SPFBO Author Interview: S.D. Howarth

As the SPFBO continues and as the judges start eliminating books at speed I will be interviewing as many entrants as I can regardless of whether they progress to the next rounds. Indie authors need all the good publicity they can get and I am happy to do it. Today I interview S.D. Howarth the author of The Tryphon Odyssey.


  • Hi S.D. Howarth tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I live in East Yorkshire with my wife, children and eternally hungry cats. I bypassed kids books at school and went into adult adventure books and military history. Since then I wanted to write, but deferred it until an enforced break from computer gaming, then looked at seriously working at it after I dinged 40. Then the learning process began.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The breadth and scope available to play with. You can do something close or offbeat to existing history, or go all out and do your own thing. You can keep it small and local, spread through time, or massively encompassing. Everything is there in the toolbox to play with, and if it isn’t, you can change it so it is, with and without limitation

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

Mt debut novel The Tryphon Odyssey is available from Amazon from May 2021, and was an entrant in SPFBO7. Worldbuilding was a mix of Civilization & Warcraft gaming inspirations, with archaeological/historical references to keep it grounded as an evolution to ‘What if’. The novel could be described as nautical fantasy in a medieval period, with a few twists due to environmental calamities. The main challenges were a lack of primary sources to the original worldbuilding, once you dig past Christian and much earlier Roman influences in historical accounts, and looking to archaeology instead – where it exists. Then the pounding and evisceration to turn the manuscript into something readable around the day job and children. The duration of that is something you don’t expect, when putting pen to paper.

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

People who I can develop and throw into events, or what I’d like to read. Sometimes based off historical individuals – sometimes more inspirational than fiction, or someone who came out of the woodwork and is fun to play around with, particularly when in over their head.

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

Patience. If I can do it, anyone can, but you need to set time aside and work through the fun, the challenge and the frustrations. When time is a challenge, keep chipping away, the greatest source of stress will be yourself adding pressure.

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

What deadlines – I’m in the plebite ranks.

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

Panster, but some structure will kick in to define key events and POV.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres? ‘The Tryphon Odyssey’ is the first in a trilogy, with a rough draft for another couple of trilogies, ideas for a prequel origin novel and a standalone side project in The World of Sanctuary. I also have a Steampunk/Flintlock world called Crater, which morphed out of a short story ‘Halidom’ in the Blackest Spells Anthology by Mystique press which I was developing with a few short story ideas.
  • 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?

Either, both work for me if entertaining, or have interesting characters or concepts. Something to pique my interest would be the distraction, I’m after as dark hunour can be amusing.

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

Star Wars, the RPG saved the franchise for me in the 90s when it went silly, and the recent trilogy shows what works well, and less well when you only use part of the toolkit, and swap around the tools each film. The recent series and standalone movies resonate with the RPG feel and even with the tropes, they are fun.

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

facebook.com/sd.howarth.79

http://twitter.com/Angry_Cumbrian

www.worldofsancturary.co.uk

Many thanks for your time & good luck with your releases.


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SPFBO Author Interview: S.R Cronin

In this latest special SPFBO author interview I spoke with S.R. Cronin about her entry into the competition and what she enjoys most about writing fantasy.


  • Hi  Sherrie. Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Like many others, I made up stories in my head as a child. I also read all the science fiction and fantasy I could find in Western Kansas in the early Pleistocene. (It wasn’t much.) When I tried my hand at a dystopian short story in eighth grade, my English teacher told me to keep writing. I was an obedient sort, so I’m still doing as she said.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

It’s my world. I make up the rules, I create a place that fascinates me, and I let people have adventures in it that I like. Why would you want to constrain a story and write anything else?

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

I don’t like doing easy things and that’s a shame because I’ll probably never know if I could just write a good book. To my own misfortune, I like complicated.

So after my first six-book series (complicated in another fashion) I got this idea to tell an alternate history/historical fantasy story seven ways, each time through the eyes of a very different sister. I called it “The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters.”

Because these seven young women will manage to save their realm, it’s a little like a female Seven Samauri with some Rashomon effect thrown in. (I thanked Japanese film genius Akira Kurosawa for his inspiration in the first book’s dedication.)

Book one, about the intellectual mastermind of the girls, came out in November 2020 and is in entered in the SPFBO#7. I released book two, the story of the nurturing sister, in February 2021, and book three, the story of the warrior sister, in May 2021. These days I’m writing book five, at least when I’m not checking SPFBO sites to see if book one has been reviewed and cut yet.

