Identity

One of my favorite questions to wrestle with is identity. For men, this often takes form as:

  1. Am I enough?
  2. Can I come through?

Beneath each of those questions is the foundation in our thinking of who we are. Are we self-made? Forged in fire? Or genuinely accepted in spite of anything we could do?

Chip Ingram shared a piece on this today on his blog:

http://livingontheedge.org/read-blog/blog/2017/04/24/seeing-yourself-the-way-god-sees-you?

I’ve enjoyed Chip’s teaching over the years, and his piece got me to thinking about the characters in the Chronicles of Outremer series (not to mention myself!) While there is a broader story going on, a plot with twists and turns, actions and consequences, the concept of identity is one I try to keep at the forefront on my thinking.

Lord Fallondon Breck thinks he’s a failed man who did not win acclaim in the crusades, has let his family down, and must redeem himself in order to redeem them.

His close mentor, Sir Baldur Blackwood, thinks he’s a diligent father and husband, seeking to protect his family as well as being there for the son of his liege, the dead Lord Walter Breck, Fallon’s father.

Each of the knights in Fallon’s company has a version of this story. A perception of who they are, and the story (hopefully) keeps us following their journey to reconcile these understandings.

Thought I would share this for anyone interested. I encourage you to think of this not only in your own life, but those around us.

 

On a different note, I’m working on the quarterly newsletter for Thorium Publishing and have been shirking my duties to post on my site! I’ll have a post coming out soonest with a few changes to my scheme of communication, some upcoming projects in development, release information on the Chronicles, and more! You can always follow me at my Facebook page and subscribe to the newsletter to hear more from me!

Image credit: Canva

 

 

Donald Trump is the Best Thing to Happen to Authors

inspiration

But before we get into that, an uplifting moment. We’ve had unusually good weather the past week here in Maryland, and I’ve tried to take advantage of morning/evening walks when I could. This is a delightfully comfortable evening stroll in our neck of the woods. Great opportunity to decompress from the day and try to get the mind to stop racing.

woods

As for the headline, I’ve been thinking on this for the past couple of months. I try not to get sucked into the media cycles, but we also appreciate keeping a moderate pulse on the world news and things that impact us as Americans. For the election we certainly wanted to cast votes that aligned with our values, so some research and understanding was necessary. There’s a steady drumbeat of anti-Trump sentiment that, if nothing else, feeds the news beast. Like many things, I’m sure some of it is warranted, and some is probably not.

But as an author, I can’t help but be inspired. Here’s a situation that’s ripe for a great story. A complex cast of characters that are definitely polarizing. A national & world-wide situation that will ensure plot twists all the way to the end. Probably well past the end! It’s a recipe for the perfect best-seller.

It’s been said that if you’re vanilla, your not going to break out. No one (deep down) really wants something lukewarm. If you don’t have a section of the population who hates your stuff, then you probably don’t have a niche of die-hard fans who will buy everything you create. You can’t please everyone.

The political climate of 2017 will certainly spawn some break-out best sellers. Doesn’t matter which direction you come from, which angle you take, there’s a segment of the population who will be aligned with you. Doesn’t matter the genre (although some will naturally do better than others). Doesn’t matter if you write crime dramas, military fiction, high fantasy, or even romance. You can probably weave the elements at play in the daily news into your story and strike a spark in some population of your fans. You may drive some away, but others will be drawn to you like a moth to a flame (or a midwest corn farmer to a New York real estate & business power broker?)

Surely policies and law will change here in the U.S. in ways we haven’t yet predicted, and the impacts will be equally as varied. Business rules, taxes, the general sense of good will and cooperation, etc. Those may have an effect on authors’ businesses. But I posit that it’s not different than any other time in our history when political change is afoot. Some folks are helped; some hurt. Each group probably has varying degrees and individual situations that make it feel better/worse than the time before. Everyone will look ahead with anticipation at a better future; pundits and speculators will hype their version of that future to draw audiences and on-lookers just like the town crier, the orphan boy calling out the day’s news at the paper stand, or any other time in history.

