Dec 19, 2013

Change, Upheaval, and a New Direction

Hello all, I know it's been awhile since anyone has heard from me, and so I decided to issue a little statement as to why and inform my readership about what has been happening.  As you all know, The Awakening Storm is a bit late...alright, very late.  Believe me, I'm working on it.  The truth is that a story like this, as large as this, is hard to write properly, and takes lots of time.  I know I've had lots of time, surely, but it isn't that simple.

Since October of last year (2012) my life has been a little hectic.  I landed a new job, went through the nastier parts of divorce, had a debilitating injury, suffered financial hardship, and moved nearly the length of the eastern seaboard.  That's just life, but it certainly isn't conducive to the creative process.  Well, the reason I'm writing you this message is to inform you that things are once again about to change, but for the better.

Just after the New Year I'll once again be moving.  I'm coming back home to Georgia, where I will focus completely on writing.  Instead of working 55-60 hours a week, and sitting down here and there for an hour or a couple of hours to try and force out a few pages, I'll be sitting down to put the proverbial pen to the paper, and focus completely on getting my stories out there.  I'm finally at a place in my life where I can make my writing priority one, and get all these books finished.  Minimal stress, and maximum creativity.

I won't promise a release date, because I've learned that life tends to interfere with your best-laid plans.  However, after the 7th of January, all I will be doing is working on The Awakening Storm.  Goodbye corporate grindstone, hello life of the starving artist.  I will be able to give this series the attention it deserves, and deliver that same quality to you.  Because you deserve it, too.

Hopefully within the next two months, the next time you'll hear from me will be the announcement that The Awakening Storm is finished and available.  Again, you guys are the best, and I enjoy reading your comments, reviews, and anything else you have to say.  I'll be typing at you soon.

~D.W.

Sep 9, 2013

Spoilers

It's been awhile, guys and gals, and I know you've been waiting a long time to read The Awakening Storm.  Before you get too excited, no it's not done.  Sadly enough.  It is, however, in progress.  Since the story is taking awhile to come together the way it needs to, I thought I would share an excerpt here for you.  So, the following is an tiny piece of the story.  Enjoy, and know that TAS is coming within the next few months.  Thanks again for all the support you continue to show me, and for spending a short time in the world that I've come to love.


The entrance to the tunnel was in sight, but Dormael felt like he was trapped in a dream where his destination kept getting farther and farther away no matter how fast he ran.  He could almost feel the Garthorin behind him.  The sensation was something akin to snakes crawling up his back, and his mind painted a frightening picture of a slavering, maddened beast directly on his heels, gaining on him with every step.  Bethany started to let out tiny, fearful noises—not screams, but crooning noises that bespoke of her fear and anxiety.  Dormael chanced a look at her, and saw the girl’s face contorted in a frightened expression, eyes staring intently at the cave they were running toward.  A pang of regret mixed with righteous anger shot through him at the sight, but he had no time to give in to emotion.  He pumped his legs, breathed as deeply as he could, and ran on.
Suddenly, Dormael felt D’Jenn’s song issue forth into the cave, and the air around them seemed to grow thick with tension.  Dormael glanced toward his cousin, but D’Jenn had an intense look of concentration on his face, and paid Dormael no mind.  Dormael suddenly felt cold, and noticed that his breath was misting before his face.  The air in his lungs was thick with exertion, and the cold added an imagined weight to it that made it even harder for him to draw breath.  His legs burned, his chest heaved for air, and his hand clutched ever tighter to Bethany, drawing her onward.
D’Jenn turned then, jumping in mid-air with a grace that Dormael hadn’t known his cousin possessed.  He threw out a hand, and his magic rushed forth in a quick burst.  A tiny, white light shot from D’Jenn’s hand and flew past Dormael, making a tinny screeching noise as it hurtled past.  Dormael nearly stumbled as he looked over his shoulder to see the effects of D’Jenn’s spell.
The light hit the ground, and ice shot up from the place where it hit, blossoming like man-sized icicles that impaled a small number of the beast-men who had gained on them in the confusion.  Other Garthorin stumbled into the impaled group, breaking the shards of ice and tumbling over their pack mates in their frenzy to reach the companions.  It wasn’t much, but it did buy them a few seconds to put some distance between themselves and the Mountain Madmen.  When Dormael turned to look where he was going, D’Jenn was already turned back and heading in the same direction.
His spell had given them the precious seconds they had needed to reach the ramp leading into the tunnel ahead of the Garthorin.  Dormael gained a burst of energy as he saw the tunnel within reach.  He bounded for it, nearly pulling Bethany off of her feet in his fervor to reach the narrower passageway.  The walls of the tunnel closed in around him, and he hurried into the darkness beyond.
The Garthorin, though, did not stop.
A snarl behind him alerted him to the danger a second too late to react.  He’d abandoned his attention to the rear, focusing everything on the flight toward the tunnel, and it had been a grave mistake.  He turned his head, everything seeming to move in slow motion around him.  Bethany let out a scream.  The beast-man was altogether too close to Bethany, and its hungry eyes were locked upon her and filled with something that gave Dormael a helpless, fearful feeling.
Everything was happening so fast, and he was moving too slow.
The Garthorin was a brute, even for his species.  Hulking shoulders drove the long, muscled arms that propelled the thing into the tunnel, and claws that seemed as large as knives scraped at the stone as it came.  It opened its mouth, displaying oversized canine teeth as it let out an excited snarl, slaver dripping from one corner as it lowered its head for the rush that would propel it right into his frightened daughter.
He moved, trying to pull her away from the thing, but his feet betrayed him and he only stumbled to the side, jerking her from her feet and onto the floor beside him.  He yelled in helpless frustration as he fell, watching the beast come on and knowing that there was nothing he could do about it.  His spear was no help, and there was no way he could summon his magic and throw something together in time to keep it away from the girl.
He was just too damned slow!
Still, he tried, ripping his Kai into action and gathering his magic to throw it at the beast.  He didn’t have a clear direction, a clear intention, so the spell would be wild and unpredictable.  A gamble, though, was better than the sure fate that awaited her at the claws of the hungry beast.  He had to try something!
There was a defiant scream from behind him, the scuffle of boots on stone, and suddenly Allen was there.  His brother’s feet sailed over Dormael’s head, and Dormael could actually see pebbles falling from Allen’s boots as he hurled, screaming, headlong into the rushing Garthorin.  For a split second, everything moved in that slow motion that only comes from startled disbelief.
Then Allen Harlun, the Champion of the Gladiator’s Ring in Tept, the most widely renowned warrior in all of the Sevenlands, went to war with an entire horde of oncoming Garthorin.
He hit the beast directly head-on, slamming the spiked pommel of one of his hand-axes into the thing’s skull.  Blood spattered over the wall and his armor, and the momentum of the rushing beast slamming into Allen’s armored form had made a clatter that seemed to resound off the walls of the cavern.  Allen somehow directed the beast’s suddenly limp form to the ground to his right, kicking it aside and skipping lightly out of its way while simultaneously pulling the axe free. 
He spun then, whipping a short sword from a sheath on his belt, and moved to meet a second beast that had alighted upon him during the fight.  It came rushing at him, and Allen faked a step to his right, baiting the Garthorin into changing its trajectory.  It worked, and the thing corrected its rush to intercept Allen, only to find the warrior quick-stepping out of its way.  The beast didn’t have time to change direction again, and Allen struck with the short sword, opening a deep gash in the thing’s neck as it went by, and spinning to engage yet another beast that loped into the mouth of the tunnel.
Allen killed two more Garthorin before Shawna joined him in the fight, and another before D’Jenn was there with his morningstar and magic, the three of them doing a fair job of holding back the ever growing tide of beasts that tried to get at them.  It couldn’t last forever, though.  Dormael knew it.  They knew it.
A cold realization hit Dormael as he got to his feet, clutching his spear.  He pulled Bethany to her feet, and thrust the two pieces of the Nar’doroc into her waiting arms.  She was confused, but too tired to offer up any of the questions that would normally come rushing from her mouth.  She simply looked up at him, eyes full of dread and worry, and took the armlets as he offered them to her.
“Go, dear.  Get to the top,” he huffed.
“No,” she growled, “We’re all going.  You, me, Shawna, Allen and D’Jenn.  All of us!”
Dormael looked again at the fight happening just steps away from them, and the seething mass of Garthorin that seemed to only be growing.  He sighed and looked back to Bethany.  She met his eyes, and he knew that she knew.  The girl was too smart to think anything else, but her immaturity still warred for dominance with her logic.
“You know we’re not,” Dormael said, giving her a smile that was full of a myriad jumble of emotions.  Sadness, regret, pride, and a love that was deeper than he’d realized, right up until this moment.
Bethany made to say something, but all that came out of her mouth was some mixture of an angry growl and a sob.  She gave him a helpless look, her eyes conveying a hope that he was going to do something, anything to make the outcome different.  Dormael felt a failure for his helplessness.  She saw it in him, and her eyes turned downward.

