A Fantasy Author's Adventures in Fiction & Life

Tag: sff books to read

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.
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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

Natalie was one of the last fellow fantasy author’s I was lucky enough to meet before Twitter imploded. We face similar chronic illness challenges, but are still making steading progress bringing our fantasy books out into the world. This Fantasy Author Feature Natalie Kelda talks about mental health, the theme of finding joy and belonging in her SFF books.

Tell us a bit about you. Where’s home and what’s your life like outside writing? 

I currently live in West Yorkshire, UK but I was born and raised in Denmark. I moved to the UK to study some 7 years ago and somehow landed a job through volunteering and love it here too much to leave. Outside my 9-5 office job I spend most of my time writing or talking my adventure cat, Barry, on walks. Due to some ongoing health issues I don’t hike or do any martial arts at the moment but I hope I can return to these activities eventually as they give me a lot of joy and I certainly miss them.

What drew you to your genre/audience age?

Worlds different to our contemporary one have always been what drew me to reading fiction so it makes sense I mostly write fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction. I love exploring the other and getting a break from modern life and nothing is more immersive than creating those new worlds yourself. While I enjoy reading everything from MG to adult, my voice and the themes I usually explore lend themselves best to adult audiences. I have dabbled in MG and YA but find it difficult not to become too whimsical when writing for younger audiences and I don’t enjoy having to mind the layers and themes I imbue a story with. So basically, I enjoy as much creative freedom as possible.

What are some big themes your writing explores?

I tend towards the dark side of mental health and the human experience. I enjoy scrutinising humanity’s faults and weaknesses. Sometimes this means my main characters are very morally grey and stepping on the fine lines between good or bad. Other times the main characters are the ones fighting a corrupt and (often) incorrigible society that tries to kick them back down when they’re straining to stay upright. Most of my main characters have poor mental health. Not only are they fighting an unfair system, they’re also fighting their own inner demons and these can prove a lot more difficult to get rid of or live with than the crooked government.

Found family and a sense of belonging are secondary but almost as strongly recurring themes. The sense of being lost and directionless, of not having a place to fit in, of being other and different to everyone around them. Their stories regularly revolve around finding ‘their place’ and ‘their people’.

What drives your point of view characters? 

I think it usually boils down to finding happiness and a place to belong. Sometimes external forces trip them up but often they lay down booby traps in front of themselves, never even seeing the tripwires they need to dismantle in order to find that place of joy they’re searching for. They might know the end of the road they want to reach but can’t see what’s right before them. They’re also often fiercely protective of the people they call family – at least once they find those people. 

How much do your point of view characters resemble or differ from you? 

It varies between each character. I don’t purposely add something of myself as my main characters (and often most of the side characters too) appear in my mind like preformed people. Some will have one small thing – Merlon struggles with insomnia, Tara and Balfour with anxiety while Cali has my touch and noise sensitivity – others won’t really have much at all in common with me. Iolanthe believes slavery is fine and Torhildr thinks those who she judges unworthy deserve to be killed, obviously neither of those are things I would ever agree with. I do notice I have certain types of characters appear more often than others and this usually matches with my own personality. Most are depressed or anxious, many don’t like being the centre of attention and would be described as “reserved” or “quiet” if someone met them.

What influenced the settings they inhabit?

In my space fantasy series, Inner Universe, I have created a huge world with enough planets and galaxies I can take full advantage of all the travelling I have done. I have been extremely fortunate that I saved up enough (by working 3 jobs while studying) to move abroad, alone, at age 21 and from there on I worked in countries all around the globe. This means I have first hand experience with both Outback Australia and working outdoors during Canadian winter. I can pull on skills learned while doing martial arts and Viking reenactment when I write fight scenes and know what it’s like to forage your own food or live without electricity and running water for months at a time. I noticed a shift in my writing from before I had all those life experiences to after and definitely hope I’m not done raking up knowledge first-hand by going out there and doing the things most people only read about.

What do you gain from writing your books and what do you hope your readers will gain from them? 

This ties back to the main themes in my stories: mental health and belonging. I suspect I’m autistic and have never truly fitted in anywhere. I struggle a lot with chronic depression and moderate anxiety but the one thing that consistently helps and keeps me afloat is writing characters who keep fighting even when they face much larger challenges than I (hopefully) ever will. It’s my hope that my stories don’t just bring catharsis and healing for myself but also for other people who find life difficult – because it’s really bloody hard sometimes and it can be nice to read about characters who aren’t so different to yourself.

Where can we find your books?

Author hand-stamped paperbacks and my free short stories are available on my website(https://nataliekelda.co.uk/shop) while ebooks of River in the Galaxy and Outer Universe can be found on Amazon and they are available through Kindle Unlimited as well.

Fantasy Author Feature: Natalie Kelda

Author bio

Storytelling and inventing new worlds has been a part of Natalie’s life since before she could read or write. Nowadays she mostly writes in English but you’ll often discover hints of her native Danish or some of the other languages she has picked up along the way.

