May flew by and I’m having a hard time believing that we are looking at June already. May is one of my favorite reading months due to Wyrd & Wonder. I set out to read a few fantasy books, explore some new recs, write a few articles, and do a buddy read, and I’d say I met that goal.
I didn’t read as much as (only 7 books) but I don’t feel too underwhelmed.
May Wrap up:
Only 7 books
4 fantasy, 2 sci-fi, one thriller
3.5 on audio, 2.5 ebooks, no physicals finished
The problem was that I got bogged down in a 700+ page SPSFC2 read. I’m also slogging through my physical read ALL this month and need to just DNF it. There was also an indie book that became a chore to read. That said, I’ll highlight my favorite read of the month & top 5 year so far:
Since I’ve gotten in the habit of sharing monthly blog stats. Thanks to Top Ten Tuesday & Wyrd and Wonder I had my best month of commenting in blog history. Likes and views are on average with slightly more unique visitors than last month.
Themes for teens is forever my top evergreen review and I’m firmly getting more views from search engines now. It’s small but something.
Looking towards June:
This post is getting long so let’s do this quick:
I’ve got two ARCs to read:
Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker – and she agreed to a Brunch session which is exciting
Champion of Fate by Kendare Blake! Publicity reached out which is extremely exciting. I’m going to chalk up my social anxiety and ask if KB will interview too!
Buzzard’s Bowl by John Palladino is a 6/1 release and that’s on my TBR since I preordered it. I’ve also committed to my Nick Adams read – tough but worth it I hope.
I’ve also got to read the final SPSFC2 books:
Hammer and Crucible by Cameron Cooper
Melody by David Hoffer
Night Music by Tobias Cabral
Sigh.. maybe not as much mood reading this month.
I’ve got one more interview booked with Drew Melbourne!
Other than that: I’m done for now. I just want to throw out there that the book community toxicity this past month has been exhausting for all the good people out there and I’ve been sad to see some very good folks backing away because of it. Take a step back, smell the flowers, go for a walk, don’t let the angry keyboard warriors win.
Welcome back to Sunday Brunch! In an effort to spotlight some of the SPSFC contenders, I openly offered to host any author who has been eliminated so far! Next up in this series is Dito Abbott, author of Debunked
I have to admit after this interview that I’m absolutely dying to read Debunked. Dito spotlights some great themes and travelling adventures. I just can’t get over the flying airship either – and there are photos! Talk about family bonding! Read on for those things plus convention tips and much more
🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?
🎤Thanks for having me!
Every year my family celebrates a holiday we invented called the “GingerSLAM Tournament of Champions”. We invite friends over to build the mightiest graham cracker and candy structures possible, then destroy them with a wrecking ball.
Each year is slightly different, but the order of events always includes:
– Parade of Nations (homemade flags and marching to the Olympic theme song)
– Opening Ceremony (a speech imploring competitors to show no mercy and cheat at every turn)
– An Intimidation Circle (Competitors gather in a circle to glare and hurl outlandish threats)
The competition has two categories:
1. Most Beautiful – The trophy is a tiny improvised cardboard hat with small writing on it. We don’t want to encourage people to aim so low.
2. Grand Champion of Awesomeness – Awarded for the strongest structure design. The trophy is a much larger makeshift cardboard hat with ornamentation befitting their life-changing accomplishment.
🥞 What’s your brunch order today?
🎤If I need to save room for lunch, I’d like a Nutella crèpe. If I’m cruising till dinner, a breakfast burrito, please.
🥞Congrats on making the SPSFC semifinalists! How do you feel about the competition overall?
🎤I’m so grateful for competitions like the SPFBO and SPSFC. Marketing books is a never-ending challenge, so when a high-profile event offers to promote your book (for free!), it’s a dream come true.
Since Debunked is my debut novel, the competitions were a double blessing. Not only did I reach new readers, I was adopted into a thriving community of like-minded authors.
I don’t look at the SPFBO and SPSFC as competitions, but celebrations. Assuming solid prose and storytelling, judging books is a matter of taste. Some readers adore gritty, bloody war sagas. Others can’t get enough of space werewolf haikus.
By catering to all comers, SPFBO and SPSFC help authors find their readers.
Side Note: Shout out to all the judges, organizers, and bloggers who volunteer time and resources to highlight indie books. You are amazing and deserve magnificent cardboard hat trophies.
🥞Also a HUGE congrats on winning the cover contest! Want to spotlight your artist? How did you connect with the person?
🎤Thank you! My book cover journey was a lot like the first part of Frodo’s ring quest: everything started out chill, then a Nazgûl stabbed me, and Elrond saved the day.
