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!
First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week. It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :( I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.
Adding New Genre Elements
Anywho, on to today’s blog topic! When is it too late to add something new to a series? A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.
My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!) Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.
This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character. But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like. So I started thinking about that.
Initially I started going down the path of a gnome. In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe. I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )
But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.
I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.
And that’s where I come to the meat of this post. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.
Why? I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.
First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual. But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.
But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series. Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.
This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series. It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series. But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.
Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.) They can be horror. They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!) Or murder mysteries. They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.
If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy. It can be just about anything! It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.
The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent. So what do you think, dear readers? Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?
In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series. The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together. That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality. Planets orbiting stars, etc. And the LGBTQ+? Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)
Update on Rise of the Forgotten
I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing! I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity. But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered! I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.
I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read! :D
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!
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!
Life has become completely crazy this year, especially in the past few months since we had to move (and not exactly by choice, either.) Between the chaos and craziness that has been my day job this year, wedding planning, and moving, I’ve found myself with very little time and energy to write, or do much of anything writing-related.
It suddenly occurred to me how much I missed writing, and how I’ve had few good methods to help relieve stress. I remember one afternoon, while we drove to the grocery store, I turned to my fiancee and said, “I really need to find time to write regularly again.” It was out of the blue, but I figured there had to be some reason I felt compelled to say it.
And not long after, I realized why: writing is one of my biggest outlets. One of my biggest stress relief avenues. In fact in recent years, it has become the biggest. I no longer sing in choir, haven’t in years, and I don’t read as much as I’d like to, especially in the past 2 or 3 years. But writing, that has been my constant.
Even after we finish unpacking, the craziness isn’t likely to end anytime soon, we still have a long ways to go in our wedding planning, and work isn’t going to let up anytime soon.
While TV and video games still provide some outlet, they still don’t have the affect on me that writing does. They aren’t as powerful an outlet. They help me wind down at the end of the day, which is needed, but they aren’t writing.
Why Is It So Powerful?
I don’t really have a definitive answer to that question, but maybe we can figure it out right now. Storytelling has been a constant in my life, ever since I was a small child telling wild stories to my Great Grandma Marcis. It was fun. And then in 5th grade, I wrote my first short story, and have been hooked on writing ever since.
But somewhere after that, writing definitely became more than just a fun obsession. Just like choir, just like reading, just like video games, it allowed me to shut out the rest of the world and become engrossed in something else. With choir, when I sang, the world around me disappeared and my entire Universe became the director, the choir, and the audience. When reading, the characters on the page were my entire Universe. Same with video games.
But then, that still doesn’t explain why writing does more for me than any of those other outlets. It certainly didn’t always. I still remember how obsessed I became with Final Fantasy 7 when I first discovered it. Same with EverQuest.
I think it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado, when I finally broke a 4-year writer’s block and finished book one of the Sword of Dragons, that writing became something far more for me.
In the past 5 years, I’ve written 3 complete novels and am developing many more. The development, the writing, the publication process, it all makes me so happy! I obsess over my stories (ask my fiancee, once I get on a tangent about a story, I don’t stop talking about it!) and they feel like they need to be told. And that I need to be the one to tell them!
It’s my way of giving back to the world, I think, while at the same time giving myself something. I’m able to satisfy both my need for stories, both to experience and to tell, while giving the world stories.
Recently when watching the latest trailer for Star Wars The Last Jedi, it reminded me how great stories make me feel. And I love being able to make others feel that way. Maybe my stories aren’t as great as Star Wars – that’s not for me to decide. But who knows, someday, maybe someone will fall in love with my stories the same way I fell in love with Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings.
In just a couple of months, this blog, A Writer At Heart, turns 3! I’m excited that I’ve kept this going for all of that time! There’s been ups and downs, and I know I haven’t always been able to keep up on posts, but it’s been an enjoyable medium to write in.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but one of my goals that I wanted to work towards when I started writing this blog was that I was going to make a living off of writing within 2 years. 3 years later, I’m nowhere close to achieving that goal.
Despite that apparent failure, my attempt to achieve that goal is why I worked so hard and was able to self-publish 2 novels in 2 years, and finish writing The Orc War Campaigns within a year (even if barely).
