SPFBO Challenge

Anyone that follows me closely on Goodreads may have noticed my to-read list has gotten rather spare of late (is there such a mythical person? Who is this hypothetical fan who obsesses so over what an obscure minor author chooses to read? Ah, well). I still have a few books from last year that I never got around to that I’m fully intending to read this year, and there are couple books I picked up during the winter sale (see earlier blog post) that I plan to get around to, but this year’s reading challenge for me is going to be a bit different.

Even though I’ve never personally participated, I’ve always been intrigued by Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off), which is a competition to determine the best among SP fantasy novels in a given year (not that all are published in the year they apply, but still). The competition begins with a large pool of potential novels, that in turn is whittled down by a series of judges, until only a pool of 10 finalists remain. Of these, usually the top two or three get lauded about on the internet, some even leading to traditional publishing deals.

In other words, success in SPFBO is a big deal for most participants.

Ove the last few years I’ve read couple of the books that made it to the top ten, either because I heard about them on r/Fantasy or just coming across them organically, but it has been in the back of my mind for a while to try and read through all of the top ten for all given years. In 2022, I’ve decided to finally take this challenge on in earnest, and I recommend to anyone reading this post that they do as well.

My current reading goal list for the year is as follows-

  1. The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung
  2. The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden
  3. City of Burning Shadows by Barbara Webb
  4. Sins of a Sovereignty by Simon Watts
  5. What Remains of Heroes by David Benem
  6. Shattered Sands by WG Saraband
  7. Under a Colder Sun by Greg James
  8. Priest by Matthew Colville
  9. A Soul for Trouble by Christa McHugh
  10. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton
  11. Fionn by Brian O’Sullivan
  12. Larcout by KA Krantz
  13. Assassin’s Charge by Claire Frank
  14. The Music Box Girl by KA Stewart
  15. The Moonlight War by SKS Perry
  16. Outpost by FT McKinstry
  17. The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis

If I can manage all of that, it will carry me through the first two years of the competition (2015 and 2016). Note that I excluded Bloodrush by Ben Galley, The Grey Bastards by Jonathon French, and Path of Flames by Phil Tucker (all books I’ve read in recent years). I’ll try for some of 2017 as well, but since I’m sure there will be a few other books that pop up as the year goes on to distract me, for now I’m just focusing on these.

2022?

Somehow, a month has gone by without my noticing. I may have gotten ahead of myself in my optimism with how far I would be getting once the holidays were over. I neglected to remember that January is a BUSY month.

So, sadly, not as much writing has been happening as I would like. There is a lot of accounting work that has been leaving me drained, meaning that when evenings finally roll around, instead of writing I usually gravitate towards playing a game, or watching a show with my wife. It’s a difficult temptation to resist.

Not that I don’t enjoy writing, but it requires a certain amount of mental energy I don’t always have.

Still! Progress has been made. I’m up to 57,070 words on Dervish now, putting it just shy of the halfway point by my estimate. Still hoping I’m not going to regret breaking off the earlier arcs into their own book, but it would be either that or publish something too large for printing, so… I guess time will tell.

Speaking of book 2, I have heard back from almost all of my beta readers, and my editor is hard at work going through and cleaning up the usual problem areas. I’m thinking it will likely have a late February/early March release at this point, but if I can manage to get it our earlier, I certainly will.

Also, cover preview coming soon!

Mega Sale!

It’s that time of year again! Once more Bryce O’Connor and Wraithmarked have organized an annual sale of fantasy books, and it’s even bigger and better than years past. Check out the link below to see over 400 books either free or $0.99!

Mega Sale!!!

While most people reading this probably already have my books, if not this is a great time to get them, as not only are they all free, but for every one of my books downloaded I’ll be giving $0.05 to St. Judes. Plus there are lots of other fantabulous reads, and all of those authors will be making donations as well. It’s a win-win. You get some great reading material for free, and you get to help contribute to a good cause. Seriously, why are you still reading my random scrawl here? Go check out the mega sale already. Shoo, shoo!

