State of the Author – What’s Up, and What’s Next?

Hey everyone, it’s been a little while!  I thought, given everything that’s happened this year, as well as the influx of new readers, it’d be a good idea to let you all know what’s going on, and what’s coming :)

What’s Happening Now

Recently, I held my first Goodreads giveaway, and as of today, 100 lucky winners have received free copies of the Kindle edition of Legacy – Chronicles of the Sentinels Book 1!  I’ve always been told that getting reviews is key to helping generate more new readers, and that the Goodreads giveaways are a great way to do that.

And let’s face it – I’m a relatively unknown writer still, and this is my first published urban fantasy novel, so I can understand people’s hesitancy to give my book a shot.

It…didn’t help that the very first rating Legacy received (within hours of going live) was a 2 star, on both Goodreads and Amazon, from the same person.

I was devastated to see that.

I still am.  Since then, I’ve received several more ratings on Amazon, mostly 5 stars with I think only one 4 star, but the Goodreads listing still shows just that one 2-star rating.

If you didn’t know if an author was worth reading or not and saw that, would you give them a shot?

It has been a difficult, emotional roller coaster since Legacy released.  I had a very good feeling about it, and the trilogy as a whole, from the moment I started writing it, and beta reader reactions were extremely encouraging.  Then came release day, in which I had pre-sold more copies than I have ever done before.  The hype was real!

And, then…

…..

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling down.  I’ve felt like the energy has just been sucked right out of me, and now I’m worried about the future.  Very worried.  For whatever reason, getting folks to rate books, let alone review them is a grueling struggle.

Recently I read a study about people’s willingness to buy a new book based on reviews.  In the example, the study indicated that a book with about 20 five-star reviews is far less likely to attract new readers than a book with over 1000 reviews averaging between 3 and 4 stars.  So between such a negative first rating and a continued lack of ratings, I was thinking, “What can I possibly do to fix this?”

Step 1 has been the Goodreads giveaway.  According to multiple sources, a large percentage (numbers vary, but average 40%) of recipients of a Goodreads giveaway give ratings and write reviews.  I gave away 100, so even if the average of 40% of recipients write a review, that’s 40 reviews.

Now the question is…will those be good reviews or bad?

The Future – What’s Next?

Despite the disappointment and the depression, I’m pushing forward with my current plans for the trilogy, and that is releasing book 2 of Sentinels six months after book 1, which puts it around February 2022.  And then book 3 in August 2022.

The next step in preparing book 2 is to commission the artwork.  The artist I commissioned last time is still taking commissions, so I will contact him again, but that’ll be in a few weeks.  Right now, I’m more concerned about Whimsycon, the only convention I’ll have a table at this year.

In addition, I’ve begun writing a story that has demanded to be told for years (I remember developing it actively in the middle of my wedding preparations!)  It’s a YA Sci-Fi that starts out in what appears to be a fantasy realm, but very quickly the reader finds out it’s Sci-Fi.  (I’ll talk more about that in future blogs.)

Finally, I have committed to finishing the Sword of Dragons book 4 this November, which means you can expect it to be released in 2022, probably after Chronicles of the Sentinels book 3 is released.

Three books in one year O_o  Yup, I’m crazy!  ;)

And…this will be a bit of a test.  I need to see positive movement in my writing career by the end of 2022, income-wise.  And at this very moment in time, I’m not sure what to expect.  I thought Sentinels would push me in the right direction, but as of right now…I’m scared.

I’m scared because I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to write this much, to publish this much, to get this far.  I’m scared those sacrifices will end up being for naught.  I’m scared that I’ve spent my life, over 25 years of it anyway, working towards something only to end up wondering…am I any good?  Have I gotten better like I thought, or am I just a crap writer?  Will I ever ‘make it’?  A few months ago, I was sure I would.  Now, I don’t know.

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing that on my blog.  Maybe it’s not good marketing.  I never was good at marketing.  But this blog has been dedicated to chronicling my journey as a writer.  If all I do is write about the good stuff and leave out the bad, then this blog becomes a lie of omission.

So, what do I do if, at the end of 2022, I’m not making any more income from writing than I was in 2020?  Do I stop?  NO.

I can’t stop.  Writing is too much a part of who I am.

But working a day job full time and putting damn-near equivalent of full-time hours into writing, publishing, and marketing is exhausting.  Unsustainable.  So I’ll have to re-evaluate how I’m doing this and come up with a new game plan.

I wish I could say “Oh just switch back to trying to go traditional,” but based on everything I’ve been reading in the past five years, that market has shifted so much that even if I did get a traditional publisher, a lot of the work would still fall on my shoulders.  Reportedly, most publishers only put a lot of marketing effort towards already well-known authors.  In other words, safe bets, safe investments, guaranteed ROI.

So…I don’t know.  I don’t know what I’ll do.

The only thing I know for sure is that I won’t stop.  I won’t quit.

Maybe it’s because I love writing.  Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn.

Maybe I’ll just make myself succeed to spite all of those doubters out there.  Including that nagging voice in my head that says “You’ll never be anyone’s favorite.  You’ll never be successful.”  I’d love to shut that voice up forever (spoiler alert – even if I become a best-seller, it’s unlikely to ever stop :p )

Either way, I’m going to keep going.