A bit of background info: In addition to writing, I spent a year illustrating the Terravenum world map. Even though I’m comfortable with graphic design, I heard so many horror stories of authors shooting themselves in the foot by designing their own cover that I decided to hire a professional.
It proved to be the best marketing decision I’ve ever made.
The first artist I hired gave me a six month lead time, then dropped the ball when he started on my book. Concept art didn’t come together and it became clear we were a bad fit.
I resumed my search for professional designers. A fellow author’s cover led me to Kirk DouPonce, whose style fit Debunked like a glove. When I saw a time lapse video of Kirk illustrating his kids riding a pterodactyl to the soundtrack of Europe’s “Final Countdown”, I knew we were soul mates.
He asked for a copy of Debunked to get the spirit of the story. A few weeks later, I sent him concept ideas and illustrations.
Kirk produced a draft that was remarkably close to our final cover, using my illustrations to suggest whimsy, fantasy, and adventure. I was blown away. After a few rounds of revisions, we were good to go.
A great cover tells people who love your kind of book that this book is for them. Kirk knocked it out of the park.
🥞It looks like you travel quite a bit and have a long history of doing so! What was your favorite destination ever?
🎤That’s a tough one. I spent the majority of my life overseas, either growing up in Saudi Arabia or living on a sailboat. I’ve done three extended sailing voyages with my family:
Voyage 1 (1994-1995): Florida to New Zealand
Voyage 2 (2004-2006): Australia to Florida
Voyage 3 (2018-2020): Attempted to sail from Florida to Oz, got quarantined in Galapagos when Covid hit, then sailed north to the Sea of Cortez
If I had to choose one country that offered the most variety and bang for the buck, I’d go with Panama. It offers everything from tropical paradise (San Blas islands) to backpacker paradise (Bocas del Toro), engineering paradise (the Canal), and desert islands (Las Perlas).
If we’re talking sheer fun, it’s hard to beat Thailand. Affordable, fascinating culture, delightful people, and delicious food!
🥞I love the theme of adventure and travel in a scifi book for younger readers! What themes and topics do you think are important for young readers to be introduced to?
🎤A good portion of my readers are adults, but I wrote Debunked aiming for a novel that would have lived on my nightstand when I was thirteen. Fun, adventure, and imagination were my highest priorities.
The young adult years are tough. With one foot in adulthood and the other in youth, every day is a Battle Royale with insecurity. With this in mind, I explore themes like self-confidence, the inherent discomfort in adventure, and forgiveness (of yourself and others).
Debunked’s fifteen-year-old protagonists, Alexandria and Ozymandias, are in over their heads for most of the book. As they muddle through impossible situations, they gradually gain self-confidence and agency. This arc will develop over the next two books, as Ozzie deals with an unwanted prophecy about his destiny.
🥞 So you built an actual airship and bring it to conventions!? That’s amazing, can we hear about the process and maybe have a photo?
🎤When I started worldbuildng Terravenum, airships topped my list of Awesome Things to Build Around. For a sailor like me, they are the ideal form of travel.
As Jack Sparrow said: “That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.”
It was only a matter of time before my Dad and I built a scale model of Angelus (“Ann-jealous”), our heroes’ airship in Debunked.
The build started with a hull I found on FB Marketplace. We bought canvas and sewed an envelope (balloon). A candelabra from Goodwill served as a frame to hang the vessel. I contacted a 3D printer on Etsy about making replicas of my engine design. Dad and I hammered copper pipes to create engine mounts and scaffolding. I watched Youtube videos about painting miniatures, then went to town adding vibe to the vessel. Most recently, I added dragon wings and a skull to her bowsprit and LED lights to her engines.
Angie is a work in progress, but I’m excited for all the conversations she’ll start with airship aficionados.
🥞I see that you go to a lot of conventions as well! Which is your favorite so far? Any advice for authors who might want to try to participate in one?
🎤Last year, I attended 19 shows, ranging from comic-cons to dog adoption drives.
My favorite event was the Tucson Festival of Books. It was massive, but well-attended and smoothly run. It was fun to hang out with a crowd of readers.
A few tips for authors interested in trying their hand at live events:
1. Present your booth in a way that tells readers who love your kind of book that THIS is a book they will love.
2. A well-designed table runner and banner go a long way toward looking professional.
3. Hone a tagline that describes your book. Your window for connecting with readers is around 4 to 5 seconds. Let them know what your book is about. (My tagline is: “Indiana Jones meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!”)
4. Engage people who walk by. Unfortunately, this means you can’t look at your phone.
5. If physically possible, stand as much as you can.
6. Rehearse a 30 second elevator pitch to give readers a sense of your story.
7. Collect names for your mailing list
🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?
🎤My favorite sci-fi trope is when a trigger-happy warrior goes through security and is forced to remove an impossible quantity of hidden weapons from their body.
