Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Book hangovers

Here’s a post at Book Riot: The Psychology of Book Hangovers

A “book hangover” is the slangy shortcut for the feeling when a reader finishes a book—usually fiction—and they can’t stop thinking about the fictional world that has run out of pages. The story is over, but the reader misses the characters or the atmosphere of the novel. Personally, I know the hangover is bad when I have trouble even looking at another book. What passing delights can a new novel hold for me when I only want more of the story I just finished?

Sure, that happens to me all the time. Literally dozens of times per year. Not all good books cause this phenomenon, but lots of them do. Generally speaking, my response is to immediately read part or all of the book again. I re-read From All False Doctrine from cover to cover just a few weeks after reading it for the first time. That’s something that works for me when I have a book hangover. (I’m currently reading the sequel, Neither Have I Wings, which is imo not as good and not going to cause a hangover.)

After re-reading a book, I’ll very likely still be in a hungover mood and I may not read anything for several days or a week. After THAT, I am either in a “reading slump” I specifically make an effort to break out of; or I listlessly try some new-to-me book that turns out to be really good and knocks me out of the original book hangover while setting me up for another one.

Incidentally, when a reading slump wants to turn into a Thing, I most often get out of that by picking up a book that previously caused a book hangover. Re-reading a novel I really love is the single best way I’ve found, maybe the only way, to knock myself out of a reading slump. Oh, no, there’s one other way that reliably works: picking up a new book set in a familiar world. That’s very much like re-reading because the world and often the characters are familiar and appealing. For me, Ilona Andrews works well this way.

The Book Riot post emphasizes sadness at the book’s ending and discusses ways in which a lingering book hangover signals an opportunity for personal growth, and honestly the whole thesis seems to perhaps have gotten a little overblown at that point. I don’t quite believe that a book hangover a bad thing, or even a sad thing; and a lingering period in which I don’t want to pick up another book has nothing to do, as far as I can tell, with personal change or anything like that. I mean, now and then, probably, but that’s hardly typical. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to spend more time with the familiar world and characters in that book and I’m disappointed there’s no immediate sequel and I’m not in the mood to read anything else. To me, none of that seems particularly sad, except in the sense that all fictional series are finite, and that’s difficult to avoid.

I wonder if it’s possible that readers who experience a book hangover rather rarely also experience it as a bigger deal than I do; and I also wonder if people who re-read a LOT, which I do, have less trouble with book hangovers because we freely revisit the book we loved and enjoy the re-reading process almost as much, sometimes more, as reading the book for the first time. When re-reading From All False Doctrine, I greatly enjoyed picking up lots of hints I missed the first time through.

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Another handful of SPFBO6 titles with no romance

After posting the 24 or so “friendship, no romance” titles submitted to the 6th annual Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off, naturally a handful of other entries were brought to my notice.

This brings the total proportion of submissions this year that center friendship rather than romance to a startling 10%. Not that 90% isn’t a pretty overwhelming majority, but 10% is a substantially larger percentage than I expected. I do think the proportion of no-romance fantasy is smaller in traditionally published works, but I could be wrong. In the next week or so, I’ll try to come up with a handful of my favorite traditionally published fantasy novels that don’t include romance. For the moment, here are the remaining SPFBO6 entries in that category, so consider this continued from the previous post:

25. Steve Gowland, Soul’s Abyss.

 As Kaoldan fights to unravel the mystery and his own dark past, reunited with his daughters after years apart throws him into another unfamiliar role – how to be a father again. This is another battle he cannot lose.

26. ED Lazure, Of Fractured Lands and Sundered Dreams:

[F]acing a revolt by the enslaved Dwarfs, Faija Soothing Wind must find the will to survive and to embrace motherhood. On the run with her daughter, she meets an ailing slave claiming a divine mission which would lead north to Fimara, the accursed land of her ancestors.

27. M Askins, Beyond the Spire of Naverene:

A Young Knight undertakes an impossible quest deep into the fabled and perilous Fenrirfang in order to protect his sister from a conspiracy that involves the Church that he has sworn to serve.

