Book Review: Slipstreamers 4, The Lotus Fountain by Nicole Little

The Lotus Fountain, by Nicole Little and JD Ryot, is the 4th book in Engen’s Slipstreamers series about an anthropologist named Cassidy Cane who is hired to explore a series of portals into other worlds. In The Lotus Fountain, Cassidy investigates a mysterious adoption agency and tumbles through a portal into a seemingly idyllic matriarchal society.

At the centre of this society lies a beautiful fountain which heals broken bones, wounds, and so much more. But something doesn’t feel right, hidden in the library’s forbidden books, discipline huts, lack of men, and disappearing babes. Still, this world calls to Cassidy, tempting her with a softer existence than the ones she’s known.

The book’s strengths lie in Little’s use of character, the way she draws out the confusion in Cassidy’s mind as her chaotic, adventurous nature smashes into her nurturing side.

Cassidy was accustomed to climbing mountains, tumbling out of cars, and breaking through windows; dodging bullets and belligerent aliens; exploring new worlds. Yet here, in this supply closet with this heartbroken girl-it was one of the scariest moments of Cassidy’s life.

– Slipstreamers: The Lotus Fountain by Nicole Little and JD Ryot

Cassidy is surprised at the comfort she finds in this gentle world, the easy sense of belonging, but the fault lines are always there, nagging at her, promising that everything may not be as it seems. And Cassidy can’t ignore those fault lines forever.

I highly recommend this book to writers making a study of a character at odds with theirself, to lovers of the original Star Trek series which this adventure brought to mind, and to all fans of Cassidy Cane. I give The Lotus Fountain 4.5/5 stars overall and a solid 5/5 for Little’s excellent writing.

Bonus submission opportunities:

World Weaver Press is calling for submissions to their anthology Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales ($0.01 per word) click here to visit that call.

East of the Web is looking for science fiction up to 7 000 words, original and reprint ($0.05 per word OR…. check their site) click here to visit that one.

Also, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is on temporary hiatus until January 2021 as C. C. Finlay steps down on as editor and Sheree Renee Thomas takes up the task. More here.

5 Things You Should Know About the Plague of the Dreamless

My first-ever SF novella, Plague of the Dreamless, is officially on pre-order! Yes, I’m terrified (a whole book! That people might read! Aaaaah) But BESIDES that Plague of the Dreamless is also book #5 in Engen Books’ multi-author Slipstreamers series. Engen is producing a new Slipstreamers episode every three weeks featuring the adventures of anthropologist Cassidy Cane, an adventuress hired by a professor to explore the far side of a series of portals he’s discovered. She gets adventure, he gets funky alien tech. It was described to me as “Indiana Jones meets Doctor Who” and right away I knew I wanted to be involved in the project (hashtag: Whovian).

Okay, I’m nervous enough that I’m about to start rambling, so without further ado, here are five things you should know about my book Plague of the Dreamless:

  1. the sky in the alien story world is inhabited by giant cephalopods who exude a gaseous fog in their sleep that powers all of the industry in the endless human cities.

2. the cityscape is filled with rickety skyscrapers, each floor added haphazardly on top of the last, mismatched in size and function, and prone to collapse.

3. on their sixteenth birthday, all citizens must submit to having their imaginations removed to make them better, more compliant workers

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

4. in the absence of imagination, the humans’ brains cease to dream, leading to physical breakdown that becomes fatal over time. The locals refer to individuals suffering from this affliction as ‘Dreamless’

5. The only way to cure the Dreamless is to buy them a dream from the Dreamkeeper… *if* they can afford one (whispers: no one can afford one)

Cassidy Cane arrives on this world in search of alien tech but soon stays to help the citizens of this SF dystopia. Unfortunately, she might have accidentally introduced the common cold to this new world and… MAKES STORY HAPPEN. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnn. *flails*

The ebook is scheduled to release on November 27th and you can pre-order it at the links below. Paperbacks should soon follow but I don’t have those dates just yet.

Click here for Amazon U.S.

Click here for Amazon Canada

Click here for Amazon UK

Thank you for reading and a big thank you to anyone who pre-orders. Stay safe!

