Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

Everyone knows the scene, there is a run on the bank, and George Bailey has only a handful of cash standing between him and the demise of the old building and loan. “Now tell me, how much do you need to tide you over until the bank reopens?”

It is only Christmas Eve but the holiday season has already been very good to me. Sales of The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, and Nyphron Rising have been phenomenal.

“This is a very interesting situation!”

While I have no means of determining how many copies of The Crown Conspiracy have sold, I’ve noticed that the Amazon rank for the book has been doing amazing things. This could be due to holiday shopping, or people waiting until book three came out to start the series, or word-of-mouth hitting a certain critical mass, but whatever it is, the books have been flying out of the warehouse in unprecedented numbers. Then this morning it suddenly stopped.

“I’ve never seen one, but that has all the looks of being a run on the bank.”

Amazon is out of stock. Book Depository is out of stock. Powell’s is out of stock. Barnes & Nobles is out of stock. Abe's Books is out of stock. Everyone except rare booksellers—who are offering the book at outrageous prices—are all out of stock.

“Can't you understand what's happening here? Don't you see what's happening? Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicking and he's not. That's why. He's picking up some bargains.”

I’ve seen this happen before due to distribution glitches, so I contacted Crown’s publisher and learned that the warehouse was empty. The first printing of Crown Conspiracy has sold out. While this is great news—few books sell out their first printing, and even fewer independents, but it poses a problem—no one can buy the book at a time when everyone appears to want it and it will take months to reprint.

“I feel like a bootlegger’s wife.”

After the last distribution hiccup, Robin and I bought three hundred copies that I keep in cardboard cases in my bedroom closet—ten heavy boxes that make getting to my slippers and clothes a bit of a problem, but are there in case…well, in case something like this happened.

“That’s your own money, George.”

As a result, we have a small supply that we hope will last until the book can be reprinted, but we have no idea how long this little supply will last.

“A toast! A toast! A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick.”

It is a problem, but it is the kind of problem writers dream of, and it could not have happened without all of you. Every day I hear of people referring the books to friends. They loan them to parents, or buy them as presents to nieces and nephews. Recently one person ordered eight full sets—twenty-four books to give away as Christmas gifts! You can’t buy that kind of support. In addition, reviewers such as Fantasy Book Critic, Dark Wolf, David Brendon, King of the Nerds, and Speculative Fiction have been doing a wonderful job of keeping the books in the minds of the internet community. People have been discussing it on random forums and on their own small blogs, and each time I see readers commenting how the review has convinced them to try the series. The Riyria Revelations is only halfway out, but already I feel I have made scores of friends—friends I’ve never met.

“Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”

So if you, or your mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor, would like to get a copy and start the Riyria Revelations series without waiting for the second printing in March you can order from this link. I can't offer the whopping 28% discount that Amazon gives, but I will give you 15% off and throw in a signature and dedication to boot. You have made it a very merry holiday season for us, and I wanted you all to know how much my wife and I appreciate it.

So from Robin and I…Happy Holidays, and thank you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Going Somewhere

I think I mentioned previously that I am involved with a number of writer’s groups populated by aspiring novelists, that I recently attended a college workshop on creative writing, and work with several novice authors mentoring them on their books and short stories. In these groups, I read submissions on a range of topics and styles and for some time I’ve noticed a trend. A large number of aspiring writers have a fascination with plotless stories. It might not be a trend exactly, but it is new to me. This usually manifests itself in the short story form rather than the novel, yet I've known a few.

What I mean by plotless is that the story begins at a random point and ends at a random point without any noticeable conclusion or reason for the tale. An extremely condensed example might be: “I went to the grocery store on a Monday. I picked up a gallon of milk and mused on how it came from cows. I bought the milk, put it in a plastic bag, and left the store.” The story would be several thousand words long and filled with beautiful, poetic phrases, but the plot remains anemic.

Reasons for this phenomenon are legion. Here are only a few:

1. I don’t want to write a predictable story.

2. It’s about the writing not the story.

3. It’s true.

4. It has a plot! The character goes to the store and buys a gallon of milk. That’s the plot.

5. I want the reader to decide for themselves what it’s about.

6. Real life does not tie up neatly, so why should stories?

7. The plot is just subtle. The milk represents “enlightenment,” the plastic bag is “society” and the store is the “world.” You just don’t “get” it.

It might just be my sick and twisted bias here, but I am partial to stories with plots. And while I don’t mind stories that leave some aspects open to interpretation, I feel that it’s the writer’s job to do the work and not leave the reader to fill in the blanks. In most other industries, such an attitude might be considered lazy, if not negligent.

What I am most struck by is that authors of such stories would never interrupt a dinner conversation to tell this kind of tale. When people talk, when they relate something that happened, or something they heard about, it invariably has a point. No one is likely to present an ambiguous account and leave their audience to decide what it means as the result would be an immediate and awkward silence—and perhaps a reduction in dinner invitations.

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Good stories use what is presented in the beginning to add meaning, justification, or emotion to the end creating a greater sum than the parts and providing a form of circle tying up the whole. They can be surprising, ironic, touching, sappy, frightening, thought provoking, even totally expected and horribly clichéd, but at least they are stories and not mere writing. My thought is that if you can’t imagine telling the story (not reading it) to a group of friends (not writers,) with the expectation of interest, laughter, shock or knowing smiles, then you don’t have a plot. And writing without a plot is like a car without wheels…it doesn’t go anywhere so what’s the point?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis the Season

Sales of Crown, Avempartha, and Nyphron have been impressively brisk as of late. Crown sales reached an all time high this weekend. I’d like to think it is because the books are finally reaching critical mass through word-of-mouth, but this was also the weekend of Black Friday, the day retail stores enter black numbers on their ledgers. So maybe the sales are just the result of holiday shoppers, but even so, compared to last year, Crown is rocking.

The arcane enigma that is the Amazon sale rank—the subject of great study and dubious speculation—is far from an accurate reflection of number-of-units-sold, but the contrast at least is striking. The lower the number the better and last year about this time I was excited if my sales rank was below 500,000. I reasoned that since ranks run into the millions, this was respectable. After all, at that time I was an unknown author with one book.

Now I am an unknown author with three books so being under say, 200,000 would be great. Only I’m not under two hundred thousand. The sales rank of Crown has been fairly consistent hovering around the 20,000 mark with an all time low of 14,000. That might mean I am only selling 50 books a week, (that seems like a lot—but it really isn’t. Bestsellers move between 1000 and 10,000 a day.) When you factor in that, I make a buck or two a book that means I make a gross profit of only a couple thousand a year from which I subtract promotion costs for bookmarks, posters, etc. This leaves me in the hole overall, but I’m not complaining because the contrast between last year and this, is impressive. Regardless of how many actual books sell (a number I can never obtain but can only guess at,) it is clear that the situation has improved dramatically. People are buying the books in record numbers.

As I said however, this might all be a month-long blip due to holiday shoppers, but last year’s shoppers were not nearly so merry about the little gold book named The Crown Conspiracy. It is possible that hordes of impatient people were waiting for three books to hit the shelves before starting the series. If I remember correctly, I started reading Harry Potter the year the third book was released, but that was only coincidence. It is also possible that people are spreading the word, and sharing the books—virally infecting the reading public with news about Riyria.

Whatever it is, tis the season to be jolly.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It’s Quiet, Too Quiet

Releasing a book isn’t like the release of a movie. There’s no early showings, no glitzy debut or parties to attend. More importantly, you can’t sit in the dark and listen to people murmur, laugh or cry. You can’t watch them walk out disgusted halfway through, or applaud at the end. You can’t get up the next day and read in the paper how critics are appalled at your lack of creativity, or how they are putting your name in for awards.

Releasing a book is…different.

You finish it, package it up, and mail it into a netherworld where it disappears without a sound. It is like throwing a stone in a canyon waiting for the echo.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SF Site Reviews The Crown Conspiracy

SF Site is a webzine established in 1996, and based in Canada. It publishes reviews of science fiction and fantasy books, films, and television. In 2002, it won the Locus Award for best science fiction webzine. And...

This month it reviewed The Crown Conspiracy.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Nyphron Rising Beats out Princess Bride?

Okay, let me say right here, I love Princess Bride. This made it all the more surprising when yesterday the ranking on Amazon for the Kindle version of Nyphron Rising in the category of fantasy (historical) hit number 6 beating out the classic Princess Bride!(Not to mention a host of others.) And Crown came in at 15 and Avempartha at 22--all in the top 25.

So alright, it's not all that remarkable. It's not like Nyphron hit number six on Amazon overall, or beat out a heavy weight in its prime, but it is something, and it is the little victories that keep us going.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Win the Set

Fantasy Book Critic is holding a contest to give away two full (so far) sets of the three: The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha and Nyphron Rising. Go to the link below for more details and to enter.

Fantasy Book Critic

Fall Preview

When I was young, I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. This was back when cartoons were only shown on television on Saturday morning and there were only three stations. Once a week, kids got to rule the set. They started at seven am, and I would be up with my pillow and blanket that I dragged very quietly into the living room—this was when families only had one television. If you got up real early, you could see Felix the Cat reruns, but he was never that big a draw for me. I was a Bugs Bunny fan. Back then, they were good because it was before the censors cut out all the good parts they thought were too violent for kids. TopCat, Johnny Quest, Underdog, Mighty Mouse, Space Ghost, Secret Squirrel, Mightor and Aquaman, all the classics. And just like adult television there were new seasons and previews for it. It happened on the Friday night before the launch of the new season of Saturday morning cartoons. They ran a half-hour show on all the new Fall cartoon offerings. A lot of them looked like crap. I couldn’t believe it when they debuted H.R. Pufnstuf, I mean com’on that wasn’t even a cartoon! But I also remember this new cartoon that looked very interesting, spooky, mysterious and fun. It was called—of all things—Scooby Doo, Where Are You? And I would have nearly as much trouble going to sleep on that autumn night as I did on Christmas Eve. I loved that Fall Preview special. I loved seeing all the great things headed my way.

