FREE prequel novella for The Cartographer

Hi everyone, if you haven’t seen it, I’m offering a FREE prequel novella for The Cartographer Series. Sacrifice takes place 20 years prior to the main tale and covers an important event in the lives of our young heroes.

I do ask you sign up for the newsletter in exchange for the novella, but it’s worth it! There is great content like author interviews and free short stories, one e-mail a month, never spam. You can unsubscribe at anytime. If that sounds interesting, click the cover and get your FREE prequel novella!

Interview With Michael R Miller

Today I have an interview with Michael R Miller. He’s a former employee of a Big 5 publisher, a self-published author, and a co-founder of a small press which is absolutely crushing it with it’s first few titles (really, look ‘em up!). I think his Dragon’s Blade Trilogy is a good match for any of my fans, and his publishing insight is really interesting for anyone curious about how this book industry really works.

Find Battle Spire HERE.

Find The Dragon’s Blade Trilogy HERE.

AC: Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat! First off, I think my readers are most likely familiar with your Dragon’s Blade trilogy. Can you tell us a little bit about that one?

MRM: Absolutely! The Dragon’s Blade Trilogy was a childhood dream, worked and re-worked in my head for over a decade before I started to write it. Much changed in the process of putting in down on paper. It was a challenging first series to write but I learned all the valuable lessons of being an author the hard way through doing it. It’s given me a great foundation to build upon. 

In short, The Dragon’s Blade is a redemption story about an arrogant dragon prince who is reborn, raised by humans instead, and must learn to become the king his past-self never was.

AC: That sounds so familiar to my own story! I spent years thinking about the characters in Benjamin Ashwood before I ever seriously considered writing it all down. It was just a fun imagination exercise. Now that you’ve got that first story on paper, and this is your career, is brainstorming and story telling any different for you?

MRM: My process is very different now. It’s a lot more focused and streamlined, and I’m conscious of structure more than I ever was with Dragon’s Blade. That story – really one long story over three books – had a structure by accident. Instinct can take you a long way when you’re starting out. Over at Portal we workshop each book heavily with each author, sometimes starting from scratch, so I’ve got comfortable with discussing ideas with others and finding solutions.

While this is more efficient, I do think some of the organic texture is missing at times (from my current project). At the time of answering these questions, I’m proofing the new audio files for a re-record of the first Dragon’s Blade book. As that series was laid brick by brick, without a rigid plan in place, there were more characters, ideas and places than strictly needed but it gave the world a sense of being real. I knew so much about the world of Dragon’s Blade before starting, something I haven’t known with books since finishing that series.

It’s difficult to balance world-building (which can go on forever) with just getting your butt in the chair and writing the story. With Dragon’s Blade I found the world easy to write but the story hard to weave together. Now I’m finding the story easy but the world harder to paint as the backdrop. Hopefully one day I’ll find the perfect balance!

AC: In addition to the Dragon’s Blade trilogy, you have a really successful new book in the LitRPG genre called Battle Spire. What is that book like, and how does LitRPG differ from traditional fantasy?

MRM: Thank you! The short pitch for Battle Spire is World of Warcraft meets Die Hard – and it truly is like that. A guy gets trapped inside an online game by terrorists and only he is left to fight them off and learn something about himself in the process.

LitRPG stands for Literature Roleplaying Games. I suspect many of your readers are familiar with choose your own adventure books – LitRPG is not to be confused with this. In LitRPG we follow a character like in a regular fantasy novel except (generally) that character is playing a virtual reality online game (similar to World of Warcraft) and the story largely takes place inside the game. 

For those who have read Ready Player One, LitRPG takes that online gaming element and add in actual numbers, game mechanics, damage values, level ups and character sheets.

Or put another way, it’s a bit like having your Dungeons and Dragons campaign novelized, numbers and dice rolls included. 

It’s a hard genre to describe upfront. I had a hard time figuring it out myself until I started reading the books in it. 

There are a few core concepts that I think excite readers. The first is having a unique character class which has never before been created in an actual game, either because it would be too overpowered, because it wouldn’t work in practice or because current technologies limit what can be done. But in a book the never-before seen class can be pulled off. Exploring cool new ideas in this way is very exciting. 