(all photos, with the exception of the cover, are from pexel)

Book Review: Boulders Over the Bermuda Triangle

Peter J. Foote’s debut novella, Boulders Over the Bermuda Triangle, is the third episode in Engen Books’ multi-author Slipstreamers series featuring the adventures of Cassidy Cane. In the series, risk-loving anthropologist Cassidy Cane is hired by one Professor Gamgee to explore a series of portals that may lead anywhere. Think Indiana Jones meets Doctor Who, with the portals acting as TARDIS.

In Boulders Cassidy flies through a portal over the Bermuda Triangle that lands her in deep space. Her aircraft fails and her only hope is what looks like a space station ahead. With a bit of luck, an adolescent, reptilian alien named Agnoix, notices Cassidy’s plight and launches a rescue. What Agnoix doesn’t know is that she’s about to save a human, one of the reptilian Xik’en species’ mortal enemies. Rather than turning Cassidy in, Agnoix decides to fight her learned prejudice and see the human as simply another soul in need of help.

While the youth’s struggle to overcome her cultural bias was my favourite part of this book, there were many other elements that delighted me. Foote knows his way around reptiles and it comes through in his imagined space station: organic tunnels lined with plants and humid, smelly air. He has also employed a clever work around to keep the mining station safe from the asteroid field they work in, but I’ll let you read those details on your own.

I give this book a solid 4/5 and highly recommend this book, especially for Doctor Who fans like me. Which brings me to one more not insignificant detail…

(cue suspenseful music)

I am also writing an episode in this series! Eee! Come back tomorrow for more details!

Book Review: Riverland by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde’s Riverland isn’t a particularly easy book to read, but it is worth it. The difficulty comes from the abuse the young protagonists face. Wilde articulates the constant edge of living in an abusive household, the careful interpretation of every twitch, every air, and every mood, waiting for the monster to appear. There were moments my chest was so tight I swore I’d never put down the book again until it was finished. I couldn’t leave sisters Eleanor and Mike there, I couldn’t leave myself there.

To feel safe enough to sleep, the sisters hide under Eleanor’s bed, where she has set up socks on the sharp coils of the springs, and Christmas lights for cheer, blankets positioned to hide the light from outside their protected space. She’s been reading The Hobbit to Mike, a brief escape, when one night a river appears beneath them, and the girls tumble into another world.

Once inside a strange world of herons, birds, ponies made of rags, nightmares made of smoke, and a lighthouse with a light solid enough to travel by, the girls learn their matrilineal ancestors had promised to protect this place. They’d set up glass fishing buoys to catch the nightmares and stop them from entering the “real” world. The girls know these buoys, they once hung in their house before their father smashed them in a rage.

The girls’ worlds soon collide, the weight of keeping their family’s dark secret against the girls’ mission to save Riverland sending shards of glass into the impossible foundation of their lives. There’s a friend and a grandmother who offer hope, but the girls are in a terrible place. Everything they face is too much for their tender ages. I spent the last third of the book clutching it, white knuckled and muttering, “Oh, Fran, please save them. Don’t leave them there, don’t leave them there.”

I guess I’d call this middle-grade horror fantasy, and it got to the core of me. Protect yourself if this kind of content triggers you, but for me? I give it 5/5 stars.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Reinvented Heart

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to inspire your submission and get you thinking of the theme in original ways.

This week we’re submitting stories to The Reinvented Heart anthology and we’re reading Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s How To Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps.

The Reinvented Heart

Eligibility: original stories along the theme of a reinvented heart (more details are in the guidelines linked below) from 500-5000 words

Take Note: this call is open to female and nonbinary writers. If you do not fall into those categories, here’s another great call you might enjoy.

Submit by: October 31st, 2020

Payment Offered: $0.08 per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A Story to Get You in the Groove

This week we’re reading Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s story How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps. TW for suicide ideation. You can read this story at Lightspeed by clicking here.

This story is fairly loaded with metaphor and I’ll let you interpret them in the way that suits you best, but for the purposes of getting you thinking about your own submission, Tesla is in love with a robot. Since they secretly consider themselves a robot, this isn’t too far a stretch for the reader to believe.

One day, when Tesla returns to the coffee shop where the object of their affection works, they find the robot gone. After they manage to track the robot down in a scrap yard, Tesla is desperate to repair the damaged bot, even as their lives fall apart around them.

