I'm home and back to the grindstone this week, but I promised I'd at least let you know what I worked on for fun.
I spent the most time trying to write a dungeon-style novel of the sort that's popular in web novels nowadays, where the primary action comes from the hero progressing through a dungeon and leveling up. I enjoy reading them, they seem fun to write, and they also seemed easy--if I came up with something, I figured I could actually post it.
But uh...it turns out that when I tried to cut out the parts of the dungeon-crawl genre I didn't like, and add in the stuff I liked, I was just plotting another novel. Whenever I tried to just dive in and write off the top of my head, I couldn't do it--who is my main character? What are they after? Why does the dungeon work like a video game? There has to be some sort of logic to it.
It was fun trying, though, so it fulfilled its objective.
Then I spent some time working on a story where the hero actually accepted the villain's offer of employment (quite a few of you suggested something that got my mind jogging along these lines, including Anil, JP, and Alex). My first scene had the hero walking through the dark lord's burning fortress, and the dark lord actually persuades him to join. The hero was so demoralized by his treatment at the hands of the good guys that he was ready to accept a better offer.
Problem was, he had almost defeated the evil army already. Now that he's switching sides, he's the underdog again, despite his personal power.
...I've read things with similar stories before, as I'm sure have you, but it was fun to work on. It raised a few questions, too: is that the right place to start, or should I take the reader through his journey of being worked and exploited by the light side? Is this a standalone or a series? What series of events leads to an actual video-game style confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy? How does the world work that this became necessary?
Cheese Doodle, Adarsh, and a few other people suggested writing with other author's copyrighted characters and concepts (which I could do since I'm not planning to publish any of this). I tried it, but I couldn't quite crack it.
More specifically, I made a roster for a big 2v2 tournament with famous fighters from all throughout fiction, so that I could pair up people who would never meet and imagine their interactions. Locke Lamora (Lies of Locke Lamora) + Saber (Fate/Stay Night) vs. Parson Gotti (Erfworld) + Kratos (God of War), that sort of thing.
I tried to set up each pair for character conflict and then pit them against a similar team, in the hopes that I could draw some sort of inspiration from imagining their interactions.
Didn't help much. Either I didn't feel capable of writing the characters well enough to model their interactions believably (Parson), or they're so simple they didn't teach me anything (Kratos). There's probably some sort of fanfiction-driven exercise here that I would enjoy, but I couldn't quite get there.
Reddan, I loved the idea of an invent-ery where things are spontaneously invented, but I didn't do anything with it. I'm sorry, I have failed you.
And everybody who suggested meta ideas about a writer writing about writing...that's too convoluted for me. What if the story gets too close to reality and comes to life?
Thanks to everyone who left suggestions! I really did read them all during my vacation, even if I didn't reply.
I'm on vacation this week, so I'm going to write something just for fun.
I always do that--it usually leaves me with half a story and a huge outline for a cool new world that gets my juices flowing. Helps me get refreshed and excited for writing when I return.
This year, I thought I'd open it up to you guys: what's a weird, out-of-the-box story I could work on for the next couple of days? (Just to relax, you understand. Every one of you that suggests I spend this time working on my books gets a Karate Chop of Justice.)
Some examples of what I'm talking about:
--When I took a break in the middle of The Crimson Vault, I wrote a scene from the perspective of a powerful dark wizard who personally obliterated any village where a prophesied child was said to be born. He heard a rumor, and he just went out and fireballed it to the ground. No sense taking chances. As a result, he enjoyed a long and productive tyrannical reign.
--One year (I don't remember when, tbh), I wrote about a woman traveling through a forest as one of her trials to become a magic-user in this world. She ends up meeting and befriending a traveling companion, a seemingly insane young man. In the end, it turned out that he was the founder of her order in disguise, and he was coming along to see what the trial was like from the perspective of someone who wasn't a genius.
--Last year, I took extensive notes for a travelogue/journal in the style of The Martian, but on an ocean planet. And not sci-fi, because science requires research and magic requires invention. So this person was a magical space explorer stranded on an ocean planet, trying to survive while adapting to the world's unique magic.
That sort of thing.
It won't likely result in a real short story, but I could at least share something on the blog. A detailed description of what I worked on, if nothing else.
So...you have any thoughts? I can't promise I'll use any of them, but maybe I will! Maybe I'll combine two!
Regardless, should be fun to talk about! At least until my nose is pressed against the grindstone once again.
I had to scoop a handful of frogs off of my keyboard to type this, but I felt like I should answer a few of the secondary questions people have had for me over the last few weeks.
The audiobook for City of Light has definitely fallen behind schedule, thanks to Blackflame's demands on my time and the fact that I have to wade through ankle-deep frogs to even reach my computer. I have to get back on that soon, but I am sorry about the delay.
As for the short stories, that's something else I have to get off the ground. I kind of put everything on hold in order to finish Blackflame (and then get into my house), but now I should have some more time to get to work on the stories.
I know I left Simon's story in a place where it needs to be continued, and I don't have nearly enough Cradle stories out, so there's plenty of work to be done there.
With that in mind, which should I hammer out first? A Traveler's Gate continuation, or a new look at the world of Cradle?
No surprise, but the question I've been asked the most over the last few weeks is "Which one are you writing next, Cradle or Elder Empire?"
And the answer is, it depends!
I wrote the first portion of Skysworn while writing Blackflame, as well as about 70,000 extra words of Blackflame. If I can still use the chapters I've written for SS and repurpose some of the extra scenes from BF, then I'm almost done with Skysworn already.
If that's true, then Cradle's next, and I'll be done with it soon. Because it won't impact OKAK much.
If I keep working on it over the next couple of weeks and I find that I don't have most of Skysworn done already, then I'm writing Of Kings and Killers next.
