In Defense of Unfinished Works

Criticizing authors (and other creators) who are not producing a finished story “fast enough” has become popular in the last decade or so. Some fans in the SFF genre in particular, where long series tend to be common, have even adopted a practice of only starting series once they are finished.

I get it! I love binge-reading (or watching) my favorite content. Reading or watching something from start to finish is deeply satisfying. And being let down by the final book(s) in a series in which you’ve invested large amounts of time and hope… it hurts.

That said, I suggest that the deeper, more beautiful experience is that of following along with an artist as they create something wonderful. You get to imagine an entire possible world rather than just consuming the single story the author captures on the page. And if there’s one thing that may have contributed to my becoming a published author, it is my habit of reading my favorites over and over, picking them apart to understand their inner workings.

20 Stalking Memes That Will Not Creep You Out -

Some of my best memories are of series I read and re-read over years of waiting for each successive book. I can’t imagine having missed out on any of them just because the series are not complete.

For Example:

I started reading The Wheel of Time when I was around 11 years old. The Path of Daggers was the last book of the series I read in paperback, and that meant I spent the most formative years of my life reading and re-reading those books while waiting for each new installment. I spent hours and hours with my fellow WoT geeks on wotmania discussing and hypothesizing on all that was and what could be. I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I’ve probably read the first 8 books in the series 10+ times. Robert Jordan’s books provided a moral compass and wisdom (see what I did there?) that made so much more sense to me than anything religion or the education system taught.

Pat Rothfuss is perhaps the living author whose books have most inspired me to write (so original, I know). I’ve read Kvothe’s tale nearly as many times as I have the Wheel of Time. I revisit Temerant often when I need inspiration, whether personal or professional in nature.

When I was a kid, my family and I fought over the copy (or copies) of each new Harry Potter, and I still remember listening to the audiobook of The Order of the Phoenix on a family road-trip vacation to California. We also went to see every Harry Potter movie as a family as they were made and released.

L.E. Modesitt’s Recluce world and characters were a massively positive influence, especially when I was a young man trudging through the harsh realities of engineering coursework. I was reading his Imager books when I finally decided to put pen to paper on my own book.

GRRM has written what is in my opinion a masterclass in realistic epic fantasy. To miss out on the greatness he has achieved simply because the last book or two aren’t out would be a huge mistake. And besides, those of us who read A Song of Ice and Fire before HBO made the show have some legit nerd cred.

Reading unfinished works and plugging into the slow drip can enhance the experience, if you let it.

why yes, I am a design professional… how did you know?

Author’s Obligation:

Another point I won’t be the first to make, nor the last: authors don’t owe us anything. Even the ones at the extreme upper end of the income scale. Not that any amount of money or fame ever entitles a person to another person’s time (unless voluntary), but even many of the most successful authors would likely have been much better off (financially) having learned to code or sell software, dedicating their lives to building some small portion of a lame tech empire. And even if they are uber-rich, they’re still artists sharing a piece of themselves with us.

Let’s take a look at some rough math. Because speculating about a particular person’s income is rude, I’ll simply assume that we’re dealing with an author who has sold 1,000,000 copies. For most of us, this qualifies as a dream come true. Real elite-tier sales.

Let’s also assume that these million copies were sold over a three book series that took 5 years to publish (pretty reasonable, IMO). This means that the author likely spent 7-10 years on the series, because by the time you see a debut novel, it has been in the works for years. In my case, Rise of the Mages will have taken 10 full years (almost exactly!) from first word written to publication. But for the purpose of this example, let’s call it 8 years of work to release 3 books and then to miraculously reach the 1M copies sold mark.

1 million copies sold at an average price of $18 (generous, given average pricing and sales volumes of various formats) and an average royalty rate of 12% (this is a generous placeholder in stead of industry standard ~10-15% on gross hard cover, ~7.5-10% on gross paperback, ~25% on net Ebook, and ~20% on net audio) results in a total sum of $2,160,000! We’re rich!

Except the math doesn’t stop there. 15% of that ($324,000) will go to your agent, so you’re left with $1,836,000 – $229,500 per year, if it comes in equal chunks (it won’t).

