Let’s Talk: Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week

Banner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been lucky enough to read many indie/self-published. I love the creativity and uniqueness often found in self-published books. Last year was the first ever Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, during which I was joined by many amazing bloggers, podcasters, and Youtubers, all sharing their appreciation for great self-published authors. Well, guess what? We’re doing it again this year!

This year Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week will run from July 24th-30th. How can you get involved? Read self-published books, review self-published books, shout about great self-published authors. You’re welcome to use the above banner (created by the awesome Fantasy Book Nerd) and if you tag my Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB, I will add your posts to a blog hub and share those posts on my Twitter. On Twitter, you can use the hashtags #SPAAW, #SuperSP, and #AwesomeIndies.

By the way, the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest is a great place to go for self-published book suggestions. Follow along with this year’s contest here. Here are a few self-published books that I recommend. I stopped myself at twenty, but there are so many amazing sp books out there! What’s the best self-published book you’ve read this year?

Jason and Rose Bishop- The Call (Storm’s Rising #1)

Lee C. Conley- A Ritual of Bone

Susanne M. Dutton- Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable

Jami Fairleigh- Oil and Dust

Jonathan French-The Grey Bastards

Sean Gibson- The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True

 Bjørn Larssen- Why Odin Drinks

Randall McNally- Shadowless

Marcus Lee- Kings and Daemons

G.M. Nair- Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

Roland O’Leary- The Hand of Fire

Thomas Howard Riley- We Break Immortals

Kirstin Espinosa Rosero- Burn Red Skies

Patrick Samphire- Shadow of a Dead God

Matthew Samuels- Small Places

Emma Shaw- Sacaran Nights

M.L. Spencer- Dragon Mage

Luke Tarzian- The World Breaker Requiem

Keith Tokash- Iliad: The Reboot

M.L. Wang- The Sword of Kaigen

Fantasy Focus: High & Epic Fantasy Featuring Coby Zucker

This year, I’m doing a new series: Fantasy Focus. Each month will have a week-long focus on a different fantasy subgenre- fantasy is as varied as its creators’ imaginations! If you’ve missed them, here are links to my fantasy focuses on comedic fantasy , grimdark and romantic fantasy.

This month I’m focusing on High and Epic Fantasy. I’ve been privileged to chat with Coby Zucker author of the epic fantasy, Nomads of the Sea.

Thank you for being willing to talk about high fantasy and epic fantasy with me!

Thanks for having me!

Will you introduce yourself?

My name’s Coby Zucker. I’m a 24-year-old debut fantasy author from Toronto, Canada. For my 9-5, I’m a journalist. Currently I work in the wild west of gaming and esports. 

Can you talk a little bit about Nomads of the Sea?

I can talk a lot about Nomads of the Sea but for the sake of your sanity I’ll keep it brief. 

Nomads is an adult fantasy epic that spans continents and multiple POVs. The setting for the main plot is heavily inspired by Southeast Asia, though the world is big and also encompasses a more traditional medieval fantasy world. It’s a bit grim, occasionally funny, and—hopefully—an all-around decent read (especially if you like giant shapeshifting bears, the interplay of medicine and magic, and big beefy tomes with lots of worldbuilding). 

Have I sold it hard enough?

But yeah, Nomads is really just a passion product from a bored grad student whose summer job was cancelled during the first wave of COVID. It was my first, but certainly not my last, foray into writing novels.

What were some obstacles to writing Nomads of the Sea?

Amazingly, writing Nomads went pretty smooth. Since it was my first book I had to learn my personal writing cadence and style, but I settled into those things fairly quick. If we really want to get into the nitty gritty, one of my biggest challenges as an author was writing compelling characters that didn’t think the way I think, or act the way I act.  

Also romance. I’m not a romance person by nature so that took some trial and error. 

Really most of the obstacles came after I’d finished writing the book. Learning how to revise, compose, publish, and market a book was way harder than writing it.

What are some successes?

To be honest, just getting the novel into the world was a huge personal success. As for the book itself? I guess I’m happy with how it all came together. I like the characters, I like the world, and I’m honestly just excited with how the whole writing process went. Creating a full novel was something I’d always wanted to do, but I never knew if I had the chops.

Nomads of the Sea has been called epic fantasy. Can you explain what epic fantasy is?

Well Wikipedia defines epic fantasy as… 

I’m just messing with you.

Basically, epic fantasy is, at its core, a subgenre of fantasy defined by its scale. Epic fantasy is expansive worlds with full casts of characters, huge plots that span years, and big ol’ chonky books. Occasionally, it’s none of those things. That’s probably not a helpful answer but everyone has their own definition of epic fantasy so it’s hard to give a catch-all. For me, if it’s fantasy and it has a big scope, that’s epic fantasy. 

I’ve heard the terms “epic fantasy” and “high fantasy” used interchangeably. Do you see them as two separate subgenres?

I actually do, even though you’re right and they are often lumped together.

In your opinion, how is epic fantasy different from high fantasy? 

You already know how I define epic fantasy so I would contrast it against high fantasy, which, in my mind, is more a comment on the world of the book itself. Whereas epic fantasy is about the scale of the book.

High fantasy is often seen as “Tolkien fantasy” with elves and dwarves and dragons and all that good stuff. Really it’s a little broader and many phenomenal authors are drawing on diverse mythologies to create unique high fantasy worlds (that’s not a knock on elves and dwarves and dragons by the way. They’re still dope.)

People will use the term “secondary world” to characterize high fantasy. Basically it just means a world that’s not too Earth-y. And yes, high fantasy is often epic fantasy, which makes it all the more confusing.