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

I like my main characters to surprise themselves with what they are capable of. I’m not a particularly grey or dark writer, though every good story needs a little grimness to be interesting.

I put a lot of me into most characters, including (or maybe especially) the villains. You can’t write what you don’t know, and I think spinning tales is cheaper than therapy. It sure gets you to confront things in yourself you don’t like.

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

Write. Write more. Keep writing. Don’t get me wrong .. classes and writer’s groups and beta readers and online blogs are all a wealth of information and should be tapped. But unless you write, rewrite and edit a lot, the rest won’t matter.

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

I set aside three writing days a week and don’t let myself do anything else. No social media. No laundry. No random ordering junk from Amazon. I write, or I sit and stare at my screen. It works. After a while I get bored and I start writing. (I do let myself eat cookies though and that helps.)

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

Much more of a pantser. I always have a vague idea of the story’s main conflict and how it will be resolved, and I often do an outline with a few sentences per proposed chapter before I start the book. (I seldom stick to it.) But I always do a more detailed outline of the next chapter before I start it, listing what has to happen in it somehow. It usually reads something like: Jason and Margie MUST meet now and Jason’s cat HAS to die. Hit by a car? Margie’s car? Maybe Jason’s car. Is it because he was looking at Margie?

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

I can’t imagine life without thinking about the next series. I already know mine will be a crime novel/fantasy hybrid. (Crime novels are my other love, a taste not developed until adulthood.) I’m thinking I’ll have three different detective protagonists from different times and places who loosely work together. Like I said, complicated fascinates 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’ve always been a good triumphs kind of lady when it comes to my entertainment, although I think a little shading makes it more interesting. (Good triumphs but …) It’s not because I’m inherently cheery or an optimist, though, but more like because deep down I’m pretty cynical. I like my entertainment to take me out of the dark places I’m prone to go to in my head.

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

Star Trek – none of the above.

Follow Sherrie via –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinnabar01
Facebook: www.facebook.com/46Ascending
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/s.r.cronin/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5805814.Sherrie_Cronin
Amazon: www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Cronin/e/B007FRMO9Q

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/s-r-cronin

Author Blog: https://sherriecronin.xyz/


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Get Quest for the Sundered Crown for just 0.99p/c this week until July 4th

The summer sale continues! This week it’s the turn of book 3 in the Sundered Crown Saga: Quest for the Sundered Crown. I’d like to give a huge thank you to those of you who have picked up the books. Every review helps and if you enjoy my books please do spread the word and tell your friends and family about them.


Danon’s army sweeps across the Kingdom of Delfinnia and Luxon, the only one capable of stopping the annihilation of the realm embarks on a desperate quest to cure himself of the deadly Void Sickness that threatens his life.

To find the cure, Luxon must travel through the Magic Gates and find the Waters of Magic, but in doing so, he will be sent to new worlds and even through time. There he will uncover the shocking truth about Danon and another he calls friend and mentor.

Elsewhere dragons ravage the eastern lands spurring Kaiden to reform the Knights of Niveren and in the south, the King’s Legion, led by the usurper Ricard makes a desperate stand against Danon’s hordes. As the world turns ever darker, one hope remains. The legendary sacred sword Asphodel remains hidden.

The Quest is on to claim the blade and perhaps push back the evil threatening creation itself.

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SPFBO Author Interview: Rob Donovan

The interviews keep coming! This time it’s the turn of Rob Donovan the author of The Crystal Spear, an entrant in this year’s SPFBO competition.


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

 I am 42, married with three boys and live in West Wickham, a small town in greater London, UK. I’ve always dabbled in writing and wrote my first novel of sorts when I was 14. It was entitled, “the Scarecrow” and was derived from my love of reading Point Horror novels.  I never really considered writing novels properly though until 2009. I had read three books from three of my favourite authors in a row: Robert McCammon’s Speaks the Nightbird, Stephen King’s The Wolves of Calla and George R R Martin’s, A Storm of Swords. I loved all three books but two of them went in directions I wished they hadn’t and “a Storm of Swords,” just blew me away so much, that I wished I could write something as good as that. My wife had just given birth to our first boy Joseph and was extremely ill. I would do many of the night feeds and it was whilst sitting up in the quiet one night around 3 am, that an idea popped into my head that involved aspects of those three novels and how I wished they had gone. Not tired, I lay Joe down and on a whim, scribbled down a scene. I had no idea of a plot, but the scene was just so vivid to me, that I wanted to write it. The next night, I read over what I had written and the next chapter came to me immediately. It really was that simple, every night I would write a bit more until I got in a routine of doing the night feed at 4am and not bothering to go back to bed, but writing until I had to leave for work at 6am.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

How broad and diverse the genre is without a doubt. Not only do you get to create brand new worlds with rules and laws of your choosing and fill them with all kinds of characters and species but you are not restricted in any way to the genre. If you fancy adding in elements of horror you can, want some romance, comedy, detective novel etc go for it. With the fantasy genre you can have the choice of including all of those elements or none of them and still be creative.