28, Toby Frost, Blood Under Water:

Giulia Degarno thought that coming to Averrio would be the start of a new life. But when a renegade priest turns up dead in a canal, the City Watch needs somebody to take the blame. And who better than a woman with a dark past and an even darker future?

I haven’t been posting covers in these lists because there are so many entries and covers take a certain amount of room, as well as time to get the images. But I really like this cover, so here:

Okay, a few more, let me see, what number are we on …

29. Gordon Greenhill, Flight of the SkyCricket:

[T]hree sisters-Eli, Anna, and Rose Hoover-stumble through a window in the wine cellar of an old Victorian house and find themselves in Errus, a world where natural disasters give birth to mythological creatures-some harmless, some horrific. 

This one looks like a MG story, which makes the second MG entry I’ve seen. This is a tough contest for MG novels, but this one does look like it’s got plenty of charm.

30. Keith Blenman, The Girl Drank Poison;

[T]ragedy befalls Zellin Percour, a young woman tricked into drinking an expired love potion. Now, transformed into an abomination, she’s rampaging her way toward the town of Sleeping Bear, hellbent on finding the man who deceived her…

There we go, 30 entries out of 300, exactly 10%. Quite a few of the six above look pretty decent, don’t they? I’m not sure Blood Under Water is eligible, actually, since it is Book 2 in a series and I sort of thought I saw somewhere that all entries had to be standalone or Book 1. In this case, the first book is called Up to the Throne, and sounds rather promising:

Giulia Degarno returns to the city-state of Pagalia with one intention: to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead. But Publius Severra is no longer a mere criminal, and has risen to become a powerful politician – and perhaps the only man who can save Pagalia from anarchy. Now, as Severra stands poised to seize the throne, Giulia must choose between taking her revenge, and saving her home.

I’m picking up a sample of this one.

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How do you pronounce “Ryo?”

So, I like TUYO enough to actually take the (for me) big step of figuring out how to create an audiobook edition. I’m intimidated by learning new stuff like this, but I tackled it this week.

You can make audiobooks, in case you’re curious, via ACX, which is a division of Amazon that makes audiobooks and then makes them available via Audible. Rather than laying out a relatively huge amount of money to pay the narrator, you can split future royalties with the narrator. That’s the way I’m doing it. I don’t know what other options may exist for making audiobooks, except there’s a relatively expensive way to do it through Draft2Digital (I looked at that some time ago, and at least at that point, you had no choice but to pay the narrator up front).

So … what you do, if you’re working through ACX, is set things up and then post an audition script, which (ACX advises) should be 2-3 pages that includes dialogue by all the major characters. The tidbits included in the script need not be contiguous in the book, but in fact I used a bit from the first chapter, where Ryo first meets Aras. I feared that absolutely no one would audition because the book is really quite long, so it’s kind of a big project, and it’s a new book with a tiny handful of reviews.

[Good reviews so far, and if you’ve left one, thank you so much!]

But in fact two narrators auditioned in the first 48 hours, so I can now say with certainty that there will be an audio edition pretty soon. Also, I’m now a lot less intimidated by this whole thing, so I expect I’ll make audio editions of the Black Dog books this year too.

Now, you provide suggestions for the potential narrators when you post the script. I said, two major characters, both male, very different speaking styles, the first-person narrator is nineteen, the other protagonist is in his fifties, Midwestern American accent is fine, straightforward speaking style is fine. I also said there isn’t any romance because if *I* were going to narrate a book, I would definitely like to know whether there were any steamy sex scenes so I could decline to audition for those books, so I thought narrators might like to know that. I didn’t provide any suggestions about how to pronounce character names because I didn’t care about how the narrator pronounced those at this stage.

However, having listened to these two auditions, I do note that the two narrators pronounce the words “Ryo” and “tuyo” in a slightly different way. So … how do you all prefer to pronounce them?

Ryo = Rye-oh

Ryo = Ree-oh

Slight accent on the first syllable or something else?

