The Benefits of a Daily Word Goal

In honour of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who haven’t heard of it before), I thought I’d write down some thoughts on the benefits of having a daily word goal.

First, it’s important to point out that opinions are divided about keeping a daily word count. When I was in graduate school, my adviser told me that focusing on writing a certain amount of words per day was the wrong way of going about composition. In his opinion, this led to my writing being, at times, a little unfocused. What’s more, it seemed that a lot of people agreed with him. Needless to say, I didn’t, though at the time I struggled to articulate why that was the case.

While I think there’s something to that advice in regards to academic writing–a focus on productivity can sometimes distract from the equally important issues of focus, clarity, and brevity–for me I just have to produce in order to feel like I’m really writing. Admittedly, some of this is chaff that will get ditched in the final version, but it’s just a part of how I work. I’ve tried to work in other ways, but it just never seems to gel for me.

I usually set myself a pretty high goal, because I know that, as a result of both being able to type quickly and having a pretty strong sense of what my narratives are going to look like, I can usually meet them. Usually, I try to make meeting my daily writing goal the first thing I do during the day’s work. Once I accomplish this, I feel like I can move on to other aspects of the writing process, such as revision and polishing (which, for me, take a significantly longer time than the original composition).

From my point of view, having a daily word goal is particularly important for those just starting on the writing journey, whether it’s part of participating in NaNo, or whether it’s unrelated. New writers often struggle with finding the momentum to keep going, to keep pushing forward, to keep putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and getting those ideas out there. Setting a daily word goal–one that is realizable but ambitious–can give you that added bit of motivation.

Just as importantly, however, it’s a good motivator to help you stay motivated. I’m not one of those writers who has to wait for the muse to hit before I sit down and start writing (if I did that, I don’t think that I’d ever get anything done). Typically, I just sit down at the computer and start writing. For those for whom this isn’t the case, however, knowing that you have an obligation–to yourself if to no one else–to meet a certain goal can be quite an imperative. If you’re so inclined, I’d also suggest joining a group of other writers, either through Twitter (which has a very supportive writing community) or in person. This will ensure that you have a level of accountability, even when it doesn’t happen to be #NaNo.

As with all things having to do with writing, however, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all model for the process. If you don’t want to set yourself a goal that’s fine, but if you do, make sure that it’s one that you can reasonably attain. Spend a couple of days just writing, to get a sense of just how many you can reasonably expect to do in a given day. Once you do that, you’ll have a good idea of what you can accomplish, so base your daily writing goal off of that. Then, the key is consistency. Before you know it, you’ll find that you’ve produced a substantial body of work.

A final cautionary word. While I personally flourish when working toward a daily goal, I have to make sure of two things. First, I make sure that, even if I don’t meet my goal, that I don’t get discouraged and let that keep me from continuing. Second, I make sure to build in days off. It’s important to make sure that you give yourself time away from writing.

That’s all for today. Happy writing, everyone!

To Outline or Not to Outline?

To outline or not to outline? That is, without a doubt, one of the most contentious issues in writing, both in fantasy and in fiction more generally. Terry Brooks, one of the foremost advocates for outlining in the fantasy world, shares an anecdote in his writing memoir Sometimes the Magic Works that Anne McCaffrey (another giant in the genre), once said that she’d never outlined a thing in her life. Stephen King is also one of those writers who doesn’t really like outlining, preferring to simply throw his characters into a narrative and let them figure out what to do.

Obviously, each of these options has its benefits and its drawbacks. Outlining lets you keep control of the narrative from the beginning to the ending and, as Brooks avers, lets you focus on the other key aspects of writing such as setting, characterization etc. This can be especially useful for those writing in genres such as epic fantasy, in which having an eye on the main narrative can be very important (and can keep narrative bloat to a minimum). On the other hand, not outlining lets you have a lot more freedom, allowing you to really explore the world and characters that you’ve created. For some that’s terrifying, for others that’s exhilarating, just as for some outlining is stultifying and for others it allows them to stay on track.

Personally, I come down somewhere in the middle. I generally have a pretty firm idea of where things are supposed to happen in my narratives, and I almost always have an ending in mind for a series (even if it’s just a snippet of a scene, having this sense of finality is very useful in structuring the rest of what I do). To me, it really does help to know where things are going to end up, even though I try to leave myself at least a little bit of wiggle-room when it comes to how it pans out.

This isn’t to say that I write in anything remotely resembling a linear fashion, because I certainly don’t. When I’m in the first flush moments of composition, I’m often jumping all around the place, going wherever the muse demands that I go (this is true for my nonfiction writing, too). I’m not really one of those writers who has to have inspiration hit, but I am someone who finds it difficult (most of the time) to stay rigidly focused on a particular narrative. So, I just have to go where the urge strikes me.

