With Child of the Knight soon to be released, I thought Eternal Knight should get a fresh cover. Soooo....
The new EK cover is designed to match the Child of the Knight cover. The circle is larger and moved down on the page, all of the writing is black (so it will show up better on websites), and the cover has a little less of a washed appearance.
I will soon reveal the Child of the Knight cover. Maybe in a week or so.
As far as CotK goes, I am 75% done my final edits. I expect to be finished in less than a week. After that it goes to proofreading.
The Fell Sword, by Miles Cameron, is the sequel to The Red Knight.
Miles Cameron is also the pseudonym of Christian Cameron, the prolific, and excellent, historical fiction author.
Characters: The Fell Sword has a very large cast of
characters. First and foremost among them is the Red Knight himself. The
mysterious Captain (he's simply called "Captain" by his soldiers) of a
company of mercenaries, the Red Knight is both an accomplished magister
(sorcerer) and a deadly knight. You spend a good bit of page time from
the Red Knight's point of view, but The Fell Sword has a large
cast and you do switch POV a lot. One interesting element of the novel
is that the villains get their share of time as well, so the reader gets
to see the plots and plans of both sides. To be honest, I did lose the
thread of the story on some of the lesser characters. Personally, I
found myself less interested in the Outwallers and the Jacks than in the
story of the Albans and the Moreans. Despite the large cast, characters all have unique strengths and weaknesses and are distinct individuals.
World Building: The world building in The Red Knight and The Fell Sword is phenomenal.
Imagine medieval Europe butted up against pre-colonial Canada. Alba,
Galle, and Morea are reminiscent of England, France, and the Byzantine
Empire. In "The Wild" we have Outwallers based on native North American
civilizations. There are enough similarities with the historical
locations that readers will be able to identify with cultural elements
that lend a sense of familiarity to the reader. But the differences in
history and characters (there are no actual historical personalities)
give the world a unique feel. Cameron's magic system is also highly
inventive, with magisters wielding power from within "memory palaces". Woe to anyone going into battle without their own magister. Magic in The Fell Knight is very powerful.
Cameron is an excellent writer. I've never read another fantasy (or
historical fiction) author who can bring a world to life the way he can.
Cameron does not shy from using historical terminology, or archaic
language in his novels. But the way he does it is so seamless I am never
caught out by it. Cameron is excellent at using context to bring out
the meaning of obscure terms, and by using those terms, the world of the
book is enriched.
Engagement/Willing suspension of disbelief: The Fell Knight
is a long book, but it is engrossing. The multiple plots are
intertwined in a way that lets the reader know that the series is
building towards a titanic climax. No, you are not getting that climax
in this book. There is more to come. But this book did have a
satisfactory ended, that gave the novel a "complete" feel. While
speaking of engagement, you will not find better medieval combat scenes
(physical and magical) than in a Cameron novel.
An excellent novel. I read it every moment I could spare. I anxiously
await the next book in the series. Luckily, Cameron is a prolific
writer, and I won't have long to wait for the next Traitor Son novel.
Every once in a while I review good books I've read. I thought I'd change the pace and review a few authors.
As an indie author I make an effort to read and support other indie authors. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be a daunting task. Anyone can publish a book these days. Sometimes the books are still in need of a little work before they are ready for prime time.
But things seem to be changing. Lately I've had a much easier time finding really good indie novels. Today I want to share a couple of these excellent authors with you.
Susan Kaye Quinn writes, well... I can't put her into a genre box. I think I first heard of her when I saw a link to her blog on the website of another blogger I follow. The first Quinn novel I read was Open Minds, a young adult sci-fi novel. I enjoyed the novel very much even though I wasn't in her target audience. I next read Delirium, an adult sci-fi novella that I thought was terrific. I have the rest of the series on my to-read list. Her latest book, Third Daughter, is a young adult steampunk novel set in an India-like setting. I haven't read much steampunk and really enjoyed it. I would highly recommend Open Minds and Third Daughter to fans of young adult novels. Delirium is definitely for the grown-ups.
