Thanksgiving is over, after which I had to respond to the usual deluge of work that piled up over the holiday. I'm finishing that up tonight and tomorrow, so if I haven't responded to your comment or email yet, fear not! It's coming!
One of those tasks that I've been working on is the November short story, which I'm trying to get finished and out tomorrow. Fingers crossed! It's in Cradle, because I wanted to use this opportunity to help me test out some ideas for Blackflame.
And speaking of which, the time has finally come to add one of the most-requested features to the site: a progress bar.
I haven't added one in the past, mostly because it's impossible to keep it accurate. An average week of work for me is chaotic, so a progress meter might go from 17% to 19% to 15% to ???%. Anything I put up will be an estimate by definition, because I don't know how long the book will end up or how hard it will be to get there.
Of Dawn and Darkness, for instance, took me way more work hours to complete than anticipated because it just ended up being harder to write.
Also, there are multiple phases in the writing process. I'd need to progress from 0-100% in planning, then go to word count, then editing, then the second draft, then editing again, and then usually final changes followed by release preparation. That's six phases, and they're very fluid; I go back from the first draft to planning many times.
Now that you know kind of how it works, I'm looking for your input! What should it look like? How and where should I display it? What information do you want to see when you check the site?
I saw one reader suggest marking progress in stages from Copper to Underlord, which was hilarious and appeals to me. But what do you want to see?
It's Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., which means it's time to give thanks for everything awesome in our lives!
I have a lot to be thankful for this year: my Stardew Valley crops are coming in nicely, I've begun recording the City of Light audiobook, there's a new bundle of my old stuff up, and I won a hefty Amazon Kindle Unlimited All-Stars bonus check this month!
So many people read my books on Kindle Unlimited last month that I was dubbed a Kindle Unlimited All-Star, meaning that I'm one of the top-selling writers in the Kindle Unlimited program! In fact, though they didn't tell me my exact rank, they said I was in the top thirty! That means that I'm somewhere between the twenty-first and thirtieth best-selling out of all the authors in Kindle Unlimited!
That's only counting KU borrows, but the All-Star bonus for me was an extra five thousand dollars! It's a Thanksgiving miracle!
So uh...if you have Kindle Unlimited, and you're wondering whether I get paid for KU borrows, fear not: I do!
What that tells me is that people are really enjoying the books, which is awesome! In celebration of the holiday and this new round of good fortune, I'm putting both SEA and SHADOW up for free over the next four days!
That's Black Friday through Cyber Monday, as my culture-savvy friends tell me. Why isn't there a cool name for the weekend? Like Chartreuse Saturday and Buy A Bunch of Stuff Sunday.
TL;DR - Kindle Unlimited is awesome, Of Sea and Shadow / Of Shadow and Sea are both going to be free for the next four days, and I'm thankful for you! A lot of the people on this blog have been with me since the beginning, and the ride's still going!
P.S. Next time on The Blog: after this weekend, I'm going to put up some sort of progress thingy for Blackflame. Maybe a progress bar, maybe a percentage meter, maybe periodic reports, maybe arcane symbols that flash meaning straight into your brain. We'll discuss it next time!
Have you finished both Cradle books too quickly? Do you wish there was something else you could read to scratch that itch? Are you sharpening your pitchfork right now because I'm writing something that isn't Blackflame?
Well, you're in luck!
Cradle was my humble, meager attempt to write a story in the xianxia* genre: a subcategory of Chinese novels that have grown popular on the English-speaking Internet over the last couple of years thanks to sites like WuxiaWorld and GravityTales (not to mention the hard-working, dedicated, good-looking fan translators who provide such works to lazy monolingual English-speakers like myself).
I've had a lot of people ask me if Cradle was inspired by these Chinese works, and I usually respond by saying "Absolutely!" and then listing my favorites. It's the reason why I chose to put Unsouled in the Asian Myths and Legends category of Kindle fantasy.
But after tonight, when people ask me these questions, I don't have to type out an answer every time! I can just link them back to this post! Behold, as my laziness sheds its skin to reveal its true shape!
IF YOU DON'T SEE THE REST OF THIS POST, CLICK "READ MORE"!
To every subscriber of my mailing list, you should just have received the three Halloween stories in your inbox!
Happy ghosty-ghouly crawly-candy day!
If you didn't get the email, check your Junk and Promotions folders. If you still don't have it, add email@example.com and then contact me using the Contact Me button on the site. I'll send you the stories directly.
I said this in the message too, but very soon I'll give ALL the short stories so far another copy editing pass (they don't receive the editing attention I give to my books, so I'd like to cleanse them of the typo scourge) and repackage them into one file. Then I'll send everyone a single PDF containing ALL the short stories.
So if you're missing one, or if you think you may be missing one, you'll have your collection complete soon. And if you don't have any of the free stories at all, sign up soon!
By the way, if you like short stories, did you know that my collection of Traveler's Gate short stories is FREE for the next five days? It's true!
Enjoy your night! Don't get bitten by a werewolf and die! Get bitten by a werewolf and survive, thus gaining their powers.
As I indicated recently, I've been working on the three short stories I owe you. I intended to release one last week, one this week, and one on Halloween, but they all ended up Halloween-themed.
'Tis the season, I guess.
So...on Monday, if you're signed up for the short stories, expect some tricks and treats from me! Two of the stories are darker and creepier than my usual bent, so be aware of that if you can't handle mild ghost stories. If you're a big horror buff, on the other hand, don't get your hopes too high--I haven't strayed that far from my normal territory.
No matter what your tastes, though, you should all be fine with the Traveler's Gate story. It's about Simon out of his element in a holiday masquerade ball.
From the world of the Elder Empire: Unsolved Cases of the Blackwatch
From the world of the Traveler's Gate: The Reaping Dance
From Cradle: A Sword Unclean
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.
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