“You can’t leave me,” she said.  “Not again.”


--From The Awakening Storm, The Seven Signs Book Two, by D.W. Hawkins

Jun 6, 2013

Beneath the Red Sky

Don't tell anyone about this, guys.  It's a secret lol.  Here's a small piece of the new story I've been working on during my breaks from TAS.  Enjoy...



    “While you’re down there, just remember two things!” Graham shouted, raising his revolver to point to the sky.  At that moment, the mist around them broke away, and the Zephyr was suddenly awash in early morning twilight.  Rin shielded her eyes for a bare second against the sudden change in illumination, and spared a glance to the sky around her.
    Her heart stopped at what she saw.
    All around them, above and before, the orange-hued morning sky was filled with the figures of ships.  It took Rin a moment to process what she was seeing, as her mind tried to catch up to the sight.  Those weren’t Alliance Corsairs, with the telltale bluish sagelight misting from their engines.  They were black ships, armed to the teeth, flying the Spider and Skull.
    They were Imperial Cruisers.
    Their Wing was surrounded on all sides.
    There was a zipping noise, and she heard someone grunt with surprise.  She turned her eyes back to what was happening, and saw Graham standing there with a confused expression on his face, his revolver still pointed to the sky.  Blood seeped from a wound in his chest, just below his heart.  He looked down at it, seemed to notice what had happened, and shook his head.  A half smirk formed on his face, as if he didn’t believe it, and he tried to say something, but the words were lost.  All that came out of his mouth was bright, red blood.  His body crumpled to the deck.
    “Sergeant!” someone shouted.
    “We’re surrounded!”
    “Hard to port!  Full ahead, dammit!”
    “Man the sageguns!  For your lives, you bastards!”
    “Corporal!  Corporal what do we do?”
    It took Rin what seemed like hours to tear her eyes away from Graham.  Willam was crouched over his body, talking to him as he died.  More zipping noises were rushing past her—bullets, fired from somewhere above.  Willam and Graham seemed to be in a bubble of order that lived in a sea of chaos, as marines and sky sailors rushed to and fro on the deck, trying desperately to get the situation under control.  Bullets zipped around them, and explosions erupted suddenly nearby as the Zephyr was fired upon.  The deck pitched hard to the left, but the sageart written into the ship kept the men on board from flying all over the place.  It was odd, given the circumstances.  It seemed like the entire world should be heaving back and forth.
    “Corporal!  Corporal, the company needs orders!”
    Rin turned her eyes the speaker, a brand new Private.  Griggs was his name, she thought.  He was sweating and looked scared, the poor bastard.  He couldn’t have been older than sixteen.
    “What?” she asked.
    “We need orders!” he repeated.
    “Son of a bitch,” she murmured.  Graham was dead, and she was first platoon leader.  She was Sergeant, now.
    Rin took a deep breath, and everything seemed to rush into place around her.  The men were screaming, running every which way.  The Sky Marines—soldiers who defended the ship and only disembarked on the ground—were moving to take up arms and get into firing positions.  The ship’s Captain was shouting orders and manning the helm, and his sailors were responding well enough.  Bullets flew everywhere, and the deck vibrated as the Zephyr barely avoided a shot from one of those Imperial Cruiser’s nocguns.  The sky pitched around them, filled with the black hulls of Imperial ships and exploding artillery.  In the distance she could see one of the Corsairs in their Wing falling from the sky, trailing blue sagelight and the small outlines of bodies as it went down.
    Willam looked up and met her eyes, a grim look passing between them as Graham sputtered out his last, bloody breath.
    “Get the men into position to support the Sky Marines!” she shouted.  “Take cover and provide fire support where you can!  Prepare to jump, and be ready for my order!”
    “But…but we’re not over the city, yet!  Oh Gods, we’re all going to die, aren’t we?” Griggs protested.
    Rin slapped him hard across the face, breaking the young man’s protests immediately.  He raised one hand to where she had slapped him, as if he could feel the imprint in his skin.  She looked hard into his eyes.
    “Get those men into position, Private, and prepare to jump, or I’ll kill you myself!” she hissed.
    “Yes sir!” he shouted, offering her a crisp salute, fist to chest.  She returned it offhandedly and turned her eyes once more to Willam.
    “Get inside your workshop and stay there,” she said.  “A pitched battle is no place for a sagebuilder, Willam.”
    “But—,” he started to protest.
    “Go!” she shouted.  He clamped his mouth shut, and grabbed Graham’s gun belt and revolvers before shuffling away below decks.  Rin watched him go; hoping that he made it through whatever came next.  She knew it was unlikely, though.  They were too badly outnumbered, and had been caught by surprise.
    The Zephyr was doomed.
    Rin tore her eyes from Willam and turned to hurry to the side of the ship, where the railing would provide some semblance of cover from the gunfire that zipped all around her.  She dodged past sailors and Sky Marines as she went, picking up a long rifle from a fallen Marine and finally making it to the starboard side of the ship.  She crouched there, gazing out at the early morning sky and checking the chamber of the rifle.  Four shots were all that were left.
    She was only able to fire two of the shots as targets presented themselves.  The Zephyr was engaged in evasive maneuvers, and the black hulls of the Imperial Cruisers only appeared in her field of view a few times, close enough for her to get a shot off.  Two of the Marines around her died, both of them from shots fired from a nearby Cruiser.  The engines hummed and whined as the Captain demanded more out of them, and twice more the Zephyr nearly took a broadside shot from one of the Cruisers.
    Looking over the railing, Rin could see the ground below at a great distance.  Rolling fields of green blanketed the ground, and the dark blotch of the city of Lodinburg was still too distant to jump to.  The Corsairs were turning away, trying to retreat in good order, but she watched three more ships in their Wing go down in a hail of artillery and nocgun fire, and they were no closer to their objective.  The mission was a failure.  Someone in Alliance Command had made a grave error in determining Imperial numbers here.  She had a sinking feeling as she realized that half of the Alliance Fleet was set to attack Lodinburg.  She wondered how the Eastern front of the assault had fared.
