Friday, January 20, 2017

Barnes and Noble picks some under the radar series to check out

Barnes and Noble picked five series that people should be checking out, and I'm honored that The Riyria Revelations is one of them. Here's something nice they had to say about my books:

This is one of my favorite suggestions for fans of Game of Thrones. Riyria has everything you could possibly wish for: the characters are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in fantasy literature, the writing is top notch, and the plotting is so tight you’d be hard-pressed to find a mouse hole in it. It also has one of the most satisfying endings of any series I’ve read.
How great is that? But my real reason for posting is to help shine a spotlight on some of their other choices, so here goes:

  • The Samuil Petrovitch trilogy by Simon Morden - is a series that's put out by Orbit (the publisher that released The Riyria Revelations).  I don't often go for post-apocalyptic stuff, but if that's up your alley, then I think it'd be worth a look. It won the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award.
  • The Johannes Cabal books by Jonathan L. Howard - another new one for me, and one of the reasons I love "underrated" lists like this. Described as mixing darkness with humor in the vein of Terry Pratchett, that's enough to get me interested.  It's on the TBR list!!
Hope this list gives you some good ideas of reads to pick up. And read the story that goes along with it, I think the writer does an exceptional job.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Tribute to Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, more than 125 years ago. His contribution to the fantasy genre cannot be overstated, and his influence is far reaching. To mark this occasion, Audible asked a number of fantasy authors to talk a bit about what Tolkien meant to them and their writing, as well as sharing a favorite quote from his books.

I'm honored to join Patrick RothfussMercedes LackeyJoe AbercrombieChris Philbrook, and Jodi Taylor in this celebration of Tolkien and his work.

Here's what I had to say.

Interested in seeing what others had to say? Well stop on over and see.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A nice way to end out the year!

Sure, it has a lot to do with Age of Myth being in Audible's 2-for-1 sale, but there are plenty of other books in that sale, so I'll take a success story where I can find it. In any case, there is only a few more hours left in the sale, so check out the titles and grab a few from your wish list before the sale ends tonight at 11:59 PM PST.  I'm sure you'll be busy kissing in the new year. so better check out the sale now ;-)

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

#1 Best-selling Epic Fantasy Audiobook? Age of Myth!

The Christmas holidays is over, but you can still get something just for you! Audible is running a 2 for 1 sale, and thanks to so many people picking up a copy of Age of Myth, it's once more #1 on the Best Selling Epic Fantasy charts for audio books!! Thanks to everyone who is interested enough to give it a try. As with my other works, it's narrated by the amazing Tim Gerard Reynolds-a performance that shouldn't be missed!  

I hope you'll enjoy the listen. And if. you haven't gotten your own copy yet, there's still time but not a lot. Sale ends ends December 31, 2016 at 11:59 PM PT (US).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Bookworm Blues Best of 2016

I've been fortunate to meet some amazing industry people over the year, and the fact that many of them have been 100% online hasn't decreased that pleasure in the least. Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues is one of those people who I'm proud to know. She has impeccable taste in books, gives honest and insightful reviews, and even when it's a book she doesn't particularly love, she's able to express her opinions in a way that provides for an open door that maybe a particular work just wasn't her cup of tea and it doesn't make it a bad book.  She's also devoted many hours helping self-published authors by participating in the SPFBO (Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off) which helps to bring high-quality fantasy fiction into the spotlight.

So it was with great honor, and extreme pleasure to find Age of Myth made Sarah's Bookworm Blues Top picks for 2016. Sarah is works tirelessly to unite readers and writers, and I'm so pleased to see how her blog has grown over the years to be one of the pre-eminent site in the fantasy blogging community.

