Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: The Midyear Freak Out Tag

Banner Credit: Anca Antoci

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to post nearly as often as I wanted to during Self-published Authors Appreciation Week. I have been planning on giving this tag a go for ages, however, so I can’t let the week end without taking this opportunity to finally get it done. I don’t know who came up with the original tag, so please let me know if you do. I’d love to credit them.

These are all self-published books, which goes to show (yet again) that any stigma against self-publishing is completely without merit. I encourage you to read off the beaten path!

Best Book You Read So Far This Year

Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more.

Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

This is actually a three-way tie at the moment (I reserve the right to add to this number at any given time), but since I think everyone and their brother should read Dragon Mage, I’m going to go with this one. Aram is one of the most wonderful main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. I’ve gushed at length about the book here, but there really isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Dragon Mage. Definitely read this book, if you haven’t yet.

Best Sequel You Read So Far

The Infinite Tower (Heroes of Spira Book 4) by Dorian Hart

Horn’s Company saved the world of Spira.

The Black Circle erased it.

Now Dranko, Morningstar, Kibi, and the rest of the team have a lot of work to do.

In order to mend their broken reality, the company must venture to distant Het Branoi — The Infinite Tower — in search of a third Eye of Moirel. Only then will they be able to travel into the past and stop the Sharshun from changing the course of history.But Het Branoi is a bizarre and deadly place, a baffling construction full of mystery and danger, of magic and chaos, with unexpected allies and terrifying monsters. Horn’s Company will need courage, perseverance, and more than a little luck if they are to find the Eye and discover the terrible secret at the heart of the Infinite Tower.

Both my oldest and I are loving this series. From the characters and their relationships, to the world-development and the fantastical creatures, this hits every checkmark on my list of favorite things in fantasy books. It’s quickly become one of my most given fantasy recommendations and for good reason. Not only am I looking forward to seeing what happens next, I am planning on rereading from the beginning of the series before too much longer. You can find my review here.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet

Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J. Hayes

Yuu wants nothing more than to forget the mistakes of her past. The Gods have other plans.

Once a renowned strategist and general, five years ago Yuu made a mistake that cost her everything. Now she is on the run, royal bounty hunters snapping at her heels. But what if there was a way to get back what she lost, a way to bring back a murdered prince?

Every century, the gods hold a contest to choose who will rule from the Heavenly Jade Throne. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of all existence hangs in the balance.

On a battlefield full of heroes, warriors, assassins, and thieves can Yuu survive long enough to learn the rules of the game, let alone master it?

Why haven’t I read this yet? WHY???

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun

As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high‑altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space‑time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space‑time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.

I’m not going to say too much because my review is still forthcoming. I’ll just point out that any reader of sci-fi needs to add this to their tbr right now.

Biggest Surprise

Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland

Villains aren’t born, they’re made.

Witt was an ordinary NPC—a non-player character in a video game. As a kobold skald, he sang songs to empower heroes before they entered the local dungeons.

Every day was a fresh start. Every day Witt woke with no memory of his previous encounters with all those so-called heroes. And every day he forgot the countless beatings and deaths he took at the hands of the murder hobos he valiantly buffed.

But when all of those memories suddenly come flooding back, he only wants one thing:

Revenge.

I honestly expected a fun, entertaining little story. I got that and more. It was more violent than I expected, but it was also much more thought-out than I expected. Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale was a blast to read and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author.

Favorite New Author

I’ve decided that M.L. Spencer could write a book about sandpaper and I’d pre-order it.

Newest Favorite Character – Merovich

Small Places by Matthew Samuels

Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)

Merovich was a delight. They were so child-like and sweet, while at the same time they invented the most dangerous of things. I loved that juxtaposition. Honestly, all of the characters in Small Places are fantastic. You can find my review here.

Book that Made You Cry

The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald

In Hollow Road three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion. (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often cry over books or movies. This one had me tearing up, though. Author Dan Fitzgerald used it as a kind of mirror, to show the best and worst in all of us. It was beautiful. Find my review here.

Book that Made You Happy

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton

The aged and still cocaine-addicted Sherlock Holmes submits entry forms at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic, naming a peculiar goal: “No more solutions, but true resolution,” and finds that his worst enemy has left him the key to his wish, if he can give everything in return. Can his friend Watson stop the clock that has been ticking toward Holmes’ demise, or will he be forced to sit powerless and watch as Holmes walks straight into danger? (Taken from Amazon)

Oh, how I loved this book! The mystery was great, the author nailed the characters, and the ending was absolutely perfect. This was a brilliant homage to the foremost Consulting Detective. You can find my review here.

Most Beautiful Book You Got this Year

Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain

Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.
In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions. 
As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept. (taken from Goodreads)

I mean…look at it! Gorgeous!

What Are Some Books You Need to Read By the End of the Year?

Oh, jeez! My tbr has a longer life expectancy than I do, so this is one of those questions that could be answered with many many titles. I’m looking forward to : A Troll Walks Into a Bar: A Nori Urban Fantasy Novel by Douglas Lumsden, Sacaran Nights by Rachel Shaw, and A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley are a few that come to mind.

