Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who's that again?

As I talk to people about my book and about the fantasy genre in general, one of the most common complaints I hear is "There's an insane number of characters, I don't even know who's who after a while!" In particular I've heard this said about the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin and its TV adaptation Game of Thrones...and I agree.

I think this is a valid gripe for people who are less familiar with the genre and scope of most epic fantasy books. Lots and lots of characters of varying importance to the story (do I really have to remember the second maidservant's name...?) and, since this is fantasy, some incredibly weird names (Blö, are you yankin my crank?).

I'm not a fan of the crazy weird name thing, so hopefully that'll appeal to readers who see an umlaut and throw the book in the firepläce. But I'll confess, I do have a lot of characters. The world is populated by lots of people because, well, it's a world. I did resist the urge to name every single guardsman or street merchant who walked by, but I operate from the basic belief that everyone has an interesting story to tell (both in the world of my books and in the real world), even if those stories don't get to be told just then.

So how to keep things organized in the reader's mind? Well, I try not to throw too many names out there at once, and I do my best to establish a consistent context for them based on the current POV character's perspective. For example, one of the heroines of The Queenschair, Arsaya, has a rather unkind way of looking at the people around her, and presumably her thoughts about them (and her nicknames for them) make them a little easier to remember.

In Arsaya's mind:

Yennava = "Mama who doesn't appreciate me much"
Garland = "Papa who doesn't appreciate me either but at least he spoils me"
Zeydric = obnoxious big brother, "Beautiful Boy whom Mama loves more than she loves me"
Ebreyon = the great and magnificent King (heavy sarcasm), "Smiley"
Selana = the beautiful and graceful Princess (even heavier sarcasm), "Devil Eyes"

And so on and so forth. As long as the characters aren't presented as lifeless names on the page and have proper stories/attributes/roles attached to them, I think they stand a good chance of "living" for the reader.

But for those who just can't keep track of all those names, an alphabetical list of names and characteristics always helps! Mine appears at the back of the book but is carefully designed not to contain any spoilers from the book itself, so it's safe to check while reading. Or right here:

The Queenschair - Cast of Characters

Arsaya Amalor, 21 years old. The only daughter and younger child of Baron Garland Amalor of Ishten-Hyrona. The "Jewel of Hyrona" who is renowned for her beauty and viewed favorably by the public.

Chanyn Arbreth, 26 years old. The Heir Baroness of Chadarun, and the only surviving child of Baroness Mayin Arbreth.

Ebreyon Marin, 25 years old. The King of Yenmas, who ascended to the throne four years ago after ending the Imperial occupation. A war hero beloved by the people, he struggles with the day-to-day affairs of ruling the Kingdom and relies heavily upon his twin sister Selana and their mother.

Erinya Marin, 49 years old. The Royal Mother of Yenmas who raised her children in the ancient fortress of Ihanas, hidden from the Imperial occupiers. She was a lowborn woman of the southeastern Prairie and a soldier of the all-female Rose Battalion before marrying Tensarus Marin, illegitimate son of King Nial. The only surviving member of the pre-war Royal family, she helps guide her children in ruling the Kingdom.

Garland Amalor, 49 years old. The Baron of Ishten-Hyrona, husband of Yennava, and father of Zeydric and Arsaya.

Hanran Resayar, 53 years old. The Vice-Leftmarshal of the Trisala Army.

Jaun Kirik, 25 years old. The Knight Fifth of Trisala and younger brother of Turin.

Jebriel Harken, 31 years old. The Knight Second of Trisala and Captain of the Palace Guard. Among the elite bodyguards of House Marin, he is second in rank to the Kingsknight.

Liyan Franzin, 46 years old. Master sergeant of the Army of Chadarun and weapons instructor to Lady Chanyn Arbreth. He is a trusted confidant of the Heir Baroness.

