#SPFBO 2018, Batch 3 books 4-6

Posted On 15 October 2018

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As mentioned in my post here as part of the SPFBO competition I’ll be randomly choosing six books per month for the next five months, I will then aim to check out at least the first 30% of each book during that month.  I’ll post information about the first three books chosen at the start of the month and then about the remaining three during the mid way point with a conclusion around the end of the month about which books will be going forward or which will be eliminated.  The conclusion for my first and second month’s reading can be found here and here.  Ultimately, the aim is to choose one book from the thirty I’ve been assigned – that chosen one will then be my finalist.

Books 4-6 in my third batch of books are as follows:

Dark of Winter by Christopher Percy

darkofwinterThe people of Sumner are odd. Their village, far to the north where the weather is worst, is lost to a world of snow and ice and freezing death. No one trusts Sumner. No one goes there.

Until now.

King Fialsun’s soldiers are battle weary. They have spent years carving an empire that starts from the south and rises up like an inexorable branch, twisting east and west and now to new territories in the north.

Despite growing dissent, Fialsun’s power remains absolute and his might infinite. But one village remains outside from his sovereignty: Sumner.

Fialsun sends one hundred of his soldier veterans to find and to decimate the village. To bring an end to its stigma and to quash the dreaded infamy of its most lethal warrior: Threecuts.

But strange events have been unfolding in Sumner. A girl has gone missing and warriors deem they have captured a creature from mythology. All the evidence leads to the conclusion that an ancient evil is coming.

In one night the fate of Sumner will be decided. If the King’s soldiers do not reach them first, then the creatures of the Dark of Winter will.

Author Page

twitter: darkofwinterbk

Website : http://www.christopherpercy.co.uk

How to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Steps

 

How to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Steps by Douglas Todd 

Valerie wants to sell her soul. But it seems like Hell doesn’t want it, which is a real disappointment.

Actually, Hell is having some serious problems, and it looks like Valerie is going to get ensnared in them whether she likes it or not. Along the way, she’ll meet a lot of colorful and interesting people, most of whom are immortal, many of whom aren’t very nice, some of whom would like to see her dead.

She’ll also experience some truly horrifying things because, no matter how nice some of the people in it are, when it comes right down to it, Hell just isn’t a very pleasant place.

Author page

Forsaken Kingdom

 

Forsaken Kingdom by JR Rasmussen

At his kingdom’s darkest hour, the lost heir returns. A pity he can’t remember who he is …

To save his people and the forbidden magic they’re sworn to defend, Wardin Rath surrenders his birthright and his past. For seven years he’s held at the court of his deadliest enemy, oblivious to all he’s lost. Until one day, the spell that stole his memories begins to crack.

On the heels of a harrowing escape, Wardin’s quest for answers leads him to the last magistery, where he studied magic as a boy. But he’ll find no safe haven there—or anywhere. Plagued by threats and suspicion, hunted relentlessly by the king who will stop at nothing to crush him, Wardin is soon battling for his life, his home, and the survival of magic itself.

And this time, the enemy will take no prisoners.

Author’s Page

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#SPFBO4 Interview with Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens

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Today I’m pleased to welcome to my blog Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens.

Hi Alice, thank you so much for not only taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off but also for agreeing to take part in an interview.  

It may seem a bit of an overused opener but can you start by telling readers a little bit about yourself and a short introduction to what your book is about – something that isn’t lifted straight from the bio already available on line if possible.

I grew up in New Jersey but have lived all over the country. I blame my wanderlust on nomadic ancestors. The Celts migrated through Hungary, where my father was born, and continued on to Ireland where my mother’s people are from. I’m the family genealogist and spend way too much time researching people that I might be related to. It gives me a lot more stories that I want to write.

High Barrens is set in the high desert. I lived in New Mexico and Colorado for a while. The desert there fascinated me. The landscape is so rugged and parched. Ultimately, it was too dry and hot for this east-coast soul.

The main thrust of the book is about a young woman, Flint, learning about herself and her skills. She’s grown up in a dangerous frontier town and feels that she can handle anything. But once she gets out into the world, she encounters things that are so far outside of her experience that she’s at a loss. However, Flint is a strong, resourceful person. Even when she is caught in the middle of a battle, she can keep her head and lend a hand.

