SPFBO Author Interview: D.L Gardner

In my third SPFBO author interview I spoke with fantasy author and creator of the Sword of Cho Nisi series. Book one is an entrant in the competition.

  • Hi Dianne, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was a child and being a devote reader, I lost myself in the worlds of Shakespeare, Dumas, Dickens, Lewis, Poe, and more. I wrote mostly poetry when I was young but having a creative yearning, I expressed myself in other art forms (oil painting and music). It wasn’t until my later years that I decided to write novels. My first successful piece (I have some false starts of course) was about a boy and a dragon. I painted the dragon before I finished the novel. (It’s 3 panels 9 ft X 4 ft oil painting with copper leaf accents) and formed the story while I worked, using my grandsons as not only a target audience, but models for my MC. Since they were raised without fathers, I was especially compelled to write a story that would encourage them to be the man they wished their father had been to them. That series is titled Ian’s Realm and we did some Indie filming of a short concept film, put it in some film festivals and won a good many awards for it. It may be produced sometime down the road.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I have always been a day dreamer! I grew up in southern CA around the time Disneyland was built and we went there the first week it was open. I can still remember the thrill of walking around in a real fantasy world and I never wanted to leave. I guess I am still enjoying being in another place, one where I have control, where I can make the birds sing, the snow to fall, or horses run in a grassy meadow. C.S. Lewis wrote “You can make anything by writing,” and I found that to be the theme of my life. Writing about the here and now, to me is boring. I need a fantasy element to stay connected.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

Sword of Cho Nisi is a three-book series that I wrote one after the other with the intention of publishing them quickly. It begins as a story (Rise of the Tobian Princess) about a young princess who makes a fatal mistake and spends the rest of the first book trying to make up for what she did. It speaks of overcoming guilt, forgiveness, and redeeming oneself, has a nice subplot romance, but becomes darker in the next two books as the main characters work through their weaknesses. I published the first book May 25 of this year and the next book; Fall of the Kings is set to launch July 9, 2021.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I’m drawn to writing male characters who have inner struggles. I put myself into all my characters though. I think if I didn’t write I’d have multiple personality disorder because I can relate to so many characters: the confused female, the wicked female, the flighty female, the weak male, the strong male, the bungling wizard, I’m all those things and more so it’s really easy for me to put myself into them. I also have some experience in psychology, so I enjoy developing backstories and why these characters do what they do…what in their childhood caused them to be the way they are.  Developing characters is the most exciting part of writing, I think.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

If you think you know what you’re doing, you probably don’t. Learn all you can and read as much as you can. Research, even if you’re writing fantasy. Learn about this world and its history and the people in it, and that knowledge will help you develop the world you want to write.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I write in the morning when everyone is asleep, and I give myself a minimum word count every day if I’m on a schedule. To keep my stories on track, I outline my chapters before I even begin, and have character and relationship sketches. I do a lot of pre planning before I write. If I didn’t, I’d lose track.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I plot. I need to know point A and point B. I start with a premise, a logline for the plot. Everything else develops from the relationships of the characters. What are the arcs I want to develop for each character, and then how are they going to get from A to B. I then write all the events to get them there. I develop the world as I go and sometimes move between chapters for continuity, so there is a lot of pantsing after the initial plotting.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I want to write a spin off series to Sword of Cho Nisi. I did a Kickstarter for this series and found it quite successful and once I’m in a world I don’t like leaving! I have other stories I’ve written that I’d also like to expand, shorter, all with a fantasy element. One is historical fantasy and fans have asked for more of that world. I’m still debating on whether to do that though.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I’m always a good over evil girl. If it can’t happen in this world, I want to see it happen in my world.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Lord of the Rings by far. I don’t think there’s many authors that can compare to Tolkien.

My website: https://gardnersart.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianneLynnGardner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DLGardner2

New release is Sword of Cho Nisi Book 2 Fall of the Kings July 9

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SPFBO Author Interview: Glen Dahlgren

It’s time for another author interview. This time I chat with fantasy author Glen Dahlgren whose book The Child of Chaos is in this year’s SPFBO competition.