I’m also a sucker for sarcastic smugglers who have a heart of gold.
🥞 What can we look for next from you?
🎤 I’m currently working on a couple of projects:
1. Volume 2 in the Terravenum Chronicles
2. Illustrated Debunking Field Manual (and Bathroom Companion) – a creature and survival guide to Terravenum
In the meantime, I’m excited about the upcoming convention season! My 2023 schedule includes a few new events and some of my favorites from last year.
🥞Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is an open forum, so please use this space to talk about anything else you’d like to!
🎤Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work!
More than anything, I’d like to thank bloggers and readers for promoting indie books. Your recommendations and word-of-mouth are game changers.
There you have it! You can find Dito and Debunked online at:
The SPSFC is in the final round now! With winners to be announced mid July, we are all hard at work reading the finalists. Team At Boundary’s Edge has decided to review the books individually although not release a score until the entire team has finished reading. As always these are my thoughts alone and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of my team or anyone else. That said, let’s just dive right in to the first of our new finalist books!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Aestus: The City
Series: Aestus, #1
Author: S.Z. Attwell
Release: Self Published, 2020
Length: 706 pages
Rating: *Vague gestures of approval from me*
The Synopsis Via Am*zon:
An underground city, built centuries ago to ride out the devastating heat. A society under attack. And a young solar engineer whose skills may be the key to saving her city…if she doesn’t get herself killed first.
When Jossey was ten, the creatures of the aboveground took her brother and left her for dead, with horrible scars. Now, years later, she’s a successful solar engineer, working to keep her underground city’s power running, but she’s never really recovered. After she saves dozens of people during a second attack, she is offered a top-secret assignment as a field Engineer with Patrol, but fear prevents her from taking it…until Patrol finds bones near where her brother disappeared.
She signs on and finds herself catapulted into a world that is far more dangerous, and requires far more of her, than she ever imagined. The creatures and the burning heat aboveground are not the only threats facing the City, and what she learns during her assignment could cost her her life: one of the greatest threats to the City may in fact lie within. With thousands of lives at stake, can she act in time?
I generally enjoyed The City. Due to the length and character descriptions I am left with some mixed feelings but I would totally read the next in the series. The main point I want everyone to keep in mind is that overall this is a positive review from me!
Let me get my gripe out of the way first and then do all the positives. I just don’t feel like this needed to be 700 pages long and it became a bit of a drag to keep reading at times. When thrillers write super short chapters to make the book feel faster and more digestible, that’s one thing, but I’ve never seen the tactic used to break up a chonker like this. If we need to make the book feel shorter and faster, it’s too long, and I think I’d have settled in more with longer chapters. The action was fairly constant though and after the first quarter the book moved along at a respectable pace.
Plot wise, I enjoyed the majority of the book. This is a story about a failing underground City, a rival faction, a brave engineer, and the men & women protecting and helping her along the way. I was very interested in the political plotting and how Attwell turned around the “bad guys” into something I never saw coming.
I liked the characters too. Jossey is a great female lead. I thought we were setting up a love triangle (thankfully not in book one at least) and I ended up liking her supporting cast too. One of my favorite tropes is dysfunctional military groups learning to work together and I definitely got my fix of that within the Patrol unit. What drove me nuts was, for example, constantly and repeatedly describing Caspar only by his eyes.
To end on a positive note: I loved the use of setting and climate. The setting wasn’t just a backdrop for another story. The climate affected EVERYTHING and dictated the entire way that everyone on the planet continues to live. I just appreciated the fact that everything tied together so well throughout the pages.
A far too lengthy book, with short chapters and plenty of action. I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the story.
As Wyrd & Wonder winds down I am in the mood for standalones. Surfing my audiobook library I happened to stumble across this absolute gem of a book. The Spirit Ring is a deceptively simple fantasy full of magic, humor, kobolds, and taking power in whatever form your status allows. From ghost dads to corpse buoys and kobolds, let’s just jump right in
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Spirit Ring
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publisher & Release: Baen, 1992
Length: 369 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of fantasy
A quick note on the Audio: running 13.25 from Blackstone Audio, 2019. Narrated by Grover Gardner. Total 5⭐ experience
Here’s the synopsis:
In an alternate Renaissance Italy where the church regulates magic and licenses magicians, fiery Fiametta Beneforte wants to be more than her goldsmith-mage father’s unpaid apprentice. But when the Duchy of Montefoglia is laid under military and magical siege, she unexpectedly must join with Thur Ochs, a young Swiss miner and foundryman, to tap their skills in both metalwork and necromancy to rescue her father’s soul and combat an evil sorcerer
This is easily one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It takes a good look at how magic would have fared in the time of the Renaissance era, within the church, putting sanctioned white magic crafters against black magic users and necromancers. How are women treated in this world? How does class limit someone’s reach in life? Is magic written in Latin so only the learned and upper class people have access to it?