The second is you get a comparable rush when reading a good LitRPG as you do when playing a role-playing game – gaining experience, leveling up, allocating stat points, unlocking new abilities, finding epic loot, and watching how the character develops in utility and power – and it’s just as addictive. I haven’t flicked through the pages like I have in several LitRPGs since I was a teenager tearing through a new Harry Potter novel. 

Third, but by no means least, the virtual world angle allows for some crazy world building and colorful characters that would feel outlandish in a normal fantasy novel where the audience is supposed to believe this culture, land and the people in it could really exist. In LitRPG, you can have rocket propelled sheep bombs crafted through the engineering profession being a critical part of the protagonists take down of the villain. That’s wild and refreshing. I think LitRPG is the wild west of fantasy/sci-fi fiction right now, where a lot of doors have been opened to new creativity. Of course, a good LitRPG should still have rules. Once a game mechanic has been decided, it must be implemented consistently and intelligently. This is no easy feat and requires a major gear shift in how one writes but personally I love it! 

AC: How did you get into writing LitRPG?

MRM: I kept seeing LitRPG books popping up in the fantasy charts. At first, I was confused by them and avoided them. Then I met some readers who had tried the genre and praised it. Then I met some fellow writers who had tried it, loved it, and I felt I should give it a go. 

After my first book I could see what the hype was about. Ideas for my own story started spinning immediately. 

I met Taran and Brook (my co-partners over at Portal Books) around that time. They too were excited by the genre and we decided to form Portal Books – a small press dedicated to LitRPG. After that we start brainstorming a ton of stories and game mechanics. It was only natural that I would write a LitRPG given all of that.

I’m glad I did. Battle Spire was the most fun I’ve had writing a book and I think it shows in the end product. 

AC: For those who are not familiar with your background, you’ve had a job at a Big 5 UK publisher, you’ve successful self-published the books we mentioned, and you’re a founding partner in small press Portal Books. That’s an incredible breadth of experience across the various facets of the publishing industry. Can you tell us a little bit about why you’ve moved through the spaces you have, and where you think this business is going in the future?

MRM: I began publishing with my first book, The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King. My foray into the world of traditional publishing – as an employee – seemed natural for a new college grad who had a book out but still needed a day job at the time. I interned with a travel magazine and then got my job at Bloomsbury (the folks who publish Harry Potter) in early 2017. Although I always wanted to be a writer first and foremost, it seemed natural to me to work in the industry I was hoping to make my living from. 

At the time I joined Bloomsbury’s digital marketing department I was learning everything I could about self-publishing, from production to marketing, and I thought learning the traditional systems could only help. I thought too that I might be able to bring some of this cool indie knowledge to the big houses. One could surely learn from the other. I managed to have some impact; Bloomsbury eventually changed their policy on selling ebooks based off a comment I made to the company CEO… a more nerve-wracking moment there has never been!

With all of that behind me, setting up Portal Books seemed the next step. I always wanted to be my own boss anyway. 

As for the future of the Publishing industry, that’s a tough one. There are some obvious trajectories in play, however, there are still enough rigid policies in place to prevent the shake up many predict, at least in the immediate future. For example, brick and mortar stores reject self-publishers on principal and demand onerous wholesale discounts. Unless Barnes & Noble and Waterstones here in the UK rethink their strategy in this regard, bookshops - which are a good 40-50% of the market - will be closed off to self-published authors. Foreign Rights are generally closed off to indies too. We can’t get that wider reach and so indie authors hit a ceiling, to a degree. If these things changed, big publishers would lose a lot of their viability although the ability to scale is always powerful.