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

The Most Successful Book Launch Yet!

Hey everyone,

Photo by Beck Wasik

We did it!!!  You did it!  Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1 – Legacy launched today, with more pre-orders than any other book I’ve launched, by a massive margin!

I’ve honestly been a bit of a nervous wreck about this – I’ve felt from the moment I started developing CotS that it was something special, and the build-up to finally releasing book 1 has been a marathon and an exercise in patience.  So as the day approached, I grew more and more anxious, nervous, scared…

When I got on this morning, I was so nervous I didn’t even look at the numbers.  I had no idea how the pre-order was going, because neither Amazon KDP nor IngramSpark show you pre-orders until day-of-release (I suppose in case people cancel their pre-orders.)  I immediately went to editing my website with updates (http://jonwasik.com), struggling with WordPress’s Block Editor (I seriously hate it…I’m writing this post in ‘classic editor’ now.)

Finally, I took a deep breath, and started at Amazon KDP.  I was…disappointed.  The number was very low.  But then I remembered that was just for the Kindle edition – print pre-orders were through IngramSpark.  So I headed over there.

My wife was downstairs, I was up in the office.  All she heard was a stunned “HOLY S***!!!!!”  I heard her reply in a panic, “WHAT?!”

And then I told her how many pre-orders.  And I honestly started happy crying.  There were hugs and more happy tears…

It’s not as much as a well-known author.  Maybe not a lot to many authors.  But it left all of my previous books in the dust.

And it’s renewed my hope.  And my determination.  Maybe, just maybe…I can make it someday.

But I can only do that with your help, dear readers.  You’ve helped me make this the most successful launch of my career, now let’s keep the momentum going forward!  Tell your friends and family, tell everyone you can, and when you’ve finished reading Legacy, it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you wish.  Anything helps.

Let’s build momentum together, so that when book 2 comes out (in six months!) it’ll be an even bigger launch event!

Having said that, I want to say this:

Thank you.

Thank you, all of you.  For your support.  Your patience, your understanding.

Thank you for believing in me.

-Jon Wasik

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Chronicles of the Sentinels

If anyone ever tells you “It’s so easy to publish a book these days!” They’re lying.

But if they tell you “It’s worth it,” that bit is true!

I mean, sure, you can just slap a text cover on it, submit it to KDP for Kindle only (maaaaybe print if you want,) and call it good.  That’s easy, true.  But chances are, you aren’t going to sell a lot of copies.  You aren’t going to reach your audience.  Especially in this market.

But if you want to make a quality product?  Something that catches the eye and draws in your audience?  That’s hard.

The most frustrating part is that it’s never the same experience twice.  Something always changes.  New challenges arise.  “Opportunities” some folks might call them.

Here’s the (somewhat abbreviated, but somewhat technical) tale of the adventures in preparing Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy for self-publishing.

Beyond the Cover Art

I previously wrote about my adventures in commissioning cover art, and the success I had in that adventure.  The question I had after that was – do I help fund this book with a Kickstarter campaign?

The answer ended up being “No,” mostly because I was already running low on spoons, so to speak.  I was already a bit overwhelmed…and boy, did that end up being the right answer.  Because very little went right after that.  Every inch forward felt like a mile, and so many things went wrong.

Creating the print cover was step one, and I’d never created one for art that wasn’t a full wraparound.  I looked to the copious urban fantasy book examples my wife and I have at home, and I’m quite happy with the results!  But the first challenge I ran into with that?  Paint Shop Pro 2019 doesn’t play well with 4k resolution desktop settings on Windows 10, and all of my interfaces were impossible to use or read.  So anytime I opened up PSP to work on the cover, I had to change my resolution back to 1080p, reboot (because PSP would still be messed up if I didn’t) and work, then change the resolution back to 4k and reboot if I wanted to do anything else.

As tweaks became necessary down the road, this has become an exercise in patience.  “But why not just switch to Photoshop?”  Adobe is ridiculously expensive, and I hate their subscription model (I also despise Office 365 for the same reason.)

Enabling Print Pre-Orders

The next challenge came from a strong desire to allow print pre-orders.  Amazon KDP doesn’t have any method to allow this, they only have it setup for Kindle.  The best answer I found was IngramSpark, which I’ve never used before.  So there being a challenge was inevitable, but little did I know that it would all come back to the cover again.

To give a bit of background, for all print on demand services I’ve used, they require your cover to be in .PDF format when you upload.  eBook services will allow other formats, just as JPG, TIFF, or PNG, but not for the physical print edition.  That meant converting my PSP-created file into PDF.

In the past, I used a free online converter to do so, that worked well.  I’d tried multiple of them, and all of the free ones, except this one, changed the dimensions of the cover.

So my first attempts at the cover upload on all of the venues was successful.  I started with the Amazon POD and ordered a proof copy.  When that came in, I saw some issues that needed correcting.  This was also about the time that IngramSpark, who take several days to review and approve covers, came back and said the dimensions on my cover didn’t match what they needed.  The resolution they gave me in the rejection email was NOT the same that their guide gave me for the size of my book.