For those who prefer text rather than pictures, here are the books along with some data about the books as gathered from

 # of
A Green and Ancient Light  Frederic S. Durbin -4.10416
The Devil You Know K.J. ParkerBook 2
Borderline Mishell BakerBook 1
Arcadia Project
All the Birds in the Sky Charlie Jane Anders-3.599,702
The Last Days of Magic Mark Tompkins -3.241,008
The Wolf Road Beth Lewis-4.031,583
Everfair Nisi Shawl-3.38265
The Forgetting Moon Brian Lee DurfeeBook 1
 Five Warrior Angels 
The Last Days of Jack Sparks  Jason Arnopp -3.921,071
A Gathering of Shadows V.E. SchwabBook 2
Shades of Magic
False Hearts Laura LamBook 1
False Hearts
Stiletto Daniel O’MalleyBook 2
Checquy Files
Wall of Storms Ken LiuBook 2
Dandelion Dynasty
The Wheel of Osheim Mark LawrenceBook 3
Red Queen's War
Age of Myth Michael J. SullivanBook 1
Legends of the First  Empire 
=Defying Doomsday Multiple-4.5954
After Atlas Emma Newman Book 2

Friday, December 23, 2016

From Concept to Completion: My Steps to Novel Creation

In my last post about why it takes so long between books, I promised some additional details about the various steps a book goes through (at least for me and my novels). So here it is.  Get ready, it's kinda long:
  • (1) Before I start a book, it’s usually been banging around in my head for a year or more. Not the whole story, just certain scenes or ideas. So step #1 is to get a Moleskine notebook and write down all those bits and pieces. While doing that, I start forming the basis of the outline.
  • (2) Next comes research. If I’m going to write about bronze-age peoples, I need to know what kind of buildings they lived in and how to build them. How did people cook before pots and pans? Did you know you could boil water in a bag made from an animal’s stomach? I have to learn all kinds of “daily life” facts. If my book takes place on the high seas, then I need to know the various ranks and customs. I do the research up front, so I don’t have to pause during the writing stage.
  • (3) Step three is to make my Scrivener file. In it, I assign names to characters and places (I have a long list that I’m always adding to, and I usually pick from there). I also create character profiles, so I don’t change a person’s hair color midway through the novel because I forgot what I used earlier in the story. Next, I’ll set up my chapters and how many sections each contains and determine who is the best person to be the POV (point of view) to see that scene through. That can, and often does, change. For instance, when I started the book I’m working on now, (the fourth Riyria Chronicle), I wrote the first chapter from one person’s POV, and it just wasn’t flowing well. When reading the opening the next day, I picked someone else, and now it has improved significantly.
  • (4) Then comes the writing stage. I write every morning, no days off. At the end of each day, if I don’t have a clear idea for the next day’s section, I’ll go for a walk to work on that. By doing this, I always have the next day’s scenes figured out (and sometimes many days’ worth). I write sequentially through the book (never understood how some writers can skip around as they do), and as I mentioned earlier, I sometimes will take side trips during the journey or change my ending destination complete.
  • (5) When I finish the first draft, I have a list of things I need to fix up written in my Moleskine. These are from my side trips or new things that I discovered that need a foundation laid. I’ll also examine the story as a whole to see if I can “take it to the next level.” In some cases, that’s led to a twist even I didn’t see coming. This part of the process doesn’t last long. Usually, I’ll spend a week or two on it.
  • (6) As I mentioned, I edit the previous day’s work at the start of the next day, so the prose is in relatively good shape. At this stage, it’s getting close to being ready for others, but I still have to read it cover to cover and make minor adjustments and fix sentences that are weak or wordy.
  • (7)Now we’re at the stage where other eyes can see it, and that starts with my alpha reader, Robin. She’s my wife and an exceptional structural editor. She’ll go through the whole book and come back with a list of impressions: things she liked, those she didn’t, plot holes or problems in motivation (she’s great at those). She’ll also provide suggested changes, but more often than not, I’m able to come up with a better solution. We’ll also have long detailed conversations on various topics, and in a few days, I have a new list of things to address. I spend about one to three weeks implementing those.
  • (8) At this point, the book is probably 90% of the way to the final product, but that last 10% requires A LOT of work (mostly by people other than myself).
  • (9) Robin will copy and line edit the whole book. She’s polishing the apple and removing some of the wordiness that I missed. I then read through her work accepting most of it but reverting maybe 10%. At this stage, it’s ready for input from the “outside world.”
  • (10) Now the book goes to my agent, editor, and beta readers. Robin runs the beta reading program, and it’s quite extensive. From those three sources she gathers all the feedback and organizes it, so I can quickly evaluate all the input. I go through and make the changes I agree with. Generally, this means only minor tweaks here and there. In one case, a passionate beta reader saved the life of a character who had died, and I was able to spin his “living” into a new plot which I could pull on in future books.
  • (11) After I make those changes, Robin goes over it again—more copy and line editing polish. Then the book goes to Linda (an editor I’ve used for both my traditional and self-published works). She’s great. Her changes are usually in the accept/reject category, and Robin is so familiar with my style that she can handle 90% of the things Linda points out. She flags any issues she’s uncomfortable dealing with on her own. And, of course, I read the whole book through again. I may make a few adjustments or undo a change they made, but at this point, it’s simply a matter of nitpicking.
  • (12) Now it’s ready for the publisher’s copy editor (if traditionally published). If I’m self-publishing, I usually have a second freelance editor go over it. Again, their changes are almost 100% accepted by Robin, and I might adjust 5% or so.
  • (13) Now the book is ready for layout, and at this stage, there shouldn’t be any content changes. Once it is laid out, I read it one final time and might adjust a handful of sentences across the entire book. It’s also possible to find a few typos at this stage, but beyond those kinds of things, nothing else is changed to prevent layout issues.
  • (14) Finally, the book is off to the printer, and the anticipation starts. Waiting to hear from the readers about how the book turned out is always stressful, so I pour my energy into the next project.
Did I mention it was a long process?

