An Update on The Gilded Empire

I know I’ve been quiet around here lately. That’s because life has become very busy. It’s been a tough semester in my electrical engineering courses, so I haven’t been finding as much time to write (especially here on this blog).

Because of this, I’m going to have to push back my tentative deadline for The Gilded Empire. I had hoped to have it out by the end of April, but I’ve had very little time and energy to edit it recently. It’s in pretty good shape overall, but there are still a few rough sections, and I don’t want to publish it until I feel it’s ready.

That probably means a delay of a month or so. As I said, I’m pretty close. I just need a little more time.

After that, I still hope to have The Winds of Time edited and published by the end of July. Again, this is subject to change, and it doesn’t bother me too much if I’m a little behind my self-imposed deadlines. It may be tough with The Winds of Time because it’s the longest book in the series.

This is mostly me reassuring you, the reader, that I am still working on these projects. With only one summer course, I should be able to get The Gilded Empire into shape by the end of May.

My next two releases after I finish World in Chains will be the second and third books of my Sunweaver trilogy. Tentatively, I expect to release those by the end of October and January, respectively. After that, it will be The God War’s Chosen, most likely next spring. I’ve already written the first two books, and I’m writing the third at the moment.

After that, I have no idea what my path is. I have a lot of ideas vying for my attention.

Cover Reveal: Watersong

I’m excited today to reveal the cover for the first book in a future trilogy titled The God War’s Chosen. The book is Watersong, and it’s an epic gunpowder fantasy primarily set in a tropical island nation.

Thanks to the talented people of Deranged Doctor Design, I have a great cover for the first book of the trilogy. The next two covers should be finalized over the next month. It will probably be a year or so before the first book is published, but there’s nothing like getting people excited early.

Without further ado, here’s the cover:

2017-1192 Ryan W Mueller b01

Celebrating Fantasy: The Chosen One

This may be a controversial view, but I enjoy “Chosen One” stories. A lot of them are cliched, yes, but when you run across a great one, it can be a very rewarding reading experience. It’s all a matter of how the author executes it.

A sufficiently talented author knows how to write this kind of story without losing the tension. The big thing it comes down to is making any prophecies open-ended. Don’t have the prophecy spell out everything that’s going to happen. Don’t tell us that the Chosen One is going to succeed. That takes all the suspense out of the story.

One of my best examples for this is the Harry Potter series.

SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE SERIES YET.

 

Rowling handles the Chosen One trope very well in my opinion. For one thing, you don’t find out until the fifth book that Harry is the Chosen One. Even then, the prophecy you’re given is open-ended. Harry can defeat Voldemort. There’s no guarantee that he will.

Instead of taking away tension, this introduces more tension. Now you know that Harry is the world’s best chance of defeating Voldemort, but you don’t know that he’ll succeed. As the reader, you feel the pressure Harry feels as he struggles to find a way to defeat Voldemort. It’s an unimaginable amount of pressure.

This works even better because the prophecy is not his sole motivation. At this point, he’s suffered so much because of Voldemort, and he’s taken it upon himself to defeat Voldemort regardless of the prophecy. And that’s the beauty of a well-done Chosen One story. The hero is not doing things solely because prophecy says they should. The prophecy is just one piece of what motivates them.

 

Similarly, you can look at The Wheel of Time for a Chosen One story done very well. In this case, Robert Jordan accomplishes it through the creation of a deep and complex world and throwing a great deal of ambiguity into the prophecy and the outcome of the final battle. Even if you think Rand will defeat the Dark One at the end, you don’t know how it’s going to happen, or if Rand will survive the battle.

Then there are all the other characters. These prophecies say nothing about what they’re supposed to do. By having a cast of so many characters you care about, it takes a lot of focus away from the direct Chosen One/prophecy narrative. It’s a story of a prophecy, but it’s also a story of all these other characters connected to the prophecy, some more directly than others. And that makes it very enjoyable (despite a bit of a slog through the middle portion of the series).

 

There are countless other examples, but these are two of the most prominent that come to mind. I’m not going to talk much about the Belgariad, for example, because I don’t think Eddings handled the prophecy aspect of the story quite as well. It’s a fun, light read, but I never felt any doubt about the final outcome.

What about you? What are some of your favorite Chosen One stories?

A Slight Change in Plans

I’ve decided to make a small change with my editing process and publishing schedule.

First, I’ll address the editing process. I’m currently hard at work revising The Gilded Empire, book 3 of World in Chains. I’m not sure when I’ll finish editing it, but I still think I can get it out there this spring. That may be delayed, however, because of the changes I’m making. Instead of revising just book 3, I’m also going to do some work on book 4 before, The Winds of Time, before releasing The Gilded Empire.