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Kate Daniels series

It’s been a magical week on Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub! Magic is often a staple in a good fantasy world. One of the many things I love about magic in urban fantasy is the dichotomy between magic and machine. Can they coexist? And if so, how would one interact with the other?

Tabitha from Behind the Pages weighs in on magic in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

Tabitha:

When I found out Jodie over at Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub was doing a project based on magic systems I had to join in! Unique magic systems are a key element to the fantasy books I truly enjoy. While characters certainly play a large part in what I love, I need the magic system to be a worthy component as well. Today we’ll take a look at the magic in the urban fantasy Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews.

The series takes place in Atlanta, Georgia after a magical apocalypse has accosted the world. People tried to advance technology and did not take the proper precautions. Now waves of magic are tearing the world apart. When a wave of magic hits, all technology dies. Cars, phones, guns, electricity you name it. When the magic is up, the tech is down. And the skyscrapers that cities were known for? Those have been turned to rubble unless enough people shell out the money and magic to protect them. People have developed magical vehicles (noisy as hell), that can clunk around and run when the magic is high. But when the magic wave ends, you’ll still be stranded. 

The main rule of magic in the world of Kate Daniels is that technology and magic cannot coexist. Anyone with the slightest bit of power can use magic, and sometimes that means those who are a bit foolhardy may summon nasty creatures from another world. You might even wake up a God who starts destroying the city. My advice is to not dabble in magic unless you know what you are doing.

And while there aren’t exactly spells, wards can be drawn for protection and certain individuals can use their magic in specialized ways. Take for instance the vampires. They are undead mindless killers. However, if you can use your magic to pilot them, they are weapons and tools. The Masters of the Dead are a group of magic users who keep hoards of vampires locked up for their uses. While piloting a vampire they can see and hear everything their chosen vessel can see, and they can even use its vocal cords to talk. But sending a vampire into battle can be tricky. If it is destroyed and the magic user piloting it does not remove their mind from the vampire in time, it could have devastating results for the magic user.

Then you have Kate Daniels, whose magic is in her blood. As part of the mercenary guild, she is called in to clean up the magical messes the police can’t handle. She can manipulate a vast amount of magic due to her heritage, and she has an affinity for the undead she is loath to use. As the series progresses, you’ll find that her blood can be used in a variety of ways. For the sake of keeping this a spoiler-free post, you’ll just have to read the series to find out. 😉 But it’s never a good idea to only rely on magic, so Kate is a skilled swordswoman for when the magic is down.

The magic system of the Kate Daniels series increases in intensity with each book. Ilona Andrews has paced the series to gradually show the increased strength and chaos of the magic that has been unleashed. As readers progress, they will find all manner of supernatural creatures and magical mayhem cropping up from the magic waves. And Kate Daniels is right there in the thick of it trying to keep her city together as best she can.

About the blogger:

Hello everyone! My name is Tabitha and I run a review blog called Behind the Pages. It’s my little corner of the internet where I geek out about books. I’m an avid fantasy reader, but dabble in other genres from time to time. Book blogging has allowed me to connect with so many other people who love reading as much as I do. I hope you enjoy this snippet of my bookish thoughts!

Check out my review blog at www.behindthepages.org
You can also follow my random bookish thoughts on my Twitter: @behindthepages1
And if you prefer to follow along with reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5863594-tabitha

For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic-Let’s Talk Mistborn

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians

During this weeklong discussion on magic in fantasy, we’ll be talking about the truly fantastical magic system. But there are also magic systems that I like to think of as “reality-adjacent”, ones that have a basis in the scientific. After all, things that seem completely normal to us now would seem completely inexplicable and magical to people from, say, the 1400s.

The magic in The Wolf in the Blood fantasy series by author David McLean falls into the second category. I’m happy to be able to get a close look at how “realistic” magic operates in his books.

David McLean:

Teaching physics to barbarians – magic in a really real world

How real is your magical world? If it’s wholly fantastic, great! Magic can just exist. It’s not necessary to look behind the curtain. It can just be so, and you can write about how it’s used, not why it works.

But if your world intersects with the modern, real* world, I think you have to keep it real. 

I write ultra-naturalistic fantasy – a world recognisably our own, working in the same way, but with magic and monsters. This is not a novel idea. But for magic and monsters to exist in a really real world and not be rendered hopelessly implausible by physics, you have to think through how the universe works on a fundamental level. This is great fun. 

I’m not a physicist, and I didn’t fancy writing a textbook on if-magic-was-real physics. So I came up with some basic rules to apply in my books.

Let’s science! 

It’s consistent with general relativity. For it to be otherwise is universe-breaking. In my world, magic appears to be a fundamental interaction, like electromagnetism. It’s the force which changes other forces. If this sounds unlikely, bear in mind scientists discovered a new fundamental force just this year (probably). Magic has time translation symmetry (it always works the same way) obeys conservation of energy (you can’t create it or destroy it, only transform it) and is subject to entropy (actions have irreversible consequences). It affects thermodynamics (fireballs), evolutionary biology (dragons), gravity (massive flying dragons) and spacetime (wormholes and time travel). 

