Indie Spotlight – Dan Fitzgerald

Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy author living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, taking photographs of nature, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music. The Maer Cycle is his debut trilogy, with Hollow Road and The Archive on several book bloggers’ best-of lists for 2020, and The Place Below coming March 4 2021. His upcoming duology, The Weirdwater Confluence, will be published in October 2021 and January 2022. All books published by Shadow Spark Publishing. 

Find out more about Dan and his books at www.danfitzwrites.com, or look him up on Twitter or Instagram, under the name danfitzwrites. 

Author Links

Website: http://www.danfitzwrites.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danfitzwrites

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danfitzwrites/?hl=en

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


Hi Dan, welcome to my blog on a very special date for you – launch day for your latest book The Place Below. Congratulations!

What made you decide to publish your books independently?

I queried Hollow Road to a lot of agents, with very little response. I was pretty sure the book was good enough, but it just wasn’t hitting anyone’s sweet spot. After an added round of revisions, I decided to focus on querying a few small presses that looked like a good match. I’d heard they were more likely to take on a project that didn’t fit neatly into a publishing box, and it turns out I had heard right. Shadow Spark and I clicked right away, and it’s been off to the races ever since. I signed a contract for the whole trilogy in March 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and six months later Hollow Road came out, followed by The Archive in December, and The Place Below follows in March 2021.

That’s great that you found a perfect fit for your books and the way you like to work. What are the benefits of being an indie author?

Working with a small press has been a dream come true. I get a lot of the freedom of self-publishing, but the support of a team to bring out the best in my books. I choose the titles, I write the blurbs, I have considerable input into the covers, and I get final say on every word in the manuscript. But I also have two fierce and talented editors in Jessica Moon and Mandy Russell, a crack cover team in Jessica and Chad Moon, and a squad of fellow Shadow Spark writers who support each other and problem-solve together. This publishing family makes us all better writers, because that is the bottom line. We work together to write and publish the best books we possibly can.

One other benefit of being an indie author is the incredible support of the bookish community. I follow and interact with a lot of book bloggers on Twitter and Instagram, and they consistently seek out and uplift new voices, especially self-published and small-press authors, as this spotlight shows.

I love hearing about all the support so-called Book Twitter gives people. That has been a consistent theme in all of these interviews.

What challenges do indie authors face?

Working with an indie publisher means more responsibility on the author’s shoulders. It is a partnership, and you have to hold your end of the bargain, and that means marketing, maintaining a social media presence, and developing relationships with fellow writers, bloggers, and other bookish folk. I was surprised at how much I enjoy these aspects of writing. I have met some of the most interesting people, had some great and informative conversations, and read books I never would have heard of otherwise. But make no mistake: this all takes time and energy, which must come from somewhere. And you have to learn a number of skills you never thought you would need, like graphic design, making videos, and website maintenance, to name a few.

What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

Explore all options. Listen to authors who have been traditionally published, listen to agents, listen to publishers, listen to small-press authors, and listen to self-published authors. Watch what they do, and how successful they are at it. Learn from their successes and their mistakes, and find your own niche in this complex publishing world. 

But most of all, write your damned book, then write another, and another. You might not publish that book you’re writing now, but you’ll get better by writing it. And when you do publish a book, you’d better have the next one ready to go not too long after. As an indie author, you need to build momentum from humble beginnings. Your first published book probably isn’t going to be a breakaway bestseller, but if you generate some interest, and you keep writing good books, sooner or later your audience is going to find you. We all work at our own pace, so find the one you think you can sustain, and be steady. And write more books.

That’s sound advice – never give up! What have you learned from being an indie author?

One of the hardest things to handle is reviews. You’re going to get them, and they’re not all going to be glowing five-star raves. And as a new unknown author, you tend to sweat each review as if it’s the defining moment in your career. It’s not. Hopefully each review is one small piece of the puzzle for readers looking to connect with books they will like, and it’s great when that book happens to be yours. But you want a career that spans multiple books over many years, and individual reviews will not make or break you, even for your very first tender book baby. 

You can choose to read them or not (I do), but know that not everyone is going to like your book, and that’s okay. And readers may not trust a book with only five-star reviews, because they’ll assume it was all just friends and family who wrote them. That three-star (which is a good review by the way, not a bad one!), that two-star, even that one-star review, which you’ll get sooner or later if you write enough, they are all reviews, meaning someone took the time to tell other readers about the book. Because that’s who reviews are for: readers. And yes reviews can sting, but they also help you sell more books, because your book has more reviews, therefore potential readers can get to know it better, and make an informed choice. And maybe, just maybe, you can learn something from the less than stellar reviews that will improve your next book. I know I have.

And finally – what can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

I am beyond excited for 2021. The Maer Cycle will be complete on March 4 with the publication of The Place Below, and it is an amazing feeling to bring this cycle of stories to a close, though I will miss the characters dearly. But there will be no time for tears, as I have a new contract with Shadow Spark for a duology of linked standalones called the Weirdwater Confluence, beginning in October 2021 with The Living Waters and continuing in January 2022 with The Isle of a Thousand Worlds. This duology will be high/weird fantasy, with watery themes, a meditation-based magic system, and a couple of nice little Easter eggs for readers of the Maer Cycle. 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog and for the support you show for indie authors! I offer in thanks this picture of a Cooper’s hawk preening on a branch, one of my favorites from my Instagram, where I post far too many nature pics for anyone’s good.