So for those of you who ordered the book and are waiting on the delivery, here is a little Fall preview for you that will hopefully keep you up and eagerly waiting.

When last we left off…Royce and Hadrian were riding home, back to Medford after leaving Avempartha and there was that annoying little question that literally dangled there. And then of course there was Thrace—lots of questions with that little situation. But where is the story going? What can you expect?

Well, the book is green. That might seem trivial, but it is a hint. Crown was gold and was set in autumn, Avempartha took place in Spring and was a blue green. Nyphron Rising is deep green so…

You can be assured that Royce and Hadrian will be back and a few other familiar faces will at least put in cameos. Primarily however, this book is about Royce, Hadrian and Arista. You’ll learn a whole lot more about each as the three struggle to save Melengar from invasion. But don’t worry you’ll find out what happened to poor Thrace as well.

The Green book, more than anything, is the background episode. A number of you have been wondering about the histories of our intrepid heroes and you will learn a lot of it in this book. You won’t get all of it, key aspects to the two’s past I am still keeping hidden, like how they became Riyria (you’ll get hints but the full story is being held in reserve for another time.)

And where are we going? By now patterns should start to form. You couldn’t expect to draw much of a picture of the future using just the first book. After Avempartha a lot of questions were answered, like how will the separate episodes work? But still two does not a pattern make. With three books you should begin to see a trend. So what kind of trend can you expect?

The Crown Conspiracy was really the appetizer, the introduction to the story. Fast paced and light it was intended to sweep readers along with the plot and not get bogged down with world-building or heavy characterization. In much the same way that the first chapter of Crown was the throw-you-into-the-action start of the story—that flashy bit of intro that you see before the credits of a movie or television show—so too Crown as a whole was the quick intro to the series—the pilot. And despite its simplicity you nevertheless came away knowing a lot about the world and its inhabitants. It was meant to get your attention, intended to interest you enough that you would be willing to slog through a little bit more depth without complaint.

Then came Avempartha. Deeper, slower, a little darker. Yet in many ways, it was filler. You know what I mean, the off-mainline-plot episodes of a television series. The characters get fleshed out more, but the focus is off the beaten trail. In this case, it was off in the wilderness in an isolated village. Not knowing where the plot is headed, it might not seem like filler (and in truth it is not) but it was distinctly different from the first novel in tone and location, sort of an eddy off to the side of civilization.

Now comes Nyphron Rising—the green book. With it, the series will reach the midpoint. By the end, you will have an understanding of patterns, a good solid grasp of how the story is being built (or at least you may think you do) and who the major players are and what roles they will inhabit. I warn you not to get too comfortable with any theories just yet as a lot of twists are still on their way.

Nyphron is also a bit different from the first two books in the structure of the plot. Reviews have had an easy time pidgeon-holeing the first two books in terms of traditional plots, with the first being a “save the kingdom and coming of age”, and the second being a “save the village” sort of scenario, but book three, four, and five will be a great deal harder as they don’t fit in any standard category. As for the sixth book…well we won’t talk about the sixth book.

In Nyphron you will meet old friends and enemies and some new faces as well. After this, being halfway, there won’t be as many new central characters introduced. The cast will be mostly set and the story arc will now begin to pick up speed. For those of you who hate waiting between books, I am afraid that feeling will only intensify from now on and should get worse with each book. There is only so much I can do to create a completely satisfying novel as the story arc excitement ramps up. The story is still a complete one with a beginning, middle, climax and resolution, but like a rocket picking up speed the fuselage will begin to shake a bit under the strain.

I truly hope you enjoy this new episode. I hope it surprises you while at the same time confirming your suspicions. I hope you read it and smile the way you do when you meet old friends you love. I hope it keeps you up at night reading when you know you should be sleeping, scolding yourself even as you promise—“just one more chapter…it’s a short one after all.” And I will admit to a sadistic streak when I say I hope when you finish it, you will curse me a little bit for not having the next one ready. I hope it prompts you to share the book with friends and family until your copy is hardly recognizable as a book. And I hope you’ll find each book in the series better than the one that came before.

A special thanks to Heather and Jim for their selfless assistance in editing and reviewing the ARC’s, and to all of you for your continued support and efforts to spread the word.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nyphron Rising: Official Release

You have all waited so patiently, you should be rewarded.

Nyphron Rising underwent a last minute update (just minor typo corrections) but it is now officially out and available. However, for you fans who visit me here, use this link:

to order your book for a 15% savings on any of my books including Nyphron Rising. These books come directly from me and I will dedicate and sign them at your request.

I hope you enjoy Nyphron Rising. It went through a number of changes over the last sixth months expanding and condensing like a frog. It began with one cover then took on another. Some characters found increased roles and two others, who died in the first draft, were saved by my wife in the final as she argued a very good case for sparing them.

This can be seen as the “information” episode, and you will learn a great deal more about Royce and Hadrian’s background. What were mere names, echoed through the mists of the first two books will take form. You will also get to know Arista a good deal better as well as meeting a few new friends…and enemies.

With this release we are now halfway through the series. The characters are in position, and as a reader you should have a good understanding of them and of the world. Now the plot can really thicken, so hang on to your seats, things are about to get…interesting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Green Book

You might have noticed that the official release date for Nyphron Rising was pushed back to November 1, but for those of you who have been so patiently waiting, and those who regularly watch this blog—the Green Book is out.

We haven’t officially announced it because we are waiting for our shipment to arrive so we can fill orders, but Nyphron Rising is available. You can buy it through Amazon, Kindle, Ebook and just as soon as the shipment arrives, (any day now,) through either my website or the Ridan website, (for personalized autographed copies.) You will also be able to buy the book from your local bookstore in about a week.

Given that it will be another week before bookstores will be able to order the book, and then another two to three weeks before they will receive their shipments, the official launch of the book can’t take place until at least November 1st—hence the new launch date. If you’re not planning to attend the launch party here in Arlington, VA, then there’s no reason to wait that long. If you want to get a signed copy (as if you were at the launch) you can order it through my site just as soon as the order form is posted which, as I mentioned, should be any day now, and I will let you know here when it is up and ready for orders.

So far a handful of determined folks have already found the book available and purchased it and should likely be receiving their copies this week sometime. Then there are those who downloaded the Kindle and already started reading. All of which brings me to the nail-biting-time, when I must sit and wait for the response.

I hope you all enjoy it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Something While You Wait

While I don’t feel the books actually need one, as pertinent information is either explained or refreshed, I have complied here a list of terms and names for those of you waiting for Nyphron Rising who might like a refresher on who’s who and what’s what. (I have eliminated all entries that could reveal secrets to book 3-6. If you haven’t read 1-2 there are some minor spoilers.) Some entries (such as those on the Glenmorgan Dynasty) are never fully explained in the books so there is a dash of new information that will not appear anywhere in the series.

