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.

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To Indie or Not to Indie

As I mentioned in a previous post, a story I had written, called Scrapyard Paradise, had been accepted in an anthology called A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, published by WordFire Press (you can buy it here and elsewhere). Getting that acceptance email was easily one of the highlights of my burgeoning career as a writer. Another was getting this:

A Game of Horns

One in the hand is worth two in the ereader.

Now, I’m a big fan of ebooks. I’ve got a Kindle and a Kindle Fire, and I often read books on my phone. And having moved around the world, I had to part ways with my large collection of paper books. I think electronic books are the future of reading, and paper books will eventually go the way of the candle. Good for decorating your house, but not as useful as its more technologically-advanced counterpart.

But damn, does it feel good to hold my book in my hands.

I’ve published my own ebooks before, and every time I did, I felt satisfied and proud of the hard work I had done. But none of that came even close to getting this professionally-produced and published book in the mail, seeing its gorgeous cover, feeling the heft of it in my hands. I could never make anything as wonderful as this.

The moment I realized that, I knew what I would do with the Farshores Saga, something I hadn’t yet attempted (with the exception of Scrapyard Paradise): I would seek out a traditional publisher.

Although I’m not entirely satisfied with the Fourth World series (what kind of author would I be if I were satisfied with something I had written?), much of the feedback I received about it was positive. I thought the stories were pretty decent, if a bit unconventional and overly ambitious. Even so, they never really generated buzz or took off by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the reason could be that I never spent the money to give them the professional treatment they needed. I tried too hard to do everything myself instead outsourcing to people who knew how best to publish a book. Another part, and perhaps the more significant part, is that if I didn’t go out there and generate buzz about the books myself, no one would. And I didn’t.

A lot of traditionally published authors say they work just as hard to promote their books as any indie-published author. And that may be true, especially for the more successful ones. But it’s undeniable that simply having a publisher in your corner, someone who was willing to take a chance on you, is itself a promotion of your work. Some of my friends who had never read my Fourth World stories picked up a copy of the anthology simply because they knew it was traditionally published. I think there’s a lesson in there, and it’s that traditional publishing is the way to go for me.

Of course, one does not simply will a publishing contract into existence. You need to have a product that the publisher wants, and you have to show them why it’s in their interest to publish it. My writing group is a phenomenal group of people who, when they combine their powers, are like the Voltron of polishing a manuscript. With their excellent feedback, I’ve been able to take my novel to a much higher level. I’m confident that when it’s finished, it will be ready for the big leagues.

Plus, with Scrapyard Paradise, I’ve shown that going this route is not as far-fetched as I once thought. I know it’s achievable because, in the case of my short story, I’ve already achieved it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the best work I can to make it happen with my novel too. And honestly, while I liked Scrapyard Paradise as a story, Shoreseeker is at least fifty bajillion times better.

But the question of going indie or not is actually a false dilemma. An idea that I had toyed with when I was just starting out with the Fourth World was a hybrid approach to publishing: traditionally publishing some things, independently publishing others. A lot of authors have tried this approach with success, and I think especially given my own inclinations as a writer, this is the best way for me. So I will traditionally publish my novels.

As for independently published stuff? Well, that’s where Super Secret Project B comes in.

A Gift

With everything that’s going on in the news, all the tragedy and hate and violence, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how amazing our world is. One of the great things about holidays like Christmas is that it reminds us of this, that there are still good people in the world and that they, in fact, outnumber the bad by a large margin. It also reminds just how much progress we’ve made in terms of technology, too.

I was reminded of this just this morning. One of my favorite digital media distribution companies (all hail the Bezos) had its Christmastime $5 digital album download bonanza, of which I gladly partook. My tastes in music tend to run a little obscure, so for a long time I was always looking for CDs at the local record shops, hoping against hope that something that they would carry the latest album by whatever European band had caught my fancy recently. Then, there wasn’t too much hope of that. Just enough to whet my appetite and make me realize just how much I was missing.

I didn’t have too long to wait for the Internet to catch up, and many of the albums I was looking for could be bought online for a reasonable price. Then digital distribution became a worldwide phenomenon, where even independent bands from other countries could join in on the fun.

Now I tend to take this for granted, waiting impatiently for the latest DragonForce album’s price to drop (which it did, thank you very much). But I’m glad I live in a world where I can take this for granted, because hoping that I can buy that latest album is one more frustration I don’t have to deal with anymore. I know I can get it instantly with nothing more than the click of a button, and I can even wait for a lower price if I want to.

Of course, my other favorite form of digital media is the ebook. Prices tend to fluctuate even more with ebooks and I watch those prices even more closely than I do music. A lot of good ebooks are on sale right now, and I almost wish I could buy them again, they’re so cheap.

Clans cover finalAnd for the rest of the year only, I’ve made The Clans: Tales of the Fourth World, free on Smashwords. If you’ve been watching and waiting for this as eagerly as I do for other books, now is your chance. I’m not sure if other sites will pricematch that in such a short window, so Smashwords is your best bet, especially since it supports every major ebook format. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and hope you all have an amazing new year.

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.

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: