My first draft of Diamantine, the second book in Weapons and Wielders, is finished.

This was one of the easiest and most fun books to write I’ve had a chance to work on in ages. It was definitely a refreshing change of pace after the struggles I dealt with on Defying Destiny, and I think it’ll show in the writing that I just wanted to have fun with this one.

Now, as I mentioned previously, I’d been debating cutting the arc of the book in half – and I did do that. That’s how it’s “finished” this soon. Thus, this book does not contain the entire tournament – it contains the first half.

There are several reasons why I went this route:

  • The first draft is about 144,000 words. That’s already significantly longer than Six Sacred Swords (113,000) and roughly comparable to Defying Destiny. If I’d done the whole tournament in one book, this would have been extremely long, which is not the style I’m going for with Weapons and Wielders. Arcane Ascension is my giant tome series – I don’t want this to go that direction.
  • It has a really solid emotional climax, and I don’t think it would have the same impact if I continued the story right after that point. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.
  • There are a lot of mysteries in this book that I think fans will enjoy speculating about between books. Who is that mysterious masked hero of justice?
  • This lets me get back to work on Arcane Ascension 3 much sooner. I’ll probably be editing this for about another 3-4 months before it’s actually ready to launch, but I can start working on Arcane Ascension 3 slowly almost immediately. I won’t be able to ramp that project up until this ships, but this will get AA3 out many, many months sooner. If I tried to do the whole tournament in one book, that might have meant missing next year on AA3, and I don’t want to that.

Ultimately, I felt that this was the right way to go for all the reasons above, and I think the series as a whole will be stronger for the decision.

There’s a chance my beta readers will disagree. If they disagree strongly, I may have to readjust. We’ll see soonish.

So, what’s the time table for Diamantine look like?

The next step for me is self-editing, which I’m expecting to take about two weeks to a month.

Let’s assume a month.

That puts me at mid-October for sending out beta copies.

Assuming that, we’ll probably have about a month and a half for beta (since they always slip past the one month window I’m shooting for).

From there, we’re at early December.

Then it’s the professional editing stage. That usually takes about a month.

If everything goes smoothly, I might make a holiday release. I’d like to do that, since I’d love to be able to say I launched three books in a year, but I won’t compromise the quality to accomplish that.

If not, we’re likely looking at an early January release, maybe February at latest.

After that, I should be working full-time on Arcane Ascension 3. It’s too soon to give any good estimates on when that might be done – those books are very long, and much more complex than Weapons and Wielders. My goal is still to get it done before the end of 2020.

And beyond that? I have a lot of other books planned. Weapons and Wielders 3, Arcane Ascension 4, and a whole host of other stuff. Stay tuned.

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You can get them here.

Hey everyone!

Defying Destiny, the third War of Broken Mirrors book, is finally out! You can find it here.

The paperback and audio versions are on the way, but might be a little while longer. I expect the paperback to be about a month and the audio to be at least a few months – we have to find a slot in Nick’s schedule for him to narrate it first.

I hope everyone enjoys the book!

I love this cover image a bunch, so I figured I’d quickly post a version at a larger size so people a better glimpse at it.

Definying Destiny - Medium.jpg

As per usual, the cover was done by Daniel Kamarudin. He’s an absolutely amazing artist, so and I strongly recommend looking at his work if you haven’t already.

I hope people enjoy the book!

You can find the book here.

Hey everyone,

Some quick updates.

  • I’m almost finished with editing for Defying Destiny. I’m currently still aiming for a September 1st release if possible, but it may slip a little further. Either way, I expect it out soon.
  • I made some progress on Weapons and Wielders 2. The first draft is probably about 50% complete, but there are still some elements I’m not sure if I’m going to keep in there, so it could vary significantly.
  • I made a little progress on Arcane Ascension 3 as well. I’m going to call the first draft 10% written.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic is on sale on the US and UK Kindle stores today if anyone hasn’t picked it up yet. If you already have it and love it, please spread the word!

attuned_final-1200

Thanks, everyone! Hope you have a great month.

