Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Rise of the Readership

I write these Mile Marker posts because I imagine you are interested in what it’s like to have a career as an author. Sadly, I’m not a good source for such research. Granted every author’s story is different, but I suspect mine is more than your usual atypical. Maybe one day I will sit down and tell it to you, but for this installment I wanted to report a new development on the whole career progress thing. 

I began with one book (The Crown Conspiracy) which I sold anyway I could. I pushed them on friends and acquaintances. I begged bottom tier reviewers to look at my novels. I became involved with sites like Goodread’s in their infancy. I did tiny bookstore signings in my local area. I attended local book clubs hoping they would discover I was an author and ask to schedule my novel for the group. Robin and I did everything we could and nothing worked…until it did, and I received my first review from someone I hadn’t personally sold a book.

As chronicled in my 2010 post: Momentum I first noticed other people were starting to help me. That was the start. From there came many more mile stones. 

When I got a Wikipedia Page

When I sold ten thousand books

Goodread’s Choice Award nominations

The first post where I discussed mile markers, was in early 2010: I Must Be Someone Now which explains the whole deal with trying to gauge one’s position in a game where they don’t provide maps or levels. Even then I realized that the goal posts keep being moved back because the field grew bigger. From a puddle, to a pond, to a lake, to an ocean, challenges and opportunities just keep getting bigger. And so I keep track. 

The last major mile stone marker post was Mile Marker Nine in which I reported how stunned I was to find fans at a major convention who had come specifically to see me. The post wasn’t named Mile Marker Nine because it was the ninth marker, but in honor of the grand total of nine readers who came to see me—a record that still stands to this day. Granted that was in 2015 and I haven’t been to a convention since. By now I bet I could pull in a solid twelve…maybe. 

You think I’m joking, or trying to project a false humbleness. Everyone always thinks that, but remember you’re fantasy readers and have great imaginations. You have preconceived ideas that I am famous. I’m not. At least not in the way to think I am. There are moments when I see something online and start to suspect I am, but these are rare and always quickly squashed by the next thing I find. And I still have never seen anyone reading or possessing a book of mine. They are still in the bookstores, however, and I’m more than satisfied with that. 

Nevertheless, I have noticed a few new developments. 

Readers have begun to build things. 

Unless I’m mistaken, fans of my books are creating more and more online sites. I stumble on them by accident. The Riyria Discord site that I mentioned before is but one. Then there are the video reviewers that have held hour long discussions on my entire body of work. Not as a review, just to talk about what they liked. It’s like watching a late night infomercial. I should be paying these people—except that would ruin it. 

And then there is Riyria Explained, which raises the bar to a whole new level. Josiah Collins is a reader who loved watching lore videos on video games and fantasy series (World of Warcraft, Wheel of Time, Cosmere, Lord of the Rings), and so when he first read my books years ago, he was surprised no one was already doing that and it became a long term hobby. 

He started in 2020 and now has 53 videos that help explain my world and include theories that speculate about the future of the world and the series. He even has a nice promo for the novel Farilane with his wife doing a very professional job on the voice over. Thanks to both of you for that. 

Years ago, I was envious of George R.R. Martin’s famous fanbase who kept such good track of his world that he had been known to consult with them on details. Now this is happening to me. 

And so this is Mile Marker 10: Rise of the Readership. 



Thursday, March 9, 2023

 When Swords Fall Silent

The body hit the floor with a thud exposing the third mistake Royce Melborn made that night.

And so begins the short story starring Royce Melborn as his seventeen year old self back in the dark ages of his Ratibor residency. As most of you know—those of you who are plugged in enough to visit this ancient blogsite—I’ve affirmed on many occasions that I do not wish to write about the youth of either Royce or Hadrian because by themselves their stories would be depressing, and more than dark. But now comes this. What the hey?

Of this limited elite crowd who continue to visit this ivy overgrown blog, there are fewer still that know how I hate writing short stories. (Even though I stated this only two blog posts ago.) I don’t like them because I write novels. The two aren’t the same, but don’t tell me that. When I was in high school I received poor marks on essays and research papers because I wrote them in story form. It’s what I do. As such, when writing a short story, I approach it like a novel with one exception. While I need to tell just as complete a tale, I must squeeze it into a little itty bitty living space of less than a tenth the length of a novel. This is as much fun as going on a weeklong ski trip limited only to carry-on luggage. It is then, in this less than appealing hole in the ground that I begin my rejection of the very notion of short fiction. Add to that the previously mentioned aversion to a Royce Melborn biopic and as you might guess I wasn’t much into the idea. 