    “Nocbringer!” a voice rang out over the explosions, engines, and general din of the battle.  Rin felt her blood run cold, and for a moment she contemplated jumping over the side of the railing and out into the air.  Her sagerig would save her from the fall—at least she hoped it would.  Her men were counting on her, though, and she couldn’t abandon them.
    She turned her gaze behind her, and whipped her long rifle around to follow.
A dark figure was hurtling through the air, having jumped a yawning distance from a Cruiser that came along the port side of the Zephyr.  Marines turned their rifles and began to fire at the shadowed person, but if they hit anything she couldn’t tell.  She didn’t know much about the Nocturnal Arts, but she had seen sageartists deflect bullets with their power before, and she doubted the bastard could be taken down at such a distance.
    “Turn away!  Hard to starboard!” she screamed over the noise, but the Captain was occupied with his own duties, and trying to keep the Corsair in the sky took his full attention.  She doubted that he’d even heard her.  She screamed out her frustration and fear in a wordless exclamation, and crouched, pulling her rifle up into a firing position.
    If you’re going to die, do it with honor.
She could hear her own breathing as she tracked the nocbringer’s trajectory through the sky.  He was hurtling toward the deck of the ship, and as he came quickly closer, Rin could see a spear or something similar clutched in his hands.  She thought she could hear a war cry issuing forth from the man, but she couldn’t tell if it was in her head or not.  The battle was alive with noises.
    He came on like a comet and slammed into the deck of the ship, piercing the ward net that kept the deck livable with a rush of blue sagelight that emanated from his entry point like ripples in a pond.  The disturbance in the net caused her feet to leave the ground, and men tumbled about in all directions as gravity suddenly asserted itself over the deck of the ship for a bare moment before the sagewards could reassert control over the Corsair.
    Rin tumbled toward the port side of the ship, feeling suddenly helpless and exposed.  She gripped the long rifle in sweaty hands, but slammed hard into the wooden deck and lost it sometime before she slid to a stop amidst the sudden change in gravity as the sagewards recharged.  She fought desperately to her feet, struggling against the vertigo that threatened to keep her on her ass.
    The nocbringer stood like a statue amidst a ruin, holding a spear that seemed to glow with the dark energy that the death-worshippers utilized.  The air around him seemed to waver, as if the energy he was channeling was warping the light around him.  He was dressed all in black leather, and had a strange leather helmet of some sort strapped tight to his head.  Goggles covered his eyes, and beneath them a fell red light shone lowly out into the morning.  Over the leather, he wore a long woolen jacket, with a hood pulled up to shadow most of his head within.  He seemed to see Rin, and smiled a chilling rictus as he hefted his spear.
    “Kill him!” someone called out, and the fight began.
Shots rang out, but the nocbringer moved like lightning, rushing to the side and avoiding the shots.  A few men fell to friendly fire, and Rin rolled away from the fight, reaching over her back and ripping her repeater from the straps that held it in place.  It was a damn sight better for this sort of fight than the long rifles that the Marines carried.
    The nocbringer rushed along the starboard side of the ship, whipping his spear in whirling arcs that slashed the throats of soldiers, or slammed them to the side with a strength that should have been impossible.  She watched two men tumble out into the yawning sky, screaming as they fell to their deaths.  Shots rang out all around her as men sought to kill the nocbringer in one of the bare moments he wasn’t moving, but it was no use.  He had some sort of shield in place that prevented the bullets from reaching him, she was sure.
    Her repeater was a sagetech weapon, larger than most submachine guns and designed to pierce through armor.  It used the sage energy to fire, but still needed ammunition to be of any real use, and Rin whipped one of her magazines from the gear strapped to her side and slammed it home into the mag well.  She pulled the charging handle and the gun began to warm a bit under her hands as it charged.  Four seconds and the gun would be operational.
    Hopefully she would live that long.
    Men screamed in anger as they rushed to meet the nocbringer, and kept on screaming as they fell to his spear, or were whipped up with his power and tossed bodily overboard, the invisible energy he used picking them up and throwing them about like helpless babes.  Rin counted in her head and waited for her chance, stepping cautiously backwards to keep her distance from the frightening man.  She raised her weapon, and caught sight of a few of her Rig Jumpers following her example and readying their repeaters.
    “Concentrate your fire in small bursts!  Spread out and flank him, but don’t get into your comrades’ fields of fire!” she shouted at them, “And whatever you do, don’t close with him!  He’ll kill you faster than you can piss your pants!”
    “Aye, Corporal!” one of them shouted, but she was already concentrating on the fight once again.
The nocbringer whipped through a series of fast attacks, elbowing one man in the throat before breaking his knee with a swift kick.  He screamed in pain as the joint crunched and crumpled at an unnatural angle, but his scream cut off suddenly as the nocbringer suddenly whipped into a backflip and kicked out with his other foot, crushing the man’s jaw in a spray of blood and teeth.  He moved unnaturally fast and agile, as if he zipped effortlessly through the air instead of jumping through it.  It was mesmerizing and chilling to watch.
    Her repeater hummed under her hands, charged to full power.
    “Fire!” she shouted.
    Short bursts of sagegun fire rang out as the Jumpers moved into battle.  The repeaters, being sagetech weapons, made a muted thump more than a sharp report like a normal firearm, but the blue sagelight that burst from the barrels was more deadly.  The nocbringer spun away from the Marines as the Jumpers herded him to one side with their shots, moving as the well-trained and deadly fighting unit they were.  Graham had been right—they were the best soldiers that the Alliance had under their command.  The Jumpers fired suppressive shots at the nocbringer, keeping him from moving too quickly in either direction, and Rin could tell that he was starting to get frustrated.
She had him, now.
    She fired at him, center mass.  One, two, three bursts of quick machine gun fire as her Jumpers suppressed him from the other sides.  She had been too late, though.