Take all this with a grain of salt. I’m by no means an expert. Just a guy who likes to read and write fantasy books.

What drew you to writing epic fantasy?

It’s right there in the name. It’s freakin’ epic. 

All respect to people who want to write a slice-of-life novel about Elmer, whose biggest problem in life is he’s run out of yarn (great idea for a book by the way, someone hop on it), but if I’m writing, it’s going to be about monsters and heroes and giant battles and high stakes plots. 

Also, as someone who comes from academia, there’s nothing more liberating than making shit up (am I allowed to curse?) Obviously epic fantasy still requires research but it’s nice to not feel beholden to detailed footnotes or the laws of physics.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Little of column A, little of column B. But I’d say I’m mostly a plotter. I definitely need to know the beginning, the middle, and the end before I start writing. But part of the joy of making a book for me is discovering new things about the story along the way, solving problems as they crop up, and confronting situations from my characters’ POVs.  

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Anne McCaffrey, Joe Abercrombie, Jack Whyte, Christian Cameron, Fonda Lee, Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, Mark Lawrence…

There’s probably others but I’ll stop myself before I just name every amazing author I can think of.

What/who inspired you to start writing epic fantasy?

There’s not really a “who”, unless you count my family, who helped foster my love of reading sci-fi and fantasy books. 

The “what” is a desire to create something wholly my own. It’s fun to delve into another author’s world but building something from the ground up was an entirely new experience. One I’m now addicted to. 

Do you have anything on the horizon that you would like to share?

Nothing in particular. I’ve been able to get Nomads of the Sea into the hands of a few awesome bloggers and vloggers so keep an eye out for their reviews. Maybe they’ll be able to convince you to get Nomads where my unhinged ramblings have failed. 

There will be more books coming from me in the future. Hopefully not the distant future. 

About the Author:


Coby Zucker is a 24-year-old part-time fantasy writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. He writes about more mundane subjects for his day job. Follow him on socials for updates about his writing. Nomads of the Sea is Coby’s debut novel.

Escapist Book Tour Spotlight: A Man Named Baskerville by Jim Nelson

I’m excited to be joining Escapist Tours in talking about A Man Named Baskerville, a book with a unique new addition to the Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

When people think about Sherlock Holmes, there are a few things that tend to come to mind: Sherlock himself (of course), Watson, a certain hat, Moriarity, and the Hound of the Baskervilles. Jim Nelson’s book, A Man Named Baskerville, takes a new look at the mysterious figure Rodger Baskerville.

About the Book:

He took on Sherlock Holmes and lost. Now he wants revenge.

In 1888, Sherlock Holmes slayed the spectral hound haunting the Devonshire moor, laying to rest the curse of the Baskervilles once and for all. The perpetrator escaped into the night and was presumed drowned, consumed by the murky bog…

In truth, the criminal mastermind survived the night to nurse his wounds and plot his revenge against Sherlock Holmes.

A MAN NAMED BASKERVILLE recounts the life and times of Rodger Baskerville, exiled heir to the esteemed family’s fortune. His journal records his adventures from the Amazon rainforests to the beaches of Costa Rica to Victorian England, where he attempts to take his rightful place at Baskerville Hall. Along the way, he peels back the layers of family secrets and scandals untold in Dr. Watson’s account of the demonic hound haunting the Baskervilles.

Most of all, he describes a Sherlock Holmes unlike the legendary detective you think you know.

A MAN NAMED BASKERVILLE retells the infamous Arthur Conan Doyle mystery in a way you’ve never read before. It’s a sizzling new take on a classic hailed as a masterpiece of the English language, named one of the most influential books ever by the BBC and Le Monde, and beloved by Sherlock Holmes fans worldwide for over a century.It’s a rousing adventure, from start to finish. What’s more—it’s a Sherlock Holmes story unlike any you’ve read before.

About the Author:

Jim Nelson’s novels include Bridge Daughter (2016, Kindle Press), Stranger Son, and In My Memory Locked.  His work has appeared in North American Review, Confrontation, Instant City, and other fine venues.

He divides his time between San Francisco and Tokyo.

Author Website: https://j-nelson.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/_jimnelson_
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/j.nelson.net
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/jim_nelson
Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/_jimnelson_

Where to find A Man Named Baskerville:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09VYVKK4H
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60656350-a-man-named-baskerville

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Paladins, Clerics, and Druids (Repost)

I had the idea to discuss Dungeons and Dragons classes (which is very similar to the class system in most roleplaying games) and its similarity to characters in books. Basically, a “class” is a set group of skills that is generally used by a specific profession. For example, “fighter class” consists of excelling at some sort of combat.

I asked for contributions from book bloggers and authors and what they came up with is brilliant. What had started out as a single post has turned into a few, with each post discussing a different set of classes. You can find my post on Fighters and Barbarians here. Today, let’s talk about paladins, clerics, and druids. Here we go!

Paladin: Take a fighter and add a fair dose of religious fervor, a strong code of conduct, and an oath to fulfill, and you’ve got the general idea. Paladins get a power boost from either their god or their commitment to their cause. Boiled down: holy warrior. Or, if you’re feeling saucy, an unholy warrior.

I’m happy to have The Swordsmith joining in the conversation :

“Firstly, I am delighted to be contributing to the Witty and Sarcastic Book club for the first time!  It’s an amazing blog that I follow and when Jodie put out this interesting call, I just knew that I wanted to be a part of this post.