Tuyo = two-yoh

Tuyo = twee-yoh

Slight accent on the first syllable or something else?

Does anybody know exactly how to pronounce “tuyo” in Spanish so I can perhaps suggest a different pronunciation? Other than not wanting to sound like “tuyo” is Spanish, I have no firm commitment to a particular pronunciation, so I expect I will go with whatever pronunciation seems to be most popular.

Let me add, in case this interests you, that the two narrators so far are quite distinctive.

Narrator 1: deeper voice, slower speech, very clear diction, no obvious attempt to distinguish between characters by altering the tone or depth or speed of speech. I think this narrator would be acceptable.

Narrator 2: lighter voice, quicker speech, clear diction, more of an effort to distinguish between characters. This is the narrator I prefer so far.

I never thought about this kind of thing much at all before. Even when I listen to audiobooks, I don’t think about this. I like some narrators better than others, but I’ve never thought about why. I think after doing this, I’m going to.

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Beyond genre: categories that actually matter

Okay, so, this is largely an older post. When looking up something or other, I happened to came across this post from 2015, where I proposed three categories for fiction that have nothing to do with genre, but are actually much more important to (at least my) reader experience. You can pick any genre, and I will probably like the book if it’s well written AND belongs to the first category below. Given that, I would really appreciate it if novels were accurately labeled according the following categories:

1. Books with an underlying thread of kindness. There is a warmth to the story, let us say; a generally positive feel to the book because characters — both primary and secondary, maybe antagonists as well as protagonists — show traits such as, in no particular order, honor, courage, kindness, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and so forth. And, of course, because the good guys win. Take The Death of the Necromancer. I think of it because Nicholas is a ruthless bad guy, except not really; Ronsarde is his antagonist, except not really; Reynard is acting the part of a wastrel but is . . . how did Ronsarde put it . . . “sound as a young horse.” Etc etc. Other than the necromancer and his people, only Rive Montesq is a real bad guy. And the bad guys lose, lose, lose.

Mind you, endings don’t have to be saccharine. Even ambiguous could work, but probably only ambiguous-in-a-good-way, so to speak.

All of the books I really connect with emotionally fall into this category.

2. Books where at least some of the characters are sympathetically drawn and at least reasonably likeable, but their efforts to save the world and/or become better people go nowhere. They flounder around — or maybe act decisively — but they don’t get an actual happy ending. If there is a really evil character, that person may wind up winning at the end of the book. If not, then the most important likable character may wind up committing suicide. Grimdark fantasy is like this, but so is plenty of literary fiction — it’s not a genre-specific phenomenon.

Regardless of genre, the underlying message of the book seems to be that you just can’t win against the force of human greed, stupidity, selfishness, etc. I’m thinking of Joe Abercrombe’s First Law trilogy . Also of mysteries like Tana French’s In The Woods. Also of literary works like Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. Oh, another example: Jack Chalker’s Flux and Anchor series, where the ultimate conclusion is that the best decent people can do is create a bubble universe and shut themselves away from the rest of humanity, which can then go to hell without them having to watch. I read Chalker when I was a kid, and I still remember first realizing what it looks like when the universe is set up so the good guys can’t win. You may recall that Chalker wound up on quick list of authors who don’t appeal to me anymore. This can’t-win theme is partly why. (He has other deep themes running through his fiction that I also don’t like.)

Books like these can be brilliantly written, but quality of writing doesn’t matter: I loathe them. I finished all of the above books, but these days I definitely, definitely take a more emotionally distant stance toward a book like this as it begins to show signs of going in that kind of negative direction. Then, when it concludes in some awful way, I write off all other books by those authors forever. Them and me: not sympatico. At least, not in an author/reader way, I expect they’re all great people if you know them personally.

3. Books where all the characters are horrible people. I doubt I have ever finished a book like this. I guess the underlying message of such a book could be perceived as People Are Ugly and Life Is Ugly. An example I know of is Gone Girl. Both Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers found Gone Girl “compulsively readable,” but in such terms that I’m quite certain I would find it eminently resistible.