Glossary of Terms and Names

Addie Wood: Mother of Thrace
Alburn: Kingdom of Avryn Ruled by King Armand and Queen Adeline
Alenda Lanaklin: Daughter of the Marquis Victor Lanaklin and sister of Myron the monk
Alric Brendon Essendon: King of Melengar brother to Arista.
Alverstone: \al-ver-stone\Royce's dagger
Amrath Essendon: \am-wrath\ Father of Alric and Arista
Amril: \am-rill\ The countess that Arista cursed with boils.
Ambrous Moor: Sold Allie to Wyatt
Antun Bulard: Historian and author of The History of Apeladorn
Apeladorn: \ah-pell-ah-dorn\ The four nations of Man, consisting of Trent, Avryn, Delgos and Calis.
Aquesta: \ah-quest-ah\ Capital city of the kingdom of Warric
Arcadius Vintarus Latimer: Professor of Lore at the University of Sheridan
Arista Essendon: Princess of Melengar and sister to King Alric
Arvid McDern: Son of Dillon McDern of Dahlgren.
Avempartha: Ancient elven tower located near Dahlgren
Avryn: \ave-rin\ The central and most powerful of the four nations of Apeladorn located between Trent and Delgos.
Ballentyne: \bal-in-tine\ The ruling family of the earldom of Chadwick
Belstrads: \bell-straad\ Family of knights from Chadwick including Sir Breckton and Wesley.
Bendlton: Monk of Maribor
Bernum River: Waterway that bisects the city of Colnora
Bethamy: King reputed to have had his horse buried with him
Blackwater: Last name of Hadrian and his father Danbury
Black Diamond: Thieves Guild centered in Colnora
Bocant: Family who built a lucrative industry from pork. The second most wealthy merchants in Colnora after the DeLurs.
Bothwicks: Family of peasant farmers of Dahlgren
Braga: Archduke Percy Braga, Lord Chancellor of Melengar, winner of the title of Grand Circuit Tournament Swords, the Silver Shield & Golden Laurel and Uncle-in-law to Alric and Arista having married Amrath's sister
Breckton: Sir Breckton Belstrad, son of Lord Belstrad, knight of Chadwick. Considered by many to be the best knight of Avryn.
Brodric Essendon: Founder of the Essendon dynasty
Bucketmen: Term for Assassin in the Black Diamond thieves guild
Bulard: (See Antun)
Burandu: \Bur-and-dew\ Lord of the Tenkin village of Oudorro
Basilard: Two edged dagger with a long blade.
Byrnie: A long (usually sleeveless) tunic of chain mail formerly worn as defensive armor
Calian: \cal-lay-in\ Pertaining to the Nation of Calis
Calians: Residents of the Nation of Calis. Darker in skin tone with almond shaped eyes.
Calis: \cal-lay\ Southern and eastern most of the four nations of Apeladorn, considered exotic. In constant conflict with the Ba-Ran-Ghazel.
Caswell: Family of peasant farmers from Dahlgren
Cenzar: \sen-zhar\ The wizards of the ancient Novronian Empire
Colnora: \call-nor-ah\ Largest, most wealthy city of Avryn. Merchant-based city, which grew from a rest stop at a central crossroads from various major trade routes.
Coswell Street: Food district in the city of Aquesta
Carrel: Small individual study area in a library
Cruck: a cruck is a curved timber, one of a pair, which supports the roof of a building
Dagastan: Major and eastern most trade port of Calis
Dalia River: Flows by Mandalin to Dagastan in eastern Calis
Danthen: Woodsman
Daref: Lord Daref, Noble of Warric, associate of Albert Winslow
Davens: Squire who Arista had a youthful crush on.
Degan: Degan Gaunt, leader of the Nationalists.
DeLancy: Gwen DeLancy, Calian prostitute and proprietor of The House and The Rose & Thorn Tavern in Medford
DeLorkan: Duke DeLorkan, a Calian noble
DeLur: Family of wealthy merchants.
Delgos: One of the four nations of Apeladorn. The only republic in a world of monarchies, Delgos revolted against the Steward's Empire after Glenmorgan III was murdered and after surviving an attack by the Ba-Ran-Ghazel with no aid from the empire.
Dellano: Dellano DeWitt name given by man who hired Hadrian to steal Count Pickering's sword.
Deminthal: Wyatt Deminthal, one time ship captain, adopted father of Allie.
Denek Pickering: Youngest son of Count Pickering
Dahlgren: \Dall-grin\ Remote village on the bank of the Nidwalden River
Dioylion: \die-e-leon\ The Accumulated Letters of Dioylion A very rare scroll
Drome: God of the Dwarves
Drondil Fields: Count Pickering's castle, once the fortress of Brodric Essendon. Site of the creation of Melengar and the charter.
Drumindor: Dwarven built fortress located at the entrance to Terlando Bay in Tur Del Fur.
Drundel: Peasant family from Dahlgren consisting of, Mae, Went, Davie and Firth.
Ecton: Sir Ecton, chief knight of Count Pickering and military general of Melengar
Elan: The world
Elden: Large man, friend of Wyatt Deminthal
Elgar: Sir Elgar, Knight of Galeannon
Enden: Sir Enden, knight of Chadwick. Considered the second best to Breckton
Enild: \in-illed\ Baron Enild, Baron of Galien of Melengar
Erivan: \ear-ah-van\ Elven empire
Erlic: Sir Erlic, a knight
Ervanon: \err-vah-non\ City in northern Ghent. Seat of the Nyphron Church. Once the capital of the Steward's Empire as established by Glenmorgan I.
Esrahaddon: \ez-rah-hod-in\ Wizard. One time member of the ancient order of the Cenzar. Convicted of destroying the Novronian Empire and sentenced to imprisonment.
Essendon: \ez-in-don\ Royal family of Melengar
Estramnadon: \es-tram-nah-don\ Believed to be the capital or at least a very sacred place in the Erivan Empire.
Estrendor: \es-tren-door\ The northern wastes
Ethelred: \eth-el-red\ King of Warric, Imperialist
Elven: Pertaining to elves
Falina Brockton: the real name of Emerald the waitress at the Rose & Thorn
Fanen Pickering: \fan-in\Middle son of Count Pickering
Fauld, the Order of: \fall-ed\A post-imperial order of knights dedicated to preserving the skill and discipline of the Teshlor knights
Fenitilian: Monk of Maribor, made warm shoes
Ferrol: God of the elves
Finiless: Author who wrote: wrote, 'More could not be gotten though the world be emptied to the breath of time'
Fletcher: the maker of arrows
Galeannon: \gale-e-an-on\ Kingdom of Avryn, ruled by Fredrick and Josephine
Galenti: \ga-lehn'-tay\A Calian term
Galewyr River: \gale-wahar\marks the southern border of Melengar and the northern border of Warric and reaches the sea near the fishing village or Roe.
Galien: \gal-e-in\Archbishop of the Nyphron Church
Galilin: \gal-ah-lin\Province of Melengar ruled by Count Pickering
Gath: (See Demron)
Gaunt: (See Degan)
Ghazel: \Gehz-ell\Ba-Ran-Ghazel, the dwarven name for Sea Goblins
Gilarabrywn: \Gill-lar-ah-bren\, elven beast of war
Ginlin: \Gin-lin\Monk of Maribor, winemaker. Refused to touch a knife.
Glamrendor: \Glam-ren-door\Capital of Dunmore
Glenmorgan: Native of Ghent who reunited the four nations of Apeladorn together for the first time since the fall of the Novronian Empire. Founder of Sheridan university. Creator of the great north south road. Builder of the Ervanon palace (of which only the Crown Tower remains.)
Glenmorgan II: Son of Glenmorgan. When his father died young, the new and inexperienced emperor relied on church officials to assist him in managing his empire. They in turn took the opportunity to manipulate the emperor into granting sweeping powers to the church and certain nobles loyal to the church. Nobles and the church who opposed action against the invading Ba Ran Ghazel in Calis and the Dacca in Delgos arguing that the invasion would help increase their dependency on the empire. As the death toll and atrocities by the Ghazel rose, they delivered false reports to the emperor.
Glenmorgan III: Grandson of Glenmorgan. Shortly after being crowned the new emperor attempted to reassert control over the realm his grandfather had created by leading an army against the invading Ghazel that had finally reached southeastern Avryn. He raised and led an army that succeeded in defeating the Ghazel at the First Battle of Vilan Hills. He announced plans to ride to the aid of the besieged Delgos city of Tur Del Fur, after which he would "clean up" the imperial administration. Only he never made it to Delgos. In the sixth year of his reign, his nobles betrayed and imprisoned him in Bythin Castle. Jealous of his popularity and growing strength, and resentful of his policy of striping the nobles of their power in favor of a stronger empire, he was charged with heresy and executed. This began the rapid collapse of what many called the Steward's Empire. The church later claimed the nobles tricked them and condemned many, most of whom reputedly ended their lives badly.
Glouston: Province of northern Warric bordering on the Galewyr River Rulled by the Marquis Lanaklin.
Grelad: Jerish Grelad, Teshlor Knight and first Guardian of the Heir
Gribbon: The flag of Mandalin Calis
Grigoles: \gry-holes\author of Grigoles Treatise on Imperial Common Law
Grumon: \grum-on\Mason Grumon, blacksmith in Medford.
Gusak: Tenkin, in the Ghazel language
Gutaria: \goo-tar-ah\The secret Nyphron prison designed to hold one prisoner
Gemkey: A jem that opens a gemlock
Gemlock: A dwarven invention that seals a container and can only be opened with a precious gem of the right type and cut.
Greatsword: a long sword designed to be held with both hands
Harkon: Harkon Blue, the name of a ship that wrecked off the coast of Galeannon.
Heslon: Monk of Maribor, great cook
Highcourt: Highcourt Fields. Once the site of the supreme noble judicial court of law in Avryn. Held bi-yearly at Wintertide and Summersrule, the procedures frequently defaulted to trial by combat. The court drew spectators and evolved into the most prestigious world tournament event.
Hilfred: Bodyguard of the Princess Arista
Himbolt: Baron of Melengar
Hintindar: Small manorial village in Rhenydd
Hoyte: One time First Officer of the Black Diamond.
Heldaberry: Wild growing fruit often used to make wine
Indicolite: a gemstone; a rare, deep blue variety of Elbaite which is itself one of the Tourmaline family.
Jerish: (See Grelad)
Jerl: Lord Jerl, neighbor of the Pickerings known for his prize winning hunting dogs
Kharoll: Long dagger
Kilnar: City in the south of Rhenydd
Krindel: Prelate of the Nyphron church and historian
Lanaklin: Ruling family of Glouston.
Lanksteer: Capital city of the Lordium Kingdom of Trent
Lankster: Forest in Melengar
Lasinda: Queen Enjuare DeLorken, ruler of Calis
Lenare: Lady Lenare Pickering, daughter of Count Pickering
Lingard: Capital city of Relison, kingdom of Trent
Lothomad: Lothomad the Bald, King of Lordium, Trent. Lordium expanded its kingdom's territory dramatically following the collapse of the Steward's Reign, pushing south through Ghent into Melengar where Brodric Essendon defeated Lothomad the Bald in the battle of Drondil Fields in 2545.
Lugger: Small fishing boat rigged with one or more lugsails
Mandalin: \man-dah-lynn\Capital of Calis
Manzant: \man-zahnt\Infamous prison and salt mine located Manzar, Maranon.
Maranon: \mar-ah-non\Kingdom in Avryn Ruled by Vincent and Regina
Maribor: \mar-eh-bore\God of Men
Mauvin: \maw-vin\Eldest of Count Pickering's sons
McDern: Family in Dahlgren, Dillon McDern is the town's blacksmith
Melengar: \mel-in-gar\Kingdom in Avryn, ruled by Alric
Melengarians: residents of Melengar
Mercs: Mercenaries
Montemorcey: \mont-eh-more-ah-sea\Excellent wine imported through the Vandom Spice Company
Murthas: \mirth-us\Sir Murthas knight of Alburn
Merlons: A solid section between two crenels in a crenellated battlement
Motte: a manmade hill
Nareion: \nare-e-on\Last Emperor of the Novronian empire
Nevrik: \nehv-rick\Son of Nareion, the heir who went into hiding
Nidwalden River: Marks the eastern border of Avryn and the start of the Erivan realm
Novron: Savior of Mankind. Son of the God Maribor. The demi-god who defeated the elven army in The Great Elven Wars. Founder of the Novronian Empire. Builder of Percepliquis. The first Emperor of the Novronian Empire.
Novronian: \nov-ron-e-on\Pertaining to Novron
Nyphron Church: the worshipers of Novron and Maribor his father.
Nyphrons: \nef-ron\Devote members of the church
Oberdaza: \oh-ber-daz-ah\Tenkin witchdoctor
Parthaloren Falls: \path-ah-lore-e-on\The great cataracts on the Nidwalden near Avempartha
Percepliquis: \per-sep-lah-kwiss\The ancient city and capital of the Novronian Empire named for the wife of Novron who refused to leave her home village causing Novron to build the capital around it.
Pickering: Noble family of Melengar and rulers of Galilin. Count Pickering is known to be the best swordsman in Avryn and believed to use a magic sword.
Pickilerinon: Seadric, who shortened the family name to Pickering
Plesieantic Incantation: \plass-e-an-tic\A tool used in the Art to draw power from nature
Praleon guard: \pray-lee-on\Bodyguards to the King in Ratibor
Pauldron: A piece of armor covering the shoulder at the junction of the body piece and the arm piece
Planchette: Footrest for a woman's sidesaddle
Quintain: Training for the joust where the rider can be knocked out of his saddle if he misses
Ratibor: Capital of the kingdom of Rhenydd
Rendon: Baron of Melengar
Renian: \rhen-e-ahn\Childhood friend of Myron
Rentinual: Tobis Rentinual, history professor at Sheridan university
Rhelacan: \rell-ah-khan\The great sword that Maribor tricked Drome into forging and Ferrol into enchanting and gave the weapon to Novron to defeat and subdue the elves with it.
Rhenydd: \ren-yehnid\Kingdom of Avryn, ruled by King Urith
Rilan Valley: Fertile land that separates Glouston and Chadwick
Rionillion: The name of the city that first stood on the site of Aquesta but was destroyed during the civil wars that occurred after the fall of the Novronian Empire
Riyria: \rye-ear-ah\Elvish for two, a team or a bond
Rolandue: \roll-on-due\City in Calis
Roswort: King of Dunmore
Russel Bothwick: Farmer in Dahlgren
Rondel: a common type of stiff-bladed dagger with a round handgrip
Saldur: Bishop of Medford
Salifan: A fragrant wild plant used in incense
Sarap: Meeting place or Talking place in the Tenkin language
Senon Upland: A highland plateau overlooking Chadwick
Seret: \sir-ett\The knights of Nyphron. The military arm of the church first formed by Lord Darius Seret, who was charged with finding the Heir of Novron by the Patriarch Venlin
Skillygalee: \Skil`li-ga-lee\ n. A kind of thin, weak broth or oatmeal porridge
Summersrule: Popular mid-summer holiday celebrated with picnics, dances, feasts and jousting tournaments.
Spadone: A long two-handed sword with a tapering blade and an extended flange ahead of the hilt allowing for an extended variety of fighting maneuvers. Due to the length of the handgrip and the flange that provides its own barbed hilt, the sword provides a number of additional hand placements permitting the sword to be used similarly to a quarterstaff as well as a powerful cleaving weapon. The spadone is the traditional weapon of a skilled knight.
Surcoats: A tunic worn over a knight's armor
Tarenth: Bishop of Alburn
Tarin Vale: a small town near Aquesta, in the kingdom of Warric
Tek'chin: the single fighting discipline of the Teshlor Knights that was preserved by the Knights of the Fauld and handed down to the Pickerings at the death of the last Knight of the Fauld.
Tenkin: The community of humans living in the manner of Ghazel and suspected of having Ghazel blood
Terlando Bay: the harbor of Tur Del Fur
Teshlor: The legendary knights of the Novronian Empire. The greatest warriors to have ever lived.
Theron Wood: Father of Thrace Wood, Farmer of Dahlgren.
Tiliner: A superior side-sword used frequently by mercenaries in Avryn
Tolin Essendon: Son of Brodric, who moved the capital to Medford and built Essendon castle.
Torsonic: Torque producing, as in the cable used in crossbows
Trumbul: Baron Trumbul, mercenary
Tur: Small legendary village believed to have once been in Delgos and the site of the first recorded visit of Kile. The mythic source of great weapons.
Tartane: a small ship used both as a fishing ship and for coastal trading. A tartane has a single mast on which is rigged a large lateen sail, and with a bowsprit and fore-sail. When the wind is aft a square sail is was generally hoisted like a cross jack.
Tenent: The most common form of semi-standard international currency. Coins of gold, silver and copper stamped with the likeness of the King of the realm where it was minted.
Tulan: a tropical plant found in south eastern Calis. Used in religious ceremonies, the leaves are dried and burned as offerings to the god Uberlin. The smoke of the leaves can also be inhaled to induce visions.
Uberlin: The god of Dacca, the Ghazel and the other creatures of darkness
Urith: King of Ratibor
Urlineus: The last of the Novronian Empire cities to fall. Located in eastern Calis it fell to the constant attacks of the Ghazel. With its collapse it became the gateway for the Ghazel into Calis.
Ulurium Fountain: Great sculptured fountain at the end of the Grand Mar, before the palace in Percepliquis
Valin: Lord Valin an elderly knight of Melengar known for his valor and courage, but never for his strategic skills.
Vandon: Port city of Delgos, home to the Vandom Spice Company, which began as a pirate haven until Delgos became a Republic, when it became a legitimate business.
Venlin: Patriarch of the Nyphron Church during the fall of the Novronian Empire
Vernes: Port city at the mouth of the Bernum River
Vintu: Natives tribe of Calis
Villein: a person who is bound to the land and owned by the feudal lord
Warric: Kingdom of Avryn ruled by Ethelred
Wesbaden: Major trade port city of Calis
Westbank: Newly formed province of Dunmore
Westerlands: The unknown frontier to the west.
Wicend: \why-send\ The farmer in Melengar who lends his name to the ford that crosses the Galewyr into Glouston.
Wintertide: The chief holiday, held in mid winter, celebrated by feasts and jousts.
Wylin: \why-lynn\Master-at-arms at Essendon castle
Wherry: Light rowboat for use in racing or for transporting goods and passengers in inland waters and harbors

