Last night, my fiancee and I had the exciting experience of attending Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter concert! This is the fourth Stirling concert I’ve been to, and as is always the case, I was not disappointed!
But why am I talking about concerts on a blog about writing? Because of Stirling’s history, where she was and how far she’s come, and how she’s gotten there.
Because there are days when I need a reminder…
I know I’ve talked about Lindsey Stirling before, in fact it was after the first concert I attended that I made the decision to self-publish. Not only does her music speak to me, but the story of her rise to stardom has inspired me.
And last night’s concert reminded me why. During one of the breaks between numbers, she spoke of how she gets to live her dream every day because of her fans, but before her rise, she would play anywhere and everywhere she could get a gig, even in school cafeterias. She did anything she could to get her voice, or rather her violin, heard.
She got her shot when she tried out on America’s Got Talent, but was shot down by the judges. I can imagine how she must have felt, being told she wasn’t good enough. And somehow that reminded me of Peter Dinklage’s speech that I wrote about several months ago, when he mentions how the world will keep telling you that you aren’t ready.
Now Lindsey is one of the most popular performers out there today, and her star shines brighter than ever.
How many times have people told me that I’ll never make it as a writer? That it’s impossible? That it’s a pipe dream? There are days when I find myself wondering if those people are right.
But there was something else Stirling spoke about that struck a chord in my heart and helped me regain my composure. It was when she spoke about her battle with depression, when she used to look in the mirror and wonder if she had anything worth contributing to the world.
Fast forward several years later, and the answer is yes, she did have something worthwhile to contribute.
These concerts, her story, they remind me that though I may run into roadblocks often, though I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder…I believe I do have something worthwhile to contribute.
And so I keep going. I keep writing. I keep publishing. I may never have a rapid rise to stardom, but I know that if I keep going, if I keep working hard at it, then no matter what happens, I’ll have left something behind that is worthwhile.
Plus, I’m reminded often that there are people who like my stories. I’ve sold hundreds of copies of the first Sword of Dragons novel through Kindle and print, and the Amazon reviews may not be numerous, but they are positive.
Not to mention the positive things people say to me when they meet me. Or when they send me emails. I recently received an email from a long-time reader of my fan fiction series, expressing his sadness that I’m shutting down my fan fiction website in the near future. He was emailing me back in the early 2000’s when STDragon was still live!
So I just need to remember all of those facts. Remember the fans, those who have read all of my work, who encourage me to write more, and just keep going. Someday, I’ll get to write full time, even if it isn’t until I retire from I.T. work. Until then, I’ll just keep going.
Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :( I’m really sorry!
However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!
First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten! I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy! I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!
And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page. I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it. I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:
What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before? Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?
Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!
I read an article not long ago that made an interesting claim: placing constraints on an artist helps create the best art, while giving an artist total free reign, IE “the sky is the limit” often results in monstrosities.
Of course, I don’t have the article to re-read, and so I cannot remember the examples they gave. But, the idea came back to me today and I realized that in some ways, there may be truth to it.
Let’s take the most basic (or perhaps extreme) example: spelling, grammar, punctuation. If you tell a writer “no rules” you’re going to get something that’s difficult to read, if not impossible in some cases.
“OMG can u imagene readding a entire 300 pg b00k likE THis?”
…That was painful just to write! Almost as painful as reading Washington Irving’s run-on sentences!
But what about less obvious examples? As I’ve found out the hard way, there are rules about genre, and while it might not be too bad to bend those rules to make it interest, flat-out breaking them might work against the writer.
The best example I can think of is a topic I’ve already talked about: novel cover art. When I first started considering cover art for The Sword of Dragons, I remember looking at the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble and thinking, “All these covers look similar. I know! I’ll do something completely different, that’ll make my book stand out!”
Except…it didn’t. Not in the way I wanted it to. Yes, I made it look very different from regular fantasy novels. And so anyone looking to read a fantasy novel didn’t even bother to pick it up, or more likely, didn’t bother to click on it on amazon.com to see what it was about.
But there’s more than just cover art to consider…
Tropes of Fantasy
I’m a fan of taking a typical fantasy trope and turning it into something just a little different.
For instance, a typical trope about dragons is that they are fire-breathing creatures who live in caves guarding a hoard of treasure. In the first Sword of Dragons novel, there is, in fact, a dragon living in a cave, and she is indeed guarding something of incredible value, but rather than an evil beast greedily guarding gold, she is protecting the most powerful weapon in the universe.
Is it possible to take this too far? Initially I might say yes, but then I look at examples like Game of Thrones. In most fantasy novels, the heroes live and achieve their goals, and the heroes are often very clearly defined from the villains. Neither of these tropes are true in Game of Thrones.
But is that an exception? What was it about GoT that made it so popular? Honestly I don’t know, but it seems like this has created a sort of sub-genre of fantasy. I’m curious to see how many more venture into this type of fantasy, successfully.
And in all honesty, I’m not sure what rules should or shouldn’t be followed, when it becomes okay to break rules or tropes.
For my own part, I do enjoy a lot of fantasy tropes, they are why I like the genre. Dragons and magic in particular draw me in. I intend to continue to toe the line, keeping some fantasy tropes intact, while turning others on their heads.
