Tag Archives: epic novel

Series: Episodic or Epic?

Fantasy in particular lends itself to series.  A majority of those series have the same overarching characters and themes, and the books are connected.  Due to the strong influence of Lord of the Rings many are trilogies.  Often the series really is just one large story, broken down into smaller chunks which allows the story to be released earlier and in the case of print, because they might not be able to physically release the book elsewise.  When creating these separate books there are two ways they can do it – the book can still have the basics of a beginning, middle and end, but honestly identify more as another “chapter” of a larger chronicle then a true standalone work.  These types of books do have the downside that they cannot  be just picked up and read as its own story out of order and without knowledge of the rest of the series.  The other way is to have a completely self-contained story that continues themes amongst itself, but can be read in mostly any order and still enjoyed without knowing anything else in the series.   The downside to this type however is if the specific plot, theme, or character focus does not hook the reader, they do not feel bad skipping it.

Examples of the books focusing more on being pieces of a large series than stand-alone stories include Wheel of Time, Tears of Rage, Game of Thrones and most of the other epic fantasies that are the bread and butter of the genres.  This description is not meant to disparage those types of novels, and they can still contain the basics of a story (conflict, climax, resolution) but they are not normally intended to be read out of order, and even with recaps and Wikipedia catching reader up are really intended to be read as a series more than by themselves.  I still love The Shadow Rising by itself, and it does have it’s own plots that open and close in the same book.  I could not however hand  it to someone without them reading the rest of the Wheel of Time and expect them to love it nearly on the same scale as those who read the series in order.

The advantage of this style is it truly allows a giant Epic that the other form does not.  When read  in a row a well-built epic of this type has the potential to really enthrall a reader.  Since in essence one giant story is being composed, each individual book can allow an attention to detail, themes, characters, and events that standalones do not.  Although less accessible to people when not in order, it makes up for it in scope and depth.

Some of my favorite television is this way, including Battlestar Galactica, most of 5th Season of Buffy, of course Lost, and the “mythology” episodes of X-Files.  Most movie that are this way tend to be adaptations (other than the Matrix but whether or not that made sense even watching it in order is up to personal taste) as for economic sake when creating new movies it makes sense to allow them to stand alone without prior movies having to be seen to enjoy them.  Comic books on the other hand, for the past three decades are like this, rewarding large collections with knowledge that enhances each later story.

The other way, of self-contained stories that mainly share the same characters but do not build up to one large overarching plot is not currently the standard for many modern fantasy books.  During the Pulp era, however, this was much more common.  Sword and Sorcery books still tend to be in this format, self-contained, and so do more comedic books like Piers Anthony Xanth series, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Dresden Files (which feels more like a pulp novel then an epic fantasy) straddles the line, in the sense that reading them in order enhances the novels because you know the characters better, but it is not necessary normally required for most of the books in the series.

The fantastic thing about this is every book is truly a jumping on point for new readers.  If they love the characters they may want to go back and pick up earlier works to flesh out their enjoyment of the series, but they should never feel lost no matter where they first start reading.

I think of these things because my current trilogy is of course, the type that must be read in order to be fully understood.  The next series idea I have after this however, I am highly considering making it more episodic, and not concentrating on overarching plots so they can be read in any order.  Also, outside of fantasy my favorite genre is probably mystery/thrillers that contain the same characters, but can honestly be enjoyed in any order.

Poll Series Style Preference:

1)Episodic:  This is like Dresden, Conan, Discworld.  I like self-contained stories

2)Sprawling Epics: I like intricate tapestries of stories that wind between several books with a large overarching plot.

Results from Worldcon were good, Mandatory Paradise got up to 13 on the Epic fantasy List, and Fall of House Nemeni got up to 26th on the same list.  I have decided to finally have Fall of House Nemeni released to Nook after this cycle is over, and focus on Mandatory Paradise during promotions.

World Info:

The main adversaries to the Allmother in her religion are things called Firesouls.  They are said to possess people and come from the place of eternal torment, the Sun Below all the Islands.  It is said they are led by something called “Other” but no solid information is ever said about this entity.  The Songs of the Allmother do not focus on the Other often, and whether or not is is male or female, human or monstrous, and even how it acts are different in the various tales that have been passed down.