Now, obviously this strategy has some strengths and weaknesses. As I noted in my post about the advantages working on several different projects at once, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming to try to stay on top of all of them. Similarly, the hardest part about my process is the point at which I’ve really sketched out the broad strokes and need to buckle down and fill in the gaps and/or revise. I don’t know why, but I always find that my forward momentum always slows down substantially during that part in the process, and I’ve had to really work hard to make sure that I build in time for this toward the end of a given project.

As with any writing advice, however, a great deal of what you do depends on what works for you. If you’re a person who really needs structure in your life in order to function or to be productive, then outlining is probably for you. If, on the other hand, you find that you need the freedom to really let your ideas soar and reach their full potential, then maybe, as King suggests, throw your characters into the worst situations you can think of and let them find their own way out. The important thing is not to try to push yourself into a model that doesn’t really fit you. This is the surest way to ensure that you don’t get anything done and that you spend more time focusing on your process rather than on the actual act of writing.

Whatever strategy (or mix of strategies) you adopt, just make sure that you write consistently. You’ll be amazed at what you can do.

The Benefits of Having Several Projects At Once

Everyone has their own writing process. Some people write for hours at a stretch, some right in bursts. Some enter into a sort of fugue state, where all they can think about is the work at hand. Others flit from writing project to writing project. I’ve always been of the belief that there’s no one method that works for everyone, and that you have to really just find the one that works best for you and go with it, rather than try to fit yourself into some predetermined mold that might not work for you (and that might actually keep you from getting your work done).

Personally, I (KC, that is), like having several projects going on at once. I know that this might sound a bit counterintuitive to some, and there are some drawbacks to it. For me, however, I find it difficult to stay too focused on a single project for too long. I suppose that some might say that that’s something I should have checked out, but I prefer to think that it gives me an opportunity to always stay energized, to not get bored with any one project because there’s always another one to be working on. (Incidentally, I tend to follow the same practice with books. I’m often reading several at once, as just a cursory glimpse at my Goodreads account will tell you).

To use an agricultural metaphor that I once read about somewhere, it’s a bit like crop rotation. By switching between projects–often during the course of a couple of hours–I keep myself from getting tired of working on the same thing. In fact, it keeps me inspired, and it keeps me energized. If I find that I hit a creative road-block, then I know that I can just switch to something else until the block is cleared. So, for example, on any one day I might be working on: a piece (or pieces) of The Filliquian Chronicle, a short story in the same universe, a novelette that’s unrelated to all of that, as well as a blog post (or two). Let me tell you, it’s never dull around here.

Admittedly, however, this process does entail some rather notable drawbacks, foremost of which is the danger of being so scattered that I never finish anything. Indeed, once upon a time that was my greatest challenge as a writer, and my computers would be filled with discarded stories in which I’d lost interest as I moved onto something new. Part of that was a function of the fact that I was usually either in undergrad or working full-time, so really keeping focused on writing was really a challenge. It’s taken me quite a while to shake off those bad habits and to focus just as much on finishing at least one or two projects a month (it helps that I have Kellen to keep me on the straight and narrow, since he’s almost always waiting to get something from me).

Indeed, as I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve started to become more successful at seeing projects through to their conclusion. I suspect that some of this is due to the fact that I actually finished a dissertation. Just in case any of you aren’t familiar with what’s involved with writing one of those, it’s essentially writing a book-length scholarly discussion, which has to go through several rounds of revision before it’s ready to be defended. As a result, you’re very much encouraged to make steady and reliable progress (even though, it must be said, this usually works out better in theory than in practice). I can assure you, the feeling of accomplishment at completing a beast like that is enough to encourage you to see every project you start through to completion.

The key to this method of composition is, I think, building in a mechanism that keeps you accountable to someone other than yourself. When you’re simply writing in accordance with your own deadlines, it can be all too easy to start making excuses, to reassure yourself that you’re still on track, even if you don’t finish something. By having some external power, you can make sure that you meet important deadlines. I don’t know about all of you, but disappointing someone is always a great motivator for me to finish something.

So, while it might not for everyone, I find that having multiple projects going at once is a key part of my creativity. This might change at some point in the future but, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Why We Write Serial Fiction

I was recently chatting with an academic friend about The Filliquian Chronicle, and I was describing how we’ve structured the narrative. “In essence,” I said, “it’s structured a bit like a television series, so that each installment is somewhat like an episode, with several of them grouped together in an arc that resembles a television season. All of the seasons will then add up into a cohesive and coherent whole.” While I expected my friend to give me at least a bit of pushback–for comparing such widely different media as the written word and television, if for nothing else–to my surprise she actually thought that made sense. And besides, she pointed out, it might make it even easier to one day convert our written story into a screenplay for a television series (isn’t that the dream?)