    The man suddenly just…blurred away from where he’d been standing only a spare second before, and the next thing Rin knew he was next to her, killing two of her Jumpers with that whirling spear of his.  Only the instincts she’d polished in several battles allowed her to react quickly enough, tossing her body into a roll in the other direction.  She felt a tingling fear crawl its way down her spine as she imagined the nocbringer blurring toward her in that same manner and catching her before she could even get to her feet.
    She got lucky; he’d turned away and headed into a different squad of Jumpers, who were firing on him in good order, despite seeing their comrades fall so easily to the bastard.  Her eyes sought the dead men that had been beside her, and her heart twinged a little to see Griggs lying on the deck of the ship, his lifeblood pouring out on the deck in a bright red pool from a gaping wound in his throat.  He still struggled to get one of his revolvers free, but Rin knew he’d be dead before he got to it.
    Sleep well, you poor bastard.  You fought with honor today.
    Rin trained her repeater on the nocbringer once again, but the man was engaged in a close fight with four of her men, and she risked hitting them with her rounds.  She screamed in frustration and slammed her repeater back into its sheath, instead pulling her daggers from their place on her stomach.  If she was going to die today—which seemed a certainty—then she would take that death-worshipping bastard with her.
    “Blades!  For the Alliance!” she screamed, but the men fighting the nocbringer were too preoccupied with dying to hear her.  She felt an odd acceptance as she started forward, first in a slow jog, then an all-out sprint toward her death.  The nocbringer backhanded one of her Jumpers, who flew a short distance through the air in a spray of blood before sliding to rest on the deck.  The Imperial bastard had his back to her.
    This was her only chance.
    She didn’t scream out as she rushed the man.  Such things were for first-jump Privates drunk on battle rage.  She was a seasoned veteran of seven combat jumps, and she wasn't about to give away her position.  The man still had his back turned as she leapt, his unnatural energy still wavering in the air around him.
    She landed, and with the reflexes she had honed to a razor edge through training and combat, she wrapped one arm around his neck and both of her legs around his midsection, holding on with all her strength.  The man seemed caught off guard by her sudden rush, and didn't immediately react.
    In that spare second, her dagger found his guts.
    “Die!  Die you fucking bastard!” she screamed as she slammed the blade into him in wild, desperate thrusts.  She felt his body start in surprise against her, and she could hear the grunts of pain coming from him as she stabbed.  Blood began to coat her hand, and she reveled in the thought that she might actually take his bastard down.
    Then, she felt something, some force, grab her from behind and rip her body away from the nocbringer.  She flew away from him, tumbling across the deck of the ship and losing her knives in the process.  She didn't have time to regret it, though.  She tried to turn her roll into something manageable, so she could come to her feet.
    Her body suddenly slammed up against something hard, and her vision swam as white-hot agony ripped through her head.  The sounds of the fight seemed to recede, and the light of the morning sun grew almost too bright.  She squinted her eyes and tried to fight to her feet, but her legs gave out beneath her.
    Suddenly he was there, the visible parts of his face a mask of rage.  He whirled his spear and slammed it down into the wood of the ship’s deck, and pain like nothing she had felt before ripped through her right leg as the spear sank through the muscle and pinned her to the ship.  She screamed, unable to do anything else.  He crouched over her, putting his face close to hers until she could smell the stink of his breath.
    “Such passion,” he said, smirking at her.
    “Fuck yourself,” she grunted through the pain.
    He smiled at her then, a cold twisting of his features that didn’t resemble anything like a happy expression.  He reached out one hand and laid it across the right side of her face, clutching it the way one might clutch the face of a child who had misbehaved.  She scowled at him and reached for one of her revolvers, which he seemed to have forgotten.
    A sizzling heat suddenly erupted from where he touched her, and pain once again blinded her.  She screamed and struggled against him, but his grip was like iron.  She felt the skin of her face melting, smelled the awful stink of burning flesh.  Some dim part of her mind felt the weight of his power holding her down, weighing down her limbs so that she couldn’t move.  The pain was terrible, and her mind could think of nothing else.
    “Rin!  No!” someone shouted behind her.  There was a crashing, booming noise, and then the weight was lifted.
    Rin lay there for a moment, whimpering in pain and trembling.  She knew she had to get up, had to keep fighting, but her body only wanted to curl up around her wounds and die.  Still, some instinct screamed at her to rise, so she gripped the haft of the spear and with a great, painful effort, pulled it from the deck of the ship and out of her leg.  It hurt just as much coming out as it did going in, and it took her another second to gather her wits.  She was bleeding, but not fatally.
    She glanced up, to see where the nocbringer had gone, and gasped in surprise.
    Willam stood before the Imperial, facing him down and cutting off his approach to Rin.  He was wearing…something.  Some piece of tech he’d probably designed in secret, the crafty bastard.  It looked something like a sagerig, but glowing sagelight coursed off of him like mist from a cold river, and a bubble of faint sagelight surrounded the sagebuilder.  Faint arcs of what looked like electricity ran down metal rods that attached to gloves on his hands, and the nocbringer—for the first time today—seemed taken aback by what he saw.
    Willam didn’t take his eyes off the Imperial, but turned his head just enough to shout at her, “Rin!  You have to get up!  You have to get out of here!”
    “Willam, what the bloody Hells are you doing?” she screamed back.
    “Just go!  I’ve got him; just get the men out of here!”
    She started to reply again, but the nocbringer didn’t allow another exchange.  He rushed Willam, blurring once again the way he had before, and Willam seemed to start backwards in surprise.  Something odd happened, though.
    There was a great flash of light, and electricity arced from the bubble around Willam’s body as the nocbringer was thrown back from him.  He flipped in the air and landed on his feet, but electrical burns were etched over the leather of his gear and the cloak he wore was burnt and tattered at the edges.  He grunted in rage.
    “Go, Rin!  Now!” Willam screamed as the nocbringer came on again.


