The Qwillery | category: SPFBO 5


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis

Please welcome Stephanie Burgis to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews.

Follow the SPFBO 5 finals at

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Stephanie:  When I was six years old, I wrote an epic story about a young dolphin and her family. You will be shocked to hear that - although my mom saved it! - it has STILL never been published. ;)

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Stephanie:  Pantser all the way.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephanie:  First drafts are fun - editing is WORK. (Essential work! But it's definitely the harder and less enjoyable part.)

TQDescribe Snowspelled, the Harwood Spellbook 1, using only 5 words.

Stephanie:  Frothy fun feminist fantasy romance.

TQWhat inspired you to write Snowspelled?

Stephanie:  I love Regency rom-coms and fantasy adventures, so Snowspelled - set in an alternate version of early 19th-century England in which a Boudiccate of powerful, hard-headed women governs the country while the "more emotional, irrational" gentlemen are expected to see to the magic - is a perfect mash-up of just about everything I find most fun.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Snowspelled.

Stephanie:  I commissioned the cover art from Leesha Hannigan, a Scottish artist I love. The front cover represents a scene from early in the book, and I loved all the tiny details she inserted in service of the worldbuilding (as she'd read the book and really got it). Also, I would kill to wear that coat! :)

TQIn Snowspelled who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephanie:  The heroine herself, Cassandra Harwood, came very easily to me once I had her voice set in my head. She's brilliant and loyal and an absolute bulldozer of a person who always wants to do what's best for everyone she loves...but can have a very hard time understanding what those people actually want for themselves. Still, I couldn't get her personal/family dynamic just right until I figured out the character of her sister-in-law (and best friend), Amy Harwood, who is Cassandra's absolute opposite in personal presentation (a perfect, charming politician who reads people like books) but matches her 100% in loyalty to the family. Once I understood Amy's character, in fact, I fell so hard in love with her that I ended up writing a prequel story about Amy's own earlier romance with Cassandra's sweet, geeky brother, Jonathan.

TQDoes Snowspelled touch on any social issues?

Stephanie:  It's certainly unabashedly feminist.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Snowspelled.


To attend a week-long house party filled with bickering gentleman magicians, ruthlessly cutthroat lady politicians, and worst of all, my own infuriating ex-fiancé? Scarcely two months after I had scandalized all of our most intimate friends by jilting him?

Utter madness. And anyone would have seen that immediately…except for my incurably romantic sister-in-law.

TQWhat's next?

Stephanie:  The direct sequel to Snowspelled, Thornbound, came out just a few months ago, and there's also a prequel novella (with a different heroine), Spellswept. The next book in the series is Moontangled out this February and starring an f/f couple (two women who've been side-characters in Snowspelled and Thornbound). And as I also publish MG fantasy adventures about dragons and fierce girls (this most recent series, which started with The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, is being trad-published by Bloomsbury books), I have an MG book which came out in November 2019 called The Princess who Flew with Dragons. It's full of grumpy princesses, scholarly dragons, and radical goblin girls, and it was so much fun to write!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank you so much for having me!

The Harwood Spellbook 1
Five Fathoms Press, September 4, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules...

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A Prequel to the Harwood Spellbook
Five Fathoms Press, October 30, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
In the world of the Harwood Spellbook, 19th-century Angland is ruled by a powerful group of women known as the Boudiccate - but in order to become a member of that elite group, any ambitious young politician must satisfy tradition by taking a gentleman mage for her husband.

Amy Standish is a born politician...but Jonathan Harwood is her greatest temptation. On the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined.

It will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.

Warning: this novella contains forbidden romance, dangerous magic, and political intrigue in an underwater ballroom. What could possibly go wrong?

Published first in the anthology The Underwater Ballroom Society on April 30th, 2018.

The Harwood Spellbook 2
Five Fathoms Press, February 25, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she's ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.

A Harwood Spellbook Novella
Five Fathoms Press, February 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

About Stephanie

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Photo by Richard Burgis
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She attended the Clarion West science fiction & fantasy writing workshop in 2001, just a year after completing her time as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Vienna, studying music history, in 1999-2000. After spending three more years as a PhD student studying opera history at the University of Leeds in the U.K. (focusing on opera and politics in 18th-century Vienna and Eszterháza, and doing the research that would later result in her first novel for adults, Masks and Shadows), she went to work for a British opera company and stayed there until the onset of a serious chronic illness, M.E./CFS, forced her to give up work outside the home and focus purely on her writing (and, later, on her parenting, too).

Since then, she has published nearly forty short stories for adults and teens in various magazines and anthologies. Her most recent MG fantasy novel is The Girl with the Dragon Heart (Bloomsbury 2018); the first book in that series, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, won the Cybils Award for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction 2017. Her most recent publication for adults is the romantic fantasy novella Thornbound: Volume II of The Harwood Spellbook. The f/sf anthology that Stephanie co-edited with Tiffany Trent, The Underwater Ballroom Society, has been longlisted for the 2019 Locus Award for Best Original Anthology.

