The number one question most authors will be asked, at some point, is “where do you get your ideas?”
The second most frequent question we get is, “how do I get published?”
Me, thinking about how to answer this question
Invariably, when I’m asked this question, my heart starts to race. My brain whirs into overdrive, in desperate aim to find the right words to summarize such a monumental question. This isn’t an answer for casual discussion. It’s a topic significant enough that you’ll find hundreds, maybe thousands, of books about it, twice as many blog articles, and that’s to say nothing of everything you can find on YouTube or TikTok these days.
But my love language is solving problems (perhaps also my toxic trait, but that’s a cookie for my therapist), so when a budding author comes to me, my first instinct is to do everything I can do help them. I love watching a new author join the game. I love watching them find their groove and thrive.
My second instinct is a flash of fresh panic as I think about my mountain of to do’s, my looming deadline, and the family I should probably spend time with.
And so, this post was born.
Becasue there are already so many people out there who have answered it better.
And I can personally recommend several of them.
Special Note: this is geared toward indie authors only. If you’re taking a traditionally published route, there’s a ton of resources out there for that, too (The Writer’s Market is still a big one).
Now, then, let’s get into it.
Alessandra Torre’s Inkers Resources
Alessandra is one of the original greats in the indie world. She’s also an incredible person who gives a lot of her time to helping other authors thrive.
Most of her resources are free. Like her New Authors Section on her website, filled with videos that answer the “where do I start?” question.
Or her Facebook group, Alessandra Torre Inkers, where new authors and tenured authors alike can go to find help for what they need. My advice is to use the search function at the top of the group first. There’s years of good info in there to start with.
Lastly, she runs a great conference every year called Inker’s Con. There’s usually a Mini Inker’s Con as well. The price is good for what you get, and I’ve attended myself and can personally recommend it.
Book Series on Self-Publishing
If you’ve been searching your favorite book retailer for books on “how to self-publish,” you are no doubt overwhelmed at the sheer quantity of content available. Where do you start? Well, here’s several I will always recommend:
Joanna Penn is a goddess in this industry. She’s not only a wealth of information, but she’s often on the bleeding edge of new ideas and tech, and puts that knowledge back into the community. She’s one of the few people whose advice I’d take almost universally. Lucky for you, she has an entire book series for new authors.
David Gaughran is another one of the greats, and he’s smart as heck. His website has a lot of great resources as well (and he updates it often), but I highly recommend this book series, as it helps you understand pieces that will become critical to your journey, like knowing your market, creating superfans and (gasp!), mastering advertising.
Robert Ryan is another ads wizard, and I learned so much from these books (things I wish I’d known sooner, to save myself some pain). Inside his books is a Facebook link to a group where you can continue getting support from other authors after you finish reading.
Monica Leonelle has a fantastic series on how to sell your books wide. All authors must decide if they want to partake in Amazon’s KU program (which requires full exclusivity to Amazon), or sell their books on all platforms. It’s a very personal decision, and can be a charged topic, but if you decide you want to diversify, these books are chockful of info on how to maximize sales and exposure on each of the other retailers.
Zoe York is a master of brand, and, lucky for all of us, she’s written a fabulous series about how she does that so you can skip the long line of trial and error and nail it the first time.
Theodora Taylorwrote a book that authors of all tenures are clutching to their chests for dear life. I revisit this book often as I work to craft storylines, characters, and moments that make readers feel things, and Theodora has managed to turn that skill into a repeatable, replicatable science. I recommend this to everyone, but for new authors specifically, it will help you nail those memorable moments from the very first book you publish.
The only organization dedicated solely to independent authors. Membership is affordable, and the resources you unlock with it are too numerous to name here. From guides to discounts, and more. You can learn more here.
Is there a resource you’d like me to add?
Drop them in the comments! I can personally vouch for the above resources, and I’d need to do the same with any new suggestions, to add them to the list. As I think of anything I’ve missed, I will add to this as well.
There is a lot to learn, but, unlike when I started, there’s now an absolute wealth of information out there to help steer you in the right direction.
In the meantime… best of luck as you take the first step toward becoming an author!