I could ramble on forever about where I think things are going. In short, I think authors will increasingly have to ‘prove themselves’ out in the wild as a self-publisher first before getting major deals. Why untested, unknown, never-before-sold-a-book debut’s get huge cheques is a business mystery to me. I think new niche genres and sub-genres will continue to be invented and flourish as nimble individual authors or small presses are able to cater to them – which will be great for readers. I don’t think the Big Publishers with the BIG MONEY are as endangered as everyone thinks. I think they are in danger of not being able to effectively acquire books the market genuinely wants, but they can gobble up self-publishers or smaller presses using their larger coffers; and as everything becomes more digital, advertising online will only become more important. It always has been in the past for physical books but for a while there folk could upload a great book to Amazon and get lucky. I think that will become less likely meaning having some money behind you will be useful. 

Most importantly, I think the authors who can combine business and creative savvy will rise to the top. You need to understand the industry as a whole if you’re going to succeed in it. It’s baffling to me how many authors I meet who know so little about the business side of selling books.

AC: For someone fresh out of college looking to get involved in book publishing, what would you recommend?

MRM: Network. Sorry to say it but… network. Find young publishers’ events – in London there is the Society of Young Publishers – attend, talk to everyone, do your research on the imprints and the various roles, and patiently wait for a good opening. I got my job at Bloomsbury through networking.

There are usually job listing sites you can sign up to and receive weekly emails about new openings. The Bookseller in the UK offers this. Sadly, a lot of those jobs tend to be for more senior positions. I never saw much I could apply for starting out but there were a few and you ought to try everything. There are even head-hunting services you can sign up too, where people will go pitch you to the publishers looking for a candidate. Inspired Selection is one in the UK. I believe many publishers to go these head-hunting services just to sieve the number of applicants, like how many will only work with authors who have an agent.

Interning seems to be a necessity although it’s the classic ‘you need more experience for a role intended for people with zero experience vibe’. Keep applying. It’s a numbers game. There will be hundreds applying for that job.

If you can, show how you stand out in some meaningful, business way. Everyone who applies for publishing roles loves books. It’s not enough. The number of people I meet who don’t understand Amazon royalty payouts, the size of the audiobook market or what books are even selling well RIGHT NOW baffles me all over again. Having excellent IT skills – excel and some basic coding will help you stand out – is also worth investing in.

Listen to marketing podcasts or shows hosted by self-publishers, even if you want to work in the traditional world. There is a lot you can learn, and simply having all this extra knowledge and insight will again make you stand out from the classic English grad who ‘just wants to work with books’.

There are Masters and Post-graduate courses in Publishing. How helpful they are, I’m not sure. I think networking is more effective overall and you can learn a lot of this knowledge yourself. However, the courses obviously help with both of these elements if you’re willing to stump the cost.

AC: Since I’m the only one reading this who loves to nerd out about the industry stuff, perhaps we should get back into interesting territory? Tell us a little bit about what inspired Dragon’s Blade?

MRM: The series was inspired by a couple of key questions: 

·      What if in the Lord of the Rings, the elves didn’t leave willingly?

·      What would happen if you took the memories from person X and transferred enough of them into person Y? When does Y become X, or at least cease to be Y entirely?

Gotta love fantasy for allowing exploration of impractical questions.

I also wanted to put some twists on old tropes and see where they took me. So I took dragons, and forced them into human form, keeping their arrogance, strength and stamina in tact to create a race of Captain America-esque super soldiers with swords.

Why do wizards always carry staffs? Because it processes the toxic side effects of magic like a liver processes alcohol, obviously… 

I’m a student of history and love Roman and Scottish history in particular. I leaned on that for many elements of the world building, leading to an interesting mix of ancient Roman and medieval Scottish influences in the world – whisky, Praetorian Guards, sweeping mountain landscapes and, of course, a bit of tartan.

AC: You’ve got some really gorgeous covers, and both your personal and Portal Books websites have a lot of great concept art. Can you talk about the inspiration around that art? Do visuals drive your ideas for books, or do the books drive ideas for the artwork?

MRM: The look of the Dragon’s Blade was one of the earliest things I had nailed down in my head. My mum is an artist so she was drew beautiful early sketches which we passed to the cover designer as a guide. I think that helped greatly in nailing that first cover. 