I don’t anticipate this taking that long. It’s mostly to refresh myself on all the craziness that happens in the fourth book before finishing up my edits of the third. This is necessary so that I deliver two books that don’t contradict one another. I did veer a bit away from my original plan in the fourth book, and I need to make sure those changes are reflected in the third.

I may end up doing something similar with the second and third books of Sunweaver. It’s one of the dangers of writing more by the seat of your pants. You can come up with some amazing twists you’d never think of while outlining, but it can make things a bit messy when it comes time to revise. That’s why I prefer writing an entire series before publishing any of it. I’m hoping I can get better at planning, though.

 

Now, on to the publishing schedule. I think it’s a better idea to publish the final two books of World in Chains before returning to the second and third books of Sunweaver. Part of this is my desire to get a finished series out there. Another part is that the worlds of World in Chains and Sunweaver are loosely connected. Anyone who’s finished The Shadowed Land and read Sunweaver might have noticed this.

The second book of Sunweaver does contain very minor spoilers for the ending of my World in Chains series. I don’t think this would result in anyone enjoying the ending of World in Chains any less, but I know some readers don’t like anything to be spoiled.

Personally, I think it can be enjoyable either way. If you read book 2 of Sunweaver, you’ll know that a certain character from World in Chains has survived the events of the series, but you won’t know how. So it’s a matter of which you’d prefer as a reader. Do you want to worry for the life of this character, or are you okay figuring out the mystery of how they end up in a completely different world?

In the end, I don’t think it’s a problem to read the series in whatever order you wish. I just thought I’d get the information out there and update everyone on why I’m changing my publishing schedule a little bit.

Based on these changes, I’d expect The Gilded Empire around April and The Winds of Time around July. After that, Fireweaver will probably come out around October and Sunlord near the beginning of 2019.

I may be able to speed up this schedule, but even these dates are tentative. There are a lot of other things on my plate between work and school and family commitments, and I can make no promises.

Thanks again for reading. If you want to be the first to know about new releases, you can sign up for my mailing list at the top right of the sidebar.

Celebrating Fantasy: Chrono Trigger

The other day, I started this series off by celebrating Harry Potter, the series of books that made me want to be a writer. Today, I’m switching gears and celebrating one of my favorite childhood video games, Chrono Trigger. This is one of the games that first began my interest in fantasy as a genre.

It’s also, not coincidentally, considered one of the best video games ever made. For those who may not know, Chrono Trigger is a JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) originally developed by Square and release for the Super Nintendo way back in 1995. (For those who might be wondering, I was 5 years old back then.)

When I first played the game, I was probably too young to really get it, but it was still one of my favorite games. It was just so much fun to feel like you were part of this epic story that was unfolding. The game starts innocently enough, with Crono, the main character, going to a festival to celebrate the coming of  a new millennium.

But when he bumps into a young woman at the fair and she decides to enjoy the festivities with him, things take a crazy turn. Through a bizarre interaction between magic and technology, the young woman is sent back in time four hundred years. Naturally, Crono follows her, and that starts the adventure.

In all, you visit six different time periods in the game: a prehistoric world where humans and dinosaurs live side by side, a world of magical floating islands and a frozen wasteland below, the middle ages, the present day, the day of the apocalypse, and a post-apocalyptic future. This diversity of settings made Chrono Trigger something new that you hadn’t seen before then. Most fantasy settings up until then, in both books and games, tended to stick to pretty typical medieval-ish settings.

When I first played the game, I didn’t realize just how amazing these settings were. Now, as a fantasy writer myself, I can really appreciate the creativity involved in this. Even more amazing is the fact that the developers managed to tell an epic, complex, and coherent story that spanned all these different time periods.

And the characters were so much fun to spend time with. Even though this was before the age of long cutscenes and spoken dialogue, I felt like I knew these people. From the prehistoric warrior Ayla to the futuristic robot Robo, they were all distinct and interesting, and they were fleshed out with the perfect amount of dialogue.

A lot of people might say you can’t learn anything from video games that you can apply to your writing, but I have to disagree. Games like Chrono Trigger are a big part of what made me a writer, and it still influences my writing to this day. You’ll see my love for time travel, for example, in the final book of World in Chains series. And my main character in that series, Nadia, takes a fair amount of inspiration from Marle, one of the main characters in Chrono Trigger. Some people might scoff at taking inspiration from video games, but there’s still a lot to be learned. And, of course, you have an entire genre based on video games now, LitRPG. I’m toying with the idea of writing one myself, but I need to do some research first.

Regardless of what I do or do not write, Chrono Trigger will always hold a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of many others.

What about you? What fantasy video games have you really enjoyed?

