Self-published fantasy authors: an interview with M.D. Presley

image credit: Amazon

Today I get to learn a little bit more about author M.D. Presely, and his fantasy series, Sol Harvest. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

First, why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about the Sol’s Harvest series?

Well, Sol’s Harvest is the unholy amalgamation of Airbender mixed with True Detective and a heaping helping of an American Civil War documentary. It’s a flintlock fantasy that takes place in a secondary world that very much mirrors the Reconstruction Era in US history. So pretty far off the beaten path in terms of fantasy. In it a spy who was captured and forced to fight against her homeland is tasked with escorting a catatonic child into enemy territory to assassinate the girl’s father. Plus, you know, psychic exoskeletons, airships, and monsters made up of the breath of their dead god.

What first inspired you to write? What drew you to writing fantasy?
I’ve always been attached to fantasy and always wanted to be a screenwriter, which were diametrically opposed for many years since fantasy is so expensive to shoot. So Sol’s Harvest is the story I always wanted to tell and knew damn well that no producer would ever invest in. So I invested my own time and money to write the story exactly as I wanted for a change.


When working on a book, what comes first for you–the characters or the plot?
Characters, plot, and world are all pretty simultaneous for me in that one always feeds into the other, which ends up influencing the first, which then works its way back around. In this case I cannibalized a lot of existing ideas of mine: I made the world as a thought experiment a few years before, the protagonist was an idea I had in college but couldn’t ever get to work in a story, while the non-linear plot was inspired by True Detective. And once I thought about those three together, they sort of clicked and began creating a feedback loop that tied them all together.


Did you base any of your characters on yourself in any way?
Parts of me are reflected in all the characters, but I will say that Marta’s core component of clarity that descends upon her when she gets angry is one of my own traits. I swear I could rule the world if I were angry enough, which is unfortunate since I’m pretty laid back.


What was the hardest character or part to write?
Inhuman entities with lifespans that don’t match our own. So much of our own understanding is based upon how long we expect to live, so when you suddenly change that it reshapes the character’s entire worldview. It makes them alien to a certain extent, which you then have to explain to the audience in human terms.


Is it easier for you to write a villainous character or a hero? Which is more fun?
Villains are almost always more fun, although they aren’t really as satisfying since they aren’t as constrained as heroes are. Heroes (usually) have to abide by a moral code, which makes everything more difficult for them. This in turn (if done right) means the hero is more dramatically satisfying


Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?
I am 100% grade-A plotter in that I write out reams of paper ahead of time detailing the characters, plot, and world. It’s a carryover from being a screenwriter where page space is limited and every detail counts. You can’t waste space figuring your story out on the page that way, so you have to get it all down before you start writing. At least I do.


You have also written books about fantasy worldbuilding. I love rpg’s and creating fantasy worlds and I think that is SO COOL! How did your knowledge of world building affect your novels?
I’ve not written a novel since I did that deep delve into worldbuilding, so it’s a little difficult to answer. But I did just get off a call with some producers where they signed off on all the character and plot points, but got completely stymied when it came to the rules of the worldbuilding. For fantasy and science fiction in particular, worldbuilding is part of what sells audience on the genre in the first place, and now that I have that in mind, I really want to make my worlds more vibrant, consistent, and inviting. Because, I realized, unlike plot and characters, great worldbuilding does not suffer from diminishing returns. In fact, it gets better the more times you consume it, which means great worldbuilding should ensure multiple consumptions. Which hopefully means more money…

What do you do to get “in the zone”?

This may sound trite, but I find it’s best not to ever get out of the zone. I always compare writing to cycling in that, once you get up to cruising speed, it’s not much effort to maintain that speed. But if you have to stop, you then have to expend a ton of energy to get back up to that speed you were so effortlessly maintaining just a few minutes ago. I’m in no way saying don’t take breaks, but it’s a lot easier to be consistently tuned in to writing if you never tune out.

Lastly, I’m always curious? What is your favorite book (and you can absolutely say your own!)

Favorites are hard to decide on because you can judge them by a lot of criteria like most influential (Sandman), or the one that caused the most emotional reaction (The Brothers Karamazov), or the one that you could just devour the prose with a spoon (The Great Gatsby). So I’ll just say that the book I’ve read the most is Goodnight Moon.

About M.D. Presley:

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. He has worked as a screenwriter and managed an amazing team of coverage readers. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Self-published Fantasy Authors: an interview with Luke Tarzian

I’m fortunate to be able to hear from Luke Tarzian, author of dark fantasy. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about Vultures? 

VULTURES is…dark. Some people have said it’s the darkest fantasy they’ve ever read (I’m especially chuffed to have been told by one reviewer that it was more brutal than Joe Abercrombie). VULTURES is very much a story about love, loss, grief, and mental illness through the eyes of reluctant heroes. It takes place in a very phantasmagoric landscape full of demons, in a land where dreams are sometimes more than dreams and everyone—I mean everyone—is broken. Think some amalgamation of Edgar Allan Poe, The Licanius Trilogy, and a David Lynch film.”


