Beside each book, you'll find an excerpt. These excerpts are different from the ones available on each book's official page, so please give them a read. Maybe you'll even find a new favorite or a good holiday gift.
Covalent bonds, edited by Trysh Thompson
From "Critical Hit" by Cori Vidae
“Ragnar’s hammer crushes the beast’s skull, popping its eyes out. Still attached to their optic nerve they dangle, bobbing freely—”
“Gross! Do you have to be so graphic?”
“What? I’m painting the scene.”
“Next thing I know,” Lila said, wrinkling up her nose. “You’re going to be telling us how it smells.”
“That wouldn’t be so bad,” Terrance said with a shrug.
“Right?” Hallie agreed, peering over the taped together binders she was using as her dungeon master screen. “We’re telling a story here.”
“You could just say, ‘Natural twenty. Critical hit. You do double damage’.”
“I could, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.”
“You mean it wouldn’t be as gross,” Lila said.
“Whatever,” Hallie flipped her reference books closed and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. You killed it, saved the village, yay.”
“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming.” Terrance stretched and leaned back in his chair. His stretch pulled his shirt from his jeans, revealing a band of olive skin just above his waistband. A sprinkling of dark hairs, two shades darker than those on his head, trailed down from his belly button to disappear into his jeans. Now that was a treasure trail she’d like to follow.
Solomon's Bell by Michelle Lowery Combs
With Caleb and Haley gathered close, I open The Golem of Prague to the black and white sketch of the ancient cityscape near the beginning of the book.
Have the wisdom to discern what you need, I hear Rashmere in my mind.
With everything in me, I wish to somehow be among the castles and cathedrals of the Golem’s legendary city. And then the book grows very large, or we grow very small—I can’t tell which. The air around us ripples and changes. I tense with fear. Have courage, I hear Rashmere again.
“Grab onto me,” I say to Caleb and Haley. Collectively, we lean into the growing whoosh of air around us. Together we take the steps that lead us into 16th century Prague.
The stars shine like diamonds in the cloudless night sky while a fat full moon glows milky white near the horizon. Prague lies ahead of us. Hundreds if not thousands of colored glass windows gleam like fiery jewels scattered across the city. It’s a magical sight, and I stare at it open-mouthed.
Dream Eater by K. Bird Lincoln
“I’m Ken,” the guy said, and bowed in a formal way that reminded me of Dad at his sushi restaurant.
Ken? The name did not fit him in the least. “Ken” should be a shaggy-haired, blonde hulk of a football coed. Mr. Sniffer-Stalker’s hair was that deep, deep brown that could be black or could lighten in the sun into a chestnut. His tall, slim build was more like an Olympic swimmer’s than a football player’s. Thick-fringed, glinting dark eyes and the barest hint of an eyelid. I still couldn’t decide if he was mixed or full Asian. Either way, “Ken” was not him. There was nothing boy-toy Barbie about him at all.
At least my name wouldn’t sound ridiculous now. “Koi,” I said.
His wide lips curled into a smile. “As in ‘flirtatiously modest’?”
“No, my mother had a fish fetish. ‘Koi’ as in ‘carp’.”
He bowed again, and I had to stop myself from bowing back. Exactly like Dad when he got together with the other Japanese business owner geezers for endless pints of nama Sapporo Ichiban at Yuzu. Or, at least Dad before.
“Well, Ken,” I said, “I guess I owe you one. Thanks for rescuing me from that professor guy.”
“A professor, huh?” The amused glint sharpened. “My pleasure,” he said in a low, rumbly voice. Warmth crept down my neck, spreading flushed wings across my back. Where did he get off having a voice like that? Like actors in one of Dad’s samurai dramas without the gruff undertones.
“Thanks again,” I mumbled and downed the last of my latte. Definitely time to get out of here before I actually started scoping out my own stalker. Ken probably wasn’t really a stalker or crazy, but there’d been enough time for the truly creepy professor to clear the area. I had places to go. Non-creepy Professors to dazzle with lit critiques.