In the mid-nineties, I was a creative, angsty, depressed teenager living on a steady diet of grunge and existentialism, feeling perpetually misunderstood—something familiar to many, I think, especially in my Xennial generation. Books were my only effective outlet in a childhood with shifting stability, and they shaped new worlds for me, ones I could escape to when needed, which was often.
When I came upon Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, subsequently devouring everything else available that she’d ever written, that escape took on more substance. Here were characters who were also perpetually misunderstood, but had found acceptance and clarity as lovable misfits. They were imperfect, sometimes evildoing, and often sympathetic in spite of their choices. Anne’s use of language as a lyrical journey painted the backdrop to a world I wanted to live in. I’d never wanted to trade places with anyone real, but I often dreamed of being a Mayfair.
Anne led me down the path to my writer’s voice. Though I had been writing since I was seven (saucy little shorts that were ahead of my time, but that’s another story, for another post), in her bold choices I saw a path I was meant to take; a place for my own dark and strange heart to find voice and audience.
Anne introduced me to New Orleans. A lush, wondrous world that sits within ours but somehow exists entirely separate of it. An old soul of a city, with a pulse that ripples through the live oaks and the upturned sidewalks, and the cities of the dead. Where second lines sing and dance the background of the culture of celebration, of the living, of the dead. A place where dreams are born, and live on forever, long after the dreamer is gone.
My House of Crimson & Clover series was a love letter to Anne, in many ways. I found my own words, my own voice, but both were birthed from her courage, her daring. I sought to bring New Orleans to a new generation of readers, as she once had with me, and for those who already knew it well, to feel as if I’d done their beloved city justice. That though I’d never lived there myself, I understood it to be a living, breathing thing that would outlive us all.
Anne gave me community. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to be a featured author at her Halloween-time Undead Con event two years in a row, of which her long-running Lestat Ball was part of. It was there that my world blossomed, meeting even more wonderful people, people who I bonded with because of our love for Anne, but who became something more than that, bigger than that. I discovered my best friend Shawn through this community. I met my soul sister, Raven. My co-writer and dear friend Becket, and his lovely wife Stina. Anne’s son, Christopher. I met the people who I would come to know as my family. They are too numerous to name, but they know who they are. We’ve all been holding each other extra close through this loss.
Anne gave me mentorship. Indirectly, as a result of this community, where she was so generous with herself, and her time, and her wisdom that could be summarized, quite simply, as “to be a writer, just write.” Directly, in the treasured moments I got to speak to her one-on-one, to try (and fail) to articulate the impact she had on me, and why I could never repay that.
Anne saved my life as a teenager. She gave it meaning as an adult. Now, coming into my middle age, these impressions have offered me the path I want the rest of my life to take.
The loss of Anne Rice is devastating. It’s total. It marks the end of an era that meant so much, to so many.
But, as a dear friend of mine said, Anne is timeless. She is bigger than the eighty years she gave us, and her work and impact will transcend whatever comes next.
This same friend also referred to Anne as my “Literary Mother,” and that felt right. Anne had many, many literary children, who are all feeling orphaned and unmoored at the loss, but we’ll find our way. We have each other. We have her words, which will live on forever, in all of us. Beyond all of us.
If you have ever enjoyed my books, know that they would not be here if Anne hadn’t opened my world up to new possibilities, almost three decades ago.
September 26th, 2021 marks the ten year anniversary of my career in publishing. On that date in 2011, my first book, St. Charles at Dusk, was released to the masses, realizing a lifelong goal and simultaneously changing my life, forever. I was only aware of one of these things on that day, though. The second piece I didn’t understand until much later.
It’s a piece I’m still understanding, ten years later, and will understand differently ten years from now.
Times were different in 2011. When I released my first book, I didn’t know a single other author, nor did I know feck-all about publishing. My husband was the one who did the initial research that got the wheels turning. I have him to thank for lighting the fire under me that led to the eventual acceptance that perfection is the enemy of progress. I could spend another ten years working on the same book (and it would still never be perfect), or I could move forward and give my creativity and imagination space to grow and stretch.