While I’d come up with the television metaphor sort of on the spur of the moment, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that achieving a sort of television effect was exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. We wanted to create a story in which readers could truly immerse themselves but also enjoy piecemeal. Admittedly, at first our motivation was simple enthusiasm: we wanted to get our work out into the world as soon as we could while also adhering to our policy standards (i.e., giving our readers the sort of high-quality reading experience that they could expect from a book published via a more traditional method). But as we continued on, we found that this format actually suited our process and our vision.

At first glance, it might seem a bit counterintuitive to write and publish an epic in a serial form. It’s one thing, after all, to see one produced on television which, as a form, has become increasingly serialized. (It’s worth pointing out that, as Game of Thrones has shown us, the serialized epic isn’t always as successful as we might like it to be). It’s quite another to take a story and break it up into several chunks that have to all be read in order to make sense of the whole thing. It’s important to remember, though, that this actually used to be a lot more common, and most people are probably aware that many of the great works of 19th Century fiction (especially several of the works of Charles Dickens) were published in serial form. (Can you tell that one of us has a graduate degree in English?)

Furthermore, we like to think that the way that we’ve structured the narrative makes sense and adheres to our vision of what the story would look like and how the characters would develop while also remaining pleasurable to read for our potential readers. We want you to emerge from reading each installment having learned a lot more about the character, while also feeling like the plot has advanced in a measurable away. As paradoxical as it sounds, we’ve actually come to think that publishing in this serial form might help us avoid the sort of narrative bloat that all too frequently takes over other works of epic fantasy fiction.

Indeed, part of the reason that Kellen and I decided to publish this series through Amazon–rather than through more traditional methods of publishing–was because we knew that the traditional model is not very receptive to new ways of doing things. It would be hard enough to get a mainstream fantasy publisher to take our little erotic epic seriously, let alone agree with us that a serial mode of storytelling was the way to go. They’d probably want us to adhere to the traditional 600-page epic and, while we certainly have some of those planned for the future (in a different universe than The Filliquian, though connected to it in a strange way), that just wasn’t what we wanted to do with this story. It’s just lucky for us that we now live in a world where there exist so many other outlets for us to pursue our artistic vision.

What’s more, we’re also working on several short stories set in the same universe–and in some cases sharing the same characters–that we plan on publishing as small add-ons, either for those who simply love of our world and want to spend more time in it and/or for those who simply can’t wait for the next installment. These little stories are more like vignettes, stories that help to flesh out what has already taken place, giving you, the reader, a little more perspective.

We hope that as we publish each successive entry in The Filliquian Chronicle that more and more people find themselves drawn into this world. While each installment can in theory be read and enjoyed on its own, it’s also true that you’ll only really be able to gasp the fullness of our vision if you read all of them. To use another media metaphor. Think of what we’re doing as a little like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sure, you can watch any of the films and enjoy them, but you’ll really only get the most pleasure out of it if you embrace the whole thing.

In the near future, we hope to be able to bring you a new entry of the series once a month. It was, as you might recall, originally a bi-weekly schedule, but we found that that just wasn’t possible to maintain on our respective schedules. We’re hoping, though, that with a once-a-month schedule that we’ll be able to be a bit more consistent. Look at it this way: you’ll always have something from us to be reading!

What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of publishing in a serial format? Is this something that you think other writers of fantasy should look into doing, or do you think that something is lost when you move away from the one big book model? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. We love to hear from our readers!

On the Pleasures of World Building

Ask any fan of epic fantasy what they enjoy most about the epic fantasy, and they will almost certainly tell you that they love seeing the way that epic fantasy authors create their own secondary worlds,

Certain fantasy authors have become famous for their ability to craft secondary worlds that have a level of depth and sophistication that are truly the envy of all of those who write in epic fantasy. Tolkien, of course, tops the list, if for no other reason than that he even provided his fictional people with a language all their own (and, of course, there is the fact that he created a fictional history that’s literally thousands of years long). Other, more recent authors have become giants in their own right. Brandon Sanderson is famous for his ability to create worlds that are as delightfully complex as our own, and George RR Martin has shown again and again that he has a very firm grasp on the convoluted histories of his own fictional world (even if he doesn’t always have the same grasp of his primary narratives, but that’s a different blog post). And of course Terry Brooks, in his sprawling Shannara series, has shown the ways in which an epic fantasy can have impacts that echo through numerous generations of a single family.