Hope you guys enjoyed that.  

A Storm on the Horizon

So I feel pretty horrible lately.  I know I've said over and over that The Awakening Storm would be out at the beginning of this year, and it has not been delivered.  For that, I sincerely apologize.  The truth is the book is just not ready.  It takes time to write something this long, and to do The Seven Signs justice, it needs to be properly refined and polished.  Blame my creativity, if you wish.

Rest assured, though, that I've been closeted away with it and have been banging away at the proverbial anvil.  We've had an eventful year so far, what with the move and a new job.  I could lament to you about how crazy my life has been lately, but you don't want to hear that.  I've tossed around ideas about releasing parts of the story instead of an entire 300,000+ word novel, but the truth is that it wouldn't be complete that way.  A good story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.  If you're writing Epic Fantasy, then getting there is a journey akin to...well, Frodo heading to Mordor, maybe.  Rand hurtling toward the Last Battle.  Gaius Octavian going to war with the Vord Queen.  You get the picture.

So it is with Dormael, D'Jenn, Bethany, Shawna, and Allen.

I haven't forgotten about you.  I'm still writing.  So far, I've received lots of positive feedback from my team about The Awakening Storm, and according to them it's better than TSF.  I haven't even read any new books (wasn't the last WoT released already?) and that's a first for me - I wanted to concentrate solely on writing TAS.  I'm not sitting on my laurels, here, I promise.

So, that out of the way, let's talk some news.  First, you can expect TAS to be released sometime soon - as soon as it's finished and edited, and the artwork is in.  Also, the first installment in The Ballad of the Outrider will soon follow TAS.  After that, The Seven Signs Book Three, as yet unnamed.

I have, however, been tossing around ideas about something new.  It's hard to describe it as any one genre, but I guess it would be close to Steampunk.  Right now I'm calling it Beneath the Red Sky, and it will take place in the Seven Signs universe a few hundred - or maybe even a thousand - years after the events of The Seven Signs.  I'll post a small piece of it directly after this post, to sate your thirsts for something from me.  Hopefully, you like what I've got of it.

Keep on being awesome, and I'll talk to you guys soon.

~ D.W.







Nov 27, 2012

Professionalism

Believe it or not, this is one of my writing craft posts.  I wanted to take a moment today (a short break from working on The Awakening Storm) and talk about something that I've seen on the net, and clarify a few things.  The title says it all.

As a self-published author, whatever your reasons are for becoming one, you must at all times conduct yourself with grace.  Your pen name, online presence, etc is EVERYTHING.  There are groups online who dedicate themselves to rooting out and displaying every misbehaving author out there who makes the mistake of acting like a general jackass.  It's quite easy to get "blacklisted", and finding yourself the target of internet backlash to one of your rants is not where you want to be.

