While I’ve been locked away finishing up King and Killers, the rest of the Hidden Gnome team has been hard at work scrambling to come up with free content for everybody stuck at home.
The fastest thing we could do was to put our eligible books up for free, so that’s why we gave away Traveler’s Gate trilogy for free this week. Which brings us to the next thing on our list!
Travis Baldree has recorded audio for one of the short stories from the Traveler’s Gate Chronicles collection: The Steel Labyrinth. It’s the short story that follows Valin, Founder of Valinhall, hunting a monster in Tartarus.
It’s available now, for free, on Spotify and on this very site! (And will be available on Apple and Google Play as soon as they complete the review process, so watch for that!)
We’re calling this the first episode of The Hidden Gnome Podcast, but like I said, we’re scrambling to put together anything we can that’s free and fast. We know everyone’s stressed and stuck at home, so we want to give away anything we can scrape up.
Because of the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants nature of this project, we don’t know when the second episode of the podcast (presumably another Chronicles short story narration) will come out. It could be next week or it could be a lot longer; we’re playing everything by ear right now.
But the gnomes are hard at work trying to keep you all entertained so you don’t go insane locked inside your own homes.
Enjoy the podcast, stay beautiful, and remember the words written on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC!
We know you need some more quarantine reads, so we're giving away the ebooks for House of Blades, The Crimson Vault, and City of Light from March 17th (today) through the 21st!
I really wish I had something new for you guys to read. If it makes you feel any better, I'm locked inside too.
Not just because of coronavirus. I was locking myself in this week to get word count done, but it was nice of the government to cooperate with my schedule.
Last night, on the fan subreddit (reddit.com/r/Iteration110Cradle), I did an impromptu AMA* in which I had some fun answering fan questions.
There was one question, or set of questions, that stuck with me afterwards and I continued thinking about today. And those boiled down to "What story are you going to write next?"
Once I finish Elder Empire and release the next Cradle book or two, I'll probably start something new. I might return to Traveler's Gate or write a Cradle spin-off or something, but I really love making up new things. That's what I always look forward to.
So I thought I'd share my thoughts on the matter!
First of all, I haven't decided anything. I tend to change my mind on this subject eagerly and often, so I'll jump from idea to idea whenever I feel like it.
But here are some of the things going through my head:
--I've worked on a world that's more game-y than I normally write. Not exactly a LitRPG, but something like a tabletop RPG world, e.g. a D&D-style universe in which the people have figured out the rules of magic over the generations through trial and error.
--I've written a few notes on a possible system in which people have certain slots for abilities that they can fill in "builds," so to speak. This started as a supplement for the aforementioned RPG world, but it might end up evolving into its own thing. For instance, you might be able to learn three supernaturally enhanced talents, two contracted items or creatures, and one active ability.
People try to fill those gaps as synergistically as possible, but everything has a rarity rating. And one character won't settle for any ability less than legendary, even if the all-legendary abilities don't work synergistically with one another at all. So he'll take a loss or refuse to take an awesome opportunity just because it isn't rare enough.
Anyway, I think I could have some fun with it.
--I've always wanted to try to write a death game sort of story, something like Fate/Stay Night, Basilisk, or (weirdly) The World Ends With You. I like the idea of working with a finite cast of characters, each with a strong backstory and motivation, that gets whittled down all the way to the end.
Unfortunately that concept tends to work better for a standalone than a series, but it's a dream I come back to every once in a while.
--I also have a loose idea rattling around in my head about a more traditional fantasy epic with a bunch of different factions that have unique identities and histories and are represented by superhuman champions.
In this world, if you accomplish enough as a mortal, you evolve into a higher version of yourself. These mythical heroes then tend to clash with one another for various competing goals that shape the history of the world.
--I'd also love to write a survival fantasy story, if I can figure out how. The Martian is probably my favorite survival novel, but I don't know how I feel about the goal of getting back home being the primary motivation. Also, I want a solo battle of survival to be the focus, but at the same time any story gets boring if a character doesn't have anybody else to play off of.
Bonus points if it takes place on a magical ocean. Because then it's like Subnautica.
*Ask Me Anything: essentially an open Q&A session
A few weeks ago, I injured my neck, which has made it difficult to write since and has delayed OKAK a little. You will be pleased to know that I have since achieved sweet revenge against the bear that wounded me, which has aided in the healing process.
