What do you like?

I had Vyce ask me yesterday what other books and stories I’ve written, and where to find them. The short answer is that none of them are what I consider in a state I’d be comfortable sharing them. But I have some that I can dust off and potentially get to a point that I can allow them to be seen.

However, the question also made me wonder…what is it that people liked about Ancient Ruins? I’m looking at not just old stories, or Spells of Old and Halls of Power. I have the trilogy of Ancient Dreams solidly worked out to the end point (sure, the details in the individual books may vary as I write them, but the start and end points are set in adamantine). But what is it that you liked about it? How can I try to make my next series enjoyable to everyone who’s read Ancient Ruins?

To be perfectly blunt, I’ve done tons of ideas, and most of the writing I’ve done is half-assed or shit. The last few years have been better, but the one closest to completion, Sisters of Radiance, is way too close in themes to Ancient Ruins for my comfort, in that it also has a fair amount of slavery involved. Not in nearly the same manner, but it’s enough that I feel that releasing it next would get me somewhat typecast. The other one that’s relatively close is Through the Fire, which is…complicated. There’s an elf, and a dragon raids her hometown, she’s left for dead. But it’s also extremely different in theme in many ways.

I have others as well, but they are either too close in some ways (Sentient space station is too much like Sistina.), don’t have a solid theme, or are content that I would struggle to even be willing to publish under a pen name as erotica, they come from such deep, dark portions of my mind. I’ve mentioned I’m weird, right?

Anyway, just to reiterate. Please, tell me what you liked about my writing. That way I can choose which story will fit the bill best for after I finish the Ancient Dreams trilogy.

17 thoughts on “What do you like?

  1. When digging through Kindle Unlimited stuff, I mainly go after novels that make me curious, and appreciate those that fulfill that curiosity, so:
    + unique protagonist. That’s always a plus with fantasy. I don’t want to read about adopted farmboy #5037 finding an ancient sword, having visions of an ancient, resurrected doom, yaddayadda.
    + some fairly unique elements, like the whole dungeon thing. Don’t know how “gamey” you’re going to go so I reserve judgment on some other aspects of the settings (mainly adventurers ;) ) but it was fun for the first book.
    + nothing big to complain about. You mentioned proofreading in some blog post as annoying you, but compared to many other self-published novels it was pretty OK (not that I don’t understand that missing errors can be annoying). Writing is solid. No weird formating. That sort of thing.
    + largely avoided the more annoying tropes so that’s a plus, too.

    Basically, the backstory piqued my interest and afterwards there wasn’t anything in the book that squashed it too much ;)
    I mainly see room for improvement in terms of character depth/development. That’s always a bit difficult to do and you aren’t doing bad, but it could be better. Along with maybe making the main plot a bit … more twisty. Book 1 was fairly straight-forward for the main heroine, I think. It’s nice to be “surprised” if that’s a possibility somewhere along the line. Mh. Actually this probably applies to the subplots and alternative POVs as well.


  2. I’ll admit I laughed at ‘Farmboy #5037’. Now, how game-like it is? As far as I’m concerned, you’ve seen everything there. This was a brand new idea for me, and most of my other settings don’t have ‘dungeons’ at all. Oh, they have classic ancient tombs and evils, but that’s normal stuff for fantasy as a whole.

    Second question…who’s the main character in your view? Because I certainly am not certain. >_>

    Hmm…as for surprising people, I like surprising characters, but not readers, if that makes any sense? Oh, I’m keeping secrets about Sistina’s whole history, and the Archon, but, as a whole, this entire trilogy is supposed to be kind of straightforward. Probably is just part of what type of reader/writer I am. I suck at mysteries and riddles.


  3. I enjoyed the characters, specifically the complexity the POV characters had. I was actually kinda disappointed that there wasn’t much explanation as to what the Queen was attempting to do during her brief POV at the end, as I was curious how the events played out from her perspective. It’s also why while I’m hoping for more Desa I’m also hoping for more Phynis now that she has her mind back together.

    I also very much enjoyed seeing everyone be flabbergasted by Sistina’s actions/existance. It was a lot of fun to read about the Adventurers attempting to get through what they thought was going to be an easy dungeon, it was amusing to read the character’s reactions to seeing Sistina’s main chamber the first time. I was disappointed some of those reveals were brief and/or sussinct, such as the reactions to the golem. It’s also a good point to give a lore dump, so someone could tell us the stories they know about the golems of old, or whatever.


  4. Hmm…interesting perspective on this. I find it somewhat amusing because I actually was trying to avoid lore dumps in active scenes (I remember reading David Weber’s On Basilisk Station, when he went on a 3-5 page tangent on the history of how drive systems worked…in the middle of a raging battle).

    There’s going to be quite a bit of Phynis in Spells of Old, though not quite as much Desa as I would like. Currently most events have been focused on what’s happening farther south. However, I will attempt to make ‘reveals’ more interesting, at the very least.