So roll up your sleeves, take some notes, imagine your cast of misfits and how they all interact with and against each other, and get writing. You’ve never been given an opportunity like this to craft a compelling story with all the elements given out for free!

Chapter 1: The Man With The Golden Hair. No one predicted what happened that fall. All of the experts went mum after their speculations fell far short of reality…

PS: If you struggle with anxiety, like thinking too much on our political situation, you may appreciate this post by Tammy Strobel at RowdyKittens. I use several of her practices in my daily routines to keep my head straight!

Photo credit: Canva (header) and Travis Chapman (Woods)

Exiles of Heaven: Sneak Peek

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This week I’ve got a sneak peek at Exiles of Heaven, Book 2 in the Chronicles of Outremer series. I’m in the editing process so some of this may change in final form, but I thought it was a good segment to include. If you’re a newsletter subscriber you saw this in my 1st quarter update (and if you’d like to get an early look at my work and other early insights, promotions, discounts, musings, sign up for the newsletter!)

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Shores of Lake Ardglass
Hart blinked his eyes as awareness came back to his dizzy head. A cocked vision of screaming figures resolved into reality. The taste of smoke burned through his nostrils. He was on the ground and something was causing his back to tingle. Was that burned flesh? His hand batted away at something.

“Paulson, what’s going on? What’s happening?” a groggy voice said.

“Well first off, you’ve got brimstone stuck to your mail. Hold on.” Paulson’s dagger tore into the links, and momentarily the heat lessened. What kind of rock did that? Brimstone? The pain was sadly still there. “That’s better, although we’ll have to mend it later. Let’s hope there’s a later. Come over—”

Paulson’s words were swallowed up in his mouth, and Hart’s breathing stopped cold. The forest had reached almost to the shoreline when they arrived. No longer. Trees were cast aside like twigs, their trunks crushed against one another. Through the newly formed clearing the men could see a nexus of light and energy. The pulsing brilliance drew their attention. Atop a crumbling stone foundation stood a gateway. This arch, what appeared to be the remains of an old church, rose higher than six men and could accommodate at least ten riders abreast on horses. The stones framing the archway were worn with age, but certainly of this world. Everything Hart and Paulson saw bound inside of them was certainly not.

A fabric of undulating light stretched across the arch liked a rippling silk sheet. Its milky color shifted subtly. Hues of blue and purple caught their eyes. It reminded Paulson of the ocean at daybreak, deep at sea, riding blankets of grays and blues, tranquil and mesmerizing. Whatever this thing was, its nature became apparent quickly. Like a toad’s head rising out of the lily pads, an enormous serpentine head emerged from the center of the portal. Intelligent eyes flicked back and forth, taking in the surrounding view. Villagers renewed screams of terror and ran in progressively disparate directions away from the arch. Steam rose from the creature’s nostrils, then a sharp intake of breath preceded an ear-piercing trumpet call. A thousand dying souls mixed with equal parts anger, sadness, despair, grief, rage, hopelessness, all flooded the air together. Malignant wine, mulled with spices of sorrow.

Hart grabbed Paulson’s shoulder and dragged him backwards, the pair stumbling through cast off fishing nets and baskets, “To the boats priest. We must warn them.” Then he turned his head side to side, trying to find their leader, “Fallondon! Where are ye? To arms men of Breckshire. En garde! Prepare for action!”

— —
I caught sight of the wyrm as Swayn tumbled backwards from his horse. My breath caught as events unfolded in a timespan measured by heartbeats. Energy washed over us. First the quake, then the archway lighting up like a beacon even in bright sun, and now this portal revealing its first traveler.

Pale gray smoke lofted up from the opening, masking just how wide it truly was. Small bits of scorched earth lay before us, blasted from the gateway as it erupted in power. Sizzling sounds caught in my ears at the red-hot stones scorched grass. Brimstone. Staring at us through the portal was a serpentine head the size of a horse. Green scales, iridescent in the fiery glow of the arch, covered the thing’s head. Tendrils drooped from its lips, covering teeth like sharp knives, yellowed with age. What drew my attention more than anything were the eyes. Vertical slits blinked over its pupils, but there was an undeniable intelligence, a greatness, behind those eyes. The neck emerged pace by pace, followed by sleek shoulders and lizard-like legs finished with wicked talons.

