It’s been too long since my last post. But that’s the thing about blogging lately, I feel like I’ve lost sight of some of my original goals with this blog, while greatly achieving others.
The trials and triumphs of writing, searching for an agent, and getting published. That was what this blog was originally supposed to be about, all the way back in 2014. I was certainly a different person then, and my life was very different.
I never found an agent, though I came close a couple of times. I have, however, been published. I think my decision to become self published was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s given me incredible insights into this industry, made me realize that there’s just so much more to writing than I ever realized.
Having said all of that, there’s one part of my blog’s stated goals that I’ve greatly neglected in recent months. Writing.
Granted, we bought a house recently, and as anyone who’s been through that knows, there’s a lot involved in that (including fixing up everything that was wrong with said-house in the first days after taking ownership.)
And we’re still not fully settled in.
But that’s meant I haven’t written anything in months. At least since early February, if not longer.
Furthermore, sometimes I feel like I’ve spent too much time and effort trying to advertise my published books on this blog, when that wasn’t one of the original goals. Sure, sharing my celebrations and events involved in marketing is part of it, but…well, all in all…I think it’s time I took a break from blogging. Again.
I first started considering this after I read a blog post by Rachelle Gardner. Her words resonated with me, and I realized that I felt like blog writing, right now anyway, felt too much like a chore. The joy I used to feel in blogging was gone.
Thinking even more on it, I realize that is because every time that I’ve spent time writing a blog, I felt like I could have used those precious minutes to write stories. And over the past 2 or 3 years, writing time has been scarce.
Of course, there’s a flip side to that…what do they say about writing? That to be a good writer, you need to write from experience, and that means going out there and experiencing life. And I certainly have done that in the past 3 years! I’ve had more adventures, experienced love like never before, seen and done things I’ve only dreamt of before!
It’s made me a better writer. And now, more than ever, I feel like the time is right to take advantage of that. Now is the time to write stories again.
That’s who I am at heart, a writer. So I need to go back to my roots, and focus on that. Rediscover that part of me.
Does this mean I’m shutting this blog down? Nope. It just means I’m taking an extended break for now.
But I’ll be back. That much I can promise you. My journey is still just starting, and I still want to share it with you all :)
Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for being awesome! See you next time!
Before I started writing what would become the final rendition of book 1 of the Sword of Dragons, the story began with a map. At first all I did was draw in the lines for the continents, and then I started picking where cities and land features would be…and as I marked down the cities, I began to formulate the countries, and their back stories.
And thus, conflict was born. Four kingdoms, two at each other’s throats, with the other two supporting one or the other. Every couple of generations, a new war would start.
When the kingdoms briefly united against the common foe, Klaralin, many wondered if peace would finally reign upon his defeat. But it was less than a century before Tal and Falind were at each other’s throats again, with Erien and Saran supporting each respectively. These recurring conflicts, in comparison to the war against Klaralin, became known as the Lesser Wars.
But…why has conflict always broken out between Tal and Falind? Why are these two countries destined to squabble century after century? And will the peace that has come between them after book 1 last?
Remembering and Forgetting
By the time book 1 takes place, Tal and Falind have had periodic wars for over five thousand years. No one remembers the reason behind the first conflict. Somewhere in one of the sanctuaries of the Order of the Ages, there is a history book that tells of the first war, but even the greatest scholars have not seen nor read this book in millennia.
What often sparks the Lesser Wars now are land disputes. Every time a new mine or other resource is discovered somewhere along the border, or every time a Warrior patrol from one kingdom strays into the other, it becomes the impetus for a new war.
One thing is for certain, the Warriors’ Guild has been at the head of almost every conflict (almost.) When Cardin Kataar learns of this, it is one of the many reasons he begins to have second thoughts about joining the Warriors.
Is he right? Are the Warriors the reason for the continual cycle of the Lesser Wars? Can the cycle be broken?
As Professor River Song would say, Spoilers ;)
But this begs the question…at this point, does the original reason even matter? If someone were to find this book and discover the original reason, could they point to this and say “See? This reason is no longer valid. Why are we still fighting?” Or would the book give them more reason to fight?
Or, going back to the original question…would it even matter?
As we’ve seen in the real world, “yesterday’s enemies can be today’s allies; today’s allies can be tomorrow’s enemies.” Today the United States and Britain are close allies. 250 years ago, we were enemies. No one cares about those old grievances so much anymore.