Somehow I managed to finish the reading list that I started this year out with. This is despite getting distracted and reading something like 25 other books that weren’t on it to begin with! Not bad, if I say so myself. Also, out of the 48 books I started, only 6 were DNFs.

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli (DNF)
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher (DNF)
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  11. The Lost Dawn by Dan Neil (DNF)
  12. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
  13. Tower Climber by Jacob Tanner
  14. Godchosen by TS Snow (DNF)
  15. Conquerer’s Blood by Zamil Akhter
  16. A Bad Rune at Angel’s Deep by Anthony Lowe
  17. Street Cultivation 2 by Sarah Lin
  18. Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
  19. The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins
  20. Untolled by JP Valentine
  21. The Black Shriving by Phil Tucker

In writing news, the rough version of Conduit is out to beta readers, and a few responses have even started to trickle in. That said, I won’t be getting back to hammering out the final version until around Jan 15th, so with luck the book will have a February release, pending cover work and other aspects that are outside of my control. Still, it’s not a terrible delay for a book that turned out quite different than I anticipated.

For book 3 (Dervish) I’m having a much easier time of it. The story is much more action oriented and is almost writing itself. I’ve only been back at it for a few days and I’m currently sitting at 26,223 words, with many more to come over the second half of this month. Then it’s on to book 6 of Bulletproof Witch.

Woe. Alas.

You’ll understand soon, I promise.

The Splitting of the Fellowship

So you know how sometimes you say something, maybe as a joke or an off-hand comment that you don’t really mean, but then your words tumble around in your head and lead to ideas or decisions you never really intended? Like, that happens to people besides me, right?

Right???

Look, what I’m trying to say here, is remember that post I made a month ago? Talking about how ecstatic I was to finally be making progress in Conduit? And how long the book was getting? And how if I was a smarter man, I’d just split it into two books?

Yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening now. Conduit. Two books.

The good news here is, this basically means I’m done with the first draft of Conduit, and that I should still be on track to put book three (now to be called Dervish) out sometime in early 2022 when I planned to put book two out. Really, it means I can get some of the story earlier to readers than when I had originally planned. Besides which, this is more than a simple split—doing this has given me the breathing room I need to rework a couple troublesome segments of the story, as well as tack on an entire subplot I thought wasn’t going to make the cut (since the book was already waxing longer and longer in my estimates). Now I can keep things punchier, still tell the full story I want, and adjust the timing of events so that the finale should be a bit more satisfying to all. It’s a win-win.

Or that’s the plan, anyway. I’ll be getting the book to beta readers later this month, and assuming they don’t think it’s irredeemable, we should be good to go. If they do… well, it’s probably not too late to go back to my day job. Since, y’know, I never left it in the first place.

Oh, and total word count on book three (Dervish) is already at 20,282, so if nothing else, splitting the two helped freshen me a bit for hammering out the words. Probably won’t progress much past that the next week or two as I edit Conduit, but once we’re past (American) Thanksgiving, I should be back at it.

Many Happy Returns

Finally, finally, FINALLY, I’ve gotten back to getting a full 10k+ words written in a week—and all on my current main project, too! Not on my side hustle that I can’t talk about yet, or my short stories that never go anywhere and end up being sent to the trunk of no return, or written sections that won’t ever make the book’s final cut. Actual. Concrete. Writing. Yay…

Which hasn’t been easy, let me tell you. When my choice of free time in the evening is between writing or watching Squid Game with the wife, it’s not always easy to commit to putting fingers to keyboard. Yet somehow I managed, and have solid progress to show for it.

Now if I can only do it again next week. And the week after that. And the week after that…

Well, the book will get done. I’m rapidly leaving the murky middle of it, the swamp where many writers lose their enthusiasm and vision. I’ve spent far more time treading those waters personally than I ever care to, yet with each new book I tread down, down, down into them again. Why? Sometimes I don’t even remember the reason. Then I start a new project full of life and vigor, and I remember ah yes, that, THAT is the reason why. The trick is holding on to that sensation long enough to reach the end of the project, or at least far enough that I’ve passed the point of no return and must soldier on, regardless.