I may not be raking in the cash, but I am so much more accomplished as a writer than ever before!
Still, I’ve wondered lately, is it even possible to make a living off of writing? Can only the big names make it, the ones who make the top sellers lists and make millions? Was it a lofty, unobtainable dream of mine? Should I let that dream go?
The Market Has Changed
With this question in mind, I decided to do a little digging and research. Just going to google and typing in the question “Can writers make a living off of writing” yields apparently mixed results, or so I thought at first…
There were a lot of articles that enthusiastically said “Yes!” and a lot that unequivocally said “NO! It’s a pipe dream!” Who was right?
But the content of the articles, as well as their dates, is what started getting me to wondering about it. You see, most of the ones that said it was a one in a million occurrence for a writer to live off of writing were either, A: 7 years old or older, or B: were talking about traditional publication only.
The ones that said it was possible? They pointed out the change in the market. Everything began to change as the internet grew and took on new characteristics. eBooks changed the market, because suddenly you didn’t have to do a huge print run. Self-publishing was a rare and very risky thing, and cost a lot of money up-front before eBooks.
Furthermore, as things continue to evolve, print-on-demand suddenly is no longer prohibitively expensive, and in fact is at a point where it can compete with traditional print runs.
Suddenly there are all of these avenues, and just about anyone can get published with little or no up-front cost!
Does This Mean Lower-Quality?
I want to state something important before I continue: I am neither bashing nor supporting either method (traditional or self-publishing) above the other. In fact, even being a self-published author, it is still my dream to get picked up by an agency and publishing house.
Having said that, I’ve been scoffed at by some traditionally published authors in the past. They think of self-publishing as an evil, and the most common reason behind it: “Anyone can get published without even trying, so a lot of garbage makes it onto the bookshelves.”
I respectfully disagree, this is something that hasn’t changed. Before the internet, eBooks, and Print-on-Demand, there were a lot of good books that were published, true…but there were also plenty of bad. No, I’m not going to cite examples, but I’m willing to bet you can think of a few on your own.
Despite the risk publishers took doing print runs, and therefore despite how careful they were in who they published and the content of their publications, not everyone in the world agrees on what is a quality piece of work. And many trade publishers followed the market. One of the articles I found while researching this topic said it right: a lot of bad books were published for this reason, and a lot of quality books were overlooked for any number of reasons, such as not being right for the market at the time.
So now that it is easier than ever to self-publish, what does that mean? It just means more of both – the good and the bad. Lots more.
So is this bad, then? Does this market saturation mean readers are more picky, because there’s too much, and therefore it is harder for all writers to live off of writing?
Strangely enough, it seems like the answer is no. I’m not an expert, but I have a lot of theories as to why things are better than ever, rather than worse, and the biggest one is: audience.
If you get published by a trade publisher, your book goes out to stores. Depending on how much your publisher likes your work, it may just be your local market, or it might be out to a handful of countries, depending on what international deals they have setup.
But now? Well, I’ve had people from all over the world read my books! I only know this because of how Kindle Direct Publishing tracks sales and royalty currencies. I’ve seen Canadians, Australians, Brits, and a few others buy my eBooks and even some print copies.
Suddenly it’s not just specific locations. It’s whoever has an internet connection and the means to the right kind of currency. Suddenly there are billions of potential readers rather than millions.
On top of that, people who are voracious readers don’t have to worry about physical books taking up space or waiting for them to be delivered. Most people I’ve talked to outside of friends and family have read my first book in a single sitting.
Voracious readers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, eating up the increased volume of works to be read!
The Bottom Line?
The bottom line is that it is possible to make a living off of writing, more than ever! However…that does not change the fact that it requires hard work. A LOT of hard work. You don’t have to have that one best-seller anymore like you used to, but from what I’m reading, those who DO live off of it, write a great volume of stories.
And that is no guarantee, either. That’s an important thing to remember about writing: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you are not guaranteed to succeed. In fact, Picard once said it perfectly in Star Trek The Next Generation:
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life!”
So what should you do?
It all boils down to one thing: do you love to write? Is it your passion? Your calling?
If you can answer yes to that, then my advice is the same advice I’m giving myself: don’t give up. Don’t stop. Keep going. Never stop.
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.