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

I’m currently hard at work with the sequel to the Crystal Spear entitled, The Kraken Churn. I’m around 80k words into it and have roughly 30K to go I reckon. I aim to finish the draft by the end of July. That should allow me to release the novel in autumn.

There have been two main challenges in putting this one together. When I finish a novel in my series, I normally go onto a lighter project or short story before delving into the next in a series. It clears my mind and allows me to let off steam. I did that by starting to draft a prequel to another book I wrote 7 years ago. I was having great fun doing that when suddenly the urge to write a prequel of sorts to the Crystal Spear took my fancy. I always try and finish the current project before moving on to the next but this time the story was so clear in my mind, I knew I had to get it down on paper or risk losing it. I was really enjoying that story when I woke up one day and thought I really need to be getting on with the next book in the Forbidden Weapons Saga. So once again I put my pen down and started on another project. It was a challenge to start with as I had three separate stories whirling around in my head and it took a while to quiet the other two voices.

The second challenge is being productive. Being in lockdown and working from home has not been as fruitful as I thought it would be. I had a nice routine of writing before work and at lunch whilst in the office. At home with three kids that routine has been harder to maintain and so some weeks have been very productive but there have been others where I have managed a few days writing and then it has just not been possible.

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

Flawed characters are always great to write about, especially ones that don’t know they are flawed. I also like to write a good villain. The best villains are complex with understandable motives, but I also love to create “cool, almost cartoonish villains.” Villains that you just love to hate. Darth Vader in a New Hope, the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, Joffrey, the Ringwraiths, Voldermort, the list goes on, but all of them are just evil because they are evil and everyone loves to hate them. There is a push to make villains masterminds or Machiavellian and I love that type of villain but sometimes you just want to read a classic good vs evil story. 

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

Reach out and back yourself. Being an author is a lonely profession and with it comes a large imposter syndrome complex. No matter how many times you get good reviews or praise, there is always an element of doubt as to whether you are good enough to do what you do. The truth is, if you want to write, it is because you have a story to tell. Someone, somewhere will love that story and so do it for them and yourself.

Writing is inherently a lonely profession but it doesn’t have to be. The writing community is the most friendly and helpful community I know. Everyone is rooting for each other and ready to help in any way they can. It is hard work but the help is there to make sure you have the best chance of succeeding.

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

I find setting the mood definitely helps and I have a variety of things I try depending on what scene I am about to write. Often I will work in a dark room, light a candle and play medieval music on Alexa to get me in the zone, if I am not in the writing mood, a walk through woods and imagining myself in another time period often helps.

In terms of tools, I use Dabble writing software, which I have found to be excellent. I wrote my first 7 novels in Ywriter which was a simple but great free software, but I saw Dabble and loved: its simplicity, its planning feature and more importantly, being web based, I was enamoured with the fact you could log in on any laptop or phone and write at any time. It is subscription based but I think the fact that I changed from a perfectly acceptable free software to paying a monthly subscription tells you how impressed I am with it.

Finally, I am on a few writing Discord channels. One of them is very active in running 15 minute sprints where you compete against other writers to write the most. I say compete but it is really not a race, but it does inspire you to stay focus and distraction free for those 15 minutes. I average around 450-500 words during those 15 minutes. Do that three times a day and I achieve my daily targets.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a pantser for sure. The majority of the novel is definitely made up as I go along, allowing the characters to drive the story. Around about three quarters of the way through where I sense I should be wrapping things up soon, I will sit down and plot the last ten chapters or so to make sure characters have a decent arc and the story is cohesive. I always find this part (the plotted part) hardest to write as it begins to feel like doing a homework assignment or a task at work.