  • Hi Glen tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi! My name is Glen Dahlgren. I’m a 30 year veteran of computer game design, developing fiction with noted fantasy and SF authors such as Margaret Weis (Death Gate), Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), and Frederik Pohl (Heechee Saga). Heck, I even wrote a bit of Star Trek. I’ve always been of fan of those works, so getting to write in their worlds was amazing. It just made sense to apply all of that experience to worlds of my own!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Sf is wonderful, but I love the mystery of fantasy. In my worlds, characters encounter the natural limitations of the relatively primitive society such that magic is more powerful and impactful because of it. When everyone has the tech to make a nuke, nukes aren’t special.

And I think I’m just drawn to mystical underpinnings. Gods, rituals, artifacts, prophecies, rules of magic—they all create the foundation for a compelling world where I want to tell stories.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

I released the Child of Chaos in the summer of ’20 after 20 years of work. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to finish it—but, with the help of some wonderful people, it became what it needed to be.

I was planning on writing the sequel right after, but a fan favorite character demanded his own book. That prequel book became the Game of War, the story of Dantess, priest of War. The novel took me about nine months to write. I’m getting faster! I expect to release it this summer.

While that’s being edited, I’m hard at work on book two of the Chronicles of Chaos: the Curse of Chaos (working title).

I love this world and these characters, so I hope to stick with them for some time.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I’m a game designer, so I enjoy writing smart characters that need to figure their way through difficult problems. I’d say that in Child of Chaos, it was primarily Horace (the villain) who devised the most ingenious plans. In Game of War, Dantess is forced to play an actual War Game and it takes all of his skill and ingenuity just to make it out alive.

Galen—the main character of Child—had some personality traits that a lot of creative people identify with. He is a frustrated story-teller in a world that actively devalues him. But we all know that stories can change the world.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Don’t get discouraged. Keep writing. Allow yourself to write badly (especially for the first draft). If you’re too critical of yourself, you’ll never get to the stage where you can make it better. Also: finish. Completing a work means you can move onto the next one–and believe me, it will be better.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I haven’t been wonderful at setting and keeping deadlines. Hey, it took me 20 years for my first book! The thing I try to do is keep forward momentum. If I’m not writing, I’m living in the world in my head, sorting problems and forging the way forward. Sooner or later, I get to the end.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I cannot start writing until I have an outline. That said, the outline will change many, many times as I’m writing. I’ve learned in game development that you always have to leave room for discovery. I look at it this way: I always give my characters a map, but they don’t always follow it.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I really enjoy YA Fantasy and I have a lot more to say there. When I’ve completed the Chronicles of Chaos, I’ll see where the winds take me.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I don’t shy away from darkness in my books. I put my heroes through the wringer. And Horace is probably the evillest villain I’ve encountered. I actually had a hard time writing one of his chapters because I knew what he was going to do. But I think I would have a harder time writing an ending that didn’t reflect my own sensibilities, which respects the power of friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

They’re all great properties for very different reasons. When I was a kid, I had all the Star Wars trading cards taped to my wall (along with all the other merch I could afford at the time). If you asked me then, there was nothing that could compare, but I think fantasy overtook SF later in life.

Of those properties, I guess I would choose Harry Potter.  While I love the world and the races that the seminal Lord of the Rings presented, the property is huge. There’s so much lore.  Harry Potter feels more intimate; almost everyone can connect with it.

(Please include any social media links – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)

Blog: http://www.mysterium.blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gdahlgrenauthor

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/glendahlgren

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20441786.Glen_Dahlgren

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/glen-dahlgren

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlenDahlgren

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/glendahlgren/

Amazon Book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BN6S5R2/

Goodreads Book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54239375-the-child-of-chaos

Bookbub Book: https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-child-of-chaos-the-chronicles-of-chaos-book-1-by-glen-dahlgren

Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B08W8GKDLF/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-236240&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_236240_rh_us

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Was SPFBO 4 worth entering?

So SPFBO 4 is over and the excellent Orconomics took the winner’s spot. I entered my book The First Fear into it and whilst it got a pretty good review from one of the judges it didn’t make it to the final rounds. I’ve been asked by a few other authors whether entering the competition is worth it, here are my experiences.

