This month I embarked upon a new foray: contests. Experts–at least I assume they’re experts–tout contests as a good way to enhance promotion and, therefore, book sales of independently published authors. Indeed, when skimming through Amazon’s book listings I see “finalist” and “winner” announcements inserted in book descriptions. So, perhaps, I ought to jump on the bandwagon, hm?

Dipping my virtual toe into the water, I submitted The Falcon of Imenotash to the writing contest held by Authors Talk About It. None of the contest categories quite fit the book, so I submitted it under “romance.” “Paranormal” didn’t seem to fit and “fantasy” wasn’t offered. I paid the entry fee and waited.

Their review came back. In short, the book didn’t hit that coveted 5-star review because in rating it the reviewers gave it a 2 out of 5 for genre. (Well, if they’d had fantasy in the category listing, it would have been a better match, right?) Anyway, the book received top marks for plot description and grammar (thanks, Cindy!), 4/5 for development, and 3/5 for appearance. In short, they didn’t think much of my homemade cover design, which I thought was rather elegant.

The review pointed out a few flaws that I’ll take to heart in writing future works, namely “The Falcon of Imenotash certainly wastes no time with exposition; rather, it jumps right into the meat and action of the story. Though a refreshing approach, perhaps it isn’t always effective. Some scenes and characters could have been developed a bit more thoroughly than they are.” I thought the book got off to a fairly gentle start, but apparently my idea of gentle and theirs differs, too. That’s OK; it just means I’ve got to learn how to be more subtle and spend more effort on nailing down descriptive detail without descending into boring information dumps. For what it’s worth, ATAI isn’t the first to state that particular criticism.

Then we have the rest of that paragraph concerning the breakneck pace of the book: “However, this rushed pacing doesn’t necessarily hinder the story; there are still plenty of details and development to help the reader follow along as the The Falcon of Imenotash progresses.

Next comes pure gold. This is the portion of the review that just makes me beam with pride and my heart go pitter-patter. Of course, I’m putting it in colored typeface to make sure it grabs your attention.

“A most unique fantasy, The Falcon of Imenotash rejects the common tropes of the fantasy genre; instead, it is a creative, distinctive, incredibly memorable work that incorporates everything from strict politics to mystical shapeshifting. It is exceptionally well-written, whether the scene is a battle, an act of lovemaking, or one of cruelty and abuse. Holly Bargo’s strong, tactful, and descriptive writing leaves the reader wanting more, chapter after chapter and long after the book is finished. The Falcon of Imenotash is a spectacular novel, captivating from beginning to end, and a most fulfilling read for anyone searching for a great fantasy novel that isn’t just the same old fluff.”

Wow. Just… wow. Even though the book won’t win the contest, I can’t help but feel validated by this very flattering review.

So, read the book for yourself and leave a review. And, as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions–or if you’d like to volunteer as a beta reader.