Everyone knows. You can’t casually slide fantasy into the gaps of the real world like a dudebro into your DM’s and expect no one will notice. How do you hide how the universe works? Humans understand physics at a deep level which far surpasses the ‘mystic scrolls of wisdom tropes of fantasy (I am not putting down mystic scrolls – you do you, scrolls). Even in a hellish dystopia where magicians are routinely wiping minds on a planetary scale, all it takes to know is looking and everyone can. The logical contortions are too great to sustain that narrative in a really real world. I do feel that if magic was real, Richard Feynman would have written an amusing book on the subject. So no need for secret wizard school, Harry. 

It’s weird and unsettling. The universe is strange, man. However strange your magic system is, quantum mechanics has it beat. Science grapples with the deep profundities of existence, including ethical and moral questions about free will and agency as inferred from physical laws. I’ve applied these to my world. So magic is a force, but it may also be sort of sentient and vaguely malevolent, with limited agency and unknowable desires. Using magic is profoundly invasive. It never helps. It only hurts.  

It’s accessible (but dangerous). Anyone can use gravity. Jump up and down – you are a puissant gravity user. But defying gravity is hard (song lyrics have misreported this). So it is with magic. In the in-world olden days, magicians of towering supremacy tried to bend it to their unconquerable wills, and sometimes succeeded but often failed. But so could anyone. The consequence of failure is pain – it consumes their energy and scars them with a biting rust. People understand it according to their lights – I set my third novel in 51 BCE. It features a Roman legionary, an Irish druid, and a Sri Lankan princeling. None of them could know about relativity or quantum anything. Consequently, they treat magic as, well, just that. And that’s fine. You don’t need to teach physics to your barbarian, after all. But even modern people will have different views. Magic? It’s all a conspiracy, my dude. It said so on The Magic Channel, it must be true… 

About the author:

David McLean is the author of three books – THE WOLF IN THE BLOOD (2018), THE WOLF CURE AND OTHER STORIES (2019), and THE NINE WIVES OF RANDAL RHIN (2020), published by Swordsaint Press in the UK. You can buy them on Amazon and read free chapters and stories on his website. His next book, FOX SILVER, will be out in early 2022. Follow @SwordsaintPress on Twitter.

For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Set in modern day Moscow, Night Watch is a world as elaborate and imaginative as Tolkien or the best Asimov. Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
An extraordinary translation from the Russian by noted translator Andrew Bromfield, this first English language edition of Night Watch is a chilling, engrossing read certain to reward those waiting in anticipation of its arrival. (taken from Amazon)

The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!

The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.

In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.

The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.

So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.

The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books-Rogues and Rangers

Over the last few days, I’ve been talking about roleplaying classes in books. A “class” is a set of criteria that sort of shows what type of character someone is playing. For example, boiled down, a paladin is a holy warrior. Examples of different Dungeons and Dragons character classes can be found all throughout literature.

When I decided to tackle this subject, I knew that I wouldn’t do it well on my own. Some amazing bloggers and authors offered their expertise as well! Today, I’m talking about rogues and rangers. You can find my posts about fighters and barbarians here, and my post about paladins, clerics, and druids here. Now, on to today’s post!


Rogue: Rogues use stealth, and cunning to defeat their foes or prevail in a situation. Rather than rushing straight into danger, guns blazing (or giant swords decapitating), rogues prefer to use their own unique skill set to accurately assess the situation and shift the odds in their favor. Rogues can be thieves, assassins, or even con artists. If a rogue is around, best to keep your hands on your valuables!

The Irresponsible Reader has a great take on the subject of rogues: “When I sat down to think about rogue characters (they were still called “thieves” when I played, but changing times and all), I was more than a little surprised at how many came to mind. I’m not sure what it says about me that, in almost every genre, I can think of a handful of stellar examples. The character that created this appreciation in me is James “Slippery Jim” Bolivar deGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat.

Thirty-thousand plus years from now, society is almost entirely crimeless. It’s orderly. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s (arguably) boring. There’s some petty crime, but most of the criminals are caught quickly and dealt with by the law.
Then there are what diGriz calls Stainless Steel Rats.

Jim is a thief, a con man, a non-violent criminal (unless he absolutely has to be, and then he can be ruthless). There’s no safe he can’t crack, no lock he can’t pick, no building he can’t get into, no artifact he can’t find a way to walk away with. He’s smooth, he’s witty, he’s charming, he’s…well, roguish. He’s a loving husband (utterly smitten with his wife, actually), a good father (if you grant training his sons to be criminals like he and his wife), and in return for not being in prison for the rest of his life, he’s working to bring down other criminals like him all over the galaxy. Think White Collar or Catch Me If You Can. “

“…At a certain stage the realization strikes through that one must either live outside of society’s bonds or die of absolute boredom. ” – Harry Harrison, The Stainless Steel Rat

Beneath a Thousand Skies explains why she thinks Thren Felhorn from the Shadowdance series by David Dalgish is a great rogue: “Rogues are fun. There’s nothing like rolling high and knowing that your target isn’t going to have a clue you’re there until you introduce them to your dagger, or slipping out of situations with nary a scratch because of evasion. Then there’s the sneaking, intrigue, and outright thievery because what better way is there to get what you want?