I will now go way out on a brittle tree branch and say that of that tiny population that visits this blog, and know that I hate writing short stories, fewer still are aware that I have now written twelve, but that I’ve never sold any. I have however given them away. Usually this is for charity of one form or another from hurricane relief funds to helping out fellow writers down on their luck. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this then is the reason I do them. And in this case the cause is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the criteria, as presented to me, was an assassin story. 

I could have tried doing another wedge-in to the existing Riyria timeline as I have in the past, but there has always been an important bit of information lacking from the Riyria stories concerning Royce. This project provided the perfect opportunity to address: How Royce got his name. 

And so, now there will be an even smaller sub-sub group of hardcore readers who visit this blog and know the answer to that arcane bit of trivia. For the rest of you, the ones who tried to do a search on the capital city of Saudi Arabia, you might consider a new short story about a young assassin who got himself in a bit of trouble. But be careful, for hanging out with Royce can be addictive. 

The anthology containing the short story: May Luck Be With You, is entitled When Swords Fall Silent. And contains the work of more than a dozen of the best modern science-fiction and fantasy authors, including Terry Mancour, Andrew Rowe, Marie Brennan, and many more.

You can obtain the anthology as an ebook, an audiobook, and for a limited time, a gorgeous high-quality hardcover print edition that includes character illustrations. For more information go to the When Swords Fall Silent Kickstarter, running now.

Friday, March 3, 2023


In 2016, Age of Myth, my 11th published novel and my first published through Del Rey, was hitting bookstores, and it was at this point I was starting to suspect this writing thing might just work out. 

As my books were paying the bills, I realized this wasn’t so much my hobby anymore, which in turn meant I could actually spend money on it. The first step was getting the iMac. I always knew they were good machines, I just couldn’t afford one. I had also looked into writing software and found Scrivener. But now I turned my mind towards a real office. I wanted something somewhere quiet to avoid being yanked back from where ever my mind was to the real world.  

Hemingway had his office in the top floor of his carriage house in Key West, where he went in the early mornings to write his five hundred words. 

Neil Gaiman has his gazebo retreat. 

Having retired from her career as an engineer/programer/marketer/company president Robin was in need of something to do. So I gave her the task of finding a nice quiet place in the countryside within a two hour drive from DC where we could spend weekends, and summers. A little cottage on a lake, perhaps. She found the idllic valley of Shenandoah, which is like the Shire  if it was as hidden and protected as Rivendell. Here, while she wasn’t editing or marketing my novels, Robin designed and built us a log cabin. 

Before it was finished, I already created a makeshift office. And as the cabin came together, so did my workspace. 

I tried all different configurations—sort of a trial and error feng shui. I thought that facing the window would be good, but the light coming in was a bit blinding, and the screen blocked the view. I also hate having my back to the door. Turning the desk around didn’t help as then the light from the window reflected off the screen, and I also had to turn around to look out. 

I eventually came up with this: 

But I still wasn’t done. Now that I had the money I thought to obtain my dream monitor. This led me on a long quest. I thought a big wide screen would be great. 

And if one was good, three had to be better.

Turns out, they weren’t. The resolution just wasn't there, and I really didn’t need all that screen space. Today, this (below) is the present configuration of the office. 

It is here that I wrote the second half of the Legends series, The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter, Nolyn, Farilane, and Esrahaddon. 

On occasion I do make temporary spaces depending on the season, which are sort of my versions of Ernest’s carriage house and Neil’s gazebo. 

I hope you enjoyed this utterly pointless slideshow of where I spend most of my days. If you did, please hit the “like” button and be certain to subscribe to the….oh, never mind. How about you just come back every couple years to see if I’ve posted anything else? Now that I know this thing works, I’ll see about broadcasting more often. Maybe even open a window. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Office Evolution

Coming up with ideas for blog posts is harder for me than writing novels. I find short stories troublesome, and the two are similar. I considered writing a post on Esrahaddon (the new novel) only to realize partway through that nearly everything I wrote would be a spoiler. And so that idea was eaten by the delete key leaving me staring at this blank screen trying to perfect my powers of divination. 

