Crossroads and Crossed Swords is now available for Kindle. Check out a preview on the left.
This is a very exciting part of the storylines began in Spires and Mountains -- or in Book I, for Adria...
The Imperial throne of Somana remains empty. While the heir's family plot to maintain their power, forces within and beyond the city plot against them.
In the wake of his victory, Kirlin Gerard is stripped of his titles and cast into the underworld of the Imperial arena to live or die by his skills, his will, and the fickle whims of the Somanan elite.
The Aesidhe tribes of Heiland must make a choice in the face of an even greater threat. Do they at last begin the Long Retreat the elders have long spoken of? Mateko, Shisha, and Duke Preinon Watelomoksho must offer the counsel, the wisdom, and the arms of the Runners, to whatever fate remains them.
And as Adria Idonea walks a strange land, hunted by assassins, she makes a discovery that will cast her history as an Aesidhe against her future as the Heir of Heiland.
"I was absolutely captivated . . . I am a traditional archer, bow hunter, and an avid naturalist. I found it very difficult to put this book down and stayed up way too late several nights. I finished the book exactly one week after starting it and was left wanting more. I spent the majority of my days thinking about Adria and imagining life among the Aesidhe. Not once did my enthusiasm drop, even the least, through the entire book from the very first word to the last."
- Amazon Reviewer
The Complete Edition of Heir of Scars I is now available in Paperback and Kindle Editions, expanded and with cool extras.
Day Three: The Remainders
Okay, let's lead with the video montage. Vanessa took quite a lot of pictures, and her compilation and commentary (not to mention the cosplayers themselves) deserve top billing.
We finally started an mailing list. Yes, we knew we should have one from day one, and a couple of helpful exhibitors reiterated it very insistently, but since the app I made for it hadn't worked out for two days in a row, it wasn't until the third that we regressed to "pen and ink" era data gathering technology.
We started with only seven books, a little guiltily, since these copies were set aside for friends and family who have probably shunned us by the time you read this. Still, we had plenty of prints left (though some of the favorites were sold out by now), and bookmarks and flyers for the Kindle and Amazon paperbacks.
Sunday was, hm... odd.
We encountered our first actual fan in person. No one at the show had read the Kindle versions, so they were all new to the series. Bryan, however, bought a paperback on Saturday, and started reading it overnight. When he visited our booth on Sunday, he was very excited to re-meet us. He stopped a passerby to take a picture of the three of us, and we talked for awhile about the book itself.
I'm afraid I was a little overwhelmed and probably sounded a little awkward. We'd spent the weekend trying to get people to read the back of the book, maybe even the inside, and now someone, well... had. As a bonus, Bryan looks a good deal like Preinon in his younger days.
Our friend, fellow author, and documentarian Joel Clark stopped by with his fabulous children (...or was that Saturday...?). Check out his Jack Staples Intermediate series.
Chip was another fantastic visitor. He zeroed in on a portrait of Adria, set it down in front of us, and said, "I... am so... drawn to her eyes." He talked for awhile about his artist friend, who always drew the eyes last. Vanessa starts there and works outwards. Chip is a baker, and not only bought the Adria print, but also gave us some of his homemade cookies. Chocolate chip, of course.
We were a little tired by then, but people were engaged in new ways, and we seemed to sell a wider variety of things. Artwork that had gone unnoticed was noticed. A mother and daughter played tic-tac-toe with our gray and white wolves. Vanessa's bronze necklaces attracted attention.
We went around to other booths more, met other artists and authors and vendors. Joseph Bellofatto, in three minutes at his excellent booth, told me about a dozen other possible conventions to attend in a year's time. I should have recorded him.
By the time the evening air raid sirens went off, which oddly represented nothing more than the burger vendor closing its gate and not a flight to the bomb shelters, we were saturated, and left standing with only one lonely and slightly marred copy of the Heir of Scars paperback.
My original idea for this was to keep track of the positive things we learned selling at the convention, so I think I'll close with that.
