[Subscribers received this post as a newsletter on January 16, 2023.]
Hope you had a great holiday season. I'm a bit late with the fourth quarter newsletter but launched some great new stuff for the new year.
I hope you’ve had a chance to explore the first Earthpillar Online interactive project, a click-through of the rooms of Thorendor Castle, where the Order of Candlestone resides during Lords of Deception.
Similar to a hypertext novel or a choose-your-own-adventure, you explore the castle as one of Master Arasemis’s students by viewing and reading about wall paintings (Earthpillar artwork), reading excerpts from in-world books, and searching for hidden keys and other secrets, without stumbling into significant spoilers if you haven't read the novels yet.
Last year’s launch of the first floor of the castle included 13 rooms, nearly 50 images, and several hidden keys and other objects.
The new second floor has 14 rooms, 180 images, and even more hidden materials! And nearly every image has description and lore, so Thorendor Castle has already become a book-length project.
Aside from that, you can also read more than two dozen excerpts of in-world books and correspondence, view candle alchemy schematics, and much more.
The second floor rooms include the students’ quarters, Master Arasemis’s private quarters, treasury vault, shrine, and a workshop for the mechanism powering the training hall above. If you’ve read Lords of Deception, this last bit will make sense. If you haven’t, the floor of the training hall is designed to move up and down to create various terrain using a mechanical system under each individual floor tile.
I also received great feedback on the project from readers, including new Earthpillar subscribers (welcome!), as well as from two established authors.
"That...was amazing. Both for the creative aspect, and the shear artistic value."
— Raymond St. Elmo, author extraordinaire
"I love this so much! It reminds me of playing those interactive text-based fiction games."
— Delilah Waan, author of the Resonance Crystal Legacy series
New AI Artwork
I continue to use the Midjourney AI tool for Earthpillar concept art and for Thorendor Castle. The new V4 version is even better, so I’ve replaced some images from the Thorendor Castle first floor.
I’ve also experimented with the tool a lot more, to see what it can do. The results still need manual editing and paintovers (I added the black fox to the below mountain, for example). But the results have been great overall, and the scale of the Earthpillar Online project wouldn't be possible without it.
Price Drop Still Active
The price drop for Lords of Deception and The Depths of Redemption is still active! The e-book versions remain at 99 cents to celebrate 3 years since LOD was published.
That's all for now. If you're enjoying Earthpillar, particularly the free content like Thorendor Castle, please share with a friend. Word-of-mouth sharing is the best compliment and critical for the success of indie authors and creatives.
Thanks for reading!
[Subscribers received this post as a newsletter on October 20, 2022.]
Hope you had a great summer. I tend to write more as it gets colder outside, so I’m looking forward to a productive autumn.
Earthpillar Online has officially launched on the website! The first project is a click-through of the rooms of Thorendor Castle, where the Order of Candlestone resides during Lords of Deception. Similar to a hypertext novel or a choose-your-own-adventure, you explore the castle as one of Master Arasemis’s students.
You can examine wall paintings and other objects, read excerpts from in-world books, and search for hidden secrets. This interactive map is best experienced using a laptop, as you will click your way around the map to navigate the rooms.
If you've read the novels and half-tales, you’ll find a wealth of background material on characters, places, and events that will be familiar. This lets you explore the depth of the Earthpillar world by browsing through tons of material that didn’t make it into the novels.
If you haven’t read the books yet, Earthpillar Online can give you a taste of what the stories are like without revealing significant spoilers.
Only the first floor of Thorendor Castle is currently available. I’ll send out updates when new floors are complete. I hope you enjoy wandering around the castle as much as I enjoyed building it.
Lords of Deception is the best place to start your dive into the Earthpillar world. Each chapter reads from the perspective of one of many characters across multiple kingdoms and groups, from emperors to assassins.
New AI Artwork
In prior newsletters I talked about my efforts earlier this year to improve my drawing and painting. I do my own cartography for the novels, but I’ve also worked with artists for other Earthpillar visuals. But this summer I tried several artificial intelligence programs for digital paintings, eventually settling on Midjourney and refined with Procreate and other tools.
