2019 – A Reflection and hopes for 2020

Featured photo from the credits of Spellforce 3: Soul Harvest. You may spot a name in there!

 

End of another year. It’s been a long one! I write this in a very strange mood. Not particularly low or anything, but not in a particularly happy state of mind either. It’s hard to put my finger on it, really. I’m waiting this in a state of brain fog and mental exhaustion. How would I describe this year?

Hopeful, with a chance of meatballs. No, I’d say it’s been decent all round. End of 2019 has arrived with a mixture of nerves, exhaustion and worries for the future, but it’s also come with excitement.

As for 2019, I will sum up the year in three main, basic topics.

First of all, let’s get the elephant out of the room and discuss writing!

 

The Thousand Scars – The Counterbalance Dilemma

 

As of mid-Feburary 2019, I officially parted ways with my publishing press Nordland Publishing behind The Thousand Scars and I stopped all sales on the book. First of all, a big thankyou to Nordland for the time. I felt it was the right decision going forward.

So, let me tell you a little story about The Thousand Scars during 2018, it’s first full year of publication.

I’ll let you all in on a secret. I should have been happy, or proud, or elated when it launched. Instead I just felt exhaustion, numbness. I even felt deflated. I remember doing the launch reveal and just being so drained I ended up cutting the livestream early. There weren’t many people watching it so I don’t think it mattered.

I achieved what I planned, but now what? Then the doubts started. Did I release it too early? Did I know what I was doing? Was the book any good?

The first few months were rough. I was trying to market, but it was tricky. To make money you need to spend money, generally through ads and that was something I did not really have. Of course, this was something I learned from this year, a painful lesson, but one worth learning. Connections and community building is something I’ve worked on for years, but perhaps I was in the wrong places.

Reviews and feedback were few, sales even fewer. I started wondering if it was even worth doing anymore. Publishing The Thousand Scars nearly broke me emotionally. Then I did the stupid thing of comparing myself to other authors…why did I do that? I needed to focus on myself.

The Thousand Scars was selling poorly, but feedback at least was mostly positive, for a first book by a new author I guess. I’m not in this for money otherwise I’d just do a standard job so money is not my motivation. I wanted to show it to the world, but I was so drained by it and its lack of success that I was close to giving up. I still had the second book in the series to work on, and it was getting ballsacking difficult. I had few fans, but I didn’t want to let them down. I did get a lot of support from fellow authors in the indie community, urging me to keep fighting. I did so. I have severe ME, and job-wise I don’t really get many chances. Writing and cartography is all I know how to do. I couldn’t give up, not now. A word of advice to fellow writers. Connect with others and support each other. They are not your rivals, but your allies in this fight.

I wanted to go further. So I drafted ideas for another novel set in the same Counterbalance universe but a standalone, something different. Something to take to agents. Something to prove I have improved. I started work on it in April and it surprisingly began to take off. I made progress.

Then SPFBO began, a massive blog-contest for debut indie authors. I signed right the fuck up with The Thousand Scars, thinking that even if I didn’t have a chance of progressing, even a little more exposure would do the trick.

It ended up being the lifeboat I needed. I landed more connections, and my interviews for my fellow authors really helped increase exposure for them and myself. I even had a few people backing me for winning my group. . .*snorts out drink*

More people read The Thousand Scars. More people added it to their reading lists. It got some pretty damn good reviews and feedback. I made some Top 10 lists, made some huge fantasy blogs. I even got Longlisted in Booknest’s End of the Year awards for Best Debut! I still don’t know how in the name of Horse’s wrinkled ballsack I pulled that off.

Connections change things. People got excited for me and my future. I’ve been learning a lot about self-publishing, which is important for going ahead.

 

Moving forward

After the split, I decided to return to The Thousand Scars in preparation to republish it. Originally it was just going to be a coat of paint. The more I spent with it however, I decided to fully rewrite the book. While the base idea was good, it was too half baked, and I was frankly ashamed I let the book go out in that state.

Now, I’ve had a few people worry that I’m changing the book or I’ll keep going back and editing it over and over.

That is not the case. This will be the only big edits I intend to make. Most of this is fixing mistakes (Chapter Two had 11 typos alone…), and fleshing up the prose based on what I have learned. After reading the manuscript, there is no way I am letting it back into the public without a good hard seeing to.

The plot, setting and 99% of the characters will REMAIN THE SAME. Do not worry about this. Think of it as an extended edition. Now, the beginning will change slightly because it was easily the worst portion of the book according to feedback. I feel I dropped the ball too soon. Too many characters introduced in stupid ways, too soon. The more I realised this, I feel it’s a perfect chance for me to give the book what it deserves. After several months of editing and beta reading, I think the book is finally in a place where it deserves to be.

The Thousand Scars ended up getting quite the update. Included:

  • Fixing typos and errors across the board
  • Tidying up prose from beginning to end
  • Fleshing out characters, adding new ones from The Aegis Mora
  • Overhauling the beginning (said to be The Thousand Scar’s weakest point according to most reviewers) The new beginning should now be considerably stronger.
  • Adding more events cut from the book. Battle of Manesow, anyone? Reviewers said battles were my strong piece. Why not add a little more? There are many new scenes in the book, and nearly every original chapter has been overhauled and improved.
  • Diversity has also been improved, for the better I think.

The good news is The Aegis Mora (Counterbalance Book #2) is already in a decent state and in a complete one. It’ll need updates, but it’s in a good spot.

Now, what will I do with The Thousand Scars upon fixing, some may ask? I’m still mulling over the options. Self Publishing it is probably my go to plan. Release date is still undecided. I need formatting, book cover, proofreading and copyediting, and that all takes time and money I need to save up. It will happen, however. I’m determined to make it so.

