Category Archives: Burning Skies

What Does Your Cover Say?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years, the cover of your novel can make or break you.

Recently my fiancee found an article that we read together today, found here, and it made me think of a lot of things, and I think even helped me answer one very important question: why have sales for Burning Skies been so much worse than The Sword of Dragons?

It boggled my mind, because almost everyone who has read Burning Skies told me they loved it as much if not more than The Sword of Dragons.  So it wasn’t that it was poorly written or a bad story.  And my advertising campaigns for Burning Skies have all tanked.  Fewer clicks than my ads for book 1, and no purchases.

Your Cover Describes Your Book

I’ve said this in a previous blog, long ago, but what’s the first thing a person sees when perusing either a book shelf or an online book store?  The cover.  “But don’t judge a book by its cover!”  So the expression goes, but frankly, everyone does.

David Penny's original covers...Thriller or Historical Mystery?
David Penny’s original covers…Thriller or Historical Mystery?

So what does your cover tell potential buyers?  What does it tell people your book is about?  The one time I went to a writer’s convention, one of the panels I went to covered this very idea, and again in the article I mentioned earlier.  An example writer, David Penny, had a well-crafted cover for his historical mystery series, but what he was shocked to realize one day was that his cover made readers think it was a thriller.

David Penny's redesign.
David Penny’s redesign.

So he had his cover redesigned and re-branded his series, and suddenly sales skyrocketed!

Why?  Not because the original covers were bad, quite the opposite.  But because the original covers weren’t attracting the right readers.  Those looking for a thriller would click on the cover to see what the novel was about, only to find it wasn’t what they were actually looking for.  And those looking for historical mysteries didn’t look into the book because they thought it was a thriller.

Target audience.  Who is your target audience?  All of your marketing should reflect who your target audience is.  If your book is a fantasy adventure but the cover makes it look like a teen romance, you are very unlikely to attract readers.

What Does This Mean For The Sword of Dragons?

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Well…….I’ve been thinking.  A lot.  Lately I’ve felt like a failure as a writer.  A failure in a lot of things.  And I’m a bit lost as to where to go.

But…maybe the author David Penny is on to something.  Maybe this article was exactly what I needed.  The original cover for The Sword of Dragons was great, Christian Michael is a talented artist.  But for one thing, I didn’t do a very good job as a client helping him create an appropriate cover.  I was, to put it mildly, an amateur at being a client to a cover artist.  The article helped me realize my short-falls in that regard.

I also didn’t have maps ready for the release of books 1 and 2.  Not to mention I’ve since come up with some ideas to make the book as a whole even more attractive.

But the cover…I know some people say a cover isn’t that important, but everything I’ve been seeing and reading in the past year completely disagrees with that claim.  And I think I need to take a step back and reassess some things.

I am very strongly considering doing a re-brand.  Designing new covers for the first two novels using the tips and advice in the referenced article, as well as giving book 1 it’s own unique title.  Since this is the Sword of Dragons series, book 1 needs a title to indicate it is the first in a series.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalAnd the more I look at book 2’s cover, the more I think: this does not in any way convey that this is a fantasy adventure novel.  Even book 1’s cover, as well-crafted as it is, does not necessarily convey that it is a fantasy adventure.

In other words, I need a 2nd edition of the series…

I have some thinking to do.  What do you all think?

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Interpreting Stories – Personal Biases

Hi everyone!

campfire-story-tellingIf I’ve never said it before, I’ll say it now: I love hearing from readers!  I love hearing what they like about my novels, what they don’t like, and especially discussing the various aspects of the stories and characters, the complexities, the nuances.

Of course, I always have to be careful with my responses, because there is so much I’m setting up in the early novels that won’t really be explained fully or come to be important until later novels.   I don’t want to spoil the long-term story for anyone!

What’s been really cool and interesting to see is how different people interpret different aspects of a story.  In fact, parts of the stories that I thought I’d written very clearly as meaning one thing, they interpret as meaning something else entirely.

