Update on Runic Revolt

I'm about halfway done with Runic Revolt, the fourth book in the Runic series!

Lots of new stuff in this one. Working hard to finish it by this summer, hopefully before Readercon! It's quite the lofty goal, considering the first book took years to finish, the second took over a year, and the third took ten months to complete. I'll do my best, but I won't compromise quality.

I'm posting another chapter to the preview on my site. You can click here to read it. Keep in mind that there might be small errors here and there, as I haven't done my usual three to four rounds of editing yet!

Sorry for the Delay!

I'm nearly ready to publish Seeker of Legends!

The major roadblock has been getting my usual beta readers (my wife and brothers) to read and tear apart the book. Life has been overwhelmingly busy for them...but the feedback process is nearly complete!

In the meantime, I've been working hard on Runic Revolt, the fourth book in the Runic series. It's coming along quite nicely...almost 40% complete! I'll keep you updated as usual. The best place to check for my progress is on the home page. Each book has a bar graph showing my progress. I update it almost daily.

All right...back to writing Kyle's next adventure!

Why I wrote Hunter of Legends - Racism, Nationalism, and the Self

I am white, and my wife is black. When our son Hunter was born, it was right around the time of the Presidential election in the U.S. The themes of nationalism vs. globalism, racism, and cultural genocide were - and are - front and center in the minds of many Americans. Not to mention the fact that my wife and I were still getting strange - or downright angry - looks and comments from people (of several races) that didn't approve of our union.

And as a writer - and a father to a biracial son - I wanted to understand it.

I think of fantasy as a way to explore elements of human nature by changing the rules of the world to address these elements. To expose them and play with them. So I created a world where everything about you - your appearance, personality, skills, memories, and so on - was potentially contagious. Where strong-willed individuals could pass on their traits to weaker-willed people. And where the strongest-willed of all were called Legends. Those who cannot be changed, yet can change anyone else.

Naturally, this led to a society where people who spend enough time with each other ended up acting and looking like each other. And where an outsider - someone with dark skin, or a different way of thinking - would pose a real, tangible threat if their will was strong enough.

By making the idea of cultural genocide a very real possibility, I was able to explore the feelings both sides might have about it. The ideas of self, of community, and of what makes a people one people. Is it the way they look? The way they act? Their belief systems, or religions, or rituals?

And how do you remain yourself when everyone around you can change who you are?

I hoped that, by exploring these issues through fantasy - and by placing Hunter within that story, and seeing how he might react to such a world - that I could further my understanding of these important issues. I also wanted to write a story for Hunter that he might read when he's older that could help him process these issues as well.

I found that, in writing Hunter of Legends, I often ended up enjoying the characters I disagreed with the most. And I think that, if we all spent a little more time trying to understand each other - without necessarily having to agree with each other - that it would be a good start toward building a better future for our children.

If you're interested in reading Hunter of Legends, click here for a preview of the first 3 chapters, or click here to get it from Amazon!

Progress Updates

I'm having a little trouble with the web site, which is hosted by Squarespace. For some reason, the bar graphs showing my progress with each book aren't editable. Which is too bad, because I've made quite a bit of progress!

I'm finishing the final edits for Seeker of Legends, and the cover is complete. After I finish the edits, I'll format and publish it. Should be mid-March or so.

For Runic Revolt, the fourth book in the Runic series, I'm about a quarter of the way through the first draft.

As usual, I'll keep you posted!

To read a preview for Seeker of Legends, click here.

To read a preview for Runic Revolt, click here.

A Note on Editing

I'm in the process of editing and completing the final draft of Seeker of Legends, the second book in the Fate of Legends series (for a preview, click here).

To edit my first drafts, I print them out, 2 pages on a side, double-sided. I hole-punch them and put the book in a three-ring binder, and go through it with a red or blue pen, making changes and additions as I go. When I'm done, I make these edits on the word document.

I usually do this process 2-3 times, sometimes reading the book backward (from the end). Each time, I make a few thousands changes, and do a complete spelling and grammar check afterward. The process takes a month-and-a-half to two months. It's a lot harder than hiring an editor, but also much cheaper!

One day, I might hire an editor, if it becomes cost-effective to do so. But with books over 150,000 words, it can get awfully expensive.

That being said, if you find an error in one of my books, feel free to let me know at author@runicseries.com. If I agree it's a mistake, I'll gift you one of my books!

