Sunday, June 4, 2023

Huge Audiobook Sale - A great time to stock up on what you've missed!

 The release of the audiobook (and ebook) of Esrahaddon is just a few months away (August 15th), and this is the book that completes the entire 3,000 year story arc for the 19 books based in Elan. 

This book, more than any other, is the cornerstone that ties everything together and solves many of the dangling mysteries from all the books, including Riyria, Legends, and Rise and Fall. As such, it's sure to be the most anticipated book to date.  Now, I know not everyone has read all the books (after all, 19 is A LOT of novels), but if you do want to see the full tapestry (rather than just a corner), and you enjoy hearing Tim Gerard Reynold spin the tales, then I have great news for you. Audible is having a sale and you can pick up any of your missing Elan books for just a fraction of what they would normally cost.

While a credit usually costs $14.95, because of this sale you can get all 19 books for the equivalent cost of a few credits.  Some sample savings:
  • Riyria Revelations -  6 books - $15.33 - just a little over the price of 1 credit
  • Riyria Chronicles - 4 books - $12.99 - less than 1 credit
  • Legends of the First Empire - 6 books  -$25.68 - less than 2 credits
  • Rise and Fall - 2 currently released books - $10.55 - less than 1 credit
Even if have none of the audiobooks you could get all 18 of the released titles for just $64.46. That would normally cost you $224.25.  So that's a savings of more 70%!

Hopefully, your collection only has a few holes here and there, so I've listed all the books below. Just click on the cover to go to the page to purchase at these deep discounts. But you have to hurry - The sale ends June 9th!

  Title    Sale Price     Savings  Series  Book  
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations    1 & 2 
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations     3 & 4
$5.1186%   Riyria Revelations    5 & 6
$3.4185%   Riyria Chronicles   1
$3.4185%   Riyria Chronicles   2
$3.0485%   Riyria Chronicles   3
$3.0485%   Riyria Chronicles   4
$4.9085% Legends of the First Empire  1
$5.3985% Legends of the First Empire  2
$4.9085% Legends of the First Empire  3
$4.4185%   Legends of the First Empire  4
$3.0485% Legends of the First Empire  5
$3.0485% Legends of the First Empire  6
$6.2985% The Rise and Fall 1
$4.2685% The Rise and Fall 2

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

We're back, and the online store is now open

Our trip overseas was long, exciting, and very, very busy.  We are "mostly" recuperated, but Robin needs some physical activity since she's been sitting, unmoving, inputting gamma changes for Esrahaddon.

Just before leaving, our kids restored the warehouse to its pre-Cradle Kickstarter state and so we can start shipping again.  So, we are opening up the store after many months of having it shut down.  If you want signed copies of any of my books (or ebooks for any of my self-published works), you can start shopping now! Just click here or use the store tab.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Jumping across the pond

 In 2018, my Italian publisher wrote requesting that I come to Florence to do a week of signings at the Lucca Convention. The publisher and convention organizers together would foot the bill for both our transportation and lodgings for the entire time we were there. Robin approached me about this most apprehensively. You see, she wanted to go. I could see that in her eyes, but she also knew there was little chance of it. 

Why? Mostly, it's because I don’t care for travel—air travel, to be exact. Not that I’m afraid of flying, mind you. I simply hate the experience provided by airlines today. Once upon a time, the journey itself was seen as one of the pleasures of travel. In It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey remarked, 

“Do you know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.” 

That, however, was back in a time when they served steaks grilled seat-side on airplanes. 

These days, travel is a necessary torture to be endured to get where you wish to be. I do still enjoy train trips, as it is an anachronistic throwback to a more civilized era. The seats are spacious; you can get up and wander around to stretch your legs; find a table to work or play cards; there are affordable private rooms, dining cars, beds, and the "AutoTrain" even brings your car along and has it waiting for you when you step off. I would easily trade hours for days if the travel portion was fun rather than a close equivalent to suffering a root canal. 

