It has been my great pleasure to once again to have been invited to serve as an SPFBO guest judge by Booknest. My job has been to review five of the thirty books in Booknest's batch, and forward one of them as a semifinalist. And so, without further ado...
The time has come.
This is the second SPFBO I've participated in, and my first as a judge. I'd like to say thanks to Mark Lawrence, Petros, and all the bloggers who make this possible; from this seat, I can better appreciate how much work it is to coordinate and execute the contest. I'd also like to congratulate everyone who entered this year. Putting a book out in the world takes courage, hard work, and grit. Most people will never enter a novel into a book competition; like running a marathon, just making it to the starting line is a personal achievement.
It has been a singular pleasure to participate in this year’s SPFBO and I’d like to thank Mark Lawrence and Petros for the opportunity. I didn’t realize how daunting the task of reading these five books would be, and I certainly don’t envy those reviewers tackling thirty. The reading was easy. It was choosing only one that was difficult.
The Gossamer Globe by Abbie Evans – A fantasy presidential election goes awry. Comedy ensues.
The Winter of Swords by Aaron Bunce – An orphan, a soldier, and a girl must become something more to survive the Winter of Swords.
Throne by Phil Tucker – Two women are chosen to represent two opposing factions of the Fae court.
The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen – Fantasy problems require fantasy solutions in this lighthearted tale of strangers searching for a mysterious Dragonslayer.
And finally, my choice for semi-finalist...
Weird Theology by Alex Raizman – An awkward loner becomes a god in this fun and zany tale of divinity, destruction, and dancing.
I would like to offer additional thanks to Aaron Bunce, Phil Tucker, Jason A. Holt, Aaron Raizman, and the writing duo known as Abbie Evans for the opportunity to read their work and for dragon ton of future success. I’d also like to congratulate Alex Raizman and wish him luck as I turn his story over to the boss.
The Perilisc Manifesto
Logan Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Spring, 2011. I’m in my minivan driving tomy sister-in-law’s house. I could tell you why, but I have forgotten that part. There is a man walking on the right sidewalk with a small dog. He is wearing a blue shirt. The car in front of me is a Honda with a faded Green Bay Packers bumper sticker on it. The license plate number, I remember clearly. This is the defining moment in my life. This is when it hits me.
It comes like a bolt, not of lightning, but just as blinding. More like a bolt of knowledge from the sky. I hear a voice say, “I am a terrible writer, but a fantastic storyteller.” The voice is my own. I have said it out loud, as if possessed by the thought and the idea.
I have written four books at this point, had my first book edited and it got crushed. She ripped it to shreds and said, “Yeah, start over.” I am now at a crossroads. This is where it is all decided.
There are many other paths open to me, things I am good at, things I am interested in. When you get the truth set upon you that you are bad at something, you walk away. That is what you do. But this is the moment my career is born, because instead of shrugging and walking away, my first real thought beyond the bubbling of confusion and pain is, “I have to teach myself to do this. I need to stop trying to get published, and learn what I am doing. I need to admit to myself that no one should have to read what I write yet.”
I need to get to work.
I continue to write every day, 3,000 words a day. My one focus: getting better at this job, teaching myself to be a writer, because I know what most writers don’t: No one can teach you how to write a book. They can show you what works for them. They can talk for days, and they do, about outlines and character bios, but in the end, every writer who has made it will tell you that you have to figure it out for yourself.
I wrote for twelve years before I published anything. Six years of every day, 3,000 words. I learned and I fought and I cried, and I screamed in frustration when I couldn't get it right. With every word I typed and every idea I brought forward, I meticulously crafted one world.
When I pulled off Logan Avenue, I started to put together Perilisc. I wrote five series. All five are standalone series, but when you take them apart and shuffle them together in chronological order, they tell one story. One long story. The story of a boy. The story of Peter Redfist.
My story started at a book called Onslaught of Madness. It is an 870-page epic that begins a war that ravages two nations. It is the beginning, however it is nearly 900 pages long. No one would read that big a book from a first-time author. I decided I had to prove myself before I could ask any reader to read such a thing. In preparation of Onslaught’s release, I set out a plan to do just that.
I published Liefdom in 2016. I wanted to show to the world I could write a compelling story that was complete, imaginative, and new.
I published Legends of Perilisc in 2016. This is a collection of short stories that tells about the creation of my world and introduces the reader to my style and my subject matter.
In 2016, I published Chaste, then Mestlven in 2017. These books take place in the same world and each crosses over into the other. I wanted to show the reader I could weave stories through standalone books while sticking to the story of the book as well. Crossovers and unifying threads.
I began to publish The Manhunters books in 2017. My goal was to prove I could write a series. Prove to the reader I can publish a series in a timely fashion. Make them a promise they would not have to wait for me to come back to my work.
In 2018, in Blackest Knights, an anthology with a collection of talented writers, I gave the reader the first glimpse of Peter Redfist in a short story called “The Land of Rott and Cur.”
In 2019, amid constant attacks that male writers could not write female characters of power and accuracy, I published Legends of the Exiles to show that my female characters are strong in a variety of different ways, and I can write them with grace and power.
It’s been two books a year, because I can publish every six months. I can do that because for 15 years, I have been writing books. I have a stockpile waiting to see the light of day, books I have been working on for over a decade, books that are already written.