But she wasn’t a man and she doubted she’d get ten paces with a sword in her hand. Not man but true mage. If God wanted to damn her for using the only strength he’d given her, that was God’s choice
There are lots of good themes running through this that are appropriate to the historical time period. The magic is fairly simple and I think it makes sense as far as how the church would have tried to control it’s use. Some of the necromancy parts get pretty dark and it’s more of what I am looking for when I pick up books like this.
I’ve heard the prose described as “stiff” and I can understand that, but the book is funny as all hell and had some of the actual best moments. There’s a whole sequence of Swiss Army Man in book form when Thur is trying to get his brothers corpse out of a window, across the river, down the road … it’s ghastly hilarious and Bujold has a serious talent at imagery plus dry humor to create a wonderful effect.
He has a sudden picture of himself: a naked Swiss madman carrying a corpse. Well he had nothing to attract a robber certainly
The ending also had me rolling despite the kind of sadness to it all. I think that once you get past the first two chapters which introduce the main characters, the book takes off and becomes quite a delightful read. Both points of view are told equally well so that I never minded if I was reading Fiametta or Thur.
A strong female lead, a miner who ends up being pretty brave after all, and even the Abbott who surprised me at the end are all great characters. I love the obstinate old horse, trying to balk and eat grass while a battle is taking place 😂
The conflict is believable, the action constant, the kobolds something that you don’t see every day. Oh the kobolds! I need more kobolds in fantasy please
Overall, this is really a great little book and of course Grover Gardner adds a stunning narration. His voices are awesome and the humor or gravity radiates in his voice. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this as much on page but I think I would have.
The Ring! Of course! Damn – I mean God bless me, that’s what it was
My last thought, as someone who’s lost their dad and can now appreciate ghost dads, is that I freaking love Prospero. He meant well for Fiametta and I love that even in the afterlife he was looking out for her and stayed snarky as ever. I’d like to have seen Fiametta grieving a little more but I think she will when the shock wears off.
Overall: simple on the outside but full of great themes and humor to balance the darkness. A tale of occupation in renaissance times based loosely on the life of Benvenuto Cellini. My first Bujold but definitely not my last. If people are describing this as one of her “lesser” works, I need all the “better” ones now!
Thanks for checking out my audio and book review of The Spirit Ring by Louis McMaster Bujold. I purchased my audiobook on Chirp and I’m definitely buying myself a hard copy for my collection. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️
Hi everyone! I was going to post a review today but I’ve been LOVING meeting everyone who surfs the Top Ten Tuesday posts! It’s a community it itself and I’m here for it!
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
I decided to tweak it a bit and add “fantasy” books to fit prompts for Wyrd and Wonder too! From Sunday brunch to hard days, let’s see what brings me to a book
1. Horse on the cover
I am not the slightest bit picky. If there’s a horse on the cover of that fantasy book I am immediately interested and at least going to read the description. I’ve discovered many awesome books this way.
2. If Dragons are involved
Self explanatory. I love fantasy with mystical animals whether dragons, gryphons, unicorns, magic horses, or anything else. Bring it on.
3. Anything other than people on the cover
In general, people on the cover tend to make me less interested. If a it’s really pretty illustrated cover that’s one thing, but for the most part I’m less attracted to characters on the cover than animals or anything else
I’m a fiend for maps and internal artwork. Scrolling, illustrations, chapter headings, even an index with illustrations will pique my interest.
5. Who blurbed it
Another self-explanatory one. Some authors I trust more than others but there are certain authors that if I see they have blurbed the book I’ll Auto buy.
6. The Author
Another easy, self-explanatory one. Everyone has at least one auto buy author
7. Sunday Brunch
Unique to me, if someone is interested in the Sunday brunch series I usually do them the courtesy of reading the book before writing interview questions. It’s hard to talk about and promote a book if you haven’t read it
8. Certain reviewers
Now this does absolutely not mean that I chase after hyped books. In fact quite the opposite is true. I have a select core of reviewers who I trust and tend to have similar tastes to. (Philip Chase and Holly Hearts Books are two of them). If one of them truly loves a book, I’ll usually check it out too
This one can go either way but an interesting synopsis goes a long way. Anything involving a pirates for example will catch my interest
10. A hard week at work
If I’m having a hard week in real life, I’m probably not going to pick up a historical tome or something that requires a lot of brain power. I’m looking for light fantasy in those situations
Bonus: all the things I love most
I’m a sucker for medieval settings too. Knights, paladins, holy wars, pirates, horses, and dragons are the “in general” things that I love most
Thanks for checking out my list! What things immediately attract you to a book?