Personally, I write under a version of my own name.  However, I make sure to keep my business email, accounts, persona, etc separate from my personal one.  I don't "friend" my fans on Facebook because that account is for keeping in touch with my family and old army buddies, personal friends, and acquaintances.  I keep a separate Facebook page for my "pen name" and use that and Twitter to interact with my fan base when I have the time.  You can do whatever you wish, but I advise you to take a similar route.  Your fans want updates on your books and your writing, events that pertain to them.  They don't want your picture quotes, memes, political or religious rants, and such things in their newsfeed.  Plus, you never know if your fan is a Christian or an Atheist, a Republican or a Democrat, and you shouldn't be interacting with them on that level (unless, of course, you're a political or religious writer) because your next rant for or against the President might alienate readers who otherwise would've enjoyed your stuff.  Remember - people alter their opinions of you based on how you act quite often.  Some may get over your extreme or mild viewpoints.  But then, some may not.

Here's another thing.  When you submit your book for a review to a blog or book review site, take the time to read up on the blog itself, and their preferred submission guidelines.  Book bloggers are some of the unsung heroes of the literary world, and a positive review from them will always help, and sometimes catapult your book to the next level, so to speak.  Bloggers are almost always waist-deep in review requests, and a copy-pasted generic letter with your book attached in the wrong format only makes them angry, and understandably so.  There is no better way to get your book promptly deleted or denied.  Take the time to find out which books the blogger is looking for, and how they like to be contacted.  Don't submit your epic fantasy if the blogger only enjoys reading paranormal romance.  Not only will your book receive a bad review - IF the blogger even reads it - but you're effectively wasting your time from the get-go.  Find the right blog for your book, be courteous at all times, and follow their guidelines.  Yes, it takes more time than the other way, but it will garner you long-lasting relationships with the blog itself.  Make sure you do a little cross-marketing as well.  Tweet their blog, follow it, whatever, but don't look for a freebie.  Offer to do a giveaway on their blog, write a guest post for them so you can take a little pressure off their backs for a day.  Make sure you're building good relationships.  Not only is it the right thing to do, it helps everyone out in the end.

Speaking of reviews, never, never, NEVER - and I mean never - slam someone for giving your book a bad review.  The fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to love your book.  I know it hurts reading a bad review for something you put so much time, effort, and emotion into, but never allow your darker emotions to take hold and cause you to act in an unprofessional manner.  If you're going to interact with your reviewers (which should be a very rare occasion) ensure that you're doing so positively.  Thank them for taking the time to read your work, for taking a chance on buying your book.  Listen to their criticism, and use it to make you a better writer.  Granted, not all reviews are constructive, and some are downright spurious.  Some people will write a review without even really reading your book...but so what?  Everyone has a right to anonymity when being online, and if someone is taking the time to write a review for your book, whether good or bad, the last thing they want or need is you replying with some fiery retort accusing them of anything, or insulting them.

I've received a few bad reviews myself.  They hurt.  It happens.  Still, I appreciate every one of them, and honestly 99% of the bad reviews I've received have been constructive rather than otherwise.  I've taken what the people have said into consideration, and most of the time they're right.  All they're doing is giving you the tools and strategy you need to become a better writer, and appeal to a wider audience.  Don't reply with a slam.  Instead, be courteous and professional.  Most of the time if someone gives you a bad review and you're courteous to them in return, they just might take a chance on your next work to see if you've improved.  Relationships are everything.  Your reputation as a writer depends halfway on the quality of your work, and halfway on the quality of your character.  Don't be an asshole.

Finally, never get involved with any sort of retaliation to reviewers.  I don't know the whole story, but I've heard of the Stop The Goodreads Bullies group that apparently "outs" bad reviewers online, releasing their personal information, even sometimes phone numbers.  I don't know for sure whether it's true or untrue, but I'd advise you to NEVER get involved with something like that.  It's a gross violation of privacy, and you should never retaliate against readers who write bad reviews for you.  Just get better.  If someone writes me a bad review, I don't think "f--k that guy he can go to hell".  Instead I think "I hope I can win him over next time".  Or her - not trying to leave the ladies out hehe.

To sum it all up in the words of George Carlin, "treat everyone with respect, and don't be a dick".  That isn't too hard, right?  It only takes a moment to stop, think, and do the right thing.  Don't ruin your reputation by submitting to your own childish or darker nature.  Be professional, be courteous, do the right thing.  It pays off in the long run, and makes you feel good as a person.

Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving.  Mine was full of way too much food and lots of family.  I hope yours was too, and if not, I hope you at least had a moment to sit down and relax.  Thanks everyone, and I'll type at you soon.

Nov 9, 2012

The Coming of the Storm

Alright, so I wanted to drop everyone a short line here and talk about a few things.  Updates, randomness, what have you.  There have been radical changes in my life over the past few months, and as such, my writing has slowed somewhat from my normal furious pace to a more measured, quick pace.  I know some of you were expecting to receive The Awakening Storm toward the end of this month, but sadly, events have transpired in my life that require my immediate attention, so the date has been pushed back.

I released this information on my website a couple of months ago (and we'll get to the website in a moment) but I'm going to reiterate here just so we're all on the same page.  You can expect The Awakening Storm to be released around mid to late January.  That should give me enough time to finish the final draft, send it to my editor, revise, and publish.  And don't worry, I'm working diligently on it during every free moment that I have.  I cherish the readers that I have, and the ones I hope to gain, and I will do everything in my power not to let you down.  At the time of this blog post, the final draft is around 35-40% complete.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but the planning stages are contained within, so all I really have to do is write it.

Some of you may know that I've gone through some serious changes recently.  I have moved from Savannah to Virginia, then back to northwest Georgia, and soon (within the next couple of weeks) I'll be moving northward to the Philadelphia area.  Once there, though, I'll be settling in for a few years at least, and my work schedule will allow me ample time to get The Awakening Storm finished.  If I have any readers in the Philly area, feel free to look me up around December.

