Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SDCC Schedule - See you in San Diego (I hope)

In a few days Robin and I will be jetting off to San Diego for our first ever trip to San Diego Comic Con!  Here's my itinerary in case you want to drop by and say hi, get a book signed, or try to get one of the few remaining ARC's of Age of Myth.

 07/21   5:00 - 6:00 PM  Del Rey Booth #1515 Signing and ARC Giveaway
 7:30 - 8:30 PM Room #4Panel: Deleted Scenes with Kevin Hearne, Harry Turtledove, Tricia Narwani
All day
 VariousMeeting with readers on a one-on-one basis

07/23 3:00 - 4:00 PM Del Rey Booth #1515Signing and ARC Giveaway

As you can see I'm available all day Friday, so if you want to meet, send me an email (michael.sullivan.dc@gmail.com) and we'll setup a time. You don't have to have a SDCC badge to meet with me but you do need to be able to get to the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina since I won't have a car.

And of course there are plenty of other authors besides myself to visit such as: (To find a complete list of their event schedules click here).
  • Renee Ahdieh
  • Sasha Alsberg
  • J. Patrick Black
  • Mike Braff
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jeffrey Brown
  • Pierce Brown
  • Lorraine Cink
  • Peter Clines
  • Jessica Cluess
  • Cristina Colangelo
  • Andrea Cremer
  • Blake Crouch
  • Melissa de la Cruz
  • Indras Das
  • James Dashner
  • Sylvia Day
  • Camilla D’Errico
  • Christopher Farnsworth
  • Matt Forbeck
  • Cory Godbey
  • Alwyn Hamilton
  • Kevin Hearne
  • Matthew Holm
  • Jennifer Holm
  • Cole Horton
  • Colleen Houck
  • Jason Hough
  • Rachel Ignotofsky
  • Gini Koch
  • Sarah Kuhn
  • J.M. Lee
  • Stacey Lee
  • Todd Lockwood
  • Tahereh Mafi
  • Drew Magary
  • Meagan Marie
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Chloe Neill
  • Sylvain Nuevel
  • Ryan North
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Sydney Padua
  • Natasha Polis
  • Bob Proehl
  • Christine Riccio
  • Ransom Riggs
  • Brendan Reichs
  • Patrick Rothfuss
  • Paul Ruditis
  • Romina Russell
  • Cavan Scott
  • Scott Sigler
  • Nalini Singh
  • Alan Smale
  • Kathleen Smith
  • Sherry L. Smith
  • Thomas Sniegoski
  • Anne Sowards
  • Hayley Stone
  • Rebecca Sugar
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Sabah Tahir
  • Harry Turtledove
  • Jessica Wade
  • Andy Weir
  • Chuck Wendig
  • Scott Westerfield
  • Kiersten White
  • Judd Winick
  • Lisa Yee
  • Brenna Yovanoff

Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 18, 2016

From the mailbag, advice on creating characters.

I get a lot of mail from aspiring authors who are stuck or looking for help with their writing. It takes time to answer them, but I try to be as complete as I can. Robin was going through my email recently (she sorts it for me) and saw a response I made and said, "You should share this with others...why help just one person when others might find it useful?" She's so smart.  Well, I'm not sure whether this will help others or not, but I do think it makes sense to share it.  So here goes:

KS wrote: "I am having a hard time developing the characters. The story revolves around , a hobbit type creature."

My response:

First decided what you want them to ultimately do. What role they will play in the story. 

Let’s use Lord of the Rings as an example. 

What do we need him for? To carry the ring. 
Why him? He is decent, kind, lacking in pride or a desire for power, making him resistant to the ring’s influence. This makes him ideal to carry it, and why others cannot.

In this way you can see how the plot will dictate much of the character. You need a person to be a certain way, to fulfill a task in the plot, and so you create that character. If you don’t need a character, don’t make them.

Once you make a character, get to know them the same way you might a real life person, by asking them questions:

How old are you? How tall? How much do you weigh? 

These are important while what color their eyes are is not. Even the color of their hair is not, but the length might be. Why? Because these aspect can influence the story. Many aspiring writers spend a lot of time on eye color, but I’ve never known eye color to affect a story, except for Dune. 

Parents? Siblings? Grandparents? Children? What are their names? What are they like. Do you like them? Do they like you?

All of these are standard physical features questions. They don’t usually make the character come to life, but some of these next questions might.

What is your goal in life?
What is your greatest fear?
What secret(s) do you not want anyone to know about you?
What are you most proud of?
What bad habits do you have?
What hobbies, or side interests do you have? (that have nothing to do with the story)
What would you say are some of your quirks—everyone has them.What’s yours?
What is your greatest failure? 
What are you most embarrassed of?
Who are your friends?
Who are your enemies?
What are some things that you like? And what things do you dislike?
What odd talents do you have?
What is your greatest weakness?
What is your greatest strength?

