Spear Mother Sighting on Smashwords

Multiple sightings of the mysterious Spear Mother on the Smashwords publishing platform have been reported. While these claims have not been substantiated, information about the sightings has been leaked at the following web address:

Spear Mother: A Tale of the Fourth World at Smashwords

We advise you proceed with caution as the entity known as Spear Mother has been known to cause heightened emotions, increased brain activity, and (in outlying cases) titillation. You have been warned.

If the claim of the Spear Mother’s presence on Smashwords proves true, it provides incontrovertible evidence that the Spear Mothers are multiplying. The nation’s leading scientists have already issued a statement saying that this could lead to more sightings of the fabled being at Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other ebook retailers. Details of the timeline of such events are forthcoming, though one of the scientists who issued the statement (name withheld by request) said the effects would certainly be devastating.

“I can’t believe these Spear Mothers are running wild, completely unchecked,” he or she said off the record. “First Amazon, and now this? We’re looking at the beginning of a pandemic. I fear for the future of the human race. I really do.”

After the release of the statement, we reached out to the other scientists involved, but have received no response as of the time of publication. Local authorities have declared them all missing persons, and are currently operating under the assumption that the Spear Mother(s) have sought the scientists out and challenged each of them to one-armed arena combat deathmatches. At this point no bodies have been found, but funeral services will be held for them anyway at St. James Memorial Cemetery in Newdirk, New Jersey this Saturday afternoon.

New Release: Spear Mother

Cover art for the new release, Spear Mother.

Cover art for the new release, Spear Mother.

I am pleased to announce that Spear Mother, a new 24K-word novella, has been released for Kindle! I apologize that it has taken this long to release, and would like to thank everyone for their patience. I hope that, after reading it, you will feel that your patience has been rewarded. Although everything I have written is special to me (especially when it’s what I’ve written most recently), this one is particularly so. Evoking an emotion is one of the most critical and fundamental tasks of any art, and literature is no exception. While I’ve never been one to shy away from powerful emotions by any measure, with Spear Mother I had a specific goal in mind – to create a story that evokes deeper, more powerful emotions than anything else I’ve written. I feel I have succeeded, though I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section (or, even better, please write a review on Amazon!).

In other news, I have moved back to Japan. There are many reasons for this, not least of which being Japan is just an awesome country, but there was a writing-related motive as well. One of the reasons I love epic fantasy is its incredibly broad scope, geographical as well as historical. Living in the most modern country in the world, one with a history that only went back a few hundred years, couldn’t really serve as a model for the timeless worlds that I like to create. America is a very young place compared to much of the world. And as much as I love books, I don’t use them to research cultures very often since it often seems so fruitless – I’m more concerned about the tiny details of how people lived than with the abstract and broad sweep of events that fill most historical books. That’s what I really want to know about, so I opted for a more hands-on approach. Thus I decided to pick up and move halfway around the world.

It’s paying dividends. While Japan is a modern country, with skyscrapers and tech companies and giant robos, much of it is very rooted in the past, which sure is useful for someone who wants to immerse himself in a wildly different culture. It has me thinking about those tiny details that I love in the best fantasy stories, the ones that make you believe you are really there in the place that the author is describing. Those details have always seemed so elusive to me before, and honestly the best of them were borrowed from other people’s imaginations (a practice I am shamelessly fond of). Now I get to steal them from my own experiences. Woohoo!

You will likely see them in some form in the new project (The Fall of the Moon – working title) when it is released. Speaking of which, a lot of development has gone into that project of a form that is very uncharacteristic for me – outlining. Plotting has always meant having a few dots in mind, representing key aspects of the story, with the connecting of those dots being done in the act of writing. While I have done some outlining in the past, it has mostly been at the chapter/scene level. This time, however, I have outlined the last third of the book. I was so astonished with how useful that was that I may be inclined to do it again sometime. We will see.

Until next time.

