Tim Frankovich

Writer's Blog & Home of Warpsteel Press

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Sometimes Fantasy Disappoints

I just finished reading a lengthy epic fantasy novel. As I closed it, I did not feel satisfaction, pleasure, or anticipation for another book. I felt… disappointed.

I’m not going to share the name of the book here. I don’t like to talk negative about books, if I can help it. (If you’re desperate to know, you can check my Goodreads profile.) And my likes are not the same as others’ likes.

Some of the disappointment came from the ambiguous ending. Did the good guys win? I wasn’t quite sure. And the primary reason for that was… who were the good guys?

The novel had three point-of-view characters. Based on the way it was written, I assumed they were the ones I should be rooting for, the protagonists, the “good guys.” And so it seemed, right up through the end. Did those three “win”? Kind of, I guess. They lived through it all, anyway.

But anther character definitely “won.” And he was portrayed as a good guy sometimes and a bad guy at other times. It wasn’t that he was conflicted, or was struggling with temptation or anything like that. It was deliberately ambiguous. I have no idea if what he accomplished in the end was a good thing for this fantasy world, or a bad thing, because I never understood his motivations or whether he understood the consequences of what he wanted to do.

Please note that I am not asking that all the characters in books be 100% good or 100% evil. I’m talking about character motivation and development.

In my novel, Until All Curses Are Lifted, one of the main antagonists is Volraag. It would have been easy to make him a straight-up villain. But I worked hard to give him a serious motivation that made sense from his point of view. That’s what I want to read. With this novel, I never got a clear understanding of the antagonist’s motivations (if he was an antagonist?).

This is one of the reasons why I love J.R.R. Tolkien so much. When I put down The Lord of the Rings for the 30+ time, I am satisfied. And it doesn’t matter which character I think about in the story, I can identify his/her motivations and status in the story. More than that, every character inspires me.

I could write a whole series on this (maybe I will, at some point), explaining how each character in The Lord of the Rings inspires and encourages me – even the “bad” guys!

I’m not opposed to making the reader wonder whether a character is good or bad. And I love to read stories where heroes fall, or villains are redeemed, because we’re all human and both those possibilities loom large in our stories. But I don’t want to read a story that ends with me wondering what I just read.

Launch Day

This is it. In many ways, I’ve been dreaming of this day since 3rd grade.

As a child, I wrote little stories and stick figure comic strips for years. I moved on to longer stories, writing my own books. (They weren’t very good.) I went off to college, proclaiming that I was going to become a writer.

Then life happened. I realized that writers don’t make a lot of money. I needed other jobs. Those other jobs began to take up a lot of time. I fell in love. Got married. Had kids. Worked more jobs. Writing sort of… went away.

A few years ago, I somehow got motivated again. I began to write. And write. And write. I wrote a novel and submitted it to agents. It received dozens and dozens of rejections (almost all of them form). I moved on and wrote another novel. This one… this one was big. And it was good. I could tell.

I did everything I could think of to make it right. I hired an editor. I listened to beta readers. I worked through all the various processes of editing, proofing, re-writing, editing some more, proofing some more, and so on.

And now it’s here. I can pick up a physical copy of my first published novel. It’s real.

Today is my birthday. Why don’t you go buy yourself a present? I suggest a good book. Enjoy! And let me know what you think.

Free Short Story!

A moment of rage leads to a curse beyond hope.
Will Kishin surrender or fight back?

Witness the birth of the leper assassin.

What? What is that?

The only way you can find out is to join the mailing list! There’s a form on the right there, or you can go to this page.

Today marks the release of The Leper’s Second Kill, a short story featuring the origin of Kishin, a minor (but important) character in Until All Curses Are Lifted. He’s not a very nice guy. But how did he get that way?

Early readers of my novel were fascinated by this character. His origin story wouldn’t fit in the novel itself, as it would derail the main story, so I wrote it as a stand-alone short story. It’s a tragedy, but shows how he ended up on the path he walks in the novel.

It also might contain a hint or two about things that could show up in the next book…

So join the mailing list and read it!

Read Chapter Two

I just posted chapter two of Until All Curses Are Lifted. In this chapter, meet Seri, the second protagonist. (She’s the one on the cover.)

Check it out here!

Only a few days left until you can read the whole thing!

Pre-Order Now!

Surprising me, Until All Curses Are Lifted is now available for Kindle pre-order!!

The paperback will be available next week.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in pre-ordering the ebook, go here now!

Read Chapter One Now!

Only a little over a week remains before Until All Curses Are Lifted is available for purchase!

In the meantime, I’ve posted the first chapter here. Read it now and meet the first protagonist, Marshal.

Stay tuned later this week for the second chapter and an intro to Seri, the other protagonist!

Frustrating Readers with Multi POV

Yesterday, I picked up a fantasy novel from the library and started reading. I read the first chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Okay, this character is intriguing in multiple ways. I’m interested in seeing what happens with her.”

The point-of-view (POV) shifted to a second character for the next chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Hm. Don’t really care. This character is kind of boring and the situation she’s in doesn’t interest me at all.”

I found the third character point-of-view to be interesting like the first. So two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Actually, yes. Yes, it is bad.

Think about what’s going to happen as I continue reading. As I hit chapters from the first and third POV, I’ll start each section interested. As I hit chapters from the second POV, I’ll start each section thinking, “Oh. Her again. Ugh.” In fact, several more chapters into the book, this is exactly what is happening.

