Self-Published Gems You Should All Be Reading

Alright, so this year has been a real kick in the pants so far. I’ve had some health issues (shocking, I know) which culminated in a pretty big hip surgery on January 30. I’m currently recovering. I’m quite medicated, and I’m also bored. I have a pile of editing I need to get to, but I still feel a bit too mentally foggy to get to any of it, so I’ve decided to make a list to occupy my time.

The thing is, I’m a proud indie author. I love being indie. I honestly can’t ever see myself deciding not to go indie. There are a ton of reasons why I’ve thrown my hat in this ring. I do, however, feel like I’m one of the most unknown authors in the history of the world, and I know what a rat-race it is to get recognized and how every single mention matters.

I really need to say that the more I read indie books, the less I have an interest in reading traditionally published books.

I know, I know, that goes against pretty much everything everyone ever says, but there’s a reason for that. Despite the glamor and etc of traditional publishing, I find the diversity of the indie marketplace (including small presses) to be positively intoxicating. You just don’t really see the variety you find in the indie marketplace anywhere else. Yes, people poo-poo the extra work, occasionally the cover art, more often the editing and yeah, I get it. But you know, I’m seeing those same complaints leveled against the traditional marketplace a lot more often these days… so… *shrugs*

We all do this for love of the craft, no matter which road we decide to walk down. I just have recently been finding the indie marketplace to be a lot more vibrant, active, and promising than the traditional one and I’d like to give it a bit of a spotlight.

So here I am, throwing what muscle I still have on this internet-thing to maybe bring some well-deserved attention to other indie authors who deserve recognition.

In no particular order, here are some indie gems you really need to be reading. (Note: Some of these are books I have edited. I’d think they are awesome even if I haven’t edited them, but I will make you aware of which books they are when I get to them.)

This is the first book of Galley’s that hit my radar. He’s published a lot of things since book, he’s landed a fancy agent and all those wonderful things and I’m so excited for him, but really when I think of Ben Galley, I think of this book. A sort of weird west fantasy hybrid thing, the writing is fantastic, the plot is relentless, and the book itself really made me want to write my own weird west/fantasy hybrid. So, I guess we could all say that Ben Galley inspired me with this one.

I really love this book. Well, to be honest, not just the book but the cover art. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over this cover art. That being said, Patrick has a way with pushing a story to its limits, and really challenging the reader, while keeping them completely immersed all the while. This is the first book in the series, and if you ask me, the series just gets better with each book. Patrick is a strong voice in the indie community, and his work is just a stunning blend of fantasy and myth that works for me on nearly every possible level.

I’m going to be honest here. There are two reasons I wasn’t sure whether I should add this book to the list. Neither of them have to do with quality. The first is because I want this list to feature lesser-known books, and this one has 900+ ratings on Goodreads. Secondly, because I’m still reading this book so I don’t have an overview of how wonderful the entire thing is yet. I can say, however, that I just love this damn book so much so far, and it’s basically everything I ever wanted to read in my epic fantasy.

This is another one of those books written by an author who has made quite a splash since this one landed. Hayes is known for a lot of things and has published a ton of books, but this one really put him on my map. He has a way of writing a really fun story, with complex characters and a really well-crafted world. His books are relentless, almost fever-pitched in places, and I love that about him. Not only does he keep the stories going though, but he has a way with his craft that makes his books absolutely addicting.

Now, this is a bit off my beaten path. I don’t typically do romance or urban fantasy, but I loved this book. I mean, I really loved it. I don’t know if it was the writing, or the unique storyline, or the blending of mythology and fantasy, but I can tell you that I’ve been dying to read more in this world and I really, really hope Hamill gets cracking. If you’re in the mood for an a-typical urban fantasy with subtle romance notes, this is your jam.

I’m a HUGE sucker for books that refuse to tell a story in the standard, or expected way. This book really speaks to that love of mine. A series of interconnected tales, this book is delicately, meticulously crafted with stunning use of language and a remarkable way it all comes together. What I love the most, though, is how Brindle was so free to tell this story, this particular way. I don’t think it would have worked any other way, and that’s one of the benefits of indie, IMO. You can do what you want, rules be damned, and in cases like this it really, really works.

This book isn’t easy, but it’s not supposed to be. Fantastically written, and as epic as epic gets, I think this one has flown under the radar and really shouldn’t have. As a debut novel, this one really packs a punch. However, it also calls upon all those things that so many of us love about fantasy in the first place. Sprawling battles, lots of tension, death, trauma, blood… and have I mentioned the prose yet? So if you’re in the mood for some battles, epic struggles, and magic, by damn, look no further.

Now, G.R. Matthews is a friend of mine, and has been for years. He’s also just been signed on with an amazing agent, and I could not possibly be more happy for him. With that out of the way, Matthews has always appealed to me because of his pretty constant deviation from the norm. Here, we have an Asian-inspired fantasy which, unless I’m wrong, was his debut. I really loved this entire series and I don’t think I’ve done enough to make it better known. It really is just amazing all around and worth your time.