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Launch Day

Yes I know it is October 1st--Launch Day for Nyphron Rising, but oddly enough the countdown timer still says one more day to go...does it know something we don't?

The printer's proof just arrived minutes ago, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Shuffling Pages

Last week I received the printer’s proof of Nyphron Rising. It looked great. I skimmed over it and gave my approval. Then just to be sure, I started reading. This is the fourth time in three weeks I’ve read it so I can’t really see it anymore, it’s like going snow-blind. This final reading was just for peace of mind.

I was very pleased. There is always the word or two I would change. A sentence that sounds suddenly awkward that didn’t before, but nothing awful. Then I came to page 187. There was nothing wrong with page 187, except that it wasn’t 187 it was supposed to be 188. Page 187 was now 189. For no reason I can figure, the pages were shuffled.

Crap. That’s a show stopper. I can’t let the book go out with pages out of order. I can recognize they are mixed because I can recite the novel by now and know what comes next. New readers will be flying along oblivious to the fact that they are being derailed.

I continued to read and the same shuffling of pages occurred in four separate points after that. The book was toast. It has to be reissued and that means delays. On top of this, I already ordered several cases. Not sure if I canceled the order in time. So I expect I will be receiving a hundred expensive doorstops soon.

Now, with just four days left, I am waiting on the next proof to arrive. No idea if it will make it in time for the Oct 1 release, so at this moment I can’t tell you exactly when the book will be available. The good news is everything else was fine. If the pages come in order with this new edition, then I should be able to push it live the next day. I am guessing it will only be a week delay at the most, but right now, all of us—me included—are waiting to see when the Green Book will be out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Launch

As we get down to it, less than ten days, I thought I’d say a little something about the launch of a novel. Keep in mind my experience is not necessarily the norm.

Launching a book is not like launching a rocket. You can countdown all you want, but there’s too many things outside of your control to be accurate. Nyphron Rising is not having a midnight release. I know. All of you are holding a hand to your mouth in shock right now. Not having that kind of expected interest, neither I nor my publisher, have the power to mount an orchestrated release. Although wouldn’t that be cool? All these people dressed up as Royce and Hadrian giving nasty looks to those dressed up as Saldur and Guy. Perhaps there would be a Montemorcy Vineyard wine tasting, huge inflatable Gilarabrywns and By Mar! t-shirts.

Instead we try to queue things up as best we can so that the book comes out roughly on schedule in all its forms, Amazon, Bookstores and Kindle—sorry still no audio or eBook with this release. Each of these venues takes a different, and mystifyingly unknown, amount of time to process the book and make it available to readers. Anywhere from three to fifteen days, which is an annoyingly vague spread when trying to set up a coordinated effort. Can you imagine the British telling Eisenhower that from the moment he says go it will take between three and fifteen days for the D-Day invasion to actually launch? And that the timing will be arbitrarily different for the paratroopers, infantry and armored divisions.

The result is that Nyphron Rising will not burst on to the world stage with a fanfare, but rather trickle out here and there. Most likely those with Kindle will see it first, then those accessing Amazon, then those getting it directly from me, and finally, the bookstores. The more complex the distribution system the longer it takes to process.