Does this mean I failed to write clearly?  Does this mean I failed as a writer?

Nope.  In fact, I think it’s really cool!  In fact the only aspect I worry about is disappointing those readers in later novels when it is revealed that what they thought was really going on, isn’t actually going on.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalOne example I’ve already discussed in an earlier blog, about the difference between how the necromancers raise the dead in book 2 versus how the Staff of Aliz resurrects someone.  Of all of the reactions I expected from readers for Burning Skies, that was not one of them.

More recently, another reader talked to me about Dark Magic in the Sword of Dragons Universe, and how some characters seem to exhibit the use of Dark Magic before anyone else.

I’m hesitant to discuss it too much here (spoilers,) but suffice it to say that no one actually uses Dark Magic until the 2nd half of Burning Skies.

So why have readers interpreted something in a completely different way than I intended?  Again, it’s not because I failed as a writer, but rather because everyone, including myself, come to the table with different personal biases.  Every individual pays attentions to different details, sometimes in different ways.

The readers who have talked in detail with me about my novels aren’t citing broad examples in the novels, they are giving very specific examples, sometimes a single word, as evidence that their theory is true.  Words that I didn’t think were important when I wrote them, and that other readers either don’t think is important, or interpret differently due to their own personal biases.

Image Source - http://gallery.yopriceville.com/Fantasy/Dark_Magic_Master_Wallpaper#.WJXpRfJHTDc
Image Source – http://gallery.yopriceville.com/Fantasy/Dark_Magic_Master_Wallpaper#.WJXpRfJHTDc

For instance, associating color with certain types of magic.  Or because how Cardin senses the presence or absence of a presence in a character in book 2 compared to how he felt in book 1.

Which brings up another thought that literally just occurred to me as I write this blog: while we as people bring our own biases to a story, so too do the characters.  The example I just gave, about how Cardin senses a presence, that changes between book 1 and book 2, because of how his powers have changed so drastically.  Therefore how he interprets what he feels in book 2 does not have the same underlying meaning as it does in book 1.

It’s an evolution, for the characters, for the readers, and for me.  I think I wrote a blog about it before, about how when I release a novel ‘into the wild,’ potentially hundreds of different Universes are all created, as each reader sees and interprets the stories in their own way, and picture them in their head in their own unique way.

Image Source - hdwallpapers.in
Image Source – hdwallpapers.in

This is both exciting and terrifying!  Terrifying because how could I possibly remain true to every single reader’s interpretation of my world, without disappointing someone?

The truth is, I can’t.  And I think that’s something every writer out there should realize: if you try to cater to every single person’s view as you write your stories, you’ll go nuts.  It’s impossible.  So do what you know best: remain true to your story, and enjoy hearing how everyone interprets it.  Stick to your vision.

Trust yourself.

Thanks for reading, everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

-Jon Wasik

The Trials Continue – 2016’s Highs and Lows

Hey everyone, welcome to the last blog of the year!

And what a year it has been…with some of my greatest highs and some of my lowest lows.  I wish I could say this roller coaster was for me only, but based on the memes I keep seeing on Facebook, 2016 has been one of the most difficult years for many people, and not just because of celebrity deaths.

Originally Posted by Cinnabon.
Originally Posted by Cinnabon.

Though I do wish to pay tribute to some of my favorites who passed this year, those who have inspired and left behind a legacy no one will soon forget: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Ron Glass, John Glenn, and Carrie Fisher.  Not to belittle all those who passed in 2016, but these five were the ones that hit me the hardest.

