Libraries Rock!

First off, if you happen to be in the Columbia, Missouri area on Saturday (11/12), from 10-1 I’ll be hanging out at Daniel Boone Regional Library’s Local Author Open House, signing books and just soaking up the author life! Stop by and say hi if you’re in the vicinity!

Which segues into the main point of this blog–libraries are awesome!

When I was a kid, libraries really existed for one purpose–books. And while that is a noble purpose and important service, it was one-dimensional. Libraries have come such a long way since then. They offer all kinds of great services including free tax prep, kids’ events, and yes, author events!

And I fully acknowledge a library is the absolute toughest venue at which to sell books, it’s not so much about sales as it is connecting. I’ve met a bunch of awesome authors and readers at these events.

Authors and readers alike should check out their library’s services/activities and see what they offer. The best part is, if they don’t offer something you had in mind, you can always propose the idea to them! Library staff are some of the coolest, most creative people I’ve ever met and they absolutely geek out over new, innovative ideas!

Also, support authors and libraries and let’s stop banning books already!

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PANDEMIC BREAKDOWN!

Normally, I talk about writing, but I’m going to take a brief detour for this post and talk about movies!!! Well, one in particular. PANDEMIC BREAKDOWN.

For the past several months (six, maybe?), I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a movie! We filmed it all remotely–none of us interacted directly–and, while the movie is largely based on phone conversations and interview-style, it’s really funny!!!

It’s about a man who gets fired by his boss (who is the ultimate douchebag) and decides to hire a hitman to kill him. And I’M THE HITMAN!!! His name is Phil and he’s…very unique. He often uses a traffic cone to take out his targets.

My point to all this is that this was way outside my normal realm of creativity. I’m used to writing books, but making a movie was never really something I thought I’d do! I doubt I’m the next big actor, and Hollywood certainly isn’t going to be pounding down my door to hire “that guy who played Phil the Hitman in that one movie on YouTube” but I really did enjoy it!

I was also the voice of the douchebag boss on an answering machine.

My lines were largely improvised. I was given a couple of specific things I needed to say but the rest I just sort of made up as I went. This is what I’m most proud of–being able to throw something out there without any preparation.

If the situation presented itself again, yeah, I’d do another movie. It was fun, it was new, and it allowed me to flex my creativity muscles. I even learned a few things about the movie-making process. Until then, I’ll be endlessly tapping at my keyboard, writing the books I want to read!

And I have two currently slated for publication!

You can watch Pandemic Breakdown on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewxSxpk53Ms

What to Say?

It’s been a while. I think I begin most blog posts that way. Many of you may be familiar with my motto: I don’t post anything unless I have something to say. Everyone’s time is important, so why waste it writing about nothing or reading about nothing?

While I haven’t updated the blog much, I have been busy–pinky swear.

I started querying Mage Breaker about 14 months ago. I’m sad to say it has gained zero traction. I did have a full manuscript request from a publisher but apparently wrote myself out of that possibility somehow.

I’m also querying my newest project, The Last Available. I just started so I haven’t had time to become disillusioned with that yet. Fingers crossed!

I’m also working on a new project which, like Mage Breaker and The Last Available, will deviate from my normal fantasy writing. This one’s dark and gritty and full of sweary goodness. It’s a refreshing change from the other projects, but I think I say that about every project. I’m writing it slowly as I tighten up The Last Available, and I’m ecstatic about where it’s going. Being a pantser, while I do know how it’s going to end, I’m excited to see how reaches its conclusion.

The only real insight I have these days is about just how terrible the publishing industry appears to be and, as an extension, how grueling and terrible most entertainment and art-related processes are. Talent and skill often aren’t enough to get where you want to be but, rather, who you are or who you know.

And most authors who are lucky enough to sign a publishing contract don’t get paid what they deserve. It’s a lot of work and emotional distress for a miniscule payout in most cases.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that self-publishing exists. And, yeah, it’s hard because you’re basically running a business that really has almost zero chance of paying the bills. Most authors are aware of this and we write because we WANT to. Sales are great and we always strive for them but, honestly, it’s just nice to have an achievable outlet for our creativity.

It’s a bit of a downer, but it’s what’s been on my mind lately, especially with it being “Indie April.” I don’t plan to stop writing and I’ll probably continue querying just to see what’s possible. But I’m 100% okay with self-publishing everything I write if that means readers will be able to consume my art.

New Year New Books!

It’s been a while, I know. I don’t like to give updates when there’s nothing to actually give. It’s like calling someone on the phone with nothing to say. Lots of awkward silences, “anyway”s, and garbage time.

BUT…I do indeed have news!

I continue to query Mage Breaker blah blah blah. Okay, I got that out of the way.

I finished a new book! It’s been a side project for years and I was never really able to give it my full attention because I was either neck deep in The Forgotten Years or Mage Breaker had muscled its way to the front of the line. But since I finished Mage Breaker I was finally able to work on and complete The Last Available!

