SPFBO 6 – Introducing Team RockStarlit BookAsylum!

What is SPFBO?

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is hosted by none other than Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire, The Red Queen’s War, The Book of Ancestor and Impossible Times trilogies. 300 books compete, judged by 10 blogs and at the end of 10 long, bloody months 1 winner will emerge. You can find every detail on Mark’s SPFBO page along with the process of all 10 blogs in Phase 1.

What will be our process?

The team is back for another year! As you might know, we had a blast during SPFBO5 so it really wasn’t a question whether we’ll be back or not. There were some lessons learned last year and as much as I’d like to go with the same process, it was way too demanding time and otherwise. In order for us to remain in the competition, changes were needed. I believe these changes will make organisation easier as well as ensure that we’ll get content to you in a very timely fashion.

This year we are going to divide the 30 books evenly between us. In order to do that, we invited one more person on board! Find out more about that below. This means, there will be 5 judges in Team RockStarlit BookAsylum, each judge getting 6 books.

  • Each judge is free to handle their lot as they see fit, but they are required to read at least 25% before they decide to move on.
  • Each judge has to sample/read their allocated books by the end of August and choose their semi-finalist.
  • Each judge will get one post on RockStarlit BookAsylum to write mini reviews of the 5 books they eliminated and announce their semi-finalist. We will only rate books we’ve fully read in this round.
  • Between September and October, all 5 of us will read the semi-finalists (the 25% rule still applies), rate it and eventually we’ll pick our finalist.
  • As last year, we’ll do joint review posts of our semi-finalists before announcing our finalist sometime in October.
  • The judges are welcome to read and review any book not allocated to them, but it won’t count into the competition.

As usual, you’ll be able to follow our progress on the SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page or on social media.


The Team

Now, we are a friendly bunch – contrary to the rumors 😛 – and don’t mind interacting with people on Twitter or in the SPFBO Facebook group, and we are more than happy to help you if you have any questions. But please don’t step over the boundaries. I believe in civilised conversation and problem solving. The aim of this competition is to forge friendships and connections not to make a fool out of yourself before the whole community. We aren’t what you’d call harsh reviewers – I think -, but we’ll be a touch more critical since this is, after all, a competition.

I believe the renewed process explained above, will help to make sure that every book gets the same amount of attention from us. And to do so, as I mentioned, we are welcoming a new member on board and we also getting a ghost member, because what kind of Asylum this would be without one?! Justine Bergman will be acting as a kind of an advisor for us, not taking part in the competition in any way, except to be present to give her much valued opinion or step in if/when we need it and just enjoy things from behind the scenes, haunting our halls.

That said, let me introduce to you Team RockStarlit BookAsylum!


Belle McQuattie

Belle McQuattie has been devouring fantasy for almost as long as she’s been reading. When not reading, Belle can be found on the Continuum committee room floor or judging the Aurealis Awards. You can also find her recently revived blog at http://inkspotsonmypage.com or on twitter @theresaninkspot

I’ve been following SPFBO for the last couple of years, so I’m very excited to be judging this year too! I’m a pretty relaxed reader and don’t focus on sub genres, I’m much more interested in characters and plot than many technical aspects of a book. That said, the most common reasons I DNF/dislike a book are lack of interesting plot or characters, unnecessary descriptions of any type of violence and inconsistent worldbuilding.

My goal is to write at least a mini review for every book, with full reviews for those that I really enjoy, as well as all of our semi finalists. And of course, full reviews for all finalists when they come around.

I’m more than happy to hear from authors in our group (or any of the others!), but let’s skip the “when will you read my book??” stuff right now – I read from a list, starting at the top and working my way down. I will get to your book when it gets to the top of the list and no, I cannot tell you when that will be.

Follow Belle on social media:


Jen Stebing aka bunnyreads

I live in the northern part of BC, where it’s winter for more of the year than I’d like. The plus side of not liking to be out in the cold, means I get to cuddle up under a blanket next to a fireplace and read. My husband and I have a few horses, free run some chickens, and of course there are bunnies… a lot of bunnies. The horses are his and the bunnies are mine, but he’s a good man and tries to love them too-even when they eat all his newly transplanted saplings.
When I’m not reading, or doing farm and animal chores, I love listening to music, painting, tv and movies, and walking.

Hello! I’m Jen! If you don’t know me already, I’ve been reviewing books regularly for a few years now and was part of Team RockStarlit for SPFBO5. I am very excited to be returning again for SPFBO6 with my awesome teammates Timy, Nick, and Belle, and with a happy welcome to our new members, Peter, and our resident ghosty, Justine!

So, I admit to being a bit of a Pollyanna – I am easy to please because I love most of the sub-genres in fantasy but I am not afraid to say what I don’t like or what could have been better for me, either.

For me, scoring isn’t going to be much different than last year. Once again, I am pinching superstardrifter’s scoring scale which is still in my profile on GR and the stuff I look for is the pretty much the same as last year – head hopping, stilted conversations, clearness, and so on.

This year because we are shaking things up all over the place (I will let Timy do all the explaining), I will have to curb my tendency to go on and on in my reviews, and try to get to the point quicker…. I am definitely going to need to look into how many words I can get away with in a single blog post.

Everything will get a review or some sort of an explanation as to why it was either a do not finish, or a choice to let go, though they might be shorter in length (ha, we will see how that works out).