Looking Back on 2016

2016 started on a heart-breaking note for me, as my relationship at the time was already coming apart.  I’d spent the holidays alone, and it was one of the loneliest times of my life…  On top of that, I had failed to get Burning Skies out in November as I had originally planned, 6 months after book 1’s release.

digital-cover-1While production of The Orc War Campaigns was in full swing, I wasn’t sure it was going to do well.  I was scared that fans wouldn’t accept that as a substitute for the delayed release of Burning Skies.  I wasn’t sure the story would do well.  But I was looking forward to exploring my own wounds in the story…

In fact, as a reader recently pointed out to me, I have infused my past relationship failures into my writing a lot lately.  At the beginning of 2016, I was full of cynicism and anger, I’d given up on relationships.  I couldn’t bear another heartbreak…

Never-the-less, I trudged forward.  I said “Hell with it” and focused all of my efforts on writing and getting my name out there.  This year I had my first table at a convention, that of Starfest 2016, and sold several novels there!  It was an exciting beginning, and sales for book 1 were relatively steady in general at this point.

Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.
Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.

Then I attended Anomaly Con, a steampunk convention in the Denver area, and met some amazing authors!  In fact, of all of the conventions I’ve attended, I think Anomaly Con had the best organization for Author’s Row.

Better still, one of the most important introductions of my life was made that weekend: I met fellow author Beck Stewart.  And while I didn’t know it at the time, that brief introduction late Saturday night would become the love of my life…  :)

Burning Skies Release

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalWhile the Orc War Campaigns had to go on a mid-season hiatus, this led to the successful release of the 2nd novel of the Sword of Dragons series, Burning Skies, and what a release it was!  I had an amazing release party with family and friends, and in the first couple months of release, I sold dozens of copies!

I was on a high – everything was starting to go right.  A couple months after the release, Beck and I started dating, and interest in my novels was on the rise.  Though terrified at one point that I was going to lose my mother, she pulled through, and the middle of 2016 was one of the best times of my life :D

But alas, not all would continue to go so well.  Sales for both book 1 and book 2 suddenly just…stopped.  No gradual draw-down, no indication it would happen, just all of a sudden…

Image source - google.com
Image source – google.com

And as 2016 comes to an end, sales continue to be almost non-existent.  Honestly I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong…  Advertising campaigns on Amazon are no longer drawing interest, and all attempts to get others to buy my novels have failed.  And while The Orc War Campaigns has completed successfully…I’ve received no feedback.  I don’t even know if anyone has read it.

As a writer, right now, I feel like a complete failure.  Months of negligible sales, including at a convention this fall, no more fan mail, it’s like everyone just…forgot about the Sword of Dragons.

I’m not sure where to go from here.  I’m trudging along on book 3, though running into a bit of writer’s block (3 days to write 1 chapter?  That’s bad…) And I don’t know what else I could do to boost sales.

Ending 2016 On A High Note

Image Source - stylecaster.com
Image Source – stylecaster.com

But for all of the despair I feel about writing, I can’t end this article on a low note.  Because for all of that, there are also some amazing things going on in my life!  My relationship continues to grow, and I got to spend a usually depressing time of the year with my girlfriend and our families!

In fact, writing aside, this turned out to be one of the best years of my life!  :D  And while I really hope I can turn my writing career around in 2017, I am so glad to no longer have to face it all alone.  I am so glad to have a companion in life, a writing partner, a cosplay partner, and my best friend :)

For all of the darkness in 2016, my Starshine has lit up my life in a way no one else could ever do.

Plans for 2017

For 2017, I want to try to get The Orc War Campaigns into print this year.  But more important is my desire to release book 3 of the Sword of Dragons by the end of May…and I honestly don’t know if I can.

The Orc War Campaigns took up more of my time than I expected, and I fell waaaay behind.  Between that and my bout of writer’s block…I’m really afraid I won’t make it in time.  Maybe a novel every year is an unrealistic expectation for myself.  I’m really not sure.  I also don’t want to rush out a mediocre product.  I want book 3 to be at least as good as books 1 and 2.

So that’s a decision I’ll have to make in the next few months – try to keep to the schedule, or delay book 3’s release….  Which would you prefer, my dear readers?  Try to get it out on time, or take my time on it and shoot for a winter release?

On that note, I wish you all a fantastic New Years tonight!  Be safe, have fun, and I’ll see you in 2017!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

The Sword of Dragons – Writing A Prologue

Hi everyone!

