Shoreseeker: International Bestseller?

The launch of Shoreseeker one month ago was, by my humble standards, a success. A lot of people showed their support, and even people whom I haven’t seen in years surprised me with pictures of them holding their freshly-printed paperback copies of the book. I was floored–and honored–by the number of people eager to get their hands on my debut novel. So, first of all, I’d like to thank everyone who helped out with the launch, from those who bought a copy, to those who reviewed it, to those who sent me a kind message or gave one of my posts a boost. Thank you so much.

One of the challenges all authors, or really anyone with a product to sell, faces is the fact that only people who have heard of you or your product will buy it. It should surprise no one that authors with a large social media following have an easier time marketing their book simply because more people know about it. So now that the people who know about my book have had a chance to buy it, my next task is to expand the pool of people who know about my book.

But one of the surprising things was learning who had already found out about my book. Shoreseeker is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which, for those of you not familiar with it, is Amazon’s book subscription program, kind of like Netflix for ebooks. One of the features for authors is that it tells you when someone from one of Amazon’s different markets (for example, the US) reads pages from your book through the program.

Through this, I’ve seen that people from all over the world, from the UK, Germany, Australia, and Japan, are reading Shoreseeker. Since I don’t know anyone from some of these places, that meant somehow people were finding out about the book without me telling them. Which, of course, is beyond awesome. And the best part is, the read-pages count goes up over time. This means that the more someone reads of Shoreseeker, the more they want to read it (though this is slightly guesswork on my part, since Amazon, with a laudable respect for privacy, doesn’t even tell how many people are reading it from a given market, much less who they are).

And this was just the beginning!

So, there’s great news all around. But that wasn’t even the best news.

On a lark, I checked my Amazon ranking in Japan ten days after release and saw this:

That’s right. Shoreseeker was the number one epic fantasy in the country, beating out A Game of Thrones and The Hobbit a mere day after The Hobbit‘s anniversary. Furthermore, it wasn’t merely beating other Kindle books. It was beating every book in every format.

I may have crazy-laughed for a couple minutes.

In a private Facebook group for aspiring writers as well as seasoned pros, I joked that this must make my book an international bestseller. The unanimous response was that it’s no joke. Japan, while a small market, is still its own overseas market, and Shoreseeker was the bestselling epic fantasy in it. Thus making it an international bestseller.

So there you have it. An epic launch for an epic book. I’m going to try to keep the momentum going, as well as continue work on book 2, Drawingpath (which is shaping up very nicely). Thanks again for all your support for helping Shoreseeker‘s release be what it was.

Paperbacks!

Great news! We have Shoreseeker paperbacks over at Amazon! Here’s a peak at the proof copy I received to give you an idea what to expect:

When I published my first stories back in 2012, a lot of people wanted to be able to read a physical copy. Ebooks were still fairly new at the time and didn’t have the popularity they do now. At the time, I was still new to publishing and had only published a handful of short stories and novellas, and by the time I had enough for a collection, I decided to focus my effort on a new project. Many potential fans, the ones who preferred paper books, never got a chance to read my work.

In the end, it was for the best. While I like my early work, I knew my writing had a ways to go before it would have enough appeal among fantasy fans to warrant a paperback. When I put one out, I wanted to show people something truly special. So, while I honed my craft, I built a world and characters that I wanted everyone to read about. I created Shoreseeker.

Releasing this book in paperback is a big moment for me as a writer. But ultimately, I hope it’s a big moment for you as a reader, since you are the reason Shoreseeker exists at all.

Enjoy the book, and once you finish it, consider dropping a review on Amazon or Goodreads or both!

Kickstarter Coming Soon!

With the release of The Birth of Maelstrom: Ghosthand‘s demo just around the corner, I have decided that the best way to get the game into people’s hands is with a Kickstarter campaign.

For those of you just hearing about it, Ghosthand is a JRPG-style indie game that I have been developing for some time now. Completion always seemed like a far way off, but now that I have a working demo that gives players a good idea of what the final game will look like, I can now say with confidence that the game will be finished next year. Getting a game out there takes more than just hard work, though. It takes money, and that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

The first part of the dynamic title menu. Dynamic, because it changes into…

… this! Having a title screen that changes and foreshadows the game’s mood is just one of the many unique aspects of this game. The title song, Soldiers of Ghosthand, reflects this change.