Celebrating Fantasy: The Harry Potter series.

Today, I’m launching a new series I plan to do from time to time: Celebrating Fantasy. In this series, I’m looking to celebrate the fantasy genres and the reasons I love it. I plan to discuss books, video games, movies, and any other forms of fantasy fiction. Some of the works I talk about may not be my personal favorites, but I will still celebrate what I enjoyed about them.

To launch this series, I’m going back to the age of 10. It was the fall of 2000, and I was in fifth grade. At that age, I enjoyed video games, but I didn’t read all that much. One of my teachers noticed this and suggested the Harry Potter series to my dad at a parent-teacher conference. My dad, being the perfect absentminded professor stereotype, picked up Chamber of Secrets instead of The Sorcerer’s Stone.

As it turned out, this was a good thing, and Chamber of Secrets still holds a special place in my heart. I like the first book, but it’s my least favorite of the entire series, and I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with it the same way if I’d read it first.

It’s probably cliched at this point, but Harry Potter is the series that made me want to be a writer. Before reading it, I had no idea that a book could take me on such a great magical adventure. Too often, I ended up reading the boring books they gave us in school, and those just weren’t the same. They could never fuel my love of reading the way Harry Potter did.

What makes Harry Potter so great for me?

It’s a combination of things. J.K. Rowling knows how to tell a great story. The characters are vividly drawn. The setting is fun and detailed. Her ability to weave a mystery plot and drop the perfect hints is masterful. In all, it’s fun. It’s the kind of world you love to escape into, and that’s what I’ve always looked for in my fantasy.

There are so many fun little things in the series that make the world feel so much more real. The magical candy. The joke shops. The many, many magical creatures. Is it always a consistent world? Does it always make perfect sense? No. But I don’t care because it’s so much fun. (In fact, one of my favorite things to do is pick at holes in the plot and world of Harry Potter. Any book that can get me to do that is great.)

I also loved how the first two books were great standalone mysteries that set up a few things for later in the series. From the third book on, it became more of an epic series, and that was great, especially when Rowling developed the plot based on little things she’d set up in the earlier books. Those things seemed inconsequential at the time, but they were ultimately very important. As a writer myself, I’m in awe of how well she planned some of these details. I like to do the same kind of thing myself, but I write a bit more by the seat of my pants. For me to make those kinds of things work, I have to write an entire series and then insert the little bits of foreshadowing.

All of this added up to a reading experience unlike anything else I’ve ever had. I remember the feeling when a new Harry Potter book arrived in the mail. It was like Christmas all over again. On the day that the sixth book came out, I’d had sinus surgery that morning, so I felt miserable. But then I came home, and the book was there. Reading it helped distract me from how miserable I felt.

Even now, at the ripe old age of 28, I will go back and read the entire Harry Potter series back to back. There’s something magical about it (no pun intended), and no matter how many times I read it, that magic never seems to fade.

So what books got you into fantasy? What would you like to see me celebrate here?

One more day until Sunweaver releases.

I’m starting to get nervous now. It’s not as bad as it was before the release of Empire of Chains, but any time you’re putting a new series out there, it’s anxiety-inducing.

Sunweaver will release tomorrow, January 11th. It will be available for $3.99 as an e-book. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you’ll be able to read it for free. I don’t have a print version yet. I need to get back with my cover designer for that. (I need to do the same for The Shadowed Land as well.)

 

Pre-order it below:

Sunweaver

Sunweaver resized

 

The sun is dying. The world has turned to ice. Only the Sunlord can keep humanity alive.

Deril was supposed to be the next Sunlord, following in his father’s footsteps. But it doesn’t matter how much Deril trains. He is no savior, just an ordinary Sunweaver, powerful but useless. But then Fireweavers kidnap his father, intending to use his Sunlord powers to free their mad god. Now Deril must infiltrate a secret Fireweaver organization and earn their trust. If he doesn’t, the mad god will kill all Sunweavers. Driven insane by centuries of imprisonment, he may even finish what he started…and destroy the sun entirely.

Rella is a Fireweaver living in secret. When her powers are discovered, she must flee to the frozen wasteland Fireweavers call home. There, she’ll come face-to-face with her family’s darkest secrets and with the plot to free the mad god. She has the chance to stop it, but first she’ll have to decide if she can support Sunweavers, the people who executed her mother. The people who would do the same to her without a thought.

Kadin is Lightless. He has no Sunweaving or Fireweaving talent. Sold into slavery by his abusive father, he struggles to survive under his cruel master. But when Kadin manifests strange abilities, he begins to suspect he isn’t as powerless as he once thought. He may even be the key to stopping the mad god’s return…but only if he first conquers the anger and darkness within him.