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

A busy one. I aim to finish off the other two projects I mentioned earlier. I am roughly 15K words in to both of them and I don’t plan on them being long – more novellas really. I have also been jotting down ideas around a coming of age story with a supernatural element that I am quite excited about. I might attempt that one during NaNoWriMo this year (writing 50,000 words in the month of November).

Then of course there is the third book in the Forbidden Weapon saga.

  • 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 am not sure if it is do with the state of the world at the moment or my personal circumstances but my tastes have changed. I always used to love a dark ending. I loved any book where evil triumphed unexpectantly, or the hero died at the end. Those are the endings that stay with you (the Mist for example). However, since having my three boys, I tend to want good to triumph and with all the doom and gloom around the pandemic, I think we all need a feel good story.

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

Wow, now there is a question. The answer is without a doubt Star Wars but I feel guilty about saying it. I am a huge fan of all three. I grew up watching Star Wars on repeat and had all of the toys and played with them daily. I loved the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings and had read the books but it wasn’t until the Peter Jackson films came out that I went back and read the books again and truly fell in love with Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is just a magical series and I am not ashamed to say that I queued up at midnight for the books as they were released. Star Wars though just affects me like nothing else ever will.

Follow Rob via –

Rob’s website: www.Robdonovanauthor.com

Rob’s facebook page: (3) Rob Donovan Author | Facebook


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SPFBO Author Interview – Christopher Matson

The SPFBO author interviews keep on coming! This time I spoke with Christopher Matson who has entered his fantasy novel Half Sword into this year’s competition.


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

Hi Matt, thanks for having me on your blog (hope you don’t mind parenthetical asides). Hmm—about me, huh? Okay, I’m an author as a second… third? Maybe sixth career. Among other things, I’ve been a mess-hall cook, underground geologist, commercial fisherman, marine engineer, and an international port consultant. Like most authors, I’ve written my entire life. But for me, it was the fun of creating a story, with no thought for publication.

That changed some time around 2013, when Amazon opened Kindle Worlds. I made contact with authors Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo who were running the “Mongoliad” universe as a KW series. My contributions there were fairly successful and the experience of writing for a broad audience became intoxicating. I’ve written for publication ever since. And oh, this year is my first experience with the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). It’s been a real trip so far (and we’re only a few days into it).

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Okay, I’d argue that all fiction is more or less fantasy (even some non-fiction, hah!). Look at Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” Historical fiction, yes—but with so much world-building, so many new social constructs, it only lacks dragons to be classified as fantasy. Take another example, Umberto Eco’s “Baudolino” (if you haven’t read it yet, close this file right now, open your Kindle app, and don’t do another thing until you’ve finished). It starts as a historical drama and walks right off the deep end into Medieval fantasy. Eco was a genius.

So wait… I didn’t answer the question, did I? Why fantasy? Simply put, it is the most immersive of all the genres. Done well it forces the readers (and sometimes the author) to suspend all judgement and submerge themselves in the story and the characters. It takes you to a whole new world and lets you explore it through the eyes of the protagonist. Sometimes it even lets you come back (unless you’re reading Brandon Sanderson, then good luck).

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

Which brings us to “Half Sword.” This is the one book where I think I settled on the title after the final cover art had been completed (hmm… looks good that way, “Half Sword” it is). Usually, I create a title first and write the story around it (not recommended, by the way). The story developed as a prequel to a yet to be completed series called “Tapestry” (no, you won’t find the other books, they’re not complete, all six—maybe seven of them. Long story about writing a long story).

Did I say I admire Umberto Eco? Yeah, well “Half Sword” is in a similar vein. The underlying theme (or what Twyla Tharp would call the Spine) is self-discovery. Young Simon doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. To find out, he has to take on a cabal of conjurers and survive the encounter. Set in the year 1187, “Half Sword” required substantial research to build a Medieval world that is both authentic and convincing. So much of that early period has been lost to history, and so much of what is written about it is speculation. The fantasy elements were perhaps the easiest part of writing this one.

I published “Half Sword” in the beginning of May, just before SPFBO 7 opened for submittals. It’s available now on Kindle Unlimited and the print version should come out before the end of June. But wait, there’s more… I also write action-adventure under C.B. Matson. I have two books (“Maug” and “Shasta”) that are collaborations with David Wood in his “Dane Maddock Universe” series. Presently, I’m working on a third, “Baal.” Our heroes are going to run into a whole lotta supernatural bad-assedness out in the stinking Danakil Desert. And yeah, I bring a lot of fantasy elements to my action-adventure novels.

