Friday, June 23, 2023

Best Fantasy Books for Beginners

I may not have mentioned it lately, but I'm thrilled to be in one of the best professions in the world. Storytelling affects people in so many ways, and when I get an email saying, "Your books turned me onto fantasy, and now I'm devouring everything I can find," I can't help but smile.

Petrik Leo of Novel Notions does a great job introducing readers to new fantasy books and just did his second Best Fantasy Books for Beginners post. This is great for many reasons, but also because Petrik highlights so many self-published authors — many of whom I consider my friends (and hopefully, they feel the same way about me).

Petrik broke his recommendations into a number of groups, including:

  • Classic Epic Fantasy
  • Modern Epic Fantasy
  • Magic School Setting
  • Cozy and Urban Fantasy
  • Morally Gray Main Characters or Grimdark Fantasy
Here are all 20 books, and I'm proud to have one of mine included in the group.

Go watch Petrik's, video. He has a lot of insights. But to help you narrow down which books to try out first, I've included a handy-dandy chart below which will take you straight to Goodreads so you can check out the titles (just click the book covers), authors, who published them (pay particular attention to the "Self" ones as these are really the creme of their crop and really are worth checking out, and how many ratings and review each book has.

I hope you find this helpful, and I also have my fingers crossed that you'll find more authors to love. Oh, and thanks to Robin, who did all the hard work of putting the about montage of covers and this chart together.

  Title  Author    Publisher   Ratings   Reviews  
 M. L. Spencer Self3,877607
Ryan CahillSelf5,104725
 Raymond E. Fiest 
Janny Wurts
 Harper Voyager36,6871,107
  Michael J. Sullivan  Orbit36,1602,078
Anthony ReynoldsOrbit2,113419
Richard SwanOrbit5,4451,246
John GwynneOrbit27,7464,260
Domagoj Kurmaić
J. T. GreathouseGollancz1,897485
James IslingtonSaga Press1,239279
Dyrk AshtonSelf2,403499
Rachel AaronSelf12,8521,333
Travis BaldreeTor89,41018,695
  Christopher Buehlman  Tor15,8732,441
Michael R. Fletcher Harper Voyager 2,798534
Daniel T. JacksonSelf1,466411
Peter McLeanAce4,795879
Mike ShackleGollancz1,438285
Krystle MatarSelf322142
Nicolas LietzauSelf1,163329

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Recently I learned...

I'm generally oblivious about what's going on with regard to the sales of my books. A pretty good thing in general. It allows me to concentrate on writing new stuff.  But Robin feeds me information from time to time, and the last few days have brought a few revelations.

During this morning's coffee, I learned that Farilane and Nolyn are on the Mover and Shaker List. For those that don't know, it means sales of a particular title have really "picked up."

The cause for this recent rise is that yesterday we learned that the first two books in the Rise and Fall Trilogy are in Audible's 2-for-1 sale. Audible is a smart company, and the timing couldn't be better because we are less than two months away (54 days but who is counting?) from the release of Esrahaddon, the final book of the series. 

What's really interesting is that there are 500 books in this sale, and book #1 on this list isn't in that sale. so Nolyn and Farilane are outselling just about all of those titles (Book #3 is part of the sale). I'm taking a bit of pride in that, but maybe it's because so many people were waiting for the series to be completed before starting the series.

But Robin also put together a little graphic for me to post on Twitter:

And from that, I've learned that the first two books have had 10,523 ratings on Audible (10,526 as of today), so I guess there have been SOME people digging in before the final book was finished.

But are people liking the books? Well, Nolyn has a 4.7/5.0 rating, and some comments from the headers of the 5-star reviews have said: 

"A Great Beginning | He does it again | Loved it! | WOW | Just amazing!"

