Shields in Shadow by Andy Peloquin – SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Shields in Shadow

SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

Tales of the Thief-City by Gareth Lewis – SPFBO #6 Semi-Finals Review

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The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens – Exclusive Excerpt!

The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens

Exclusive Excerpt


Small Press, Big Stories: Grimbold Books

Small Press, Big Stories is a monthly column focusing on small and independent presses from around the world. This month’s featured publisher is Grimbold Books.

Grimbold (logo small)This month on #SmallPressBigStories we’re talking to the Thames Valley’s real life equivalent of DC Peter Grant – Sammy Smith of Grimbold Books has both a warrant card and a hotline to some of the best authors and artists in modern fantasy – just check the contributors to last year’s Fight Like A Girl anthology!

Grimbold has been quite quiet over this first half of the year, releases-wise. Obviously there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and a lot happening later on this year, but do you find that makes it difficult to maintain a high profile in the genre community?

Yes and no. When there are new releases, it’s much easier to engage with readers and maintain an online presence – the incentive of ARCs, reviews, new stories and chatting about characters drums up a steady stream of interest and allows us to ‘feed’ off the energy and increase our reach. However, our current back catalogue is really excellent quality and it’s sometimes nice to have a bit of breathing space to promote the books and collections that maybe got overlooked in the flurry of NEW NEW NEW. A quieter period (at least for the readers) is a perfect time to discover some current authors, catch up on our back catalogue, and be up to date for the new releases late this year!

One area that small presses are better placed to take advantage of is in reissuing out-of-print books and series. Wizard’s Tower Press have reissued Juliet E McKenna’s first two series, and Fox Spirit have reissued Dana Fredsti’s “cosy noir” Murder For Hire – and now Grimbold is reissuing Jessica Rydill’s Children of the Shaman. What drew you to Jessica’s books?

Children of the Shaman (cover)Jessica is an amazing writer. I read submissions ‘blind’ (meaning I don’t read anything about the submitter before I read the work, including their name!), and with Jessica’s work it was clear in the first three paragraphs that she is a natural wordsmith and hugely talented. Her writing pulls you into the story without you realising it and before you know it, you’ve ended the submission and left feeling bereft. Children of the Shaman wasn’t the original submission from Jessica but she mentioned that she was looking for new homes for her work and after discussing it with Jo Hall, we decided to offer her a deal on all of the novels in the series. I love the fact that we’re able to bring new readers to quality work, and it’s an absolute honour and joy having Jessica on board.

Speaking of re-releases, we also have the Nebula award nominated Mermaid by Kate O’Connor coming out in eBook and novelette paperback this week! This dark science fantasy retelling of “The Little Mermaid” is both charming and unsettling, and we’re so pleased to be able to reissue it as part of the Grimbold collection.

You recently had an open submission call for not one but three anthologies, which sounds really ambitious – what can you tell us about these?

Infinite Dysmorphia (cover)These anthologies started as an alcohol fuelled idea at FantasyCon in York a few years ago! I wanted to put together a trio of collections that were unique, inspiring, and also open to reader interpretation. The ultimate goal is to publish three anthologies with a mixture of new and established authors showcasing some of the best SFF speculative stories out there, and for this collection of anthologies we decided on a sci-fi theme.

Infinite Dysmorphia explores how science and technology could change what it means to be human, including bio implants, cybernetics, genetic modification, age reversal…but always coming back to the human experience and character, and telling stories of the lives bound up in the new definitions of human. Terra Nullius is a more ‘traditional’ sci-fi call, as we wanted stories about the edge of the known universe; stories about aliens and colonists, pioneers and new star systems…but again, we were drawn to the stories that showcased the challenges and the humanity, the struggles and survival out on the edge – and we’ve had some absolutely fabulous and unique takes on the concept! The final anthology, Holding on by Our Fingertips, was a call for stories about the last 24 hours before the apocalypse. How do people react when that final moment comes?

Terra Nullius (cover)We’ve got some fantastic editors on board. For Infinite Dysmorphia I’ve paired up with Pete Sutton (contributing editor of Far Horizon’s e-magazine and talented author). Kate Coe and Ellen Croshain will be editing Terra Nullius and the amazing Amanda Rutter is on board for Holding on by Our Fingertips. We absolutely loved the concepts as an editing team, but we didn’t expect the sheer quantity of excellent submissions that we received – these anthologies have proven wildly popular and I think that’s in part to the wonderful artwork by Nele Diel. She captured what we wanted perfectly and the response to the covers has been overwhelmingly positive. There is a wealth of talent in the editing teams and the chosen stories, and I hope this will show in the finished product!

Holding on by Our Fingertips (cover)And, as a teaser…if the Grimbold Patreon continues to grow, we’re planning to open three fantasy anthologies too, with Nele Diel working again with us on the covers. Think…Forgotten Sidekicks. Lost Gods. And Unexpected Heroines.

If this catches your interest, or you want to know more about our three sci-fi anthologies (well, of course you do!) then please come and join our lovely Facebook Group or keep an eye on the Grimbold website for news!

You mentioned a Patreon – what are you offering to supporters? Has this helped to increase Grimbold’s visibility?

The Patreon has been a great experience. We’re offering exclusive short stories, artwork and articles, and for higher pledgers, editing advice and support – check it out! It’s daft to say, but every small amount helps us. Running a press – be it micro, small or otherwise – is not cheap and a lot of Grimbold Books has been personally funded. The Patreon has allowed us to finance the above anthologies and pay towards artwork for new publications. It’s really important to us that we put the best product out, and artwork is so important (think how often you judge a book by its cover…).