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

I really enjoy writing off-trope female characters. That is, complex characters that do not follow the fantasy stereotype. My protagonists are generally messed up in some way, not beautiful, don’t really have much fighting skill, and scrape by on wit and luck. That said, “Half Sword” is mostly male characters and they are all warriors, in one way or another. All but the protagonist who struggles along on a couple of trick moves and his own stubborn will. Of course, he does get tangled up with a few off-trope women who mess with him pretty good.

As far as projecting myself into a character, I’d say a little in each, but dam’ little. I do steal flagrantly from people I have met, however. My father-in-law is cooked into one character in “Half Sword” (no, not say’n which one). My former career involved a lot of travel to odd places and I’ve picked up a gaggle of fantastic character types to exploit. The hard part for me is focussing my point of view on just a very few individuals.

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

Hmm… [scratches head]. If you’re writing, then you are a writer. Even if it’s just a site-visit report for your client, you are a writer. The point? The point is that you’ve got to decide what kind of writer you wanna be. That is, why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it? As long as you keep punching that ticket, then you are a success and that is enough.

Oh, an important corollary—you’re going to be bombarded by hundreds of people selling courses, books, how-to advice, MFA degrees, and what-ever. I won’t argue the merits of any of it. However, for your money and time, you can learn more from hiring a good editor than all the rest combined.

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

Okay, deadlines—there’s no trick, you just have to plan for the deadline early and leave plenty of buffer. Your editor of choice may need months of notice, don’t figure a couple of weeks, give them a shit MS, and figure on miracles happening. Same with cover art. Plan ahead, cook in revision time and budget. Deadlines still gonna getcha but not as bad.

Keeping your story on track is a lot harder. My own first efforts were similar to delivering a bus load of first graders to the amusement park and telling them to be back at the entrance by five. The story metastasized. I had to call the cops (not really, but). I learned from that to write the ending (aka, the grand kablooie) when I am about 2/3 into the first draft, then focus my remaining efforts on converging at the desired conclusion. It works. Sometimes now I outline the ending before I even begin the story.

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

A plotster perhaps? Again, early efforts were pantsing all the way. It was a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. It was that dizzy dancing way you feel. It was an adventure in joyous abandon… and the results were about as dreadful as you can possibly imagine. I’ve since come to realize that pantsing makes for the best author experience, but plotting creates the best reader experience. Always write with your reader in mind. That’s not to say, you can’t pants your heart out between the major plot points, that’s when you discover some of the choicest story morsels and plot-twists. Aaand, what is an outline, if not to be changed when it best suits the story?

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

Right now, I’m concentrating on “Baal.” It’s an exciting action-adventure story with an interesting plot-driver. My personal deadline for the first draft is sometime this fall, but every time I look up, it seems the calendar has lost another page. After that, it’s back into “Tapestry” full time and straight on through ‘til morning. I’ve got 450k words (!) in that series that need a deep re-write and re-edit. I hope to add another 150k in the process and make six books out of it. There’s also a seventh book in outline form that will finish the series.

  • 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’ve always preferred a bit of darkness in my heroes and in my stories. Not that good doesn’t triumph, but the very concept of “good” can be somewhat slippery. As far as the world goes, I concentrate on things I can change and try not to worry about those things that I cannot. With that said, I find our very language morphing into something that is difficult to use. Gender neutral pronouns and inclusiveness for instance. I get the objectives, but I’m not sure how to implement them in my writing. My editor had issue with the word “oarsmen.” Okay, I went with “rowers,” sounded better anyway. But then she flagged “doormen.” “Doorpeople?” “Doorers?” “Dooropenersandclosers?” I’m sure it will all work out, but again, write for your readers… they’ll understand.

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

What’s this? Matt has just handed me a live grenade with the pin conveniently removed [inserts a bent nail through the firing mechanism and passes the grenade back to Matt]. I would ask, which versions, films, books, comics? Which story/episode/volume? Maybe more important, better in what way?

LotR was my first epic fantasy read (had a few Lord Dunsany stories before that, but), so there’s no way to compare with “Harry Potter” that started out as a horribly edited YA story (with a brilliant concept) and evolved into a much more complex series. And Star Wars? I’d followed Lucas since “THX 1138,” (lived a few miles from his studio) so when the original movie came out, I’d been waiting for like, months… and it was manna (they had me with hydraulic oil running down the Millenium Falcon’s landing legs). However, there were no SW books until much later. So, only pick one? Can’t. Sorry.

  • Any Social Media links?