And Farilane has 4.8/5.0, and its comments are even better:

"Fantastic! | One of his best works yet. | Wow! One of MJS's best! | Outstanding story" 

So, I guess the answer to that is yes.  All this boils down to it's good from time to time to take a look around and see if spending all this time on the books is worth it. I mean, I'm enjoying myself, but it's good to know that others have (a) found the books and (b) like them.  So, thanks, all! Oh and for those who haven't picked up the books yet, save yourself some cash and get the first two for half price. The sale will end June 25, 2023 at 11:59 PM PT (US).  Just click here, or the images, to shop the sale.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023


When I was quite young (before I was able to read), my mother took me and my older sister to the local library. It only occurred to me recently that this wasn't done to instill a love of reading, but rather she couldn’t leave a child my age unattended at home. The trip was for my sister. Nevertheless, I was also allowed to borrow a book from the library—one of my own choosing. I couldn’t read, so the contents of the book didn’t matter, nor did the title. I was, instead, drawn to the cover, the size, the weight, and the feel of the book. I wish I could tell you the name of what I chose, but my memory is not that good, and besides, I couldn’t read, remember? What I do recall is that the book was all black, hardcover, and small. I still remember this, which should tell you a few things.

First, I like books, which will become even more apparent as this post continues. Second, I had a strange attraction to little black books, and I still do. When I was in eighth grade, my brother took me to his college bookstore as the school year began. I didn’t want the typical and cheap paper Duotang folders, or the big snap ring binders, or the Class A Winnebago, motorhome of the school supply world: "the Trapper Keeper," which was about to take the nations student body by storm. I wanted something different. So, of course, I was drawn to the little black legal pad folio.

I was a strange kid.

But today, I am struck by how much of my life revolves around books and little black notebooks. I have used Moleskins and now tend to employ Leuchttrum notebooks, all of which are little, and black. 

Of course, my fondness for books doesn’t begin and end with those that are little, black, and unreadable. I began collecting books the moment I started making a paycheck. Being a teenager, and earning only minimum wage, I had a tendency to browse used bookstores. I still do. Just a month ago, while I was in England, I browsed a tiny used book store near Merton College in Oxford, where Tolkien was a professor of English Language and Literature. It began to rain as my daughter, and I were exploring the college grounds, so we ducked into this little, ancient bookstore. The whole thing was perfectly Diagon Alley-ish. And as always happens in any bookstore, or fairy ring, if you step in for just a moment, you'll discover upon exiting that hours have passed.  

Over the many years, I must have purchased hundreds of old books. Just as I had borrowed that little black book from the library, some of the used books I obtained merely because they looked beautiful. Others, I hoped to one day have the chance to read. One of those was an old battered copy of A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway—a little black book. I took this on multiple camping and week-long canoe trips with friends in the hope of reading it. I threw it into backpacks and sacks and the bottom of an Alumacraft Canoe. I even used it as a coaster for a beer. I never got around to reading the thing…until the pandemic. 

Every year in the summer, I endeavor to read an old classic novel that I’ve never read. In the late summer of 2020, I spotted the old battered little black book sitting so patiently on my shelf. 

I picked it up, sat on the porch of my cabin, and with an alcoholic drink (obligatory for a Hemingway novel), I began to read. The novel, if you are unfamiliar, takes place during WWI, which got me thinking. There was another pandemic back then. The “Spanish flu” had devastated the world from 1918-1919. I was struck by how it was almost exactly one hundred years ago. As a result, I was curious about when A Farewell to Arms was first written. I flipped to the copywriter page, looking for the usual list of various printings, but all I found was this:

I was puzzled for a moment then it dawned on me. The book was first published in 1929, and this was the first edition. I had no idea. I was reading a book that was nearly a hundred years old about a time just after a pandemic while I was in one. The symmetry was fascinating. This got me wondering, and I went and checked another one of those old used books and discovered I have another Hemingway first edition. This one was For Whom the Bell Tolls (which I had read years before, but had never checked the copyright of.) 

Now, this last summer, my wife professed an interest in reading E.M. Forester’s A Passage to India. I had an old hardcover copy and purchased a new paperback so we might read together. Then we arranged for a very romantic—albeit nerdy—date. When one reads Hemingway, one is best served to have a glass of liquor and sit in the sun on the porch. When one reads Forester’s A Passage to India, one sits in the shade of the veranda and drinks tea. Thanks to a very kind gift from Will Wight and his team, I have a fancy-dancy tea brewer. So, for our date, and in an effort to encourage Robin to work less and enjoy life more, I set out the pair of books under the overhang along with some fruit, wafer cookies, and tea in the hopes of reading a chapter a day over the course of the summer. 

You must keep in mind the challenge here. Robin is a workaholic who doesn’t like to just sit. She also prefers to listen to books, and she hates tea—unless it is saturated in sugar. She and my daughter both prefer sweet drinks. As she is on a diet, I hoped a good tea and maybe a dash of cream might satisfy her. 

