My Top Reads of 2019

I read 41 books this year, 16 were non-fiction, 25 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my favorites.

FICTION

Words of Radiance (Stormlight #2) – Brandon Sanderson

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It is no exaggeration to say that the Stormlight Archive is one of the biggest things happening in Epic Fantasy right now. If you like thick doorstopper tomes, you really cannot beat this series. The plot and world building are incredible, and the world of Roshar is populated by complex and fascinating characters. I can’t recommend this series enough, and things just get better and better as the story goes on.

 

 

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

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This contemporary fantasy combines two things I never knew I wanted: Yale secret societies and dark magic. Combine that with a badass heroine with a complicated past, in the vein of Lizbeth Salander or Jessica Jones, and you have one of the best new books of the year. Don’t believe me? It was the Goodreads Choice Winner for Fantasy, and it deserved it. Looking forward to more in this series.

 

 

The Crimson Queen – Alec Hutson

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Hutson combines the boy-from-a-village-who-goes-on-a-journey trope, and takes it in some fantastic new directions, which makes it feel familiar yet very fresh. Combine that with rich language, a vivid setting, a mysterious sorceress, and a delightfully devious goddess, and you have the beginning of an outstanding trilogy. And the audiobook is excellent too.

 

 

Honorable Mentions: 

Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Unsouled – Will Wight

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

 

Non-Fiction

Educated – Tara Westover 

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Westover’s story of growing up in a radical fundamentalist home in rural Idaho was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I read it in three days. Which is very fast for me during the school year. I couldn’t put it down. She is a remarkable person and writer, and she has an incredible story to tell. My only complaint is that the cover does not do it justice. It looks like a teacher book, but it is about family, survival, radical beliefs, and the power of learning to think for yourself. This is my Book of the Year.

 

The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell

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In the realms of mythology and religion, few people had more impact in the 20th century than Joseph Campbell. This book is essentially an uncut transcript of the Bill Moyers’ interview that aired on PBS in the 80s. It is incredibly deep and fascinating, as Campbell and Moyers discuss the big common ideas shared by humanity over the millennia. The PBS special is great viewing, but there is even more to digest in book form.

 

 

The Push – Tommy Caldwell

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Arguably the best big wall rock climber in the world, Caldwell recounts his career up through his historic ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, which had been previously thought to be unclimbable. Caldwell is one of the hardest working athletes out there, but he also has much to say about life, love, family, and navigating the boundaries between risk and adventure.

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Alone on the Wall – Alex Honnold

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

No Impact Man – Colin Beavan

 

 

 

Vote for THE SHADOW WATCH in the Epic Fantasy Fanatics contest

Hello friends of the Shadow Watch!

I am really excited to announce that The Shadow Watch has been entered in the Epic Fantasy Fanatics contest!

It is up against some incredible indie books, such as the Arcane series by Sever Bronny, the Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson, among many other big hitters in the indie world.

Placing in this contest could not only mean some real exposure in the indie publishing world, but also a little cash.

If you’ve enjoyed the series in any of its forms (or just want to support!), I have a huge favor to ask of you.

In order to be eligible for the Judges Round, TSW needs 100 nominations.

It would mean the world to me, if you took a few moments to nominate it. If you have Facebook, it only takes (literally) a few seconds.

Click this link: https://epicfantasyfanatics.com/the-shadow-watch-sa-klopfenstein/?fbclid=IwAR366kWKbINaVRsIa1wJGotkYyFtexEngJj5pj-PhLlLDvdXmE4UdNtyN_k

Thanks so much for all of your support of this series!

Cheers!

S.A. Klopfenstein

My Fantasy Novel (The Rage of Saints) has Published!

Book 2

 

I am very excited to announce the release of the second novel in the Shadow Watch series of teen epic fantasy novels!

This book has been so much work, but has brought so much joy along the way.

I’ve grown a lot as a writer, and according to the early reviews, this one is even better than the first. I hope you all enjoy it!

For those new to the series, these books are often compared to Mistborn and Throne of Glass.