The art is created after the work, so in that sense the book ideas drive the art. Given my mum’s influence – and taking Art & Design for years at school - I think I have a decent grasp of what’s needed to make something ‘look good’. Having a good eye helps. I’ll often messily sketch concepts for covers and even roughly photoshop things around if need be to illustrate the point. Sometimes it’s far easier to show someone what you’re thinking rather than put it into words.

As for the Portal covers, Taran takes a lot of the credit there. He does a great job at finding top artists to work with, creating strong briefs, and has a clear vision for every cover.

AC: Since you mention Taran, we should probably go ahead and introduce your Portal Books to my team. My readers may be familiar with Taran Matharu, author of the very popular Summoner series, so tell us something no one knows! And there’s another guy I’m not familiar with named Brook Aspden? How did you guys get together, and what does everyone bring to the table?

Meeting Taran and Brook was a happy side effect of working at Bloomsbury. Long story short, there was a fantasy writers & agents master class day hosted in the London offices and I met the guys there. Taran came along to support Brook who at the time was beginning his first book (he’s since finished it and I can’t wait for the world to read it!). Luckily, we all got to talking. Somehow we landed on the topic of LitRPG, and then we started talking about digital advertising, writing in general, and then I found myself invited to have ramen with them. Before we’d finished eating, we’d started to joke about the idea of forming our own small press. It was kind of surreal looking back on it.

A real fork in the road moment. 

I almost didn’t go to that master class. I was waiting on a call from the hospital to tell me they had space to admit me. A terrible chest infection had me exhausted and strained. But for whatever reason I picked myself up and went in for the day anyway. And thank goodness I did.  

Taran has found great success in YA Fantasy with his Summoner series, as you say. One million sales in English and counting! He’s well versed in the world of traditional publishing, agents, bookstores and foreign rights. I rounded this out with all my experience in the self-publishing world. Brook is a marketer at Kraft Heinz and has experience with large scale campaigns, with budgets in the millions. He’s incredible at copy writing (writing blurbs and adverts) and has read more LitRPG than anyone else I know. Uniting us is a similar taste in story telling allowing us to confer on the projects we’re working on at Portal and bring a lot of passion and combined experience to make every story as good as it can possibly be.  

AC: Tell us about what you’re working on, and what’s next from Michal R Miller?  

MRM: Portal Books is keeping me very busy but when I’m writing now, I’m working on a dragonrider series. Hoping to take the best parts of Eragon and How to Train Your Dragon and make something epic! 

Thanks, and that’s all I have for today! Happy reading,

A

Cover Reveal for Quill: The Cartographer Book 1

Fantasy Book Critic hosted a cover reveal for my upcoming Quill: The Cartographer Book 1. Special thanks to Mihir who arranged the reveal, Shawn T King who designed the cover, and Soraya Corcoran who’s map is featured in the background and who helped with several maps for the interior.

For more insight into the book, check out the short interview I did with Mihir as part of the reveal on Fantasy Book Critic HERE.

The book is slated for an official June 1st release, but $2 tier subscribers on Patreon should receive it around May 10th. Stay tuned for sample chapters, and a peek at some of the custom artwork I had commissioned for this series!

Interview with DK Holmberg

Hi everyone! AC Cobble here (which hopefully you gathered before coming to my blog). Today, I have an interview with the prolific fantasy author DK Holmberg. He has tons of books out and I constantly spot them on my Amazon Also Boughts, so I know we have a lot of crossover fans which is why I wanted to interview him. If you’re new to DK, it’s a bit intimidating figuring out where to start because there are so many books, but I suggest you try The Darkest Revenge in his Elder Stones Saga. It’s probably the best fit for a Benjamin Ashwood fan. I do ask DK himself about this, and you can see what he says below in the interview!

If you enjoy the interview, follow the link above or click the image to find his books on Amazon. You can visit him at: http://www.dkholmberg.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dkhwriter/

AC: You have A LOT of books. I won’t even lie and say I counted them. Can you tell us how many there are, and how they are related?

DK: I’ve been writing for a while so do have quite a few books and series. I get asked often how they’re related. For my traditional fantasy, I currently have 6 different worlds. I enjoy creating new worlds, but occasionally I find myself drawn back to an existing world, wanting to know what happens after (or sometimes before). 