So since I don't have a lot of progress to share, here's a post I wrote at the end of 2019 and never got around to posting: Will's Top 10 Games of the Decade!
A couple of rules:
First, these are my favorite games according to how much they meant to me or how attached I was to them. Not necessarily the ten games I'd say are the best of the decade.
Second, only games released in 2010-2019 count.
Third, the rankings are flexible. They're mostly accurate in relation to one another, but whether something is my fifth favorite or my fourth favorite could change pretty easily depending on the day.
Finally, League of Legends isn't on the list. It was my most-played game of the decade, probably by a massive margin, but it's hard to call it my favorite game. It's more like a hobby.
Without further ado, here's my list of my favorite games from last decade!
10.) God of War (2018)
AKA God of Boi, Dad of War, Dad of Boi. I don't finish many linear story-driven RPGs because my single-player game time is limited and often I don't get engaged in the story, but this one sucked me in all the way until the end. Also the world and gameplay are great.
This one narrowly edged out Spider-Man for the tenth place slot, mainly because God of War didn't have any sections where you were forced to play as the main character's superpower-less girlfriend and watch from the sidelines as the actual protagonist did fun things without you.
9.) Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I really hope open-world games start copying from Breath of the Wild, because it's the most fun I've ever had just running around a huge, gorgeous world. And the combat is surprisingly fun and deep.
It could easily be higher on this list in terms of how much I enjoyed it, but most of the titles with higher numbers have some connection to me personally. This one isn't special to Will Wight, it's just an excellent game.
8.) Dark Souls
The original. Not the sequels.
People talk about the "Dark Souls feeling" as that feeling of mastery you get when you slam your head against an impossible boss fight until you finally get better and defeat it and get that sense of euphoria as you overcome a challenge with your own skill.
The original Dark Souls made me feel that, and I try to chase that to this day. Most of the sequels, spinoffs, and Soulslikes I didn't enjoy as much...mainly because they don't have navigational mechanics, and I am the world's most directionally challenged being. Instead of being frustrated by the game's difficulty, I'm frustrated because I can't find where I'm supposed to go and I've run around this courtyard thirteen times killing the same zombies over and over.
The original Dark Souls didn't have a map either, but the maps are so compact and well-designed that I had a much easier time getting around. I'd sacrifice newer graphics for a more straightforward level design any day.
7.) Doki Doki Literature Club
Excellent storytelling. No joke.
6.) Stardew Valley
I never enjoyed these chore-a-day type games until Stardew, which sucked me in with the addictive Harvest Moon gameplay and kept me there with charm and personality.
I once joked that when multiplayer Stardew Valley came out I would never finish a book again, and I now realize that it wasn't a joke, please someone help me.
I can't say anything about this game that a thousand screaming children haven't said on YouTube already, but in spite of the hype it's a genuinely excellent game with inventive mechanics and deceptively relatable characters.
I was lucky enough to go into the game without too much spoiled for me, and that's how I recommend it. Even the moments that were spoiled still landed, and now I carry Undertale with me wherever I go on my Switch. For when I need an emotional punch to the gut so I can cry on an airplane.
I initially didn't have Skyrim on this list at all.
I thought, "I haven't played Skyrim that much, but for the sake of science, let's see how much time I've put into Skyrim on Steam. Huh. What about on Xbox? Interesting. And on Switch..."
Now it's #4.
This should honestly be #1.
I put it down two places because Minecraft doesn't need any more hype. This is probably the only game that rivals League of Legends in terms of the amount of time I spent playing it last decade, and since I was lucky enough to get into the alpha before the game's reputation skyrocketed, it is one of those games that I feel a real personal connection to.
As does the whole generation of middle schoolers that has now grown up playing it. Way to make me feel old, Minecraft.
...but since we're talking personal preference here, I do prefer Terraria's style to Minecraft's.
Honestly, the first three games are all in contention for my favorite game of all time. I find Terraria so charming and engaging that I do a fresh playthrough probably twice a year.
Unlike Minecraft, where the lure of playing comes from huge projects like remodeling a mountain to look like your childhood bully's face and then blowing the crap out of it with TNT, Terraria lures you in with projects like "Build a better magic gun so that you can blow up a titanic mechanical worm-god and build an even better magic gun."