That is who Thren Felhorn is, and more. He’s the quintessential rogue- a thief, a survivor, an assassin- and he has a ruthless streak a mile wide when he needs it. He also blurs that line of living in the moment, focusing on the current situation or target, and looking to the future and clawing (and stabbing) his way to the top. There are moments when you’ll love him, moments when you’ll hate him, but you can’t help but be drawn to him and into his world.”

“‘That’s how you gut someone,” Thren whispered into the man’s ear as if he were a dying lover. A twist, a yank, and the sword came free.”-David Dalgish, Cloak and Spider

Behind the Pages has two great examples of rogue characters, starting with Jenks from The Hollow series by Kim Harrison: “Skilled at stealth, at a few inches tall this pixy is the perfect backup on a heist. He can detect electronics and is a pro at putting cameras on loop. While he isn’t a hardened criminal, Jenks has no problem helping his teammates steal for legitimate jobs. He specializes in aerial combat and has the ability to pix his enemies causing itching sores on exposed skin. Most overlook him due to his size, and it makes him the main scout for his party searching out traps and ambushes.”

“You can trust me to keep my word. I always keep my word, promises or threats.”– Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking

Behind the Pages also has some thoughts on Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: “After a tragedy left him on the streets, Kaz learned to steal to survive. Money is his motivator and if you offer enough, he will steal whatever your heart’s desire. Danger and consequences hold no bounds for Kaz. No lock can hold him back, and his quick mind enables his team to pull off the most complicated of heists.”

“‘I’m a businessman,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
 – Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub gets on her soapbox: I love rogues so, so much! I almost always play a rogue of some sort when I’m gaming. In fact, a recent D&D character that I created just happened to be an assassin that had been hired to, um…eliminate a member of the party. The rest of the players were none the wiser. Good times. Everyone else has such great examples of rogues in books, but I want to add a couple more: Both Ardor Benn and Quarrah from The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn fit the bill. Ardor is a charismatic con artist, always a step ahead. He rolls with the punches and is able to think on his feet. Every time I thought one of his cons was going sideways, he’d turn it to his advantage. He would have been right at home planning the heist in Ocean’s Eleven. Then there’s Quarrah, a talented cat burglar (her eyesight is not the greatest, which I think is awesome in a thief). Together, they make for two very unique characters that show the range a roguish character has.

“‘That’s just it,” said Remaught. “I know exactly who you are. Ardor Benn, ruse artist.”
“Extraordinaire,” said Ard.
“Excuse me?” Remaught asked.
“Ardor Benn, ruse artist extraordinaire,” Ard corrected.”

Ranger: Hunters, wilderness survivors, and protectors, rangers are often what stands between civilization and the monsters that live in the wild. They do well in game settings that require treks through the unknown, being more at home outside the comforts of civilization. Like druids, rangers have spells taken from nature’s power. These spells tend to focus on skills that will help with survival and with the fight against what pushes against the boundaries between nature and society.

Kerri McBookNerd has great experience with rangers: “I’ve been playing D&D for a minute and, though I’ve dabbled in almost all of the classes, my tried and true favorite has always been the ranger. I’ve always connected with characters that love to be out in nature and tend to face danger from a respectable distance, lol. Rangers in my mind tend to be outsiders who aren’t 100% comfortable in polite company and gravitate more towards four-legged friends. They’re good at tracking, they’re good at hiding, and they know how to live off the land. And, as anyone who has met one of the rangers I’ve played, they have quite a sarcastic mouth on them! That’s why I think Fie from The Merciful Crow series would make a great ranger! She has lots of experience fending for herself or her clan in the wilderness. She tends to get on with animals (especially cats) more than people. And her wit is sharp enough to draw blood! Though Fie and her clan are outcasts due to prejudices in the kingdom, she generally prefers to stay away from “civilized” society, anyways. She’s got a bit of magic, too, so I’m definitely sensing a sorcerer subclass here. I think she would make a fantastic ranger!”

“Pa’d taught her to watch the starving wolf. When beasts go hungry too long, he’d said, they forget what they ought to fear.”-Margaret Owen, The Merciful Crow

Ricard Victoria has a few good examples of rangers in literature: ” the most obvious option would be Aragorn [from The Lord of the Rings], but I think Jon Snow [from A Song of Ice and Fire] fits the role as well, especially during his time as a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch. He has a combat style of two-weapon fighting, which would help him to wield effectively Long Claw. His armor could be considered light. He also has an Animal Companion in Ghost. The Wild Empathy ability would account for his nascent warging powers (in a low-level campaign anyways). His time with the Wildlings would have given him good tracking skills as well as the endurance proper of a ranger. Talking about the Wildings, one could argue that they would be his Favored Enemy, but I think the White Walkers make for a better Favored Enemy. He would have also as part of his background (and this is a spoiler), some draconic blood (you know, because of who he really is son of). Longclaw would be a bastard sword with a Keen Edge enhancement that could evolve into a Vorpal sword. Jon could have high stats in Con, Char, and Dexterity. Decent intelligence and wisdom.”