One of the challenges in this world of indie publishing, for both games and novels, is distinguishing yourself from a very crowded field. Most of the time I spent getting Ghosthand where it is now was spend on crafting its identity, giving it a different feel than other games of this kind. One place where I put my stamp was with the game’s music, which you can hear down below. Giving the game its personality took work, but the kind of experience you will get will be unlike everything else out there.

One reason it’s different is because it’s not merely a game, but part of a greater world that crosses different media. I’m calling it The World of Farshores.

I’ve been writing successfully for a while now, having won a couple of awards from the Writers of the Future contest and getting three of my short stories published in anthologies alongside amazing authors such as Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Todd McCaffrey. So, in addition to The Birth of Maelstrom game series (with Ghosthand as the first installment), I will release The Farshores Saga series of novels alongside it.

While many other worlds like Warcraft, Forgotten Realms, and the like have crossed media in the same way, they often start out as one thing and get translated into something else, usually by a new creator with a different vision.

With The World of Farshores, I’ve taken a different approach. Both the five-game series and the five-book series will be developed together and released in an alternating schedule.

The Kickstarter rewards will reflect this. While the game will be the main focus of the campaign, the first novel in the series, called Shoreseeker, will be one of the backer rewards. By backing the game, you could read the book in ebook or paperback before it’s released anywhere else. In addition to the game’s demo, I will have a sample of the book available.

I will post more updates as the campaign nears. Your support will go a long way to making this a reality, so I hope you will support it when it starts!

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to let you know that I have been busy. Shoreseeker, the first book of the Farshores Saga, is looking for a home right now, and while I’ve been searching for an agent, I’ve also been hard at work on Shoreseeker’s younger sibling Drawingpath.

Feedback from my writing groups on the new book has been very promising (and helpful). One of the group’s veterans even told me that it includes the best writing of mine she’s seen yet.

That’s what’s been happening on the writing side. But as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve got another project in the works: a video game.

Writing a novel is a very specialized task. While there are many aspects to that task, it is really focused: type words on a page to tell a story. That’s it. If you have that skill, you’ve basically got everything you need to write a novel.

Unlike writing a novel, making a video game requires a whole range of skills, from art to programming to composing music. Traditionally, each of these tasks was assigned a single person or team.

But if you’re completely mad, you might think you can do them all yourself. Such is the life of a solo indie game developer.

Here is a taste of what I’ve developed so far:

One of the skills I’ve learned since starting this project was composing music. That song, called “Soldiers of Ghosthand,” was written by me specifically for the title menu (which is now fully functional, a whole design challenge in itself). Most people when they play this game will probably just hit that start button and not even listen to the song or see the atmosphere changes at all. And that’s fine. But I’m one of those players who likes to find the tiny details that gives a game its character, and I’ve added plenty of details like that in my game for just that kind of player.

A playable demo for The Birth of Maelstrom: Ghosthand is coming soon. For updates as they occur, follow me here:

Twitter – Hearthsflame Studios

Facebook – Hearthsflame Studios

 

 

New Anthology

I am pleased as punch to announce that my story, “The Raven’s Venture,” for which I won an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest, will be published in an upcoming anthology called Shards: A Noblebright Fantasy Anthology on October 1st from all major retailers (links below).

Shards cover
Ooh! Lovely cover, right?

Noblebright, if you’re wondering, refers to a newer subgenre of fantasy with an emphasis on the heroic and the hopeful. As far as I know, the term was popularized by the editor of this anthology, C. J. Brightley. While I am unfamiliar with many of the works in this subgenre, heroic characters are deeply important to me as both a writer and a reader, so I was intrigued with the premise of noblebright when I first discovered it.

How I found out about this anthology is a bit ironic. On Facebook, one of the writing-related groups I follow is called Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers, which a writer friend had recommended to me because of our mutual interest in Steven Erikson’s Malazan series. That said, I skew more on the “reader” side of that spectrum than “writer,” as my work isn’t grimdark. Often violent, dark, and scary, yes, but there’s always someone there to fight against the bad things that the world throws at them. And no matter how much they want to, they never give up.

