epic fantasy

I have finished the fourth draft of The Shadowed Land.

Posted on

With the completion of this draft, now I have only proofreading and formatting left before I can publish The Shadowed Land, the second book (out of four) in my World in Chains series.

Find Empire of Chains here.

To sign up for my mailing list, please go to the link on the top right side of this site.

As a reminder, here’s the cover for The Shadowed Land.

2017-414 Ryan W Mueller b02

I may have had a sort of breakthrough today.

Posted on

I had to work this evening. For those who don’t know, I work in the Shoe department of a retail chain while I’m going to school for Electrical Engineering. It was Friday night, so it was pretty slow. That gave me a lot of time to think, and I came to a realization. I don’t need to write huge epics. In fact, I would prefer to write shorter books loaded with action (not that my epics don’t have action, of course). In fact, my books would still have a lot of the more epic characteristics, just with smaller page counts. This may lead me to write more books in a series, but that isn’t a problem.

The big thing I want to do is write the kind of entertaining stories that keep the reader glued to the pages. While I enjoy longer and slower epic fantasy as a reader, I don’t think those are the books I’m trying to write. I’m sure anyone who’s read Empire of Chains can see that I’m not the kind of author who spends pages and pages on worldbuilding. That’s just not my strength. I prefer to focus on the characters and the plot and fill in relevant details about the world as I go.

My general rule: If I’m bored writing it, then the reader will be bored reading it, and I should either cut it or rework it.

Some of my more recent projects may already be trending in this direction. My World in Chains series has somewhat epic word counts, ranging from 120,000 to 170,000 words. My Sunweaver trilogy, on the other hand, has every book coming in between 104,000 and 105,000 words (I have no idea how I managed that). The first book of my God War trilogy comes in at about 114,000, and I’m anticipating the second book being somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000. (Side note: there was a sudden jump in my progress on Godchild because I adjusted my word count goal from 120,000 to 100,000.) Looking at these more recent word counts, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been trending toward shorter novels for a while now.

This style of fantasy may not appeal to everyone. I know there are a lot of fantasy readers who read for the immersion in a detailed world. I enjoy that kind of fantasy myself. But it is outside my strengths as a writer. That doesn’t mean I may not come back to it at some point. That’s one of the fun things about the self-publishing career path I’m taking. I can experiment without worrying too much about failing.

Thanks for reading my rambling. I promise my books are a bit more focused. If you haven’t read it already, I encourage you to take a chance on Empire of Chains. The second book, The Shadowed Land, should be out either late this month or early next month. The next two should follow at roughly three-month intervals after that. The first book of Sunweaver should be coming out late next month, with a similar three months between each book’s release.

If you haven’t signed up already, there’s a spot on the right side of my website where you can sign up for my mailing list. I will not send out constant mailings. Usually, I send out a newsletter only when I have a new release or have a special sale going on.

Cover Reveal: The Shadowed Land

Posted on

I now have a cover for the second book in my World of Chains series. It’s another great cover from the talented designers of Deranged Doctor Design.

As for the book itself, I’m still anticipating a release date toward the end of September.

Without further ado, here’s the cover:

2017-414 Ryan W Mueller b02

Characters: sympathetic, interesting, or both?

Posted on

This post is partially inspired by John Gwynne’s epic fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen. I’ve read three books of the series, and overall I have enjoyed them quite a bit. If I had to make comparisons for the series, I’d say it’s what you would get if you crossed the Belgariad with Game of Thrones. Somehow, that mix works. I recommend it for those of you who want to see a modern update on a more classic type of fantasy.

But there’s one aspect that trips me up a bit as I’m reading it. There is a significant amount of point-of-view time given to characters that quite simply are not sympathetic at all. Some of them are still interesting characters, but I don’t care what happens to them (other than perhaps rooting for them to die). This results in an uneven reading experience for me, and when I’m reading these chapters, I simply want to get back to the characters I like.

This brings me to a larger question. What are readers looking for? Would people rather read about sympathetic characters or unsympathetic characters who are still interesting? As a reader myself, I don’t mind occasional time spent in the head of an interesting but unsympathetic character. But then there are books that take this to an extreme. An example of this, for me, would be The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker. The characters are all complex and interesting people, but I couldn’t stand reading about them because I honestly wouldn’t have cared if they all died.

On the other hand, you can give me a flat character who’s sympathetic, and while I might not love the story I’m reading, I’ll still root for them. Maybe that makes me a heretic. After all, it seems these days that the trend is to write about antiheroes. For me, antiheroes are good as a spice. Maybe you have one or two point-of-view characters who fit that description. In Gwynne’s series, it still generally works because you don’t spend nearly as much time with the unsympathetic characters. A lot of that time is meant to reveal what the antagonists are up to, which can be difficult to establish when you’re using third-person-limited point of view.

This same issue has been my biggest struggle with some of the bigger fantasy series out there (A Song of Ice and Fire, Malazan, The First Law trilogy, The Broken Empire, etc.). I don’t hate the books by any means. I see what others like in them. But when I read them, I don’t enjoy them nearly as much as something by Brandon Sanderson or Jim Butcher, authors whose characters may not be as complex. But I like them.

In my own writing, I have to be careful to strike a balance between what I enjoy as a reader and writer and what other readers will enjoy. Most of the time, it isn’t too hard. I know my audience is more Brandon Sanderson readers than George RR Martin readers. My books have a fair amount of violence in them, but they wouldn’t be considered Grimdark by any stretch of the imagination.