For instance, dwarves will start to play a bigger part in books 3 and 4, but they won’t be exactly what you’ve come to expect from dwarves. You’ve already seen in book 2 that they once lived underground, as is typical for dwarves…but they definitely don’t anymore.
I also do not like the “Damsel in Distress” trope. Even if there’s ever a female character in need of rescuing in my novels, it’s usually not done in the typical way (for instance, Elaria in the first Sword of Dragons novel.) I’m all for ‘damsels in distress’ rescuing them selves, like Princess Leia did!
In any case, to answer the initial question of this blog, I think it helps to have constraints. Movie productions have shown that an unlimited budget aren’t necessarily going to create a better product. But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those that can break the typical rules and succeed.
It all depends on the circumstances, and perhaps even the luck of the draw.
Whenever I start actually writing the manuscript to a new novel, by that point it has been at least a year or two in the making (the one exception so far being the Chronicles of the Sentinels.) I first come up with the general idea, either for the story or for a character, and start to unravel the entire story surrounding that idea, as well as back story to go along with it.
So it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does: I’m smack in the middle of 2nd edition edits, still need to finish writing the first draft of book 3 of The Sword of Dragons…and suddenly inspiration strikes, and I start unraveling the entire story for book 4 in my head!
Not to say I don’t already have a general idea of all six books anyway, but I mean actual full story details. And the best part is that I started coming up with the details when I started thinking to myself, “how can I start to give the supporting characters more attention?”
And it just started unraveling in my head like the story was already there in my mind, I just hadn’t brought it forward to my conscious thoughts yet.
What’s really exciting is that, just like with my 7-year run on my fan fiction, things that I wrote in the earlier books are coming together to create the new stories. Things that happened in the first 3 books as well as The Orc War Campaigns will become important in book 4…some things I didn’t even mean to make important later on!
I get so excited when this happens! I love that, somewhere in the back of my mind, everything is connecting together from the beginning and building on the foundational story.
The Importance of Supporting Characters
More and more, I’m learning just how important supporting characters are. Often times supporting characters become fan favorites in stories. Samwise Gamgee, for instance, or Ron Weasley.
In the past, this was something I struggled with. In my fan fiction, I focused a lot on the two main characters, the Captain and his first officer. To the suffering of all other supporting characters. I started to rectify this in the last two seasons, but I realized this was something I should have done from the get go.
For The Sword of Dragons, I tried to ensure I at least had good back stories setup for Reis, Sira, and Dalin. Yet I feel like I still haven’t given them the time and attention they deserve. That’s definitely changing starting in book 3, and most definitely now in book 4.
But, I have a question for everyone: are you usually willing to read a longer novel due to more time and attention being given to supporting characters? For instance, book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will have about 1/4 of the chapters devoted to Reis going on his own adventure without Cardin or Sira. Plus several other chapters branch off for other supporting characters.
All of these instances are integral to moving the main story line forward, and I think that’s probably the key: any time a novel goes to a perspective of another character, it must be with a legitimate purpose, and not ‘just because.’ What do you think?
Status of 2nd Edition Edits
I have less than 100 pages of edits left for Rise of the Forgotten, which means I’m more than 2/3rds through it!! :D I’m excited, I really like how the changes are affecting the flow, I think it’s making for a much more enjoyable story. Of course, that’s my own opinion, I just hope everyone who reads it will agree :)
Much to my surprise, so far I’ve reduced the word count of book 1 by 1400 words! I’m kind of glad to see this overall trend, though, mostly because I’m trying to get rid of redundant phrasing and make each paragraph have more impact.
I haven’t had time to work on maps. I also just realized that the artist doing my character sketches, Centalynn Artworks, should be back in country now, so I need to go back to review her latest iterations and make choices to send to her. I don’t currently plan to include any character sketches in the novels, but I’d love to have them on the website as soon as they are finished :)
That’s all for today, thanks for reading!
I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog. However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.
“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early? If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions? You won’t get many sales between now and then.”
That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans. However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.
I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon. I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.
When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions? You want to make a living off of writing, right? Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”
Is that the right way to make more money? Possibly. But is it the right thing to do?
It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing. But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus – Telling stories the best way that I can.
Progress on the 2nd Editions
I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far. And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.
As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details. Test prints came out wonderful! I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.
Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)
Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!
This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels! A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons. Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.
One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything. That task would fall to me after I scanned them in. However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:
I have very little experience making or labeling maps. And it is not as easy as one might think.
How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?
Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then. Plus, I love maps. I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.
As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…
Labeling What’s Most Important
Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it. In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.
These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format. That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read. Obvious labeling will be necessary.
I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps. The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance. Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.
Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page. For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.
Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names. So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest. Continent names will be smaller. Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.
Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web
One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images. So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/. Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.
There’s also the advantage of color on the web. I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map. I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.
While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition. “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!” That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.
That’s all for today! I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions. If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!
I’m excited to write this blog post today, because I’ve been hinting around my new writing project for some time, but I’ve not actually made any official announcements.