Pantsing vs. Outlining

When I write a book, I usually have a very clear idea of the world, most of the characters, and the beginning, a scene in the middle, and the ending. I let the rest be created on the fly, so to speak. A process than writers call "pantsing," or flying by the seat of your pants.

For Destroyer of Legends, one of the two books I'm working on now, I've decided to try outlining the entire book first, then filling it in. It should be an interesting experiment, and I'll let you know how I feel about it vs. my usual method of writing my novels!

Announcing Book 4 in the Runic Series: Runic Revolution!

Hi guys!

So after finishing the first draft of Seeker of Legends and sending it to my family for review, I've decided to continue on with the fourth book in the Runic Series: Runic Revolution.

I'm already a fifth of the way through, and am writing daily to finish the first draft. I hope to have it finished by the summer. I've already contacted Bookfly Design LLC, the creator of my book covers, to have a cover made for it then!

For a preview, click here. As always, I'll keep you updated on my progress through my bar charts on the home page of my website!

Seeker of Legends Update!

The first draft of Seeker of Legends, the sequel to Hunter of Legends, is now complete!

At 469 pages, it is around the same length as the first book. I've already got a ton of edits listed for the final draft, and am working on it now!

In addition, James T. Egan from Bookfly Design has completed the first draft of the book cover, and let me tell you...I think it's pretty darn spectacular. I'll be uploading the final version as soon as it is complete.

To read the first few chapters of Seeker of Legends, click here!

Or, if you haven't read Hunter of Legends yet, click here to preview it or get it on Amazon!

How to Write & Publish a Book - Part 3

(Click here for part 1 of this guide; click here for part 2.)

Okay, so you've finished the first draft of your manuscript. Congrats! That's quite an accomplishment...something most people who dream of writing a book never do.

So...now what?

Step 7 - Edit!

Finishing your first draft is just the beginning. Perhaps the most important step is next:  fixing your book.

Now, as you write more and more books, you'll probably find that you need fewer drafts after the rough draft to get your book to a publishable state. But for most of you, this'll be the first time you've ever gone through the process, so your book might just suck. I know my first book did!

But that's okay. You don't need to be a good writer, but you do need a good editor. That editor can be you, someone you hire, or a fellow writer or community of writers that critique your work.

If you choose to hire an editor, keep in mind that they can get pretty expensive. It's probably best to read through your manuscript a few times, fixing as much as you can (and getting it as close to what you consider to be finished as possible) before sending it to a hired editor. There are plenty of available editors online, and if you go to writing conventions, you're likely to meet a few.

If you choose to edit your work yourself, all the power to you. That's what I did, after sending it to a few family members. Be prepared to make a few mistakes along the way, until you gain experience and get better at it. A good editor would never have let me make some of the decisions I made for my first book, Runic Awakening. But mistakes can be very effective (if painful) teachers!

Online writing communities are a great way to get your rough work out there. They can offer valuable feedback, but they're unlikely to get into the nitty-gritty of spellchecking, grammar-checking, and so on. Ultimately, unless you hire someone, you'll be doing these things yourself.

Step 8 - Format

Alright...you've done it. You've finished your final draft! After agonizing over your book for what seems like forever, pouring your heart and soul into it, you're ready to send it to the masses!

But first, you need to make it look pretty.

Now, how you format your book will depend on whether you plan on publishing it yourself, or by hiring an agent and going through a traditional publisher. If you want to go the traditional route, you'll need to have your manuscript in their standard format. Click here for instructions on how to do that.

If, on the other hand, you're like me and want to self-publish, congrats! That's a hell of a lot more work. At first. But don't worry...once you do it the first time, it'll get much easier. It took me the better part of 2 weeks to format Runic Awakening, 2 days to format Runic Revelation, and an hour to format Hunter of Legends.

It would take me a dozen pages to explain how to format a book for print. My wife wants to spend time with me at some point in the next week, so I'll just add a link to a Microsoft Word sample I created using the formatting for my books.

Here it is!

Also, click here to learn more about the different requirements for print versions of your book. 

Step 9 - The Ebook

If you're self-publishing your book, you need to format an ebook version as well. Not hard at all, really. Just take the example I gave above, cut out all the redundant title pages and blank pages, and take out the page numbers on your table of contents. And don't forget to change the ISBN numbers, as you'll need different ones for the ebook and paperback versions.

