had none of those—he was completely nondescript in his orange prison jumpsuit, just another giant slab of muscle as he slowly shook his head.

“Never heard of you,” the bruiser declared, turning toward the cafeteria workers and holding out his tray to receive large scoops of nondescript prison food.

But Walter wasn’t ready to let it go. “Never heard of me!” he practically screeched. “I fought Midnight King! Repeatedly!”

Now the bruiser laughed. “You? Fought Midnight King?” Again the dismissive once-over. “What’d you do, threaten to bleed on him?” That got more laughs. “Listen, pal,” the big guy added, “most of us went up against that cowled clown, or worked for guys who did. That’s how we wound up in here. That don’t make you special.” The conversation over, he took his now-loaded tray and headed toward the row upon row of tables for someplace to eat in peace. Plenty of others moved aside to let him pass.

“I am special,” Walter insisted, but in a much quieter voice, nearly a whisper, as he surrendered his tray to the cafeteria workers. “I’m Eraserhead.”

But even he wasn’t sure he believed it anymore.

~ * ~

“I’m not special,” Walter declared, slumping on the stool in front of a threefold standing mirror. “Hardly anybody’s even heard of Eraserhead, and those who have think I’m a joke.”

“So change,” the woman at the long sewing table against the far wall replied. She glanced over at him and frowned. “You need a new—”

“Don’t say it,” Walter warned. Growing up, all anyone ever called him was “Shtick,” and he hated that nickname, and the word in general. But she was right. Look at how easily Midnight King had found him last time. An old pencil factory? Could he have been more obvious? “I really am a joke,” he decided, slumping even more. “I’m pathetic.”

“Stop putting yourself down,” his companion and hostess snapped. “Every time you do, you owe me twenty push-ups.”

“What?” That made his head jerk up, at least, as he stared across the room at her. “But, Launi—”

Her glare stopped him cold.

“Right, sorry—Seamstrix.” It was amazing how cowed he was by someone who was only five feet tall, but for all her short stature Launi Rombach, seamstress to the super-villains, was no one to mess with. And despite her height, with that long, straight silvery-white hair and her stern expression, not to mention her own costume—a leather dominatrix outfit, all buckles and straps, but covered in pockets filled with scissors and tape measures and needle and thread and lots and lots of pins—she was actually really imposing.

Which made sense. Why would you commission a super-villain costume from someone who couldn’t even make a convincing one for herself?

The Seamstrix was the go-to choice for every super-villain in First City. And Walter had been going to her for years. They’d even developed a sort of friendship. In fact, in a lot of ways she was his closest friend. Which was why, as soon as he’d gotten out—which had only been after a few months, since even with First City’s rather lax view toward costumed vigilantes it had still wound up being one costumed nut’s word against another, because like most super-villains who’d managed to survive, Walter was at least professional enough to blank out all security cameras first, and to wear gloves the whole time—Walter had gone straight to her.

But his days of wearing a striped yellow turtleneck and matching leggings were over. Eraserhead was dead.

That hated word aside, Launi was absolutely right, Walter realized as he wearily climbed down off the stool, stretched out on his stomach on the floor, and began slowly, wretchedly doing push-ups.

He needed something new.

~ * ~

Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing December 1, 2015.


Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…

Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.

With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.

Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!

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Q&A with Robert Greenberger

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here:  Now enjoy one of several interviews as our authors take you behind the scenes!
Bob_Greenberger copy



eSpec Books interviews Robert Greenberger, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology,

eSB: What drew you to this project?

RG: Danielle’s winning smile as she explained what the book was about so I asked her if I could come play. After all, I grew up on comics and super-heroics is in my DNA.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?

RG: I’m writing for the side of good. Most super-hero comics are serialized and with the reboots and all, the major heroes never retire, never really question when the time comes. With the freedom of a short story, I decided that would make for an interesting story.

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?

RG: I was six and home sick with bronchitis. Mom brought me an issue of Superman and I was hooked. Something about the colorful figure, the super-powers, and – I am guessing here – the not being ill was really appealing. Since then I like the larger than life figures, which is why I am also drawn to mythology.

eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?

RG: I usually say I want a power ring which can do so many things, great and small. Or, I would love to fly. First, it would cut down on my commute to school and second, it would just be damn cool.

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?

RG: My current weakness is peanut M&Ms. A bag of those and I weaken, my will becomes shot.

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.

RG: Something akin to speedskaters, sleek in design, not overly colorful. Or something with a cloak so I can hide the paunch from the M&Ms.

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?