Yet even so, Jon Snow was not sorry he had come. There were wonders here as well. He had seen sunlight flashing on icy thin waterfalls as they plunged over the lips of sheer stone cliffs, and a mountain meadow full of autumn wildflowers, blue coldsnaps and bright scarlet frostfires and stands of piper’s grass in russet and gold. He had peered down ravines so deep and black they seemed certain to end in some hell, and he had ridden his garron over a wind-eaten bridge of natural stone with nothing but sky to either side. Eagles nested in the heights and came down to hunt the valleys, circling effortlessly on great blue-grey wings that seemed almost part of the sky.”– George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub gives her thoughts on rangers: Personally, I think Raven from The Black Company by Glen Cook is a good example of a ranger. Yes, he prefers to use a sharp knife over a bow (which is usually the ranger’s weapon of choice), but he can use a bow with the best of them. He’s a great tracker and even knows a little bit of magic.

“I can laugh at peasants and townies chained all their lives to a tiny corner of the earth while I roam its face and see its wonders, but when I go down, there will be no child to carry my name, no family to mourn me save my comrades, no one to remember, no one to raise a marker over my cold bit of ground.”– Glen Cook, Shadows Linger

Meet the Contributors:

The Irresponsible Reader is one of my very favorite blogs. Covering a wide variety of genres from comics through biographies, the reviews on this blog are detailed and interesting. The Irresponsible Reader is responsible (ha!) for many additions to my “to be read” list.

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.

Behind the Pages is an excellent blog and beta reading site, run by the talented Tabitha. Her reviews are very insightful and incredibly well-written. She has excellent taste and never fails to review books that would have snuck under my radar, adding to my already way-too-long list of books to read.

Kerri McBookNerd is a great blogger. She’s my go-to for Young Adult Fantasy reviews (her other reviews are just as great)! Her reviews are creative and unique. You can’t go wrong, following her blog. I guarantee you’ll find some new gems to check out.

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.

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Fighters and Barbarians

There used to a be a bit of a “these people are weird” attitude toward people who enjoyed roleplaying games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. It was pretty funny to hear it coming from readers of fantasy (or any genre, really: you’d be surprised at the similarities that can be found). I’m assuming some of the judgement came from a place of discomfort at older kids and adults using their imaginations. I’m honestly not sure. Fortunately, D&D, and other roleplaying games are becoming much more accepted, which is great because playing can be pretty stinking fun.

As I briefly mentioned, there are similarities between books and roleplaying games. Both require the use of imagination to fill in pictures, both allow for a suspension of disbelief, and both take us to new and unusual places, constrained only by the author (or Dungeon Master).

A ‘character class’ is a profession or set of skills that help differentiate different types of characters in roleplaying. I put a call out for bookbloggers and authors to give their thoughts on D&D classes in books and they answered in a big way! In fact, what I originally thought of as a single post has become a few, each post focusing on two or three of the main character classes. While I have each writer’s link attached to their amazing contribution, please make sure to check out a more detailed introduction to each of them at the bottom of the post. I’ve also included my own ideas here and there, as well as some loose definitions of each character class. Enjoy!

FIGHTER: This is pretty self-explanatory, but also has a lot of room for creativity. A warlord, knight, or rich person’s bodyguard are all different types of fighters. A fighter has a ton of skill with a weapon, and functions as a pretty good meat shield (can you tell I’ve used the fighter in that capacity before?).

Behind the Pages gives examples of fighters in fantasy : “

“Atae from Kaji Warriors: Shifting Strength by Kelly A. Nix. To the Kaji warriors, being a halfbreed means being weak. Atae refuses to back down and engages in rigorous combat training to stay at the top of her warrior class. Strength and skill in battle are revered among the Kaji, and Atae will do everything in her power to become a true warrior. Trained in both hand to hand combat and weaponry, Atae will cut down her foes without a second thought.”


“Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews: Kate was raised to be a weapon. Forced into fighting pits from a young age, it was hit the ground running or die trying. Any weapon in her hands is lethal, though she prefers her sword. When she unleashes a combination of magic and blade, she is a near unstoppable force.”

“I gave him a smile. I was aiming for sweet, but he turned a shade paler and scooted a bit farther from me. Note to self: work more on sweet and less on psycho-killer.” – Ilona Andrews, Magic Strikes


Ricardo Victoria, author of The Tempest Blades series says: “Here, there is a lot to choose from in Fantasy. I think this is the class most well represented. So I will keep this one short: Boromir [from The Lord of the Rings]. Aside from the fact that he is the character from the Fellowship that needs more love, he is a classical fighter. Knows all sort of weapons, can improvise during a fight, has the Con [constitution] of an Ent (I mean, how many arrows did he take before falling?). He even trains Merry and Pippin. Had he lived to amend for his sole mistake, he would have been Aragorn’s second hand.”