Now, here’s the note you’ve all been waiting for. I edited this book. Also, I want to note that I want to write like Fletcher when I grow up. He’s just so damn talented I almost hate him as much as I love his books. This one is a perfect example. I was basically swearing at him the entire time I was editing the book, “Damn it, Fletcher, why the hell are you so freaking talented?” Just, give me a break, dude. Leave some talent for other people. Anyway, dark, devastating, surreal. Perfect.

Another book I’ve edited, which I think is criminally underrated. A clash between good and evil. Nothing is what it seems to be. Set in a flintlock world with evocative prose and characters you can’t help but feel for, this one really pulled me in instantly and kept me hanging on for the ride. It’s a well-deserved finalist for this year’s SPFBO and I have high hopes for it. Black has a unique voice, and a one-of-a-kind vision, and I think fantasy is better for having her in it.

As long as I’m throwing out books I’ve edited, here’s one that’s upcoming that you really, really need to fix your eyeballs on because I almost hate Rob Hayes for how good this entire trilogy is. I mean, my god, between him and Fletcher, there’s no freaking talent left for anyone else. This series is basically everything that Hayes excels at, but perfected. I’m talking, this trilogy is dark and uncomfortable and it’s everything I have always wanted to read. Editing it has been a joy, but screw you, Rob. Screw you for being so damn skilled.

Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher

Another book I’ve edited, which will drop in early April. Now, I’ve ready everything – literally – this man has written and every damn time I do I say, “this is his best book ever” and *clears throat* this is his best book EVER. It’s dark, brutal, devastating, and spends basically all its time in that moral gray area I love so must. It’s also really, really smart, and the story basically is nothing I expected it to be, at any point at all. So yeah, this one will knock you on your ass. My suggestion is to buy Hayes book first (it comes out in late March) and then Fletcher’s book next (as it comes out in early April) and set yourself in for a week of reading. Have your heart paddles ready, because you’ll have some uncomfortable starting and stopping going on.

So I was up all night last night with pain and discomfort. I started reading this book and I damn near finished it in one sitting. Why? Because it is THAT FREAKING GOOD OH MY GOD. Why the hell aren’t you reading this book? It’s got EVERYTHING I ever want in my fantasy. World building. Moral quandaries. Complex characters. Dark themes. Deception. AND THE WRITING. OH MY GOD JUST READ THIS FREAKING BOOK BECAUSE IT BLEW. ME. AWAY.

This is my first foray with ML Spencer, and I have to say, I’m wondering what took me so long. I haven’t finished this book yet, but I can already tell that it’s not going to be my last ML Spencer book I’ve read. Dark plot, great characters, and like Hayes, the pace of her book is just relentless. What maybe gets me the most is how nothing — literally nothing — is wasted in these pages. Everything matters. Maybe not right away, but there are a lot of times I’m all, “Oh, so that thing that was mentioned twenty pages ago was actually a big deal. COOL.” I love that.

Another book I’m not quite done reading yet (sorry, I’m so freaking busy I can’t even…) but I feel like it deserves a place on this list. I’m new to both Suttkus and Phipps as authors, and I really like their style. Sort of a lighter affair than what I typically read, with a bit more of a UF bend, but really, really engrossing, fast-paced, and pretty unique. I really enjoy the twist on the bounty hunter trope (which I seem to see a lot in one form or another in UF) and just generally dig this book a whole bunch.

I have not read all of Jesse Teller’s books, but of the ones I have read (I am currently reading another one I really love as well) this one stands out to me. There are a few reasons for that. I love the nature of the stories being told, how they are interconnected, but not obviously at first. I love the voices, but mostly I love how Teller really packs his characters full of emotion. He doesn’t just tell a story, but takes readers on an odyssey, and it’s not really obvious until things get cracking how the four different novellas here are interwoven, but they are, and I just… I really loved this book. It really moved me.

I just finished this book and I plan to write a review of it when I’m less… you know, overwhelmed by life and recent surgery and catching up on editing gigs and all this stuff. Anyway, dark fantasy tale about a woman who is taken captive by a truely repugnant puke of a person. Interesting story, sort of a coming-of-age feel, but with very mature undertones and a nice layer of hope sprinkled throughout to flavor it all up nicely. It’s the start of a series, and it really made AM Justice an author to watch. I just loved how this started, and I cannot begin to guess what will happen next.

My last entry onto this list will be Ulff Lehmann, who writes unparalleled military fantasy with superb execution. You know, I’m not really big on military fantasy, but I really did enjoy this book. It’s not just military, but also just so very human, with three-dimensional characters and a whole lot of forethought and insight. Every detail matters. A very strong voice in military and epic fantasy. highly recommend.

I know I’m missing so many books, but I’m tired and my laptop is about to die, so hopefully, that gives you some great indie jumping-off points for some lesser-known gems that really deserve more attention than they are getting.

Go forth and read!


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