SPFBO 4 has been a terrific experience, and a much needed boost all of the authors, myself included. I want to give a lot of credit to Mark for taking the initiative in making this happen, as well as to the judges who did put a lot of hours into this contest.
I can only speak for myself, but it started out great in terms of new connections, a nice bump in sales and increased exposure. Then after the finalists were picked it kinda was great in an after school special “I learned something today” kind of way. I don’t hold out much hope of a win at this point, barring the intervention of some Russian hackers (They’ve done some impressive work over the past few years. Just sayin’.) but adversity gives us the chance to grow, and I’m thankful for it. That never would have happened had I not entered, and probably wouldn’t have had I not gotten as far as I have.
That said, while ten of us made it through and got that extra attention, three hundred books were entered, and a lot of them were very good, and could easily have made it to where I’m standing had things gone just a tiny bit differently.
So now, here are three books which may not have advanced, but in whose company I am proud to stand.
Rogue Arcanist by Alan Brenik
This one felt like it was in the same subgenre as my own book. We have an urban fantasy, a first person narrator and a protagonist, Nick Teller, who has some arcane power but is trying to remain incognito and work a job he really enjoys, while doing some light swordplay on the side. Until a mysterious adversary with powers of their own threatens his way of life, and he must choose to run or fight, and since Mr Brenik didn’t want a ten page book, it’s going to be fight.
Not surprisingly, this is my kind of book. The writing is good, the characters well developed, and it kind of feels like Dresden Files in a British academic setting.
Hero Forged by Josh Erikson
Again, we have an urban fantasy, but this one follows a con man who is trying to make enough to get by and to take care of his father, now in a nursing home. But life throws him a curve ball and he winds up facing a demonic servant to an evil god, with the help of a succubus spirit possessing the body of a woman he’s pulled some cons with, and kind of has a crush on. Which is a lot to deal with, especially for a guy whose powers are mostly just a devious mind and a glib tongue.
It’s fast paced and fun and manages to strike a balance between the very high supernatural stakes and the much more personal and mundane concerns of the protagonist, and it’s a nice, very human take on the succubus.
Lords of Asylum by Kevin Wright
I love this book. It’s George R R Martin meets Raymond Chandler, in the Lovecraft wing of Machiavelli’s villa.
Kevin Wright delivers an engrossing read that is part horror, part medieval political struggle and part noir detective story. The pacing is tight, the plot complex and carefully constructed and the voice is engaging.
Asylum City has been wracked by the changing tides of the Hundred Years War, religious schism and the plague. And the protagonist, justiciar Sir Luther Slythe Krait has been dragged into the deadly quagmire by perhaps the most frightening of a rogue’s gallery of nobles and clergy struggling for control. Krait has to solve a seemingly impossible and brutal murder in a hostile city on a tight timeline, or see his brother executed.
A gritty world; a suspicion of black magic; deep, dynamic and fully realized characters and a tightly wound mystery, all told in an engaging insightful fashion by a cynical detective. If Sam Spade or Spenser buckled on a sword and sought clues among the throne rooms and plague pits of 14th Century Europe, this is probably what it would look like.
Kevin Wright has given us a story that’s a fun read, so long as you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.
Now, I think any one of these could be where my book is, given a slight shift in the winds of fate. And I think all of them are worth a read.
We are the finalists of the 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, also known as SPFBO 2018. The contest has brought us together from across the globe and the far-flung corners of our favorite genre to celebrate speculative fiction and the possibilities of self-publishing.
We believe that independent publishing is a force for good in our industry. The direct connection between authors and their fans yields greater choice for readers, drives new business models for writers, and helps create new audiences for books. That’s especially true in fantasy, where new subgenres and tropes are rising up thanks to self-published authors and their fans. Independent authors are working alongside traditional publishers and authors to create a bigger, better, and more inclusive fantasy community.
If you’re looking for evidence of the quality and creativity available from independent authors, look no further than our fellow contestants in SPFBO 2018. Many of the judges this year have remarked on the great quality of books they’ve encountered, and the challenge of whittling down their entries to one finalist. Whether you want something epic or intimate, funny or frightening, grim or uplifting, there’s a fantasy book for you among this year’s SPFBO. We encourage you to find it.
To that end, we will take this time to draw attention to some fantastic books cut from this year’s competition. Over the next week, many of us will highlight some of the deserving fantasy novels of SPFBO 2018. It’s a chance to salute other indie authors who could have easily been signing this letter had the die been cast differently. Please consider giving them a shot, or any other entry that caught your eye. When the genre grows, we all win.
In closing, we’d like to thank the indomitable Mark Lawrence for founding this amazing competition and for his continued efforts to highlight independent fantasy authors. We’d also like to thank the contest organizers and judges for their hard work, thoughtful reviews, and consummate professionalism. And finally, we’d like to thank fantasy readers everywhere, without whom we could not pursue our shared passion. This wonderful community makes it all possible, and for that we are forever grateful.