    As an aside, for anyone who reads this…when I have the funding to send Ancient Ruins to a proper copyeditor, would you like me to flesh out and expand sections that I might not have done justice on the initial release?


  5. Well I certainly wouldn’t want it in the middle of a fight scene. :)

    But presumably someone’s going to defeat the golem on the final level of the 8th floor. If after that they mentioned what the golems used to be, why the knowledge of them was lost, some stories about golem armies, etc I’d be interested in that. Or while talking to the head of the guild, etc. It’s a point where a bit of lore wouldn’t be out of place and would highlight how absurd it is that Sistina was able to create one.

    Sticking with the golem example, becuase it sticks in my head: In the first book we got that it was a surprise that she was making golems with Desa and Phynis expressing shock briefly, a bit of surpise on Desa’s part when it showed up at the end (which, side note, confused me as they’d previously talked about it with Sistina) and a mention of how it was an ancient war machine by Jared. But I didn’t really get WHY it was hard to create (Lost knowledge? Not enough power? Gods created them previously?) and that meant Sistina creating them didn’t feel that much more impressive than creating giant insects. But I got the impression it was supposed to be much more impressive.

    Re: Expanding the first book, I’d be in favor of that if you’re sending it to the copy editor after the thid book’s out. If it’s before the third book, go work on that instead. :)


  6. Indeed, that makes sense.

    As to why it was impressive, since it really isn’t a secret (I’m specifically not mentioning aspects of the setting until it comes up…such as the steam-based magitech in the setting), the making of golems is lost. Why they’re so much more impressive than other constructs is that they have a degree of autonomy that has never been replicated. And yes, eventually someone will beat one. I’ll definitely go over them when it comes up, though. *makes a note in notebook*

    As to editing, here is my current planning. I’ve already set aside the budget for art for all three books, so that’s done. The next major expense is editing. I’m going to pay for that and save the funds to edit Halls of Power as well. Once all of those are paid for, I intend to go back and get Ancient Ruins edited properly. Once that’s done, the next project (aside from whatever my next series is) is getting all of the books ready for Print On Demand. I’ve been doing everything myself up to this point, but I’m going to hire someone to do that so it’s done right, and I want the book edited before that point. So yeah, that’s the current plan. Trilogy first. Grr.


  7. It’s hard to write anything _nobody_ has ever come up with. I don’t know how many English books are published per year, but it’s about 200,000 for German. So obviously there’s a lot of ideas already used out there. But I’m not saying it always has to be forcibly different from everything else. A bit of a twist is usual enough – so maybe it’s not a farmboy, but a farmgirl. Or the ancient evil that got reincarnated turns out to actually be the good guy. Or … whatever. Then build on what’s already there. Read quite a few KU books lately that I thought would fit this category, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Sometimes it’s a bit more silly (Alexis Carew for example is military scifi with loads of anachronostic elements – “Mister Artley, a throw of the log, if you please,” she said. “I’d admire an update to our course.”), sometimes it’s just a little something …

    Not sure why you feel that the protagonist isn’t clear? I have a hard time seeing it as anyone but Sistina. Without her, there’s no plot. It’s her circumstances and decisions that shape the story the most. Sure, there’s other, minor protagonists that act in their own subplots, but even they act within the constrains she sets.
    But I’m just talking about, err, colloquial use of the word. Don’t know what literature sciences would say about it. Can be interesting to play with; “Sekma” is a novel I came across some time back where the protagonist has no agency whatsoever and plot follows a focal character. Can’t say I often found that sort of thing on KU (and I think in genres like fantasy or scifi people generally want to follow the protagonist fully).

    Surprising characters and not readers makes sense, I’d say. Like the dungeon Sistina builds. The adventurers are surprised when it’s not exactly normal, the reader obviously isn’t. Or can be something “meta” like Dickinson’s “The Traitor (Baru Cormorant)” where the surprise is prevented in the title of the book. Every reader knows the protagonist will betray people. The characters might be suspicious of her, but usually don’t figure it out until it’s far too late …
    I’d say the moments of genuine surprise for a reader are pretty rare. I can think of maybe 4-5 cases where an author managed to do it for me, in a positive sense (and that’s counting Japanese visual novels). So, yeah, maybe that wasn’t quite the right way to put it; and what you want to do makes more sense (surprise characters).
    But even without surprises I usually expect some twists and turns and I found that a bit too straight-forward for Ancient Ruins so far. I’d have a hard time pointing at something specific though; been a few weeks since I’ve read it. Hm. Maybe that sub-plot “when a certain character goes home and there’s a bunch of suspects mentioned about how said character originally got into trouble”. That’s a moment where the reader can sit there and go “mh, this guy sounds suspiciously too good to be true, he’s obviously the one” and so on – and then the subplot kinda ends with one getting caught red-handed and while I’m not saying that that excludes there later on being some twists to that so far nothing further has come of it, solving it in the most straight-forward manner possible, which meant for me it fell a bit flat.

