Thursday, 18 June 2020


One of the questions I'm most often asked in the gazillion blog interviews I've done is (second only to "Where do you get your ideas?"):

What are your influences?

It's a question I've always had difficulty answering and am saved from mainly by being able to point at two very clear influences for my first two trilogies.

Let's note that influence comes in many forms, not least: writing style, characters, ideas/topics, and  book structure.

For Prince of Thorns I'm able to point squarely at A Clockwork Orange (Burgess, 1962)  - at the top level Jorg is very like Burgess' main character, Alex. Also the idea of having a gang, and some of the early road-speak are also products of that influence.

For Prince of Fools I can point at Flashman (MacDonald Fraser, 1969) - Jalan is strongly influenced by the eponymous main character, Flashman, who MacDonald Fraser lifted (name and all) from Tom Brown's Schooldays (Hughes, 1857). So that's more than a century and half of non-fantasy influence behind Jalan's character right there!

Beyond that though, when it comes to all those other aspects, plot, style, world building, etc - whilst I am sure to have been influenced by all the things I've read and seen, I can't lay my finger on the name of an author or book or film and cite them as specific influences. I've no idea. It's like asking me to taste Worcestershire sauce and name the ingredients.

I was 'influenced' to write this blog post by an article in The Telegraph newspaper claiming that fantasy fans had always had a problem with JK Rowling, and that they were enraged (long before any statements on trans people) by her failure to acknowledge her fantasy influences. And in fact by her belief at one point (which has echoes of Terry Goodkind in it) that she wasn't writing fantasy. Moreover she didn't seem to have a particularly high opinion of fantasy and cited a non-fantasy author as her main influence. (And as you'll note above - I've done just that. Twice.)

The newspaper quoted Ursula Le Guin, the parent of magic-schools in fiction:

So, then, what’s the difference between being influenced by a body of work and admitting it, and being influenced by a body of work and not admitting it?
This last is the situation, as I see it, between my A Wizard of Earthsea and J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter. I didn’t originate the idea of a school for wizards — if anybody did it was T.H.White, though he did it in single throwaway line and didn’t develop it. I was the first to do that. Years later, Rowling took the idea and developed it along other lines. She didn't plagiarize. She didn’t copy anything. Her book, in fact, could hardly be more different from mine, in style, spirit, everything. The only thing that rankles me is her apparent reluctance to admit that she ever learned anything from other writers. When ignorant critics praised her wonderful originality in inventing the idea of a wizards’ school, and some of them even seemed to believe that she had invented fantasy, she let them do so. This, I think, was ungenerous, and in the long run unwise."

Le Guin

Rowling could also have been influenced by the popular series The Worst Witch (Murphy, 1974) which centred on a magic school, or by several less popular books that also told tales of wizards at school. Hell, Malory Towers (Blyton, 1946) had a boarding school that you got on a special train to reach and that immediately allocated you to one of four towers...

The thing here is that both Rowling and Le Guin are right to a degree.

It's entirely possible that Rowling had read none of these books, and was even wholly unaware of their existence. At the time Prince of Thorns was published I hadn't read or heard of Pat Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Stephen Erikson, R Scott Bakker, or Scott Lynch. I had literally no name recognition for any of these guys. I still haven't read a book by Cook or Abercombie.

So, enraged as fantasy fans may or may not have been at her lack of acknowledgment of Le Guin or T.H White, or Jill Murphy ... how could she acknowledge people she may never have even heard of? One of the very first things I saw about myself online was something to the effect of "he's obviously inspired by Abercrombie". My mind immediately went (with puzzlement) to Abercrombie and Fitch.

On the other hand, it's very likely that JK Rowling was influenced by writers like White, Le Guin, and Murphy indirectly. Once the idea of a wizard school was out of the box it became part of the public imagination. It might have passed JKR by in conversation, in a cartoon, in a reference, a throw away line in a TV show ... anything. And the tiny seed planted in her mind would have no remembered genealogy by the time it flowered on the page years later. And perhaps with hindsight she could have acknowledged that - though there's always the chance that she independently came up with the idea like Le Guin &/or White. And then she would falsely be downgrading her originality on the chance that an unremembered prompt sparked her to the idea.

All of which is to say that "What are your influences?" is a very tricky question and any answer stands the chance of pissing off someone somewhere!

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

The Sword of Kaigen wins the prestigious SBFBO Selfie Stick!

Seldom has a literary award doled out a more prestigious and less obviously Dumbledorean trophy than the #SPFBO!

This year's winner of the SELFIE STICK (a trophy which can do actual magic*) is M.L Wang's The Sword of Kaigen.

