All Hail the Pumpkin King

The abrupt appearance of pumpkins and shops clogged with cobwebs is enough of a clue to even my sleep addled brain that Halloween is nearing. I have mixed feelings about this time of year. I love the cold fogs that we get in my elevated patch of Yorkshire, those mists that soak up sound so readily and make my boots muffled as I walk the dogs with my head lamp bobbing away. The actual night of Halloween less so. Sure when I was a kid I loved the macabre festival nature, and the infiltration in the Eighties of the Americanised Trick or Treat (which no-one had heard of in Leeds until ET came along). As an adult, less so—given that my primary role is trudging around in the drizzle whilst my kids beg at doors in costume.

Now I’ve always been aware that Halloween was one of those hijacked events, a bit like Easter—where the Christian faith had built a new meaning on a day/period/festival with more pagan origins. But it wasn’t until I researched for my new book—The Spectral Assassin—that I discovered the beliefs about Halloween were especially relevant to my new book, and the Nu Knights series.
So, from the new book we discover more than we really wanted to know about Halloween from Aunt Gaynor, whilst her son Nick cringes nearby…

‘Trick or treat?’

The three children regarded Gaynor with eyes half way between hope and doubt. She tugged her shawl around her shoulders and smiled.

‘However such a wondrous festival has been corrupted by the commercial taint of Americanism I shall never know. Are you aware of the Gaelic origins of All Hallows Eve, children?’

The tallest of the children was dressed as a werewolf and he shrugged. ‘Is Gaelic what dad likes on bread at Pizza Paradise?’

‘Umm, that’s garlic, child. No, Halloween is a corruption of Samhain, the Gaelic festival at the middle point between autumn’s equinox and winter’s solstice.’

‘I told you we should’ve skipped this house,’ hissed a second child dressed in fairy wings.

‘It was held that on Samhain that the barriers between worlds were weaker, more malleable, and that those of the faerie world, and other such lands, were more able to cross into ours.’

‘Mother!’ Nick said, pushing past Gaynor. He held forth a bowl with a dozen brown squares inside. The children took them with all the zeal of picking up a dead crow, before leaving.

‘Granola, mother, really?’ Nick said.

‘I can hardly give them chocolate formed in the bowels of a multinational corporation can I?’

Nick glanced at the trio of children as they skipped off to the next cottage, and then closed the door.

***

Samhain is one of the four Celtic seasonal festivals (the others being Bealtaine, Imbolc, and Lughnasadh) and is the event marking the end of the harvest period and the commencement of the winter period. For some pagans it marks the Celtic new year (for others this is Imbolc). The belief was that at these times that the barriers between worlds were weaker—so called ‘liminal times.’ So for the Celts that was the barrier between the normal world and that of the faeries that had become weakened and thus it was a day when the faeries could more easily enter the world.

The boundaries between worlds, in the case of the Nu-Knights series ‘alternate worlds’, are often dangerously thin. These rifts are perceived by two of the key characters—Sam, and his schizophrenic older brother, Ben. In the first book—the Infinity Bridge—we learned that the rifts were windows into realities where history had taken a different course, so called alternate worlds. We also discovered that passage was possible—in the Nu-Knight’s case via use of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse). Perhaps Samhain and other liminal times were instances where the passage between alternates was somehow easier, the rifts more frequent or more stable… And of course, in the multitude of alternate worlds, there may even be one where magic is real, and faeries are rife.

On Samhain the Celts also believed that the weakening of barriers occurred between our world and that of the spirits of the dead. Accordingly the spirits were honoured and remembered at feasts, and they also believed that the presence of spirits allowed their priests—the Druids—to more readily predict the future. At these celebrations the Celts brought food for feast, had slaughtered animals for the winter, and often wore costumes of animal heads and skins. Pieces of the bonfire were then taken to homes as protection.

The common traditions of Halloween can be seen evolving from Samhain. The apple was a symbolic fruit of the afterlife and immortality (yeah, seriously) and the game of apple-bobbing comes from the ancient feasts. More recently (as in 16th century recently) the tradition of wearing costume and journeying from door to door was observed. The costumes harken back to those Celtic feasts and were felt to protect one from the spirits by impersonating them (presumably if you had a crap costume then you’d be sleeping with the light on in case you’d offended some spirit). Agreeably in the 16th century the costumed pagans would go around singing for food rather than candy, but I was fascinated to see just how far back the costumes of ‘trick or treat’ went.