RG: I am drawn to many but usually will tell you its Green Lantern. First of all, he’s fearless (save the psychobabble about that for another time) plus out of billions of people, the ring chose him to join this corps that is out to protect the universe. That’s an awesome power matched with an awesome responsibility.

eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?

RG: I don’t think I hate any one villain, but I do hate the C-list guys who have a cheesy name or poor motivation. They’re badly conceived by lazy or desperate writers then hang on when other writers need cannon fodder.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?

RG: Using power (however it has been derived) for the greater good. Willing to sacrifice yourself for higher ideals. Doing what must be done regardless of the obstacles.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?

RG: Using power (however it has been derived) for selfish gain. Unwilling to serve society and acting entirely against the public good.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?

RG: Many benefit from having someone to watch your back or someone to talk to. There’s a great deal of loneliness that comes with power so this can help ground the hero. Of course, not all sidekicks should be minors, that brings up other issues.

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?

RG: 20 years at DC and 1 year at Marvel mean tons of heroes and villains have crossed my desk. I am particularly proud of a series I helped create, Suicide Squad, now becoming a feature film. As a writer, I have written an Iron Man novel, The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, co-written The Batman Vault and The Essential Superman Encyclopedia; and two young reader Batman books. I’ve also done short fiction with Zorro and Captain Midnight so I get around.

eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?

RG: Can I say the entire DC Universe? If not, the one series I always wanted was Green Lantern (are you detecting a thread here?).

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?

RG: They both appeal in different ways. Fiction is you and your imagination, using strictly words to bring your reader to other places. Comics is collaborative (which I love) and blends words with pictures which is a unique storytelling experience.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.

RG: I am a cofounder of Crazy 8 Press, a digital press hub where I write original fiction. The next work there will be a story in the Pangaea anthology, debuting at Shore Leave. I am also a high school English teacher in Maryland. As an author, I have co-written The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, with Steven Savile, due out in December from Titan Books.

eSB: Please let us know where you can be found on social media.

RG: I can be found at or on Facebook or twitter @bobgreenberger

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.

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Q&A with Bryan Thomas Schmidt

TWP WFP front coverQ:  Why don’t you tell us about your novel?

Bryan Thomas Schmidt: The Worker Prince is the story of Moses with a Star Wars feel. Two groups of colonists, enemies on Earth, wind up by a twist of fate as neighbors in a far galaxy and one enslaves the other. Years later, the prince of the Boralians finds out he was secretly adopted from slaves and is a Vertullian. As he begins to discover what that means, it puts him at odds with friends and family, especially his Uncle Xalivar who leads the Boralian Alliance. Then a tragic accident sends him on the run. And he has to decide who he is and where his loyalties lie. The decisions he makes could change the lives of everyone he knows forever. It’s full of action, political scheming, family drama, a little romance, friendship, rivalries and alien races.

Q: Is it true you came up with the story when you were a teenager?

BTS: Yeah, I spent a lot of time dreaming and imagining stories and ideas in my teens, and I had a dream of writing for television and film. I came up with the idea originally as a TV miniseries and did a lot of story planning but those notes have disappeared. The only things that remained really were the idea of an epic Moses retelling and Lord Xalivar, the name of the antagonist, and Sol, the name of Davi Rhii’s father. Beyond that, when I finally sat down to write it in 2009, I just started from scratch.

Q: This is a rerelease called the Author’s Definitive Edition. The book originally released in 2011 by a micropress. What led to the new release?

BTS: Well, when it came out, the book got some great praise and reviews but the press was a micropress and focused toward a smaller market segment. They were also a Christian press, so I think that may have limited the audience. I always intended the book to be for general market, and since the press fell apart and I wanted to finish the series, I decided to go back and revise the book after finishing the final novel in the trilogy, bring the writing style up to date with my present skills, fix some of the issues critics had pointed out, create better unity to the trilogy overall, and revise it to be sure it was the best fit for general market. It remains appropriate for all ages but it is not a Christian book and was never intended to be one, so I downplayed some religious aspects a lot more and expanded some worldbuilding in ways I hope will make it more appealing. Kevin J. Anderson gave me a chance to publish it with WordFire Press, so I jumped at it.

JB:  The Worker Prince is the first book in a trilogy.  Do you have a schedule for the other 2 books?

BTS: Book 2, The Returning, is being polished and updated as well and will likely show up in Spring 2016. Book 3, The Exodus, is tentatively scheduled for next Summer.

Q:  Who were your favorite authors when you were growing up?

BTS: I love Robert Silverberg. Also grew up a big fan of Stephen R. Donaldson, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Alan Dean Foster, Timothy Zahn, Mike Resnick, Orson Scott Card, David Eddings, W.E.B. Griffin, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, Tom Clancy (early stuff),and Stephen King.