Her trilogy of MG Regency fantasy novels was published in the US as the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy and in the UK as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. The first book in the trilogy won the Waverton Good Read Award for Best Début Children’s Novel by a British writer, and the full trilogy was re-released in the US as A Most Improper Boxed Set. Her first two historical fantasy novels for adults, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, were both published by Pyr Books in 2016, and Masks and Shadows was included on Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for 2016.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @stephanieburgis

SPFBO 5 Interview: E.L. Drayton

Please welcome E.L. Drayton to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews.

Follow the SPFBO 5 finals at

SPFBO 5 Interview: E.L. Drayton

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

E.L.:  In high school I wrote a LOT of poetry. Like, hundreds. I also dabbled with writing 12 episodes of a drama series (I loved 90210)! My first novel was also in high school, called Martinique Mysteries. As a long-time fan of Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton I always wanted to write a mystery series. I never published it and probably never will. I do have a mystery series planned that I want to actually publish, but not till I turn this writing thing into a money-earning career.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

E.L.:  I am definitely a hybrid. I'll create outlines that are thousands of words long, but when I finally start writing, I end up using "maybe" 10% of my actual outline! Just the nature of storytelling I feel.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

E.L.:  The most challenging part of writing, for me, is sticking to the story I plan to write and not seeing another possible story based on a character I create. I find this really hard for me to do. So much so I created Stonehaven Fables just so I could write a short story about those characters I just can't imagine leaving in that one scene or one chapter and never having them in the story again. I just can't part with my characters!

TQDescribe Daxton using only 5 words.

E.L.:  When lies reveal difficult truths.

TQWhat inspired you to write Daxton?

E.L.:  I am very character-driven when I tell a story. What inspired this story was when I came up with Daxton, a boy who was on a journey to find his birth mother and the truth behind why she abandoned him as a newborn child. I could have set this story in any place and time, but I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and therefore I wanted to incorporate pirates. Then I figured if I was going to go fantasy I wanted to go full-hog and include dragons, mermaids, faeries, and the rest is a story...

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Daxton.

E.L.:  The cover is just an illustration of my main character and title of the first book, Daxton. I wanted him to look like a young Hercules and I think the artist captured that well. It doesn't really depict a scene from the book. All of my covers, I hope, will be similar in that they will depict a character or character important to the story.

TQIn Daxton who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

E.L.:  The easiest character to write was Riven by far! I also found him to be my favorite character out of the dozens I've written thus far. He was easy because I fell in love with his back-story. I wanted to write him based on a young Merlin. Very important to not just this story but to the entire universe. He will be a character that makes appearances across series as well because of how important he is. I love his child-like qualities and brings (I hope) a bit of light to an otherwise dark story.

The most difficult character I had to write was Barton. He is Daxton's best friend and when I first wrote him, all his dialogue was asking questions. I hated that. Because I realized he was not needed if that was all he would be doing the entire story. It bothered me so much I actually had another character use her powers to knock him unconscious. This was my way of expressing how much I was sick of his constant questions. I realized I needed to go back and look at his purpose BEYOND being Daxton's best friend. Once I was able to flesh out his backstory I came to appreciate him. He still asks a lot of questions, but his reasoning is clearer to me (and hopefully to the reader).

TQDoes Daxton touch on any social issues?

E.L.:  I don't think it does. But some might say it touches on the issue of family and the sacrifices family makes. What actually defines "family" as it doesn't always mean blood-related. Family is what you make of the circumstances and the people who surround your everyday life. Daxton has a hard time realizing this, even though he has people around him who show him examples of this in many, many ways. He's just far too blinded by anger and unanswered questions to see it.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Daxton.


"This day has long awaited us. We’ve been complacent in our charge of these waters and the enemy has caught us at rest. For many moons we have seen no Rowan ships, just those cowardly Pradore ships. I should’ve foreseen an attack. I need the others. Tell them…tell them to take the ship.”

Wendynn’s eyes widened at her command. It had been a long time since she had last given such an order. It meant that before the sun would reach its peak in the sky this morning the blood of the enemy would surround her ship. She did this as a warning to others.

TQWhat's next?

E.L.:  I have Stonehaven Fables, another 5 more books to follow Daxton in the 5th Compass series. And in 2020 I have a brand new book, for a brand new series, that I hope to submit to SPFBO 6!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

E.L.:  It was a pleasure to answer your questions. Thanks for organizing something like this to highlight all of us Indies!

The Fifth Compass 1
pd books, April 19, 2019
eBook and Trade Paperback, 448 pages

SPFBO 5 Interview: E.L. Drayton
Daxton's life was ideal. He spent his time blissfully hunting and roaming in the backwoods with his best friend Barton, and his beloved dog, Fang.

But on his eighteenth birthday, his parents reveal a startling fact: they aren't his birth parents, he was abandoned on their doorstep as a baby left with nothing but a note, a sword, and a compass.

Daxton hurls himself towards his fate on a search for answers, accompanied by Barton and a witch who knows far more than she's telling. Meanwhile, a king is waging war against the most hated female pirate in Stonehaven - the swashbuckling Silverblade, and Daxton is about to be swept right into the very center of it.

With an exciting and colorful cast, Daxton is a story of friendship, of thrilling action and adventure on the high seas, and of treasure not buried but hidden.