What first inspired you to write? What drew you to writing fantasy? 

“Reading Harry Potter and wanting to create my own worlds. I’ve been in love with the fantastic since I was a child and Harry Potter was kind of the final push I need to say “Hey—I’m gonna write my own stuff.” I write fantasy for escapism and the ability to self-examine through a fictional lens. I deal with a lot of depression and anxiety, and being able to filter that into my characters and take them on a journey helps me figure out my own issues.”

When working on a book, what comes first for you–the characters or the plot? 

“Characters one-hundred percent.”

Did you base any of your characters on yourself in any way? 

“Oh god, only way too much. A lot of the grief and loss and depression and anxiety and anger issues yada yada yada that the characters in VULTURES are subjected to are very much manifestations of my own struggles. For me, writing those into my characters a) helps make my characters that much more relatable and b) is stupidly and completely cathartic.”

What was the hardest character or part to write? 

“There is a moment in a scene very late in the book, probably in the third to last chapter, that was, in a sense, very real to write as it was heavily, heavily influenced by my mother’s death and her state in the final days before she passed. It was extremely cathartic to write, but it also fucked me up for a few days.”

I see your book is described as featuring anxiety and depression. I am always appreciative of any author who includes mental health representation in their work. Was it difficult to write about those things? 

“Yes and no. Yes because it’s always scary examining yourself, especially to that degree. But no, for the exact same reason, if that makes sense. Once you take a hard look at yourself and realize you have some issues you need to deal with (at least in my case), it becomes that much easier to address your issues through a fictional lens. A lot of the stuff I write I do so because I have a story to tell, but the way it comes out is absolutely related to what’s going on in my head.”

Is it easier for you to write a villainous character or a hero? Which is more fun?

“Honestly, it really depends on the character. I consider myself an exceptionally strong character writer so, at the very least, any character I write is going to be fun. I think the bigger question is what character is the hardest to write, and, for me, it’s any character who is on the precipice of absolute good or absolute evil—because most people are somewhere in between (I think).”

Would you consider yourself more of a “pantser” or a plotter?

“I’d say I’m somewhere in between. I like to have a brief idea of where I’m going—the simplest of roadmaps. But, for the most part, my writing is very exploratory, very instinctive.”

How do you get “in the zone” when writing?

“Coffee and white noise, preferably rain. I don’t really write chronologically either, so I like to pick something I’m especially excited about to start with when I sit down to write as it helps build momentum.”


Luke Tarzian is…
Fantasy Author. Long Doggo Enthusiast. Snoot Booper. Shouter of Profanities. Drinker of Whiskey. These are all titles. I’m the Khaleesi nobody wanted and the one they certainly didn’t deserve, but here we are.

Self-Published Fantasy Authors: an interview with author Jesse Nolan Bailey

The Jealousy of Jalice (A Disaster of Dokojin Book 1) by [Jesse Nolan Bailey]

Today, I’m excited to hear from Jesse Nolan Bailey, author of The Jealousy of Jalice. Thank you so much for taking a bit of time to chat with me!

First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about The Jealousy of Jalice?

The book is an adult dark fantasy featuring female protagonists (anti-heroines), demons, and plenty of bleak moments. It begins with two women enacting a scheme to overthrow a tyrant chief by first kidnapping his wife. Annilasia whisks Jalice off into a forest infested with beasts and demonic entities, while Delilee remains behind to spy on the chief. Yet a dangerous event from Jalice’s past threatens to undo their schemes.

It’s a book that caters to readers who want that spooky, creepy vibe in their fantasy stories, almost horror at times, but still maintains a tale that explores what it means to be human and all the emotions that come with that.

What first inspired you to write? What drew you to writing fantasy?

I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction. If there’s aliens, ghosts, or dragons involved, count me in. Some of my favorite childhood series were The Magic Treehouse series, any Star Wars EU books, and The Bailey School Kids series. My obsession with fantastical tales only grew from there, and from a young age I knew I wanted to be a fantasy author.

Fantasy uses other-worldly settings and characters to draw in the reader, and provides a form of escape for a lot of people. Yet, I also found that, with a lot of fantasy, it speaks on real-life issues and emotions. I was a shy kid, and books helped me digest the real world around me while still hooking me with those fantastical elements. Books also taught me the power that words held, and how stories could be incredibly influential.

When working on a book, what comes first for you–the characters or the plot?

Both. Honestly, it’s usually a scene. I listen to instrumental movie scores to get inspired, and often times inspiration strikes when I envision a character in a specific setting or involved in some pivotal act. Almost like a movie trailer. I get bits and pieces that seem intriguing to me, and they slowly come together as I get to outlining the story further.

Did you base any of your characters on yourself in any way?