What would readers want to read?

Should I compose essays concerning my current life? My history? My work? What I’m reading? My process of writing? Current events? Shows I like and games I play? Everything beyond the news of a new book release strikes me as self-absorbed, and yet I suspect most will look at the list I just wrote and think…Yes. Perhaps, if I were not me, I too would be eager to read about life in a log cabin, what fountain pen I use or my personal writing methodology. I most certainly would love to know the name of the trilogy of books I am presently thrilled to have discovered and read each night before the fire with a cup of tea. You might even wish to know what sort of  tea, though that seems a little too celebrity-obsessed to make sense. Being a writer and lover of stories I’d probably like to know the origin behind how a modern-day fantasy author took a ridiculously stupid path out of utter ignorance, but which turned out to be the only route that could have worked. But then you've probably already heard that one.

Truth is, I just don’t know what you want. And given I’ve turned off all comments, to avoid the carpet bombing of spam that always follows, I can’t ask—or rather, I can’t expect replies. 

I keep trying to think of a topic that would appeal to all twelve of you. That’s how many I emotionally suspect truly read this blog. Twelve who might all live in Mintonville, Kentucky, and attend the same bookclub, or who could be scattered across the globe but through the magic of Google Translate can read these words. It’s foolish to try and please twelve different people I personally know much less an unknown number of unfamiliar people located who knows where. I suppose the trick isn’t to try. It worked before, and since you can’t comment, I won’t even know if you hate it. (Note* this is not entirely true. I have noticed how some on Goodreads, Reddit, and Discord have raised their hands to let me know that indeed the signal is getting through. So, thanks.)

All that said, without further adieu, let’s get to the totally arbitrary topic I settled on for this week’s installment: Office Evolution.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always wondered where authors write, especially when I wasn’t one yet. My wife is the sort who can work in a the noisy hallway of an unruly middle school. She also falls asleep to television, but has trouble closing her eyes in utter silence. Oddly, I’m more about ambience. I enjoy a nice environment. I say oddly because I spend so little time where I write. The moment I start typing, I’m gone. This is why I will take a book to a laundromat or a hospital waiting room, but never to a beach or ski lodge. With the former, all I want to do is escape, but I paid good money for the latter. It just makes no sense to go to a tropical resort and bring a tiny portal to 19th century London—but I know many that do. I suspect it has more to do with the company readers are forced to keep on trips. There has to be a reason Thanksgiving Eve is the busiest bar night in the United States, and bartenders I’ve discussed this with all report: the desire to escape family. 

So if I don’t linger in my writing environment, why does it matter? For the same reason that if the food was the same, you’d chose the restaurant with the nicer dining room. I don’t need much incentive to write—I never did—but a comfy chair is way more inviting than a metal bench. Also, that portal that can take you to 19th century London, or in my case a little tavern near the end of Wayward Street, has a tragic flaw. The portal doesn’t close tight. There’s this umbilical cord that connects the two realities and which is highly sensitive to sound. This magical conduit also only works in one direction. They can fire off a gun in Dickensian London, and you’ll never hear a thing while doing the dishes at home. But if I’m in the middle of a sword fight, and my wife happens to answer the phone downstairs and in a perfectly normal voice asks “Hello?” that damn umbilical cord with rip me right back. So, I need isolation. 

I’m not the only one who suffers this affliction. I’ve been to Hemingway’s House in Key West.  The man built a separate writing studio in the adjacent carriage house. Gaiman has a gazebo, and others I know have sheds. Still more cheat and use sound canceling headphones. I’ve tried this, but it makes my ears sweat, and there I am thinking about my ears and not about the next sword stroke. The point is, where I write is important to me, and it always has been, and that place has changed over the decades due to my age and economic status.


