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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...

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Dom Watson

At first, I was greatly honoured to be asked to participate in FBC's Review/Preview, and then the inner monologue piped up! Ya know, that voice we have in our brain everyday warning us against right and wrong or tea or coffee. ‘You haven’t read anything this year,’ it said. It had a point. And for a moment, that voice from within was right. But then I remembered. I had. That bloody voice in my head had tried to fool me - again. I don’t trust it. Has it always been there, the voice? I don’t remember inviting it in . . . do you?

2019 Faves

1) Priest of Bones by Peter McLean. Bloody hell, I was losing faith in fantasy for a bit. This bridged the gap in fiction/fantasy. Violent, without a care. We are dropped into a city on the edge. The troops are coming home from war and some of these rapscallions aren’t the most delightful of people. I like it. I like it a lot. Tomas Piety has come home to Ellinburg and some fiends have took over the family business. Peaky Blinders with swords someone said. Fitting. It works brilliantly. And the horror of PTSD is superbly displayed in Piety’s brother Jochan. The magic subtly chimes in the background like morning birdsong but becomes more prevalent as the story continues, never overshadowing the thrilling narrative.

2) The Outsider by Stephen King. Paperbacks can be totems of gold dust. I think it is a lovely touch! People leaving portable stories on public transport, immediately offering us a way out of the banality. I picked this up on a train from London after attending a book signing. My Mum did the same once, leaving a copy of my book, The Boy Who Walked Too Far, on a flight from New York to Chicago. Whether that was on purpose is another matter, but you get the gist. Love King or loathe him, he is still a master of his craft. Brutal, gut wrenching, and as a father myself I can sympathise with some of the characters. But that’s the point isn’t it? I devoured it within a few days. Boy still has it.

3) Crowfall by Ed Macdonald. There aren’t many books I mark a date in my diary for. This is one. In the last two years I have been totally smitten with Ryhalt Galharrow and his journey into the Misery. I’m telling you now HBO, if you have a massive GoT space in your listings then look no further. Dark, sometimes brooding, but not to the point where you give up. Far from it, it’s the gruff narrative that leads you on. Classic fantasy, shining in a post-millennial light. A perfect end to a trilogy. Gillings, Darlings, Deep Kings, oh my . . .

4) Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James. This man’s skill of language is something else. As a writer, you need to constantly push yourself. Part fantasy, part poetry, all inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, don’t read it if you are struggling after a days work. You need your faculties intact, Tracker’s journey isn’t one you should miss, and the world-building is pure mescaline-infused static. But it should be given credence and read with an appreciation of culture and creation.

5) I’ve picked up a fascination this year with Valencourt Books. They have re-released a load of pulp horrors from the late seventies and early eighties. Sometimes to move forward you must occasionally take a peak back. There’s nothing wrong with mutated cockroaches and Wendigos if they are done right. I’ve just started reading The Entity by Frank De Felitta. It feels like I’m reading it through a Halloween mask – it makes me sweaty - and have my hands tied behind my back. I know what’s coming of course, I remember seeing the movie in the eighties. It gives off an almost voyeuristic quality which is quite unnerving. Makes me want to wash myself. Or perhaps I just need a good bath. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the subject matter. It’s power of language transmutes the flesh.

Looking Ahead to 2020

I’m looking forward to Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna. I’m a sucker for leviathans – ha, sucker, see what I did there? Afterland by Lauren Beaukes - damn she can write. The Winds of Winter maybe, or is that too presumptuous?

On the Horizon for Dom Watson

I’m re-releasing The Boy Who Walked Too Far next year. It has a brand-new cover and a sharper narrative. SPFBO 2018 really helped me shape it into something special. Smoker on the Porch is going through a second draft and I can’t wait to release this into the world. It’s set in 1989 at the end of Thatcher’s Britain. Its about that old codger over the street. You know, all the kids know, that horrible nosferatu type with nicotine fingers who won’t give you your ball back. A coming of age tale set in the countryside with cosmic horror and soda stream.


About the Author

Dom can’t really talk about himself too much. The cats forbid it, and if he did, he would have to answer to the alligator under the stairs. But what shreds you can know is that he intends to write lots of stories and spread the gospel of the great serpent Orm throughout your lovely brains culminating in one glorious gestalt entity where reading books is mandatory to the continued existence of coffee.

He also likes pizza.

Monday, January 13, 2020

2019 Review/2020 Preview — Carol Park


I didn’t read nearly as many books as I wanted to this year, but there were a number of gems in what I did read. What follows is a list of my favorites (not in any particular order), with what is absolutely not an attempt to give a summary or blurb of the book, rather, my emotional knee-jerk reaction to why I enjoyed it so much.

1.       The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang. This book made me sob. I don’t mean a little misty-eyed, I mean I was bawling through most of the last half of the book. I’d stop crying and then start all over again at something else. It was all good, though, all good, we’re all good here. It’s just one of those books you don’t forget.