Most certainly, yes. Well-written characters evolve from a writer being able to tap into the character’s mindset and emotions. Doing so requires the writer to dig deep, and in my personal experience, it’s meant I’ve had to sit and mull over my own emotions and memories. Even villains are written this way. I think we view villains as ‘other’ or ‘inhuman’, but its usually their actions that fit those terms—their emotions, on the other hand, probably are more relatable than people would initially admit. Jealousy, anger, selfishness: we all experience these. It’s just our story-villains take those emotions and take extraordinary action on them that the average person wouldn’t. Or, at the very least, they take exaggerated actions.

Basically, yes, I think each of my main characters reflects different parts of me. Jalice is naïve and perpetuates a false innocence when really she is in denial of her past sins. Annilasia starts with a righteous anger over the state of her world, but this righteous anger quickly devolves into self-righteous pride and an uncontrollable temper. The villain, Hydrim, is stuck in a mindset of control and power with an unwillingness to examine his motivations and vulnerabilities that fuel that mindset.

I’ve been there—each of those mindsets. I think we all have in different moments of our lives.

What was the hardest character or part to write?

This is going to sound kind of silly, but honestly, for me its how a character looks. Finding unique and interesting ways to flesh out how a character looks and what they wear is difficult. My mindset if usually ‘get to the story, get to the magic, who cares what they look like?’ That, of course, isn’t going to fly with my readers, so I had to spend time learning how and when to describe a character’s looks.

I’ve heard this book being described as darker in tone? Would you agree?

Absolutely. That was my intention. This is certainly fantasy: there’s magic, there’s monsters, there’s swords and arrows. But this isn’t The Chronicles of Narnia by any means. My characters are incredibly flawed (i.e. not exactly noble for the most part), and the world they live in is harsh. Deformed monsters lurk in the bleak forest, and demon-like entities stalk the astral realms. Blood and screams infest the pages of this book.

Yet this wasn’t for the sake of shock value. I felt the darker setting was appropriate given the underlying themes I sought to explore. The personal betrayals and delusional mindsets are reflected in the world my characters inhabit.

What were some obstacles and joys of writing a bleaker world?

I worried that readers seeking fantasy would be put off by the horror elements. It felt like a risk. Fantasy typically features a noble and hopeful vibe, and although that still exists within this story, the bleaker world definitely swallows that up at times. From initial reactions though, readers seem to be enjoying this surprising genre-blend.

I enjoyed writing the horror elements. Horror evokes deep-rooted emotions that every human experiences: fear and dread. I think embedding those in with the fantasy setting helps accentuate the themes I was exploring. My characters get to interact with magic and swords while confronting their worst fears and the horrific effects of some of their decisions.

Is it easier for you to write a villainous character or a hero? Which is more fun?

Easier? Probably the hero, though I use the term ‘hero’ very loosely whenever TJOJ is involved in the discussion. My protagonists aren’t heroes in the traditional definition. They’re just not evil enough to be considered villains. Villainous characters can be tough to write because they can easily become a caricature or cliché.

More fun? I think they both offer fun elements. Heroes get to save the day, but I honestly get the most enjoyment forcing my heroes to confront their flaws. Heroes are only as strong as their greatest vulnerabilities and their courage to face those alongside the monsters. Villains, on the other hand, are fun to write because (at least for me) it’s a sort of cathartic examination of the darker experiences of humanity. Perhaps that sounds troubling, but we all must at some point examine the seeds of darkness within ourselves. Writing villains allows an almost therapeutic outlet for that.

How do you “get in the writing zone”?

Music is a quick way to jump-start inspiration. So I listen to an instrumental song that fits the scene I’m attempting to dive into. Usually, sugar and caffeine are involved as well. I’m an author—the job description demands I be addicted to either coffee or tea. I’ve chosen coffee (easier to excuse the copious amounts of sugar I combine with it. Can’t get away with that as much with tea).

Lastly, I’m always curious? What is your favorite book (and you can absolutely say your own!)

That’s a tough question. I think the book that has stuck with me the most is The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I haven’t even finished the series it belongs to (got half way through the series twice, but never have the momentum to get past that midway point). Yet, I really enjoy Jordan’s style of writing and the characters he created. Alongside Patrick Rothfuss, Jordan is who I hope to emulate someday with my writing style.

The First of Shadows (Riven Realm #1)- The Write Reads on Tour

How do you kill a shadow?

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a wounded stranger on the open road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever. With help from a hammer-wielding mercenary, a drifter girl with a heritage of magic, and an eccentric sky pirate, Caleb must find a way to escape the clutches of a shape-stealing demon that refuses to die.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm. To assist him, the Queen enlists the aid of the sage, Tiberius Alaran. But the blind old man has secrets of his own—and allegiances that extend beyond the Ember Throne. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to The Write Reads on Tour for allowing me to be a part of this book blog tour. The First of Shadows is available now.

I love that the timing of this book tour just happens to coincide with a month-long celebration of self-published fantasy. The First of Shadows is sitting happily on my list of the best fantasy I’ve read in quite a while and I’ve been on a fantasy kick for the last…always.