Some of the issues

If you’re a self-published or Indy fantasy author, entering doesn’t cost anything so that’s a bonus. However, I feel as though the entrants need to be vetted more carefully. The rules clearly state that the entered book needs to be a complete novel, either a standalone or series starter. Despite this rule, a few mid-series books and even some books that have very dubious fantasy credentials made it into the competition. This is not a new issue either as the year I entered Heir to the Sundered Crown there were a few entrants that fit the submission rules dubiously at best.

The big question, however, is whether the competition benefits sales and I have to say – no. If your book gets a poor review from one of the judges then naturally the audience of the competition will likely avoid purchasing your title. In short, it’s a big gamble. It all depends on the judges too. If your book is say an urban fantasy and you end up with a judge who is more into epic fantasy and doesn’t like urban then, well, your book is stuffed. Fantasy is a hugely broad genre so the chances of getting a judge that may not like your sub-genre is pretty likely. The community of judges running the competition are a close-knit bunch, so keep that in mind.

The Good. The Bad and the Ugly

Without a doubt, the most beneficial thing I got from the competition was interacting with and meeting the other entrants. Most were in the same boat as me and the sharing of knowledge and the new networking contacts made is great.

However, as the competition is so socially involved via social media etc there was the inevitable falling outs and tiresome drama that comes with it. Some of the judges did themselves no favours this year and quite frankly seeing the forming of online witch hunts and mobs caused me to rethink the entire fantasy community. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome individuals in it but there are also toxic ones.

A man’s reputation was almost destroyed by unprovable accusations for example. Then, of course, there are those authors that attack the judges for receiving a poor review (it’s part of being a writer, if you can’t handle criticism then you’re not in the right field). Accusations of bias and unfair treatment also reared their heads over the course of the competition.

Is it worth it?

From my personal view and only because of the cool folks and contacts I made I’d have to say yes. My books got a few more eyes on them than they otherwise would, but in terms of improving sales etc then SPFBO was a big disappointment.

It was an interesting experience and I may be open to enter again in the future (if I get round to writing a standalone or new series). I’m now devoting my time to finishing the Sundered Crown Saga and The Empowered Ones series (updates to come over the coming months.)

Overall rating –  6.6/10

SPFBO 5 is now open for submissions so if you want to enter visit – https://mark—lawrence.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-official-self-published-fantasy.html

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End of Year Review: 2018

2018 is coming to an end and I have to say its been a bit of an odd one. It’s been far, far better than 2017 for me personally but the wider world seems to have become weirder and stranger than ever before.

So, in January of 2018 I started a new job and I’ve loved every minute of it! I am a content manager at a cyber security company and have been able to produce a lot of fun content ranging from infographics, articles and videos. Even better is that the company won two big awards over the course of the year, something incredible for a business that only took their product to market in February of this year!

Me and the wife also moved away from Bristol to the city of Worcester in order for me to be closer to work and I have to say it’s a big improvement on where we used to live. The city itself is beautiful and full of history (You can read more here) and our new home is a lot more spacious and generally nice to live in than our old one which was essentially a one bedroom shed.

Book wise I hit my target of releasing one book a year. In June I published The First Fear via Amazon KDP and whilst sales have not been that great the book itself has been getting some excellent feedback and reviews. I also entered it into this years SPFBO competition and it achieved my goal of it achieving at least a 3-star review from the judge. (Skip to the 14 minute mark for my review). I’ll be doing a blog on my thoughts of the SPFBO soon.

Aside from publishing The First Fear I also revealed the new cover art for Book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga. Titled: Voyage for the Sundered Crown the book will see Luxon following in the footsteps of the legendary hero Zahnia the Great and his attempts to unite the peoples of Esperia and free Delfinnia from the forces of Danon. The book is probably the most ambitious one I’ve ever attempted so please bear with me as it will take time. I’ve penned it in for a late 2019 release but don’t be too surprised if it gets pushed back to 2020.

As well as Voyage I announced the sequel to The First Fear. Titled: The Temple of Arrival the book picks up where The First Fear ended and delves more into the world of the Supreme Imperium and the Empowered Ones. Once again, the fantastic Rezar has done the cover work and the book is around 50% complete. I’m aiming for a summer 2019 release for it.

For all of you audiobook fans out there, the audiobook version of The First Fear is nearing completion and will be released late January 2019. More news as I get it!