Best,

Andrew

Some quick updates:

  • Defying Destiny (the third War of Broken Mirrors book) is out with beta readers. I sent it out in phases. The first beta (maybe more like an alpha) only went to a few people, mostly my immediate family. I’ve gotten notes back from two of them, which I used to make my first edits, then sent out the second beta phase. That’s a bit wider, and I haven’t gotten notes back from that yet. I consider the book to still be on schedule for a launch sometime around September.
  • I didn’t get as much writing done this month, since editing took a lot more time than I expected. In the future, I’ll plan for a longer period of self-editing – I was making my own edits for close to the entire month, rather than just a week or so as expected.
  • I did make some progress on the third Arcane Ascension book, but not a lot. I’d say it’s at about 7% progress, if we gauge based on the length of previous books.
  • I made more progress on Diamantine, which seems to come to me a little more easily. That one is much further along, probably close to 30%, depending on the final length. (I expect this one to be about as long as Sufficiently Advanced Magic, unless I cut it in half. Which I might – shorter books on a regular schedule is often better for readers. I’m not sure on the route I’ll take on this yet.)
  • I’ve also worked a little bit on side projects, but I don’t have enough on any of them to really announce anything new.

Thanks for your patience. I hope everyone enjoys Defying Destiny when it’s out!

Forging Divinity was the first book I published, but it was far from the first book that I wrote.

Like many authors, I spent years pursuing the dream of getting something traditionally published before going to self-publishing. I wrote books, submitted them to literary agents (and occasionally, directly to publishers) and got rejections. Stacks of them. Hundreds of rejections.

It’s very easy to give up when things like that happen. I’m glad that I didn’t, and I’m extremely grateful that my partner and my family supported me through those times.

I think about those unpublished books regularly. Sometimes I wonder about what would have happened if I’d gotten a contract for one of them, or decided to self-publish earlier. I also think about spending time to revise them now, if any of them are still salvageable.

I don’t think it’s likely that any of those projects will see the light of day. But I’d like to talk about them briefly, since the history behind them helped shape my current projects, as well as things to come.

Dawn’s Tear was my first book. It’s a finished book, and it’s…well, bad. My partner once said it was like “someone’s first fanfic”, and they weren’t wrong. It was, in many respects, my own fanfic of a D&D campaign I’d run in college. It was also something I started working on with another writer, but that didn’t work out – and that collaboration failure taught me some important lessons about setting expectations ahead of time for professional projects.

This book was almost a direct depiction of a D&D campaign. That was, to be direct, a terrible mistake. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to make a D&D campaign into a book series – Record of Lodoss War and Malazan both pulled it off (although I think the latter might have been GURPS). But I wasn’t at the skill level as a writer to know what to report directly and what to tweak more heavily for narrative.

Notably for my existing readers, this took place much later in the timeline of the setting than the books that are currently out. (It’s even later than Arcane Ascension.) Some of the things from the War of Broken Mirrors were created as backstory for the “ancient past” of this D&D campaign.

Also of note, a few characters from my later books were in there – including very different versions of Taelien, Jacinth, Aayara, and Wrynn Jaden. This Taelien was already an older and more confident veteran, and he wasn’t a main perspective character (maybe he got one chapter? I don’t remember, and I’m not checking, it’s too embarrassing.)

Will the events of Dawn’s Tear ever happen in my updated book new universe? Probably not. The whole story has changed significantly since then, and many characters – like Taelien and Wrynn – are fundamentally different people in this version of the story.

This is the least likely book for me to ever touch again.

 

Dawn’s Blade was going to be the sequel to Dawn’s Tear, but I didn’t finish it. Fortunately, I moved on to something much better instead.

 

Blackstone is when I actually found my legs as a writer to some degree. People actually liked reading Blackstone, which was a marked improvement. It’s a silly, self-deprecating autobiographical piece from the perspective of the Blackstone Assassin, chronicling his accidental rise to infamy. It also showed the start of his legendary romance and rivalry with Symphony, the Lady of Thieves.

I think this was a book that could have launched my career. It’s not at the same level as something like SAM, but it was amusing at times, and I think the protagonist had a likable kind of snark.

Notably, this is where I really started to flesh out dominion sorcery in book form. Dawn’s Tear was basically still using D&Dish magic, with very little internal consistency. I created dominion sorcery as a system for a LARP campaign in the same universe, and I think using it for this book helped make it feel much more interesting and unique. Interestingly, it also had a whole extension of the system for using scrolls (since Jacinth wasn’t actually a spellcaster for most of the book), which had some neat elements I might revisit.