Mahalla Dehann, 22 years old. The Lady of Kaslan, Rhinal Province, United Kingdom of Saria. The daughter of the late Lord Phaedron Dehann and his late wife Lady Thessa, who was in fact the Princess Sabrya Marin in exile after the fall of Yenmas to the Imperials. First cousin to Ebreyon and Selana, as well as a more distant relation to House Amalor. Although Mahalla was the sole survivor of the legitimate Marin line, she renounced her claim to allow Ebreyon to become King of Yenmas. She chose to remain Lady of Kaslan and rebuild her father's city.

Mayin Arbreth, 54 years old. The Baroness of Chadarun, mother of Chanyn. The widow of Baron Dalreyus, she was reinstated as ruler of her province after the liberation of Yenmas.

Nesemay Cherren, 70 years old. The Senator of Sagovia. The wife of the Sagovian Senator before the Imperial occupation, she held her family together after the fall of House Marin. Her only son Hathan, a promising young politician, was assassinated by unknown assailants during the time of Imperial rule, leaving Nesemay to raise her grandson, Lelan. She is now grooming Lelan to succeed her as Senator someday. Although she is a full-blooded Xadeian from the north, she is respected on all sides of the political spectrum and is considered a moderating voice in the Senate.

Oberim Walis, 58 years old. The Lord Marshal of the Trisala Army, the highest-ranking general in the service of House Marin. He is physically ailing and increasingly unfit to serve as an army commander.

Rahna Essien, 17 years old. Known as the "Red Huntress". Born the eldest daughter of the shoemaker Rahdamon Essien, she joined the Mastorian war against the Imperials to avenge the deaths of her mother and youngest brother. In the summer of 1008, she met King Ebreyon Marin of Yenmas when their forces cooperated in hunting Imperial raiders along the border. The following winter, their friendship turned to romance.

Ramidiah Drakken, 30 years old. The Queen of United Saria. A hero of the Second Heavens War, during which she befriended Ebreyon Marin. She accepted his proposal of marriage in 1007, but broke their betrothal to marry another man.

Reysa Lederen, 16 years old. Soldier of the Trisala Capital Guard at Remeo Garrison and younger brother of Sharalenne.

Royven Elminas, 37 years old. The Knight Third of Trisala and Vice-Captain of the Palace Guard.

Selana Marin, 25 years old. The Princess of Yenmas and first in line to the throne. Her differently colored eyes, one blue and one brown, are considered disconcerting and even frightening by some.

Sharalenne Lederen, 17 years old. Servant girl at Trisala Palace and older sister of Reysa.

Turin Kirik, 30 years old. The Knight Fourth of Trisala and older brother of Jaun.

Tylius Valore, 28 years old. Family friend of House Marin and a loyal companion of Ebreyon since their younger days. Crippled at the Battle of Huyzen during the Yenmarian Liberation War, he now makes his home in the Jemerian resort town of Havan Spring.

Yennava Amalor, 46 years old. The Baroness of Ishten-Hyrona, wife of Garland, and mother of Zeydric and Arsaya.

Zeydric Amalor, 26 years old. The older child and only son of Baron Garland Amalor of Ishten-Hyrona. His father's heir and Captain of the Hyronan Seahorse cavalry regiment. Reputedly the most skilled swordsman in the Kingdom, he was appointed Kingsknight by Ebreyon. They have been friends for over ten years, though Zeydric carries on a far less cordial relationship with Ebreyon's sister.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Trailer!

This is the book trailer for The Queenschair, which I made using the Movie Maker program that came with Windows 7. The background music is the epic track "Existence" by Audiomachine.

I guess the logical next step is either a live-action or anime Summer 2025 when you can buy it with Earth Credits and experience it via Full-Immersion Neural Link (FINAL). Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I can now officially proclaim the release of my first book, The Queenschair! It’s an epic fantasy novel about a young monarch trying to hold his country together while also facing pressure to find a wife. Although that may sound like an extremely guy-oriented book, a majority of the story is told from female perspectives and the focus is on interpersonal relationships, not sword fighting or world-saving quests. If you like the Game of Thrones books or TV series but wish it was less harsh and more PG-13, The Queenschair might suit you.