Thanks to Wyrd & Wonder this month for hosting a read along for The Bone Witch! This book has been on my TBR for a while since it was pretty popular on bookstagram. I was disappointed overall and all things considered don’t regret checking it out.
While the weekly discussion posts included spoilers, these are my spoiler free thoughts on the entire novel.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Bone Witch
Series: The Bone Witch #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Fire, 2017
Length: 432 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of slow moving fantasy
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:
A story of scorned witches, sinister curses, and resurrection, The Bone Witch is the start of a dark fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Serpent & Dove and The Cruel Prince.
Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha―one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
I wanted to hit two stars for most of the book and came so close to DNFing.
The one thing I will truly give the book credit for is keeping all content age-advertised appropriate. There’s one use of the word ‘ass’ and nothing “physically romantic”, so I would let kids read this no problem.
There were a lot of potentially cool elements like resurrection, dark magic, undead familiar horses… I wanted to like this more but the second quarter of the book lost me irredeemably.
It was hard not having an antagonist or clear conflict throughout. I don’t come to necromancy to read about clothes and dancing. At the end, the antagonist that was presented felt tossed into the story with no clues or lead up or prior thought regarding the one responsible, which caused the ending to not be rewarding at all. She just revealed a bunch of new but apparently ongoing things and said ok, readers will accept this for sure since it has apparently been happening for weeks now.
The story is framed by Tea telling the events of the past to a bard. I kind of liked this because it gave a degree of separation from the teenage first person point of view. Something exciting is building up in the present as Tea bored me to tears with the past. I was expecting the time lines to meet up in book one, although the story that Tea is telling the bard at the end of The Bone Witch is still well behind the events happening in real time. I thought the frame would only frame one book but apparently not, and that’s what I found the most disappointing.
I also think that we wasted a lot of time learning about clothes and Asha customs and it felt essentially like reading Memoirs of a Geisha, to the point that I set it down for a week wondering if I should just go read that book again instead. Then there’s the random storyline of Likh wanting to cross dress and dance as an Asha, which isn’t inherently bad but it’s bad enough to read about women’s clothes for so long without adding men into it as well. Basically most of the “Asha Training” was boring as hell and the book left all actual plot and storyline with consequences to be damned until the last quarter or so.
There are a lot of cool things she could have done with an undead familiar. Fox could have been interesting but there were no consequences to his dead-ness until the third quarter when the author finally decided to characterize him. I also think Tea felt like a wet blanket. She didn’t really have an arc of growth or maturity, it was more about her excelling in “training” and coming through the novice Asha cough Geisha ranks. I can’t even say she’s more mature in present time yet, more powerful yes but the rest is to be determined.
Chupeco did bring out the action and make it all much more interesting in the last quarter but prior to that I hadn’t been compelled to continue reading at any point throughout.
Also I don’t think the author owes the copy editor and proofreader any favors. Some dialogue hinted at previous events that as far as I could tell never occurred. Kalen referred to himself as Kalen a few times in conversation like the author forgot who was talking while writing the conversation, or had originally intended a third person to be talking. This book had a LOT of those kinds of errors. One of my biggest issues was how much of this felt ripped off from other books, it wasn’t just Geisha.
My general lack of interest was the result of lots of small things.adding up. In the big picture, the snail slow pace and lack of clear conflict didn’t align with a typical YA novel at all. I’d expect this pace for a slow burning and very long adult fantasy. Speaking of time it was also very hard to tell how much time was passing as the story went. At one point Tea was “almost 15” but I thought she was much older already. Then I couldn’t even remember two years having passed 🤷♀️
There were a few funny parts and some witty dialogue and overall it’s a good idea, but I don’t personally feel like the book delivered. I did LOL at the cow and the horse part. Even at the end when things are heating up and I expected answers, we just got more questions pointing towards the next book.
The series may get better as it goes but I don’t have any immediate interest in continuing the trilogy. It has some redeeming qualities and obviously going forward there’s going to be more action than party training (hopefully) so….we’ll see.
Happy weekend everyone and welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series! Today’s episode (31) starts a string of SPSFC feature interviews that O.R. Lea is kicking off for us!
The competition is currently in the final round, so while we wait for those scores to start coming in I thought it would be cool to interview some of the authors who participated!
O.R. Lea caught my eye with stories of travel, CATS, and a hard scifi novel in which first contact takes a slightly different approach. I love the section below on theme and cultural divides! Read on to see these things plus his thoughts on the SPSFC and so much more.
🥞 Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?
🎤 Aside from writing, my younger self’s dream was to be a rock star. I’ve played in numerous bands before finally admitting I’m not that great a guitarist, but I’ve recently started getting back into it, partly for fun, and partly because my teenage daughter is proving to be a very promising bassist and I want to be able to encourage and mentor her (as much as she’s willing to let me!)