It was another two years before I released my second book, The Storm and the Darkness, but it was that story that spawned an entire literary universe, and would take me down the path that led me here.
Throughout those years, I had highs and lows. An equal share of both, I’d say.
In 2020, the pandemic just getting started, I finally felt as if I’d earned my stripes, and I started work on my first epic fantasy world, Kingdom of the White Sea. I was nervous, perhaps for the first time, about whether what I could produce would be good enough to earn me a place in a genre I had a profound respect for.
But it was also where I discovered my identity as a writer. Where I finally saw the path I wanted the rest of my career to take.
On September 14th, I released my 41st story. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this is also the summer I turned forty-one.
Ten years in, I’ve had more learnings than I could ever articulate in a blog post. But there are some that stand out more than others. Many I wish someone had helped me to understand when I was a fledgling author.
If you’re reading this, and are a writer, perhaps even one of these can save you some heartache and bring you closer to your goal(s).
Which leads me to…
1. Set Meaningful Goals
This seems obvious, but I suspect it’s also the part of running your own author business that gets neglected. And this is a business. It’s not enough to say “I want to be famous,” or “I want to live independently off my royalties.” It’s perfectly fine to want those things, but you better have a plan if you intend to make it there. If your goal is to make a million dollars, first you have to make a thousand. Build on your successes with goals that make you stretch further. Measure everything you can. When I didn’t know what was working for me, I couldn’t replicate that success. When I didn’t know what wasn’t working, I got stalled in the wrong places.
Whenever I’ve set generic goals like “do better than last year,” all I did was exactly that. When I’ve set specific goals, such as “increase top-line revenue by 30%,” and plotted actions that would support that, I’ve achieved that goal. In 2022 I’ll set my loftiest goals yet, but I’ll do so having a solid understanding of what worked to get me where I am now, and how to build on that (and yet, I’ll still cross my fingers that the results continue to be replicable).
2. Write, Write, Write, Write, WRITE
So, look. You’ll hear a lot of authors say this when they’re asked what the key is to building their business and selling books. I heard it when I was new. I’ve said it dozens of times to people newer than me. I’ve said it just this week. But you won’t really believe it until you see the power of backlist go to work for you.
Readers who love something you wrote, and have nothing more of yours to read when they finish, will move on. They might even forget how much they loved your book. If, on the other hand, they’ve worked through ten of your books, now you have a superfan.
Backlist funds my future projects until they are self-funding. It’s allowed me to work with the best designers in the business, and to take advertising to the next level. But it wasn’t any of that until I had enough books written and published.
So, write. Write until you have more books to show for the effort, and then keep writing. The sooner you can tap into your backlist (and convert more casual readers to superfans), the easier everything else will become.
3. Embrace Time Optimization Early
Protect your writing time like it’s Aztec gold.
Let’s face it—we ALL have competing priorities. As I type this, I have three demanding pugs waiting to be entertained. That’s to say nothing of my corporate career (which I lovingly refer to as my Clark Kent job), husband, family, and other household responsibilities. The only time I’m not working is when I’m sleeping (and I dream about work, so…)
This is even more true within the time spent managing your writing business. Because you will have to spend time marketing, brand building, connecting with readers, and all those boring business details (bank accounts, taxes) that are, yes, boring, but necessary. It’s VERY easy for social media, especially, to suck up all your time. Once that time is gone, it’s gone. And the less productive you are at the end of the day, the more you feel defeat. That defeat, for me, is a creativity killer.
The more I get done? The more I want to get done. A 2k word morning is more likely to turn into a 5k day for me. A 1k morning often stays that way.
I’ve started scheduling my social media time. I don’t even look at my accounts until I’ve finished my morning writing (or editing, or world-building, depending on where I’m at in the process), and then, unless I’m in the middle of a release cycle, I will ignore them again until later in the day. I also schedule my advertising time, marketing time, etc.