Midjourney is incredible. It has supercharged my Earthpillar work and really brought my ideas to life in ways that would have been impossible before. I now have hundreds of paintings I can pair with my books and Earthpillar Online, as you’ll see when you explore Thorendor.
If you follow me on DeviantArt, Reddit, or Twitter, you’ll see me share more of my art there as well.
[Subscribers received this post as a newsletter on July 3, 2022.]
Hope your summer is swell. I tend to write less this time of year, but have a few things going…
I have a ton of material that I’m working to add to the website. It’s a lot of extras and background and whatnot. First up will be an immersive map of Thorendor Castle, where the Order of the Candlestone resides during Lords of Deception.
As you can see in this draft schematic, the maps will be scaled, overhead views of each floor of the castle:
Remember how Master Arasemis made his students read all those books and conduct alchemy experiments? You’ll be able to click through the rooms of Thorendor as if you’re one of his students, kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure.
This will include exploring items in the laboratory or reading excerpts from ancient books in the library, like the tome shown here. I have painted 60 of these books (!), which will be paired with existing text from my unpublished Earthpillar Encyclopedia.
My next step will be to convert the map schematics into finished maps. I have a lot of text and images ready to go, and envision adding more content over time. If you enjoyed Lords of Deception, this should be a fun way to dig deeper into the treasures, mysteries, and histories tucked away in Thorendor.
More Flash Fiction
I’ve continued writing some non-Earthpillar flash fiction. As I noted in the last newsletter, this is just creative practice, but I might use some elements in future Earthpillar stories.
You can find the latest additions on the website here [deleted] New stories include 1) an unsettling discovery on Mars, 2) a miner's experience in a dark, toxic-looking forest of metals populated by automaton birds, and 3) a gloomy tale of a woman consumed by her book collection.
I forgot the trivia in the last three newsletters, so here’s a quadruple to make up for it:
That's all for now, thanks for reading!
[Subscribers received this post as a newsletter on April 8, 2022.]
Spring has arrived! Hope you’ve been able to get out and enjoy it.
As with the last newsletter on board games and claymation, my distractions have continued with flash fiction and painting...
Something new I’ve been working on is flash fiction, or what some may even call micro fiction. I get much of my inspiration from reading history and old PS1 games I used to play (like the Final Fantasy series). But I also get a lot of inspiration from others’ artwork posted at DeviantArt, particularly for places and characters. I post my flash fic in the comments of the art (and on Reddit and Twitter).
None of this flash fiction is part of the Earthpillar world, and some of it veers into other genres like science fiction, steampunk, and grimdark. But it’s been a fun way for me to keep writing a bit while taking a break before editing my novels. If these tiny stories interest you, they are listed on the Earthpillar website here [deprecated].
Since January I’ve also been working on drawing and painting. Like a lot of people, I did a ton of drawing as a kid but never developed it with good training. I already do my own cartography for Earthpillar, but at some point I’d like to get good enough to illustrate some epic landscapes and objects for my books. So I’ve been practicing using YouTube tutorials.
So far I've been experimenting with styles like oil impressionism and photorealism, trying different types of brushes and effects. Pretty amateur stuff but I'm learning a lot that I plan to apply to Earthpillar.
You can follow my progress on my DeviantArt page here.
That's all for now, thanks for reading!
[Subscribers received this post on December 30, 2021.]
Where did 2021 go?! My apologies for not sending out a new newsletter this year. After drafting a sequel to Lords of Deception (LOD) during COVID last year, I drafted a sequel to that sequel this year. So now LOD2 and LOD3 are in the pipeline! But I also took time off for other projects.
Here's what I've been up to, and what is coming in 2022. And don't miss the 50% off discount code below!
LOD2 and LOD3
Last October I gave an update on LOD2. I finished that draft by the end of the year and just kept going, rolling into LOD3. As of yesterday, both drafts are done! I think they will be solid sequels to LOD, but next steps are self-editing, then beta readers, then professional editing. So earliest publication for LOD2 is probably late 2022. Will keep you posted.
