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Friday, January 24, 2020

Cate Glass interview (interviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself. Feel free to brag. 

I am a former software engineer and a longtime reader who was hooked into writing as a hobby by a coworker. I then discovered that it was the career passion I had always been looking for. Though I enjoy reading every genre of fiction, writing fantasy is my first love. As Ursula Leguin once said, “Fantasy is the great canvas upon which every human story can be told.” Since my first novel was published in 2000, I have also discovered a love for teaching writing at writers conferences, speaking on panels and meeting readers at fantasy/science-fiction conventions, and spending multiple week-sized chunks of time per year with other writers on mountain writing retreats. My books have won a number of awards, including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and multiple Colorado Book Awards. I live in Colorado with my Exceptional Spouse and have three sons who are now putting together exceptional lives for themselves. 

When and why have you decided to become an author? 

I never planned it. I started writing fiction on the prompt of a friend from the software engineering lab where I worked. We shared a lot of books and talked about them over lunch. One day she confessed to me that she had always wanted to be a writer and coerced me into exchanging email letters “in character”. It was So Much Fun. After a year, we had each written thirty-two long letters (including dialogue and dramatization, of course) and had a complete story. The writing was pretty awful, but I was entirely hooked. Even then, I didn’t think of myself as an author. I never imagined anyone would want to read what I was writing, so I gave no thought to editors or agents. Only after about eight years, when I all of a sudden felt like I understood exactly what the narrator of my newest story was feeling, did I start to think that maybe I was onto something. A year later, I sold three books to an editor at Penguin who heard me read the opening of Transformation at a writers’ conference. She, and then her successor at Penguin, bought my first fifteen novels. 

How old were you when you first sat down to write a fantasy story or novel? 

I wrote one fantasy short story in a tenth grade English class. Even got an A on it. But I didn’t sit down to begin a story again for 25 years. Too much else to do. A math degree. Husband and three kids. A computer science degree. A software engineering career. And LOTS of reading. 

As Carol Berg, you’re an award-winning and bestselling author of fifteen fantasy novels, and half a dozen novellas and short stories. We know the publishing industry can be brutal and staying published isn’t a given. Can you tell us why have you decided to write under a pen name? Did it work? 

After my fifteenth book came out in December of 2015, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. My mom was in her late nineties and in a steep decline. My last release had been rocky due to a dispute between Penguin and Amazon which resulted in the book being unavailable for two of its first three weeks. And I was a bit burnt from delivering fifteen books in sixteen years. I took some time off and wrote some short fiction for several anthologies – a new thing for me. Then I had a smattering of an idea for a new series. 

Rather than a large over-arching story broken into several volumes, this would be an episodic series of fantasy “heist” adventures with a strong mythic foundation and an ensemble cast of characters. I noodled over it for about a year and wrote the first adventure. It was really short compared to my earlier work. I decided I ought to write a second one, just to prove I could. In November 2017 my agent got after me and told me to send her what I had. I did. She loved it. Told me to write up a proposal. I did. She did a broad submission in January, and Tor (the fantasy/SF imprint of MacMillan) pounced immediately. Before I knew it I had a three-book deal. 

On my first call with my new editor – after the contract was signed – she asked if I would consider an open pseudonym. She felt like my series would get more attention as a Tor debut, than as an epic fantasy author moving to a new publisher with a new kind of series. It would open up some marketing programs and expand my audience, while still allowing my current readers to know that it was new work from me. I knew other writers who had done this kind of thing. I talked to my agent, and she agreed that it could be a good thing. So I jumped. 

For those who haven’t yet read any of your work, where should they start? 

It depends. Many people feel that Transformation is the best entry to my work. Though it is the first of three books, it is also a complete story unto itself. Some who prefer a shorter, faster, episodic adventure might prefer to start with Cate’s Chimera books, and then move on to Carol’s longer ones. Other readers like the mythic quality of the Lighthouse books—Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone. They start out a little slower as the duology is really one big book split into two. (The Sanctuary books—Dust and Light and Ash and Silver—are set in the same world over the same time period, but with wholly different characters.) Others like to start with the Collegia Magica books because they are set in my version of the Age of Reason—the time like that of Newton and Galileo, but where were the conflict between science and magic shapes the background of a murder mystery. Yeah...I really love them all. 

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer? 

Over that eight years between the time I started writing fiction and the day I first felt like I knew what I was doing, I would talk with my friend and let her read my work. My sister gave me a subscription to Writers Digest. I would read an article on point of view or openings. If the article made sense to me, I would go back and revise all my earlier manuscripts to see if it made any difference. I tried to figure out what was special about the books on my shelf that I loved and reread. Mmm – complex characters. Intimacy. Emotion. Prose that was rhythmic and flowing and easy to read aloud. In essence, I gave myself an eight-year self-directed writing course. 