The Songs and stories focus more on Firesouls, and how they can control your life if you are too evil, or fall into the Sun Below.  Of course no one really knows how something could survive a fall into the Sun Below, or even more who one could come back.  Tales still persist of it happening, and if someone starts acting very strange or unpredicatable it is wondered if they have been “Firesouled” or “firetouched.”


Mandatory Paradise Cover Art (Fitting the tone of the Book)

Not the most creative title ever, but pretty accurate.  Here is the cover art to my new book below:

Cover art is very important, as often even before a synopsis is read a prospective reader will see the cover.  If you are in a list the title and the cover is all they have, and it must catch the eye and interests of a prospective reader.  It helps if it fit’s the book tonally too, so it is not jarring to a reader if they see an epic fantasy like cover then read a story mainly focused on economics.

The cover you see is not the first draft, and it is significantly different than the first.  The first had an authentic Minoan background, but it clashed a lot with the rest of the cover, and some people thought it would repel readers.  We chose the current background you see of a Labyrinth due too it’s importance to the story, and that it gave a neutral tone so the rest of the cover would “pop” better.

Also, the stark lack of details about book plot from the cover was done like many thrillers. The intent was to give more of a feel and less of a preview of what actually occurs in the book.  The only tone aspect that is not shown in the artwork is the “flippant” (think more Terry Pratchett) tone some chapters are told in due to who the characters are.  Each chapter is written featuring specific characters, and when that is happening the “voice” of the chapter synchs with who is starring in it.  So a chapter about a priestess or a bureaucrat will be more serious than one told from a rather frivolous artist or gruff outsider.

With all of those differences there was not a way to convey this on the cover without clashing in a very “busy” manner.  I do like the details in this cover and it holds up very well when increased in size, and I may eventually make this book available for print (there was resolution issues with my last one, and I will not be able to have that book ready for print until I can resolve them).

As for other final touches, the book will come out this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday.  There will be a blog post when it comes up.  I’m just doing one last once over and all of the involved formatting before it is released.  The Sample Chapter available at the top of this website has been altered to match the edited text of the book.

The final Synopsis has been made by the way :

Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a teacher, but she, like every citizen of the Island of Nimoa, has always had her needs met. At night she gazes up at the energy shield that keeps everyone safe from the flying monstrosities of legend, and she wants more than just to exist in her pre-ordained role. When hundreds of innocents are massacred, Alnanla finds herself to be the prime suspect. To clear her name, she teams up with a grieving Bureaucrat, an eternally optimistic Artist, a gruff Outsider and a sarcastic Spirit. As they begin to discover the details of what really happened, they find more than they bargained for. Should they expose the dark secrets they find and risk their society’s destruction? Or should  they sacrifice their lives and let the lies continue in order to preserve the way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

Poll Question:

Which cover do you prefer?:

A) The Fall of House Nemeni

B) Mandatory Paradise

There were aspects I liked about both covers, but due to the resolution issues I might contemplate using a different artist for the second Allmother’s Fire book than I used for the first one.  I personally like this new one more, but I am curious what my readers think.


Inspiration (Order out of Chaos)

One of the most frequent questions a writer receives is “Where do you get your inspiration?”  The answer to that for most authors is varied.  Personally a lot of my novels or the worlds they take place in have been inspired by history.  Sometimes it’s an old or obscure culture, sometimes it’s a specific event.  I normally go far from the original thing that inspired me, but it’s a good jumping off point for ideas.  Once your characters are fleshed out they can constantly inspire you also. Even though they are just constructs good characters react to things in ways even the author may not expect, creating future plots and ideas.

That’s good for the overarching plot but what about specific details?  If your protagonists are in a fantasy world and travelling a lot, you may have to come up with a few dozen cultures/cities/tribes in a very short time. You could once again “steal” from other sources like history or repurposing other fictional characters (take Boss Hogg and put him in a Ninja culture and boom, instant interesting character) but after a while it might feel forced or repetitive.  Many fantasy worlds are almost exactly like ours, with some serial numbers filed off and one or two minor changes to food or dress.  You can normally figure out which ancient culture they are and after seeing most of “Europe” you expect to meet the “Scandinavian” culture of the world and like clockwork you do, three chapters later.

