Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time, and completed the second half of the third Sword of Dragons novel with several days to spare. I very much enjoyed the experience (and am glad that I have a supportive and understanding wife, who likewise participated in NaNoWriMo) and I was originally planning on participating again this year.
And then something wonderful happened – 2020, for all of its horrors and difficulties, has ended up being the most productive writing year of my life. It began with the final proofreading and editing of Secrets of the Cronal, and its publication in mid-summer, as well as writing a short story that’s been begging to be written (in a single day,) and as of now, I have written two of the books in the Chronicles of the Sentinels urban fantasy trilogy.
Better still, the year isn’t over. I’m not finished yet.
In my previous article, I wrote that I had finished the second novel in the trilogy. As of now, it is in the hands of my beta readers, one of whom devoured it in two days! His feedback was very positive, and he’s very excited to read the final story when it’s finished.
However, as excited as I am to write book 3, I won’t rush it, and it’s still not quite ready to be set to (virtual) ink. Furthermore, if I stick with my normal production process, I will not be ready to begin writing it at the first of November.
Of course, I say ‘normal production process’ when in fact I’ve been writing CotS in a modified fashion from how I’ve written all of the Sword of Dragons books, but I intend to write a full blog on that hybrid approach soon. My intent for the moment is to continue to flesh out my ideas for the third novel while allowing the second book to stew. I know what has to happen in the third novel, I know how it will be resolved, but there’s still a lot of nuances I’m working out, and I want to ensure each of the characters get their moment to shine and a satisfying resolution to their stories.
Once I have all feedback from beta readers, I’ll go through book two for another round of editing and proofreading, so that when I do finally start book 3, I’ll do so knowing that book 2 is a complete package and I don’t have to worry about changing continuity. Additionally, I still like to let a story sit for a while before going back to it, giving myself ‘fresh eyes’ on the story and ensuring I haven’t left out any important information.
So when will I start writing book 3? My target is early December. And since book 2 took me about a month and a half to write, that means the third book’s manuscript won’t be completed until January. Barring any unforeseen deadlines, anyway. As I found out six years ago, I can work wonders when given a pressing deadline on a novel :)
In any case, I’ll be cheering all of you NaNoWriMo writers on from the sidelines this time! Good luck to you all!
As a writer, one core belief I’ve held to is that no writer is ever perfect, and it is vital to allow one’s writing to evolve and grow over time. It was perhaps one of my earliest lessons, back when I was ten years old writing my first-ever stories and thinking they were the best thing since sliced bread. (They really weren’t.)
Since then, there have been moments which marked significant changes in my writing style, almost always for the better. These moments are not happen-stance, they aren’t me stumbling onto what I consider to be better styles, they have always been intentional, deliberate, thought-out experiments in my style.
The year 2020 marks one such occasion, and just like I felt in those instances, I feel like it is a significant leap forward. How did it begin? What deliberate changes in my style did I make?
It began with perspective. Perspective inspired by my newest favorite author, Jay Kristoff.
One Vs. Many
Although I credit this as a change that occurred in the year 2020, it began in 2019, with an experiment after finishing re-reading Jay Kristoff’s Lotus War Trilogy. I’ve spoken of it before, but never truly went into detail about it – I wrote the first couple chapters of a rewrite of my urban fantasy book Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy.
The time has finally come to go into a bit more detail. Why now, you ask? For starters, not only did I finish re-writing Legacy early in the year, and have received extremely enthusiastic feedback from beta readers, but also as of two days ago, I finished the first draft of the second book in the Chronicles of the Sentinels trilogy!
So, what was so different about this new rewrite? For starters, the number of perspectives in the novel. That is to say, it is singular. I still wrote it in third person limited perspective, but unlike the original version, and almost every story I have ever written, I limited the point of view to a single character, the protagonist Christopher Tatsu (and if anyone is curious, yes, the mixture of culture in his name is intentional.)
The original Chronicles of the Sentinels splits time between the trio of heroes, Chris, Emmi, and Alycia, with an occasional hop into another character’s PoV. Back then (six years ago!) hopping amongst the trio’s perspectives was actually key to conveying the story, as each character began to explore their new powers and endure trials.
But much of the feedback I received involved matters that included, “the main protagonist is not interesting,” and “I’m not invested in any one of these characters.” I know that this feedback wasn’t just because of the shifting PoV’s between chapters, but my experiment in the rewrite began there.
The issue I honed in on specifically was Chris – he was essentially a blank face. Not literally, but he just wasn’t interesting. There was no reason to care for him. Nothing to pull at the heartstrings.