Alas, trains don’t cross oceans. The idea of suffering security checkpoints followed by being squeezed and then imprisoned in a tiny seat amidst a sea of equally trapped people for hours is more than ample reason for me to pass. I mean, it’s not like I need to escape religious persecution or something. 

Also, conventions are not my thing. Mostly, this is due to the years I spent working in dealer rooms as an unknown author. Days spent standing trade-show-style on a hard tile floor and forcing myself to beg passersby to look at my books was more than humiliating; it was demoralizing and left a bad taste. 

As a result of all this, I've passed on other similar offers. Several were gigs to go and speak, and doing so would result in a sizable payment for my time. When I started out, I did whatever Robin asked. Despite no experience in public speaking, I gave a talk at the Library of Congress and pretended to be an expert on Fantasy Literature. I also addressed a crowd of no more than four people at an event at the Georgetown Barnes and Noble where two of that group didn’t speak English, one was the bookstore event organizer, and the fourth was a homeless man who just came in to get warm. Back in the day, I did everything possible to be noticed. I don’t need to do that anymore. Instead, people come here to our little corner of the Shenandoah Valley. Writers, readers, and even people wanting interviews visit me. We’ve hosted folks from as far away as China, Sweden, France, and Saudi Arabia. And I’m good with that. 

Robin knew all this, and that’s why she looked so concerned when she asked if we would go. 

The thing is, I would do anything for Robin. She knows this about me, which is why she wouldn’t ask—not for something that she wanted for herself. But of course, I know that about her as well. She didn’t have to ask. I saw it in her eyes. 

Of course there’s also the fact that when someone offers you an all-expense paid trip to Florence, Italy…you say yes. 

As it turned out, the trip was legendary and easily the high point of my career. I had a man who brought an entourage of people armed with cameras and boom mics to interview me, proclaiming passionately to his people that I was one of—if not the greatest—writer in the world. Then we met the artist John Lockwood and had an incredible two-wine-bottle lunch with him and his wife. That evening I spoke to a packed crowd in the Lucca opera house, and later that night, we had dinner with Robin Hobb and her daughter in Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister’s palace. All this for the son of a steel mill worker in Detroit who, after my father's death, grew up on welfare and veterans benefits. 

So okay, taking a commercial airline and spending eight hours of pretending to be one of the Mercury Astronauts was worth it, given the trip took me over the moon. 

What’s the point of all this? We’re taking another trip across the pond. In this case, to Ireland, England, and Scotland, but this one is not business related. 

My name is Sullivan, and most of my grandparents on both sides came from Ireland. I still have family there, but I’ve never been. The Irish probably can’t understand it, but even (and perhaps especially) second and third-generation Americans from Irish immigrants tend to possess a weird inherited nostalgia, often for something that never existed except in stories. We Americans of Irish descent have bizarre notions of our kin across the sea, most of which we created here in America over the last hundred years from stereotypes, both good and bad. Either way, I’ve always wanted to go, and so we are. 

My wife, daughter, and I will be heading to the old world in a couple weeks. At this point, our intent is to fly into Dublin, rent a car, and head west to Galway, then travel up and down the coast. After that, it’s off to London and then the English countryside as we go north to Scotland. 

I’m telling you all this because my wife thinks some of you might like to meet us for a pint should we be in your neighborhood. If so, go here and tell us where you are, and we’ll see if we can link up. 

We'll leave the US on May 9th and return on the 25th. As you might imagine, don't expect a lot of email response during that time.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

ChatGPT and Theft of Swords

Okay, so I  was curious, so I went into ChatGPT and asked: "Can you write a recap of Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords?"

Here is what it said:

The Theft of Swords is a fantasy novel that follows the adventures of two thieves, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn, as they are hired to steal a sword belonging to a wealthy lord. The duo discovers that the theft is part of a larger conspiracy to overthrow the king, and they find themselves caught up in a dangerous political game.