When your normal inspirations take away your predictability you must do something to leap out of the rut you have created.  Something perfect for new ideas is finding a way to be inspired randomly.  My new go to resource for that is the random button on Wikipedia.  You can get an insanely wide spread of ideas from people, from cultures,  art,  and ideas.  In the current book I am writing, two of the characters need to go to a place to retrieve something.  I knew the plot ramifications from this, I knew the thing to be retrieved, but I had not fully fleshed out where they were going, as it was not as important.  All that was necessary was that the place was exotic, and differed greatly from where the characters originate.

I clicked on the random button and got a country, an article about an energy activist, and information about a type of rock.  My mind began to create order from this chaos, and I thought about what could possibly connect those three very diverse Wiki articles.  I let the three ideas stew in my mind for about twenty minutes, and a great new location was born!  You still have to create the ideas and write the scenes, but a tool like this is a great way to use random information to guide you.

My personal writing style probably would not allow me to use this to create over arching actual plots.  Most of my plotting is either generated from how the characters react to the situations they are in, or are thought of in advance to guide the story.  However there are still parts of all novels that are not thought of until specific scenes are reached, and using this can help with those “mini plots.”  Honestly any way to randomly generate information can help.  You could flip through a large book like a dictionary, random searches on google or even flip on the TV and go to three channels if you wanted to synthesize something.  The important thing is as a writer your mind is already good at finding connections between unrelated things, and this just a great way to jump start this process.

Today’s Poll

Last I checked last week’s poll was tied, or within one vote of being so.  This means I honestly do not know yet if I am going to take The Fall of House Nemeni off of its exclusivity with kindle or keep their one last time.

This poll will be on Mandatory Paradise.  It’s twice the size of Fall of House Nemeni, and self-contained.  Due to the size I was thinking of pricing it at 4.99 (still less than commercial paperbacks and any fast food meals not bought off the dollar menu).  Besides the size of it, if I don’t it will feel weird pricing my next book at 3.99 also.  However, I don’t want to “price” this book off of peoples casual consideration list.

Should Mandatory Paradise be:



World Info:

Since it is the book coming out shortly, I will once again focus on this world.  The main religious ceremony of Nimoa, the island this takes place on, is the sacred Bull Dance.  Twelve Priests and Twelve Priestesses “dance” with the bulls.  This is highly ritualized and include using “labrys” sacred axes that are found covering the labyrinth in the city’s walls.  The goal is not to kill the bull, but to move with it.

As said in a previous blog the clergy raise energy to work their miracles through dance, and this is a dance that most of the island participates in.  The energy drawn that day sustains most of the citizens so they do not have to eat for the next month.  Part of the reasons this island is Paradise is because no one ever goes hungry, as long as they show up at their monthly dance.

Characters and Authors can be Lying Liars

It’s a truth often forgot by readers: Characters and Authors can and do lie.  That Ancient prophecy might not only be false, even worse it could be a trap sent to manipulate future populations to do certain actions.  Just because the head villain says he’s your father doesn’t mean he’s not just saying that so he can cut off your other hand.  The Old wise Man leading the hero down the path to his true destiny might actually be stealing everything the hero owns why he is away from his house.

Readers have this tendency to see the Author themselves and certain devices (wise old women and hermits, prophecies and last will and testaments, deathbed revelations, etc) as immutable truth.  Part of this is from the oldest myths encouraging this, sometimes it’s latter day laziness on modern authors, or maybe it’s just the feel that an author is revealing a world and story to you, so you can’t imagine why they would not tell the truth.

This of course means that some of the greatest emotional shocks can be from when one of these trusted sources lies to you.  If done too much the readers won’t trust anything and they can be numbed by further twists. It can be as bad as M. Night Shamalyan (don’t make me spell this right) movies got, or poorly written soap operas.  If used sparingly though you can hook them into the narrative and then turn the tables on them when unexpected.  It is definitely something I utilize in my writing (including the section I am currently working on in my novel).  The current novel I am reading also utilizes it.  As a person who loves twists I had guessed the big one but the way it was revealed showed further twists ripple out of the main one I was not expecting, and caused the same sort of reaction I like to give to my readers!

Personally I think the best way to serve a lie to the readers is with the sandwich method.  Have two things they expect to be true or from true sources turn out that way, and then then in the middle of that have a lie.  It makes it much harder to expect, and means thata  later truth they will think is a lie won’t be.  In other words, this allows you to shock them with the truth!