I have a feeling this is going to be a great post. Jodie’s request was to match a character from fiction to a Dungeons and Dragons class and I had so many ideas!  I settled on something though, it seemed so bizarre but then thinking about it I just had to write about Murderbot from the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells as a Paladin!

Go with me on this one as Paladins are a holy warrior class in D&D, while Murderbot isn’t the major comparison is that it always tries to do the right thing.  This is an important part of the books and the character, this part of the character drew comparisons to the Paladin class. It reminded me of one cool dude I am playing D&D with at the moment and guess what?  He’s playing as a Paladin.

Doing the right thing or what you perceive to be the right thing is tough, Paladin’s can have a very hard time in D&D and Murderbot..well the character is an interesting one because it fights for what it believes, for it believes to be doing the right thing when it does.  I can’t say too much without spoilers but I just knew that the character connotations were there.

Thank you to Jodie for allowing me to let loose my love of Murderbot and comparing it to a Paladin class, enjoy the rest of the post!”


Author Ricardo Victoria also has some thoughts on the paladin class: “This class gets a lot of flak due to its apparent rigidity, but I blame that more on the player (no offense) than on the class, as not many people know or like or can play a Lawful Good character without trying to make it a cardboard cutout. That’s why I think the best example of how a Paladin should be is Sgt. Carrot from Discworld. Strong as an ox? Check? Abides by the Law? Check. Charismatic? Check. Compassionate? Check. Innocent? Check. Can pound you to an inch of your life if you hurt an innocent? For sure. Carrot proves that a Paladin can abide by the spirit of the rule, rather than the letter, can be courteous yet dangerous, flexible when needed, and smart in an unexpected way, especially with clever interpretations of the law. But his most important trait is that he could have the power (it’s somewhat of a secret that he is the true heir to the crown of Ankh-Morpok, and he knows that). The thing is he doesn’t want it. He just wants to protect the innocent and then go home, even if he is pretty much married to his job. That, for me, is how a paladin should be played.”

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub, on paladins: “For me, I picture Sir Gawain as the epitome of a holy warrior. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, he is very concerned with honor and adhering to the strict code he’s sworn to uphold. There are themes regarding service to the helpless, as well as to God. His sense of morality and his code of conduct guide him in every aspect of his life.



Cleric: More than a healer, but not quite a paladin, clerics are servants of their deities. Clerics have the ability to heal as well as possibly harm through magical means granted by their god. However, unlike a priest or acolyte (who usually stay in a town or temple), clerics take their skills to the frontlines, helping those such as paladins in their holy cause.

Geeky Galaxy has some great thoughts on clerics: “Trudi Canavan has a great many series that covers every angle of character archetypes, from rogues to magicians, and the one I’m going to talk about a little more, clerics. Age of the Five #1 is called Priestess of the White and features all manner of religious icons, from cults, to gods and of course, clerics. This series is perfect if you love a rich depth to your fantasy worlds with a particular focus on religion and politics. It’s perfect for the sort of person who wants to get lost in a book for hours at a time!


Beneath a Thousand Skies 
shares her thoughts on clerics: “Anyone who’s ever played D&D has likely has the cleric call them out on their nonsense at least once. The long-suffering cleric is part healer, part priestess/priest, part counsellor, and often (but not always0 the common sense of the party. They can also pack quite a punch when they want to.

For me, that is Gilda from the Godblind trilogy in a nutshell. In many ways, she’s central to the story and plays a pivotal role in the lives and stories of many of the characters. Yet she’s also an unsung hero, and she is a perfect example of someone straddling that line between priestess, counsellor, and

healer. She might not have magic, but she has powe, heart, and that all-important common sense and she has a mean right hook when needed (just ask Lanta).”

“There’s little I understand about your religion, about why you would choose a life of fear and of pain over a world of life and light and beauty and an afterlife of joy and oneness. Because life is hard, aye, but it isn’t brutal. Brutal’s what we do to each other. Hard is what the seasons do to us.”-Anna Stephens, Darksoul

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub says: Clerics are probably the class that I have the least experience with. However, Melisandre from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series comes to mind. Her deity is called the Lord of Light and, to be honest, she really weirded me out.

Druid: Druids are representative of nature. They get their power- healing, magical spells, etc.- from either the land itself or from a nature deity. They can even shift into an animal form.

I love Bees and Books’ take on druids: “Were the Animorphs a huge part of your childhood? Those tattered, much loved paperbacks certainly were a staple in all of the school libraries I visited.
Prepare yourselves for a Big Brain moment but the Animorphs were just like Druids in D&D. Take the primary power of an Animorph: the ability to morph into a creature they have seen and touched, thereby acquiring the DNA of the creature permanently. The Animorph in question then can use that shape for morphing at any time, though they are limited to the time period they can stay in shift otherwise they may become stuck as that creature. The Animorph power (given to them by the alien Andalites) is similar to a class feature of the D&D Druid, namely the Wildshape feature. Wildshape allows Druids to transform into a creature that they have seen–as opposed to touch/acquire DNA from. This mechanic limits Druids to only creatures from their region, or that they see while on their adventures at the DM’s discretion. Additionally, there are limitations that lift over time as the Druid levels up such as not being able to transform into flying or swimming creatures, and the difficulty rating that Druids can transform up to. It’s relatively easy to transform into a rat, but it takes a while before a Druid can be a giant eagle. These limitations for both Druids and Animorphs mean that they can really only transform into creatures they have access to, and have to be clever when thinking about what to transform into for fighting and other adventures.
More experienced Druids also gain additional features, depending on their Druid Circle, that can boost their abilities while in Wildshape, increase the time they can be shifted, or broaden the options for what they can shift into. Similarly, as the Animorphs grow and learn their abilities in the books they become more proficient in shifting, and even find ways around tricky situations such as getting stuck in shift.”

