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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Sanctum 2 v4.2 Remake

I’ve had some inquiries about the status of the Sanctum 2 v4 module remake, so I thought it would be a good idea to re-consider my plans for it and to address them on my blog.

I’m currently about halfway through my original plans for the remake. Unfortunately, as I announced here, I had to put finishing that work on hold in recent months in order to allow time for other projects and priorities. Modding and writing are both things that I do in  the spare time allowed by my career — and finishing and publishing the first book in the Sanctum series, The End of the Beginning, and completing the Sanctum 2v4 remake, were both competing for that time. Given how much more work was still left on Sanctum 2v4, I felt that I could no longer delay starting to get the novels ready for publication.

But I do miss modding, and after a few months away from it I think that I may be able to fit in the time for a more limited module update for Chapter 2. The good news is that most of the important work — especially the custom content implementation and the linkages from Chapter 1 — are already done. Most of the rest of the work I had planned centered around an extensive new quest sequence that I was going to add. If I skip that, then it shouldn’t take me too long to get the rest of the remake ready for release.

So I’ve decided to go ahead with that, splitting time on Sanctum2 v4 with my novel writing. Aside from one new encounter that I’m already halfway through, the only thing I really still have to do is to re-build the flying areas at the end with the new Sanctum Flying Skyscape tileset. So fingers crossed, it should be possible for me to get the update out for beta test by the holidays.

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Crucible of Heroes in 3 Parts

As readers of my earlier posts have probably already noted, I’ve been torn between a desire to write a shorter work that could be completed and published sooner, and the kind of more comprehensive first novel that I think the storyline deserves. Now that I’ve been working on Crucible of Heroes for a while and have had a chance to refine the outline, I think I’ve found a way to accomplish both goals.

The solution I’ve come up with is to structure the first novel into three shorter parts that could be published either separately, or together as sub-books of a longer work. Each of these should be roughly the length of a short novel, in the range of about 40-50 thousand words. That will allow me to publish each of the individual parts as I finish them, as well as to publish them together as a single novel once all three parts are completed.

So without further ado, let me announce the planned structure of Crucible of Heroes, the first novel in the Sanctum of the Archmage series:

Part I will tell the full story of the coming of the horde and the fall of Lannamon, and Part III the story of The Sight up to the flight from Blackwing Lodge. These are consistent with my previously announced outlines. The new element is the addition of Part II, which is really the part of the story that’s been expanding the most as my writing has progressed and I’ve continued to re-work the outline. Part II will tell the story of how our three heroes meet for the first time, and of how Mount Cassandra became the center of the resistance against the Black Magus.

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Chapter 3 in Progress

After a brief hiatus to deal with some commitments in “real life,” I’m now hard at work on Crucible of Heroes, Chapter 3: The Return of the Horde.

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Chapter 2 Complete

Crucible of Heroes chapter 2 (The Calm Before the Storm) is now complete. The first two chapters come to just a bit over 14,000 words, which at an estimate of about 350 words per page, should be about 40 pages. The whole book should probably end up being about 10 chapters, which should put me at about the 20% mark on a roughly 200 page book. (That doesn’t count editing, of course, which is a whole other ball of wax for which all bets are off.)

The first two chapters are the main ones for background and exposition, and focus a great deal on visual description and character introduction. Those have always been the things I’ve found most difficult and time-consuming to work though, and I’m quite glad to have that behind me. The real action begins in Chapter 3, the first sentences of which I’m just now starting to write. I’m really looking forward to that — and, hopefully, picking up the pace of my progress on the saga even more.

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