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. When and where do you write? Do you start with a character, an image, or an idea? Talk a little bit about how a novel “grows” for you. 

You hit on the word that I think describes my storytelling better than many others. Grow. Some people would call me a pantser because I don’t develop an outline before I write. But to me the word pantser implies that you sit down with a blank page with no end in mind except the end of the book. Instead of that, I start with a seed: a character and a setting, and I have a destination in mind. It might be a short-term destination: to get the slave back to the prince’s house; to get Portier into the king’s service to investigate a murder; to take Anne to see where her sister was found dead. Whatever. Then I start writing. As I write I set the event in motion and think – at that moment – how does this character react to this event? What does that reaction tell me about that character? Who else is there and why? As I write the scene, I decide what else I need to include in this setting to make the scene more sensory. More vivid. And then, how do those details inform the world that includes the setting? Etc. Etc. That isn’t flying by the seat of your pants. That is growing new things from known things. 

As to when and where: I write every day for as long as it takes me to feel I have moved forward – even if that movement involves refining existing chapters or writing out pieces of world mythology or figuring out why three female characters are all turning out to be exactly the same. Most often write in a chair in my office where I can see out the window, but I have been known to write in a tent while camping or on a bike trip, on my deck looking out at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, in a car, on an airplane or ferry. Once my favorite alternate venues is a funky little hotel in central Colorado at 10 thousand feet with several other writer friends. 

Do you give yourself mini-deadlines (e.g. must have chapters x-y written by January 1st) or do you progress with an ultimate deadline in mind? 

I try to give myself small deadlines, but I’m not at all good at meeting them. So I keep my eye on the end point—the deadline I’ve agreed to in my contract. That isn’t the most efficient or even the best for productivity. But it seems to work for the most part. I also have a critique group. We have been together for about fifteen years. We meet twice a month and they read all my world. That gives me intermediate deadlines while I’m working on a new book. I always want to have one or two chapters ready to hand out each time. 

What was your initial inspiration for the Chimera series? 

The notion came to me when I happened upon an old episode of Mission Impossible, the (pre-Tom Cruise TV series). I enjoyed the series at the time – corny though it could be. And it came to me that I had never written a true ensemble adventure. I had enjoyed transferring my love for a murder mystery/double-agent spy thrillers to my own fantasy world in the Collegia Magica books, and thought it could be fun to transfer another favorite genre – the ensemble spy/caper series to a fantasy world as well. The first thing I had to do was to decide on the ensemble. MI had its muscle guy, its techie guy, its brains-of-the-outfit, and the actor/actress impersonators as its mainstays. You could do almost any kind of mission with those skills. So then I came up with magical talents that would give my people a similar range. Before I knew it, I had four very interesting people to fill those roles. Then I had to create a world where their adventures could be of civic importance. I like paralleling particular times in our history, so I settled on Renaissance Italy- where great cities were states of their own, and where there was lots of skullduggery! 

Please, tell our readers what do your characters have to overcome in the Chimera series? What challenges did you set before them? 

Because the talents that make my four players unique are magical, I didn’t want such skills to be common or freely available. Thus I started with a society of forbidden magic – severely forbidden. Most children born with any signs of sorcery are drowned at birth. Those who survive to adulthood spend their lives hiding what they can do, as well as striving to avoid notice. So that is the biggest obstacle. 

Each of my four also has a personal history that creates obstacles. Romy was sold to a procurer at age ten and then bought by a very rich man as a courtesan, so her life took a very different course than her brother Neri, who grew up in poverty and ignorance with parents who didn’t drown him, but were terrified of him. Placidio has a murky background, wreathed in secrets—but is a professional duelist, who has to stay in the middle ranks of his profession, lest someone take notice of the particular skills he brings to a fight. Dumond the metalsmith has a wife and children. He believes in using his talents, but is constantly aware of the danger he is to his family. Poverty, civic strife, violence, and the other, more ordinary difficulties of life in a society just finding its way are also present. 

What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any? 

For Illusion, it was transforming a long novella into a novel! I wanted to get readers invested in the characters from the beginning, telling the story of who they are and how they came to work together. So I started out writing the story of these four people and how they started doing what they do. Then I wrote them into their first adventure. When I got finished, I loved it, but what was it? Novel, novella, backstory? Fortunately, my editor at Tor loved it too and gave me some wonderful prompts as to where to expand. So the first volume took a slightly different shape from the other two volumes in the series where we get into the mission early on. I discovered that being a spymaster is not easy! 

An Illusion of Thieves is an engaging and entertaining book with plenty of twists, reveals and cool ideas. Tell us about magic and why is it feared/hated in this world? 

First of all, thank you for that! 