All Saints Day (also called All Hallows Day) was a Roman Catholic holy day from the Dark Ages, originally in May but later moved to November. There’s debate as to why this happened, with some historians believing that the Celts influenced the Catholics to change to coincide All Saints Day with Samhain. Whatever the reason, the amalgamation lives on as All Hallows’ Eve (or Even, or E’en).

So what does the weakening between the worlds mean for Sam, Nick, Annie, and Ben? Nu-Knights 2: The Spectral Assassin is published next month, five years after the first book. Watch out for the cover reveal soon, and then get ready for an adventure even more exciting than the first book.

 

Three Stories We Keep Reading over and over and over

Throughout the past three years, I have been able to ascertain that there are three stories, types of stories, or story memes retold again and again which nobody is willing to welcome any longer, and henceforth should be exiled to the dustbins of hosiery! Here they are in all of their unspoken glory – and beware the variations, too. Unfortunately, I have written each of them.

1.

The love story. Emotional linkage. Moreover, two young romantics slathering over each other. Worse yet if one of them is of some special, protected category such as ghost, gremlin, zombie, homeboy, vampire, wolfboy, fairy, fairy tale meme, or absent-minded English teacher. It is enough that we recognize that people have this flaw, this need for completion, but must the rest of us read about it? see it splayed open across the grand screen? discuss it through the night on social media-  as though it were a traditional recipe for disaster? Sure, we have the so-called “anti-romance” – but isn’t that just another sheep of another color than black? Let them do what they do in private and leave the rest of us alone, thank you very much.

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Variation: The love story set in a dystopian society where good is evil and black is white and everyone is out to get everyone else because that is the way of the world and nobody is better or worse than anyone else and the equal ones are slightly more equal than the others who are not. Often they must play a game to determine who is most equal.

Example. A Beautiful Chill is an example of the oft-repeated cliche of campus unions and reunions where Art & Letters rejoice in unyielding depravity up to the final revelation of emotional slaughter. Woe is me, sayeth the love-lorn Author. (Credit for keeping it real; that is, on Earth and in modern times.)

2.

The discovery of a new world. In this avenue I would add all the doorway, portal, gateway, wardrobe, tunnel, and wormhole stories where one of “us” goes somewhere else and woo-hoo it’s almost like where we came from (or it’s quite different) and aren’t we amazed! And what does our hero/heroine do there? Exploit the darn place to within an inch of its history! Such stories have been foisted upon us usually as warnings of what we have become or shall become if we do not pay attention, pay through the nose, or pay the first-born child of every family in debt to our fanatical financials and lords of leisure! And yet we take no heed and continue to fall into our dubious inheritance. No more! “If it ain’t here, it ain’t real,” quoth one long-lost quotation master. Who should care for a world of pure invention?

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Variation: The parallel universe, the time travel story, the dystopian tale – all of them are poor representations of the main theme, us doing whatever me must, all relying on knowledge of our existing set of circumstances in order to make pun of all that we hold close to us and dreary. They mean to trick you. Smoke and mirrors, just smoke and mirrors. Mind not the poor excuse that is what you have now, for life could be far, far worse over there. Be glad you are here.

Example: The Dream Land, a lengthy tome [read ‘trilogy’] ostensibly of interdimensional [read ‘doorway, portal, etc.’] intrigue [read ‘political skulduggery’], alien romance [see above complaint], and world domination in volving two high school science nerds who grow up to become far too dangerous. Too many giant war rabbits for my liking, also. And a comet just for overkill.

3.

The medieval family clash. As a variation on ‘new worlds’ is the ‘old world’ meme. I speak here of our vainglorious return to days of yore. Either said stories are poor recreations of history mismanaged or they are faux pas histories which serve the purpose of greasepainted stages of perversity. Need we more of that? There is good reason those days of yore are done – and none too soon: we who represent the greater good of our species are simply too embarrassed by what we are capable of bestowing upon our peers. We seek atonement, forgiveness, or another round of the merry-go-round. While we may wish to relive the highlights and lowlifes, the sum total of our aspirations is a rousing return to that which never was and cannot be all in the name of trying it again for the better and falling, indeed, crashing from great dragon-borne heights to the fire-pit below!

