Indie Author Spotlight: Anthea Sharp

Indie Author Spotlight: Anthea Sharp

Prolific and USA Today bestselling fantasy author Anthea Sharp has just released the hardcover edition of her Into the Darkwood Omnibus. (The ebook version is one of my current reads.) Since we are deep into the Indie Fantasy Addicts Summer Reading Challenge, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight this author.

I first found Anthea Sharp, an American author who lives in the Pacific Northwest, while online book shopping. White as Frost (The Darkwood Trilogy #1; a fairytale retelling, which we all know I love!) came up, and I thought the writing in the sample was excellent. Needless to say, I purchased.

Later, I posted in a FB group asking for indie author recommendations, and guess whose name came up? Anthea Sharp! She writes fairytale retellings, urban fantasy, steampunk and science fantasy, so there’s something there for a wide variety of readers.

While I’ve only just dipped my toe into one of her books (a complimentary copy of Into the Darkwood I received from Book of Matches Media after signing up for the book’s promo tour, a thing I do for bookish kicks!), she is beloved by many, and that’s why she’s the subject of my first indie author spotlight!

(Honestly, why didn’t I think of doing this ages ago?!)

Into the Darkwood
Into the Darkwood Omnibus is now available in hardcover

To learn more about this author, visit antheasharp.com.

Girl of Shadow and Glass cover reveal!

Not long ago, I made the decision to relaunch my Tara’s Necklace series ahead of book three. (No, I don’t have a release date in mind, sorry!) The first thing I did was commission brand new covers from MiblArt, and they absolutely NAILED what I wanted. The new cover of Girl of Shadow and Glass came out perfectly.

(And guess what? I think the new cover for Girl of Glass and Fury is even better!)

Each cover represents a different world in the portal fantasy series, visited by a narrator in each book. I’ll be sharing some of the new scenes from Girl of Shadow and Glass later, but first…

Girl of Shadow and Glass has a new synopsis!

Dare to dream. Live to defy.

I can’t remember the last time I dared to dream about anything—not about my future, never about love, and certainly not about the sorcery the ancestors left behind.

All that’s about to change.

Kith has spent each of her seventeen years being coddled by the wisps and semi-wisps of her world. Born physically fragile, her family, elders and neighbors have never allowed her the independent life she craves. It’s no wonder she looks forward to her brush with sorcery each morning. When she passes through an ancient gate to a neighboring world, the animal-like shadows are there to welcome her—and the shadows aren’t the coddling type.

Bound by treaty to feed and educate her, the magical shadows have become beloved teachers for Kith—until one of them makes a shocking decision. Kith must succeed at a new type of education: she must learn to run faster than a shadow or risk going hungry.

With the weight of an inter-world treaty on her shoulders–and encouragement from a young man with courtship on his mind—Kith sets out on a journey to become stronger, smarter and more independent, all within the bounds of her dying world and the body she was born with. Because as the last of her ancestors’ protective sorcery gives way, it’s no longer enough for Kith to defy the odds.

It’s time to live to defy.

Girl of Shadow and Glass cover

Isn’t it a beauty? I thought it captured the Sundown World perfectly.

You can find the new addition of Girl of Shadow Glass at your favorite retailer through this UBL (just make sure it has this cover–some retailers will take longer to update than others). Right now, it’s just $.99 USD!

Cheers!

-CKB

10 Questions with Chesney Infalt

10 Questions with Chesney Infalt

As the author of two fairytale retellings and a Victorian romance, indie fantasy author Chesney Infalt has a lot to say about writing, including her latest release, The Fox and the Briar (you can read my review here). I interviewed the author shortly before the Sleeping Beauty retelling debuted. Here’s what she had to say:

Your new Sleeping Beauty retelling, The Fox and the Briar, follows another, The Heart of the Sea. You’ve said you plan to write more fairytale retellings. Is there one particular fairytale you can’t wait to draw from?