You are very welcome, Dan. Thank you for visiting and taking part today – and Congratulations again on your book launch today!



The Maer Cycle (trilogy)

Legends describe the Maer as savage beast-men living in remote mountains, stories to keep the children indoors at night. Three companions taking a friend’s body home for burial encounter the Maer, and are soon spun far from the world they know. They discover the Maer have their own legends, such as the fabled Archive, the Wild Maer, and the dreaded Skin Maer. There are dark secrets buried beneath the Silver Hills, and they will soon be brought into the light.

Purchase link for all books: https://shadowsparkpub.com/dan-fitzgerald


Hollow Road

Some legends are true. Others have been twisted. 

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.
It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.
This is the story of their return.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.
Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.

Read my review of Hollow Road here.

Buy Hollow Road here:

https://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Road-Maer-Cycle-Book-ebook/dp/B08FDPR332

Add Hollow Road to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54801285-hollow-road


The Archive

Love is love. Death is forever. 

In Hollow Road three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion.

Buy The Archive here:

https://www.amazon.com/Archive-Maer-Cycle-Book-ebook/dp/B08M68H1HQ

Add The Archive to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55780840-the-archive


The Place Below 

Some secrets are better left buried.

It’s been twenty-five years since the Battle for the Archive. Peace reigns over the Silver Hills, and humans and Maer are preparing to sign their first trade agreement. Even warring tribes of the Free Maer have set aside old quarrels.

Sasha is a young scholar of mixed Maer and human parentage, traveling throughout the Maer lands collecting stories of the Ka-lar, the buried Forever Kings. She finds a reference in the Archive to a Ka-lar named Kuun, a scholar in life, who was laid down in an ancient brightstone mine, beneath a mountain said to be the home of the fabled Skin Maer. The lure of the tale is too strong to resist. Joined by some old friends, Sasha sets out to uncover secrets that have lain buried for over a thousand years.

In The Place Below, the Maer Cycle comes to a close as the darkest mysteries of the Maer are at last brought into the light.


Buy The Place Below here:

 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08VFHKWLV?ref_=dbs_m_mng_rwt_calw_tkin_2&storeType=ebooks 

Add The Place Below to your Goodreads To Be Read pile here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56818527-the-place-below


Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Lisette Brodey was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. She spent ten years in New York City, and now resides in Los Angeles. In addition to her nine novels and one short story collection, two more of Lisette’s short stories are published in an anthology.


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WWW Wednesdays – 3rd March 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Taking on a World of Words, where you just answer three questions:

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

This week has been filled with reading fantasy, fantasy and more fantasy!


What am I currently reading?

Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

This is the third instalment in the first Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy. I have been reading these as part of a group readalong which has been a lot of fun. We just started this book for March and are going to continue with three more Dragonlance books: The Legends series.

Book Description

Will truth and virtue triumph over the deadly darkness of an all-consuming evil?

The war against the dragon minions of Queen Takhisis rages on. Armed with the mysterious, magical Dragon Orbs and the shining, silver Dragonlance, the Companions of the Lance lead their people in a desperate final battle. Knight and barbarian, warrior and mage, dwarf and kender—no one has reckoned how high the price of defeat, or even victory, might be.

But now, in the dawn of a new day, the dark secrets that have long shadowed the hearts of the Companions come to light. If they are to truly defeat the five-headed dragon goddess, they must find a way to overcome their own personal conflicts and doubts. From betrayal and treachery to fragility and weakness, the greatest battle now lies within each of them.


Malice by John Gwynne

This is the first book by John Gwynne I have read and I am enjoying it. It is very large at 628 pages and there are a lot of characters to try and keep tabs on! Im also reading this one as part of a group.

Book Description

The first book in acclaimed epic fantasy author John Gwynne’s Faithful and Fallen series, Malice is a tale of blind greed, ambition, and betrayal set in a world where ancient monsters are reawakening — and a war to end all wars is about to begin.

The world is broken. . .and it can never be made whole again.

Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin’s rule — to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood.

Evnis has sacrificed — too much it seems. But what he wants — the power to rule — will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path.

Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother.

Nathair has ideas — and a lot of plans. Many of them don’t involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father’s idea to summon his fellow kings to council.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Now, the stones weep red and giant wyrms stir, and those who can still read the signs see a danger far worse than all that has come before. . .


What did I recently finish reading?

Something Wicked by Tom Williams

This was a contemporary fantasy murder mystery whodunnit set in London, which started off like most similar whodunnits with a body being discovered by a butler, and an old fashioned policeman being assigned to the case. With the introduction of the mysterious Chief Inspector Pole from Department ‘S’ the tone changes and we discover a world of vampires living among the mortals and entertaining themselves at a tango club.

Read my full review here.

Book Description

* A peer of the realm dead in his study, his body drained of blood *

* A tango club where the Undead and the living dance together *

* A 500 year old policeman *

Are some crimes best left unsolved?


The Maer Cycle by Dan Fitzgerald

I also just finished reading Hollow Road and The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald. These are parts 1 and 2 in the Maer Cycle low fantasy trilogy with part three being released later this week!

Read my full review of Hollow Road here

Read my review of The Archive here.

Book Description of Hollow Road

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.
It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.
This is the story of their return.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.
Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.

Book Description of The Archive

In Hollow Road three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…

Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.

The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion.


What will I read next?

