I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have been a guest judge for Booknest in this year's SPFBO competition, 2018. The brainchild of Arch-saint of indie authors, the Almighty Mark Lawrence, the SPFBO has become one of the most significant things to happen to self-publishing since, well, maybe ever, and Booknest has waved the torch high for indie books for quite some time. I have to thank Petros T. for asking me to do this. It's been a hell of an honor to be involved.
My task was to read five of the thirty books in Booknest's group, and forward my choice for semi-finalist. Time for a rolling of drums...
There are a ton of amazing self-published books out there, but it was a little scary to have a random selection handed to me, I must admit. Due to the very nature of self-publishing, anyone can do it, and there's no denying there are quite a few not-so amazing indie books as well. I was apprehensive about it, worrying, "what if they all suck?" Luckily for me, they didn't. In fact, quite the opposite. I thoroughly enjoyed four of them, and even the one I didn't has plenty going for it (obviously, it's selling like gangbusters on Amazon).
To review, here are the books in my group:
Twin Spirit by Matthew Thompson is a delightful read I described as paranormal sci-fantasy/portal fantasy with a touch of steampunk and directed by Terry Gilliam, geared at a middle-grade to teen audience, but with plenty for grown-ups to enjoy.
Ghost Electricity by Sean Cunningham--Think Simon Green's Nightside meets Dr. Who, with a heavy dose of Hellboy and maybe even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This is easily one my new favorite urban fantasy novels, and Cunningham one of my new favorite authors.
The Ember Child by Anthony Mitchell is a truly great book, in my opinion, that I think will appeal to a whole lot of lovers of epic fantasy. It takes the tropes we love and makes them fresh in a way I have not seen a long time. But from what I can tell from looking at it on Amazon and Goodreads, no one is reading it, which is a terrible shame. I believe it's because of the cover (which isn't terrible or unprofessional, just not real eye-catching and it doesn't scream epic fantasy), and the almost complete lack of marketing, resulting in little to no word-of-mouth. I highly recommend this book and will shout it out any chance I get.
Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike is, as I said in my review, one of those rare reads that doesn't come along very often. Genuine, consistent, extremely well written, as well as fun and funny as hell.
Dragon Bones by D.K. Holmberg was my least favorite of the bunch, but Holmberg has published dozens of books, is making a killing in sales, and is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author to boot. If I was D.K., I wouldn't give a rats-patooty what that Dyrk Ashton knucklehead thinks.
I told you my choice wouldn't be easy, right? I was an entrant in the SPFBO in 2016, and lucky enough to be a finalist and take third place. I checked out many of the finalists from the first SPFBO of 2015, and followed closely all last year. As far as I'm concerned, any number of the books in my Booknest group this year could not only be semi-finalists, they could hold their own in the final ten as well. Still, I have to choose just one, and that one will be--
Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike. Brilliantly written and conceived, error-free as far as my eyes could see, with a uniqueness factor I'm always thrilled to find, and cheerful nods to everything fantasy fans adore, I could see this as not only a finalist, but possibly taking the whole shabang. Fingers crossed for you, Mr. Pike!
Thanks for putting up with me, everyone, authors, review readers, and Booknest alike.
All the very best,