What we learned:
Okay... that doesn't capture the full experience of our first con, but it was a lot for us to absorb, and we're anxious to try again soon. Know a good convention in your area for a fantasy author and artist team? Let us know...
-Jacob and Vanessa
Day Two: Learning Hyperbola
Saturday was the day in very many ways. It was longer by hours, but went so much faster. There were periods where no one stopped to look at anything on our table, but then suddenly we would have several turning back to point at one of Vanessa's wolf prints, which then gave us the opportunity to talk about the book.
We learned quickly what worked and what didn't, and got the rhythm down between us.
"It's an epic fantasy with a strong female lead... take a look at the back and see what you think..."
That was the best lead in. Simple, and it hit the two biggest factors that people will like (or not) in the novels. Cause... they could feel how heavy it was when they picked it up.
"Yeah, it's 600 pages," and we'd point to the flyer. "I started publishing it as individual ebook novellas, then put them all together into a single paperback. I didn't know how big it would actually be until I opened the box. Waaaay heavier than the Kindle versions."
(And later I'd find out how much it would cost me to ship a single copy!)
Vanessa turned out to be a great salesperson. When the art drew them in, she'd explain the legend of the White Wolf Woman from the novel, and how it inspired the paintings for some of the covers and other attached artwork.
The art often drew them in first, and then I'd explain, "Vanessa made such a great cover. I just did the 600 pages of filler in the middle to give her some room on the book spine."
Lots of obstacles on Saturday. The WiFi connection was terrible, so we had to take cash for nearly every transaction, though Jackson in the next booth was cool enough to let us use his once or twice.
Sometimes the crowds were thick enough that people passing couldn't even see our displays, so Vanessa started taking a LOT more pictures of the cosplayers, which were, well, probably half the people passing by. I'll put a couple of pictures here, but Vanessa made a great video compilation of them I'll put in Part 3.
(Yes, the one on the right could pretty much pass for Adria. --->)
We really had an amazing time, and everyone we interacted with was very positive in every way.
We sold books. Lots more books. Lowered expectations on day one gradually rose as the stack lowered.
"Can you sign it?"
"Um... sure." Crap, I thought. We forgot to sign them yesterday.
I made a little saying for the readers, and... Vanessa drew cartoons of them on the title page. She wins again.
I developed an app specifically for the event, but it didn't quite work out. You can see it above, just under my goatee.
The idea is that on the first page you can pick an Aesidhe name (that's the culture that Adria joins in the novels), a tribe, and a spirit animal. In the second page, it builds a little character sheet for you, and if you enter your email address, I'll send a little story with that character as the basis.
But... the first person who tried it didn't really get what was going on, and the buttons were a bit too small. I'll revise it for later shows and put it on the site once it's ready. So... close, but not quite enough.
<--And OMG Carrie Fisher stopped by!
Actually, this guy was obviously about the coolest dad in the world, and we really enjoyed speaking with him and his daughter(s).
There were so many good conversations, and I wish we had names and pictured for them all. If you were at our booth and feel inclined, please let us know and we'll connect...
By the end of Saturday, the books were gone, and a fair number of prints and bookmarks. We would have only seven copies left of our (lowered expectations) initial order for Sunday...
Day One: What was the Plan?
Keep expectations low. That was the plan. Measured. Cautiously optimistic at best. Just a couple of boxes of the new Heir of Scars I paperback as centerpiece, flyers and business cards, plus maybe a couple of things that Vanessa decided to make, like a tic-tac-toe game of white and grey wolves.
And a few bronze necklaces with spirit animal pictures.
Oh, plus a few dozen art prints of cover art, and forty-one different styles of bookmarks with novel quotations on the back.
Okay, Vanessa kind of went all out. I'm probably forgetting something.
A 2x4 banner.
Anyway, we took an Uber in since we had too much to carry on the Metro without dramatically increasing the risk of getting caught by the doors. Our Grateful Dead-head driver was less excited by the convention than by the fact that I am a writer and Vanessa is Portuguese, and he spent quite some time trying to remember the name of the movie where the writer falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper and....... finally he realized it was a sub-plot from Love, Actually, and for the next two minutes showed us an extended preview on his phone.