Michael Puttre's novel Outre Mer is an excellent adult sci-fi (space opera). I learned of Puttre when he was recommended by my favorite traditionally published author, Christian Cameron. Outre Mer is an excellent combination of international diplomacy, intrigue, and war. The characters are deep and the world building (universe building) is top-notch. I am looking forward to the sequel.
Hugh Howey is akin to a prophet to the indie publishing community. His international best-seller, WOOL, was an absolutely engrossing dystopian sci-fi novel. If you haven't read WOOL yet, go out and get it. And if you are an indie author, his website is a must read.
Which reminds me... I also read Susan Kaye Quinn's Indie Author's Survival Guide. Another must read if you are interested in publishing your work.
Keeping with my blazing once a month blogging pace... a progress report.
I am currently in the critique stage of Child of the Knight. What does this mean?
A few weeks ago I finished the rough draft. This process including spell checking (I turned spell check off while writing) and my own revisions. Revisions mostly consisted of clearing up inconsistencies that developed over the course of writing.
Right now the book is in the hands of my friend Mike Shultz. Mike critiqued Eternal Knight and has been a sounding board throughout the writing process for Child of the Knight. Mike is a novelist and accomplished short story author. He is very good at the craft of writing. I think of myself as a good storyteller, but I struggle with the craft of writing. This is where I rely on good critique partners and editors.
The more I write, the more I learn. I learn from doing, I learn from reading, but most of all I learn from other talented writers like Mike. The first draft of Child of the Knight is much better than the first draft of Eternal Knight. And the first draft of Something Something Knight will be better yet.
Mike is currently critiquing chapter nineteen. I am following behind and should be on chapter twelve tonight. We are moving at similar paces and this critique stage should be completed in early February.
After that Child of the Knight will go to my three editors: Ann Emery, Kemp Brinson, and Jax Reeder. What's the difference between editing and critiquing? Critiquing involves a lot more discussion of plot and story, while editing is more about the writing. I'll still take story advice from my editors, but by the time it reaches them the story should be pretty stable. Ann was a critique partner for Eternal Knight, while Kemp was an editor. Both were hugely helpful. Jax is a new addition to my circle of writing friends.
Post editing we go to proofreading, formatting, and publication!
I love the critiquing and editing part of the process. I love bringing new people into the world I've created and seeing how they help me make it better. Some writers fly solo, but even if I could, I don't think I would want to.
Just finished my revisions on Child of the Knight tonight. Wow, it feels good to write that.
I send it off to my three critique partners to be put through the meat grinder. It is their job to make it into a better book by telling me everything I have done wrong. Time to put on my armor as getting a thorough critiquing can be a brutal process!
How long will it take? They have as much time as they want.
After that I re-write as necessary and send it off to the next round of readers. This is stage one editing where I don't ask for story advice, but I am looking for writing advice. This is where serious polishing goes on.
Another round of fixes and I send it off to some trusted proofreaders. Time to find mistake that have made it through the process.
And then to my copy editor for one last look before publication.
We are still two months (at least) from publication, but tonight was a big step on the path.
Amelia had a friend over and they spent the entire day outside playing in the snow. Which gave me loads of time to work on Child of the Knight. I finished revisions on almost four chapters today, bringing me up to chapter thirty. Ten to go.
Revisions means that I am making story corrections to make certain that all three story lines mesh with each other. So far, so good.
Names- wow, there are a lot of them. Minor characters mostly. When I wrote the manuscript I used XXX, YYY, ZZZ as a filler for people I didn't feel like naming at the time. There are a lot of people getting names right now. I have a spreadsheet to keep track of all of them.
The mercenaries are Idorians. No big deal, except in the first draft of the novel they were Saladorans. Now I have to change 90% of my "Saladorans" to "Idorians", but can't do it universally as there are still plenty of Saladorans in the novel. An added challenge is that Idorians don't speak Saladoran when they talk to each other. I've had to make up a new language for those times when they speak with each other.