This was a finished book and probably could have been published.

The novel-within-a-novel stuff I’ve been doing with the Blackstone Assassin books in my other books is an homage to this actual novel, and I’ve considered updating it for publication several times. It’s mostly a matter of just not having enough hours in the day, and wanting to prioritize my more recent works.

 

Dreams of Jade was my first attempt at a Wrynn Jaden novel. It was my first attempt at writing a martial arts focused protagonist. It probably would have been called a xianxia novel if I released it, but I had no idea what that was at the time. (The last time I touched this book was apparently June of 2010.)

Notably, the secondary protagonist (or deuteragonist, if you want to get fancy) of this book was Jonan Kestrian. Jonan is an interesting case – he’s actually one of my oldest gaming PCs (he predates Salaris), but this was my first effort at working him into a book.

It didn’t work well. This book was never finished – largely because I didn’t like the pacing, or how I was handling Wrynn herself as a character.

Shadowblade was my sequel to Blackstone. It was finished, and from what readers told me, probably better than Blackstone. Unfortunately, continuity has drifted much further from the story of this one, to the point where I don’t think I could realistically just “update” it to modern standards without rewriting it completely. In a different world, Blackstone, Shadowblade, and Dark Paladin would have been my first trilogy.

Arcanist was my attempt to write to market. In 2010-2011, epic fantasy and swords and sorcery weren’t doing so well (at least according to the people I talked to in the industry), and the cool thing at the time was urban fantasy. So, I tried to write one.

This is a really interesting one. First, because the book was terrible. Writing to market was an awful idea, and I didn’t even do a good job of understanding what made urban fantasy appeal to people ahead of time. (I’d read some, but not a lot, and I didn’t have a firm enough understanding of the hooks for readers.)

It is, however, also interesting because it was almost a LitRPG in an era before LitRPGs were codified.

In this setting, Arcanists were mages living on modern earth. They were broken down into categories based on a specializations: Movers, Burners, Breakers, Cutters, Twisters, Finders, Healers, and Turners. They wore devices called Shards that were basically pocket watches that stored mana and displayed their remaining mana percentage.

You might see some similarities to a certain other magic system of mine there.

If I’d pushed the class-based angle and the systems a little further, this might have actually been a pretty good LitRPG setting. As it is, however, I didn’t have the confidence to go all-in on those mechanics at the time, and thus they remained surface-level and kind of boring.

Oh, and my main character was named Sarah, so there’s that overlap with Arcane Ascension as well. (She was a Breaker, for the record. There were no Summoners in Arcanist.)

This is a complete book, but it’s also not a very good one. I probably won’t go back to it.

 

Marks of Iron is another interesting one. It’s the first book I tried to write where Taelien was one of the main perspectives. It also has one of the most interesting settings I’ve written, which involved a city where people are revived from the dead, then sustained with alchemy rather than food and water. The premise is that the sustaining alchemy has stopped working properly, and in a week, virtually everyone in the city is going to die (permanently).

Ashel Val, a famous alchemist, is brought in to investigate the alchemy problem. She saved a foreigner – Taelien – from being eaten by a monster while he was asleep (long story), so he tags along with her to serve as her bodyguard. We see the story through both of them, and using Taelien as the foreigner who doesn’t understand local customs or how alchemy works was a useful mechanic for introducing things that are obvious to Ashel to the reader.

I very easily could have published this one. It’s complete, the setting is interesting, and it’s probably the best self-contained piece I’ve written.

It does, however, have serious flaws.

When I was making the decision to self-publish, I had to choose between going for this one or Forging Divinity first. I chose Forging Divinity over Marks of Iron because of a couple key factors.

First, the character interactions in Marks of Iron just weren’t as good. The dialogue was weak (especially Taelien’s), the emotional highlights were unearned, and Taelien was the only person who experienced any real change.

Second, it just didn’t have enough moments of awesome. Forging Divinity is still relatively low magic compared to my modern books, but Marks of Iron was even lower, and I think it suffered from that. There are plenty of ways to write awesomeness without magic – and I had some of them, with Taelien getting a couple decent sword fights and Ashel having some decent investigative moments – but I think Forging Divinity just had more of them.