I'll be sending this M.L's way and hopefully we'll get a photo I can add here.

*cannot do actual magic.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

SPFBO 6 Cover Contest

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog chooses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are - though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

We did this in 201920182017 & 2016 too.

The judges' cover champions!

Gold Medal!
9 votes

Cover by Damonza

Silver Medal
7 votes

Artist: Jenny Zemanck

Bronze Medal
6 votes

Artist: Amir Zand

3 votes:
2 votes:

1 vote:

Winners of the public poll:


Cover by Damonza


Artist: Pen Astridge


ArtistJenny Zemanck


Fantasy Book Critic

Lynn's Book Blog


Kitty G

Weatherwax Report

The Fantasy Hive

Rockstarlit Book Asylum

The Critiquing Chemist

The Fantasy Inn

Note, the poll linked below has anti-cheat software that generates reports which will be taken into consideration at the end of polling.

Vote for as many covers as you like - more than one would be good.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

SPFBO 6 - Phase 1

This page is for phase 1 of SPFBO 6  -  read more about the contest here.

Check out the cover contest here.

Phase 1

The traditional wordle made from all the titles:

And the traditional gender breakdown based only on assumption given the name:

These are the provisional assignments:
And here are most of them on a Goodreads list thanks to Hiu Gregg.

From the list I discovered that:
34 entries ~10% have 100+ ratings on Goodreads.
 100 of the entries have 25+ ratings.
 6 of the books were published 10 or more years ago - the oldest is 20 years old!
 4 of the books have more than 1,000 pages. The longest is 1,939 pages!
 3 of the books have over a 1,000 ratings, the most ratings is 5,834.


Limbo is reviewed on The Critiquing Chemist.
Fantasy Book Critic interview E.G Radcliff.
The Critiquing Chemist swing their axe again.
Booknest review A Brush With Vampires.
Lynn swings her axe - five books fall.
Bear Cavalry reviewed on Booknest.
Fantasy Book Critic pick a semi-finalist and cull some titles.
The Critiquing Chemist critiques Wynter's Edge.
The Fantasy Inn reviews A Dream Of Fire.
The Ninth Knight is reviewed on Booknest.
The Moonflower is reviewed on The Fantasy Inn.
First cuts on The Critiquing Chemist.
Booknest review Bull And The Goblin Raid.
More cuts on the Weatherwax Report.
Weatherwax Report reports on A King's Bargain.
Them Weatherwaxers review The Souls' Abyss.
Fade is reviewed on The Weatherwax Report.
The Wrack is reviewed on The Weatherwax report.
The Weatherwax Report swings the axe.
The Weatherwax Report liked Last Memoria.
Booknest review Blackbirds Sing.
Three titles cut by the Weatherwax Report.
The Weatherwax Report reviews Eye of Obscurance.

273 of 300 still in the running!
red = cut
greenish = semifinalist (also marked with + )
bold green = finalist


1 Patrick Samphire Shadow of a Dead God
1 Clara Coulson A Knight of Cold Graves
1 Gareth Lewis Tales of the Thief-City
1 David Combs Ascension: The Witches of Pioneer Vale Book 1
1 A D Green Rivers Run Red
1 Joshua Smith Immortals
1 Joan Lightning Falling Shadows. Guardians of Reyth Volue 1
1 Russell Meek The Madness of Hallen
1 Myn Aunsoo CONFUNDO ET TRANSFIGURO Of Dreams, Hunger, and the Hunt...and Vampires
1 Stephen Murray The Longest Shadow
1 Todd Maternowski Exmortus: Towers of Dawn
1 Michele Amitrani Lord of Time
1 Chris Behrsin Dragonseer
1 A B Endacott The Ruthless Land
1 J. M. Hemmings Path of the Tiger
1 Allegra Pescatore Where Shadows Lie
1 Ono Ekeh The Clay Queen
1 Brian D. Anderson Dragonvein (Book One)
1 Skyla Dawn Cameron Solomon's Seal
1 Sladen C. Mire Kurmaru
1 Willem Neill Embered Soul
1 Benjamin Medrano Ancient Ruins
1 Matthew Sylvester Hell Hound
1 Andy Peloquin Shields in Shadow (The Silent Champions Book 1)
1 Lesli Evans Keepers of Arden: The Brothers V1
1 Vincent B. Moneymaker Dragons, Knights & Dinosaurs
1 Miri C. Golden Land of Perpetual Night
1 Elana A. Mugdan Dragon Speaker
1 Emilie Knight Era of Undying
1 Toby Frost Blood Under Water

Fantasy Book Critic

2 Brandon M. Lindsay Shoreseeker
2 David Samuels I, Exile
2 Cully Mack A Voice That Thunders
2 R.D. Henderson Death of the Invisible Financier
2 Florien St John A Locket of No Particular Significance
2 Ryan Howse The Alchemy Dirge
2 Bharat Krishnan Oasis
2 Jason J. Nugent The Blood Stone: Curse of the Drakku Book One
2 E.G. Radcliff The Hidden King +
2 Darian Smith Currents of Change
2 Astrid V.J. Aspiring, Part 1 of the Siblings' Tale
2 Jenny Schwartz Stray Magic
2 Joseph Daniel Graveyard Gods
2 D. T. Kane Bladesorrow
2 Skye Horn Wings of Fate
2 Deborah Makarios The Wound of Words
2 J.A. Clement The Dragons Teeth
2 Alexander Darwin The Combat Codes
2 Joel Spriggs Another Dead Intern
2 Miranda Honfleur & Nicolette Andrews Feast of the Mother
2 Travis M. Riddle Spit and Song
2 K.A. Ashcomb Worth of Luck
2 Claire Boston The Assassin's Gift
2 Christopher Keene Cycle of Blades
2 Danielle Mathieson Pederson Lasera ~ Book One of The Mer Archives
2 Dominic Adler Timberwolf
2 Kristen S. Walker The Reluctant Witch: Year One (Santa Cruz Witch Academy #1)
2 Geetha Krishnan Pradyutita
2 Todd Herzman A Dark Inheritance (Hollow Fate Book 1)
2 Jonatan Håkansson Bloodline: Rise

Lynn's Book Blog

3 Steve Thomas Mid-Lich Crisis
3 Benedict Patrick The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon
3 Jon Monson Rise of the Forgotten Sun
3 Lola Ford Heartscale
3 Crystal Crawford The Edge of Nothing
3 Anthony Stevens Shifter Shadows
3 Stacey Trombley Trial of Thorns
3 Tony Johnson The Story of Evil - A Hero's Downfall
3 Jordan J. Scavone Night Warrior
3 Stephanie Barr The Curse of the Jenri
3 Patrick LeClerc Spitting Image
3 Andrew Marc Rowe The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star
3 Marina Ermakova Chains Carried on Wings
3 ML Spencer Chains of Blood
3 Ashley Capes The Five Furies of Heaven
3 Joseph O. Doran The Child of Silence
3 Shami Stovall Knightmare Arcanist
3 Rachel Neumeier TUYO
3 Jon Herrera Emma and the Minotaur
3 Evan Witmer Long Stories: early immortals and the birth of death
3 Blake Arthur Peel Ranger's Oath
3 Mark Hood Jacob's War
3 T. A. Hernandez Calico Thunder Rides Again
3 M. Warren Askins Beyond the Spire of Navarene
3 Aaron Hodges Warbringer
3 G.E. Hathaway Burn   
3 Mitchell Hogan Incursion
3 James Alderdice The Usurper
3 Zack Argyle Voice of War


4 Justin Lee Anderson The Lost War
4 Allan N. Packer The Stone of Knowing
4 R. Dugan The Chaos Circus
4 Stephen James Wright The Ninth Knight
4 Tim Frankovich Until All Curses Are Lifted
4 Sarah Lin The Brightest Shadow
4 Anthea Sharp Star Compass
4 Olivia Atwater Half a Soul
4 Justin DePaoli Auring's Wrath
4 John Bailey Dire
4 Chris Ing Heart and Soul Fist
4 RT Mulder Architect: Book One of Calamity's Window
4 Betsy Flak A Brush with Vampires
4 Marion Blackwood A Storm of Silver and Ash
4 Emily Mah Chasing Sunrise
4 JA Andrews Dragon's Reach
4 Catrin Russell The Power of Conviction (The Prime Series, book #1)
4 Aiki Flinthart Blackbirds Sing
4 Anne C. Miles Sorrowfish
4 K.M. Weiland Wayfarer
4 Clayton Snyder The Obsidian Psalm
4 Jesse Nolan Bailey The Jealousy of Jalice
4 D.G. Valdron The Bear Cavalry
4 H.R. van Adel Covenant of Blood
4 Liz Delton Meadowcity
4 Tameri Etherton Dragon Mage
4 Aaron Bunce The Delving
4 Matt Heppe Bull and the Goblin Raid
4 Steven Smith Kingdom of Aces - Ruby Edition
4 Jeanne Marcella The Phoenix Embryo

