A Fantasy Author's Adventures in Fiction & Life

Tag: fantasy worlds

Twitter’s slow death has made 2023 a hard year for authors to celebrate our books, with many of us (myself included) losing our biggest platform. Meanwhile, many diverse authors are still finding the surest path to get our books out into the world is going indie. But without financial backing or publisher connections to promote our books, indie books of even the highest standard risk languishing in obscurity.

So as a queer, neurodiverse, chronically ill indie author of fantasy worlds, the logical thing was to showcase SFF worlds, diverse characters and key themes fellow authors of other worlds have written here. Most of the thirteen books in this post are first in a series, and all come with a Goodreads link to bookmark for future reading if you wish.

Genre: cozy epic fantasy set in pre-medieval times.

Asexual spectrum rep (ownvoices). and gender non-conformity.

Major themes:
blind fear & hate vs. good, love and friendship in day-to-day life.

Blurb: in a world where dragons & their riders are feared & killed, the life of one devout village huntress is changed forever when she meets a dragon hatchling.

Series info: book 1 of 3, all out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover
Title: DragonBirth
Image: young woman kneels before grey baby dragon, between two broad trees in a forest.

Genre: Victorian Steampunk

Cast: includes black & queer characters, variable socio-economic backgrounds, a talking cat.

Major themes: capitalism, equality, and societal expectations.

Short Blurb: Solving crimes is hard enough with secret societies and criminal chocolatiers to contend with, but add to that Dexter the talking mechanical cat, and it’s safe to say John Sinister is not having a good day.

Series info: stand alone, out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover
Title: Dexter & Sinister, Detecting Agents
Image: grey and white cat wearing goggles on its forehead and a green scarf sits looking up and out at the viewer, on a red background.

Genre: Scifi/ Mystery/ Comedy -recent past Earth & alternate dimensions.

Cast: bi main character.

Major themes: friendship, maturity, growing older.

Short Blurb: They’re not detectives, but they have to become detectives in order to figure out who’s telling people that they’re detectives.

Series info: book 1 of 3, all out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover (mostly blue toned)
Title: Duckett & Dyer, Dicks for Hire
Image: one detective raises an arm to their neck and looks uncertainly at the other, who thumbs up's the viewer with a crooked, uncertain smile Between them stands a dark, yellow eyed bull flanked by hands with eye balls instead of finger tips.
Bellow the title, a gun shoots a blue squiggle and sparks.

Genre: epic, portal, YA fantasy with beginnings in Australia, but mostly set in an alternate world (Umarinaris).

Cast: nonbinary and aromantic asexual leads (ownvoices), other queer, neurodiverse and BIPOC characters.

Major themes: found family, friendship, optimism and visionary leadership vs. adversity and war.

Short Blurb: King Kyura doesn’t want to invade Tarlah. Heir Ruarnon doesn’t want their people invaded and Aussie Linh has no desire to visit another world. But this book isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about people doing their best under exceptionally challenging circumstances.

Series info: book1 of 3 (1-2 out now, 3 on pre-order till April 2024 release).

Goodreads: link

Other Worlds -SFF Books Showcase

Genre: YA fantasy alternate history set in 1600s Viking and Spanish settled Canada.

Cast: First Nations / Indigenous rep, queer rep (after book 1 including ownvoices bi rep and lesbian, gay, trans, ace/aro rep.)

Major themes:
anti-colonialism, anti-racism, climate change, elemental/ nature-based magic, people’s lives diverging within parallel worlds diversity.

Short Blurb
: A rebellious heroine faces a colonial world coming unstitched: in a region tainted by prejudice and on the brink of civil war, 17-year-old Kateiko has to decide what’s worth dying – or killing – for.