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub weighs in: Allanon from the Shanara series by Terry Brooks is a pretty good example of a typical druid.

Meet the contributors:

The Swordsmith is a wonderful blog focusing on fantasy literature. The posts are full of detail and so well-written! I highly suggest checking out The Swordsmith anytime you’re looking for a great new book to check out. You won’t be sorry!

Ricardo Victoria is the author of The Tempest Blades fantasy series. Book one, The Withered King, (which I highly recommend reading), is available now. Book two, The Cursed Titans will be released this summer and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Beneath a Thousand Skies talks about all things nerdy on her blog, including books and Dungeons and Dragons. A perfect haven for those with an eye toward imaginative books, Beneath a Thousand Skies is definitely a blog to follow.

Geeky Galaxy is a great blog that covers a bit of everything, from book reviews to thoughts on book-to-movie adaptations. Her content is always fun to read, and her writer’s voice is a fantastic!

Bees and Books is a delightful blog, and one of my go-to’s for fantasy opinions. Bees and Books’ posts are so unique and always give me something to mull over.


Author Guest Post: Jason and Rose Bishop

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jason and Rose Bishop, authors of the Storm’s Rising series.

It is a story of a world torn apart and those who vow to see it healed again. It’s a story of love, scarred by centuries of tragedy and sorrow. It is a story of redemption – for our characters, for the races of Cyrradon, and for us.

THE BEGINNING

“Just throw your story up into outer space and see what happens!”

We were at the end of our wits. We were frustrated. We were feeling like we’d put so much work into our story, and we had so much more to tell…and no publishers could see the potential. How does anyone get through the minefield of query letters, endless rejections, and the carnival funhouse swarming with vanity publishers and scam artists, with scarcely a hint of a genuine soul among them. Add to it an unhealthy disdain for publishing independently, and there’s the opening chapter to our dream of becoming famous epic fantasy authors in a nutshell.

We’d been working on the story together for nearly two decades. Imagine it: a married couple, with typical married couple issues, trying to write different parts of a story alongside each other, then editing the other’s work. It was a situation ripe with opportunity for enriching and strengthening our love for one another…or quite possibly becoming something that drove us apart.

On that fateful Valentine’s Day in early 2020, though, Paul (the gentleman quoted above) spoke into our souls and redirected us from focusing on the past to being inspired about the future. I think we’re both glad it turned out the way it did. We took his advice, got over ourselves, and launched our first book into the indie heavens.

THE STORY

(With minimal spoilers) Our tale begins with a pair of elven sisters, Dia and Mea, who despite being twins are as different from one another as the meanings of their names. While on a hunt near the boundaries of the elven Ghreyewood, the sisters wander too close to the human-owned Yeoman’s Wood, and (tiny spoiler) Mea is captured. But she has unwisely brought with her a piece of their history, a tie to the legacy left for them by their mother: a brooch carrying a secret even Mea and Dia are not fully aware of.

In the nearby city of Granite Hedge, a young human thief named Lendil awakens in his flat in Gutterside when his drunkard father comes home, and Lendil recalls with disgust how far the family has fallen. His father was once a knight, a personal friend to the king, a hero about whom stories were told and songs sung. To see him like this, and his once noble mother now turned to late night carousing and whoring, is too much for him to take. A secret tragedy tore them apart years ago; a thing so painfully obvious but so long unspoken that it makes every moment pretending to be a family a lie. In one final tear-filled plea, Lendil comes closer than ever to getting an answer from his parents but fails and ends up leaving in search of his own answers and his own life.

The story begins to unfold when Lendil crosses paths with Dia in the company of two half-elf cousins later that morning. Unbeknownst to each other, they carry pieces to a puzzle none of them truly knew existed. And the answers impel them down a dark road into a world of deception, into struggles against powers they never thought to confront, toward destinies they couldn’t possibly have dreamed awaited them.”

Published in May 2020, our first novel in the Storm’s Rising series,The Call, tells the tale of Lendil, Dia, and the half-elves Antonio and Derek, seeking answers to the tragedies of their past, and discovering their paths to those answers lie alongside one another. 

It’s a coming-of-age story, a story of people dragged from simple lives to the front lines of a battle between evil kings and dark mages and the gods themselves. 

It’s a story about the breaking of the world and its restoration to the balance envisioned by Aralieth, its creator. 

It’s a story of redemption.

…And this is only the beginning.

THE SAGA

We are proud and thrilled to have published four full-length novels that follow our main characters through many trials and dangers, leading them to learn so much more about the events that brought them here, and what they must face before the end. Our story and world are richly layered with history and subculture, with very few things actually as they appear. There are mages and priests, dark fiends and ancient wyrms, underground societies and bloody cults, kings, politicians, merchant lords, covert agents and assassins. There are lands far and wide to be travelled, diverse cultures to be explored, mysteries and prophecy to be unraveled, vile horrors to be overcome, and battles to be fought.

We’re still not famous epic fantasy authors, but there’s more to it than that. My wife and I continue to write together. And though our interactions in that processes continue to evolve, we’re learning more about each ourselves and coming closer to understanding each other with each chapter. Maybe one day we’ll write a book about all the things this journey has taught us! As I said, it’s a story of redemption.

On a larger scale, we’re accomplishing our mission: we’re telling the story in our hearts, the story we would love to read, and we’re sharing that magic with others. One reader—one you—at a time.

🙚☸🙘


If you’ve read any of our works, please RATE and REVIEW them! It takes only a few moments to give a fair rating and say a few words about what touched you from our world. You’ll be blessing us more than you may know.! If you enjoyed our post, please share by forwarding, reposting, retweeting, liking, subscribing, and recommending to others! We couldn’t do this without you!

Happy Adventures!

Jason and Rose Bishop

Epic Fantasy Authors at Legends of Cyrradon

Visit our WEBSITE

Latest release: Storm’s Rising Book 4: Eye of the Witch

FREE audiobook preview of Storm’s Rising Book 1: The Call (click above)

Follow us for news, previews, blog posts and more!

Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/author/jasonandrosebishop

Twitter – @cyrradon

Instagram – legendsofcyrradon

Facebook – @cyrradon

Goodreads – Jason Bishop / Rose Bishop

Wattpad – jasonandrosebishop

Email – legendsofcyrradon@gmail.com

March of the Sequels: Interview with Ricardo Victoria

March is a month-long celebration of great sequels, organized by the great blog, Sue’s Musings. Today I’m happy to be able to talk with Ricardo Victoria, author of The Tempest Blades series. Both book one titled The Withered King and its sequel, The Cursed Titans, are available now.

Thank you for joining me!

Thank you for having me again on your blog. I even brought my own coffee mug this time.

Smart! Coffee is the stuff of life. Will you talk a little about your series, particularly the sequel?

Ah! The most difficult question you can ask a writer. Quoting myself, in general Tempest Blades is a series of stories where the characters have to learn to deal and work through their personal struggles on par of them going into adventures that put them in the position of saving the world –a world where magic and science coexist-. 

Each book has several POV, but each one has a main POV, which is centered on one of my main 3 characters: Fionn, Gaby and Alex, are blessed or cursed –depending on whom you ask- with the Gift, which grants them special superhuman abilities. The first book centered about Fionn learning to accept his past, learning to move on and recognizing that he was getting a 2nd chance at life, while saving the world and mentoring a new generation of heroes. The second focus around the consequences for all characters after the events of the first book, and in particular the struggles with depression that Alex undergoes and that were exacerbated by the past events. So while he tries to save a city from a villainous monster, he pushes himself beyond what’s healthy and there are consequences of that. The way things happen on the book set in motion larger events for the next two. Apologies for being a bit vague, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler free.

Do you find that it is difficult for readers to continue a series? Why do you think that is?

Kinda, there are several factors at play that can make a reader stop following a saga. Finances are one, not everybody can afford to keep buying books from a really long series (although Public Libraries are a godsend in that case. Sidenote: support your local Library if you have one). Other is interest, the longer a series grow, if the readers feel there is no real sense of progression, that things are stalling, padded, then they are more likely to drop it. 

And then there is the elephant in the room: authors that take so long between books –if they ever release the next one- that readers feel like they will never see the end of a story, especially when the author is a well-known pantser. I mean, I’m not going to attack a fellow author for taking so long between books, because that can happen for multiple reasons (although I find that less defensible if they are full-time authors, as those who has a day job have to juggle a lot of things in order to write and yet they manage to do it). And we all are well acquainted with Gaiman’s comment of “Martin is not your bitch”, regarding readers’ entitlement. Regardless, I don’t blame readers from dropping incomplete series that don’t seem to make progress for the next release. My beta reader for example, refuses to buy any new book by certain famous author, because he hasn’t finished his main series and the last book came out almost a decade ago. I can understand that feeling. It’s like never being able to watch Avenger Endgame and get closure for the Infinity saga because Marvel decides to produce another X-Men movie without finishing the saga first.

Finally, is the daunting task of tackling a large series from the start, moreover when the books are doorstoppers. It’s kinda like asking an anime fan to watch One Piece from the start, with 1000+ episodes to go. And One Piece has no filler episode, all are relevant to the plot!

Is it easier to fully develop characters that you have already written in previous books?

Oh yes. The sequel allows you to build upon the previously shown aspects, dwell more on what makes them tick. Especially since the first book of a series is often an introductory book to a large plot so we get at times a cursory glimpse at who the character is. Sequels allow you to explore that, to even change the main POV to see how things are perceived by them.

How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into relationships that have already been established in the first book?

It’s like introducing a new friend to your old friend group, or like adding a new player to your ongoing-for-years D&D campaign.  It’s far from impossible, but the new character has to adjust to the already establishes dynamic –unless it is introduced to disrupt said dynamic- there are inside jokes, shorthands, shared experiences to which the new character has to be introduced. But since the reader is in a way already part of that already established group, you need to be careful with not repeating much information that has been already given.

That makes perfect sense! Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world that you have already created in book one?

It depends, if you are like me, someone who enjoys worldbuidling but has the memory of a shrimp for most things, yes it can be hard to keep track of your own continuity and timeline. There are times when I wish Tempest Blades had its own fan wikia, it would make my life easier. No, really, I need one. Please!

Leaving that aside, sequels are a godsend for worldbuilders because they allow you to showcase more of your fictional world, to come up with more and more interesting details, or simply rescue stuff you had to cut from the previous one due space and flow.

Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book one that is very inconvenient to deal with in subsequent books?

Have I? I’m staring at a couple of them as we speak, cursing at myself from the past. I’m planning to solve them through unreliable narrators and self-deprecating jokes. Thankfully my editor and my beta reader are really helpful with those things and have advised me on how to use them to enhance the original plot.

Have you noticed your craft improving from book one through subsequent books in a series? If so, how?