Website Twitter Bluesky

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Related Reading

You’ll find more talk of fantasy characters, setting and world-building inspiration in:

Fantasy Author Features: Nikky Lee (YA SFF)

Debbie Iancu-Hadad (YA Fantasy & SciFi)

Mara Lyne Johnson (Comedy SciFi)

Nikky’s Interview Of Me

Ash Oldfield’s Interview of Me

Fantasy Author Feature: Debbie Iancu-Hadad

Debbie Iancu-Hadad is author of YA Fantasy and SciFi with strong romantic threads. Our debut trilogies publishing journeys have run parallel and we’ve been critical readers for each other during our editing journeys. My favourite things about her books are her well-developed characters, their flaws and the banter and relationships that exist or develop between them. I also enjoy the fast pace of her stories, which keep me turning pages through her fantasy and sci-fi worlds. In this Fantasy Author Feature, we discuss her characters and story worlds.

Tell us a bit about you. Where’s home and what’s your life like outside writing? 

I live in Meitar in the south of Israel. I’m self employed and when I’m working I give laughter yoga workshops, chocolate workshops and teach people how to improve their humour. 

I’m married and have two kids, my daughter is almost twenty and my son just turned 18. And my writing buddy Shugi is a five months old golden retriever mix. 

What drew you to your genre/audience age? 

I write the kind of books I’ve always read, which is fantasy and sci Fi for YA. Maybe one day I’ll write for adults but I’d probably need to grow up first. My first Nanowrimo project “The goodbye kids” was inspired by my daughter when she was 16, and I just stayed in the zone. My Achten Tan series has characters ranging between 16-22. 

What are some big themes your writing explores?

I like to discuss what makes us belong to a place and how where we’re from shapes our perspective. All my locations are very immersive, whether it’s a space station or a town made of bones in the middle of the desert. 

Another issue I want to promote is body positivity and the inclusion of people with disabilities. 

What drives your point of view characters? 

A profound desire to prove themselves. Mila in Achten Tan wants to release her magic and get her voice back. Kaii the chief’s son in The Bone Master doesn’t want responsibility but won’t turn his back on a friend. Haley in the Goodbye Kids just wants to avoid getting hurt again, but desperately needs a friend. 

How much do your point of view characters resemble or differ from you? 

There are probably pieces of me in all my characters, if not my current self then the way I was when I was younger. 

I’d love to say I have magical powers but sadly I have yet to come into my powers (I’m hoping it’s an old lady thing that’s still in my future). 

Joking aside, all my characters work through the sense of being an outsider. For me that reflects moving from England to Israel as a child and always feeling like a part of somewhere else. 

What influenced the settings they inhabit?

Achten Tan is a place like no other, a town built inside the rib cage of an ancient leviathan. 

The place is the brainchild of Chris Van Dyke, who initiated the original Achten Tan anthology. I just moved in there and refused to leave. 

The space station and futuristic world of The Goodbye Kids are nothing I’ve ever experienced outside of my imagination. I was going for a sense of extreme isolation. 

What do you gain from writing your books and what do you hope your readers will gain from them? 

Millions and millions of dollars…ha ha, I wish. 

No, but seriously, I love having people share my character’s journey and being able to leave daily life aside for a while. I write about magic and it might be a cliche, but books really do have the ability to transport us to another time and place.

Where can we find your books? 

On Amazon

My fantasy debut, “Speechless in Achten Tan,” has a kick-ass tattooed witch who can’t speak, a city made of bones, giant ants, a heist by a cool ensemble cast, magic, romance, banter, innuendo, & cute boys kissing.

Prepared to be left… speechless!

Speechless in Achten Tan (Both books are on sale till Feb 14th)

The Bone Master follows Kaii Haku as he leaves the comfort of Achten Tan to save a friend kidnapped by pirates.

Connect with Debbie on:


Author Bio

Head and shoulder photo of bright red haired Debbie, wearing a denim jacket and pink tops. She's plus sized, blue eyed and has a pink lipped smile.

My name is Debbie Iancu Haddad (46), I’m a mother of teenagers (it’s like being a mother of dragons except they burn you with sarcasm). 

for my day job, I am a public speaker specializing in teaching people how to use humor and a laugh yoga instructor.

I was born in Israel to a British mother & Romanian father who met in the immigration center in Beer-Sheva. When I was 10 months old the family returned to England for six years and re-emigrated in 1981.

Growing up bilingual in Israel was a huge help and saw me through a BA, an MA, and a third of a PhD. Even though I take studying seriously (almost no one who knows me would say too seriously) – my research interests focused on humor.

My MA was an exploration of Diet humor and my doctorate research was about humor as a communication tool used by managers and headmasters.

You may ask “don’t I take anything seriously?”

The answer is: “No. But thank you for asking”. 

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Related Reading

You’ll find more talk of fantasy characters, setting and world-building inspirations in:

Fantasy Author Features: Nikky Lee (YA SFF)

Debbie Iancu-Hadad (YA Fantasy & SciFi)

Mara Lyne Johnson (Comedy SciFi)

Natalie Kelda (YA SFF)

Nikky’s Interview Of Me

Ash Oldfield’s Interview of Me

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