As we’ve embarked on our own epic fantasy story, we’ve found that one of the things we’ve enjoyed the most (aside from crafting our story, of course) has been the ability to create a world that’s entirely our own. From cosmology to countries, from customs to conflicts, we’ve begun putting the flesh on the bones of this sprawling secondary world (a term from Tolkien, by the way). It’s a little like being able to create your very own toy chest, with all of the attendant joys and perils.

Part of the pleasure for us comes from our love of history. The advantage of writing epic fantasy rather than historical fiction means that we can draw upon historical reality, even while we don’t have to have the same level of fidelity that a true historical novelist does (we don’t have to worry, for example, that some reader is going to criticize us for not adhering to history). At a broader level, it’s also fascinating to watch the ways that events that happened in the distant past in our created world have effects and consequences that echo down through the generations. In that sense, writing a history of your world is a little like writing actually history in that you gain a more nuanced understanding of how events and choices in one particular period can echo down the ages, changing everything that comes after that.

Another enjoyable aspect of world building is the excitement of discovery. Though of course we have a pretty extensive set of histories already built, any author will tell you that there are times when you’re writing a narrative when you accidentally find out that something happened in the past–whether that of a character of your fictional world–that totally changes how you thought about things. Just as importantly, it can sometimes radically change how you conceived of your plot and, while this is certainly a good thing a lot of the time, it can also be quite a challenge.

I guess you might say that fantasy-world building is a bit like playing God. After all, it’s entirely up to you what your world is going to look like, how its people are going to worship (assuming that you pay attention to matters of religion), how magic works (and what its history looks like), and how all of this impacts the characters that, presumably, you’ve already created. And, of course, you’ve got to make sure that your story meshes with your fictional history in a way that makes logical, organic sense. It’s all quite a lot to keep straight in your mind.

Because, of course, there are some more challenging parts of the whole world-building process. It’s very easy–for us, at least–to just sort of tumble down the wormhole. Sometimes, we get so invested in the creation of our world and all of the things about it that we forget that there’s actually a story that we’re trying to tell that’s set in this world. It’s hard to really explain this to someone who doesn’t either read or write epic fantasy, but it really is difficult sometimes to give the stories that are set in the present the love that they deserve. On the other hand, spending so much time building up a secondary world does give us opportunities to explore more stories in the future, so there’s always an upside.

Overall, world building is definitely one of the most satisfying and challenging aspects of writing epic fantasy. Just as you often find yourself both falling in love with and getting frustrated with the characters that you create, you often find your world taking on a bit of a life of its own. Sure, you may start off creating a theocracy loosely modeled on the Byzantine Empire, but soon you find elements of the Crusaders and the Templars moving in and that, in turn, begins to inflect the entire way that you had conceived of the essential conflict at the heart of the story. Sure, you start out with an empire sort of like Rome, but then it becomes a little something different, far more permissive of female empowerment than its historical predecessor. These are the sorts of changes that make world building such a pleasurable part of writing epic fantasy.

As we move forward with our series, we look forward to continuing to discover more about this world and the peoples that inhabit it. Just as importantly, we’re also looking forward to thinking about not only the past of this world, but also the future. There are so many stories that we’ve already started developing in this world, and we look forward to sharing all of them with you.

On Writing Queer Characters in Fantasy

There’s no doubt that as a genre fantasy has made some great strides in terms of representation. Even epic fantasy–notoriously conservative in its depiction of gender, sexuality, and race–has begun to catch up with the times, with women and people of color (and even some queer folks) finally staking their claims. It’s really quite refreshing to see the enormous diversity of voices that have come into their own as the genre has entered into a new phase, that it’s begun to move beyond its very Euro-centric biases.

However, to our eye it’s still pretty rare to find queer people as the heroes of their own stories. There are some recent exceptions to this rule–Tessa Gratton’s Lady Hotspur is one notable example–and of course the Kushiel books have a lot of queerness in them. However, it still seemed to us that epic fantasy needed its own queer couple to root for, a pair of heroes that were very much in love, indeed whose love would prove to be absolutely vital in their epic journey.

Thus, when we set out to write The Filliquian Chronicle, we knew from the beginning that we knew that our leads-Nicholas and Alric–were going to be lovers, and that what began as basically a one-night stand (with profound political consequences). However, as their journey has unfolded, we’ve found that simply having them engage in sexual encounters with men was not only repetitive; it also seemed like a betrayal of the religious system that we’d developed. So, with each of the books that we’re writing, we’re really asking our characters, particularly Nicholas, to think outside of the boundaries that have been imposed upon him and which he has taken to heart.

In that sense, The Filliquian Chronicle is itself a questioning not only of the ways in which people use faith to (often hypocritically) restrict and punish the expressions of healthy human desire, but also of the categories that we use when we talk about the expression of gender and sexuality. After all, the world that we’ve created doesn’t have to operate according to the same rules as ours does. Thus, in a nation like Troyeis, monogamy, even in marriage, is something of an anomaly rather than the norm. Indeed, as we’ve begun to follow Nicholas (who’s something of an ingenue), we find him experiencing the full range of human sexuality (even when he’s not comfortable doing so at first).

