Category Archives: Fantasy

When Torcs Fly – Celebrating a Launch

When Torcs FlyIt seems we don’t get nearly enough days to celebrate a completed project. We work for weeks, months, and sometimes even years to release a book worthy of our fans. The celebration is never big enough or long enough, but there’s nothing like holding a new book in your hands (even if it’s a kindle copy).

Today is a celebration day!

When Torcs Fly – a Petralist novella – released in ebook form Marcy 30th!

It will release in paperback in May.

Tomas and Cameron enjoy good insults as much as they enjoy great bash fights. These elite fighters and determined goofballs have an unbreakable streak of disrespect and contempt for authority. Even the mighty Captain Rory depends on them.

Their places were not always so secure.

Rewind a few years to the day they first try to win acceptance into the Fast Rollers special-forces company. Their brawn-over-brains approach is exactly the wrong way to make the attempt, and chances of making the team are less than winning a kiss from an angry pedra.

With their most cherished dreams on the line, these two bash fighters must risk thinking deeper thoughts, learn to work together against a band of crafty Grandurians, and prove they’re smarter than the average torc.

Fans of fast-paced, humorous fantasy will love this hilarious adventure.

Check out When Torcs Fly, along with the main Petralist series on Amazon,

or on my website.

Petralist Series 1-3

 

The Accidental Series

Writing a series wasn’t really the plan.

After several years of writing stories mostly intended to help me level up in my abilities, two years ago I felt I had reached the point where I was writing publishable work. After some debate, I decided to self-publish and began to plan writing my debut novel. I had a few different ideas that were good starting points, but I decided on a fantasy adventure novel focused on a magical portal found on Mount Everest.

I chose this idea for a few reasons:

  1. I loved the idea. It combined three of my favorite things: fantasy, adventure and the Himalayas. I didn’t want to spend time working on something that didn’t excite me.
  2. I felt it would be the easiest to market of my available ideas. Everest was a known quantity that I hoped would help me in discoverability, and I felt the setting and concept was something that would stand out.
  3. The idea had long-term potential. If the Everest book was successful, there were many options for other books that could be written in the same universe.

UNDER EVEREST was written during the next six months as a one-and-done story, with hooks that could lead to other novels in the future if I so chose. When I arrived to the point where I thought I had the book close to launch ready, I consulted my friends who were already self-publishing about how best to move forward.

Consistently they had two questions:

  1. Could this be a series?
  2. Could you afford to wait and write more in the series before releasing?

After much thought and consternation, I decided to delay the launch of UNDER EVEREST by a year and re-purpose the project as a trilogy. Since I had a book that was fairly self-contained and I didn’t want to re-write it from the ground up, I decided to mirror what I felt was the methodology of the original STAR WARS film series.

That is:

  • Opening story introduces characters and arcs that mostly resolve inside the same story, but with hints to larger problems and a bigger world.
  • Second and third stories are essentially one connected tale that ends on a cliffhanger at the conclusion of story two and significantly broadens the world and deepens the characters.

I decided I would outline Books 2 and 3 at the same time and write them in immediate succession, so to better ensure they felt like a connected element. Over a few weeks that outline produced the road map through SEAS OF EVEREST and DRAGONS OF EVEREST, and the rest of 2017 was spent writing those books and modifying UNDER EVEREST to better fit the new model.

Now that I am on the other side of that project and all three books are approaching release, I can look back on the challenges and advantages I discovered while writing an entire trilogy before releasing any of it.

CHALLENGES

Certainly the most immediate challenge to this decision was that I was putting off revenue, likely for a year or more. At the time I had no idea how long it would take me to write two more books in the series, but a release of UNDER EVEREST was now off the table until the other two books could be done. I was fortunate to be in a position where I could afford to wait.

Next I had to take those additional hooks I had left myself and see if there was a workable series there. I had left a lot of dangling threads there, but I didn’t have a solid plan as to where most of them would lead. Additionally I had left myself with a real story challenge in the ending to UNDER EVEREST, scattering my heroes to different locations. Any new story would have to have multiple narratives, which was a challenge I had never tackled before.

ADVANTAGES

The primary advantage should be sales, but I admit that will be hard to prove even after the books release. My hope is I will see more sales and a stronger brand building than if I had released UNDER EVEREST as a stand-alone, but there’s no real way to know that. 

As I pushed through this process though, I found myself finding some additional unexpected benefits. As the character’s voices began to grow deeper and stronger in later books, I had the ability to go back to the first book and add those voices from the beginning. I was able to craft themes and character arcs that progressed through all three novels. Most importantly, I could correct plot dead-ends and cul-de-sacs before they ever saw print, cutting or foreshadowing elements as needed.

In short, writing all three books in the series before releasing them allowed me to create a series with a level of cohesion I don’t think I could have achieved writing them one at a time.

