Sunday, April 14, 2019

SPFBO 2018 Highlights

Some of you have already been following along, but JUST IN CASE, a quick recap:

The SPFBO is a contest founded by Mark Lawrence. 300 authors submit their indie fantasy novel(s); those 300 are divided between 10 highly respected fantasy review bloggers. Each blog chooses ONE finalist from their batch to rule the others, and in the darkness bind them...

Kidding. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. :P

Anyway, the winner receives... well, the inherent publicity of being reviewed by these amazing bloggers, and! The Selfie Stick Award. (Click HERE for Mark's official contest link.)

SPFBO 2016 winner Jonathan French
Photo courtesy Mark Lawrence

This entire SPFBO experience has been such a gift. I've met so many wonderful writers and readers and bloggers - the real prize, in my opinion! I've been writing for a long time, but this is the first time I've truly felt part of a writing community. SO thankful to Mark Lawrence for fostering community in an industry that can feel very... well, isolating. 

Which brings me to the reason for this post and last week's letter.

Because of Mark's efforts, and those of the readers and bloggers, I/we - the ten finalists - also wanted to contribute by highlighting some of the worthy books entered into this year's SPFBO, but were dropped along the way, as is the nature of a contest that narrows 300 spots to only 10.

Without further adieu, here are a few titles you should definitely check out!

I loved this one! (You can find my official amazon review for it here.) It was such a delightful play on classic fairy tale themes. We have Tomkin, who IS NOT a hero, and "The Dragon" maiden, who is definitely NOT in distress. There's a REAL dragon, who wants to be left alone to lounge in his great hall, and a kobold, who seems to be around just for castle renovations. All of these are thrown together to make for a funny, light-hearted, and charming tale about bravery, honor, and unexpected friendships. People of all ages will find something to love here.

This book is also "related" to her Keeper Chronicles series, and I have on good authority that a boxed set version should be coming out soon... so definitely be on the lookout. JA Andrews is a fantastic storyteller!

"BANEBRINGERS. Source of the bloodbane who stalk the land. Cause of a thousand wrongs. Despised. Cast out. Hunted."

If you're looking for something a bit darker - but not necessarily grimdark - check out BANEBRINGER in Carol A. Park's Heretic Gods trilogy. This one is currently sitting on my kindle. When reviewers throw out warm, buttery crumbs like "strong female lead" and "slow-burn romance" and "well-drawn characters" and "great world building"...I AM SOLD. There's also ancient gods and a hard magic system. 

"The King is Dead. Long Live the People!"

KINGSHOLD tells the story of a society transitioning from monarchy to something more democratic, while they hold their first election. I kept seeing this gorgeous cover around the social media-verse, the premise intrigued me, and DP Woolliscroft is also a delightful person. And then Wol (a brilliant reviewer over at The Fantasy Inn) heaped glittering praises upon it, saying, "This is a cleverly plotted multi-PoV tale, and it’s told with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and wit. The characters are all deeply thought out and utterly charming, to the point where I had to remind myself that this is a debut novel." Soooo, yeah. All story boxes ticked, DONE.

Hopefully, one (or all) of them checks some of YOUR story boxes. Also, be sure to check out Angie Grigaliunas's picks from yesterday, and stay tuned for Devin Madson's picks tomorrow!


Monday, April 8, 2019

An Open Letter to Fantasy Fans Everywhere

We are the finalists of the 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, also known as SPFBO 2018. The contest has brought us together from across the globe and the far-flung corners of our favorite genre to celebrate speculative fiction and the possibilities of self-publishing.

We believe that independent publishing is a force for good in our industry. The direct connection between authors and their fans yields greater choice for readers, drives new business models for writers, and helps create new audiences for books. That’s especially true in fantasy, where new subgenres and tropes are rising up thanks to self-published authors and their fans. Independent authors are working alongside traditional publishers and authors to create a bigger, better, and more inclusive fantasy community.

If you’re looking for evidence of the quality and creativity available from independent authors, look no further than our fellow contestants in SPFBO 2018. Many of the judges this year have remarked on the great quality of books they’ve encountered, and the challenge of whittling down their entries to one finalist. Whether you want something epic or intimate, funny or frightening, grim or uplifting, there’s a fantasy book for you among this year’s SPFBO. We encourage you to find it.

To that end, we will take this time to draw attention to some fantastic books cut from this year’s competition. Over the next week, many of us will highlight some of the deserving fantasy novels of SPFBO 2018. It’s a chance to salute other indie authors who could have easily been signing this letter had the die been cast differently. Please consider giving them a shot, or any other entry that caught your eye. When the genre grows, we all win.

In closing, we’d like to thank the indomitable Mark Lawrence for founding this amazing competition and for his continued efforts to highlight independent fantasy authors. We’d also like to thank the contest organizers and judges for their hard work, thoughtful reviews, and consummate professionalism. And finally, we’d like to thank fantasy readers everywhere, without whom we could not pursue our shared passion. This wonderful community makes it all possible, and for that we are forever grateful.


Barbara Kloss

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