The poll is being narrowed down from the last post, and I may keep it open for a few more days. I will then narrow down the Epic Novel book title with one more poll where each voter cna only vote once.  Either way I should know the title by the end of next week, and then I will be searching for a new cover artist.  This next epic novel (not the new novel in the trilogy being written) has a different feel, so I wanted to brand it with a different artist.

Today’s poll is about naming, though.  The second novel in the Allmother’s Fire trilogy is what I am currently writing, and I have narrowed it down to two names.  If you have read a decent amount of the book the reasons for these possibilities will be obvious, with the more you have read giving more nuance to both possibilities.  I have run both of these names through my mind for a while, and I at least wanted to see what others are thinking.

The next novel in the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy should be:

1)The Rise of the Allmother’s Grace

2)Rise from the Sun Below

Both also “fit” along with the current title of “The Fall of House Nemeni.”

World Info for Allmother’s Fire

One of the types of Noble Houses not currently shown are the one’s whose Domain is over Motion.  There are multiple Houses that have these abilities, but each manifest in different ways.  Some are direct, and can move themselves or vehicles or weapons faster or slower depending on their specialty.  Some are more indirect, and can use control over motion to increase or decrease the temperature.  These users do not know why it works this way, but the results are obviously true.

The other Houses not detailed yet are a lot of the minor guilds.  Some of these like the Dyemaker’s guild have as much temporal power as the lower noble houses, but the span of their abilities are so narrow (being able to change the color of objects in the case of the mentioned guild) they do not command as much respect.  It seems like there are an infinite amount of families that can do some minor thing to loophole the Grand Laws of the Universe. It is thought by some that even the lowest peasant might find that his family had some unknown ability if only they had the leisure to practice and figure out just what they were.

Disregarding Advice

I have for the first time decided directly to go against advice solicited here by the poll results in one case.  I have never wanted them to be binding, just a good indication of what other people were thinking, taking the pulse of my readers.  The more I look at releasing the epic novel (which I have never given a definite name to here yet, which should be a hint of what an eventual poll question will be : ) ) the more it does not make sense to  break it into separate parts.

I was originally focusing on getting it out sooner, but right now the first pass of editing is going much faster than I originally thought it would.  Also, before I was focusing on seeing if I could have new material out every 90 days or so, mainly to get the most out of  how the exclusivity deals work for amazon. Whereas I still like that idea, and I have some long term ways to help with that after the Allmother’s Fire trilogy is done, I have decided for now not to make that my focus.  At a bare minimum I want to get the epic tome out and maybe at least one other thing while I work on the trilogy, to build up a body of work as soon as possible.  Post trilogy, I have some neat ideas to keep that up, but I will make that the topic of a different blog.

Also when I look at this novel which was meant to be one self-contained fiction, it appears to me it will be very artificial if I break it into two books. It won’t follow a normal confrontation -rising action-climax-falling action style if chopped into two books, and I think it’s important in normal series for each piece to feel like its own book.  Therefore due to information I was not thinking about in the original poll, I will probably release this as just one book.

For now with so much of my book time that is not spend on the trilogy looking at revisions that are going on, I am thinking of going against normal advice for a very short period of time.  I have been told with self-publishing about 75% of your time is spend marketing your books, and I have not done so as much recently, and this reflects in sales.  However, in a just a few short weeks I am planning on having a revision of my book out.  Too me, it seems silly to put effort into getting people to buy the book before the new revision comes out, which leads me to today’s poll.

Should I stop marketing my Fall of House Nemeni book until the revision comes out in about two weeks?

1)No, it can hurt general momentum if you stop marketing.

2)Yes, focus on getting the best product into people’s hands.

My next blog may be a little later than normal as I will be busy earlier in the next week. I might still be able to put something up on time depending upon circumstances.

As for specific Nemeni world information, here is a new tidbit:

All of the Houses have tried to do to their element what Lontor and the other Wood based families have done, ie try to make it so the substance they control can float through the air.  Only Cloudwood has ever been able to do that, but there are ancient tales that Artists used to be able to do so with marble and other stones.  These tales are what inspired the floating sky Citadels, even though in current reality there is a Cloudwood structure embedded under and in layers in the marble.  Artists to this day still experiment to see fi one day they can be the artist who finally learns to make stones float.  These artist point towards the islands themselves, and say there must be some way to do it.

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