In the call for The Reinvented Heart, the editor asks us to consider how romantic and aromantic relationships may change with technological advances and the possible distance of galaxies. Taking a lesson from how Wolfmoor weaves Tesla’s humanity with the idea of her robot self in this story can give us a roadmap for making new ideas of love and technology work.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: DSF

elcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to inspire your submission and help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re looking at Daily Science Fiction‘s open and ongoing call for flash fiction and reading Clayton Hackett’s Illegal Entry from their archives.

Daily Science Fiction (DSF)

Eligibility: speculative stories from 100-1500 words

Take note: writers will have to create a login to DSF’s submission system, and can use it to check their story’s status. Likewise, it’s free to sign up to receive DSF’s weekday offerings mailed to your inbox to get a solid feel for what the editors like.

Submit by: Daily Science Fiction accepts submissions year round with the exception of December 24th through to January 2nd.

Payment: $0.08 per word

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Story to ignite your writing mojo

This week we’re reading a story that came out on DSF a few weeks ago, Illegal Entry by Clayton Hackett. You can read it at Daily Science Fiction by clicking here. I chose this story because it stayed with for a long time after I first read it. In this story, Hackett muses on what would happen if the unnamed Superman/Clark Kent boychild crash landed in rural America today.

It’s an unflinching look at a refugee’s story dressed in the face of one of our greatest heroes. Hackett does play with the form of flash fiction in this piece, mixing fiction with non- fiction: a quietly clever nod to Clark Kent as reporter for the Daily Planet.

Can you write a piece as powerful in as few words? You’ll never know until you try.

(Please note: this post was originally published a few years ago, I’ve got a house full of sick kiddos at the moment. Sorry for the re-run but DSF is evergreen – I submit there every chance I get. Good luck.)

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Podcastle

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help you get a feel for the editor’s tastes or the theme of the anthology.

This week we’re subbing stories to Podcastle’s open call and reading Ken Liu’s To the Moon.

Podcastle

Eligibility: fantasy stories up to 6,000 words (3,000-4,500 preferred)

Take Note: writers are allowed to submit one original story and one reprint story to this call

Submit by: September 30th, 2020

Payment Offered: $0.08 per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A Story to Familiarize Yourself with the Editor’s Tastes

This week we’re reading, or listening to, Ken Liu’s story To the Moon, from Podcastle’s 2018 archives. There are many wonderful stories published by Podcastle, but I’ve been reading a lot of Ken Liu lately on the advice of a critique partner and I’m finding his voice so kind and soothing during these troubling times that maybe you’ll appreciate his voice now, too. Click here to go read To the Moon now.

To the Moon is the story of an immigrant applying for asylum. As do many of Liu’s stories, several different versions of the same story run parallel, stories within stories. We have the story of the moon, a breathless fairy tale told from a father to a daughter, we have the story-of-necessity, and we have lived truths, stark and nude without the clothing of their metaphors. We don’t know if the story ends well, but that’s what I like about Liu’s work. His stories bring out the kindness inside ourselves as much as they offer alternative means to survive the troubles in which we find ourselves entangled.

I hope this post has found you well and filled with story ideas. In my area of the world school is starting up again and with it comes fresh anxieties to threaten creativity. Be safe and please keep writing.

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Before we get started, I’d like to put out a content warning about partner abuse in this book. The abuse isn’t gratuitous, it’s pivotal to the plot, and you can’t skip over it. Please protect yourself.

The Space Between Worlds follows the story of Cara, a woman who travels between worlds, quite literally, thanks to a technology that allows her to travel through the multiverse. The caveat to this travel is that should a version of yourself already exist on the world travelled to, you will not survive the initial arrival. Because of this, people who have endured high-risk lives, such as Cara’s impoverished upbringing and life in Ashtown, a town exposed to the harsh elements of a heavily polluted Earth. Cara has died enough times that she is able to traverse to over 300 worlds safely, offering her the appearance of safety in the rich, environmentally-protected city of Wiley. But that protection pivots on the Eldridge company’s need for her particular skills and a secret she must keep at all costs.