I have a (long) planned list of fairytales I’m excited to write! Snow White is currently in the works, and I’m really looking forward to writing Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland.

As a nearly life-long Cheshire Cat fan, this may not be a question so much as a request. Can you tell me more about the Cheshire Cat and his role in Faerie?

In this series, the Cheshire Cat, although he is in everyone else’s business, keeps his secrets to himself. He seems to fancy himself as a sort of balance keeper for Faerie, adding just as much chaos as he does order. This is definitely not the last time you will see him—he enjoys annoying Toussaint far too much.

Author Chesney Infalt

You’ve also written Victorian romance with A Different Kind of Magic. What about that era speaks to you?

I think I love the aesthetic—the clothing, the societal expectations, the dances and parties. 

Do you think any of those Victorian sensibilities carry over into your romantic fairytale retellings?

I think so! Both stories mention the main characters having chaperones, and while the women in them are independent and strong-willed, society has expectations of them getting married to beneficial matches and starting families. 

Are there other eras you’d like to set a fantasy novel in?

I’d love to do a more medieval setting. I had a high fantasy series I started but am rewriting, and that setting is a lot closer to that era. Honestly, I am open to writing whatever era speaks to me. If the story calls for it, I am willing!

As I’m writing this question, I’m more than two-thirds of the way through The Fox and the Briar. Can you tell me why I’m rooting for Tristan, who is set up as the villain, to get the girl?! And was this the reaction you were hoping for?

In the beginning, The Unseelie King was not meant to be likable at all—but it’s not fun if the villain isn’t interesting. I started fleshing him out and giving him a reason for wanting to curse Briar Rose, and that evolved into me writing chapters from his perspective. One of my critique partners (the marvelous L V Russell) suggested early on that I add a prologue from his perspective, showing the curse being cast, and from then on, I adored him! (He is my favorite character from this series so far…) As for the romance… I didn’t ever see Tristan and Briar Rose having a romantic connection, although I figured some might see it that way. I think they are drawn to one another, but not as lovers. I hope the readers see and appreciate the complexity of both Tristan’s character and his connection to Briar Rose. 

Character art from The Fox and the Briar, depicting Tristan

Let’s talk crafting characters! I think Loren has such a Darcy-esque social unease and sweetness, but at the same time he is easily led by emotion. Tristan, meanwhile, is full of well-calculated plans and responses, yet has so much confidence and villain swagger! Did you always intend for the half-brothers to be such perfect opposites?

I love the way you described them! Their personalities developed as I wrote. Tristan was really easy for me to write, but one of my betas (the fantastic Katherine Macdonald) pointed out that Loren read a little flat at times, so I am grateful she helped me backtrack and flesh him out more. I like to find songs that remind me of my characters, and as soon as I realized that “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet perfectly captured Loren in my mind, he came alive to me in a whole new way. It was fascinating to see how these half-brothers deal with the sins of their parents and the roles they have been pressured into. 

There are plenty of misunderstandings between Briar Rose and Loren early in The Fox and the Briar, plus an arranged marriage trope. What are your favorite tropes to write about?

A few of my favorites:

    • Arranged Marriage/Marriage of Convenience

    • Fated Love

    • Friends-to-Lovers

    • Enemies-to-Lovers

    • Found Family

    • Redemption

You’ve shared on Instagram that you’re working on a Howl’s Moving Castle-inspired gothic fantasy. Can you tell me, I don’t know, everything about that?

I am so excited about that project! Howl’s Moving Castle has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so it really isn’t surprising that I got an idea inspired by it. I actually woke up from a nightmare, and instead of calming myself down and going back to sleep (it was 3 am!), the idea for a gothic romance began to form. I wasn’t done editing TFATB yet, so I didn’t let myself go further than jotting down notes and writing a blurb (and making a few moodboards) until after that was done.

I don’t want to say a ton about the project yet, but I’ll list a few things “The Magic Collector” will have:

    • Marriage of Convenience

    • Ghosts

    • Curses to break

    • Touch-starved MC

    • A castle that doesn’t like to stay in the same place (or time!) for very long

Thanks for joining me today! As a final question, I’d like to issue a challenge: please write a short story in 10 words or less.