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub shares an opinion: For me, when I think of the D&D fighter class, my mind immediately goes to Clay “Slowhand” Cooper from Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. He’s a used-to-be-impressive warrior, a member of an elite mercenary group. He has major fighting skills-or at least, he used to. He and his friends come out of retirement for one last impressive feat-one that may get them killed.

“Clay pushed his body off him and mumbled another apology – because, enemy or not, when you hit a man in the nuts with a magic hammer the least you could say was sorry.”– Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld

Barbarian: the simplest way I can think of to describe a barbarian is as a fighter with anger issues. They thrive on violence and chaotic battles (although they may not always crave them). Their anger can give them a berserker state of mind: think an overdose of adrenalin allowing someone to do the nigh impossible.

Ryan Howse, author, reviewer for Grimdark Magazine and contributor for Before We Go Blog, weighs in: “For gamers, barbarians are often some of the most memorable and dynamic characters played. They tend to be chaotic (in earlier editions, being a lawful barbarian was against the rules) and their ignorance of civilized customs provides some obvious comedic fodder.

But barbarians are not fools. They just don’t care about civilization. People who are fools don’t survive the wilds—especially fantasy versions of the wilds, with all the strange new monsters and dangerous terrain that implies.

Fafhrd, from Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, is an iconic barbarian. He’s the bruiser of the duo, and the tank. He’s a massive man from an ice-covered land, and he mostly wants to spend his adventuring loot on women and ale.

The greatest part about these stories is that while they’re classics of the genre, they feel closer to a real tabletop game than even the best tie-in fiction.

In the first chronological story of Fafhrd, he straps rockets to his boots to make a jump down a hill. That feels absolutely like something out of an all-night gaming session where the barbarian has a ridiculous plan and rolls just well enough to make it work.

There’s also a story where Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser die, and end up dealing with Death Itself, which again feels like a DM trying to keep the campaign going after a TPK [total party kill]. (They get better.)”

 “And even when we serve, we make the rules. We bow to no man’s ultimate command, dance to no wizard’s drumming, join no mob, hark to no wildering hate-call. When we draw sword, it’s for ourselves alone.”– Fritz Leiber , Sword in the Mist

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub chimes in: I see Beowulf as the ultimate barbarian. He fights Grendel with near-supernatural strength ( Grendel definitely meets his match), and several other feats of strength are boasted about throughout the epic poem. He feels no fear and isn’t big on laying traps, or making battle plans. Any character that divests a monster of its arm without using a weapon to do it lands in the “berserker” category for me.

Meet the contributors:

Behind the Pages
is an excellent blog and beta reading site, run by the talented Tabitha. Her reviews are very insightful and incredibly well-written. She has excellent taste and never fails to review books that would have snuck under my radar, adding to my already way-too-long list of books to read.

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.



Ryan Howse is a literary jack-of-all-trades. The author of several books, he also reviews for Grimdark Magazine and is a regular addition to BeforeWeGoBlog. I honestly have no idea how he found the time to contribute to my post, but I’m excited that he did!

White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton- The Write Reads Blog Tour

Not all magicians go to schools of magic.

Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.

Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.

It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author and to The Write Reads for allowing me to join this blog tour. It is available for purchase now.

White Trash Warlock is a book that is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Ostensibly about a sort-of warlock on a mission to save his sister-in-law from demonic possession, this book uses that platform to tackle themes of acceptance, grief, anger, and family dynamics.

Adam has stirrings of magic in him. He can see and interact with the spirit world, a talent that got him left in a psych ward as a kid. Now an adult, Adam is happily estranged from his mom and brother Bobby (who committed him to the psych ward years ago), eking out a living and trying to find his missing dad. So, getting a call from Bobby is unusual. Doubly so, when Bobby is asking for help with his wife, who seems to be possessed. Adam decides to drive to Denver, figure out what’s going on with his sister-in-law, and hopefully fix it. Then, he’ll go back to his own life, as far away from his brother as he can get. Unfortunately, things are far less simple than Adam expected.

First, I’ll start with the world building. Denver itself is…Denver, a city like any other. However, layer spirit towers, Reapers, and giant evil thingies over it like tracing paper, and you get the Denver of the book. Think “Upside Down” from Stranger Things, and you have the general idea. It was an intriguing concept, and one that worked quite well, taking the everyday and making it just a little…off. I loved seeing the different worlds cross over, like when a car stolen in the real world is used in the spirit world.

Great plot? Check. Interesting world? Check. Fantastic, complicated characters? Triple check. The characters are what elevated this book from good to amazing for me. There was Bobby, with his perfect little house, his perfect little car, and his perfect little life being upended. He wanted to retreat into the familiar and completely ordinary, but was unable to. He was so lost, and blamed Adam for feeling out of place. That he asked for Adam’s help despite their history and Bobby’s dislike of anything he didn’t understand opened the door to some meaningful interactions between the two. The mom didn’t really figure in all that much, but her additions were interesting. There were a few other characters, two of which I’m not going to name, so as not to spoil anything. I liked them both, especially as ways to further the development in other characters.