The good news is that it is coming and on schedule—depending on which venue you plan to buy it through.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nyphron is Rising

The final manuscript was sent out late last night—a little birthday present to myself. Now I await the first proof, which I expect to see in the next few days. If it is good, then the book will be available to you on schedule. Although, like Avempartha, Nyphron Rising will likely have a couple week delay before it gets to the bookstores, just because despite my best intentions, I was still way late in getting this out the door. It will be available via Amazon and directly from my publisher ( and from my website, because the set up time for these outlets is almost instantaneous.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Evolution of Writing

It’s funny how things change. I couldn’t wait to drive. Once I had a license, I loved it. I don’t know when that affair ended—probably when traffic entered into the picture, when “driving” turned into stopping-and-occasionally-going.

For decades I wrote books. I wrote for fun, which placed writing on the priority list right behind playing solo computer games or watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. It was something I did when absolutely everything else that needed doing was finished. After all, writing was a waste of time. No one ever read the stuff I wrote. I liked to think that I was improving, learning my craft, or that the books I wrote would be discovered in a box years after my death and some professor would declare them masterpieces. Too bad he was never appreciated in his lifetime, but alas the greats never are.

Then I started the Riyria series. Halfway through book four we fell on some hard economic times. A lot of people did. We moved and it looked like I would have to suspend writing the series indefinitely. Once I put a project down I have lightning-odds of picking it up again. Too much is forgotten because so much is stored only in my head. We struggled forward and I forced myself to keep writing. Writing was no longer fun, it was a chore, something I felt I needed to do so I didn’t leave one more thing half done. It was a good story and it didn’t deserve to die the quiet death of inconvenience. I still hoped someone would read it someday…even if that person was the future me. I’ve done that, picked up a book I forgot I wrote years ago and delighted myself. Wow. I wrote this?

It was a miserable task, forcing myself to write. Some people say pain and depression gives birth to art. I prefer to be happy. Writing when depressed isn’t fun. It did help to escape. Rather than alcohol, or drugs, or even the television, I would slip into my computer and like a C.S. Lewis character pass into another world—a better one, one that I controlled.

When I learned Crown was going to be published it became exciting—first-day-of-school exciting. One part scary, two parts kiss-the-dog delirium. Suddenly writing has merit, it has respect, it is legit. What I used to do to entertain myself is now my job—sweet! Like someone saying they will pay you to eat ice cream.

The rollercoaster comes after that. Ups and downs. Good reviews. Bad reviews. No reviews at all. No money. Things get quiet and I wonder if the ride is over. Do I get out now? I look at the t-shirt souvenir they handed me, the one that says, “I’m a Published Author,” and think—at least they can never take it back. After a few washes it might fade, but I can always wear it with pride. It’s mine to keep.

Then people start talking, not to me, to each other as if I died or something. “Have you read those books? I can’t wait for the next one.” They can’t wait? “I’ve read the first one three times already.” Three? “My son and I will be fighting over it when it arrives.” Starting fights?

Writing changes again. It is no longer for fun. It is not a chore, but most of the initial excitement is gone. What replaces the vacuum is a most unexpected sensation. I knew writing wouldn’t always be fun, I certainly guessed getting published would be exciting, but there is no way I could anticipate this. Yet as comments are made, small insignificant posts discovered on obscure blogs and forums where they never think I’ll find them, statements of hopeful anticipation; it sinks in. These people really like the books. Some love them. They make comments that make me think of when I read those few great books in my youth that stayed with me. I’m doing that? The story I am writing is doing that to people? That’s when I realize this isn’t mine anymore.

The writing changes. It’s no longer what it was, but what it’s become—a duty, the good kind though, the kind called an honor. When you realize there are people who have fallen in love with your characters, you suddenly feel an obligation not just to finish the story for them, but to do the best job you possibly can.

Sometimes change can be good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ready, Set, Proof!

The countdown timer ticks...

Robin finished last night and handed Nyphron Rising off like the baton in a relay race. I was up at 6am this morning checking it, re-writing the first sentence and now it is printing. When done I will sit down with my coffee and a pen and begin the final read through.

Geez I hope it's good!

And the countdown timer ticks...

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Countdown Timer Ticks…

The countdown timer ticks…

Looking back, I find it astounding that The Crown Conspiracy hit shelves only a year ago, but the rush of Avempartha is still with me. Now I am back in the countdown again, but I haven’t seen the book in weeks. Nyphron Rising went off to the editors in August like a kid on his first day of school. Since returning, Robin has had it. Being one of those detail-oriented people, she volunteered to compile all the changes from the various editors and proofreaders for me. I’ve purposely stayed away from the book. Reading it too many times can make you blind to the words.

I will receive it Tuesday—like starting a new year at school.

I’ll have exactly one week to read it over, proof it, and make any changes necessary before it has to fly to the printers in order to make it on shelves by October 1. The book was in good condition when last I saw it so I’m not too worried. I just have to make certain the editors didn’t change something important thinking it was an error when it wasn’t.

So far all who have read it like it. Robin is my most reliable critic. She loves the books, but she also isn’t shy about being honest. Like Avempartha, she began unsure about this latest release, but now, after the polishing, she says she likes it best. She always likes best the last book she’s read in the series. Hopefully you will too.

That is the goal of course, to make each book just a little better than the one before. As a reader, that’s what I’d want. Some mysteries explained, more introduced, greater excitement as the stakes rise steadily, all the while learning more and more about the characters and watching them grow. The hard part is restraint in the early books while still managing to make them good enough to pull in an audience. Give away too little and no one is interested—too much and there’s no place to go.

The countdown timer ticks…

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

One Month Left

If you've been looking at this blog and watching the countdown to Nyphron, you might have noticed it was off by a month. I think I've got it fixed now give or take a day.

The book just returned from the editors. Robin is busy inputting some changes from hardcopy corrections. When she is done I will begin my final read through. I've purposely not read it in a month so I could approach it as fresh as possible.

I now have less than two weeks to review all the input and make any last minute changes. I always have last minute changes. I already know I have to change the first sentence. The first sentences are always the hardest. I'm never satisfied until I've beat myself bloody over them.

Feel free to start the buzz about this book. Just start asking people if they are ready for Nyphron Rising. I think you will find there are a surprising number of people who aren't. Sadly, at the moment, I'm one.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cover Art Controversy

As we close in on the release date for Nyphron Rising things are taking shape. The cover art is just about finalized and so I can show it to you here.

Some of you may have remembered a sketch I provided a few months ago however and wondered what happened to that idea.

I completed that painting some time back, but was never completely happy with it.

Both covers depict scenes from the novel but it was thought that the bridge image was harder to understand by the viewer. Also the general look of the bridge image failed to fit the pattern—it is just a bit too detailed of a scene lacking a central focus and less ethereal than the others. But mostly it was the color scheme that ultimately decided its fate.

It was my intention to create the series using a different color scheme for each novel. I toyed with the idea of having each color match the season of the story. Crown Conspiracy takes place in the fall, hence the gold color. Avempartha was painted in a blue green for spring. Nyphron Rising takes place in the summer so green was the obvious choice. I doubt I can keep up this theme however. The next book, The Emerald Storm, takes place in autumn again, so I will be at a crossroads then as to what color to use. And of course there are only so many colors.

Having completed both covers, I am interested to hear which you prefer. So leave a note here with your vote for your preference. It is not likely to change the choice, but I am curious to hear what readers think. Which cover do you like best? Which one looks the most intriguing—compelling?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Style

The plot of a novel is the story, how it is told is the style. Some books are plot-heavy, meaning that the focus is on an elaborate, usually fast-driving series of events. Others are style-heavy. Style comes in many varieties, some cleverly poetic in their prose, others place the weight of the story on the nuance of the characters, still others are setting-heavy. Combinations of various plot types and style types can keep each book—even by the same author—unique. There are also formulas to certain series. Developed by one author, the tradition is carried on by new writers who must follow a lengthy style guide. I once attempted to submit to one of these publications, namely Wizards of the Coast. I never heard back and today see that as a bullet dodged. The idea of being confined to a single specific style designed by another is a horror to me.

Plot and style types I feel should follow the form of the book being written. A simple plot is bolstered and made engaging by a lively and elaborate prose style that employs a vibrant setting to create an experience that lets the reader taste the air and hear the wind. A complex plot however, would drown in a similar style. The average James Bond story, written in the beautiful manner of Suzanna Clark, would result in a tome of immense size and leave readers struggling to lift the important points. Plots with numerous characters, scene changes and actions I feel are best served with a simpler style that allow the reader to concentrate on events rather than the eloquence of the writing. In particularly tricky plots, even characterization can be simplified and revealed more through events than through lengthy reflection, the kind you find in your average Stephen King novel.

I have written novels in numerous styles, and while I enjoy the fun of creating artwork in sentences, I’ve always found this best done in conjunction with simple plots. Most successful novels of this type cover scant ground in terms of story. Few events occur and a plot can be as simple as a man coming to grips with his impending death, yet the in-depth character study, palpable settings and writing style make the story just as griping as any action adventure. Still this kind of work is not usually found in fantasy. Stories in the realms of dragons, vampires, ghosts and knights rarely confine themselves to the minute and the diminutive. Imagine the Lord of the Rings written in the style of Stephen King, John Updike, James Joyce, or better yet, Shakespeare or Milton. Those who scorn the trilogy for its lengthy prose might then perceive the brevity of Tolkien. For this reason I have always advocated a lighter style for the traditional fantasy adventure as they are rarely of the ilk associated with sipping a glass of wine. Fantasy is like a drag-queen, grand and sweeping and adverse to the small, understated, or reflective.

The Riyria Revelations was born out of my trying something new. Coming off a novel of deep prose, Riyria was a great leap to a story of simplicity. I had a huge story to tell, one of complex themes, numerous characters and dozens of twists where things are not always what they seem. This idea would be unmanageable in a thick style. I’m already asking a great deal of the reader—to keep track of everything that happens over the course of six separate novels as if they were one long book. To make the trip as comfortable as possible for my readers I attempted a style I had never tried before—invisibility.

