(Ground)Breaking News: It begins!

It’s finally almost here!

I’m announcing I’ll be releasing my latest novel on Tuesday, April 17th.

It’s part of a new series that is a bit of a departure for me. After first testing the indie-publishing waters with a horror book called Line of Descent, I then completed a full-blown sci-fi trilogy, Idyll. Now I’m trying my hand at the fantasy genre. And boy has it been a blast!

The series is called Groundbreakers, and it started out as a story about a proto-scientist making it in a world that has been dominated by sorcery. I thought of it as Mr. Wizard meets actual wizards. Or Isaac Newton in the age of Conan the Barbarian. I realize these pitches make it sound like the main character is a man. Actually, the scientist is a woman, and—actually again—there are two main characters. The second protagonist is a cocky, swashbuckling type.

As I said, this was the premise when I started writing the series a year ago, and also the basic germ of the characters I wanted to build my world around. Of course, as I’ve worked on the series, the characters and the themes have evolved.

Still, throughout the process, I’ve tried to maintain a high-spirited, lighthearted tone—which is also a bit of a departure from what I’ve written in the past. I want the Groundbreaker books to be fun, quick reads. If there are a few moments of heaviness or horror, then maybe they’ll have all the more impact because of it!

Anyway, enough chit-chat. Here is a map of the world (I showed a version of this in an earlier post), and a blurb. If you’re interested in an advanced-reader-copy, send me an email! jderrywriter@gmail.com.

The land of Embhra is ruled by magic—and it’s ruining everything.

Gods and sorcerers jealously hoard their power, and innocent people everywhere are suffering for the cause of those who wield magic. Sygne and Jamal are hoping they can change that. She’s a scientist. He’s a former soldier and aspiring poet-singer.

With her brains and his brawn, they might just make a difference. It also helps that they are on course to find a primordial Ancient One that might hold the key to changing the entire world. Not so helpful: both a love goddess and a war goddess want to see them dead! No one ever said change would be easy…

The ‘Scientician’ and the Singing Swordsman begin their first groundbreaking adventure here—in MYTHS OF THE FALLEN CITY!

Random thoughts about writing…

Watch out now, quick takes!

I’ve been proofing for the last week, and I realized I hate any time I use the word ‘had.’
He had a smile on his face.
He had to go to the store.
He had liked cartoons when he was younger.
What is it about any use of that word that feels awkward or almost amateurish when I hear it? Maybe I’m focusing on it too much. I’m sure most readers breeze right past the word.

***

Writing a fantasy series, I’ve realized that lighting can be a major problem! My characters keep wandering into caves or abandoned dungeons—how are they supposed to see where they’re going? Even a scene outdoors at night can be a major issue. Yes, I know that I can give my characters torches. But those seem awfully smoky and hot and drippy—and just generally unpleasant. Plus—how long does a medieval torch last? I’m sure if I went back to old episodes of Xena or some other just-for-fun sword and sorcery show, there would be scenes where characters walk through moodily lit caves without addressing the fact that no one should be able to see anything.

Progress report

Today I finished the third draft of my latest manuscript! Woot woot! Still a good bit of proof-reading left to go, but I’m definitely in the final approach. The book is a little over 40K words long, but I’m thinking now I might not release it until I have Book 2 in the series ready. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea for independent authors to launch more than one book of a series at a time, because the best way to take advantage of a launch it to have another product out there, ready for new readers to buy.

It’s a tough decision, because I’m excited about getting this book out there. It’s been a blast to write! And quick too! (Six months, which is turbo-fast for me.) I’m feeling impatient about sharing it. But also, Book 1 has shaped up to be a ‘getting-the-gang-together’ sort of adventure, and I think the epic, world-ending threat that drives the undercurrent of the series isn’t really revealed until Book 2. So in that case, it makes sense to release both books together, to help establish what will be the ultimate quest of my Fantasy series.

So what are the tentative titles of my next two books?

Book 1:

 

& Book 2:

 

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Odds and ends… Even a beginning!

First, The Wilds is currently on sale on Amazon, starting today and ending Sunday, July 14th. If you’ve read Idyll Book 1 (still just $0.99!) and you’re looking for an excuse to jump into Book 2, this is it! I’ll probably run a limited-time discount for Exile (Book 3 of the trilogy), in the coming weeks, so I’ll make an announcement about that as well.