So in all reality, no, a grievance five thousand years ago really has no play on the current conflicts. At worst, if someone from the time of the current book series were to learn of the original reason, they might use it as an excuse to continue war.
Currently I have no plans of ever revealing in the book series why the original conflict began. But the original reason is a matter of sovereignty, stretching back to the era of Archos and Talus themselves. As the first kingdom, Tal, grew larger, it became more and more difficult to maintain the breadth of the Kingdom. Saran and Falind were both formed around the same time as one another, named after their first sovereigns.
The leader of Tal at the time did not care for this outright revolt. These lands were under his rule. So he declared war.
And Tal lost that first war, and was forced to concede Saran and Falind’s independence. But Tal didn’t forget, and never forgave.
Fortunate for Saran, their capitol was formed at the end of a labyrinth of valleys in a vast land of mesas, and was nestled against the sea, and so was easily protected. Tal, realizing that they could never hope to take Sharenth, let them be, and when they had built up enough strength, marched upon only Falind. Saran, unwilling to let Tal have their way with an independent nation, attacked Tal’s forces.
So the cycle began. The seeds of hatred between Tal and Falind were formed, and the customary alliance between Falind and Saran was born.
Tal never conquered Falind, though they came close many times. As the original reasons were forgotten, there even came a point when Falind had designs on conquering Tal, putting to rest the Lesser Wars once and for all.
I hope you all enjoyed this glimpse into the history of Halarite and the four kingdoms! If you enjoyed this, let me know and I’ll delve even deeper into Halarite’s history as time goes on!
I wanted to offer a real quick apology for not writing a blog last week. House hunting has been extremely time-consuming and stressful and before I knew what was happening, last Sunday was over O_o
Onto the blog we go – are the best stories and characters born from emotion?
The thought occurred to me late last year when I was proofreading all of my books just prior to release. As I read through them successively and rapidly, I discovered that the most recent story, The Orc War Campaigns, felt better written and more engaging as a story. And I wondered why.
There’s probably many reasons, not the least of which is, it’s my latest, so all of the lessons I’d learned up to that point were ingrained into telling the story.
But also…I wrote the characters out of real emotion.
I know I’ve talked about it before, so I don’t intend to get into details, but as I wrote Amaya’s story and her struggle to move on from an emotionally abusive relationship, I used it as a way to explore my own attempt to do the same.
And in using my own emotions and fusing them into the story, I was able to better connect with her character, as well as Zerek’s and Arkad’s.
What resulted was a writing style that felt more relaxed, more intuitive. The writing flowed, and despite being 3rd person, it felt like the story was more from their perspective rather than an objective 3rd person describing the events.
I’m also happy to have learned that others feel the same about The Orc War Campaigns. In fact, despite being the longest book I’ve written so far, folks have read through the entire book in one sitting! That tells me I definitely did something right.
Applying These Lessons to Future Stories
So now the question is, can I take this idea and write the next book in the series the same way? Can I connect more with Cardin and Kailar and write in a way that makes it easier for the reader to connect with them?
The answer, of course, is yes. But it also meant I had to go back through the chapters I wrote last year and the year before and changing them…or in the case of Kailar, rewriting them from scratch.
Actually, I’m glad to have had this revelation. I came to realize that my original plans for Kailar were far too passive in book 3, and that I needed to drastically change things.
Originally she was going to be very passive, following Letan’s orders and only occasionally letting her temper take hold and spur her to more direct action.
That’s not Kailar. It never was. Part of what makes her such an engaging character is that she is an antihero. She wants to do what’s right, but isn’t held back by the same moral constraints as Cardin is. She is much more aggressive. And now, after the events of Burning Skies, she has the power to back her aggressive and straightforward nature with direct action.
And I have to say, I enjoy writing her a lot more this way! She felt two-dimensional before, this feels more natural for her.
Another bonus to having taken a break from book 3 was that I came up with new ideas for book 3 as well as later books that I could foreshadow in book 3, especially for Cardin. His journey in book 3 starts out feeling like it’s the same as book 1 and 2, something comes up, an adventure, and he just goes along with it.
Until something tragic happens.
The tragedies of book 3 were always planned, but they’ve become even more vital after a discussion I had with our friend (and wedding photographer) Danielle, about how she felt like Cardin was never really in any danger. His powers protected him, and always evolved to save him in a life-threatening situation.
And it’s true, the Sword of Dragons makes Cardin very difficult to hurt.