On March 14th I am taking part in a blog tour for an Australian Spy Thriller Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell.

Book Description

The greatest scientific invention of modern times…
Capable of curing humanity…
But more adept at controlling it…

Sydney scientist, Marcus Hall, is developing a radical 5G Wi-Fi receiver for CSIRO. With access to secretive Lamarr computer chips – this technology promises billions to repair Australia’s ravaged economy. On a caffeine boosted whim, he inadvertently discovers a therapeutic breakthrough in neuroscience. Or so he thinks…
His seemingly trustworthy lab partner, Henry, is an unlikely Australian spy. His official duty is keeping tabs on the project and their Lamarr chips. But the whole project is now classified top-secret.
Marcus remains blissfully unaware of the many secrets surrounding him, until he witnesses the graphic murder of a colleague. Could this event reveal Henry as a master deceiver and ruthless double agent? Will the scientific discovery be fatal for Marcus, those he loves, and the one he yearns for? Marcus faces a soul tearing dilemma: is the only means of stopping the carnage to weaponise his prototype?
Foreign intelligence agencies realise the top-secret breakthrough is priceless. One particular spy leads the race to seize the invention. A psychological master of the long game, espionage, and extortion, his only rule according to Kung Fu: Win.
Friend and foe alike confront this psychotic mastermind. All will FEAR him, but is their FEAR real? Only the next six minutes will tell…


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Hollow Road by Dan Fitzgerald

Book description

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.
It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.
This is the story of their return.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.
Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.


My Review

I read Hollow Road on Kindle.

This book revolves around the friendship and journey of a group of three childhood human friends, now adult, who have been commissioned to take the body of their friend, Theo, back to their home village of Brocland for burial. It is a character-driven low fantasy and the main characters have very distinct personalities and are from different backgrounds. I liked Sinni and Finn equally, but Carl was a little too serious and brooding a lot of the time.

The descriptive detail and world building in this book is very well done. I could easily envision the countryside they were traveling through and other locations such as the mine and the castle.

As with most fantasy, there is magic, but it is not a huge part of the story. It is presented as the weapon with which Finn fights and defends himself. Sinnie has her arrows, Carl his sword and Finn his magic.

Carl, back from a spell in the army and the apparent leader of the group, Finn, the trainee magic user and Sinnie, the archer and circus performer embark on the journey which will ultimately test their deep-seated belief in superstition and their prejudice when faced by the Maer. Growing up they were told the Maer were beast-men – dangerous, vicious creatures to be afraid of. Indeed their first experience with the mysterious facially hairy Maer is an ambush and so their prejudice does not initially waver. 

On reaching Brocland they are told of some brutal murders which the village is blaming on the Maer without any proof. During the resulting hunt for any remaining Maer the companions are surprised to discover that this civilization they know nothing about has art, language and culture of their own. They also discover a much more sinister mutual enemy, the Barrow Lords which the Maer call the Ka-lar:

Its mouth was pulled into a wide grin, baring long teeth that glistened yellow in the moonlight. It’s face was that of a corpse, taut and dry, with every sinew showing beneath its stretched skin.

The companions agree to take the remaining Maer back safely to where they originally came from, an ancient castle on a mountain. On their journey they begin to realize that monsters do exist in their land, but that they have a lot in common with the Maer who are essentially just like them (except hairier).

When they reach the Maer castle they are put on trial for killing some of the Maer. This is a gripping scene which further underlines the fact that the Maer and the humans are very similar and that the companions have seen the error of their ways and become more tolerant. Carl is even beginning to fall in love with Ujenn, the Maer sorceress and tells her he will return to her and that they can make a life together.

I heartily recommend this book to fantasy fans and look forward to starting the sequel, The Archive shortly.

Add to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/54801285-hollow-road

Buy Hollow Road here:

US: www.amazon.com/Hollow-Road-Maer-Cycle-Book-ebook/dp/B08FDPR332

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Hollow-Road-Maer-Cycle-Book-ebook/dp/B08FDPR332


About the Author

Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy writer living in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music.  

He writes fantasy in part because the state of the world demands an escape, but also because fantasy provides another lens through which to view what we are living now. Part mirror, part magnifying glass, part prism.  

He is fascinated by hidden and forgotten places, be they in the backyard or in the mountains of an imagined world.  


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First Lines Friday – February 26th 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

This book is next on my To Be Read List, kindly sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am hopefully starting it this weekend:

The call was logged at 16.43 on Monday 27 January. The body of Lord Christopher Penrith had been discovered at his Chelsea home.

Later, listening to the tape, several people commented that the caller seemed unnaturally calm. It made some suspicious, but the explanation was simply that Mr Charles Simmons had been a gentleman’s gentleman for decades and a true gentleman’s gentleman is never agitated.


And the book is…

* A peer of the realm dead in his study, his body drained of blood *

* A tango club where the Undead and the living dance together *

* A 500 year old policeman *

Are some crimes best left unsolved?


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Indie Spotlight – E.G. Radcliff

Today on Indie Spotlight I would like to welcome fantasy author E.G. Radcliff, who is sharing some of her amazing personal artwork at the end of the blog, so keep reading to make sure not to miss those!

E.G. Radcliff is a part-time pooka and native of the Unseelie Court. She collects acorns, glass beads, and pretty rocks, and the crows outside her house know her as She Who Has Bread.

Her fantasy novels are crafted in the dead of night after offering sacrifices of almonds and red wine to the writing-block deities.