About E.L. Drayton

E.L. Drayton was born and raised in Bronx, NY. As the daughter of a former high school English teacher, she was taught how to read and write before she even started formal schooling. She picked up reading quickly and could understand books well beyond her age. Later, her passion for writing came as no surprise.

Ever since she has spent countless years building a library of books from all sorts of authors. Each book improving her writing along the way. Her decision to become an independent author was her destiny.

Currently, she’s working on building her community of readers through her Patreon. Offering exclusive content, Facebook Live sessions and much more!

She resides in West Hollywood with her wife and their two puppies.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ericadrayton

SPFBO 5 Interview: Edward M. Erdelac

Please welcome Edward M. Erdelac to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews.

Follow the SPFBO 5 finals at

 SPFBO 5 Interview: Edward M. Erdelac

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Edward:  In second or third grade I wrote a story about an elephant that turned into a telephone.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Edward:  I write the whole story out in third person, but if my research or characters take me down a different path, I will stray.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Edward:  Selling it once it's done.

TQDescribe The Knight With Two Swords using only 5 words.

Edward:  Choosing ambition over love: Bad.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Knight With Two Swords?

Edward:  The original telling of the story of Balin in Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, also John Boorman's Excalibur and Mary Stewart's Merlin series. Finally, Bob Dylan's Shelter From The Storm.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Knight With Two Swords.

Edward:  What we have, from the fantastic Chris Yabrough, is the main character, Balin, probably in the midst of his redemptive quest (by the mud on his armor and the state of his hair and beard), bearing the Adventurous Sword, a cursed magic weapon that's caused his every glory to be matched with an equally inglorious tragedy in one hand, and his father's in the other.

TQIn The Knight With Two Swords who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Edward:  The easiest for me was Merlin. He just kinda flowed out, puckish, critical, omniscient. He's the Arthurian nerd who already knows how everything is going to play out and is trying to warn everybody but is ignored. Like me during the 2016 elections. Ha! The hardest was definitely the main character Balin himself, partly because he's so driven by the surety of his religious faith, but also because in his envy and his ambition, he's painfully close to my own failings.

TQDoes The Knight With Two Swords touch on any social issues?

Edward:  Truth to power is a big one, in the person of the fool Sir Dagonet and a central conspiracy of Camelot and Arthur's reign, and the question of whether a government founded on such a big and terrible secret can still be upheld as benevolent. Also the question of mutual acceptance between what may be perceived as opposing ideologies. Can they mend their differences and see their commonalities?

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Knight With Two Swords.


"Do you call your king a fool?"

“A good fool calls out the folly in every man, sire. The High King should expect nothing less from his own fool."

TQWhat's next?

Edward:  I'm working on a book about an African American occult detective in 1977 Harlem during the Son of Sam murders who uncovers a plot by a white cabal to strangle hip hop in its infancy. Like Shaft meets Brother Voodoo.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Edward:  Thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself.

The Knight With Two Swords
December 2018
eBook and Trade Paperback, 460 pages
Cover art by Chris Yabrough, Design by Shawn King

 SPFBO 5 Interview: Edward M. Erdelac
Before Arthur, There was Uther.
Before Lancelot, There was Balin The Savage.
Before the Holy Grail could be had to be lost.

Balin grows up revering the memory of his father, a storied knight of the High King Uther's time. He is held back from following in his footsteps by his mother, a priestess of the old religion whose capitol is the Isle of Avalon. When she is burned at the stake as a witch by fanatics, Balin blames the corrupting influence of Avalon and sets himself against all that is pagan.

A new high king arises; Arthur, whose rule must unite pagan and Christian alike. Sir Balin, now known as The Savage for his ferocity in battle, answers the king's call for champions, but in his heart, questions the presence of the shadowy wizard Merlin beside the throne. When a vengeful enchantress comes to Camelot bearing a cursed sword that will make Balin the greatest knight in all Albion, but doom him to slay his beloved king, Balin sets out on a long quest that will veer between God and glory, love and madness, justice and revenge, and change the land forever.

About Edward

 SPFBO 5 Interview: Edward M. Erdelac
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of twelve novels (including the acclaimed weird western series Merkabah Rider) and dozens of short stories. He is an independent filmmaker, award winning screenwriter, and sometime Star Wars contributor.

Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bona fide slew of children and cats.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @EdwardMErdelac

SPFBO 5 Interview: Sonya M. Black

Please welcome Sonya M. Black to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews. A Sea of Broken Glass is one of 10 Finalists for SPFBO 5!

Follow the SPFBO 5 finals at

SPFBO 5 Interview: Sonya M. Black

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Sonya:  In middle school, I wrote a **ahem** novel inspired by Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series. Written in a notebook with pencil. It's tucked away in a box and will never see the light of day.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sonya:  I'm a hybrid. I started out as a pantser and have slowly come up with a plotting system that works for me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sonya:  The most challenging thing for me is finding a balance between giving the reader enough information to understand the world I'm creating and not giving so much they feel overwhelmed or bogged down by the details.

TQDescribe your A Sea of Broken Glass using only 5 words.

Sonya:  Swords, pistols, demons, and paladins.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Sea of Broken Glass?