Everyone else, however…not so much. Worse still for him, being the Keeper of the Sword means that his actions never affect just him, or even just his friends. He also must contend with the new paradigm of Dark Magic, and what it means for him and his future.
Book 3 will be a very personal journey for these two characters, as well as for Reis. More so than in Rise of the Forgotten or Burning Skies. All with the backdrop of an epic story unfolding!
In the Sword of Dragons series, which is a series one might assume involves a lot of dragons, they seem to be largely absent at first. They’re talked about in legends, and the titular Sword was constructed by them to end the greatest civil war that the Universe has ever seen.
Dragons are popular right now, or so I’ve been told and so my ads based on keyword searches has shown. Books about dragons are in demand. And I love dragons. So why did I write the first couple books of Sword of Dragons with so few dragons?
Honestly when I first started writing the series, that was not my intent, but as the story developed and I started from scratch in the late 2000’s, I knew exactly how I wanted to treat them.
They were to be mystical, legendary. People whispered about them, revered them as the exemplars of good and just in the Universe. There were once tens of thousands, and they roamed the worlds and realms, exploring, caring for others, and keeping the Universe in order.
And then a great cataclysm befell them, a cataclysm that started when one of their own fell to darkness…
Star Dragons and the Jedi Knights
The dragons once numbered in thousands, were powerful, and the epitome of good in the Universe. Perhaps the one and only people that were ‘pure good’ rather than gray. And then they were all but wiped out after one of their own fell and corrupted others, taking the extreme opposite of good. In a Universe where no object or power is actually inherently good or evil, dragons are the exception. And now they are a mystery. A legend. A whisper. Everyone holds them in awe.
Meeting the first one, Avall, Cardin has an almost religious experience. And then he meets more good ones.
Then book 2 happens, and he meets the original bad guy. Like Luke facing Vader for the first time. And Cardin, like Luke when he learns that Vader is his father, is terrified to realize that he has the same power as this ultimate villain.
I didn’t realize it until this week, but I’ve come to realize how much my love of Star Wars and the Jedi has influenced the back story of the Sword of Dragons series.
Granted there are many, many differences. In the Original Trilogy, we’re led to believe only two Jedi survived the great purge. In canon stories, we learn that there are at least two others who are separated from the Rebellion prior to A New Hope, Ahsoka Tano (one of my all-time favorites!) and Ezra Bridger. But still, that’s only four, and perhaps one or two others in official “Disney Canon.”
The Star Dragons, however, still number in the hundreds.
So part of why there are so few is the Star Wars influence, but there’s a little more to it than that. And it really comes down to the fact that I love dragons, that they’ve captured my imagination all of my life. But there are so many good dragon books out there…so I felt like the series had to earn their presence. Justify their return to the struggle. And make it to where they remained something special and weren’t just common or average.
When a dragon shows up in a scene, it is something special, something wondrous!
And as time goes on, their role increases. Unlike Star Wars, it is only after books one and two that one of the “jedi” aka dragons comes to train Cardin. During this time period, in book 3, Cardin will go on a journey that will affect him spiritually, and will help prepare him for the devastating events to come.
Book 3 – Return of the…Dragons?
Throughout book 3, we’ll get to spend more time with the green dragon Endri, who sort of takes over the role that Dalin previously filled. Which of course will mean that Dalin will need to find his place in the grand scheme of things.
Furthermore, early in book 3, we’ll get to see dozens of dragons, as they rally together to try to find Nuuldan and end the threat of the Dark Dragons once and for all.
This also means we’ll get to learn more about the Star Dragons than ever before! Including the fact that they have not spawned young dragons since before the defeat of the Dark Dragons, and thus their numbers continue to dwindle rather than grow.
Perhaps the most exciting scenes that I’m most looking forward to writing is when Cardin and his friends travel to the ancient Star Dragon home world, a place that seemingly none of the Star Dragons have visited in thousands upon thousands of years.
I’m eight chapters into book 3, and I can’t wait to share more about it with everyone! :)
So what do you all think? Are there more parallels between the Star Dragons and Jedi than I realize? What do you think of the slow build up to more dragons in the series? Are you looking forward to book 3? Let me know in the comments section below :)
I usually finish up the year with a ‘looking back, looking forward’ post, and this, the last Sunday of the year, is no different…except this time, it is.
Nothing has been the same this year, and it’s been one of the best, and one of the hardest. I think I said something similar at the end of last year…little did I know how aptly that would describe 2018.
It began with loss.