Q: The Worker Prince has been compared to Star Wars. Was that a big influence?

BTS: In fact, my goal was to capture the feel of the original Star Wars¸ and according to reviews, I seem to have succeeded. But I also give nods to other influences throughout via snippets of dialogue, plot elements, etc. such as Christopher Reeve’s Superman, the original Battlestar GalacticaStar Trek and more. My goal was to tell the Moses story as a space opera but without the ten commandments, parting of the Red Sea, and other particularly religious elements. The story is just such a great one and I felt would lend itself well to space opera.

Q: You have come to be known more as an editor than an author, I know. How do you think of Bryan Thomas Schmidt?

BTS: I’m both and I have a passion for both, but my first love remains writing and I hope somehow I can have some success at both, maybe even equally. This is a story I have been passionate about for a long time and have spent the last seven years writing, on and off, and 30 years dreaming about. So there is a great satisfaction in finally getting it out there, and I was a bit disappointed that while the original release sold 1500 copies in six months, book two’s launch got delayed and confused and it never really took off. This is my chance to share this story with the world, and to perhaps gain a little respect as a writer not just an editor, so fingers crossed. I’d love to be writing as much as I am editing.

Q:  Do you have a preference between science fiction and fantasy?

BTS: Well, space opera is my first love, but epic fantasy is a close second. But science fiction was what started it for me.

Q: How has your editing work influenced your writing?

BTS: Well, you know, I had not read The Worker Prince for over four years when I went back to edit it so I really had fresh eyes. I had read one scene I use a lot in readings but not the rest more than skimming. It was really a lot like editing a different author, not just from objectivity but from the fact my craft has grown so much. I have written two sequels, two fantasy novels, two other novels and dozens of short stories since I wrote this book, not to mention editing novels and anthologies, so I came back to it with an editor’s perspective. I fixed a lot of first novelist errors and issues, and I was able to also clarify things that needed strengthening, add things that had been called out as missing, and add things I now knew from writing two more books which will add more unity overall to the trilogy, and I can honestly say I couldn’t have done that three years ago, so I think editing as helped me a lot.

Q: You’ve edited some of your favorite writers like Silverberg, Resnick, etc. and you also edited The Martian, which of course is a big bestselling book and smash hit movie. What is that like and how did it come about?

BTS: Networking has made my career. Jennifer Brozek, my co-editor on Shattered Shields, was childhood friends with Andy Weir and he came to her about the novel but she felt they were too close to risk working together and recommended me. So I worked with Andy on it in 2013 and six months or so later heard he’d sold it to Crown and had a movie deal with Ridley Scott. Andy has been sending me business by recommending me, so I have started talking about it. It was the first hard science fiction I edited and it was fun. He is a nice guy and easy to work with. As for Resnick, Silverberg, et al, I just asked. Resnick I met at World Fantasy in 2010 and had corresponded with a bit first. We both have a mutual interest in African culture and I had seen his many African influenced short stories. We hit it off and he took me under his wing. To a degree, Silverberg has done the same after I bought a story from him for my short-lived magazine gig, Blue Shift and my Kickstarter anthology Beyond The Sun, and since then we have started having annual meals every World Con and corresponding. Others came along much the same with me asking and them agreeing and I try and make it a fun experience, so they fortunately keep coming back.

Q: Your latest anthology Mission: Tomorrow released two days after The Worker Prince from Baen and has been getting good reviews. It’s core science fiction, hard science fiction, right? Stories similar to The Martian in some ways?

BTS: Correct. In fact, I tried to get Andy to write a story for it but he was just too busy at the time. The concept was with NASA having been defunded a bit and space exploration downgraded in priority with both the public and government, what will space travel look like in the near future? Private? Corporate? Etc. And so authors wrote various takes on it, some humorous, some tragic, all thoughtful, and I got to work with an incredibly great group. I am thrilled it is being well received. My hope is to do one core SF anthology each year. I missed 2014 but we have Galactic Games coming in 2016, and I am shopping ideas for 2017.

Q: Thanks for making time to sit down with us. To close, if people haven’t read The Worker Prince, why should they give it a shot?