BTW, he's absolutely moving to Canada if Trump wins.
A brisk and heavily encumbered walk and we make it to the entrance, then are led to walk back along the same path we just took, only just inside the building instead of along the sidewalk, arriving at almost the exact point of dis-Uberment.
The floor of the Con was just like the parents' basement of our geekhood dreams, only several blocks long and several storied high. Even only halfway mantled (dis-dismantled?), it was already impressive. Most of the larger exhibitors had set up on the prior day, leaving Artist Alley the primary barren wasteland we'd soon call home.
Booth N12 was, of course, 3/4 of the way back across the hall, making me very glad I packed a replacement shirt and deodorant.
Vanessa and I went to work quickly, and we took much of the hour to set up our 8x2 table (sorry Vanessa, that's feet not meters). I was very glad Vanessa had designed a layout and that we practiced setup beforehand. I'd have probably spent two of the three days just trying out permutations.
We ended up with great booth neighbors. Chris Allen (ArtofCristos) on our left had some pretty stellar prints of his interpretations of Black Panther, Kylo Ren, TMNT...
On our right Jackson (@arkrevner) had a very nice mix of anime inspired and vibrant original pieces.
It was good our expectations were not stratospheric on Friday. Our goal was not so much to sell at the con, but to get our names and the series out there. We sold a couple of copies on Friday with freebie bookmarks and felt pretty good. It was very cool just to make some connections, chat with people, and maybe the best little surprise was someone asking Vanessa to draw a wolf for her in a sketchbook she was taking around to different artists to make a collection.
"How much do I ask?" Vanessa wondered.
"I have no idea..." I not-too-helpfully answered.
She undercharged in the end, but considering how fast V can sketch, it was a very respectable hourly wage, and the woman was very pleased with original wolf that will remain the very first page of her collection.
Okay, it wasn't much compared to many of the vendors and exhibitors, but we were pretty excited as we wandered back home again, and very much hopeful that Saturday would have a lot more action.
Author Jacob Falling and Artist Vanessa Bettencourt will be celebrating the paperback release of Heir of Scars I at AwesomeCon in Washington DC on June 3-5, 2016.
Come find us in the Artist Alley in booth N12. We would love to see you there!
Here is a little hint at the future of the Heir of Scars... and the past...
“Every time I read one of the books from this series I think the Author can not possibly pull me further in or move me more with his words . . . He has opened up a world that I would truly
love to be a part of. Introduced me to a people that I would find joy and happiness to be with.”
From the Amazon Reviews...
“I love books that pull you into their pages without remorse for what you leave behind. This is one of those books.”
"An air of mystery and intrigue drawing the reader into a world almost familiar.”
"Allow yourself to be fully immersed into the life and the world the Author creates . . . I can't imagine what reading the whole series will do to me.”
From the Amazon Reviews...
“On the edge of my seat with every page.”
“Jacob Falling has clearly developed a three-dimensional world in his imagination and is able to masterfully convert it to paper for a reader.”
“Again the Author has surpassed my expectations in this book . . . a well rounded and full adventure that you won't want to miss . . . You feel as if you are watching a movie within your mind . . . Amazing how immersed you become in this story.”
Jacob, how would describe your books, their genre?
The Heir of Scars series of medieval fantasy novels are epic, grand, sweeping, but are truly focused on the characters within the world of Morandia. The cultures, languages, and societies are organic, personal, and near to our own. Adria, Marcus, Kirlin, Mateko, Darius... they grow, they change, they sometimes contradict themselves, even die. Heir of Scars explores their pasts, their futures... the things that make them who they are and their world what it is— very real, and yet both a little darker and a little brighter than what we are often able to live ourselves. ’Cause, you know... fantasy.
How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your books? And what motivated you to write them?
I've been laying the groundwork for these novels for years and only started releasing them in mid-2011 in episodic novellas— one each season. It's an exciting way to write, and I hope an exciting way to read. Can't miss the characters or hang on the edge of a cliff for too long... the next release is three months away at most.