I’m mostly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbmatson, feel free to check my profile and follow if you like my feed. Or not, that’s cool too.

Somewhere out there I have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/christopher.matson.98892. It’s poorly maintained and seldom visited (don’t get too excited now). Whereas Twitter is like the county recycling center’s trash sorting line, I find Facebook to be like trying to furnish your home from the county dump. It’s all there somewhere, but do you really want to dig through that mess? Okay, not very nice. I also have a totally dysfunctional web site: https://cbmatson.com/ that will tell you nothing at all (but someday it might, so keep checking). If you actually want to read some of my stuff, then go to my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Matson/e/B094YT15YM


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SPFBO Author Interview: Joanna Maciejewska

In my fifth SPFBO author interview I spoke with Joanna Maciejewska the author of the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series, book 1 By the Pact is her entrant into the competition.


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

Hello, nice to meet you all. My name is Joanna. I grew up in Poland, and after college I moved to Ireland. I stayed there for over 8 years, but then winds of adventure and romance carried me overseas to the US. Since then, I’ve already bounced from Arizona to Virginia, so it seems that I’m a bit of a nomad… who loves to spend all her time at home, among her books, writing, and video games.

I think writing was always a part of me. I learned to read very early, and I always entertained myself with weaving stories (growing up in a communist Poland meant little access to other entertainment) and creating rhymes. Then, as a teen, I discovered fantasy and science fiction and wanted to write my own stories, so it seemed like a natural outlet for my creativity.

At the same time, there are two people to whom I should give credit to when it comes to inspiring me. The first one is Piotr Schmidtke, a friend who was the first person to publish my stories on an online platform. The love he gave my writing over twenty years ago (and still generously gives it) likely put me on that path for good. The second one is Inq So, my husband, who encouraged me to write in a second language. Without him, I’d likely never have tried writing in English.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

As a reader, I love the sense of wonder that is inherent to the genre. I want to experience the magic and the adventure without the risk of being eaten by a dragon, losing my limb in an epic battle, or having to commit to one world for longer than it takes to read a book or a series.

As a writer, I’m fascinated by how different worlds and settings can affect humans and their culture, and how people might make different choices in such circumstances… while at the same time all the things that make us human, good and bad, still remain.

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

I always chuckle at such questions, because I tend to work on many things at the same time, so it’s hard not to ask “which latest project?”. But let’s focus on Pacts Arcane and Otherwise, my epic fantasy series, which gets the most of my attention at the moment. Before I first started writing By the Pact, I had a bout of feeling uncreative, and my husband said, “let’s play video games and get inspired”. I spent two weeks playing Skyrim again, and thinking not only about what I loved in the game, but also about elements of fantasy, epic fantasy in particular. In most classics, there’s always the great evil to conquer in order to save the world, and that got me thinking: what if you had to free the great evil to save the world? I combined it with a few other ideas that seemed to go well together, and the story slowly took shape.

The biggest challenge for me is always writing itself: English is my second language, so there are times I struggle to find the right sentence structure or words to convey what I want to say. That also makes me a rather slow writer.

Another challenge was the story as a whole. It’s an epic fantasy with many characters involved and many interwoven plots spanning four books, so I have to keep track of all of them. Particularly in book 3, Shadows over Kaighal which I’m finishing at the moment, characters move around quite a lot within a limited time span, so I had to make sure they are at the right places at the right time. I ended up making a spreadsheet to keep track of their whereabouts.

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

I like characters who act smart. I’m that person who you would see yelling at the tv when characters ignore the knowledge they already have, and in the past, repetitive unreasonable behaviors of protagonists made me abandon books, so I try to avoid it in my own writing. I love good banter too, so my characters tend to have a lot of witty exchanges. I suppose many of my characters have a titbit of my personality, and in general, I try to model them after how real people behave. Sometimes I have fun with it too: one of the projects I’m working on is a contemporary fantasy series set in Dublin altered by a magical war, and I thought it would be fun to make the main character an immigrant from Poland. This way, I could draw from my own experiences and add the authenticity to how she perceives Dublin. At the same time, even though we share some of the background, she isn’t me, and I’m not sure if I’d make the same choices she makes.

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

I think the two most useful things are: embrace “good enough” and learn to move on. I think many beginner writers get stuck in making their first novel perfect, revising, altering and polishing it… and wasting years with little progress. While it’s important to revise and edit, there’s only so much you can learn from the same novel, and sometimes being close to it makes you unable to see its flaws, perhaps even the fatal ones that might make the project unsalvageable. Distance and perspective of another book and then another and another not only helps to see the first project for what it is, but it also gives you tools to go back and fix it if you still love it or believe in it.

