EDIT: Something to say has presented itself! A fan made a subreddit for discussing my books, so instead of tolerating Weebly's sub-par comment system, CHECK THIS OUT!
I have a complete draft of Blackflame, and I'm working on it. Trying to get it juuuuuust right.
In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.
As many of you know, I periodically drop off the map for a couple of weeks at a time. Why? Because I need to fully immerse myself in writing. I turn off my phone, I don't check my email, and I don't check the blog. I just dive right in.
It's a helpful part of the process, but it also results in friends, family, and fans thinking I'm dead. I'm not! I'm writing! ...which is a very similar state, but it smells slightly better, and sometimes a book pops out of the coffin.
Now that I've come up for air, this is a good time to update you on the Blackflame progress!
So...I could have finished Blackflame by now. That's my confession. But I haven't, and I have a good reason why!
A few weeks ago, I was about 75% done, but I wasn't happy with a big chunk of the middle. Normally I would leave that part in and polish it up as much as I could in editing, but this time I chose to rewrite it.
(That's not something I would tell a first-time writer to do, by the way. If you're working on your first novel, and you're not happy with a chunk, finish the story and then go back and fix it afterwards. But I'm working on book number ten at this point, so I'm allowing myself some more leeway.)
On the bright side, the book is now better for it. But it does mean I'm about a month behind my projected schedule. I expect to have the book ready for beta readers very soon, but it isn't there yet.
It'll be a few more weeks, but not too many more.
As you may know, this week includes Valentine's Day, so why not celebrate with a book? This week, for free, you can read the most romantic story on Kindle: the inspiring love story of a white-haired swordsman and his creepy fascination with a bunch of talking dolls.
That's right, House of Blades is once again up for free this week! Foist it on your unsuspecting friends! Pretend it has romance in it! Just kidding, please don't do that, they'll be disappointed.
...but pick up a copy nonetheless! From my isolated writing cave, I will feel your support, and it will fuel me.
I've let you know before when my total sales reached 100,000 and 200,000 respectively. Well, I've just learned that I'm at 292k right now!
Which means that soon...soon, my pretties...the 300k milestone will be upon us.
Just so you know, here's my methodology for counting sales: if someone reads an entire book of mine, and it makes me as much money as buying it outright, that's a sale.
So...obviously when someone buys a book, that's one sale. But when someone reads an entire book of mine in Kindle Unlimited, I make just as much money and they've read just as much book, so that's one sale. The Traveler's Gate Trilogy, if someone reads the entire collection in Kindle Unlimited, counts as three sales (although I make as much money as for five sales, I only count it for three, because it's three books. So uh...go re-read that in Kindle Unlimited if you want to make me very happy). If someone buys the collection outright, that's also three sales, because they're buying three books and I'm making $6, which is roughly what I'd get for selling them separately anyway.
That's just as a point of full disclosure. I don't count a $6 profit from the Trilogy the same as a $2 profit from House of Blades; I spread it all around so every "sale" is more or less equally weighted. It's the only way I've found to count sales equitably.
And obviously free promotions don't count as sales at all. They're just good for spreading word-of-mouth awareness.
I'd like to do something sort of special for 300k, since it's not every day you cross another 100,000 sales, but I'm not sure what. I'm already trying to release Blackflame ASAP. Maybe that counts.
Is there something relatively easy I could do on the blog to celebrate? Like a video or a poll or an AMA or something?
The Crimson Queen is a Kindle book by Alec Hutson. It is his first book, it came out about six weeks ago, and it has 24 reviews so far.
It deserves many more. Go read it.
Seriously, it's the best epic fantasy novel I've read in years. I can't recommend it more highly.
Last week, I had to offer the caveat that I normally don't enjoy LitRPG, so I couldn't comment on the genre as a whole. That is not the case for epic fantasy: I'm extremely familiar with the genre, and this is excellent. The last Kindle-exclusive epic fantasy novel I read that I could recommend without reservation was Anthony Ryan's original Blood Song.
This book was recommended to me by a fan in the comments of last week's blog (thanks, John!) who said it was one of the best stories he'd read in years. I can only agree. I'd never heard of it before then, I've never spoken to the author, and I don't know anything else about it. But it's a great story.