Self-employed people pay considerably higher tax rates than employed people – your employer takes care of payroll taxes for you, for example. Authors are also liable for their own health insurance and various other expenses that don’t come with a salary, like travel, 3rd party service hires like PR, etc. However, authors who are selling 1M+ copies are also likely making some decent money on selling TV/film options, so I’m calling those things even and sticking with the $229,500/yr. I’m also assuming here that they’re not making crazy money from their IP being produced, like GRRM has.

Now, this is still a lot of money. This is success no matter how you look at it. You don’t have to convince me; I’ve put my corporate career on hold to chase this dream, after all.

Keep in mind, though, that very few authors see this kind of income, especially in such a short time period. Maybe the top 500 or so see this kind of result/money? In SFF I would hazard a guess that there are no more than a dozen or two making this kind of money consistently. And while they’ll likely see some measure of sales from these books and others they write for many years (a big bonus that salaried work doesn’t provide), there’s no guarantee that the income will remain anywhere near the example of $229,500/yr.

There are tens of thousands of tech and other salaried folks who make at least this much, and the ceiling on their income is much higher. If this is a surprise to you, I encourage you to take a look at or Blind and see for yourself what opportunity exists for those who gain the right skills and join the right company. I know quite a few people earning at least $230k/yr total comp (+ benefits), and I’m not even particularly well connected in the richest parts of the tech/finance industries.

Those authors you love that are very likely making a lot less than the top dogs who sell millions of copies? They are very likely taking a huge pay cut compared to other lucrative work they could be doing. In fact, author surveys suggest that the average full-time writer makes only $20,000/yr. Not great.

Most authors don’t make nearly enough money to write full time, and are thus often stuck in a personal hell of working a regular job on top of writing in any spare minute they can find. God help them if they have to manage a family life too. It’s certainly not the life of ease and luxury some might imagine it to be. Tack onto that the mental and emotional burden of pouring yourself into a book that is then exposed to the world, and you have a recipe for some sad, sad writers. Many of us pay a high price to produce books that mean the world to us, and that we hope will be meaningful to you.

sad but true

Not supporting an unfinished series (or worse, complaining incessantly to the author) is a really good way to make sure that said series takes a very long time to be completed, and could even mean that the author won’t have the time or resources to make sure that the books are every bit as good as they could be.

Waiting for an author to finish a series before reading it is a fool’s game. Just enjoy good books and be cool to each other.


Kings of the Wyld

Verdict: 5/5 stars. Nicholas Eames delivers a fun, fast-paced story with a “voice” the rest of us can only dream of. 

What I loved:

Voice/Style: Kings of the Wyld draws you in almost immediately with prose that is not only clear, effortless, and crisp, but personal. He’s able to deliver on a lot more humor than most books (especially “second world” fantasy) are able to, and I’m one jealous writer. Seriously, this book would be worth reading for nothing more than Moog the gay wizard and his hilarity.

Setting: Kings of the Wyld is unapologetically fantasy, and I love it. I don’t think the almost ridiculous slew of monsters and tropes work without Nicholas embracing them (and the genre) 110%, which he does. As a result, the world feels rich, full, perfect.

Characters: This is where Nicholas really nails it. Each of his characters is introduced well, and each has a consistent, unique personality. He tells a compelling story within a semi-ridiculous world, and it works, really well.

Pace: Eames knew what kind of book he was writing, and stuck to it. Thank god, we finally got a fantasy book that doesn’t bog down to tell us all about the world, or meaningless politics, or the author’s views on life or humanity. The action is constant, with beautiful world-building woven in skillfully.

Plot: Many books take on the “feel” of a movie, especially modern fantasy. Everyone wants Netflix or Starz or HBO to buy the rights to their book and make them rich (can’t blame them). While Kings would do very well as a movie/TV show, I’m fairly certain that Eames wrote this book to be the genesis for a video game, which is fairly unique. But this book really felt like a well-written fantasy adventure game… one I’d really like to play.


Go read this book.

Ire Has a Home

I finally signed a contract. Ire will be the first book of a trilogy written for Tor. The first book is tentatively scheduled to be published in late 2020, and the other two books will follow shortly thereafter.