As the story unfolds, Hadrian and Royce become embroiled in a series of increasingly perilous situations. They are pursued by soldiers, captured by enemy forces, and forced to fight for their lives against powerful foes. Along the way, they encounter a cast of colorful characters, including a cunning princess, a loyal squire, and a mysterious wizard.

As the conspiracy against the king deepens, Hadrian and Royce must use all of their skills and cunning to stay alive and protect those they care about. In the end, they uncover the true mastermind behind the plot and confront their greatest enemy in a thrilling showdown.

Overall, The Theft of Swords is a fast-paced and engaging adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. With its memorable characters, intricate plot, and richly imagined world, it's no wonder that Michael J. Sullivan has become one of the most popular fantasy authors of our time.

I'm good with that. Not sure who the loyal squire is but I'm thrilled with "With its memorable characters, intricate plot, and richly imagined world, it's no wonder that Michael J. Sullivan has become one of the most popular fantasy authors of our time."

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Orbit Works - but it doesn't. Not for the publisher, and certainly not for the authors.


Hey all, Robin here. I'm temporarily taking over Michael's blog about a recent development in the book industry.  As you may know, we have been published through Orbit in the past, and while both of us have benefited from that relationship, I think their new imprint: Orbit Works is a very bad idea.

What is it? Well, it's a digital-only imprint to distribute Sci-fi and Fantasy titles. A few points about them:

  • It's a digital-only imprint - so no physical books are produced or bookstore distribution (one of the best perks about going traditional. I should note that in some cases, they MAY produce print-on-demand books, but even if they do that, they won't be sold in bookstores because the unit cost of a print-on-demand book (and the fact that it has to be paid upfront) doesn't work in the retail chain where 50%+ of the book's list price goes to the retailer.

  • They don't offer advances - again, this is one of the perks of being traditionally published. You have a guarantee of income.

  • They require audio rights - right now, these are the most lucrative rights there are for books. I have several "audio only" contracts in the six-figure range and one that is seven figures to turn over these incredibly lucrative rights to a publisher that offers no advance. 

  • They pay 50% of net on ebooks and 25% of net on audio - now granted the 50% is 25% more than a standard traditional publishing contract, but given their up-front costs are so low and they don't have to shell out money for printed copies, it's still highly weighted to them.

  • They pay twice yearly - this is the same as I'm paid, but given the digital only nature of their business I don't understand why they don't pay like amazon and audible - which is monthly.
Obviously, Orbit Works is targeting the self-published authors.  But no self-publishing author who is doing well would ever accept a contract under these terms. After all, they are cutting their ebook sales in half, and their audio sales by 15% (ACX self-publsihing pays 40% of net). Given that, Orbit Works will only be getting the "bottom of the barrel" titles - and it's nearly impossible to create a silk purse from this sow's ear.  If they believe in a title, it'll go to Orbit, but for works that they feel so-so about, those will be published under the Orbit Works imprint, and that means it's going to get a bad reputation for poor quality.  

So what DOES Orbit Works do for an author?
  • Cover design

  • Editing

  • Distribution

  • Marketing

  • Audiobook production
As for the first two, self-published authors are already doing this now, and they can pick the artists they want and editors who they vet.  I'm not confident that, given how little Orbit is investing in these titles they are going to pull out all the stops for books for this imprint.  As for distribution, Oribit Works isn't going to have anything that isn't already available to self-published authors. Now, if they were doing print runs and brick-and-mortar selling, THEN they would have a leg up, but they already said they aren't doing this.  As for marketing, the sad truth is traditional publishing does next to no promotion for a large % of their titles, so why would they do a great deal for this second-rate imprint?  

On the last point, it is true that audiobook production is expensive, but self-published authors don't have to pay that for themselves. As I mentioned previously, there are a ton of self-published authors who receive audio contracts from the likes of Audible Studios, Podium Publishing, Tantor, Recorded Books, Dreamscape, and more. Not only do these companies pay for all the production costs, but they also provide advances - which Oribit Works does not.