There’s probably something in there between 1 and 2. I mean obviously there’s a whole infinite string of gradations between 1 and 2, and probably between 2 and 3 for that matter. I guess I’d say that my favorite novels, regardless of where they’re shelved in a bookstore or library, probably range from 1.0 to 1.3 or so. It would be quite helpful for some objective reviewer to stamp a number code between 1.0 and 3.0 on every novel in existence; that’d sure help me sort through my TBR pile faster.

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SPFBO cover contest

I meant to follow the cover contest for Mark Lawrence’s self-published fantasy blog-off this year, but I must confess I lost track and didn’t. However, the results are in, and here is the link.

Here’s the winner of both the judge’s vote and the public vote:

This cover falls into the category of: I like the cover quite a bit as a piece of artwork, but (a) I wouldn’t hang it on my wall, and (b) it doesn’t make me want to read the back cover copy.

Neither of those facts is a criticism! I expect people who are more likely to enjoy this book will be attracted by this cover. Let me look up this book on Amazon … okay, here is the description:

The race is on! The gods careen toward the Blackened Nevers. Pray you don’t get in their way!

An army of criminals runs to reclaim its honor. An old knight wakes to find a child pointing to the finish line. A prison guard is cursed to return to the start. And the last two members of the Rowlach tribe run to ask their god why the race was more important than his creations. Meanwhile, deep inside their mountain, a brother and sister run to prevent the awakening of a leviathan. Will it rise to destroy creation, or is it just their god’s cynical attempt to increase his odds of winning?

I actually can’t tell for sure whether the gods themselves are competing in this race — the first bit makes it sound like that — or whether they’re wagering on mortal people they’ve chosen to drop into this race, which is what everything else makes it sound like. I have to admit, the overall description makes the story sound more appealing than the cover led me to believe. Still very possibly too gritty for my taste, but not as much so as I expected.

You can click through to see the other finalists for the cover contest. I don’t care all that much for the second place winner. I don’t like anything abstract or cartoony, and although I think the cover design is clever, I don’t really like the cover itself.

Of the covers that got at least one vote from the judges … let me see … I like this one best, and it’s not close:

I think this is a great cover.

Here’s the description:

Stolen from her jungle home and sold to a zookeeper, Pip knows only a world behind bars, a world in which a Pygmy warrior and her giant ape friends are a zoo attraction. She dreams of being Human. She dreams of escaping to the world outside her cage.

Then, the Dragon Zardon kidnaps her into a new life. Pip rides Dragonback across the Island-World to her new school – a school inside a volcano. A school where Humans learn to be Dragon Riders. But this is only a foretaste of her magical destiny, for the Dragon Assassins are coming. They have floated an Island across the Rift and their aim is nothing less than the massacre of all Dragons.

This basic scenario could be fine, but given this description, I have enough concerns about the overall writing quality that I don’t offhand plan to try a sample. I think the plethora of capitalized words would start to have a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality after about one chapter.

Quite a lot of really nice covers got pulled out by various judges. Click through if you have a minute and see what you think of them.

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MCA Hogarth’s Dreamhealers

Just letting you know that the first book of MCA Hogarth’s Dreamhealer’s series, which was mentioned in a comment here a day ago, is free on Amazon right now.

Here is the relevant part of the comment:

M.C.A. Hogarth has a series – Dreamhealers – which is described somewhere as a love story without the romance. It’s a really nice series, very sweet. About a very deep friendship. My one caveat with her books is that the characters, even when they are screwing up, are still so damn noble. 

Sounds good to me, probably including the caveat. Thanks to Mary Anderson for the comment! I look forward to trying this book.

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The real world is catching up to near-future SF


Near-future science fiction is one of the most challenging sub-genres to write, but it offers us a peek at the technologies that could be just around the corner. Where space operas can invent anything in their worlds, readers of near-future fiction expect a futuristic world different from their own, but not so much as to be unrecognizable. … Like any other tool, technology can be used for good—or with criminal intent for much more nefarious purposes. This field of possibilities is the fertile ground where writers can merge the dreams of science fiction with the nightmares of crime novels.

