SPFBO7 Introductions and Cover Contest


SPFBO6 Wrap Up

Last month concluded The Critiquing Chemist’s first year as a judge for Mark Lawrence’s sixth annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). Joining me for last year’s contest was my brilliant team of Bookish Boffins and we had a fantastic time throughout the eleven month contest discussing the books throughout both phases. As a group, we were excited when Justin Lee Anderson’s The Lost War ended up winning the contest as it was our top rated read of SPFBO6. Additionally, we discovered many other titles that we loved throughout this contest such as Sarah Chorn’s Of Honey and Wildfire, Zach Argyle’s Voice of War, The Fall of Erlon by Robert H. Fleming, and The Nothing Within by Andy Giesler.


SPFBO7 Announcements

This year marks some exciting changes to how we will be approaching SPFBO7, markedly, The Critiquing Chemist and her Bookish Boffin (Jennie) will be teaming up with the delightful Lynn’s Books for the contest this year. Check out Lynn’s SPFBO7 introduction and cover reveal here. We are so looking forward to this new collaboration and the opportunity to talk shop with someone who shares so many of the same preferences regarding books! Our team nickname will be LB=TC2, and we will soon be posting our tentative plan as to how we will be approaching SPFBO7.


The start of June marks the beginning of SPFBO7, with the books already having been submitted and divvied up between the various judging groups. To read more about the contest this year and peruse the list of 300 novels click here to be directed to Mark Lawrence’s post regarding SPFBO7. Briefly, the SPFBO involves 300 self-published titles being whittled down to one winner over two phases spanning 11 months. Phase One, taking place over 5 months, has the 300 novels split between 10 judges, whereupon each judge puts forth one title into the finals. The remaining six months has a winner determined from the finalists in Phase Two. Sarah is the solo author behind the Critiquing Chemist, so she recruited her brilliant, book loving friend Jennie to her team for the SPFBO contest.

About Sarah, The Critiquing Chemist

Luke and I are expecting our first baby any time now! As of writing this I’m a full week overdue. Baby O is turning out to be as stubborn as her mother. 

As an analytical chemist by training, my blog, ‘The Critiquing Chemist’ is a merging of my love for books and my deep-seated need to over analyze everything I come into contact with. Mainly focused on book reviews, over the past six years you’ll find beekeeping or travel posts, e.g., Spain, Jordan, Peru, Egypt, snuck in every so often.

  • General preferences: The more world building and character depth packed into a novel the better. Also, beautiful writing will win my devotion every single time.
  • Reading Pet Peeves: Hmmm. This is hard. I would have to say, love triangles, shallow worldbuilding, too many convenient solutions and a rushed ending.
  • Unpopular opinion: I didn’t mind the last season of Game of Thrones. Fight me.
  • Unpopular opinion #2: I would rather Rothfuss or Martin NEVER release another book than give into fan pressure to release something less than perfect. I’ll wait another 10 or 20 years if they need it. Take your time guys! I’ll be patiently waiting.
  • I graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 with my PhD in analytical chemistry and if you’re looking for a truly technical fascinating read check out my dissertation: Utilizing fluidic platforms for the development of in vitro pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic models. It might be a published book, but not nearly as entertaining as the fantasy books I prefer to read.
  • I was an extra in the Batman vs. Superman movie. You can see my glistening forehead behind Ben Affleck’s well tailored shoulder while he was at the bar in Lex Luthor’s house. It was such a cool experience and Gal Gadot is the sweetest person.
  • My husband, Luke and I are beekeepers. We have five hives on our farm in southern Michigan, where we also grow corn and soybeans. We also have two rather large International tractors I’ve named “My Precious” and Smeagol after the Lord of the Rings.
  • I’m also an avid sports fan. I’m a huge fan of any Detroit team and my Michigan State Spartans. Go Green!
  • My other passion is traveling! While our Canadian adventure to Banff National Park was canceled last year, we managed to fit in a cross country roadtrip to Temecula, California where we hit eight national parks for a friend’s wedding. I’m always plotting our next adventure, though Baby O’s imminent arrival is putting a bit of a damper on any immediate plans.

Contact information:

About Jennie, the Bookish Boffin

Thank you to Sarah for allowing me to crash Team LB = TC2! Thank you to Lynn for making that team name possible! Thank you to the authors for sharing your literary worlds with us! Thank you to Mark Lawrence for all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly!

Fun facts that you didn’t ask for:

  • Like Sarah, I have a PhD in Chemistry (we met in grad school). My time these days is spent helping middle school students learn the language of mathematics.
  • Because I didn’t know how to read yet, I would unabashedly sing about the characters from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood during church when I was young, with the hymnal turned to a random page.
  • I miss receiving free personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut through the BOOK IT! program.
  • I grew up reading in moving vehicles for hours on end, but experience motion sickness with video games that are not two-dimensional.
  • I struggle with audiobooks because I’m either multitasking and miss crucial parts or sitting still to listen and end up falling asleep (and thus, miss crucial parts).

Stories that I enjoy the most tend to go back and forth between circumstances leading up to an event and the aftermath of trying to figure out what happened and why. Another plus is if an author continually pivots a story’s direction – I’d rather have the end-goal morph as new information comes to light than spend the entire book waiting to reach said goal. Additionally, I’m a fan of swapping the point of view between characters, which can be used to learn more about a situation or character development. In any case, to get a sense of what I’ve enjoyed in the past, I’ve compiled the following lists (which tend to span beyond the Fantasy genre):

  • Books – Ready Play One by Ernest Cline, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, works by Gillian Flynn, novels by Gregory Maguire, Slade House by David Mitchell, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, The Martian by Andy Weir, In the Dark by Loreth Anne White…
  • Podcasts – The Message produced by GE Podcast Theater and Panoply, LifeAfter produced by GE Podcast Theater and Panoply, The Bright Sessions created by Lauren Shippen, Limetown produced by Two-Up Productions, Darkest Night produced by The Paragon Collective and NoSleep, Lore hosted and produced by Aaron Mahnke, The White Vault created by K. A. Statz…

Movies – Robin Hood: Men in Tights directed by Mel Brooks, Beetlejuice directed by Tim Burton, Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Boondock Saints directed by Troy Duffy, The Cabin in the Woods directed by Drew Goddard, Labyrinth directed by Jim Henson, Memento directed by Christopher Nolan, Insidious directed by James Wan…


Cover Contest

Lastly, every year there’s a cover contest for SPFBO and let me tell you we have a great group of covers this year! Initially each judging group wittles their 30 covers down to three before voting on their favorite covers from the rest of the groups as a whole. Check out the wonderful covers from our Phase One batch before finding out below, the three we promoted on to round two of voting.

Lynn’s Books and The Critiquing Chemist/Bookish Boffin’s Top Three Covers


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