Working with Tor is something of a dream come true for me. I grew up reading a lot of fantasy novels, and the Tor name has always been synonymous with the kind of book that’s not just enjoyable, but that can transport you to another reality. The Wheel of Time is a series that influenced me profoundly as a young man, and continues to be almost canon to me. The Recluce series provided example after example of realistic people living realistic, (mostly) honorable lives. More recently, Tor authors like Brandon Sanderson, Brian Staveley, and many others have continued that legacy in their own ways, and now I get to add my name to that list. I’m ecstatic to have my work published, but being a Tor author means a great deal to me even beyond that.

I’ve got a lot of writing to do, and a good while until my work sees the light, but I’m stoked about the path I’m on and the people I have on my side. Huge shout out to Matt Bialer for guiding me through the process and putting in years of work with me to get this deal.

Ire is going to be awesome.



Sins of Empire – A Five Star Review

Verdict: 5/5 Stars. Go read it, it’s awesome.

What I loved:

  • Characters –  The book starts out introducing each primary character in turn, and McClellan does a very good job of establishing each character outside of and while setting up the impending conflict. I thought each character had unique and interesting flaws, believable motivations, and little details brought them to life. I liked the diverse cast of characters as well – the POV characters weren’t your typical fantasy heroes.
  • Plot – McClellan intertwines his character arcs in such a way that they not only come together gradually, but so that the character growth moments also comprise the main plot. I can’t recall another book or author who has done this so well. I would really like to talk to Brian about how he plotted this book.
    • I also appreciated that Brian was able to continually raise the stakes without resorting to a world-ending threat in the first book. He went from personal stakes and interesting side-quests for the primary characters to those side-quests turning into a large scale conflict. Even better, the personal stakes and side-quests stayed away from typical fantasy tropes, for the most part.
  • Pacing – I think Brian encountered an issue in the first 10% of the book that almost all speculative fiction authors have to deal with: hooking your readers while also setting up the world and characters. To me, the pacing for the first 10% was above average, but the remaining 90% was superb. Not only did the plot move forward extremely well, but switching through 3 primary POV characters was handled expertly.

What I liked:

  • Style: the writing is clear and engaging. There were very few passages that I either glossed over because the words were unnecessary, or that I had to read twice because it wasn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, and the few I encountered could easily have been due to my own user error.
  • Worldbuilding: SoE builds off of the world created in the first Powder Mage trilogy, which I really like. I’ve seen a few complaints about the interwebs regarding logical inconsistencies in how the magic system(s) work. Really, people? You have no problems with alternate universes where unexplained magic can be used indiscriminately, but the fact that gunpowder has magical properties is a problem for you? C’mon man. I like it. It’s fun and makes for a great story.

My takeaways as a writer:

  • I loved seeing someone execute a near-perfect blend of plot and character in an interesting world. I’ll be tweaking my plotting process as a result of reading SoE.
  • The treatment of POV characters was awesome, and convinced me that a measured approach to switching between a small number of POVs can work very well.


Editing Is Writing

I am willing to bet that editing is what stands between most writers and their dreams.

The act of writing is romanticized at length in writerly circles, while talk of editing is typically met with derision, or at best, patience.

Editing is where the magic happens, people. Not all great writers follow this rule, but most of the writers that I hold in high regard are known to take significant time editing and perfecting everything they produce. Rothfuss, GRRM, Robert Jordan all fall into this category (at least I assume that’s what they are doing with all that time in between books). Even a writing-production freak like Sanderson has admitted that mastering the art of editing and revising is what propelled him from anonymity to the enormous success he is today.

Editing is where plot is perfected. It is the process by which characters of convenience become paper people with lives of their own. Pace can be fixed, molded to fit your narrative.

Here are a few things I include in my editing process that you may want to consider in yours:

  1. Cut >= 10% of your word count: many authors have vouched for this trick. I tried to cut on several of my previous edits, only to add more words in the name of clarity. Clarity in writing is of utmost importance and deserves an edit all its own, but when I did an edit pass with the sole purpose of cutting word count to improve pace, unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs started to jump out at me. I recently finished an edit pass and cut 17,500 words (12%) from my book! It took a great deal of work, but was a great experience. Precision is beautiful.
  2. Fill your plot holes: This is likely more of a problem for those who wing their books like I did with Ire. I ended up having to put A LOT of work into the book to correct plot issues and holes, and will likely never do that again. I recommend having at least some idea ahead of time of what your major plot points will be, where and how you’d like to build up to them and foreshadow, etc. But, even the best plot plan often changes, and making it bullet-proof is an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. This is also where smart Beta readers come in handy. Anything that any significant amount of beta readers come back with (or a particularly trusted reader) as a point of confusion, fix it.
  3. World Building and Character Elements: Writing characters is something I really enjoy and strive to do well. The danger of “knowing” your characters is that you (hopefully) write them well, but many of the endearing traits that make your characters interesting and lovable live only in your head or in your notes. Take the time to build character elements into the scenes that already exist, and to make sure that your character actions, dialogue, etc are all consistent. Similarly, this should be an opportunity to introduce any world building elements that are pertinent to your story.
  4. Read-throughs to improve flow, clarity, and continuity: The most time consuming edits for me are read-throughs, but they are also some of the most important. If your prose isn’t clear and doesn’t flow well, it’s frankly not worth reading. Everything is fair game here: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph breaks, making your statements “active”, etc.



Short Story Piece From IRE

I wrote this piece recently for a writing group exercise, and because I’ve had this short story in my head for a few years. I intended for it to be part of Book 2, but since I’m still polishing Book 1, I think I might use it there as an “interlude”, to steal Brandon Sanderson’s term. In simple terms, these are not my main characters or even on the same continent in the world of my story, but hopefully this short story gives a little more depth and color to the world and conflict of IRE. Enjoy.


Rallen Gan breathed deep as his squad’s longboat glided smoothly through the calm, fog-shrouded waters of the bay. The fog was thick enough that he could just see the keel of his boat cut through the small moonlit waves. The mist weighed heavy in his lungs, filled his nostrils with the marine scent of the coastal town. They must be close.

He looked about him, eyeing each of his squad mates. He had fought beside each of them countless times, beating back hordes of poorly armed peasants, the horrific Bound monsters their priests turned them into with their twisted Infused Binder bracelets, and even the dread black Malithii priests themselves once or twice. But none of them had been with him as long as Skinny Jack. Jack had joined the Ordenan Imperial Army in the Dark Nations at the same time as Rallen, and they had fought for their freedom together for the four years since.

Rallen nudged Jack. “Hey, boy. You shouldn’t be here. Your years fighting are up, go home and find yourself a nice willing lass. You’re a full Ordenan citizen now, there’ll be any number lining up for you, even ugly as you are.”

Jack chuckled, teeth bared in the smile that tended to charm women in moments. “You think so, you iron-faced provincial ox?”

Rallen grinned. “I do indeed. Now me, I got a beauty like you’ve never seen waiting for me, a little girl at her skirts. I just have to put in four more years, and all that Ordena has to offer is ours. But you could go back now, you don’t have to fight more years for anybody else.”

“I will, I will. But if I leave now, who’ll haul your sorry ass out of every shit fight we are thrown into? I go home, you’ll be butchered like the pig you are the next day, most like. Then who’ll take care of that beauty of yours back home? I suppose I wouldn’t mind… assuming she hasn’t already found a nice bloke to cozy up to, that is.”

Rallen slugged his friend in the shoulder. “Not my Melia, not while I’m still breathing. ‘Sides, if I die in service to the Empire, she and my sweet girl are free sooner than I could have hoped.” He smiled. “I’d rather just liberate a few of the dread black priests of their heads to earn some years off my time, and stay alive to see them again myself, though.”

Jack shook his head, his long hair swaying. “You do have a death wish. I’ve told you, stay away from those Malithii bastards if we find any in this town tonight. They aren’t usually stupid enough to come into the protected zone themselves, but I’ve seen it once. Not pretty. You are big, and good in a fight, but not that good, especially since the damn commanders didn’t send any Mages. If you want to earn extra time and stay alive, just keep collecting the Binders from their lifeless. We’ve already got enough between us to take a whole year off your time. We’ll have enough for us to go home together in no time.”

Rallen put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, trying to keep emotion out of his voice. “Thank you, Jack.”

Their captain whispered hoarsely from the back of their longboat, “Shut your damn mouths, we’re getting close enough to be heard. Silent approach from here out.”