The first I ever released with The Cloud Warrior Saga, which is now 11 books. It’s that series that allowed me to write full-time. I wrote it wanting something I could read to my kids but that would interest older readers as well. As such, it’s a more YA type book, though the series is epic in scope. Within that world are two other series, including my newest series release Elemental Academy. 

My most prolific world is The Dark Ability world. What started as a novella became a world with 22 books and counting. There are 5 different series that can all be read separately, though there is some character overlap. The first book in that series was The Dark Ability, written following a novella where the protagonist in The Dark Ability was the antagonist in the novella. I found myself thinking about how he would have reached the point in his life that he did in the novella. That novella became the second book in a trilogy set in the same world. My Elder Stones Saga series that started this year is set in this world and many of the characters from previous series make an appearance, but they aren't the primary characters.

I have several new worlds I’m working on and am always planning ahead. I have readers asking me to return to their favorites, and I do enjoy the comfort of dropping back into a familiar world but the story has to be right to do so.

AC: With so many books, where is the best place for someone to start?

DK: Each series is really meant to stand alone, so a reader could start anywhere. If they’re looking for quick fun reads with lots of action, I recommend The Cloud Warrior Saga. The first book is the first I ever published and there are times when I think I should go back and rework it, but I think it kicks off the series well. If looking for something with multiple POV, then The Elder Stones Saga would be a good fit. Looking for a female protagonist? The Shadow Accords or The Lost Garden are good series for that. 

AC: I looks like you’re averaging about a book a month, how do you do it? Can you tell any prospective authors out there some about your process?

DK: I probably write more than a book a month these days, though it wasn’t always the case. When I started, my goal was to write 500 words a day and become consistent. I still had a full time job but figured I could carve out time for that many words. It took a while, partly because at the time I believed I had to be in a “writing mood” to get words out, but gradually those 500 words became 1000 a day. Then they doubled. When I was writing 5k a day consistently (I had several books out at that point and knew I could make a go at writing), finding the time was difficult until I left my day job. That was basically a book a month then. 

Now that I write full time, I average quite a bit more words a day. My day starts around 8 after the kids are off to school, I write in the morning, get to my word count, and then spend the afternoon working on revisions. I’m usually done working by 4-5, though I will often do administrative stuff in the evenings. I write Monday - Friday and take weekends off, something I never did when I was still working a “day job”. In my mind, I treat it like a job. It’s one I love doing, but it’s still a job. The biggest change in the 2 years since writing full time is that my books have gotten longer so they take longer to write (and revise). 

Scheduling can be a challenge when publishing frequently. I had to find the right team and process for me to keep to my publishing plans. I work with several different editors and am always looking for more. The key is editors who can stick to a schedule and help clean up my areas of weakness. I have several different artists and designers I work with for covers and try to keep well ahead of my release schedule. Software has made formatting easy, so there’s not the delay I once had with formatters. 

AC: That’s great advice for budding writers - treat it like a job. I always tell people they have to wear a creative hat, and a business hat to really succeed in self-publishing. Now that you are successful, do you ever consider pursuing a traditional publishing deal, to just write, and forget about this other stuff?

DK: When I decided to leave the day job, I knew I would have to treat writing as much or more of a business than I had before since I still needed the income to support my family. I enjoy most of the work (I don’t love revising. I’d rather create new.) and don’t find it to be work, which can annoy my kids when I’m taking an hour on vacation to put down ideas. I’ve considered traditional publishing in the past, and nearly released my series The Dark Ability traditionally. When my agent was first shopping the series, I was new to indie publishing and wasn’t sure which pathway I wanted to take. I started seeing significant success with The Cloud Warrior Saga and decided to pull back the series since the offer I was got as a “new” author (at least to trad pub at the time) was fine but I knew I would do better releasing the series myself. It turned out to be a smart move. 

I’m more open to a hybrid model now. Though I enjoy the creative control of choosing my editors and cover artists, there is something to be said about letting go of some of it. I can write fast, and as long as I can still release indie, I could gamble on the reach that a traditional publisher might be able to offer in print, or in the case of A-Pub, with their push. The offer would have to be right for me to pull the trigger.