That isn’t to say that anyone should settle for mediocre or unpolished projects, but I think it’s important to know when to stop. It’s better to have 10 good books or 5 very good books than 1 near-perfect book that will be ready as soon as you make those final changes—especially that which you consider your best book and what your agent, publisher, or reader considers the best might be very different.

Besides, looking realistically, if you want to be a writer, you have to have more than one story to tell. And if you want to make a living as a writer, you have to, well, write more and faster. It doesn’t necessarily mean a book in a month, but trust me, you won’t have 10 years per book.

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

I try to avoid setting deadlines. If I could, I’d make sure that I have everything ready before I even have to set one, which really translates to setting generously distant deadlines that account for “everything that could go wrong” and not taking on more than I can handle. Other than that, it’s just the discipline and knowing which tasks to prioritize. That’s why I always deliver my freelance projects before the deadline and—so far—release my books on time, but not always win NaNoWriMo or respond to an email.

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

I consider myself a plotter as I don’t feel entirely comfortable not having any idea of where I’m going. At the same time, I don’t really outline: my plotting consists of the general idea of the plot and key things that have to happen. I fill the rest in as I develop the setting, the characters, and the story, and then while I write, some things naturally fall into place… or out of place. I suppose that puts me somewhere in between the hardcore plotters who write detailed outlines of each chapter and true pantsers who need as little as “there is a person in a room” to start writing.

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

I plan to finish Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series first. It’s meant to be four books with possible continuation or spinoffs in the future. Book 2, Scars of Stone, will be released on July 10th, 2021, and I’m wrapping up book 3 for a 2022 release. After book 4 is done, I’ll likely focus on my contemporary fantasy set in Ireland, since I’ve already made progress on the first three books in that series. Beyond that? Anything is possible! I have some other fantasy series in the works, and I also have a several ideas for science fiction books. There might be a few fantasy and science fiction romances along the way too… In short, I’m too slow of a writer for the amount of the ideas I have.

  • 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?

In general, regardless of the current state of the real world, I prefer my books to be on the brighter side, but as a reader, I don’t shy away from darker themes, as long as there’s at least a glimmer of hope or a satisfying conclusion—not necessary a happy ending, but a fitting one. Darkness for the sake of shocking the reader doesn’t appeal to me.

As a writer, though, it seems I’m incapable of writing darker fiction. In the end there’s always some banter or friendship. I might have once written a novel that you could summarize with “everybody dies at the end”, but when I was thinking about a possible sequel, it turned out hardly anyone actually died.

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

Now that’s an interesting question. Am I allowed to say none? Having grown up in Poland, in the times of political and social changes, I wasn’t as exposed to Western pop-culture as much as people actually living in it. Because of that, I’ve read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series (waiting for the author to finish writing each book) before I discovered Tolkien. I watched Star Wars quite late in my life and I enjoyed it but didn’t get hooked. And while I also enjoyed Harry Potter, it first released in Poland when I was approaching my 20th birthday and I’ve already read speculative fiction broadly and voraciously, so it didn’t have that formative effect on me. So, in the end, none of these franchises enchanted me enough to side with one.

Instead, my vote would go to The Witcher, based solely on the fact that I’ve read the whole saga at least a dozen times in my late teens and early twenties.

You can connect with me via:

Website: http://melfka.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Melfka

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/melfka

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/joanna-maciejewska

You can get By the Pact at all major online stores:

https://books2read.com/ByThePact

https://www.bookdepository.com/By-Pact-Joanna-Maciejewska/9781734606720


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SPFBO Author Interview: E.L. Haines

The SPFBO competition is well under way and the reviews are started to flood in from the judges. To help raise awareness of some of the entrants I’m interviewing them! This time it’s the turn of E.L. Haines, author of Stranger Back Home.


  • Hi E.L. Haines, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’m sure I’m not the only one here who is coming from an RPG-playing background! When you’re running a campaign, there’s something thrilling about leading an audience through conflicts and a setting that you have prepared for them, especially if they keep coming back for more each week.

When my roleplaying group broke apart a few years ago, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all of the unrealized plots in my mind that we had never played out. I also had a treasure trove of unique characters that was going unused. I decided to write a short story for my players to enjoy, and they loved it so much that I wrote more, produced a novella, and self-published.

