Any savvy indie writer knows that when you release a new book, you should send out some advance review copies to people well before the release date, so that when your book goes live on Amazon it will already have a star rating and a few reviews. Not being a savvy indie writer, I did not do this, so Sword of the Feara sat almost two months with no stars and no ratings. This is important because people don't like to buy books without some idea that someone else read it and liked it. Since virtually anyone can publish anything these days, it's kind of understandable that readers want to see some reviews before purchasing.
Well, the reviews are starting to come in and I am very pleased so far. Three people have rated Sword of the Feara, all giving the book five stars! Two of these people have been kind enough to write a few sentences of review (also important for sales). Here is the first:
I've had family and friends tell me they liked a book, but to see that someone else enjoyed it on this level and liked it enough to take the time to write out these words is the kind of thing that keeps authors going. I nearly wrote two whole chapters of the sequel the day this review came in. The next one was equally gratifying.
While the Tolkien comparison is one that I obviously don't want to invite, I was so glad that this reader was taken back to the kind of old school fantasy novels I enjoyed too when I was younger. What really touched me about this review is that they shared it with their child. I first got into the fantasy genre when I sat with my dad listening to the Hobbit as a kid, and to think I recreated that same thing for someone else's child really makes the act of writing a joy.
I certainly don't expect the string of perfect five-star ratings to continue, and that's fine. No book is for everyone. But I do look forward to reading every review and seeing every star rating that comes in, because that means people are reading my work and it is moving them to take that little extra effort of providing feedback. Hopefully, the more I accumulate, the more people will give Sword of the Feara a chance.
It’s done. I made it!
Sword of the Feara is now published and available as a paperback from Amazon and as an e-book from Amazon and several other sellers. Someone asked me this week if self-publishing was hard. The answer to that is yes and no.
For e-books, it’s really an unqualified yes. Amazon and Draft2Digital allow you to just upload a word doc and they do the rest. There was a little wrangling for me because I have a map, which needs some tweaking to make it look right, but on the whole, publishing an e-book is trivially simple (once you’ve accomplished the non-trivial task of writing it). For the cover, you just need a jpeg of the front cover, which my artist provided.
For print, it is... kind of easy. I formatted my book for print through a site called Draft2Digital, where you upload your word document and select your parameters (like 6x9, margins, etc). Their program spits out a fully formatted book in pdf that Amazon accepts. Getting the map to work in print format was a lot trickier. The cover is more difficult because you need the back and spine to wrap around properly. Thankfully Alex was infinitely patient with me and promptly provided the necessary adjustments. There were some other tweaks and changes that needed to be made for the print version… which is why I’m only now posting this announcement more than a week after publication.
Hard cover? We'll see how well the book sells before opening that can of worms. :)
Now begins the really hard part: marketing.
What follows is a short story set in the same fantasy world as my upcoming novel, Sword of the Feara. This is a stand alone story taking place in a different part of the setting. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome comments.
A Daughter of House Soolvain
by Dan Kretzer
Invada walked with wide eyes and a thumping heart through the dark halls of her family's villa. The servants whispered as she passed dark doorways down shadowy halls. The whispers were pitched so that she would hear them, of course. In House Soolvain, even the servants were wolves at heart.
Two left feet and laughs like a braying ass, came a hiss.
All the magical talent of this mop, answered a mutter.
She’ll never find a husband with that plain face, put in a snicker.
Why would they set upon her so? She had never tattled on them or framed them for her own trespasses. Her brothers relished getting servants put beneath their mother’s lash. Her sisters had raised it to an art form; so subtly did they manipulate that only their victims knew they had a hand in their pain. Invada had never done any such thing to the servants. Perhaps that was why they whispered so boldly.
The voices all fell silent, like the birds in a forest when a monster comes. Invada stepped into the shadows beside a cabinet just as the dark form Dominatia Soolvain, crossed the hallway behind her in the distance. The richly dressed woman paused and inclined her head, spilling ebony hair down over a bared shoulder the color of rime. The silhouette of her impossibly beautiful face was caught in the light from a window, but she did not look Invada’s way.
Then she was gone, and soon the whispers came back.
The mistress has given up on her youngest, recounted the hiss.