Using my three wishes bound me in servitude.

Chesney Infalt is the author of The Heart of the Sea, A Different Kind of Magic and The Fox and the Briar. To learn more about Ms. Infalt, visit chesneyinfalt.com.

The Fox and the Briar release info

The Fox and the Briar review

The Fox and the Briar review

Note: I received a free ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

I’m so taken with this incredibly gentle, understated fantasy retelling! The Fox and the Briar is a fae retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a reserved, Darcy-esque fae prince who can’t seem to find the right words to tell his princess how he feels.

Fans of the miscommunication trope will like the initial premise. Those who don’t will be pleased (and maybe squee a little) when it ends with the first quarter or so of the story. There’s an arranged marriage, a prince in magical disguise and Tristan, a wicked fae king with boldness for days. And who doesn’t love a villain with swagger?

The Fox and the Briar cover

The more I read of Tristan, the more I loved this story. While the (loveably) bumbling Seelie prince can’t find the nerve to express himself, Unseelie King Tristan casually worries about keeping a courtier from falling in love with him. The guy’s got confidence.

I really liked where the story was left, and hope to hear more from the characters, just like characters from author Chesney Infalt’s previous retelling, The Heart of the Sea, make an appearance in The Fox and the Briar. And if the Cheshire Cat is involved–included here as a denizen of faerie–you know it has to be good.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, check out the interview, 10 Questions with Chesney Infalt (live 6/3/22), or visit chesneyinfalt.com.

Want more fairytale retellings?

Retellings to Thrill Any Fantasy Reader (review list with links)

Enchanting Fate review

Throne of Sand review

From Storm and Shadow cover reveal!

Yes to fae fantasy and unlikely allies!

From Storm and Shadow, by Rachel Morgan, is the first in a new series, Storm Fae, and set in the same world as her Creepy Hollow series. It’s also one of my favorite cover types, but we’ll get to that…

Giveaway and Deals

For a giveaway through Book of Matches Media, head to my Instagram page for details. Otherwise, you can pick up Ms. Morgan’s entire previous series, Creepy Hollow, for just $2.99 until tomorrow (May 31, 2022). And in case you’re wondering, there are nine books! Get the deal through this UBL.

Synopsis
Return to the beloved bestselling World of Guardians…
 
When Silver’s parents are murdered in front of her by the people she’s trusted for years, she flees the fae realm and begins a new life pretending to be human.
 
More than two years later, she believes she’s finally safe—until the night someone from the Guild shows up.
 
Ash.
 
The boy who was once her best friend. The boy who tried to kill her.
 
He’s on the run now as well, after discovering the same secret that led to Silver’s parents’ deaths. Or so he says.
 
The forest they grew up in has become a dangerous place, crawling with fae monsters, and Ash claims he needs Silver’s help. The discovery her parents made years ago could be the only thing to save their home.
 
Silver knows Ash is only using her—he’s a guardian, after all, and they’re the ones who took everything from her—but she can’t turn her back on the home she still loves.
 
And so she forms a fragile truce with the boy who broke her heart. Stepping back into the world she swore never to return to, she sets out on a dangerous path to unlock the secrets of the past.
 
But neither Silver nor Ash are prepared for the true horror of what they will find lurking in the shadows of Stormsdrift.
 

From Storm and Shadow can be purchased here. And now for the pretty picture…

From Storm and Shadow cover

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for ominous covers with blossoms.  Maybe it’s from my childhood The Secret Garden obsession, but I always want to dive on in!

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

-CKB

Atheist’s Angel review

A review of Atheist’s Angel by A. Velfman

Note: I received a free ARC and am voluntarily writing an honest review. Atheist’s Angel contains scenes of violence, child abuse, self-harm and torture.

