Status Update: The Next Book, Series Titles, and Distribution

House of Cards has been out for nearly 10 months now and has brought a number of questions my way about when the next book will be available and what direction it will take.

House of Cards wraps up the Legacy of Shadow series in terms of this story and world by laying the groundwork for the events to come.  Despite all the chaos and struggle in both Master of the House and House of Cards, these books are the calm before the storm that Dori has warned of since their beginning.

For those following the books or in a less likely instance, following this blog, what I have coming in terms of a continuation of this story and world will really open up the mystery and mythology of these people and places.  Envy will begin taking direct action, new heroes will rise up to meet her, and the legacy of a past lost in shadows will be dragged into the light.

The next series going forward will be titled, “The Shadow of the Herald” and the tentative title for the next book will be, “The Second War of Sin”.  Familiar faces like Dori and Julian will make brief appearances and characters who played a hand in the previous books like Vavian and Sarai will have more of their past revealed.  A dangerous female protagonist and her companion, a fallen Templar from Britannia will confront Envy on her own terms with a combination of strength and cunning that the old sin may not be prepared for.

Readers will begin to see more of the King’s Realm beyond Seaside, learning of the rigid class structure in the great City State of Britannia as well as the wild and frigid landscape of Keldj where not even the undead can tread the wilderness.

I am very excited to bring this next book forward.  It is currently in editing and following that I will begin sending out queries for publication.  With this next novel being a clean break from the last, I plan to try for a more traditional publication route.  The most common question I had on the previous two books was about paper copies.  I’ve heard the requests and for those interested, it’s my #1 issue this time around.

I hope to start updating the site with some relevant content to the next book in the coming weeks.  I look forward to any feedback or comments you might have.

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“House of Cards” Now Available on Amazon!

I am happy to announce that the sequel to “Master of the House” is now available for purchase on Amazon.  Download a copy of ”House of Cards” here.

HoC Final CoverJulian’s Syndicate has made a name for itself in the vicious streets of Seaside. They have money, respect, and the favor of the criminal mastermind known as Turnbill.But the winds of change have begun to blow, and Julian’s house of cards is about to come crashing down around him.The rising fortunes of his organization have drawn the attention of Envy, an ancient incarnation of sin who is foretold to bring about the end times.

When Envy gives the people of Seaside a hero of her own making, Julian and his allies must find a way to thwart this false messiah from the shadows before the great City State unwittingly barters its soul for security.

 
You can find my previous book “Master of the House” on Amazon as well.  While they can both be read independently, you’ll only get the full picture of this story arc by reading both books.
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Cover Concepts: Visualizing a Theme

HoC-Rough-Draft-704x1024

If there is one thing I am guilty of in my writing (ok, there are quite a few, but one specifically that I take a small amount of pride in), it is my attempts to tie a number of individual stories into one powerful theme.  I feel that cover art should be the reader’s first opportunity to recognize that theme because quite contrary to popular opinion (and possibly contrary to good sense) we most certainly do judge a book by its cover.  So when I go about sketching my crude designs for a cover I know that not only does the art need to connect with the story, it has to tell the story with a single glance.

The cover for Master of the House essentially ends up being one of those portraits that wealthy families or corporations commission of their important people to denote success. It is a snapshot in time that says, “Look here.  We are powerful and we will be remembered.”  Master of the House is a hard luck story of people overcoming adversity and their own failings even as the world around them descends into very dark times.  The book itself ends with a warning about how bad things will be for them going forward.  In a sense, the cover art, the portrait of those characters is the high water mark for their success amid the criminal empire of Seaside.  It also hopefully begs the question of the reader as to how the guy in the suit gets to be the one with power when surrounded by such obviously dangerous individuals.

Now we come to the sequel, House of Cards and the dire warning left for things to come:

No one, could have foreseen how quickly the delicate house of cards we had built would fall apart.

We were set against a creature whose designs on the world included the death of a God.

We would not escape unscathed.