2018 has been a busy, hectic year for me but now that I’m settled in my new job and home, I hope 2019 will be a stable one and one where I get to do a lot more writing and be more creative. Of course, with the wider world becoming increasingly mental in terms of politics and culture this might be easier said than done.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and keep on reading!

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The First Fear on Sale now until December 2nd

The First Fear my latest release and SPFBO entrant is on sale from today until December 2nd. Pick up your copy for just 0.99p/c in the USA and UK only on Kindle. Get your copy via: http://mybook.to/FirstFear


The Supreme rules the world.

For centuries the Supreme has reigned with an iron fist. The people are slaves to her whim and at the mercy of her followers who revere her as their goddess. Using a supernatural ability, known as the ‘Power’ she is able to channel emotions and convert them into superhuman abilities.

Some Resist.

Not all live their lives in servitude. A few rare people also possess the Power and try to fight. These Empowered Ones are hunted mercilessly by the Supreme and her servants, for she knows the threat they pose to her will. None has dared to challenge her outright. That is until now.

Elian, a young boy living at the edge of the Imperium discovers he too possesses the Power with devastating consequences for both himself and the girl he loves. On the run, they encounter a ragtag band of resistance fighters called the Liberators. Among their ranks are others with the gift and their leader Vavius who believes that the key to overthrowing the Supreme lies in the ruins of the ravaged lands of the once mighty Kingdom of Aeranyth.

Pursued and hunted for their gifts by the sinister First Fear and the Hollowed, the world’s fate rests in the hands of the Empowered Ones.

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The Sundered Crown Saga Sale!


The holidays are approaching so what better time to pick up some books. The first three books in my Sundered Crown Saga are on sale for just 0.99p/c via Kindle until November 19th. If you’ve already got Heir, now is the perfect time to get the others!

If you’ve already got Heir, now is the perfect time to get the others!
Get Heir – mybook.to/HTTSC
Get War – mybook.to/War
Get Quest – mybook.to/Qftsc

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The First Fear Audiobook and an appeal

Hi folks I hope you’re well this balmy October. Just a quick update, I have some news to share regarding the audiobook edition of The First Fear and there’s some sad news coming from the SFF writing community.

Audiobook in the works

First off, after a few months of searching I’ve finally discovered a narrator I really like to do the audiobook version of The First Fear. I’ll be revealing more next month but I’m hoping for a late January, early February release date.

In other news I’m still waiting for The First Fear to be reviewed for the SPFBO competition so technically I’m still in the running! As for the writing side of things I’ve not made as much progress as I’d like and after several read throughs I’ve decided to rework what I’ve done so far for Sundered Crown Book 4. Getting the first draft right first go is a rare thing so I’m not too concerned.

The SFF Community Coming Together

Lastly, there is sad news in the SFF author community. A fellow SPFBO author Brandon Barr is in the final stages of terminal leukaemia, and sadly does not have much time left.

The community is rallying behind him and his family and is using its influence and reach to try and ensure that Brandon’s wife and children are looked after following his passing. To that end a GoFundMe campaign has been set up for him so if you can, please donate anything you can spare.

The GoFundMe campaign can be found at – https://www.gofundme.com/help-support-brandon-barr039s-family

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SPFBO Bookfunnel Giveaway

Hi everybody, sorry not updating much lately me and the wife are in the middle of moving house so things are pretty hectic at the moment and are unlikely to settle down until after next week!

Anyhow, if you’re following the SPFBO competition you might be interested to know that there is a big promotion currently underway on Bookfunnel. Check it out at –  https://books.bookfunnel.com/spfbo4promo/wqd4cu9bov 

My entry for last year, Heir to the Sundered Crown is in it as is a 5 chapter sample of this year’s entry The First Fear.


Happy Reading!

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SPFBO Fantasy Sales

The Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition kicks off today and to celebrate over 100 of the entries are on sales for the next 5 days for just 0.99c/p.

Get your books HERE

The First Fear is in this year’s SPFBO. Get your copy for just 99p/c from today until August 5th.  Get your copy from – mybook.to/FirstFear 

Fancy some historical fiction this summer? Get Unconquered: Blood of Kings for just 0.99p/c until August 4th. Get it from – myBook.to/BOK

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