Progress on LOD2

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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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Contests

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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:

  • "What a feat your fantasy novel is...It must be hard for you to live in this world when your imagination is so much more captivating! …This is a book I'll be recommending to my book-loving friends and colleagues."
  • "The author creates a world with myriad cultures, rich descriptions, and depth of backstory...This well-written novel is recommended for readers of epic fantasy and medieval-like fantasy."
  • "Nice maps! It's clear that the author has given a lot of thought to world-building."

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.

TRIVIA

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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Obsessed with the details

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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.

SPFBO6 Contest Participant

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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!

Great Launch at One More Page Books!

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Thanks to everyone who came to the February 8 launch of my third novel, A Light in the Depths, and to One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia for hosting.

Everyone who attended bought at least one novel, and several bought the whole set. Thank you for your support!

This was a great conclusion for a rapid release of my first three epic adventure novels. More than a decade in the making.

New Release: A Light in the Depths

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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.

Book Launch: One More Page Books (Arlington, VA)

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I'm very excited that my third novel, A Light in the Depths, will be launched at One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, February 8 at 3pm. If you live in the Washington, DC area and enjoy epic fantasy and adventure novels, stop by to hear more about the Earthpillar world and possibly win a FREE book!

The launch is featured in Arlington Magazine's "24 Things To Do in February" and The Washington Post Literary Calendar for February:

New Release: The Depths of Redemption

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).

Naming Conventions

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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.

  • Brintilian (Swedish and other Scandinavian)
  • Calbrian (English, Gaelic)
  • Donovard (French)
  • Gali (Mongolian, Yoruba)
  • Naren-Dra (Sumerian)
  • Rugen (German)

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:

  • Livonier = LIV-on-ee-yay
  • Maillard = mahl-YARD
  • Serdot = SER-doh (like a French silent 't', as with the name Margot)
  • Voufon = voo-FOHN

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.

Next Novel in December!

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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!

New Release: Lords of Deception

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.

Pub Date Set for Debut Novel

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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!

In the meantime, my two published short stories (The Fourth Messenger and The Revolution Machine) are now listed as "Pay What You Want", meaning you are able to set a price you think is fair. Enjoy!

Published: The Fourth Messenger

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The Fourth Messenger 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!

Published: The Revolution Machine

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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!

New Excerpt Posted!

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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.

Where are the Books?

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Wow, nearly 19 months have passed since my last post. Clearly I'm not the type to provide even semi-regular updates on my progress. So, where are the books?

As mentioned before, I hired professional freelance editors, proofreaders, and concept artists to refine my work. It took time to find the right ones, work with them line-by-line on 3 novels and 4 short stories for several rounds, and set up the publishing, sales, and distribution process. So far so good.

The editing for the short stories is done, and the novels are collectively about 75% complete. I'm aiming to roll out the shorts in late 2018, and the first novel during early 2019. That's the goal at least.

After this, I plan to do one project at a time like a normal person...

Introducing Loremark Publishing

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At last, I'd like to introduce Loremark Publishing, my new company that will publish the world of Earthpillar. The company's website is still under construction, but it's a giant step closer to delivering these books into your hands.

Additionally, I've finally found an editor to help my writing shine. I hired her through Reedsy, which helps authors and publishers find high-quality freelance editors, designers, and other professionals. She has already started and I'm excited to be working with her.

For the remainder of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, we'll be devoted to editing and polishing three novels, three novelettes, and a few smaller projects. Then I'll be working with other pros to get the formatting, design, and illustrations just right. Stay tuned!

Publishing Plans

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If you're still with me, thanks for sticking around. I've been preoccupied with the second draft of Book 3 and setting up a publishing company.

You read that right. I decided to take a middle road between traditional publishing and the indie route. Since these novels are not my day job, I have little desire to spend years pitching literary agents and traditional publishers, and even less motivation to fork over most of the profits for that privilege.

So, in addition to self-editing and beta readers, I'll be using professional freelancers to edit, copyedit, proofread, format, and illustrate the Earthpillar novels. This gives me the flexibility to follow my vision for the books and perhaps publish other authors in the future.

Details on the company and publishing timelines coming up next!

Book 3 First Draft Completed

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Today I finished the first draft of Book 3, earlier than expected. The characters demanded I keep up with them, so I just rolled along. The book practically wrote itself in ten weeks (excluding early development), thanks to my sabbatical.

What happens next? I'll let the draft marinate a while, followed by months of editing and critique from beta readers over the summer. Then I'll post an excerpt while I'm navigating publishing options for all three books. In the meantime I'm organizing notes for Book 4 and will submit related short stories to magazines for publication.

As always, thanks for following. Though I'm not revealing much yet beyond excerpts, I hope you're enjoying watching a budding writer's journey. I'm having a blast as I hit my stride!

Book 3 Update

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I'm about three weeks away from finishing the first draft of Book 3. I nearly doubled my writing quota during the past week as the book is coming to its exciting conclusion. My weekly goal is to write ten chapters; I wrote 17 this week!

My writing goals originally focused on time put into a project, but obviously you can put in a lot of time with little result. I briefly switched to setting daily goals of words written, which is very popular among writers. But since I do all my first drafts with old-fashioned pen and paper, this method was tedious and estimates were always off.

It was hard to know how much progress I was making. I finally settled on a weekly goal of chapters written. This works for me because my chapters tend to be short. Books 2 and 3 have about 130 chapters, enough pages for a standard-sized novel. For me, knowing my progress propels me forward to finishing the project.

For anyone interested in small snippets from Books 1-3, I added a new page here [no longer available, see Twitter] for bits shared on Twitter site. Nothing grand, but gives you a taste of some scenes and characters. You can also find chapter-length excerpts here and here, and additional descriptions on the novels page.

Thank you to the new followers who have joined the website since my last post! I don't post often because I'm focused on writing, but I'll soon have a chance to revisit publishing options for all the material I've been hoarding, editing, and re-editing.

Now, back to writing...