It is available in Paperback and Ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MNTP1LC

A Rockstar Book Tour: The Shadow’s Watch Series by S.A. Klopfenstein, with a Fancast by the Author

The Hermit Librarian

Today’s feature is about The Shadow’s Watch series by S.A. Klopfenstein. Rockstar Book Tours brings a tour of interviews, spotlights, and more together to celebrate the newest book in the series, The Rage of Saints. I want to thank Rockstar for having me on the tour and S.A. Klopfenstein for their guest post, a fancast of characters from the series.

Be sure to check out all the stops on the Tour Schedule below as well as the giveaway, in which one winner (US only) will win finished copies of the first two books in the Shadow’s Watch series.

The Shadow’s Watch (Book One)

Book 1Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 15 May 2018

Publisher: Guardian Grey Publishing

Category: Fantasy

For centuries, the Oshan Empire has ruled the New World with terror and blood. The Watchers have been eradicated, and their sorcery is but…

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My Top Reads for 2018

I read 37 books this year, 19 were non-fiction, 18 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my five star reads.

MEMOIRS

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Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his son, this memoir offers an honest depiction of race in 21st century America. Toni Morrison calls it required reading, and I would agree. One of the most important books for Americans at the present moment.

 

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Night – Elie Wiesel

This Holocaust account offers a short, brutal view of life in the camps. Wiesel’s simple prose makes these heart-wrenching scenes even more impactful. A stark reminder of where discriminatory and dehumanizing rhetoric leads.

 

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Thanks, Obama – David Litt

This hilarious insider’s view of the Obama White House will give you nostalgia for what the Presidency used to be. Litt’s casual, self-deprecating style offers many laugh-out-loud moments, as an Obama fanboy joins the White House staff and discovers the complicated nature of US politics.

 

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I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown

A Black woman, named so she would appear white and male on a future resume, chronicles her experiences growing up in a world made for whiteness. From casual racism and sexism in the workplace to a horrific plantation tour that includes Black college students being asked to pick cotton, this book packs a punch.

 

FICTION

image.pngThe Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy contains some of the best world-building in any fantasy novel, following the stories of a slave, a knight-lord, and a young scholar in the midst of a years-long war triggered by a mysterious assassination involving a power that has been lost to the world. This massive book is filled with intrigue and is just plain fun.

 

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The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien

I finally actually read The Lord of the Rings, and while The Two Towers left much to be desired for me, The Return of the King was thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. The Ring is destroyed, and Sam carries Frodo up Mt. Doom. What else do you need to know?

 

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Red Rising – Pierce Brown

This blockbuster sci-fi, about a slave who rises to become a warrior in order to avenge his murdered wife, was nearly impossible to put down. While it borrows some obvious elements from Hunger Games, the action is excellently rendered and the characters are unpredictable and fun to watch.

 

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Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

A uniquely relevant novel about a pair of young lovers as they flee a war-torn nation in search of a new life. This short novel could have easily been 600 pages, but the succinct prose and short scenes manage to pack even more power as Sayid and Nadia journey through mysterious doorways and face tragedy and trials as refugees.

 

NON-FICTION

image.pngYour Inner Fish – Neil Shubin

A paleontologist, who discovered a ‘missing link’ between sea and land animals, traces back the evolutionary origins of the human body through fossils, an adventure to the Arctic, and genetics. A surprisingly accessible introduction to how we know what we know about evolution.

 

image.pngInspired – Rachel Held Evans

A popular liberal Christian writer tackles the ancient text at the core of her complicated faith experience. Evans uses scholarly research, narrative prose, and personal stories to share her journey wrestling with how an ancient collection of texts (all-too-frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused) can still be useful in an age of science and social awakening.

 

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The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku

A speculative exploration of how humanity may move from Earth to Mars, and even interstellar travel. Kaku tackles many theoretical solutions to the problems humanity will likely face as we move beyond our own world in a fascinating and accessible way. It’s hard not to be hopeful and excited for the future.

 

Some Other Honorable Mentions (not 5 star, but very enjoyable):

  • Pet Sematary – Stephen King
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  • Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
  • Billions and Billions – Carl Sagan

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: The Rage of Saints (Shadow Watch Book 2)

Very excited to reveal the stunning cover for my next novel, The Rage of Saints! This is book 2 of The Shadow Watch series, and if you loved book 1, I think you will love this one even more!