AC: With so much out there, do you think there’s a point where you’d get tired of writing fantasy and switch to a completely different genre, or get bored of writing in general?

DK: I love fantasy so will probably always have a foot there. The first fantasy I ever read was Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. My sister got me the hardback for Christmas one year and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. I was reading a lot of Tom Clancy and Stephen King at the time (this was early high school for me). I LOVED it. After that, I was hooked. I’ve got two years of stories planned out, with more ideas coming all the time, so I will keep at fantasy. 

I have dabbled in UF, and have a UF pen name that I enjoy writing. There are some ideas in other genres that I’m kicking around as well. 

AC: I was a big fan of Robert Jordan also. His writing, particularly the way he began his series, was a big influence on me. Can you tell us a little more detail about your influences?

DK: You’re going to make me go look at my bookshelf! I enjoy lots of genres, and really became a reader devouring Stephen King when I was young (probably too young - I remember reading Cujo, Christine, and It in fifth and sixth grade and have a distinct memory of asking my dad to tell me what decapitate meant). That might influence my writing in that I tend to avoid horror elements in my books. As I said, Robert Jordan is the reason I got into reading fantasy. Love Lord of the Rings books (and the movies). I read through everything I could by Raymond Feist and Terry Brooks. I’d love for Rothfuss to finish his series (and Martin). More recently, I’ve read the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. I do read indie fantasy as well and love KU for that.  

AC: Tell us a little bit about yourself, what influences your writing, what’d you do before you got into this gig full-time, and what’s your Mount Everest as an author?

DK: Let’s see… I’m married, have two kids, and live in Minnesota near one of the 10,000 lakes that I hope thaws so I can get out boating. My kids are pretty active; my son plays soccer 6-7 days a week and my daughter dances and figure skates. That’s how most of my free time is spent, but it’s a blast watching them develop. I worked in health care prior to writing (and while writing), and you can see that influence in many of my books. I don’t always intend to have it creep in, but sometimes it does without me knowing. Digging deeper, my family was a little messed up while I was growing up, and I think that influences things for me too. Lately, I’ve tried to incorporate aspects of places I’ve traveled into my stories. My long term plan is to be able to keep writing, though maybe slow down a bit. My kids want a movie made off something I’ve written, which I think would be cool. I guess if we’re talking Mount Everest, I really want a Harry Potter world of my own! If you haven’t visited, it’s amazing.

AC: A theme park, now that is a worthy goal. I’ve always had two. I want someone to get a tattoo inspired by my books, and I want to see a stranger reading my book on a plane. Unfortunately, the coolest “author story” I have is really lame and involves my mom’s cousins. What is the coolest thing that has happened to you as an author?

DK: I think it would be great to see someone reading one of my books too! I wish I could say I’ve been recognized and swarmed by adoring fans, but I’ve still had several cool things happen. One was an email early on from a mother writing to tell me her son loved my books and they got him into reading. That’s really rewarding. I’ve had that happen a few times now, and it never gets old. I’ve also had several readers/fans who have started writing and publishing and I love to see that too.

 AC: What is something no one knows about you?

DK: I’ve been writing since I was in high school, but the first things I ever wrote were the lyrics for songs for my (terrible) band. No one will ever see them!

Interview with Bryce O'Connor

A quick and mostly painless interview with best-selling author Bryce O’Connor. Many of you have already read his Wings of War series, but if you haven’t, it’s currently just $0.99 for the first 4 books, which I promise is a huge value! Keep reading to find out why Bryce is able to sell it so cheaply, and tons of other interesting little nuggets.

Wings of War Books 1-4

Bryce’s Website

Q1: Is it true that in 100% of the games we have played, I beat you in chess? (yeah, I opened with that)

Dude... Why you gotta make me start with fisticuffs?? Sure, this is technically true, but there are caveats and circumstance I think you may or may not be glazing over here, sir. Like that fact that we've only ever played a single game. Or the fact that you didn't give me a rebuttal. I'm still holding out for the day I get to take my long awaited revenge! MWAHAHAHA!
... 
...ahem... 
Anyways...