With this evening’s work, I’m sitting at a solid 76,207 words. Probably this book will be closer to 150k than the 120-135 I originally imagined, but I’ve also packed a lot into it, a whole lot of angst and action that will hopefully be enjoyable to read. A smarter author would cut this thing into two books, but sadly I’m no such thing.

In other news, I realize I haven’t updated my TBR list for a while now. I actually have a few new titles to add to it (as well as many off-list books I’ve been working through on the side), but I’ve decided to just focus on the remaining list, and I’ll update and create this all new in January. That said, I know there are at least three books that aren’t on it that I intend to read before the year is out (Wight’s Reaper, Bancroft’s The Fall of Babel, and a third that I can’t mention name of until it’s officially published).

  1. Beneath a Brass Sky by Eli Steele
  2. Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrel Drake
  4. Blood and Steel by Seymour Zeynalli (DNF)
  5. Six-Gun Tarot by RS Belcher (DNF)
  6. Volsyng by Set Sytes
  7. Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence
  8. Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhter
  9. The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
  10. A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  11. The Lost Dawn by Dan Neil (DNF)
  12. Cowboy Necromancer by Harmon Cooper
  13. Tower Climber by Jacob Tanner
  14. Godchosen by TS Snow (DNF)
  15. Conquerer’s Blood by Zamil Akhter
  16. A Bad Rune at Angel’s Deep by Anthony Lowe
  17. Street Cultivation 2 by Sarah Lin
  18. Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
  19. The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins
  20. Untolled by JP Valentine
  21. The Black Shriving by Phil Tucker

So five books remaining on this year’s TBR, along with 3 off-list. Eight books? Probably not doable in the 2 1/2 months remaining in the year, but I’m going to take my best stab at it.

Word Update

Progress continues on the rough draft of Conduit, and I’m definitely getting back up to speed here. Latest word count is now at 66,165, which is all the more impressive considering I spent a solid week since my last update lying in bed sick as a dog (non-COVID related, probably just a stomach bug of some sort). I’m still on the mend with that, but my goal is to start trying to hit around 2k words a day. If I can do that, I’ll have this book done by Thanksgiving.

Oh, and I got the hardbacks from Amazon that I alluded to in my last post. They were… okay, I guess. I’ll definitely need to play around with the formatting before they’d be ready for the general public. Might even need to go back to Jin and get him to resize the covers a bit to better suit them. Not entirely sure it’s worth the effort, since print sales of any kind account for less than 1% of the books I sell overall. Still, I like the idea of hardcovers. They’d look good on my personal shelf, if nothing else.

More Words and an Announcement(ish)

Work continues on Conduit, and I’ve now surpassed the 50k mark with 54,173. Still moving kinda slow, especially given this story should flow a little easier than Bulletproof Witch, but progress is progress. That said, I’m projecting an early 2022 release for it now, and if worst comes to worst, if I haven’t finished the first draft by Christmas I’ll be setting it aside so I can get started on book 6.

Adding further confusion, I’ve started work on another project that I’m thinking to post on RoyalRoad later this year. Not much to say about it just yet, other than its a viking-inspired mecha. With cultivation aspects. It sounds weird, I know, but I think it’ll work better in execution.

In other news, I just discovered I’ve finally been greenlit for Amazon’s hardcover program! I’m actually rather excited about this, since I’ve always figured if I’m going to have print editions I might as well have ones that last. Not that the paperbacks from Amazon are flimsy by any measure, but it would be nice to have a book that could also serve as a weapon during the impending zombie apocalypse.

So far I’ve got proofs for BW 1 & 5 submitted, so we’ll know in a few weeks if they translate to hardback nicely enough to warrant offering them to readers. Fatedancer isn’t in the cards, unfortunately, as that particular work surpasses the 550 page limit for hardback by a wide margin, and I don’t really feel like compromising the interior quality. Maybe someday they’ll increase it, but for now, no luck.