Because I wanted my version of the Renaissance to spawn some different issues for my characters – and more difficulties, if course! – I devised a mythology that speaks of a Great War at the Creation. The war resulted in the gods retiring into oblivion (they are now known as the Unseeable Gods) but not before they raised a great beast from the sea to sweep their Enemy, Dragonis, from the sky and bury him under the earth. Volcanoes and earthquakes are a constant reminder of the imprisoned monster. Sorcerers are considered to be descendants of Dragonis’s ravaging of the human population. If sorcerers are allowed to live, it is believed that they will find a way to set Dragonis free to send the world back to chaos. Thus sorcerers must be exterminated. There is no evidence that sorcery run in families – Romy and Neri are the only two of their parents’ thirteen children who possess what the world calls the demon taint. But oftentimes whole families are destroyed when one is determined to be a sorcerer. 

Many people like Romy have embraced more modern ideas, dismissing the notion of imprisoned monsters and vanished gods. But then, things happen along the way...

What new challenges can we expect in A Conjuring of Assassins? 

Politics. Foreign ambassadors with very unusual inclinations. Assassins (of course.) Vendettas. Burial tunnels. A mysterious stranger that Romy saves from drowning in the river. Some personally scary incidents with magic for our heroine. A mission that seems simple, but gets more and more convoluted when investigations yield wholly unexpected results. 

I think many readers enjoy reading about Placidio, a mysterious and battered swordsman with secrets. Would you consider giving us a glimpse of his thinking process? 

Placidio is an expert swordsman who earns his living as a professional duelist. Throughout the Costa Drago, dueling is an accepted practice of settling disputes. It is strictly regulated. Referees maintain a Dueling List in each of the nine independencies, including Cantagna. Those higher on the list, ie. those who win more, can charge higher fees. Placidio cannot let himself win as often as his skills might allow, lest referees or clients start noticing that he has other skills than just swordsmanship. Which means he is not very well off and gets terribly depressed. So he drinks a lot. But as Romy and her brother Neri learn, he has a wide variety of experiences...and knows people a middling duelist has no reason to know...and in Conjuring we will see some other areas where he seems to know more than one might think. But I can’t really say anymore. 

Can we expect a sort of overarching plot/meta throughout the series or will it remain episodic? 

I see the mythos plot—the truth of magic and the Creation stories—as the series arc. Both the second and third books will delve into such matters. Is there really a monster under the earth—or is there something else going on? 

Would you say that the Chimera series follows tropes or kicks them? 

There are a lot of tropes that I love, just as many people do—a story or character elements that we find throughout all literature (not just fantasy) because of the satisfaction we get from seeing them unravel. Tropes ill-used become cliches, and I don’t want that. So I take the ones I want and try to turn them on their heads. If that’s kicking them, then I guess that’s what I do. 

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2020/2021? 

The second Chimera book, A Conjuring of Assassins, will be published on February 4, 2020. Beyond that is yet to be determined. 

Do you have any other authorial goals that you are striving towards that you want to talk about? 

I have more stories I want to write. Stories that I want to revive. Some short fiction I’ve written, I would love to find a home for. 

Finally, can you tell us a couple of fun facts about yourself that are not already available on the internet? 

I had a very brief career as a bike racer. OK, I was a silver medalist in the Pikes Peak Area Corporate Cup women’s criterium back in the late 80s. I rode the one race and retired immediately after, saying I’d never do THAT again. I also rode the Hardscrabble Century bicycle ride – note this was a ride, not a race - in southern Colorado in three different years. My times are lost in the fog of beautiful, but painful memory. A few years later, I was the only woman ever to complete a BSA Scout Troop 93 High Adventure trip - a 400+ mile bike ride through the San Juan Islands. That is the entirety of my sports career. 

Thank you so much for agreeing to this conversation, Carol/Cate! We greatly appreciate your time and thoughts. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - AC Cobble

2019 Favorites

Evan Winter’s Rage of Dragons. This book was previously self-published to great success, but Orbit picked it up and in 2019 launched it to even greater success. It’s billed as “Game of Thrones Meets Gladiator”, which is all I needed to know. Aside from the intriguing premise, the book delivered on all of the elements that a really great epic fantasy does, including giving us a promise of much more to come.

Bryce O’Connor and Luke Chmilenko’s A Mark of Kings. If you’ve read my Benjamin Ashwood series, you know I’m a sucker for a great coming of age, young boy goes on an adventure to become a young man story. Bryce and Luke nail everything I love about those tales, and they do it in a way that feels really fresh and unusual. It gave me the same feeling that fantasy did when I grew up reading it, but AMoK avoids simply re-walking that same ground. Bonus points, audiobook narration by Nick Podehl.