Obviously, grimdark and noblebright are polar opposites in terms of the character and theme, and in many ways reflect a fundamentally different worldview. I can’t imagine there being a lot of crossover between the strongest adherents of each. So if a diehard grimdarker shares a call for submissions for a noblebright anthology, you can bet its with more than a little tongue-in-cheek.

Original poster’s derision aside, I realized I had a perfect story looking for a home and the Shards anthology looked like a nice, cozy home. I’m glad the editor felt the same way.

I hope you’ll check it out when it’s released, and please remember to leave a review! Those go a long way in increasing visibility for authors and their books. Thanks!

Finds Shards on:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

iTunes

At Long Last

Finished Manuscript

After four years of finger cramps, brain cramps, and … uh, well, just those two kinds of cramps, I have in my hands a (nearly) finished version of my epic fantasy novel, Shoreseeker. Coming in at 174,000 words, it’s fairly long for a novel, but not so bad for epic fantasy.

I know what you’re thinking. Four years is a long time to write a novel, especially if that novel is part of a series. If we apply this same rate to the other four books in the Farshores Saga, we’re looking at sixteen more years until the series is complete, not including the year or two it takes to actually publish a book. That’s longer than it took to publish the first five books in A Song of Ice and Fire!

Of course, that’s not what I’m suggesting you expect. A lot goes into that first novel; once it’s done, much of the development work (world-building, character-building, etc.) is finished. Not only that, but I haven’t just been working on the first novel in the series. Here is everything Farshores-related I’ve done so far:

  • general series plot outline and worldbuilding
  • detailed book 2 outline, 2nd revision
  • 40,000 words of book 2, first draft
  • book 3 prologue and epilogue
  • book 5 prologue and final scene (no epilogue planned for that one)
  • detailed outlines for every game in the 5-game prequel RPG series
  • programming, design, and other development for the first game
  • rough outlines for 2 additional standalone non-RPG games

All of that took me four years. Not too bad, if I say so myself.

As you can see, I big chunk of work has already been done on book two, which I’m currently calling Drawingpath. This book has the advantage of being a more streamlined story, so once I go full-tilt on this one, it’ll take much less time than the first book did.

I’m beyond excited about what I have planned for the series in the future, but for now, Shoreseeker is where I’m focusing all my effort. After going through it from start to finish one last time and properly formatting it for submission, I’ll be tossing it out of the nest. Let’s hope it has wings.

Release the Dragons

Today marks the release of Dragon Writers: An Anthology! It features stories by loads of new and established authors, so there’s something (a whole lot of somethings, in my opinion!) for everyone in it. Aside from those of the Big Names of course, I’ve read stories by several of the other authors in the book, and they are all quite talented.

In my story “Manifest,” Torra is an old artisan who has lost the use of his hands. However, dragons have within them the power of creation, and Torra is able to use dragon magic to continue crafting amazing works in spite of his infirmity. But when tragedy strikes, Torra must discover the terrible cost of dragon magic and decide whether or not it’s worth using.

Check it out, and please tell others what you think by writing a review of the book!

You can also purchase the anthology in paperback.

Dragon Writers: An Anthology

Those of you who follow my Facebook page noticed an announcement a few months ago. Another of my stories will be released in an anthology. Like A Game of Horns before it, this new anthology will be published by WordFire Press with all proceeds going to the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund.

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Here is the description from the publisher:

Dragons are creatures of legend. Of magic. Of wisdom, nature, and the power of creation. They have been in every culture and mythology since the beginning of time.

Writers are creatures of legend. With magic, wisdom, and the power of creation at their fingertips. They, too, are in every culture and have been creating their own mythologies since the beginning of time.

Within each writer is the power of a dragon. . . . The power of creation.

Gathered together are twenty-six stories from writers who dared to tame this power, including New York Times best-selling authors Brandon Sanderson, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, and David Farland. Through fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and poetry, this anthology celebrates the magic and majesty of dragons, writers, and creativity.

Within these pages, you’ll find dragons who fly through space, who raise hatchlings, who carry the power of life and death. Some dragons are even featured as swords, planes, and origami creatures.

Dragon Writers is a special collection where magic and myth combine to create something legendary.

My story, called “Manifest,” is more of a fantasy than “Scrapyard Paradise” was. Pre-orders for the digital versions have already begun (check the Works page for your market of choice), and the release date is November 5th.