Indeed, it’s transpiring that, despite the many struggles Nicholas and Alric have endured and the many challenges their relationship has faced, that they do truly love one another. Though we still haven’t quite figured out the ending of the series as a whole, part of us hopes that these two characters will become the sort of figures that people can get invested in. After all, part of the reason we started writing this series was to fulfill the gaps that we sensed when we were younger fantasy aficionados yearning for queer heroes.

As we’ve begun to sketch out the later threads of our narrative, we’ve found that we need to add in more characters in order to capture the full range of human sexual and gender expression (or at least as full as we can come within the scope of one series). Indeed, when we started writing the storylines for the second major arc of our story, we found that there were a number of characters that were just clamoring to get their own voices heard. Some of these were characters that had already introduced in the first arc, but a number of others, including a young woman who is pansexual and a character that would probably identify as trans in our world, suddenly began to make appearances.

We want to emphasize, however, that we’re not interested in tokenism, and we’ve working very hard to avoid that particular fictional trap. We don’t want these characters to be defined exclusively in terms of their gender or sexuality, though of course that is a key part of who they are and we make no apologies for that fact. However, we also want our readers to see and to understand them as fully-fledged characters in their own right, with complex realities and ways of looking at the world. And, while some of them are heroes, some are decidedly not. To our mind, it’s high time that we have some unequivocally queer villains out there.

All of this, of course, is quite political, and we are very much aware of that fact. Representation matters, and it matters that our characters are queer (in all of the many ways that that word is defined). We’re almost making a concerted effort to include people of color in this world, not just as window-dressing and not just as dispensable characters. In fact, Alric is what we in our world would be called biracial, since his father is from the France-like nation of Troyeis, while his mother is from one of the southern kingdoms. What’s more, it matters that they engage in explicitly queer sex. We’ve made clear from the beginning of this process that we wanted to write an epic fantasy that was a fantasy in all the senses of the word, and we like to think that we’ve succeeded.

Are we going to get everything “right?” Almost certainly not. We understand that there are a lot of risks in including various minority groups in our fiction, precisely because, though we are queer ourselves, we recognize that there are many types of experience that we will never inhabit. However, what we hope to keep doing, as we work on The Filliquian Chronicle (as well as our various other projects), is to provide our readers, and ourselves, an opportunity to really and truly explore the world in new ways. If we happen to stumble a bit along the way, we hope to be able to make them learning experiences. And through it all we hope that you, dear readers, will enjoy reading our books as much as we enjoy writing them.

The Benefits of Writing out of Your Comfort Zone

As anyone who knows us is well aware, we’re passionate fans of big, sprawling epic fantasies. We’re talking about books that could easily double as doorstops (think Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and George R.R. Martin). We love seeing the way in which they manage to bring together various narrative strands, we love the world-building, and of course we love the epic heroes and heroines. And, to be honest, we just love the sheer physicality of an epic fantasy novel.

And, of course, most of our writing to date has been located squarely within this tradition. Both The Filliquian Chronicle and our other writing adventures (which are, as of now, still in the early stages of writing) are epics, even if the former is told in a serialized form. Given how much we love reading epic fantasy fiction, it just seemed that the genre was our natural home when the writing bug bit us.

However, both of us have started to think about other forms of fantasy that we want to work in. In particular, we’ve started to develop some ideas in both dark fantasy and gaslight/gaslamp fantasy, both sub-genres with which we are familiar but in which we have yet to write anything (until now, obviously). We have, of course, read in these genres: both of us were and are fans (if conflicted ones) of Stephen King’s dark fantasy series The Dark Tower, and at least one of us enjoyed the gargantuan gas-lamp fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And so, to give ourselves an outlet for some our other creative energies, we started working on stories set in these genres.

At present, we’re hard at work on a number of short projects. These include: a short story in the gaslight fantasy genre (about a Japanese princess sent to marry the Prince of Wales who’s kidnapped by a group of renegade angels); a dark fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic Appalachia that features a young woman known as a Pureborn who must go on a deadly journey; a novella/novelette about the three sisters of King Arthur and their conflict with the Lady Nimue after his death; and last, but certainly not least, a number of short stories set in the world of The Filliquian Chronicle but focusing on a number of secondary characters (at the moment, Stefan the stableboy and Julian the Corsair).