Sonya:  I was playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and got the idea for a world where a group of paladins fight against demons that were created from a curse cast by a fallen goddess.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for A Sea of Broken Glass.

Sonya:  The photo is a stock image and I created the cover from that. The image depicts the object that the characters are searching for. The overlay of the raven is a hint at one of the characters.

TQIn A Sea of Broken Glass who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sonya:  Aeron was the easiest to write. I added his point of view after I had finished the main novel so I already knew how he would fit into the piece and what his motivations were. Ris was the hardest to write. I struggled with making her an active character while also staying true to her character as a healer. I wanted to create a strong, female protagonist that wasn't snarky or mean.

TQDoes A Sea of Broken Glass touch on any social issues?

Sonya:  Not that I put in intentionally.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Sea of Broken Glass.

Sonya:  "I will have my revenge. It is all that I have left. I clutch it like a cold, dead thing and hold it tightly in my heart. I cast my curse into the Void so he will feel my wrath."

TQWhat's next?

Sonya:  I'm working on the sequel for A Sea of Broken Glass as well as a Japanese-inspired flintlock fantasy called Moonlight & Jade.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sonya:  Thanks for the opportunity!

A Sea of Broken Glass
The Lady & the Darkness 1
Sonya M. Black, March 19, 2019
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 392 pages

SPFBO 5 Interview: Sonya M. Black
Secrets have a price.

After enduring weeks of torture and being convicted of witchery, Ris escapes, only to discover the Darkness and the Lady are hunting her. They need the magic that sings within her.

Creator of all, the imprisoned Lady needs Ris, her last vessel, to find the Heart of Creation. The Darkness seeks to corrupt the vessel and retain his hold on the Lady, and with it, the world.

Ris finds help from a pair of Paladins of Light who aid her in cleansing the evil taint from the lands. As her power grows, so do her questions. How can she restore balance to the world and free the Lady? Should the Lady be trusted or is she as much at fault for the evil in the world as the Darkness? With powerful demons War, Ruin, and Plague at her heels, Ris struggles to stay alive as she tries to unravel the secrets hidden within her before it's too late.

Secrets that may cost Ris her soul even if she does succeed.

About Sonya

SPFBO 5 Interview: Sonya M. Black
Sonya M. Black lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, son, and kitties. She enjoys reading books in a wide range of genres and takes her inspiration from fairy tales, folklore, myths and legends. She enjoys working with children, especially of the teenage variety. Writing is her passion and she loves using her imagination to explore the endless possibilities.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sonyablack60

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist

First, thank you to all of the authors in our slush pile this year. We read some wonderful books. A big shout out to our 4 Semi-Finalists who have now been cut:

Oblivion by Andy Blinston;

Knight and Shadow by Flint Maxwell;

The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer;


Lykaia by Sharon Van Orman.

Read their novels!

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

Second, after not too much debate The Qwillery has chosen its Finalist for SPFBO 5.

Congratulations to Virginia McClain with Blade's Edge!

We were impressed with the worldbuilding, setting, and the very strong characters. We are re-posting the Semi-Finalist review because Phil said it best. We give the novel a collective 9.

Blade's Edge
Chronicles of Gensokai 1
Artemis Dingo Productions, January 23, 2015
eBook, 314 pages
 Also available in Hardcover and Trade Paperback

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.

When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves--Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer--as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery...

The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.

Phil Parker's Review:

The success of this story comes from its originality and vivid portrayal of life for two orphan girls in medieval Japan – at least a fantastical version of that country. I quickly became fascinated with not just the plight of Taka and Mishi, but by the culture in which they lived. The world created by Virginia McClain is so utterly realistic. Beautiful. Violent. Unfair.

The author lived in Japan for some years and her love for the country and understanding of its distinctive culture is apparent in every aspect of the story. It’s so easy to assume that the challenges the girls face are no different to those of a few hundred years ago. The only difference is that in this story, magic exists. It’s what makes it such an original story. Magic operates in harmony with the natural world, derived from fire, water, air, and the earth.

And this is where the inherent tension is derived. Females are not allowed to possess magic. Discovery of their ‘kiso’ at birth leads to their death. Taka and Mishi survive only by the help of people desperate to eliminate this barbaric practice. The story follows the girls’ journey (both physical and allegorical) as they develop their distinctive kiso while growing up into women capable of fighting in this underground movement.

We quickly sympathise with the girls’ plights, we cheer those who support them and despise those who use violence to maintain the repressive and immoral Roju regime. World building is highly detailed. It takes time to familiarise yourself with so many terms for roles, clothes, weapons, rituals and the like but this is one of the features that makes the story so unique. Ms McClain sets her story on the imaginary island of Gensokai. This medieval land is vividly drawn, using language which is rich and vibrant, immersing you in its landscape, ecology, cultures and society.

And yes, there is even a dragon.

I really enjoyed this book. Read it within a few days. It’s not filled with battles and swordplay, there are no wizards and even the dragon is restricted in its involvement. It is a story of great subtlety. The two protagonists are not the inevitable ‘kick-ass’ type that pervade fantasy stories either. Their disciplined development is painful, harsh and mirrors the process of acquiring finesse in any martial art. It’s just that the finesse includes magical expertise too. These are real women, with flaws and doubts, but with the determination to fight inequality. In this respect this is a story which resonates with our own world and that makes this book an even stronger, more commercially viable, product as a result.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer

The Qwillery is pleased to announce our fifth and last Semi-Finalist: The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer.