Deck Matthews created an excellent fantasy adventure. His characters were all fantastic, each unique and interesting. Caleb was a perfect main character: he wasn’t incredibly fast or strong. He was just in the wrong place at the right time (or the right place at the wrong time).

I loved the magic in this world! There were multiple sorts, but I was particularly impressed by the totems, which are kind of like brands or tattoos that can form into an animal companion. I am probably explaining that horribly, so I’ll just say: it’s very, very cool.

There were so many things that were well done in this novella! There is an air of tension that runs throughout, making each scene a little more heightened. The characters are fully developed and each one contributes something to the story-line. Matthews does everything with purpose and confidence. I was immediately sucked in and happily engrossed.

Since this is a novella, it takes very little time to read. That means everyone should ignore life for a little bit and go read this book. Do it now! I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Self-Published Fantasy Authors: an interview with author Zack Argyle

Voice of War by Zack Argyle

Today I am fortunate to be talking with Zack Argyle, author of Voice of War. Thanks for chatting with me!

First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about Voice of War?

“Voice of War is an epic fantasy that was born from a single question: how far will a man go to protect those he loves? It is filled with fantastical creatures, a “bangin’ magic system”, and complex characters that will tear your heart out. Check out Amazon or Goodreads for a full description!”


What first inspired you to write? What drew you to writing fantasy?

“I know it’s a little silly, but being a Dungeon Master was the first real moment of clarity when I knew I had the talent for crafting stories. I still remember one night in Gauntlgrym when the party had just had a massive battle in the middle of a bazaar. In the middle of the wreckage, a member of the Zhentarim faction approached one of the players, dropped to a knee and whispered, “First Lord.” The entire table gasped, and we ended for the night. I’ll never forget their reaction to the story I’d crafted, and how invested they were. That’s why I write. I want you to love and hate and fear for the characters as I drag you alongside their chaotic lives.”

When working on a book, what comes first for you–the characters or the plot?

“A little of both. Sometimes it’s a character like Chrys. Sometimes it’s a scene like the opening ritual or the necrolyte races. But the more I write, the more I see the characters above all else.”

Did you base any of your characters on yourself in any way?

“Absolutely! As a father of two young children myself, Chrys’ determination to keep his wife and newborn safe comes from knowing just how far I would go to do the same.”

What was the hardest character or part to write?

“For me, it was Iriel Valerian, who is pregnant for the first part of the story and then the mother of a newborn. It took a lot of help from my patient wife to help me write Iriel properly, especially with how she would react in certain situations. In the end, she turned out awesome.”

Is it easier for you to write a villainous character or a hero? Which is more fun?

“Well, I should first say that, while there are heroic deeds, Voice of War doesn’t have a “hero”. People are complicated, and even villains can be heroes when seen from another perspective. That said, I really enjoy writing both. There is a villainous torture scene that was incredibly fun to write, and there is a tender moment between a husband and wife that was equally fun to write for completely different reasons.”

Do you have any writing quirks, or a routine that you stick to?

“Nope! I have two kids and a day job. I used to write on my commute, and now I squeeze it in whenever I can at night. The one constant is that my writing group meets together each Sunday night.”

Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?

“90% plotter, 10% pantser…which can get me into trouble. I plot out the main beats to happen in each chapter of the book, and then I let the characters take it from there. Occasionally, the characters go in a different direction than intended, which can lead to revising my plots. But it’s always for the better!”

Lastly, I’m always curious? What is your favorite book (and you can absolutely say your own!)

“My favorite fantasy novel is Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. In the series, magic is only given to those who are “broken”, and power is gained by overcoming that which has broken you. The moments of internal reconciliation are beautiful and powerful and incredibly inspiring.”

The Singing Gold by T.K.P. Sternberg

A simple shepherd who can see all things invisible, a dwarf who risks his honour to strike the deal of his lifetime, and a clandestine necromancer who manages to do good despite his worst intentions. This unusual fantasy epic shows how petty shortcomings like jealousy, suspicion and greed can throw up challenges equally dangerous as revealed destiny or the unfolding of evil plans. Set in the deep forests of medieval Svitjod, at the shift between the worship of the Old Gods and the coming of Christianity, it stands firmly rooted in the mud and dirt of everyday life while revealing a fantastical world of trolls, alfs and magic.
(taken from Amazon)

What happens when you take very real characters who have very normal concerns and struggles and put them in a medieval-esque world? You get the creative and interesting book, The Singing Gold.

There are several unique things about this book. First, it follows a family that is struggling financially as it tries to make ends meet. There is a realism to this that made me immediately like these characters. I wanted them to succeed. The main character, Stig, is doing all he can to take care of his family. When he gets offered a well-paying opportunity, he takes it. Unfortunately, it ends up being far from the simple job Stig was hoping for.