On the page for the Kindle version, you can use the "Look inside" feature or download a free sample to your mobile device. And if you're subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, The Queenschair is included so you can go ahead and read!

Thanks for your support, everyone!

The official cover for Volume I, Kindle version

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


As I approach the official release date of both the print and digital versions of The Queenschair (which may be as soon as tomorrow, as soon as the ebook conversion is complete), I've thought about what kind of promotion I should try to do.

And I've come to no conclusions about that, so I'm happy just to take it slow, start out by asking friends and relatives to take a look, and continue learning about this process that is Self-Publishing: We Stand Alone, Together. The blogs I follow, especially the Passive Voice and the blogs of Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, Rachel Aaron, and David Gaughran, have given me a wealth of knowledge that I'll finally start tapping into.

But as a fun activity to start, I've created a nice wallpaper to plaster my work computer screen with :)

Originally intended for the book cover

Coming up next time...the book trailer!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The proof is the cherry on top of the pudding it's in, or something

In the last few weeks I have before The Queenschair is born into the real world (i.e. becomes available for purchase in both physical and digital form), I've busy with my final edits. Although the book has undergone 5-6 full edits since the first draft was completed in June 2012, this is it. The REAL ONE. The one that counts, because afterwards some actual living, breathing strangers might actually read it. It has to be as close to perfect as I can possibly get it, and that's a lot of pressure as I scrutinize every single word and every page layout.

Note: The below was written after I finished the editing process. I survived! And more importantly, the book did, too.

I think every writer's editing process varies widely, just as much as their writing processes themselves. There might be a whole lot of authors who don't edit at all; I sure hope I never come across one of their books, because I don't see how that could ever be a good thing. Some edit and rewrite and end up with trash cans full of scrunched up paper (or so the TV shows would have us believe); some do a few quick rounds of revision and are ready to go. And many seek outside help to polish the book.

My own editing process truly began in June 2012 when the first draft of The Queenschair was completed, even though I'd gone back and done some revisions during the writing process. For the next 2 years I read through the whole thing maybe 5-6 times, making changes here and there. My friend Ivy, a terrific professional editor, read one of the early drafts and made lots of significant recommendations, which also helped teach me how to self-edit.

In both 2013 and 2014 I had to pare down the word count for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (150K limit in 2013, 125K limit in 2014), so those were pretty intense rounds of editing. After not advancing all that far in either year, I went back to my longer "director's cut" version of the book, which I liked a whole lot better anyway.

In April 2014 I began ordering printed proofs through Amazon's Createspace, where you can set up your book to be printed on demand. The experience of holding your own printed out novel was pretty amazing...and then the real work began. Over the next few months, as I set my sights on self-publishing The Queenschair by October and finally putting it out there in the Real World, I scrutinized several printed versions.

And on September 12, I received what I considered to be the very last one - this was the one that I would really go line by line and make it "perfect" as could be. If there were any mistakes left after this round of editing, the world was going to see them.

So I was real careful. Across the roughly 480 pages of The Queenschair, I estimate that I made around 1200 changes, highlighting them in pink marker and writing them in pen before revising the Word doc at the end of each chapter. About 15 of those were straight-up typos, like missing quotations marks or phantom periods. The rest were all stylistic or preference-related changes; yup, I'm quite a nit-picker! What was amazing to me was that I'd never noticed them during previous read-throughs. It can't be understated: you haven't really gone through your book until you've tackled the printed proof.

Have pink highlighter. Will edit for food, or Amazon credit

On September 30, after countless hours of staring at cream-colored pages and marking them up in festive pink, I was done. There are still mistakes in the book. Don't ask me how I know that; I just know. But this is as good as it gets without performance-enhancing drugs or professional therapy, and I think it's pretty darn good and on par with anything you'll find in any book put out by the major publishers. I put in the work, I did my best to create a professional product...and I'll look forward to hearing what you think!