Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since I published my first novel, Into the Vast. It seems like a universe away. Every year since then has brought heaps of opportunities and challenges, setbacks and triumphs. And this past year was no different.
So let’s look back, shall we, at all the wonderful and serendipitous things that happened during year 9 in the books!
A promising start?
I came into 2021 locked and loaded with two books in the hopper. Truesilver was fully edited, formatted, and ready for release. But I wanted it to have the best release possible so I took extra time to build my mailing list up a little and to reach out to reviewers. I also tried something new. I gave away copies of Truesilver prior to release in exchange for promising to write a review.
Lots and lots of copies.
How did my grand plan work? Let’s just say there are a lot of broken promises out there.
But the book did launch on June 1st, and while it didn’t break any records, it got a few sales over the summer, and then in the fall I lowered the price to 99 cents and did some promotions and the book started to take off a bit more. It’s currently on pace to surpass The Last Motley in terms of the number of books sold, which I would not have thought was possible a couple of months into the launch. I’m so grateful it’s found its way into the hands of so many readers up to this point.
The bigger picture
Books are funny things for writers. The stories are so dear to you but you never know if they’ll find the right readers. The ones who really need that story just when the light is darkest or who will be helped further along their path by the courage and hope you poured into all that ink and paper.
I don’t write to market. I don’t write what’s fashionable, what’s “in”. I like the older stories best and those are the sorts of things I want to write. Stories where truth matters and heroes are deserving of that name. Wholesome stories with characters you can root for and who leave you richer for having spent time with them.
I also try to write things uniquely my own. For instance, I’m not aware of many books which (spoiler alert if you haven’t read Truesilver yet) center around sentient weapons. I thought it would be a challenge writing a story with one of the characters as an inanimate object. How would it express itself? How would it be perceived and interact with others?
When I started this series, I didn’t want to write to an already existing market. I wanted to create a market. I wanted people to see it as that gift they never knew that they needed, a serendipitous discovery—the best kind of discovery there is.
A tale of two tales
While the first half of the year was largely taken up with marketing and getting ready for the release of Truesilver, the first draft for Rimewinter, book 2 in The Swordspeaker Saga, had already been written at the end of 2020 and was in need of editing. After Truesilver’s release, I focused most of my energy on getting the manuscript for book 2 in fighting shape.
I’ve lost count of how many drafts Rimewinter went through, but it went through at least 3-4 before it ever got to beta readers and it’s been through another one since. This involved rewrites of two pivotal scenes at the end of the book, and another in the middle. I hope all of the polish and care that’s gone into this one will yield a bounty for readers once the story is released.
Rimewinter is a more grim, somewhat harsher tale than Truesilver. Things do not go well much at all for the heroes. But sometimes going through the valley is the only way we can get to journey’s end, and the heroes come through their trials with even greater resolve to press forward.
The central theme is choosing what’s best and not just what’s good. There are some choices, as Kion learns in the book, that “bring sorrow on either side.”
Get ready for winter
I’m currently working on the final draft of Rimewinter, getting it ready to send off to my editor in January. Which means, the book should be on target to release on April 5th.
I can’t wait to get this book into the hands of readers. It delves much deeper into the history of the world and how it came to be in its present state. It also introduces some enjoyable new characters and new parts of the world for you to explore.
So this spring get ready to put on your overcoats for Rimewinter!
One of the other things I worked on this year was finalizing the cover for book 3. It’s just as lovely as the others, but I’m afraid it will be ever so long before I can share it because I have not yet started writing book 3. I’ve been working on the outline, though, over the last few weeks. I hope to get started on it once the new year rolls around.
As far as things outside of publishing, I helped host the sixth annual Silmaril Awards, which was delightful as always. Amidst all the mayhem and madness, I hosted The Strangest Character award and got to romp around with Tom Bombadil for a spell. What a thrill it was!
I also spoke once again at Lewolkien 2021, a small literary gathering in East Tennessee. Not only was it a wonderful weekend from a bookish perspective, it was the first time I had left my city since the pandemic began. The ability to see and interact with people outside my little circles went a long way to restoring and refreshing my spirits.
I gave two talks, one on the role of art in the Christian life, and the other was a talk on why certain stories matter to us more than others. For the second talk, I did a little research into the publication of The Lord of the Rings. It was fascinating to learn how that book went from a very small print run in England to a smashing worldwide publishing phenomenon.
Overall, traffic on my website dropped for the first time ever from one year to the next. Not sure exactly why. The year started out very strong, and then just went over a cliff in the spring.
That’s fine by me, though. My primary focus is writing books. And while I love sharing my thoughts here with you and reviewing things I’ve seen and read, at the end of the day what I post here are more for enjoyment and to sort of leave a paper trail of my writing journey than anything else.
Those are just a few of my adventures in and around the literary world during year 9 in the books.
I’m ready and rarin’ to start on book 3 in the next few weeks and to get Rimewinter into your hands. The future is not certain, and there’s no promise we’ll arrive safely on those far distant shores we’re traveling to. But as long as God is with us and we go together, what have we to fear?
All the best to you in the coming year.