A (Temporary) Change of Direction

From the time when I was a tiny tot, I’ve been rather curious about how the world works. While other kids were busy playing soccer, I was going to garage sales to find chemistry sets and electronics kits. When other kids went with their friends to the beach, I would go trilobite hunting at a known, high-density fossil site, pickaxe firmly in hand, dewy eyes shining in the desert sun. The world was my playground, and discovery was the name of the game.

Fast-forward a couple decades, and I’m still playing the same game, but in a different playground: the worlds that I create for my fiction. I still want to know how everything works, and I’m not satisfied until I finally find the answers. My own worlds are no exception; the only difference is the rules of nature are determined solely by me. While world creation may sound a bit easier than figuring out the principles underlying the behavior of quantum particles (because you’re just making stuff up, right?), the process of discovery has a distinct advantage over that of creation: the rules of nature are already consistent with themselves. When one creates his own universe, however, such an expectation of consistency is not automatically assured.

The reason I bring that up is this: I have recently discovered that my own creation, namely that of the Fourth World, has some issues that need to be solved, particularly as it relates to The Born Sword.

Working in a fantasy world as strange as the Fourth World has its perks, but it has definitely worked my worldbuilding problem-solving muscles. There are certain philosophical questions that arise in such a bizarre universe, and while I get all frothy-at-the-mouth excited when it comes to questions like that, discovering the answers to such questions and then integrating them into a coherent story is a task that will simply take a little more time than I had originally expected.

If it sounds like I’m giving up on that novel, I want to assure you that I’m not. I want The Born Sword to be the best it can be, and that’s going to require some fixing. The reason I’m telling you this is because I have given you the expectation that it would coming soon, so very soon, but I would like to now temper that claim with some realism. I’m not one of those people who like to say that utopia is just around the corner, as long as you continue to demonstrate a little more patience. I prefer to tell it how it is.

Like any writer I’ve ever heard of, I’ve got quite a few stories in me, some of which are more suitable to setting and style different from the ones I’ve already written. As such, I’ve been working on another novel in a completely different world on the side for a while, and in light of the issues cropping up in the writing of The Born Sword, this new novel has recently become the main focus for my attention. It started out as merely something that kept me writing while I was working out the problems in The Born Sword, but has become something much, much greater. It is, I believe, going to be as good if not better than anything else I’ve written. I’m really, really excited about it. The working title of the new novel is The Fall of the Moon, but that will likely change as a result of a change in direction the story has undergone since I came up with the title.

One of the nice things about this new book is that I’ve specifically built in a resistance to the kinds of issues that I’m working on in the Fourth World. It, too, is epic fantasy, but with a stronger focus on plot, character, and theme, and not as much on a crazy magic system (though magic certainly plays a significant role) that creates more problems than it solves. Stay tuned for more details on this new book.

Of course, I am not abandoning the Fourth World at all, not even in the short run. In fact, I’ve got a completed story that, once I finish with the polishing-up stage (and once I have a title for it), will be ready for your consumption. It will follow the same distribution pattern as Dark Tree: free on this website, free on Smashwords and all of its affiliated platforms, and (once they decide to price-match) free on Amazon. I am in love with this story. I think it might be the best one taking place in the Fourth World yet, and for those of you who are interested in the nuts and bolts of how the Fourth World works, it will illuminate some of the more metaphysical (if not the more troublesome) aspects of the universe.

Speaking of which, I’ve created a lexicon of writings from the Fourth World regarding various aspects of its metaphysics some time ago. I’ve been trying to think of a good use for it, and I’ve decided that I will periodically post entries from the lexicon onto my Facebook Fan page. It was content in need of a home, and a page in need of content. A perfect marriage, if you ask me. If you’re interested in the more arcane aspects of the Fourth World, don’t hesitate to like the page here.

For those of you who love the Fourth World stories and were really hoping to see The Born Sword sooner rather than later, I hope that this upcoming Fourth World story will sate your desire for now. If it doesn’t, well… know that The Born Sword will likely be released before the next Rothfuss or Martin book. At least I can promise you that much *winks roguishly*. And who knows? I may even suddenly realize everything needed to finish it and, in a surge of inspiration, get it done before the other novel. Either way, I will keep you posted.