Now stepping way back into the 1970s, my first desk was a metal and vinyl Samsonite folding card table identical to the one pictured here. I was thirteen and set the thing up in my mother’s bedroom. I covered it with a table cloth, then put a lamp, a clock, and a phone on it. After all, these were the things that made a table into a desk. I knew this because I watched television, and all private detectives agreed on these three items. While I began with a Bic pen and lined looseleaf paper, I quickly leveled up when I discovered my sister’s old typewriter. This was good because Mary Tyler Moore, Ellery Queen, and all the cops on Barney Miller used typewriters. 

I have no actual photographs of this card table desk anymore than Harry Potter has images of his cupboard under the stairs. After all, neither of us owned a camera. Even if I did, I had neither the money nor the means to purchase and pay for the development of film. (Don’t worry, the invention of the iPhone will be coming along soon. Seriously, I am utterly shocked at the terrible quality and quantity of photos of my early workspaces prior to the iPhone.)

It was at this wobbly card table that I wrote my first three short stories and my first trilogy of novels which became the genesis for Royce and Hadrian and the world of Elan. The two thieves went by different names back then, but some similarities are so close I can’t write them here for fear of spoiling those who might not have read Riyria. I had no aspirations of being an author, and if you read my early work, I am certain you would have advised me to consider a career in lawn maintenance. Never even crossed my mind to write for a living. My dream was to be a commercial illustrator at a major advertising agency. This too was a fantasy. Odds were real good I would end up in either a Detroit car manufacturing plant or as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. 

Despite this, at the age of twenty-one, after getting married and buying a three bedroom house, I created my first real office. In one of the bedrooms, I put up dark wood paneling, and bookshelves. I also lucked out and found an old wooden teacher’s desk that had been used as a workbench at a tool & die shop. They were going to throw it out so I took it home, sanded it down, stained and polyurethaned it. Thing was built like a tank. I got it upstairs put a lamp, a clock and a phone on it and, ta-dah! Office! 

This photograph is the only one I found that shows any part of my second office. As you can see I finally got myself a computer. It was 1986 and I was the proud father of a happy healthy daughter and a Compaq DeskPro.

I wrote about five novels on this monster, including Wizards, a novel that I later tried to re-write as Antithesis because I thought I could. Turns out I couldn’t. Then at the start of the 1990s, Robin, my daughter, and I moved to northern Vermont. I had a makeshift office in my bedroom in our trailer, but we finally managed to build a house and once again I created a real office. 

Once more you can see how the lack of photos documenting my literary career will be a serious handicap for the Ken Burns documentary.  What’s fascinating in this image, is the Jenga workspace just past Robin, built mostly out of table extenders. Four books support what must have been a precarious shelving unit. At least, this computer had a mouse! Also notice the dial-up modem on the shelf. It was here that I wrote the last of the thirteen unpublished novels. None of which were in the fantasy genre. I mostly focused on horror, science fiction, and literary fiction. 

I quit writing after that. The year was 1995 and I didn’t return to writing until 2004. I had other offices, but they weren’t for writing. As it turned out I managed to fulfill that first dream of being an illustrator for an advertising agency, although given I founded the agency and was also the Art Director and Creative Director, it felt like I cheated my way in—until I began making good money at it. Then I wondered why I waited so long. This is a theme I would return to later. 

When I began writing again it was without much forethought or preparation. I was super bored and so I dragged that massive tank of a teacher’s desk up to my bedroom in Raleigh, NC, set it up next to Robin’s and my bed and put a lamp, a clock, and a phone on it. Then I wrote the following, which I suspect is the oldest surviving, pre-edited opening:

The brandy was excellent. It was a house label from the monastery at Windermere where the old monks in their remote stone cloister had spent centuries perfecting their distilling and aging method. As a result the liquor was rich in body, warm in feel, and smooth as silk. It also had a wonderful smoky taste that he particularly enjoyed. Archibald Ballentyne never had much use for monasteries, the church, or any god, but recently he had grown to like Windermere. So many good things seem to come from there lately. He took another sip of the brandy and let the hot liquid drift down his neck, savoring the warm feeling and sweet taste. It was his first drink of the night, but already he felt intoxicated.

 I wrote The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, and Nyphron Rising in that hot and stifling upstairs bedroom in Raleigh because our air conditioning was on the fritz. I had just started writing Emerald Storm when we closed the agency and moved to the Washington, DC suburb of Fairfax and bought a little townhouse. Still unpublished, still stealing time to pursue an insane hobby that only I cared about, I created yet another office. 