Yes. As I get to better know my characters and my world, I can focus more on the finer details of the plot. Also, I feel like I write with more fluidity and with better grasp of the subtleties of the language, which in my case I hope is more noticeable given than I’m writing in my second language.

Do you plan out the entire series at once?  Or do you plan one book at a time?

A bit of both. Tempest Blades is my first series so I can’t about entire series in plural. For this one I had a long arc –just the general ideas, not a full plan with details- but decided to take one bit that could work as a single book write it, and see if it got published and if it worked. Once my publisher got onboard with the idea of a series, I took the next bit of that general idea and wrote the second book, with the idea that if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t leave many open threads. Then the discussion for a third book came and by then I realized that a) I don’t want to spend my whole life dedicated to a single series in particular and b) I want to finish this one in a reasonable time so this time I did planned most of the final two books ahead, so once I finish writing the 3rd, I take a brief break and start writing 4th right away. This time I even did a chapter break for each one of those two.

Side note, originally I was going to finish the series in 3 books, totaling 5. But I decided to merge two of them as I didn’t feel I had enough ideas for 5 long books, or that the story could be expanded that much.

Do your characters ever surprise you, causing you to change previously planned-out details or plotlines?

Yeah, in big ways *stares at Sid*. But that’s part of the fun of this. I even discovered things I have never ever considered about the lives of 2 of my characters previous to the books that actually make sense on how they act around each other, and more about the personal life of a third one. And then there is Sid that has this knack to find ways to interject himself in the plot that is not his.

 Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing to get the completed story?

My approach with this series at least is to emulate the MCU model: each book is a standalone, but at the same time is part of a larger plot, with the final book probably being the only one that can’t be a standalone but still can be read if you have the basic grasp of what’s going on.

Originally, I wanted to make something like Sir Terry Pratchett did with Discworld, but I’m nowhere as good as a writer as he was.

Do parts of your books ever reflect what is going on either in your life or in the world at the time of writing?

Some bits, yes. When it comes to real world events, yes there is some inspiration drawn from there. But when it comes to stuff from my life, they come from previous experiences or my long term dealings with some issues, such as depression.

The way you tackled mental illness is one of the things I really enjoyed about The Cursed Titans.

Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?

To be honest, not really, I’m learning this on the way. I guess draw on the aspects that readers liked of the first one to amp the next one.

About the author:

Ricardo Victoria is a Mexican writer with a Ph.D. in Design –with an emphasis in sustainability- from Loughborough University, and a love of fiction, board games, comic books, and action figures. He lives in Toluca, Mexico with his wife and pets, working works as a full-time lecturer and researcher at the local university. He writes mainly science fantasy.

His first novel, Tempest Blades: The Withered King, was released in August 2019 by Shadow Dragon Press, an imprint of Artemesia Publishing. The sequel, Tempest Blades: Cursed Titans was released in July  2021. He is currently working on the third book of the saga. He has a number of stories published by Inklings Press, and other indie outlets, and has collaborated with the horror podcast The Wicked Library.

His short story Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, jointly written with Brent A. Harris, was nominated for a Sidewise Award for short-form alternative history. He co-authored a chapter (No elf is an island. Understanding worldbuilding through system thinking) for the book “Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, currently nominated for the BSFA.

You can find out more at his website, http://ricardovictoriau.com, or follow him on Twitter, @Winged_Leo

Purchase Links:

Amazon: The Tempest Blades

Publisher’s Site: The Tempest Blades

March of the Sequels- 2 Times the Fun!

There are many instances of readers not getting around to the sequel of a series, even if they enjoyed book one. I think there are several reasons for this, many that have nothing to do with the enjoyment of the book, but that doesn’t make it any less discouraging for authors. However, Sue from the excellent blog Sue’s Musings, has issued the call: let’s read and (and review, if you happen to be a reviewer) sequels this month!

Without further ado, here are some sequels that I think have continued a series magnificently:

Dead Man in a Ditch (Fetch Phillips Archive #2) by Luke Arnold- Review found here. “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. “

The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst- Review found here. “The Reluctant Queen is an engrossing addition to the Queens of Renthia trilogy.”

The Crossover Paradox (Justice Academy #2) by Rob Edwards- Review to come. The Crossover Paradox raised the stakes and never let up on the gas.

A Kingdom for a Stage (For a Muse of Fire #2) by Heidi Heilig- Review found here. “I raced through this book, enjoying every moment of it.”

The Unready Queen (The Oddmire #2) by William Ritter. Review found here. “The series continues wonderfully, combining the fantastical with the everyday wonder of childhood.”

The Isle of Battle (The Swans’ War #2) by Sean Russell- Far from being merely a setup for book three, The Isle of Battle added so much to the storyline of the series! It also created a sense of urgency, which I loved.

Nectar for the God (Mennik Thorn #2) by Patrick Samphire- Review found here. “Once again, author Patrick Samphire crafted a book that is impossible to put down.”

The Bone Shard Emperor (Drowning Empire #2) by Andrea Stewart- Review found here. “Book two in the Drowning Empire series, The Bone Shard Emperor was a wild ride full of action, betrayal, and heart-in-your-throat plot twists.”

The Cursed Titans (The Tempest Blades #2) by Ricardo Victoria- Review found here. “The Cursed Titans managed to again bring a deeper meaning into an action-packed storyline. In this case, it was mental illness.”

Dragons of Winter Night ( Dragonlance Chronicles #2) by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman – More on Dragonlance found here. “I open the pages, breathe in the smell, and am immediately whisked far and away- to a place that I both love and appreciate.”