Oh, you want to know something about these books, eh? LOD2 picks up right where LOD left off, and LOD3 does the same. The books track the rise of Candlestone, the collapse of Donovan, and the Rugen invasion. Beyond that, I don't want to talk too much to avoid spoilers, especially if you've not read LOD1 yet (and why haven't you?!).
I plan to release the LOD2 title and cover during spring/summer next year.
Other Projects: Board Games
As I mentioned, I worked on other stuff to give me a break from writing two books. This included making board games and claymation movies with my kids. Board games have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance during the depths of the pandemic.
One game was a cross between two of our favorite games, Risk and Catan. This let us mix the military and economic decision-making that these games are individually known for. We added two continents (Antarctica and Pacific Islands) and made our own resource cards (Catan's, plus fish and gold).
Another game was an RPG using a grid map with different terrain (forest, cave, canyon, lake, volcano, etc.) and player/enemy pieces made of baked modeling clay. These "slimes" are a throwback to the Dragon Warrior Nintendo game from the late 1980s.
Designing physical games was fun. It also got me thinking more about a LOD board game, using the map of Pemonia as the board. It's always been in the back of my mind, so I took notes on game mechanics that I might use later for a Kickstarter or something.
Other Projects: NFTs
Unless you've been living under a rock (possible during COVID), you've probably heard about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as part of the surging interest in the cryptoeconomy. I spent some time researching blockchain technology and experimenting with making art NFTs, with an eye toward potentially building some of the Earthpillar world in this space. Nothing solid yet, but just developing some ideas.
As some of you may have noticed, I dropped the ball on releasing two short stories that I intended to publish by late 2020: Arcodum and The Feuding Tower. You can read a bit about them on the Half-Tales page of the Earthpillar website.
They are ready and waiting, but, like many things, COVID derailed them and I never followed up to push them out the door. So I will publish those in 2022, and you'll hear about it first in this newsletter.
New Year's Sale
Use discount code “[for Subscribers only]” at Gumroad to receive 50% off all e-books and autographed paperbacks and hardbacks.
Only subscribers like you receive these discounts. Thank you for your interest in my Earthpillar world.
Here's to a great 2022! Hopefully things continue to improve globally. In addition to releasing the two short stories, I aim to get back into providing regular (at least quarterly) updates on what is new in Earthpillar.
Thanks for reading!
Another belated post that Earthpillar subscribers received in October.
I've been fixated on my next novel, the direct sequel to Lords of Deception. Let's start calling it LOD2, since I haven't revealed the title. I've drafted more than 30 chapters since mid-August, so probably one-third completed. Really excited about it!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOD!
LOD1 was published on 12 October last year. My debut is officially 1 year old! The coronavirus cancelled some book launch events and book festivals I had lined up this year, so LOD has gotten a slower start than I'd hoped.
But the reviews have been great so I don't mind the gradual growth of readership as long as people are enjoying it. If you are, please tell a friend!
Icing on the cake: LOD just got a great review from Lindsey Roberts, book blogger at A Rambling Reviewer, who called it "a gripping and suspenseful read."
Lindsey said it took her some time to get into the book due to its complexity and the idea that you're dropped into it without a full understanding of what's going on. "However, once I’d figured out who was who, I was drawn in," she said.
Lindsey described LOD as an "engaging and intricate novel, with multiple threads weaving together to form complex relationships and intertwining plot-lines."
You can read Lindsey's full review here.
PANTSERS & PLANNERS
Ever wonder how writers write? If you're a writer yourself, you know everyone has their own process. But readers may find it interesting that writers can be lumped into two camps: pantsers and planners.
A pantser sits down with a blank page and just starts writing. They wing it, often without having more than a vague idea of the direction they're going. These writers sometimes view themselves as purists, unencumbered and free.
A planner sits down with a blank page too, but they have a plan written down first. It may be a basic outline or an extensive story arc, or even chapter summaries. They also often do lots of research first, including for fiction.