In other wonderful news, the brand new sister (brother?) review site to BestChickLit, called BestChapLit, posted reviews for Dark Tree and The Clans, as well as an interview with yours truly. If you’re looking to discover some good indie authors, I would definitely recommend checking out their sites.

Furthermore! The Clans is now only $0.99 from all distributors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc.), so if you’ve been holding out because the economy’s got you down, now is your chance to read it without breaking the bank. Thanks for stopping by!

News News News, and Thank-Yous

I’m pleased to announce several new developments. First of all, the combined 5-day free promotion for The Clans through Amazon was a resounding success, with several hundred copies downloaded worldwide in that short span of time. I was absolutely floored at the response; I know that a lot of those downloads came from readers of my blog, and also from people who heard about it from them. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping out with this. The success of that promotion is due in very large part to all of you, and I want you to know that I greatly appreciate it. My hope is that people who are looking for something a little different in the realm of epic fantasy find it in The Clans, and opportunities to spread the word like this are some of the best ways for this to happen.

Also, on that note, Dark Tree is now free on Amazon as a result of their price-matching policies—which, again, is thanks to all of you who helped out with the “Help Me Save the World” campaign I launched last month. This is huge, as it is likely that Dark Tree will stay free and thus will allow potential readers to become actual readers with no risk to their pocketbooks. I know that some of my readers became fans of the series due to trying out Dark Tree for free on sites like Smashwords, so having that available for free full-time on such a prominent site is incredible. Again, thank you to everyone who contributed in any way.

Speaking of Smashwords, The Clans is now available there. When I first released The Clans, I had wanted to try out Amazon’s KDP Select program, which provided perks like the 5-days-for-free promotion (which was great) as well as the Kindle Lending Library (which didn’t do a thing for The Clans). However, it came with the caveat that no other site could offer The Clans for at least 90 days, so anybody who bought their books from other sites weren’t able to read it unless they got their hands on a Kindle app (a problematic situation if you mainly read on your Nook).

I had heard a number of arguments for and against the program, and I knew that I would be taking a risk by participating in it, but I wanted to know one way or another if such a program could help get the word out for the Fourth World series. As I said earlier, the free promotion paid off, but it was at the expense of those who wanted to get the book from a different site. It was an interesting experiment, but I have determined that it would probably be better just to release future books to all sites and for all formats as soon as possible rather than allowing anyone to have exclusivity to it. After all, isn’t that what spreading the word is all about?

On the writing front, I’ve been plugging away at The Born Sword—which is shaping up quite nicely—as well as a couple of stories for a future Fourth World collection like The Clans. Also, thinking of the deep future for when the Fourth World series is complete, I have been toying with a few ideas for a new fantasy series. I’m getting pretty excited about it, but don’t worry. The Fourth World is still priority number one. *grins*

Well, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! See you next year!

Help Me Save the World…

… 99 cents per download on Dark Tree by making it free through Amazon. It’s easy, doesn’t cost you anything, only takes a couple minutes, and would be really awesome.

Want some undying gratitude from yours truly? Here’s how to get it. Click on the following link to go to Dark Tree‘s Amazon page:

Dark Tree on Amazon

Once there, scroll down to the section titled, “Product Details.” You should see something that says, “Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price?” Click on the “tell us about a lower price” link.

A little window will pop up asking where you saw the lower price. Click on the radio button that says “Website (Online).” A URL bar will come up. Copy the following and paste it in that bar:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-tree-brandon-m-lindsay/1112440327?ean=2940044762299

For the price and shipping cost, type in “0.00″ and hit “Submit Feedback.” That’s it. You’re done. Though if you want to, you can do the same again but with the following URL:

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Dark-Tree-Tale-Fourth-World/book-wiwhKtkMzk-Cm_2CkUMejA/page1.html?s=J8avGdUgQEWud7pkOGo3qw&r=2

Then you can start collecting that undying gratitude I told you about.

Why do this? Why make a book free when I can charge for it? The short answer is: a free book is a much easier entry point for a reader who hasn’t heard about an author yet than a book that comes with a cost, even a minimal one. Dark Tree had done a pretty good job of drumming interest in its followup, The Clans (now available on Amazon), mainly because people were willing to take a chance on it due to the fact that it was free through most retailers.