The world building for Morandia and the Heir of Scars took the longest— and will continue. It took me hundreds of hours to develop the Aesidhe language alone. It, like the culture, is based on Native North American Indian languages and cultures but is definitely its own creation. Gna chóli wateko limiyati? Heheh... look it up.
Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? How long will the series run?
Heir of Scars was always meant to be a series, and I plotted out 40 releases originally though that's starting to seem too few at this point. I have at least portions of each of the 40 + episodes written, and my style always involves working on multiple time-lines at once. It's not a strictly linear story. Think Lost in the fantasy genre and you'll get the gist. That many characters, that many forwards and backwards, but the past and present, and the intersecting story lines, all inform each other. They're organic and grow together more and more as time goes on, even as new story-lines are introduced.
Who are your main characters in the story and how would you describe them?
In the first eight releases, I focus on Adria Idonea. Adria is an heir of the ruling family in Heiland, a medieval kingdom at war with an indigenous people, the Aesidhe. The story begins with Adria as a young woman, having exiled herself among the Aesidhe her father wars against. We begin in the middle of her story, and then followed two strands— one in the present, in which Adria returns to her father's people because of an unbreakable promise, and one in the past, exploring why she left as a child, how she becomes a prominent person among her new people, and leading up to a great conflict between her father's kingdom and the Aesidhe she has come to love. It's a coming-of-age in two times and shows in very different ways the struggles Adria faces in choosing her own way in a world so like our own, too often in conflict.
Beginning with Part Nine, Spires and Mountains, I have rebooted the series. Adria's story continues in a very new context, and other stories begin (or begin anew) all across the world of Morandia: Marcus, Kirlin, Darius, Mateko... the world widens, and yet already these lives which span the world converge in past and in present. I'm having so much fun with these now.
Is there any symbolism in your book that you’d care to share with potential readers?
Symbolism always happens whether it's intended by the writer or not. We're humans. We find patterns in everything around us, whether they exist in a real measurable way or not. We give it meaning. We're all storytellers. One of my characters even remarks upon this at one point as a joke, but here’s an example: I use a game of chess as a symbol, and it will seem at first to be a bit of a cliché, but I flip it on its head. Three times. At least. A reader who notices small but interesting things very early in the books will be hugely rewarded as the story goes on. Promise.
Do any of the characters resemble you? How about friends or relatives?
Not in any way which might inspire litigation, of course not! I have a huge cast. No one's a direct copy, but of course I've diced up many people I know and strewn them about my world... again in a way that totally won't land me in a courtroom, despite the violently creative phrasing.
What is the worst thing reviewers or critics have said about your book?
I've had great reviews so far. Very fortunate. I've had readers who have picked it up thinking it's YA fiction, and though Adria is a child or YA through the first eight books, it's really probably too much for many YA readers— especially moving along to Spires and Mountains and beyond. Still, even those readers have been positive. So many people end up with unreasonable low reviews. I've just been lucky so far.
What is the best thing reviewers or critics have said about your book?
Oh... the best actually is as qualified as the worst reviews. I love when readers get so excited about something that they verge on spoilers. It's a dead giveaway that I nailed a scene, but... well... SPOILER ALERT!
Have you tried submitting your book to publishers? If so, how many? Did they provide any feedback? What was that feedback? Will you be submitting it again? Would you still want to work with a traditional publisher now that you have self-published?
I tried sending an early draft of the first eight novellas as one novel to an agent; I received a middling response. About this point I realized that Indie publishing and eBooks were becoming much more of a feasible reality, and this just appealed to me, especially as I began thinking of the novels as smaller, coherent pieces.
What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors getting reviews, query letters?