Worthless to the family, agreed the mutter.
Oh, not entirely worthless, countered the snicker with ominous glee.
Invada stepped out hiding and continued toward the east wing. “There is one path still open to me,” she growled low at the shadows. They answered her with silence, and she picked up her pace to leave them behind.
Then, just at the point where she could barely hear them, a whisper piped up. The east wing? For a girl? And her mother says she has no sense of humor.
* * *
The dueling hall was damp and cool, with walls of gray stone and a slate floor. High windows lit the room inadequately at that early hour. Kolderan loomed at the far end of the chamber by the rack, considering the various weapons as a woman picks out a dress. He was lean for a man of Aupuk, with sinewy arms exposed by his sleeveless shirt. He wore his hair short so that none would fail to see the ragged scar across his throat.
Invada’s shuddered and felt dizzy as she tied her dark locks back out of her face. “I am ready to begin!” she barked, her voice ringing off the walls. Wide, dark eyes fixed the unimpressed sword master with a hard stare. Kolderan was just another servant after all, and she was still a daughter of House Soolvain. At least for now she was.
Without so much as a nod or a bow, the man retrieved a pair of wooden practice swords and two dented shields from the rack. He strode across the wide floor and offered her a weapon hilt-first. She took the mock sword and was surprised by its weight. It must have had a lead core inside. Then she took the shield and fumbled for a few moments strapping it to her arm.
“You’re serious then?” the man asked in a bland tone. Invada nodded impatiently. “House Soolvain has never had a female slayer. They are rare, but there are powerful men in Aupuk who covet such women as brides. Is that your game? Looking to land a high-born man despite that uninspiring face?”
“I said I am ready to begin,” repeated Invada, trying to mimic her mother’s withering gaze.
Kolderan only smiled and circled behind her sniffing the air. “No, I think this smells more like desperation. Homely and graceless by your family’s standards, so what good are you, except perhaps as payment to an ogre or wizard? Or maybe a hostage given against a promise that your parents do not intend to keep.”
“Do not make me tell you I am ready a third time,” the girl snarled through clenched teeth.
“Very well.” The sword master smiled and slashed his practice sword in a figure eight. “But when you fail, I do not wish to see your face in my hall again.” The girl stood silently, meeting his gaze.
“Show me a fighting stance,” Kolderan said softly, like a lion’s quiet growl. Invada had never used a shield before, but she had seen one used and had some idea how to hold it. The sword was much heavier than the toys that her brothers regularly thrashed her with, but she dared not let the sword master see her strain against its weight. She brought the blade up and, with some effort, held it steady.
The man nodded, looking down at her feet, which she knew were properly placed. “Did your brothers teach you? Or did you learn by watching?”
“They taught me,” she responded. They taught her enough so that she would provide at least a little challenge during their brutal play.
"Stand ready!” The lean, scarred sword master’s voice suddenly exploded, filling all the corners of the hall. What followed was a flurry of blows from his wooden blade. He beat aside her shield and smacked her shoulder. Then he lunged and poked her ribs. Invada flailed with her shield, trying to block each thrust with little success. Desperately she struggled to bring her own sword to bear. It was useless. Even if she could find an opening to strike, his shield blocked out that entire side of her target.
"Halt!" Invada instantly dropped her guard and stood stiff and straight. She had watched her brothers in training and knew that to continue after a command of halt brought swift punishment.
Kolderan walked in a slow circle around her. “You anticipate blows fairly well. I suppose you have your siblings to thank for that.” His voice had gone soft again, and she strained to hear over her beating heart. He stopped in front of her and regarded her scornfully. “Your capacity for attack is pathetic. I was in more danger from my own fork at breakfast”
“The sword is too heavy,” said the girl.
Kolderan lashed out from his relaxed stance and jabbed her hard in the solar plexus with his sword tip, dropping her to her knees. “No excuses! If you can lift a weapon, then it is not too heavy to harm someone with!”
Struggling for breath, Invada squeezed the tears out of her eyes. “I don’t see how to get my sword past your shield,” she rasped. “You’re too big for me to knock it aside!”
“No excuses,” he rumbled dangerously as she got back to her feet. “If you see no way through my defense with your sword, then find another avenue of attack.”