It's packed to the gills with content, and it's pure fun.
Yes, it's Subnautica. Of course it's Subnautica. Go play Subnautica.
I don't recommend books very often because it's rare that I find a title I really enjoyed that doesn't already have a lot of recognition.
But here's one!
Aching God by Mike Shel is a dark fantasy epic full of creeping dread and a fully realized world of adventure with deadly threats lurking around every corner.
If that sounds like your thing, go read it now.
If it doesn't, allow me a moment to convince you.
Right off the bat, let me start by saying that this is not a lighthearted book and it's obviously not intended for young children. It doesn't go overboard IMO, but it doesn't shy away from frightening or violent elements either. If that bothers you, then this might not be the title for you.
However, this is used by the author to the advantage of the story. The very first scene follows the main character, a retired adventurer, suffering from violent nightmares spawned by an old encounter with the undead.
This story reminded me that zombies used to be scary, and if I lived in a real world where I watched my friends being torn apart by the walking dead, I'd be scarred for life too.
I started off impressed by the life (pardon the pun) Mike Shel breathed into the undead, but as I kept reading, every new development in the story raises the stakes and adds a whole new dimension of danger to the main character's mission.
[Vague story spoilers from here on out! I try not to spoil anything that isn't mentioned in the synopsis or the first few pages of the book, but if you're completely spoiler-averse, be warned.]
You see, there's a cursed artifact that is spreading a plague in the capital. The protagonist, Auric Manteo, is brought out of retirement to return the artifact into the horrifying temple from whence it came. He's haunted by the gruesome death of his previous team and he doesn't want to return, but his only daughter is among those cursed. She will die if the curse isn't lifted.
That's just the premise, but what that doesn't communicate is how dire and desperate the situation feels. Auric isn't sure if returning the cursed artifact will even work, so he's confronting his greatest fear in what's essentially a gamble. But what else is he going to do? His daughter is dying.
Every new element adds realism, depth, and danger to the world. In order to leave the country and go back to this cursed tomb, Auric has to get the permission of the Queen, but the Queen herself may or may not be a god-cursed cannibalistic undead witch.
Traveling to the tomb is a harrowing experience on its own, and even if they arrive safely, they're delivering themselves into the mouth of a bloodthirsty demon-god.
If that doesn't sound awesome to you, then I don't know what to tell you.
P.S. This is a review of the first book, but the second book is also out and the third (and final) book in the trilogy is out soon! DON'T WAIT! HOP ON THE MIKE SHEL TRAIN TODAY!
The books have kidnapped me. Someone help.
I'm almost through with both of the final Elder Empire books, which is why I've mostly been radio silent recently, but seriously I've written more in the last few months than I ever have before.
I basically had to start over on these books, since the material I've used for them has been created over the last several years, so my vision for the story and my skill as a writer have both changed over time.
Now I spend my days screaming at my keyboard hoping that the sheer force of my will can produce words faster.
Book review / recommendation coming soon! It's a long-overdue recommendation of Mike Shel's Aching God, which is a dark fantasy that tackles dungeon crawling from a vividly realized new angle. I liked it a lot.
After that, maybe book news. Who knows? Because it depends on how fast I can continue to write.
Now let me see if I have the strength left in my tired fingers to update the progress meter.
Are you ready for a quick blog post covering everything I haven't yet had the chance to mention here?
LIGHTNING ROUND BLOG POST HERE WE COME!
1.) Elder Empire - Spring 2020
Progress on these books has been so sporadic over the last four years that I basically had to start over from scratch, but even so I'm almost done! Killers / Kings will be released in Spring 2020, and I'll be more specific than that when I actually get them finished.
2.) 1,000 reviews on Underlord and Uncrowned
Within a day or two of each other, both Underlord and Uncrowned crossed 1,000 reviews on Amazon.
That is not only more reviews than I've ever gotten on any book before, it's also especially mind-bending because the first book in any series almost always has the most reviews. To see books six and seven in a series hit more reviews than the first and have a higher average score is...special.
3.) Cradle Foundation is currently free!
The collection of the first three Cradle books (Cradle: Foundation) is free through December 30th! PICK IT UP GO GO LIGHTNING ROUND AAAAAAHHHHH
When we released House of Blades in 2013, we (by which I mean myself and a few of my friends and family) never dreamed of selling a ton of books. I just wanted to be able to write books all the time.