4. Hold Tight to Your Writer Friends & Groups
I can’t tell you how much I wish some of the awesome author groups that are around today were around when I started. Wide For the Win, Alessandra Torre’s Inkers, 20Booksto50K, etc. This is where I’ve met a lot of my author friends, who are really the only people in the world who understand what it’s like to live with a thousand voices in your head. They know the pain of losses and the thrill of victories. Authors speak a different language. I wouldn’t be where I am without my author friends. I guess this one is less of a learning and more of a reminder to hold tight to these relationships. They make an otherwise solitary business less so.
5. Understand the Difference Between Learning and Comparison
Writer groups and network are invaluable, but the sooner I learned that not everyone finds success doing the same things, the easier my life became. Authors are generous people and many of us are happy to share what worked. Understanding where your variables intersect with someone else, and where they vary, will help determine what may be worth trying, and what will just spin your wheels (and probably cost you money). There was a lot of trial and error involved in this for me. Knowing your audience is a huge part of winning at this, and can’t be overstated. I’ll say it again, anyway, because there’s a difference between knowing what genre you write in, and knowing who your audience is and what their expectations are: this is research worth doing, and it’s research that never stops.
6. Pay it Forward But Also Know How to Say No
One of my favorite parts of being part of the author community is being able to use my experiences and knowledge to help newer authors find their footing. I myself learned a ton from other authors, and paying it forward is the best way I know to appreciate that. Problem solving is my love language. When one of us wins, we all win.
And yet, our time is limited. Those competing priorities are still there, and our writing time remains invaluable. It’s the one thing above all else that keeps our business moving forward. There are times when something has to give, and you’ll have to say no, and often time that will mean saying “no” to your author friends. And that’s okay. I can’t always join my friends’ release parties, because sometimes I’m underwater, and overwhelmed, and I have to take my to-do list back to basics. I’ll still share their releases and cheer them on from the background. And when my head returns to the surface, I’ll be able to do more for them.
You cannot drink from an empty cup. Nor can you serve from it.
7. Celebrate the Big Victories, But Don’t Neglect the Milestones
Authors are notorious for releasing a book and then immediately jumping into the next one without stopping to reflect. Finishing a book is a big deal, whether you write one a year or twenty a year. Take that deep breath and (quickly, if you must) celebrate. This is advice I’ve given myself for years, and have rarely followed. I really am trying to get better at it.
The smaller milestones matter, too. The journey is a big part of the destination in what we do. The days where I double my average wordcount leave me almost euphoric. Any time I’m able to focus without diversion for more than an hour at a time is like winning the lottery. The positive reinforcement you get from yourself for moving through your challenges is more fuel for success. Always be working for yourself, not against.
8. Advertising is Painful, But Don’t Put it Off
I told myself for years that Facebook ads, and AMS ads, were too complex, and I’d never get it. All the while I knew what I was telling myself was a lie, and that this lie was holding me back from where I wanted to go.
I finally invested in a not-cheap-but-incredible Facebook Ads course (Skye Warren’s, if you’re curious; worth every penny) that changed everything for me. Suddenly, it “clicked.” And when it clicked, the rest fell into place.
One of my goals for 2021 was to achieve the same mastery with AMS ads. I’m not there yet, but I’m working at it.
I’m still learning. I’ll always be learning. But I’ll be getting my work in front of more readers while I do it.
9. Brand is Queen
Entire books have been written about identifying and building brands. Knowing who you are, how your work fits seamlessly into that, how everything you post and say and do is a reflection of both. Brand is you. Who you are in a public setting (and social media/internet is our main public setting) is a reflection of that brand, for better or worse. Once I really learned this, social media actually got easier for me, as I knew what my priorities were (and weren’t).
This is not me saying “shut up and write.” I find few things more insulting than insinuating that people in the public eye should give up their right to an opinion on things that matter. We all have a voice, a right to that voice, and should use it, if we feel called to do so.
10. Drama: Abort, Abort!
I won’t lie and say that some fresh tea won’t make me stop scrolling. Nothing will steal my attention faster than some juicy beef. But I don’t engage. I don’t comment on it, throw my hat into the ring by picking sides, post about it, or even vaguebook about it. Nothing positive can come from it, and the resulting heartache only makes it harder to find the words, the time, and the inspiration. Anything that hurts my brand is counterintuitive to the goals I’ve set for myself, and it overshadows the work I’ve put in. Drama is anathema to creativity for me, and creativity is what powers me.