Now, let's bring this back to the books I'm working on now, and where each stands.
  • Untitled Book #4 of Riyria Chronicles: is on step #4. It's still very early in the process, and has been hampered with work on the cabin, reviewing Age of Swords before final copyediting, and various holiday stuff.  Still, I plan on having it to Robin for beta reading around the end of February.
  • Age of Swords:  is on step #12 and sometime in January I should get the copyedits back. It only takes a few days to go through them then the book will be off to layout.
  • Age of War: is at step #7 - Robin is going through the book, and making a list of structural edits that she thinks needs addressing.
  • Age of Legends, Age of Wonder Age of Empire: have all gone through a first set of alpha reading and my implemented changes but because the work was so extensive it is basically at a pre-step #7 stage as Robin will have to do a whole new alpha read on those books. This really can't happen until she is done with Age of War which will be about the time I'm done with Riyria Chronicles #4. Since Riyria Chronicles #4 and Age of War will both be hitting much sooner than any of these books, it is likely that these will sit for a bit, but once work on them starts, I suspect we'll rip through all of them in one fell swoop.
And that, as they say is that. So as I alluded to in my last post there really is a lot of difference between written and done. But we're hard at work making sure you get the books just as soon as you can.  Thanks for your continued support!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why so long for the next one?

It's a question I've often heard since the release of Age of Myth, mainly because people know I wrote the entire series before submitting the first book to a publisher. Some have even speculated that it's a nefarious plan to extend the time between books artificially. I assure you that's not true. What is the truth?  Simple. There's a big difference between finished and done. Let's pull back the veil a bit, so that you can see behind the curtain.

Okay, so I started writing this series in 2013 and finished in 2015. After completing each book, I gave it over to Robin, my wife (and an excellent structural editor).  She deemed the first three books to be in good shape, but the end of the series needed some work. She was right. Among other things, I rushed through the series ending, and it was evident I was trying to "smush" two books into one by ignoring a natural break point in the last novel.

While the series was indeed written, it was far from done. I did, however, have what I needed to submit the first book. I knew that first novel was in good shape (it had already been through two beta reads). I also knew where everything would end up even though the last half the series would still need some significant work. And lastly I had already worked out the required fixes, and it was just a matter of implementing them.