Series info: book 1 of 4, all out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover
Title: The Call of the Rift, Flight
Image: A teenage girl walks alone through a dim, misty rainforest, carrying a spiked flail and magically lifting tendrils of water from a creek. The girl has brown skin, long brown hair blowing in the wind, and an arm tattoo of a bird and flowers. She wears a brown belted tunic, green leggings, tall fur-lined boots, leather bracers, and an embroidered red cloak. A line at the top says, 'The wind dies a thousand deaths, and still it returns.' "
and thanks so much, by the way!

Genre: gothic horror/dark fantasy-ish set in 13th century Eastern Europe in the fictional country Tristanja.

Cast: Bi & pan rep, demiro, polyam, and PTSD (ownvoices for the queer rep/polyam and PTSD).

Major themes: overcoming/healing from PTSD, rediscovering your sexual self after sexual trauma.

Short Blurb: Meya is Lord Deminas’ latest chambermaid and favourite source of blood to drink. To avoid being his next servant to vanish, she must uncover all of Castle Tristanja’s dark secrets.

Series info: 1 of 2 related books, both out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover
Title: My Lord
Image: naked young woman kneels in a bare stone room, strange red markings on the floor around her, a gold goblet before her, her hands raised and long, dark red hair flowing over her pale skin.

Genre: dark urban fantasy set in modern times (the 90s-present years) in small American cities.

Cast: includes a trans man, mental illness/ disability and DID rep (ownvoices).

Major themes: religious trauma, reversing the light vs dark narrative (dark’s good, light’s evil), angels & demons.

Short Blurb: Follow a trans man trauma survivor from childhood to adulthood as they face not only an evil angel, but also a sinister entity in their own head.

Series info: book 1 of 2 out now.

Goodreads: link

Book cover
Title: Everything is Wonderful Now
Image: upwards angle at a stone statue of a bare chested man, one hand raise to stone, wind blown locks, eyes wide, mouth open to cry out.

Genre: Dark Paranormal Fantasy set a few 100yrs from now in a post-apocalyptic world.

Cast: includes a lesbian and many POC characters.

Major themes: simple living, with money, rulers & religion no longer tolerated.

Short Blurb: An eviction. A stolen gemstone. A hidden network. Will retrieving her precious obsidian get Tricky killed.

Series info: book 1 of 2 out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: Dead Lake
Image: wooden slatted side of a house before golden, sunlit lake waters, a thin tree rising on the right.

Genre: YA sci-fi Futuristic setting near future (2165)

Cast: A plus size Jewish protagonist (ownvoices).

Major themes: a morally gray hero, how where we grow up influences our choices and perspective.

Short Blurb: Jorden Lund isn’t the chosen one, he’s the guy who volunteered. His suicide mission: build a bomb, destroy a space ship and save the world. Falling in love was not part of the plan. Now completing his mission means sacrificing the girl he loves.

Series info: book 1 of 2 out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: The Goodbye Kids
Image: space background, planet in sky, silhouette of girl and boy leaning towards each other in foreground, with full body silhouettes of them running hand in hand across a platform, a burning ship in space beyond them.

Genre: Scifi/Fantasy set in the US – 2,000 years from now.

Black, Latino and queer leads.

Major themes:
accepting oneself/found family, bringing down corrupt govt/upsetting the status quo.

In the distant future, the United States is long gone… the Realm stands in its place… and one peasant woman will become the catalyst for a revolution. The Serrulata Saga is a speculative dystopian sci-fi adventure you won’t want to miss.

Series info: book 1 of 5 out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: Gathering of Four
A young black woman with short hair stands in a red dress, her hands raised either side, flames burning from them. A young woman stands with a revolver raised in her right hand on the left, two men standing on the right, one holding a raised sword.

Genre: Dystopia/Sci-Fi World/Era: Near future Earth and alternate universe intersecting with it.

mental health rep (own voices), lesbian lead.

Major themes:
What is a human? How much impact can one person have on the world? Bigotry & othering.

Blurb: Local dumpster fire has her ex come back into her life. Plot twist — the ex is an android.