It’s still fantasy, but it’s also comedy. And, if I’m being honest, its only purpose is to make you laugh. There’s not deep character development or symbolism in this book. The plot is simple and the characters are all ridiculous–think Guardians of the Galaxy in a fantasy setting. Also think “the absolute most dysfunctional D&D adventuring party you’ve ever seen.”

If you personally know me or follow me on Twitter then you know my penchant for all things silly. The Last Available embraces the silly, takes it, and throws it down a really long staircase. Whatever that means.

The bad news in all of this is I’m planning to query The Last Available so it may be a while before it sees the light of day. If nobody picks it up, then I WILL self-pub it.

ALSO: I finished up the audio book for Descent Into Madness! So it should be hitting Audible within the next month or two. If you like Kendra, then you’re in for a treat!

I hope everyone is safe, happy, and healthy!

Traditionally Speaking…

So, except for the deep editing process, Mage Breaker is essentially done. And, as a side note, let me tell you it’s freaking amazing. It’s got strong women, magic, guns, aliens, and a smart-ass city. But I digress.

You might be wondering what’s taking so long to get Mage Breaker into readers’ hands. The answer is simple: I’m trying my hand at the traditional publishing process.

Le gasp.

“But Sean,” you say, “you’re a staunch supporter of self-pub. What happened?”

Nothing happened. Rest assured, I am STILL an ardent supporter of self-pub. I plan on more self-pub books in the future and Mage Breaker may still go self-pub. But here’s the thing: I know the self-pub process pretty well, but I’ve not been through the trad-pub world. I’m curious to experience it first hand and, yes, pile up the rejections.

I also just want to give it a shot. What if cool stuff happens? I’ve really got nothing to lose. I’m also really tired of marketing and it’d be nice to have someone else do it for a change. That’s not to say it will happen–I know many publishers don’t do much of that unless they’re of the large variety.

Which brings me to my next point–I’m totally prepared to walk away from any contract if there’s anything I don’t like about it. I love my books like I love my own children and I want the best for them. That means finding the best fit for them–a publisher that will nurture them, help them grow, and even change their diapers.

Wait, that analogy broke down a bit there, but you get what I mean.

I truly believe someone out there will want to give Mage Breaker a shot. While my Forgotten Years books are fabulous, I think Mage Breaker (a deviation from my normal genre) takes it all to another level.

So I’m throwing my hat in the trad-pub ring. I began queries two weeks ago, so the responses should begin filtering in. But that was only round 1. I’ve got lots more querying to do.

In case you haven’t seen the cover I had made for Mage Breaker, take a look.

Breaking It Down

This weekend, I typed two very important words in my Mage Breaker manuscript.

“The End.”

Then I snapped a pic and deleted them because who actually leaves those words in their book? It’s purely for closure, at least for me.

But that’s not important right now. What IS important is the fact that Mage Breaker’s first draft is finished and it’s now in the hands of my betas so they can shove the words down their eye sockets. Truly, I hope they love it at least half as much as I do (which means I love it twice as much as they do).

I’ve been trying to digest my thoughts about completing this work. You see, The Forgotten Years took about five years to write, but it was an idea I held onto for twenty. It lived in my brain with me, it poked at me constantly, and it even ordered its own coffee sometimes. It was a living thing, as much a part of me as my second liver.

Wait, you guys don’t have two livers? Huh. Humans…so weird.

But Mage Breaker was an idea that came to be around the time I was finishing Descent Into Madness. As I wrote Ascent Into Light, Mage Breaker continued poking at me, getting my attention and, through the course of a year, morphed from a mere idea into an entire book (and several major things changed a bit).

And, guys, I wrote this book in less than a year–that’s pretty fast for me, especially in a pandemic when I literally didn’t write a word for three months straight.

And now it’s done. And, I have to tell you, I love this book. I love everything about it. I loved the idea when it was new and I loved writing it. I adore it.

And it’s not going to see publication for a while. And that kills me. However, I’m taking my time with this one. I’m grooming it for big things to come with the hopes that it’ll reach a wide audience. I just don’t know how I’m going to do that yet.

But it’ll happen.

Mage Breaker is not my usual genre. I’ve never written anything but straight Fantasy until now, which I’m going to call Science-Fantasy. Think Star Wars but a bit more low-key, and far fewer action figures and playsets.

But, truly, I dig this book so hard and I can’t wait for readers to enjoy it.

Because I believe they will.

Audible Chaos

It’s true! The Call of Chaos is now available on Audiobook through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Audible: https://adbl.co/2J3PRmw

Okay, so the crappy sales pitch is out of the way. Let’s get down to specifics. When I began this publishing journey, I hadn’t really considered audio books. Why not, you ask? Well, a variety of reasons, none of which are any good.

First, the thought of hearing my book read aloud is terrifying.