Fantasy Focus: Romantic Fantasy Featuring L. Krauch

This month I am doing a Fantasy Focus on Romantic Fantasy. This is a subgenre that I have had a great time learning more about. Today I am privileged to have L. Krauch, author of the The 13th Zodiac series, talk about her experience with romantic fantasy.

While I classify The 13th Zodiac as “Final” Fantasy in aesthetic, it also has elements of romantic fantasy. The core of the story revolves around the two main characters, Jase and Liya, finding one another. 

It begins with happenstance (or is it?). Jase Raion is set on a mission by his father, the King of Chall, to track down someone he was certain was dead. Low and behold, he finds her. Well, she runs into him and drops his apple in the process. What follows it is a whirlwind of longing touches, a distant prince who had been burned in the past, and a plot to not only end her life but all life on Gaea. I would say that The 13th Zodiac is Star-crossed lovers with a dash of One True Pairing. 

When I set out to write The 13th Zodiac I didn’t do so planning to write a love story. It was just one part of a much larger story. Twenty years ago it was a comic book that mostly consisted of cute anime boys that my friends thought were hot. (Jase being the hottest, of course). But twenty years and one pandemic later, I sat down and wrote my first novel. 

The love story within wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Yes, I wanted to get them together, but I wanted it to feel real and not just because they were meant to be. The hardest part I found with writing it was trying to keep it real. That the love between them grew in a natural way, and I wasn’t just throwing them together for a “Hey I just met you, let’s totally do it” type feel. 

Jase is distant and scorned by an ex-girlfriend and he tries to keep his feelings hidden from even himself. While Liya does fall for the first guy she met that wasn’t her adoptive brothers. There are, of course, roadblocks in the way of them being together. Jiroo (one of Liya’s adoptive brothers) sees her as his, even though she would never see him the same. This causes a rift and puts into motion a series of events where the reader is actually happy someone is kidnapped. 

Our lives tell stories just like we tell in our books. I drew from real-life inspiration for my romance and the obstacles within. Which also included some of the more negative sides to it (infatuation). 

Romance can also be anything, from love between two people, the love between siblings (or in my case love from a sibling that is misdirected), love of family, and love of self. (Or even love of something dear to you) There isn’t one right way to write it. And it doesn’t always end in happily ever after. You do what feels right, and natural to you. Someone will connect with it on a level you never expected. 

I certainly didn’t expect to write romantic fantasy, but after all was said and done I discovered I had. I always planned to get my characters together. I am glad I wrote it the way I did and wouldn’t try to change it. 

About the Author:

The 13th Zodiac is an Epic Fantasy, slow-burn romance with a hint of Anime. Originally, L. Krauch wrote it as a comic book in high school. Back then, it was merely pages drawn on computer paper to bring smiles to her audience of thirteen. The problem was, it had no plot. Now, twenty years, and three kids later, she sat down, gave that plotless comic a plot, and turned it into a sprawling multi-pov fantasy novel. 

Her day job is sticking things to newborns, and by sticking things to newborns, she means hearing screens. 

In her free time, she hangs out with her black cat, Luna, and keeps three small humans from killing each other. She and her husband have been happily married for twelve years and originally met in an MMO. To maintain her sanity, she now writes. And she may or may not have a thing for apples. 

To Purchase: The 13th Zodiac

Final Fantasy with actual romance

A Crown Prince running from his past, and a girl who can barely remember her own, are thrown together to combat the evils of the King of Chall. 

Time is not on their side. And Fate has other plans.

Fantasy Focus: Romantic Fantasy Featuring Rebecca Crunden

Banner Credit: Dan Fitzgerald

This month’s Fantasy Focus is on the romantic comedy subgenre. Today, I’m privileged to have Rebecca Crunden, author of many romantic fantasy books, talk about the joy of writing romantic fantasy. Thank you so much, Rebecca!

I was writing up a movie review the other night – In Time by Andrew Niccol, good film! – and spent a good amount of it discussing the joys of romantic sci-fi, and I think so much of what I love about romantic sci-fi is also what I love in romantic fantasy. I love the world-building, I love the different times/eras/settings/universes, I love the escapism and the imagination. In fact, I think of all the genres I’ve written in, romantic fantasy is probably my favourite. Although if we’re being really specific, dystopian romantic fantasy is my top tier favourite. Examining power structures, oppression, politics and greed with a side helping of magic and a dash of romance? Sign me up; I will read ALL THE BOOKS! 

My most recent novel, These Violent Nights, is thus unsurprisingly a dystopian romantic fantasy. (Two of my earlier novels, Haze and A Game of Wings and Marks are paranormal romance and urban fantasy romance, respectively, so they fit into the broader umbrella of romantic fantasy but focus almost entirely on the characters more than the world-building. My short story, The Man and the Crow, is also a romantic fantasy.)  For its part, These Violent Nights is a big chonk of a book at 600+ pages and spans two alternate futures, each one dystopian and forbidding in a different way. I wouldn’t say it’s quite cyberpunk paralleled against steampunk, but there are elements of cyberpunk incorporated into one world while the parallel universe has steampunk-lite elements. 

The book is initially told from the point of view of Thorn, one of the last humans in a world overrun by magical creatures who have spent centuries hunting humans to near extinction. Her love interest, Kol, is one of those very magical beings. Their paths cross when their best friends fall in love and they’re forced to be around each other. And ooooh, there’s drama and angst and fighting! It’s very enemies-to-lovers. Then, in the second volume of the book, you meet another couple (Lucien and Nik) in a relationship that is in every way different and paralleled to Thorn and Kol’s. I loved exploring the nuances of the relationships and examining how two souls who have no reason to trust each other can ultimately work together and even fall in love. But like any good fairy tale, there’s a long, grim road to travel before the happy ending. 