I tweaked the cover, created a version that was the appropriate size for Ingram, and used that online free converter.  I uploaded to Ingram first, hit ‘submit for review,’ and then went to KDP and uploaded.

And the cover was oversized.  I blinked in surprise.  Went and looked at the PDF.  The converter had doubled the size/resolution of the final file.  Just four days before, it hadn’t.  But now it did.  And every time I’ve tried to use that converter since, it does the same thing.

I’ve used this converter since 2018 without issue, and now, all of a sudden, it starts doing this…  So that meant only one thing.

The Search for a Good PDF Converter

I had to go looking for a converter again.  But every single free one out there (other than Adobe) changed the resolution, or added a border, or did who knows what else.  I also had once, long ago, subscribed to Adobe Acrobat Pro to see how it did with converting.  It compressed it sooooo much that it was blurry as hell.

Same with their online converter, which I tried this time.  It took what was normally a 20MB file down to 600KB or so.  Still, running out of options, I decided to try it with a proof copy.  When the proof arrived, the drop in quality was completely unacceptable, and their converter doesn’t allow any tweaking of the compression.

Frustrated, I thought, “Why TF can’t I use Paintshop Pro?  Is there an add-on I can buy for it to directly convert the source files to PDF?”  The answer is no, but the company that owns PSP, Corel, had a dedicated conversion software, PDF Fusion.

I paid the money for it, hoping it was a good long-term investment.  It was…frustrating at first.  It’s interface is not intuitive.  But eventually, I was able to disable all compression.

But the challenges (aka frustrations) didn’t stop there.  The conversion of the KDP cover was fine.  But the IngramSpark cover?  See, Ingram uses a slightly thinner paper, which means the spine is thinner.  So I had to shrink the overall cover by a small amount.  So I’d shrink the canvas size on the original cover source, save it to PNG, and convert it to PDF using Fusion……..and suddenly there’s a white border on both sides.

And it wouldn’t.  Stop.  Doing that.

My wife had an idea to see if her free art software, GIMP, could convert to PDF.  It did, but the same exact issue happened – a white border once converted to PDF.  It made no freaking sense, and nothing online could explain it.

Finally, Beck decided to try to take the source image itself and shrink it in GIMP directly, in case PSP was causing issues…and that’s when she brought up a need to change both the canvas size and image size.  This confused me – I never needed to do that in the past when changing canvas size – changing canvas size usually changes the image size, too.

Apparently, not so.  And PSP was retaining data for the image outside of the modified canvas size.

What I ended up doing was opening the source image, then creating a NEW image file with the IngramSpark dimensions, and copy/pasting the source image into it.  The parts of it that were bigger than the Ingram dimensions ‘went away.’  And then I converted to PDF, and no white line.

Whew.  Freaking finally.

The cover worked out after that.  Proof copies from KDP looked good, and as of this weekend, copies from Ingram look amazing!  The worst was over.

Or was it?

Building a New Author Website

The next challenge came with building a new author’s website.  By the time I’d decided to do so, I was deep in the middle of frustrations with the cover and PDF conversion, and my energy was running low.  So I thought I’d go with the proven web provider, GoDaddy.com.  That’s where http://www.theswordofdragons.com/ was built, and I liked their builder interface.

So I went onto my account, created a new domain, and paid for a year in advance.

And…the builder wasn’t a builder.  I input my name, site purpose, and some other stuff, and it ‘auto built’ my website.  And didn’t allow me to customize anything in layout, shape, etc.  I could choose pre-built themes, but that was it.  It was known as the ‘block editor.’

I was frustrated.  And I ended up spending hours on support chat over it.  The guy I was chatting with insisted it was the same builder as the one I was used to.  I told him “no, it’s completely different, I can’t custom-build my site!”  Finally, we got down to it, and I told him “Just convert my account on the new site to the same builder as the old site!”  “I can’t do that, we no longer have that builder.  Only block editors are available now.”  “Then I want a refund!  I mean, for crying out loud, WordPress has a better editor than your new editor!”

That apparently sparked an idea in the guy, and he said, “Oh, we can convert your site to wordpress!”  Well, since this very blog is hosted by wordpress, I was like “Alright, I can at least somewhat custom build a site in WordPress.”  So he converted it, refunded my old account, and got me on a new subscription.

Except…it wasn’t the same.  The wordpress editor through GoDaddy is not at all the same as this one’s, and further frustrations ensued, but at least it was better than the old one.

Hence, jonwasik.com was finally born.  It’s not perfect, there’s gaps I can’t get rid of on the site because their editing interface sucks, but…I don’t have any more energy or patience to spend on it.

The Finish Line Is In Sight!

So, pre-orders are available.  Jonwasik.com is online.  The release date is set.  In less than a month, Chronicles of the Sentinels kicks off with book 1.  I have 20 author copies in hand already for the release party, and planning to order more today.

The frustration is over, right?

*sigh*  Nope.  One last frustration.

I created an event on Facebook for the release party.  I’ve hosted countless parties through Facebook events over the years.  But this time – people weren’t seeing the invites I sent them.  And some who did, tried to mark themselves as going, and it wouldn’t let them.  And they’ve changed how it works, how to create an event – there’s apparently no way to set a co-host anymore.