To make matters worse, the head of this imprint recently posted on Twitter: 

This doesn't bode well.  Anyone who knows anything about the Lit RPG market knows that (a) they have been completely snubbed by publishing, (b) agents won't touch them with a ten-foot pole, and (c) there are a large number of authors that are pulling in many hundreds of thousands of dollars doing a rapid release of these types of books.  

So to answer Brit's question. The reason you don't have submissions is no one will buy these works, so agents don't sign authors who write these books. If you are trying to put forth that YOU want to be the imprint to break that mode, well, the structure of your compensation won't cut the mustard. IF you were making a REAL competitive offer for these kinds of works, you'd be coughing up some extremely high advances, and even then, most LitRPG people would turn them down because Orbit's lack of knowledge of this subgenre doesn't bode well for a "good" launch of a title in this space.  For instance, most LitRPG readers are using Kindle Unlimited (a subscription service - the Netflix of books), and with a few exceptions, traditional publishers don't release their books through that program. 

Hey, I get it.  There are self-published authors who are absolutely "killing it," and Orbit has its eyes on getting their hooks into that money. They are right to take LitRPG seriously - there is tons of money being made in a subgenre that is virtually non-existent in traditional publishing. But trying to do so with contract terms that are custom-made for the most desperate of all authors means they'll get what they pay for.  The authors who write well will continue self-publishing, and all you'll get are the truly desperate (and generally untalented authors) that would fail if self-published because their work is substandard. In other words, if all you are looking to do is pick the low-hanging fruit, you are likely to find that you have to pick up the rotting produce, and no one wants to eat that.

Anyway that's my two cents worth.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


(This post is in response to an inquiry made by a reader asking how I created the imagery, covers, and maps for my books. The question was made on Discord, but the response was too large to be posted there. So now, everyone gets to see the response whether you wanted to or not.)

First off, I had an art scholarship to the art school Center for Creative Studies when I graduated high school. 

Center for Creative Studies Detroit

That's not to say I learned much there, and only completed a year and a half before the money ran out. I was poor. I mention this to show that I planned a career as a commercial artist long before I thought of writing for a career. Later, after landing a job at a small company as an illustrator, I used one of the first graphic computers. (It was the size of a small kitchen.) No one else at the studio could figure out how to use it, but I was fascinated and stayed late at work (2-3am) for weeks playing with it and taught myself to make logos for the companies we had as clients. Later still, I got an early Compaq personal computer and began learning how to use a couple of new programs called CorelDRAW and this other neat one called Photoshop. 

I mastered these programs.  (Back then it was a badge of advanced achievement if you knew how to create drop shadows or create embossed text.) Then I learned how to use QuarkExpress. (The leading layout program--the MS Word--of its day. Everyone hated it, because of the tech support, but everyone used it.) With these three programs I founded an advertising agency of my own at a time before computer graphics was common, and printers had to be taught how to use the files. My wife took over getting the clients and I made her my president while I handled all the creative stuff as Creative Director. We had five employees and a beautiful office in a high rise glass building. 

Highwoods office building, the home of Spectrum Design

I did ads and brochures for companies like AT&T and a few global businesses like ABB. Mostly tech stuff. 

All of this is to say that I have a strong background in commercial art, and layout design. So when it came to making my own books, I had all the necessary equipment and all the know-how and skill. I had spent a decade professionally manipulating photos, learning how to use Bryce (one of the first 3D modeling programs) and basically laying out multi-page booklets. So making a novel was easy. I also painted as a hobby since I was twelve. 


A couple of pieces I did in college — circa 1980 (so before computers)

Now, to the books

I told AMI (my first publisher) what I wanted for the cover of  Crown Conspiracy: a castle in the distance and a river. I was thinking Alan Lee, but this is what they came back with. 

I was less then pleased. It was a thumbnail, but it instilled no confidence. So, I painted a new one and gave it to them for free. 