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you felt that anything that could go wrong, would? That’s this family’s entire existence. I found myself holding my breath, hoping that at least one character would catch a break. Yeah…don’t do what I did. You will pass out from lack of breath.

Where this book really shines is in the world building. Author T.K.P. Sternberg obviously put a huge amount of time fashioning his setting into something three-dimensional and believable. While the characters are all enjoyable, it’s the world that really drew me in.

This is a slower moving book. If you are looking for a quick read, or an action-packed adventure, this is not the fantasy for you. However, if you’d like a character-driven book with an unconventional mix of the the day-to-day and the fantastical, give this book a go.

Self-Published Fantasy: Some Book Suggestions

I think everyone should read off the beaten path from time to time (I feel like that is probably written on a mug somewhere). On the off chance you’re looking for self-published suggestions-and because I like making lists – below are just a few of the fantastic self-published fantasy books that I’ve read over the last couple of years. I’ve also added what I’m reading right now, as well as books I’ve been planning on reading but have yet to get to.

Books I Recommend:

The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren
The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships.
But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west.
Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire. (taken from Amazon)

The Half Killed by Quenby Olson

Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control. (taken from Amazon)

Wards and Wonders by Kay L. Ling

Danger. Deception. SecretsNot long ago, the gnomes’ gem master queen was overthrown and then enchanted to make sure she could never regain her powers. Now, she lives in a cage, guarded by those she once ruled, and her enchanted form disgusts all who look upon her.

When Tyla moved to Elantoth Fortress, she came as a librarian and researcher. As a novice gem user, she hopes to develop her powers, using the former queen’s gems. She never expected to be drawn into a struggle to keep the queen from being moved to a faraway city where sympathizers might restore her to her true form.   

Tina Ann was one of the queen’s personal servants. A mutant kitchen worker with a unique ability to sense dark powers, she and Tyla develop an unlikely friendship, much to the annoyance of Tyla’s friends and family.. Tina Ann and her boyfriend Ben join Tyla on a trip to Aberell City that includes a visit to the infamous Outcast district. The troubles they encounter there foreshadow greater dangers ahead. When they uncover a dangerous secret that could plunge their world into chaos, the three friends find themselves drawn into unexpected adventures that could cost their lives. (taken from Amazon)

Iliad: The Reboot by Keith Tokash

History cares about kings, but the gods love a buffoon.The hapless young soldier Gelios faces execution for offending his king. Desperate, he accidentally volunteers his cousin to chronicle the coming war.Equipped with only a sword and a stunning lack of judgment, Gelios must keep his cousin alive amid the greatest war of an era. Worse, he must survive the egos of the two most powerful kings in their army.But his deadliest struggle is with his mouth. Can he keep it shut long enough to make it home alive?The Iliad has long been the definitive source of knowledge surrounding the kings, gods, and heroes of the Trojan War. Now, for the first time, readers can experience the clash of two ancient superpowers through the eyes of the biggest jackass in history. (taken from Amazon)

Guild of Tokens by Jon Auerbach

She wants to level up her humdrum existence. But her next quest could spell life or death.

Jen Jacobs’s nights are spent traversing a strange city finding hidden objects, slaying dragons, and tangling with a host of fellow adventurers. And her days are spent counting down the seconds until she can return to the grind and continue racking up tokens and leveling up.

Except Jen isn’t playing a video game.

It’s all real and happening right in New York City.

After a particularly harrowing quest pairs her up with Beatrice Taylor, a no-nonsense and ambitious mentor, Jen hopes she’s on the path to becoming a big-time player. But as she dives deeper into the game’s hidden agenda, she realizes Beatrice has her sights set on the Guild, the centuries-old organization that runs the Questing game. And the quests Jen loves are about to put both of them in grave danger.

Will Jen survive the game before powerful forces cut her real life short? (taken from Amazon)

Alexis Vs. the Afterlife by Marcus Alexander Hart

Alexis is dead. But that won’t stop her from becoming a hair-metal superstar.

When teen metalhead Alexis McRiott is killed in a freak accident, her ghost manifests unexplained magical powers. Thinking she can use them to resurrect herself to the rock-star life of her dreams, she kinda sorta accidentally releases an ancient evil bent on raising an army of poltergeists to slaughter the world of the living. Oops. Party foul.

Racing against the clock, Alexis teams with a badass Asian cowgirl and an overzealous medieval prince to learn the truth behind her mysterious powers and prevent a full-blown paranormal apocalypse. But can this foul-mouthed burnout charm the girl, save the world, and still prove she has what it takes to rock an arena show?

She doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance. (taken from Amazon)

Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee

A tale of conquest, dark kings, and daemonic heroes. A spellbinding story that will enchant you with its plot of ambition, love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come. (taken from Amazon)

Limbo by Thiago D’Evecque

The fate of the world hinges on a forsaken spirit, a mad god in a sword, and 12 mythological beings.