In the beginning of 2018, my mother passed away. We knew it was coming, we had known for a long time, but nothing could have prepared me for how it would hit me, or how it has stayed with me throughout the year.
Even now, with Christmas, my birthday, and New Years, even when I’m not thinking specifically about her, I feel this immense, pervasive emptiness.
And perhaps the most frustrating part about it is that this should be one of the happiest years of my life. This was the year I got married to my Starshine!!
The saying often goes, your wedding is one of the happiest days of your life, and for me, it truly was :) I don’t think I ever actually relayed the full story of our geeky, fun-filled, beautiful wedding. The weather was perfect, the venue was fantastic, our hotel was great, and it was a perfect turnout, a small wedding like we’d hoped.
Then came the honeymoon, which was a mixture of good and bad. We’ve already decided we need a do-over! But despite the bad that happened, I hold a lot of fond memories from that week and a half, and for some reason today especially, I’ve been thinking a lot about our adventures in Orlando :)
By far, Disney World was the best!! It was my first-ever Disney experience, and despite how bad the weather was most of the time we were there, it was a blast! And exhausting, but in a good way :)
This was one of many trips I took in 2018, beginning with the trip to NM for my mother’s funeral, then Orlando for our Honeymoon. Next came a trip to Los Angeles for my best friend’s birthday, and also my second ever Disney experience since we went to Nick’s favorite place, Disneyland!
While I definitely prefer Disney World due to its size and scope, our adventure at Disneyland was just about perfect! The weather was great, there were surprisingly few people despite it being a Friday before a holiday weekend, and we barely waited 15 minutes in any line! Topped by an amazing dinner in a restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the food was fantastic and the company even more so :)
And then not long after came my fourth trip, a work-related trip that took me to Huntsville, Alabama. Little did I know how much NASA stuff was out there, and being able to stand beneath a fully-erect Apollo rocket was an awe-inspiring moment!! I only wish my wife could have been there with me for that experience.
To top off this eventful year, I ended things by publishing three novels at once! What started as an attempt to refresh my work turned into a much longer, multi-year effort to rebrand the Sword of Dragons, and while I still am far from my goal of making a living off of writing, I’m happy to say that this venture has brought me a lot closer than I was before!
Now we come to it, the end of a truly roller coaster year (with lots of actual roller coasters!) I look back, and realize why I feel so exhausted, and why my emotions are so crazy right now. So much good, so much hardship. Even my holiday from work for the Christmas and New Years holiday has been tumultuous.
What do I want for 2019? Relaxation. Am I likely to get it? Well…
Looking Ahead to 2019
2019 may very well be another year without me publishing a new novel. I’ve been working on book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series, and as of writing this, I’m 7 chapters in. But Kailar’s story has been fighting me and I’ve basically scrapped my original plan for her in book 3. Which means I’m kind of making it up as I go for her chapters.
I also don’t want to rush it. I have a title and even a cover set to go for it, but I want to write the best story that I can, and I want to make sure it is as polished as possible.
What I AM happy to report is that I’m headed back to the convention scene, at least for one time. My wife and I have officially been accepted as vendors in the 2019 Whimsy Con in Denver! Our favorite Steampunk convention, and a worthy successor to the former Anomaly Con where Beck and I met, this will be our first table together, with me selling my books, and Beck selling her jewelry and her first book.
Yes, you read that right, Beck’s first novel will be available by Whimsy Con! :D Click here to head on over to her blog to find out about her latest adventures with her book, and her planned release no later than March 1st!
Shortly after that, comes perhaps our biggest move yet since we met each other – we’re planning on buying a house! Mostly because we’re tired of dealing with sub-standard apartments in the Denver area. Truly, there are inadequate protections for renters in Denver and property owners get away with a lot of inky moves. We even ended up getting the FCC involved in our dispute regarding exclusivity enforcement by CenturyLink in our current apartment complex, only to discover that our apartment complex had been lying to us about it.
So we’re done with apartments in Denver.
Beyond that? I’m not entirely sure where 2019 will take me. It probably greatly depends on where we land with a house. I don’t anticipate any big trips this year, since we need to conserve money, so probably just hunker down and focus on writing and voice acting.
Did I mention that yet, voice acting? I’ve decided to move forward with recording audio books, and depending on how that goes, I may try my hand at other related ventures. I’m also slated to be the MC for the Whimsy Con costume contest this year :)
So, now it’s just time to take in a deep breath, and plunge into 2019. Here’s hoping for a great year!