I can honestly say I haven’t read another book like this! Atheist’s Angel delivers interesting takes on angels, djinn and Hades. It’s also darker than what I usually read, verging on grimdark without losing its hopeful message. It reminded me of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf.

At the beginning of Atheist’s Angel, human Gabriela rescues Tararus, a fallen angel in every sense of the word. Dropped into the affairs of angel-like celestials and gods, she’s forced into a bargain with Tararus and the god of punishment he serves. Thankfully, Tararus has already grown on her. She sees the good left in him that he can’t see in himself.

Atheist’s Angel book cover

The story really picks up when Gabriela ends up in Tararus’s old realm. Though early parts of the book felt slower due to dense language in the exposition, Gabriela’s sarcastic descriptions lift it. They also offer a welcome dose of humor in this often heavy story. One example: when speaking to a benevolent god “…her mortal self stood out like a forty-a-day smoker among vegan gym bunnies.”

I came very close to rating Atheist’s Angel higher (rounding up to 5 stars rather than 4 1/2) and would have if it leaned into the romance and emotion a bit more by the end. After all that darkness and suffering, I wanted a longer payoff. At least I have future books to look forward to for that, and I do expect good things. What could be more fun than watching the celestial and mundane human worlds collide?

My rating:
4.5/5

To learn more about this author, visit annavelfman.com.

Cover reveal for Weaver

I’m back with a cover reveal for the intriguing Weaver, by Tish Thawer. This is another cover reveal I’ve gotten to participate in thanks to Book of Matches Media, and the description really intrigued me. Weaver is described as a good fit for fans of Rachel Griffin, Holly Black and Adrienne Young. You can head to my Instagram to join the giveaway contest. I’ve also got some cover art I can share!

Synopsis:

Weaver character art
Character art for Weaver

The choice between love and magic is a dangerous thing.

He walked out of my dream, identifying himself only as the Weaver. In a black cloak, with eyes like stars, there was a shimmer to the way he moved. He was beautiful … Ethereal. And I was going to make him mine.

Alone for most of her life, Milly is determined to make the man of her dreams a reality. Using her hereditary magic, she sets out on a lifelong quest, entering a world of shadows and secrets. Little does she know, to possess his heart, she’ll have to give away her own … for the only way to love a Dream Weaver is to become his Queen of Nightmares.

Weaver arrives June 21, 2022. And now for that cover…

Weaver cover

Preorder Weaver from Amazon.

That’s all from me for now! Expect a new review on Friday.

Cheers,

-CKB

To learn more about this author, visit tishthawer.com.

Of Heists and Hexes review

If you like your fantasy romances extra spicy, my Of Heists and Hexes review is here! This is the first time I’ve read anything by S.L. Prater, and she certainly knows how to turn on the steam. Read on!

Of Heists and Hexes review graphic

Note: I received a free copy and have voluntarily written this honest review. Contains steamy open-door scenes, disturbing violent content and depictions of capital punishment.

Noah is an honest, likable sheriff. Robin is a witch and a thief on a mission to feed the people of Arm. The two are fated mates thanks to their magic, though Noah knows he should arrest her. The last thing he wants is for his young sister Marian and his nan to get caught up in Robin’s rebellion against the political status quo.

I loved the world-building, the witches and the cat and mouse game between Robin and Noah. Seeing Robin thwart him is genuine fun, and the tension, between them and throughout the kingdom, make it binge-worthy. There is a very serious side, too, as Noah brings depraved criminals to justice (the crimes are heartbreakingly real). Combined with depictions of poverty, these scenes show how broken their society is, because Noah and the witches are practically the only ones to do anything about it. With all he has to face, it is a challenge for Noah to be an honest law man.

Of Heists and Hexes book cover

I wish there’d been more in-person emotion between the two love interests. Much of the heart is in the form of notes, and when together they’re all heat (and yes, the heat level is VERY high). I was waiting for an emotional breakthrough to back the fated romance between these two that I never quite got, though they sometimes came close. I also thought the climax came up suddenly. Though the ending didn’t disappoint me, I’d invested enough in the characters that I wanted the epilogue to be longer, so I could learn the particulars of what they did next. And really, is that such a bad problem to have?

