After much soul-searching, and some ear-whispering from both the angel on my right shoulder and the Cradle fan on my left, I've come up with something of a compromise!
But it's going to require some explaining.
First of all, what makes Elder Empire such a big deal to write is how long each pair takes to create. Six months is an optimistic estimate, assuming that everything goes well (which, for Dawn, things did not go well. I had to start it over, which led to me excluding certain Easter eggs that I had promised would be included). And 6-9 months with no releases means my momentum, and by extension any word-of-mouth recommendations, grind to a halt.
Which means that during such a time the business isn't growing much, I'm not gaining many readers, and (incidentally) I'm not making money.
At the same time, they are "difficult" to plan, in much the same way that it is "difficult" to juggle a plate in each hand while riding a bear. I'm writing two books, which you would reasonably expect to take twice as much effort, but in fact it's more than that.
The Elder Empire books encompass four storylines over three timelines that all intersect and interact with one another. And with the other books in the series. I have to know where each character is, was, and will be at all times for everyone, or I risk digging plot holes big enough to squeeze a Great Elder through.
Which means that the hardest part of those books, and the step that often takes the longest, is the planning stage.
For many authors, that's normal. They might spend two months planning for every month of writing. Not for me. I'm more of a "Why would I need an airplane when I have the seat of my pants?" kind of guy. I always have an idea of where my stories are headed and what I want to do with them, and I'm always headed toward those milestones, but I'm also always open to changing my mind and veering into unexplored territory.
Such variations in schedule led to the birth of Kai. And the talking dolls. And the mask. And Bliss. And Kelarac. And Cradle's entire existence.
(To clarify, most of the major plot twists in the Cradle series I had planned from the very beginning--including ones that haven't come about yet--but I never would have written Unsouled in the first place if not for my nigh-suicidal eagerness to plunge off the predicted course).
I expect to spend the first period of time--let's call it a month or two--of the Of Kings and Killers writing cycle doing nothing but planning and re-planning. As I considered that reality and contemplated my calendar, I realized something: there's no reason I couldn't be writing another book while I'm doing that. I won't be putting out word count on OKAK, I'll just be plotting and fact-checking, so I can still hammer out words on something else.
This brings me to the title of this post, and the aforementioned compromise.
I'm going to alternate.
I started planning Blackflame yesterday morning, after which I will begin to write the first draft. While I'm doing that, I'll start plotting OKAK. When I'm editing Blackflame, I'll start writing OKAK's draft. Then I'll release Blackflame.
So the plan is Blackflame in 3-4 months, Of Kings and Killers in the middle of next year. And maybe if the simultaneous writing thing works out, I might get Cradle #4 out of it as well. As sort of a surprise.
As usual, though, let me give the required caveat: all release date information is subject to the cruel and fickle whims of fate. No release date information is final until I say it is (which usually means the final announcement comes only a week or two before release, as longtime followers will both loathe and remember).
Let me know how much you hate me to my core/want to kiss my beautiful face in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading! I know I'm always changing things around, but I'm figuring this out one step at a time. I'm just trying to keep getting better, and to keep writing books.
Thanks for sticking with me.
P.S. For a little bit of context, yesterday and the day before were my highest sales days ever. And this month, October, is going to be my best-selling month so far. That's not just from Cradle--although it is mostly Cradle--because my Traveler's Gate sales started climbing almost out of nowhere as well, and even Elder Empire has picked up.
It's almost as though, when people enjoy Cradle, they go back and read my other books afterwards.
Since my last post, I've gone to California for a wedding, come back, lapsed into a coma, gotten sick, recovered, and now I'm back! Fairly normal post-book schedule.
I'm sorry it took me so long to respond to your comments and/or emails, but I'm back now! You should hear from me very soon, if you haven't already.