2.       Cradle Series by Will Wight. Yes, every last freakin’ one of them that’s currently available, starting with Unsouled and ending with Uncrowned. These books are like book crack. Or mozzarella cheese sticks. Or maybe Pringles. Once you pop, you can’t stop? At any rate, they’re fun, fast-paced, and easy to binge-read.

3.       Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord. I mean, there’s a woman with a metal arm. A tragic past. A tantalizing mystery. Superb world-building. And the ever-looming question: ARE THESE TWO EVER GOING TO GET TOGETHER!? If you can make me bite my nails over that question, I’m probably sold.

4.       Hero Forged by Josh Erikson. Boom bang fun. I don’t even know what that means, but there were fantastical creatures running around a city and a talking insect dude and out-of-control gods and magic flying everyone…and I really need to read the sequel.

5.       The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss. Remember that question in capitals above? Yep. That is all. Actually, that’s not all—there were really good characters, an interesting world, and an intriguing plot too. But, I mean, we all know why I’m waiting eagerly for the sequel.


I’ve got a bazillion books on my TBR for 2020, and if I get to read half of them, I will count that as a success, so who’s to say what I might read next… But Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight 4 will certainly be one of them! (*internal screaming*) In TV, I’m also looking forward to Picard, The Witcher, and getting to The Dragon Prince season 3 at some point.


First up in the first half of 2020 is A World Broken, which is the start of a new epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of the Lady Sar. This one tells the story of how one world’s primordial “Golden Age” came to an end—through the eyes and personal struggles of characters who will one day become legends. Next will be the final book in The Heretic Gods trilogy, titled Bloodmaster. I’m not sure yet when this one will be out. I was originally shooting for the end of 2020, but it seems more likely now that it will be out in 2021 sometime. I’ve also got some plans for starting a vlog early next year exploring what it’s like to be an independent author, so we’ll see where that goes.


Carol A. Park is the author of The Heretic Gods trilogy and the upcoming series The Chronicles of the Lady Sar. She lives in the Lancaster, PA area with her husband and two young and active boys–which is another way of saying, “adorable vampires.” She loves reading (duh), writing fantasy novels (double-duh), music, movies, and other perfectly normal things like parsing Hebrew verbs and teaching herself new dead languages. She has two master's degrees in the areas of ancient near eastern studies and languages.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Levi Jacobs

I spent most of my reading time this year buried in the Wheel of Time, trying to finally finish the thing I started as a youth, and also to learn a little more about my own roots as a fantasy author.

One of the things I learned is the value of brevity.

That said, I did find some other stellar reads this year. In no particular order:

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. Yes, this book has tight plotting and engaging characters and cool magic, but what I couldn’t get over was the setting. Mark seems to have a thing for post-apocalyptic novels disguised as regular fantasy, which is not always a welcome twist for my particular proclivities, but his one is awesome: a planet entirely covered by ice with a single strip of habitable land kept melted by the last satellite still orbiting the sky. And hints that people with the right heritage might be able to control it and other mysterious artifacts buried in the ice—completely awesome. Red Sister doesn’t even really get to the promise of the setting, but I loved getting lost in it anyway.

Burning White by Brent Weeks. Full disclosure, this book came out a few weeks ago and it’s almost a thousand pages, so I’m not done with it yet. But the design of this series has been brilliant from book one, with every major character relationship optimally posed for conflict and revelation. And better yet, Weeks actually delivers on that potential as the series goes on—just when you think this character couldn’t get more wretched, or that one have more secrets to uncover, he peels another layer off the onion, and you tear up in all the right ways. At the signing for Burning White he handed us all a packet of tissues that said ‘Don’t open till Epilogue 1,’ so I’m guessing this one’s no different. Can’t wait.

Unsouled by Will Wight. You can’t pay attention to the epic fantasy chart on Amazon without wondering who the (heck) Will Wight is and how he ascended to godhood. Fortunately, his books are a tidy answer to that: clear and accessible prose, lovable characters, tight pacing, and that LitRPG thrill of leveling up character ability without the annoying stats, with the conflict perfectly ramping to match it. This is a long plane ride kind of read, but the kind where when you get there and you only have twenty pages left you’re going to let everyone else get off first because you have to know what happens. That’s what I did anyway.

Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson. I almost blush including this, because FBC called me out for showing an embarrassing amount of Sanderson influence. I’m going to own it, and go a step deeper: I’m also a Magic: The Gathering nerd, so when Sanderson released a novella set in an MTG world I was already sold. Add to that his peculiar brand of quirky characters and inevitably revelation-laden plotlines, and fold it up into bite-size novella format? Delicious. The best part is you don’t have to be a Magic geek to understand it, and it’s a great entry point into the author if his chihuahua-killing fantasy novels (let alone his Labrador-slaying end to the Wheel of Time series) have always felt daunting.

