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…

Updates From Exile

first of all, I hope everyone out there is safe and well. This is a strange and often scary time for us all but we will persevere–together. I mean, not together, as in being in the same place. Together, but separate…but together! Oi.

Because we’re cool like that.

If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve mostly been posting cat pictures. It’s a great way to pass the time (read; slack off)! But I’ve also toyed with my guitar and painted a custom Kendra Alscoradon mini.

Because being creative right now is a great way to cope. And being creative in a different way has absolutely helped. Will I stick with these resurfacing hobbies? I have no idea. For the time being, they’re entertaining distractions.

As far as Ascent Into Light goes, I have the proof copy in my hot little hands (if you didn’t see my terrible video, you can see it here: https://twitter.com/TheCleftonTwain/status/1242161629288169475

I’ve still got some special plans for this book and the current situation is delaying those a while so I’m taking it slow. I have no real deadline now, and I know there are some of you who really want to find out how The Forgotten Years saga ends, so I’m asking you to wait just a little longer.

It’ll be worth it, I promise.

In the meantime, rest assured I am working on Mage Breaker. It’s going a bit slower since we’re all stuck inside the house (and I usually have problems writing at home with all the distractions), but it’s still happening. And it’s amazing.

Hang in there, everyone. And help one another when you can.

Review: The Weight of Stars and Suns

I was very fortunate to acquire an advanced copy of Dawn C. Jonckowski’s debut novel, The Weight of Stars and Suns and, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

First of all, let me start off by saying romance is not my most often read genre. In fact, I rarely read romance. Maybe I’m a cold-hearted bastard who doesn’t cry at mushy Google ads and I have no feelings. But I might have cried during the movie “Up”, so I’m not completely dead inside. So here’s the thing–it’s a romance that happens in a science fiction setting.

Tav is a planet ringed by thirty-six suns! Thirty-six! They have the best tans, I’d wager. Many years ago, a human ship crashed, stranding the crew. Fast forward to the present where humans are all slaves. Okay, so what, right?

Well, one of the suns inexplicably dies. Poof. It just goes out. Why? Are the others going to follow suit? So there’s your sci-fi.

During this crisis, a small group of humans is planning to rebel but they find themselves prisoners after they’re captured. The leader, however, falls in love with the Tavarian chieftain’s daughter–the princess.

And then it starts getting really good.

Jonckowski has mapped out a simple, yet rich world and history without deluging the reader with exposition and details that could slow the story down. She focuses on only a handful of characters which kept me riveted, compelled to find out what would happen to them and how they would solve their solar problem.

Her narrative voice and writing style are both impeccable–effective, yet personable, so the story never bogs down with unneeded details. Everything generally moves at a good pace and it’s easy read through the book quickly.




And, now, some questions for the author!

1. Where did you draw your inspiration for The Weight of Stars and Suns? What gave you the idea? This was one of those crazy ideas your brain cooks up between waking and sleeping. I’m still not completely positive what kicked off the idea, but I was sitting on a plane at ridiculous-thirty in the morning and my brain started wandering down the rabbit hole of a planet that was actually at the center of the universe, as humans once believed Earth was. I started wondering what the planet might look like, feel like, who would live there. Would humans ever show up there and what would be the impetus behind them doing so. And if humans were there, what would the natives look like. (Fun fact: Tavarians are purple for the highly scientific reason of “purple is Dawn’s favorite color.”)

2. Will we get to revisit TWoSaS universe again? We will! The universe is a big, huge black space for exploration. And shortly after I finished drafting TWoSaS (which was originally intended as a singular novel), the characters informed me that I wasn’t yet done telling their story. For now, the entire arc is a planned trilogy. Book two, The Ashes of Hope and Hunger, is drafted and awaiting rewrites. Look for it early 2021, and in the meantime, get ready for a wild ride!

3. What is your favorite thing about the book? Does “holding it” count as an answer? Aside from the distinct pleasure of holding a physical copy of something that I poured so much of myself into and having it come to fruition like this, honestly one of my favorite things is seeing how the story affects other readers. Which characters they fall in love with, what quotes they pull out to hold close. All of which I suppose could be summed up in that my favorite thing is its fledgling community of readers. That and how much fun I had putting interesting little Easter eggs in there for those who know me well.

4. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? For the past eleven years, I’ve been heavily involved in swing dancing, both East Coast/Lindy and West Coast Swing. I’m also a musician, so you can often find me singing and playing piano or in a concert band playing French horn. We also have two very spoiled dogs; those two little fuzz nuggets definitely keep us on our toes and laughing!

5. What was the last song you listened to? Oh man . . . that’s a tough one! I have music playing constantly, so I listen to a ton of songs on any given day. My latest obsession is “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, because I think it would be an amazingly powerful song to dance West Coast Swing to.

6. Pancakes or waffles? Waffles. Hands down.

7. If you had more time, would you write more or read more? I mean, I should probably sleep if I found more time! But if I could squeeze more in a day, I would probably write more. Book 3 has been knocking on my mind’s door for some time now, and I’d love to start digging into it.