Unfortunately, there will be the odd books that are great stories and I enjoy them but, maybe, they just didn’t have that little oomph they need to get through to the next round. So, if you hear me talking about how good something is and it still gets cut, well, that oomph is usually the reason.

Already, I am failing at taming the wordiness so I will finish this up by saying it’s good to be back! Good luck authors! Bring on the books!

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Nick T. Borrelli

My love affair with Fantasy and Science-Fiction books began when I was just 13 years old. It was then that I checked a book out of the local public library called The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov. At the time I had no idea that it was the last book in a series, all I knew was that it completely changed my life and ignited a passion for reading that I couldn’t ever fully satiate. Thirty-odd years later I still have that passion, in fact, it has gotten even stronger. I’ve been a book review contributor for various SFF book review sites over the past two decades but I started my own blog “Out of This World SFF Reviews” exactly a year ago. I currently make my home along the southern coast of New Jersey with my wonderfully amazing wife and our two daughters.

I can’t even put into words what an honor it is to be participating in this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off as part of Team Rockstarlit BookAsylum. A special thank you to Timy for allowing me to join her very talented group of judges. As someone who reads a lot of self-published Fantasy, this is a contest that I’ve been wanting to be a part of for a while now. I’m of the strong belief that the superb quality of self-published books these days is simply unquestionable. We’ve seen that evidenced by the fantastic authors who have won this competition in the past, like: Michael McClung, Jonathan French, Rob J. Hayes, and more recently J. Zachary Pike.

But #SPFBO is not only about the winners. There are so many amazing books entered into this contest that don’t even make it to the finals. I believe that this competition also sheds a deserving bright light on them as well. I’ve been exposed to so many books through SPFBO that I might not have ever known about otherwise. So the value of being a part of something this incredibly special for the self-published writing community is immeasurable in my opinion.

I can’t wait to get that batch of 6 books in my possession and begin to go through them one by one. I think I’m just as excited as the many authors who will be competing for the #SPFBO6 crown. Personally I will be looking for books that have amazing world-building, a rich history behind that world, deep characterization, and compelling stories that grab me from the opening chapter. These will be the ones that will separate themselves from the others for me.

So let’s get this thing started! I know that there will be a lot of hard work and reading ahead, but also a great deal of fun too. I’m ready!!

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Peter Hutchinson

Hailing from the sunny south of England, but now nestled happily with his wonderful partner in in the Midlands, near Worcester. Peter has been reading fantasy since he was introduced to it when a book called The Lord of the Rings was given to him. This ignited a passion for fantasy and reading that grows stronger every day. While not reading, Peter runs his own fantasy blog, plays board/video games, rocks out to awesome music, drinks Tea and does his day job as well, but not necessarily in that order.

I was over the moon when Timy came back to me to say I had been accepted as a judge in this year’s SPFBO as part of Team Rockstarlit BookAsylum. I have always read a fair bit of self-published fantasy works and have followed the competition with some interest over the years, now I get to read even more and I am excited for the competition.

I’m excited about the competition because I will be able to discover some new authors and books that may have gone under the radar. This is what I see as the true value of the competition and it’s thrilling to be a part of it this year.

It’s going to be great to be delving into some new and original books, I hope that in my first time as judge I will be able to bring some fresh views and opinions. I love original ideas and thinking in fantasy and will be keeping an eye out for a book that delivers this, as well as a great story because after all we are all storytellers.

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Timy Takács

Timy, also known as Queen Terrible Timy hails from a magical land called Hungary, born and raised in its capital city, Budapest. Books have been her refuge and best friends ever since she can remember along with music. She might be a tiny bit addicted to the latter. Timy is the owner and editor of RockStarlit BookAsylum, a blog dedicated to books and music. She always tries to find ways to bring the two worlds together. Timy is also the co-owner/manager of Storytellers On Tour, a book tour organising service dedicated to indie SFF authors. In her free time (hah!) she likes to scribble things, collect panda stuff, go to concerts and travel.

I guess it’s time to introduce myself then, the one responsible gathering together these awesome bloggers I can also call friends. I’ve been following SPFBO since 2017, when I started to get to know the Fantasy community. When I started RockStarlit BookAsylum in early 2018 I had dreamed about one day being one of the chosen blogs. To my gratest surprise this happened last year and we are back for another year as a team!

Lessons were learned from last year and hopefully this year I’ll be able to save myself some headache and improve my organisational skills. With less books to focus on, I’m hoping to be able to give a fair chance to every book that landed in my pile. There are also other books I’m interested in, so I’ll keep an eye out for them as well.

Those who know me, are avare that I don’t shy away from saying my opinion, be it good or bad. But you have to remember that everything comes down to personal taste and preferences. Just because one person is not into something doesn’t mean you can’t find your own audienc. I just happen to be a bit harder to please.

There are some subgenres I’m not as familiar with or don’t like to read as much, but one thing I love about SPFBO is that it makes me challenge myself. I’ll have an open mind toward every book regardless of subgenre and be as objective as I can be. For me characterisation is a key issue – if I can’t connect with any of the characters then I’ll likely DNF it, unless there is something else in it that keeps me interested. I will look for books with great characters, interesting worldbuilding, and an enjoyable writing style. If there are myhts involved or a good dose of sarcasm, then all the better!

I have good feelings about our lot this year, so let’s bring it on!

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Go and check out all of our books and how we divided them between us on my SPFBO6 Phase 1 page!

Our picks for the Cover Contest

At last but not least, feast your eyes on the 3 covers we picked to participate in the Cover Contest!