Dawn of Chaos: Free Promotion!

Dawn of Chaos: Prologue to the Sanctum of the Archmage Saga, is scheduled for a free promotion all weekend from July 4th through July 6th! During that time you’ll be able to purchase the book for no cost at Amazon.com.

DawnSmallAvailable on scr2555-proj697-a-kindle-logo-rgb-lg

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Work on the Game Modules is Suspended Indefinitely

Dale just asked (on my 2011 post of the opening scene) whether there was any news on Sanctum 3. Since my comments on the status of the game modules is probably somewhat scattered throughout my blog over the last couple of years, I thought I should probably clarify the situation here. I added the following about this last year on the main modules page:

*As of summer 2013, further work on the game modules has been suspended until further notice, in order to work on completing and releasing the initial Sanctum of the Archmage novels. This includes the unfinished v4.2 update of Chapter 1 and remake of Chapter 2, as well as completion of Chapter 3 and work on Chapters 4-7.

Since there’s not a great deal of work left to do on the Sanctum 2 v4.2 remake, I do expect to be able to release it later this year. That will probably be in the fall after publishing the first of the Sanctum novels, The End of the Beginning.

At this point, however, I’m afraid I have to admit that it’s not clear to me when or even if I’ll be able to complete Sanctum 3 (much less the rest of the series), in module form. I very much want to do it, and if it were my only project I’m confident that I would be able to. Unfortunately, though, it’s not. As I wrote in the post when I announced that I was resuming work on the novels,

I’ve also had to take a hard look at my somewhat ambitious plans for the module series, given a realistic assessment of my other goals and the amount of time I actually have to work on it. My “real life” career as a computer scientist demands most of my time and attention, and I have plans for developing it further that will require additional focus on learning certain new technologies. Both writing and modding are things that I can only afford to do in my (unfortunately, not especially plentiful) spare time — which I need to be more hard-nosed about rationing. Some reflection has consequently forced me to the conclusion that while I’m not quite ready to give up on Sanctum as a modding project just yet, that I need to make more time in my schedule for other efforts as well.

I haven’t yet cancelled work on the modules. They remain in my mind as projects that I want to find time to get back to, when and if I can. At this point in my life, however, I simply have no choice but to put other priorities ahead of them. And at the present time, those have to be the demands of my career (and of striving to remain employable in today’s dysfunctional economy), and publishing Sanctum of the Archmage as a series of novels.

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Dawn of Chaos on Kindle

Dawn of Chaos : Prologue to the Sanctum of the Archmage Saga is now available from the Amazon Kindle Store!

DawnSmallAvailable on scr2555-proj697-a-kindle-logo-rgb-lg

If you’re interested in checking it out but don’t have a Kindle, don’t let that stop you! There are several easy ways to read a Kindle book without one:

  • Use the Kindle Cloud Reader to read Kindle books right in your web browser.
  • You can install a free Kindle Reader App if you have an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet, PC, Mac, etc. — there’s one for just about every platform. :)

The land of Carlissa stood on the cusp of a renaissance. Even as King Danor planned reforms to usher in a new era of enlightenment, however, other forces were threatening to lead the kingdom toward a very different future. That future began to take shape in a fateful confrontation that occurred at the Dawn of Chaos.

The Dawn of Chaos is a short prologue introducing the world and story for an upcoming epic fantasy series. It will be continued in Crucible of Heroes: The End of the Beginning, the first novel in the Sanctum of the Archmage Saga.

UPDATE (May 10, 2014): I’ve just published a second edition of Dawn of Chaos, which contains some improvements based on lessons learned from my first run. Charles’ full illustration is now included in-line with the text, and I’ve made some minor editorial changes (mainly to include some additional descriptive passages and to improve the book’s formatting).

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‘Dawn of Chaos’ is Complete

My upcoming Kindle book is now complete! I’ve given it a new title, prepared the cover using Charles’ final version of the illustration, and built the Kindle file for upload. The only thing remaining is to go through the process of submitting the files to the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) system. I should be doing that this weekend, and it should be available in the Kindle store a few days later. Here’s what the title page looks like:

Dawn of Chaos

Prologue to the Sanctum of the Archmage Saga

by Tony Donadio

Cover Art by Charles Imbro

Charles really outdid himself, because the final version of the cover looks amazing. Here’s the “dust jacket” description:

The land of Carlissa stood on the cusp of a renaissance. Even as King Danor planned reforms to usher in a new era of enlightenment, however, other forces were threatening to lead the kingdom toward a very different future. That future began to take shape in a fateful confrontation that occurred at the Dawn of Chaos.