After proving all this to the attentive reader, I stand now on the precipice of my story, ready to begin. Every book I have published so far leads into this. The Manhunters trilogy, the shorts, Liefdom, Mestlven, and Chaste, they all tie in. I am done proving myself now. I have shown you I can do this job.
With today’s release, I bring you Peter Redfist. I bring you Perilisc. Today, I take you to The Escape. The one event I have been talking about for three years. The event that defines the age. The critical moment, the B.C./A.D. point of my world. Today my timeline starts to make sense. Today all the pieces begin to fit into place.
Today, October 5th, 2019 is the beginning of it all.
Peter has come. As Peter says, “I lead you now into peril.”
About the Author:
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.
He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.
Participating in this years' SPFBO has been a blast. I've really enjoyed some of these stories, and would like to thank Mark Lawrence, and Petros, for the opportunity. I've read my five allotted books, and you can find a brief description of each and a link to my review.
1) Children of the Dead City by Noor Al-Shanti - A young boy is taken from his home to be the adopted brother of a princess.
2) Zaaz: Witch in Winter by Eli Selig - A young girl must fight for her freedom and friends against some dangerous enemies.
3) In the Land of the Penny Gnomes by Wesley T Allen - A boy finds himself in a land where imagination comes to life.
4) Igniting Vengeance by Tom Hanson - A young woman comes home to find her village destroyed and her sisters missing.
And last but not least... my choice for semifinalist:
King Arthur is alive... and his enemy will stop at nothing to destroy him. Read the full review here. Congrats to Jacob Sannox, and good luck to the rest of the authors this year.
To celebrate the preorder of The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon, the first in a new fantasy adventure series from Yarnsworld author Benedict Patrick, all this week some of the premier websites from the fantasy community are sharing extracts from the novel's first chapter, as well as revealing some exclusive character art from artist Juliana Wilhelm.
A new novel by M.L Spencer, author of the fantastic Rhenwars Saga is coming soon!
In Chains of Blood, Rylan Marshall’s entire life has been a lie. The heir of a magical legacy he never knew about, Rylan is pursued by a collective entity bent on turning him into a weapon. To avoid this fate, he begins a journey that spans continents and millennia to merge identities with an ancient mage who saved the world by destroying his own civilization. This transformation has the potential to either free Rylan from this fate—or ultimately enslave him to it.
Blurb: Zaaz, a young girl growing up in the far arctic north, finds something in a shipwreck near her home. Growing up with red hair, pale skin, and a witch for her mother already made Zaaz different than the rest of the village. What she gained when she opened the strange box she found made her doubly so. The White Witches of Northeim will stop at nothing to take her power as their own. Destined to become a powerful and notorious witch, this is the tale of her youth and coming into magic. Fleeing from the only home she’s ever known, bound into servitude, she’ll fight for her freedom, friends and the beauty she has found.
Witch in Winter has some fine elements too it. What it lacks in plot cohesion and editing, it makes up for in worldbuilding and creativity.
Welcome to BookNest.eu! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?
Thank you! I'm Meg Cowley, USA Today bestselling fantasy author. I live in Yorkshire, England with my husband, son, and our two cats, Jet and Pixie. I love everything fantasy, magic, and dragons, and have been a writer and artist since I could pick up a pencil. I work best when fuelled by Earl Grey Tea, margherita pizza, and characters who won't do what they're told! I'm passionate about writing sweeping fantasies with characters that could step off the page, and worlds that could be as real as our own. My debut novel, The Tainted Crown, was a 2018 SPFBO semi-finalist, and the series now has over 1,500 Goodreads & Amazon reviews, with around 100,000 readers picking up copies worldwide. Heart of Dragons is the first instalment in a sister series I hope current and new readers will enjoy!
What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?
Heart of Dragons. No, not my debut. :)
Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?
I'm enjoying playing with themes of identity, belonging, and morality in this series. The judge will hopefully find well-rounded, complex, and morally grey characters, some running from pasts they'd rather not face, and others making some pretty big screw ups - but all having to find a way to find forgiveness and redemption from within and without, and forge unlikely and unwelcome alliances to try fix their messes. Despite the canvas of epic fantasy, these are issues we all face in our own lives, so I hope above all, the judge will be able to relate to many of the issues the characters face in a world where it's not as simple as "good vs. evil" and where the right thing is hard to do and doesn't necessarily solve the problems at hand.
You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?
Yes! My debut made semi-finalist, and this series is hands down a thousand times better. It's highly rated by my readers, so I have no doubt it's good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other entries. This year, I want to win, or at least get one step closer and be a finalist.
WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE MONEY!??!?!
I'll never tell!!!
Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?
Last year, because the worst thing that could happen was that no one liked my book, and I could slink back to obscurity knowing I had tried. Well, actually it got a really thoughtful, kind review, despite it being my debut, and in my eyes, now painfully amateur. But more than that, I met a ton of kickass people over the past year in SPFBO4, and the team spirit was really cool. This year, I have a better book, and I want to be involved with the same community of awesome people!
Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?
Yes! The third in the Chronicles of Pelenor series, which will be a quartet. Book two, Court of Shadows, is out now. Three, Order of Valxiron, will be out in September. And the concluding volume sometime in winter 2019. So expect more epic fantasy coming at you!
Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?
Just a big thanks. This is a really cool thing! It gives a bigger voice to the indie community, it celebrates who we are, what we do, and the stories we write, and it brings us together in true indie spirit.
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
What do you mean, an African or European Swallow?