Now I edited that slightly to avoid any real chance for spoilers, but between that passage and the title of the book, the reader knows things are about to fall apart.  The over arching story and the saga in Seaside in particular use the progression of the Fool in Tarot readings for its symbolism in accordance with growth and struggle.  With that being the case and this book being about a massive reversal of fortunes, I devised a cover scheme that would mimic the traditional callings of the Wheel of Fortune cards in Tarot decks.

Let’s go ahead and look at the first draft layout sent to me by my artist Josh.

HoC Rough Draft

So, the first thing to keep in mind is that this is a draft (a damn good one, but still a draft).  A few things, like the center character image, are only place holders.  Likewise, the character in the lower right corner just ended up disturbing the composition of the piece and was later removed.  Let’s talk about the symbolism for a moment and the not so obvious things.

One thing that I like in particular here, is the complicated steam and gear mechanics in the background.  The technology of this world is rooted in steampunk concepts and tropes, but it is played subtly, as if it is just something to accept.  The steampunk stylings are not the core concept of this world, but because there are some major technological intrusions in this story, I felt that placing the hint of it all there to be seen after the fact was a nice touch.  Especially because the actual wheel of fortune in this instance is a gear.  When the significance of this is revealed late into the book, I think anyone who notices all this will get look back with one of those ‘ah ha’ type moments.

Fortune-JacksonNow, the Wheel of Fortune is the card or event that symbolizes a turning point, the rise and fall of people and forces via events beyond our control.  Depending on the time period, the artist, and the style; the card will always depict a few central characteristics.  A heavenly presence, a central figure in or controlling the wheel (usually Fortuna), and one person rising on the wheel while another falls.

Knowing that this is the story about how things fall apart, there are some ominous tidings already in the cover that an attentive reader will pick up on.  Envy is clearly at the center of the wheel, marking her influence on the events that have transpired or will transpire.  Worse yet, is that the heavenly figure is replaced by a dragon who looms over every thing below, both good and evil.  Yet still through it all, despite his haggard appearance, it is Julian who is rising on the wheel of fate, showing that while things are certainly not good, hope has not yet died.

Of course, that leaves the fate of the character on the other side of the wheel entirely in question.  Someone is falling from grace while Julian is rising out of the fires.  Blame has to fall somewhere for such an occurrence and when your villains are incarnations of sin…we can be sure that the heroes will be held responsible somehow.

tarot-art-nouveau-italiano_MLA-O-89844479_8856So what of style?  The last cover held a very detailed, very oil painting like quality that marked the pomp and circumstance of Julian’s Syndicate.  This cover will diverge from that significantly.  After carefully considering the options and discussing the matter with Josh, we agreed that an art nouveau style was the perfect way to implement the sweeping changes that the picture was to depict.  I’m told that unruly lines and curves denote this style and that fit perfectly into my desire to see a cover that was more or less out of control (and to color outside the lines).

This example of art nouveau to the left captures the colorful movement and lack of crisp boundaries that we’re moving towards with the cover for House of Cards.

Stepping away from the thematic now, I thought it might be fun to give a look into how or why characters look the way they do and the way in which the discussion with your cover artist can influence that look.  For this example, I’m going to use Envy as the character in question.  I like to start general with the description, hitting the important notes and then working from there.  So, this was my initial description of Envy:

EnvyShe should look enticing, sexy even.  My idea is for her to be in a slender green dress that accentuates everything, blonde hair with sharp elven features.

One thing that I really have to point out here, and something that Josh would probably note as well, Envy aside, I have purposely avoided selling these covers to the audience by sleazing up the female cast members.  I really can’t stand the books that sell their story through the image of a female knight baring a midriff or who wears thigh high boots sans pants.  Point being, when I purposely noted that this charcter was meant to be alluring, it is to accentuate the fact that she is a Deadly Sin.

What I got back in regards to Envy’s distinct look was varied and provided a great range of choices.  Let’s look at them now, starting with the ones least fitting and ending with the option I eventually chose.

Envy3e

Let’s call this the “coy tom-boy” look.  To me, this is a very specific kind of appeal that doesn’t exactly hit the legendary beauty or temptation mark.  She is also somewhat more aware and smug than I wanted to show here.  The eyes and expression show off a threat that the heroes might understand, but is too well defined in the context of the story for now.