Kitty G

5 Ryan Kirk The Gate Beyond Oblivion
5 Jesse Teller Legends of the Exiles
5 Jay Veloso Batista Thorfinn and the Witch's Curse
5 G. Campbell Dames and Demons
5 Lori L. MacLaughlin Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble
5 Matt Larkin Darkness Forged
5 John D. Pepe The Lone Wolf
5 Rachel Medhurst Shrouded Kingdom
5 Melissa Wright Frey
5 Ryan D Meier Shadows of Creation
5 Natalya Capello Song of Shadow
5 Mandy and G.D. Burkhead The Black Lily
5 L.E. Price Paradise Clash: Bounty Hunter
5 Jodi Trask Telluria
5 N A K Baldron Sorcerer's Quest
5 Taylor Aston White Witch's Sorrow
5 Dorian Graves Bones and Bourbon
5 Keith Blenman The Girl Drank Poison
5 Tiger Hebert Dragon's Fire
5 Douglas Bain The Woeful Wager, book 1 of The Race to the Blackened Nevers
5 Margaret Mason The Wall
5 Shan R.K House Of Legions
5 Sam Puma The Serpent and the Crown
5 Glenn Birmingham Dragon Source
5 Antoine Bandele By Sea & Sky
5 Anela Deen Night Latch (The Locksmith Duology #1)
5 Rohan M. Vider Free Agent
5 Jesikah Sundin Æroreh
5 Paul Freeman Blood Of Kings: The Shadow Mage
5 C.D. Alexander O+C121:E150n Winter's Eve

Weatherwax Report

6 Phil Williams Aftan Whispers
6 Allen Stroud The Sword of Wisimir
6 E. G. Bateman Fade
6 J.M. Bergen Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows
6 Fiona Jeeves Burning Embers
6 Christopher C. Fuchs Lords of Deception 
6 Nerine Dorman Inkarna
6 J.R. Ford Storm's Breath
6 Jeffrey L. Kohanek Eye of Obscurance
6 J.D.L. Rosell A King's Bargain 
6 Elle Cardy Wielder's Prize
6 Deborah Grace White Heir of the Curse
6 Rogan Feltmate Night of the Bloody Tines: A Dark Fantasy Epic
6 Steve Curry Austin Wyrd
6 Kristen Gupton The Phoenix Prince
6 Morten W. Simonsen Fire Within
6 E.G. Stone The One Who Could Not Fly
6 Jed Herne Across the Broken Stars
6 E. D. Lazure Of fractured lands and sundered dreams
6 Jamie Edmundson Og-Grim-Dog: The Three-Headed Ogre
6 Gordon Greenhill Flight of the SkyCricket
6 Rachel Emma Shaw Last Memoria
6 SC Gowland The Souls' Abyss
6 H.C. Harrington Daughter of Havenglade
6 TJ Muir Stolen Luck
6 Z. Apollo & M.J. Northwood Birth Of The Dawnhawk
6 John Bierce The Wrack
6 Peter Thomson The Servant's Story
6 Jason James King The Lure of Fools
6 Gabriel NEON RED I - Shimon of the Stars

The Fantasy Hive

7 J E Thompson A New Beginning
7 Meg MacDonald Oath Sworn
7 Megan Haskell Forged in Shadow
7 Jake Kerr Tommy Black and the Staff of Light
7 Erik A. Otto A Tale of Infidels
7 Selina R. Gonzalez Prince of Shadow and Ash (The Mercenary and the Mage #1)
7 Sharon Van Orman Lazarus Code: A First Family Sage
7 M. J. Padgett Eiagan's Winter
7 Marc Vun Kannon Unbinding The Stone
7 Caren Hahn Burden of Power
7 Suzannah Rowntree A Wind from the Wilderness
7 Robert Zangari A Prince's Errand, Book One of Tales of the Amulet
7 Angela J. Ford Pawn
7 Marco Marek Hyperearth
7 Marc Secchia The Pygmy Dragon
7 Samuel Gately The Headlock of Destiny
7 Simon Kewin Hedge Witch
7 Timandra Whitecastle Queens of the Wyrd
7 Dustin Porta Whalemoon
7 Derek Prior Last of the Exalted
7 Kate Ramsey Finding Fairy Tales
7 Madolyn Rogers The Copper Assassin
7 Kai Greenwood Code of the Communer
7 Antonio Roberts Vestige: Rise of the Pureblood
7 R.J. Batla Fire Eyes Awakened
7 Stas Borodin Magic, Sorcery and Witchcraft
7 Olga Werby God of Small Affairs
7 Alexzander Christion By the Hand of Dragons: AlinGuard
7 J.J. Coffelt Nightfall: Blessing of Fury Book I
7 E.B. Brooks Emissary