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit streetwitch.net.

10 Questions with author Anna Velfman

It’s high time I (virtually) sat down with the fantastic indie fantasy author Anna Velfman (Avalanche). With Atheist’s Angel, the first in a new romantic fantasy series, set to release on May 29, 2022 and a 99c promo for Icedancer (Pler Series #2) beginning today (April 15-22, 2022), there couldn’t be a more perfect time! And it so happened I had a lot of questions, especially where world-building is concerned.

For more info on the promo and an ARC reader opportunity, check out the special offers at the bottom of this post. But for now…

10 Questions with author Anna Velfman

Okay, I have to ask the obvious question first: your flagship series, the Pler Series, used to be the Pler Trilogy. Was there a key moment when you realized three books wouldn’t be enough?

Yes, about ¾ of the way through book two, Icedancer I realised the scope of the story was about to widen out. As this was my first series, I was learning about myself as much as the books and characters. As I made some major plot decisions, the entire world I had created cracked open and I suddenly had so many more options, options I was excited to explore.

When I started writing novels, I was also unsure if I could sustain writing. Three books seemed like a reasonable goal. As I am planning on releasing my fourth and fifth book this year, I decided to trust my instincts. The story needed more books.


How many books are you currently planning?

That’s a tough question. Pler series will probably end up with 6 books. Double what I was planning, but the creative process can be chaotic.

Anna Velfman
Author Anna Velfman

Could that change? Or might we see a spin-off at some point? (*cough cough* Lucas!)

Yes—I have so many potential ideas. Lanna’s brother has a story to tell, so does Lucas, but I also have an idea for characters based around the Haven Isles and pirates. I have a weakness for the found family trope, as well as stories of redemption and people finding how to accept themselves.

 

This spin-off ticks all those boxes—but it would require significant research. My nautical knowledge needs improvement. Also, pirates are fun to write, especially as the Empire is attempting to ‘civilise’ the region. It gives them something to kick against. Seriously, I need to find more time in the day to get all these books written!

In your latest book, Avalanche, readers got to see a lot more of the science fantasy underpinnings of the world. Did you always see Pler as a fantasy world with sci-fi elements, or was it the other way around?

Pler was always intended to be a science fantasy, but with the characters knowing so little about what went before, the first few books would be better classed as low fantasy. I am excited to get book four, Blizzard out in the world. Lanna meets rebels, decides on her level of involvement and the direction of change she wants to see. However, she is aware it is ancient technology that gives her the respect of these people and that is a blow to her ego. Book five will dive into true science fantasy because that is when she come’s up against Lucas’s people for the first time—but I can’t say much more on that, I must avoid spoilers.  


You got your start as a fan fiction writer. What lessons did you take with you when you began crafting your own worlds?

A developed solid writing habit. Being a fanfiction writer trained me how to sit and get words on the page. How to manage my time and how long it took me to produce a finished chapter.

Best lesson I learned, get as many eyes on my work as Icould. At one point, I had a team of volunteers checking every chapter. I got used to getting feedback and taking criticism. (Some of those reviewers were harsh!)

When I started writing for myself, I knew I needed feedback on my draft. I went to wattpad and joined book clubs. I went to scribophile and critiqued other authors’ work and others did the same for me. Slowly, I learned more about the craft of writing rather than just throwing sentences together. I read dozens of craft books, took notes, watched youtube videos and all the while I found other authors to talk to. SoSnowblind took four years, and I don’t know how many rewrites before it hit the bookshelves. I am faster now I know what I am doing!


We
have to
talk about your forthcoming romantic fantasy novel, Atheist’s Angel. On the surface, it appears to be completely different from the Pler Series. Are there any common threads between the two?