I suppose for me the greatest joy in writing fantasy romance novels is imagining other worlds and universes, and the souls within them. I spend far too much of my time daydreaming inside the universes I’ve imagined, or coming up with new ones. And in addition to being a hopeless, incurable daydreamer, I’m just a romantic at heart. I love love. My favourite film of all time is The Princess Bride (the book is fantastic, too) and it’s been a genre and a theme that I’ve always returned to whilst writing. 

I think imagining worlds where, in the midst of fighting with, or alongside, dragons and spells, witches and elves, you also have characters who are enduring it all together, is just terribly romantic and fun. And while I adore the theme of love-conquers-all in every genre, I think the escapism of romantic fantasy really sells me on it being my forever fav. Sometimes the last thing you want is to spend time in the real world, but you still ache for that us-against-the-world theme. Romantic fantasy is the perfect place for that!  

About the author:

Rebecca Crunden is an indie author of fantasy and science fiction who lives in Ireland.

You can find her My Amazon Page | Website | Twitter

Fantasy Focus: Romantic Fantasy Featuring Dan Fitzgerald

Banner Credit: Dan Fitzgerald

Each month this year, I’ll have a week where I focus on a different subgenre of fantasy. Last month’s Fantasy Focus was comedic fantasy. This month I’m shining a spotlight on romantic fantasy, a subgenre that I don’t know much about. Thankfully, Dan Fitzgerald, author of the Weirdwater Confluence, is here to help!

Effing the Ineffable: Intimate Discourse in Romantic Fiction

Every so often, the discourse surrounding sex scenes in books gets my blood boiling. I’m not talking about folks who say they don’t like to read them, or that they skim them or skip them. That’s absolutely fine and wonderful. There are many excellent reasons why readers may prefer not to read explicit material, and no one needs to explain why it’s not their jam. People can like what they like.

I’m talking about something else: the idea that sex scenes are “empty titillation.” That they add no value to a book. That they “must advance the plot or characterization” or they should be cut. I would agree that sex scenes must show us something about the characters, but there’s this assumption that they generally don’t, which grates my cheese to the point that I’m writing this mini essay. In fantasy particularly, where readers often embrace all manner of horrific violence, why do scenes of intimate sharing cause such strong negative reactions? We seldom question the narrative value of graphic fight scenes or pulse-pounding chases, but sex scenes are somehow seen as extraneous?

Books tell stories and reveal character in a variety of ways, using different forms of discourse. We have narration, where we see descriptions of the world, often filtered through one or more character’s perceptions. What the writer decides to show and how they choose to show it communicates something important. Dialogue between characters shows us something entirely different, pure verbal communication, but often with little peeks at what’s behind their words, shown directly through revealing their thoughts, or indirectly through their gestures and actions as they speak. Gestures and actions can do a lot of narrative work even in the absence of dialogue; body language is just as expressive as spoken language. And body language in a public setting can be very different from what happens when two (or more) characters come together in an intimate setting, which is what has brought me to the keyboard today.

No one disputes that interior monologue or narrative voice play an important role in building character and story. The narrative value of dialogue speaks for itself, pun intended. And who doesn’t love the way the smallest gesture shows us a world of nuance that a thousand words of interior monologue could not capture? These forms of discourse are relatively easy to grasp, though they may be challenging to write effectively. But intimate physical discourse is seldom seen as such. We have this idea that what happens in the bedroom, or the couch, or on a pile of straw in an abandoned dragon’s lair, is somehow less of a means of communication than the others. Or perhaps we see it as communication but have been trained not to study it too closely, for fear of feeling voyeuristic or vulgar.

The way characters act and communicate in public can be very different from what they do in intimate spaces, or it can be quite similar. In either case, it shows us something important that hints at larger truths about them. Do they make the first move? Do they show confidence? Hesitation? Do they struggle with their inhibitions, or do they cut loose once free of prying eyes? Do they seek their own pleasure first, or that of their partners? Do they tease, dominate, submit, withhold, give in? Every moment of a good intimate scene reveals something about a character and their relation to others.

It is true that many of the things described above can be shown to some extent in non-intimate scenes, but there is something unique about what happens when two (or more) people exist in a space that is uniquely theirs. How fast and how fully can they strip away the expectations and roles society casts them into? Do they find freedom in this private universe to be someone they can’t be in the confines of the world at large? The way they move together, the way they express, with their bodies, the conflicting tensions and desires swirling inside them, all of it is discourse. It is communication beyond words of things that cannot be expressed verbally.

Sex scenes are a way of effing the ineffable.

It’s fine if you don’t like to read or write them. It’s fine if you hate them. Just don’t say they add no value to a story.

About the author:

Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low fantasy) and the Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories), both from Shadow Spark Publishing.

He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When not writing he might be found doing yoga, gardening, cooking, or listening to French music.

Links Buy my books in any format: Dan Fitzgerald — Shadow Spark Publishing
Twitter: Dan Fitzgerald (@DanFitzWrites) / Twitter (writing and bookish stuff—this is my home)
Instagram: Dan Fitzgerald (@danfitzwrites) • Instagram photos and videos (nature photography and bookish posts—this is my playground)
Website: Dan Fitzgerald (danfitzwrites.com) (Find out more about my books, plus there’s a blog)