I broke my gaze and turned from side to side. Time slowed for me. Silence filled my ears, although I saw men and women screaming in fear, pain, and shock. Hart and Paulson were behind me but backing towards the boats. Good idea. Why were we so in awe of this thing? It was just a dragon. We’d all seen them in the luminaries at chapel, filling the pages of Revelation.

Without warning the creature threw back its head; a deathly call bugled from its toothed mouth, breaking our revere. The cry shot across the landscape around us, dropping men and horses alike. Our hands shot up and attempted to plug ears. A hopeless gesture showing how powerless we were. Great leathery wings stretched across a horny spine, ending in a long serpentine tail tipped with knife-like spikes. The spurs on its clawed feet gripped the edge of the foundation before tensed muscles launched itself into the air above. I followed it up for a hundred feet before noticing what my narrowed attention had missed. More creatures were coming.

Hell had opened up before us.

Serial Goodness: Comparing Hit TV Now and Then

craft

My wife and I watch TV. We’re American, right? We’ve come to know the excitement of a new series, the heart-pangs of a long-running series ending, and the all-to-frequent sigh of “Well, that was a good season and we’ll never see it again. Thanks for axing that one.”

We were fans of The Office. We were also fans of V, Community, Revolution, Galavant, and a host of other one season wonders.

As an author I’m often thinking of the question, “What makes this story successful?” and apply whatever definition of successful seems appropriate:

  • Is it watched by many viewers?
  • Did it make a lot of cheddar $$?
  • Did it last a long time?
  • Was it impacting and made me think?
  • How creative was it, and unique?

We’ve recently started watching NBC’s Emerald City, a steampunk-ish take on The Wizard of Oz and associated literature. With our DVR we tend to lump episodes together, so we’ll do a couple on a weekend. Not quite binge, but close. We just finished up episode 5, and our mutual comment was, “Well, we finally got to some place where I can make a decision to stay or go. But hopefully this gets better.”

emeraldcity

I compare our feelings with ABC’s Lost. We initially binged the first 2 seasons to catch up, but then faithfully watched the remaining seasons with anticipation. The story pulled us along, drew us in. Sure there were some less-than-amazing episodes, but in general the story was compelling and seeded the right level of intrigue to keep us (and millions of others) hooked. For ABC, it appears to be a highly successful show in that it lasted 6 seasons and still generates buzz. J.J. Abramms looks like he’s gone on to good things, and many of the cast have moved further in their respective careers.

lost

It’s easy to throw stones from the sidelines, and we look at Lost in hindsight, but what made one show so magnetic and another about as exciting as vanilla ice cream? An inverted question also comes to mind: can a show in today’s markets be as “successful” as Lost and how?

Emerald City, in my view, has several factors at play:

Pros:

  • Expansive and elaborate world building is at play, and the designers continue to excel in visualizing that effort.
  • Many complicated characters: there’s a lot to work with.
  • Story elements and interpretation: I was impressed by several elements of The Wizard of Oz and how they were interpreted for TV.

Cons:

  • Each episode is packing a lot of details and complexity, rushing the viewer along a complicated (and mostly unrevealed) story arc. At least we have the Yellow Brick Road as a constant guide.
  • Visual elements, for the screen, like magic and scenery are amazing and costly: for a weekly TV show they draw down the budget, making each episode that much more value-responsible.
  • No significant names to anchor the show on. As a viewer I like that, but I can understand a network leaning on name-value to get viewers to a show. That’s why we watch The Great Indoors; thanks Joel McHale.