The magic in this world is all controlled by specific gods which each have a certain skill set. For example, Bhanur is the god of healing and his followers, called Hands, run temples that serve as hospitals. There are some odd cracks in the overlap of the various gods’ domains. A few skills are not beholding to anyone, including Flint’s ability to see a person’s soul. The why of that is something that Flint wants to pursue, but she gets sidetracked by other things.

The book is just Flint’s story and I think of it as a standalone. That doesn’t mean it’s the last time we’ll see her. But the next book in the series will be someone else’s story.

I love the sound of Flint’s frontier beginnings and look forward to reading about her adventures.

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So, I can see where the influence for your setting came from.  How about the character?  Did the story come first or the character?

The main character, Flint, has been around for a long time. It’s a story that I originally started decades ago. It was part of a much bigger story and I didn’t have the skills to pull it off. But I learned with a different book to scale down and decided to pull this character out and give her a smaller story. I ended up changing the name and then the gender. That gave me enough distance to separate her from the rut of the old story line. Then I could create something new.

It’s interesting that the next story will be from a different character.  Do you worry at all that that might be risky – readers can become very attached to a character after all?

I left Flint in a good place that also had a jumping off point. In fact, someone left a review stating that they knew what the next book would be about. That made me chuckle because it does seem obvious. She will be around and she might get another book of her own down the line. The next book will deal with people that were introduced in the first book. They were side characters, but hung around for awhile. I can only hope that readers found them interesting enough to want to know more about them.

You mention that High Barrens will be a standalone with a new character featuring in the next book – will that be from the same world?  Do you envisage that Flint might put in an appearance at some point?

Yes, this is all in the same world. I named the series Tales of Haroon specifically because I wanted to be able to spend time on different aspects. I’ve always loved the huge epics, but sometimes they get so confusing. When I started reading Game of Thrones I felt like I needed a flowchart to keep track of all the characters and their affiliations. Also I was hanging out on a readers forum for a while and several said that they didn’t like being forced into a series. Especially one with long arcs. That got me to thinking that it might be better to wrap up the story in one book. It’s sort of an experiment but also the best way for me to do the stories in this world.

When did you first start to write and how many books have you written so far?  

I started writing things down when I was pretty young. It never occurred to me to write a book because I was more focused on art. I started writing after the death of a dear friend as catharsis. When I got that out of my system (and that story will always stay in the drawer) I decided that maybe I could write a book. I started writing seriously about 2005. My 11th novel came out Aug 23rd.

What happened to your earliest attempts at writing – did you feel that they were successful or did you shelve them?

A lot of what I started, I couldn’t finish properly. Many of the stories were episodic, the adventures of a bunch of friends. They were mostly written for fun. I go back occasionally and find an idea that I want to develop. Some of it has morphed into new projects.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice about your earlier works what would that be – would you want to make changes at all?

It’s hard to say because those stories come from a younger, less experienced version of myself. I guess I would just say to keep writing. Practice really does improve your skills.

I notice that you write in a number of genres – do you have a particular favourite?  How easy, or not, is it to keep all the different books and series compartmentalised?

I read in all those genres, so I wanted to write in them also. The favorite is usually the one I’m working on. I like to jump into a completely different world when I’m done with a book. I’ve just finished a mystery and I’m starting a new book in my post-apocalyptic series now. It’s a relief to let go for awhile. I do keep a very detailed bible of each world, the characters and some plot points. So if I forget if someone has blue eyes or green, I can easily find it. Genre-jumping isn’t recommended for building an audience because sometimes there is little crossover – a reader of mysteries might not read scifi and vice versa. So it’s taken me a lot longer to build any kind of following.

I’m intrigued by your first answer where you mention that Flint had been around for about a decade and was part of a much bigger story.  How difficult is it to come to such  a conclusion that something isn’t working and to decide to start over in this way?  Particularly after you’ve invested such a lot of work already?