Image Source - http://geistig.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://geistig.deviantart.com/

I have a lot of exciting news to start this post off with!!  :D  Firstly, part 1 of the series finale for The Orc War Campaigns has been posted, and as always, is completely free to read!  So click here to head on over to theswordofdragons.com and check it out!

Just as exciting, earlier this week, I began writing the manuscript for book 3 of the Sword of Dragons saga!  *bounces up and down in excitement*

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but my girlfriend and I always spend Wednesdays together working on our projects (usually she’s working on something cosplay-related while I work on book-related things.)  With the Orc War Campaigns all but finished, there was only one thing left to do :)

But…as is often the case, starting a manuscript is difficult at best.

Prologues – A Good Idea In Theory…

The difficulty I’m running into?  The prologue.

Somewhere back in time, over a decade ago, I thought, “I want to start my fantasy novel with a prologue!”  Fast forward several years to when I started writing book 2, and I thought, “I’ll write a prologue for all of the books!”

…and I decided that even though prologues are so difficult for me to write.  I rewrote book 1’s at least a dozen times, and about half that for Burning Skies.

So when I sat down to write book 3’s prologue…my mind drew a blank.  Maybe it’s my ADHD, which has been worse than usual lately, or maybe it’s just because prologues are difficult.  It took me over an hour to write one page (well, it ran a little bit more than one page), and in the end, I was completely dissatisfied with it.

The Purpose of a Prologue

Prologues tell a story that frame the novel.  What is this novel going to be about?  What might one or more of its themes be?  Or perhaps its primary purpose is to give the reader a little bit of history that isn’t covered in the novel itself, but is important to understand the story.

Image Source - www.ravensnpennies.com
Image Source – http://www.ravensnpennies.com

For The Sword of Dragons (book 1), the prologue told the story of the forging of the Sword and the end of the dragons’ civil war.  For Burning Skies, it framed the origin story of the Necromancers of Vestuul.

Book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will easily be one of the most complex stories I’ve ever told, with multiple threads converging in the final 1/3rd of the novel.  But the biggest event centers around the Order of the Ages, which is the central religion of Halarite, and the gods that the religion believes in.

That is the story the prologue will frame, the origin of the sixth and final god of the Order’s pantheon, named Zairel.  Why?  Well…that, my friends, is a story for another time ;)

In any case, this is the story I’m having trouble framing…not because I don’t know the story, but because a prologue should grab a reader’s attention and make them want to know “What’s going to happen in this novel?”  When Zairel’s story ends 10,000 before the novel starts, it seems (key word) like that’s all there is to tell about his story.

So the question is….how do I make the prologue seem like there’s more to his story, and that the next chapter in his story will be exciting and worth reading?

Moving On

In any case, the prologue is written…for now.  I have no doubt I’ll go back and reread it completely.  But I can’t let this difficulty hold up the rest of the novel.  So yesterday, I started writing chapter 1, and I intend to move forward with the rest of the manuscript.

So, intrepid readers, what do you think about prologues?  Do you like them?  Hate them?  If you’re a writer, do you like to write them?  Do you have any advice for all of the other writers out there about how to write them?

Please feel free to leave comments below, I love hearing from all of you!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

I’ll Be At Mile Hi Con 2016!!

Hi everyone,

milehicon48I have exciting news!!  My friend Alessandra Clarke and I have been accepted into Author’s Row at Mile Hi Con 48!  We don’t have many details yet, such as where in Author’s Row, etc, but I’m super excited!  From what I’ve read about Mile Hi Con, it has a significant author’s row, a lot of writers and publishers, so I’m excited to be able to show off my work there!

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalFor this excursion, print versions of The Sword of Dragons and Burning Skies will be available for purchase (including a discount if you buy both at the same time!)

I also am thinking of having free samples of The Orc War Campaigns to give out.  I hope to have finished writing the Orc War Campaigns by then, and even be posting those final episodes before or during the end of October.