When I think of Lost, many of the same elements were in play, but the story revealed itself much slower. In a single episode we dove into one single character’s backstory and interplay between side characters and only came out with a tiny sand grain of story understanding. “Oh, so that’s why Jack feels that way about…”

By comparison, each episode of Emerald City leaves me thinking, “Gosh, I saw a lot of things happen, heard a lot of dialogue, had a bunch of visual elements thrown at me, but it was too much to process well, I don’t have strong feelings for any of these characters, and frankly don’t have any stake in this story yet. Except for West, kind of. In some sick way I actually do want to learn what drives the whore house managing wicked witch.

There are a couple of forces at play in TV which make me reflect on authorship and the business of story telling.

Our Viewing Habits Have Changed

When Lost came on the scene, we were just hitting the mainstream idea of DVD seasons being released in box set and online streaming was just coming of age. The concept of a binge was born. Fast forward a decade and networks are purposefully releasing whole seasons in one swipe, placating viewers with several hours of their favorite show all at once. Serialized TV on the networks remains, but the competition between established networks like NBC, ABC, and CBS, their respective empires of cable channels like FX and USA, and newcomers like Hulu and Netflix have changed the way TV is produced and distributed.

Fail Fast, Fail Early

Starting up a new show is no small feat. There are many, many options available for viewers, making it all the more important to hook them early and keep them gushing about their favorite shows. If a show can’t do that, then get it off the air. There are many ideas out there, and the marketers and psychologists (I mean… analysts) are using science and big data to hone their offerings to target viewership.

Unicorn Syndrome

I wonder how many networks take an approach that says, “We’ll invest in these 5 staple, these 5 new things, and know that we’ll pull the majority at the end of the season but maybe, just maybe, we’ll get another Walking Dead (Lost)(The Office)(Game of Thrones).” They are looking for that unicorn, and looking to replicate it.

Sound like Silicon Valley? It’s probably a little too close to the truth!

You Are The Commodity

As a viewer, I realize I’m a commodity. My attention is for sale. I’ve come to appreciate producers that plan new series as stand-alone packages: I loved The Night Manager and am enjoying Taboo because they have a clear end point. No need to worry about hooking me to Tom Hardy; just need to keep me entertained for a couple of episodes. Like a very long movie broken into pieces. I liked Stephen King’s The Stand way back in the day for that same reason: no need to rush the story to fit into 2 hours on the big screen.

We’ll see where things go. My fear is burning out viewers. How many false starts will someone accept before they cry wolf? Networks need more than a great pilot to make a splash; they need a great pilot season! Special effects alone won’t hold viewers.

Great story, however, will.  A great lesson to keep in our minds as authors and readers.

What about you? What TV series have held your attention and remained compelling through time? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Image credit: Blog image by Canva; Emerald City and Lost poster art at IMDB

A Boy and His Dragon: Inspiration in Florida and the Author Mindset by Steven Pressfield

2cents

I’ve been a bad kid. Kind of. We ended up executing a slight change of plans last week that turned a family visit into more of a holiday, taking advantage of several opportunities that fell into our laps. As such, I did what every diligent writer does: take a break!

During our stay in Orlando, FL and Charleston, SC, I did get to enjoy some light editing of Exiles of Heaven as I’m reading through in its 2nd draft.  I also searched for inspiration in our daily activities and the wonderful worlds created by Universal Studios and Disney’s Epcot resort. Some pictures follow showing the happy little boy at play.

I continue to press on with the beats of Map of the Stars, as well as general work catching up or planning future activities associated with Thorium. One item of interest is a series Steven Pressfield is writing on the authorship business mindset. Other author entrepreneurs have provided me excellent inspiration and guidance in this area, and Steve’s article does  a masterful job of describing the mindset.

I’ll try to do a catch-up post this week, but if nothing else, know “more come soon.”

At the Norwegian Village, Epcot St. George and the Dragon At Gringotts Happy Boy

Photo credit: Travis Chapman at Disney’s Epcot Resort and Universal Studios, Orlando, FL; header image by Canva

Author at Play: Unplugging from the Machine & a 2nd Draft Update

Exiles of Heaven

While I have a general plan that keeps me tracking on my writing projects, sometimes the story just pulls you along. Steven Pressfield would probably call that The Muse. Many call it ‘flow’. For me it was just joy. I have three major tasks set before me this season with Thorium Publishing: mature and grow the business end of operations, finish book two, Exiles of Heaven, and start and finish book three, Map of the Stars. Now Exiles of Heaven is that much closer!