Q2: A lot of my fans have already read Wings of War, but for those who haven’t, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Lizard dude with big spear kills all the baddies.

But actually. That about sums it up. If you want me to be more eloquent, the dashingly handsome Dyrk Ashton, of Paternus fame, summarized it very well the last time we were together at Dragoncon: "The story of the Punisher, if Frank Castle were a dragon." I thought that was such a good outline, I've stolen it as my one-line elevator pitch for new potential readers. Just don't tell Dyrk.

Q3: You have tons of great art, both on your covers, and some custom pieces I have seen floating around. First, where is the best place to view all of the Wings of War art, and second, can you talk a little bit about the relationship between author and artist?

So as much of a bummer as it is, there isn't a great place to find all the art I've had done over the years for The Wings of War right now, mostly because myself and some of the artists are trying to figure out how to appropriately make the materials available as wallpapers, screensaver, life-sized body pillows (hehehe), etc. I do plan on putting an art section together on my site eventually, and who knows? Maybe by the time this interview sees the light of day it will be available for perusal at bryceoconnorbooks.com!

Now talking about artist/author relationships.... That's gonna go deep with me, but I suspect you know that. Most of my fans are aware that fantasy art is the largest inspiration behind my own writing. Todd Lockwood. Raymond Swanland. My own cover artist, Andreas Zafiratos. All major, major suppliers of my energy and passion. My Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OConnorBooks) is littered with daily posts of the crazy cool art I've found or had commissioned, and as a result of that respect for the medium I've evolved to think of the creators of those works as masters of their own domains. If an artist was able to wow you enough to ask them for a cover, I think it is generally best to let them do their thing with a piece and not strangle them with more feedback, criticism, etc., than they ask for. Having a good relationship with your cover artist(s) is essential to getting the end product you want out of your cover, and subsequently your book as a whole (or whatever related project you might be involved in). Respect them, treat them well, pay them what they deserve (this one is important!), and you will find yourself surrounded by talented individuals who are always ready to help you get what you need out of a piece. Strangle them, limit them, and try to gip them, and you'll end up with a bad reputation and uninspired work that you might think is great, but lacks the edge an artist who is enjoying his work can give to a his/her canvas...

Q4: You’re co-writing a project called The Shattered Reigns with the amazing LitRPG author Luke Chmilenko (Ascend Online). Is that going to be like your stuff, his stuff, or something in between?

Ok so first off, Luke is a world-building genius. If you haven't already checked out Ascend Online, do that right now. I particularly recommend the audiobook version, because Luke Daniel's masterfully brings the characters to life in a way we can't do as writers.

As for what The Shattered Reigns is going to turn out to be, I think fans of both mine and Luke's will find a lot to love in the work. We've had a hand both in the world-building and plotting, and while you'll see more elves and wizards and such classics than can be found in The Wings of War, you're also going to be neck deep in some really cool, trope-breaking characters and creatures that Luke and I have come up with together. I can't tell you how much fun it was to go back and forth creating a dragon that stays true to the common interpretation of its kind, while simultaneously turning the concept on its head. More importantly, it's been amazing having a partner who has this incredible ability to take one glance at the place you're stuck in and suggest a solution and plot direction that not only get the wheels going again, but usually adds some new, cool edge to the story.

Q5: How does co-writing compare to creating your own stuff? Can you talk some about both the technical and creative process differences?

Without giving too much of our process away, our system of co-writing has been awesome, despite some pretty significant initial challenges. Luke and I write very differently, and for a few weeks we found ourselves editing each other in circles. We met up, talked through the issues we were having, and came up with a solution that has, thus far, worked really well. We're both pretty laid back, so feedback and the go-between has been nothing but helpful no matter what the issue is, and it's been great bouncing ideas off each other. You find a rhythm in the end, working with a partner you trust, and everything settles from there.

Q6: You’re a full-time author now, but what did you do before, and how did you make the leap into writing?