But at least that so far has been the end of the frustrations.

Hopefully book 2 won’t be nearly as frustrating.  And this effort has been worth it, because in just 4 short weeks, Legacy launches, and I am so proud of what I’ve produced and can’t wait to share it with all of you!

Thanks for reading – if you made it this far, you’re a dedicated reader :D

-Jon Wasik

The Great Reveal: Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy!

Hi everyone,

Today’s the day!  And what a journey it has been to get here…but as of a couple of hours ago, across my social media presence, I revealed the full cover for Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy!

And I would be remiss not to present it here, so here ya go! :D

I was so afraid when I commissioned this artwork, because Sentinels has been a passion project of mine for so many years, and I wanted it done right.  I’d seen some negative reviews for Fiverr and was worried about that.  And yet, the artist I worked with, and the artwork he created, was absolutely fantastic, and compared to so many other things I’ve had trouble with in the past month, it was such a smooth and collaborative project!

In fact, if you’ve a few minutes and are interested, click here to see Shupeipa’s Fiverr profile!  (No, he didn’t ask me or pay me to do that, I’m just so in love with his artwork that I wanted you all to see more of it!)

In fact, compared to preparing everything for KDP and Ingramspark, it was probably the ONLY thing that went smoothly in this whole process O_o  But that’s a story for another blog in the near future.

In any case, for those curious about the print edition, here’s the full cover wrap :D  (Click the image to see the larger version.)

Creating the print cover was an interesting exercise.  At first, when I commissioned the artist, I wanted his artwork to fully wrap around.  Except…the lesson I learned from the Sword of Dragons series was ‘don’t re-invent the cover.’  Urban fantasy books very, very rarely (based on about 40 urban fantasy books that my wife and I own) have full wrap cover art.  Usually it’s just the front art, and then something stylized for the rest of it.

So far I’ve only got blemished (thanks, KDP, for your interfering banner on proof copies) physical copies, but when I have a clean copy to show off, I’ll be sure to get a photo to show you all :D

Release Date and Pre-order!

What would a cover reveal be without the announcement of a release date and pre-order?!  Well, it’d be exciting still, but I digress ;)  I’m excited to share with you the final release date for CotS – Legacy:

August 7th, 2021

That’s right, in just over a month, book 1 will be yours for the taking!  What’s more, if you want to get in on the ground floor, book 1 is already available for pre-order on Kindle!

Click here to pre-order your Kindle edition today!

I’m trying to get something to work for pre-orders on the print edition, but Ingramspark has been fighting me…more to come on that, but stay tuned!  :D

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again soon!  :D
-Jon Wasik

Self-Publishing Level Up – New Book Coming Soon!

Article Cover Art by Dan dos Santos

Hey everyone, I’ve exciting news!  A new novel will becoming out soon!  And it isn’t the next Sword of Dragons novel!  (Don’t worry, book 4 is still in progress!)  (That’s a lot of exclamation marks in one paragraph!)

I’ve accelerated my plans and decided to publish Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy now.  Well, not now now, but I’ve started preparations for it to come out later this year.

And this time, I’m doing something I’ve never done before – using original, commissioned cover art!

The Search For Art

About a month ago, maybe two months, I still hadn’t heard back from another agent I had queried back in March, and was thinking of moving on to another agent.  And, just for the fun of it, decided to start looking into what it would be like to self-publish Sentinels.

Like the Sword of Dragons, I started looking for stock art to purchase rights to on Shutterstock and iStockPhotos.  I’d had great luck with finding appropriate art for the Sword of Dragons, and was hoping I’d be just as lucky with Sentinels!

Guild Codex Novels by Annette Marie

It…definitely didn’t work out that way.  There is a lot of amazing urban fantasy artwork out there!  But it’s all very character-specific.  And I also started looking back at all of the urban fantasy books I’d read, as well as the books Beck reads, and realized that was the typical cover art for urban fantasy – character-centric.

And from what I can tell, there aren’t many urban fantasies out there with a Japanese-American protagonist.

In other words, stock art wasn’t going to get me what I wanted.  I could have gone in a different direction, like some of the more symbolic cover art the YA dystopian genre used a lot, but I’d learned my lesson already about making cover art appropriate to your genre.  Going different means you’re less likely to attract attention from your target audience.

Which meant only one thing – if I self-published, I needed to commission an artist to have custom art made.

*Gulp*

Finding Affordable Artists

I don’t quite remember what the trigger was that made me decide I was finally going to self-publish, but it came shortly after my difficulties finding stock art.  I had ideas for how to afford custom art, primarily centered around funding a Kickstarter campaign.  I made a Kickstarter account and started looking at, and backing, several campaigns.

https://www.kickstarter.com/

I was blown away by the amount of support for authors on Kickstarter!  Most projects I found were at least fully funded, and several were upwards of 200%, 300%, or even 400% funded!  I thought to myself “Surely this means I can succeed!  There’s already a lot of support for my new trilogy, I’m sure I could garner enough attention to get at least enough funding for a cover!”

But I couldn’t possibly know how much a Kickstarter campaign would need to be without knowing how much the art would cost.  So began the search for an artist.