BTS: Well, it did make Barnes and Noble’s Year’s Best Science Fiction in 2011, Honorable Mention, and that was compiled by one of the top speculative fiction critics in the field, Paul Goat Allen. Paul thought it was a blast and retro in feel without being dated. Jonathan Maberry and Robin Wayne Bailey felt the same when they blurbed the current edition. Maberry said: “The Worker Prince breathes dynamic new life into the space opera genre. Rich characters, wild action, and devious plotlines collide in a thoroughly entertaining book!” and Robin described it as  “A brisk science fiction novel full of rich characters and settings, it embodies ‘sense of wonder’ in the best traditions of classic science fiction. Well worth your time!” Those are two New York Times Bestselling authors, far less biased than I am. Those are three reasons. Beyond that, if you like fun, escapist science fiction, then this book is for you. But it also touches a bit on ideological discrimination and themes of bigotry in some very relevant ways as well, without being heavy handed or preachy (so I hope and am told), so I think it also has relevance for those looking for more substantial fare as well. Also, some fun aliens, planets, and good humorous banter as well with lots of action. You won’t be bored, for sure.

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How to Write a Mystery (A Romance Writer’s Perspective)

SHA_finaljpeg_medby Lucy Blue

My creative writing instructor in college used to say there are two kinds of story:  character stories where the action is created by the personalities and motivations of the characters, and situation stories where characters are placed in a carefully constructed situation and have to fight their way out. By this system, most of the stories I’ve published—romances of one kind or another—have been character driven, unfolding as they do because of the passions and prejudices of a unique protagonist.

But mysteries are situation stories. A murder is committed; the jewels are stolen; a man’s wife disappears. Well-drawn characters are still essential, of course, just like a good action plot can make all the difference in a romance. But some of the best and most successful mystery writers use the same fascinating protagonist in book after book—Hercule Poirot, Alex Cross, Kay Scarpetta, Sherlock Holmes. These same characters can be put in an endless series of new situations to create new stories because the situation is what really grabs the reader and carries them through to the end. When I got ready to write “The Fairy Pool,” my entry in An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a new anthology from Mocha Memoirs Press, I had some of the best characters ever created to play with. But to construct the perfect situation, I had to throw out my romance writer’s playbook and work it the other way around.

  1. Setting:  The submission call said we could write our Holmes  into any era we liked, but I (like most of my co-authors) wanted the classic Victorian Holmes. Because these are the paranormal adventures of the great detective, I tried to think of a unique paranormal phenomenon that I actually knew something about that would make sense in that period. English fairy lore has been a running thread through a lot of my work, and fairies and fairy tales were a Victorian obsession. Plus the idea of a fairy-haunted Holmes was too delicious to pass up. So Victorian fairies. Then Holmes needed clients. I kept coming back to the Brontë sisters, Emily, Jane, and Charlotte, who wrote some of the most gloriously lurid romantic fiction of the 19th century—the precise opposite of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of deductive reason. But they pre-date Holmes by fifty years—so they would have to be elderly ladies. So a pair of spinster novelists living in the Lake District where people believed in fairies would call in the services of Holmes. But why?
  2. Situation:  My first thought was a murder, but fairies, generally speaking, aren’t really known for killing people. Their worst crime is usually abduction, stealing a child away—so my story would have a missing child, and Holmes would have to find her. I figured out who the child was and her connection the old ladies and how Holmes would be brought into the case.
  3. Solution: If I had been writing any other kind of story, I would  have started there, scene one, and worked my way through the story to the end as a kind of super-reader, discovering what happens in the story as I went along. But for a mystery—at least for a mystery writing novice like me—that was never going to work. My next step was to figure out who or what had taken the child and why. In listing out possible suspects and their motives, more characters came into focus, including an important role for Watson’s patient and lovely fiancée, Mary, one of my favorites. I didn’t carve the outcome in stone in my mind just in case something better came to me along the way of writing, but I had a pretty clear idea of who could have done it and how and why. Now I had to figure out how Holmes would figure it out.
  4. Clues:  Working backward, I was able to come up with a series of clues that, taken together, would lead Holmes deductively to this correct but highly improbable solution. Because a paranormal explanation would hardly be Holmes’ first instinct, I also tried to make these same clues add up to another much more pragmatic solution that I could then shatter with one final clue. Planting these clues and working out how Holmes would discover each one gave me the plot outline for the rest of the story. Then I was ready to write.

I didn’t follow my original outline exactly, and almost every scene needed much more space than I had expected it would. (When you read the anthology, you’ll see my story is one of the longest.) But this framework is what carried me forward to a conclusion that felt satisfying to me and will hopefully feel satisfying to readers. A lot of the time, I felt like I was writing backwards, but it was exhilarating. I had never written a full-on mystery before, but I’ll definitely do it again.


