Ink & Bourbon
Tilting at windmills. Because those windmills think they're better than us.

Highlights of SPFBO ’18

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

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.

You can check out Zack Pike’s highlights from yesterday here, or Angie Grigaliunas’ here tomorrow


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