So I chose to pull back into his character, to give him a more unique personality. I also admittedly pulled some ideas from some other fiction to help in this regard, specifically Ready Player One and, more recently, The Iron Druid Chronicles. Chris is a geek. He watches anime, sci-fi and fantasy, reads books, plays video games, and he makes references to them often.
But there needed to be more, and going back to the example set by Jay Kristoff’s Lotus War Trilogy, I almost instantly knew the answer – family. Specifically, a tragedy that takes place before book one, but becomes a major factor throughout the entire trilogy, both in the larger story, and as something personal for Chris.
Sounds like a cliche when I say it like that, but I’m also trying to balance the desire to not give spoilers. Chris isn’t a tragic figure, he isn’t moping around (unlike how I had him in the original version of the book.)
In any case, that was the start of it all.
“But Jon, The Lotus War isn’t from a single perspective! So how did that inspire you?”
To be honest, there’s two factors behind that. First, relating specifically to Kristoff’s trilogy, whenever it switched away from Yukiko’s PoV, I found myself wishing fervently for it to go back to her. I wanted to know about her journey more than anyone else’s. This has been reinforced upon reading all but the last Iron Druid Chronicles novel – the first several novels are only from the protagonist’s PoV, but once it starts sharing time with one, and then multiple characters in later books, I found those PoV’s distracting.
Not to say there isn’t value in a story told through multiple PoV’s. Many of my favorite novels have switched between multiple perspectives (pretty much every Star Wars and Star Trek novel I’ve ever read, except for I, Jedi.) And I’m quite proud of the Sword of Dragons saga, which primarily divides time between Cardin and Kailar.
But that brings me to my second reasoning behind it – for Sword of Dragons, the many PoV’s makes sense, and is necessary to convey the epic scale of the story. There’s a reason Secrets of the Cronal is over 170k words long.
For Sentinels, I wanted it to be a much more personal journey. A singular PoV was the only thing that made sense, and only once did I break that, in the Epilogue. Based on reader feedback, that single break was actually well-done and absolutely necessary. I have likewise done that in book 2 – the entire book is from Chris’s PoV, except for the epilogue.
Speaking of epilogues, I think this blog article is already getting a bit too long, so I’ll wrap things up by quickly mentioning one of the other aspects I focused on in the rewrite, and that is making each character more unique and interesting.
For instance, both Chris and Alycia are geeks who enjoy quoting pop culture, but Alycia has other passions different from Chris. For one thing, she’s a cosplayer, something that I feel has not had enough exposure in sci-fi and fantasy. Aside from some books and movies referencing the well-known San Diego Comicon, there’s been a distinct lack of it. Alycia loves her cosplay, loves designing clothes, making armor, etc, and in fact, this plays perfectly into what her magic abilities turn out to be (*ahem* spoilers ;) )
Emmi is more of a fitness nut and metaphysical. In fact, between the core trio, Emmi is the one more willing to accept the existence of magic because of her metaphysical beliefs. She has a strong affinity with nature, which likewise feeds into what her magic powers end up being. But she also has endured a string of bad, failed relationships, setting the stage for what she endures at Nabu’s hands.
That’s all for today, but I hope you enjoyed this peek into my new writing process! And if you’re wondering about my previous post talking about the Sword of Dragons book 4, that story is likewise still in progress, and I’m applying some of my lessons learned from Chronicles of the Sentinels to that – there are fewer PoV’s (but still more than one) and I’ve adopted a shift in syntax and style that I feel tells a far more interesting story.
Hey everyone, great news! As of yesterday (July 24th) I started writing the fourth book of the Sword of Dragons!!
And I have to say…book 4 has been a challenge to get settled. And I use that term instead of ‘get started’ because it’s been a rambunctious little book for a good couple of years, and settling on one overall story has been a challenge.
Since book 3 has only been out a week (as of today!) I don’t want to spoil what happens in it, but I CAN spoil a bit what was originally going to happen…that is to say, one of the heroes was meant to turn villain!
It wasn’t an ‘all of a sudden they’re the bad guy’ kind of thing, but the first step in a journey towards evil. I was looking forward to the story line, but within months of when I intended to start writing the first draft…it just felt more and more wrong. Until I realized, the character I was having turn evil would never, ever do the things I intended him to do. It was very much against his established character, and while yes, people and characters evolve, it was so much the antithesis of him that I just couldn’t.
So I decided to change his journey completely. There are hints of where he might have gone still present, but otherwise that story thread was put to bed. And then I had a brilliant idea of how to end book 3 (the final page, actually,) and that meant…most everything I had in mind for book 4 was officially unusable.