The desk came from my advertising agency, as did the computer, leather chair and wall clock. This was the first desk without a phone, because we abandoned our landline for cell phones. The year was 2006. I wrote the second half of Emerald StormWintertide, and Percepliquis at this desk. On the left you’ll see the works of C.S. Forester who I was reading as reference for the sailing scenes in Emerald Storm. The writing software is MS Word, and that is the first Moleskine notebook I ever used. It was entitled: The Riyria Revelations

Some of you know that it was in 2007 that the first iPhone was revealed. I was an early adopter and you can see the difference it made in my next office photo.

Still in the same house in Fairfax, I moved to the bedroom to make room for my eldest daughter who returned from college. As you can tell from the posters, this was just after publication of the first Riyria Chronicle, The Crown Tower. And yes, that is as cluttered as that desk usually got. It also shows my shift from thirty years of using PCs and Word to Apple and Scrivener, as well as my need for a decent microphone to conduct interviews. I still had the clock, and the lamp. 

It was here I edited the Orbit versions of the Riyria Revelations, and wrote Hollow World, The Crown Tower, The Rose and Thorn, Rhune (later titled Age of Myth) Dherg (later titled Age of Swords), Fhrey (later titled Age of War) and The Death of Dulgath. I had nine published novels at this time, and I was still working in a bedroom not much different than when I was thirteen.

Then everything changed. 

(Stay tuned for more offices stories and better quality photos.) 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

11 hours and 30 minutes left


The Esrahaddon Kickstarter will end in about 11 1/2 hours. It's been my most successful yet:

  • Fully funded in less than 5 minutes
  • Exceeded $100K in less than 1 hour
  • Exceeded my prior Kickstarters in less than 1 day
  • Currently the 7th most-funded fiction Kickstarter of all time
  • Currently the 10th most-backed fiction Kickstarter of all time
We can break a few more records in the next 11+ hours if we:

  • Another $1,219 will get us over $300,000K
  • Another 13 backers to move to #9th most backed
  • Another $5,107 will move us to the 6th most-funded fiction Kickstarter
Even if we don't make any of those goals, it's been a huge success, and we owe it to you. Thanks for being such great supporters.  And if you still want to pledge you can do so here.

Oh, and if you happen to miss the Kickstarter, you can come on in through a backdoor. Just tell us which reward level you are interested in and we'll do a "manual add" in our pledge manager software.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Esrahaddon Kickstarter Nearly Over

For those of you who might later be upset to discover that you missed this, the ESRAHADDON kickstarter is down to a matter of hours before it ends. Esrahaddon (the novel not the character) will be my thirty-third novel, my twentieth published book, and my nineteenth in the world of Elan. It completes the Rise and Fall trilogy and connects the Legend of the First Empire series with the Riyra Chronicles. So, if you want to get the book early or purchase a fancy limited edition version. Go here to learn more:  Esrahaddon Kickstarter You can even read the first chapter for free.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Does This Thing Still Work?

The last post here was over six months ago, and that was for a book contest. It’s been a while. I get that. 

What surprised me was when I started to see posts and even receive emails inquiring about my health. “Is everything all right?” and “What happened to MJS? Is he okay?” And yes, I’ve noticed people using my initials now, which I’d like to think is not merely for expedience but rather the first step toward becoming a one-name celebrity. It’s nice to know that if a foul smell was coming out of my house, or if I had been abducted by a woman who broke both my legs and kept me captive while insisting that I re-write the ending to my most recent novel, that there are people out there who would notice and do something. I furthermore hope that “the something” wouldn’t be to join forces with my captor.

The truth is I am alive, healthy, and I’ve been writing. You likely already guessed that much, given the recent launch of the Esrahaddon Kickstarter. So what’s with the dome of silence? The short answer is I’ve been busy. 

I have written novels in as little as thirty days (I wrote The Crown Conspiracy in September of 2004 and Avempartha in October of that same year, meaning I wrote all of Theft of Swords in sixty days.) Death of Dulgath, the runner-up in terms of time to completion) was finished in a famous 68 days. I’m not bragging. Writing at a fast pace isn’t a sign of skill or dedication. Those past feats came mostly from loneliness and boredom. I bring them up to set the stage for telling you that it took me two years to write Esrahaddon. I started in May 2020 and finished in December 2021. Yes, that’s actually nineteen months, but I rounded up to two years for the same reason people online use MJS instead of Michael J Sullivan. 