It…didn’t start out good at first.  But that’s also because I ‘shot for the stars.’  I approached a couple of very well-known artists just to see how much I might need to raise for them.  The amount was somewhat staggering…the least expensive of the artists would still charge more than I’ve made throughout my entire writing career thus far!

I certainly don’t resent that – based on their cost and how long they estimated it would take them for most projects, they still are probably only barely making a living wage from it!  But the biggest reason I didn’t go with them isn’t because of cost – that could potentially have been covered by a kickstarter.

It was timing.  They were booked out to either the end of the year or even well into next year, and I’ve become hellbent on publishing book 1 in time to take it to our booth at WhimsyCon later this year.

It’s thanks to suggestions by friends on Facebook that I finally found an artist, and a talented one at that.  A website that, ironically, I first heard about through an article that said to stay away from it, but then multiple self-published author friends suggested it as an excellent source: Fiverr.com

Finding The Right Art Style

https://www.fiverr.com/

Naturally the first thing I did was read up on Fiverr.com, and it quickly became apparent why that first article was so adamantly against the service – there are scams on Fiverr.com.  Not scams tolerated or encouraged by the owners, but like pretty much anywhere online that offers services, it was subject to people who abuse its system.

Let’s just say that ratings and rankings on Fiverr.com matter.  Do your due-diligence.  Within 10 minutes of looking, I found at least four ‘artists’ on Fiverr.com (who were only members for about a month) that were showcasing the exact same artwork as their own.  All of these artists had no ratings or reviews, and their biography was so ‘stock’ and full of bad grammar and misspellings that it reminded me of emails scams.

Before long, I’d narrowed down the list of potentials to five artists.  Then further poking around made me realize that two of those artists were potentially fake and using other persons’ artwork as their own.

Finally, it boiled down to an artist with dozens of five-star reviews, who has been a member since 2019 and has lots of successful projects on showcase, and whose style matched what I had envisioned for the front cover.

And he was affordable.  So much so that, if I chose, I could completely skip the Kickstarter campaign (more on that in a little bit.)  So I contacted him with a detailed message about what I wanted, what I was thinking, etc.  He replied quickly, and was very enthusiastic about working with me!  After only a couple of days of very positive collaboration, a job was officially created through Fiverr.com, and work commenced.

I was both excited and terrified!  I feel like, especially over the past year, a lot of things have worked against me, and every time I think something is going to work out and be exactly what I want, I’m disappointed or even burned.

That didn’t happen here.  After eight days, the artist showed me the first draft (is that what artists call the initial artwork?) and I was immediately in love with the art!  I only needed to request a few relatively minor adjustments, and by the next day, the project was completed, and I had the final artwork in hand.  I’ve over-simplified the entire collaborative process, but let’s just say that the artist Shupeipa was a joy to work with, and I fully intend to commission him again for books 2 and 3!

Yup, you read that right – the cover art for Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy is already completed and in-hand!  So what’s next?  That’s a good question…

To Kickstarter or Not To Kickstarter

The artwork was affordable for me, so a Kickstarter campaign isn’t necessary…however…  The artwork still cost out-of-pocket money, and there’s still a lot of work ahead of me that’ll cost out-of-pocket.

But, perhaps more importantly, is the potential marketing behind a Kickstarter.  I can generate buzz ahead of the release, and if I get the funding I hope for, I could spend money on some extra goodies.  But most importantly, it’s potential exposure to more audience members.  It’s pure and simple marketing.

But the question is – what extras would I include?  And before you start giving me ideas, here’s the thing – I recently started a new job that’s requiring a lot of attention and energy, my hours have shifted as a result, and I’m already feeling somewhat overwhelmed with the new aspects of this project and the prospect of a Kickstarter campaign.  There are a lot of great ideas I’ve already had or been suggested, that are simply too much for me to do, in the time that I want to do, with what little free time and energy that I have at my disposal right now.

And then there’s distribution of print editions for a successful Kickstarter campaign.  I don’t know how I would do it internationally, without spending an ungodly amount of money or charging potential backers an ungodly amount of money.

Which means that I’d have to limit physical shipping to the U.S. only, drastically narrowing down the pool of potential backers.

Is it worth it to go through with this?  I honestly am on the fence right now about it.  Which is even worse, because I need to get it going as soon as possible if I want to have a month-long campaign and still be able to publish by early August.

What do you think, readers?  And what are some low-impact ideas for Kickstarter rewards?  We’ve already had the idea of putting every backer in the Acknowledgements section of the book, autographed physical copies for those who do the higher-end tiers, bookmarks, maybe bubble pins/buttons with adorable custom artwork of Nina by Beck (Nina is a foot-long dragon featured throughout the trilogy, who has a penchant for hording bottle caps.)  And perhaps a digital or even physical poster of the cover.  Any other ideas that won’t require a ton of work?  Or do you think that might be enough goodies?

Anyway, this blog entry has already gone on longer than I planned, so I’ll leave things at that.  I’ll definitely post more later as things develop.  In the good news department, though, I’ve already put together the print edition cover, and have ordered a proof copy of the book from Amazon KDP!  All in all, things are moving fast, in a good way :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Writing High Fantasy vs Urban Fantasy – The Long and Short Of It

Hi everyone!