Ultimately, this would have been an interesting book to start with, but I think I made the right call.

That was the last book I finished before Forging Divinity.

I’ve had a lot of other books I’ve started without finishing after that – but those are more likely to actually be finished someday, so I won’t get into them in a lot of detail.

I will mention that I almost finished and released a “traditional” VRMMO-style LitRPG before I wrote Sufficiently Advanced Magic, and that would have been another interesting way to launch my career. I still intend to release something like that someday, but I don’t know what form it will take. I’ve started several, and I still haven’t found one that works perfectly for me yet.

Thanks for reading! I hope that this is interesting to some of you, and helps remind any aspiring authors that it can be a long road – but one that can ultimately be very worthwhile, if you stick with it and have sufficient luck.

Finally.

Finally, my first draft for Defying Destiny is done.

This book has been the most challenging work of my career. Trying to conclude a trilogy in a satisfying way is extraordinarily hard in general, and it was a challenge to switch back to a writing style similar to that of the Broken Mirrors books after working on things like Arcane Ascension. I’m much more comfortable writing in the style of Arcane Ascension now, so trying to make sure I maintained the tone and style of the original series was tricky.

I hope that people enjoy the final product when it comes out.

I’m sure my Broken Mirrors fans are wondering about the release date. I have an estimated timeline, but please bear in mind this is just an estimate.

My estimated timeline is as follows:

  • About a week for self-editing.
  • Sending to beta readers around June 1st.
  • Getting beta reader comments back around July 1st.
  • Making edits from beta reader comments until around July 15th.
  • Sending to professional editor around July 15th.
  • Getting professional edits back around August 15th.
  • Making edits based on professional editor comments for the following two weeks.
  • Hopefully done in time for a launch on September 1st.

We’ll see if I can actually make that happen. My schedules almost always tend to slip a little bit, generally at the beta reader stage. Beta readers are volunteers, and I can’t expect them to keep to a set timeline, so I expect them to often drift a little bit outside of my requested time range.

That said, I’m going to make every effort to try to get the book out by sometime in September if I can. I can’t promise anything, but that’s the goal.

Thanks to all my readers for your support and patience.

Once this is out, I’ll have more time to focus on Arcane Ascension 3 and Weapons and Wielders 2. I still haven’t made a firm choice on which one I’m going to release next; I will most likely work on both at the same time.

First, quick updates.

I’m at about 90% completion on the first draft of Defying Destiny, the third War of Broken Mirrors book. Virtually everything else is on hold in the meantime.

Once the first draft of that is done, I plan on tinkering with some other pieces while I’m in the midst of editing it and beta readers are reviewing it, then getting back to Arcane Ascension 3 and Weapons and Wielders 2 when the book is finished and released.

Now, for something completely different.

I wrote the section below for a post over on /r/fantasy, but I figured I’d repost it here, since I know some of my readers might find it interesting.

***

This is going to be something that is already very obvious to some readers, so forgive me, but it’s something I wanted to get down into writing.

The “hard magic” vs. “soft magic” discussion comes up regularly both here and in other fantasy discussions, and I wanted to bring up an element of it it that I consider to be important to me as both a reader and a writer – “fair play”.

In the mystery genre, there’s a subcategory or style that’s sometimes referred to as a Fair Play Mystery or Fair Play Whodunnit. A simplified version of this concept is that all of the major elements of the mystery are presented to the reader in advance, so that theoretically the reader can solve the mystery alongside the protagonists.

This is an essential part of the experience of the mystery for some of the people who read it. It enhances the enjoyment of the story for some to be able to say, “I figured it out!” or “Aww, how’d I miss that?” or even “I noticed this on a reread!”

To a certain subset of the fantasy reader base, a detailed magic system that is applied in a consistent way allows for a fantasy story to have a similar style of appeal.

When a character learns a new spell, or picks up a new super power, or finds an item, a reader of a fair play fantasy can try to think about how the protagonist might cleverly use that new thing to solve problems later in the story.