This also means that the following books have been eliminated:

Someday I'll Be Redeemed (The Chronicles of Lorrek 1) by Kelly Blanchard;

Fractions of Existence by J Lenni Dorner;

A Shard of Sea and Bone (Death of the Multiverse 1) by L.J. Engelmeier;

A Wizard's Dark Dominion (The Gods and Kinds Chronicles 1) by Lee H. Haywood;


Husk by D. P. Prior.

The Blackbird and the Ghost
Boiling Seas 1
June 2019
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 308 pages

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer
The Boiling Seas are the mariner’s bane – and the adventurer’s delight. The waters may be hot enough to warp wood and boil a hapless swimmer, but their scalding expanse is full of wonders. Strange islands lurk in the steamy mists, and stranger ruins hold ancient secrets, remnants of forgotten empires waiting for the bold… or lying in wait for the unwary.

On the Corpus Isles, gateway to the Boiling Seas, Tal Wenlock, the Blackbird, seeks a fortune of his own. The treasure he pursues could change the world – but he just wants to change a single life, and it’s not his own. To reach it, he’ll descend into the bowels of the earth and take ship on burning waters, brave dark streets and steal forbidden knowledge. He’ll lie, cheat, steal and fight – but he won’t get far alone. The ghosts of Tal’s past dog his every step – and one in particular keeps his knives sharp.

The Blackbird will need help to reach his goal… and he’ll need all his luck to get back home alive.

Qwill's Thoughts

The Blackbird and the Ghost relates the story of Tal Wenlock, a slightly magical tomb raider and amateur historian. Tal is not perfect but is bright, mostly good-natured, and sort of has a heart of gold. He knows he's flawed. He acknowledges he's a thief and more, but he has a very good reason for the personal quest he is now on.

Steer slowly unwinds the reason that Tal is looking for a particular treasure never giving away too much until the ultimate reveal. The worldbuilding is exceptional. Steer's descriptive powers are top notch. The reader gets a true sense of place whether on a sailing ship crossing the Boiling Seas, in a local bar in the town of Port Malice, or underground in a long buried palace. The descriptions never overwhelm the story which is driven by Tal and his search.

In addition to the inventive worldbuilding, Steer develops his main character well. You really get to know Tal Wenlock and start to get to know a character introduced later in the story who I hope we see more of. (No spoilers here.)

As a rule I don't like prologues but the prologue in The Blackbird and the Ghost did not bother me much to my amazement. It is a nice starting point to the story, invests the reader in Tal, is not too long, and does not give the ending away. Well done.

Steer ties up the main story with no cliff-hangers and with intimations of adventures to follow. The Blackbird and the Ghost is an exciting and well-paced novel with wonderful worldbuilding, a terrific main character, and a deeply engaging plot. You'll find that this is one of those books that is hard to put down.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist

It is my first year as an SPFBO judge, and I am so excited and honored to participate on Team Qwillery. I was tasked to read six books at least 30% or at least 50 pages. From there, I am to choose which book should continue on to the semi-finals. Choosing was a difficult task because the books are so different in style, age range, and subject content. I have including some brief content review and some information on the various books.

The following 5 books have been eliminated:

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
by A.J. Ponder
Genre: Coming of Age Fantasy, YA, Fairy Tale Fantasy
Series/Standalone: Series - The Sylvalla Chronicles

This was a fun and quirky story. Set in the style of Terry Pratchett, the humor was great. It turns fantasy cliches on their head. Princess Sylvanna dreams of the life of high adventure and quests. It is pretty dull being a princess. We meet a cast of oddball characters and shenanigans. The writing is well done, although I got lost a few times in the multiple POV. It is a solid read, and I enjoyed it.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
The Dark Yule
by R.M. Callahan
Genre: Paranormal Suspense, UF
Series/Standalone: Series - Pumpkin Spice Tales

The Dark Yule is about a cat, specifically a Main Coon cat named Pumpkin Spice. Cats are not what they seem. They can see monsters, ghouls, and all the horrible creatures of the night that humans can not see. I loved this premise. I like to think that cats are actually like this and they battle the nefarious and evil. They basically just put up with us humans. It kind of fits if you have ever owned a cat. The characterization was fantastic. Pumpkin Spice is so cool, so proud and full of sass. Her adventure is dark and reminded me a bit of a Neil Gaiman book with Lovecraftian overtones.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings
by Lydia Sherrer
Genre: Humorous Fantasy, New Adult, YA, Supernatural Mystery
Series/Standalone: Series - The Lily Singer Adventures

This story is the adventures of Lily Singer, intrepid wizard not a witch.