This week, I'm dedicating myself to writing short stories. I owe you two, and one for this month (although I'll probably wait until Halloween to deliver October's, for reasons that should be obvious). I'll keep you updated as I work on them, but I hope to have all three finished this week (and maybe a head start on November's as well).
In the meantime, Soulsmith is still selling well! I mean, really well. I mean, everyone I trust to give me business advice is telling me to write Blackflame next.
I'm trying to stay strong for Kings and Killers! But they're wearing me down...it's...so cold...
The cage match has ended, and only one warrior has emerged from this battle royale with bloody fists held high.
Here are the results of your collective opinion, after filtering out all the duplicate entries from the same IP addresses. Nice try, guy who voted for Cradle 46 times. And to those of you who voted for everything once each...why? That keeps the poll results exactly the same. I'm baffled.
To the results!
In fourth place, with the aluminum foil medal, is "I didn't read one or the other of those series, so TRAVELER'S GATE!" with 48 votes.
The bronze medalist is "I know you're going to write what you want, so I prefer not to waste my valuable life on this poll," with 71 votes! Evidently only 71 of you value your lives.
Riding shotgun in silver is...drumroll please...Elder Empire! That's not a surprise in itself, since Cradle is more recent and has sold more books, but the 111 of you who voted for Of Killers and Kings / Of Kings and Killers next are more likely to end up happier than anyone else who voted this week.
And the champion, the winner, the gold medalist, the king of the poll, is Blackflame with a staggering 504 votes.
For real, though, that's unbelievable. That's a LOT of votes. To quote Reddit, "RIP my inbox," because I got every one of these poll entries emailed to me.
Thank you to the 734 of you who voted for sharing your opinion! If you voted for Cradle, know that a lot of other people agree with you. If you voted for Elder Empire, know that I agree with you. And if you voted for something else, way to stick it to the man.
The man, in this case, being me.
There has been some extensive discussion in the previous comment section about which book I should write next--I said Elder Empire, you said Cradle, an Elder Empire fan punched you in the jaw, you had to go through four months of physical therapy, and your first words upon recovery were "Cradle next."
This may or may not influence my decision, but I'm always interested to hear your opinions, and the previous comment section was growing uncomfortably extensive.
So if you have your opinion, throw it into the comments below! Pitchforks encouraged!
Let this distract you from the fact that yesterday was the last day in September, and I didn't write a short story! Go! Turn on each other instead of me!
EDIT: Hey, would you look at that? It's up!
THE UPLOAD HAS BEGUN!
I will update this blog post, as well as Facebook and the mailing list, as soon as the link goes live on Amazon. So make sure to let me know when that happens, as I'm sure you'll see it first with your thousands of eyes, you monstrous creature.
Soulsmith comes! Flee for your lives!
I'm uploading it tonight, which means it should go live tomorrow morning. Set your alarms to "early."
Also, starting tomorrow, Unsouled will be on sale for free for the duration of the next five days. It's a good time to get started on the series, if you haven't already.
For those of you on the mailing list, I'll be sending you a message about the release shortly. Then, when the book page is live, I'll send you another one with an accurate link.
And that's one long story, delivered as promised before the end of the month. But I'm aware that I owe you two short ones.
The first round of beta readers has read Soulsmith in its rough, unpolished form, giving me a new handful of cracks to fill in before the second wave seizes it in their filthy jaws.
And just listen to the praise from these discerning, steely-eyed critics who have analyzed the book thus far:
"Soulsmith was really good, and I loved the conversations between Lindon and Yerin, but it's so fast-paced and there's so much going on that I couldn't take a break and I couldn't breathe and it really stressed me out."
"Your characters sound slightly less like they're quoting dubbed anime at each other."
"You have to write a romance this time, Will. You can't avoid it. Don't hang up on m--"
"This was the best unreleased, half-finished book based on Chinese mythology and written by you that I've read this month. So far."
"Stop using me as the butt of all your jokes. I'm a real person, and I have real feelings."