Alec Hutson’s The Shadow King, Book 3 in the Raveling series. I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy when it came out in 2016 because it introduced us to an exciting new world with boundless potential. I felt the epic span of Alec’s story was on par with the greats in our genre. Shadow King brings the tale to a satisfying conclusion, giving the payoffs we stayed three books for. This is the fantasy I want to write!

Carnival Row and The Witcher, the shows. All freaking year everyone was talking about “the next Game of Thrones”, and while it never came, I think we got something better. That kind of breakout hit only happens every few years. We needed something to click so that companies would keep bringing more fantasy to the screen. We needed to prove the genre could be successful without it being a smash hit. Carnival Row, and the upcoming Witcher series both already have second season orders. They’ve proven there is more appetite for good fantasy. They might be base hits instead of home runs, but sometimes that’s what you need to win championships!

Traditional publishing finally is getting its mojo back. I spent the last few years reading self-published books. I just wasn’t interested in much of what the Big 5 were putting out there. This year was different. Some of the old workhorses had releases; Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Leigh Bardugo, Mark Lawrence, Michael J Sullivan, and others. The publishers took risks, and for the first time in years, they seemed to pay off; Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree, Alix Harrow’s Ten Thousand Doors of January, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Marlon James’ Black Leopard Red Wolf, and more. They also started dipping methodically into the self-pub pool to find some of their next authors. Everyone has known this would happen, a sort of farm league approach, but we didn’t know if they’d get it right. I mentioned Evan Winter already, but I was also excited for; Duncan M Hamilton’s Dragonslayer, Kel Kade’s Fate of the Fallen, and more. I’ll go as far to say 2019 was the best year for debut/new to the genre releases in at least five years.

Hans Rosling’s Factfulness and Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. So, yeah, not fantasy, and published in 2018 instead of 2019, but this was the year I read them both! These books have to do with the way people perceive and understand the world. Interesting material for an author, and important concepts for anyone given the divisive political climates we live in. Both of them permanently changed the way I view the world, and how often can you say that about a book?

Looking Ahead to 2020

The sequels. I claimed 2019 was the best year in the last five for new faces, which means we’ve got a lot of exciting follow-ups coming. I’m really excited to see what these authors can do now that they’ve gotten their feet wet.

Phil Tucker has an unnamed epic fantasy series that will arrive in 2020. I really loved his Chronicles of the Black Gate, and I’ve been keeping up with him as he bounces around a little. I expect when he returns to the genre he does best, he’s going to come back with a bang.

The Kings. Sanderson has the pre-order up for Stormlight 4, there are rumors that George R.R. Martin will get a book out, though I’m suspicious since there is no official word. There are less credible rumors that Patrick Rothfuss is getting close. In the self-pub space, Jonathan Renshaw is working on his sequel again. I wouldn’t bet a lot of money they’re all getting books out next year, but I think they might make significant progress. These authors get a lot of flack from fans for long periods between releases, but I’m still on board. I want to see what they’ve got in the works.

On the Horizon for AC Cobble

At the moment, I’m finishing up the first draft for Spirit:The Cartographer Book 3. This series is a Sherlock Holmes, Epic Fantasy mash-up, and it’s been a ton of fun to write. I’ve really enjoyed adding in layers of mystery, and I don’t drop the final curtain until this last book. I can’t wait to see what people think! I’ve been sharing a June 1st release, but I’m trying to speed that up. Bonus points, Simon Vance is narrating the audiobook, and his work on this series has been amazing.

After I finish up the Cartographer, I’m going to move into a new series. This one will have a classic fantasy feel, similar to my Benjamin Ashwood series or Michael J Sullivan’s work. There will be a ranger character who gets saddled with three mischievous teens. Responsible for managing the wilderness at the edge of an empire, he’ll be pressured into taking the three back to their homes. Their journey will lead the ranger into the heart of a deep, dangerous conspiracy.

About the Author

AC Cobble is the author of the fantasy adventure Benjamin Ashwood series and the gaslamp fantasy mystery, The Cartographer series. AC resides in the Houston, Texas area with his wife, their three children, and his wife’s dog. Outside of time for family and writing, he’d rather be traveling. For updates on his writing, a peek at the artwork for his series, and free short stories and novellas, you can go to:

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2019 Review/2020 Preview — Justine Bergman

2019 Favorites

As my first year with Fantasy Book Critic comes to a close, I find it's the perfect time to sit back and reflect on what a wonderful year it has been. There was a lot of reading...I mean A LOT of reading, and when asked to round up my favorites, I actually had a really tough time narrowing it down. I'd love to give you all a "Top 20", but I'll do my best to follow the trend! Here goes.


Smoke and Stone by Michael R. Fletcher – Ever since I took a peek behind the cover of Beyond Redemption, I've been a huge fan of Fletcher's, and I'll pretty much read anything he writes. Upon reading the blurb for Smoke and Stone, I knew I needed this story in my life - and I devoured it. So raw and tragic, original and immersive, beautiful and repulsive, I literally loved everything about this book. My only complaint is that I immediately needed more, and I'm still waiting...impatiently.