Rallen looked to Jack, who smirked but kept quiet. The reality of their assault was beginning to set in. They’d been on plenty of raids and defense missions, but something felt different about this one. They’d heard odd stories coming out of this region for some time, odd enough that the Army command should have sent far more than three longboats with ten men each to retake a town of this size.

The rocky shoreline came into view just before they slid to a stop with a muted tinkle of rounded pebbles. Rallen and Jack jumped into the surf to help the squad pull the boat further upshore, and immediately started the boot-squelching march toward the inland side of the small but high-walled port town.

They joined the other two squads at the rally point, a small hill several hundred paces from the wall. The wall and the town within were dark and silent in the still of the deep night, but a thimble of caution was worth a bucket of blood to a soldier, as Jack was so fond of saying.

The scouts of the Ordenan Imperial Army said that a small service gate on the north west side of the wall provided their best point of attack, and if Rallen remembered the map correctly, it should be a straight shot from the hill.

“Rallen, Jack, Stian, Boral! You are on point. Have that door open within ten seconds of arrival, or I’ll stab you myself. You know the plan, each squad clears their targets and we meet back in the main square at dawn,” the Captain called.

Rallen patted Jack on the shoulder, and the four of them were off at a trot. When they reached the gate, Rallen put his big boot through one side, splintering it from its frame with a crash. Jack and the other two ducked through immediately, short spears at the ready. Rallen shoved his spear through a strap in his pack and drew his sword, a heavy, straight blade.

He pulled up short after he sprung through the door when he found himself alone in the dark courtyard of a compound of warehouses that reeked of fish. “Jack?” he called softly.

“Here,” the reply floated through the night.

Rallen scanned the dark courtyard, but couldn’t see anything. “Stupid son of a bitch…” Rallen mumbled, then raised his voice slightly. “Where?”

A light-skinned hand abruptly waved at him from a shadowy alleyway, then disappeared.

Grumbling, Rallen turned back to the broken-down gate, motioning for the rest of the waiting Ordenan troops to fill the courtyard. The men wasted no time in the courtyard. Each squad formed up briefly at the gate and then was gone, marching in silence toward their targets – to clear each building in their portion of the town and move to the next until each was cleared of any enemy militants. If they were lucky, the occupiers would be regular soldiers from the Dark Nations, like their commanders had claimed in the pre-mission briefing. It was going to be a long night – or maybe a short one – if any of the lifebound monsters or their Malithii priest handlers were here.

Rallen fell in at the end of his squad’s column this time, holding his sword at the ready as he slipped out of the warehouse gate. Sporadic torches burned at seemingly random places along the street, their dancing light doing little to alleviate the darkness, but ruining his night vision every time they jogged past one. Finally, they reached their target, the portion of the town consisting primarily of small homes and dingy pubs. They would clear each of the houses – it would likely take all night, and Rallen truly hoped that none of the civilians caused a ruckus and got hurt – but their first target was the big, dark cathedral of the Fallen that dominated their side of the main square. Its ragged spires and crenelations looked to Rallen like the giant fist of some skeletal monster clawing its way free of the earth.

Rallen joined his squad in squatting behind the low wall ringing the cathedral grounds. Captain whispered orders hoarsely. “First four through the door, take the left, second four go right. Last two hold the door.”

Looked like Rallen and Jack on the door, then. Good. This doesn’t feel right. I like being close to a quick exit, he thought.

The Captain led the way, running in a crouch to the large metal doors at the front of the dark, silent building. He tested the door, found it open, and immediately slipped inside, weapon at the ready.

Rallen shook his head involuntarily in the darkness. He didn’t like it. A building like this, in a town occupied by forces that worshipped the Fallen like he drank water? Those doors should have needed a good kicking in, maybe even an axe or hammer to the hinges to bring them down. Every door worth going through in this gods-forsaken land needed kicking down, he’d found.

Nevertheless, he followed the squad inside, where he and Jack took their places just inside the doors in the large, high-ceilinged entry foyer while the rest of the squad cleared the building. Jack set his feet on the left side of the main doors, so Rallen crept over to the right side and stood clutching the hilt of his sword.

A large doorway gaped, empty and black at the other end of the foyer. Rallen stared into the darkness intently, his mind conjuring countless horrors.

