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.
"Hey guys, let's get these covers done ASAP."
God only knows.
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