Already Comes Darkness by T L Greylock – Ho. Ly. Sh*t. What a remarkable conclusion to an incredible series! Greylock knows how to weave a tale that makes you feel as though you're experiencing something that has been passed down through the ages and withstood the test of time. Poetic prose, vivid worldbuilding, impeccable characterization, this is a Norse-inspired masterpiece, flawless in every sense of the word. I wish I could read this entire saga for the first time all over again.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon – This book fractured me into a million pieces. A fantastical interpretation of the savage effects of the African Slave Trade, of a people losing their history, and of a single individual forced to bear the burden of generations of pain. Achingly beautiful with precious moments of silent reflection, it's simply gorgeous. And it made me least three times.

Priest of Bones / Priest of Lies by Peter McLean – Yes, yes, yes! Tomas Piety, I love you, you glorious bastard. I arrived a tad late to the War for the Rose Throne party, but I ADORE this series to pieces. Strong characters forced to face their own inner demons, deceit and treachery, street gangs and secret undercover agents, magic and explosions and harsh justice! Oh, and Tomas Piety - did I mention him already?

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark – You know when you read that one special something and you're just left speechless? Yeah, that's this book. Poetic and beautifully lyrical, hyper-violent and melancholic, it's one of the most stunning and devastating books I've ever read. Confession time: This was the second time I've read this book, and after a not-so-great initial impression, it finally clicked. It's peerless in the world of modern fantasy.


I strangely didn't get to play many games this year - yes, I did my yearly playthrough of some Skyrim (which I've put an obscene amount of hours into since 2011), and picked up a bit of Fallout 4 loaded with mods to simply build some settlements. New games...not so much.

Borderlands 3 – These games are INSANE. Just the epitome of chaos, and I don't think I could possibly love them any more. It's imperative to play co-op for this one, so there were weekends aplenty where my husband and I would split-screen this bad boy and cackle at the complete absurdity of everything we encountered.

Elder Scrolls Online – I'm not a fan of MMOs, but I am a lover of all things Elder Scrolls. I tried my best to not give in to this one, as I knew both my schedule and wallet would thank me for my resistance. Buuuut, I just couldn't say no anymore, and finally picked this up during December. And it's wonderful. Truly wonderful.

TV Shows

The Witcher – I know there have been a lot of mixed reactions to this adaptation, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have an unhealthy obsession with The Witcher (books and games), and this was my most anticipated ANYTHING of 2019. Seeing the short stories from The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny come to life was an amazing experience - the Three Jackdaws episode was absolutely breathtaking. On the downside, I cannot get "Toss a Coin" out of my head whatsoever.

Russian Doll – Excellent concept, excellent execution, this show was incredible. It began with a little bit of dark humor, then hit you with an unexpected emotion bomb towards the end, and wow! This was one that definitely surpassed my expectations.

What We Do In The Shadows – Utterly ridiculous in the most hilarious of ways. I don't know why I loved this one, but I did. I still walk around my house calling out with a sing-song "Guilleeermooooo". I can't wait for more.

Looking Forward to in 2020

Ok, I definitely wrote more than I wanted to above, so I'll keep this section short.


Ash and Bone by Michael R. Fletcher - Book Two of City of Sacrifice, continuation of the book listed above. I need it.

Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton - In all honesty, I didn't know I'd enjoy Urban Fantasy until I picked up Paternus a few years ago. I'm excited to see what the conclusion holds.

Twilight of the Gods by Scott Oden - I'm a sucker for all things Norse, and I absolutely loved A Gathering of Ravens. I'm looking forward to what Oden has in store for us with this one.


The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana - So, the title caught my attention, the blurb drew me in, and the charming author sealed the deal. Folklore, mystery, and an ancient evil...uh, yes, please.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas - I'll shamelessly admit I really enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the blurb for this one sounds pretty great. Fingers crossed it's as lovely as I hope.


Cyberpunk 2077 - I've been waiting for this game ever since the cinematic teaser premiered in 2013. It's a real thing now, and I CANNOT WAIT [she screamed into the void].

Ghost of Tsushima - Oh my, this game is gorgeous. Samurai and the Mongol Invasion, I have a feeling this game is going to break me.

Last of Us Part II - 'Nuff said.

TV Shows

I kind of go with the flow when it comes to shows, so I don't really have a list here. BUT...Cursed is looking to be pretty good. I'll take an Arthurian origin story for Lady of the Lake any day.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Łukasz Przywóski

I love Top Ten lists! Not that there's anything wrong with Top Five or Top Twenty lists. It's just that with ten places I can highlight a lot of books without feeling that I omit true gems.