She knows what? With three points of view, I have to keep track of which characters know what piece of information. Hadde doesn't know everything Maret knows.
How many arrows? Jeez, keeping track of inventory is a much bigger challenge in this book. I can't tell you why, but it is.
Ten chapters of revisions. The pace is getting faster as I get to more recently written chapters.
40 chapters of spell check and grammar fixes. Whew... I turned off spell check when I wrote this one. I didn't want to be bogged down with little details. I thought by turning off spell check I would write faster. I think it worked. I can't wait to see what happens when I turn spell check back on.
Correcting grammar... not my strong suit. I'll do the best I can and hope I'm not too embarrassed by what my critique partners discover.
Overall I am very pleased by my progress right now. I've blown every timeline I've put out there, so am loathe to try it again.
So I'll do it anyway....
Revisions finished: Soonish. Before the new year.
Get critique back from critique partners: When they get it done.
Second round of revisions: After that.
I officially released Eternal Knight on May 1st of 2011. Wow! It was great! What a wonderful feeling to send a book off into the world.
Of course I dreamed of a best seller, book deals, movie deals, the whole nine yards. Hey, I write fantasy, can you blame me? I have an imagination.
The rational part of my brain (there is one) told me that those things were not going to happen. And the rational part was right.
But many wonderful things did happen. Readers liked Eternal Knight. Not just friends and family, but strangers. It is an incredible moment when a complete stranger says that they liked something you created. It is even more amazing when they ask for more.
And this is where I made a mistake. I worked at promoting Eternal Knight instead of working on the second book. Why?
Part of me was looking for motivation in big sales numbers. I thought the demand for a sequel would drive me to the computer. I'll be completely honest... if Eternal Knight had flopped I probably would have stopped writing. I had invested so much time into Eternal Knight I could not imagine another such effort.
The sales didn't come. But good reviews did. And several of the early reviews were from book bloggers - people who read and critique a lot of books. And these were book bloggers who weren't afraid to give out bad reviews.
And then friends, family, and fans started asking when the next book was coming out. And my response was, "I'm working on it." When I really wasn't.
Unless you count thinking about the book as working on the book. And I was thinking about it. Because even though Eternal Knight works as a stand-alone book, it was never intended that way. There was more story to tell.
It wasn't until March 26th, 2012 (an eleven month break) that I got back to writing again. And since I work best with goals, I decided to set a goal of 1,000 words a day. It turned out to be overly ambitious, but I thought I would give it a go. I also decided to track my progress on a spreadsheet. Here are the results plotted on a graph:
The horizontal axis is the date. The vertical axis is the estimated number of days remaining to complete the novel. I used the formula (word count goal - current word count) / (average word count) to come up with the estimated days until completion. My original goal was for a 100,000 word novel. Let's say I was 50,000 words into my word count, and averaging 250 words per day. It would look like this (100,000 - 50,000) / 250 = 200 days until completion.
My original plan was to write 1,000 words per day and to finish a 100,000 word book in 100 days. It didn't quite work out that way. It took 578 days to write Child of the Knight!
Most of the writing was done in three bursts.
Phase One: March 26th - June 4th, 2012. 52,000 words. Why did I stop? Summer started. You would think summer would be a perfect time for a teacher to write. Maybe, but not for me. My wife works and during the summer I am home with Amelia. And summer is filled with evening swim meets, vacation time, and late evenings with the family. I work best on a steady schedule. Summer broke me from my schedule.
See that long rise on the graph? That is my average word count dying. I was averaging 758 words per day before that climb. 246 days later my average word count was a dismal 174. Given that pace the book would take an additional 410 days to finish.
Phase Two: February 6th - June 14th, 2013. 58, 000 words. February and March were huge, with constant writing and great progress. Average word count climbed and days until completion plummeted. April, May, and June were more sporadic, but progress was still made. And then summer hit again.
Phase Three: September 5th - October 22nd, 2013. 13,000 words. A new school year and a fresh start. I knew I was close and was driven to get the job done. Final word count: 123, 435. Average words per day, only 220. I can do better.