However, I hadn’t quite anticipated just how well a free book could do on Amazon. Recently, The Clans had been made free on Amazon for two days. By the second day, it shot up to #20 in the bestselling free Epic Fantasy list, and #78 in the overall free Fantasy list. The number of downloads of The Clans during those two days destroyed Dark Tree‘s lifetime record. It even got a good number of downloads in the UK and Germany. That’s right – Germany. Who could have guessed?

I was astonished. While Dark Tree had been making strides up the rankings on other sites such as Barnes & Noble, it had been slow progress, and almost nonexistent when compared to The Clans’ rocket ride up the Kindle bestseller lists.

Now, part of this (maybe even a substantial part) had to do with the fact that The Clans is a full-sized book at over 100K, and Dark Tree is a novelette. Shorter fiction has always been a harder sell, and while that’s changing thanks to e-publishing, it’s still true that most people prefer longer works to shorter ones. So I don’t discount the length factor. Even so, I also can’t discount the fact that Amazon is still the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to selling ebooks. Other retailers are gaining market share, true, but for now Amazon is still the undisputed king.

Having a free ebook there would only be augmented by the fact that I also have a full-length follow-up book as well. Epic fantasy readers love their series, and they typically don’t like waiting around for the next installment in the series, so when it’s already out, they may be more likely to try it the first one. That’s what I’m hoping will happen with the Fourth World.

I believe that my plans for the series actually will work quite well in this regard. I will be releasing novels in series, starting with The Born Sword, in addition to smaller works which in between novels so that fans won’t have wait as long for new Fourth World books. Some of them will be free, just like Dark Tree.

However, the first step down this path starts with you, dear friends. By telling Amazon that Dark Tree can be bought for cheaper than what they’re selling it for, they will hopefully match the price. Once that happens, readers the world over will have free access to Dark Tree from their Kindles, phones, and computers.

Who knows? By doing this, you very well may save the world… 99 cents per download.

Introducing the Fourth World

July 12, 2012 marked the beginning of a new era for me. This was the day that Dark Tree: A Tale of the Fourth World went live on Amazon as an ebook. The reason that this is so significant for me is because Dark Tree is the introduction to my epic fantasy series, The Fourth World.

It all began many, many years ago (two, to be exact) when I was but a wee lad (aged 26) when I first conceived of a character whose sole purpose was to kill, even though he himself could not die, a weapon of mass destruction that was doomed to live with all the pain and death that he caused for all eternity (although that, of course, is not the end of his story). His name was Bladefray, and he was what I would come to call a Born Sword—the title given to each of the six immortal warriors that lived in what was to become the Fourth World. He was the spark that quickly became a roaring conflagration that has consumed my imagination ever since.

At the time, traditionally publishing novels seemed to be the only way to go, so that’s what I began to do: write a novel that I would shop around to various agents and publishers to see which one would bite. It was the tried-and-true method, if ever there was one, and though it was very difficult and very chancy, it was what I was prepared to do. It seemed to me the only legitimate option at the time.

I had met some other writers who were at a similar stage in their writing career who were considering self-publishing their works as ebooks, but I scoffed at such folly. Self-publishing? Ebooks? Pshaw! Although I decided to watch the phenomenon with mild interest, I didn’t really think it would amount to much, considering the sad and sordid history of self-publishing. I was convinced that if I was going to be a writer, I would do it the old-fashioned way.

Then came claims of publishers misreporting their authors’ royalties.

Then Borders closed its doors for good.

I started to worry, but also, to wonder.

Shortly before those things happened, when I was about 60,000 words into my novel The Born Sword, I went to World Fantasy Convention to peddle another novel that I had been working on for centuries, as well as rub elbows with the people who I had hoped would be my coworkers—the agents, editors, publishers, and authors involved in the fantasy industry. It was there that I bullied a senior editor from a major imprint into dinner with me and some of my peers so that we could finagle our way into his good graces and hopefully interest him in our work.