To make it easy, here's a sample!

Step 10 - The Book Cover

There are lots of online businesses that will make a book cover for you. I chose https://www.bookflydesign.com. There’s a 4-6 month waiting period, but if they have a sudden opening, they’ll fit you in.

In general, it is better to make your book cover similar in style to best-selling books in your genre. While the temptation may be to create something no one has ever seen before, readers are more likely to click on something that looks familiar to them…like the last books they liked.

Also, font size and thickness is important. The title needs to be visible and legible when downsized to a thumbnail on Amazon. Thin fonts won’t cut it. Bookfly Design LLC, the company I went with, knows this. If you go with a different company, make sure they give you a thumbnail version of the proofs. It’s the first impression a reader will get when they buy your book on Amazon or any other bookseller’s website.

Prices for Bookfly Design were in the $500-$700 range. I recommend buying the ebook and paperback package. Even though you might not sell many paperbacks at first, they’re great to have in conventions, or to give copies to local libraries and so forth. Also, some paid reviewers prefer paperback copies, and it’s always in your interest to cater to the desires of your reviewers!

Also, if you go with another company, make sure they specify the type of paper you’re going to use. More on this later, but there are two options: cream and white. Cream is a different thickness than white, and that will affect the width of the spine of the book, and therefore the width of the cover image. Since you have images in your book, white paper is generally preferred, as those images may not show up properly on cream paper. White paper is a little harder on the eyes due to the glare, which is why novels with no images tend to have cream paper. Incidentally, that’s why textbooks have white paper, as they generally have images.

Step 11 - Get an ISBN!

ISBN stands for  International Standard Book Number. Bowker is the company that gives them out. You need them for paperbacks and hardcovers, and might want them for your ebooks. Go to:

https://www.myidentifiers.com/get-your-isbn-now

...to purchase ISBNs. I bought ten to start, which was expensive, but the books more than paid for it. After using up all of those (one for each ebook and one for each paperback), I purchased one hundred ISBNs. It's expensive, but as I'm planning on writing at least another thirty books, it's cost-effective.

You need an ISBN number for every version of your book - paperback, ebook, and hardcover, if you make one. You don't need them for audiobooks. Don't worry...I'll be going over how to make audiobooks later on in this guide!

After buying an ISBN, you need to attribute a book to it. Just click on the ISBN in your ISBN manager page, and fill in all the required fields (labeled with an "*").

To make each subsequent version of your book, use the clone link on the “My ISBN’s” page to copy the information from one version of the book (say the ebook) to another ISBN (like the paperback). Then edit the fields to specify that this is the paperback, and amend the pricing as well.

You don’t have to wait for the ISBN to complete registering…you can use it right away to publish your books if you’re ready to!

 

Alright, that's enough for this part of the guide. Next up, I'll go over how to publish your book!

Back from Vacation!

Well, I've been on vacation with the family for the last 8 days. I had a great time...and managed to get regular sleep for once! Now that I'm back home, I'm ready to crank out a whole lot of writing. I've also come up with a concept for a new fantasy series, as well as ideas for books 4-6 of the Runic series.

So much writing to do, so little time to do it! A shame that the vast majority of authors can't do it full time. I often wonder what I could do if writing paid the bills!

How to Write & Publish a Book - Part 2

(For part one of this guide, click here.)

Okay...you've followed the first three steps of my guide. You're writing your story instead of telling it to people, you're writing even when you don't feel like it, and you're focusing on finishing the story instead of making it perfect from the get-go.

Now what?

Step 4:  If You Can't Write, Outline!

Alright, you can't write. Everything you type is crap. Utter drivel. You're depressed, and ready to give it up. Don't write...outline!

Heck, you might even want to outline right from the beginning.

See, there's two basic types of writers (in my simplistic view): the pantser and the outliner.

Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants, and write the whole damn book without outlining anything. Drawn by the mystery of what might come next, they might not even know where the book is going until they're finished.

Outliners, on the other hand, outline everything from the start to the finish, then fill in each part with prose.

Now, the reality is that you'll likely fall somewhere in-between these extremes. I know I do. I usually have a vision of a scene from the beginning, middle, and end of my books, then fill the rest in pantser-style. If I'm stuck, I outline a whole chapter or two ahead. That way I have an idea of the whole story, but give myself room to subvert my own expectations.