They liked free, so they used it. They liked free so much they asked me to do Avempartha’s cover, too. Truth is, I’m not that great of an illustrator. Marc is way better, which is why I pushed for him to do my covers when I went to Del Rey. 

Now, the maps 

So mapping Elan is a story lost to history. I created the very first map way back in 1989. I also had tons of notes about the world. These were locked up in my attic. When I started writing Crown, (in 2003-4) I searched for and found the box with all these notes and the map. Then—somehow—I accidentally threw it out thinking it was trash before I ever got a chance to even look at it. Yeah, I was pretty pissed. No one to blame but myself. So, I had to recreate everything from memory…starting with the map. 

I went online and found there was mapping software. I downloaded it and played. This was very crude software (that no longer exists)  but I managed to create a land form that was close to what I needed. Then I pulled that into photoshop and built out the rest.

This, however, doesn’t print well. So, then I had to lose the colors. Grays didn’t print either, so I had to go all the way to black and white.

I never liked this map much, so when I began the Legends series, I did a complete rework. This time I went about the whole process differently. I began with the real world. Avryn is about the size of Ireland. So I began looking at satellite photos of Ireland. Starting with this, I copied and pasted sat images of different regions of the world blending them together until I had what I was looking for. Then rather than go black and white, I simply made the water white, and faded the landforms to near ghost images so the black text would be readable when printed. 

I also created all the book symbols using Illustrator (which replaced CorelDRAW as the new Vector image draw program.) 

And that’s the story of the maps and a bit about the visuals and covers. Hope this answers your question. 


Saturday, March 25, 2023

So What Now?

In the last couple weeks, three different people inquired if I had taken any steps to see that my world continues after I die. This gave me pause—like what do they know that I don’t? And what are they talking about? It’s not like I conquered three quarters of the imaginary world space and if I don’t father an heir my name will be removed from every stone pylon. 

I blame Brandon Sanderson. The man is forty-seven and isn’t certain he can finish all the novels he hopes to write, and has already considered what might be done if he can’t. Granted he stepped in for Robert Jordan, so he’s likely more forward thinking than the average author, but I can’t help remembering that when I was forty-seven I was just publishing my first novel. 

Still, this inquiry, morbid as it is, shows a huge interest in where I’m going, and what comes next. Readers have noticed that I have now finished the the Rise and Fall series, the “bridge” that more or less connects Riyria to Legends, and they want to know what comes next. After all, there’s no need to ask about my preparations for a postmortem future for Elan, if Esrahaddon is the last novel I’ve planned in that world. The real question then is…what will I do now? 

To be honest, I’m not sure. 

You see, I never expected to write all these Elan books, and I never thought I’d write another fantasy novel past the Riyria Revelations. I hadn’t set out to be a fantasy author. My previous ten books were anything but. I wrote horror, science fiction, coming of age and literary fiction. I’ve always found writing fantasy to be, ironically, limiting because I can’t utilize common-knowledge-free-association in the manner that is available in nearly all other Earth-based stories. And I was good at that, too. I say was because I realize now that this is a talent similar to being good at sports; the talent fades with age. Common knowledge is generational. I discovered that ten years ago when I wrote Hollow World. The main character Ellis Rogers was only a few years older than I am now, but his life experiences were utter mysteries to the modern reader who had no clue who Archie Bunker was. 

At around the same time that I produced Hollow World, I considered re-writing my first serious effort at a professional novel (one that I hoped to get published) entitled Wizards, which in the rework was retitled Antithesis. I originally wrote Wizards when I was twenty-three, way back in 1985. The main character was a comic book geek, and much of the story was steeped in comic book references. By the time I tried reworking the story I was fifty, and no longer plugged into that world, which had changed dramatically. In addition to other unsolvable issues Antithesis died the same death that Wizards had decades earlier. 