It’s hard to believe ten years have passed and yet, at the same time, I can hardly remember a time in my life where the publishing world wasn’t at the center. I can’t wait to see where the next ten years leads me.
If you’re an author new to publishing, and wondering where the heck to get started, I understand that this can be a daunting period. But there really is a wealth of resources that didn’t exist when I started. Alessandra Torre has some great “getting started” advice on her website (and her Inkers group on Facebook is fantastic). Joanna Penn is a legend, and has books, podcasts, and a website with years and years of invaluable info. I often recommend David Gaughran’s non-fiction craft and marketing books, and if you want to save yourself some early heartache, check out Becca Syme’s “Dear Author” series, to develop the right habits and mentalities before the bad ones take over. These recommendations only scratch the surface of what’s out there to take advantage of, but it’s a good start.
If you’ve read to the end, thank you. It’s a heck of a lot easier to write about fictional characters than real ones.
That’s right! My new epic fantasy series is here, and while I’m quite proud of it, the true judge of a piece of work is what the masses think. I’m truly humbled at some of the reviews coming in.
I don’t know if I’ve exceeded the expectations of my readers, but their words have exceeded mine. I am blessed.
Here’s a few:
“This is the new series Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for!”- Melanie, Melanie’s Muses
“Cleverly crafted, the Kingless Crown is the perfect introduction into Sarah’s new immersive and intricate new high fantasy world. A riveting tale of suspense, secrets, and magic you won’t want to put down. I’m looking forward to the next installment.” – International Bestselling Author R.L. Weeks
“One word. PHENOMENAL. A must read! Completely sucked me in from page one. 10/10!”- Aubrie Nixon, Fantasy Author of Secret of Souls
“Captivating like gold. Mesmerizing like diamonds. A new fantasy to trail blazes like Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo!”- Laura, The Literary Vixen and #NerdGirlVixen
“The Kingless Crown” by Sarah Cradit dragged me into a murderous land filled with magic, mayhem, and mystery, leaving me breathless. I found myself held captive by a world filled with uncanny characters driven by lust, power, and a fiery need for independence despite ancient rituals dictating their lives. Cradit has no doubt established herself in the epic fantasy genre with this novel. I cannot wait to return to the Kingdom of the White Sea. I’m hooked! —Greg Wilkey, bestselling author of YA and NA Fiction
“A riveting, thought provoking, intelligent, and dynamic story that would easily fill the void for any Game of Thrones fan. Cradit not only delivers, she excels. The first of an epic series that will no doubt have a cult following. Simply superb.”- Award winning author Julieanne Lynch
“FIVE STAR READ! EPIC! EPIC! EPIC!!!”- Christine Lee, Author of Wolf Bound “Full to bursting with rich story telling, intrigue, and much, MUCH more that is quite masterfully woven into an epic fantasy rivaling the best the genre has to offer.”- J.S. Craig, author of The Chronicles of Benjamin Bright
So, thanks y’all. Truly. This has been my best release yet, and it’s all thanks to you.
At long last. I’ll be posting a LOT more about this series in the future, but for now, I want to thank Lady Amber and all the bloggers who will also be sharing this cover reveal today. Regina Wamba designed it and she completely outdid herself. I asked her to help me make this series, on the outside, as epic as I know it is on the inside, and she did exactly that.
Title: The Kingless
Crown Author: Sarah
M. Cradit Genre: Epic Fantasy Cover Designer:
Regina Wamba Publication
Date: October 13th, 2020 Hosted by: Lady
Blurb: From the USA Today
& International Bestselling author of the Saga of Crimson & Clover
comes a gripping new epic fantasy world that will leave you breathless to the
very last page.
A crown woven
together by lies.
A kingdom with the
power to unravel them.
Four Reaches. Four
brides. Only a fortnight separates the young women from becoming reluctant
queens of the usurper king, Eoghan Rhiagain.
earlier, King Eoghan’s father cunningly devised marriages between the highborn
sons and daughters of the oft-warring Reaches, sealing the unions before they
could protest, shattering existing betrothals in place of forced alliances.