🥞What’s your brunch order today?
🎤One English muffin with poached egg and a thick slice of black pudding
🥞 So I enjoyed the preview of your book, Riebeckite! It didn’t make the SPSFC semifinalist round but I hope you still had a positive experience? How do you feel about the competition overall?
🎤 Everyone involved is so supportive of each other, ‘competition’ almost doesn’t feel like the right word for it! I was read and wonderfully reviewed by some fellow contestants, and it was exciting to put in the same group as one of my favourite indie authors, Zamil Akhtar: when he made top 3 in the group, I was so stoked. And I was even more stoked that one of my indie author buddies, N. C. Scrimgeour, made the finals! She and I published around about the same time and accumulated reviews so closely in tandem with each other that it was almost a running joke. It’s awesome to see the wind is still in her sails and her trilogy is well worth checking out.
🥞 I know you said you were born in Wales, lived in Canada, and then settled in England – what other cool places have you lived or been?
🎤I’ve not done half as much travelling as I’d like, but I’d had holidays in Bulgaria, Romania, France, Germany, Czech Republic. My only visit to the USA was for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas, which was a blast!. I’m a huge fan of American whiskey so I definitely want to do the Kentucky bourbon trail one day.
🥞 Cool, I asked because it seems like bridging cultural and language divides is a big theme in Riebeckite, which uniquely enough takes place in the Persian Gulf!
🎤I’ve always enjoyed making friends all around the world and I grew up at a time when the internet was really starting to make that possible. You’re absolutely right, bridging divides is a major theme for me, but even more specifically than that is the truth that the divide between one country’s perceived culture and government and yours is much greater than the actual divide between you and an ordinary person from that country. Most of my books are set in non-western countries, and I always try to make contact with some people from that country and learn some of their language(s). This has become especially true in the past year, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I have friends in both countries, and none of them wanted to go to war – as always, it’s the people at the top who make those decisions. In fact, one of my fondest moments in making and marketing Riebeckite was commissioning a wonderful husband and wife photography team from Voronezh to produce a photoset of scenes from the book. Darya, who portrayed Tahira, speaks almost no English, so we communicated with a combination of my limited Russian and Google translate, even managing to share the occasional joke. I was blown away by how well they recreated my vision despite the language barrier.
Like I said, I love exploring unconventional locations in my books. I’ve written a mercenary adventure in Zimbabwe and an urban fantasy about vampires in Jordan. The earliest version of Riebeckite was quite different from the final version, in that it was going to be an alternative history scifi set in Soviet Azerbaijan in which the asteroid actually struck the earth, not the moon. I needed a big inland body of water for the asteroid to land in, hence the choice of the Caspian sea. While researching Azerbaijan I learned about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and hit upon the idea of childhood friends from opposite sides of the Azeri-Armenian divide having to work together. Whilst developing the idea, that conflict actually escalated, and I decided it might be a bit tasteless to use a real-world conflict for my story. When I came up with the idea of the bruised moon and the skyscrubbers, it made sense to have them being trialled on an island, and I absolutely fell in love with Qeshm as a setting. And inventing a fictional conflict between Azerbaijan and Iran allowed me to keep the idea about childhood friends working together across a divide.
🥞So Riebeckite is a hard scifi novel that focuses more on biology & technology? My question had to do with choosing this storyline and setting say, vs, writing a space opera. What draws people to various branches of sci-fi?
🎤I’ve actually never been married to a particular genre. It just so happens that I like stories about ordinary-ish people thrust into highly extraordinary circumstances, and when those circumstances involve magic or fantastical elements, it gets called Fantasy, and when it involves hypothetical natural or technological elements, it gets called Science Fiction. I’ve come to realise, in fact, that my favourite book trope is simply the Quest, but where the characters are all unprepared underdogs! Riebeckite is very much a near-future, earth-bound story, but it still contains ‘Quest’ elements, such as items which are acquired early on that turn out to have a surprising use later.
🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?
🎤 I like when SciFi explores the idea of just how alien and divergence life from other worlds might be. Unsurprisingly, the Alien franchise is one of my all time favourites. I’m also a huge John Wyndham fan: I love the way he write a very engaging human story with imaginative alien elements encroaching from the fringe.
🥞What other generally nerdy things are you into?
🎤 As a guitarist, I’m a geek for music gear to a degree thoroughly unjustified by my actual musical ability. I’m also a whiskey nerd: I keep a book of my tasting notes for every new whiskey or bourbon I try, and if I come across one I haven’t tried yet I absolutely have to buy a measure of it, not matter how much it costs or how early in the day it is. Finally, like many writers, I indulge in a little tabletop roleplay. Although, for me, this is less about the dice-rolling rules-exploiting min-maxing geekery, and more about the opportunity to enjoy a different format of storytelling.