Series info: book1 of 2 out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: Kotov Syndrome
Image: a young woman's face, anime cartoon-ish style, her face framed with a long brown fringe on both sides and over her nose, her eyes glowing red, her mouth tiny and open.

Genre: urban fantasy/Sci-Fi set in the multiverse.

Cast/ Major themes:
include Dissociative Identity Disorder, Autism, kink/body positivity, and being transgender/queer by a trans, neurodivergent POC author with DID.

Short Blurb:
Years after a senseless murder, an autistic transgender man and his young teen nephew hope to finally find closure. Instead they are whisked away into the vast multiverse where a mentally unstable robot is set to activate the Mortal Engine.

Series info: book 1 of 2 out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: Mortal Engine
Image: a man with glowing red skin and a black beard stands with fanged mouth open, swathed in a bright blue, interior glowing red cloak, with neon lines waving around him.

Genre: Future, alien planet

LGBTQA+ main characters (except the gorilla, though apparently no one’s asked him 😉 ).

Major themes:
good vs bad, interplanetary culture clash.

Short Blurb:
When space poachers release Earth animals on an alien world, threatening a fragile new alliance, they anger the wrong people: a veterinarian, an accountant, and a furious sign-language-fluent gorilla are coming for them.

Series info: stand alone, out now.

Goodreads: link.

Book cover
Title: A Swift Kick to the Thorax
Image: floating manuscript pages over outer space background, pen floating below, bite mark in bottom right corner of pages.
Blue edged, pink, orange and yellow rainbow scroll with text: Get blogs in your inbox & updates from Elise every second month. Join my Fiction Frolics. Select this image to learn more.

SFF Author Interviews:
Mara Lynne Johnston (Swift Kick to the Thorax -Comedy SciFi).
Debbie Iancu Hadad (The Goodbye Kids, YA SciFi)
Natalie Kelda (YA SFF)
Elise Carlson (Epic YA Fantasy)

Manipulator’s War: Origins

Where Fantasy Worlds Come From

Where do you get your ideas? is a question writers are often asked. But the question that interests me more is ‘where do the ideas for an entire fantasy world come from’? Having already blogged about the cultures and characters in my YA Fantasy Trilogy, I took the question to three fellow SFF authors: Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Mindi Briar and J.F.R. Coates.

How did you develop your magic system(s)?

J.F.R Coates

I love magic. A well-done magic system can add a huge amount of depth and interest to a world, and it’s no a surprise I’ve found a way to include magic in every story I’ve written so far.

I believe there are several important factors to consider when coming up with a magic system. How widespread is this magic system? Who can use it? What is the source of magic? And how is it used?

With my sci-fi series, I took a different approach. I worked hard to make something separate to the Force in Star Wars, so I linked the magic to the subspace dimension that also controls the setting’s FTL travel. Only a select few can utilise this magic, and it allows for the manipulation of inorganic matter. There is even one character who can sense the ripples of distant events through this dimension, giving him a limited ability to see into the future. Knowledge of this magic is strictly controlled by the religious fascist antagonists, so exploration of these newly-developed powers is just one of the many ways the main protagonist can break away from his old life.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward

In the Goddess’s Honour world, magic is tied to tangible things. It’s present in the land to various degrees, and the leaders of various nations must be able to channel and control that land’s magical strength in order to lead. Some nations require that the prospective leaders be able to weave a Tapestry or create some other sort of artefact that is reflective of the combination of their strength and the land’s.

In Becoming Solo, each chapter has an epigraph from assorted guides to that world’s particular form of witchcraft. Since Solo is, essentially, 4H Style Revue with magic, I needed a magic system that could be incorporated into clothing –and a reason for why it was so important for the woman winning assorted Crowns–Style, in this case to win those crowns, as well as what it meant to the magic system.