Now, Eoghan, the
cruel boy king who stole his crown through murder, demands the eldest daughters
of these unions. To accept is unfathomable. To refuse is treason.
The lords and ladies
of the kingdom have no choice but to prepare their beloved daughters for the
horrors ahead. But they’ll soon discover there are no longer any daughters left
to present. All four have disappeared, painting the world with their rebellion.
Theirs is not the
only rebellion. Across the kingdom, little fires light within. From the
enigmatic sorcerers in the northern mountains, to the magi who both wield and
regulate the kingdom’s magic, and beyond… to a place where two prisoners are not
what they seem.
As the Reaches ready
themselves to face the king, the kingdom hovers on the edge of chaos.
And there are many
who recall, in candlelit secrecy, tales of a time before…
Sarah is a USA
Today and International Bestselling Author of fantasy fiction, most known for
her Saga of Crimson & Clover world. Her work has been described as rich,
emotive, and highly dimensional.
geek, Sarah enjoys studying subjects like the Plantagenet and Ptolemaic
dynasties, and settling debates on provocative Tolkien topics such as why the
Great Eagles are not Gandalf’s personal taxi service. Passionate about travel,
Sarah has visited over twenty countries collecting sparks of inspiration
(though New Orleans is where her heart rests). She’s a self-professed expert at
crafting original songs to sing to her very patient pets, and a seasoned
professional at finding ways to humiliate herself (bonus points if it happens
in public). When at home in Pennsylvania, her husband and best friend, James,
is very kind about indulging her love of fast German cars and expensive lattes.
The House of Crimson & Clover turns eight this fall. It’s really much older than that, if we’re tracking from the point of inception, 1999, but September 26th, 2011 was the date of the first publication in the series.
The books have come a long way since then. The last book came out on the series’ 6th anniversary, in 2017. Some of the books have hit the Top 100 (and even Top 20) on Amazon, and rose to the top of the charts on Apple Books, Nook, and Kobo as well. A couple have been reedited. They’ve all been through multiple iterations of cover designs. The decision to introduce readers at The Storm and the Darkness or The Illusions of Eventide has gone back and forth.
I’ve come a long way as well since 2011. I’d like to think I’m a better writer. I’m definitely a better designer, and if you didn’t know, I’ve designed all the covers for this series—the good, the bad, and everything in between.
What I’ll be introducing over the next week or two, slowly as I take the necessary time to change what’s required, is the culmination of all of those designs, and of my skills as a designer (which are still, always, evolving).
Without further ado, here are the new covers for the twelve books of The House of Crimson & Clover:
In addition to cover changes, I’m taking this opportunity to provide final clarity on the reading order by renumbering the series. Instead of The Storm and the Darkness and Shattered both being listed as prequels, they have been renumbered to Volumes I and II. This puts The Illusions of Eventide, previously Volume I, to Volume III. Labeling the first two books as prequels, I believe, caused confusion in readers who believed they were optional to the reading order. The true first book in The House of Crimson & Clover is The Storm and the Darkness.
I’m working to get these updated at all the retailers, but in the meantime, if you’re in love with the existing covers, now’s the time to grab them before they change!
Here’s a trip down memory lane, on the design progression of The Storm and the Darkness:
I’ll end by giving a quick rundown of what’s in flight for me writing-wise:
Finishing The Seven Series. 1975 just released, and 1976 is coming July 31. I’m getting ready to start the first draft of
The second Midnight Dynasty Series book, A Storm of Revelations, comes out Tuesday! This one’s a wild ride, and I think you’ll love it.
I’m working on a somewhat secret project, but I’ll tell you this: it’s bigger and more ambitious than anything I’ve ever done, and it’s a fantasy series. The world-building alone has taken me many hours, and I’ve just started writing in the world. Once The Seven is truly done, this will be my main focus for the time being.
TLDR: I talk about what I like/don’t like in the fantasy genre, and how that’s motivated me to finally invest in writing my own fantasy cycle.
If nothing else, the ending to the decade-long epic television masterpiece, Game of Thrones,certainly stirred a lot of discussion. And feelings. And more discussion.