Without further ado, here are my ten favorite reads of 2019. Not all were published last year. I see no reason to limit myself this way. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

SPFBO: Interview with Angela Boord (interviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself. 

Thanks for having me! I’m the mother of nine; my oldest is twenty-three and my youngest, who has Down Syndrome, is three. I’ve been writing for practically ever, and I even published some short stories in the early 00’s, but I took a long break from writing for publication while I was having most of my kids. I live in northwest Mississippi, and I like to travel, to garden, and of course, to read. Our house is basically one big library… if libraries also came with Legos and Nerf guns. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

SPFBO Finalist: Fortune's Fool by Angela Boord (reviewed by David Stewart, Justine Bergman, Lukasz Przywoski and Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order Fortune's Fool over HERE (US) and HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Angela Boord published a handful of short stories in the early 00s, then had a bunch of kids who are now all sleeping at night, making it easier to write again. She lives in northwestern Mississippi with her husband and their nine kids, plus two dogs, one cat, and varying numbers of chickens. She is currently hard at work on more books in the Eterean Empire series and plans to release Book 1.5 in early 2020.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Headlock Of Destiny (Titan Wars #1) by Samuel Gately

(Artwork courtesy of Rumbleslam kickstarter)

The watching crowd held its breath as the Savage circled Troll-Blooded Thom, waiting to pounce. Cold mountain air wove between the two titans. The mat below them creaked and whispered with their heavy steps. The long fight was nearly done. The mighty titans stared at each other, moving in slow circles, until one showed the slightest downturn of the eyes, a glimmer of fear. The Savage smiled. Troll-Blooded Thom was his.”

Cover reveal time! I love cover reveals. I think one of the things that keeps me coming back to fantasy as my favorite genre again and again is the visual art that accompanies the medium. And one of my favorite parts of being a indie author is the opportunity to work with killer artists myself. To paint them a picture of what I want, realize I have no idea what I’m talking about, and then watch them deliver something totally unexpected yet still exactly what I wanted.

The Headlock of Destiny starts with those few lines above, and that theme of being alone in the midst of a crowd, lost in the lights, runs throughout the book. I had no idea how to capture that sentiment while taking care of the core business of the illustration – showing that this is about giant monsters/men beating the hell out of each other. I’ve worked with Dominik Mayer before, though, and I knew if any artist could nail it he could. I’m thrilled with what he’s done in his illustration. Note the flags hanging over the titan’s shoulder, a nod to the weight of nations watching the struggle. The way the yellow streaks crossing the titans hint at spotlights and elevate the sense of danger.

And I need to give a final thanks to HumbleNations for the custom typology. This book is an epic fantasy/pro wrestling mash-up (I know, yet another one of those) and I really liked the idea of locking that down with a championship belt theme for the title. Very happy with the results.

So with no further ado, here is the cover for The Headlock of Destiny, followed by the book’s blurb. I hope you are intriguedenough to check it out...

Pre-order The Headlock Of Destiny over HERE

Official Book Blurb: Some say titans are descended from giants. Others say they are risen from men. But there’s never any debate about where to find them. They will be in the center of a roaring crowd, beating the hell out of each other. From contenders like the Savage and Scott Flawless to pretenders like Richard the Living Portrait and Troll-Blooded Thom, a titan’s lot in life is the same: To wrestle for dominion and glory in the squared circle.

Van, a quiet titan from the brewery town of Headwaters, wants no part in this. He’d prefer to be left alone with a beer. But destiny has him in a headlock, and it is prepared to drag him into battles that will shake the land and change his world forever.

Step into the ring with this one-of-a-kind novel, brewed special for fans of epic fantasy, fans of professional wrestling from the Golden Era and beyond, or simply fans of a good tale.


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Night Of The Chalk
Pre-order The Headlock Of Destiny over HERE
Read "How Guitar Magazines Prepared Me for the Traditional vs. Self-Publishing Debate" by Samuel Gately (Guest Post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Samuel Gately is a fantasy writer. His Spies of Dragon and Chalk series imagines a world where James Bond carries a sword and works for a dragon army.

2019 Review/2020 Preview — Ben Galley

Favourites of 2019

This year has been a whirlwind of work and words for me, what with two book releases and writing a multitude of short stories. So, I will stamp a ginormous, neon disclaimer on this recap that my favourites come from a smaller pool than I would have liked. However, even though I’m firmly behind the curve, I have been treated to some excellent delights in 2019. 

First, let us talk books. 2019 was a stellar year for fantasy. The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft hit added another brilliant instalment to Senlin’s journey. It’s been soul-warming to watch Josiah climb his own tower of success. Neil Gaiman’s entertaining and informative Norse Mythology was devoured in chunks throughout the year. I also had the pleasure of finally meeting the Kings of the Wyld, and Bloody Rose, too. A Little Hatred bathed me in darkness and classic Joe Abercrombie wit. And what a fantastic year for my fellow indie authors as well. I’ve recently (and finally!) managed to dive into Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn and Never Die by Rob J. Hayes, and found their voices fresh, original and effortless in the way they transported me to other worlds.