Never Die by Rob J. Hayes. Rob feels like another star in the very spangled sky of indie fantasy, someone using the freedom of self-publishing to put out stories that are probably too weird for a traditional publisher to pick them up, but are all the more awesome for it. Never Die is traditional Asian mythology meets Street Fighter II Turbo, with undead heroes caught in a conflict where someone has to lose. Awesome. And, a fellow contender in this year’s SPFBO!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2020:

Bookwise, I’m excited to see who else finals in the SPFBO contest. [disclaimer: Levi sent us this write-up before all of the finalists were announced!] I loved some of the finalists from last year’s contest, and it’s sort of a proxy curation service for those of us who want to read more indie fantasy but don’t necessary enjoy wading through the Kindle slush pile. Other than that, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been too deep in my TBR pile to pay much attention to what I’ll surely be piling on top of it next.

Current Projects:

I’ve just wrapped up a novella set in my Resonant Saga universe, in which a bounty hunter sets out to bring justice to a runaway murderer… only to fall in love with her. Readers familiar with the series will recognize that runaway murderous daughter from the main series, and this felt like a fun way to give a snapshot into who she was before the main story gets started. It’s also my first crowd-sourced story idea—I bought the cover without having a story in mind, then bounced a few story ideas off my brain and had my mailing list vote on which one they thought would be the most fun. Turned out they were right.

I’m about ten thousand words into book four as I write this, a fun project because it’s my first all-female book, in terms of main characters, and probably my first true mystery (well, epic fantasy mystery). Hoping to have that out in January, plus another crowd-sourced novella and book five later in the spring. Then it might be time to see how many of my other thousand scribbled notes I can fit into a new series and world.

About the Author: 

Levi Jacobs is the author of the near-future science-fiction novel ACHE, as well as the fantastical Resonant Saga and forthcoming Water of Night series. He has received the Colorado Gold award in Speculative Fiction, taken first place in The Zebulon Fiction Contest for Science Fiction, and had shorter work published in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Jungle Crows and Perihelion SF. Hailing from North Dakota, with much of his formative years spent in Japan and Uganda, Levi has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and sells fruit in the oil fields to make a living. Learn more at

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - M.D. Presley

2019 Favorites

I honestly don’t know how other authors get time to read, and personally only manage a half hour or so before bed on the good days. In terms of books I really enjoyed, there’s Alec Hutson’s The Shadow King, which concluded his Ravening series on a high note. 

Rob J. Hayes’ Never Die was also a highlight, which is probably why it’s doing so well in this year’s SPFBO. 

Unfortunately (or not), I find myself watching TV whenever I have a spare second, so here are some shows that really stuck out to me this year:

She-Ra: Everyone’s all gaga over The Dragon Prince, which is just sort of run of the mill to me, but this show is a gem. Especially the third season, which gets really dark and really weird. There’s generally a dichotomy between “girl and boys” shows, and this one really blurs the line such that I think both can enjoy it. I sure wish shows this good were around when I was a kid.

Carnival Row: Another show that got released in the shadow of another in the form of The Dark Crystal, but I’ve been rooting for this one ever since it showed up a decade ago as a script being passed around Hollywood that everyone swore would never get made. A fairy immigration story with a Lovecraftian murder mystery and maybe some werewolves thrown in? Sign me up.

Gargoyles: The Mandalorian may have snatched up all the attention with Baby Yoda, but the real shining star on Disney+ is this 1990s throwback cartoon featuring the eponymous gargoyles that turn to stone by day and protect NYC after dark. The animation’s a little dated, but damn is the story compelling. How could it not be when they open a children’s show with some genocide (Last Airbender, I’m looking your direction)? The second season ups the ante by delving into Shakespeare by reimagining Macbeth and Puck as series villains, and there are some truly clever plotlines. This show was decades ahead of its time in that it pretty much HAD to be binged to be understood and enjoyed. Also, at least three actors from Star Trek TNG are regulars, so there’s that too.

Sound & Fury: Sturgill Simpson’s fourth album is a doozy, what with an accompanying anime release on Netflix. It can best be described as a post-apocalypse-samurai-Western that’s also a country concept album, but really it’s a love letter to late night 90s MTV, what with all the weirdness that includes a line dancing scene in the middle of a mecha battle. So much crazy genre mashups had me hooked 100%.

Looking ahead to 2020

I’m in the middle of a move so can’t think past the next week, let alone into a new decade. So what it might entail has me stumped. Let’s just say I’m looking for more fantasy to push the boundaries as to what’s popular and acceptable. We’re a genre based upon exploring impossible worlds, so here’s to hoping they get a lot more impossible and weirder as the decade opens up.

On the Horizon for M.D. Presley

Personally, I plan to finish up Sol’s Harvest by releasing The Shattered Sphere in the first half of the year. Then I’m on to a long-gestating non-fiction project examining worldbuilding in the fantasy genre. It’s such an important aspect in assessing success in the fantasy genre, yet we have no unified definition of what it is. I hope to change that by the end of the year. Or at least make an attempt…

About the Author

Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

His flintlock fantasy series Sol’s Harvest can be found on Amazon and should (hopefully) conclude this year.

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