I thought I was a genius for inventing this concept only to learn later that I had discovered the light bulb in 2004. The idea is to make the story pop off the page and make the writing disappear. Neither awkward prose nor eloquent phrases should distract the reader from immersion in the action and the world unfolding before them. I have needed on many occasions to rewrite passages that were too pretty; too sophisticated for fear the reader would notice them and pause to reflect. The result I have discovered, much to my delight, is a book that reads like a movie in the reader’s mind. A number of people have posted reviews mentioning this very thing.

When Crown was first sent to the publisher and handed over to the editors the one comment I heard was that they had a very difficult time working on the book. Immediately I guessed it was my bad grammar, (and I have reason to be concerned.) Yet I learned it was not due to a proliferation of mistakes but rather the addictiveness of the story that prevented the editors from concentrating on the words—words that kept “disappearing.” Those working on the text found themselves repeatedly caught up in the story. While this did not help the book, I did take it as a mark of success. So did the publisher who signed the second book even before the first hit the stores.

This then is the “light-hand” approach that some of you have read about on my website. While I now know that I am not the first to employ it, it remains something of a rarity in the fantasy realm. While there are precious few writers penning speculative fiction in the style of Joyce or Marlow (although I have read some—most as yet unpublished,) few are willing to thin their styles beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre. For me this is a great disappointment, for while I enjoy a beautifully written novel—I love a great story.

Monday, August 3, 2009

State of the Rising

“Wait—back up. What did you just say?”

Robin looks up peering over the back of the laptop. I can only see her eyes and the bridge of her nose, but I can see the same forced innocence the dog manages when I catch it chewing a shoe.

She looks back down and reads, “Amilia sat for several minutes searching her mind for some way to reach the girl. ‘Can I tell you a secret? Now don’t laugh…but…I’m really quite afraid of the dark. I know it’s silly but I can’t help myself. I’ve always been that way. My brothers tease me about it all the time. If you could chat with me a bit, maybe it might help me. What do you say?”

“That’s what I thought you said.” I scowl. “I didn’t write that.”

“I know you didn’t.” she admits. “I did.”

Nyphron Rising is deep in the final editing stage. I’ve personally gone over the book a dozen times. Robin went over it and asked for changes and now we are doing the polishing. Polishing is a nice word in English, it sounds pretty and conjures images of men in white gloves breathing on a tea set and rubbing it gently with a cotton cloth. In Elan it means every night in the Sullivan household is a re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The technique is simple. Robin sits with the laptop and reads my story to me. Hearing it out loud reveals awkward sentences, repeated words, and errors. I will stop her whenever I hear a sour note and say, “Him, him…there are two hims there change one to Hadrian.” Or, “Really did I write that? That sucks, just cut the whole thing.”

The real fun starts when we come to a section that Robin did some “heavy editing” on, that is, she rewrote something. Robin is a good editor so most of the time her re-writes take a muddy paragraph and wipe it clear, but when she decides to actually create sections I get critical. When she writes character dialog I flip out.

Now we can’t determine which of us changed.

In The Crown Conspiracy she rewrote the entire scene just before the party entered Gutaria prison. Upon reading her revision, I backed all her changes out and rewrote the whole scene myself addressing the issues she highlighted. During Avempartha, I had fewer problems with her changes, and in Nyphron Rising she is experiencing an unprecedented freedom. She insists I’ve learned to trust her more, I insist she’s become a better editor/writer.

Nyphron Rising is undergoing the most thorough editing we’ve done to any of the previous books, and it is starting to show. The sentences are smoother, cleaner, and the plot tighter. A lot of this is thanks to the efforts of my wife who is willing to throw herself in the lion’s mouth.

Nyphron Rising is going to be a much better novel because of her efforts.

“Read it again,” I tell her.

She does and I listen with my eyes closed picturing the scene, and Amilia’s face as she delivers the lines.

My wife finishes and looks up at me. “What’s wrong with it?”

I open my eyes. “Nothing. It’s good. Go on.”

Friday, July 31, 2009


When I posted on my experience at RavenCon a comment was left suggesting that I write more on the subject of Cons and in particular provide tips for authors attending them. I didn’t see the comment for some time and have since been caught up with other projects that prevented me from posting anything. Now that I have a breather, I thought I would address this.

First, let me explain that I am not an expert in Cons. There are those who work these events religiously attending the same Cons for decades. The author, Tee Morris, who I had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions, used to do the “convention circuit” going “on the road” like a rock star living out of a suitcase. I never went to a convention of any kind until I published The Crown Conspiracy just this past October. Since then I have attended only four cons: MarsCon, RavenCon, Balticon and CarolinasCon, conventions located from Baltimore to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Let me begin by explaining what a ”Con” is. Cons, or Fan Conventions, are a gathering of people with a specific interest. There are cons for comics, for railroad building, or even a specific person—I hear Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, has her own con now: TwiCon. My daughter attends anime conventions for example, while the cons I listed above—the cons I attended—are Speculative Fiction cons. Speculative Fiction being anything to do with, Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy—the real geeky stuff. These cons attract the folks who thought high school extra-curricular activities should include Dungeons and Dragons. The people who exited Star Wars, walked around the theater and got back in line again. They are the much lampooned Star Trek fans who Josh Whedon, paid tribute to in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer series with his characters—The Trio. They also possess an above average intelligence, an interest and respect for arcane knowledge, and a curiosity and tolerance for new ideas. For a writer of fantasy, they are also my fan base.

Cons are held in a hotel and usually take over the place. Conference rooms and large halls are commandeered and private rooms are opened to the attendees for specific uses or just parties. Cons usually span a three-day weekend and visitors pay anywhere from $30 to $60 dollars depending on the con. Attendees, who often dress in flamboyant costumes, can go to various lectures given by authors or artists, sit in on panels where a group of professionals discuss a topic, listen to authors perform readings from their works, join in elaborate table top games, or visit the Dealer’s Room where a vast array of unusual merchandise is sold. There are also movies screenings, concerts, costume contests, and a host of other events that go on into the night.

As an author, I don’t get to indulge in any of this. I spend all my time in the Dealer’s Room. I pay in advance for a table and arrive early to set up before the con starts. One of the first things I learned was to travel light. At my first con, I just threw the kitchen sink in my trunk and assembled what I needed when I arrived. After that, I saw the virtue of planning and worked at getting everything I was bringing into as few boxes as possible.

Now some people, Tee Morris to name one, prefer to go the minimalist approach. He brings only his books and a pen. But Tee has a very out-going personality and for him accoutrements would only get in the way of his hand gestures. My experience with business tradeshows led me to bring a few basic advertisements to catch the eye of the hundreds of people walking by. I bring a nice dark tablecloth, as you never know if the con will provide any, and a bare, rickety folding table doesn’t present well. It also provides a hiding place under the table for personal stuff, like a sweater, a drink, extra books, and your coat. I also bring bookstands. These are clear plastic holders that merely stand my book up so people can see the cover better. I make posters, which I spray mount on form-core and stand up on the table or hang in front, (depending on how much room I have.) The posters help catch the eye of people even across the room. You should always bring tape and scissors—for some reason you always need those, or someone else does. If you did forget something talk to your neighbors, the other vendors are very friendly and helpful, like soldiers in the same foxhole.

I also bring bookmarks, which I hand out. For shy authors this is a great conversation starter and this is the real trick and the difference between a successful con and a not so successful one. All too often authors sit behind their tables waiting for people to come up and talk to them. They do this at bookstore signings too (which tends to irritate the bookstore managers who just ordered twenty of your books and expect you to move them out the door.) Some will even have laptops out, or be reading a book. This is no way to make sales. When I used to attend tradeshows for my advertising agency, rule number one was “never sit down.” Sitting makes you passive. Standing you are engaging, and approachable. If you look like you don’t want to talk about your books, people will avoid “bothering” you. That said, remain behind the table, standing out front is just too aggressive.

Still you have to do more than just stand. You have to engage the masses. This is hard for most writers. We are a solitary lot. We write so we don’t have to interact with people. We lock ourselves up in rooms and wander off into made-up worlds to avoid just this kind of thing. If we wanted to shake hands and laugh at bad jokes we’d be politicians. The reality of being a published author means that you have to spend a lot of your time pretending to be an unknown celebrity. Still, introverted shut-ins like us, have no clue how to engage a stranger. The idea of stopping someone we’ve never met and saying, “Say fella! Guess what? This is your lucky day! I’m the world’s best author. I wrote the world’s best book and if you don’t want to give me your hard-earned money in return for the privilege of reading it, then you’re an idiot!” Okay, so no one says that, but no matter how you go about it, it feels like you’re saying that.

The best solution I found is the bookmarks. As someone walks by, you just hold one out and say, “Care for a bookmark?” or “Would you like a free bookmark?” People like free things and ninety percent of the time, they will accept. Sixty percent of the time they will say, “thank you.” Thirty percent of the time, they will pause and read it. And twenty percent of the time they will look up at you and say, “Bookmark eh? So are you the author? What’s your book about?”

This is the moment you’ve waited for, the Con equivalent to being the understudy and learning the star had a plate of bad fish. Heart rate increases and you realize you have no idea what your book is about. The guy in front of you is holding three heavy plastic bags, a lightsaber and a Big Gulp with a twisty straw and he’s not going to wait all day. But how can you explain the full breadth of your story before the Seven Eleven slurping Jedi gets bored? This is why you need to have a pitch. A pitch comes in the long and short form. The short form is just a few sentences that sums up your book. The long form is a paragraph or two. Both are targeted at conveying the most interesting aspect of your story to the general audience. Don’t waste time with character’s names or backgrounds, or the nature of the elaborate world. Just hit them with the nutshell.