You can reach her by scrying bowl, carrier pigeon, or @egradcliff on social media.



Welcome to my blog, E.G.!
What made you decide to publish your books independently?

For me, independent publishing was the way to go, for a variety of reasons. It allowed me to control my own schedule, arrange my own sales, and market the way I chose—not to mention keep a larger percentage of royalties. But I wanted to make sure I produced a piece that was as high-quality as any book that had been through the works at a traditional publishing house, so I spent a long time with professional editors and artists to ensure that it was up to snuff.

Well it certainly paid off. I love the gorgeous covers of both of your books.
What are the benefits of being an indie author?

The benefits of being an indie author are largely the same reasons I chose to publish independently. I particularly appreciate being able to keep such a significant portion of the book’s royalties, as well as having a great degree of authority over my own schedule.

What challenges do indie authors face?

One of the biggest challenges is marketing. Publishing houses have broader marketing resources for the authors whose books they publish, but indie authors shoulder that responsibility on their own, or, as I do, with a business partner. Another challenge is simply perception; indie books can be overlooked or ignored by skeptical readers. It’s an assumption that only books that are ‘worthy’ get traditionally published, but there are many factors that determine whether a publishing company will pick up a book. And many of those factors have to do with market saturation, what social following an author has online or from other works, etc. Not being traditionally published does not mean a book is not good, especially since many indie authors jump through all of the same hoops before publication that a traditionally published author would: beta readers, multiple rounds of editing, all that. A vast network of services has sprung up to support and cheer on indie authors, not the least of which are reader/bloggers who elevate independently published books. Readers have every reason to explore the many excellent offerings by indie authors. Great stories, well-told… that may have never seen the light of day had the author not self-published. I’ve read quite a few of them myself!

I have to agree I’ve read many books written by indie authors in the last six months and they have been of great quality. What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

You don’t have to be perfect right away. Don’t be too hard on yourself; it’s a trap that I fall into all the time. But expectations of perfection won’t encourage you to write, and that will ensure that you never improve. More specifically targeted toward indie publishing, don’t be discouraged by the perceived saturation of the market. You can be seen with time and effort, and a lot of research. There is a huge learning curve when taking on all the moving parts of publishing—good cover design, excellent editing, publishing platforms, web sites, book formatting, reviews, social media, ads—take your time to learn from what is a very generous community, and deliver the best product you can. I guarantee you’ll make mistakes on your first effort, but you can learn and refine as you go.

What have you learned from being an indie author?

That managing social media is a bear and a half. You don’t have to be on every platform if you don’t have the bandwidth for it. Do what you can, and grow your range as you gain confidence.

And finally … What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

I’m currently working on the third book in The Coming of Áed trilogy, which I plan to release in late spring or early summer. My cover designer is on deck, and my developmental and proof/copy editors are scheduled! Plot-wise, it’s a lot grander scale than The Hidden King (book one) and The Last Prince (book two). I’m very excited to share it with you!

One thing I love to do is to draw… it helps me imagine my characters. As I draw them, I think about how they might move, or behave, and of course the details of how they look. Music is also key part of my identity. Before Covid, I had been part of a huge choral group for years (which I hope to rejoin when Covid is gone), and I love making music with my talented brother whenever we have a chance to be together.

Here is a sketch in anime style of Áed, the main character in The Coming of Áed series.


Here is another key character, from my books, Ninian, in a street fighting scene.


My artwork for the #SixFanArts drawing prompt:

Thank you very much for joining me today and for sharing some of your amazing artwork! Good luck with part three of your trilogy – I’m excited to read it!


The Hidden King (The Coming of Áed Book 1)

Cover design by Micaela Alcaino https://www.instagram.com/micaelaalcainodesign/

From “a talent to watch” comes a “beautifully written” fantasy inspired by Celtic fae mythology.

Hidden truths. Hidden power. Hidden destiny.

On the shores of a rusty sea, in the streets of a starving city, a young man named Áed scraps to build a life for himself and the makeshift family he loves. Scarred by a trauma he cannot remember, and haunted by the brutal damage it left behind, he has no idea of the courage his future will demand.

When a heart-wrenching tragedy shatters his family, a desperate Áed risks a treacherous journey to seek a kingdom of legend—and a new beginning. But an ancient legacy smoldering within him is about to turn deadly, and neither he—nor the legends—will ever be the same.

Read my review of The Hidden King here

Add The Hidden King to goodreads here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/51277980-the-hidden-king

Buy The Hidden King here:

Amazon: https://getbook.at/thehiddenking


The Last Prince (The Coming of Áed Book 2)

Cover design by Micaela Alcaino https://www.instagram.com/micaelaalcainodesign/

The Last Prince is the full length prequel to The Hidden King.

In a hellish city, the fate of a young boy rests on the very thing he fears most…

Robbed of his childhood by tragedy and betrayal and forced onto the streets, only fury makes young Ninian feel whole – and in a world of gangs and fae, Ninian is more than willing to fight for his life.

But it doesn’t take much to topple a life which is already balanced on the edge of a knife. And by the time a desperate Ninian realizes he’s crossed the wrong person, it is much, much too late.

In his frantic struggle to right his collapsing world, Ninian’s furious, bloody efforts are dredging up history he’d rather forget – the past is tired of being held at bay, and even fighting cannot protect Ninian from himself.