Six and a half years later, not only have I been able to average two books a year, but I now employ minions that can scurry all over and do my bidding.
And a few weeks ago, it came to our attention that we were about to cross a pretty crazy milestone: one million sales.
That includes all editions of all fourteen books that I have out now, over the last six and a half years, as well as the sales from discounts and promotions and trans-dimensional shipping and so on and so forth.
But still...a million.
When I wrote my first book, I didn't know what a lot of book sales was. Is a thousand a lot? Ten thousand?
Well, a million is a lot.
Here's what that means to me (and to the rest of my minions and clones laboring in my name at Hidden Gnome): that means that you and people like you have supported me so much and for so long that I've been able to tell stories for a living on a scale I'd never even hoped for.
You, reading this, are my favorite. You have the soul of a centaur and the eyes of a fiddlebird. Your heart is three sizes bigger than the Grinch's and you have the firm, muscular legs of Hercules himself.
Now, as it happened, we realized recently that we were going to cross the actual 1,000,000 mark right around Christmas. In the spirit of the season, here's a couple of things we have going on right now:
1.) Elder Empire is available for free!
Since I'm getting close to finished with the final installments in the Elder Empire series, we've put all four books in Elder Empire up for free today and for the next five days!
Haven't read them? Now's your chance to give them a try for nothing!
Of Sea and Shadow
Of Shadow and Sea
(Dawn / Darkness are also available, but I don't want to link them separately because laziness is the way of the Sith.)
I know we've given these books away for free before, but there's not a whole lot of ways to up the ante after that one. Next Christmas, maybe we'll be paying you to read my books.
2.) Elder Empire pre-orders for sale on Audible!
This ties in with the first one, but all four Elder Empire books are also up for pre-order on Audible...for two dollars apiece.
Of Sea and Shadow
Of Shadow and Sea
(Dawn / Darkness are also available, but you'll have to track them down on your own, you super-sleuth.)
So you can get all four books on ebook and audio for the total price of about $8. That's as cheap as we could make it without finalizing some kind of infernal deal with Bephmegargol, Prince of Bargains.
(Also, friendly reminder for those of you with Audible subscriptions: buy these books, don't waste a credit on something that's two bucks. You can get a much more expensive book for that credit. Get your money's worth!)
3.) Elder Empire merchandise!
Over on The Will Wight Store, we now have magic mugs (those black mugs that fade away when they're filled with hot liquid, like fresh blood) and T-shirts for Elder Empire!
Also, there's still other stuff! You're probably interested in Cradle merchandise, but we also have Traveler's Gate gear and transient electronic ghosts!*
*(If you can't find the ghosts, then they have already escaped our site and haunted your home. Call your local Ghostbusters immediately.)
4.) Free Dross wallpaper!
Finally, a Christmas thing!
Our graphic designer has conjured up a Christmas-y Dross wallpaper so that you can imitate Lindon without chopping your own arm off! It's available on my Facebook page and maybe here, if someone sends me the link.
Hey look it's the link!
5.) My eternal gratitude!
Thanks for giving my books a shot and for sticking with me all this time!
I really wish I had written a special Christmas story for you this year, but I spent all my time "writing books" and "didn't realize that we were about to hit a million sales," so instead I scrambled to turn on as many sales as we could at the last minute. Plus the wallpaper.
But each one of you has earned a ticket for a psychic hug transmitted to you, from me, through the aether that permeates our world.
(This one isn't free, it's $5.99 plus ethereal shipping.)
Like I alluded to last week, I’m always striking a kind of balance when I communicate with you guys online.
On the one hand, if I don’t post every week or so, some people forget about me or start getting antsy and sending me messages asking what I’m doing.
But the reality is that the less you hear from me, the more productive I’m being. When I have free time, THAT’S when I check Facebook and screw around online.
However! These last few days, I’ve been blazing through OKAK far faster than expected, so I get to reward myself with some Internet time and the chance to press my forehead against the bars of my cell and wonder what the sun used to look like.
A while ago I did a post on coming up with names, and in October I wrote about one technique I use for developing magic systems.
This week, I said I’d talk some more about my writing process, and I wasn’t sure how to narrow that down. Most of the general writing advice has been covered to death by far better writers than me, so I wanted something that I had at least somewhat of a unique perspective on (and something that I could address in just a few paragraphs).