Lucy Blue’s first publication was in 1998 as one of the two writers of Forever Knight: These Our Revels, a tie-in novel that put TV vampire detective Nick Knight in Shakespeare’s London for the premiere of Hamlet. Currently she is an author and editor for Little Red Hen Romance. In between, she published six historical paranormal romances with Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster. She is married to artist Justin Glanville, and they live in a crumbling Craftsman in Chester, South Carolina, with their Jack Russell mix, Luke, and enough uninvited backyard wildlife to get them a show on Animal Planet.



Twitter: @LucyBlueCastle


From “The Fairy Pool” by Lucy Blue

“Watson, where are you going?” The ambush came as he’d expected from the dim recesses of Holmes’ library, a shout through the open door.

“I told you.” He placed his case by the door and went calmly to the cupboard for his overcoat and hat. “Mary and I are going to visit an old school chum of hers in the country.”

Sherlock popped out of the library like a jack from a box. “It’s a lie.”

“It is not.” Watson smiled the mild smile of the righteous man. “Why should I lie?”

“Well done, John.” His friend’s color was high and dramatic. Either he had already imbibed some chemical stimulant at nine in the morning, or the mere fact of John’s leaving had sent him into the first stages of frenzy on its own. “For once, you’ve hit upon the crux of the question without prompting. Why indeed?” John removed the train tickets from his pocket, and Sherlock snatched them from his hand. “Ravenglass,” he read.

“In the Lake District,” John said, taking them back. “Mary’s friend Seraphima grew up there. It’s meant to be quite lovely.”

“In summer perhaps.” The great detective was obviously unconvinced. “In October it will be a miserable bog. And really, John, Seraphima? Is that the limit of your invention? Seraphima is the name of an Italian carnival dancer, not the school chum of one’s respectable fiancée.”

John was inclined to agree. “Nevertheless, that is her name. Her aunts are the novelists Nora and Mirabel May. Perhaps one of them chose her name.”

Sherlock frowned. “That does seem plausible.” He took the tickets again and sniffed them. “As spinsters and the most prominent and financially successful members of the family, they would no doubt exert a certain influence over the naming of offspring, particularly those from poorer branches of the clan.”

“Seraphima was orphaned at an early age and brought up by the aunts,” John said. “So I’m sure you must be right.”

“One hardly follows the other, but yes, I must be.” He sniffed the tickets again. “When did you purchase these?”

John took them back. “Yesterday afternoon.” He put them back in his pocket. “I had just returned from the station when I told you about our trip.”

Sherlock’s smile was positively demonic. “That is a lie.”

“Holmes, really—“

“Those tickets rested for no small time in close proximity to the bare skin of your fiancée—next to her bosom, unless I miss my guess.”

John’s eyes popped. “I do beg your pardon!”

“They reek of her perfume—an ordinarily subtle scent intensified precipitously by abundance, heat, moisture, or some combination of the three. Since Mary is an extremely hygienic young woman not given to bathing herself in perfume or acts of great physical exertion, I deduce that she carried the tickets next to her skin while in a state of anxiety which resulted in greater than usual perspiration.”

“Have you been sniffing my fiancée?!?”

“Don’t be absurd.”

“No, but really!” Ordinarily Holmes’ deductions were a source of wonder and no small delight to his friend, but this seemed not only improper but highly perilous. “Who are you to recognize her scent?”

“I recognize the presence of Mrs. Hudson’s favorite hack driver by the lingering aroma of horse shit on my hall rug,” Holmes said. “This in no way represents a symbolic romantic attraction.” Now that he had the upper hand, his smile was almost warm. “Tell me the truth, John. Why are you going to the Lake District? What has Mary so frightened?”

“She isn’t frightened, Holmes; don’t be so dramatic.” He handed over the newspaper clipping Seraphima had enclosed with her frantic letter. “Merely concerned.”

“Search continues for missing child,” Holmes read the headline. “Hope fast slipping away—good lord, who writes this drivel?”

“The missing girl apparently has some connection to Seraphima and her family,” John explained. “She’s only seven years old, and Seraphima feels responsible for her in some way. She wrote Mary to ask if I might come and offer my assistance to the police.”

You?” He handed back the clipping. “She asked for you?”

‘Why not?” John said, trying to remain unruffled. “She has read my accounts of your exploits, so she is aware of my expertise in such matters.”

“Your accounts, my exploits.” Holmes was heading for his bedroom. “Expertise indeed—do they want a nicely typed story for the newspapers, or do they want the girl found?”

“Perhaps they don’t want their lives turned upside down by a raving madman whose methods of investigation require the emotional ruin of everyone even remotely involved.” John followed and found him throwing a seemingly random collection of personal belongings into a case of his own. “Holmes, you are specifically not invited.”

“Nevertheless, I shall go.


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