So when he meets a crimson-eyed stranger, a boy so broken he refuses even to speak, Ninian does not believe he has the capacity to care.

He is wrong.

And that will change everything…

Add The Last Prince to goodreads here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/54227426-the-last-prince

Buy The Last Prince here:

Amazon: https://getbook.at/thelastprince

Reviews of E.G. Radcliff’s books can be read here: https://egradcliff.com/thkreviewshttps://egradcliff.com/tlpreviews


Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Next week I will be joined by Dan Fitzgerald. Dan is a fantasy author living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, taking photographs of nature, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music. 


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Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet LoSole

Book Description

Embarking on a homeschooling field trip to Central America is stressful enough, but add in perilous bridge crossings, trips to the hospital, and a lack of women’s underwear, and you have the makings of an Adventure by Chicken Bus.
Buckling under a mountain of debt, Janet LoSole and her family are at their wits’ end. Determined to make a drastic change, they sell all worldly possessions and hit the road. With only a few items of clothing, a four-person tent, and little else, the family visits a sleepy island backwater in Costa Rica to save endangered sea turtles. In Panama, they bounce around like turnips in the back of a vegetable truck to reach an isolated monkey sanctuary. In Guatemala, they scale the ancient Mayan temples of Tikal.
In between tales of begging rides from total strangers and sleeping overnight in the jungle with an indigenous family, Janet endorses community-based travel—supporting local businesses and favoring public transportation called chicken buses. She also writes candidly about what it takes to travel long-term with two little girls amid the chaos of border crossings, erratic drivers, and creepy crawlies lurking at the edge of the jungle.


My Review

I was kindly sent a paperback copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Janet!

The full title of this book is Adventure by Chicken Bus – An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America. Unschooling is a practice favoured more and more these days of taking your kids out of the traditional school system and instead taking a more informal learning approach that advocates the child being taught via hands on, field trip type experiences, rather than textbooks and exams. It is well proven the children learn by doing, rather than by having to learn by wrote.

The Canadian family undertaking this amazing experience had always homeschooled their two young daughters but describing themselves as:

A bored, burnt our family in a lot of debt

they decided to go on the field trip of a lifetime by renting their house out, selling off all their belongings in yard sales and heading off to Central America for two years filled with amazing cultural and educational experiences.

I can only imagine how daunting this must have been, the idea of trying to keep a 6 and 8 year old safe in such unfamiliar countries would have terrified me. Luckily the girls proved to be very flexible and had the stamina to undergo long hikes in oppressive heat and humidity while carrying backpacks, without too much complaining.

The lust for life and for cultural experiences of this family is palpable. They had some amazing adventures: volunteering with turtle patrols, a harrowing journey to the monkey sanctuary of Mono Feliz, and volunteering at an indigenous people’s soup kitchen in the rainforest were some of them. They traveled across the terrifying “banana bridge” at the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama, where they had to stand on plywood over a rushing river, clinging for dear life to a chain link fence, while tractor trailers went rushing past them. They visited an archeological site, and the Mayan pyramids of Tikal in Guatemala (used as a location by the Star Wars movie franchise). They also learnt how to make cheese, chocolate and coconut oil.

Janet LoSole’s writing style is completely engaging and the tale is full of interesting snippets of information regarding how Costa Rican showers work, how monkeys are able to cross the road safely via their own rope bridges strung over the roads, how (not) to buy a bra in Central America and tips for keeping young children happy while on the road. Luckily, the girls seem to be extremely well behaved and patient and most of the people they encountered found them delightful.

I found this book very difficult to put down and therefore a quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who loves travel, who homeschools their children or who has an inkling that they might like to travel with their children in a less touristy way sometime in the future.

Visit the accompanying website to see the amazing photos taken by the family on their adventure: https://www.adventurebychickenbus.com

Add to your goodreads To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/50352740-adventure-by-chicken-bus

Buy Here:

www.amazon.com/Adventure-Chicken-Bus-Unschooling-Odyssey/dp/153268486X

www.amazon.co.uk/Adventure-Chicken-Bus-Unschooling-Odyssey/dp/153268486X


About the Author

Janet LoSole is a freelance writer living in Ontario, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Linguistics from York University in Toronto and a Bachelor of Education Degree from Nipissing University. She is a certified TESOL instructor and has taught ESL internationally since 1994. She began homeschooling her daughters in 1997. She writes about traveling with children and homeschooling. Her work has been published in: Canada’s Education Magazine, Natural Parent Magazine, The Alliance for Self-Directed Education, Outdoor Families Online, Unravel, and elsewhere.


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A Drowned Kingdom by P.L. Stuart

Book Description

Once Second Prince of the mightiest kingdom in the known world, Othrun now leads the last survivors of his exiled people into an uncertain future far across the Shimmering Sea from their ancestral home, now lost beneath the waves. With his Single God binding his knights to chivalric oaths, intent on wiping out idolatry and pagan worship, they will have to carve out a new kingdom on this mysterious continent―a continent that has for centuries been ravaged by warlords competing for supremacy and mages channeling the mystic powers of the elements―and unite the continent under godly rule.

With a troubled past, a cursed sword, and a mysterious spirit guiding him, Othrun means to be that ruler, and conquer all. But with kingdoms fated on the edge of spears, alliances and pagan magic, betrayal, doubt, and dangers await him at every turn. Othrun will be forced to confront the truths of all he believes in on his journey to become a king, and a legend.

