Cover Reveal: Fireweaver

I’ve actually had this cover for a while. I’m not sure why I haven’t revealed it yet. This is for the second book in my Sunweaver series. Look for the first book, Sunweaver, to be released around the end of February.

I’m still working on the third and fourth books of World in Chains. At this point, I’m expecting the third book, The Gilded Empire, to be ready toward the end of June.

At the moment, a four-month release schedule seems like it might work best for me. That would mean three books a year, which seems reasonable to me.

Okay, enough rambling. Here’s the cover.

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The Shadowed Land is Published.

It’s official. I found the time to work out everything and got The Shadowed Land published tonight. It’s the second book in my World in Chains series, and it’s not one of those stories where you can jump in after the first book. You do need to read the first.

In celebration of the release of The Shadowed Land, Empire of Chains is only $0.99. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

Here’s the link to The Shadowed Land.

And Empire of Chains.

I have finished the proofread of The Shadowed Land

In more exciting news, I’ve finished the proofread of The Shadowed Land. I anticipate releasing the book on Halloween, which is also my birthday. For now, it will only be in e-book form. The print version should come at a later date.

I’m excited to get this out there. Though it has only been four months since I released Empire of Chains, it almost feels like an eternity. Now the second book will be out for those of you eagerly anticipating it.

I have finished the fourth draft of The Shadowed Land.

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.

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

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I may have had a sort of breakthrough today.

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.

Characters: sympathetic, interesting, or both?

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?