Dawn of Chaos is a short prologue introducing the world and story for an upcoming epic fantasy series. It will be continued in Crucible of Heroes: The End of the Beginning, the first novel in the Sanctum of the Archmage Saga.

Dawn of Chaos is a short work at about 8100 words, easily read in one sitting. In addition to Charles’ fantastic cover illustration, it also features a brief appendix including a painstakingly remade and fully zoomable map of Kalara (by yours truly), and a brief preview excerpt from The End of the Beginning, Chapter 1: The City of Rainbows.

The next step, of course, is to get back to finishing the first novel, which I hope to get out by August at the latest. But taking the time to publish Dawn of Chaos, however short, was an invaluable experience. It helped Charles and I to work out all of the logistic issues, and the production and publishing details, involved in collaborating to produce what I think has turned out to be quite a professional-looking work. I hope you’ll think so, too. :)

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Prologue – Draft Cover

This isn’t the final version, just a draft done with Charles’ preliminary sketch for the cover art. However, I thought readers might find it interesting. Charles is finishing the cover illustration now, and I’m doing the final proofreading. It should be ready to go not long after that. I’m still looking at a Kindle release by the end of the month.

Two Princes - Draft Cover

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The Two Princes

I thought I’d share a brief update on how my work on the novels and the modules is going. Some issues in “real life” have been slowing my progress, but fortunately, some of that now seems to be starting to sort itself out. I’m also (albeit too slowly for my own taste) learning better how not to waste time pursuing dead ends in my writing, which is a very good thing.

As of yesterday, I’ve finished a draft version of the teaser that I want to release for the first Sanctum book. My working title for it is “The Two Princes,” and it consists mainly of the prologue to the first novel. It’s short (20 pdf pages, including frontmatter), and it’ll feature a pen & ink cover illustration by my art collaborator, Charles Imbro. It will also include a brief appendix about Kalara, the world in which the saga takes place, and my completely re-worked version of the map, which I think readers will really like.

I’ve also finished a draft of the history of Kalara that I mentioned in my last post, and which I’ve spent most of my time over the last month working out in extensive detail. Those efforts weren’t wasted, and will be extremely useful in guiding my writing and in constructing and fleshing out the story going forward. Unfortunately, though, after looking at it critically last night, I’ve been forced to conclude that it simply doesn’t work as an appendix to the teaser, and thus to cut it.

I expect “The Two Princes” to be available on Kindle by the end of April. I’m also aiming (and have now given myself a deadline) to get the first novel out on Kindle before the last week of August. As for why I’m tentatively aiming for that particular deadline: stay tuned. :)

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Update #2: E-Pub, Map, and Teaser Release

Work on The End of the Beginning continues in the time I’ve had available after my other commitments. I’ve been working recently on studying the technical details of e-book publishing, migrating my writing efforts from where I started them in MS Word to a new set of tools, giving a serious and long overdue update to the Map of Kalara, and preparing a short “teaser intro” to the Sanctum saga for an upcoming Kindle release.

I’m very pleased with the results of my recent research into e-book publishing, which have led me to start using a writing tool called Scrivener. Scrivener is a bit like a software development environment, with projects and resources that one can include in “compiles” of portions of a book for export to different formats. I’ve also started using an e-pub editor called Sigil, which allows me to fine-tune the files produced by Scrivener. Together they provide a great deal of flexibility and control over the writing and formatting, which I expect to result in a better quality result when the books are finally published.

The improvements to the Map of Kalara involving some long overdue scanning, merging, and extensive image editing of the now obsolete hand-drawn maps that I’ve been working from until now. It took quite a while, especially given that it also included the time required to teach myself how to use the GIMP image editor. I’m extremely pleased with the result, however, and I think that readers will be as well.

Another development since my last post is that I’ve decided that the first e-book will actually be a short “teaser,” consisting of the prologue to the first novel and an appendix. The appendix will feature the new, larger, and vastly improved map, as well as brief introductory overviews to the history, geography and culture of Kalara. My working title for it is The Two Princes, though I won’t spoil any more about it just yet. If all goes well I should be able to finish the appendix shortly, and get the teaser ready for a Kindle release sometime in April.

I’m also pleased to announce (or re-announce, since I think I mentioned it in a previous post) that Charles Imbro will be collaborating with me to produce pen and ink illustrations for the series — beginning with cover art for The Two Princes. Charles is an extremely talented artist, and I think you’ll really enjoy his work.