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Variation: The story that hides in a return to mythological creations and through them and their unfolding narrativity seek to impress us with the sheer drudgery of life in those days. Be glad of the life you have now and forget those of long ago. Yet such creatures and the winsome gods and goddesses themselves make for poor judges of our modern tastes. Be not fooled or made a fool!

Example: After Ilium, where the narrative necessarily parallels the standard liturgy yet is viewed through the rose-colored lenses of a neophyte (often called ‘the lucky loser’) for the purpose of excising tears from unwary readers. It’s a quite dubious in the depiction of an infamous battle: the wooden horse and the glimmering walls and the shiny gold.

 

There is a solution. Seek not for such misguided diversions but instead search out only fair and acceptable solutions to the diversions you crave, for they do exist. Break free and live a life beneath a tree, in the fields of the locust, all barefoot and squishy, with fluffy-bunny clouds overhead and the wind in your hair – like all good little munchkins who have survived remakes of wizard-themed films. And if that fails you, then there likely is little hope; you might as well embrace your day job (night, whatever) with hardy gusto. Good day to you!

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I plead guilty, charged or not. I have dabbled in the literary arts and dared sail among the gods and goddesses of my imagination, no matter the fatigue in my wings. I saw the light above the clouds, heard the creak of heavenly gates, and yet, in the end, as imagination faltered, I flew on. And here I am . . . for what it’s worth.

“We are all little stars,” said someone on Twitter yesterday.

#ReadMe: Into the Woods, a fantasy anthology

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Here we are at the end of the year. We’ve had a great year here at Myrddin Publishing, with several new books and new authors.

And now we are beginning a new year with the launch of our new anthology, Into the Woods. This collection of amazing tales came about almost by accident.

One day last summer I was looking through stock images I’d found for a cover I was designing for another author. I came across a wonderful image of a lonely house set in the woods. I’m not sure why, but suddenly, like the proverbial dog after a squirrel, I was off looking at images of houses in the woods.

Of course, my brain being wired to write stories, I found myself imagining all sorts of scenarios and plots to go with these amazing images. Then, it occurred to me that if I was inspired to write by these images, my fellow authors here at Myrddin Publishing would also be.

I threw out a challenge to the group: Write a short story about a house in the woods. The only caveat was the tale had to fall under the genre of fantasy, and the theme was “a house in the woods.”

And wow! What a response– I received nine wildly different tales, ranging from humor to ghostly, to romantic, to horror. These ten tales are some of the best I have read.

In the first tale, “A Peculiar Symbiosis,” Alison DeLuca gives us the story of a man who discovers he loves his wife–but only after she is dead.

“The Forest House” is my own take on the Tam Lin tale. Tam Lin is a character in a legendary ballad originating from the Scottish Borders as collected by Francis Child in the 19th century, but there are many tales from all over northern Europe featuring variations on his name, and the story will have slight variations. It is also associated with a reel of the same name, also known as Glasgow Reel. I had always wondered if Tam Lin and the Faerie Queen had a child, and if they had, what would have happened to it when Janet rescued Tam?

In “A House in the Woods,” Stephen Swartz takes us back to the 1960s with this dark fantasy. Two boys playing in the woods come across an abandoned house, and discover a true ghost story.

Irene Roth Luvaul takes us deep into the forest in “The Guardian.” A woman discovers her family’s history, and the terrible secret a cabinet once held.

Ross M. Kitson offers up a “A Matter of Faith.” In this dark prequel to Kitson’s epic Prism series, an uptight paladin must find a way to work with a free-thinking druid, if he is to be successful in finding and killing a demon.

In “If I Have to Spell it Out” Marilyn Rucker lightens things up with her hilarious take on two cousins quarreling over the tenancy of their family home, via letters.

“A Haunted Castle” by Lisa Zhang Wharton shows us that a house can can also be a haunted castle in the Bavarian Forest, in her hilarious, hallucinogenic tale of ghosts, rottweilers, and a costume party.