Now that my urban fantasy trilogy, Chronicles of the Sentinels, is finished (and I’m almost done with final edits on book 3,) I’ve spent the last few months writing book 4 in the Sword of Dragons.  Going from urban back to high fantasy/adventure has been…an eye opener, to say the least.

“But they’re both fantasy!  Isn’t it the same?”

Nope.  Not even close.

The First Time in Urban

Christopher Tatsu (Image Source – http://cdn.stylisheve.com)

Way back when, in 2014, I started blogging frequently about this new idea I had for an urban fantasy trilogy called Chronicles of the Sentinels.  I was so excited about this new story and the characters that I more or less dropped everything and started working on developing and writing it fervently!  Within 3 months, I had the first draft of book 1 completed.

One of the things that stands out the most in my memory about this time frame was how I described the action, the characters, how the magic worked, integrating it into modern weapons.  It was different.  But I still approached writing it like I did Sword of Dragons.  In other words, I treated it like high fantasy/adventure.

For numerous reasons, I set aside Sentinels back then.  And when I decided to rewrite it back in late 2019, I had read a handful of urban fantasy and realized I needed to change my approach.

Diving Into Urban Fantasy

As I started experimenting with my writing style for book 1’s rewrite, I started reading more urban fantasy.  And then more.  And even more.  Suddenly I was obsessed.  Suddenly, I was falling in love with what was basically a new genre to me.  I’d mostly read sci fi and high fantasy/adventure before that, I’d barely touched urban.  I think I read Dresden book 1 back around 2013 or 2014, and another urban fantasy called Monster Hunters, International.  That was about it (you can see my mistake – trying to write in a genre I had little exposure to in 2014.)

So I picked up Dresden book 1 again.  Then I switched it up and read the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, followed by the Guild Codex series by Annette Marie, and then dove back into Dresden.  Book after book after book of urban fantasy.

And I wrote Sentinels.  The entire trilogy in one year, while reading all of these novels.  It was fast, it was fun, everything came together in the story beautifully, and I fell in love with the characters.  Not just the main trio, but the side characters too.  So much so that I’m already planning spin-off novels that’ll take place after the trilogy.

Back to Sword of Dragons

With the Sentinels trilogy behind me, writing-wise, I returned to Sword of Dragons…and my realizations about the two different genres is reflected in this article’s title.

The Long and Short Of It.

I’m over 90,000 words into book 4 of Dragons, and that’s about 2/3rds of the way into the story.  By comparison, each Sentinels book was around 90,000 words in length, total.

Cover Art by Vuk Kostic

Character development and plot development is much slower in Sword of Dragons, and considerably more complex.  This is helped along by the fact that book 4 is switching between 3 characters’ PoV’s throughout, and with a few exceptions, the chapters are longer.

In a way, if I had to compare the two genres, the experiences of writing, and more importantly, the experiences of reading each genre, a single high fantasy novel feels to me like a miniseries on TV, where as a single urban fantasy is like an action movie, maybe 2 hours, maybe 2 1/2 for the later, longer Dresden novels (I’m on book 14 of Dresden now.)  Which is to say, the movies are awesome, but a good miniseries is far more in-depth, and usually slower-burning.

Which is better?  Well, as with all things in life, it’s a matter of taste, of opinion, highly subjective.

But, slightly off-topic for this article, there is one thing I’ve discovered as a reader…

I love fantasy movies, shows, and video games.  Lord of the Rings, The Witcher, Game of Thrones, Dragonheart

But reading?  I’ve come to realize that throughout life, I’ve not read a ton of high fantasy.  And most of what I have read…I don’t enjoy reading.  I find the Lord of the Rings novels exceedingly boring and difficult to trudge through.  I’m not really enjoying the Witcher novels (though that could be writing style issues…lots of dialogue, not much else, and arbitrary dialogue choices to carry the scene forward rather than describing action outside of dialogue.)  I put down the first Shannara book after 60 pages.

But I can’t stop reading urban fantasy, now that I’ve started.  I’ve flown through all of the books I read, usually losing track of time as I go.

I think as a reader, I’ve found one of my favorite genres (that and sci-fi.)

And I think as a writer…I may have found my true calling.

Don’t worry, I’m gonna finish Sword of Dragons.  I enjoy it a lot.  But I think, story-wise and character-wise, I did a far better job with Sentinels than I ever did with Dragons.

I suppose we’ll find out for sure if readers agree, when Sentinels gets published :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

PS: there is big news on the horizon for Chronicles of the Sentinels ;)

When All Else Fails, Write The Next Book

Rejection is part and parcel of the life of a writer.  Even the biggest names in the writing industry have felt the burn at some point or another, whether a rejection from an agent, editor, or a negative review from a reader.

So what do you do?  How do you keep from letting it get you down?

Write the next book.

Keep going.

Just write the next book.

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating giving up on your past projects, far from it.  Keep pitching to agents or keep advertising your published work(s).  Examine your projects and see if you can do better next time.  Keep going.  Keep learning.  Keep writing.