Project B

Now that I’ve explained that Super Secret Project B is a JRPG-style video game based in the world of the Farshores Saga, I can no longer really call it super secret. It’s only kind of secret. And by the end of this post, nothing about it will be a secret.

When I first started developing the game as a serious production, I had intended it as a prelude to the series, explaining where the sheggam came from, as well as providing backstory for some of the main characters while introducing new ones and advancing its own self-contained story. At some point, I realized that in order for the game to achieve its maximal impact, it would have to be released after the final book in the Farshores Saga. That way, it wouldn’t answer any questions before the reader has had a chance to raise them.

However, this made me nervous for a couple of related reasons. First, that’s a long damn time to wait. I’m not that patient, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the game so far and I can’t wait to finish it and get it out there. Second, I had intended the Farshores Saga to be longer than a trilogy, and at that point, somewhat open-ended in terms of length. I didn’t know if it would be six books or twelve books. It could be a great many years before the world saw a tie-in video game. I didn’t want that idea to eventually fall by the wayside because I was too busy with the novels. They’re both important to me, perhaps equally so. I didn’t want to sacrifice one to the other.

Then one night, an idea came to me. Why did it have to be just one game? Couldn’t I break the game up into small pieces, more digestible for me and its potential players? So that’s what I decided to do. Production suddenly didn’t seem so daunting, and completing the first game seemed a much more reasonable goal. And I know that once I finish one, making the rest would be a downhill effort. Only one question remained: how many games?

I decided that I would tie the number of games to the number of novels, and release each game after a novel. I began to plan out the entire arc of the games, breaking them up when I thought it was appropriate. I soon realized that with the length of story I wanted to tell in the games that there would be five of them.

And that’s how I came up with the length of the Farshores Saga. Five games, so five novels.

It was good to set that limit for myself. It’s one of the reasons I have planned so far ahead in the novel series; the limit gave me structure to work with. I knew how much time I needed to accomplish a certain story goal, and that put constraints on what I could do with the story. Plotting it became a lot easier. There are a lot of details to work out still, particularly in the later books, but I know where I need to go.

As for the games, well… the main quest is entirely plotted out for all five games. It’s done. Written in shorthand in a notebook, but done. All that remains is implementation and adding side quests for flavor and depth. That’s still a lot of work, most of the work actually, but I’ll never wonder where the games need to go. That roadmap is finished.

So what about implementation? I’ve been working on the first game for a while now, and I can already tell you that the beginning is completely playable. I recently made significant changes to the gameplay and art style, but they were worth the time to do. I’m in the process of making it better, but a good chunk of the game is done. If I were to put a number to it, I’d say 30%. The one thing that can slow me down is getting too excited and adding things it doesn’t need.

Initially, when I envisioned it as a single game, I called it The Birth of Maelstrom (what the name means, I’ll leave you to wonder until book 5 😉 ). This hasn’t changed, but that’s now the name of the series instead, with each installment getting a number and a subtitle.

The titles are, tentatively, as follows:

I – Ghosthand

II – High Tyrant’s Sword

III – Memory Orbs

IV – God Seed

V – Eternity Thorn

And while each series will stand on its own completely, they will also work together, shining light on mysteries in each and enriching the world of Farshores. For example, at the end of Ghosthand, we learn what the sheggam really are and where they come from, a question that is only answered in part in the novel series. Yet, it isn’t information given solely to please fans of the novels; the information is actually an essential aspect of the overall plot of the game series. And even though each series shines a little light on the other, it doesn’t do so in a way that spoils anything or ruins any surprises. I hate spoilers as much as anyone, so I was very careful to construct everything in a way that avoids them.

Maelstrom follows Jurin, a young Sword Patterner and captain of a specialized mercenary group called Ghosthand. They’re in pursuit of a terrorist group called Atarax, who is planning to embroil the world in war in a misguided attempt to bring world peace.

The games will differ from the novels in a number of different ways. Most importantly, tone. Maelstrom will be quite a bit lighter than Farshores, especially in the beginning. This was a conscious decision. I wanted someone who was familiar with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest to play Maelstrom and come away feeling enriched, not disturbed. And while there is a lot of fighting in the game, there isn’t the same level of violence that will be a major part of Farshores. Somewhat paradoxically, though, Maelstrom will be the tragedy of the two, since it details the events leading up to the sheggam scourge that nearly destroys the world (even though that particular event doesn’t actually happen in the games). As the release of both gets closer, I’m going to stress this difference so fans of one aren’t too surprised or disappointed in the other. That said, while the tone and level of violence will be different, the level of storytelling will be the same in both. Maelstrom isn’t dumbed down at all, just filtered for content appropriate to the medium.