Our own master of horror, Shaun Allan, swings us back to the dark side with a horrifying twist on the Hansel and Gretel tale, with “Rose.” Told with his usual flair for words and style, this is a chilling story of demonic magic. It is definitely not you mam’s Hansel and Gretel!

In “Hidden,” Carlie Cullen takes us deep into the woods, where two young women take shelter from a storm in an abandoned house, with terrible consequences.

For the final tale in this treasury, Lee French presents us with a post-Civil War tale of star-crossed love, in her magical tale, “Forever.” Tara and Marcus share a forbidden love–and only one place is safe for them.

We’re celebrating the launch of this fantastic collection of tales with a launch party on Facebook. You can join us there until January 2nd, 2016. Myrddin Authors will be dropping in and out of the party, offering gifts and prizes, and also sharing their own brand of craziness to help you kick off your New Year with a bang. To join us, click on this link, which will take you to the 2016 Myrddin Facebook New Years Party.

I am continually amazed and awed by the talent of the wonderful authors I am privileged to work with here at Myrddin Publishing. You can purchase this wonderful collection of short stories at Amazon by clicking on the buy button below:

Into the Woods: a fantasy anthology
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Connie J. Jasperson is an editor and a co-founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group. She is the author of the epic fantasy Tower of Bones series, and also the medieval fantasy, Huw the Bard.

FantasyCon 2015 by Carlie M A Cullen

As a member of the British Fantasy Society, I always try and go to FantasyCon every year. It’s a place where publishers, agents, authors, and fans come together and celebrate the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.

The one great thing about this event is how friendly everyone is – even top publishers and authors will take the time to stop and have a chat. You do have to approach them yourself, especially when you’re new to it, but once you’ve been going three or four years they will recognise you and stop for a chat regardless.

This year’s convention was in Nottingham. The hotel was opposite the East Midlands Conference Centre which was very handy unless it was raining. Unfortunately, there were no covered walkways between the two. Was I expecting too much?

On arrival at the convention, you sign in and are given a lanyard, which you wear all the time, and a tote bag sponsored by one of the publishers attending the event. Next you join the queue to several tables groaning under the weight of free books which you can pick up and take home. No exaggeration, I picked up forty-two books and I didn’t take one of everything available, I only chose the ones that interested me.

After the opening ceremony, the event started. There were book launches, readings, and various panels you could go to, which mainly discussed various topics to do with fantasy, editing, and publishing, plus workshops. As there are several of these going on at the same time, it’s very much a case of carefully choosing which ones to attend. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have two panels you want to go to which clash.

I attended really interesting panels, some of which made me realise that I occasionally need to do a little more research before writing certain scenes in my books.

Entertainment was laid on for the evenings, and you had a choice of what to attend. Alternatively, you could hang out in one of the bars and start making new friends, catch up with those made in previous years and broaden your number of contacts. This is particularly important if you’re a new author. The contacts you make can be invaluable. Personally, I really enjoy the social aspect.

The highlight of the event for me was meeting Brandon Sanderson, who was the special guest. He is down-to-earth and generous with his time. There was a signing session and as I have most of his Mistborn series, I took them along with me. He not only signed them, he agreed to have his photo taken with me, and gave me the opportunity to ask him questions and generally chat. He didn’t try to rush me away as some authors do; Brandon’s ethos is to give as much of his time to each person who came to see him as was needed and would stay until every person who had queued was seen, even if it meant over-running. It’s a shame not all authors do the same.

Brandon Sanderson & Me 2015 FCon

The last day of FantasyCon, a mass signing took place in the Dealer Room. This room was where publishers and self-published authors could take a table (or more) and sell their books. Before that was the British Fantasy Society AGM. All members are encouraged to attend as they can help shape the society by putting forward their opinions and suggestions.

After that, the Awards Banquet and the BFS Awards ceremony took place. I didn’t stay for that. The banquet is always priced quite high, usually more than I can afford, plus I had the four-hour return journey to consider.

I always gain so much from this convention which is why I go every year. I would certainly recommend it, even to seasoned writers. After all, there is always something more we can learn.