She took several enthusiastic swallows.

“You like the tea?” I asked 

She looked sheepish. “I’m really thirsty.”

Then she took a bite of the cookie and put it down. I tried one myself and understood why. They were quite stale. The wind picked up, and I looked at the sky to see darkening clouds as a summer storm moved in. This was going about as well as most dates I had invited women to. Still, we preserved, and luckily the chapter was short. 

Robin read the new Penguin Classics paperback, and I read the old hardcover. Robin found a footnote, flipped to the back, and also discovered a glossary. My copy had no footnotes and no glossary. There were other small differences as well. Some of the unusual contractions were replaced with more standard words. We ended up discussing the differences as I asked her the meanings of some of the Indian words used. And then Robin happened to ask if I knew when A Passage to India was originally written. I didn’t know, so I flipped to the copyright page. 

I see a trend forming. Today's "date" was canceled on account of rain and very cold weather. So we are huddled inside and are going to do something a bit more modern. Robin's shoulders are once more hurting and since our friend Bryce O'Conner tells us that "motion is the lotion," Robin is going to go rock climbing this evening - virtually, that is. Instead of old books and hot tea, it'll be virtual reality goggles and me making sure she doesn't knock over anything or fall while exercising her arms by climbing a mountain that is only pixels.

Oh, and bonus points go to anyone who can identify what bird the title of this post applies to. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

I have to admit, it's a little bit of an ego boost when you see your name mentioned in a Forbes article about Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, and Scott Lynch.  Sure, the shout-out is mainly because I write the full series before publishing the first book, but I'll take any mention I can get, especially when it's in such a mainstream place and next to such heavy-hitting authors.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Esrahaddon is trending on Audible


He all, Robin here. We are a little over two months away from the August 15th audiobook release of Esrahaddon. As this book will be something that both Riyria readers and the earlier books (Legends and Rise and Fall) will be interested in, I think it will be quite popular.  The fact that it's the #1 trending title in the Science Fiction and Fantasy category seems to bear that out.

If you haven't pre-ordered, yet, please do so from this link.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Huge Audiobook Sale - A great time to stock up on what you've missed!

 The release of the audiobook (and ebook) of Esrahaddon is just a few months away (August 15th), and this is the book that completes the entire 3,000 year story arc for the 19 books based in Elan. 

This book, more than any other, is the cornerstone that ties everything together and solves many of the dangling mysteries from all the books, including Riyria, Legends, and Rise and Fall. As such, it's sure to be the most anticipated book to date.  Now, I know not everyone has read all the books (after all, 19 is A LOT of novels), but if you do want to see the full tapestry (rather than just a corner), and you enjoy hearing Tim Gerard Reynold spin the tales, then I have great news for you. Audible is having a sale and you can pick up any of your missing Elan books for just a fraction of what they would normally cost.

While a credit usually costs $14.95, because of this sale you can get all 19 books for the equivalent cost of a few credits.  Some sample savings:
  • Riyria Revelations -  6 books - $15.33 - just a little over the price of 1 credit
  • Riyria Chronicles - 4 books - $12.99 - less than 1 credit
  • Legends of the First Empire - 6 books  -$25.68 - less than 2 credits
  • Rise and Fall - 2 currently released books - $10.55 - less than 1 credit
Even if have none of the audiobooks you could get all 18 of the released titles for just $64.46. That would normally cost you $224.25.  So that's a savings of more 70%!

Hopefully, your collection only has a few holes here and there, so I've listed all the books below. Just click on the cover to go to the page to purchase at these deep discounts. But you have to hurry - The sale ends June 9th!

  Title    Sale Price     Savings  Series  Book  
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations    1 & 2 
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations     3 & 4
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations    5 & 6
$3.4185%   Riyria Chronicles   1
$3.4185%   Riyria Chronicles   2
$3.0485%   Riyria Chronicles   3
$3.0485%   Riyria Chronicles   4
$4.9085% Legends of the First Empire  1
$5.3985% Legends of the First Empire  2
$4.9085% Legends of the First Empire  3
$4.4185%   Legends of the First Empire  4
$3.0485% Legends of the First Empire  5
$3.0485% Legends of the First Empire  6
$6.2985% The Rise and Fall 1
$4.2685% The Rise and Fall 2