Two years. 

Am I getting old and unable to pound the keys the way I used to? Or worse still—for you, not so much for me—am I getting a life, leaving me less time and desire to seek shelter in other worlds? Is this the new normal? Does it now simply take me two years to write a single novel? This was a genuine concern. 

At least, it was until I checked the word count. 

You see, The Crown Conspiracy clocks in at 91,265 words. Admittedly, this is a little light given that the average length of a novel is between 70,000 and 120,000, which I will round up to 100,000 words for the same reason I said two years instead of nineteen months. My longest novel to date was 161,932 words (Percepliquis), which I always felt was a doorstop despite being a trifle compared to the works of some other fantasy authors. I’ve never been a fan of super long novels. They intimidated me. Who has the time to devote to something that massive? Especially when you have no idea what’s behind that pretty cover? It could be green fields that all roll downhill or, just as likely, a swamp with no map. 

Despite that, Esrahaddon (pre-edit) weighs in at a whopping 275,317 words. That’s more than three Crown Conspiracies. Looking at it that way, I wrote three novels in two years. Not bad for an old man. You’d think I’d be happy with that. But you need to understand this isn’t a movie I’m making. I don’t have a crew. People don’t show up to work daily, pour coffee, and reassure me that this will all be worth it. Granted, I also don’t have a studio complaining about the cost of a year’s delay, so there’s that. But the fact is, I work alone. It’s just me in my room typing and scribbling. I don’t share anything (except the title). Not even Robin has a clue what I’m doing. I keep her in the dark because I need her raw reaction to the finished work. I only get one shot at that. As a result, there was a pretty good chance I had just spent two years wasting my time by making a very big, incredibly awful mess that would need to be locked away from the public. The only way to find out was to finish it, hand it over to Robin, and wait. 

For those who don’t know (or can’t imagine I would do such a thing), I have spent years on novels that ended up in the trash. Anthesis is an example. I still see it pop up here and there on the Internet under books I wrote. I did write it, but it never survived the rough draft stage, meaning even Robin never saw it. Oh, and if you’re reading this and don’t know who Robin is—wow, I must have been gone longer than I thought. Anyway, it was a genuine fear that Esrahaddon, the two-year behemoth—for a Sullivan novel—might be headed for the same trash heap. 

You might have noticed that I wrote seven paragraphs ago that Esrahaddon’s rough draft was finished in December 2021. There were people on the Riyria Discord Server (I’ll get to that later) who swear they would have killed a puppy of my choosing for the chance to read it (Not that I would want them to kill a any dog young or old, nor would they want to—that's sort of the point). They were appalled to discover Robin hadn’t dug in.

I should mention here that there were holidays in 2021. Future generations might be surprised to read that sentence and probably think it’s a joke. (Look who thinks future generations will be reading my blog, score one for optimism!) These family events kept Robin busy being a mom. Afterward, we took a badly needed vacation. Surviving 2020 to 2022, I’m reasonably sure there wasn’t anyone who didn’t need one. This vacation wasn’t the lay-on-the-beach-and-read sort either. We did stuff. Why? Because we’re getting old, and it’s now or never. I can tell you’re already ahead of me in realizing she never had a chance to read it. Nor did she when we got back because my newest baby, Farilane, was about to be born. Last-minute editing, Kickstarter launching, beta and gamma reads, promotion, and audio coordination, and who knows what else she was doing, but it wasn’t reading Esrahaddon

She finally read it and had some concerns that led me to cut out about thirty thousand words, but Esrah would survive. 

I’ll admit Robin and I aren’t ancient, not by modern standards, but my tendency to round up doesn’t help. When I was twenty, people the age I am now were firmly in the “old” category. They rarely went out, complained about the weather, ate dinner at four, and went to bed at eight. They also faced retirement: that longed-for finish line that defined the era when people were free to enjoy life—but later discovered that they were too old to do most of the things they had dreamed of. Robin and I aren’t in that boat. We cleared our bucket lists in our thirties. But, like billionaires who spend a lifetime hoarding money only to realize they can’t take it with them (and thus begin looking for ways to give it back), we, too, faced such a dilemma. But our fortunes aren’t money. It’s knowledge.  