As many of you know, my life has been extremely crazy and busy lately, between moving, wedding plans, and work going through a busy period, so I knew I was not going to get the 3rd book of Sword of Dragons finished in time for its planned release.
In fact, I’ve not had a chance to really focus on writing the 3rd book at all, I don’t have the time to devote to it. But with all of my conversations with my fiancee about book covers, and all of the research I’ve done online, I knew there was a project I could do that would allow for very short spurts of work on it between the busy times.
The Sword of Dragons novels have all received high praise from those who have read it, but getting people to give it a chance has been a difficult task. All of my market research and discussions with other authors and my fiancee point to several factors, including but not limited to the cover.
As such, I am officially working on the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2 of the Sword of Dragons series!
What does a 2nd edition mean? More than just a new cover. A whole lot more! But let’s start there.
The New Covers
As I talked about in my last blog, I’ve learned that keeping marketing in mine from the get go has been important. This was a key focus for when I started working on new covers for books 1 and 2 while also planning covers for book 3 and for The Orc War Campaigns. I wanted to create a theme that could be carried through all 4 books, as well as be something I could carry into the rest of the series beyond book 3.
My focus on marketing this time around actually was a big help in coming up with the final cover layout for the entire series! I also followed the advice of publishers, editors, and cover artists, and created multiple versions for each novels’ cover, and then worked with several people to decide which one worked best, and even how to make the chosen one for each book better.
This involved sending the version to everyone helping me, as well as following my fiancee’s advice and taking a screenshot of an Amazon page, and editing in the versions of my cover to see which stood out best, and how my improvements to them changed how it popped on Amazon.
The result? 4 very amazing covers! That I can’t reveal just yet.
*ducks* Hey don’t throw things at me! ;) But seriously, I am not yet ready to reveal the covers. What I can tell you is test prints have turned out amazing, and even Christian, the man who made the cover for book 1, agrees that the new cover scheme is well done and works well with my genre.
Where did I get the cover art? That was where a ton of my time was spent: looking for cover art. And I ended up finding a cover artist on some stock photo websites who has done several pieces of dragon artwork that is stylistically similar. This allowed me to find 4 pieces of cover art that are stylistically similar, and I have knowledge that there is plenty more for me to use for future books.
The best part is, being stock art, I can buy the rights to use them on the novel. No legal issues, no ‘I hope they don’t realize I used their art without permission.’ I’ll have followed all proper procedures and will have legally procured the rights.
However, before I did purchase the rights, I took the watermarked, low-res versions of the artwork and made test covers, then printed them out to ensure they would look good. This is a method I intend to use from here on out, to ensure that I don’t spend money on cover art that I end up never using. I am, after all, working on a very limited budget.
Maps Will Finally Be Included!
I’ve heard it from countless readers: maps are a must! So the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2, and all future volumes of Sword of Dragons will include maps. I’ve had physical copies for a while, but haven’t had a chance to get them scanned, and a visit a couple months ago to Office Depot to get them scanned was highly disappointing, resulting in totally useless files.
Thanks to Wayne Adams from VtW Productions, I was able to get high-res scans finished last weekend. This means I now have digital copies to edit and prepare. These will first be made available on the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/, but will also be included in the novels. I hope this will be a big help to everyone who reads the novels!
My original plan with the 2nd editions was to do another set of proofreads to catch any spelling or grammar issues. As I started on book 1, it became very clear that my first published novel was in need of some serious TLC beyond copy-edit.
I am not changing the story, but I am fixing up how the story is told. Sometimes this means very few changes, but sometimes this means entire paragraphs are rewritten.
My beta readers have read through the rewrite of chapter 1 and thoroughly enjoy the changes, while noting that even though they have read the original version several times, the changes weren’t distracting. In fact, this is what I am working on right now, and am about 1/3rd through book 1.
Furthermore, Wayne and 2 of his friends have volunteered to perform copyediting on books 1 and 2! So this will further ensure a polished edition :)
But…book 1. Hmm. The Sword of Dragons book 1. Naw, that needs a better title.
Naming Book 1
When I first prepared book 1 for publication, Christian insisted that I should give book 1 its own unique title, different from the series title. I didn’t listen. And now I regret that decision.
So that will be part of the change in the 2nd edition. Book 1 officially has its own title! *drum roll*
Rise of the Forgotten
It fits quite well, not just in a big way, but in many small ways :) Plus, giving book 1 a unique title has allowed me to keep a theme for the covers of all novels. (And yes, I just showed you a sneak-peak of book 1’s cover ;) )
Those are all of the big changes coming in the 2nd edition! “What about book 3” you might ask? Well, that already has a title and a cover! But I still need to finish the actual manuscript. The Orc War Campaigns also has a cover, but again, I need to finish edits on it before it is ready for release.
“When will these be released?” I do not yet have a timeline for that, and I’m hesitant to try to set one at the moment. There’s still too much going on in my life to be able to predictably work on the edits. But I am working as diligently as possible, and I am looking forward to revealing more as time goes on!
I hope with these 2nd editions to please the fans I already have with a nice, polished, worthwhile product, while also attracting new readers!
Thanks for reading! :)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.