I’d put that story on the back burner a couple of times because I just didn’t know where it was going. If you can’t finish a story, that’s a dead giveaway that it’s got issues. I started noodling around with screenplays for awhile and was astonished that there was actually a formula to this stuff. Who’d a thunk it? Then I started writing a mystery and that has a formula to it also. It’s much looser, but ultimately it’s about a crime that needs to be solved and a killer arrested. When I went back to some of my rambling, episodic writings, I could see how it needed more structure. Once you can understand the overall structure of storytelling, you can spot the problems in a story. A lot of the work I put into world building and character profiles could still be used. It gave me a terrific foundation to start with. And since some of the story was so old, I couldn’t remember half of it. So I wasn’t constrained by the old plot lines.

Starting over immediately on a bad story isn’t always a good idea. Put it aside and let it rest. Get your brain working on something different. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, and maybe new skills, it’s easier to see solutions.

I noticed on your blog that you studied Fine Art – is that something that you’re still interested in or has writing filled that creative need in you now?  Is there time for both in your life?

I haven’t done any artwork in awhile. I don’t rule it out, I just haven’t had the urge to draw or paint for awhile. The creative energy is probably going into my writing. Also I don’t really have a space to work. But the workmen have started on my office and I foresee some painting in the near future.

Does the artistic side of you mean that you become involved in the cover process at all or do you leave that to others?

I tried doing my covers but there is a big difference between graphic art and painting for the fun of it. The learning curve for some of the programs was daunting. And there is a whole lot of information that a graphic artist just knows from experience that I don’t. I floundered around until I connected with Alex Storer. He’s done all but one of my covers. Sometimes I have a specific image in mind and he works up some sketches based on my input. Sometimes I don’t have a clue and I just give him a list of story elements that he can incorporate. Then I look at the rough sketches and give him feedback. He usually has a winner for me in the 1st or 2nd try. We have a very good working relationship.

I think having a background in art helps me to envision the completed image from the sketch. It also helps me to explain any changes I want, slight color shift or moving an element that gets closer to the image in my head.

HighBarrens

Finally, you may be relieved to hear, and on a lighter note, do you have any stories you could share or experiences of something crazy that you’ve done?

The craziest thing I’ve ever done…there’s been a lot of that, but I’ll go with a G-rated one.

I was living in Boston, back in my early twenties, and had just gotten back from an extended vacation. I had quit my job before leaving, so I needed to find work right away. I don’t even remember how it came about, but I signed up with this guy to be a Sandwich Witch. That meant I had to wear this awful hazard-orange, bibbed hot pants sort of thing and sell sandwiches out of a big wicker basket. It was a revolting outfit that wasn’t the least bit sexy on me. Also, it was made out of some sort of heavy plastic and it was the summer, so that made the thing even more uncomfortable.

The tricky part was that he told me to go into the high rise buildings and hawk the sandwiches in all the offices. Since I had never done anything remotely like it, I was ignorant of a slew of laws. I was quickly caught by security who demanded to see my peddler’s license. Which of course I didn’t have. And it turned out – neither did my boss. The security guy was nice enough to not call the cops on me for who knows how many different violations. (I didn’t even ask where the sandwiches came from, and was kind of surprised anyone would actually buy them.) I quickly handed in my outfit, but it had leaked orange dye all over my blouse and underwear. And I didn’t make a cent for all my sweat and aggravation.

Lesson learned about taking odd jobs and I still have an aversion to the color orange.

Alice, thank you so much for taking part, for being so patient and for sharing your experiences.  I really enjoyed our interview and I wish you all the best in the SPFBO.

For more information about Alice check out the following:

Website
Twitter
URL

 

 

#SPFBO Guest Post: Finding Fairy Tales by A M Justice

Today, I’m really pleased to welcome to my blog the author of A Wizard’s Forge: Amanda Justice.  Amanda has written a post about the inspiration for her book A Wizard’s Forge which will be one of my upcoming reads for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  A Wizard’s Forge is a deconstructed version of Rapunzel.  If you know anything about my blog you’ll know I love fairytale retellings so excitement am I to read this post: 

Rapunzel4‘Sometimes inspiration is like a beacon, drawing the author toward her goal. Other times, the influence is a sleeper agent that infiltrates the subconscious and adds unexpected layers to the narrative. My SPFBO 2018 entry, A Wizard’s Forge, is a retelling of “Rapunzel,” but not necessarily one I set out to write.

