fantasy

I have finished the fourth draft of The Shadowed Land.

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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.

2017-414 Ryan W Mueller b02

Progress update.

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I’ve been rather quiet lately (both on here and in the writing department). Getting used to a new semester at school has been more challenging than I thought it would be, which has led to me getting a lot less writing done. After three weeks, I think I’m starting to settle into a rhythm. It also helps that I finally got my job to cut my hours like I told them to a month ago. (Don’t worry. I can afford the reduction in hours.)

With things settling down, I think I can get back into the groove with writing and editing. I’ve been fighting my depression lately, but today it feels like it’s lifting a bit. Let’s hope that remains the case.

Unfortunately, I did remove a lot of the tentative release dates from the site. I still hope to meet those deadlines, but I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, and I’d rather take a little longer if it means putting a better product out there. I’ll provide updates on release dates as I feel that projects are ready. I’ll still try to keep you updated more generally on what’s in the pipeline.

At this point, my life is a bit of a balancing act. At least it keeps me busy.

I may have had a sort of breakthrough today.

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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?

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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?

Tentative release schedule.

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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.

Getting back in the swing of things.

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The release of Empire of Chains was a very exciting day, but it also has hurt my writing productivity. I’m spending a lot of time on social media and a lot of time obsessing over my sales and pages read.

Today, though, I managed to do some writing again. It was just over 1000 words, but that’s a good start. I’m currently working on the second book in my God War series. At this point, it looks like it will probably be a trilogy.

I have been editing and outlining while I haven’t been writing, so these days haven’t been completely lost.

For anyone who’s looking for an action-packed modern take on the classic quest fantasy, I urge you to give Empire of Chains a chance. It’s only $2.99 to buy, and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

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.