I said my piece on it. Mostly positive (Seasons 1-6), with some criticism over the rushed execution of the final two. Problems that could’ve been solved with more time. But once I released my thoughts into the universe, I realized I’d already moved on. Whatever I loved and didn’t love about the show, it was merely an interpretation of a world I loved long before there was a first season script. A world I’ll return to on the page, again and again and, one day, hopefully, read the ending delivered by the man who created it to begin with. A true fantasy cycle, complete.
More than that, it got me thinking. Anyone who knows me, or has followed this blog since the beginning, knows my love of Tolkien. When I had more time to do it, I wrote a number of essays on the Tolkienverse (posted here on this blog for those so inclined). But, almost equally, although very differently, I love the world of The Song of Ice and Fire. I love it in a similar way I love the Warcraft universe. And while I’ve tried to find other fantasy that fits me the way ASoIaF does, it’s a tough fit.
Much of fantasy deals with the idea of a central hero, and any number of things he must do/not do, discover/not discover. Parallel to that is the of a battle between idea of light and dark, and the underlying conflict that runs through many fantasy worlds. I’ve read a number of really solid fantasy series—well written, exceptional character development and worldbuilding—that nonetheless didn’t leave me satisfied.
What I realized, as I pondered the new void left by the departure of Thrones from television, was that what I love about ASoIaF are those things that cross over into my favorite genre to read: historical fiction (and non-fiction).
What caused me to pick up the series years ago was reading that Martin used the Plantagenets, and more specifically, the Wars of the Roses, as inspiration. Hello! England 1066-1603 is my entire aesthetic! So, of course I picked it up, and of course I loved it. Although a parallel world, it had all the intrigue and web-weaving of the real-life history that, to this day, is better than any fiction (don’t @ me).
What I love about the series is that it’s less about a quest, or a single goal, and more about an event that sends an entire kingdom into turmoil. It’s about all the things each of the characters do as a result of that inciting event, who they were, who they become, how they become what they become together, or apart. It’s about family and lineage; a rich, interconnected history. And yes, it has dragons, but those dragons are more interesting to me in light of their link to the family who purportedly shares their blood and history.
I know, I know, Tolkien did the hero/quest thing, and his work is, bar-none, my favorite to ever be written. But Tolkien set the stage, while others iterated and interpreted. That isn’t to say some didn’t do it as well, or better, only that for me that gold only struck once.
For me, a fantasy series that ticks the boxes has an event that, however small, changes everything; that has all the richness of historical fiction; that draws on the complexity of family and lineage in a way that drives the central plot(s).
All that to say, once this realization hit me, the ideas started flowing. I spent the past few days worldbuilding an entirely new parallel world, writing tens of thousands of notes and biographies and histories. Drawing from what fascinates me about the Middle Ages of our own world, mixing it with my favorite fantasy elements. I’ve already built rich genealogies and am starting now on their stories and histories. I have a map! It’s rudimentary, but one day I’ll have one designed professionally; it’s far too early to commit anything to precision. And although I’m not ready to start writing in this world, the very first line of the series popped into my head, practically screaming at me. No, I’m not sharing it… not just yet, anyway.
Of course, worldbuilding was always my favorite part of the creative process. Anyone who has read my House of Crimson & Clover series, love or hate it, knows how much time was spent on genealogy and history. The writing part is decidedly more complicated, but it’s the coloring in that makes the world really real.
What I know for sure is this: I’ve never been so energized by a project.
What does this mean for my other projects? It doesn’t change much. A Storm of Revelations (Midnight Dynasty Book 2) releases June 18th, and 1976 (The Seven Book 6) comes out on my birthday, July 31st. I haven’t set a date for 1980, the final Seven book, but my plan was to finish the series this year. I hadn’t planned another Midnight Dynasty release until 2020 at the earliest, and my Vampires of the Merovingi series (historical fantasy) takes considerable time for proper historical research. I’ll continue to work with Becket on our co-writing projects, which we do in the spaces in between.