Now it could very well be that later on in the story, character #2 will have captured my attention with something that hasn’t been revealed yet. But that’s assuming I keep reading the whole book. (I’m stubborn, so I almost certainly will, though I may be tempted to skip over some sections.) Some readers will bail out, toss the book, and never pick it up again.

This is the inherent danger of writing books with multiple points of view. Keeping your readers interested in each character and their story becomes more difficult with more points of view. Opening chapters are vitally important. You need to catch the reader’s interest right away, appeal to their emotions or their curiosity, in order to tie them to each character. In many ways, it’s like writing multiple books at once.

But the introduction isn’t the only place you might lose readers. Switching POV in the middle of high tension can be another. I once read a book (for review) in which the primary protagonist was an elite soldier off on dangerous missions in the Middle East. The secondary protagonist was his girlfriend back home, who… honestly didn’t have much at all to do. This led to a totally ludicrous reading situation: the guy was engaged in a life-threatening situation, bullets flying, etc., and then… the story abruptly shifted to the girl. And what was she doing? Pulling into her driveway and thinking about the guy, wondering what he was doing, how he really felt about her, etc. Hello? He’s about to die! I don’t care about your car and driveway! I don’t want to find out whether you think he’s serious about the relationship; I want to find out if he survives!

That was the most egregious example I’ve run across, but it happens frequently. I’ll admit there are times that a story has shifted points of view… and I’ve skipped over that section to get back to the character I want to read about. I’ve even done this briefly with books by some major writers.

It’s a tough balancing job. Of course people are more interested in reading about people who are more like them – whether that’s gender or personality or whatever. But a skilled writer can make readers invest in characters that are nothing like them. In the example from the first paragraphs of this blog post, the interesting characters are nothing like me, but their stories intrigue me because they contain enough mystery, emotion, and so on, to make me want to keep reading.

Until All Curses Are Lifted has two main point-of-view characters that get approximately equal time. A third character gets a handful of scenes. I had a fourth, but deleted him in the editing process because his story wasn’t compelling enough, and only served to distract from the main characters. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary to make the book work.

As I work on the second book in the series, the problem has escalated. Now I have at least four major point-of-view characters, and a couple of minor ones. As I did in the first book, I’m writing each of their stories separately before trying to decide how to balance them. It’s a writing challenge, and I love it.

How about you? Read any books where you loved one point-of-view character and hated another?

What It’s About

After the cover reveal yesterday, the number one question I received was: “What is the book about?” (And also: “When can I get one?” – answer: Very Soon.)

Until All Curses Are Lifted is a fantasy novel. If you’re a current fantasy reader, it’s easiest to compare with Brandon Sanderson’s work. If you’re not a current fantasy reader, then, uh… Lord of the Rings. It’s like The Lord of the Rings. 🙂

The back cover copy tells a little, but here’s a slightly longer version:

In the realm of Antises, the moral laws are enforced by magic. If you steal, assault, rape, murder, etc., then you immediately face the consequences with a curse. But when this system was created, the lords of the land exempted themselves. Instead, the curses for their actions fall on their children.

Marshal is one of those children. Cursed since birth because of his father’s sins, he lives an outcast’s life with his mother. But then his half-brother shows up with news: as the oldest son of the lord, Marshal will inherit the lord’s vast magical power. His half-brother wants that power for himself and will do anything to get it. He sends a terrifying assassin to kill Marshal and his mother, who flee for their lives. Their only hope is to find a way to lift Marshal’s curse.

But curses do not change. No one has ever escaped from one. No one.

At the same time, a young woman named Seri arrives on the island home of the Conclave of Mages. Her dream is to become one of the Master Mages, the first woman to do so. Yet even as she arrives, a violent earthquake shakes the island. The magic that holds the world together is weakening. No one is entirely sure why.

As Seri begins her training, a shocking murder disturbs things further. Someone is killing the Masters. And the ground shakes again.

Seri discovers a unique ability that helps her uncover more about both mysteries than she ever dreamed. But she’s powerless to change things.

Both Marshal and Seri are unaware of other powers that are observing them, and the way in which all these problems are connected.

Cover Reveal

Here it is! The final cover for Until All Curses Are Lifted!

More importantly, the book will be available next month!! (Exact date still being finalized.) Stay tuned!

In the meantime, just look at this awesome cover. Just look at it!!

The cover was designed by Rofiatul Adawiyah, and I’m absolutely thrilled by it.

Publication Update

All of this NON-writing part of being a writer is making my head spin at times. I keep discovering even MORE new things I have to do in preparation for publication. (At least, if I want it to go right…)

So here’s what is happening right now:

  1. The cover is finalized. It looks fantastic! I’m trying to decide the exact day at which I’ll reveal it. Ideally, it would be when pre-orders are available, but I’m not sure I can wait.
  2. Starting up a mailing list very soon™. It will include a free short story download.
  3. An artist is working on my map page.
  4. I’m finalizing the interior layout & design.

Finally, I’m looking for reviewers. So if you have a blog or review site (or you’re just a famous writer yourself!) and are interested in epic fantasy, let me know!

And then there’s my regular job, and trying to find time to write on the next book, and maybe getting a little exercise, and…

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