Because we’re usually introduced to fairy tales as children, and we hear or read them over and over, they tend to embed themselves in our consciousness. They also frequently portray universal themes—fairy tales from different cultures all over the world often carry similar messages about compassion or justice. I think the universal nature of these stories is why bookstore shelves are loaded with fairy tale retellings. Western folk tale–inspired stories tend to dominate English-language fantasies, including modern-day classics such as Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted (“Cinderella”) and Fairest (“Snow White”) and Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern (starting with Goose Girl) as well as the recent novels A Dance of Silver and Shadow (“The Twelve Dancing Princesses”; an SPFBO 2018 entry) by Melanie Cellier and Spinning Silver (“Rumpelstiltskin”) by Naomi Novik. But fairy tales turn up in other genres too. Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (Cinder [“Cinderella”], Scarlett [“Little Red Riding Hood”], etc) are set in a high-tech, dystopian future and feature cyborgs as the protagonists. Jane Rosenberg Laforge’s Hawkman (“The Bearskin”) takes place in post-WWI England and is more magic realism than fantasy. Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State (“Rumpelstiltskin”), set in modern day Haiti, is straight contemporary fiction and doesn’t contain any magic at all.Rapunzel3

“Rapunzel” nestled down in the bedrock of my psyche and from there bubbled up into the making of A Wizard’s Forge. The inspiring elements were melted and remixed in the idea cauldron, so the source material may not be as obvious as it is in other retellings. On the surface, A Wizard’s Forge is a science fantasy about a young woman’s quest for vengeance. The setting on a lost space colony is inspired by Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, and the fantasy creatures (i.e., aliens) are directly descended from 1950s sci fi films featuring giant insects (e.g., THEM!). The story deliberately subverts a lot of fantasy tropes, starting with a damsel in distress who saves herself, then tries to save a prince. In addition, Victoria, the heroine, might be a chosen one, and she’s given a special talisman before departing on a quest to defeat an evil high lord. Where the book departs from high fantasy is that the lord’s power is psychological, not magical. He holds Vic captive at the beginning of the story, and her desire to avenge herself is complicated by a case of Stockholm Syndrome. There’s also a long war, a clash between religion and atheism, those giant intelligent insects mentioned above, and a taste of wizardry, which in Vic’s world is a mysterious power that is usually lethal to those who try to wield it.

I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t sound anything like Rapunzel!

Rapunzel2But it is. Rapunzel involves a girl with very long hair who is held in isolation in a tower by a powerful, jealous person. A prince finds the tower, sneaks in, and he and the girl fall in love. Discovering them together, the enraged captor throws the prince out a window into a patch of nettles. Blinded, he wanders off into the wilderness. After shearing off the girl’s hair, the captor magically banishes her to another land. Eventually, the prince and girl find each other, and her joyful tears wash the nettles from his eyes, restoring his sight.

All of that is in A Wizard’s Forge:

  • A powerful person is obsessed with Vic and keeps her locked up by herself in a tower.
  • Vic has long hair that is central to her identity; her captor cuts it off.
  • A harrowing event centers around the tower window.
  • Vic’s sexual awakening has dire consequences for herself and others.
  • A jealous rage provides an opportunity for escape.
  • There’s a prince.
  • Someone goes blind.
  • There’s a separation and a reunion.

As Jo Niederhoff recently discussed on Fantasy Faction, fantasy and fairy tales share many common tropes and themes, such as the hero’s journey, hidden royalty, and magic, all of which turn up in A Wizard’s Forge as well. But some important differences between fairy tales and fantasy are worth noting. In his essay “Tree and Leaf,” J.R.R. Tolkien explained the idea of “secondary belief,” in which fantasy authors must construct their worlds in such a way that readers believe the story while they’re immersed in it, whereas fairy tale tellers don’t need to explain anything. Donald Haase, editor of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales, echoed this idea by saying belief is the main difference between fantasy and fairy tales. Fairy tales aren’t necessarily made to be believable, because the goal isn’t immersion but instruction. The fairy tale is like a didactic lecture or sermon, meant to impart wisdom or knowledge. A fantasy, however, is a philosophical discussion between author and reader in which the reader must accept the author’s premise to understand the author’s observations and message. Fairy tales teach; fantasies enlighten.