Now, you might think that outlining everything ahead of time will stifle creativity, but this isn't necessarily true. Outlining is a creative act in and of itself...you're being creative by creating the story once from a 100-mile view. And you have the freedom to change anything you want when you fill in that outline later.

Find out what process works for you...but if you find you just can't write prose, outlining can jump-start your muse!

 

Step 5:  Make Your Characters Grow

Now, some people might roll their eyes at this one. Who am I to talk about character growth? After all, at the end of Runic Awakening, Kyle was still pretty wimpy. Well, this was intentional, and set up the second book in the series...but he still grew a little in the first book. And by the third book, well, let's just say he kicked some serious ass.

All characters benefit from growth, both in power and in personal development. We love to see character arcs like this. Many stories are about teaching lessons of some kind, as with the tales in Greek mythology, a great deal of the Bible, Star Wars, and even the movie Iron Man.

Now some characters won't grow. That's okay...they're usually either bad guys or mentors. They've reached the end of their character arcs, and have either attained wisdom or failed to grow (in the case of villains, or the tragic hero), and this is their undoing. But there should be some growth in your characters, particularly your hero.

If you're up to it, you can even make your villains grow, like Sabin in Runic Vengeance. Growth doesn't necessarily need to be positive...you can make characters regress over time. Or grow into villains.

 

Step 6:  Give Your Book an Ending

Well duh, right? Of course your book has to end!

I mention this because, in this era of trilogies - and books extending even further, into a veritable library of sequels - there is a temptation to set the reader up for the next book in the series without giving a satisfactory conclusion to your current book. It's perfectly okay to leave some ends open for the sequel, but try to tie up most of the threads of the storyline, so to speak. If your readers don't get a satisfactory conclusion, they're going to feel cheated.

I've found that the best way for me to ensure a satisfactory ending to my books is to plan the ending before I start writing. Some people even write the ending first, then go back from there. This prevents you from being two-thirds of the way through your book, and struggling to come up with a way to tie up all the loose ends of your story. A lame ending will kill a book...but a great ending can rescue one.

That's enough for now. Part 3 will be coming shortly...and I'll go over what to do once your first draft is complete!

How to Write & Publish a Book - Part 1

This series will be a step-by-step guide to writing, publishing, and marketing a book...from beginning to end!

Writing a book is something that lots of people dream of doing. Chances are, if you haven't written one already, you've wanted to. You might've even come up with a few ideas, or a whole storyline. Maybe it hasn't gone that far beyond that...an idea. Or perhaps you've completed the first draft, and just don't think it's ready.

I've been there - trust me - and I want to try to use what I've learned over the past few years to help you! Now, keep in mind that these steps are based off of my own experiences, and are not meant to be gospel for everyone. You might be able to do things differently. If so, that's okay! 

Step One:  Don't Tell Anyone

So you've got a perfect idea for a book. You're excited! You want to tell everyone about it, it's so good.

Don't. Do. It.

You see, there are lots of ways to tell a story. You can write about it, or tell it to someone. Or make a graphic novel about it. Or write a screenplay, make a movie. The problem is, once you've told a story one way, you're much less likely to tell it any other way.

So when you tell your buddy about your newest story, you've already told the story. As far as your brain is concerned, it's done. The urge to write it...to spend months, if not years, typing away at a keyboard to create it, is diminished. Perhaps not gone, but lessened.

I felt the same way with any long-term goal. When I decided to train for my black belt, I didn't tell a soul. That goal was a fire that burned within, and by making it secret, it just made it stronger. I didn't tell anyone about my goal to get into medical school until three years into college. And I didn't tell anyone about my first book until the first draft was done.

Keeping things inside - keeping them secret - makes them grow. This goes for bad things, like personal trauma, bad feelings, resentments, and so on. But it also works for good things. I've learned to let the bad stuff out and keep the good stuff in...and I'm happier and more successful for it!

Now, you may be the type of person that finds motivation in collaboration, and can't do the solo thing. That's fine...everyone is different. But writing is for the most part a solo act, and I suspect many will benefit from this advice.

So don't tell anyone your goal to write a book. Keep it inside, and tell it - for the first time - on paper. Then, when it's complete, feel free to show everyone and collaborate!