A crash and a quickly-stifled scream emanated from the rooms to the left. Jack jumped, Rallen froze for an instant. They started moving at the same time, crossing slowly to the left-hand doorway. Before the reached it, however, the darkness that occupied the doorway directly in front of them writhed and became flesh in the form of two hulking figures stumbling towards them.

Rallen’s blood froze in his veins, then turned to fire, as it always did in a fight. He’d need it, today. He and Jack had faced the monstrous lifebound before, but never even numbers, and certainly not in close, dark quarters.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Jack mumbled, readying his sword and backing toward the doorway. Rallen kept his eyes on the shambling lifebound as he followed suit, backing out the doors and into the yard of the cathedral.

The lifebound followed, hefting their enormous blades like they were light as a feather. Rallen still didn’t like it, but at least out here in the yard, they could see the lifebound enough to fight them, and had space enough that the enormous size of the creatures wouldn’t doom them immediately. One of the creatures was slightly larger than the other, but both towered over Rallen by at least a head, and he was about as tall a man as most had ever met. The moonlight reflected dully off the monsters’ bald pates, sharply from their ugly weapons. Their once-human eyes stared dumbly out from faces that Rallen knew would be a sickly, mottled grey in the light of day.

Jack struck first, whipping his sword at the neck of the lifebound nearest him and retreating before the creature could react. Thick blood splattered on the stones of the walkway, and the monster slowed, but did not stop. It swung its mighty blade, but Jack nimbly stepped aside, leaving the monster’s weapon to clang and spark against the stone where he’d stood.

Rallen was tempted to continue watching his friend’s beautiful swordwork, but he had problems of his own. The larger lifebound stalked within striking distance. He brought his sword up just in time to catch the huge blade. A desperate grunt escaped his lips at the impact, his own considerable muscles straining to stop the monster’s blade. He shoved upward and lashed out with his foot. The kick was not intended to injure – the grey beasts didn’t appear to feel pain – but to create space for Rallen to use his weapon effectively.

He quickly followed the kick with a thrust to the lifebound’s midsection and was rewarded with a sickening crunch as his blade passed through his enemy’s ribcage. He took several rapid steps backward, knowing that the fight wasn’t over.

If he hadn’t been intimately familiar with the lifebound, he would have been amazed that the monster continued forward after a mortal blow. It lurched, slowed by the blood loss, but swung its blade at Rallen with clumsy strength. Rallen stepped out of range, then struck with a mighty overhand blow that severed the lifebound’s head from its corpse in an eruption of thick, putrid blood.

Nauseated, Rallen checked on his friend. Jack still battled his monster, stabbing and moving, stabbing and moving. His way would work, but it would take forever. Luckily, the remaining lifebound has its back to Rallen.

He covered the distance in a few powerful strides and sheared the beast’s sword-arm from its shoulder. Before its arm hit the ground, Jack’s sword ploughed through its neck but stuck when it hit the spine. The monster’s remaining hand grasped at Jack, seeking to crush the life out of him. Rallen roared as he leapt forward, reaching up to hook his fingers in the lifebound’s eye sockets and pull back with all his might. He felt a snap, and the monster’s head rebounded violently when it hit the stone covered ground – Jack’s sword still in it’s neck, blood oozing around a horrendous wound – but still the damn thing clawed toward Jack.

Rallen reversed his sword and planted the point through one of the lifebound’s ruined eyes. It lay still.

Sweat dripped from his brow and his breath came heavy as he leaned down to wrench his friend’s sword from the beast’s neck. “Might want to hang on to that in the future. No good wrestling them.”

Jack gasped a laugh. “Damn things have bones thick as oxen. Thanks, Ral.”

Rallen took a knee to recover the Binder bracelets from the monster’s wrists – Command would pay good money for them, or take time off his service – and to catch his breath for a moment. “Don’t mention it. Just don’t make a habit of it. C’mon, let’s go see what our boys ran into.”

He heaved himself to his feet. Jack followed closely back through the door into the deep darkness of the cathedral of the Fallen. “Captain?” Rallen called softly. “Tomar? Stian?”


He approached the left hand doorway slowly, Jack swinging wide to cover him and get a better view of the room beyond. Something normal man-sized moved just inside the doorway.


Rallen caught the brief glint of moonlight flashing off metal streaking in Jack’s direction. Without thought, Rallen lunged.