My bet with Ken is a good motivator, but I’m willing to suffer wearing my Three Wolf Shirt in order to produce good books in my own timing. Plus, Exiles of Heaven needs to be finished next; that would otherwise just be silly. So I’ve been parallel working my edits to Exiles and initial idea incubation for Maps the past few weeks. This past weekend I started editing the latter half of Exiles and got caught in the whirlpool. For me, it’s really good. I’d finish a chapter and think, “I should stop and do this chore,” but couldn’t tear myself away. I wanted to see the story finished. I was drawn in and couldn’t stop reading. That feels really good!

I finished the second draft and am now shifting into the beta reader and formal editing modes. Everyone should keep their fingers crossed for an Easter launch!

I also spent some time over the weekend working on a completely useless but undeniably valuable and fun project. As a kid I ran around the woods surrounding our farm wielding whatever melee weapon I could produce from scrap materials on hand. Sticks became barbarian clubs. Pitchfork handles became spears. I found an old steel framing square that, once cut down with a hacksaw and put to the grinder, became a perfect two foot long Roman pugil sword complete with wood and sheepskin sheath, horseshoe-sourced hilt, and a blade fine enough to terrorize the maple saplings of our farm. It wasn’t just a matter of beating up trees with whatever I could find; it was the act of creation as well.

Since 2014 I’ve collected a good kit of armor for wearing at our local Renaissance Festivals (having borrowed a friend’s and realizing that participating was 1000 times better than just attending). I’m OK with the idea of paying someone else for their skills and effort with things I’m not great at or don’t want to undertake. Could I make a chainmail hauberk? Sure, probably. Do I want to? Not really. One local festival will allow weapons to be worn if peace-tied. This past year I wore a crowbill on my belt, but a knight should really have a sword strapped to his hip. Kind of a distinguishing feature.

I could buy one, and I probably will at some point, but I wanted to do something for myself. I had already collected most of the pieces-parts over time. My workshop is pretty well stocked with tools from my sailing adventures and growing up farming. Nothing fancy at all: that’s on purpose too. Just some bar stock, some scrap material, and an old ball hitch with a rusted shank that couldn’t be used for towing any longer. Now it was just a matter of setting aside the time to do things.

Sword in the making

I’m not done, not by a long shot, but I had so much fun making this thing that words can hardly describe it. When I finished welding the pommel I spent minutes in the driveway just swinging away, testing the balance, feeling the heat draw through my gloves. In my mind’s eye, I was Balian the warrior-blacksmith, defender of Jerusalem (at least the Hollywood version); Aragorn holding Anduril, the Flame of the West, reforged and renewed.

I’ve got dozens of projects on the honey-do list, regular chores and upkeep for our house and vehicles, and no small amount of professional stuff to keep up with in the wings, but I’m glad I spent the time on Saturday working this one. Psychologists and experts expound the virtues of play for adults. I’m glad that for a few moments I was able to reawaken the same feelings I had in my childhood. Or maybe we should call it “Training for adulthood.”

A Bloody Good Map: Cartography Related to the Chronicles of Outremer

inspiration

I read a good deal of high fantasy, typically works containing elements similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and such. One of the fun parts of any fantasy novel is the map. Usually found just after the title pages, the map gives the reader context. It provides a framework to orient the story within. Usually the author and designer can incorporate some good artwork and make them visually appealing as well!

The sailor and former submariner in me likes charts. I have them on my walls at home. I can look and immediately recall the adventure of sailing my live-aboard sailboat down the East Coast of the U.S., or crossing parts of the Pacific in 2009. In the same way, every time I see the pen-stroked beauty of Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth, my mind recalls Frodo’s adventure out of Bag End and into the dangers of the wild.

Chronicles of Outremer is no different.