Eternal Knight took twenty-three years to write. Child of the Knight took a year and a half. Book Three will take even less. I know it will because I know what it takes now. Ideas are not the problem. Story is not the problem. Devotion, focus, drive... there is the problem. And those are problems I can beat.
What is next for Child of the Knight?
1) My revisions. I need to re-read the manuscript, proofread, make changes, and generally clean things up.
2) Give the manuscript to my (3) critique partners for comments and criticism. Make changes based on their evaluation.
3) Give the book (now I'll call it a book) to my (3) first round editors. Listen to their input and make corrections.
4) Give the book to my (3) proofreaders and hope they don't find too many issues.
5) Give the book to my (1) copy-editor. Please, please be a clean manuscript at this point!
6) Typeset and publish.
How long? I cannot imagine it taking less than three months. How long could it take? Five? And while much of the process is going on, I will get to work on book three.
In any case, writing the last word of my rough draft was a wonderful feeling. Can't wait to dig in and start my revisions!
Eternal Knight received this review on Amazon the other day. I don't normally share reviews, but I thought this one was kind of cool. The reader seemed to really "get" Eternal Knight. And by "getting" it, I'm not talking about the story, I'm talking about the style. When the reviewer said EK "reads like you can already picture it in your mind" or that it "reads like a fantasy movie" that is exactly how I felt when I was writing it.
Not delving too deeply into details isn't entirely intentional. I tend to focus on story and try just to give enough detail for the reader to create an image in their head. Sometimes I don't put enough brush strokes in. I find adding the little details that flesh out a scene to be one of the most difficult parts of writing. That's where great critique partners like Kemp Brinson, Ann Emery, and Mike Shultz come in. They are great at finding just the right details to make a scene come to life. I couldn't write without them.
The review (from an Amazon reader):
"One of the things I enjoyed most about Eternal Knight is that it didn't overwhelm me with details that keep me from reading a lot of other fantasy novels. Overly detailed descriptions of the character's clothes or actions, or setting the scene, etc... this book has none of that. The story reads like you can already picture it in your mind. It reads like a fantasy movie instead of a fantasy novel, if that makes any sense.
It's also not "magic heavy." Even the few characters that have access to magic have very believable limits. There's no, "Well, I dropped my sword, so I'm going to wave my arms... and drop this mountain on you." There's no "easy fix" by magic in this book. Both the internal and external struggles are realistic.
Looking forward to the sequel!"
By the way, I am currently writing the epilogue to Child of the Knight. Not too long and I'll turn it over to Kemp, Ann, and Mike.
A week ago I packed up the family and took them to Canada.
Canada? Why there?
I'm glad you asked. You see, I wanted to visit Canada before it completely ceases to exist. Canada, my friends, is on the brink of collapse.
How do I know this? There are two important signs: Canada has both publicly provided universal health care AND same sex marriage.
There you go. There are not two more certain signs of apocalypse than these.
We raced up the PA Turnpike to New York, got on Route 81 (argh, #@$#%. #$%$, ^&;*^@!!!), hooked a left onto Route 90, and there we were (eight hours later), crossing the Rainbow Bridge (really pushing that gay marriage stuff, eh?) and entering Canada.
I was a nervous wreck as we approached customs. I was entering a foreign country with weapons in my car. As we approached the booth I took off my sunglasses and forced a smile.
"Bonjour," said the woman in the booth.
I froze. What the hell does "bonjoor" mean? She was speaking Foreign (which I had been warned some Canadians speak).
"I don't have any weapons!" I screamed. "At least not real ones, like bombs and machine guns!"
"Please pull over to the fortified concrete enclosure," she said.
Six hours later we were on or way again. As it turns out is it totally legal to bring bows and arrows into Canada for target shooting purposes.
A short drive and we arrived at the Niagra Kampground of America. Notice the spelling? Canadians spell Campground with a "K". Just plain silly. Otherwise their English is pretty good. I don't know what was up with the woman at the border.