Mindi Briar

The “magic” in the Halcyon universe derives from the existence of alien dragons, who are able to teleport and read minds. I hate long travel scenes and wanted a way for my characters to travel between planets instantaneously. The dragons became intense pacifists who won’t teleport anyone they perceive as distressed, which means that pilots often have to take calming drugs. That prompted a bunch of questions about what it would mean for humanity to be in a symbiotic relationship with aliens.

In Adrift in Starlight, the dragons are revealed to be hiding the existence of other alien races from humans to protect the aliens. Later in the series, as the trust between humans and dragons breaks down, humans begin working on ways to steal the dragons’ power for themselves using genetic modification. This results in a group of humans who have dragon-like powers —the excuse I needed to give my characters “magic” but keep it plausible in the realm of science fiction.

What informs secular culture in your world?

J.F.R. Coates

This largely depends on what genre I’m writing, as that can play a big part into my vision for the world. My fantasy setting of Farenar tends to be one that I would like to live in – there is still conflict there, with wars between the gods and different interpretations of magic providing plenty to keep interesting, but I don’t tend to include a lot of the bigotry present in our world.

My sci-fi series, on the other hand, was a look towards the future of this world. I considered what might happen a few hundred years into the future if a few certain key events played out – largely revolving around the rise of the Catholic Church returning to a place of utmost power, like it had wielded in the Medieval Ages. This resulted in a pretty grim fascist empire controlling two of the three star systems humanity had reached. This also gave me a chance to explore the third system through the story, with all the issues and problems they face.

Mindi Briar

Quite honestly, I’m writing a world I would want to live in. I got into solarpunk back in 2015, and that’s been a huge inspiration for the planet Halcyon. I came at it with the mindset of, “If I got dropped on a new planet to build a society from the ground up, how would I structure it?” So I made it a socialist utopia where everyone works together for the common good, with the dragons as telepathic enforcers to keep everyone honest. It took a lot of drafts to fully flesh out my ideas, and half of it doesn’t even hit the page until book 3 in the series.

The other planets in the Halcyon universe are the late-stage capitalism foil to Halcyon’s socialism. There’s environmental damage, prison slavery, wealthy people taking too many resources…the Imperial government is kind of my take on where society could go if nothing ever changes.

How did you decide who would occupy positions of power?

J.F.R Coates

Characters in positions of power come in various forms in my stories – I definitely have a few with noble goals and intentions, but probably an equal number who abuse that power. Some even sway from one side to the other. The type of character they are can depend a lot on what my intentions for that power structure are. It is no coincidence that those in power in the fascist empire of the Reborn setting are older white men.

Monarchy and hereditary rule isn’t always portrayed as evil in my worlds, but it does lean that way more often than not. I like to display it as a flawed system, even when the characters in power have the best of intentions. This is certainly shown through the Destiny of Dragons fantasy series, where two of the main characters get their opportunity to rule, with varying levels of success.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Positions of power are tied to both leadership roles and the favour of the Seven Crowned Gods in the Goddess’s Honour world.

In Becoming Solo, leadership roles are earned by proof of magical strength and becoming a Solo-qualified magician, either by Academy graduation or else winning Fair Crowns. Otherwise, the witch either loses their power or must join a family spell matrix, where their power joins with others to produce magical goods. Solo magicians get to take credit for their creation. Family spell matrix participants are not identified in the products that the family creates for the use of those who are magical and non-magical.

Mindi Briar

In early drafts, Halcyon was ruled by a queen. It was my fantasy-world default, because who doesn’t love a good royalty story? However, the deeper I dove into worldbuilding, the more obvious it became that a monarchy was fundamentally incompatible with the idea of a socialist community. It had to become a democracy. But I still left the dragons in charge because their control of human culture had interesting implications that I wanted to explore.

In contrast, all the other planets in the Halcyon Universe are controlled by an emperor—one man with absolute power. This is portrayed as problematic in a number of ways that are, again, based on my frustrations with real-world systems of government.

What inspired religions?