Marketing yourself is brutal. Probably everyone who has written a book underestimates this. I can't see how someone couldn't. It's a full time job even to do it poorly. If someone two years ago had said, “Yeah... just go ahead and learn HTML and CSS... Photoshop... trust me, you'll need it...” There just ends up being so many facets to self-publishing I would not have vaguely considered beforehand. But, still, it's a great experience to invest yourself in the totality of a project. You build a world, then rebuild your world to support that world. “Yeah... and practice with Legos. Or Rube Goldberg contraptions. Trust me.”
Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?
Many. What's a good one that's not a spoiler? This will apply to both long-time readers and those starting with Spires and Mountains: Adria owns something once owned by her mother. She doesn't know this, but it's not actually her secret. Wait, are we taping yet? This is just the warm-up still, yes?
If you were to be offered a movie deal, who would you like to see play the main characters? And why?
Oh, this is a great one! I nearly started weeping when I watched the beginning of Hanna. The opening really looks like it could have been ripped out of Heir of Scars, at least until a gun appears. So, Saoirse Ronan is a near-perfect Adria, and Eric Bana would make an excellent Preinon, as well. It doesn't realistically happen for authors, but I would love to be involved in the casting. Your accent, Nick, would be perfect, actually... what are you doing for 8 months whenever this happens...? Seriously, fill me a pint of whatever. We could talk this out all night.
Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?
The stories are complex enough that I have to outline. I use Scrivener now, actually... it's a great tool for long or complicated story-lines. I name each scenes creatively and color code them based upon character and whether it's in the past or present, so I can get a feel for them and see the overall path of the story at a glance. I even use keywords now.
It's so scattered. I write in pieces all over the place, rearrange. Each release is about half done as I finish the one before, so I play with the order and fill in the gaps in a three-month period while also writing ahead based upon the new material. It's important to me that I craft a reasonably full story arc for each release, even when there are five main character story lines in nine different times in the span of 25,000 words. It's a great challenge to make it all work together and feel like a whole, but I think it works.
How much research do you do before starting to write? Where do you find most of your background materials? How do you fact check?
I do quite a bit of research before and during writing. The languages and cultures should make that plain, even when it's often just ten hours of work to produce a small amount on the page that most might not even pick up on. I think it truly helps to make the world feel fully realized. The amount of work I've put into studying American Indian culture, linguistics, medieval and classical history, development of world religions... you have to put a lot into fiction like this, especially to make it be readable and not feel like a collection of Wikipedia articles in the end.
If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?
Oh, I still fidget with little bits. I'm not in paperback yet, so I'll confess I make small changes now and then to the earlier e-book releases. I also did a round of additions... maps, and appendix, new covers... but I made those a second edition.
How did you choose the story you wrote?
We live in a world where religions, nations, and cultures are too often in conflict, even when the individuals comprising them just want to live their lives, have the freedom to make their choices. Heir of Scars is about that freedom. How does a person live the life they want to live, when so many decisions have been already made for them? Adria and the others are heirs to the war their fathers and mothers waged a generation before, the War of Scars. It was a cultural war, a religious war, and it dictates so many of the choices they have to make—in life, in love, and in choosing how they will leave the world for the next generation.
How did you decide on the cover and did you design it or did you use a professional designer? However you created the cover, will you being do it that way in the future? Why or why not?
I designed the first eight original covers myself, using stock photos and an increasingly prohibitive amount of Photoshop. I realized I needed a cover artist, and I was fortunate to find Vanessa Bettencourt. With her art and a new font design, I redid the first eight covers and am much happier going forward. Vanessa has been awesome and very engaged in the project, especially considering there's a new Heir of Scars release every 3 months. And I usually only stop writing the day before release, ’cause... eBooks just encourage that level of procrastination.
Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?
My two biggest author influences are probably Frank Herbert and Katherine Kurtz. They both crafted worlds with a deep historical feeling, and their level of mysticism is the closest to what I adopt. No dragons or fireballs, folks... sorry! I really should say George Martin, but I honestly hadn't read him until recently. He's probably the closest to my current style that I know of, but can't really be called an influence.
Something that influenced me unexpectedly and probably more crucially are the new school of episodic television— HBO, etc. You'll definitely see my structure influenced by Lost, some speeches like a medieval version of Aaron Sorkin. It sounds odd, but I'm not a huge reader of fantasy.
