Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self Publishing IX

For the last year or so, I have been listing examples of books that prove that self-publishing does not necessarily mean low-quality, lazy writing. Over the past year a few things have happened that prove my point.

In response to the Georgia Writers Association deciding to no longer accept self-published books for their Author of the Year Award (despite their once being praised for doing so),  The Southern Pen Bookshop of Monroe, Georgia, decided to sponsor its own award: The Georgia Independent Author of the Year Award, geared to writers of self-published and small press books, as the capstone event to their first annual writer's conference geared mainly for independent writers.

The conference was held this past weekend in Monroe, and I was proud to present a workshop on creating effective antagonists (adapted from this earlier blog post).

The conference was very informative, covering topics ranging from writing to marketing to legal issues. I was particularly surprised to see how well attended the conference was for such a small venue and for a first-year conference. There were attendees from all over Georgia, of course, but also few from as far away as New York.

I was also excited to learn that not only was the third volume of my Western fantasy series, Guns of the Waste Land, a finalist in the Historical Fiction Category of the award, but that I received Honorable Mention for it once the winners were announced.

This conference and this award hopefully imply that things are getting better for self-publishers and independent writers despite the narrow-minded opinions of The Georgia Writers Association.

Anyway, as Casey Kasem was so fond of saying: On with the Countdown!

Or: "Like, Zoinks, Scoob! Here we go again!"
Dream Weavers & Truth Seekers (series) by Cecilia Dominic

I am a sucker for mythology-based fantasy. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite living writers (so much so I was going to tell you my favorite novel of his and literally just spent an hour trying to narrow it down and failing. They're all great), primarily because he deftly weaves mythology (both his own as in the Sandman graphic novels, and traditional mythology, as in American Gods, Good Omens, and Stardust). That is essentially the same thing that draws me to Cecilia Dominic's series.

The series revolves around a plot by a group of Faerie and other supernatural beings, to insidiously regain control of the waking world through otherworldly portals connecting all of the "real" world through a chain of popular coffee houses that have sprung up all over the world: "The chain's fairy logo should have tipped us off."
Yes, that one.
Opposing this cabal are the Truth Seekers, a group of immortal magicians, led by none other than King Arthur's counselor, Merlin, and Arthur's forgotten aunt Margaret of Cornwall (or "Maggie" but never "Mags"), who protect the mortal realm from malignant supernatural incursion.

Though they try not to include mortals in their plans, inevitably those mortals with "strong" perception inevitably find themselves mixed up in them, usually through their own blundering. For example, Emma, the protagonist of the first story "Perchance to Dream," unknowingly accepts an invitation to the Dream Realm (aka the Collective Unconscious) when she agrees to share a cup of tea with a psychic reader. Phillippe, the protagonist of the second story, the novella Truth Seeker, finds himself lost in the portals after sneaking into the back of the coffee house on a dare.

There are two things that I really like about this series. The first, of course, is the masterful blend of the modern, realistic world and the mythology, primarily Greco-Roman and Celtic with other supernatural folklore such as vampires and ghosts. I mentioned Neil Gaiman earlier because his work, particularly Neverwhere and American Gods, is exactly what I thought about after reading the first two stories in the series. So often when writers attempt to blend fantasy and realistic elements, it becomes either heavy handed and distracting or so subtle the fantastic elements get lost. Dominic handles both aspects of her stories like a master, making the magical aspects feel like perfectly natural if uncommon qualities of the mundane world.

The stories themselves are really good, and each volume is self-contained. A lot of series claim this, but they're usually not so much. Dominic's stories truly are, and that leads me to the second thing that really sets this series apart for me: While it's true that each one is its own, individual story with beginning middle and definitive conclusion, the "real" story, the plot that ties the series together, about the beings from the dream world invading the mortal realm, happens off stage and between books. In the first tale, the supernatural antagonists are attempting to find a way into our world by manipulating the protagonist Emma, and even though she appears to thwart them, by the beginning of the next story, not only have they managed a way into our world, they have created magical portals linking almost every city in the world in order to provide themselves a way to travel within the mundane realm. The clues to how this was accomplished are implied and revealed within each story if the reader reads closely.

In short, this series is well worth your time, especially if, like me, you enjoy a smart, modern fantasy incorporating ancient myths and folklore into the normal, everyday world. At present there are four stories in the Dream Weavers & Truth Seekers series: a short story prequel, "Perchance to Dream"; a novella, Truth Seeker; and two full novels: Tangled Dreams and Web of Truth.

Give them a go; you'll be glad you did.


Umberto Tosi said…
Thank you for this fine-grained, update, Lev. They can ignore us, but we aren't going away. On the contrary, the best will keep coming up with new dreams."Self-published" is just another form of "published" in any case, as the line grows thinner. Published authors have to flog their books as hard a "self-published" authors. So what's the difference? Your reference to the Starbuck's faerie logo reminds me of the far right's obsession with the Proctor & Gamble 130-year-old moon-and-stars logo, which the tinfoil hat crowd prattled was secretly satanic, a cannard that competitor Amway was accused of reviving in the '90s in a law suit in which P&G was awarded millions, if I recall correctly.
Cecilia Dominic said…
Thanks so much for the great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the series. :)

Congratulations on your placing in the awards - it's well-deserved. I can't believe people are still making such a big deal about traditional vs. self-published books.

Oh, those Dream Weaver books sound just my kind of thing. Will check them out. And I agree there is some exciting stuff out there from indie publishers... well done, Lev!

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