Pain lanced through his chest. He hit the ground, hard. He couldn’t breathe. Someone screamed with rage. A cold laugh echoed through the chamber.

Rallen turned his head feebly to see Jack spring toward a shadow, blade raised. No, not a shadow. A dread black priest who met Jack stroke for stroke with a much smaller blade, almost a dagger.

He forgot his pain long enough to feel nothing but fear for his friend. They were going to die, or worse, end up as one of their mindless lifebound monsters, enslaved by evil Binder bracelets. Rallen wished for death to take him before he could be turned, before he had to see his friend be killed. Everyone knew that facing a black priest alone was a sure way to die or be turned.

But to his surprise, Jack wasn’t dead yet. In fact, he seemed to have the upper hand. Still screaming with rage, his blade moved faster and faster, keeping the shadowy priest on its heels. The mind-numbing flurry of activity ended when Jack lunged, thrusting his blade through the priest’s midsection. It hunched over and fell, clawing at the blade impaling it. Dangerous they might be, but they were still subject to the mortal limitations of normal humans.

Jack bent over to retrieve his sword, and cried out, a hand to his thigh. The bastard priest had stabbed his friend, intent on destruction even in the throes of death. Jack hacked at the priest with his sword over and over, until the form lay still.

His friend limped over to him and knelt, inspecting whatever had hit him. “The sumbitch’s sword is stuck in your shoulder, Ral. You saved my life, twice over. No chance of me winning if that bastard has his sword. Can you stand?”

Rallen summoned what strength he had left and surged to his feet, swaying. “Find me a wagon, Jack. I won’t make it twenty paces.” He already felt like he was going to empty his stomach, and the sword stuck in his shoulder hurt like a bitch.

Jack wasted no time on talk. He wrapped Rallen’s wound as best he could around the blade protruding from him, then sprinted away to look for a cart, a horse, anything.

Rallen must have passed out, for the next he knew, he was bouncing along in the back of a haycart outside the town walls, speeding toward the longboats just as fast as Jack could lead the cart horse.

“Jack!” Rallen called, but he couldn’t put enough force behind it for Jack to hear him. He lay back, closed his eyes, and tried to focus on anything but the pain radiating from his shoulder. His wife’s face, and his daughter’s floated to him from the warm depths of cherished memory, and for a time he lost himself in them, their look, their feel, their smell. It was almost as if he were with them again. He missed them so much.

“Ral! Rallen Gan, don’t you damn dare go on me yet, I just hauled your huge ass out of that town and onto this longboat, and there’s a healer on the galley. We’re no more than a quarter hour away, even with me rowing meself. Just hang on.”

Rallen reached out from where Jack had set him on a bench of the longboat. He grasped with the hand that still worked until he found Jack’s leg and gripped with all the power he had left to him. He felt the blood from Jack’s own considerable wound, warm as it trickled over his fingers. “Jack,” he grunted. “Find my girls, Jack. Keep them safe, keep them happy.”

He closed his eyes.

More Editing: Cutting the Flab, etc…

I can’t believe it’s been almost five months since I last posted on the blog. Not much of consequence has happened in that time, however, so I suppose the lack of activity here is justified. I’m not going to write a blog post just to write a blog post. But now I’ve re-submitted my book to my agent (Matt Bialer), so I’ll tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to.

I’ve spent nights and weekends for the last five months editing my book more. Much of the editing was spurred by Matt’s suggestions, and I’m very pleased with how things have turned out. I’ll try to hit on the major points that I’ve taken into consideration when editing through this last pass. Perhaps any writers reading this will find my approach and/or Matt’s advice useful.

  • Deepen the story – My agent called this “dropping more breadcrumbs” and this was one of my favorite pieces of advice he gave. With my first several drafts, I was so excited about the story surrounding my main character(s), that I missed the opportunity to build a deeper, fuller story by giving a peek into what other characters, particularly the “bad guys” are doing.
  • Cut the flab – My original manuscript was 684 pages long in standard manuscript format. My goal was to cut that down to 625 or even 600 manuscript pages. The primary reason was to improve the pace of the story, as this series (and particularly this book) are meant to be very action oriented, exciting books. The secondary reason for cutting is that apparently, publishers are more open to shorter books from first time authors. As a general rule this makes sense – fewer pages to edit/print, less money that goes into producing an uncertain product. But the strength of the work is my primary concern, and I hope that it will speak for itself.