As a ravenous cinephile, this year has been a treat for film. Avengers: Endgame and Joker I must  have seen a dozen times at the cinema. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood was also a firm favourite of 2019 and well worth investigating. As for TV, all I’m going to say is The Golden Compass and The Mandalorian. Perfect.

Look ahead to 2020

Is it me, or does 2020 sound far too futuristic? In any case, aside from looking forward to my first hoverboard, there’s a torrent of media I’m looking forward to in 2020. I have a mountainous TBR pile to conquer, and there are a lot of amazing books I need to catch up before adding more. Notably, Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke, ML Wang’s Sword of Kaigen, and Wrath of Gods, Dyrk Ashton’s fantastic sequel to Paternus: Rise of Gods.

As for upcoming releases that have caught my eye, Scott Lynch is back with the Thorn of Emberlain, which I will most likely inhale, Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan is out in January, and Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan is also calling to me with its gilded cover art. Another book that’s beguiled me, and one I’ll be watching closely, is the House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, which sounds delightfully whimsical.

On the horizon for Ben Galley

With a good chunk of this year spent redefining my brand and my business, 2020 will be all about building on that new foundation, and ascending to the next level of my career as a fantasy author. 10 years and 13 titles have passed since I first published, so 2020 marks not only a milestone but a new era for me.

I’m currently working on a sequel series to my debut Emaneska Series. The Scalussen Chronicles will consist of The Forever King, Heavy Lies The Crown, and To Kill A God. I made substantial progress this year and am hoping for a 2020 release. Next year will also see the reveal of Dread Rising, an entirely new, interactive project that I’ve worked on for three years now, and the launch of a cooperative deck-building tabletop game I’ve been writing for this year, entitled Veil of Ruin.

About the author

Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut Emaneska Series, Ben has released a range of epic and dark fantasy novels, including the award-winning weird western Bloodrush and standalone novel The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed Chasing Graves Trilogy.

Ben enjoys exploring the Canadian wilds and sipping Scotch single malts, and will forever and always play a dark elf in The Elder Scrolls. One day he hopes to live in an epic treehouse in the mountains.

Ben can be found on Twitter or vlogging on YouTube @BenGalley, or loitering on Facebook and Instagram @BenGalleyAuthor. You can also get a free ebook copy of his epic fantasy The Written at

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mihir's Top Reads Of The Decade (2010 - 2019)

I’ve been an active blogger since 2009 so getting to compile this list was one of my top-to-do things. Unfortunately it got delayed as I’ve been dealing with some house stuff in the last 6 months. However the first part is finally complete and let me say compiling this list wasn’t an easy thing to do. Looking back at all the lists I’ve compiled over the last decade, this one was even tougher than all of them combined! Because this list got so gargantuan, I’m breaking it down into two parts. Firstly the top 50 titles and in a couple of days, the top 50 debuts.

So here are my top 50 choices from the past decade. This list is entirely based of the titles that I've enjoyed and were five stars reads even upon re-reading. It is more fantasy (epic, urban and grimdark) heavy than SF, which is entirely due to my preferences. Some series I've included all the books as each book has been special and with others, I've included singular titles or a couple depending on my enjoyment. There's a mix of self-published and traditionally published works and so onward with the top 5o beginning from the bottom up:

50) Fourteen by Peter Clines

49) Corvus by Paul Kearney

48) Heaven’s Needle by Liane Merciel

47) The Chaos Crystal by Jennifer Fallon

46) American Elsewhere by Rob J. Bennett

45) Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

44) The Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden

43) The Winter Of The Witch by Katherine Arden

42) The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

41) We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson

40) Jade War by Fonda Lee

39) Priest Of Lies by Peter McLean

38) The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear

37) Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

36) The Colour Of Vengeance by Rob J. Hayes

35) The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

34) Jade City by Fonda Lee

33) A Time Of Dread by John Gwynne

32) Miserere by Teresa Frohock

31) Saint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell

30) The Labyrinth Of Flame by Courtney Schafer

29) Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell

28) No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

27) The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer

26) River Of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

25) Arm Of The Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

24) The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

23) Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

22) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

21) Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

20) The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

19) Gunmetal Magic + Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews

18) Those Brave Foolish Souls From The City Of Swords by Benedict Patrick

17) Paternus: Wrath Of The Gods by Dyrk Ashton

16) Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

15) King Of Assassins by R. J. Barker

14) Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

13) Bring The Fire by Craig Schaefer

12) Detonation Boulevard by Craig Schaefer

11) Sworn To The Night by Craig Schaefer

10) City Of Stairs by Rob J. BennettCity Of Stairs was a revelation for me. Focusing on a historian tasked with solving a murder in a land wherein Gods died and now their bodies can be used as WMDs & more. This is a powerfully written story with several layers to it and featuring incredible world building. City Of Stairs is an absolute delight and should be mandatory reading for almost all fantasy fans.