The “interesting him in our work” part didn’t turn out so well, but he did give me some advice that stuck with me, and that was to write short stories. Once you proved you could write those, he said, then I might consider looking at your longer work.

Well, if that’s what it took, then by golly, that’s what I would do!

The popularity of short stories, especially fantasy stories, seemed to be waning as more and more of the markets that carried them were going the way of Borders. My early years as a reader were shaped by short stories, particular those by Ray Bradbury, so I had long regarded the short story with romanticized awe, and often thought about writing some, even though I believed they would do little to advance my writing career. Armed with my new insider knowledge, I quickly revised this misconception and began to write one in earnest.

Since it was to be a springboard for my fantasy novel (though I had since abandoned the previous one and was now focusing on The Born Sword), it seemed natural that the story I was to write be a fantasy as well. And hell, while I’m at it, why not in the same world as The Born Sword (an idea shamelessly pilfered from fantasist Peter Orullian, who released a whole gamut of related material before his debut novel)? If I could find a magazine that wanted to publish it, great; if not, well, maybe I could give that silly little self-publishing thingy a shot.

One story became two, and I realized that I had a whole lot more of them in me, screaming to get out. Furthermore, these stories seemed like they would be a good introduction to the increasingly complex metaphysics of the Fourth World, and so it was that I decided to collect them into a book called The Clans: Tales from the Fourth World.

It was about that time when I finally realized that publishing wasn’t what it used to be. I had to make a decision: I could place myself in the uncaring hands of a major corporation that expected me to fail and was existing in a bygone era, unwilling to change or adapt; or I could go it alone, without support from the industry, into uncharted territory out of which very few had ever come out alive.

Of course I chose the sexier option, and decided to self-publish all the way.

It was while I was working on the sixth and final (sort of) story in The Clans when I was struck by an image I had seen of Yggdrasil, the sacred tree of Norse mythology. Now, the Fourth World had a bit in common with Norse mythology already: the purpose of life was to prove oneself ready to battle at the God’s side in the afterlife, and I already had a massive tree that was the source of all human souls. The problem with that last was that the Birthing Tree, as it’s called, was three worlds away from the stories I had been writing, and there seemed no natural way to integrate such a nifty image into the Fourth World.

For some reason I can’t fully understand or explain, I had to have that image in my world. It was going to happen. I just had to figure out how.

So while the beta edits for the various stories of The Clans started rolling in, I let the image of a giant tree made of smoky glass, its massive branches sheltering a city from the light of the sun, simmer in the black cauldron of my mind. I even threw in some eye of newt for good measure.

Finally, after several months of slowly coming to a boil, Dark Tree was ready. And what a potent brew I had concocted.

Once I knew what I wanted to do with it, I couldn’t stop the words from pouring out. Dark Tree, at over 13000 words, is a novelette; stories graduate from short story into novelette when they reach about 7500 words. It would normally take me three days of uninterrupted inspiration to write a 7000-word short story.

I wrote the bulk of Dark Tree in two days.

For me, that was an awful lot of inspiration.

I took the time to polish it up, of course, with the help of my beta readers. But the polish was simply that; the story itself was, to me, already immensely satisfying and complete as I had written it. A couple of times, especially with the ending and implications the story has for the series as a whole, I even surprised myself. I couldn’t be happier with the end result, and I am content to send it off into the world.

The facts that The Clans is supposed to be an introduction to the world of The Born Sword, and that Dark Tree is in a way another introduction, may cause you to wonder in what order you should be reading these books. After all, The Clans was mostly written before Dark Tree, and The Born Sword mostly written before that. Should they be read in the order that you wrote them, or in the order you published them, or what?

I would recommend reading them in the order that they are published, but really you could read them in any order that you want. Each work informs the greater narrative in its own ways, adding its puzzle piece to create the larger picture, but is complete in its own right. You could read The Clans and then The Born Sword, and go back to Dark Tree later (and hopefully have an “A-ha!” moment, when you finally break free of your New Wave comic book prison), or you could read it in a completely different order. The chronology only starts to matter with the main sequence of novels, namely The Born Sword and its sequels. If that sounds convoluted, then let me put it this way: jump in anywhere, so long as you read Novel One before Novel Two, and you should be fine.