When one kingdom drowns, a new one must rise in its place. So begins the saga of that kingdom, and the man who would rule it all.


My Review

I was kindly sent a Kindle version of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, thank you very much!

A Drowned Kingdom is written entirely from the perspective of Othrun, Second Prince of the island paradise, Atalantyx, son of King Atalan, The Falcon. Over the course of the first part of the novel Othrun shows himself to be a vain, snobbish bigot. A flawed, yet devout character, who we hope can change during the course of the novel.

Due to the first person perspective we only get to see the other characters through Othrun’s opinionated eyes, so it is difficult to form our own opinions of them. His dislike for his brother colours our feelings towards him; and Erthal’s wife, Dira, is only described in terms of her ability to seduce Erthal, persuade him to become pagan and in Othrun’s eyes bring about the ruin of the island.

The world building in this debut novel is extremely descriptive and very well done. It is clear from his descriptions of the land that Prince Othrun loves his kingdom dearly and misses it terribly when forced to be away. He describes everything in great detail, right down to the seasons and animals, weather and even the smells of his beloved country. The sovereign city of Atalantyx is the Circle City, which, unbeknownst to the majority of its citizens, is built around a dormant volcano, Mount Atalante.

There is a lot of historical detail given in terms of the line of succession and the courtly traditions, such as that of marrying one’s cousin in order to keep the bloodlines pure. The politics of the kingdom are also carefully explained to us by Othrun, in such a clever way that it kept me engaged through what potentially could have been less interesting sections of the story for me.

At the beginning of the main story (there is a prologue), Othrun and his older brother, First Prince Erthal have been sent by their father across the ocean to Norsoon on the continent of Acremia, hoping to plan a strategy for their father to overthrow the kings of the lands of Acremia. Instead Erthal is tricked into falling in love with, and promising to marry the pagan princess Dira in order that she not be sacrificed by her people. This episode shows us how much Othrun hates the heathens who do not worship his Single God. He has never met these foreigners before and does not understand their customs but despises them and longs only to be a part of his father’s plans to overthrow their kings and rule the continent of Acremia.

When Erthal falls in love with the pagan princess, Dira, bigotted Othrun is sickened to the core of his being and drives an immovable wedge between himself and his brother. His brother’s adoption of heathen practices, such as human sacrifice after marrying Dira lead Othrun and his allies to try and overthrow King Atalan and Erthal, his successor. Their failure leads to their banishment from the kingdom and ultimately saves their lives.

An angel appears to Othrun telling him he and his followers must leave the next day and also tells Othrun his father, the king, was actually never his biological father, but rather that the angel had visited his mother on behalf of the Single God and was his true father. Could this be the first sign of madness in Othrun? He himself is not entirely sure. Othrun is someone who certainly has a very high opinion of himself, despite being treated like a nobody by both King Atalan and First Prince Erthal throughout his life!

“He told me I was God’s chosen one. He told me that God directed him to create me, because with Anchali blood in me, I could be greater than other men. He told me that I would have the greatness to conquer all heathens and bring them under one devout king.”

Othrun

Thanks to the angel’s warning Othrun and 1800 other Atalanteans set sail the following morning for Eltnia. Much to their horror, as they sail away they witness the eruption of Mount Atalante, followed by an earthquake which splits the island in two, and a tidal wave causing the entire island to sink and everyone upon it to perish.

Othrun is convinced this was an act of his God – destroying the idol worship which had begun to take over the island and saving the 1800 people who worshipped Him. On they go, carried by the tidal wave’s aftermath towards Eltnia. Othrun intends to gradually take over the continent and sees the heathens living there as little better than animals. In his mind he is:

“The great Othrun, come to conquer”

Othrun

On the journey, Othrun sees the angel again and has a conversation regarding how he should proceed since his ally, King Wely of Lynchun is being joined in battle by Hor the Horrific of Carthleughe. The angel counsels him to educate the heathens in the way of ‘Combat of Champions’, which he does, and manages to kill the giant Hor and make an invaluable alliance with both Hor’s son King Hert and King Wely. Wely grants Othrun a new kingdom, The Golden Valley, to rule over in exchange for his aid in battle.

On the way to this land the three kings and their armies must overcome temptation from a beautiful mage, political intrigue and double crossing, a battle against an enormous army, a journey through labyrinthine caves, a possibly possessed sword, questioning of religious beliefs and unfriendly weather.

Thankfully all of this adversity and the trustworthy allies he finds in Wely and Hert help Othrun’s character to become less flawed. He develops an understanding and respect for the people he considered heathens and even begins to believe in their elemental magic.

The three kings plan their route hoping to avoid High King Ina’s Nyrimian army on the way to Othrun’s new kingdom. The prose in this section was so well written that even in the parts which had fairly long conversations about how best to grant Othrun a kingdom and the three kings planning their route through the mountains, which could have been somewhat dry, I found my interest was held.

The book ends on something of a cliffhanger and I am looking forward to finding out what happens to the three allied kings and how Othrun and the remaining Atalanteans fare as they try and settle in a new country with different beliefs and customs.

Add A Drowned Kingdom to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56493306-a-drowned-kingdom

Buy A Drowned Kingdom here:

US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08VS15WTR

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08VS15WTR


About the Author

Hi everyone! I’m P.L. Stuart! Nice to meet you! I’m a Canadian high fantasy author, of Ghanaian and Barbadian descent. I live in Chatham, Ontario, with my wife Debbie. “A Drowned Kingdom” is the first novel in “The Drowned Kingdom Saga.” 