This list makes it clear that we’re really trying to stretch our wings in terms of our writing, both in terms of genre and form. Both of us are more comfortable reading and writing epic fantasy, but we we are very excited about these new ventures. For one thing, it gives us a little bit of a break from our continuing work on The Fillquian Chronicle. As much as we love that world and the characters in it, we’ve both found that we can keep ourselves fresh and sharp by working on multiple projects at the same time, and it definitely helps if at least a few of these aren’t epic fantasy.

For all of the limitations imposed by a reduced word count, there is also something refreshing about it. When you’re writing an epic, word count is less of an issue, precisely because those who enjoy the genre do so because of its sprawling stories and enormous world. With shorter projects, meanwhile, the pleasures–for both you and your reader–are significantly different. You must always be wary of introducing new plot threads (and characters) that you cannot possibly explore in any detail within the confines of a short story.

Don’t get us wrong. For two people with an epic temperament–particularly KC who, it must be said, tends to be verbose–it can be very challenging indeed to both tell a smaller story and do it in a very short form. However, writing within the confines of a short story means that you have to be especially attentive to each and every word that you’re using, since you have such a small canvas. Needless to say, honing this skill is also very useful for when you expand to larger projects, and it (hopefully) helps you avoid the sort of narrative and expositional bloat that so often beleaguers epic fantasists as they move further into their own series (we’re looking at you, George RR Martin).

There is also something liberating about writing outside of one’s generic comfort zone. Generically, it makes you consciously evaluate what it is that makes the various sub-genres of fantasy work. What’s more, understanding, say, dark fantasy and its conventions and mechanisms, allows you to also gain a richer and deeper understanding of epic as well. You find new things that you can bring into your own writing, new facets of the fantastic that can enliven your epic fantasy, giving it a richness and a depth that might otherwise have lacked.

Writing these short pieces is still very much ongoing, and we have many more ideas that we want to continue exploring. However, we already feel like we’ve learned a great deal, both about our own writing processes and about the genres that we’ve chosen to explore. When you get right down to it, we’ve found that we truly love writing fantasy in all of its forms, and we look forward to sharing our work with all of you.

Of course, for right now our focus is going to continue on epic fantasy, but we’re very excited to be working in a number of other forms and genres. Though we know it’s a lot to ask, we hope that our readers will continue with us as we take this journey into the unknown. We haven’t yet decided what we’re going to do with most of these projects (the short stories set in the world of Filliquian will most likely be available on Amazon). In all likelihood, we’ll submit some of the others for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest and, if they don’t win, we’ll publish them either on Amazon or here on the website.

It’s Release Eve!: What to Expect from Our First Novella

Well, it’s finally here, the day before the first installment of “The Filliquiuan Chronicle,” To Seek the Flesh, hits Amazon. Have you been waiting with baited breath? We really hope so!

In any case, we just wanted to drop all of you lovely people out there in the dark a few notes about what to expect from us going forward.

First: genre. As we noted some time ago, this series is very much a blend of erotica and epic fantasy. There is quite a lot of hardcore sex–gay, straight, and everything in-between–but rest assured, it is very much key to the plot and to the world that we’ve created. And fear not, the epic part is also very much in evidence, with quests and magic and gods and such. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Second: frequency: Every two weeks, we’ll be releasing a new installment of this story. We’ve been working on this project for a very long time, and we’re confident that we have a firm hand on the narrative, what directions it will take, and so forth. We really feel that the serial mode of storytelling is best suited to the tale that we have to tell, and we hope that you’ll agree with us. Besides, that means that you won’t have to wait that long for your next fix!

Third: format. At this point, we’re primarily releasing our works through Amazon Kindle, as well as through Kindle Unlimited. This basically means that we’ll be focusing on e-books, though there is also the option to have the book printed paperback on demand if you so desire. And for those who don’t know what Kindle Unlimited is, it’s basically like Spotify or Netflix for books. I subscribe to it personally, and the choice of books available is actually quite robust and at around $10 a month, it’s pretty reasonable ting.

Those are the most important things that you need to know about reading “The Filliquian Chronicle.” We’ve had a blast writing it, and we really hope that you all enjoy it, comment on it, and share it with your friends. We are still in the process of building this website, but as the story grows, we hope to make our own little corner of the internet a place where you can learn more about our fantasy world(s), what we’re reading, as well as whatever else piques our interest.

So, thank you for joining us, and we look forward to sharing our world with you!

All Our Love,

Kellen and KC

We Ride the Storm Review, Part Two

Thanks everyone, for stopping by. Kellen and I are about to continue our ongoing review of We Ride the Storm. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments section!

KC Winters: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to our collaborative review of We Ride the Storm.

I don’t know about you, but I REALLY enjoyed this second set of chapters, as so many pieces begin to click into place and the plot begins to move along at a faster pace.