The more of these sorts of questions you can answer about your character, the more real they become, both in your mind and the mind of your readers. Knowing the characters well, knowing more than will ever be put in the story, is what makes them interesting. 

Don’t think you have to answer all these questions for every character. Knowing the answer to a handful will usually get you going. And they can change as you develop the character. The point is that in trying to answer the questions, you’ll learn things about the individuals you create, they will gain depth and you will see them better, understand them as people. (If you have trouble coming up with answers, do real life studies of people you know. You can even ask them the questions and see how they answer.) Also you can add more questions if you think of some good ones that might help.

The last thing you might need to do, is a brief history. 

You thought it might be fun if your character built ships as a hobby. Now the question is how did this develop? Did he learn this trade from his father? Oh—but no, you answered “orphan” to the parent’s question. So now you need to build a logical solution to this aspect of the character’s life. Working out that solution may provide important backstory that can be used in the novel. 

Also consider going on line and doing an image search for pictures of people you think might look like your character. Copy and paste it into a file that you can reference. Sometimes seeing a face will give you ideas about them. 

Hope this helps,

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

One of these things is not like the other...

One of the nice things about new book releases is the bump that comes from having something new and shiny out. As most here already know, I write books for myself, and I'm always amazed to discover there are a few other people who seem to like the kind of books I do.  Anyway, I was sitting at my desk typing away on some edits for book #6 of Legends of the First Empire when Robin (my wife) sent me the picture below with the email subject of "Nice Company to be in."

Hmmm....Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, Michael J. Sullivan, Robert Jordan, and Stephen King. I appreciate my wife thinks it's company that I should be in, but the only thing I could think of is the old Sesame Street song: "One of these things is not like the others...one of these things just doesn't belong." Don't get me wrong, I'm really, really pleased with my writing and my career.  But I consider the proximity to that group of authors as a momentary alignment of planets that lasts but an instant and won't be seen again for another 10,000 years. Still, it did bring a smile to my face before I turned back to the keyboard and started tapping away again.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Did you know that today, July 1st is INDIE PRIDE DAY? Well, now you do!

On July 1st 2016, Indie Authors from around the world will be posting to  social media pictures of the authors holding up their books with the hashtags #IndiePrideDay and #IndieBooksBeSeen. Last year thousands participated, and the Indie Pride Day trended for three days on Twitter; generating over 25,000 tweets. 

As most know, I'm a big indie supporter and have a number of titles that are self-publishes as well. To give a helping hand I plan on buying 10 indie books and then posting reviews of the ones I enjoyed. My preference is not surprisingly fantasy so if you are an indie author and have a book for sale, leave a one paragraph introduction in the comments and I might pick yours.

I should also mention that some authors will also be offering book discounts and giveaways – so keep an eye out for the Indie Pride hashtags; you might just end up with a new book to add to your shelf.  

Also, if you know an indie author, tell them to participate as well. Hoping that I'll find some great new books and that some new authors will get a needed spotlight.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Age of Myth: Release Day + 2

Well, it's two days past the release of Age of Myth and things have really gone well so far.  Fingers crossed for continued success.

Really pleased to see the book caught the attention of some of the biggest industry sites. For instance:

Along with these nice pieces to help spread the word came some pretty incredible quotes:

"A young man grapples with his destiny as a God Killer in this spellbinding tale of power and rebellion, the first in a new epic fantasy series." -- Goodreads 21 Hottest Summer Reads

"Sullivan brings his masterful world-building and agile imagination to bear on a host of interesting characters and a story that feels new and vibrant." -- B&N.com Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog

Initial sales have been strong. So strong, in fact that I moved up substantially on Amazon's Most Popular Fantasy Author List. I usually hang out around 50 - 100. And I was in the 8 - 10 range post release.

Things have been so busy that I forgot to mention some other things that were going on.  So here they are.

Also, Robin tried to arrange a Book Launch Party for Age of Myth at our old stand-by One More Page Books. Unfortunately we couldn't get the timing to work out.  When we were available the books weren't, and now that the books ready we're booked.  Oh well, we'll see what we can do maybe later on in the year.  That said, for people who pre-ordered the books, Robin got all the single orders packaged and sent out. Today she'll be finishing up the packages for those that ordered 2 - 3 books. Originally, the plan was to use a fulfillment center to process these orders, but the volume level wasn't high enough for them to take the project on. So once again Robin has the house torn apart with bubble wrap, boxes, and packing tape. It's not like we are complaining, buying books direct is the best way to provide the most amount of money into the author's pockets, so we are grateful for those people who do buy direct.