I don't have anything truly negative to say about it, but if I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel:
--The story is familiar. The main character starts off in a fishing village, his mother was a stranger with a mysterious background who is now dead, he's bullied by the local children, and so on and so forth. There's a holy empire that hates magic, assassins who move through shadows, and ancient immortal wizards pulling strings from behind the scenes.
Those are all elements we've seen before, but they're also all awesome, so who cares?
--There are a few typos clearly missed in editing: one character is referred to by the wrong POV name once, some commas are missed, sometimes dialogue is on the same line, and so on. But the rest of the editing is squeaky clean and incredibly smooth, so even the pickiest reader should read right past these minor blemishes.
--Some of the scenes feel rushed. The author spends much more time on description than I do, so every scene is lovingly set, but a few times it feels as though he lingers on setting the scene and then rushes through the actual events. When the chapter comes to a close, I get the sense that it was chopped short.
...and that's pretty much all I can remember that wasn't pure gold.
Seriously, if you're never going to take another recommendation of mine, take this one and go read The Crimson Queen. If you like "epic" fantasy--with all the spider-filled dungeons, quick-witted thieves, sinister wizards, malevolent cosmic forces, holy paladins, and dueling gods--then you won't go wrong.
Go read it!
EDIT 1/18/17: According to the author, sales have remained steady for weeks, but since this post they've spiked higher than ever before! We're doing it! Now don't stop--go read the book, and when you like it (because you will, it's awesome), leave a review and tell a friend! Let's push this guy to the top!
For years now, I've been encouraged to be more active in promoting other independently published authors. And I haven't done it, largely because I don't even promote my own work very much, much less anybody else's. I've given people a shout-out here and there, but normally I don't even do that much.
I'm trying to get better at this, so I've been looking for some titles to promote. And after hearing enough suggestions about him online, I finally read Aleron Kong's first book, The Land: Founding.
(Which just so happens to be available on Kindle for only $0.99 even as we speak. You could pick it up for a dollar right now. WHAT A STRANGE COINCIDENCE.)
It's a LitRPG novel, which basically means it's about a guy getting transported inside of a world that works like a video game. He has to manage and explore his newfound RPG powers and abilities, including a village-building system that I found to be the most interesting part of the novel. But I could be weird.
I've read dozens of this sort of thing before, because it always seems like it would be right up my alley, but it never has been. Usually, I don't find the characters interesting and I get irritated by the amount of time they spend grinding and doing boring intro quests. I don't even enjoy that when I'm playing a video game, much less when I'm reading about one.
The Land: Founding, by contrast, kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. It keeps moving at a fluid pace, there's just enough of a plot to provide a sense of tension without taking away from the "guy freely exploring an RPG world" sensation, and the main character's quests are different enough from the usual that I stayed intrigued.
(There is literally a "Kill 5 Wolves" quest, but the context for it and the result of completing it are both somewhat unexpected. And funny, at least in my view.)
There are cons to every book, and in this case, there are really two that spring to mind. One broader than the other.
First, there's a segment in the middle with the main character battling skeletons that I found tedious. It takes place over about two chapters, whereas I probably would have wanted it summarized in a couple of pages. Not a big deal, but it stuck out, as most of the rest of the book progresses much more quickly.
Second, the book as a whole could have used a bit more time in the editing room. It's not bad, by any means--we've all read Kindle books that are much, much worse--but there are some typos, some choppy sentences, some incorrectly substituted homonyms ("where" for "wear," stuff like that). In other words, the same sort of mistakes you'd find in my own books, just...a few more of them.
I didn't find that any of that inhibited my enjoyment of the book. I liked it, I think it's a cool concept well-executed, and it made me want to try writing an overtly video-gamey book (although as I'm sure you've noticed, my books are about one balance patch short of video games already).
So if you like LitRPG as a genre and you haven't checked out Aleron Kong for some reason, give it a try. His book's on sale, I believe I mentioned. If you think you might be interested in reading a fantasy novel where the world works like a game, give it a try. And if this doesn't sound like your sort of thing but you're looking for something to read, give it a try.
It's a dollar!
This is a pretty minor point in Blackflame, but I've been having trouble coming to a decision on my own, so I thought I'd get your opinion: what do I call the level immediately above Underlord?
I'd originally intended to call them Overlords, as you'd expect, but I already have Overlords in Traveler's Gate. So in my notes I've been using the word "Highlord," but A) it doesn't sound quite as cool, and B) it looks very similar to Highgold.
