First off, updates.
AA3 has come a long way, but it’s also still a long way from being done. My current best guess is that I’ll have a first draft around August to September and a final version ready to launch around November. This would still meet my original goal of releasing the book in 2020, if only barely.
This one has been a real challenge, both due to the burden of expectations from readers and the fact that it’s a weird style of book from a narrative standpoint. AA1 and 2 are both largely magical academy novels – this one is basically a “winter break” novel. I’m trying very hard to make sure that it’s still engaging – I don’t want this to be a filler or side story book, especially given the two year wait between releases – but structurally, it can’t be the same as the previous two. It’s in a different locale, doesn’t have all the usual cast members, and takes place in a much shorter time period than the previous two.
I don’t want this to feel like a book that only serves to set up for the next book(s) in the series, so a *lot* is going on in this novel in a very short period of time. Overall, I think that currently makes it feel somewhat different than the previous two AA books, which I have some mixed feelings about. I anticipate there being a strong possibility that beta readers will not like the direction of some of the stylistic differences, and I’ll have to evaluate that and see if I want to make changes.
It also means that I’ll probably move on to AA4 more quickly after this one than I did with AA3. I’m not going to commit to that, but I think it may be necessary, since I suspect fans will be eager to get back into a more “conventional” AA book after this one ends.
Either way, W&W3 will be next after AA3. I’m still working on that when I’m in the mood for it, and I think finishing it up will be easy once AA3 is done. I expect it to be done and released sometime early next year. I’d love to get it out in December to do a back-to-back release with AA3, but I think that’s currently unlikely.
I have several other projects in the works, but most of them are much further off, and I’m going to de-prioritize them to focus exclusively on AA and W&W for a while. That mean people who are waiting for Wrynn’s story will have to wait a little longer, sorry. It also means no sequels to How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps any time soon.
Speaking of How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps, it’s doing very well, but there’s also been some confusion in the reviews and discussion.
Originally, I’d planned to record myself reading the Acknowledgements section at the back of the book, since those usually don’t get recorded by the narrator. With everything happening with COVID-19, I didn’t get a chance to go into Audible’s recording studio to do that as planned. The original acknowledgements section will still be in the Kindle version, but that’ll be around November, and I’d like to talk a bit about the origins of this story.
Most of the people reading this blog know that I’m a huge fan of JRPGs. It reflects in all my works, and it was pretty in-your-face already in Six Sacred Swords.
How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps is even more on-the-nose; it’s a deliberate parody and deconstruction of games like Dragon Quest, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Ys. Mostly the NES-era ones, but with some other references here and there, like some Job Class System stuff, d20-system derived leveling with more Elder Scrollsish skill grinding, Ocarina of Time jokes, etc.
I think some people went into this story expecting me to play those tropes a little straighter, more like with my other books, and got disappointed at the number of things that feel tropey or unoriginal. I want to make it clear that the tropey and referential nature is a deliberate part of the parody process. My main inspirations, aside from the games themselves, were series like Yuusha Yoshihiko, Endro!, Superior, and Maoyuu, all of which play with JRPG tropes in various ways.
The characters being archetypical and largely one-dimensional is 100% intentional. For those of you who aren’t aware, “Yui Shaw” is a joke name – it’s based on “Yuusha”, which is a character archetype popularized by Dragon Quest. It’s usually the main character’s character class. (It translates to something like “brave one”, and it’s basically what we’d call a “chosen one” archetype in western works.) Similarly, Ken Sei (or “kensei”) literally means “Sword Saint”. This style was borrowed directly from three of the works above – Endro!, Superior, and Maoyuu all primarily refer to their main characters by archetype names. This is both for comedy value and for the audience to give the audience an instant, easily recognizable name that helps them know where the character fits in with the story.
…Except that last one relies on a knowledge of Japanese tropes that didn’t work quite as well for a wider, English-speaking audience. Oops.
(I, for one, regret that I didn’t have a chance to include one of my favorite characters built in this fashion – “Lance Rival”. Maybe in the sequel or another similar book.)
Anyway, I think the story still largely worked as intended – most of the fans of my other works probably found it funny, and I know I’ve got some new readers who recognized how I was parodying the tropes and enjoyed it. I learned some good lessons here in terms of advertising, though, since I really should have pushed Audible to advertise it up-front as being a parody, just to set expectations. A lot of the jokes in the story don’t land if readers think I’m just being unimaginative, rather than deliberately making fun of specific tropes and characters. I’ll have to be a little clearer about the genre when it gets to be time for the Kindle release.
And if you did like this style of humor, I strongly recommend going to check out Yuusha Yoshihiko and the Demon King’s Castle, which was one of my bigger inspirations for the parody style of this work. You can see an example of the style of humor here. (I also recommend Maoyu, but that one is more serious.)
Hope everyone is staying safe in this difficult time. Take care, and I’ll plan to post another update next month.