“Teach me!” she bellowed, covering her frustration with the airs of her superior station.
"You’ve used one of these before?" he asked, poking her shield with his sword.
“Yes,” she lied. Her brothers had never been so sporting.
“Then what is it?”
"My shield, of course."
"No! What is it?"
"A thing I use to..."
"No! Damnit, girl! What kind of thing is it?"
Invada thought for a moment. "A type of... armor, I suppose?"
"It's a weapon!" roared Kolderan. "Your shield, your feet, your elbows and knuckles... that chair, the wall, those pretty eyes, that empty head, the spit in your mouth! All weapons! Do you think female slayers survive by brute force? If a skinny thing like you wishes to survive in a fight you must constantly be bringing all possible weapons to bear on your opponent! Attack, attack, attack! At all times! If your sword is out of position or you have no opening, then use something else."
"Show me," she commanded.
"Stand ready!" Invada tensed and assumed a fighting stance. Her sword arm ached from the exertion, but she would not let the weapon quiver in her gasp. Kolderan turned his right shoulder toward her and unleashed a low backhanded slash. Invada dropped her sword to parry. In that instant the man pivoted and brought his left shoulder forward. His arm flashed out and cracked her in the face with the forward edge of his shield. She fell backwards hard, her sword clattering on the slate tiles.
"V'Azmalada nass!" she shrieked in the dark tongue, clasping her ruined nose and squeezing her eyes shut tight. "My mother will have your skin for a parasol!" It was no idle threat; Dominatia Soolvain owned several such parasols.
Kolderan only laughed. "For an ugly duckling’s face? I think not. Maybe a good kink in the nose is what your face needed. Now, stand ready!"
Invada did not get up. Instead, she collapsed back on the floor in despair. Her eyes filled with tears, and she let out a soft, high-pitched moan. The sound was hopelessness. The ceiling above blurred and her future as a pawn to be sacrificed came into focus. Then the tears spilled forth. Invada closed her eyes and began to shake.
“Are we finished here?” Kolderan asked with a contemptuous shake of his head.
The girl only lay there and sobbed. “Oh, for the Dark One’s sake!”
“Get off of my practice floor!” The sword master placed his sword in his off hand and stooped to grab the child and drag her out of there himself.
Invada sprung into a crouch and ducked his gasp. With malicious joy welling in her chest, the girl drove the edge of her shield into the man’s exposed shin with all her might. The splintering clang of steel against bone echoed through the hall and the sword master cursed in pain and alarm. He hobbled backwards, barely escaping a vicious stroke from the girl’s quickly recovered practice sword. When he rubbed his shin, his hand came away dripping red.
Then Kolderan smiled. “Yes, those tears in your eyes, too, girl. Those are one hell of a weapon.”
Invada gave a wicked smirk and spat away the blood flowing from her nose. It took most students years to earn a compliment from Kolderan, and she had one on her first day. The man would make her pay for it of course, but with each payment she bought herself a new future.
“House Soolvain has never had a female slayer,” Kolderan said again, but this time his words held no scorn. “Now, stand ready!”
I am pleased to announce that Sword of the Feara is now available for pre-order as an Ebook on multiple vendor sites! I am still formatting for print, but expect to have it ready for print pre-order in the next couple of days. The following universal link will allow you to choose your preferred vendor. I do know that a lot of people like to buy on Amazon, but the book will not be available there until its release date on September 21st, 2023.
If you're interested in pre-ordering, just click this link!
I am proud to introduce the cover for my debut novel, Sword of the Feara!
So what are you looking at? Well, as you may guess from the shield shape, it is a coat of arms, one that is introduced and described in Chapter 1 of the novel. But there's also a little thematic twist to it that the reader can ponder as the main character and the story develop.
The cover was created by Alex Albornoz, whom I found through the site 99designs. Alex is an extremely talented artist who gave me things in this cover that I didn't even know I wanted. She was also immensely patient and very easy to work with. AI may be a cheaper route for getting a cover done, but a computer can't replace the quality and imagination of living breathing creative professionals like Alex. I hope you are as pleased with the results as I am!