Well, they are very different, but they both centre around a woman who is somewhat lost. Both Lanna and Gabriela need to find their way in life and shape a future for themselves. The villains in both books also share similarities. I am fascinated by power and its corruptive influence. The Emperor in the Pler series and certain Gods in the Celestial series suffer from hubris and the arrogance that they know better than the little people.

Books by Anna Velfman
The Pler Series so far: Snowblind, Icedancer and Avalanche

There is certainly romance in the Pler Series, but always with politics and schemes getting in the way. How would you characterize the romance in Atheist’s Angel?

Much more healthy!

I did not want the Pler series to have a strong romantic subplotbecause it was more about Lanna finding her way in the world, making mistakes and learning to do better. Her romantic relationships turn fairly toxic, but that is all part of her finding she deserves better.

Atheist’s Angel is much more romance driven. Two people meet, are attracted to each other but an ocean of complicationsget in the way. They have a mission and a time limit. Despite all that, they draw out the best in each other, even when circumstances test them to the limit. It’s an action-packedslow burn that will be the start of a long running series focusing on a large cast with interconnected stories all featuring strong romance elements.


I’ve always loved the world-building in the Pler Series. It’s so imaginative! Was it challenging to write in a real-world setting for Atheist’s Angel?

Well without going into too many spoilers it starts in the real world, but soon moves elsewhere. It was a challenge to mesh the fantastical and normality in such a way that a reader can suspend their disbelief.

It opens with our conflicted hero, Tararus helping end a bloody conflict between his people and a demonic race. He ends up in our world and discovered by Gabriela. She’s soon sucked into his world and her whole perception of what reality is must shift. She lives in a multiverse, but only a select few humans can access it.

This gave me a lot of creative freedom. I do write the dialogue drafts with a writing partner. She prefers not to be involved with the rewrites into novels or any of the publicity, but half the ideas of character and setting are hers, I just take them and run with them. So, the worldbuilding is not all mine, it’s a joint effort and I think it’s all the richer for that.

Can you give us any hints about what we’ll see from your books in the future?

Atheist’s Angel cover
Atheist’s Angel will be released May 29, 2022

The next Pler book is ready for drafting, I will be starting it as soon as Atheist’s Angel is with my editor. We will get to see more of the continent and more of the issues Lanna only heard about in the palace- also the fan favourite, Lucas, gets to finally take centre stage with her, I honestly can’t wait to write him as a free entity and not trapped as he has been for three books.

The Celestial series has 7 possible books so far and counting. Myself and my writing partner have been working on these stories as a fun side project since 2018 and they were never intended to be seen by anyone but us… that was until I entered a contest with a novella based on Tararus and Gabriela’s adventures—10,000 people read it and it got shortlisted.

That was when we took it seriously and I decided these stories needed to be put out into the world as books. It’s been a long process of rewrites and agreeing on lore, magic systems and story direction, but it’s all come together finally. I’ve even had a developmental editor involved who worked for Pan Macmillan. These are also the longest books I have put out so far, over 100k but the people I have collaborated with have given me the confidence to pull this story together for a wider audience.

With each book, the universe expands. I’ve started a massive series bible just to keep track of all the races, places, languages, gods, religious and cultural details. I am really looking forward to getting these books out into the world and seeing what readers old and new think of them.


Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to answer my questions. I like to finish my interviews with a challenge: write a story in ten words or less!

Regrets? Not washing the blood off the blade.

Special Offers

Icedancer (Pler Series #2) is on sale for 99c from 4/15-4/22/22, and Snowblind (Pler Series #1) continues to be free. To purchase, please visit the Universal book link for Snowblind  and the UBL for Icedancer.

To become an ARC reader for Atheist’s Angel (the first 50 readers receive a free ebook and a book art postcard!), contact the author via her email (contact [at] annavelfman.com) or on social media (links can be found on annavelfman.com) prior to May 1, 2022.

Anna Velfman is the author of the Pler Series and the forthcoming Celestial Series. To learn more about this author, visit annavelfman.com.