In every parallel Earth Cara travels to, she meets different versions of her loved ones. Her mother ranges from loving prostitute to a disapproving zealot, her sister from innocent to cunning. Her once and former lover, Nik Nik, is always cruel, always abusive, and always the Mad Max-like emperor of Ashtown when she finds him. Sometimes he knows her, sometimes he doesn’t, but her Ashtown family remains under threat beneath his rule and their history. When she finds a version of Nik Nik that is not, everything in the all the worlds she thought she knew begins to unravel and Cara discovers that she’s not the only one at Eldridge with secrets.

Johnson’s novel makes for excellent commentary about privilege. The disparity of life between the rich Wileyites and the Ashtowners holds no secrets: we see the trauma of Cara’s lives, the terror of the Runners as a child, the rare kindness she found in the safety of her mother’s brothel. We see the obliviousness of the Wileyites, who have little idea what life is like outside their protected bubble.

I found the abusive sections difficult to read but the ending of this book, oh the ending. It is a breath of beauty, an ending so perfect I had to close my eyes and hug my e-reader for a moment. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but as a writer? This is the kind of ending I aspire to, an ending that takes into account everything that has come before, the story it is telling, and the world that has been built. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars, but the ending gets 6 out of 5.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Flash Fiction Online

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help you get a feel for the editor’s tastes or the theme of the anthology.

This week we’re subbing to Flash Fiction Online and we’re reading August by Katie Piper from their August issue.

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Flash Fiction Online

Eligibility: complete stories from 500-1,000 words

Take Note: writers may submit up to three pieces of flash fiction at a time (as three individual submissions through Submittable)

 Submit by: ongoing submission call, currently open

Payment Offered: $0.08 per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

 A Story to Familiarize Yourself with the Editor’s Tastes

This week we’re reading Katie Piper’s August. Click here to go read that at Flash Fiction Online. This is a creepy little tale where Piper makes an interesting use of detail. We’ve got a girl who discovers her grandmother’s grave in the woods near her house and who is clearly struggling with a strained relationship and possible neglect from her mother, but we’re only given brushes of these things and our imagination does the work of filling in the details. There’s a trick to this: it makes the story as much the reader’s as the writer’s; it makes us emotionally committed.

In between these gaps, Piper does give us details of the dozens of items lining the Walgreens shelves, the who’s a cat we never meet does not like, what is happening with that man’s tattoos??, and in this seeming minutiae the rules of this story world are built around us. There is room here for magic, but otherwise this world is not so different from our own. Stylistically, it’s an intriguing and compelling technique I’m tempting to play with myself. I hope this story inspires you to try something different with your writing too.

In the meantime, be well and happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Apparition Lit

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help you get a feel for the editor’s tastes or the theme of the anthology.

This week we’re submitting stories to Apparition Lit‘s themed call and we’re reading The Limits of Magic by Samantha Mills.

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Apparition Lit

Eligibility: unpublished, speculative stories from 1,000 to 5,000 words on the theme of Satisfaction

Take Note: all responses will be given by the 15th of the month following the call’s closure

Submit by: August 31st, 2020

Payment offered: $0.03 per word with a minimum of $30

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A Story to Familiarize Yourself with the Editors’ Tastes

This week we’re reading (or listening to the audio version of) The Limits of Magic by Samantha Mills and published by Apparition Lit. The magazine has included an “creator spotlight” after the story is finished, so be sure to read through that section below the story for encouraging stats and submission drama. You can click here to go to read those at Apparition Lit now.

One thing that stands out to me in The Limits of Magic is its depth. We begin in a narrow world, thinking we’re reading a certain type of story, but then it shifts, expands, and reveals a new depth, a new view of the world of the story. More than once, the story evolves like this in unexpected ways.

The Limits of Magic is also a story of sustained oppression, of lives so terrible they cannot be contemplated for fear of becoming unbearable, or more unbearable, than they already are. The scaffolding of a fictional religion is set up to be the main oppressor, or the tool of oppression, while women, and children, bear their suffering. Fear not, it’s not all doom and gloom, this is a story of hope and what happens when you decide you won’t be complicit in your own oppression anymore.

I hope you enjoy this week’s story as much as I did, and good luck to everyone submitting to this call. Be well, and happy writing.