I redesigned my Idyll covers! OK, the covers were updated over a month ago, but still I thought it was worth calling them out. I’m not ecstatic about the Idyll cover, but I think the yellow stands out pretty well, and I think all three covers together, yellow, magenta, and blue, work pretty nicely together. I think I’m the only one who’s favorite is The Wilds cover.

Somehow Amazon recognized The Idyll Trilogy as a thing, and now it has its own page in the Kindle Store! I like how all the books look side-by-side:

And finally, I’ve been plugging away at my new series! I’ve already completed a rough first-draft at 35,000 words (I’m planning that these books will be about half as long as the Idyll books). I don’t want to say too much about the idea, but I’ll reveal more soon. I’ve even started Book 2 of the series, logging in 1500 words of a beginning just to see if the transition from Book 1 to Book 2 would work. Knock on wood, but I haven’t run into any plot-holes or roadblocks that might have caused any major rewrites on this series. I’m trying to keep the plots a little simpler and more crowd-pleasing overall. Although the characters are really start to resonate with me. I hope readers will be excited by the new series as I am writing it right now!

More soon…

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The Pulchritude Award: Insouciant

I just can’t get into this word. ‘Insouciant.’ Who do you think you are? Skipping around, not a care in the world, flipping your hair and acting generally unconcerned.

Straighten up, ‘insouciant!’ You have a serious problem, in my book. Meaning, literally, if I use you in my book, people are not going to know what you mean. They’re going to assume you mean ’insolent’ or ‘unsociable.’ Maybe they’ll think you have something to do with Dr. Seuss or John Philip Sousa. To me, you sound like truculent, or insolvent.

You have too many syllables, you start with a negative prefix. You use expend far too much effort to convey your meaning of ‘blasé’ or ‘carefree.’

Ah, you see? Blasé. Carefree. Airy. Blithe. So many better words to get the point across.

Wait. Where are you going? ‘Insouciant!’ No don’t leave sad. Maybe I was a little rough on you. OK, maybe I’ll try to use you again. Fit you into a sentence here or there. Yeah… there you go. Perk up, ‘insouciant!’

Let’s all be insouciant, if just for a little while. Insouciant.

The pulchritude award goes to vocabulary words that don’t sound at all like what they mean. Click below to learn more about previous winners: Phlegmatic, Inflammable, and Alacrity.

 

 

Blame it on terrain

I love a book where the outdoor setting becomes an epic character in its own right. From mountainous hikes of ’Lord of the Rings’ to flatland and river crossings of ’Lonesome Dove’—from the pine forest battleground of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ to the bucolic countryside where rabbits(!) battle in ‘Watership Down’—in the hands of a talented writer, the landscape can become an active participant in the story, driving the plot, dominating the mood, or dispatching characters as ruthlessly as any living adversary. I love when I stumble upon new words that describe types of terrain. Here are a few of my favorite:

Talus: A slope of loose rubble. Fallen and broken rocks that pile up at the foot of a cliff or mountain. I believe ‘Reamde’ used this term a lot during its climactic firefight scene in the wild lands of northern Idaho.

Scree: A slope covered with small loose stones. (Okay, very similar to ‘talus,’ but still a great word!)

Saddle: A ebb in a mountain ridge: A small depression or flat space between two higher peaks. I’m pretty sure I first read this term during a hair-raising scene that George R.R. Martin wrote, describing a passage into the Vale of Arryn.

Foothills: The rolling terrain that signals the higher slopes of mountains to come. I’ve lived my whole life near the start of the Appalachian foothills, either in North Carolina or Atlanta.

Spur: A line of higher ground, extending out from the side of a taller ridge or mountain.

Draw: The shallow depression between two spurs. A good place to find water runoff.

Arroyo: A gorge or ravine in a desert or typically dry area. The gully is cut by a river during heavy rains. In Arabic, this is called a ‘wadi.’

Serac: A ridge of ice on a glacier. I think this phrase was used again and again in Dan Simmons’ historical fiction horror novel, ‘The Terror.’ The book is about a ship in the 1840s that is stranded on ice in the Arctic Circle. The first image in my mind was a flat wasteland of ice, with a ship trapped in the middle. But Simmons explains that the pressure of gigantic ice floes coming together thrust up thousands of jagged ridges and hook-shaped spires that turn the arctic into an inhospitable maze—that’s especially for sailors with nothing but 19th-Century technology to help them survive.

That’s a few of the types of terrain  I could think of. Can you think of any others you love?