I’m an experienced writer, in that I’ve been writing stories all my life, yet never thought to publish them. I’ve written informally – short stories – to entertain friends and family, for community newspapers, volunteer organization magazines, and of course formal papers for University. Now, later in life, I’ve published what I believe is a great fantasy novel, and definitely worth reading, called “A Drowned Kingdom”. 

My target audience is those who enjoy “high fantasy”. “A Drowned Kingdom” is not “dark fantasy”. It’s written in a more idealized and grandiose style that I hope isn’t too preachy, and not too grim.Still, I’m hoping my book has appeal to those who don’t typically read this type of work – those who don’t read fantasy of any kind – because of the “every-person” themes permeating the novel: dysfunctional familial relationships, extramarital temptation, racism, misogyny, catastrophic loss, religion, crisis of faith, elitism, self-confidence, PTSD, and more.

Many of these themes I have either personal experience with, or have friends or family who have dealt with such issues. I’ve had a long professional law enforcement career, undergone traumatic events, yet been buoyed by family, faith, and positivity. I’m a racialized middle-aged man. I’ve seen a lot of life.

Ultimately I want the planned series, of which “A Drowned Kingdom” will be the introduction, to be one of hope, and overcoming obstacles to succeed, which I believe is my story as well. 

My protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, change, and shape a continent. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, bigot, is vain, yet struggles with confidence. He’s patriarchal. Overall, he’s flawed. But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable. Ordinary people can make a difference, not just fictional Princes. I want that message to shine through my work.

I love to engage with readers and the Writing Community! Feel free to message me here on Goodreads if you wish to ask any questions about my writing, or to simply chat fantasy!

I am also active on Twitter! You can speak to me there @plstuartwrites! Take care, and have a wonderful day!

Visit P.L. Stuart at http://www.plstuart.com and follow @plstuartwrites on Twitter and Facebook.


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First Lines Friday – 19th February 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

This is the next book on my To Be Read list and I am excited to get started reading it. The author sent me a paperback copy in exchange for an honest review.

On the eve of the trip, I tossed and turned on my farting air mattress and worried. Visions of attacking crocodiles and venomous snakes weaseled into my brain. The empty house echoed around our sleeping bags laid out alongside small piles of clothes. Two years of planning had come down to this. Every possession sold. Jobs put on hold. Long goodbyes over. Are we ready for this?


And the book is…

Those were the first words from Adventures by Chicken Bus – An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America by Janet LoSole.

Description

Embarking on a homeschooling field trip to Central America is stressful enough, but add in perilous bridge crossings, trips to the hospital, and a lack of women’s underwear, and you have the makings of an Adventure by Chicken Bus. Buckling under a mountain of debt, Janet LoSole and her family are at their wits’ end. Determined to make a drastic change, they sell all worldly possessions and hit the road. With only a few items of clothing, a four-person tent, and little else, the family visits a sleepy island backwater in Costa Rica to save endangered sea turtles. In Panama, they bounce around like turnips in the back of a vegetable truck to reach an isolated monkey sanctuary. In Guatemala, they scale the ancient Mayan temples of Tikal. In between tales of begging rides from total strangers and sleeping overnight in the jungle with an indigenous family, Janet endorses community-based travel–supporting local businesses and favoring public transportation called chicken buses. She also writes candidly about what it takes to travel long-term with two little girls amid the chaos of border crossings, erratic drivers, and creepy crawlies lurking at the edge of the jungle. 


Add to your To Be Read list:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/50352740-adventure-by-chicken-bus

Buy Here:

US: www.amazon.com/Adventure-Chicken-Bus-Unschooling-Odyssey/dp/153268486X

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Adventure-Chicken-Bus-Unschooling-Odyssey/dp/153268486X


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Indie Spotlight – Starwing

Today on Indie Spotlight I would like to introduce you to Starwing.


Starwing is an author living in Finland, who was born and raised in Canada. Her debut novel, “Dreaming Your Dream” is dystopian science-fiction and is the first book in the “Machine Dreaming” series.

In addition to writing, Starwing also manages an indie record label and is a team member of the industrial rock band, The Fair Attempts. “Dreaming Your Dream” has a companion album called, “Dream Engine” by The Fair Attempts.


Contact Starwing here:

Website: http://www.starwingdigital.com/starwing/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StarwingDigital

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



Hello Starwing, welcome to my blog.

Dreaming Your Dream is your debut novel What made you decide to publish it independently?

I learned about independent publishing almost three decades ago by attending an informative lecture by a local author at the library in my hometown. He discussed the pros and cons that existed at the time, and I followed developments in indie publishing over the following years. When I decided to publish my debut novel (not the first one I wrote), I had already been managing an indie record label for a few years, so you could say there was no question for me! The opportunities for independent creators make it easier than ever for creative people to get their work directly to the audience without a middleman.

What do you see as the benefits of being an indie author?

The most obvious benefit is maintaining complete creative control. I like to write the stories that come to me, not the ones someone else wants me to create. It was especially important to me to maintain creative control over my debut novel because I wanted it to be illustrated, which meant I needed to choose the right artist to work with and also have control over every aspect of the art. Other important benefits are being able to set your own royalties by choosing the sale price of your books, and having control over the distribution of your work.