Now, as for my website.  You guys may have noticed that it has been down for over a month, now.  I apologize for that.  I have been living the life of the starving artist in the wake of my discharge from the military, and haven't been able to keep it up and running.  Rest assured, though, that it will be up by the beginning of December and all will be well.

Some of you may have heard rumors about my upcoming Urban Fantasy series, The Ballad of the Outrider.  I'm still working on that as well, but I have shifted my full attention to The Awakening Storm because of the delays I've been hit with lately.  I know that The Seven Signs is what my readership is mostly interested in, so I'm working to get book two out as quickly as I can, rather than focusing on side projects at this time.  Once The Awakening Storm is edited and published, I will return to putting out book one of The Ballad of the Outrider, which will be called The Mark of Vengeance.  So try and be patient, I'll get all this done as quickly as I possibly can.

All of that being said, I'd like to thank everyone for the awesome reviews and the emails I've been receiving.  They mean the world to me, and I'm stoked that I've been getting such great feedback from readers.  Hearing from fans is a strange and amazing feeling for a guy like me, and I appreciate everything you guys have been doing.

Also, I don't know if you guys saw, but a few weeks ago The Sentient Fire made it to the number one spot in the Amazon Top 100 Free category in Fantasy and Epic Fantasy.  It was number three in Action/Adventure, as well.  You guys rock.  That's all I can say about that.

Ah, I had almost forgotten to mention this.  Some of you may have noticed that The Sentient Fire hasn't been available for Nook and on iTunes lately.  I tried a little experiment with Amazon Prime back in October, and the enrollment expires in January.  I will not be trying that again, so rest assured that The Sentient Fire will once again be available across the board when The Awakening Storm is released.

Well, this "short line" turned out to be a mouthful.  I hope you guys are all doing well, and that you're able to spend this upcoming holiday season with the ones you love, whether it's family, friends, or comrades.  I say it all the time, and I still believe it - you guys are the best fans anyone could hope for.  Thank you all so much for your patience and love, and I'll talk to you again soon.

I leave you with a couple of pictures, one of them the screenshot of The Sentient Fire, and the other a piece of fan art by an amazing fantasy artist named Jacob Anderson.  Thanks, and I'll talk to you soon.




Jul 26, 2012

The Self Publishing Struggle

This is another installment on my writing craft blog posts, and this time I decided to share a few of the things that helped me self-publish, and let you all in on the process and what it is like, what it was like for me, and some of the myths that I've heard from people who ask me about my own road to publishing.  I'll let you in on a few resources that you can get for free, or very cheap, and tell you how I've done it and what I've learned so far.  It's important for independent authors to band together and share what they know with each other, and other prospective writers, in my opinion.  It makes our collective books better, and helps the industry in general.  So, on to a few things I've heard from readers, fans, and friends...

MYTH:  Self publishing is hard, and you don't sell anything.

Simply put, that just isn't true.  We'll get to sales later, but let's talk a little about the process first, and what you need to make it easy.

First, make sure you have a good book to publish.  Take the time to revise your work, get it edited, and package it as professionally as possible.  You don't want your ebook or self-published print title to be easily distinguishable from the professionally published ones.  Do things in the order stated above: revise, edit, package.

First of all, go over your own work with a fine editor's eye.  Read your book as if you are a stranger, then push it out to your beta readers.  Beta readers, for those of you who don't know, are people you trust to give you an honest opinion of your work.  Don't let people blow smoke up your ass - you want their tough criticism, because that just makes your book better.  You'll be surprised how many stupid, easy, embarrassing mistakes you make during the course of your writing.  Punctuation missing, misspelled words, poorly formatted paragraphs...you name it.  Between you and your beta readers, that stuff will get noticed early.  They'll also let you know if your book is resonating with your intended audience, or if it just doesn't have what it needs yet.

Once those two processes are complete, and you're satisfied with it, send it to your editor.  If you don't have an editor, get one.  There are many services out there that offer proof and content editing at a price, but you don't have to pay if you don't want to.  Offer to proofread another author's work if he/she will do the same for you, if that option is available.  Do you have any English Majors in your family?  Always exhaust your free options and spend your time before you spend your money, and that rule goes for every aspect of self-publishing, from writing to marketing.  However, if you don't have any free options, then this aspect of publishing your book needs to be paid for.  Editing is probably the most important aspect of the publishing process, and a book that isn't well edited not only reflects badly on you, it reflects badly on every self-published author.  More on those resources and where you can find them later.

Next, package your book as beautifully and appropriately as you can.  If you plan to add images, make sure that they're as professional as you can make them, and formatted appropriately.  If you plan on including a picture of yourself, make it a professional-looking picture.  Format your front and back matter correctly, and check, check, triple check it for mistakes.  Most importantly - get a professional cover image, unless you're just a whiz with photoshop, or an artist yourself.  Cover images are what catch prospective readers' eyes, and 8 times out of 10 they're what cause people to click on your book to get to the description.

Also, revise and edit your description, which is the part of the book that would appear on the back cover for a paperback.  It's what ultimately convinces readers to make the next step and sample your book.  It's a promise to your readers of what your book will deliver to them.  Don't put "Here's my book, hope you enjoy it."  It's a nice sentiment, but ultimately ineffective.  Remember, you owe it to your readers to present them with a product that is packaged, formatted, and edited as professionally as you can make it.  You also owe it to the industry, and the rest of the self-published authors out there.  If your book looks crappy, people will think it's crappy, no matter how good it is.  You have about ten to thirty seconds to convince someone to read your book.  Make them count, and don't make everyone else look bad, either.

Now, how to go about putting that nice-looking product in front of readers.  There are several ways to go about this, and I'll just outline the way that I did it, and why.  First, there are many, many online retailers that carry, and want to carry, your ebook.  To get it into their hands, you can check them all out individually, or go through a distributor.  I chose a distributor, and I'll tell you why: because it is way easier than formatting your manuscript twelve different ways and trying to launch twelve different versions of your book at once.  Some retailers will only go through distributors, but some will allow you to directly publish with them (Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble's PubIt! store are two of the largest).

