Progress update.

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.

Updates on the tentative release schedule.

This may not be the most exciting post I’ve ever written. In fact, it may be a bit disappointing. I’ve determined that I don’t think I’ll be able to keep the release schedule I previously had published here. Or at least I don’t think I can do it without sacrificing too much in other areas of life.

I still intend to release a book at intervals of roughly three months. In the world of self-publishing, a lot of authors are producing six, seven, eight books a year. Someday, I may get to the point that I can do that. For now, though, I have too many other commitments, and I don’t want to rush and put an inferior product out there. Quantity is important, but it doesn’t matter how many books you publish a year. If they aren’t any good, people won’t read them.

This decision has led to some alterations on my Release Schedule page. The Shadowed Land is still slated for release either late this month or early next month. The next book I’ll release will be Sunweaver, the first book of a new trilogy. Currently, I have this slated for December, but I may be able to get it out sooner because I’ve done a lot of editing on it already. If this happens, I can probably move up the overall release schedule a bit.

The key for me is not pushing myself too hard. When I do that, I tend to go through periods of major burnout, and that’s a losing situation for everyone. I hope nobody will be too disappointed by this news. But it’s a necessary change for me as a person and a writer. The stories you get will be much better if I take a little more time on them.

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.

Finding balance as a writer.

This post is kind of a Part 2 (yesterday’s post was Part 1). I’ve been thinking more and more on what I want out of life and out of my writing career in particular. Today, I was eliminated from the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, which leads me to more thinking. Any hopes of a near-future writing career were dependent on success in the competition. That obviously didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean I should give up.

But I think it may also be a sign that I need to find balance in my life again. I’ve put a lot into writing, to the point that it has almost become an obsession. That’s the surest way to burn out. I need to dial things back a bit and approach writing from the standpoint of having fun again. All this worrying about the success of my writing career has completely killed my writing productivity, oddly enough.

I also think this could help me do better. The more fun I have writing, the more fun my readers will have reading, and that’s the most important thing to me.

Am I pushing myself too hard?

Just less than two months ago, I published Empire of Chains, my first published novel (though not the first I’ve written). Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. On the good days, I love what I’m doing. On the bad days, I get demoralized. This happens most often whenever a bad review trickles in. I worry that people will see that review and no one will buy the book.

At the same time, I have a set of deadlines I want to meet to get more books out there. As it is, I’ll go from one published book to seven within a year. All of these books are written, so they only need to go through editing, and I don’t anticipate having too many issues meeting my various deadlines.

Where¬† I run into trouble is producing new material. I’m halfway through the second book of another trilogy right now, and I’d like to have the entire thing written by March, when I’m getting cover art done for the series. But lately my depression has been hitting me hard, and I’ve barely been making any progress. Part of this is my normal depression. Part of it might also be worry about my overall writing career. I’m putting so much pressure on myself in writing my books, and my perfectionism is rearing its ugly head. I keep thinking I’m just not good enough, and that paralyzes me as a writer.

I need to reclaim the sense of fun I used to feel when writing, but I’m not sure how to do that. Choosing this as a potential career has not had the effect I thought it would, and that leads me to think that maybe I need to back up a bit with my expectations.

I need to have fun writing. I need to publish my books because I’ll be happy if just a few readers really enjoy them. I’m currently in school for electrical engineering, and that’s a worthwhile career that I should also find interesting. There’s no reason I have to go all-or-nothing on the writing thing.

My goal is not to slow down in my writing. It’s to take some of the pressure off myself and just enjoy the writing process again.

Depression and writing

Like many writers, I have my struggles with depression and anxiety. In my case, it’s a product of my bipolar disorder. Most of the time, I get along just fine. Life’s a little bit harder for me, but I can manage. Then I have periods like the last three weeks or so. I’ve been depressed most of August, and that has destroyed my writing productivity.

This shouldn’t affect my release dates for anything, but I need to turn things around before I start having trouble meeting my deadlines. It’s not always so easy to figure out how to do this, though. The general advice is to push through and write, but that can be hard when you’re in the grip of crippling depression and self-doubt. Usually, my depressive periods don’t last that long, and I can make up lost ground when my mood swings back the other way.

Some of my recent struggles might also come from trouble with one particular project. Maybe it would be in my best interest to write something else right now and do a little more planning to figure out where the second book of my God War trilogy is going next.

At the same time, though, I don’t want to spread myself too thin. I don’t want to end up chasing shiny new ideas instead of gritting my teeth and pushing through the tough parts.

If nothing else, maybe writing this blog post–that is, writing anything–will get me back in the swing of things.

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?

Current results of $0.99 experiment.

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

Getting back in the swing of things.

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!

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.