Those are all important aspects of maintaining control over your creativity. What challenges do indie authors face?

Promotion is the most significant challenge, I think. You need to discover what works for you and your book, and what doesn’t. You need to try various campaigns and test different ad copy, keywords, marketing strategies, and create eye-catching book ads for websites and social media—you can get advice on these things, but it’s mostly on you to learn for yourself.

What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

The first thing you need to know is what you want for your book: the formats you want to create, how you want to distribute your book, and which marketplaces you want to sell your book at. Once you know exactly what you want, it’s much easier to research your options and compare different services you can use for publishing your book. I wanted to create physical formats so readers could touch the artwork in the book, but I also wanted the option to create a Kindle ebook. For the printed books, I needed complete control over the book design and the ability to work through a test printing stage to make sure each of the illustrations had the correct light and dark levels when they were printed. Knowing my needs made it easy to narrow down my options. I had to use two publishing services to provide a Kindle edition, but I didn’t settle for less or what would be easiest.

What have you learned from being an indie author?

I learned that you can and should give your book a better launch by contacting book reviewers and sending ARCs to any who are interested and will be able to review your book in time for its release date. I also learned that there are many “promotional services” that exist to exploit indie authors—it’s far better to do the hard work than fall prey to scams. Truly, the amount of scams I’ve come across in the indie publishing world is even worse than the exploitation industry built around indie music!

It must be difficult to avoid all of those scams.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

While I’m writing the sequel to my debut novel, I will also be sharing some short stories on my website that are based in the same dystopian future—including some that take place prior to the timeframe of the book series, which explore the challenges of survival within that society at different stages of its development. I will also be collaborating on another album inspired by the events, characters and feelings of my next book. The cover art for all the singles and the album will feature my husband doing cosplay of the boogeyman I created for the books—participating in that visual art has me so excited! The album will be released in late autumn and is called “Signals.”

That’s all sounds exciting! I hope all goes well with your sequel and accompanying album and look forward to seeing more from you in the future. Thank you for joining me on my blog today!


Dreaming Your Dream – Book One of Machine Dreaming

This illustrated novel tells the tale of a dystopian future where, following a war that nearly devastated humanity, the survivors partnered with Artificial Intelligence to create a brighter future.

The people enjoy a virtual utopia every night by using interactive dream technology, but their computer-generated dreams are the only source of entertainment available. The AI determined that the root cause of all harmful human behaviours was uncontrolled emotions, but balanced, harmonious emotions are an integral aspect of wellness. It concluded that the only way to reliably achieve that was to eliminate emotion while a person was awake, then provide a safe way to experience the complete range of human emotions while engaged in dreaming.

The story follows a man who struggles to hide the fact that he can still feel a low level of emotions during the day. He must keep his secret emotions and his mind strictly controlled—through the use of meditation—but he continues to make that harder and harder to accomplish when his life is on the line.

Science Fiction / Dystopian]
Includes 50 Film Noir inspired illustrations by Melinda Maria Lack

Available at Amazon in print formats: https://amazon.com/Dreaming-Your-Dream-Starwing/dp/1034005421/ and for Kindle: https://amazon.com/dp/B08N6V2X9S/ It can be found on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56300088-dreaming-your-dream

Read my review of Dreaming Your Dream here


Artwork PreviewsIllustrations by Melinda Maria Lack

The 50 Film Noir inspired illustrations in Starwing’s novel Dreaming Your Dream go a long way to help build up the dark dystopian atmosphere of the story, with its characters all wearing gas masks as they go about their daily business in a world ravaged by war and robbed of oxygen.

Preview 1

This illustration features the main character, John, with a young girl he helped at the beginning of the story. They’re riding one of the self-driving busses that are used to get around the city. Gas masks are required outdoors—in part because humans severely damaged the environment of the planet, but the AI they turned to concluded that attempting to undo the damage was unnecessary and a waste of resources, so the environment was modified to reduce rust and damage to machines caused by oxygen.

Preview 2

This scene is from Celebration Day—the only “holiday” observed in society, which celebrates the formation of the partnership between humans and AI. The citizens are required to attend a gathering in their city to watch various presentations and receive gifts from the government. Despite being called a celebration, there is nothing festive about the gathering because the majority of attendees have no emotional awareness during the daytime.


Preview 3

This illustration features the Ruiner, a boogeyman from stories told to children to keep them from venturing into the ruins that surround the cities. The Ruiner is seen by John in one of his AI-generated dreams. John prefers to experience a randomly selected dream sequence rather than choose his own dreams. (The Ruiner character will become an important symbol of a secret society in the next book, which is why the costume will be used for upcoming art and music projects.)

Preview 4

This scene is one of my personal favourites and it’s from another one of John’s dreams. Most of the dream sequences in the novel include foreshadowing through dream symbolism, and water is a common motif because it relates to emotions. This dream comes up for John after a great deal of hardship and turmoil, and Melinda Maria Lack expertly captured the sense of comfort and tranquility conveyed by the dream sequence.

Author Website:http://www.starwingdigital.com/starwing/


Who’s Next on Indie Spotlight?

E.G. Radcliff is a part-time pooka and native of the Unseelie Court. She collects acorns, glass beads, and pretty rocks, and the crows outside her house know her as She Who Has Bread. Her fantasy novels are crafted in the dead of night after offering sacrifices of almonds and red wine to the writing-block deities.


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