With The Seven almost finished, that frees up a lot more of my creative time, and with a vision this clear, and this real, expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming months.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Family Drama, Paranormal, Historical Fantasy
Cover Designer: Sarah M. Cradit
Editor: Emily A. Lawrence
Seven Siblings. Seven Years. Seven Spellbinding Novels.
New Orleans. The seven Deschanel siblings live with their long-suffering mother in a historic Garden District mansion. Each of them unique. Each of them born with a gift. In some cases, a gift they wish they could give back.
When August Deschanel died, he left his wife, Irish Colleen, with more than seven children to raise. She inherited a job she was never prepared for: bringing up his heirs in a world she doesn’t understand. She’d never seen true magic, not before marrying into the most prominent-and mysterious-family in New Orleans. Now, she can’t escape it.
Irish Colleen knows a terrible secret. Her youngest, a prophet, has seen a future that is unavoidable: the Deschanels will not leave 1970 without losing one of the seven. She knows only that it will happen, but not when, how… or to whom.
Charles, the playboy heir apparent. Augustus, the family fixer. Colleen, the unfailing pragmatist. Madeline, the bleeding heart. Evangeline, the genius. Maureen, the dreamer. Elizabeth, the tortured one.
One of her children must die, and Irish Colleen can do nothing to stop it.
Sarah is the USA Today bestselling author of the Paranormal Southern Gothic series, The House of Crimson & Clover, born of her combined passion for New Orleans, and the mysterious complexity of human nature. Her work has been described as rich, emotive, and highly dimensional.
An unabashed geek, Sarah enjoys studying obscure subjects like the Plantagenet and Ptolemaic dynasties, and settling debates on provocative Tolkien topics such as why the Great Eagles are not Gandalf’s personal taxi service. Passionate about travel, Sarah has visited over twenty countries collecting sparks of inspiration (though New Orleans is where her heart rests). She’s a self-professed expert at crafting original songs to sing to her very patient pets, and a seasoned professional at finding ways to humiliate herself (bonus points if it happens in public). When at home in Oregon, her husband and best friend, James, is very kind about indulging her love of fast German cars and expensive lattes.
Many of my readers know that the little touches are part of what makes the experience in the world of Crimson & Clover. My website has an entire section of bonus content which grows regularly, and most of the books have family trees and other fun additions. I do this as an author because it’s what I love as a reader.
One thing I’ve wanted for years is to create a series of maps that complement the series. From real places (like New Orleans, Paris) to those that unfurled from the dark corners of my imagination (Farjhem, Summer Island), the precision of each in relation to the books exists mostly in my imagination. If I’m doing my job, readers can come close in their own visualizations, but that still isn’t the same as having something you can reference.
I searched the web for stock photography I could purchase licenses for (for those places which really do exist, that is!), but found nothing that fit the bill. That’s when I realized that one of the most talented people I know has made some incredibly fun maps for others– Raven Quinn.
Full disclosure, I love this woman to death. We’re soul mates on multiple levels. But business is business and I would never have chosen someone who I did not think could do this appropriate to my vision.
I chose The Garden District for this first project because this has been the central hub of the Deschanels and Sullivans all along. There are so many other places of importance, from the French Quarter to River Road, and we will get there. But this felt the most appropriate starting point.
Without further adieu, here is the brilliance Raven produced:
The map does not include every single character who lives in the Garden District, but it does contain locations for key properties, characters, and other locales.
The map will be live in the bonus content section of my website in the next day or so, for readers to expand and zoom in as they read.
If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of A Tempest of Discovery, the updated ebook version should be available 4/22. Paperbacks on Amazon will also be available 4/22, and paperbacks on other retailers within the next couple of weeks. In the future, I’ll also be looking to release a special edition collector’s paperback that includes the full-color version.
While this map will be available in the Midnight Dynasty series books only for now, the locations are relevant for House of Crimson & Clover as well as The Seven.
Meanwhile, check out my girl Raven Quinn. Art is only her side hustle (which is pretty incredible given how ridiculously talented she is). She’s actually a mega talented singer/songwriter, and if you like artists such as Shirley Manson or Amy Lee, you’ll absolutely love her. She’s also on Instagram and Facebook.