So when I'm discussing a Highgold and a Highlord in the same sentence, it's easy to read those both as the same word and get confused.
What do you think? Should I go with Overlord and ignore the fact that I use the same term with a different meaning in Traveler's Gate? Should I go with Highlord and just try and write my way around the potential confusion? Or should I make up something else?
I can't promise I'll abide by the results of the poll, because I could always have a new idea, but I would like to hear your thoughts.
Deathmatch #2 - Return of the Death went out to the mailing list just a few minutes ago, right before midnight my time (although sometimes it takes a few minutes to get the email, so if you don't have it yet, just wait)!
By definition, that will be the last story of 2016, so Happy New Year!
And it will be the tenth piece of content I sent to mailing list subscribers since I started the mailing list, ten months ago: nine short stories and one preview of Unsouled.
Great year, everybody! Thanks for sticking with me, and I'll do my best to make all the stories in 2017 the best so far!
P.S. If you're signed up for the mailing list but you're not getting the stories, it's likely because your email provider is eating them. Gmail is especially bad about this. Check your junk mail and your promotions tab, and if they aren't there, add email@example.com to your Contacts list. That will make sure you get future messages.
P.P.S. And then after you've done all that, let me know what stories you're missing, and I'll send them to you. Happy New Year!
Mailing list story going out RIGHT NOW! And instead of being either of the stories I had planned and worked on, it's a Deathmatch instead, because WHY NOT?
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
I'm still working on Blackflame (obviously, because what else would I be doing with my time?), but there's been a recurring notion in the comments for some time now that I'm setting up for a gladiator-style death match among all my characters.
I'm not saying I am doing that, and I'm not saying I'm not, but it suggests to me a fun little game we could play in the comments below this blog.
You propose a matchup between two of my characters, or one of my characters and a character from a totally different work, and tell me how you think it would end up. You can use as much or as little detail as you want to. Example: "Simon versus Superman: I know Superman would throw him into the sun, but how long do you think he could run before Superman caught him and threw him into the sun? I say an eighth of a second, but what do you think?"
I will respond to these comments, as can anyone else who wants to. For instance, in this case, I might say "I think Simon would last negative three days. As soon as the match began, Superman would fly around the earth and reverse time, picking an unaware Simon up three days before the match began and throwing him into the sun."
Other, more fair matchups might be more interesting.
This won't lead anywhere, and I'm not going to do anything with this, but it seems like a fun thing to do over the days leading up to Christmas. Also, it's a good way for you to squeeze out hints about how strong I think certain characters are, like the Emperor. Or Eithan. Or even the emperor of the Blackflame Empire, who has yet to be introduced.
Pro tip: Suriel versus any mortal is going to result in that mortal being banished out of space and time. My only response will be "Suriel banishes them out of space and time."
So...fights to the death. Go!
So you remember two weeks ago when I said I was trying to get a short story out by the next day?
Well, here's why: because I was leaving my apartment to do nothing but write for two solid weeks, and I knew that if I didn't squeeze the short story out before I left, it would be two more weeks.
And I didn't. And it's been two more weeks. And I'm sorry. I need to stop calling them monthly short stories and call them something like...regular short stories. Or short stories I release when I'm not trying to hammer a book out in a short amount of time.
That said, this will be the tenth month since I started doing the mailing list short story thing, and if I finish and send out this Cradle one as well as a Simon one for Christmas, then I'll have released ten in ten months! (Though to be fair, one of them was an Unsouled preview when I had yet to announce I was writing Unsouled.)
That's just as good as monthly, right? Right? ...guys?
On the bright side, I've been working non-stop on Blackflame and I actually have some measurable progress to show you! First, I'm in the process of uploading a shiny new progress meter to the right of this very post!
And second, behold:
Gasp in awe at its wonder!
I actually have the cover for book four ready too, but the reveal for that one will have to come later!
And by "later," I mean "when I come up with a title for book four." The art is done, but the type isn't, because I have yet to actually title the thing. Speaking of art, did I tell you I got the first sketch for the Killers cover back recently?
Well, I did, and it's shaping up, but those covers take a lot longer to make than the Cradle covers. I'll reveal that one when it's ready!
All of it.
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