In my case:

“It’s a medieval fantasy adventure about two thieves caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are hired to steal a sword and when they try, they stumble on the body of the king and realize they’ve been set up to take the fall for his murder. After that they have to find a way to escape and then discover who the real killer is before the killer finds them.”

The Jedi might nod politely at this point, hand back the bookmark and walk away saying, “I’m really more a Sci-Fi guy.” Or he might betray a little smile which he will try and poker-face away by quickly taking a long pull on his Big Gulp’s straw. This is an invitation to say more and I might then go on about how it is a fast, fun romp (plagiarizing reviews of my book,) how it is part of a series—all of which have already been written. At a con, this conjures a set of raised eyebrows as it sets at ease the ghost of Robert Jordan. I usually follow this with the quip, “So even if I get hit by a truck on my way home, my wife will be able to publish the rest of the series.” I don’t mention that if I really was hit by a truck that I doubt Robin would be prioritizing the publishing of my remaining books at the top of her list of things to do—at least I hope not. I focus on how my book is different, how the names are pronounceable, how you don’t feel you need to take a course in the history of the world, and how there’s no youth prophesied to save the world from a dark lord.

Then there is a pause.

The Jedi sets his gianormous plastic cup on the table, tucks his lightsaber in his armpit and actually picks up a book and thumbs through it. Now if my wife is there—and she attends all the cons with me—she prattles on about reviews and how much she loved the books. Her enthusiasm is usually contagious, but I don’t feel comfortable raving about myself, so I just wait trying to look cool, as if all my hopes and dreams did not rest on the actions of this one lone Jedi. Use the force, damn it! Search your feelings—you know the book will be good!

Another tradeshow trick is to place a bowl of candy out on the table to entice people over, like the proverbial stranger in a car. “Come here Hanzel, have a Tootsie Roll.” The moment they reach out you slam the oven door closed with a… “Say! Do you read fantasy? No? Do you know anyone who reads fantasy because a signed book by the author makes a great—don’t know anyone either, eh? Well…could you use a good doorstop?”

You can also auction off a book. I sometimes put out a jar for people to enter their email address and then after the con I randomly pick one, contact them, and mail whichever book they want. This not only brings them over to talk to you, but has the added benefit of providing you with a list of addresses which you can then use if you want to say, announce your next book release. NEVER SELL OR GIVE THESE ADDRESSES AWAY. People provide them under the trust that only you will use them for the contest and the occasional announcement about your books. People don’t like to get spammed.

Since you will likely be alone at your table, and since you don’t want to leave your table unattended, and since the Dealer Room is usually open from 10am to 5 or 6pm, you might want to pack a lunch or at least bottled water and some kind of snack to keep your blood sugar up. Chocolate chip cookies work great. There is a courtesy room that provides coffee and some food, but that still requires leaving your table and if you’re going to leave, you’ll likely benefit from leaving the hotel entirely just to get away for a little while.

At the end of the night, an odd thing happens that no one outside of the Dealer Room vendors know about. Once the Dealer Room door close tight, all the vendors perform a strange ritual where they put their tables to sleep. They each bring an extra sheet or blanket to cover their wares and drape them with the care of a mother tucking their child into bed. Even though the Dealer Room is locked up, they feel that out-of-sight-out-of-mind is a technique that works trusting that should a would-be-thief go to the trouble and risk of breaking through the massive steel enforced doors, they would be dumbfounded by the sheets. Since I only have books, and wouldn’t be terribly upset if they were stolen, hoping only that the thief would see to it that the copies got into reader’s hands, I don’t bother with the nightly shrouds of mystery.

This brings up an important subject. Dealer Rooms have been stolen from so don’t leave valuables in the Dealer Room, and above all don’t leave your cash box there! This of course suggests you should have a cash box, or bag—some container of small bills that you will want to have on hand in order to make change. To help this, price your books at an even number. If your book retails for $11.95, sell it at a discount of $10.00, not only is it an incentive, but it’s a whole lot easier to make change. Just make sure you put a little sign out with the price tag. And if it is a discount, announce that. People like getting deals.

What should you wear? Unless you are planning on dressing up like a character in your book, (and I’ve never seen an author do that,) just dress casually, but neat. Usually, jeans or khakis and a T-shirt or polo shirt is fine. No one wears a suit. And wear the most comfortable shoes you own. No one will see your feet behind the table anyway. Don’t smoke or drink before the con, people are often turned off by the scent of smoke or alcohol and by all means, shower—if not for your fans then for the other vendors trapped with you for eight hours.

You aren’t there for the fun. You’re there to sell books, and maybe make money so don’t feel you need to stay at the hotel where the con is. You can often find cheaper rooms down the street and the less money you have to pay out, the fewer books you have to sell before you’re in the black. After all, you have to pay for the table, a room, meals, the book stands, the posters, the bookmarks and your transportation there and back, all before you even break even. Depending on how much money you make off the sale of a book, cons can often be a losing venture, so you’ll want to keep your expenditures as low as possible. Usually the first thing I do is calculate how many books I need to sell to make back the cost of going and that becomes my minimum goal.

In such a target rich environment, with three days to work with, I expected to sell over a hundred books at my first con. After all, I have often sold twenty books at a random Barnes and Noble in only four hours. So I was very disappointed when after the first day I had only sold ten books. On average, I sell about thirty books a con—about ten a day. This has been consistent across all the cons I’ve attended. At first, I thought I was a failure, but later discovered that I was doing surprisingly well. Most authors that I’ve met often sell only five books after three days behind the table. This might sound futile, but it has a seeding factor. A few books sold in the fertile fan base, can reap unexpected dividends. You can also establish connections to other authors, publishers, agents, and publicists.

Still, it would be nice to bump into someone at a con dressed in a hooded cloak with a white dagger in his belt holding a Big Gulp cup and two plastic bags of trinkets and have them grin and ask, “Guess who I am?”

I’m certain I will shrug genuinely stumped.

“Royce Melborn,” he’ll say.

After recovering from the shock I will mention, “Royce never wears his dagger on the outside of his cloak.”

In response, I assume the Royce-clad role-player will roll his eyes, shake his head and remark. “Geez, what a geek.”

Monday, July 20, 2009


I was recently (July 17th) interviewed by Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews. If any of you are growing impatient with my lack of blog posts this might tide you over until I get the next one together.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trusting the Reader

I have spent a great deal of time working with aspiring novelists as of late, and doing a large number of critiques. As I mentioned in earlier posts, there are patterns. Those following the path of writing fiction appear to become lost in many of the same places. Having wandered aimlessly myself, I am familiar with most all of these traps. Some are obvious, like knowing that a story should consist of a beginning, middle and end; that a book should have a setting, characters and a plot. Others are not as blatant. You might not be familiar with them unless you’ve studied creative fiction, or hung out with writers, concepts like, “showing” instead of “telling,” or the pitfalls of a shifting point of view. Then there is what I consider the more advanced aspects of writing, the extra stuff like foreshadowing and symbols, but the one technique in writing that I rarely hear anyone speak of is “trusting the reader.”

Trusting the reader comes in many different forms and levels, but it can make the difference between a story that is lethargic, and one that comes right off the page at you. Simply put, trusting the reader makes reading a book interactive. The reader stops being a passive witness to events and becomes an active part of the story. While this sounds great, it is extremely dangerous if done incorrectly.

What is trusting the reader? It means that as an author you don’t handhold your audience, you don’t explain what you want them to understand. Instead, you trust that they will grasp your meaning. The danger being—they might not.

Trusting the Reader comes in different forms. It can be applied at the sentence and paragraph level, where an author might provide a detailed description of a room, “empty bottles littered the floor, dirty clothes lay on door handles or piling in corners…” and in doing so provide the graphic scene of a messy room. All too often writers then follow this with the paragraph concluding sentence, “The room was a mess.” This sentence is put there as insurance. The author doesn’t want you to miss the point, but they know if they just came out and said, “the room was a mess.” Their creative writing instructor would slap them for “telling” instead of “showing.” So now they show and tell—just to be safe.

As with most things however, taking risks offers the greatest rewards, so long as you don’t go crazy. If you have adequately described a scene, you don’t have to explain it afterwards. The reader will get it and they won’t feel insulted knowing that the author did not think they would. Still this is the easy stuff. It is when you take the same idea to the character and plot level that things get dicey.

Applying the idea of trusting the reader to a plot runs a huge risk. If the reader doesn’t get the fact that the room is dirty, it isn’t a huge deal, but if you lose a major plot point, the whole story might collapse. On the other hand, if you create a gap in the story and provide no bridge for the reader to walk across so that they have to make a leap of understanding to figure out what is happening, then they will feel included in the story. They will feel clever at having figured the secret out and the story will become something they are “doing” rather than merely “reading.” Make the gap too wide and well…splat.

In the novel “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” David Sedaris provides a simple example of this technique where he speaks of a young boy thinking of all the things he did that he might be in trouble for and one of those items listed is: “…altering the word hit on a list of rules posted on the gymnasium door…” Mr. Sedaris never says how he altered it. He leaves this for the reader to figure out. The result is like a perfectly delivered punch line. There is a pause, a moment of confusion and then it dawns on the reader and that brief moment of hesitancy punches the joke delivering it with tremendous power that causes the idea to pop off the page far more than if he just explained it. Still if you don’t get the joke, it won’t ruin the book. For that you have to go higher still.

In Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” he takes trusting the reader to soaring heights when crucial parts of the story’s plot are hinged on the assumption that the reader will guess correctly about certain aspects that are merely hinted at. Mr. Hosseini describes a common aspect of a character near the beginning of the novel in a specific manner, then much later in the novel he describes another character using the exact same descriptive element, but never identifies the individual. He is trusting that the reader will remember the earlier reference and understand it is the same person. Creating such a leap of faith is gutsy for a writer, but the effect, when it works, is fantastic. When I connected the dots, I was thrilled like figuring out a whodunit before the sleuth explained the murder. And this was only one small part of a well constructed, reader-trusting story that puts the reader to work and makes them feel useful.