The Limbo is where all souls — human or otherwise — go to after dying. Some don’t realize where they are. Death is a hard habit to get used to. Gods and mythological figures also dwell in the plane, borne from humanity’s beliefs.

A forsaken spirit is awakened and ordered to dispatch 12 souls back to Earth to prevent the apocalypse. Many don’t take kindly to the return. Accompanied by an imprisoned mad god, the spirit must compel them.

Each of the 12 unlocks a piece of the spirit’s true identity. Memories unfold and past wounds bleed again.

The journey will reveal buried truths about gods, angels, humanity, and the forsaken spirit itself.

If you like epic fights, diverse mythology reinterpreted, and surprising plot twists, Limbo is for you. (taken from Amazon)

The Mercenary Code by Emmet Moss

Break the Code. Shatter the World.

Centuries ago, the murder of a beloved king tore apart the Kingdom of Caledun. The land was plunged into chaos and thousands perished in the aftermath. A new order was established in an attempt to return Caledun to its former glory. It failed, but in its place rose the beginnings of the Code.

During this same period, the mystical caretakers of the Great Wood retreated from the world of Kal Maran, their disappearance an ominous harbinger of the suffering that was to follow. The Great Wood now grows out of control. Cities, towns, and villages have fallen before the relentless march of the forest. Without the former guardians to keep her tame, the wood has become a place of peril, and dark creatures of legend now hunt beneath its leaves.

The summer season is now a time of armed conflict. The fall of the old monarchy has brought about a ceaseless cycle of combat. Grievances are settled by the strict tenets of a binding Mercenary Code and the men who would die to preserve its honour.

However, change is in the air. Political rivalries have escalated, and dire rumblings of a revolution abound. Thrust to the forefront of the shattered land’s politics, a mercenary fights for more than just riches. In the north, a borderland soldier wrestles with his own demons and looks to find his true purpose. And in the shadow of the Great Wood, a young man’s chance encounter with a strange visitor gives hope to a land divided. (taken from Amazon)

The First of Shadows by Deck Matthews

How do you kill a shadow?

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a wounded stranger on the open road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever. With help from a hammer-wielding mercenary, a drifter girl with a heritage of magic, and an eccentric sky pirate, Caleb must find a way to escape the clutches of a shape-stealing demon that refuses to die.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm. To assist him, the Queen enlists the aid of the sage, Tiberius Alaran. But the blind old man has secrets of his own—and allegiances that extend beyond the Ember Throne.(taken from Amazon)

The Singing Gold by T.K.P. Sternberg

A simple shepherd who can see all things invisible, a dwarf who risks his honour to strike the deal of his lifetime, and a clandestine necromancer who somehow manages to do good despite his own worst intentions. This unusual fantasy epic shows how petty shortcomings like jealousy, suspicion and greed can throw up just as dangerous challenges as revealed destiny or the unfolding of evil plans. Set in the deep forests of medieval Svitjod, at the shift between the coming of Christianity and the worship of the old gods, it stands firmly rooted in the muck and mud of the everyday while at the same time revealing a fantastical world of trolls, alfs and magic.When Stig accepts to guide some dwarven miners through the hexed forest only he knows how to navigate, he already has a bad feeling. The payment is far too generous for something supposed to be so simple. With a hungry family at home and still a few weeks before summer would break and end their hardship, he cannot afford to say no. As they set out on a journey fraught with troubles, not only do Stig realise he has gotten himself tangled up into something far greater than he could ever have imagined, the dwarves also slowly learn that Stig is not your average shepherd.The Singing Gold is the first part of a series which follows a poor woodsman and his family through a number of escalating dangers and misadventures, casting them out of the life they knew and finally threatening their very existence. As I wrote it, I set out to create an epic fantasy with a distinctly medieval feel to it. I wanted the characters to think and feel and reason like people from a distant past, not like time-travellers on holiday. I also wanted to show the specific past of the characters and story, not present some kind of historical survey of an era. The high middle ages were such a diverse and exciting time that it is impossible to give more than a glimpse of it in any series of books, as every land, region or even village lived under its own customs, beliefs and conditions. As a backdrop for my story, I picked a time and a place where law was still made by free men meeting at the Ting to discuss and voice their opinions, where the king had to constantly travel the country to make his will felt, and where the weight of a man’s kin, friends and neighbours were still more important than his class. Yet, at the same time, ideas, trade, and beliefs moved fast and far all over Europe. The Church had recently managed to form an organised network spanning from Lisbon to Trondheim to Acre in the far east, even if Jerusalem was again lost to them. Adventurous young men could seek their fortune in war or wager all over the continent. For Stig and his family though, the next dozen leagues of dense pine forest, huddling villages and dearly conquered fields and pastures was the extent of their world. (taken from Amazon)

Hero Forged by Josh Erikson

Gabe thought he had covered all the angles, but it’s tough to plan a contingency for accidentally trapping an evil god in your brain.