Then there’s Adam. I loved Adam so much! He was a mix of emotions and reflex-reactions. He so badly wanted to be seen, yet was afraid for anyone to know the real him. His mix of anger over the past, and the strong desire to avoid dealing with that past felt incredibly authentic. Little details mentioned throughout the book really resonated with me. At one point, Adam gets incredibly annoyed at someone for referring to a mental institution as a “loony bin”, which I was nodding at: I’ve spent time in a mental hospital, and it bothers me when people say things like that too. He was competent and willing to sacrifice everything for a sister-in-law he really didn’t know. I cheered for him from minute one, and wanted him to see his own worth.

The story ratcheted up from a bit of mystery (who was responsible for the possession and why?) to a full-out battle involving manticores, Reapers, and a dragon. I do wish the ending had taken a little longer, just because I was enjoying the book so much. White Trash Warlock was a supernatural show-down combined with complicated real-life problems. I loved it and can’t wait to see what happens next.

May Day by Josie Jaffrey- The Write Reads Blog Tour

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.

May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the Write Reads for allowing me to be a part of this book blog tour. This book is available for purchase now.

I don’t read a ton of books in this particular sub-genre, but I had heard so many good things about this author that I was excited to grab this book and open it up.

Before getting into the thick of it, let me give a headsup: author Josie Jaffrey kindly provided a content warning at the back of her book. I didn’t think to look in the back of the book, so I didn’t know what exactly I was getting into, content-wise. Totally my fault. However, the content warning is there, and I think that is incredibly awesome of her to provide it.

May Day was full of vampiric fun. Start with a vampire detective (I’m thinking more “enforcer” than detective, since she was more concerned about keeping vampire existence secret) who takes on a search for a blood-sucking murderer, and add in a fair amount of relationship drama, and you’ve got the bare bones. I’m not personally a huge fan of the romance aspect of the book, but the rest of it was enjoyable enough that I was able to take my crotchety attitude toward literary romantic entanglements and set it aside.

The mystery itself was my favorite part. It was creative and had layers I didn’t expect. Also, there was a good amount of blood-sucking politics, which I really enjoyed. The plot moved a little slowly at times, which I loved. It gave the set-up and politics the time it needed to be explored and fully developed.

Jack is the main character. She’s a newer vampire and is the youngest member of the Oxford Seekers (the detective-ish agency) and she’s a bit prickly. I never could decide if I liked her or if she annoyed me. I’m thinking it was a mixture of both, which makes her a complicated character. I’m a fan of complicated characters as a general rule, so I guess I like that I wasn’t sure I liked her?

I really wasn’t a fan of the whole complicated love thing, but I never am. It wasn’t done poorly or anything, it just isn’t my trope. However, if you enjoy complicated relationships, you’ll like this one. It’s done well.

May Day is a great addition to the urban fantasy/mystery genre. If you like vampires or urban fantasy, you’ll love this book.

If you enjoy vampire fantasy, or urban fantasy in general, you’ll enjoy this book. I’d stake my life on it (I’m so punny)!

Self-Published Fantasy Authors: an interview with author Amanda Fleet

Aegyir Rises (Guardians of The Realm #1) by Amanda Fleet

I’m extremely excited to be interviewing some amazing self-published fantasy authors throughout the month of September. Today, I am fortunate to be talking to Amanda Fleet, author of the Guardians of the Realm series. Thank you for joining me!

First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about The Guardians of the Realm series?

“It follows a young woman – Reagan Bennett – who has always felt like an outsider. She was abandoned at birth, then fostered and finally adopted, but has a difficult relationship with her extended adopted family. Throughout her life, she’s dreamed of living in another world – The Realm – where she’s a warrior called Aeron, but recently these dreams have taken a darker turn.

In Aegyir Rises (the first book of the series), lots of people start dying suddenly. Some appear to have died of flu; in others the death is sudden, but there are no marks on the body. All of the deaths are centred around the place where Reagan lives. Her dreams intensify, warning her and telling her to come home, but as far as she’s concerned, she is home. Then strange objects start appearing in her house, through locked doors, and she starts seeing things no one else can see.

An ancient creature – Aegyir – has been released, who has old scores to settle with Aeron. He is convinced that Reagan is Aeron. Can she defeat him before he destroys Earth? In order to do so, she may have to accept that she’s not who she’s always believed she is.

The second and third books of the series (“Aeron Returns” and “War”) follow Reagan’s journey after she arrives in The Realm. Is she really the warrior Aeron? Aeron was banished for treason, and if she ever returned to The Realm, she’d be hanged, so things get tricky for her!”

What first inspired you to write?

“I had stories in my head and they wouldn’t shut up and give me any peace unless I wrote them down.”

What drew you to writing fantasy?