We got out of the car and a horde of mosquitoes swarmed my daughter and attempted to carry her off. As I later came to understand it, being carried off by mosquitoes is one of the first signs that you are in Canada.
After dousing ourselves with DEET and setting up our tent we made our way into town. Once there we immediately donned the national costume of Canada in an effort to blend in. We didn't want to be too conspicuous as foreigners.
Thinking we could see some of the country by boat, we hopped a ride on the Maid of the Mist XVIII (I won't kid you, I was a little concerned about what happened to the other eleven Maids). This was the shortest, dumbest tour ride I have ever been on. We went about 200 yards (they call yards "meters" in Canada) and ran into this:
For about fifteen freaking minutes the captain tried to find his way around the waterfall before he finally figured out there wasn't one. (Duh). In the meantime we all got soaked, but Helen and Amelia thought it was fun.
I know it is pretty much the same picture from before, but in the first one they are dry, and in the second one they are wet. And their smiles are bigger. And I made the picture bigger.
We got on a local bus and made our way back to our kampground. While on the bus Helen attempted to eat Amelia and I realized we hadn't eaten anything since arriving in Canada.
It was then that we made the most wonderful discovery we made during our entire trip:
We proceeded to eat every single meal we ate (while traveling) in Canada at a Tim Hortons restaurant. For my American (US variety) readers, imagine a Dunkin Donuts. Well, that's about it. Canadian Dunkin Donuts.
I had an odd interaction with the young lady behind the counter at Tim Hortons. After ordering I attempted to pay with my credit card.
"Your card isn't chipped," she said.
"Um, yeah," I said, "How would it get chipped if I keep it in my wallet?"
"No, it doesn't have a chip in it," she said, staring at me as if I was a complete idiot.
"I know. I take good care of it." Her expression didn't change. Apparently she still thought me an idiot. "How about I pay in cash?" I suggested before she could mention the perfect condition of my credit card again. I handed her a Canadian $20.
She looked at it and frowned. "This thing is ancient."
"I got it a long time ago. It is still good?" I had a sudden fear that all of my Canadian money had lost all of its value since coming into my possession fifteen years ago.
She laughed at me. "Yes, it is still good. Just old."
The above exchange really happened. Really.
Having had enough of getting soaked under giant waterfalls and mocked for having a perfectly intact credit card, we decided to continue deeper into the Great White North.
It was about this time that I received a text message from my phone company saying that since I was in a foreign country, they were going to charge me $30 per megabyte of data I used. What the hell? I now it is a foreign country, but it is CANADA! We're attached, for goodness sake.
No problem. I turned off my cellular data, saving me from an absurd phone bill.
Following the instructions on my phone's Google Maps program, we proceeded towards Toronto on the Queen Elizabeth highway. I thought it was pretty cool that Canada has a Queen Elizabeth, because England has a Queen Elizabeth as well. What are the odds?
Part of the highway was a toll road, which had me a little worried, as I only had a few of my antique Canadian dollars left and I didn't know if Canadian toll booth operators would accept my flawless credit card.
It turned out not to be a problem as Canada cannot afford actual toll booths. What they do is set up a bunch of Cameras that take your picture. If your car's license plate is from Ontario, you don't pay anything. If you are from outside Ontario they hunt you down and take your money.
But I'm a foreigner, I thought. What will they do about me? Probably pull me over and beat the snot out of me. I decided to get off the toll road as fast as possible.
Then I saw that you can go 100 miles per hour on Canadian highways. Of course they spell miles with a "K" (as in 100 kph), but I was used to their strange spelling at this point. So anyway, I'm hauling ass down the highway and I see another sign. It says that if you do over 150 kph they will pull you over immediately, take your driver's license, and impound your car.
But it didn't say anything about 149 kph. I floored it. You wouldn't think a 2004 Subaru Forester could do 149 miles per hour, but hell-yeah it can! You can cover a lot of ground when you are going almost a buck fifty.