I love a good Latin phrase, and the title of this entry is my favorite. It translates roughly to “I shall find a way or make one.” The words embody determination in the face of adversity; seeing something through, come Hell or high water; succeeding by any means available. It is the battle cry of the underdog, of someone with a tough road. So, what does that have to do with me and my debut novel? A lot, it turns out.
About six months ago, I finished writing Sword of the Feara, the first of what will become a series. After reading through it for the umpteenth time, I believed I had a damn good novel to sell. I eagerly plunged into the process of querying for an agent. To be “traditionally published” by a publishing company (large or small), one almost always needs the services of an agent. Some writers talk about their “dream agent,” or venerate them like they’re rock stars or something. In fact, they’re basically just headhunters for publishers. So, I started querying, hoping that my pitch letter and first ten pages would get picked.
As the polite rejections of my initial queries trickled in, I began to look deeper into traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. I learned that self-publishing would be a much faster route to seeing my book in print, and that it was really the only way I would get to design my own cover concept. I also learned that the traditional publishers still expected the authors to do most of the marketing… literally the one thing I was trying to get traditionally published to avoid. Other depressing facts I learned was that getting an agent was far from a guarantee of getting published, and agents could drop you after a while if they couldn’t sell your idea.
So, after about 30 or so queries sent, I decided traditional wasn’t the way for me. I worked too damned hard on my novel to put it into someone else’s hands, so instead of looking for a way I decided to make one and go the “indie” route. I keep all rights to my work. I decide when the book gets released. I design my cover concept (with a good deal of help from immensely talented artist Alex Albornoz). My novel will be published on my terms and on my timeline.
Some people still look down their noses at indie books, an outlook that I suspect the traditional publishing world quietly encourages. To be fair, I’ve read some very rough indie published works. But there are great indie books out there and they are gradually changing the public's perception of self-published work. I hope my novel comes to be known as one of them.
I got another polite rejection last week from a small publisher that doesn’t require an agent. This editor kindly praised my work, but it “just wasn’t what they were looking for to round out their 2025 lineup.” That’s okay. I didn’t want to wait that long anyway.
Next post: Cover Reveal!
“What does that mean, Sword of the Feara?”
“It was a title. The Arovorians once named great men by their tools. A gifted musician might be named Harp of the Elves, or an accomplished sea captain would be Sail of the Empire. Your ancestor, a Feara, earned recognition with his sword.”
Welcome to my site, and thanks for reading my inaugural blog post. You probably saw the announcement on the main page for my upcoming debut novel, Sword of the Feara, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about it.
Sword of the Feara is an adult fantasy novel set in a high fantasy world of swords and sorcery. What sets it apart from similar works of fiction is the focus on a more realistic and relatable set of protagonists than you’re used to seeing in this kind of heroic fantasy. Bereft of Conan’s might or Gandalf’s wizardry, these are people who must use their heads if they wish to keep them.
The setting is high fantasy. There are different sorts of magic, monsters from legend and my own imagination, gods who act through their faithful, and other races sharing the world with men. The world itself has its own unique history and geography. The main setting for the first series of novels is Skara, an island kingdom wrested from the dryads by a people called the Feara, who were subsequently dominated by and liberated from sorcerers, dragons, an elvish empire, and an empire of men that followed.
What do I mean by the first series? Well, Sword of the Feara is the first book of the Skara Trilogy. Two more books in this setting will follow. Then I have plans for more books set in other very different parts of this world. How fast I get these out will have a lot to do with the reception of Sword, but I’m aiming for about a year between releases.
As a final note, I’d like to briefly address the “adult” nature of the novel. I wrote it with the intent that adults would enjoy the book, but depending on maturity, I think this is one that a lot of young adults will like as well. My son (13) has read and enjoyed it. It contains implicit but not explicit sex and has very sparse profanity. There is drinking. The villains are cruel. The violence is frank and realistic, but I do not wallow in gore. You know what you can handle, and if you have kids, you’re the best judge of what they can handle.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be updating this blog periodically with news about Sword of the Feara and future projects, as well as other musings about writing in general and indie writing in particular. A cover reveal is coming soon. I hope you’ll come back and check in. I would love to hear from you either in the comments here or by e-mail in the Contact section of this site.