It was very difficult for me to balance the need to cut scenes that didn’t advance the plot whilst retaining insights into the world and characters, but in the end I believe I succeeded, and it was the best thing I could have done for this book. My story-deepening (see bullet point above) bulked my story up to 720 pages or so, but from there I managed to cut the manuscript down to 669 pages. Not quite my goal of 600, but it was a net cut of over 50 pages after my additional scenes were written, and what’s left behind is a great story told with strong writing. (Though I may be a bit biased)

  • Development of secondary characters – This is an area that gave me a bit of heartache with Book 1. I really like my cast of characters, and each serves a purpose in the first book and in the story arc I have planned for the series/trilogy/however long this ends up being. However, in an action oriented book where I’m trying REALLY hard to allow readers to get to know and love my main character, Emrael, I find it difficult to develop secondary characters without giving them their own POV and page time, which would only serve to make my book even longer and slow down the pace. In the second book that I’m writing right now, I’ll be introducing more robust POVs for secondary characters and secondary story lines just because of the nature of the story progression as currently outlined, so I’ll be battling to keep the pace of the story strong while juggling multiple story lines. I’m shooting for about a 75% share of page time for Emrael in Book 2. I’d estimate his page time at around 85-90% in Book 1, so it’s not much of a reduction in his page time.

Last thoughts:

I continually evolve as a person and as a writer: my environment changes, my emotions change, the seasons change, etc. Consequently, I could hang onto this book forever, making changes and believing that I’m improving the book. Therefore, I won’t be upset when I get a contract with a publisher and they have their own feedback that will set me up for more editing. I want this book, and every book I write, to be the best it possibly can be.

That said, I’m very pleased with the state of the book as it currently exists, and I think you’ll like it too. I’m hoping to get it into your hands before too long. And by “before too long” I mean sometime around 2017. I still don’t know exactly what publishing timelines look like or when my book will be ready for that step. Fingers crossed.

-Scott Drakeford


I’m Scott. I write novels. Fantasy novels.

Soon, I’ll be finished with my first complete work, and I’ll put a sample up for everyone to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’ll also do my best to document the ups and downs that accompany the process of writing, becoming a better writer, seeking an agent, being published, and doing everything possible to build a permanent home in the coveted locale known as the “bestseller list”.

So. Why fantasy? I’ve been asked this question more than once, and gotten enough strange looks to feel that an explanation is warranted. I don’t see why people are so surprised, really. I’m a mechanical engineer by profession for Pete’s sake, you’d think that a little introversion would be expected (note: not as many engineers/scientists are main-stream “geeks” as you would think).

Anyways, people think I’m a whole new flavor of weird when they hear that I write fantasy novels. Unless I tell them that my book is like Harry Potter. It’s not, really, other than that it has people in it and is written in English, but it gets people to stop staring at me.

The real reason that I write fantasy, besides the fact that I have a several-decades long addiction to the genre, is that in fantasy, anything is possible.

“No kidding,” I hear you say. That’s the point of fantasy, to be able to make up whatever awesome gobbledygook you want, right? Sort of, but not for the reasons that might immediately come to mind.

Authors like David Eddings, Robert Jordan, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brad Thor (I know he writes thrillers, but I had to include him), and J.K. Rowling have achieved something incredible. They have helped enlighten and improve humankind in a way that I believe is truly unique to fantasy, and I want to contribute as well.

Yes, other genres, both fiction and non-fiction, can be wonderful. They discuss great themes, have great stories. We can be better people for reading (some of) them.

But fantasy doesn’t just preach or relate a life lesson. It lets you live it, breathe it, and adopt it as your own in a safe environment, removed from the pressures and norms of our own world. And herein lies the true power of fantasy fiction: I believe that works of fantasy come to be so powerful because it allows the author a safe place to bare their soul and truly express not only their ideas, but the core of their beings. Every little part of their novels comes from within.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I write fantasy. I don’t deny that I write with entertainment in mind, but my novels are also my safe place where I can show you who I am, more intimately than through any other method (that I’m willing to engage in). I bare a piece of my soul on every page that I write and meticulously edit.