Things were going great until we hit Toronto. Otherwise known as The Slowest City in the World. Two days of traffic jams later we were clear of the city and heading east along the northern shores of Lake Ontario.
Our destination was a campground on a private property in the Province of Waupoos. We were told that food would be provided and also that conditions might be "primitive". We decided that it might be best to pick up some food before arriving. We stopped in Belleville (The Whitest Town In Canada) at a uniquely Canadian shopping center called Wal-Mart. It was amazing. They sold everything there. I mean everything. And it was all made in the western Canadian province of China. It was also cool because all of the labels were in English and Foreign.
In case you ever want to see the Belleville Wal-Mart I have put in this useful Google satellite map:
Don't believe your GPS when it says the Wal-Mart is in the river. What a pain. It is actually just to the left of the river.
While leaving the Wal-Mart I happened to glance up and see the entire Canadian Air Force doing a fly-by. For those of you who don't know, the Canadian Air Force consists of a single twenty-five year old US surplus F-15.
Why they would put their entire air force in Belleville makes no sense as the only nation they could possibly be defending themselves against would be the United States. And the United States would never invade Cana... oh, wait, never mind.
We drove down to the camping area where we were met by this guy:
Which was really, REALLY weird as up to this point in time we hadn't seen a single black person in Canada. Anyway, Jevon was really nice and showed us to the camping area.
Apparently Canadian camping technology is well behind US camping technology as the campground looked like this:
Rich Canadians get tents like these:
Again, not wanting to appear out of place, my family changed out of our Candadian casual wear:
And into traditional Canadian camping outfits:
Here's a pic of Amelia, a blond Canadian, and a bearded Canadian:
I made some friends:
And got to do some archery:
I missed most of my shots. I think it is because Canada's latitude is higher and the atmosphere is thinner up there.
As most people know, the national sport of Canada is hockey. Seeing as it was late summer and there was no ice on the lake, they chose to play "summer rules". The equipment is a little different, but otherwise it is pretty much the same as any other hockey game I have ever seen.
Canadian "summer rules" hockey gear on display:
They also played some four on four:
You might be able to watch a video of the four on four here (if I did this right):
After all the hockey and archery we had a really big feast:
It was really awesome. The food and company were great. They even let people they call French-Canadians eat at the table with them. (This along with the gay marriage thing and free health care is viewed by many as another sign of impending apocalypse, but I thought it was pretty nice.) The French-Canadians, besides speaking both English and Foreign, were really good at summer hockey and were overall really great folks.
Overall our Canadian adventure was a great success. I suggest you visit soon (before it completely falls apart). We met a lot of new friends, including both types of Canadians, as well as some Kansas Americans and some New York Americans, and some people from other places. I want to thank them all for showing us a wonderful time.
By the way, when I crossed the border into the United States I got a message from my phone company saying that I owed them $250.
space opera sci-fi. Part space adventure, part horror, part crime noir,
Leviathan Wakes provides an excellent cast of characters and an
exciting story line. The setting is near-future and solar system based -
no gallivanting across the universe faster than light. No artificial
gravity on the ships, so G-forces play a big part on what ships and
people are capable of doing.
It was an engrossing read. I couldn't put it down. I immediately picked up both sequels and loved them as well.
sequel to Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War is a mix of sci-fi, political
thriller, and military adventure. We keep most of the cast and add a few
new characters, including a UN politician and a Martian marine.
A very well written, seat-of-the-pants ride. An excellent follow-up to the first novel.
An excellent conclusion to the Expanse series. I read all three books back to back and couldn't put them down.
Leviathan Wakes was sci-fi, horror, crime noir.
Caliban's War was sci-fi, political drama, military action.
Abaddon's Gate was sci-fi, exploration, action thriller.
there were a few moments where I doubted character motivation for
certain actions, these were far overshadowed by the excellent writing
and action-packed plot. Each novel upped the stakes and Abaddon's Gate
certainly didn't let off the gas. I highly recommend the series.