 

Step 2: Write When You Don't Feel Like It

You're faced with a blank screen, fingers hovering over the keyboard. You want to write, but it suddenly seems hard. No...impossible. You glance at your phone, wondering if there's anything on Facebook/Twitter/etc. to check up on. You know what? You're just not inspired right now. In fact, you know exactly what you have:  the dreaded Writer's Block.

AKA:  Laziness.

Somehow, writers have managed to turn procrastination into a disease for which inspiration is the only cure. Doctors don't get Doctor's Block. Construction workers don't get it either. Accountants don't get it. So what is it?

Writer's block is caused by the (mostly false) belief that you need to be inspired to write.

Your muse, that strange, uncontrollable part of your mind that is the source of your creativity, is lazy. A damn, no good, lazy bastard. You need to kick it to make it work. Or find some other way to inspire it.

So write.

That's right...write. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing. See, at first your muse will remain silent. Your writing will be forced and uninspired. But as you write, ideas will start to flow, and you'll find yourself entering a groove. Your muse will start talking to you.

You need to write to become inspired, not the other way around.

This works for everything. All of your goals. I go to the gym and work out 5-6 days a week. And half the time I go, I don't feel like being there...at least for the first 10 minutes. But after that, I feel great...and I want to keep going and going. Studying medicine (or anything else) is hard and boring...until you force yourself to do it, then start to get interested in the material. Soon, you find yourself twenty pages in, and wonder where the time went.

An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. Your muse is at rest until you apply an external force - your willpower - to put it in motion. And once you do, the words flow!

So write!

 

Step 3:  Don't Expect Perfection

My father is an artist, and majored in art history in college. He was drawing on a large canvas, and filled a small part of it with something he adored...something just perfect. In fact, it was so good that he couldn't figure out how to fill the rest of his canvas. He hemmed and hawed.

And then his teacher tore up his perfect drawing.

My Dad was pissed.

His teacher told him that he'd gotten stuck because he'd considered what he'd done so precious that he couldn't move on from it. He couldn't finish the piece because he wanted all of it to be perfect. If it wasn't perfect, it was going to ruin that small part he'd started with.

Well, your writing is the same.

Many of us writers will start out trying to make every sentence, every paragraph perfect. We'll write a chapter, then revise it and revise it. Or we'll write a few paragraphs, and get stuck because we don't like it as much as what came before. Paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection, we don't keep going...we don't finish the story.

Well, a wise man once wrote that he was an average writer, but an excellent editor.

Write, and keep writing. Don't force any part of it to be perfect. And if you love the hell out of a chapter or two, don't hold the next chapters to the same expectation. Just keep going. Some of what you write will be crap, others will be gold. You always have time to edit the bad parts later...the point of the first draft is to FINISH THE STORY.

I'm going to repeat that.

The point of the first draft is to FINISH THE STORY.

You'll have all the time in the world to edit later, to sculpt your incomplete work into a veritable masterpiece. Back to my father, he started his next drawing, and focused on filling the canvas. Then he worked on each section of what he'd created, editing and editing until he was satisfied with the whole piece. Until the entire work of art was as perfect as that one, incomplete section.

Believe me when I tell you, the first draft of Runic Awakening, my first book, was utter crap. Awful awful awful. One day I might publish it, just to get a laugh from you. My brother read it and said, being ever the diplomat: "It's not good."

Now, a few of you might say it's still not good, (and I've read your soul-sucking Amazon reviews you know) but the point is, it's a whole hell of a lot better than it was.

So, once again, FINISH THE STORY.

Whelp, that's all for now. I'll post part 2 soon!

Readercon!

I've signed up to go to Readercon for 2018. It'll be in Quincy, MA from July 12 to the 15th. It's a great way for authors to meet readers and vice versa, and after the great experience that was the World Fantasy Conference, my wife and I are pumped to go!

The World Fantasy Convention was awesome...and I got to meet Terry Brooks, L.E. Modesitt Jr., David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas fame, and a lot of author up-and-coming and aspiring authors. It was great to see how humble and thoughtful even the most famous of authors was, especially Terry Brooks. The Sword of Shannara was one of the first epic fantasy books I ever read as a kid, and it shaped my understanding of what fantasy was, and what it had to offer.

If you ever get a chance to go to the World Fantasy Conference...or have a chance to go to Quincy for Readercon in 2018...go for it. And if you see me there, please say hello!