Once again, I return to Atlanta for DragonCon! If it so happens that you're in attendance as well, let me know! We can meet up and stare meaningfully into each others' eyes (also I have signed books and a limited number of shirts).
Soulsmith update: still working on it, though I was hoping to be finished before DragonCon for a faster release. Still on track for September, just not as early as I'd hoped.
Short story update: I have failed you again, Lord Megatron. It's late, but it's coming, probably after I'm satisfied with the state of Soulsmith.
Spoiler-ish specifics, if you've read Unsouled:
I was all but finished with Soulsmith, but I decided to make a fairly substantial story change. I'm spending slightly less time on Suriel than I'd planned, and more on Lindon.
While she's dealing with her own interesting things, they don't overlap with Cradle much for the time being, so we'd effectively be reading two entirely disconnected storylines for several books until they intersected again. Everything I plan for the future is subject to change, and those plans could easily be tossed into the fire and re-written, so don't try to read too much into the implications of that.
We're still keeping an eye on Suriel (or rather, she's keeping an eye on us), but it's more like checking in every once in a while than actively following her cosmic conflict. I'd rather keep the story filtered through Lindon, so you can gain a broader perspective on the world as he does.
TL;DR - Suriel down, Lindon up, requiring liberal application of elbow grease on the author's part. Writing is fun!
It's shaping up, though, and the events of Soulsmith set the stage for even bigger conflicts in the future. I think you'll enjoy it!
Thanks for reading!
...it's because I'm writing.
There are basically no exceptions to that. When I'm trying to finish a book, I almost always lock myself in a room and hammer it out for a few weeks at a stretch. Especially when I'm writing it quickly, as I am with Soulsmith.
Good news is, the book is almost finished! I'm trying to get it done this week, so that it can be washed and waxed for its incoming September release!
As many of you have noticed, while I've been taking Soulsmith days off of social media, I haven't released a short story this month. It's true; I wanted to finish the book before I wrote a new short story, but it's taken about two weeks longer than I anticipated. Fortunately, I'd built that margin into my release estimate; otherwise I would have said August instead of September and I would have to prostrate myself before you as I pushed the release date back.
See? I'm learning.
So...short story before the end of the month, Soulsmith on time for September, and you're all awesome!
Thanks for reading!
As you may have figured out last time, when I shared the cover for Soulsmith (Cradle, Volume Two), that's the book I'm currently working on. I was going to write the final installment for Elder Empire next--in fact, I only wrote Unsouled to have something to release in the 6-8 month drought that it takes to a pair of books simultaneously--but the reaction to Cradle, Volume One has been so positive and enthusiastic that I jumped on to the sequel immediately.
Case in point, it gathered 100 Amazon reviews in exactly one month. 88 of them are five-star, 97 are positive, and 99 are at least pretty good. The only really negative review just said "boring."
Therefore, since installments of Cradle take half the time to write as installments of Elder Empire AND seem to create twice the goodwill, I decided it would be foolish to delay Soulsmith.
Keeping in mind that this is a release estimate, that I'm not committing to anything until I finish the book and announce a specific date, here's the deal: Soulsmith in September, OKAK early next year, Traveler's Blade after that, Cradle Volume 3 squeezed in the cracks here somewhere, and short stories to the mailing list every month.
This is looking uncomfortably like a full-time job. Curse you, adulthood!
Thanks to everyone who read Unsouled, thanks for leaving reviews and recommending it to your friends, and thanks everyone reading this for giving me a full-time job that lets me make up stories about swords and monsters for a living!
P.S. I'm not sure if I mentioned this or not, but Of Dawn and Darkness has been available in paperback for quite a while now. Just in case you were waiting on that while I forgot to announce it. I would have made a post about it like two months ago, but Amazon crossed its wires after the book was released and deleted the Darkness paperback and replaced it with this. That took forever to resolve, but everything's correct now!
Want to get short stories and book releases before anyone else? Sign up below!