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The End of the Beginning – Update #1

Since it’s coming near to the end of 2013, I thought I should give readers an update on the current status of my first book. As I said in a previous post, it will be titled The End of the Beginning, and it will be the first of three parts of Crucible of Heroes, the first novel in the Sanctum of the Archmage series.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been struggling with how to resolve an issue that’s become increasingly apparent to me: how to better establish the necessary context for later events. The Warlord Zomoran, in particular, really needs to at least be introduced to the reader before those events unfold. The book needed a Prologue, I concluded, and I resolved to add one before continuing on with my work on Chapter 3.

But how to write it, without turning the early part of the book into a tedious exercise in exposition? My first attempt turned out to be a disaster. After writing myself into a hole from which there ended up being no escape, I had to simply throw away about 3000 words and start again from scratch. My second attempt, fortunately, turned out to be much more successful.

I finally finished the Prologue today, and at just shy of 6000 words, I’m very happy with the results. Not only did I manage to do what I needed in a way that readers are unlikely to find “tedious,” but I managed to add a bit of action into the early part of the book as well. The first two chapters were already more “exposition-heavy” than I liked, and adding a bit of excitement to the Prologue will better help to break that up.

The best part, though, is that I managed to do it in a way that also allowed me to flesh out two other characters at the same time. As it turns out they also stood to benefit from an extended introduction, and adding the prologue allowed me to really flesh out their personalities. By the time I was done I was coming to find them quite engaging, and I hope that you will too. :) And now that the Prologue is complete, I’m ready to go back to continue working on Chapter 3.

As of now, The End of the Beginning is about 22,000 words long, which should equate to roughly 63 pages in a typical paperback printing. Based on my current progress and estimate that should make it about 45% complete. The final version should end up between 48 and 50 thousand words, or about 140 paperback-equivalent pages — which, by SWFA standards, should make it a short novel in its own right.


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New User Registration Restored!

I finally set the time aside to do some maintenance on the site, and to do research on how to protect against spam registration and hacks. Now that I’ve cleaned things up and installed some new defenses, I think it’s safe to re-enable new user account creation, which I had to disable in back in July. So if you want to create an account and comment on the Sanctum Blog, you should now be able to do so again.

If the new defenses seem to hold I may try opening up the comments again to non-registered users as well and see what happens. I would like to make it easier for people to comment on The Sanctum or to ask questions, and it would be great to be able to do that and to still keep out the riff-raff. :)

Update: My new defenses have blocked three spam user registrations so far in the few hours since I installed them, so it’s looking good!

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On Starting a Sentence With a Conjunction

The more time I’ve spent writing my novel and refining my style, the more strongly I’ve come to reject the commonly expressed prohibition on starting a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but.” Here’s what CliffsNotes.com has to say about it:

The idea that you shouldn’t begin a sentence with a conjunction is one of those “rules” that really isn’t — along with some others you’ve probably heard, like “never split an infinitive” and “don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” Your writing won’t be automatically bad if you break these “rules,” and the greatest writers of English have been breaking them for ages. For example…

The author then proceeds back up his claim with quotes from Moby Dick, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Scarlet Letter. To which I can only add, “amen.”

That this is a technique that can be misused or overused, especially among grade-school students just learning to write, should go without saying. I would be very surprised, in fact, if the utility of the rule in helping to impose structure, and to stamp out fragmented writing in young students, weren’t the reason why the prohibition came into vogue in the first place. But for adults who have long mastered these basic elements of structure and style the rule has not only outlived its usefulness, but becomes actually harmful, I think, to the development of a good writing style.

What is the utility of starting a sentence with a conjunction? I think it’s an issue of the crow. The main argument I hear for this rule is that “a sentence is supposed to express a complete thought.” But some thoughts are sufficiently complex, with enough interrelated elements, that trying to express them in a single sentence simply makes them too long — too long for the reader’s mind to parse easily, retaining an ever growing but not yet fully resolved context. Being able to “connect” two sentences with a conjunction like “and” or “but” thus serves at least two important purposes, one of them epistemological and the other stylistic.

Epistemologically, it allows the mind to parse and resolve the thought expressed by the previous sentence, reducing it to a unit and freeing up “mental space” and tension for the expression of a new thought. But starting the next sentence with a conjunction also holds that previous thought in a form that expresses a clearer and more easily grasped connection to the following thought. And it does it in a way that would “choke the crow” of the reader if it were attempted in a single, long sentence with multiple clauses.

Stylistically, I think the case for starting a sentence with a conjunction is even clearer. When used appropriately it is a useful tool to add emphasis, and provide for a more natural flow between related thoughts. I’m sure this is the reason why so many good writers use it, and why I absorbed the technique into my writing style as far back as high school. And the guff I took for it — and the years of self-doubt they caused, until I finally decided to jettison the prohibition altogether — is the main reason for the intensity of my conviction on this matter.

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