Worse still, all of this meant that all of a sudden, book 4 had no main villains or central antagonists of any kind.
Changing Directions, Remaining on Course
So, as strange as it sounds, I found myself in a conundrum – I had an overall story arc for the series that still needed certain things to happen in book 4, but everything underlying it needed to change to reflect the new reality everyone finds themselves in at the end of book 3. And I needed a central villain.
So for most of this year, I’ve been restructuring it. And in the end, it was a friend of mine who made a suggestion to do something that I had already planned for in book 5 that helped me (thanks Nick!) The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of pushing the event up to book 4. It fits very, very well with how book 3 ended. Furthermore, it not only brings a central villain to the fore-front, it reveals THE villain of the series.
It also means that the series may end up only being 5 books long. And I’m okay with this. In fact, it feels right. Secrets of the Cronal felt more epic and more like a halfway point than I thought it would be, and I feel like if I try to string along the series much longer, book 4 will feel anti-climactic compared to 3.
On the flip side, for as big (page-count) as Secrets is…I think books 4 and 5 will end up even longer. No matter what, I don’t wish to short-change characters and their arcs, and there’s still so much to tell for all of them.
What does all of this mean? Well, here’s one teeny tiny spoiler – the Darksteel Army, of whom we saw a little bit of in book 3, will become a lot more prominent in book 4. Including the mysterious, clawed leader. We’re going to find out a lot more about her from the very beginning of book 4.
That’s all for today! I hope you all are enjoying Secrets of the Cronal!
This has been such a long time coming, and I am so very excited to finally share this new chapter with you all! Dark Dragons, gods, demons, mysterious assassins, elementals, this book has it all and more! Who will survive? And who will perish?
Also an exciting announcement, come check out a live streamed virtual release party today, July 18th at 2PM Mountain Time! This will be my first-ever virtual release party, and I’m so excited to bring you this event and to interact with all of you. I’ll be talking a bit more about what this book is about, answering questions and responding to comments live, and then I’ll read the first couple chapters, so come join in the fun!
You can catch the stream either on my author’s facebook page:
This past week, I finished the 1st draft of a new novel! And I have to say, it feels like the high I experience after finishing a new novel doesn’t ever diminish, it is such an exhilarating sensation!
A part of me wondered if that would eventually go away with more books under my belt, and truth be told, compared to some authors, I really don’t have that many… Counting all novels, even unpublished ones (ones I hope never see the light of day…) this makes the 7th completed manuscript. That’s also not counting the completion of my fan fiction series, which could probably be counted as 7 novels in and of itself (7 “Seasons” mostly comprised of 9 novella-length episodes each.)
I wish I could convey the absolute thrill I feel through more than just words! When you think about it, almost all of my projects are many years in the making, and this was no exception…but what was it, you might ask?
Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy
I wrote back in May that I had begun to revisit the modern fantasy story I had originally written in 2014, with the intent on focusing more on making the characters more engaging and feel more real, and in 2019, I had written a few chapters successfully towards that end.
With book 3 of the Sword of Dragons finished this year, and book 4 still percolating in my mind, I decided to use the rewrite of the Chronicles as an experiment to improve my writing style and ability to develop characters, and I am happy to say that the results were phenomenal, and as of this week, the 1st draft is finished!
This has been a passion project of mine for so long , and especially now that I’ve finished the 1st draft of the rewrite, I’m convinced that this will be the first story I’m able to find an agent for (and beyond that, hopefully a publisher.) Granted, I recognize that a lot can depend on the market and whether there’s currently a place for my kind of story out there (IE: how sell-able it is in the current market.) But I’m certainly going to try.
The greatest change in the rewrite, which I intend to write a full blog post about at a later date, is the perspective. It is still 3rd person limited, but unlike every other story I have ever written, it remains from the perspective of a single character. This was done to try to make it more personable, to make this one character more relatable to all readers, to make readers care more about what happens to him.
Beyond that, I’ve added a diverse cast of supporting characters, in the hopes that more readers will have someone they can relate to. I think it is vitally important that writers include diversity in their cast, and while it fits the story, I very intentionally did not make the protagonist white back in 2014, and stuck with that in the rewrite.
What’s Next for Legacy?
While the 1st draft is finished, it is not ready to pitch to agents just yet. The first step will be to do an immediate proof-read/edit, while the story is still fresh in my mind. Then, I’ll be sending it out to a couple of beta readers, both of whom represent different aspects of my target audience.