Whoa! Enlighten—that’s a rather highfalutin notion, isn’t it? I’d argue that the fantasy genre encompasses a wide range of fiction, from purely escapist, easy reading pulp to literary masterworks. Regardless of where a book falls on that spectrum, by simply positing societies and individuals that are different from us or approach problems differently, fantasies force readers to think about the world in new ways, opening the door to epiphanies about how our world works. That was certainly my goal when I wrote A Wizard’s Forge, and I think the elements from “Rapunzel” that infiltrated the story helped me achieve it.

For more information about Amanda and her book:

Website: www.amjusticeauthor.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMJusticeWrites
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AMJusticeauthor/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6903962.A_M_Justice

A Wizard's Forge

Thank you Amanda for providing me with this great guest post.  I’m really looking forward to picking your book up and wish you all the best with the SPFBO.

#SPFBO 2018 Book Teaser: The Purple Haze by Andrew Einspruch

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As part of the SPFBO (details here) I’ve invited all the authors from my batch to visit my blog.  The Purple Haze by Andrew Einspruch is one of the books from my first batch of books and at the moment is still in the running.  Below is an excerpt from the book (reproduced here with the author’s permission of course).  Check out Chapter 1 and see if it whets your appetite.  I think this has a wonderful cheeky sense of humour that I’m really enjoying so far:

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Chapter One – THE PROPOSAL

“Please, please, marry my son,” implored the chipmunk.

Princess Eloise Hydra Gumball III, Future Ruler and Heir to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters, sat on the Listening Throne in the ornate Receiving Room of Castle de Brague and took two precise sips of her haggleberry tea, trying not to let her surprise show.  She straightened, still holding the cup and saucer.  “I… I… Truly, Seer Maybelle? Jerome?”

Seer Maybelle de Chipmunk’s delicate whiskers drooped, and Eloise worried she’d been too harsh.  “Yes, Princess,” she said.  “Jerome,”

“Goodness.”  Eloise sipped again, buying a moment.  “I haven’t really thought about marriage much, but if I may so, I rather thought I’d end up with a prince of some description.  You know, someone more in the direction of a human, perhaps? But, please. I’m happy to hear you out.”

The chipmunk clasped her dainty paws in front of her and began an obviously well-rehearsed plea.  “My son, Jerome Abernatheen de Chipmunk, is a good boy, as you well know.  And believe me, I am aware of his flaws as only a mother can be.”  She extended her claws to enumerate.  “He’s forgetful.  He’s awkward in small groups.  He’s awkward in large groups.  He’s prone to wafting off into the La La Realms.  His dress sense veers unpredictably and inexplicably from one garish colour to another.  He knows far, far too much about the musical plays of Lyndia Thrind.  He has a penchant for babbling about nothing when stressed.  Then there’s the whole unfortunate thing with jesters.”

Eloise nodded.  Twice.  “One cannot characterize that description as unfair, Seer Maybelle.”

“But Princess Eloise, I’ve searched the future with every tool I have, methods common and obscure, profound and profane, some passed down from my grandmothers a hundred generations removed.  I have stared into the flame of the Burning Fungus, scanned dregs of haggleberry tea, and listened to the sounds of the Oracle Bellbirds.  I’ve drawn the Twigs of Fate from the Bag of Kismet and sought wisdom in the gurgling mud of the Elder’s Swamp.  It embarrasses me to tell you, because it took a week to get the stench out of my fur, but I’ve taken counsel with Gordon the Noisome, whose twitching earlobes have a strangely accurate predictive quality.”

Gordon the Noisome?  Wow.  Seer Maybelle was serious about this.  Standing close enough to Gordon to see his earlobes twitch was a sacrifice no one should have to make.