Similarly, when a character encounters a problem in a fair play fantasy (or “hard fantasy”, as we’d more commonly call it), a reader can stop and think, “How can the protagonist solve this with the tools at their disposal?”

The clearer the system framework in place, the easier it is to accurately predict how magic can be used to solve problems. This does not mean that great specificity and simplicity are necessarily better, however. These are simply knobs for the author to turn, and in some cases, a degree of flexibility allows for both the writer to be more creative and for the reader to have a harder (but still possible) problem to solve.

Notably, this does not just apply to magic. It’s true for any capability a character possesses, regardless of source. For a non-magical example, let’s consider Batman’s utility belt.

Let’s say we’re watching a new episode of Batman: The Animated series, because this is a better hypothetical world and the show is still being made.

At the end of the episode, Batman tricks one of his usual antagonists – Two Face – by using a trick coin he had hidden in his utility belt.

There are several ways to make this fair play, with different pros and cons. Some of these can be combined.

  1. No foreshadowing in the episode itself. The viewer is supposed to know the character already from previous episodes. This relies on long-term continuity of characters and capabilities, rather than making the episode self-contained. This means the episode has more time to focus on other things, and may work more for established fans – but it won’t be fair play for someone who only watches that one episode.

  2. Character foreshadowing. We establish Batman’s relationship with Two Face early on. He knows Harvey Dent is out of prison, and we know they’ve tangled before. He knows about Two Face having a thing for flipping a coin and using it for determining how he is going to behave. For some readers, this might be sufficient in itself.

  3. Light item foreshadowing. Early in the episode, we could see him working with his utility belt in the bat cave and filling it with items. They’re all small items that can fit in there – a utility knife, a vial of acid, an emergency beacon, a collapsible gas mask, a tracking device…all stuff Batman would have clear reasons to have on hand. This foreshadows that the belt itself, and the objects within, might be used to solve the problem.

  4. Heavy item foreshadowing. In this case, we could literally see Batman putting a coin into his utility belt at some point in the episode, or perhaps playing with a trick coin under other circumstances. Maybe Zatarra the Magician gives him a trick coin in a flashback where Zatarra is teaching him about transposition magic, making it personally relevant to Batman’s training, and more impactful when the coin is used.

Character and item foreshadowing can be combined (and often will be) to make a clearer picture, if fair play is the goal.

The heavier the foreshadowing, the easier it is for a reader to put the pieces together and see where things are going – which can be good or bad, depending on the creator’s goals. But one other advantage that’s easier to overlook is that clear foreshadowing also gives you the ability to subvert expectations.

When we see Two Face’s background with Batman, Batman loading the utility belt with all the items above, and we see Batman with the coin early on, and we might think, “He’s definitely going to trick Two Face with the coin.”

Then Batman tries it, and good old Two Face says, “I’m a lawyer, Batman. You think I’ve never seen a trick coin?”

That’s a whole other way to thrill a reader in a fair play story – misdirection. The coin was the obvious solution. So, when Two Face isn’t tricked by the coin, some readers are thrilled by the misdirect.

And that makes it all the more thrilling when Batman explains, “Of course, Harvey. But you were so distracted by the coin that you missed the tracking device.*”

*I will not pretend to be able to write Batman, but you get the general idea.

We’re reminded about the other items that Batman had in his utility belt – the ones we potentially forgot, because we as the audience were too distracted by the obvious solution presented in the coin.

Some watchers are thrilled by the twist because they caught it. They get to say, “I knew it! When Harvey took the briefcase, Batman had already put the tracking device in it!” Others get to be thrilled because they missed it, but they knew it was fair. That they could have potentially gotten it, if they’d only paid a little more attention. That can be part of the fun, too.

This isn’t going to be appealing to every individual person, nor is it necessary in every single case. But it’s a part of why I think that hard magic has a clear appeal to some readers – they can read watch the episode and say, “I knew Batman was going to try the coin, but I was surprised when he beat Two Face by using magic.”

What – you remember when I said that Zatarra taught Batman transposition magic, right?

Maybe that wasn’t the best example – maybe it wasn’t exactly fair play. It’s a sliding scale, with some readers and writers preferring different techniques. Regardless, I hope this helps illustrate the concept of why some of us enjoy hard magic in fantasy.

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