Character-wise, Lily is stuffy and unsure of herself outside of magic. The first book is an adventure between Lily and Sebastian involving an old house, and ghosts. Sebastion is a witch, not a wizard, and in that, there is a bit of classicism as to what kind of magic is proper magic. This story was fluffy and fun, although the book as a whole was confusing. I was unsure how the various parts fit together as a single entity. It was more like short stories with a common set of characters and theme.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Tooth Goblins
by Ash Teroid
Genre: Children's Sword & Sorcery
Series/Standalone: Standalone

Tooth Goblins is an original middle-grade fantasy story. It takes the legend of tooth Faires and turns it on its ear involving fairies, goblins, teenage boys, and a quest. The story was a lot of fun but lost me in some of the writing, and it dragged a bit.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Alban's Choice
by Monica Zwikstra
Genre: Action & Adventure
Series/Standalone: Standalone

This story started strong, Zwikstra employed well-done worldbuilding and characterization. Alban and Rahan are strong characters put into a life-changing predicament. But as the story progressed, I became lost in the minor plot points. There was just too much to follow.

My Semi-Finalist Selection

Oblivion by Andy Blinston!

Rakkan Conquest 1
Falbury Publishing, November 1, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 410 pages
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Greek & Roman Myth & Legend

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Darius wakes surrounded by blood. Most of his mind has been stolen, and the dark figure that took it wants the rest.

Caught in a raging war between the human empire and fiery rakkan invaders, he soon learns his fearsome powers have made him an enemy to both.

Unable to tell friend from foe, he must fight to escape a fate worse than death. His only helper is a mysterious female warrior who promises to restore him to former glory. But can she be trusted?

Is he ready to discover the horrifying truth of who he was, and why he's wanted?

If you like fantasy full of mystery and action, you’ll love this book.

Elizabeth's Review

Oblivion had me at the get-go. The opening scene is harrowing, and it sets the stage for the main protagonist's motivations throughout the story. Darius, the main character, is complicated. His memory has mostly disappeared. He does not know who he is or what he is capable of. The only thing he has is a traumatic memory of him as a child. Even though the "mind-wipe" can be tropey in most books, I found Blinston's use of the "mind-wipe" plot device interesting. Especially within the context of his created world. What would a great warrior do if he could not remember himself? This is especially true when set against other morally grey characters. Blinston kept the suspense and confusion as to what is right and correct for much of the novel.

One of the best parts of Oblivion is the supporting character of Lex. Often in dark fantasy, female characters can be written flatly. They can be the seductress or the crone. Or, they could be haughty and overly-harsh. I find this especially true in the Wheel of Time stories. Jordan had a difficult time writing female characters that didn't always pull their braids or fluff their skirts when angry. It gets old. Blinston did a good job with Lex. She is tough, as one would need to be tough existing in the Oblivion world, but she has broken parts of her that make her a more realistic character. It allows the audience the opportunity to understand her actions and her emotional plight. It gives her three dimensions when often women are written in two. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series to see how her character develops. Her story was left on quite the cliffhanger, and if it plays out, can drastically change the path that she takes.

Darius, as the main protagonist, was solid. He isn't perfect. He makes some stupid decisions and behaves in childish ways occasionally through the story. I think the childish reactions to some situations were a good conscious choice on the author's part. Again, a character that is too much of one thing can ring flat. Darius has parts of him that are emotionally broken, much like Lex. This allows the reader to understand and empathize with his plight. Empathy makes this story work.

The villain of the story, Archimedes, is scary. Not, horror movie scary. But so dark and morally gray that his intentions, which are entirely logical and fine to him, shock and appall other characters in the story and by extension the reader. It is often that the scariest characters in books are ones that are entirely sure of their actions, even if those actions are horrendous. They don't think of themselves as the villain. They think themselves as the hero and act accordingly. Archimedes is like that. Although the reader does not understand the entirety of his actions until later in the book, the effects and consequences of disobedience to him are stark; he is too powerful not to obey.

The only slight detractor to this story was pacing. The story lulled in a few spots where Blinston was building backstory. This slowed down the pace significantly for me. The story picks up immediately, usually in the form of an action sequence, and moves the plot forward. But those lulls slowed the pacing down.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this story immensely. It is a great dark fantasy read up there with other notable works in the genre. Blinston left the story wide open for the next book, which is exciting. I want to know what is going to happen with the characters and look forward to reading the next one.

SPFBO 5 Interview: Clayton Snyder, author of River of Thieves

Please welcome Clayton Snyder to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews. Clayton has submitted River of Thieves to SPFBO 5.

Follow the fate of all the entrants at

SPFBO 5 Interview: Clayton Snyder, author of River of Thieves

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Clayton:  Never had a title. It was an awful piece about an angel who fell from heaven to hunt demons, but ended up captured by a man in the city, kept chained to a doghouse, and fed a steady diet of heroin.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Clayton:  Pantser. Outlines tend to burst into flame around me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Clayton:  The middle. It gets all squishy.

TQDescribe River of Thieves using only 5 words.

Clayton:  Idiots on a questionable mission.

TQWhat inspired you to write River of Thieves?

Clayton:  That's a whole can of worms, but in short, I wanted to poke a little fun at the world, fantasy tropes, and certain ideas.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for River of Thieves.

Clayton:  The cover was done by Shayne Leighton.

