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SPFBO4 Musings and Highlights

To be honest, I'd never heard of SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) until a friend told me I should submit Sowing. I did - and then promptly forgot about it. Months later, another friend messaged me to announce that Sowing was a finalist.

WHAT! MY BOOK! AHH! Cue excitement and hope and amazement and - and...

...a brutal first 1-star review. I didn't respond well, took it harder than I thought I would. But I got up and dusted myself off. Then another brutal one hit. And another... All saying similar things, all of them painful to swallow (ya know, without curling up in a hole).

As best as I could, I breathed and stepped back. And like I try to do with all criticism, I asked myself if there was any merit to the reviews. There was. More than I'd ever realized. The beauty of self-publishing is that I can do something about these issues. So I am. (More on this here!)

To sum up my experience with SPFBO4 in a word?


I hold no delusions that Sowing will win. It's actually on track to be one of the lowest-ranking finalists ever. (Whoo! Notoriety for the win?)

But I've won already, because I've learned things I couldn't have learned any other way. I've learned that I'm not as thick-skinned as I thought - yet, I've become so much stronger than I expected. I've learned that sometimes things you didn't realize needed fixed DO need fixed - and in rewriting them, you can make an entire book so much better. I've learned to listen to my gut.

I've met some awesome people and learned of some amazing-sounding books.

So on that note, I'd like to talk about a few of the "fallen" from this year's SPFBO.

Most people believe that Ember is the wizard daughter of Lord Arundel, a half-mad man who is infamous for his slaughter of shapeshifters.

Only Ember’s former lover and her mother know what she really is—the same kind of shapeshifter that Lord Arundel likes to hunt. She’s been keeping her secret all her life, but somehow Lord Arundel’s assistant, Fletch, suspects what she really is. Ember may be the last of her kind, and Fletch will stop at nothing to capture her—even if she is the daughter of a lord of the Council.

Running is her only option, and it seems she has a turn of luck when she discovers others like herself. But she soon realizes that wherever she goes and whoever she meets, danger will follow, and at too high of a price. It is up to her to save the few remaining shapeshifters—but she refuses to use her powers to hurt others. How can she defeat Fletch and Lord Arundel without becoming the same monsters that they are?

Does that not sound amazing and twisty? I don't know where or when I first saw this book, but somehow, I have it on my phone's Kindle app. I vaguely remember snatching it on a free day because THAT COVER. Secrets, a girl who is different and will be hunted, a struggle over how to defeat evil without becoming a monster like the enemy...yesssss. I'm very much looking forward to having some time to dig into this one.

Sera is a Sympath. That isn't illegal, but it might as well be.

Born with the ability to twist the minds of others, Sympaths can whisper things that can only be felt. You'll kill for them. You'll even die for them. If caught, only exile or death will do, for a Sympath cannot be jailed.

People like her are despised and feared, so Sera must remain hidden. She lives in a secluded village at the edge of the known world and wonders what kind of future she could possibly have there.

Her twin brother Gault chafes at village life. He feels useless, his skills and ambition wasted in such a tiny place. He longs to go to the faraway city to attend the prestigious University there, but will have to leave Sera behind to do it.

On one of their final days together, they witness the arrival of mysterious beings from beyond the sea. Their lives are thrown into upheaval when the newcomers prove to be hostile, deadly, immensely powerful, and, Sera is horrified to discover, just like her.

This cover also caught my eye. So creepy with the misty forest and creepy little person... *shudders* The first time I read this blurb, that final line gave me chills in a good way. This story promises such tension and turmoil, and like Silverglen, features some plot elements I really enjoy. I'm excited to read this one too!

Meet Nathaniel Rane. A man of war, trying to live in peace - but dark forces have other plans.

Faced with defeat at the hands of a demon army, Rane and his fellow soldiers in the fabled Legion Of Swords use outlawed magic to fuse their souls with their blades. Faster, stronger and all but impossible to kill, they turn the tide of the war and emerge victorious.

But magic demands a terrible price and Rane's battle has only just begun.

Am I the only one who hears a "dun dun dunnn" in their head here? Ha! I'm not really into grimdark, so this might end up being too dark for me, but a warrior trying to save his army by tapping into forbidden magic ...that disquieting notion that said magic will come at a terrible price... Shivers.

No matter what kind of fantasy you like, one of the other 290 books in this contest will surely capture your mind and heart. Check them out and don't forget to leave reviews!

You can find Patrick LeCerc's spotlight post here. Barbara Kloss will share here tomorrow!



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