However, I did not include the map in the digital copies. Yet. I started with a hand-drawn image that is kept tacked near my desk. This map gives me, the author, context. If tells me where the major locations of my world are. If tells me the orientation to keep things in their right places. It helps me keep track of what’s between Wolford and Westfield, Ardglass and Athylford. It’s also fictitious.

When I started the basic idea for this series, way way back in the 2012 timeframe, I was unsure what setting the story would take place in. I did not set out to write historical fiction. I knew I wanted to write about a company of knights. The initial locations were developed almost independent of any historical map of the time, meaning I would not be tied to local geography, town names, or features. References to the Crusader States were pretty accurate, but my interpretation of England was unique and fictional, drawing only on elements of the place.

The challenge of that approach is missing out on the beauty that is history, and the rich timeline of changes that occurred in the real Broads. Places like Ipswich. Norfolk. What’s an author to do?

Well, this author decided to blend. There are great reasons not to do so. There are many folks who want to see top-notch historical accuracy, and will be turned off by my muddling with the location. Who knows how far I’ll be read, but there are real people who live in the real Broads who will wince at fictitious and fantastical towns and geography. After all, if I read a book about Cochranton, PA, that said the school mascot was a walrus, I’d be up in arms. For those readers, I apologize for any unmet expectations, and hope you understand this viewpoint.

What I have done is “sprinkle” some fact with my fiction. I do this on purpose. There is a real place called the Broads. There is a real Ipswich. There were real knights and retainers who journeyed to the Holy Land, who fought in places like Ascalon, Aleppo, Acre, and more. The Crusader States were real. My hope is that readers will take these seeds and water them as much (or as little) as they desire, doing their own research, learning about the reality behind the fiction.

I had little idea when I first watched it, but Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven is actually based on a true story. Not just the Crusade and Templars, but the fall of Jerusalem and the characters themselves. There really was a Guy d’Lusignan and Sibylla, his wife. If it weren’t for Scott’s telling of the tale, I’d have never dug further in to learn that.

My hope is to get some better graphics for the books going forward and include a map with each one. In the mean time, for you, dear reader, please find my working copy.

broads

The Crusader States

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Image credit:

Travis Chapman, Chronicles of Outremer

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

Thorium: Goodbye 2016; Hello 2017

business

Goodbye 2016; hello 2017. I want to take a few moments to let everyone know how the year went, and where it’s going from here. The biggest event for Thorium Publishing and my authorship was simple:

I started the marathon and hit “publish.”

2016 was a year full of events: personal, professional, and in authorship. Trips to California for work, supporting NATO in Norway for the Navy Reserves, being selected for promotion to Commander, getting the sailboat out on the Middle River, getting a small group Bible study up and going, vacation in Gatlinburg, TN, and hosting Christmas at our place for the whole family! The end of 2016 at Thorium was a special treat over the holidays. Here’s how that panned out:

What I accomplished

In 2016 I continued to finish the 1st person perspective change to Ascent of the Fallen. I got contracts in place for editing and coverart, and pushed hard to finish the work necessary to hit “publish” on Amazon. This included registering the business, taxes, and all of that jazz. I was also able to get Exiles of Heaven‘s first draft completed. The sequel is also told through the eyes of Lord Fallondon Breck, and required a lot of work to complete. I had a number of placeholders (I use the editorial mark-up [TK] where I don’t know what’s going to fill the space) that required fleshing out. In the end, Exiles of Heaven came in at 52,000 words, almost a third longer than Ascent of the Fallen.

I also worked on many aspects of the business at Thorium Publishing. The website has become more active, with a nominal posting schedule of something out every Monday. My Amazon author pages, both U.S. and U.K., as well as Goodreads profile, are up and populated. I have a Facebook page. I have content. Want to help? Head over and follow or friend me!

There’s a lot coming down the road. I won’t commit to dates or even time frames at this point, but I want to share as much as possible for prospective readers. I’m adding graphics and write-ups to the “Buy my Books!” page on the site. Hint, hint.