IN CONCLUSION

So did it work? I suppose the final truth of that answer is still a few months away when I finally launch the series and get feedback from readers. It certainly meant doing a lot of writing without seeing any return on my investment of money and time. Yet from my perspective the advantages were well worth the tradeoffs. It allowed me more time to find the the true voice for my characters, to be less hamstrung by earlier plot decisions that became dead ends, and most importantly to help me build a cohesive series that I am very proud of.

This is now my new model going forward, and it is one I recommend as long as you can afford the wait between releases. 

Make me care – the two sides of Bioware storytelling

I am an avid gamer, as many folks are. Over the years I’ve come to focus primarily on strategy games and role playing games, with the draw of both being the story that unfolds out as you play.

This is especially true for the role playing games produced over the years by Bioware. Bioware has a knack for combining winning gaming systems with engrossing stories that has kept me involved in their products for more than twenty years now.

For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight two of their most famous game series and how the writing for those series helped me become a better writer myself. Ironically the big lesson for me lay in studying why Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time, failed to get me emotionally engaged with the main character.

Mass Effect is the story of Command Shepard, a player-created character who embarks on a mission to save the galaxy from the oncoming threat of the deadly Reapers. The story spans three games, each of which can take hundreds of hours to play through completely. Mass Effects world building is peerless in its industry, and to this day it is my favorite science fiction universe created in the past twenty years. From one corner of its galaxy to the other, the mythos and lore of Mass Effect pulled me in deep.

Yet as connected as I was to the world, I could never connect with Commander Shepard himself (or herself, as I did a second playthrough with a female Shepard). It took me a while to work out why this was, but over time I realized it was a lack of personal stakes for the main character of the story.

Shepard walks through the three Mass Effect games almost as a blank space with the whole world being colored around him. Shepard himself has no family, no background beyond a cursory few paragraphs and no real motivations beyond what the player might give him in their own head canon.

The game is more about the rich worlds Shepard visits and the amazing companions he meets along the way. Over the course of the games characters like Garrus, Liara and Mordin grew into friends to me and what happened to them became important. They grow and change, each going on story arcs that are deep and very impactful. Yet Shepard doesn’t change at all. He’s the same guy at the end of game three as he was at the end of game one. I guess this is why, while I love the Mass Effect series, the main character always left me cold. It was like watching a movie where they forgot to put in the main character.

For the most part, this is the modern Bioware model. The main character is a cipher by design to allow for player insertion. The plot and side characters flow around the MC, and while the player gets to impact the world in a very meaningful way, the game isn’t *about* him or her.

Bioware made an exception to this is the second game in the Dragon Age series, and this deviation is one of the main reasons this game is so divisive among the fanbase. Unlike all three Mass Effect games and the other two Dragon Age games, Dragon Age 2 is very much about its main character Hawke.

Right from the first scene we are given Hawke’s family, fleeing in terror from a horde of monsters destroying their home country. We meet his mother and siblings. Early in the story one of the siblings is killed and the rest of the family is reduced to refugees, begging for work in the streets of their new home of Kirkwall.

Through the course of Dragon Age 2, many of the standard Bioware tropes are still on display. Characters with deep and rich backstories come to your side, and Kirkwall gains depth as a setting as the game goes on. The plight of Hawke and his family never leaves center stage though. Hawke’s fortunes change for both better and worse through the story, and at the end of the tale he is a significantly different character than who he was at the beginning.

I connected deeply with Dragon Age 2’s Hawke in a way I never did with Shepard in the Mass Effect games. The story was about him, rather than just how he impacted the story. Hawke had personal stakes – he wasn’t just a hero trying to save people because that’s what heroes do. He had family in the thick of things, and he had to sacrifice and change as a character in order to try and save them.

The difference between Hawke and Shepard is subtle but important to me, and it’s one I’ve tried to remember as I am writing my own stories. I try to give my heroes personal skin in the game, to make them more than just ‘good guys’ who rode into town to right wrongs but to have something on the line that is personal to them and requires them to grow in order to see things set right.

Mirages and Speculations

Setting is a crucial part of storytelling. Setting affects the story in many ways. What challenges do the protagonists face from nature and their environment? How has the landscape shaped the culture of the people who live there?

There are some common tropes for fantasy and sci-fi stories. Fantasy stories are often set in a parallel version of medieval Europe, with small villages, walled towns and thick forests to traverse. Sci-fi stories are often set on gleaming high-tech space stations. There’s nothing wrong with these settings, of course. Sometimes they suit the story perfectly.

But an unexpected setting can result in an unexpected kind of story.

Mirages and Speculations is a fantasy and sci-fi story set in a different kind of landscape: the desert. Think wind-swept plateaus, scorching sands, and arroyos. Come discover if that glimmer on the desert horizon is a lake, or the gleam of light off the side of a flying saucer. If those swirling clouds are dust devils–or djinn.

Seventeen authors of science fiction and fantasy take you into worlds both futuristic and fantastic under the desert skies.

You can order it as print or e-book from Amazon here.