While they read, I’ll let the story sit, to help me ‘forget’ it enough that when I go back to another proofread, I can catch any errors where I might know what’s going on, but I didn’t put in enough information or detail that the reader might not know what’s going on. (I’ve caught myself doing that in almost every story I’ve ever written.)
Once I have comments back from beta readers, I’ll have their feedback in mind while I go through another proofread and edit. At that point, depending on how I feel the story is, I’ll begin the process of querying agents.
It’s been a long time since I queried an agent…I’ll have to go back to my old notes and some of my old query letters to remind myself how to do that, exactly. But as before, I intend to keep all of you updated on my progress!
That’s all for today, but be sure to keep an eye out on my Facebook page today, for an important announcement about next weekend’s release of Secrets of the Cronal!
First and foremost, if you missed the live interview this past weekend, the cover for Secrets of the Cronal has been revealed, along with a release date and pre-order! Click here to visit the pre-order page!
Now that my obligatory marketing is out of the way :) One of the frustrations that has recently hit the Self-Publishing market, particularly those who have used Amazon’s solution, was when KDP took over print edition services from CreateSpace (which still boggles my mind that they did this, since CreateSpace was owned by Amazon.) And one of the major reasons this is frustrating? Loss of previously-existing functionality.
In this case, I speak of the ability to order author’s copies prior to actual publication. I was able to do this on CreateSpace, but once everything migrated over to KDP, I discovered that this was no longer an option, and you can only order author copies after a book has been published. If you want to have a launch party on release-day, with copies in-hand, this is impossible via KDP.
The last time this happened, a friend suggested I try Barnes and Noble Press. You can create a ‘personal’ book without ever publishing it, but still order as many copies as you want. So for book 3, I thought I’d give it a try.
It has not gone well…
Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs
Though their interface for authors is relatively straight forward, I almost immediately ran into problems with my manuscript. It claimed I had not embedded my font in the document. A minor frustration that eventually was overcome by switching from Open-Type Font to True-Type Font. I don’t know why that made a difference, but it did.
After that, things started to seem okay. I wasn’t happy with the price (about $3 more expensive than a proof copy from KDP,) but I ordered my copy anyway. It took them AGES to print it and finally ship it, but about two weeks later, I had a copy in my hand, and was mostly happy. Especially comparing it to KDP’s proof copy, in which they failed (again) to center the cover image properly. I noted that they used a thinner paper stock, too, so the book was about a half-inch thinner than the KDP version.
But these were meant to be initial proofs, and I found mistakes, both in the manuscript and on the cover, that I had to fix. I submitted my files to both. About 10 minutes later, Barnes and Noble Press sends me a message, “We have found copyright violations in your submission. Your submission is locked and cannot be further edited.” Excuse me, what?! I wrote the book, I bought the rights to the cover art, and you didn’t have a problem with the previous submission, so what the hell?
After a while of frustratingly trying to find an email address to contact their tech support, I send them a message about the error.
About 5 days go by, with me checking the project’s status each day, and each day it still says the same. Finally they reply with, “We checked your project and do not see the error you describe.” WTF?! So I log in and find that, mysteriously, it no longer claims copyright violation and is in the process of being reviewed for approval to publish. I call B.S. on the B&N Press Techs. Someone somewhere screwed up, and as soon as you saw it, you fixed it, and then pretended you hadn’t screwed up. Own up to your mistakes, people.
Anyway, over two weeks go by, and the project is still in ‘reviewing’ status. Last time it only took 2 days to review, and at this point it’s been 3 weeks since I submitted the latest revisions…and since then, via the KDP proof I received, I found more issues to fix, but I couldn’t submit the updated files since the project on B&N was locked during review. So I email their tech support again.
5 days later, I finally get a reply. You can see where this is going, right? Only this time, they basically said, “We’ll look into it.”
A week goes by, nothing, no fix, no contact. I email again. Three days later, “We’ve resolved the issue.” Apparently no sense of urgency in these people at all, but at least it was finally approved and ready to order.
Now my latest dillemma? After submitting updates (that I had submitted to the KDP version a month prior,) and the new files getting approved a day later for publication, I submit my order for a new proof copy. A few days later, I check my bank account, and notice that they had charged for the proof copy, and immediately reversed and refunded the charge. I had no communication from them about this. So I check my order status, and it says “Printing.” Not cancelled, nor any other errors.
So I guess I’m in limbo now, not sure if they’ll actually print my project or not. Do I bother sending tech support another email, knowing it’ll be 5 days before I get a response? Will it be fixed? Certainly, at this point, not in time to approve the proof and have copies in-hand by release date, at the speed they move…
As annoying as KDP’s lack of features and watermark on the proof-copy covers are, at least they’ve been responsive in the past when I run into issues, which themselves have been very rare.
