Starting this weekend, you can look forward to a blog post from me every Saturday. For those who subscribe to my newsletter, you can keep up on my behind-the-scenes updates, but starting April I’d like to share more here on my blog, reflection on writing and the life that surrounds it.
There’s no better way to kick this off than to talk about what’s most relevant for me right now: Blood Dawn is finished, revision is happening, publication is imminent, funding for mass market distribution continues … what comes next?
First of all, I want to be clear on one thing. Blood Dawn is not part of a series. Blood Dawn is a stand alone book. I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page and Twitter that a sequel is in the works, but what does that mean exactly, if Blood Dawn and its sequel are not a series?
Here’s a good comparison. Think about The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings could be seen as a sequel to The Hobbit, since it involves that same characters and plot elements coming into play at a later date, but both books stand alone. Blood Dawn and its sequel, tentatively called “Master of the Fires”, could be viewed similarly. I will be revisiting Rena, Manwen, Jane, Skippy, and a few new characters, but at a later point in their life. Blood Dawn’s events for them will be backstory, much as each character in Blood Dawn walked onto the stage with a backstory that could have belonged to another book but wasn’t written.
So why am I doing this? A have a few reasons.
First, one of my greatest disappointments as a fantasy reader was the untimely death of Robert Jordan. His Wheel of Time series transformed how I viewed epic fantasy and I was greatly disappointed to hear of his death when I got to book eleven. Even though Brandon Sanderson picked up his notes and did the absolute best job an author could do to finish off the series, as a reader who read the final installment books, I still feel I haven’t seen the conclusion to Mr. Jordan’s vision. There was a sort of “breath of life” in the story he wove, and even though the end was elusive, arguably asymptotic, I was continually led onward as his tapestry expanded and deepened to a more cosmic and mystic conflict as embodied by Lews Therin and Ishamael and the battle between the Creator and the Dark One.
Although I am young and in good health, life has no guarantees. It is therefore my decision as a writer to make sure each book I finish for readers is complete in and of itself. If I live a long and prosperous life (may it be so!) then I will continue to push the edge further, giving you new things. This fantasy universe presents for me potential for storytelling that I will still be tapping into should I pull a Bilbo Baggins and live 130 years (magic ring, where are you?).
Another reason I don’t want to write a series is because I don’t want to keep readers waiting. Blood Dawn ends with hooks that scream for a sequel, but it ends. If there was no sequel, then the story told is finished. While I move on to the sequel and explore a new story, I want readers to get excited about what that story might be, not tap their foot impatiently because they need to find out if plot X or plot Y will get resolved or not.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to write a series because I don’t want to write myself into a box. I want my next novel to be a quantum leap from Blood Dawn. I want to hone my skills and explore new frontiers of writing and storytelling, and that means I don’t want to go into the sequel with biases or limitations. And herein lies a vital insight: I want to make sure that each book I write is a story, not a collection of things that happen.
As tempting as it is to want to pick up right where Blood Dawn leaves off and follow each character’s story, as is done in a series, I’m stepping away from this and trusting that these stories will present as sort of “metanarratives” in the stories told later on. For example, the story of Azzadul and the dark years at the end of his reign could make its own prequel novel, but that novel isn’t written; rather, it lives in the stories told by the characters in Blood Dawn. That “story”, though fascinating in and of itself, is not actually a story that would make a worthy novel, because it’s really a recounting of a period, a tale of history. Story is about change, particularly, a protagonist changing internally as a result of undergoing something difficult to get what they want. There is a polarity in that basic recipe that creates narrative drive and make a novel, even a 300k, sprawling epic fantasy novel, cohesive. Without the spine of story in this true form, it’s just words, things that happen, events … a textbook.
How many books will I write? Probably three. In my mind, I envision “stuff that happens” after the third book, but I’m not convinced yet that it’s a story. But there are two which shine as bright as suns in my mind, and I’ve distilled my plotting energy around them.
Factor in to this all that I might be completely wrong. Maybe I will write five books but I can’t see them yet. That’s fine. Maybe I will write a series later, when I’m more seasoned and have forged well ahead into my fantasy universe. For now, though, I see benefit focusing on what I know, and giving myself freedom to explore the most potent of stories, because that is what I want to give to my readers.
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