A related aspect to this same idea is “holding-back.” As a novelist with a great story to tell, it is hard to stop yourself from blurting everything out right away. There is so much you want to explain, and writers can be very impatient feeling that the reader won’t truly enjoy the story until they learn this crucial plot twist. Again, it is important to trust that the reader will stay with you, and if an author does the job right, the reader will be just as impatient to discover the answers, as the author is to reveal them.

This has been an issue with my own books—more so perhaps because I am writing a series of novels that is in many ways one long story. So much is unexplained and so much is intentionally misdirecting that as the author it can be frustrating to hear negative comments that are merely the result of false assumptions. It is like playing a practical joke on someone, hearing them complain, but not being able yet to reveal the joke.

Being patient, holding back, and having faith that readers will make the leaps across chasms and be happier for the exercise, is scary, but just as the reader relies on writers not to strand them with a nonsensical story, the writer must also have the courage to trust the reader.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


More and more people are relying less on newspaper and magazine articles and turning instead to the internet for information when deciding on what books to read and movies to see. Sites like Amazon, Facebook, GoodReads, LibraryThing and a host of independent blogs and journals are becoming more trusted than the New York Times. Reviews have always been notorious for their corruption. Some are paid for, others written out of obligation; publishers make deals, pacts are agreed on by mutual authors. But it is hard to control the opinions of hundreds of people posting on Amazon or on their own websites. Sure there are the “friends and family” posts you need to look out for, but how many of those can there be? With the proliferation of reviews on the Internet, the truth is impossible to suppress for long. There are a handful of intrepid bloggers that don’t receive a paycheck and all they have is their reputation.

Big publishers have resources and connections to roll out a title and ensure it is seen. Independents, don’t and are ignored by “reputable” reviewers and shunned out of hand, even by libraries (because they don’t have “reputable” reviews.) Readers buy the big titles, sometimes because it is all they know exists. Given this, reviews, even small ones posted by first timers make a difference. There are many books that have one review on Amazon, books that if you do a global search across the Internet turn up nothing. Potential readers mark this as a red flag and pass.

As it happens, my family is a bit on the older side and I’m certain they think there are evil spirits in computers, so they stay away from them. I’ve moved a few times, which limits the number of friends I can pressure. To date, there’s about three or four who actually wrote a review on Amazon for Crown Conspiracy—none for Avempartha. Since I am published through a very small, independent house, I shouldn’t stand a chance. My only hope is for people to notice me and spread the word, but am one guy waving my hand in a sea of millions—but you have helped.

Those of you who read Crown or Avempartha and took the time to post a review on Amazon, on LibraryThing, on GoodReads; who mentioned it on Facebook, in your online journal, on your blog or just nudged a friend and said, “read this, it’s good,” have done me a great service. And it isn’t just a matter of selling books. I am nobody at all. I’m not famous, I consider spending a hundred dollars on anything to be expensive. I drive a seventeen year old Camry—when I drive at all. I usually walk, bike or take the train, and not to be green, but because I hate traffic. I wear jeans and a t-shirt, most of which are many years old. I have a wife, three kids, a dog and a very small condo that I clean from top to bottom once each week. Instead of watching television I write books. For years, everyone gave me condescending smiles about my “hobby” and asked what I will do afterwards, as if I am suffering from an illness. It is easy to lose confidence, easy to second guess, easy to feel self-deluded. Sure, my wife says she likes my books, but it’s a whole different thing when people I’ve never met, never spoken to, never had any dealings with at all, come out unsolicited and make comments like these recent posts:

“I knew once I started reading I would not be able to stop. Saturday arrived. I put my phone on vibrate, sent the boys to the patio and sat back to read my precious, (Avempartha), cover to cover. I had high expectations and Michael Sullivan surpassed them. // Thank you Michael for such a wonderful series. I'm eagerly anticipating your next installment. I have it marked on my calendar and once again I'll be ordering it as soon as you release it.” –Sarah, GoodReads.

“The first thing that happened to me when I started reading The Crown Conspiracy was that I realized that I couldn't put it down. I tried prying it off my fingers and shaking my hands around like I'd just touched a hot pan but all to no avail. This book is that good. Even more amazingly, Mr. Sullivan manages to sustain this effect throughout the entire novel. // The Crown Conspiracy reminds me why I fell in love with the fantasy genre in the first place.” –Speculative Fiction Junkie

“Royce and Hadrian are two well-developed characters shrouded in mystery and written with a delightful dry wit that few veteran authors could emulate. You get hints about the duo’s past, but they are surprisingly small tidbits and yet they are strangely satisfying. Perhaps it is simply that the characters’ presence in the here and now is so fully-realized that everything else is merely secondary; regardless I’m excited to learn more rather than disappointed that I learned so little. // With the “big” publishers putting out any number of quality titles it is far too easy for independently published titles like The Crown Conspiracy to get lost in the shuffle. There isn’t a massive marketing push. The Crown Conspiracy and it’s sequel Avempartha are out there and garnering attention thanks mainly to Sullivan’s own work and word of mouth. It is a work and series that deserves attention.” -- Mike Ferrante, King of the Nerds

“I was quite eager to see if the book would live up to the expectations raised by Mr. Sullivan’s marvelous debut. I am happy to report that not only did “Avempartha” meet expectations, but it took the series to another level, ensuring that the future installments will be must-reads...//In short, “Avempartha” is highly, highly recommended and a novel that raises Michael Sullivan’s The Riyria Revelations to “major league” status...// I would not call "hype" the good buzz about Crown Conspiracy and the series in general. It's more that being an unknown small press release without the marketing push of the big houses, with little exposure in major bookstores and such, CC and Avempartha managed to beat a lot of what is pushed out there in both quality and entertainment value and they deserve to be much better known.” – Liviu C. Suciu, Fantasy Book Critic

I don’t know any of these people, and I can’t rationalize any reason why they, or any of you would lie, so I have to believe that you mean what you say, just as I hope others will. I’m sure most of you think, “what the heck, sure I’ll take a second to say I liked it. Why not.” But I doubt you truly realize how much I appreciate it. I actually have a few of these taped to my walls, and I re-read them, perhaps more than I should. You see, I’ve never been motivated much by money or false praise, but real recognition is like gas on fire—that makes me want to sit down and work. That makes me want to be a better writer.

So I want to tell everyone who wrote a review, mentioned the books on a forum, or told a friend—thank you so very much, you make my dreams come true.

Amazon reviews: Crown Conspiracy: 47, Avempartha: 11
Goodreads reviews: 132
Amazon UK: 3
Barnes & Noble: 3
Borders: 1
Shelfari: 6
LibraryThing: 6

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gail Martin

Just a short follow-up to RavenCon. While there I met Gail Martin author of Chronicles Of The Necromancer. who was in the process of doing short author interviews of many of the writers in attendance at RavenCon with her hand-held video camera.

She got to me near the end of the weekend so I appear a bit more than three quarters through the video that she has now posted.

Gail's Video

So if you are curious to see me talk, or interested in seeing a bit of the madness of RavenCon check out Gail's video.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This last weekend Robin and I attended the three-day long speculative fiction convention in Richmond, VA, otherwise known as RavenCon. I realize that there are a few of you out there now who have read both The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha and would prefer I was chained to my keyboard, or had my legs broken by Kathy Bates, insuring I do nothing but finish book three. I’d rather like that too, well not the broken legs or chains, but the time to write. For the last few weeks, I have had preciously little time in that area. I am reminded by those who promote me (namely Robin) that it is just as important (perhaps more so) that I cultivate an audience for the books I already have published. So while I was just getting on a roll and making great headway on Nyphron Rising, I stopped, packed up the car and headed down to Richmond.

Until I started promoting my first book, I had no idea what a fan convention was, now I discover there are dozens. Most of them are the same thing held at different times of the year in different locations, many of them close to each other, so that the same people appear at each. Some are older, some are larger, but they all appear to be the same idea. Writers and artists of reasonable note are guests who give talks, readings or serve on panels discussing topics of interest to the fandom. There are an assortment of activities such as movies, shows and bands; a gaming room where those interested in table top games converge, an art room and the dealer’s room.

I was in the dealer’s room, a large hall in the hotel filled with vendors selling everything from board games and dice, to medieval clothing hand-sewn from hand woven cloth. There’s always a handful of not so famous authors who use the venue to introduce their books to an audience of genre fans. I was one of those and spent three days behind a little table stacked with my books. Yet even in such a richly targeted environment, it isn’t easy to convince people that a book you wrote is worth buying.

I discovered early on that the bar of expectations for authors in the dealer room isn’t set very high when a woman purchased The Crown Conspiracy. I asked what it was that sold her on it and she replied, “I read the first page and there wasn’t a single misspelled word!” It wasn’t exactly the kind of vindication I was looking for, but it got her to buy it, and more importantly to read it.

If you’ve been following this blog you know that I went to MarsCon back in January, and to my delight several people who visited it came to RavenCon. I knew who they were instantly—they were the ones who walked directly up to my table, picked up Avempartha and said, “Sign it. I loved the last one.” Better than this, as I had hoped, a few people bought Crown saying a friend had bought it at MarsCon and raved about it. Despite this, there were no lines waiting feverishly for me to sign their copy, and we sold only a handful more than at the last Con making us wonder if attending these cons is worth the effort. I am signed up for at least one more “ConCarolinas” in Charlotte NC at the end of this month (May,) I will have to see what transpires there before making a decision.