Kellen Darcy: I’m really getting into it. All of the parts are starting to come together and we’re seeing how they interact with each other, and we’re starting to get a glimpse of the overall plot arc. Maybe. I got at least one big surprise in this batch of reading.

KC Winters: What I find really compelling about this book is the ways in which it manages to shift in tone from chapter to chapter, from the brutality of captivity to the no-less-deadly (if more suave) dance associated with politics.

For that matter, I’m still not entirely sure which characters I am really cheering for, since they all seem so complicated and often unpleasant.

Kellen Darcy: I’m kind of into not just how it manages to shift in tone, but how the characters themselves shift from part to part, and how they each have their own distinct voice. They’re all definitely different people from different cultures with their own distinct personality; I don’t get the feeling that any of it is just shoehorned in for the sake of having them, though

I WILL fight you about Miko, though. I haven’t encountered a character I enjoyed so much out of the gate in a long, long time. She is brilliant and wonderful and shining and I will hear no different.

KC Winters: LOL! I, too, like Miko. I’m always partial to politics in fantasy novels. The wheeling and dealing, the backroom plotting and scheming, that’s the stuff that draws me and keeps me interested. I definitely agree with you that Miko is a fascinating character.

But, can we talk about what a gut-punch it was to see her brother killed so offhandedly? I honestly didn’t see it coming, and while he wasn’t a particularly bright fellow, I was still shocked at his death.

What I also enjoy about this book is the way that there are a lot of enigmas, both large and small, that are slowly being revealed as we make our way through the plot.

Kellen Darcy: I was mostly surprised when he got snuffed because I assumed from early on he was the obnoxious character that’s mostly required of fantasy. You know, the one that we get stuck with through an entire series for, as far as I can tell, the express points of both annoying us and making all of the other character’s lives difficult.

Which isn’t to say that he wasn’t a well-written character, because he was (while he lasted), but whew. I’m not sure whether he just wasn’t the brightest or he was just so wrapped up in himself it stunted his growth.

Let’s talk about Cassandra. We’ve found out a little more about her in this part, but I feel like of the three main characters she’s still the most mysterious.

KC Winters: Ah yes, Cassandra. I have a feeling that there’s something deeply significant about her name (referencing the Greek character, of course). But that scene where she withdraws Her from the dead body was deeply unsettling. It’s yet another sign of this book’s strength, that it manages to bring in a note of the horrifying to spice up the fantasy.

Kellen Darcy: I find Her to be pretty unsettling all on Her own. What is She, anyway? I assume from the things Cassandra thinks and a few others have said that She has been around since at least Cassandra was a child, but absolutely nothing that clues me in on what She actually is.

She’s like some hysterical Victorian woman who is somehow possessing an assassin in a fantasy world. I approve. I hope there’s a spectral fainting couch following her around. She seems to need one.

KC Winters: It was rather surprising that Cassandra seemed to feel so empty without her, suggesting that a symbiotic relationship has emerged between them.

And that moment when they reconnect was…unsettling. However, I did like that Cassandra’s storyline began to intersect with that of the Empress and, by extension, Miko. I can’t wait to see what happens!

Kellen Darcy: Yeah, the last few chapters we finished seems to throw some of the last few connecting points for the main characters in. I suspect Miko and Cassandra would actually get along rather well, even if it starts out bumpy while they tell one another how the other one is just awful.

Although I don’t think they’d ever admit it, they’re kind of similar people at the base of things, even if Cassandra is suspicious of everyone and Miko is only suspicious of what so far seems to be the wrong people to be suspicious of.

I think the big rub between them would be that Miko seems to care more about things that are bigger than her, while Cassandra is suspicious of everything. I’m seeing the odds being very good for Cass telling her that Miko thinks she’s a better person because she cares about the Empire, but that she’s just as selfish because she cares more about the Otako than Kisia itself. I also suspect the odds are good that Cassandra wouldn’t like me calling her Cass.

KC Winters: Lastly, I just wanted to say how much I also enjoyed reading Rah. He’s just such a compelling character, and the brutality of his scenes are refreshing in their own way, even as they show us a very different picture of this world.

Kellen Darcy: It looks like this is where we’re going to end this one. We’ll be back soon with the next part of the review. See you then!

We Ride the Storm Review, Part One

Hi everyone, and welcome to the first installment of our review of We Ride the Storm, the first book of The Reborn Empire by Devin Madson. First, we’d both like to thank the author for writing such a compelling book, and second, we’d like to thank Mark Lawrence for creating the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO), through which we discovered this book.

KC Winters: I have to say, I REALLY enjoyed these first six chapters. There’s a gritty realism to the opening chapter that drew me in at once, but I’m also very intrigued by the complicated politics that are already emerging.