Gabriel Delling might call himself a professional con artist, but when walking superstitions start trying to bite his face off, his charm is shockingly unhelpful. It turns out living nightmares almost never appreciate a good joke. Together with a succubus who insists on constantly saving his life, Gabe desperately tries to survive a new reality that suddenly features demons, legends, and a giant locust named Dale—all of whom pretty much hate his guts. 

And when an ancient horror comes hunting for the spirit locked in his head, Gabe finds himself faced with the excruciating choice between death…or becoming some kind of freaking hero.

Hero Forged is the first book in the new series, Ethereal Earth, a modern fantasy adventure that challenges the natures of myth, humanity, and what it means to be the good guy. (taken from Amazon)

May Day by Josie Jaffrey

If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.

It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.

When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.

To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.

Body bags on standby. (taken from Amazon)

A Threat of Shadows by J.A. Andrews

Alaric betrayed everything he believed to save Evangeline — and failed.

His last chance to save the woman he loves lies in an ancient Wellstone, a repository of power, buried and lost long ago.

Luck—or something more troubling—leads him to a small group searching for the same stone.

A disgruntled dwarf,

a bumbling wizard,

and an elf with an unsettling amount of power.

If he can gain their trust, they might help him find the cure.

But the Wellstone holds more than he knows, and a terrible evil he’d thought defeated is stirring again, searching for the stone.

Can the companions survive a traitor, a dragon, and their own pasts to reach the stone before time runs out? (taken from Amazon)

Valley of Embers by Steven Kelliher

It is said that in times of war, the world chooses its own champions.

These are the Landkist. Elemental warriors blessed by sky, river, stone and, in the case of a select few, fire itself.

For generations, the flame-wielding Embers have been the last line of defense against the nightmare creatures of the World Apart.

Now, their light is fading.

When Kole, Ember of Last Lake is wounded by a demon unlike any they have seen before, the wise believe it is a sign of an ancient enemy returned – a powerful Sage known as the Eastern Dark.

While the Valley is plunged into a war beyond reckoning, the land’s greatest champions rise up to meet the coming threat. But even the combined might of the last Embers and their elemental kin may not be enough to stem the tide of darkness.

Kole has never believed in destiny, but with his people hanging on the precipice and his home on the brink of ruin, he must discover the limits of the one power he fears above all else.

His own. (taken from Amazon)

The Sword and the Dragon by M.R. Mathias

Brothers torn by magic. A sorceress with dragony aspirations. A wolf king, a royal wizard, a squire fleeing with a coveted sword. What could possibly go wrong when they all collide in Highwander, where the very bedrock is formed of the powerful substance known as Wardstone?The Sword and the DragonWhen the Royal Wizard of Westland poisons the king so that his puppet prince can take the throne and start a continental war, a young squire is forced to run for his life carrying the powerful sword his dying monarch burdened him with from the death bed.Two brothers find a magic ring and start on paths to becoming the most powerful sort of enemies, while an evil young sorceress unwillingly falls in love with one of them when he agrees to help her steal a dragon’s egg for her father. Her father just happens to be the Royal Wizard, and despite his daughter’s feelings, he would love nothing more than to sacrifice the boy!All of these characters, along with the Wolf King of Wildermont, the Lion Lord of Westland, and a magical hawk named Talon, are on a collision course toward Willa the Witch Queen’s palace in the distant kingdom of Highwander. There the very bedrock is formed of the powerful magical substance called Wardstone.Who are the heroes? And will they get there before the Royal Wizard and his evil hordes?Whatever happens, the journey will be spectacular, and the confrontation will be cataclysmic. (taken from Amazon)

Self-published fantasy I’m reading now:

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

A fantasy adventure begins…

Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.

Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.

Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.

None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.

What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus.(taken from Amazon)

What about you? What self-published fantasy books are you reading?

Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar

In the town of St. Hilaire, most make their living by talking to the dead. In the summer, the town gates open to tourists seeking answers while all activity is controlled by The Guild, a sinister ruling body that sees everything.

Dec Hampton has lived there his entire life, but ever since his parents died, he’s been done with it. He knows he has to leave before anyone has a chance to stop him.

His best friend Russ won’t be surprised when Dec leaves-but he will be heartbroken. Russ is a good medium, maybe even a great one. He’s made sacrifices for his gift and will do whatever he can to gain entry to The Guild, even embracing dark forces and contacting the most elusive ghost in town.

But when the train of Annie Krylova, the paino prodigy whose music has been Dec’s main source of solace, breaks down outside of town, it sets off an unexpected chain of events. And in St. Hilaire, there are no such things as coincidences. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

I am not entirely sure why, but this book just wasn’t my bag. I just couldn’t get into it at all. It could be the way it’s told. It switches back and forth between multiple narrators, which normally doesn’t bother me all that much. In this case, though, I really didn’t care at all about two of the characters, so their chapters didn’t keep me engaged.