J.F.R Coates

Religion takes a massive role in both of my settings. In the Reborn series, the entire conflict revolves around the position of the Catholic Church as the primary antagonist. I took a deliberate look at the church in the modern day and extrapolated out what I believed to be a logical conclusion, should the church be guided by the will of corrupt and power-hungry minds. These are people who do not care about the heart of the religion (which I intentionally did not criticise throughout the story), but are instead guided only by their own ambition. This is a religion that has been weaponised into something truly monstrous. Looking at how the world has developed since I first started writing the series, sometimes I wonder if I did not go far enough.

By contrast, the Farenar setting portrays religion much more positively. If anything, the religion spawned the world in my mind – it all started with the gods. They live, breathe, and walk through the world and are a big part of the many conflicts. Most of them seek to better the world, but some of their number seek instead to rule it.

Mindi Briar

Writing a made-up religion based on the dragons turned out to be an interesting way to deconstruct my personal IRL beliefs. Writing characters who were discovering big, life-changing truths about the universe was a way for me to dive deep into what I thought those truths were for myself. (And that’s the short version of how writing magical sci-fi helped me leave a cult…lol.) Anyway, I wouldn’t say the Halcyon Universe’s religion is an exact representation of my spiritual beliefs, but there are scenes, settings, and situations very heavily based on my religious past, with something of a rose-tinted filter over them.

What other sources of inspiration does your world draw on?

J.F.R Coates

So many of my inspirations come from the great authors who wrote rich and vivid worlds before me. I may not take directly from their work, but their writing has always inspired me to improve me own. My favourite authors will always include Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, and Philip Pullman. Our stories may be very different, but they are certainly my inspirations.

Other inspirations can come from strange places. One WiP series has been inspired by my childhood in Somerset, my fascination with an island in the Bristol Channel, and local myths.

The Reborn series was spawned because a friend told me to “turn him [main character] into a stoat.” So I did. And I wrote four books to explain why.

Mindi Briar

Reading fantasy and sci-fi inspires me all the time! I love to read books with lush, creative, wild descriptions that transport me somewhere new. It kickstarts my own imagination and forces me to think about different aspects of my own worldbuilding. A fantasy about road construction? Yeah, hmm, who builds the roads in my world? Or I’ll pick up a book that’s created a totally unique social culture and it’ll force me to think about how my world’s culture would be different.

J.F.R. kneeling beside an emu to pet it, wearing grey tshirt, jeans and sunnies over his short brown hair.
J.F.R. Coates

Reborn Book Cover: one fox person lifts another off rocky ground by the hand, storm cloud cloud background.
(The book with the Catholic Church as antagonist)
Mindi in a bright pink top and green, floral, elbow length cardigan belted at the waist and purple framed glasses. Smiling whimsically to one side, her long blonde hair half tied back.
Mindi Briar


Adrift in Starlight Cover: title displayed over purpled planet background, blonde (white) woman character hanging from top of cover reaching to hold mixed race, dense dark curled woman character hanging in the sky.
(The book with dragons)
Blonde Joyce smiling in black brimmed hat and glasses.
Joyce Renalds-Ward

Joyce’s website

Becoming Solo Book Cover: woman with gold face paint in red and gold robes holding ball of light between her outstretched hands.
Pledges of Honour Cover: title above a stone, silver sword with a brown and a purple stone tied to its hilt lying on grass, right.
Blue edged, pink, orange and yellow rainbow scroll with text: Get blogs in your inbox & updates from Elise every second month. Join my Fiction Frolics. Select this image to learn more.

Related Reading

Manipulator’s War Origins -the inspiration for the character’s, themes and world building in my YA Fantasy Trilogy.

Fantasy Author Features:  
Mara Lynn Johnstone (SFF)

Debbie Iancu-Hadad (YA, SFF)

Nikky Lee (YA, Fantasy)

Nikky’s Interview Of Me

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