I’m not sure what AC’s line-up will be yet, but I’m willing to bet she’ll have Rider’s Revenge and Rider’s Rescue on-hand :D

So if you’re going to be at Mile Hi Con, please come by and say hi, even if you already own my books!  I’d love to see you and hear from you, and if you’re willing, get a photo with readers and fans!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

Is Romance in Fiction Always Necessary?

Hi everyone!

One of my favorite movies!!
One of my favorite movies!!

Think about some of your favorite movies, TV shows, or novels, and tell me…is there a romantic plot or subplot to it?  The chances are good that the answer is yes.  Why?

Because just about every single fiction story out there has romance in it.  No seriously, think about it.  Think about every movie you know, ever TV show you’ve watched, every novel you’ve read, and how many of them have no romance in them what so ever?  I’m willing to bet it’s less than 10% (and that number is probably being generous.)

TreasurePlanetVHSSo I guess the question is…is this bad?  I started thinking about this after watching Treasure Planet with my girlfriend recently (psst: check out her author’s blog here!), and she commented how there had once been a plan to continue the story as a cartoon series, but she was annoyed that the series was going to give Jim Hawkins a love interest.  She liked that he didn’t have a love interest in the movie.

When she said that, it took me a moment of processing, and I realized she was right.  There hadn’t been a love interest for Jim.  Granted there was a very small romantic subplot between the ship’s Captain and the scientist (I’m horrible with names) but even that was highly underrepresented.

And yet, at least in my mind, Treasure Planet is a fantastic movie!

Image Source - https://fanart.tv
Image Source – https://fanart.tv

So in my opinion, romance is not necessary to make a great story.  However, some of my absolute favorite movies include very strong romance elements.  Stardust (a movie that has become dear to me :) ), The Princess Bride, and Star Wars (especially The Empire Strikes Back) all have romantic elements, and these are some of my all-time favorite movies.

However, just like any other trope in a fictional story, doing the same thing over and over again the exact same way gets boring.  It gets old.  Romantics like me love a good romance story, but even I get annoyed with the same old version of a trope.  While Prince Bride falls into the category of an old trope (damsel in distress,) Empire Strikes Back and Stardust did not follow the old tropes, and in fact Stardust even played with it a little bit with Tristan’s crush in the beginning.

This is why I love playing with tropes, and couldn’t resist doing just that in The Sword of Dragons.  For instance, a dragon in a cave guarding a precious treasure?  Okay, but instead of it being gold or jewels that a greedy dragon is hoarding, it’s an honorable creature protecting a powerful artifact from being used to wreak havoc. (Sorry, no Smaugs in my books!)

Romance in the Sword of Dragons stories

So, what of romance in the Sword of Dragons novels and short stories?  Did I fall into the same ‘ol fantasy tropes for romance stories?

Image Source - http://s1.1zoom.net/big0/102/318623-blackangel.jpg
Image Source – http://s1.1zoom.net/big0/102/318623-blackangel.jpg

Well in book 1, there was never a ‘damsel in distress.’  In fact, all of the women in book 1 are strong and independent.  So that pretty much eliminates that possibility right there.  No princess waiting for some gallant knight to save her.  Plus, without giving away too many spoilers, the hero doesn’t exactly get the girl (but he doesn’t not get her, either…  You’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens ;) )

What of book 2?  There definitely was a romantic subplot in it, and when I first published Burning Skies, I was a little worried about how people would receive it.  Yet I was pleased to find that all of the readers who’ve read it so far have enjoyed it, and are curious to see if it’s going where it seems to be…or if I’ll turn it on it’s head.

The inspiration for Sira's dress in Burning Skies
The inspiration for Sira’s dress in Burning Skies

There was also a scene that I absolutely loved researching and writing in Burning Skies: The Royal Ball.  Researching medieval formal attire for both men and women was fun.  But it was also a chance to bring Cardin and Sira closer together, giving them one special moment…

So what of future stories in the Sword of Dragons universe?  Where are things going with Cardin and Sira?  With Reis?  With Kailar?