That’s not all, however.

Other Projects

 

I have quite a few. Most of these are set in the same universe.

Counterbalance Series

Six book fantasy series, main project.
The Thousand Scars – Complete edited draft, in advanced stage. Awaiting proofreading.

The Aegis Mora – Got complete first draft, but needs updating in regards to the new Thousand Scars.
The Endless Worm – 40k first draft, needs complete rewrite.
After a small timeskip, the final three books of The Counterbalance series:
Dread – In planning stages
A Mortal Tide – planning
Mortal Call – Concept.

The Bonelord

A new fantasy series that I started creating in 2018 as a compliment to Counterbalance, it really took off. Will be made of four books, set in an ancient African/Greek setting.

A Skeleton’s Eye – Complete and with editor.

A Skeleton’s Heart – Concept stage.

A Skeleton’s Hand – Concept Stage

A Skeleton’s Grave – Concept Stage

 

Untitled Fantasy Series

Set in Uldur, a civil war/magic heavy series. Rebooting, start from scratch. 100k of notes and old drafts. Takes place in Uldur, on the other side of the CB universe.
Beruno’s Finest
Dragon-story set in Uldur. More “YA” than other works.
The Syndicate
10% planned novel set in Uldur.
Novellas and Short Stories
10 in planning and WIP stage.
Worldbuilding and Lorebooks with Maps
In Progress. 80k written so far, several maps in progression.

 

Rogue – Ghostwriting Scifi

In a new development, I was approached in October about writing a scifi novel with Level 4 Press. 40k so far, going quite well. I’ll give updates as I progress on this.

 

So there’s a lot in development. Onto stage 2 – Job!

 

Nine months On

 

It’s really weird how things go. I’ve been unemployed as long as I can remember before 2019.

Now, it’s been exactly since nine months since I started my job at Grimlore Games for writing, and it’s been a wild ride. I really like my job and it’s been a fascinating insight in the gaming industry. It was always an interest of mine, but for it to actually happen (and so soon) still makes me a little surprised how I managed to pull it off 🙂 Seeing how much I enjoy writing fantasy stuff, character design and worldbuilding, it is the ideal job for me.

I first found out the job during mid-January, and decided to go for it. Off I sent my application.

The following two months had me making different versions of this face.

suprrised chu.jpg

I still don’t know how I got the position. I really don’t. Good things like this rarely happened to me.

It’s been tough, the last year or so. Mentally and physically, chronic illness takes its toll on me every day. (I don’t talk about it much publicly). This job however means the world to me, and is one of the big positives in my life right now. The fact that I get to work alongside people who made perhaps the best mod ever made for a video game (Enderal: Forgotten Stories) was another benefit.

As I write this, I’ve reached the end of my current contract, so I hope it gets extended. If it does, great! And if not, all I can say is it’s been a great nine months. It’s been an honor, either way.

It wasn’t easy. The problem with chronic illness is it doesn’t go away for work, and it’s taken a heavy toll on me. The last two months were particularly rough. A heavy cold combined with an inner ear infection continues to plague me, and it’s made things very difficult.

Whatever happens, I’ll take what I’ve learned into 2020.

 

Meeting new people

Another big thing from 2019 is meeting a host of new people. I’m not really a social butterfly, so this was important for me. With chronic health and mental health issues, I really struggle in social situations.

My first author convention!

IMG_20191025_221249

This was an incredible weekend in mid-October. I went down to Darlington to get picked up by this charming lad, Jamie Edmundson. He very graciously offered to give me a lift there and back, as long as I could get to Darlington. Felt like one of those mafia jobs.

I even wrote an article about it! Click the suitcase. I dare you 😉

 

IMG_20191027_072554

Great things I remember:

The hotel was excellent with helpful staff all weekend.
The company, too many to list as a callout as you were all fantastic.
The workshops I went to were very good; one in particular being about evolution and how it should impact character/animal design. I learned a lot!
The food was good all weekend.

Goals for 2020

I don’t make New Years Resolutions, because fuck them. I just create goals. Here are mine.

  1. Republish The Thousand Scars.
  2. Hopefully publish A Skeleton’s Eye, or find an agent for it.
  3. Continue with my blog.
  4. Relaunch my Patreon (A big casualty of this year)
  5. Return to the gym.
  6. Book my big Japan 2021 trip!
  7. Go abroad somewhere. Anywhere.
  8. Read 25 books.
  9. Go to at least one author convention.
  10. Look for a new job in the games industry if my one at Grimlore finishes.

Let’s see how I do with these end of 2020!

 

Shoutouts!

I have a few.

  • My family for continuing to be awesome.
  • My girlfriend Vicky for being the continued light in my world. Here’s to 2020!
  • My fellow work colleagues at Grimlore Games! Let’s make 2020 the best year yet.
  • To all my friends, old and new.
  • My writing group: Michael, John, Claire, Molly, Ryan, Michelle, Magni, AJ and Abby. Let’s return to writing and workshops in 2020!
  • Sarah Chorn for being my amazing editor and rescuing two novels from the abyss.
  • My author community. You are too many to list and I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ll just say you’re all amazing. Looking forward to meeting up with you all again!

2 thoughts on “2019 – A Reflection and hopes for 2020

  1. I’ve come a little late to this post, Michael, but it sounds like 2019 was pretty great for you and you’re in a good place to have a brilliant 2020! And I hope you do!

    Sidenote: If you need a beta reader or any help with The Bonelord series, let me know – it sounds ruddy amazing!

    Like

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