Rockstarlit Book Asylum

8 Clare Sager Beneath Black Sails
8 T K P Sternberg The Singing Gold
8 Dave Dobson Flames Over Frosthelm
8 Rainbow Maccabre Political Nightmare
8 Ginger Li Half-Blood Mage
8 Michelle Connor Where Ravens Soar
8 D.H. Willison Harpyness is Only Skin Deep
8 stuart kurth Two Blades
8 T.L. Branson Sworn Guardian
8 D.K. Holmberg The Edge of Darkness
8 S.L Rowland Sentenced to Troll
8 Ela Bambust Demon Queen
8 Nicholas McIntire The Hunter's Gambit. Book 1 of the Archanium Codex
8 Scott Warren The Dragon's Banker
8 Eric T Knight The Knights of Dragonwatch
8 Gracen Bridges Earthcore: Aftershocks
8 Michael R. Fletcher Black Stone Heart
8 Chris R. Underwood Shadow of the Lantern Bearer
8 Edward Nile Ironshield
8 Amanda Fleet Aegyir Rises
8 Jennifer R. Povey Firewing
8 Jonathan Pembroke Rumble in Woodhollow
8 C M Debell Silver Mage
8 Bekah Berge The Whisperings in the Shadows
8 S. Kaeth Between Starfalls; Book One of Children of the Nexus
8 Eric Sparks Truth Unearthed
8 Brett Humphrey Awakening-Dragonborn Book 1
8 E.L. Aldryc My Friend, The Gifted: A Sci-Fantasy
8 Lily Lashley Epilogue

The Critiquing Chemist

9 Sarah Chorn Of Honey and Wildfires
9 Vichet Ou The First Rule of Adventuring
9 Susana Imaginário Wyrd Gods
9 RJ Hanson Fires that Forge (Book I of the Lords of Order & Chaos Series)
9 Edie James The Steel Road
9 JC Kang Crown of the Sundered Empire
9 Thiago d'Evecque Limbo
9 Andy Giesler The Nothing Within
9 Rachel Ford Squire Derel
9 Luke Daher First Steps
9 Judith Starkston Priestess of Ishana
9 Xina Marie Uhl Necropolis
9 Opal Edgar Tosho is Dead
9 M.K.Adams Child of Destiny
9 Jason Franks Shadowmancy
9 Celine Jeanjean The Bloodless Assassin
9 B. Morris Allen Susurrus
9 Lucas Pederson Wynter's Edge
9 raymond st. elmo The Origin of Birds in The Footprints of Writing
9 Blake Severson The Dimensional Wars, Dravincia
9 Nicole Zoltack Bloodlust
9 Robert H. Fleming The Fall of Erlon
9 Brittni Chenelle The Fae & The Fallen
9 Sean Crow Godless Lands
9 Yvette Bostic Magister's Bane
9 Selina J. Eckert This Cursed Flame
9 Barbara G.Tarn Magical Friends
9 Chris McMahon The Calvanni
9 A.G. Marshall Princess of Shadows
9Staś RollaThe Owl at The End of The World

The Fantasy Inn

10 Kim May The Moonflower
10 Aldrea Alien To Target the Heart
10 David Hambling War of the God Queen
10 Richard Switzer Patch and Max: a grimdark
10 J. Rushing RADIO
10 Phillip Murrell Augury Answered
10 Jennifer Silverwood Silver Hollow (Borderlands Saga #1)
10 J. Anthony Oaks The Emerald Brotherhood
10 Gerhard Gehrke Midnight Monster Club
10 David Viergutz The Demonic Compendium
10 Mike Truk The Five Trials
10 J.R. Rasmussen A Dream of Fire
10 Brandon Jones The Broken Man
10 JL Rothstein Atonement Heaven Sent Book One
10 Kirk Dougal Legacy of Bones
10 Blake Michael Nelson The Demon in the Metal
10 J.P. Valentine The Nothing Mage
10 Billie Kowalewski Enlightened
10 Timothy S Currey Death of the Tree Path
10 Jason A. Holt Fighter Fred and the Dungeon of Doom
10 Stephen J. Ethier The Void Revealed
10 Lori Holmes The Forbidden
10 G.M. White The Swordsman's Lament
10 David Folker Relentless
10 Kevin Wright The Last Benediction in Steel
10 Mark Johnson The Renegade Within
10 Shaun Paul Stevens Nether Light
10 J.T. Williams Of Shadows and Blood
10 Moud Adel The Forbidden Warriors
10 Paul J Bennett Ashes