At the same time, I was living in the Middle East and travelling around Europe and the Mediterranean region. I was experiencing a lot of local folklore, and it naturally made me question how our characters would react to some of the historic events that I was learning about. So I wrote a second novella while in rural France (Episodic Sleep Disorders, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SM95JR6/), about the Beast of Gevaudan and the Strasbourg Dancing Epidemic.

Now, everywhere I travel, I absorb some of the local culture to include in my books. I’m currently living in Egypt, which has nearly limitless potential for inspiration.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

My personal theory about the fantasy genre (and I’ve given this a lot of thought) is that it offers readers the thrill of discovery without the rigors of academia. This means:

Learning about ancient civilizations without drudging through boring history texts

Learning about fantastic beasts without dissecting frogs in a smelly lab

Understanding how the magical forces of nature work without performing those oft-unsuccessful scientific experiments and data analysis

Fantasy allows each reader to become their own Einstein, their own Steve Irwin, their own Howard Carter, and much more.

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

I’m in-between projects right now. After submitting my SPFBO 7 entry, Stranger Back Home (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B094616VSX/), I’m soliciting reviews and creating targeted ads (I think those are the challenges that all indie authors face the most).

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

My protagonist, Sparrow, is a self-insert. I have no problem admitting that. Hopefully he is relatable and likeable. If not, then don’t bother coming to my next birthday party.

Of course, he differs from me in several ways: he’s short, has less social anxiety, and maybe has time-travel abilities…

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

You’ll never be a good writer unless you’re a good reader. I read a lot of indie fiction and interact with a lot of indie authors, and I can tell the ones who don’t make time for recreational or educational reading. If you are struggling to move past a plot point, pick up a book and see how other authors do it. And don’t think that your favorite Netflix series or video games will teach you the same thing—you’re working with words on a page, and you need exposure to that exact medium to learn how to do it best.

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

What’s a deadline?
I’ve heard that other authors dedicate themselves to a few thousand words each day. That’s never worked for me. I’m a big fan of the day-dreaming style of writing, where I just meditate on my story each night before I go to sleep until I give myself insomnia, sit up, and get back to work.

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

50/50. I try to figure out the setting first, then the main conflict and resolution at the end, and I jot down notes for all of the minor elements that I hope to include in the book. Then I just write, and I plan a few chapters ahead when I can.

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

Actually all of my books so far have been dips into other genres. My upcoming plans include a murder mystery set in an Egyptian palace, an interactive fiction for kids about dolphins and sunken treasure, a spy thriller on a Persian Gulf cruise ship, and a time-travel sci-fi about assassinating Hitler.

  • 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 not sure what this ‘way of the world at the moment’ is. I feel that the vast majority of the tragedy shown to us in the media is more fictitious than my books, though, and I’m envious of their narrative storytelling success.
I love reading darker elements in fiction, but sometimes the author makes the entire book about the darkness, and that’s like preparing an entree made entirely of salt.

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

I see three franchises that have been expanded far beyond their respective authors’ original scope in order to exploit their audiences. But I’ll give each one an award anyway in the three important categories:

Character development—Luke Skywalker

Setting—Middle Earth

Plot—The resistance against the emerging Death Eater rise to power

Follow E.L. Haines –

Website: https://www.theshortstoryteller.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/sparrowtheshortstoryteller

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/E-L-Haines/e/B07KX888RG/

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18860518.E_L_Haines

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/e-l-haines



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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

Thanks for taking part!

Thank you so much for including me!


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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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Voyage for the Sundered Crown Audiobook out now!

I am delighted to announce that Voyage for the Sundered Crown is now available to get in audio format and as per usual the excellent Joseph Tweedale has smashed it out of the park!

This is the definitive way to experience the Sundered Crown Saga and Joseph does an amazing job at bringing all of the characters to life in a way that only audio can.

You can get your copy on Audible, Itunes and ACX.

Win an Audiobook Code!

To celebrate the books release I’m giving away 10 codes. All you have to do to be win one is post a review of any of my books on Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo or Barnes and Noble take a screenshot and send it to matthewolney9@gmail.com.

All qualifying entrants will then be added into a draw with the winners announced via the <a href=”http://&lt;!– wp:paragraph –> <p>All qualifying entrants will then be <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/groups/212672018752900″>added into a draw with the winners announced via the </a>Sundered Crown Facebook Group.</p> Sundered Crown Facebook Group.


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