“The stories in my head The first book I ever wrote (still unpublished) was a medical thriller. The second (also unpublished!) was a dark romance. The third (The Wrong Kind of Clouds) is a crime novel, as is Lies that Poison (my fourth book). While I was still writing Lies That Poison, I’d already had ideas for what has eventually become The Guardians of The Realm series. I could ‘see’ various scenes and characters and when I finally sat down and worked out what it was all about, it was urban fantasy, rather than crime! I think I also felt too boxed in with writing crime. There are a lot of ‘rules’ and conventions about how police solve crimes and it didn’t feel anything like as much fun as writing fantasy! I have another crime book ‘in the laptop’ which may never see the light of day because I can’t bring myself to finish the edits on it. All the other books I currently have planned are fantasy. Maybe I’ve found my writing home at last.”

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

“A bit of both. I often have a really small inkling of some part of the plot – a demon being able to reach inside your chest and rip out all your energy – and other bits and pieces, but then the characters really start to take shape. How the plot develops (to me at least) is often dictated by what the characters are like – how they react to what happens can move the plot in different directions. If the main character avoids confrontation, there will be different choices made by them in comparison with a character that thrives on conflict. The basic ideas of the plot come first, but the details only fall into place once I get to know my characters.”

Do you base any of your characters on yourself in any way?
“All of my characters will have a bit of me in there somewhere, but none of them are 100% me. Some may have more of me in them than others, but since they’ve come out of my head, there must be at least a tiny bit of me in there somewhere. Even in the antagonists!”

What was the hardest character or part to write?

“Not all characters make it to the end of the books. I mean, after all, the premise of the book is that a lot of people are being killed and Reagan is trying to stop it. Writing death scenes and/or funeral scenes of characters I love leaves me sobbing! Every time!”

Do you have any writing quirks?

“Ooh, I don’t know… I like to have a pot of tea to hand when I’m writing and I possibly do a lot more writing by hand, certainly in the early stages of planning a book, than many others might. I also plan each scene in a notebook (by hand) and have huge scrapbooks for each novel – with pictures of buildings/scenery/characters, plus loads of character notes and planning notes. It’s always fun to look back through them and see how everything evolved from my initial ideas.”

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

“It’s probably easier to write a hero, but I enjoy writing villainous characters too. I do some ‘goal planning’ sheets for them – what is it they’re after and how are they intending to achieve that? Because the villain thinks he or she is a hero, right? They think they’re doing the right thing. Aegyir wants to live. Okay, others die for that to happen, which isn’t so great for them, but who’s to say who lives and who dies? What if he only killed bad people? Who determines if they’re bad or not? So, yeah, writing the ‘bad guys’ is quite often more fun than writing the heroes.”

What do you do to get in the zone?

“If I’m struggling because I’m procrastinating or just faffing about (Twtter, Facebook…), I turn off the internet and set a sand-timer. I have a 30- minute one and a 60-minute one. 30 minutes is usually enough to get me focusing. The 60-minute one is there to remind me to take a break!

If I’m struggling and the sand-timers don’t work, I go for a walk or do some gardening or something unrelated to writing, in the hope that giving my brain a bit of a break will help it to get in the zone afterwards.”

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

“Ooh, that’s like asking a parent which is their favourite child! I’ve read many Bronte and Austen several times over, but I don’t know if that makes any of them my favourite. If I had to pick one of my own books as a favourite, I would probably pick “Aeron Returns” because of what Reagan/Aeron has to face and how she overcomes things. By someone else? It would be a close call between any of Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths books (crime) and almost anything by Patrick Ness, but of his books, probably the Knife of  Never Letting Go would be my top-rated one.”

Amanda Fleet  About the author:

Amanda Fleet is a physiologist by training and a writer at heart. She spent 18 years teaching science and medicine undergraduates at St Andrews University, but now uses her knowledge to work out how to kill people (in her books!). She completed her first degree at St Andrews University and her doctorate at University College, London.

She has been an inveterate stationery addict since a child, amassing a considerable stash of fountain pens, ink and notebooks during her lifetime. These have thankfully come in useful, as she tends to write rather than type, at least in the early stages of writing a book.

During her time at St Andrews, she worked with the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi. While in Malawi, she learned about the plight of the many street children there and helped to set up a Community Based Organisation that works with homeless Malawian children to support them through education and training – Chimwemwe Children’s Centre. It was this experience that helped to inspire the Malawian aspects in her novel “The Wrong Kind of Clouds”.

She is also the author of the urban fantasy trilogy: “The Guardians of The Realm”, published in early 2020, and the psychological thriller “Lies That Poison”.

Amanda lives in Scotland with her husband, where she can be found writing, walking and running.

The Guardians of The Realm series:

Aegyir Rises: http://mybook.to/AegyirRises

Aeron Returns: http://mybook.to/AeronReturns

War: http://mybook.to/WarGoTR3

Other books:

The Wrong Kind of Clouds: http://mybook.to/TheWrongKindofClouds

Lies That Poison: http://mybook.to/LiesThatPoison

Where to find Amanda:

Website: https://www.amandafleet.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmandaFleetWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amanda_fleet1

Book Bub: @AmandaFleet

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/amandafleet

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/amandafleet

 

 

 

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?