Writing isn’t a short-term, instant-gratification profession.  It’s a long-haul, a marathon.  An arduous trudge through unending darkness, with naught but a twinkle of light at the end of the sodden tunnel.  Maybe you’ll never reach that light.  Maybe all you ever do is get closer.  But then, you’re closer.  You’re further along than you were, further than you would have ever trudged if you’d given up.

The only way to get closer to your goal is to put one foot in front of the other.  Take the next step.  Then the next.

The best way to take the next step?  Write the next book.

Reader Reactions – Why I Write

Hi all!

I’ve talked in the past about why I write, but one of the big things?  Hearing about reader reactions, especially when they are passionate.  From Beta Readers to fan emails to reviews, one of the biggest ego boosts a writer can get is to hear someone say “Oh I loved that scene!” or “Wow that character is my favorite!”

I have a distinct memory one day of going to a party, and someone told someone else who I was and he shouted across the party, “Holy crap, are you the guy who writes Sword of Dragons?!”  :D

Another great example – hearing someone say they despise the Prince in the Sword of Dragon’s series, like vehemently despise and hope he dies a painful death.  Since my intention was to make that character irredeemably hated, I like knowing that I’ve had the intended affect.

Recently, I had a new experience regarding my Urban Fantasy trilogy – occasionally sitting next to a beta reader while they read through one of the books, and seeing real-time their reactions.  For the most part, this has been my wife Beck reading while I’m working on something else.

Hearing her laugh at all of the jokes and geek references has made me smile so much, and I love knowing that the humor has struck a chord, especially when Beck is a prime member of my target audience for the Chronicles of the Sentinels – right age range, right demographic, and a cosplayer to boot.

But most recently, I watched her cry over something in the third novel (*ahem* spoilers!)

Stories That Move You

Some of my absolute favorite stories out there, ranging from movies, to novels, to video games, are ones that move me emotionally.  Ones that make me happy.  Ones that make me sad (for the characters, not in general ;) ).  And ones that make me cry.

Image Source – http://finalfantasy.wikia.com

One of the best examples – Final Fantasy 7.  The first video game that ever brought tears to my eyes, the first character death in a video game that moved me.  And for that and hundreds of other reasons, FF7 remains my favorite video game of all time.

Those kinds of impassioned, invested reactions are what I strive for in my stories.  And was a big part of why I chose to rewrite Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1 from scratch, rather than try to edit the existing.

I wanted the characters more emotionally invested in the events, and I wanted the readers to experience that along with them, especially through the eyes of the protagonist.  I started this in the first few pages of book 1’s rewrite, and ran with it.  Integrated it into everything Chris does.  His life, his reactions to the changes in the world and the challenges he faces, are all informed by all of the personal matters introduced in those first few pages of book 1.

So that when it all came to a head in the climax of book 3, I hoped that readers would be so invested in it that they wouldn’t be able to stop reading, and they would feel every moment, and react to every beat as if it happened in real life.

Did it work?

Well, Beck read all of book 3 in two days.  And she cried.  And laughed.  And sighed in happiness.  And so much more.

I’m confident that I succeeded.  And that is why I continue to feel more and more strongly that Chronicles of the Sentinels will be what launches my career, one way or another.

I can’t wait to be able to share this new story with all of you!  And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it, and as much as all of my beta readers enjoyed it :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Trials and Triumphs of 2020, Trudging into ’21

Welcome…to the end!

Of the longest and shortest year in recent history, that is.

Image Source – https://www.pcscarts.org/blog/celebrate-the-new-year-with-creative-festivities-at-the-kimball-arts-center

If you’re reading this post, then congratulations, you made it through 2020!  That in itself is a monumental accomplishment!  For some, this has been a devastating year, filled with setbacks, immeasurable losses, and some of the worst consecutive historical events in recent times.

But today’s post is not to recount the global hardships, there is plenty of news coverage for that.  Today, as it is every year, I present to you my annual ‘looking back, looking forward’ blog post.  And I have a lot to write about, because while most folks have had to hunker down to survive 2020, it has been a busy, busy year for me.

Down For The Count…Twice!

It began with recovery.  In December 2019, I had just undergone a hip surgery to remove excess bone growth and repair a torn labrum.  For New Years Eve 2019, I was still on crutches and unable to put any weight on one of my hips.  Recovery mostly went well, and at one point when I had to stay home from work in March due to suspected COVID infection, I was able to walk over 3 miles.

And then I did yard work sometime after I recovered from COVID (never confirmed I had it, Colorado had no available testing kits at the time,) I pushed myself too hard and re-injured it enough that I set my recovery back a good 2 months.

Worse still, during one of my last physical therapy sessions, something pinged in my other hip during a particularly strenuous exercise, and I knew almost immediately what had happened, because the doctor warned me it would eventually happen – my other hip’s labrum had just torn.  I gave it a month or so to see if it recovered, and when it didn’t get any better (and in fact was getting worse) I called up the doc and made an appointment.  Sure enough, same deal – excess bone growth, torn labrum.

And so, amidst a global pandemic (but thankfully between surges in infection rates,) I found myself under the knife again.  Thankfully, this surgery went more smoothly, and recovery has been considerably easier.