Second, I hadn’t even really considered it until readers began asking for it. It just never entered my brain for some reason. Audiobooks are wildly popular–my wife listens to tons of them constantly–so it makes sense but my marketing brain is so feeble and weak that it simply never occurred to me.

So, how’s the experience? ACX is Amazon/Audible’s interface for making audiobooks. You start a project and, if you have a narrator in mind, you can tag them specifically for the project. If not, then you can solicit auditions (and submit a small snipped of material for them to read). I had quite a few auditions to sift through and most of them were really good. I had to get my family’s opinions to narrow them down.

Then you work with the narrator to get the book done. That’s pretty much it! If there are issues, an experienced narrator can make alterations without having to reread everything. Once you’re satisfied, you send it on up and wait for ACX to approve it.

You can either pay the narrator outright or share royalties. Since I’m not a famous, rich author, I chose to share royalties. Some narrators (who are usually really good and really expensive) specify their payment options, often opting for upfront payment.

And that’s it! Admittedly, the worst part was listening to my book to catch errors. I do truly enjoy my characters and my story but I can constantly pick out things I wish I could still change, and it’s maddening.

It Is Done

Catharsis, am I right?

There’s nothing that can equal the feeling an author gets when he or she finally publishes the final book in their long-running series. They can sit back in their chair, relax, and breathe a sigh of relief while sipping their cognac and watching a nature documentary on TV.

Okay, now that I’ve played through the fantasy, let me get real, because this is about as far from my experience as I can get. I’ve never even had cognac.

If you follow me in any capacity, then you know I just finished Ascent Into Light, which is the fourth and final book in my Forgotten Years fantasy saga. It’s been a long time coming and the end was always in sight, but I don’t think I ever stopped to consider the emotions that would follow.

Elation? Pride? Excitement? Sure, those three are in there. There is always a sense of accomplishment with every book completed, and I’m proud of everything I’ve written. No, what I’m talking about is the emotions associated with finishing a series or even just a single book. You see, it’s not just about words on a page flung out wrecklessly into the cruel world. It’s also about relationships.

Many of the Forgotten Years characters have been in my head for two decades. Some had different names or personalities and, over the years, have morphed into what they are today. I’m proud of their progress and maturity but, if I’m being honest, I’m also pretty sad to see them go.

It feels like sending your kid off to college (which I’ll get to experience soon enough, too). Cygil has been my second home and these characters have been my friends and family. I’ve spent more time with them than some real friends or family, and I know them intimately.

And I may never see them again.

The journey’s over–both for them and for me and it was never something I considered. I always had the last book in mind, striving for that goal and never expected to miss everyone, yet, here I am.

All this is to say, while it’s a mixed bag for me, I hope anyone out there reading my Forgotten Years books gets to experience some of the same closeness and intimacy with the characters I’ve created as I have.

It’s not always only about the journey

What a Release!

For those of you who haven’t somehow seen me shouting about it, ASCENT INTO LIGHT RELEASES ON AUGUST 1ST!!!

Kindle eBook pre orders are available now: https://www.amazon.com/Ascent-Into-Light-Forgotten-Years-ebook/dp/B08CSXZXMQ

But, wait, there’s more!

The standard paperback will obviously be available on August 1st, but don’t forget about the Chaos Edition which will feature a few extras for the Forgotten Years collector! It will be available directly from me only, and will be $35 (plus shipping).

Yes, I know that’s expensive, and I don’t expect many readers to pay that much for a book. To print a book in color through Amazon is far more expensive, because the system assumes EVERY page is color and, thus, charges more per page.

If you want a few Forgotten Years collectibles, for $45 (plus shipping) you can get a golden Cor’il mini figure as well as a couple other small extras I’m including (shh, they’re surprises).

If you’d like to see the mini an hear me ramble a bit about this project, I made a video! https://youtu.be/aRGowUPGLYk

I’m excited to wrap up the Forgotten Years fantasy saga and I think Ascent Into Light does the story justice. If you’ve enjoyed the journey so far, I promise Ascent Into Light will not disappoint. If you’ve come this far, I ask you to come just a little farther!

If you need to catch up on The Forgotten Years, the first three books (and, eventually, Ascent Into Light) are available here: https://mybook.to/ForgottenYears

I Got You Covered

I’m happy to reveal the cover for Ascent Into Light: Chaos Edition!

This version of my final Forgotten Years book includes color art and the first chapter from my upcoming novel, Mage Breaker!

Let me say, however, that this edition will be more expensive. Why? Because Amazon charges more for color and the system assumes EVERY PAGE will be color. I will be selling these personally (they will not be available on Amazon).

If you’re a rabid fan, maybe this version is for you. If not, it’s no big deal because the original edition will be widely available. DON’T WORRY, THE CONTENT OF BOTH BOOKS IS 100% IDENTICAL!

And now, without further ado…