Official Release Date: March 26

Pre-Order now available here.

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Blurb: 

The Shadow Watch has been undone. Their captain lies in the dungeons of the White Citadel, and the Gallows Girl has disappeared. Most of the surviving Watchers have joined the chancellor’s new magical army, the Sky Guard, led by Darien Redvar, but the Gallows Boy is shaken from the return of the monsters of the Old World, and he must soon choose, once and for all, where his loyalties lie.

Tori and Mischa trek to the Great White North with an Alyut shaman, who believes Tori is the one who will bring Restoration to his people. A resistance is growing in the North, but Tori may not be the god the people are looking for, and the price of revolution may cost Tori her heart as well as her life.

Meanwhile, another threat grows in strength. Old World monsters are rising up across the New World, and no one knows how they’ve returned. As nations ready themselves for a magical war, their return threatens to change everything.

New alliances are set in place, new friendships are forged, new loves kindled. But no one is safe, for there can be no war without betrayal.

 

Update on Shadow Watch Book 2 (The Rage of Saints)

Time for a much-needed update on the second book of The Shadow Watch:

The Rage of Saints is complete, has gone through the first rounds of edits, and is now off to a few early beta readers.

And the response so far… they are loving it!

 


 

This second book has been a lot more work and took longer than I planned (it’s about 100 pages longer than book 1), but the pay-off will be more than worth it. Book 2 is much more expansive. The story is bigger and more epic. There are more perspectives. And you are going to love it!

 


 

The cover is underway, and I must say, it is looking amazing in its early stages and should be done sometime in December / January.

We are looking at an early March release, folks.

Can’t wait for you to read this one!

My Self-Publishing Diary (Week One Rundown)

Here are some reflections on my first week in self-publishing:
Week One of the launch of my first book, THE SHADOW WATCH, has been a blast, as well as a huge learning experience! Went into this with a small ARC team and I’m mostly postponing advertising until I get more reviews. Did a 99c deal for ebooks over the weekend, which was a nice rank boost.
 
Results:
Paperback – 37
Ebook – 32
KU – 2130
 
Highlights:
– Already broke 3 figures for this month, which is really exciting!
– Tons of support from friends and family, some of whom I’ve lost touch with. It’s been really cool to receive so much encouragement and excitement and boosting from all of them!
– Lots of support from local community, did an interview for local paper, and getting stocked in the local indie store this week.
 
Discoveries:
– Reviews on international Amazon sites don’t carry over. So several ARC reviews unfortunately don’t show on the all-important Amazon.com, which is frustrating starting out, but oh well.
– Ad clicks often don’t translate to sales. Dabbled with some FB ads but will probably hold off any more until more reviews trickle in. Led to some sales, but I don’t know that it’s worth it yet
All in all, I am really happy with the launch. There were things I hoped would go better. I was definitely hoping for more reviews out of the gate, but so it goes.
Can’t wait to see what’s to come in the weeks ahead…
THE SHADOW WATCH is available here: 

My Self Publishing Diary (Launch Day)

It has been a couple days since the launch of my first self-published novel, THE SHADOW WATCH, a YA epic fantasy.

Some quick background: I enrolled in KDP Select, so my Ebook is only available through Amazon. I published my paperback through Createspace, and though I may branch out later, right now, it is only available through Amazon, or at a local bookstore. I ran one small Facebook ad, but otherwise I am waiting until a few more reviews land before I settle into a marketing scheme.

It has been a couple days since my book released. Overall, it was an amazing experience, though still filled with some anxiety and stress, inevitable feelings when you are putting a piece of writing out there for the world to see. And I learned a lot quickly from the process.