I was able to get several professional development activities under my belt as well. To be honest, I was pushing hard in other areas of my life, including finishing a 2nd masters degree, which consumed a lot of effort. I did manage to keep up with some of my favorite writing podcasts, like The Creative Penn, and went back to The Story Grid and Productivity for Creatives whenever I could. Steven Pressfield’s “Writing Wednesdays” was particularly helpful, and I spent time each week digesting his wisdom.

Once I hit the button on December 20th (4 days ahead of the book going live), I listened to Joanna’s 2016 wrap-up podcast with Mark Lefebvre from Kobo. They both articulated a point I think worth repeating: it’s no use lamenting over starting late and wishing you started years earlier. It’s a great time to start right now, because in 10 years, there will be someone else looking back thinking, “I wish I started in 2016.” It would have been nice to publish in 2014 when I was finishing up deployment in Africa. It would have been nice to publish last year when the story was complete. But I’m happy I published this year and put in the hard work necessary to do things as well as I could. I’m still learning. I want to get better. This is the start of the marathon!

What’s coming down the road

2017 is going to be great! There’s lots of change in the air, which means lots of opportunities as well. We’ve got a lot of good things going on as a family. I’m particularly excited to continue my authorship and get more out there for you! In 2017, I’m trying to get the following activities complete:

Publish Exiles of Heaven by Easter

The book is complete, I just need to finish the editing and work of publishing. I think it’s a great sequel, and almost wish I could have published them both together so you could read the true “pilot” in one swipe. I’ll do my best to get it into waiting hands soon!

Exiles of Heaven

Publish Map of the Stars:

I made a wager to ship book 3 this summer. Watch out Ken, there’s no way I’m wearing my Three Wolf Shirt for a week or letting you write the dedication. I’m gunning for you, brother! Map of the Stars excites me because we get introduced to some of the female protagonists in the series. I hope I can do them justice.

Map of the Stars

Continue producing content for Thorium Publishing:

I’ve had failures to launch in the blogosphere before, but I hope to keep a consistent schedule with the website. For those who subscribe to the newsletter, I’ll have a quarterly update for you all, including exclusive looks at new material and additional stories only available to you, my readers.

Book 4 in the Chronicles of Outremer:

If I can manage publishing Map of the Stars this coming summer, I may be able to get book 4 out by Christmas 2017. I have several working titles and need to narrow that down, so stay tuned for where the story goes!

Maturing Thorium and myself as an author:

I’ll probably provide some insight into my other series in production, either as teaser chapters or short stories available here. I may also try to find some fantasy fiction outlets to provide material to for more exposure. We’ll see.

I intend to get through at least two or three new books on writing craft, and will try to review at least two I already own. I’ll also continue to learn from some of my favorite existing sources, like Sterling and Stone.

2017 is going to be a great year! Can’t wait to share more of my work with you, hear your feedback through Goodreads, Amazon, and this website’s comments, and continue to grow the Thorium brand. Cheers!

** Cheddar: For anyone interested, let’s talk about how well Thorium did this year. I’m well in the red. That’s not surprising. Ascent of the Fallen, my only income-producing asset, released late in the year and still needs to earn back its production costs. It’s fun to watch the Amazon rankings change, but I’m trying to avoid the magnetism of those metrics and focus on producing the next story, and the next story. I intend to provide some form of annual wrap-up as Thorium matures, so stay tuned for next year’s update.

 

Photo credit: Claire Rowland

Thank you

December 24th opened with a silent roar. I woke from my bed, grabbed my phone from the nightstand, opened my inbox and saw what I had waited for:

amazonascentlive

In my own way, I am now a published author. Someday there will be a box series, and more series and stories, and maybe a contract with an outside publisher, and movie rights, and audiobooks, and print copies. But for now, it’s a start. In the words of Glen Cook, “It’s a kind of immortality.”

So before things go much further and I get a big head (because that’s completely possible), I’d like to stop and say a few thank you’s. I couldn’t have done this without help, and in many ways, it’s a team effort.