Which raises the question: what are my plans for the Fourth World? I plan on wrapping the main story in three or four novels and calling it good. No fifty-book series for this guy. I’ve got a whole lot of ideas that I want to write about, and not all of them fit in the Fourth World. I have a clear direction for the series, and as you’ll begin to see once you start reading them, you’ll understand why the series cannot exceed four books.

Given that, I have developed an extreme fondness for stories that are novelette-length, and I plan on writing some more of them. Rather than having you wait in between novels, I will release a Fourth World story or a collection of stories as a teaser for what’s to come. I already have some plans, and I’ve already written most of a story from the next collection.

I have one last announcement. I have made Dark Tree available for free on Smashwords in all electronic formats, so that you can read it on your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Sony eReader, Web browser, etc. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to check it out. If you know anybody who reads fantasy and is looking for something new, let them know that they can read it for free. If you’ve read it and have an opinion on it, writing a review goes a long way to helping me out, especially on Amazon. I’m not necessarily asking for unconditional praise, but more for your honest opinion (though I wouldn’t at all mind if honesty and praise coincide). Thank you if you’ve already gotten your copy, thanks again if you’ve already written a review, and thanks a million times more for being so supportive of what I’m doing. While I’m proud of what I’ve done, knowing that all of you support it as well really means a lot to me. Oh, and thanks for reading this really long blog post. *grins*

May the God of All Worlds bless you and find you worthy to fight at his side in the War beyond Time.

P.S. For those of you who haven’t seen my cover art, created by yours truly, here it is:

Yuck, There’s Thermodynamics in my Magic System

The development of the magic system in the Fourth World came about naturally as I was telling the stories that took place there. While many out-of-the-ordinary processes in the world I created could technically qualify as magic, the part that most people would think of as magic (i.e., the powers that sorcerers would use to flamboyant effect) is something called binding. By using willpower, a sorcerer is able to bind a particular substance to a point of his choosing. For example, an ironbinder could create a focal point in the air which drew metal to it, very much as if that point became magnetic. Pretty simple and straightforward, right?

As it turns out… not so much.

In one of my stories in The Clans, a character has a magical object that has been heatbound, meaning that it has a permanent binding which allows it to draw heat out of its immediate environment, thus making them much cooler. As a plot device, it served its purpose well, and I thought it was kind of a cool concept, so I was proud when I handed it over to my beta readers. They liked the story, but one of them pointed something out to me that seemed to present a serious problem.

Left unchecked, the mere presence of this heatbound object would eventually destroy the entire world.

So much for simple and straightforward.

Thermodynamics formulaThis beta reader of mine is primarily a sci-fi reader, so he is very particular about the cause-effect relationships in a way that only an avid hard-SF reader can appreciate (although Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks are changing that, with their magic systems that act more like physics than hand-waving). So when he discovered how this object worked, his mind spun out all the implications of such a thing.

So what happens to all that heat that gets drawn into the object? Nothing; it just packed in there, so that the core becomes more and more superheated… and will every moment for all time. Therein lies the rub: heat gets continually drained from the world into what amounts to a black hole of thermal energy, never to be seen again, until there is no more heat left. The Fourth World eventually becomes nothing more than a giant snowball.

Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to just scrap the whole idea of the heatbound object. This character could very well perform his tasks with some other object that wouldn’t destroy the world, and the story would go on. Besides, I never set out to create the coolest magic system. I created the magic system to fit in with the world where my stories take place. If this one little idea ended up on the cutting room floor, I would still be true to my goals for the Fourth World stories and you, my dear readers, would never know the difference.

But where’s the fun in that?

So I’ve decided to challenge myself and come up with a solution. I’ve got a pretty solid idea of how to fix it, but I’m going to run it by my people first, just to make sure there’s nothing else I’ve overlooked. After that, it’s just a matter of inserting a paragraph or two and applying another layer of polish, and “It Beckons” will be in final form for the book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it.