It’s difficult to say if it’s helped our visibility. I think around 20% of our supporters are ‘unknown’ directly to us, which is pretty good, but obviously we have a long way to go! However, from the birth of the Patreon came our Podcast and that has been great fun – our ‘hosts’ Zoe Harris, Joel Cornah and Allan Bott have interviewed Becky Chambers, Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit, Juliet McKenna and others. Podcasts can be found here and also on iTunes!

What’s next for Team Grimbold this year? Will we be able to find you at any conventions?

Oh my, we’ve got some amazing books coming out this year. Further up you noted we have been quiet this year so far and that’s mostly because we’ve been editing and preparing releases from our open door submission period last year. Here is a taste of what we have to come:

In June we’re got the novella, Blood Bank by Zoe Markham. A fresh take on vampires, this story is set in the dark underworld of…Swindon. Yup, you read that right. There’s no sparkling or clichéd vamps in this tale.

And then later this year:

Grimbold - 2017 Releases (banner)

The Promise of a Battered Moon by Jack Teng
An asteroid is on its way to Earth, but for one woman, it doesn’t threaten destruction – it promises riches…if she can land it safely, and stake her claim.

Gwythias: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe
Ziricon Gwithyas doesn’t just have to cope with his odd name, weird family, general nerdiness and strange grandma living at the bottom of the garden; he’s got an alternate dimension populated by hungry monsters to fight, he has to save the world from his cousin and uncle with only the help of his ancestors, while also impressing the girl of his dreams.

The Book of Dragons by AJ Dalton (and others)
The fire-breathing monsters of legend are reincarnated to the modern age in this anthology of madness, wisdom, fear, wealth and mysticism.

The Sinner’s Daughter by Gillian O’Rourke
When Princess Tamryn is kidnapped by a foreign power, she thinks it is her gift of seeing auras that her enemy wants, or her brother’s gift of foresight. But the Queen of the Orvaen has a far more personal vendetta against Tamryn, even as other forces move to protect her – and love, hate, faith, vengeance and loyalty clash around her, Tamryn must reconcile her heart and her duty – or choose between them.

In the editing pipeline we have (amongst others!):

Islespeaker by Joanne Hall
Living islands, rainbow crossers, pirates and navies, priests and aristocrats: a story of loyalty and love, change and mystery – where a voice from the island sends two friends across the oceans to new destinies and lives.

Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan
A journey and flight from home to the unknown; a clash of values and cultures; a story of learning and knowledge; and a love story stretching across galaxies.

Warrior’s Touch by Deb E Howell
It’s a character-driven story, again primarily following Llew and Jonas from Healer’s Touch. Llew has always been independent, and this story gives her a chance to learn that it can be safe to rely on and to need others. While Jonas has always had a comprehensive support network behind him, which he has to learn to do without.

It’s about putting these two through the wringer and seeing how they respond to tough situations, and how they find strength in each other, and their friends.

Convention-wise we’re a little quiet this year. This is mostly due to the logistics of travel and my work rota, but we’ll be out in full force at BristolCon and have representatives at FantasyCon. If you see a Grimbold kitty badge, hoody or tee-shirt adorning a smiling author – do come say hello and introduce yourself!

The slightly silly question: this time we’re asking who, with a totally unlimited budget, you would have as Guests of Honour at a convention. Up to five names, either dead or alive.

Oh my…let me ask some Grimmies for help!

Sammy Smith: Mary Shelley – If Tolkien is often considered the grandfather of modern fantasy, then Shelley is the great grandmother of science fiction. A true feminist, born of a feminist, Shelley not only wrote the first *mass recognised and popular* (not necessarily the first) science fiction novel (I think Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing Worlds in 1666 would perhaps be the first? Let me know if you can identify any earlier!), but also perhaps the first post-apocalyptic book The Last Man. I would also love to ask her about the struggles of writing as a woman in the 19th century and what prompted her decision to finally take credit for her work. I want to know more about the links between religion, science, ethics and morality in the tale.

Joel Cornah: Tolkien – Tolkien had a talent for being an entertaining after dinner speaker, full of strange and hilarious stories, keen insights, and terrible jokes. Although he created what has arguably become the definitive fantasy world, he remained remarkably humble and, indeed, surprised by his own success. If you didn’t mind him going off on a tangent about some new linguistic discovery, or else giving you a new elf character, he could be a terrific guest. Also, you could ask him those important questions; who is Tom Bombadil? Do Balrogs have wings? What’s the deal with Glorfindel? Also, you would sell out of tickets in about a fifth of a second.

Deb E Howell: I would pick Brent Weeks, because even though I thought the Night Angel trilogy left something to be desired, I feel like he took whatever criticisms he got over that and did SO much better in The Lightbringer series, to the point that I wish I could have written it, and he seems like a genuinely nice, funny guy.

Robert Harkess: David & Leigh Eddings (as a pair, for one choice!). They changed the way contemporary fantasy was written and tore down the dependency on High Tolkienian storytelling.

Sammy: Jacqueline Carey – because she’s a personal favourite and her talents know no bounds. She writes contemporary, epic, dark, historical and mythological fantasy with ease and her worldbuilding is astounding. Her characters are always layered and relatable and her Kushiel series remains some of the best fantasy work on the market.


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