Robin started business projects mentoring the next generation on publishing. At the same time, I took on students and began weekly classes on writing. These activities, combined with creating and editing Esrahaddon, and our new exercise regime, which made it possible for two sixty-year-olds to climb out of the Grand Canyon this summer, kept us busier than usual. 

So, yeah. That’s what happened to MJS. 

It should be pointed out that I really was never all that active on social media. Sure, I made a home on Goodreads and Reddit, but my presence on Facebook and Twitter was always anemic at best. Times, however, have changed. The world is different, and I am getting older. My daily writing output has dropped a bit, and my online time has taken a hit. The good news is that I found out someone went to the trouble of building a Discord server exclusively for my books . . . and they invited me to visit. 

Maybe they didn’t think I would actually show up. But when I did, they were very welcoming—even built me my own room. It is the last chat room on the list, and it’s called “Ask Michael.” As I wanted to be respectful of people discussing my books, I mostly stay out of the other rooms. No one likes the author looking over their shoulder when complaining about something they hate. And half the fun of an ongoing series of anything is discussing it with others. Who doesn’t enjoy complaining about the death of beloved characters, parts that didn’t make sense, sections that are boring, and, of course, being able to speculate on what it all means and where it might be leading? It’d be a real pain if the author were to jump into that discussion. 

But in my room . . .people can expect a response. I often imagine it as a massive door at the end of a long scary corridor, where readers dare each other to go in. 

“Go on, ask him if you don’t believe me.”

“I’m not going in there. Look at it. What if he isn’t as nice as he sounds in the Author’s Notes.”

“It’s a Discord chat room. What are you scared of? Do you think he’ll belittle your punctuation?”

“You think he will?”

“I already do that now, and it clearly doesn’t matter to you.”

“Sure, but you’re not the creator of Royce and Hadrian.”

“What’s that mean? You think he’s going to send them after you?”

“Of course not. That’s silly.”

“That is silly.”

“I mean, it’s not like he based them on someone he personally knows or anything, right? He didn’t, right?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay, sure, but . . . well, he had to get them from somewhere, didn’t he?”

“What are you saying?”

“Maybe he’s, you know, like them, sort of at least. Maybe there’s a little Royce in him. Mild-mannered author by day, knife-wielding assassin at night. I don’t want to go in and ask a dumb question of Royce.”

“What about Myron? Would you be worried about asking Myron a question?”

“Huh? No.”

“Well, using your logic, he’d also be part Myron.”

“That’s true. And Myron wouldn’t mind if I asked a simple question, would he?”


“Okay. I’ll do it!”

. . .

“Well? Did you ask?”

“Yeah. I did.”

“I was right, wasn’t I?”

“You were, but I still don’t understand. What is Pie?”

This hypothetical dialog will likely only make sense to those on the Riyria Discord server, which is best because the idea was born there, which means it isn’t mine; it’s theirs. 

You can still expect me to visit and post on Reddit and Goodreads. I still love all of you. And I do try to reply to emails, but some of you who have received responses a year late know that a few fall through the cracks. I apologize for that, but I am far from perfect. I do occasionally glance at Twitter, but not often, and trying to contact me that way is not wise. Facebook is . . . well, I’m not even sure I remember my password. And then there’s this blog. 

I began making posts here fourteen years ago to try to draw attention to the existence of my books. My wife (and everyone with a brain) understands that every author needs a website. Blog posts were a way to get noticed. So, in the early years, I struggled to come up with anything entertaining. Some of them were pretty good. At least, I think so. But as success happened, I had less and less time to write blogs because I was spending more and more time writing novels. 

With the completion of Esrahaddon, I’ve come up for air. I find it a little sad to see the state of the ye old MJS site. The place is dusty beyond belief, one of the windows is broken, and now the place has become a home for spam posts. I’ve patched that window, and this is the first attempt at dusting off the old signal beacon. With the window sealed, I won’t be able to hear you, so hopefully, you’ll reach me by other means, if for no other reason than to let me know . . . Does this thing still work?