Ultimately, I decided to address the number one problem I see new writers (especially fantasy writers) facing: they don’t know how to start writing their book.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: you have a fantasy novel you’ve been working on in your head for years. It’s going to be brilliant. You just have to make sure that all the character arcs are fully defined and in place, and you’re good to go.
But you want to make sure that these arcs are in line with your themes. And how could you possibly start writing in a world when you haven’t finished building it yet? You know there’s an elf kingdom, but you don’t even know who its founding king was!
On and on it goes, and you draw and re-draw the map, and you come up with backstories of your main characters. Maybe you write the first twenty thousand words and it doesn’t come out like you imagine it, so you start over, but this time you have a clear vision for it.
This is what I wanted to address today, because it’s a problem I see people make at least as much as anything else.
They think they’re writing a fantasy novel, but they’re not.
People get stuck in planning, especially world-building, for years. It goes around and around and around in their heads, shifting and evolving but never taking shape.
There are a number of reasons for it. Coming up with ideas is fun, but hammering them into an effective story is hard. And it can be hard to know when you’re ready to stop planning and start writing, because planning is important.
Fortunately, if this is you, I have a solution. I was going to say something snappy like “Just write the book,” but that’s more glib than helpful. So here’s the question to ask yourself:
What is the minimum I need to know before I can start writing?
In my personal experience from struggling out of this mental trap over and over again, you have to stop thinking about the first draft of a story taking place after you’re done planning it. The first draft is part of the planning process, and anything that happens in the first draft can be fixed later.
I will say, there are some things you do need to know before you start writing. What’s your plot? I mean, is this “A lonely beautician starts robbing banks in the hopes that one of the cops coming to arrest her will be the man of her dreams,” or is this “A humble kobold’s attempts to pretend to be a real dragon go too far when his fake persona is elected the Dragon King”?
Once you have your one- or two-sentence plot to guide you, then you do need a sense of how it falls out. There are far better story structure gurus than I, but the point is that you don’t need a detailed beat-by-beat understanding of every scene in your book to start writing. You just need to know the general shape of what’s going to fall out.
Then you need to answer the necessary questions that will help you start writing. If you think the scene should open on a couple arguing in a cafe, for instance, you need the names of the two people in the couple and the name of the café.
Don’t get bogged down in details. Remember, what is the minimum you need to know before you can start writing?
Then write until the end.
There are some things you’ll run into that you won’t know, so make them up. Or put a note and go back to them later. I wrote an entire draft of Ghostwater in which Ziel, the tired old man in a young man’s body, was basically an energetic Ash Ketchum.
But that was okay, because anything in the first draft can be changed. You’re just trying to lock down the shape of the story and figure out which of your ideas are good enough to carry the book and which don’t matter.
I’ve heard it said this way: if writing is like making pottery, then writing the first draft is creating your lump of clay.
Asking this question might be the key to stopping your procrastination-disguised-as-planning and starting you writing.
Caveat: People write in different ways. If you plan and plan and then when you’re finished, you stop planning and diligently move on to writing, good for you! Ignore me. But if that describes you, know that I have found people like you to be extraordinarily rare.
I know it's been almost a month since you've heard from me, and as those of you who have followed me for a long time know, "fewer social media posts" means "more writing."
It's been a real storm of word processing over here, and I've made huge progress on Elder Empire since Halloween. Enough that I'm updating the progress counter over to the right in just a second.
Thanks for your patience, everybody! I'm tearing through Elder Empire, after which I will return to Cradle.
And here in America, it's Thanksgiving today, so I wanted to say that I'm thankful for you today. Whether you're reading me hoping for news on Cradle or whether you've been waiting forever for new Elder Empire updates or if you'd prefer more Traveler's Gate over either of those, I'm humbled and filled with gratitude that you would spend your time on me.
Wish me luck, because I'm not out of the writing tunnel yet! I have a lot more words to churn out between now and Christmas.
P.S. I'm planning to do another writing post as my next blog in only a week or so! I don't like these four-week gaps either.
Of Killers and Kings Progress:
"But no one had warned them."
Killers Flashbacks: Complete
Kings Flashbacks: Complete
Killers Main Story: 90%
Kings Main Story: 90%
Want to get short stories and book releases before anyone else? Sign up below!