This article then takes a closer look at some of the SF-ish technology currently being developed. Let me see. Okay, autonomous cars, augmented reality — oh, those are the two developments on which this post focuses. Pretty decent discussion about both. I was personally expecting a bit more about facial recognition and Big Brother, and also more about social media leading to social meltdowns, but okay.

Oh, here are some great suggestions for Crimes To Commit With Autonomous Cars: You’re riding along in peaceful bliss when a message pops up on the screen. “Deposit Bitcoin into this account, or you’ll crash into that bridge coming up.” They could also use the vehicle to kidnap a target for ransom. A mass of stopped or crashed cars could provide a distraction from a greater crime underway or to cover an escape.

I love those suggestions! …. Wow, you could aim a lot higher, both literally and figuratively. “All you passengers need to cough up a million dollars among you, or this plane is heading into that mountain.”

There’s more about this sort of thing, but this particular topic actually reminds me of Murderbot hacking elevators or whatever they’re called. “So I told the emergency pod to pause on the third floor and cut it out of the system so none of the other lifts pods could see it, then stepped out and erased myself from its memory.” Things like that.

In fact, the Murderbot universe also uses plenty of augmented reality, with all those advertisements that leap up at you and people with implants and everyone reading the feed and so on. I wouldn’t call that world near-future, but it seems near-ish in some ways. (Bad ways.)

Okay, so while we’re on this subject, near-future SF is something of a hard sell for me, but every now and then I really like an SF novel of this type. I can think of a couple offhand.

I liked James Cambias’ Corsair a lot. Here’s part of the description:

In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT and have a brief affair. David is amoral, out for himself, and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating. Ten years later, David works in the shadows for international thieves, and Elizabeth prevents international space piracy.

So, very near future, although I don’t know that we’ll see quite as much use of space any time this decade as Cambias suggests in this book. If he’d set it in the 2030s, this would look really quite believable. Good story, good characters, come to think of it there’s a quite decent redemption arc in this novel, no wonder I liked it.

Oh, I see Cambias also has a new book out. Just came out this past February. The Initiate. It says here:


It’s their world. He’s going to take it away from them.

A fantasy novel! Interesting departure given his previous books! Well, regardless, I have liked all three of his other books, so sure, I’ll try this one.

Okay, and the other near-future SF story that jumps to mind for me is Genevieve Valentine’s Persona dulogy. This one, now, is all about the social media phenomenon, combined with celebrity worship and other things.

When Suyana, Face of the recently formed United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, is secretly meeting Ethan of the United States, a potential ally for her struggling country, the last thing she expected to be was a victim of an assassination attempt. Daniel, a teen runaway turned paparazzo hoping to make a name for himself, witnesses the first shot targeted for Suyana. Without thinking, he jumps into the action telling himself it’s not selflessness, it’s the scoop. Now Suyana and Daniel are on the run—and if they don’t keep themselves one step ahead, they’ll lose it all.

Amazing Valentine could make me like this duology. I detest celebrity culture the whole Face thing is a huge turn-off for me, and I’m not at all keen on paparazzi. And yet here we are. She’s just such a great writer. Nothing new from her, but you know, I’ve never read her Mechanique. I think I’ll pick that up too while I think about it.

Have any of you got a near-future SF novel you’d like to recommend?

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In which we continue to know less that we thought

It’s 2020, And Astronomers Have Just Found a New Class of Massive Space Explosions

Astronomers have finally classified a tremendous space explosion first noticed in 2018 – an event so bright, it was thought to have originated much closer to us than we eventually realised. Thanks to two additional discoveries, it now belongs to an entirely new class of giant space explosions.

This sort of thing keeps happening in astronomy. I mean, not something as weird as this, necessarily, but it seems like every time I turn around someone is saying, “Wow, we didn’t expect this,” or “We really don’t know what’s causing that,” or whatever.