I chose Smashwords.  Smashwords is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best resources out there for the self-published author.  Not only will they distribute your work to most of the major book retailers for NO money up front, but also they provide self-published authors with some awesome resources for free.  They do take a nominal percentage of your sales, but believe me, you won't even notice it unless you're an obsessive type of person.  They give you complete control over how you sell your book, and offer up so many opportunities to help you get to the top it's crazy.  The Smashwords Style Guide not only outlines the proper way to format your manuscript for upload to their site, but the best way to format your manuscript to any site.  It's free, it's awesome, and it will be your best friend as an indie author.  You can get it here:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

They also offer up guides on marketing, and best practices, etc.  They have lists of services such as editors, artists, and such...and they offer up all of this great information completely free.  As an indie author, I owe a lot to Mark Coker.  He's done a lot for self-publishing.  Head over to www.smashwords.com to check out the full range of what they do for you, how they pay you, etc.  For their list of services, do a search for "Mark's List".

So, I uploaded my easily formatted manuscript to Smashwords.  Unfortunately, Smashwords only distributes a few titles to Amazon, and we all know that Amazon is the biggest bully on the block.  You have to get your books on Amazon.  For that, I chose Kindle Direct Publishing, which also offers up lots of resources for free.  Formatting your book for KDP is a little more difficult, but they offer step-by-step guidelines on their website that aren't that hard to follow.  If you can do Smashwords, you can do KDP.  For Kindle Direct Publishing, go here:  kdp.amazon.com.

MYTH:  Self-publishing isn't a real publishing credit, or Self-published authors aren't real authors.


Bull.  That might have been true ten years ago, or even five, maybe.  The truth these days is that the market is moving more and more toward self-publishing.  Even a few traditionally published authors are going independent with a few titles, experimenting with what the market can offer them.  The fact of the matter is that self-publishing offers so much freedom and advantage over the traditional model that it's hard to beat the deal that self-published authors get.

For one, you, as the author, decide when to publish, what to publish, and where and how to do it.  No one tells you what to do, which is a huge advantage for you, and the market itself.  You not only retain as many rights as you choose to retain to your material, but you also garner a much larger percentage of your royalties.  The traditional author can expect around 30% of the sales price of their titles.  The self-published author gets anywhere from 60% to 70%.

"Oh", you might say, "But publishing companies offer contracts and pay you advances!"

Sure.  Sometimes.  If, that is, the company considers you to be a marketable asset.  If their cost-benefit analysis algorithm pans out for you.  Prepare to be turned down again, and again, and again - as any traditionally published author will tell you.  It's incredibly hard to get someone to take a chance on a new author, even with an agent.  I'm not trashing those few who have triumphed over the odds and put in the hard work, but for those few, there are thousands who have tried and failed.

"But publishers offer a huge market presence and marketing capabilities!"

This part is true, but will you truly benefit from it the way you do in your dreams?  Perhaps.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen, because obviously, it does.  However, the truth of the matter is that in most cases, many authors sacrificed their own money, reinvested royalties and such, to market their material.  In some cases, huge chunks of it.  Obviously, though, this is the major disadvantage of being self-published: being alone out there, with only yourself to rely upon.

But is that so bad?  It can be...but then again, in today's world of instant information, a freakin' cat video goes viral in days.  Why can't the same be true about books?  It can, of course.  We'll talk about marketing some other time, but rest assured that it can be done.

So, then - who decides what a real publishing credit is?  Is there a secret set of special actions one has to take to become a real author?  A secret list that one has to get on? A final approval authority?

I thought you just had to publish a novel.

To those people who suggest that indie authors aren't "real" writers, I point out to them that the hundreds of people who have purchased my material would beg to differ.  I've received some great support from my readers in the form of purchases, awesome reviews, recommendations to their friends, etc.  A few have even felt the need to email me and let me know that they enjoyed my work personally, which is a huge thing to do that I greatly appreciate.  Tell them, or fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, or M.R. Mathias's fans that indie authors aren't real.  The very fact that indie authors have made the bestseller's list disproves that little gem.

MYTH: Nobody buys Indie books.


Again, refer to the above statement.  Indie books are generating quite the following among readers for many reasons.  One is that we, as indie authors, have greater control over the prices we charge for our work.  We can give it away for free, or charge $0.99, or anything we want.  There are those that say what we do is devaluing all books, but that just isn't true.  Many people enjoy the prices of indie books, and will take more chances on what they read because the price is lower.  Pricing is a strange animal, though, and finding the right price to charge for your book is a hard thing to do.  I struggled with different options when I published, and finally settled on something that works for me in regards to the length of my work.  You, as a prospective author, will have to decide that for yourself.  There are many great blogs and such written on the subject, and lots of references to choose from.  Google away.

Rest assured that your book will sell if it's good.  You do have to market a little, do a blog tour or two, and get someone to take a chance on you.  You may have to give it away for free for a week or two, but people will eventually catch on.  Once your book has a few reviews under it, it will nearly sell itself.  Social media is the great equalizer to those expensive ad campaigns.  You can leverage Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc to sell your work, and all for free.  M.R. Mathias's The First Ten Steps is a great ebook about marketing your work, and it's only $5.00.  Think of it like an investment in the future of your book.

Remember to maintain good relationships with people along the way.  Don't slam someone who gives you a bad review.  Remember that no matter how good any book may be, no one book will be universally loved.  Also, before you submit your book to any prospective review blog and request their valuable time, make sure you abide by their submission requirements.  They're not trying to make it harder for you to get your work reviewed; quite the contrary, in fact.  Also, help them out with a little cross-marketing.  Tweet their blog, post about them on Facebook, generate some followers for them as well as yourself.  This type of "marketing karma" is not only a good professional practice in general, but will go a long way toward getting other people to help you out.

I'll talk more about this later on, and I hope I've helped someone out with this long rant about indie publishing.  Good luck in your endeavors and keep writing.