    But as always that’s just my personal opinion.

    And Weber is the king of info-dumping. I know of no other author as bad as him at that. Doesn’t bother me personally too much since if I don’t want to know about something I just skim it. I just see it as an optional offer for those that are interested ;)
    Where I find him genuinely great is in quickly creating characters: sometimes, Honor faces some enemy commander and all he’s got is two pages or so before he’s shot from space. But nonetheless you feel like she just killed actual people with personality. He’s very good at quickly creating a personality for (otherwise) unimportant characters.
    (not so good at going any deeper then, though…)

    As for additions: I see no reason to say “no” when you feel it genuinely improves the novel, but it’s not something I’d expect. Maybe in an omnibus edition done after the entire trilogy is finished; that’s a bit more common, but few authors edit their books once finished (except for error corrections).


  8. I think I agree with just about everything that you’ve said. As an aside? I really, really liked the Dire Saga thus far (starting with Dire: Born) in that it does manage to surprise me with some twists in ways that I really enjoyed. I know some people hated it, though, so…up to you.

    As to the bits with the suspects…no comment. >_>


  9. Dire is great. But I’m among the people who absolute hated the way book 3 ended. Time traveling is something I don’t like as a plot mechanism, and using it in relation to something this … controversial is just a huge no-no to me. I’m trying to be open-minded towards book 4, but usually when I get like this I’m too stubborn to get over it. Really frustrating as I liked it otherwise …

    … holy cow, book 4 is out?! Well, excuse me, I’ll have an answer to that problem by tomorrow ;)


  10. …you had to say it. Well, there ends today’s writing! I didn’t know book 4 was out yet either!

    But I actually liked it. Oh, time travel in general pisses me off, but this…worked for me, mentally. And that is all I’ll say, as spoilers. OMG, spoilers.


  11. One of the best things about the book was the way that Sistina used the resources at her disposal (the sources of mana, the library, the conversations of the adventurers) to develop her dungeon. She avoided being info dumped by a companion character for that purpose, which can be interesting depending on how said character is written, but that kind of character gets used a lot.

    As has been stated by others, the multiple POVs were interesting, they helped flesh out the story beyond the boundaries of Sistina’s cave (setting up some of the backstory, character motivations, foreshadowing, etc.). The most interesting ones tended to those that had conversation (short or long) that developed the interpersonal relationships of the characters, such as Phynis’s linguistic prompting, Desa regretting her extended climbing session with Sistina, the adventurers falling into bickering habits, and Sistina’s implementation of a “dress code.”

    Based on Sistina’s effect on everyone else (knowingly or not), and her multiple POVs, she is the one that most people would consider to be the protagonist. Phynis would be a close second, as she shares a lot of scenes with Sistina. The Archon appears to be the antagonist, barring a surprise alliance with Sistina (not totally of the question, since that would be an opportunity to make gold flow out of the dungeon, but given the actions he ordered thus far, he seems like the kind of person to try to the steal/recreate the power on his own terms).


  12. I thought you had a really original concept and I really liked the viewpoint of Sistina because generally when you read a book it is never from the dungeon’s point of view and I found a lot of things she did interesting as hell. Whenever I think back on the book I think about what Sistina is going to do next with the dungeon and how she’s going to change it and I can’t wait to read the next one. This was a really refreshing viewpoint as I’ve read books with magic elements, fickle gods, elves, chosen ones, and slave elements but you don’t really happen across many book protagonists that are like Sistina.

    I thought how they went about enslaving the goddess was also very interesting and I thought the mechanics of it were well thought out. I really like when people explain technical or theoretical details behind certain aspects having to do with magic (I also want more background on golems as mentioned above).

    I also really liked the adventurers point of view but mostly because it let us see Sistina’s dungeon from their point of view. I thought it really helped flesh out what she was actually doing and how impressive it was that she could do it instead of just her viewpoint on the matter.

    I guess to simplify I just really liked an original take and fresh viewpoint on something that’s usually written from solely a “phynis” or adventurer’s viewpoint. It was nice for once for a chosen hero not to be on a quest slowly powering up to defeat an evil king because it was their destiny or something. I was also a huge fan of the magical mechanics and explanatory lore.

    Also I would totally read about a sentient space station


  13. Well, I’m done. Without spoiling anything: better than I feared, worse than I hoped, I guess.

    Didn’t make me like that pivotal moment of the previous book any extra, but surprisingly it was other things that bothered me more. Hum.


  14. Hmm. *nods* I’ll admit, while I have some decent ideas of magical mechanics for the setting, they’re nowhere near as developed as for my ‘primary’ setting. This one was built around Sistina, really.

    And Ms. Space Station is totally overpowered. >_>


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