This time, it’s these weird explosions:

These bursts of energy are extremely powerful and extremely fast, blasting vast amounts of matter into space at intense velocities. Astronomers have named the new class Fast Blue Optical Transients, or FBOTs.

I expect some aliens are at war, probably. To be fair, that doesn’t appear to be one of the hypotheses so far put forward by astronomers.

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A minor pet peeve


And although I suppose I am mildly interested in what the author of this post (Jeffrey Davies)has to say, this is largely because I’m curious why he thinks anybody in the world needs a post like this.

Personally, my first reaction is, You seriously think I feel like I need your personal approval to feel okay about my changing my tastes in reading? Who do you think you are?

My second reaction is, Since every reader in the entire world has grown out of a lot of books and authors, rather than sticking to picture books and See Spot Run into high school, why would ANYONE think this is a worthwhile topic? Even if for some reason he feels his expression of personal approval is important to random strangers?

I am having trouble imagining anybody feeling like statements of validation from random strangers on the internet are helpful, or even appropriate. I dislike everything like this on sight, whether in the title of an article or in a twitter post or whatever. But maybe I’m an outlier on this particular curve, so how about it? Do any of you have similar reactions to mine, or do you feel these types of “You have my permission” or “I hereby give you my approval” statements are actually helpful?

I will add, I don’t go around snarling under my breath for an hour just because of titles like this. I have the who-do-you-think-you-are reaction and then I go on with my life without thinking about it again. But that reaction does occur and I don’t think it’s wearing off at all over time, either.

Now, let’s see what Jeffrey says . . . oh, he’s in his twenties. First thing he says. Possibly if he were in his fifties, his tastes in books, and the tastes of his friends, would have changed often enough and dramatically enough that he would no longer find it startling.

Skimming lightly through the article, I don’t find a lot to mention. It’s just a self-reflective post about the author’s own changing tastes in books.

Fine, all right. Aside from outgrowing picture books and then more substantial children’s books, let me see.

There are a bunch of authors I used to read with enthusiasm but now no longer care for. Robert Heinlein, Jack Chalker, and Andre Norton spring to mind. Oh, and Terry Brooks! And for that matter David Eddings.

There are also whole genres of fiction I read now that I didn’t read at all fifteen years ago, including historical romance, contemporary romance, and contemporary YA. In fact, I no longer care for Nancy Springer’s fantasy novels, but I like her contemporary YA stories.

There are also children’s books that I will never stop loving, including, say, A Little Princess by Burnett. I maintain that Black Beauty is a very good story that many adults would enjoy. I don’t expect to grow out of loving those stories and I don’t imagine many readers do.

“Grow out of” is therefore the wrong phrase for changing tastes in books. This is not necessarily a process by which one grows to prefer better or different sorts of stories. Changing tastes can reflect that, sure, as someone gains experience and realizes that The Sword of Shannara is actually a pretty terrible book. But changing tastes can also reflect nothing but new exposure, over time, to genres a reader thought were not to her taste, but actually sometimes are.

Take-home message, such as it is: let’s just assume that everybody should read what they want, that nobody’s taste is static, and that nobody ever needs permission from strangers to validate their reading tastes.

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Central friendship, no romance

Now, I have nothing against romance in SFF, or other genres. I’m reading a romance right now — the last of Joanna Bourne’s Spymaster series — and as you know I like plenty of fantasy novels where the romance is central, such as nearly all of Sharon Shinn’s books, say.

However, I also greatly appreciate a story where the central relationship is between siblings or friends, and where there is no romance whatsoever. I have two out like that now — The White Road of the Moon and now Tuyo.

Out of curiosity, I asked the other participants in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off if anybody else had a book where the central relationship in the novel is a friendship and there is no romance to speak of. I thought I might get a very tiny number of positive answers to this question, but there were more than I expected — twenty-four. Out of three hundred entries, that’s 8%. Personally, I wouldn’t have expected that high a percentage of the entries to center friendship and include no romance. I’ve included two more here which are from last year’s entries.