🥞Is there a scifi book that you always recommend to everyone?
🎤 The scifi book(s) I recommend most often are Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series. They are just so fabulously written, and I love everything about them. Recently I’ve been championing a fellow indie author, Steven William-Hannah, whose Interloper Series (beginning with Icebreaker) is just magnificent and I’m hoping he enters it into the SPSFC next year. But the one book I will never stop recommending to anyone who will listen is actually a fantasy series: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and its sequels. Lynch is the writer I wish I could be.
🥞What can we look for next from you?
🎤Torpor’s End – the sequel to Riebeckite, and the second and final book in the duology I’m calling the Bruised Moon Sequence – is landing on the 15th July. After that, I’ll just have to spin the tombola that is my brain and see what idea is ready to come out next. There is a “ghost ship in space” story idea I’m particularly excited about – so much so that I already commissioned the cover art as a promise to myself that it will be written eventually!
Thank you so much to O.R. Lea for taking the time to interview! You can find him online at:
Artwork by Tithi Luadthong. Week Three questions are hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place
The book is finally heating up a bit. I finally got my undead horse familiar. Fox finally got the characterization he needed from the start. Some action is happening. I’ve lost my patience with the book overall but this week is a step in the right direction
Alright here are the questions:
There was someone else in Ankyo who could channel the Dark. And whoever it was, was after me. (P. 154)
1. Do you have any theories about who could be behind the skeleton incident, and why they’re after Tea?
So… My first thought is that if deathseekers, heart forgers, and dark Asha share some magical traits, could it have been Kalen? That doesn’t make sense though…
We are starting to see The Faceless portrayed as the eventual antagonist so I’m thinking it’s tied into one of them somehow. Maybe. It’s. Very frustrating to not have a clear idea of the plot yet
2. This week we learn why Fox has been turning up bruised and battered whenever he disappears on his own. We also learn that he’s been getting into disagreements with noble women! He’s gaining a lot of agency for an undead familiar – what are your thoughts on this, and where do you think his part in the story might lead him?
First off, I think the part where Fox’s “undeadness” shines through should have come much earlier in the book. We know he still has his fatal wounds, we have seen the blood magic, and his entire character just feels a little more realistic now. One curious thing is that Fox is not with Tea as she is telling the story to the Bard, so eventually he must go off in his own direction. Where that is, who knows.
3. Tea gains her asha-sisters, and one of them is not like the others… What do you make of Zoya in this role? Do you think her relationship with Tea might develop into one that’s less antagonistic?
I think they will reconcile at some point when things get heated. Either that, or Zoya will be part of the downfall that causes Tea to be exiled. One or the other 🤷♀️
What I’m making of her so far is that Parmina wants Tea to keep her friends close and her enemies closer. I also think Zoya is a pretty uncommon name and that some of the Zoya/Alina relationship from Shadow and Bone is being ripped off. If that’s the case though, they’ll form a begrudging respect at some point
4. Speaking of suspect characters and antagonistic relationships, Tea and Kalen find themselves in a new, if somewhat unwanted, position as student and teacher, respectively. Do you trust Kalen to learn something from his time as Tea’s instructor? For that matter, do you trust him at all given how seemingly opposed he is to Tea’s presence/nature in general?
I trust him, yes. I think he’s devoted to Prince Kance and sees the benefit in training Tea to the best of her abilities. I wonder if Kalen is the third spoke of the love triangle that was mentioned at the start of the book
5. This section ends on a rather dramatic cliffhanger – any thoughts or theories as to who’s behind the apparent attack at the darashi oyun?
I’ve got no idea, but I’m assuming it’s whoever did the skeleton as well. Did this person kill off that last other dark Asha too? Is there a dark Asha in the ‘other side’ who’s being employed to wreak havoc? Someone in secret we don’t know about?
Overall I’m frustrated by the pacing of the book despite the action heating up. It’s an adult epic fantasy pace (slow as tar) stuffed into a YA novel where we expect action. We know Tea is building an army but we don’t know who cast her out. Who is the man she loved that was wronged, slighted, and how? Who is she going to war against? It’s a bizarre way to unravel a story and I don’t hate it but I also can’t imagine this being popular with the target age group.
I’m ready to wrap this one up and staying cautiously optimistic for a wild ending
The subject of yesterday’s Wyrd & Wonder prompt, Alchemy, is one of my favorite fantasy topics. I will always read about alchemy. There’s a lot that an author can do with the topic although usually it takes one of two forms:
1) Creating or locating an alchemist’s stone to transmute gold or other precious metal
2) Trying to create or locate an elixir of life
While those are not bad ideas, I find them overdone and frequent quest goals. I am going to highlight some of my favorite alchemy related books, ideas, and alchemists who do different things with the subject.