Envy2d

Here we encounter the same issue as before.  She is too assured, too outwardly dangerous or smug.  The most dangerous thing about this villain is her ability to use your own failings against you.  It is difficult to think that the clever character in the book woudl not immediately recognize this kind of character as dangerous.  In my mind, this was the “Spider Queen” look, very suitable for other ideas, just not right for this one.

Envy1aThis picture here, which I think of as the “Vallejo” look, is a perfect example of how your own discussion or idea can go just a bit too far in one direction despite being exactly what you were looking for.  The larger image of Envy here is enticing and she has that classic fantasy beauty to her.  It’s a great image, but it is also not exactly what I was looking for.  She’s cold and distant despite being attractive.  That being said, I almost went with this one because I am certain that colored in pastels, it would look amazing…

Envy1c

A surprise runner up, yet completely out of contention, I love this “Wild Child” look.  It was not Envy.  I knew that as soon as I saw it, but at the same time, I knew that this look could and should be recaptured for some other characters, likely the Shadow Elves.  She’s not prisitine enough here and there’s too much nature in the hair and gentle eyes.  I would love to use this as a base for other elven characters, especially the heroic ones.  She’s just not evil enough for Envy.

Envy1bAnd now we arrive at the chosen entry to represent Envy on the cover of House of Cards.  This particular look at her really captures the essense of this complex villain and her venomous allure.

This example nails the classic beauty ideal head on.  The slight tilt of her head and focused eyes portray the idea that she is considering her subject but do not betray the dark intent behind those thoughts.  Further, there is an innocence displayed here that in my mind, differs from the previous example with the “Wild Child”.  The innocent glance here is almost practiced, purposeful even.  This is a woman who has learned to destroy people by suggesting it to them as a best course of action, not someone who has to compell or force her victims into ruin.  When I think of dangerous beauty, this is where it takes me.

Thanks for taking a look at the design process and thanks to Josh Beach for allowing me to use some of the draft material in the discussion.  I hope to preview the cover a little bit prior to the book’s release this month.

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Another Day and New Potential

The story begins here.

This week saw the culmination of a project began earlier this year.  My follow up work to Master of the House finished its initial draft.  Initially the book was to be titled “Children of the New Potential”.  I’ve decided to change that and use the series title along with a shorten version of that tentative title. That being said, I am happy to announce Legacy of Shadow: The New Potential (TNP) is complete and ready to face the challenges of the market.

So, how do I explain this book?  TNP is the story of a group of characters who make a similar decision to walk away from the lives they are leading into the unknown.  Each of the characters does this for a different reason but as they end up on the same path, together they are given a warning that the answers each of them seeks rest at the top of a frozen mountainous wasteland at the top of the world.  Over the course of a week these characters fight against the forces pursuing them, against their own fears, and against the fear of passing the point of no return.

Laylani is an Elf of Deep Shadow who has taken up a burden that was not her own.  Her arrival in Britania spells doom for its people and spreads fear that the City State is under attack from the undead forces at its door.  She has come seeking refuge after her failures in the northern lands.  Laylani finds no refuge in Britania but manages to regain control of her destiny and perhaps the friends who will see her through it.

Eric is a Templar in the service of Britania.  He is smart, skillful, and has a promising career ahead of him however a nagging sense of worthlessness and isolation leave the warrior feeling as if there should be something more.  When he comes face to face with Laylani and senses something familiar and kindred in the supposed threat to his homeland, it becomes the catalyst that will either ruin his life or save his soul.

Vavian is a free-wielding mage who works and lives outside the control of Britania’s Magi Guild.  He is a sought after criminal.  He is a threat to the social order.  He knows what the Guild has in store for the downtrodden of Britania.  Using the chaos around Laylani’s arrival to move on his own plans, he becomes hopelessly wrapped up in a struggle that he could have never imagined.

Dempsy is a wealthy ‘Copter pilot with a keen eye and a strong distaste for the law.  He plans to help Vavian escape Britania and life a life of comfort, ease, and coin but when his friend returns to him and reveals that their plans have changed, Dempsy has a choice to make.