Shattered Fates by Rebecca Roland
Malia let out a startled cry when the presence pushed against her. In an instant, the presence was like a bubble forming in her mind, pushing against her skull, and growing until it nearly burst. Then it withdrew, just as quick.
“Malia?” Rasmus asked. His hand was on the dagger he wore on a belt, and he glanced around.
Malia found herself standing. She must have leaped to her feet when that presence reacted to her.
Ankti had also shot to her feet and looked around them, then up.
“It’s all right,” Malia said, her speeding heart gradually slowing. “I just—” What? Experienced another person in her mind? After all she’d gone through, that would worry Rasmus too much, especially if she mentioned it felt like the mutara. She wanted to find out more before bringing this up with anybody. “I fell asleep and had a nightmare.”
“Oh.” His shoulders relaxed and his hand fell from the dagger. Ankti frowned and crossed her arms. She glanced up one more time before nodding.
“We should get a move on,” Malia said.
She would have preferred a longer rest, but the sooner she found Enuwal and got to her grandmother’s home, the better she’d feel. The skies remained empty save for birds and a few scant clouds. There was no possibility that the Maddion knew about the barrier. Unless they had something to do with it. She urged her tired legs on.
Bite Somebody Else by Sara Dobie Bauer
Imogene hid behind her sunglasses and a rum punch as Celia extoled the virtues of not biting one of Ian’s brothers at their wedding. “I really don’t want any open wounds at my nuptials,” she said over the clatter of beer bottles and disorderly conduct at their favorite Florida dive bar, The Drift Inn.
“What if I have to punch someone in the nose?” Imogene asked.
“Except maybe my brother Randall. Nobody likes Randall, but I don’t even know if he’s coming,” Ian said from his bar stool. He sat there, in shorts and a t-shirt, reading Modern Bride. He flipped a page and said, “Ooo, pretty!”
“Pretty.” Imogene licked her lips.
“Imogene.” Celia elbowed Imogene in the side.
“Okay.” She held up her palms and shook them like jazz hands.“I won’t bite any of Ian’s brothers.”
“Or anyone else.”
Imogene rolled her eyes, which Celia couldn’t see behind the red, plastic sunglasses. “Or anyone else,” she mumbled. She eyed a tall, dark, masculine shadow that watched her from the corner of the dingy bar. She made a show of pouting her lips just for fun.
Equus, edited by Rhonda Parrish
From "Eel and Bloom" by Diana Hurlburt
Three strange horses stood outside the house on the day the corpse flowers bloomed.
They were strange in that I didn’t know them by sight but they were normal old horses, warmbloods of some variety, not limerunners—water-bred, strange by nature. The piebald snorted as I came up the drive, the chestnut blinked, and the gray eyed me, one eye brown and one milky blue. I suspected he wouldn’t like to have people on that blue-eyed side. Voices floated from the front windows, my mother’s lost amid lower ones, men’s voices, and I stopped before opening the door.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” one man said, and another added, “Thinking to out-smart us, she is,” in a strange, coarse accent. They fell to squabbling, a mess of chatter about the night’s race, every other word caught in the gap-boarded walls.
As my mother’s voice responded, the wind picked up, chiding my eavesdropping. It whistled through the Australian pines, the tongue of it hard against the windowpanes and carrying a scent—not rain or exhaust from the highway a quarter mile west but something heavy and rotten, some dead flesh I didn’t feel like dealing with. It was summer, not butchering season, and I wanted spring water in my nostrils, hay and horse sweat, not death.
The door bumped open and hit me in the chest, and I stepped aside as three men came out. Whatever the dead animal was, wherever the carrion lay, it was less important than the business the horses’ riders had been here about. No one came to see my mother this close to sunset because they wanted to.
Each of the men looked at me as they passed, which suited me not at all.