Alright let’s go!
Ashlords by Scott Reintgen: Alchemy -> Magic Phoenix Horses
Phoenix horses are cool by themselves, right? In this YA book that I affectionately dubbed Hunger Games meets The Scorpio Races, alchemists choose their materials to create magic horses with specific abilities. They are in a potentially deadly phoenix race against other promising young alchemists and each ingredient gives the horses different powers. That one was unique to me. I reviewed it here
Give the Dark My Love: Alchemy -> Necromancy
Alchemy is a higher trade and a young girl wants to go and learn the craft. Alchemists can transmute, brew, craft crucibles of different metal, and then there is a forbidden fourth branch …. necromancy. Alchemy is a wild ride in this as the crucibles can trap souls, transfer pain, create plague, and when the worst happens our main character takes off down the darkest road possible. One of my favorite YA books. Look at her holding a crucible on the cover!
Grand Apothecary Putress: Alchemy -> Undead Plague
Branching off into a different sect of storytelling (but yes there’s a book too), the Royal Apothecary Society was a black line of lore in the Warcraft universe. Creating potions, necromancy, the forsaken plague, general plague, and lord knows what else.
Grand Apothecary Putress eventually staged a coup at Wrathgate after years in service to Sylvanas and the Forsaken, and you’d better believe that I loved seeing his dead head roll at the end.
Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven? Behold, now, the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken! Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!
A small but iconic figure in the universe for sure and one that I’ll always remember.
The Royal Apothecary Society’s story is best told in Sylvanas, although it’s a small role.
Snape -> Potions
Now that I’m branching off into favorite alchemists, I can’t neglect our favorite potions master aka THBP
What was your favorite Snape moment? There aren’t enough potions masters in fantasy as major characters. It’s not usually an exciting topic for book matter but I always love a brewmaster
A Far Wilder Magic: Alchemy -> Magical Hunt
Here’s one more book that I’ve read fairly recently, where the competitive hunt is on for a magical creature. Hunters enter in teams of two: a sharpshooter and an alchemist. Margaret is a sharpshooter, and Weston is…well … barely an alchemist in training. He had natural talent though, kind of. There wasn’t as much alchemy as I’d have liked in this one but it was a different concept. I reviewed it here
The Lady Alchemist
I’m surprised that it took so long for Rumplestilksin – with – alchemy to become a thing. Here, Samantha Vitale has a young alchemist attempting and unable to transmute straw into gold as a prison sentence. Eventually she has to transmute a body for a magician and things get a little twisted, but I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit
What fantasy books with alchemy do you recommend?? I need more and am always looking for unique takes!
Procrastination is a near and dear thing to me so this is a great top ten list for me! Let’s jump in because number one is threatening my time frame already:
Unfortunately I have a full time job that’s pretty demanding. I work straight nights and while I occasionally have time to steal a few pages, usually it’s way too busy. Nurse life!
2. Feeding off that: sleep.
I’m ALWAYS tired and sometimes I just nod off while reading. Darn the human need for sleep and the night shift culture of always being ready to pass out
3. My animals
I’ve got a cat and dog that are always vying for attention, and there are the horses too. My youngest is nearly big enough to carry a rider now and that’s going to become my main time sink outside of work soon! She just turned two today actually!
4. My property!
I have a huge yard and garden and woods that I’m trying to reclaim into usable space, so a TON of my spare time is spent outside. I’ll listen to an audiobook while gardening but obviously can’t while mowing or cutting up fallen trees lol. It’s just me doing all that AND the house work too and I’m just, too tired sometimes
5. June’s Journey
I have been an avid June player for years now and am in a fairly competitive league team. I’m losing interest and now only play during competitive weeks but man, that game is a time sink and a half
6. Reviewing and the blog
I am pretty sure I spend almost as much time reviewing and writing and planning as I do reading. I’ve backed off on these things a lot and am focusing on me more but I don’t seem to be getting as many pages read these days
7. My eyes
My vision is getting pretty bad, to the point where if I’m on Kindle I read with pretty large font. I also get headaches more frequently so it’s hard to buckle down and read for any length of time
8. Other people’s dogs
This is less frequent but I’m a part time participant in a rescue that helps transport animals across the country to new homes! I usually take a few hours of driving with an overnight leg and lose a few reading hours to that. It’s really fun though
9. Random scrolling
I should have thought of this one sooner. I love my Kindle because I can’t do this but sometimes I just zone out and spend time scrolling book Twitter, WordPress blogs I’m following, etc, and end up spending more time consuming other people’s book literature than my own