Up Next:  What's up Next (now that Age of Myth is released).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Age of Myth: And So it Begins

Age of Myth is about a fairly likable fellow named, Raithe of Dureya, who is having a bad day. Being destitute, his father has this crazy notion of leaving their miserable homeland and migrating to the lush, territory across the river. The land there is owned by the gods and humans are forbidden from its banks. No one knows why, but everyone knows that disobeying gods is a bad idea, but desperation is the mother of most things crazy, and with the death of everyone else in their family, Raithe and his father have little else to stop them.

The water in the river is near freezing, the current strong, and Raithe nearly drowns on the crossing, but his father was right, the land is amazing—fertile and beautiful. And empty. The two explore this new world for days discovering a wondrous landscape and falling in love with a patch of land where they intend to build a new home for themselves. Raithe’s father has grand dreams of constructing a village, rich in food and wood and clean water. Then he’ll send Raithe back to their homeland to find a wife—maybe two—and together they will build a new future for their family away from the wars and the brittle grass and endless dust of Dureya.

They hunt deer for food, and bring one down with ease. Everything in this new land is easy. Then as Raithe’s father is gutting the stag, Raithe notices they aren’t alone.

The gods have found them.

It’s at this point that the novel begins.

Age of Myth is the first book in the Legends of the First Empire series, and it was released yesterday, Tuesday June 28th. In many ways, this series is an origin story for the world of Elan. It tells the epic story of how my world came to be, and the simple story of a handful of unassuming people who changed everything.

It’s the story of a man who kills what is supposed to be an immortal god. As a result…

It's the story of a woman who isn’t a warrior who must now go to war to save her people. As a result…

It's the story of a girl who insists the only way to win the war is to talk to a tree. As a result…

It's the story of all the little people who make history, but who are forgotten by it.

Age of Myth is a small story that will launch an epic tale that will lay the foundations for a world where in three thousand years two thieves will uncover much of what was lost, but so many more revelations remain to be discovered.

I invite you to start your journey today, with Age of Myth, and learn what you only thought you knew.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Age of Myth: Scene Stealing Characters Stage a Plot Coup

Book outlines are, in effect, plans. What do we all know about plans, whether they be of the battle preparations or the best laid sort? For the stories of plots, they usually don't survive and often go into the delete bin. Such was the case with Age of Myth. 

I had my outline and my characters. I was building my story nicely, but trouble was brewing in the most unlikely of places—the tertiary character district. I can’t help it. Whenever I create any character, I create a person. Doesn’t matter if they have only a bit part, I make a whole individual. I can take greater chances with the third tier cast as the story doesn’t rest on them. In the case of Age of Myth I kept making characters and those characters were unfortunately—great. I discovered I liked them a whole lot more than the main characters. They were far more interesting, more colorful, more tragic, and more emotionaly moving. That’s when a radical idea hit me.

Why not make them the main characters?

This was silly. These assortment of misfit toys from the reject pile can’t possibly carry a novel about heroes the likes of Achilles and Hercules…can they?

So many fantasy novels are about privileged princes or princesses, or skilled warriors, or powerful wizards doing grand things. How many are about average people—no—how many are about less than average people making a real difference and doing something truly extraordinary? Frodo and Sam come to mind. Dorothy of Kansas does, too. I liked the comparisons and set out to explore the possibility of doing something that surprised me, that I hadn’t been expecting. The more I thought about it, the more it excited me.

How much of history was created by people too small to be remembered by historians? Did the big names really do the things they are lauded for, or was it the efforts of a dozen quiet folk who might not be respectable enough to carry such a lofty mantle as "hero"?

The idea just kept picking up speed.

Wasn’t a huge part of why I liked Lord of the Rings because they seemed like ordinary people who succeeded at achieving amazing things?

What if the fate of mankind did not depend on the bravery of a muscular man with a broadsword and a gritty past. What if everyone owed their future to a cripple, an emotional shut-in, a self-centered bitch, and a little girl who likes stories a bit too much? Wouldn’t that be way more interesting? How could such a thing happen?

This idea is where Legends of the First Empire really started.

I didn’t change what I had written prior to this discovery. I didn’t want to. I like that the idea might creep up unseen on the reader the same way as it had with me. I wanted the reader to discover this amazing shift from the expected to the—are you kidding me? No way!

As a result, just like in my Riyria series (where I began with a slow build and familiar tropes only to later twisted them), I did it again. Didn’t mean to. Just happened.

I’m glad it did.

Tomorrow: Age of Myth, And So it Begins