Vanity in Dust by Cheryl Low
He couldn’t will himself to move, afraid of falling and dying. When he felt eyes on him, Ferrin lifted his head to scan the farthest edge of the crowd. It wasn’t difficult to find the one watching him. It was a testament to the bad dust that no one else had taken notice of the Queen’s Wrath. He stood as a solitary soldier, with narrow body and silver eyes, occupying the doorway of the warehouse, staring through the mess of it all at Ferrin.
He felt the weight of that gaze and knew, with gut twisting certainty, that the Queen finally saw him.
He waited, desperate with hope that the Wrath would end the madness and save him. But that hope was madness all its own. The Wrath raised one arm, fingers dressed in the black armor that coated his entire body. He never broke eye contact with Ferrin, and Ferrin could not will himself to look away. The lights grew brighter. Brighter and brighter. Ferrin let out a strangled sob just before the bulbs burst, one after another, throughout the entire warehouse. Darkness swallowed them up.
The Queen’s Wrath vanished from the doorway and in rushed the violent flutter of little wings, soon bringing the sounds of the room to a horrible pitch. The pixies would not care if the dust was good or bad. They would not care if it was left on the table, burning in a cigarette, swirling in the tea, or hot in their blood. It was rich with magic, and that was all their tiny stomachs cared to know.
SonofaWitch!, edited by Trysh Thompson
From "The Perfect Mate Fiasco" by Frances Pauli
Rowan inhaled from her center, pulled up a tingle of earthy energy, and opened her eyes. The candle flame lighting her altar fluttered. The wine in her chalice glowed bloody red, and the Golden Retriever in her living room let loose a jolly round of barking that shifted her attention from the spell she needed to go perfectly, without distraction.
“Quiet, beast!” Rowan rubbed her forehead, streaking rose oil too close to her eyes. She blinked but only managed to make her vision blur more. “Ugh.”
The dog barked again, bounded against the makeshift barrier of chairs and framed posters she’d propped up to keep him out of the kitchen. His name was Rex, and he had rotten timing.
“Down. Bad dog.” Rowan stood and blew out the candle. A sixty pound, bouncing retriever and open flames didn’t mix. “Do you need to go out?”
The spell had to happen when the moon was full and the stars were right. She’d waited long enough, lived alone in a house with only a dog for company long enough. She’d gathered her pink candle, the ribbon, herbs, and the oils she needed. She’d spent two weeks agonizing over the list of traits she considered vital in a partner.
Rowan was ready.
Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say, edited by Rhonda Parrish
I could have appealed to the dark-suited Skeleton King, standing in the back corner of the elevator with another vampire goon, but he was on his phone and I didn’t want to bother him. Also, there’s something to be said for taking care of your own problems, and I didn’t want to appeal for permission to enter the elevator I’d been riding long before this vamp was undead.
I put a hand on his arm to gently but firmly lift it out of my way and started to step inside. The vampire twisted to plant a hand on my solar plexus and shoved hard. I stumbled back against the brick wall opposite the elevator door, more surprised by the audacity than hurt by the attack itself. Vampire goon came after me, kicking over one of several trash cans lined up in the ill-lit alley. It was one of the old metal kind, and it clattered over the cement and spat refuse as its lid skittered free.
The movement and noise pulled the Skeleton King from his phone call, and while it’s harder to read a face with no eyebrows, his posture definitely stiffened, even for a figure made entirely of bone. “Frank,” he said, taking a step out of his corner. “I think you should—that is Mrs. Claus.”
“Mrs. Claus?” Frank the vampire bodyguard didn’t seem to get it. “What’s she doing here? She’s not the Big Man.” He sneered, showing canines. “Go home and bake some cookies, Mrs. Claus. Maybe watch some Cake Boss.”
I stomped on the upturned rim of the metal trash can lid, flipping it into the air, and caught the handle left-handed as it rotated toward me. I punched it solidly into his face and felt a satisfyingly solid connection.
“Shield boss, actually,” I quipped, but he didn’t catch my terrible pun because he was busy stumbling backward and trying to stay conscious.