TQIn River of Thieves who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Clayton:  Nenn. The book is from her point of view. Hardest was probably Cord. It's difficult to maintain that level of insanity without having him look incompetent.

TQDoes River of Thieves touch on any social issues?

Clayton:  A whole bushel of 'em.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from River of Thieves.


"We were the worst kind of people. For the best reasons. We understood that, even if no one else did."

"As corpses go, Cord proved a constant thorn in my side."

TQWhat's next?

Clayton:  Currently working on the sequel, pieces for three anthologies, and have a novel due for release in October 2020.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Clayton:  Thank you for giving your time!

River of Thieves
Thieves' Lyric 1
April 2019
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 324 pages

SPFBO 5 Interview: Clayton Snyder, author of River of Thieves
We were the worst kind of people. For the best reasons.

After a robbery gone horribly wrong, cursed thief Cord broadens his horizons and plans to execute the heist of a lifetime. With fellow thief and knife connoisseur Nenn in tow, the two build their ragtag crew to target the heart of the kingdom - Midian, the seat of tyrant King Anaxos Mane. As treachery, horrifying creatures of nightmare, and opposition bar their path at every turn, the gang must depend on skill - intellectual, martial, and magical - to deliver them an endless summer and keep them free from the clutches of evil despotism. If they don't sh*t the bed first.

About Clayton

SPFBO 5 Interview: Clayton Snyder, author of River of Thieves
Born in Michigan and moved to North Dakota, he's a full-time dabbler and part-time author, pursuing his dream of writing. He's been published in several small magazines, and maintains a blog, Nod.

In his free time, he yells at clouds and accidentally gets nominated for awards.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @claytonsnyder2

SPFBO 5 Interview: T.A. Frost, author of Up To The Throne

Please welcome T.A. Frost to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews. Toby has submitted Up To The Throne to SPFBO 5.

Follow the fate of all the entrants at

SPFBO 5 Interview: T.A. Frost, author of Up To The Throne

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

T.A.:  Thank you! The first fiction I remember writing was a story about a time traveller, when I was 12. I wrote it in a small blue notebook from school. It was somewhere between H.G. Wells and Dr. Who, and featured illustrations by the author. It will never, ever see the light of day.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

T.A.:  A hybrid, I think. I know that I find plotting tricky, so I try to compensate by making a lot of notes. Know your weaknesses and all that!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

T.A.:  Probably editing. As I've written more, I've become more confident in putting down a rough first draft and refining it in the editing stage. However, that does mean that the editing takes more work. Also, reading reviews can be nerve-racking, but perhaps waiting for them is even worse!

TQDescribe Up To The Throne using only 5 words.

T.A.:  Renaissance Revenge Becomes Unexpectedly Complicated!

TQWhat inspired you to write Up To The Throne?

T.A.:  A mixture of history, noir crime and real-world annoyance! The one thing that tipped me over the edge was seeing a bit of old artwork in a D&D manual and thinking "I'd like to write about someone like that". The end result is very different to the inspiration, but that picture gave me the little push that I needed.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Up To The Throne.

T.A.:  It was made by Claire Peacey of Autumnsky, and I think it's absolutely beautiful. It shows Giulia, the lead character, walking towards an illegal boxing match at the docks. I think it does a great job of reflecting the mood of the novel.

TQIn Up To The Throne who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

T.A.:  The lead character, Giulia, was perhaps the easiest. She's nothing like me, but she has this clear, driven attitude, like a P.I. in a crime story, that's easy to write. A noblewoman, Tabitha Corvani, was the hardest. She's untrustworthy, insincere and yet weirdly admirable, and that was difficult to convey.

TQDoes Up To The Throne touch on any social issues?

T.A.:  Yes, perhaps inevitably. A lot of the characters are eccentrics, outcasts or people looked down upon as second-class. There's a subplot about the political expediency of persecution, and religious trouble is always brewing. That said, I didn't set out to preach a message: those issues arose naturally in the story and had to be treated with the gravity that they deserved.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Up To The Throne.


“You owe someone for something?”

“Yes.” Giulia stood up. “I owe them for a lot. But they’re the ones who’re going to pay.”

TQWhat's next?

T.A.:  There will be a stand-alone sequel, named Blood Under Water, out in July 2019, and I hope to do a third book next year. Also, I'm working on a much longer epic fantasy quartet, and a series of light SF novels about a domestic robot reprogrammed as a spy.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

T.A.:  Thank you for interviewing me!

Up To The Throne
Dark Renaissance 1
December 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 531 pages

SPFBO 5 Interview: T.A. Frost, author of Up To The Throne
Revenge is never simple...

Giulia Degarno returns to the city-state of Pagalia with one intention: to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead. But Publius Severra is no longer a mere criminal, and has risen to become a powerful politician - and perhaps the only man who can save Pagalia from anarchy. Now, as Severra stands poised to seize the throne. Giulia must choose between taking her revenge, and saving her home.

Up To The Throne is a dark fantasy novel set in a magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines. It is a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters - and death is never far away.

