“Every great story should have a dragon.”
That’s how The Blessed of the Dragon series began a little over seven years ago. It was the very first thing I jotted down when I decided that I was going to write a book. It’s obviously not a true statement, there are tons of great stories, even within the fantasy genre, that don’t have dragons. But it is the first thing I wrote. And I had decided that the book I would write would have a dragon in it.
And now, four-hundred thousand plus words later, after mind-numbingly endless revisions, I have at last written the great THE END.
I have a habit of teasing my daughter–who is a voracious reader–by reading to her the last word in whatever book she’s reading (the The End being excluded). Of course I make sure it isn’t some sort of a spoiler, but if it is something mundane like “them” or “was” or something like that I read it to her. She always rolls her eyes at me but it’s just one of those “dad” things I do. I, of course, wouldn’t do that here because the last word(s) might actually be a bit of a spoiler. And nobody likes a spoiler. It’s like reading the last words of 1984 to someone who has never read it. Okay, not quite like that but sorta.
The guess the point is, the series is finished. And in less than two weeks, all those who have graciously been with me since the beginning will have the opportunity to join me in the THE END.
For better or for worse, The Blessed of the Dragon series is finished.
In the seven years since I jotted that first note and wrote the final THE END a lot has happened. I went from wanting to write one book to deciding to split the story into a trilogy–which subsequently became a quadrilogy. I’ve written about this journey previously but the gist of it was after I finished the first iteration of the story and started thinking about publishing it I learned a very heard truth: publishers have very specific requirements for first time authors. Namely, they expected books from first timers to be between 80,000 and 100,000 words (with an additional 20,000 words allowed for fantasy). My book as it was, was almost 280,000 words. The odds of getting your book published are already pretty low but if you don’t conform it drops even more. So I decided to conform. I split the book. And boy I’m glad I did. Honestly, the first iteration sucked. Or at least it was less than complete. Fortunately, I had pretty good spots to split the story, ala the Lord of the Rings style–one story in three parts. But then when I split the story the story grew. There were things I wanted to write in the story but ultimately opted against because I knew the book was already getting too big. But once I split the book I no longer felt that constraint. I wanted one of my favorite characters to get the ending I felt she deserved. And when I made that decision the three books became four. And for that I’m not sorry.
After splitting the books I polished what became book one, The Path of the Synthesizer, as best I could and started shopping it around. While I shopped it, I worked on books two-four. I learned all about unsolicited manuscripts and how publishers (for the most part) don’t want them. Unsolicited meaning you can’t just send your manuscript directly to them; you have to go through an agent. The trick is landing an agent. I learned how to write a query letter (if you think writing a book is hard, try condensing your book into a query, or summary, or blurb for that matter). I even went to a book convention and personally pitched my novel to two agents. Talk about a stressful situation. Both agents eventually declined to represent me. In the end, I sent query letters out to nearly a hundred agents without success. Turns out its pretty hard to get representation. But while I was striking out left and right, I was slowly warming to the idea of self-publishing.
Everyone in the writing group I was in was self publishing their novels. I sort of went through this period of jealousy (or envy) whenever I saw their books hitting the market while I felt like I was spinning in the mud, not making any progress in my writing goals. But then a year and a half ago I finally made the decision to self publish. But deciding to self publish came with some caveats. 1: I wanted my books to have professional covers. 2: I wanted my books to be professionally edited. 3: I needed a professionally made map. And 4: I wanted my mother-in-law, who own an independent bookstore, to be able to sell my book (should she chose to do so) without having to pay Amazon a dime.
First caveat: I found an amazing cover designer, Jake. He came as a recommendation. And every single cover he designed for my books were exactly what his website advertised: badass. He really brought pivotal scenes in each book to life.
Second caveat: I also found my editor through a recommendation. Elayne did an excellent job whipping my average grammar skills into great shape. Her side commentary was hilarious and and times heart-warming.
Third caveat: I needed a map. And Zach turned my hand drawn maps into real works of art.
And fourth: Amazon is by far the largest market for self-published authors. I don’t have anything against Amazon, in fact my books are available on Amazon in both print and on Kindle, but I wanted my mother-in-law to be able to sell them without having to pay Amazon, who just so happens to be her biggest competitor, a dime. So if I was going to self publish I needed a way to cut Amazon out of the loop. And I found a company that does that very thing. They just happen to be the biggest distributor that bookstores use to stock their shelves. Using them allows my ebooks to be available on Kobo, Nook, Apple, as well as Kindle. But more importantly, any bookstore–indie or not–can log into their ordering system and order my book for their stores.
So, caveats satisfied, I decided to press forward with the whole self-publishing thing.
The last year and a half turned into a sort of whirlwind of scheduling dates with the cover designer and editor, whipping each book into as great a shape as I could with pre-edit revisions, then post edit revisions, then proofreading proofreading and more proofreading (I also had a couple of great proofreaders, for which I am very grateful). Oh, and don’t forget learning how to format. Both the print and e-book versions require very specific–and different–formatting. Anyone need any formatting done? I kinda have a little experience now. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but thanks to YouTube, I got ‘er done.
And now it is all done.
All that’s left is to sit and wait with bated breath, hoping that those of you who have been with me since the beginning, find the ending satisfying.
But even if you don’t I will walk away from this experience satisfied. Writing turned out to be harder than I ever imagined it would be. But I did it. My prose is not anything to write home about, but it is mine. I’ll be honest with you: I sort of hate writing. I don’t consider myself to be especially creative, and the very act of writing sometimes feels like it grinds against my very being. But at the same time I often find it very satisfying. I can’t stop myself from doing it. Which brings me to my final point.
Well, I already have something else on deck. A few years ago I went through this period of just plain ol’ being sick of my fantasy series. I needed a break. It just so happened that at that time I had an inkling for a detective novel and decided to run with it. I took a break from the Blessed series and wrote a novel altogether different than what you my have previously read from me. It’s an urban fantasy (that is a fantasy that takes place on earth as opposed to a made up world like Middle Earth or Dradonia). And I’m really excited about it. I’ve had several readers and it seems to be getting great reviews. Over on my Books tab I’ve dropped a little teaser that goes something like this: Detective Fletcher Wise thought he’d seen and heard it all. That is until he interrogates the primary suspect of a murder and finds himself listening to an alibi that defies the very laws of nature.
Look for Shift: A Fletcher Wise Novel in the spring of next year!
And let’s not forget about Dradonia. Even though The Blessed of the Dragon series is finished, I have lots more ideas for this world. I’ve been thinking about several stories that take place before the Blessed series. One of which will be part of a series called The Adventures of Danavin or Danavin’s Adventures or something of the sort. Danavin being Yolken’s father, he has a LONG history that spans three eras and is ripe for lots of adventure. Plus I’d like to write a book or two about the origins of the Dragon King and how he came into power. I’m also thinking of writing a middle grade story that takes place after the Blessed series. My daughter is really intrigued by my writing (we’ve talked about it quite a bit) but she is only ten and won’t be able to read them for some time yet. So I’ve thought about writing something she can read now. And she LOVES dragons. I also have an idea for another book (or possibly series) that takes place after the Blessed. I may or may not have planted some seeds. 😉
But then again, I might hang up my proverbial hat. I don’t know. 🤷♂️
In closing, I’d like to say that I am thankful for each of you that have supported me throughout my writing journey, and I’m not just talking about those of you bold enough to buy my books. But those who have lent me an ear, or read horrifying early drafts, or fished out last minute typos. I owe each of you much gratitude and wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.