Month: June 2017

Empire of Chains is officially released!

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Today marks the release of Empire of Chains. This is a day I’ve been looking forward to, and dreading, for a long time. This book has been with me in many forms since I was 15 years old (I’m now 27, for the record). When I first wrote this book (and series), it was not very good, and that’s a nice way of putting it.

But in the 12 years since, I have grown as a writer. I’ve written other stories, but this one has always held a special place in my heart. A lot of the initial setting details and the main characters have remained mostly the same, but pretty much everything else in the series is much different from what I originally wrote.

And much better, I should add.

Originally, I wrote a cliche-riddled story about heroes going on a quest to defeat a dark lord. Since then, that story has evolved. There’s still a quest, but it’s not as much of a focus. There’s still a dark lord figure, but he’s not really a dark lord. In fact, from his perspective, he’s a hero. He does terrible things, but they’re all in the name of creating a better future.

You’re probably wondering why you should read this. First and foremost, it’s classic fantasy updated for modern audiences. As a reader, I enjoy the feel of series like The Wheel of Time and authors like Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson, especially, takes a lot of the common fantasy tropes and puts his own spin on them. That’s what I like to do in my books as well. I want to write the kind of stories that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place, but I also want to make them feel new and fresh. I like stories with a lot of action and magic, and with characters who I can root for. If you’re looking for Grimdark, I’m probably not the author for you. I do include some dark elements in my work, and there is a fair amount of death in my stories, but I’d say I write more PG-13 fantasy.

There’s some mild language, fade-to-black sex scenes, and a fair amount of violence. But I think anyone from about age 12 and up can read my books (possibly even younger depending on the maturity and reading level of the child in question).

This is deliberate on my part because I also write young adult and middle grade fantasy. I don’t currently have any in the works, but I do love writing for those age groups, and I wouldn’t want my younger readers to read my other books and find they’re not appropriate for their age group.

In this regard, I’d say my target audience is a lot like Brandon Sanderson’s in terms of age and interests. I’m not claiming to be Brandon Sanderson. Id love to be held in the same regard someday, but right now, I’m just another self-published writer trying to find his way in a crowded field.

I hope you’ll take the chance on my series, and if you enjoy it, please do leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Also tell your friends and family. Word of mouth is the self-published author’s best friend, whether that’s telling someone in person or leaving reviews online.

Series Review: The Dragon Brigade by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes

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I recently finished the final book in this trilogy, and it was an enjoyable ride. I’ve read Weis’s work before. I enjoyed the original Dragonlance trilogy, though it is pretty cliched stuff by today’s standards. Her Death Gate Cycle (also with Tracy Hickman) was one of those series that I really grew to love by the end. It was similar to Dragonlance in some ways, but it showed more depth and an interesting world (or rather, multiple worlds).

This series has a very different feel. It’s a world of magic and airships and dragons. Most notably, it does not have the generic Tolkienesque/D&D races that I’ve come to expect from Weis. That, for me, was a major bonus. I don’t hate these races by any means, but I rarely see them done in a way that feels fresh.

I’ve always felt the biggest strength of Weis and her various partners (from what I’ve read) is creating characters that are fun to read about. This series is no exception. I loved the dynamics between friends Stefano and Rodrigo. The priest, Father Jacob, was also a lot of fun to read about.

Description of the first book (from Goodreads):

“The known world floats upon the Breath of God, a thick gas similar to Earth’s oceans, with land masses accessible by airship. The largest of these land masses are ruled by the rival empires of Freya and Rosia. Magic is intrinsic to the functioning of these societies, and is even incorporated into their technological devices. But now a crucial scientific discovery has occurred that could destroy the balance of power-and change the empires forever.”

I’m personally not a fan of this description. It’s a bunch of worldbuilding without giving us much about plot or character. The world is fun, but there’s a lot more to the series than that.

My reviews of each book:

BOOK 1:

“Overall, this was a very enjoyable mixture of Steampunk and High Fantasy. The start was a bit slow, but there was a lot of great action in the last two thirds of the book. The writing is nothing special, but that didn’t bother me. I found myself connecting with the characters. It’s nice to see authors who still like their heroes on the heroic side.

Weis has worked both alone and with co-authors during her career. I haven’t read all her stuff, but I’d say this is probably the best first book in a series I’ve read by her. The Death Gate Cycle comes in second while Dragonlance is a distant third.

This one did recycle some ideas from the Death Gate cycle, but that didn’t bother me. This one is definitely more modern in feel. I also like that it’s a Gunpowder fantasy. It’s kind of nice to see a mixture of guns and dragons (and airships).

Overall, I recommend this book for readers who are looking for something that will hit the same spot as Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series and Jim Butcher’s Cinder Spires. While it’s not as good as either of those series, I enjoyed it.”

Rating: 8/10

BOOK 2

“This was an enjoyable book, probably on par with the first in the series. The characters are fun, the world is interesting, and there’s some good action. These books don’t quite make it into my list of favorites, but I still enjoy them quite a bit.”

Rating: 8/10

BOOK 3

“I really liked this conclusion to the Dragon Brigade trilogy. The final battle was very epic, and I enjoyed spending time with these characters throughout the trilogy. This series is loaded with action, airships, floating islands, and fun characters. It’s a testament to the fact that Weis can write good stories outside of her Dragonlance work.”

Rating: 9/10

Overall, I’d give the series an 8.5. It’s nothing complex, but it was fun to read, and a lot of times, that’s all I’m looking for.

SPFBO Book Review: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

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This is my first review of a fellow Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off participant. I actually picked this book up before it was entered into the competition, but I just finally got around to reading it. I’m glad I did.