9) The Fifth Empire Of Man by Rob J. Hayes – It’s pretty evident how much fun Rob J. Hayes was having with his pirate focused duology and it’s in this book that he fully showcases his amazing skills. We get a ton of naval battles, literal & figurative backstabbing, solid plot twists and one hell of a climax. All in all a sequel that definitely cemented my opinion about his work & this is possibly his best work yet. A must read for all naval fantasy aficionados.

8) Children Of Earth And Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay – Guy Gavriel Kay is a master at merging historical fiction & fantasy. Plus almost all of his recent work have been standalones , which makes it easy to dive into. With COEAS, he really gives us a rousing story of political & social intrigue as well as action that will swell the heart of any fantasy fan. The characters, the world setting, everything is pure bliss and I believe this title to be one of his best works easily.

7) The Sword Of Kaigen by M. L. Wang The Sword Of Kaigen is one of those gems that came through via the SPFBO and is a book that literally gut punches not once but twice. Told via POVs of the Matsuda family and heavily steeped in Japanese culture. This book is an absolute gem of a story and I hope that the author continues to write more stories set in this world. For those who still haven't heard about it, mark my words, this is a future classic.

6) Skullsworn by Brian Staveley – It’s hard to write prequels and even more so when it’s about characters who are cutthroat killers. Brian Staveley decided to do both and succeeded colossally on either front. Pyrre Lakatur is a fierce and intense person and her story is no less so. Part love story, part thriller and entirely unpredictable, this standalone story is told with a breakneck pace that will not let up. Skullsworn is a superb indicator of Brian Staveley’s genius and has me longing for his future works intensely.

5) The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker – It’s an absolute shame that Helene Wecker has just released just one title in the past 7 years. But simply based on her debut I can tell you that I’m a fan of hers for the rest of my life. Bringing turn of the century NYC to life brilliantly while making the readers invested in a Syrian Jinni,  a Jewish golem and their love story. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, HW gives us a gorgeous story about human & inhuman lives and I can’t wait for the sequel whenever it releases. The Golem And The Jinni is one of those rare miraculous books that some writers write as their debut and captivate fans forever.

4) Blood Song by Anthony Ryan – Most of the folks who know me, know my love for Anthony Ryan’s  self-published debut. Blood Song is an absolute perfect book with just the right amount of mystery, action, magic as well as deadly characters. This debut book featuring a singular narrative voice (Vaelin Al Sorna) puts most multi-pov doorstoppers to shame with its compact mix of ingenuity and incrediblenes. Blood Song is a book that I will cherish to my death no matter how many time I re-read it.

3) The Folding Knife by K J Parker – What do I say about K. J. Parker, him being the writer of scoundrels and charmers who one might not want to befriend but would love to get acquainted with. The Folding Knife is a brilliant story about the life of one Basso (Bassianus Severus Arcadius) of the Vasani republic and while it’s a political fantasy (with almost no magic). It’s a profound book about human nature, foibles & will. Plus it will have you hooked onto the antics of Basso and root for him throughout all the way till the glorious fall. Possibly my favorite standalone story of all time and one which I can never shut up about.

2) Kings Of Ash by Richard Nell – Richard Nell is a name that most fantasy fans are unaware and herein lies the real tragedy. The Ash & Sand trilogy is one of the most unique works out there and to add to it, it’s been entirely self-published by the author. Featuring perhaps the only fantasy character to rival Hannibal Lecter and The Bloody Nine, this book is a brilliant deconstruction of fantasy tropes and a savage journey of one man’s struggle to save his people from environmental doom. Featuring utterly brilliant writing, and combined with a savage dose of gallows humour, mark out Richard Nell as the most underrated find of the last decade.

1) Circe by Madeline Miller – Here we are, the best book of the entire decade and this was an entirely easy decision. Madeline Miller’s sophomore effort about one of Greek mythology’s most ill-understood characters, was the book that stood out in my mind. Featuring Circe and her life story amid the gods, humans and other creatures, Madeline Miller’s standalone epic would be the magnum opus that most authors strive for their entire lives. Featuring exquisite prose and with a fantastic imagination, Circe is the book that every book lovers SHOULD own on their shelves.


There were go folks, that's my top reads of the last decade and in just a couple of days, I'll be super happy to reveal the top 50 debuts. Until then I'll be excited to hear your thoughts about my choices as well as what would have been yours...

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