This doesn’t mean I can’t write real world fiction. I have a poignant horror story fully set down in note form and ready for me to start writing that would work fine, but I understand my options for more such stories are limited because I’m no longer swimming in the mainstream. I also have more than one science-fantasy novels I’ve put off for years. But…

Well, there’s you to consider, isn’t there?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously hated Sherlock Holmes. He wanted to write what he believed to be more respectable Historical Fiction, and considered the detective's death to have been "justifiable homicide.” His readers had other plans and pressured his publisher to persuade him to raise Homes from the dead. 

I don’t hate Royce and Hadrian. They are good, and now, very dear old friends. In fact, we all took a vacation together recently and had a great time, although Royce got drunk and made a scene. (This will make more sense later.) Given the overwhelming success of Hollow World, however, my readers appear to have similar notions about persuading me to keep going—if not with Royce and Hadrian, at least with Elan. 

I realize this. I do. And yet, it doesn’t factor in as much as anyone might think. Don’t get me wrong, I love my readers, but I’ve never allowed their desires to become my direction. The only person on the planet who has any influence at all is my wife, and Robin’s power over my writing—as she will tell you—is miserably limited. What’s more, she refuses to try because she knows from experience that I do my best work when left to my own devices. That said, she did convince me to start writing the Chronicles. This was just after the year-long failure of Antithesis and I needed a win for my own self-confidence. 

That being said, where did Legends come from?

Good question. 

I was on the fence with that one for a long time. I really didn’t want to commit to another long series in Elan, but the history was wrong. I didn’t want readers of Riyria to think the story of Novron creating the empire for the love a village girl to be the final word. I owed it to my readers, but I owed it even more to myself. I also saw it as a challenge. To build a new story with new characters in an old world where readers already knew the outcome, and still make it worth reading, was no easy task. In a way, it was like writing backward—a strange sort of novelty that posed a compelling set of interesting issues.

And the Rise and Fall?

That was just common sense. I had the beginning and the end, the lack of a middle was just plain annoying. This became even more problematic as I discovered new readers were starting with Age of Myth. Once finished with the Legend series, how could they transition to Riyria with out a bridge. And so, I wrote those. 

But now what?

If you’ve been wondering this, so have I, and it isn’t from a lack of ideas. 

For those of you curious if I have any plans for creating another fantasy world, sorry, but no. Why would I? I have an established universe, which is the hardest part of any invented-world fantasy. No matter what sort of story I wanted to write, I could place it in Elan and be up and running. Creating a new universe, at this point, is a pointless waste of time as I’m not about world-building. I prefer to focus on characters and situations, not reinventing the wheel, (which I already did in Age of Swords.) 

I have two choices. I can either lock the door on Elan and explore realms in real-world, or Earth-based fantasy fiction, or I can do something really stupid. I could take on a ridiculous challenge that just between you and me, I don’t know if I can pull off. It would require writing as many as eight novels simultaneously and would demand that I weave story threads at triple the ply I have been. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt and it would all but kill my chance at writing anything else, possibly for good. I also wouldn’t be publishing any novels during the time I was wrestling with this behemoth. I’ve kept up a pretty consistent book-a-year pace for sometime now, but that would stop. And there is the very real chance that after years of work, I might fail and all that time would be wasted, or like Robert Jordan and young Mr. Sanderson, I might not live long enough to see the whole project through to completion. I’ve already outlived my father by more than a decade. 

On the other hand, if I were to succeed, it would be pretty amazing. 

So, here I sit and ponder the future of an entire universe. 

Fantasy world problems, I know. 

In the meantime, it’s not like I’ve been traveling the world or playing computer games—okay, so I haven’t only been doing those things. I’ve have been writing. 

Drumindor, the fifth Riyria Chronicle, is finished—pending alpha changes and editing. It is presently a bit over 160,000 words—about the same length as Percepliquis. This means it ought to be available to readers sometime in 2024. So you have at least one more Riyria book coming your way, but after that…

You might be on your own for a long while. 

Try not to forget me.