Whether Skysworn is coming out soon or not, I'm aiming for an Elder Empire release around Christmas / New Year's.
I almost forgot to post this, because a friend came into town and we've been playing Magic: the Gathering sealed all day. But I didn't forget! It's still Monday, so take that!
Paperbacks: Hey, would you look at that! The paperback for Unsouled is now available, with Soulsmith and Blackflame coming soon!
We went with a new format for these paperbacks than we've been using in the past, but we're putting up the next two in the same template (I think). Unsouled took a long time, but I expect to put up the other two more quickly!
T-shirts: We took down the first T-shirts that were for sale on Teespring, because the print quality was lower than I'd hoped. We've been looking for a new printer ever since then, and the last one we tried was Printful, and the test T-shirts I just received look much better than the last batch.
So we're going with Printful for Cradle T-shirts in the near future (next week, if the stars align), and Traveler's Gate / Elder Empire shirts sometime after that.
Nega-Will: I walked into my garden today and found another gnome missing, the ground disturbed where his feet had once rested. I knew this was Nega-Will at work, so I went back into the house to get my silver-plated shovel, but when I tested the knob, it was already locked. My own face looked back at me from inside.
Another point for Nega-Will.
I don't know if you knew this, but moving into a new house takes a long time. I thought I was moved in two weeks ago, but no. I had not yet even begun to move.
Anyway, I'm more or less settled in now, so it's back to the blog for me! Coming up next:
Monday: News about paperbacks / T-shirts / my nega-self who keeps slipping into this dimension, whispering secrets into my ear, and stealing my garden gnomes.
Wednesday: News about Cradle and OKAK!
Friday: News about short stories, audiobooks, and the plague of frogs that has so frustrated us all.
I noticed some blog comments saying that I had abandoned the blog and moved over to Reddit; that's not true! I've been exactly the same level of MIA over there too. But I'm back now and ready to respond to all your emails, comments, posts, letters, calls, texts, telegrams, dream tablets, psychic pulses, whispersongs, thought-worms, coded runic transmissions, frantic scratches on cave walls, and bottled messages in a more-or-less timely fashion. Just as before!
From the ashes I have risen, and now (instead of discussing all those other things I've listed above) I'd like to start by recommending a book: Doc Harrison and the Apocalypse, by Peter Telep.
If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen me mention this before. Peter Telep was one of my writing professors in college; he's been a professional writer since the world was young, he's written more than fifty novels, and he's largely the reason I didn't abandon creative writing and start trying to break into advertising.
No joke. I would have hated it.
He used to write a bunch of the Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, and Ghost Recon novels, if you read any of those, and he wrote some books for Tom Clancy before Tom Clancy's death. He's the real deal.
Now he's branching from military fiction (back) into sci-fi, and he's doing it as an independent author! Much like me, but with way more skill and experience!
Doc Harrison and the Apocalypse is a YA sci-fi that reminded me of Maximum Ride or I Am Number Four more than anything else: a kid finds out that humans inhabit more planets than just Earth, one of those planets has been destroyed, and he has to go on a high-speed adventure across multiple planets to prevent Earth from suffering the same fate.
It reads as much like fantasy as it does like science fiction; a lot of the technology the "aliens" use is based on an organ they have that humans don't (called a "wreath") that allows them to project themselves into a shared consciousness. Kind of like a magical space-Internet made of dreams.
All that said, it is sci-fi. I know you all like action-oriented fantasy with cool new worlds and high-octane plot, or you wouldn't be reading this blog right now. What about something adjacent to that, but set in modern Earth and also space?
I don't know, because I don't know you. However, if that sounds cool, check it out! I want every indie SFF author to do well, because the more good indie sci-fi and fantasy there is on Kindle, the more readers we can all draw in...
...to our webs. Where we will devour them.
P.S. I'm also wide open to questions once again. I actually spent a lot of time since Blackflame doing world-building on both Cradle and Elder Empire...with some Traveler's Gate thrown in there as well. Because I can make up new world concepts while moving boxes. I can answer questions now that I couldn't before! What fun!
P.P.S. Which questions can I answer now, you ask? Not that one!
I can't remember if I've told you this before, because my life is shrouded in layers of secrecy and lies, but I actually competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee when I was in seventh and eighth grade.
The finals are actually on TV right now, and I'm watching them, so I didn't just start taking a trip down memory lane out of nowhere.
If I think about it, this is probably the first step that led to me becoming a fantasy author: every contestant is led backstage through a portal into a Narnia-esque world of sentient letters, where we had to fight for survival with nothing but our swords and our etymological knowledge.
That's the true form of the spelling bee. Warn your friends. And of course the Spelling Bee herself is the queen of a hive millions strong, building up her workers into an army that will consume every dictionary in the world. She will thereby merge her essence into our language, and wherever English is spoken, her power will spread.
Plus, this year the competition is sponsored by Kindle, so that's pretty cool.
I'd like to say that I've taken the last month off, but to be completely honest with you, I had three weddings, I'm still moving into my new house, and I just spent the last week locked in a cabin writing.
But hey! On the bright side, Blackflame is doing disturbingly well.
It has sold faster than any of my other books, and in fact its success has helped my other books too; Soulsmith earned nine times more this month than it did last month.
I bow to you in thanks!
More soon, when hopefully I get some breathing room. In the meantime, I'll leave you with these random out-of-context lines from Skysworn:
The Lord of Specters opened its beak once more, and a voice issued forth like a distant chorus singing a dirge. “Tell us the name of your enemy,” the raven said.
In the Blackflame Empire, when you wanted an Underlord dead, you had precious few options.
"Soon, it will rise."
Slightly too much, I have to back up.
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