Steampunk and Me

There’s a certain irony as I sit here in unseasonal October sunshine outside my house that I’m about to write a piece on the fascinations of Steampunk. When I begin pondering one of my favourite genres I almost always visualise belching chimneys, foggy cobbled roads, gaslamps, cogs, cogs and more cogs, with a dash of airship and automaton thrown in for good measure. What is it about such atmospheric images that fascinates me (and many others) so? What’s the enduring appeal of Steampunk?

The genre is considered a relatively new one, although its origins in the Victorian science-fiction of HG Wells and Jules Verne clearly shows its beginnings from over a century ago. The term was first coined in relation to the work of Jeter, particularly the remarkable novel Infernal Devices, but really gained momentum with the popularity of The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling. In this book the creation of a steam-powered computer and its influence on an alternate history really captured the essence of steam punk—variations of technology based on steam and clockwork, with alternate histories/ realities.

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Although those works were the early ones in the newly named genre there are, of course, several notable books with the Steampunk ethos before Jeter and Gibson. Moorcock’s Nomad of the Time Stream, Harry Harrison’s A Trans-Atlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, and Tim Power’s awesome Anubis Gates were all pioneers in the (as then unnamed) genre. Personally I loved Bryan Talbot’s work on Luther Arkwright, which counts as one of the finest works of comicdom ever for me, and was a huge inspiration for my own novel, The Infinity Bridge.

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But what is it about the genre that appeals? I think one of the key reasons is the Victoriana aspects. There’s a romanticism about the Victorian era, partly because of the literature we have come to love from the time (Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Elliot, Hardy, and Wilde), and partly because of the seminal nature of the historical events of the time. For the British it was a time of Empire, and often we forget the rather atrocious treatment of the colonies, especially of Africa and India, and focus on the utter British-ness of the culture. It seemed a time of heroes, and of valour, and of values and integrity, and this nobility of the time with its intrinsic reservations, and politeness, and precise manner of talking, contrasts so vividly with the slang ridden, often selfish nature of modern society.

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So take this time of reservation, and its stylishness, and throw into it alternate history and science fiction and you have something rather cool. There was a definite beauty to the imagery of the era—brass, clockwork, cogs and gears—the mighty steam trains of the time are still stunning to regard. In this modern age of plastic and minimalism the grandeur of Victorian technology seems all the more appealing. And take this technology and then advance it into fiction—giant brass robots, airships, huge Nautilus-like submarines, clockwork cybernetics—and you have far more style than the sterile realms of modern CGI laden science-fiction.

Finally, to me, there’s also a rather naughty appeal to Steampunk. As we sometimes drown in a sea of excessive political correctness it is fun to escape into an era where our heroes are rather unwittingly non-PC. And beneath the Victorian primness there is always a seedy undercurrent, of backstreets, and smog, and opium dens, and bordellos, and supressed sexuality, which seeps out as the drama of our fictional world unfolds.

So what about you other Steampunk fans? What’s the appeal for you? Is it the style, or the stories? The Victorians and their subtle hypocrisy, or the romanticism of an era already steeped in classic literature? Whichever, its appeal is only set to grow and infiltrate media previously ignorant to its brass-coated charms.

How do readers find books in the digital age?

How do readers find books in the digital age? (Photo Credit: MorgueFile.com)

It a burning question and one that we at Myrddin Publishing are keen to explore!

Do readers still read paperbacks, hardcovers or are eBooks really taking over the reading world? And where do you go to find new books and authors?

We would like to find out just how exactly people do search for and purchase books these days – and that is where your help is needed.

By filling in our survey and sharing it will your friends, we will be able to better target you, the reader, with just what you crave – new books!

Clicking here will take you to the survey

Thank you for taking the time to participate in our short survey.

A Simpler Guide to Finding Free eBooks: A step-by-step guide to discovering and downloading free e-books for the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Android, iPad and other e-readers

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The all new A Simpler Guide to Finding Free eBooks: A step-by-step guide to discovering and downloading free e-books for the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Android, iPad and other e-readers is here!

Are you an avid reader? Do you find yourself with time on your hands and you’ve spent your e-book budget for the month? Why not try the millions of free e-books which are just waiting for you to find and love them.