Thanks for reading, thanks for staying with me, and thanks for your encouraging words through the hard times. I really appreciate all of you!! (PS: I just noticed, 205 followers!! We passed 200!!!! :D )
I’ve said it before – being a writer is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be in it for the long haul. What I have to keep reminding myself is, this also applies to the goal of one day living off of writing.
With my triple-book launch of the Sword of Dragons series on November 16th, I was extremely pleased to find that not only did my books start off well, but they were trending upwards! It looked like my marketing attempts were succeeding!
And then…nothing. No, I mean, nothing, for four days, not a single sale or KU read. From doing better than the totality of my previous publication to zero activity.
But then something strange happened. A coworker excitedly told me today that she had ordered and received two of the three books last week. I frowned, went to my KDP dashboard, and found no print sales, at all, on or after the date that she had ordered them on.
I started looking at other numbers, and did some math, and realized that my ad campaign dashboard showed that I had made more sales than what was showing up on my sales and royalties dashboards.
A quick google search later, and I come to find out that this has been a known issue since September with KDP. It’s entirely possible that there’s still activity going on, I just can’t see it. At least, that’s my hope.
Crisis averted! But it made me think…
Writing is Building a City, Not a House
I know, it sounds weird, but bear with me.
To the fine folks out there who are in construction, please forgive me as I over-simplify things here – building a house is relatively simple and quick.
A city takes years. And years. And lots of houses (among many other structures.)
For most writers, getting that first novel out there is a huge accomplishment! Hard work, dedication, perseverance (aka stubbornness) have produced a product you’re proud of!
But, unless you’re one of those lucky/talented few, that’s not enough. Sure you’ll hook some readers and all…but it takes more than that to build a city.
It takes time. Lots of time. And more than one book. I keep seeing a ‘magic number’ online, 3 books to start getting a following. And honestly, I’m not sure if Orc War Campaigns counts, being an anthology of short stories.
Either way, I saw a lot of positive results at initial launch, and I’ve received positive feedback, and even heard from folks who say they haven’t had a chance to buy yet, but will be within the next week or two as funds allow.
So I’ve had to remind myself, and am reminding all of my fellow writers out there: if you really really want to make it as a writer, remember that it’s going to be a rocky start. You need more books. You need to work on getting your name out there. But you also need to allow for the seed you’ve planted with your first couple books to grow. And it’ll take time.
Keep at it. Stay passionate. Try not to despair. Glitches in the Matrix aside, you may be surprised what happens in the long run.
Writing is not a game for those who want instant gratification.
As of today, my triple-book release is nine days old! Still very new :) But now that all of the hard creation process is done (you know, writing, editing, creating covers, formatting, etc), the truly hard part for me begins.
Marketing my books.
I would say “as a self published author, this is especially important,” but let’s be honest, this is vital for ANY author. You may have created this extremely awesome and wonderful book for people to read…but how do you get the word out?
With the original books 1 and 2, I fell considerably short in my efforts. And I didn’t take advantage of social media, which is probably one of my biggest mistakes.
I bought ads now and again on Amazon, but that was it, and I was never consistent. I got tables at conventions, gave my cards out to everyone I could, but that can only take you so far, and I’m starting to discover that handing your card out does very little (not to say I’ll stop doing that.)
So now I’m pushing harder, and trying things I hadn’t tried before for marketing.
Among them? Facebook and instagram ads. I just started them after a photo session of the eBook editions (thank you to my wife Beck for taking and editing this photo, it turned out beautifully,) so we’ll see if it works out. I also updated my facebook author’s page with a ‘shop now’ button and tagged my products, which is a feature I never knew you could do!
I’m also heavily pushing my first book on Amazon ads.
Already I’m quite happy with how the books are doing in the Kindle Unlimited store. I’ve had record numbers of reads for multiple days! Each book is already doing far better than the previous books ever did. Hopefully I can keep this going and build some more momentum!
I cannot over emphasize how important marketing is to success with your books. Don’t spend so much time and effort on it that you never get your next book written, but don’t dismiss it, ESPECIALLY if you’re a debut author and no one knows your name yet. Get the word out. Get your name out there.
And then get to work on your next book! Because if you hook readers, they’re gonna want more!
I’ve done a lot of the back-end work for marketing now, so I feel like I’m ready to focus on book 3 of the series again. In fact, this week I already started work on it again! But more on that later :)
For now, I hope the beginning of everyone’s holiday season has gone well!
Thanks for reading,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.