Here are some reflections and observations about my experience on Day One of my self publication process:

  1. No amount of prep or editing ever feels like enough to be ready for Launch Day – I hired an editor, went through dozens of rounds of edits, worked with critique partners and betas, and quadruple checked my final formatted manuscript before hitting publish. But I was still nervous that something would go wrong. I’ve heard Chris Martin of Coldplay once said that no song was ever finished. It merely stopped being written. I feel that way about books as well. I am beyond thrilled with my end product, but I could have nitpicked it to death if I let myself. But having a hard publication date made me stop and move on to Book 2, which was a good thing for me because I can tend to over-edit. It was a nerve-racking feeling to officially be done with this book, but very much worth it to put it out there.
  2. Something will probably go wrong on Launch Day, just roll with it – My fantasy world has a world map. A beautiful one commissioned by the amazing Sebastian Breit. I formatted it to print on two pages, and with a couple trials, got it right in my Printed Proof copy. But I ran into a last minute snafu with Createspace’s proofing system when I re-uploaded the final version of the text. It skewed my image, and I had to have their technical team fix it (which due to the fact they don’t work weekends, ran me all the way to the wire in getting the print copy ready on time). It was stressful, but the print version launched in sync with the Kindle version. Though sadly I couldn’t order copies for the local indie store. Those will arrive a little late. So it goes.
  3. Forgetting something will not ruin the Launch, just breathe – There are so many things to prepare and anticipate before launching a book. Inevitably you will probably forget something. I forgot to set up my Author Central page on Amazon, something I’d intended to do weeks ago. Another writer kindly pointed it out, and I fixed it quickly.
  4. Reviews probably won’t come as fast as you want (which is instantaneous) – Even with an ARC team of awesome readers, reviews did not shoot up out of the gate on Amazon. I had many ARC readers leave Goodreads reviews. Amazon reviews have proven trickier. Firstly, you have to be an Amazon customer who has purchased $50 previously. No problem for some. But some people don’t drink the Amazon kool-aid. Also, international reviews don’t show up on Amazon.com. My launch team is international. I had several reviewers who left lovely reviews in the UK, India, and Germany, which only readers shopping on those respective Amazon sites can see. So it goes. I stressed about it a bit, because I really wanted more reviews on Amazon.com right away, but I got over it.
  5. Don’t check your rankings every FIVE MINUTES – I am sure this is the case for most people launching their first book, but I was addicted to seeing sales appear and rank change on Amazon. It made for a stressful day. And in the days since, I have quickly realized that it is not worth it to check so often.
  6. Ebook and Paperback don’t sync right away on Amazon – I did not realize this until Launch Day, but apparently it can take up to 72 hours for this sync up. I was not crazy about this, but it is what it is.
  7. Enjoy it, I wrote a freaking book – I learned to try to enjoy the moment, and let all the things go that I cannot control. I wrote a book I am proud of! And that is truly enough for now.

 

Overall, I was happy with the results of DAY ONE. Though, of course, many were family and friends. But hey, people want to read something I wrote.

Ebooks: 15

Paperback: 20

KU: 0 (this did not kick in until DAY TWO; not sure if it was delayed, but now on Day 3 I’ve had well over 1000 page reads, so I am not too worried about it)

THE SHADOW WATCH is available on Amazon

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My Indie Fantasy Novel is now Published!

It is officially my book’s birthday!

After two years of hard work, my epic fantasy novel THE SHADOW WATCH is now out in the world!

I cannot believe that the day has finally come, and I can’t tell you how many butterflies came as I hit “Publish.”

DAY ONE has been a fun day! I will post more soon about my reflections, good and bad for my Launch, but for right now, I am just sitting back and watching it play out.

It is pretty surreal to think that something I wrote is now out there for people to read!

THE SHADOW WATCH is available on in Ebook and Paperback through Amazon KDP.

TSW eBook non-publish

THE SHADOW WATCH

For centuries, the Oshan Empire has ruled the New World with terror and blood. The Watchers have been eradicated, and their sorcery is but a whispered myth. But the heart of magic beats on, and as it surges back to life, three young people will determine the fate of the world…

Tori Burodai, a strong-willed slave girl. Her magic could ignite a revolution, but only if she resists the ruler who wants to use her powers to restore the empire to its former glory.

Darien Redvar, the idealistic soldier she loves. His rage leads him down a dark path to power that could turn him against the one person he cares for.

Kale Andovier, a lordling rebel with a torturous past. His quest for a weapon of dark sorcery will thrust him into a twisted game of power that could change the world forever.

Will the return of magic transform the New World, or bring it to ruin?

Perfect for fans of Mistborn and Throne of Glass.