Anyone know of another self-publishing website that’ll let you order author copies prior to publication? Preferably one that works far, far better?
I have exciting news! The cover reveal for the Sword of Dragons book 3, to include the back-of-book blurb, the release date announcement, and pre-order information will be released LIVE this weekend on ShowX by VtW Productions!
At long last, the day is coming!! I’m so excited, everyone, I cannot wait to show you! So tune on on ShowX’s twitch feed live this Sunday, June 21st starting at Noon Mountain Time, 11AM Pacific, 2PM Eastern. If you want to participate in the chat, I’ll be taking questions from everyone, so be sure to register on Twitch ahead of time!
Last week, I had planned to release the back-of-book blurb for the Secrets of the Cronal novel, as part of a schedule I had set for marketing. I did not post that information, as I thought that it would be inappropriate at this time, given everything that has been happening.
While I have been quite vocal on my private social media accounts, I’ve been uncertain in days past about what would be appropriate to say in my public social media. However, I realize now that I need to say something publicly, I need to make my stance clear.
Black Lives Matter
For many, 2020 has been an insane and crazy year, with month after month of beyond-normal disasters, often affecting things on a global level. It has torn people apart, divided them, brought about vehement discussions, insults, and more. Many people have felt overly and abundantly stressed, and depression world-wide has skyrocketed.
Now imagine for a second that this is your life, every year, for your entire lifetime, and you still will not have reached the depth of what people of color have to endure. I know that I cannot imagine it. I can try, but I feel that everything I imagine falls short of the truth of it, the gravity and weight of it, suffocating.
Inevitably, there will be or have been counter-arguments to the movement, to the protests, many of which fall short of actual discussion-worthy arguments, numerous being derogatory and a further indication of the systemic nature of racism in the United States. I’m not here to address those counter-arguments, that is not the point of my post.
The point of my post is to support the end of racism and the abuse of power. No, I am not anti-cop. I have had the privilege of knowing some truly incredible, wonderful police officers who truly wished to make a positive difference in all lives. However, I have also had the displeasure of knowing less-than-reputable police.
Regardless, change is needed. Change is required. It must come. This illness has existed within our nation since before its foundation, since its inception, so it will not be easy. It will not be quick. But it must happen now. Because if not now, then when?
I do not know the breadth of my audience, but I realize that my statements today and my support of Black Lives Matter will inevitably mean losing fans and readers. To that I say this: you were never my target audience to begin with. Surely that is obvious from the first Sword of Dragons novel alone, but in case you misunderstood it, the world in Sword of Dragons places people of all skin colors and all genders on equal footing (while the concept of racism is explored more and more in each novel through the dividing line between Mages and non-Mages.)
I grew up watching Star Trek, and X-Men and Marvel Universe cartoons, and I read Superman comics. Those helped make me who I am today, and I cannot and will not support or condone racism, bigotry, or sexism, nor do I accept or condone continued systemic violence or oppression against people of color, women, or the LGBTQ+ community.
I know I am only one voice among a chorus of millions, but my years and years singing in choir taught me something – every voice counts. Every voice matters.
It’s time for another Secrets of the Cronal update! Today I’m really pleased to bring you the chapter titles from the upcoming release.
One of my favorite things to do when a new Harry Potter book came out was to read the chapter titles and try to guess what each chapter would be about, and there was just something magical about it. I admit, that was part of the reason I decided to name my chapters when I published book 1!
So, without further ado, I present to you the chapter titles from The Sword of Dragons Book 3 – Secrets of the Cronal
The Seal of the Covenant
The Dwarf of Serelik
An Unexpected Visitor
The Sylaric Stone
Under the Shadows of the Moons
Fires of Jealousy
The Celestial Spires
Into the Web
Sea of Magic
The Deep City
The Morning After
The Grand Sanctuary
Guardian of Secrets
The Whispering Tree
Strength in Shadow
Over the Wall
The Final Piece
Battle of the Cronal
The Great Library
The Greater Good
I admit, I struggled with thinking of chapter titles this time around, but once I named them all and read through the book in the latest round of proofreading and editing, I felt like every single one was perfectly named :)
I’ll be working on updating the Sword of Dragons website with a new section specifically for book 3, where these chapter titles will be listed as well, until the pre-order and cover reveal is completed.
Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you’re as excited as I am for the coming release! The next update will be the back of the book blurb, and then after that, the cover reveal and release date :D
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.