Let me share those with you here. I’m going to include just a snippet of the description for each one; click through if you’re intrigued by anything here. Personally, I think #12 is the standout here. #9 is funny and sounds promising. #17 and #19 have well-written descriptions that also sound pretty good. So does #22. Then #25 and #26 both sound good as well. Let me see, that’s seven out of twenty-six — about 25%. I’d say that’s not a terrible ratio for self-published fantasy.

I know these are short snippets, otherwise this post would have been REALLY long, but which if any do you think sound like they’d be worth clicking through read the full description and look at the Amazon page?

  1. Steve Rowland, Sentenced to Troll.

For his endless trolling in real life, [Chad is] forced to play as a forest troll, the most hated race in Isle of Mythos, so that he can finally experience what it’s like to be on the other side. … Playing as a monster in a world where it ain’t easy being green, what could possibly go wrong?

2. Travis Riddle, Spit and Song.

Kali is a merchant who yearns to leave the harsh deserts of Herrilock and travel across the sea … Failed musician Puk hits rock bottom after yet another catastrophic performance …

3. Kate Ramsey, Finding Fairy Tales — this one is MG.

Twelve-year-old Molly daydreams of escaping her boring life on an onion farm. But with imagination outlawed, she’s forced to keep her impossible hopes a secretHatch knows he has to hide his vivid creativity … Teaming up with a spy and their magical house cats, the two children must survive the wastelands and evil dwarves to reach Fairy Tale’s island prison. And with the Emperor’s henchmen pursuing them across the realm, they may find fulfilling their wishes has a terrible price.

4. JT Williams, Of Shadows and Blood.

Kealin Half-Elf has only been [a vampire] for a few weeks and already he is changing. He feels a hunger he has never felt before. … his traveling companions have their own secrets, especially the mysterious wizard Evurn -a shadow elf returning home after generations in hiding. 

5. Gabriel, Neon Red.

Shimon Astrai has been resident of modern Pangaea until the age of eight. One day, while on vacation with his family, he enters a parallel world on accident – the Demon Realm, inhabited by savage creatures and conditions that dictate to kill or be killed.

6. Marc vun Kannon, Unbinding the Stone

All Tarkas wanted was to live the life he’d made for himself, get married, have children, as generations of his fathers had done before him since the beginning of time. The Gods had other plans, and Tarkas couldn’t say no … he finds himself plunged headlong into a new world and life, full of magic, mayhem, monsters, and mystery.

7. Tod Maternowski, Exmortis.

Ash Xavier, a headstrong young knight, [finds his] faith challenged when the long-forgotten gods of ancient civilizations send their avatar to obliterate the remote holy fortress of Exmortus Abbey — his home.

8. Lola Ford, Heartscale.

On one side of the world Graith discovers a dying dragon in his barn. While the country is hunting after the monster, he doesn’t hesitate in doing his best to aid her. … [In a land] where the future ruler is decided by dragons, Nerie is chosen by the Kiriga, the golden hatchling. … Thrown into a chaotic palace life, she’s forced to balance learning to be princess and being bonded to a dragon.

9. Joel Spriggs, Another Dead Intern.

There is nothing normal about an internship with Hemlock Connal, Preternatural Investigator! Hemlock can’t keep interns alive. Morgan Burns is trying to break that trend, but finds survival to be an uphill battle. Faced with mobsters, drug rings, covens, and even fantastical beasts, will Morgan find a paycheck… or a grave?

10. David Samuels I, Exile.

After twenty years of heists and robberies, Emelith’s luck runs out when her partner betrays her on a contract. Now she’s out for blood.

11. JA Andrews, Dragon’s Reach.

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. … Escape [from a gang boss] comes in the form of an odd set of companions: a dwarf running from the past, an actor with a magical, glowing tree, a too-helpful kobold, a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

12. Phil Williams, Under Ordshaw.

Welcome to Ordshaw. Don’t look down.