Believe it or not, I worked in pediatrics! I was a physical therapist for children with special needs, working at a local school on getting kids to walk and run and jump and do all kinds of things that would hopefully one day drive their parent's crazy at home! It was really rewarding work, but the keyboard has been calling me for 20 years now, and when the opportunity came to go full time about a year and a half ago, I had to jump on it!

The story of my journey into the writing world itself is a pretty interesting one (at least from my perspective), because it was largely planned. I've wanted to write since I was 9 years old, literally. When Child of the Daystar hit the shelves three years ago, the first book in The Wings of War series, my best friend from high school rang me up and laughed about how I'd been talking about being a published author for the last 15+ years. My parents, who have been incredibly supportive and helpful, encouraged me to pursue my passion, with a single caveat: I had to be able to support myself after college. 

Fair, right? They helped me find a school I liked, going for a degree that would allow me to not only not live out of a cardboard box till the end of my days, but give me the time to continue to write after I graduated. I ended up at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, and six years later I finished my coursework with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and a Bachelors in Creative Writing. I spent the next three years doing the double shift so many authors go through, working the day jon and writing at night when I got home. Tough, but as they say: when you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. When Winter's King, book 3 in the series, broke into the market in a big way, I jumped ship without ever looking back.

Ok that's an exaggeration. I volunteer occasionally at the school when I can, but that's mostly just an excuse to see my work friends and give all my kids a hug :D

Q7: You’ve had a hugely successful series. It has tons of copies sold, great reviews, but now you’ve got a boxset of the first 4 books on sale for $0.99!? Can you peel back the curtain a little for my readers, and talk about why that is, and how authors can make money practically giving their work away?

Oh man... I really wish this question was posed more often, particularly by the sector of individuals who look at something like a $0.99 boxset and think only "Obviously it can't be any good, if that many books are selling at that price." I'm going to summarize it here, but for anyone looking for a more in-depth explanation, I posted a deep-dive into this exact concept on the r/Fantasy subreddit a few weeks back, which can be found here: Why Kindle Unlimited is GOOD For Authors

For those of you who prefer the short version, here we go:

What a lot of readers lack an understanding of (through no fault of their own) are the minutia involved in successfully navigating the eBook markets, specifically Amazon's Kindle Store, and specifically as a self-published author. In this particular instance, it's important to explain a essential part of the Amazon profit-model for authors: Kindle Unlimited.

For those of you who are unaware what Kindle Unlimited (KU) is, it's Amazon's subscription-based membership program which, for $9.99 a month (in the US at least) gives Amazon members access to all titles in the Unlimited program for no additional cost. Thing is: just because those readers are paying "nothing" for a book in KU directly does not mean that we, the authors, are not getting paid. On the contrary: KU pays out in what are called "page reads". That means that for every page of my boxset you read, I make a very small amount of money. Less at 1¢ per, in fact. BUT, recall that this is a boxset, and as a single product is more than 1700 pages long. All in all, while you might pick up my book for $0.99, the person who downloads my book through KU and reads it all the way through puts almost $15 dollars in my pocket.

So yes. To an outsider there is certainly an understandable confusion to be address when something like a successful series puts a boxset out for stupid cheap, but I assure you we know what we're doing ;)

Q8: You’re working on Wings of War 5, The Shattered Reigns 1, what can we expect next? Any other projects you’d like to share?

Ha, oh where to begin...

My author friends typically know I like to have my fingers in a lot of pies at once, so while yes, book 5 of The Wings of War and book 1 of The Shattered Reigns are my top priorities right now, there's a lot more going on in my downtime than is probably good for my health. I'm currently working on a children's book series that will be Kickstarted likely later this year, as well as a number of board and card games that should see the light of day sometime in the next 12 months or so. I'm also working on another co-authored fantasy series that I'm keeping under wraps for the moment, and some college friends and I are simultaneously debating putting together a separate Kickstarter for a therapy product we developed while we were in our grad years together, and have recently been granted a patent for. There's a few more things going on here and there, but nothing I'm free to talk about right now, so we'll have to leave some secrets for another day!

And that’s all for this month’s interview. Remember, you can find Bryce’s Wings of War Boxset Books 1-4 right here for only $0.99!