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Here’s the description:

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…

Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…

The first book in The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga

Here’s my review:

This was a very good beginning to a series and author I’ll be watching closely. It’s classic fantasy done very well. Fans of The Wheel of Time will find a lot to like here. It isn’t a copy by any means, but it gives the same vibe.

The best thing about this book is the sense of mystery throughout. You get the feeling that there is always something more beneath the surface of every interaction, every place in the world, every revelation. That sense of mystery propelled me through the book.

The characters are mix of the likeable (Keilan, Nel and Xin), the conflicted (Senacus), and the mysterious (Jan and Alyanna). This mixture in the characters really worked for me because it provided a lot of variety and had me interested in every point of view.

I’m not sure what to expect from the magic of this world yet. A lot of it still remains a mystery, but that’s okay. There are definitely a lot of competing factions, both magical and non-magical, that make things interesting. You have immortal sorcerers, demons, magical assassins, paladins that hunt sorcerers. It has a lot of the great ingredients that make me love a fantasy book.

It also had some good action scenes. There weren’t a lot of them, but they were good when they did happen. I won’t quite put them up there with my favorite action scenes, though. I also thought at times that Hutson got a bit too descriptive, but that’s about my only major complaint with this one.

Rating: 9/10

Empire of Chains Cover Reveal

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Thanks to the great designers of Deranged Doctor Design, I now have a beautiful book cover I can show to the world. Empire of Chains will be coming out June 30th. You can pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon, and I’ll work on getting the print version up and running in the near future.

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Sunweaver Book 3 is finished.

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I have now completed the first draft of my entire Sunweaver series. That’s on top of having my entire World in Chains series written. That means that my readers can expect both series over the course of the next year, once I edit and get cover art.

I had an 8,000 word sprint today to finish Sunlord, the third book in the trilogy. It had one of my favorite action sequences yet to conclude the book, and the book is pretty action-packed throughout. I’m excited to get to work on editing it, though that will likely wait awhile because I still have to edit the last three books of World in Chains.

I will probably take a short break from writing. I usually do that after finishing a book to give me just a little time for the creative juices to recharge. I’m not sure which project will be the next one. I may do a few trial runs with my various ideas and see which one grabs me the most.

The God War is one of my series, and I have written the first draft of the first book. I’m anticipating it being three books long, just like Sunweaver, so that may be where I go next. But I also have another series I’ve started that I’m really excited about. It’s so tough to make these decisions sometimes.

An Update: Sunweaver Book 3, World in Chains edits, and some random thoughts on writing huge epics.

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I’m 71,000 words into the final book of my Sunweaver trilogy. Things are really shaping up nicely as I approach the end. I expect the book to be somewhere between 100,000 words and 110,000 words, making it roughly the same length as the first two in the series.

I’m also busy editing Book 2 of World in Chains. I hope I can get that one in good enough shape to have it out toward the end of the summer or in the early fall. I’ve written the entire series, which is what I plan to do for all my series at the moment.

I may come to a point where I have a series that’s too long for that method to work. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have Wheel of Time style epics swimming around. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing them, and when I do, they might be shorter series to begin with. I don’t get quite as epic in my word count as some epic fantasy authors. The longest of any of my books is the first draft of World in Chains book 4, which stands at about 170,000 words. That’s nothing compared to one of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books.

Within the next week, I should begin the cover art process for Empire of Chains. Hopefully that all goes smoothly, and I have the cover ready by the end of the month. In the meantime, I will likely run through the book a couple more times to check for any typos that have eluded me this long.

Why I stopped outlining.

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In the plotter vs. “pantser” (one who writes by the seat of their pants) debate, I used to be firmly on the plotter side. I’m generally a structured person, or at least more structured than a lot of creative types. I’m an Electrical Engineering student in addition to being a writer, so I use a lot of my left brain.

Because of that, I always thought I should outline my books. At times, this has worked for me, but I’ve discovered more and more that I get my best ideas as I’m in the flow of the story. Outlining is an entirely different process. I don’t quite feel the story the same way, and my ideas are less inventive.

This becomes especially clear when I write series. The farther I get into writing a series, the more likely I am to deviate from my original outline. I got to the point where I was doing this so much that I decided I should just throw out the outline altogether.

However, that might be too extreme of a response. I don’t quite make up everything as I go. I form a mental outline. I know where I want to get, but if I discover something more interesting along the way, I’m perfectly happy to alter my mental plans.

This can lead to some inconsistencies between books, and that’s part of the reason I’ve decided that I will generally write an entire series before publishing any of it. That way, if I introduce something important in book 3 or 4, I can go back and throw in some hints toward it in book 1. A lot of planners are able to do this kind of thing because they outline the entire series in advance. I’ve tried, and it simply doesn’t work like that for me.

When I was considering trade publishing, I always had issues with throwing away the outline because trade publishing tends to work differently. You rarely write the entire series before publishing any of it. I know Michael J. Sullivan (author of the very good Riyria Revelations, Riyria Chronicles, and Legends of the First Empire series) does this. But he did start out self-publishing.

Now that I’ve decided to go with self-publishing, I can write my series however I want, and writing them this way helps me to give you a plot with a lot more interesting twists and turns.

That’s not to say I throw away the outline completely. I’ve been known to outline a few chapters ahead of where I am. That can help me write more quickly during my writing sessions because I’m not figuring out what’s going to happen next. More often, my mental outline is good enough to carry me through, and I’m able to figure out the details as I write.

The key thing as a writer is finding a process that works for you. This process works for me right now. In the future, I may decide to go back to outlining. I don’t think you should ever get stuck thinking there’s only one way to write that works for you. Writing is a continual process of experimentation, and every story is going to have different needs.