Pax thought she knew the dark side of Ordshaw. A poker pro who hustles bankers and gangsters, she can take care of herself. But she’s about to discover the shadows hide worse things than criminals. People have disappeared simply for discovering what’s lurking under Ordshaw. To get her life back, Pax needs to go much further than that.

13. Opal Edgar, Tosho is Dead.

“I’m dead. And I’m not in Heaven. Everything’s wrong and someone’s really angry at me. Let’s outrun, scratch that, let’s outsmart purgatory.”

14. Jeffrey Kohanek, Wizardoms: Eye of Obscurance.

A clever thief, a determined acrobat, and a troubled dwarf are joined by an old storyteller as they attempt the impossible: Assassinate a wizard lord. Their slim hope relies on an enchanted amulet, the Eye of Obscurance.

15. Marion Blackwood, A Storm of Silver and Ash.

The Oncoming Storm is a name whispered in awe throughout the Underworld. She’s known as a master thief and a lethal knife-wielder – some even say she has the skills of an assassin. All of it is true. She’s also a sarcastic smartmouth with the social graces of a bull.

16. Grace Bridges, Earthcore.

Amateur geologist Anira Fraser is in Picton, facing her final high school athletics competition. Along with her friend Tiger McRae, she realises their presence is disturbing the area’s guardian spirits.

17. Patrick Samphire, Shadow of a Dead God.

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit. So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

18. Jamie Edmundson, Og-Grim-Dog

Two heads are better than one. Three can be a real pain in the arse.

19. Matthew Sylvester, Hell Hound

A foul-mouthed bounty hunter and assassin, Jane Doe is not your average witch. Working for the ruling magical class in Britain – the Merlins – she takes on the jobs and creatures that other members of the magical community wouldn’t touch with a six-foot spell staff.

20. Derek Prior, Last of the Exalted.

The dwarves are a dwindling race on the brink of civil war. … As rival dwarven armies converge on Jeridium, the Senate send the assassin Shadrak the Unseen to the Southern Crags to find an old friend in a desperate bid to avert the coming catastrophe.

21. Emilie Knight, Era of Undying.

There hasn’t been a Blood Warrior for decades. Everyone assumed they were extinct and couldn’t return. Turns out they were just in hiding.

22. Jed Herne, Across the Broken Stars.

Twenty years since fleeing the war that killed his fellow angels, Leon’s a broken man, desperate to forget the past. He thinks he’s the last angel. But then a young fugitive stumbles onto his doorstep. She’s an angel, too. And she has a riddle leading to a mythical land, where legends say angels still live.

23. DH Willison, Harpyness is Only Skin Deep.

Humans consider consorting with a harpy a capital offense. Harpies consider the human citizens a tasty part of a balanced diet. Yet [Darin and Rinloh] must overcome a most monstrous conspiracy as the citizens of the city begin disappearing, with a list of suspects as big as the inhabitants of Arvia.

24. David Hambling, War of the God Queen.

Thrown back through time, Jessica has only her wits.

She was fresh out of architecture school and ready to take the world by storm. She wasn’t prepared for what came next: an alien encounter that sent her falling through a portal into another world.

25. Vincent EM Thorn, Skies of the Empire.

In the Skies of the Empire, there are only two things more terrifying than dragons: the attentions of the gods, and the machinations of the Fae. Airship pilot Cassidy Durant finds herself entangled with both when a Faerie named Hymn saves her life in exchange for protection against unknown enemies. … Meanwhile, reluctant mercenary Zayne Balthine is tasked by his employer, a devout worshiper of the Desert Goddess, to break into the Imperial Palace. It’s not his first suicide mission, but this time, things are different. That he’ll die should he fail is nothing new. But if he succeeds, he will be responsible for unfathomable death and devastation.

26. Patrick LeClerc, Broken Crossroads.

Trilisean is an acrobat turned burglar. Conn is a jaded former mercenary. Against the background of deadly blades, subtle schemes, glittering treasures, dark sorceries and fell servants of forgotten gods, fate has thrown them together.

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