Del Rey offered a substantial advance for a four-book deal.  The only wrinkle was they didn't want any other books coming out from me until their series was fully released (plus a six month period of exclusivity). Since we were negotiating the contract in early 2015 and their first book wouldn't come out until June 2016, that meant six years before another Riyria Chronicle release. That just didn't work for me. So, it was time to get creative, and we came up with the following:
  • Riyria Chronicle #3 (The Death of Dulgath) could be released before the Legend's books as long as it could hit in 2015. 
  • Del Rey would receive the first three books of the Legends of the First Empire and a fourth yet to be named book based in Elan. This last book could be another Riyria Chronicle (assuming people wanted more after book #3's release), the 4th book of The Legend Series, or the first book in a new series that explores when the First Empire fell. This last story is essentially the backstory for Esrahaddon, Jerish, and Nevrik. If you've read the Riyria Revelations, those names will have some meaning to you.
  • We placed the release schedule at once book a year because (a) I knew there was still a lot of work to finish and (b) I knew I'd be able to hit those deadlines.
Okay, so with that decided, the clock began ticking. Priority one was to write the third Riyria Chronicle tale. The good news is it came together quickly and without any major plot issues. I finished the first rough draft in just 68 days. Not a record for me, but faster than I usually work. Robin's first read indicated it was the cleanest of all the books I'd written, and there were remarkably few things that needed addressing. I only needed to spend a few additional days on it, and then I was able to go back to work on the ending of Legends books.

Robin's feedback about the ending requiring work was right on the nose, and I started to implement the changes. I also saw several missed opportunities, and I was able to add additional layers that didn't exist in the original draft. I spent about a year on that, and the series grew from five books to six. Looking back at it now I can see how the series divided quite nicely down the middle with the first three books covering one of the major aspects of the book, and the last three deviating to a whole new setting to provide the finish I wanted.  The time was well spent, but it also meant the second book (Age of Swords) sat idle for a very long time.

Polishing the first draft of the second book didn't start again until the summer of 2016. And it was mostly Robin who needed to copy and line edit to prepare the novel for submission to Del Rey and the beta readers. The deadlines to make the June 20th release date were:
  • Book submitted for approval by October 1, 2016.
  • Book ready for copyediting by mid-December 2016.
Because the book was in such good shape, these deadlines were challenging but doable, and we hit them both. 

In early fall, I was feeling quite confident about the series. Age of Myth had debuted with excellent sales and was garnering positive reviews from new and existing readers. Age of Swords was on schedule for its release, and the rest of the series had gone through the required heavy lifting. With a lot of the uncertainty eliminated, we could now look at dates for the remaining books,  so Robin, Joshua (my agent) and Tricia (my editor) started looking at various proposals  The goals were as follows:
  • To release the Legend's books more frequently than once a year.
  • To release another Riyria Chronicle novel (feedback from The Death of Dulgath indicated that the duo hadn't yet overstayed their welcome)
  • To release the fourth Riyria Chronicle in a way that wouldn't adversely affect Del Rey's books.
From this we developed the following schedule:
  • June 2017 - Age of Swords
  • Oct/Nov 2017 - Riyria Chronicles #4 for Audible/Kickstarter/direct sales 
  • Jan/Feb 2018 - Age of War
  • later 2018 - Book #4/possibly Age of Legends
That's four full-length novels in 2 years! An aggressive but workable schedule. I started this post by mentioning there is a big difference between written and done, and I've not been able to discuss the various steps involved. Given this post is already quite long, I'll leave that discussion for another time. But there are two last things I want to bring up before I go.
  1. If you are interested in getting a copy of the 4th Chronicle book, it won't  be available in bookstores initially. You will be able to get the ebooks, trade paperbacks and hopefully hardcovers directly from me. (NOTE: audio versions will be on sale as well). Since they won't be in stores, you should sign up here, if you want a copy and we'll be sure to let you know about its release.
  2. Retailers have posted pre-order pages for Age of Swords. If you're excited to read the next book, then please consider pre-ordering. Early sales are critical to a book's success as they determine how much exposure a book gets in the stores and also the size of the print run. More pre-orders also means higher marketing dollars from the publisher. Some of the places where you can pre-order the book now include: Amazon US | B& | Amazon UK | Indigo (Chapters) | Books-a-Million | iBookstore.
And that's the skinny. For those who are stressed by the wait between book #1 and #2, that won't be a problem going forward. I want the books out just as fast as possible, but I also don't want to sacrifice quality. I think we're well position going forward to satisfy both goals.