The idea of a town with sort of a cult feel to it has loads of potential. You could take it in a dark direction, or just keep it fun. However, despite being mentioned very early on, The Guild (which basically runs the town) didn’t really make its presence known in a way that lived up to the reputation the author had created for it. I was just expecting more.

I thought Russ was a fascinating character. The lengths he was willing to go to in order to be the best…zoinks, yo! I didn’t really understand his friendship with Dec, possibly because it was already falling apart when the book started. He and Dec wanted fundamentally different things, and they struggled to accept that. It was kind of a bummer, but it definitely added to the story.

Dec and Annie just weren’t all that interesting. Annie, unfortunately, didn’t seem to add all that much to the narrative. I really can’t put my finger on why I wasn’t a big fan of Dec. I should have liked him and I have no idea why I was less than thrilled by the chapters he narrated. That just happens sometimes.

As I write this, I realize this is a pretty negative review, so let me hasten to add: I didn’t hate the book. The plot is unique, there is a ton of potential for the continuing story, and Russ was a complicated character (I love complicated characters!). When it comes right down to it, this wasn’t the right book for me. Everything that felt a little off to me might be exactly what would make someone else absolutely love this book.



Kings and Daemons (The Gifted and the Cursed book 1) by Marcus Lee

Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee

A tale of conquest, dark kings, and daemonic heroes. A spellbinding story that will enchant you with its plot of ambition, love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come. (taken from Amazon)
Wowza, Kings and Daemons was fantastic! This book felt very old-school fantasy to me – and I loved it! It had so many of the elements that I love to see in fantasy. A group of characters to follow? Check. Inner conflict to match the external struggles? Check. Fantastical creatures? Check (daemons: need I say more). A terrifying Big Bad who is deliciously evil? Check.

Despite having these well-known and well-loved fantasy building blocks, this book is in no way a copy of other works. It is wholly original and incredibly creative. The characters were fantastic. I loved them all, but at the moment my favorite is Kalas. I reserve the right to change my mind, however. Each character has so much going on that not only provides fascinating backstories, but explains their personalities and the choices they make.

The world is grim and bleak, but not enough so that it killed my reading mojo. I know that sentence makes next to no sense, but sometimes a world is too dark for me to enjoy -this wasn’t the case here. The shades of despair in this book were nuanced and offset by the sheer waves of stick-to-itness that the characters possessed. Here was a group who had taken their hits and were still kicking. I love characters like that!

The pacing was fabulous. The story started moving and never stopped. I was immediately drawn in and I stayed enthralled from beginning to end. Everything unfolded with perfect timing and nothing felt forced. There was no dreaded info-dump. It was obvious that the author knew exactly what story he wanted to tell and confidently went about doing it.

The world was incredibly well-developed. The history was fascinating, and I’m excited to see it explored even more in future installments. In case you can’t tell, this is my long-winded way of saying Kings and Daemons was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold- ARC Review

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold
The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need?

Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure.
Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot.
Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.
What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back.
Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world.
But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is the sequel to The Last Smile in Sunder City. You can find my review for that book here Dead Man in a Ditch will be available on September 22nd.

Dead Man in a Ditch picks up pretty much right after the end of book one. I expected this series to be rather episodic, to be honest, each book being a case that Fetch Phillips finds himself caught up in. Instead, the series has a continuing story-line, back stories are explored, new characters are introduced, and surprises are revealed.

Sunder City is full of grime, violence, and a fair hint of desperation. So is Fetch Phillips. They make for an excellent match. This city is full of once-magical creatures who are struggling to get by in a post-magic world. One of the many things I loved is how author Luke Arnold explores how it would feel for a being who is mostly magic to be bereft of it. His narrative voice is fantastic. There’s a Sam Spade feel to it, although Fetch has become much more introspective than he was in book one. This evolution of character feels natural and makes perfect sense in the story.

Fetch Phillips’ latest tangle (I’d say “case,” but it gets out of hand much too quickly to qualify as one) involves magic. It shouldn’t: it’s been established that all the magic is gone. However, someone seems to have missed the memo. Fetch finds himself trying to solve a murder and figure out if-  and how – the magic is actually returning.

I love how delightfully madcap this book is. Running through it is more of Fetch’s backstory, and some serious character development. We get a closer look at this new, messed up, magic-free world. I’m annoyed at the author: he had me tearing up over the fate of a unicorn.  Grr!  I became so invested in this book, I had to stop myself from rereading it as soon as I finished the last page.

I would say that the tone of this book is more serious than the first book, but not so much that reading it is a downer. Rather, it draws you in. The stakes are higher and the fate of many hinges on decisions made by a small few. It’s kind of messed up, actually. I’m sure Fetch would agree.

This is a fantasy like no other. It’s gritty and dark, but still has an undercurrent of hope running through it. It showcases how wonderfully broad the fantasy genre really is. I loved every moment of it.  If you haven’t started this series yet, you need to make it a priority. Just go ahead and shift it right up to the top of your “to be read” pile. I guarantee you’ll love it too.