Family & friends: Behind the scenes and in everyday life, I am surrounded by a cast and crew of exceptional people. My wife Brigette is not only a beta reader but emotional supporter and helper in so many ways. My entire family has been nothing but supportive throughout my life, and I owe a special debt of gratitude to my parents for suffering a young boy who read way too many Dragonlance novels and ran through the woods hacking about trees.

Beta readers: For Ascent of the Fallen I owe thanks for my friend Brenna who provided multiple read-throughs and excellent feedback. Not only in the little things, but also in story arc and a general, “I want to know more about where this is going, so feel free to say more,” thoughts. You know you have a great beta reader when a message comes in saying, “I know you’ve finished the first draft of Exiles of Heaven, and I’m going on vacation, so pony it up.”

Editor & cover art: Nicole, my editor, and Monica, my cover artist, are both consummate professionals and friends. I still remember how tentative I felt when asking Nicole, “Would you be interested in doing book editing for me?” Monica suffered through my first experience working directly with an artist to bring a random collection of inspirations into a cohesive picture, and an email chain around 35 messages long of back and forth. Thank you both for giving this first-timer a shot!

Steven Pressfield: I try not to distract myself with too many outside content sources: I know I could read blogs and articles, listen to podcasts, etc., all day long and never actually do anything. It’s easy to justify those activities as learning. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. I listen to a few voices in the field, and Steven Pressfield is one. His “Writing Wednesday” and “What It Takes” series of articles is a source of mid-week inspiration and writing technique education that I look forward to greatly. He is frank, honest, but undeniably accurate given his own story and success. Thanks for fanning the flame.

Joanna Penn: Maybe it’s her British accent that keeps me intrigued, but Joanna has been a constant source of inspiration and advice on self-publishing and authorship. I appreciate her honest take on authorship as a business, and her perspectives on various topics like marketing, business planning, and writing craft. She’s doing something unique over at The Creative Penn, and that’s awesome. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be one of her interviewees!

Shawn Coyne: Shawn (editor at Black Irish Publishing with Steven) provided a gem of writing knowledge in his editing tome The Story Grid and his methods of deconstructing novels. It had a significant influence on my thinking. I’ll say I’m using it imperfectly, and hope to improve over time, but I’m on the path.

Sean Platt & Johnny Truant: In 2014 it was this pair that kicked the door open. I had the basic framework of Chronicles of Outremer started back in 2012 (ish), but it was reading Write, Publish, Repeat that got me started on the path to self-publishing. Their business ventures at Realm & Sands and  Sterling & Stone show just what some motivated, dedicated, and wildly experimental writers can accomplish.

I’m excited to continue the story started in Ascent of the Fallen, and hope to get Exiles of Heaven out this spring. Stay tuned for a teaser from another storyline I’ve got on the backburner, the start of Map of the Stars on January 1st, and more. 2017 is going to be awesome.

Ascent of the Fallen in Pre-Order

ascentoffallen

I’m very excited that Ascent of the Fallen is not only in pre-order, but the final cover is uploaded, the last proofreading complete, and the final file submitted to Amazon.

Wipes hands, high fives himself, gets on with business….

For anyone interested, the sales page on Kindle Direct Publishing is here.

Many thanks, again, to Monica Paredes Chambers for the artwork and Nicole Gingrich for editing. A huge thanks to Brenna St. Cyr for being my most avid beta reader and providing lots of excellent feedback!

This morning I finally took the time to reread the story with fresh eyes. I was looking for last minute catches and made more than a few tweaks, but it was nice to read the story through reader eyes and not as the author in Scrivener. I’m proud of the work, excited to continue the story in Exiles of Heaven and beyond, and just happy to be out of the gate!

I’ve got a few more action items in the hopper before December 24th, like recording a short video introduction for my Amazon page, confirming my Goodreads author profile gets started, and cleaning up my launch blog posts here, but I can say with satisfaction that 2016 is the year this author finally launched.

For those who have pre-ordered, thank you!

For those who read this in the future, welcome!

For everyone, I hope the story of Lord Fallondon Breck and his company of knights is inspiring and worthy of your attention.

Photo credit: Monica Paredes Chambers at graceartdesign