About T.A. Frost

SPFBO 5 Interview: T.A. Frost, author of Up To The Throne
Toby Frost is the author of a wide range of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The six Space Captain Smith novels, published by Myrmidon Books, are comedic space opera set in a barely-functional British Space Empire threatened by giant ants and enraged lemming-people. Expect daring adventure, space battles, excessive tea consumption and small talking horses. Think "Blackadder meets Flashman in space" and you've got the idea.

Toby's most recent novel is Up To The Throne, a dark story of intrigue and revenge set in a magically-enhanced Renaissance. It's the first book in a trilogy: the second and third stories will be out in 2019.

Straken, published by Black Library, is a military science fiction novel set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Full of grim adventure and black humour, it and tells of Colonel Straken of the Imperial Guard. Colonel Straken's adventures continue in a number of short stories anthologised by Games Workshop.

Toby's website is at:
The Space Captain Smith site is:
More information on Up To The Throne can be found at:

SPFBO 5 Interview: Ashley Capes, author of The Fairy Wren

Please welcome Ashley Capes to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews. Ashley has submitted The Fairy Wren to SPFBO 5.

Follow the fate of all the entrants at

SPFBO 5 Interview: Ashley Capes, author of The Fairy Wren

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Ashley:  Thanks! It was a picture book quite reminiscent of "The Goonies" - I also illustrated it myself of course, sometime during primary school, so it was no masterpiece!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Ashley:  Very much a hybrid - I often jot down certain important plot points first but then I like to let the story evolve as I'm writing it. Personally, if I'd written a lot of detail out first, I probably wouldn't enjoy the writing process as much, I reckon.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ashley:  Perhaps fitting in all the things I want to have in any given story - I tend to include a heap of things and then have to pare it back, which can be a shame for me. Kinda related is when I imagine a story is going to have a certain tone/mood but as I write it things change and it's not how I first imagined it (though that's usually for the better in the end!)

TQDescribe your novel using only 5 words.

Ashley:  Small town supernatural :D

TQWhat inspired you to write your novel?

Ashley:  Probably a mixture of Haruki Murakami's 'The Wind Up Bird Chronicle' and my fascination with small towns and their secrets and maybe a desire to write something I'd still like many years later (so far so good on that last front).

TQPlease tell us about the cover for your novel.

Ashley:  This was done by the amazing Rebekah at Vivid Covers and I was so, so very happy with it - the cover depicts the Superb Fairywren, which plays a pivotal role in the magic of my story.

TQIn your novel who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Ashley:  Paul, the MC was the easiest because I was going for that regular guy... with a little more snark than perhaps sense, and so that was fun. I found Alessandra (the Italian runaway) perhaps hardest because she has the language barrier but I really enjoyed researching her dialogue too.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from your novel.

Ashley:  This was tough as it's been a while since I've read over 'The Fairy Wren' but there's this short, kinda silly exchange on the phone that I still like, with Paul calling his barrister:

"I need some help, Lloyd. Dennis Maddocks is going to sue me for assaulting him.”

“Ah.” His tone became concerned. “And did you assault him?”

“With vigour, Lloyd.”

And I still like this short description too:

"When Jon finally stopped, it was by a sluggish stream that was more a murmur than any particular colour."

TQWhat's next?

Ashley:  I'm working on an Urban Fantasy and also the third in my steampunk/dystopia - trying to wrestle myself from one project to another actually :D It's hard to choose because I think to finish things (so the steampunk should be 'winning') but working on an Urban Fantasy is really fun for me as it's quite different from what I've been writing the last few years, which is Epic Fantasy. It's about one of Death's nephews and the trouble he gets into :)

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ashley:  Thanks for the chance to talk about my stories!

The Fairy Wren
Close-Up Books, October 2014
Hardcover, Paperback and eBook, 238 pages

SPFBO 5 Interview: Ashley Capes, author of The Fairy Wren
From the moment a fairy wren drops his lost wedding ring at his feet, Paul realises there's more magic to the world than he thought...

When Paul Fischer receives a strange phone call asking for help, from a woman who might be his estranged wife Rachel, he's drawn into a mysterious search that threatens not only his struggling bookstore, but long-buried dreams too.

Unfortunately, the only help comes from a shady best friend, an Italian runaway and a strange blue fairy wren that seems to be trying to tell him something - yet the further he follows the clues it leaves the less sense the world seems to make. Is he on the verge of a magical, beautiful discovery or at the point of total disaster?

About Ashley

SPFBO 5 Interview: Ashley Capes, author of The Fairy Wren
Ashley is a poet, novelist and teacher living in Australia.

He teaches English, Media and Music Production, has played in a metal band, worked in an art gallery and slaved away at music retail. Aside from reading and writing, Ashley loves volleyball and Studio Ghibli – and Magnum PI, easily one of the greatest television shows ever made.

See poetry and fiction at

Twitter @Ash_Capes  ~  Goodreads
SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie BurgisSPFBO 5 Interview: E.L. Drayton SPFBO 5 Interview: Edward M. ErdelacSPFBO 5 Interview: Sonya M. BlackSPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's FinalistSPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-FinalistSPFBO 5 Interview: Clayton Snyder, author of River of ThievesSPFBO 5 Interview: T.A. Frost, author of Up To The ThroneSPFBO 5 Interview: Ashley Capes, author of The Fairy Wren

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?