The Most Productive Writing Year Ever!

For all of the bad that’s happened, something wondrous has come of it – I have written an entire trilogy in one year!!

Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

Yup, you read that right, I finished writing the third book in the Chronicles of the Sentinels trilogy ahead of schedule!

Thanks to three different time periods of being stuck at home away from work, and not being able to go on trips or visit places like zoos and museums (and not being physically able to do projects around the house beyond basic cleaning,) I’ve had ample time to write.

So what does that mean?  Well first of all, the trilogy is written, and book 1 is mostly polished.  I have some final pieces to polish based on a 3rd beta reader who is an Aussie and was able to give me some feedback on the two Aussie characters in the story, but other than that, it’s ready to pitch to agents (more on that in a little bit.)  Book 2 and 3, however, are still in need of serious work.

Book 2 has been through a single round of beta reading, and I will go through their notes this week and implement necessary changes.  After that, I will print out a hard copy so I can put it through another round of proofreading and editing.  Book 3 has only just gotten into the hands of beta readers, and I will await their feedback with excitement :D

Current numbers for the entire trilogy?

912 Pages
98 Chapters
275,807 words

That’s a lot of words for one year, especially for someone who is still only able to write part-time!  And actually, those aren’t the only pages I’ve written.  In between books 1 and 2, and between books 2 and 3, I wrote 10 chapters of the Sword of Dragons book 4 (totaling 30,000 words,) and a short story.

Soooo…yeah, this has definitely been a productive year!  On top of that, I’ve read a lot of books, especially in the urban fantasy genre to help keep me inspired for Chronicles of the Sentinels.  Among these were almost all of the Iron Druid Chronicles, six Dresden books, and five Guild Codex books(by Annette Marie,) plus an assortment of other books.

The End of 2020

I know I’ve been more fortunate than others, and for that I’m eternally grateful.  I’ve only glossed over all that has happened to my family and I in 2020, and we’ve seen and been affected by many of the major events out there.  However, through it all, I still have a job, and I still am alive and (mostly) healthy.

I’m ready to say goodbye to this year.  I’m hoping next year is a year that things turn around, on more than one front.  But most of all, I’m grateful for my amazing wife, my Starshine, Beck, for being there with me through all of this.

And to two of our friends, who have been our ‘COVID buddies,’ friends we’ve spent time with during all of this, trusting one another to stay healthy and safe and help each other survive the isolation, Wayne and Hannah.  I’m so glad to have these two in our lives!

Likewise I’m grateful for our friends Nick and Natalie, our west-coast brother and sister that we’ve spent time with virtually quite often this year, through video game streaming and occasional virtual Cards Against Humanity parties.

Looking Ahead – 2021 and Pitching and Writing

What does 2021 hold in store?  First and foremost, I hope an end to the pandemic.  I miss going places, like to the zoo or the botanic gardens or museums.  Second, healing – I want to go hiking again!

But there’s something else I’m hoping for.  With an entire urban fantasy trilogy written, I hope this is the year I find an agent willing to take a risk on me.  To that end, one of the most exciting moments ahead for me is a virtual pitch session arranged by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization.  I hope so much that I’ll be given a chance, and that the agent I have selected will be interested in my work.

But, should that not be the case, I plan to continue to query agents throughout the year on Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy.  I believe this is the most well-written, interesting, and unique story I’ve written yet, and it represents my greatest chance at traditional publication.

On top of that, as editing on books 2 and 3 of Chronicles winds down, I’ll be picking up book 4 of Sword of Dragons again and intend to finish writing it in 2021.  Depending on how fast and how well that goes, there could be a 2021 publication date for it, but as I’ve learned throughout the past 5 years, it’s better not to rush these things.  As always, I’ll make sure those on my mailing list, and those following me here, will know all about my progress.

Book 4 so far has represented a combination of the writing style fans of the Sword of Dragons have come to expect and the lessons I’ve learned and applied writing Chronicles of the Sentinels, and I’m quite pleased with how the first 10 chapters came out.  I’m looking forward to finishing this book, and seeing what all of you think of it :)

It is difficult to know where things will go from there.  It may depend greatly on agent and, subsequently, publisher interest in Chronicles book 1.  If there’s immediate and earnest interest, I know that book 1 likely won’t see a publication for another year or two at best, if what I’ve read about the publishing industry is true.  Having said that, I have no doubt there’ll be work to do during all of that time, including further editing based on agent and, later, editor feedback.

I also have another book series that is itching to be told, and after I finish Sword of Dragons book 4, I may write the first book in that series.  But that, my friends, is a tale for another time.

For now, I shall bid you all a fond farewell.  And tomorrow, we shall finally, inevitably, be able to truly look back with 2020 vision.

;)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Interview with Shoutout Colorado

Hey all,

The Voyage Denver group recently invited me to interview for a feature in their newest endeavor called Shoutout Colorado!  Click the link below to check it out!  :D

Shoutout Colorado Interviews Jon Wasik

I admit, I’m still not used to being sought out for interviews and podcast features!  There’s an unpopular boy from school-age years cheering me on in the back of my head every time it happens :)

Thanks for stopping by!
-Jon Wasik

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