I'm solidly, maybe obsessively, a planner. I spent several months getting ready for LOD2 by re-reading LOD1 to get familiar with all the details again, taking lots of notes, and structuring chapter flow based on scene ideas I've been sketching out for the past few years.
And because that wasn't enough, a basically wrote an encyclopedia of the Earthpillar world to get it straight, as described in a prior newsletter, just for writing LOD2.
Since my novels are detailed and complex, I want to be sure everything in the Earthpillar world stays consistent from novel to novel. But my plan is more of a scaffold, and I often change the direction as I write just like a pantser would.
So I'm a detailed but flexible planner. And that's how my books come together!
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A belated post today. This one originally went out to Earthpillar subscribers back in July. Earlier this year I entered two contests, and here are the results!
Back in during the spring, when Covid-19 was just starting to bloom, Lords of Deception was judged in the Benjamin Franklin Awards hosted by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), of which I’m a member.
I didn’t win, but received good reviews and ratings from the judges in the categories I entered, Best New Voice and Science Fiction/Fantasy:
Next up, the covers for my three novels were judged in an April cover contest hosted monthly by book designer Joel Friedlander to provide constructive criticism to indies.
Guest judge and cover designer Tanja Prokop described my covers unique, intriguing, and praised the typography.
Here’s the link to the full results of the contest, where you can also learn a bit about the design inspiration of each cover.
Can you guess which one involves a Congolese wedding blessing mask, one of the best preserved monasteries in Europe (Maulbronn), or a medieval Dutch shield boss?
I didn’t win, but still fun.
And finally, I'm going to start including some trivia and behind-the-scenes factoids from the Earthpillar world in these posts. Here's the first one!
The aerina arcanae that you read about in the novels, which includes Gallerlander tree running and Candlestone fighting techniques, were partially inspired by a couple movies: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Musketeer, choreographed by martial arts experts Yuen Woo-ping and Xiong Xin-Xin, respectively.
These movies are marked by sword fights high in a bamboo forest, on rolling barrels, and running across the side of a tower while grasping ropes. All of these techniques are done well enough to suspend disbelief.
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I've used the past 12 weeks or so reading too much pandemic news and procrastinating writing my next novel. But I haven't been unproductive. I wrote a 300-page Earthpillar Encyclopedia to capture my world-building covering my 3 novels and several short stories. So what’s in it?
Full profiles for 85 characters, along with pictures of actors that I imagine them to be like (character casting!). Profiles for 30 distinct cultures. An arcanae compendium (shroud eggs, candle alchemy, etc). A master timeline. Dozens of maps and many charts, notes, and lists. And a ton of future story seeds organized from a decade of notes.
Here are some examples: an inset from a map showing the colonial progression across Pemonia, and a language map that I use to help create distinct naming conventions.
In short, I really cleaned my writing house and got things in order. This also puts me one step closer to writing the direct sequel to Lords of Deception. First, I'll re-read it because it's been about 5 years since I wrote the first draft, and I want to make sure I retain consistency in every detail.
I’m very excited to announce that my debut epic adventure novel, Lords of Deception, is part of Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO 6 contest this year. The book is being judged by Esme at the Weatherwax Report blog.
The contest is a great way to highlight books by indie writers. As Mark puts it, SPFBO "exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed."
Fingers crossed that I make the phase 1 cut!
I'm excited to announce publication of the third novel in the Earthpillar series, A Light in the Depths, which is written in the style of Lord of Deception but takes place about 800 years earlier, during the colonization of Pemonia.
Suffering heavy losses in a widening war with the Empire, Rildning and his companions fan out across the continent to persuade other tribes to join in a common defense. But Rildning discovers that ancient tribal rivalries die hard and many remain suspicious of him. And he has another problem: his journal now lays in the hands of Marshal Hilsingor, the ruthless imperial commander of the Frontier Corps. Knowing his enemy well, Hilsingor is determined to undermine Rildning’s efforts and eradicate the tribal resistance. The outcome will define Rildning’s unique legacy, one that will fever the dreams of kings for generations.