In my post To Indie or Not to Indie, I mentioned that I intended to take a hybrid approach to my writing career, with a mix of traditional and indie publishing. Maelstrom will be the indie part of that. My plan is to release the games on PC and Mac through Steam, as well as through the Apple Store and Google Play Store, a few months after each novel is released. I hope that this release schedule will keep the Farshores world fresh in the minds of fans and draw fans of one series into the other while they wait. I’m really excited to show both to the world, and I hope you’ll be there when it happens. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comments!

So What is Farshores, Anyway?

As I mentioned in my last post, the Farshores world encompasses much more than the just the events of a novel series. But let us focus on that for a moment first, and Shoreseeker in particular. Here is a description:

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Over six hundred years ago, a race of monsters called the sheggam swept across the world like a plague, killing everyone in their path. Mankind was driven to the brink of annihilation, and only found refuge behind a magical wall designed to repel the sheggam. Now, all that’s left of humanity is huddled behind Andrin’s Wall on a small peninsula called the Sutherlands.

Despite having faced extinction, humanity was able to rebuild. Grand cities were constructed, and the magical art of Patterning, nearly lost in the war with the sheggam, began to flourish again. The horrors of the sheggam scourge were far removed from the lives of ordinary citizens, and as the centuries passed, the dark memories of that time faded into myth.

At the time of the completion of Andrin’s Wall, a ripple in the world’s Pattern had caused a second barrier to be formed, called the Rift, which divided the Sutherlands in two: Naruvieth, a small city on the peninsula’s southern tip; and the many cities of the Accord in the north. All contact between the two lands had been severed almost from the beginning. Yet three years ago, a highway called the Runeway, created with magic once thought impossible, bridged the two lands, allowing contact between them for the first time in hundreds of years.

Not everyone is pleased with this, however. Tharadis, the Warden of Naruvieth, will do anything to stop the Runeway’s completion, even risk a war with all of the Accord. For, as humanity learned so long ago, there are worse things in the world than war. And all of them are poised on the other side of Andrin’s Wall.

*

So, what do you think? I know that if I had read this on the back of a book cover or in its product description, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. I think that is every writer’s goal, to create fiction that he or she would enjoy reading. Shoreseeker is exactly the kind of book I would like to see more of, so I’m doing what I can to rectify this lack.

It’s hard to talk about the series without giving away too much about Shoreseeker, but one can only be too careful. It is an epic fantasy series, so you probably already know that the Sutherlands are too small to contain it. And what fantasy author would waste a big, scary world devastated by monsters? I, for one, wouldn’t.

While Shoreseeker starts in a more-or-less familiar epic fantasy world, the kind you could expect in a Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind novel, it becomes horrific by the end. While fantasy has its dark worlds, such as anything that falls into the grimdark category, I haven’t come across any that are really that scary. One of my goals in this series is to create an epic fantasy that can give you nightmares.

But not because I think there is inherent value in giving people nightmares. I’d rather not have them myself. But one of the main reasons I’m writing this series is to give a home to the main character, Tharadis.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of the reasons I write is to explore what makes us humans tick. A lot of dark fiction works do this, but they often examine how people break down in times of adversity. It’s fiction like this that gave rise to the idea of the anti-hero. This kind of fiction is almost always tragic, in the sense that even when the main characters get what they want, no one is really satisfied.

This kind of fiction is almost universally described as realistic, which is to say it accurately describes the human condition. “That’s the way the world works,” it implies. “Everything sucks, so you’d better get used to it.”

Perhaps it does end up that way for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to.

Art can be powerful. It can be a light in the darkness. The world can be a cruel place; no one needs confirmation of that. But there is something that people often forget—goodness is real. And it can win. Sometimes we need art to remind of this. Personally, the books that I cherish the most are those that remind me of this simple yet profound truth.

So how does the world of Farshores, as relentlessly brutal as it often is, lead us to this idea?

Because some lights shine brightest in the darkest of nights.