Modern fantasy has influenced me in some ways, however. I will admit that I kill my fair share of characters (perhaps some GRRM influence there). But I still write in a world where there’s at least a fundamental theme of hope, where heroes screw up but still try to do the right thing. And, yes, I do sprinkle in a few antiheroes (and anti-villains–they’re so much fun to write).

So I’d say I strike a balance on this spectrum. I want my characters to be both interesting and sympathetic. Of the two, I’d say I lean more toward sympathetic, but I don’t want to write boring characters either. It can be a delicate balance, and to make my characters interesting, I make sure that they make mistakes. A perfect hero is a boring hero. Flaws are what make us (and characters) human. And yet I believe a hero can be flawed without being a terrible person.

Now I fear I’m rambling on. What are your thoughts on this question?

Updates: World in Chains Book 2, The God War trilogy, The Broken Sky.

Posted on

If you’ve visited my website recently, you’ve probably noticed that I put up a little widget on the side that shows my writing progress. I got the idea from Brandon Sanderson’s site. His looks a lot nicer than mine, but mine still gets out the information it needs.

I’m currently about a third of the way through the first draft of the second book in my God War trilogy. I’m expecting a March or April release for the first book in the trilogy. The other two should follow within the six months after that.

I’m also hard at work on revisions of The Shadowed Land, the sequel to Empire of Chains. I’m currently 37% of the the way through the manuscript on this current editing pass. I’m not sure how many there will be, but it’s looking better and better, and I’m excited to get it out there. I’m still on track for a September release.

Then, of course, there’s my Sunweaver trilogy. The first book is mostly edited, so it should be pretty easy to get that out there in either October or November, with the other two books following over a six-month period.

I’ve also been working a little bit on what may be my next series. The series and the first book are both titled The Broken Sky. It’s a fantasy series set in an empire of floating islands with a hint of steampunk and perhaps a little science fiction as well (which I often like to include in my fantasy novels to begin with). I’ll have more details on that one later. I wouldn’t expect the first book until this time next year at the earliest.

The last few days haven’t been the most productive for me. My laptop gave up the ghost after three and a half years of devoted service. I had to go out and buy a new one today. I wish I could say my writing career can pay for a new laptop, but I’m not at that point yet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pleased with the results so far for Empire of Chains. But I still have a long way to go before I’m making more than trivial money.

For me, that’s something I obviously want, but I’m also happy to know that my story is out there and people are enjoying it.

Thanks for reading. I hope to get more regular about updating this blog.

And if you’ve enjoyed Empire of Chains, it really does help out if you take just a minute or two to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Even if you didn’t like it, it’s always helpful for me to know where I could improve.

 

Current results of $0.99 experiment.

Posted on Updated on

So far, I’d say dropping the price of Empire of Chains to $0.99 for the weekend has been a success. Am I getting tons of sales? No. But I have sold more books in the last four days than I have in any other four-day span. I’ve also been doing fairly well in Kindle Unlimited. So far KU has been much better for me and more consistent than actual sales.

I figure that’s to be expected when you’re just starting out. People are more likely to give your book a chance when it’s free or $0.99. I’m hoping that I can start getting more good reviews. As a reader, I often ignore books that don’t have many reviews, so I’m thrilled that at least a few people have tried out Empire of Chains despite its lack of reviews.

Before publishing, I never understood just how hard it is to get reviews. When I look at my KU pages read, it becomes clear that a decent number of people have read the book. Very few of them have left reviews, however. It’s a bit frustrating, but I understand that not all readers want to leave reviews.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results so far for Empire of Chains. I’m also working hard on getting The Shadowed Land ready for publication. I’m currently on the third draft. I’m not sure how many drafts it will ultimately have, but I expect it to be ready by mid to late September. I have to fight the urge to be impatient with it. I know that authors often see a surge in purchases when additional books in a series come out.

As it is, I will have a pretty fast and demanding release schedule. I’m pretty sure I can hold to it because I’ve written all the books I plan to release over the next nine months. It’s a matter of revising those books and turning them into the best product possible.

Thankfully, I tend to enjoy editing. I gain a lot of pleasure from taking the potential of the first draft and turning it into a story readers will enjoy by the time I’m done. It can be difficult at times, but it’s worth it in the end.

If you haven’t checked out Empire of Chains yet, please do give it a chance. There are only a few days left of the $0.99 deal.¬†Empire of Chains

Tentative release schedule.

Posted on Updated on

With the release of Empire of Chains in the books now for two weeks, it’s time for me to address when I’m going to get more books out. I have drafted two entire series, so at this point, it’s a matter of beta reader feedback, editing, and cover art before I can release the rest of these books.

Ideally, I’d like to release one book every three months or so. At times, I may go faster or slower than that. It depends on a number of factors.

Tentative release dates:

WORLD IN CHAINS

Empire of Chains (Book 1): June 30th, 2017. You can get it here: Empire of Chains

The Shadowed Land (Book 2): September 2017

The Gilded Empire (Book 3): December 2017

The Winds of Time (Book 4): March 2018

SUNWEAVER

Sunweaver (Book 1): October 2017

Fireweaver (Book 2): January 2018

Sunlord (Book 3): April 2018

THE GOD WAR

Watersong (Book 1): Spring/Summer 2018

Godchild (Book 2): Summer/Fall 2018

Endlord (Book 3): Fall/Winter 2018

Please note that Godchild and Endlord have not yet been written. Release dates for The God War are all subject to change. Some of it depends on the editing and revision process. Some of it depends on the wait for cover art. I usually send out a request for cover art while I’m drafting the final book in a series.

I will also post a page on my website with release dates.