Well, as the good Professor River Song says, “Spoilers” ;)  But I will say this: I seem to have a propensity to torture my characters.  If they ever do find ‘happily ever after,’ it will only be after they have been through hell and back again (a dozen times.)  If they ever get there.

What Do You Think?

So what do you all think?  Should there be more stories without romantic subplots?  Should romantic interests be left out?  Or are they appropriate or even necessary to have in fiction?  Leave a comment below to let me know! :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Kailar – The Unexpected Fan Favorite

Hi everyone!

Image source - onceuponatime.wikia.com
Image source – onceuponatime.wikia.com

What is it about chaotic, even ‘bad’ characters that we enjoy so much?  From Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time, to Vala Maldoran from SG-1, and a whole range of others, somehow these often become fan-favorites, often to the creators’ surprise.

For instance, I can’t help but wonder if the producers of The Walking Dead knew that Norman Reedus’s character would become such an overwhelming fan-favorite!  He seemed like such a minor, unstable element in the first season, but quickly become a much bigger character.  And fans have threatened to riot if they kill him off!

Kailar if Sword of Dragons was a movie :D
Kailar if Sword of Dragons was a movie :D

So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Kailar has become such a popular character in The Sword of Dragons…but I was!  As more and more people read The Sword of Dragons and Burning Skies, I hear more people tell me how Kailar is their favorite character, or at the very least the one that interests them the most.

It wasn’t until my girlfriend mentioned why she liked Kailar that I noticed the trend (and then the next day at work, a random person in the hallway stopped to tell me that she is his favorite!)

From Villain to Antihero

Image Source - www.pinterest.com
Image Source – http://www.pinterest.com

If you’ve read the first book, you know that Kailar was one of two villains in The Sword of Dragons.  However, when I first started planning out her character, I knew that I wanted to do something far different from any story I’d written previously.

I had a habit in all of my previous writings of never writing from the perspective of any of the bad guys.  In fact in Star Trek Dragon, the ‘villains’ were often entire species, rather than individuals.  I saw this as a failing in my writing, and I knew I had to change it.

So I started developing a villain who wasn’t bad just to be bad, but who had ambitions and desires, and who really thought of herself as in the right.  In fact from the very beginning, I wanted her goals to be the same as Cardin’s, but how she pursued them was what would set them apart.

I also never intended to have Kailar be a part of the series beyond book 1…but by the time I finished writing book 1, I knew that her story wasn’t done.  I enjoyed writing her too much, and I was already coming up with plans for what to do with her character in book 2.  So it would seem she isn’t just a fan-favorite, but she is becoming a writer’s favorite :D

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalSo she made her return in Burning Skies…only this time, her story, her journey was much more personal.  Imagine for a moment something you love to do, more than anything else…imagine that your ability to do it was taken away.  If you’re a pilot, imagine that you, for instance, lost fine motor control and could no longer control an aircraft.  A painter who went blind.  A singer who lost her vocal chords.

What would that do to you?  How would it affect you?  Would it tear you apart?

…and what would you do to get it back?  How far would you go?  Would you do anything, or would there be limits?

Kailar’s Journey is Just Beginning

Knowing now that so many people love her character so much, I’m really excited to announce that her journey has just begun!  But where am I taking her, you might ask?

Well…the thing is, she is a chaotic character, an antihero.  So if you’ve finished book 2 and you think you know where she’s going, you might think again.  Her journey will never be a simple one, and there will never be a clear path forward for her.  She will always struggle against the darkness within her, and as much as she wishes to do right by everyone…there will always be obstacles.

But that doesn’t mean writing her character won’t be fun.  She’s a chaos character, after all, they do the things no other character would dream of doing.  So expect more than a few surprises along the way :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Stay tuned for news about The Orc War Campaigns, as the series will be returning soon!

-Jon Wasik