What did you learn that surprised you while writing your book? What was the most difficult part?
Trust the characters more than yourself. That's probably a good answer for both questions. I know it sounds kind of silly. But it’s really the argument of the whole theme. Adria doesn't like to be told what to do. My original ending to the first eight books, well... she didn't care for it and did the exact opposite. Can't write for her... can't write for them. If I let them live and I just watch, it works so much better.
What types of hobbies do you have? Are you active in sports or your community? Do these activities find their way into your books?
Most of my hobbies are creative, and I try to use them to support the novels— I've written music inspired by/ with the novels, and I'm pleased with the trailer I made recently for Heir of Scars. Of course, chess appears in the novels, and I used to be a decent player. A fascination with languages, also obvious.
What is your favorite time of the year and why? And did you incorporate that into your story? How?
Wow, that was a banal question you turned nicely into a great one. Since much of the first eight books take place among the Aesidhe, the passage of seasons is instrumental to the story. And I feel like I've actually gained more of an appreciation for winter in part because of this. The Aesidhe make camp for the winter, and they're able to relax and live their lives more in peace. The armies of their enemy don't hunt them then, and they've long since learned to adapt to the cold and a scarcity of food. Adria's story begins in winter. She's barefoot and hunting in the snow... and those are the kind of images that have stayed with me.
What do you feel is the best personal quality you bring to your writing career?
Dream. A very active un- and/ or sub-conscious. I'm relatively convinced that I wrote all of these novels in a parallel universe, and I just watch the movie when I go to sleep at night. Or in the shower. There. Did the shower things make the answer less cheesy? And how many questions are there? Am I getting that pint soon?
Tell us something about yourself that you don’t usually share with anyone but close friends?
Really? You may not be ready for this. Okay, here it is... You don't exist. I only imagined you. What? See, this is why I don't share this sort of thing. You always get mad when I say that. Calm down. It doesn't mean I love you any less. Okay... fine. I take it back. You totally absolutely exist. Feel better? Now, where do you want to eat tonight? No... you say wherever I want is fine, but...
Do you have a special theme, or design that you intend to continue throughout your career as your signature item?
Oh, great question. I haven't thought about it, really, but I will now. Thank you! Hm. I suppose birds as symbols are taken?
What happens next? Is there another book? A new career in some other field? What are your future writing plans? Is it dependent upon this book being a success?
Well, I can continue writing Heir of Scars for years and will. The characters keep living, with or without success... even without my approval and against my desires, in some cases. At some point I'll start publishing other works, some mainstream fiction, science fiction, even a few musicals I've started. Started a video game. I've already begun more projects than I can ever hope to finish. Like Godel. For every answer I find I have at least three new questions. It's a pretty cool way to live, really. I'll start a book about it.
Do you use a pen name? Why?
Jacob Falling is absolutely a pen name. It actually developed out of a dream I had while writing a novel. I was actually a character within this dream, and the character was dreaming (yes, this was long before Inception... haha). He was playing chess as the white pieces against an unknown enemy, and gradually became one of the pieces, moving on a chessboard that seemed to be a purgatory of sorts between heaven and hell.
He lived a lifetime on the board, sometimes being black, sometimes being white, always trying to either climb his way to heaven or to hell, just... elsewhere. But he always fell. In the end, he lay down upon the board, and he dreamed. In this dream within this dream within a dream, he rose and folded the chessboard and pieces under his arm, and ascended a silver stair.
When he reached the top, a faceless gray angel stopped him. “What is your name?” the angel asked.
“I am Jacob.”
The angel asked again. “What is your name?”
“I am Sariel."
End of dream. And dream. And dream. End of story.
Of course, there's a Gnostic version of the Biblical story of Jacob's Ladder in there, and the concept of the name is simple for me: We struggle within and against ourselves to be more than ourselves. We fall and fall and fall, always and only fearing a world without ourselves.
Thanks for this opportunity, Nick... great questions. Lots of fun.