Book blogger Zoe Pollock called the book "a powerful follow up to that cliff-hanger he left us with" in The Depths of Redemption. The new novel "...just can’t be put down, even for toilet breaks… well paced and thoroughly engaging. It also left a lot of room for future books, which is exciting.”
If you live in the Washington, DC area, you can attend the book launch at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA (Saturday, Feb 8, 3pm) to hear more about the Earthpillar world and possibly win a FREE book!
E-book, paperback, and hardback formats are available for preorder now, and for purchase next Saturday February 8. Autographed paperbacks and hardbacks are also available at my Gumroad storefront.
I'm excited to announce the second of the rapid releases is out: The Depths of Redemption! One of my earlier editors described it as a cross between Tolkien and Avatar, so it's a bit different than the first book, which Kirkus Reviews and another reviewer compared to Game of Thrones. The third novel, coming on February 8, will return to that style.
E-book, paperback, and hardback formats are available today. Autographed paperbacks are also available at the Gumroad storefront (hardbacks at a later date).
I've received a few comments about the naming conventions of characters in the first novel. So for anyone interested, this post is about how I designed them.
There are currently 32 cultures in the world Earthpillar that have distinct naming conventions. These are influenced by real world languages and proper names. For example, below are a few of the cultures featured in Lords of Deception and the Origins of Candlestone series, along with their primary influences.
Some influences are minor or heavily mixed with others, while others have strong ties to the influencing language. For example, these and most other Donovard characters should sound strongly French:
This doesn't necessarily mean Earthpillar cultures will share other cultural traits with speakers of those real world languages.
Beyond a general interest in linguistics, my motivation for designing a range of naming conventions that are consistent across novels is that I want the reader to be able to know or at least suspect--before a character even opens his or her mouth--where that character is from, just as another character might. I think this adds depth and realism, but also a useful tool given how crammed my books are with characters.
How do I keep it straight? I draw from a list of culture-specific rules and custom name menus while writing to help me keep track of these naming conventions, especially when the story spans multiple nations or continents.
My debut Lords of Deception is fully out in all formats and starting to bring in very positive reviews on Goodreads, NetGalley, and elsewhere. I appreciate these readers taking the time to post reviews, particularly Liviu Suciul (former co-editor of Fantasy Book Critic), who wrote:
“One of the best fantasy debuts I've read in a while…[T]he narrative force of this novel is…really hard to put it down…[H]ighly recommended and a top 5 novel of the year for me.”
I'm also excited that the next novel in this rapid release, The Depths of Redemption, is coming on December 8. It's quite different, written like a journal, but provides a critical link to the third novel which is written in the same style as Lords of Deception. That third novel will be released in February.
More to come!
At long last, my debut novel, Lords of Deception is now released! Learn more here.
E-book formats are available today. Unfortunately, paperback and hardback versions are still queued up at the printing company but will be available before November (hopefully as soon as a week from now).
A big thank you to my editors, Anne McPeak and Tricia Callahan, and numerous beta readers, reviewers, family, friends, and other supporters. I've spent several years getting everything just right, and I think it's finally there.
A release date has finally been set for my debut novel, Lords of Deception! That will be 12 October 2019. The book is currently pending a review by Kirkus, then it's off to the presses!
The Revolution Machine was published today! You can learn more about this Half-Tale here and purchase it here. Note: If you are an Earthpillar subscriber, look for an email soon with a discount code for $1 off the normal price!
I'll be publishing a second Half-Tale, The Fourth Messenger, probably by late March.
Enjoy the new tale, and the revamped website!
Now that editing has progressed on Book One, I've posted an excerpt for it here. Enjoy!
Also of note, you may have noticed the Novels and excerpt pages have changed. After discussing with my primary editor, I've decided to publish the third book (written chronologically) first. The other two books (formerly known as Book 1 and 2), will be published later as a double prequel to the new Book One.