“Everywhere I look Princess, I see that my son’s destiny is to be by your side.  I’m, I’m…”  Seer Maybelle’s voice slid down to a whisper.  “I’m sorry, but I believe you must wed.”

Eloise took another sip of her tea, then set down the cup.  The saucer clinked on the marble side table, which matched the marble walls of the Receiving Room.  Eloise carefully moved the cup and saucer so they were in the exact middle of the table on a serviette whose edges were equidistant from the table’s.  She placed the spoon on the saucer so it lined up with the serviette and the table.  She would rather have put it across the top of the cup, but that would be taking it too far, given that Seer Maybelle was with her.

Until three years before, when Court began demanding so much of her time, Jerome had been her best friend.  For a decade, they’d been inseparable, whether exploding whifflenut pies in Cookery and Cuisine class (which she enjoyed despite the mess), plotting paint dart campaigns in Weapons and Stratagems (also fun despite potential mess), ridiculing each other’s poetry in Arts and Elocution, or creating the most elaborate contraptions in Engineering and Constructions.  Inseparable, until court life had done the inevitable – separated them.

Eloise understood Jerome like few did.  He was a klutz.  A clever klutz.  A verbose klutz.  A well-read, musically literate, historically curious klutz.  But definitely a klutz.  She loved him, klutziness and all, but like a brother and nothing else.  Even ignoring matters of species, marrying him was out of the question.  That’s just not what she felt for him.

The problem was Seer Maybelle de Chipmunk.

Seer de Chipmunk was the Western Lands’ visionary.  There was never, ever any escaping what the matronly chipmunk foretold.  But if Eloise had learned anything in Oracles and Insights (other than that Jerome showed not the slightest hint of divinatory talent, despite his family line), it was that there was always another interpretation, another angle.

Seer Maybelle shifted from foot to foot.  It was difficult for her to stand like this for so long, but pride and Protocol demanded it.  With a quiet rasp, she cleared her throat, preparing to sell, somehow, what was ridiculously unsellable.  Her son, short, nervous, and – there was no escaping it – a chipmunk, was completely unsuited to the willowy, athletic, 16-year-old, dark-haired and darker-eyed human.  Seer Maybelle opened her mouth, but Eloise held up a finger and stopped her.

“I have an idea.”

“Yes, Princess Eloise?”

“I shall name Jerome Abernatheen de Chipmunk my champion.”

Seer Maybelle stood gape-mouthed, then closed her eyes and scanned the Unseen.  When she opened them again, she graced Princess Eloise with a radiant chipmunk smile.  She nodded, amazed that such insight could come, once again, from someone so young.

Mrs de Chipmunk left the Receiving Room lighter of heart than she’d felt in weeks.

Eloise draped the Attention Cape over the back of the Listening Throne and wondered how in the name of Calaht she would ever convince her parents to allow her decision.

***

That was the first chapter of The Purple Haze.  What do you make of the style?

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#SPFBO Cover Competition

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If you’re familiar with this blog you’ll be aware that for the past three years I’ve taken part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) created by Mark Lawrence (check out the details here).  Basically the SPFBO is a competition for self published authors.  Each year 300 books are submitted, 10 judges are awarded 30 books each, each judge submits one book to the final stage and finally one book, with the highest rating wins the competition.  As the contest begins we have a cover competition.  Below are the 30 covers for my books (list of titles and authors can be found here). I will be choosing 3 covers from the titles below to submit for the contest.  I already have 3 in mind and will post my choices on Friday – but, I want to give the authors a chance to check my list and ensure I have the most uptodate covers.

So, here they are – and there are some lovelies to feast your eyes on:

HighBarrensrebel's bladellightdawningThe Sangrook Sagathe lostsentinelcursedwishesHeart of the DestroyerSolace LostA Wizard's ForgeunderordshawsavageswordsForsaken KingdomSanctuary's FiendSorcerers' IsleHow to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Stepscross fireShadow of a SlaveArgenterrapurplehazeclockworld

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songsofsworn to theAnempiredeadmarshplumstonecovers_Dark_Oak_Jacob_Sannox_004-3victorboonedarkofwinterParagonTheBastardFF

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