This guide is packed full of tips and tricks, illustrated with screenshots with a subject index in the back. A Simpler Guide to Finding Free eBooks is designed to help you find e-books quickly and easily with an alphebetical listing of websites which hold free ebooks from classics to modern works.

There’s too much choice, I just want to find the free e-books on Amazon. This book has a section just for you. If you own a Kindle and you just want to be able to find books using the Amazon system, then looking under the Getting free eBooks using your Kindle section is what you are looking for.

Contents

  • PART ONE: 1
  • Introduction. 1
    • Who is this book for?. 2
    • How to use this book. 2
    • So what are eBooks?. 3
    • Types of eBooks. 4
    • Why are they free?. 5
    • eBooks and DRM… 6
    • Copyright 7
  • PART TWO: 9
    • Getting hold of eBooks. 9
    • Top five sources for eBooks. 10
    • Getting free eBooks using your Kindle 10
      • Discovering free eBooks using the Kindle Paperwhite. 12
      • Finding free eBooks using the shopping cart 12
      • Finding free eBooks using the browser 16
      • Discovering free eBooks using the Kindle Fire. 20
      • Discovering free eBooks using the Kindle app.. 21
    • Free Sources of eBooks. 27
    • All Romance e-books. 28
    • Amazon. 31
    • General Browsing (Amazon.com) 32
    • General Browsing (Amazon.co.uk) 34
    • Browse by top 100 books in the Kindle Store. 35
    • Assayer, The. 38
    • Author Websites. 40
    • Baen Free Library. 41
    • Barnes and Noble. 43
    • Bibliotastic. 45
    • BookBoon.com… 46
    • Book Gold Mine. 48
    • Book Gorilla. 49
    • Book Lending.. 54
    • Bookyards. 59
    • Buddhanet. 61
    • Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 63
    • Comic Book Plus (formerly Golden Age Comics) 65
      • Viewing Online. 66
      • Downloading the eBooks. 70
    • DailyFreeBooks. 79
    • Diesel eBook Store. 83
    • eBooks@Adelaide. 85
    • eHarlequin. 88
    • eReaderIQ.. 90
    • eReader News Today. 91
    • Everyone’s Reading.. 92
    • Feedbooks. 95
    • Free Books 4 Doctors. 99
    • Free Computer Books. 100
    • Free Medical Journals. 101
    • Free Speculative Fiction Online. 103
    • Free Tech Books. 105
    • Girle-books. 106
    • Google Books. 107
      • Finding the books directly through the books search. 108
      • Finding the books through Google Books from the Google homepage. 109
      • Reading the books. 110
    • Gutenberg Project. 112
    • Internet Archive. 114
    • Internet Sacred Text Archive, The. 119
    • Jungle Search. 120
    • Libraries/Overdrive. 122
    • Library Thing Member Giveaways. 125
    • Many Books. 128
    • Mobile Read.. 130
    • MobiPocket. 132
    • Munseys. 133
    • National Academies Press. 135
    • Obooko.. 140
    • Online Books Page, The. 144
    • Open Library. 145
    • Pixel of Ink. 153
    • ProPlay. 154
    • Pubmed.. 155
    • Read Print. 158
    • Retro Read.. 161
    • Royal Society Journal 162
    • Smashwords. 164
    • Sultan.org.. 167
    • Technical Books Online. 168
    • Twitter. 169
    • WikiBooks. 170
  • PART THREE: 173
    • Getting hold of Free Audio Books. 173
    • Listening to the audio books. 175
    • Free Android audio players. 175
      • Books Should Be Free. 176
      • Internet Archive, The. 179
      • Learn out Loud.. 181
      • Librivox. 183
      • Librophile. 186
      • Lit2Go.. 188
      • New Fixtion. 191
      • Open Culture. 194
      • Overdrive. 195
      • PodioBooks. 196
      • Project Gutenberg. 198
      • Spoken Alexandria Project (Telltale Weekly) 200
      • Storynory. 202
      • ThoughtAudio 205
  • Subject Index. 207
  • About the Author 210
  • More from Lycan Books & Myrddin Publishing… 211

 

 

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