And besides, who doesn’t like a kickass assassin who also happens to be a courtesan?

Kellen Darcy: I’m honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed the first six chapters, and how invested I already am in what happened. It’s not unusual for it to take me half a book or more to get into something, and I was definitely in by the end of the third chapter.

I’ve abandoned a few series that I ended up enjoying later in just the first bit- some of the more popular examples being The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire- but I made it through our allotted first part with pretty much a lack of drama on my part.

KC Winters: I feel like this is one of those stories where the enigmas are only gradually going to be revealed, and I like that. I relish the feeling of always feeling on the edge of my seat, wondering when the next shoe is going to drop, when the next aspect of the mystery is going to be revealed.

I also like that there is clearly a vast history to this world, one that is only gradually being revealed to us.

Kellen Darcy: I agree with that feeling of a vast world still coming out, and I want to add that I appreciate the pace that it’s unfurled so far. I love fantasy, but one thing that I think a lot of fantasy writers have a hard time with is a decent pacing when they’re unfurling that world in their writing.

I feel like quite a chunk of works I’ve read go too fast or too slow with relatively few hitting that sweet spot in the middle. I’m reading fantasy for the world building as much as the plot, to be clear. But you can’t dump a thousand years or more of your world’s history in my lap all at one and expect me to keep up or not abandon ship in frustration. At the same time, you can’t just leave the entire scope of the world out until halfway through the series.

KC Winters: Exactly. Like you, I find that it is very hard to find that in a lot of fantasy. Tad Williams is one who does it very well, and of course the greats like Robert Jordan. I also find it to be one of the things I struggle the most with as a writer, juggling the generic demands of fully-realized alternate world and engaging present-day plot.

Obviously, you’re going to discover aspects of your world that you didn’t know before (when you started writing), but you also have to make sure that you have a firm enough handle on your own mythos to bring it into your own work. Madson seems to have the knack of it.

So, who was your favourite character so far?

Kellen Darcy: I don’t honestly know yet. Miko, so far, especially by the end of Chapter 6. She seems so confident in herself and what she’s doing at so many points, but then at other times it’s obvious that she’s a flawed person and realizes that she doesn’t have all of the pieces.

I feel like I know more about her than I do the other POV characters at this point, so I feel more of a connection with her. That may or may not change as we go further through the book.

KC Winters: Yeah, I agree. She definitely seems cut from the Arya Stark mold, and it’s precisely because she’s so innocent (compared to the other POV characters) that I feel like she has a lot of room to grow. And, since I’m partial to the political part of a lot of fantasy, I always find myself drawn to those particular parts of a given novel.

Kellen Darcy: If we’re going with an ASoIaF comparison here, I don’t know that it would be Arya I’d compare her to. She seems much more aware of the reality of things than Arya was in the earlier parts of the series; of course, it turns out she isn’t as clever as she thought, but still. She lacks that almost innocence Arya seemed (at least to me) to hang on to until much later in the series, long after she should have lost it many times over. (I feel like it was hard for the lesson to soak into Arya’s thick skull all the way.)

I can’t actually think of a good ASoIaF comparison character. She’s tough like Arya, sure, but she also has a kind of naiveté like early Sansa did, but without the constant whining and victim complex even before she was a victim. And a lot less yammering about lemon cakes.

I feel like so far, ALL of the main characters have been lacking that poor judgement of literally everything pretty much everyone in ASoIaF exhibited for too long. Thankfully.

KC Winters: Oh, that’s definitely all true. I didn’t really mean to draw a one-on-one comparison, just to point out that she’s a certain TYPE of character, one that I usually find more appealing.

I really feel like Madson has a control over her characters that very few other authors of epic fantasy (ahem, Martin and Jordan) don’t seem to have. She allows us into their heads, yes, but she doesn’t allow them to be as self-indulgent as so many other epic fantasy characters. Which, let me tell you, is like a freaking breath of fresh air.

Kellen Darcy: Fair enough.  Even though it’s been over two decades I’m still easily irritated by how dense some of the ASoIaF characters were.

I enjoy the way Madson is presenting her characters to us. They’re not stuffed shells of blandness, they’re not acting like they’re in a vacuum, they’re not the only thing happening in the world. I like them as characters, even if I don’t know them well enough to like or dislike them as people.

KC Winters: I completely agree. I can’t wait to see where they go from here and, really, isn’t that the best thing about a fantasy novel?

Kellen Darcy: It’s precisely why I enjoy fantasy, especially compared to historical fiction- which I also really enjoy. I never have an idea where it IS going to go- I always know the world didn’t end with historical fiction. I don’t think.

I think this is as good of a spot as any to cut off this time- unless I have been reading historical fiction wrong and the world is over. Join us soon for the second installment!