I never could have imagined how difficult writing this book would be.  It was not that the actual writing, typing, and plotting were hard, overcoming doubt was the challenge.  Master of the House lent itself to an ever tightening plotline and left plenty of room for character evolution.  TNP is a lead off book, meant to spark a whole series but still be self contained.

I had to capture a world, introduce new characters, justify motivation…  Of course every book does this.  I’m not complaining, not at all.  What I wish to express here is that this book is the first step in a bigger story.  This overall story is something I have captured in my mind and now had to find a way to condense the important parts into an opening act.

I was not even sure I liked my own characters as I wrote the book.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.  (Rest assured they ARE awesome and the book turned out great.)  It’s simply that when you are inside a story, crafting it and setting the stage for later, you know who these characters WILL be.  As you write them, you see them only as they are on the first page or first chapter and it feels wrong.

The further along I traveled in this book, the better it felt.  Not only were my own fears unjustified but many of them were incorrect too.

I plan to do some site expansion and add information about these characters in the coming weeks.  I will also post my query that I will send out for this book for anyone to see and comment on.

I should really take a lesson from Dempsy.  He pretty much nailed it:

 “You can never bake the same cake twice. That’s a life lesson. Don’t forget it.”


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Act III

Envy will actually enter into the fray this time around...

I have not been updating much (I hate when blogs I follow say that…) but it’s not for a lack of work going into this.

My current book is nearly completed.  I am estimating about three weeks until I enter the editing phase and possibly late summer to dive back into the publishing field.  This site will be updated with characters and setting information for this book at that point.

When I was writing Master of the House, the ending was pretty much known from the outset.  A few details here and there were a mystery to me but I knew what the end would look like.  Writing Children of the New Potential has been a completely different experience.

I had no idea where this book would wind up (that’s not an admission of a lost narrative!).  Rather I knew the outcome of the events but I did not know the characters well enough until I had written the majority of the novel.  The ending of this book would really be colored by how I came to know the characters.  This book is really more of a traditional fantasy novel when compared to Master of the House but as the plot evolves and the fantastic elements are uncovered, understanding my characters really lets me unleash a really epic ending that will hopefully leave readers expecting a follow up work.

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The Point of No Return

The point at which it is further to go back than it is to continue forward.  ^_^

My “second” book, such as it is for the moment (dependent on whether or not Master of the House is broken into two books at some point) is now over 50% complete.

I’d be lying if I said that this was easier or even as easy as Master of the House was to draft.  Working within the confines of a planned length and moving through knowing that a full revision would be required have been very trying on my creative style.

I often have to accept the fact that my page count per day is around half of what it normally is due to this, but the grind continues.  The biggest challenge really has been the structuring of chapters.  Previously, I would write chapters under a theme that would run clearly through.  This time around, chapters are presented more in a scene format with shifting to another location or into another obstacle as the call for beginning or ending another chapter.

If I wasn’t in the middle of it all, I would think that smaller bites and more concise sections would make for easier writing.  Working towards creating something that is “market ready” has proven to be anything but.

That being said, sometime in June this work should be complete and I will be in the midst of editing (and more regular site updates).

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Status Update

As of today, my second planned work has surpassed the 30% mark for completion.  I have a tentative title for this book:  Children of the New Potential.  That title may have to change because there’s a real chance it’s too long.  I don’t mind.  One thing that will not be too long is the actual length of this book.  After the initial difficulty I found in getting Master of the House to market, I have carefully plotted the length of my follow up work to ensure it is what those in the industry refer to as a “marketable length”.

I really only quote that because it seems to apply only to first time authors.

Soon enough I’m going to have to open up some new space on this site and begin outlining this new book in the same way that Master of the House is cross referenced.  Tomorrow will mark 21 days since I started working on this second book.  40,000 words in three weeks has left me very tired if I’m honest.  I did not even notice that my pace was moving along this quickly until my buddy told me not to burn myself out. (Hi Rob)

Gotta keep moving while I have the time to do so…

I will be posting a preview section of the new book tomorrow.

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