Before you get to thinking that this is about research into niches or writing to meet audience demands, allow me to inform you it's not about that stuff at all. I understand some people can find the pulse of what appeals to the masses, write and publish while the masses are still consuming, and make a lot of money, but I can't do that. I can't write that fast, so the research to see what profitable niches exist and writing what readers want in those niches seems pointless. Sorry if that's disappointing, but I feel it's important to know what your strengths are.
What I want to discuss here is the influence readers can have on the way a story proceeds. It might be difficult to imagine in a stand-alone novel, but it's a lot easier to see how it might happen in a long series or a world-building saga like Draoithe. Readers asked questions that I never thought of. They make suggestions that I never considered. It has greatly altered the size and scope of the dream. I might not be able to write to the market, but I can hear what my readers think and try to answer their questions and comments in the stories.
It will come as no surprise when I admit my beta readers’ questions have inspired me and paid readers' requests for the backstory or side character's tales exist. After I wrote the first book, it posed the question: would Olivia and Monty ever make a reappearance?
Thinking about it, I knew I had to write their separate stories, even if my first reaction was, “No way. They’re peripheral characters!”
By that time, though, I had spinoffs well in hand. Prodigals Sons and the spinoffs, Sky Dreams, along with a few other short-reads set in the miniseries, are available or will be soon.
That wasn’t the only set of stories to evolve simply because of a beta reader’s question, however.
Probably the worst reader influence so far has been Filth and Death. The real-life Frank Grimes is one of my been-there-since-the-beginning readers. When she read the first book, she was adamant that I had to tell Frank Grimes’s story.
He was nothing but the slimy contractor. I didn’t think he even had a story to tell. I said, “No, Way!” Boy was I so very wrong.
The worst thing was that I had to write other stories before I could write about Frank Grimes. Dream Therapy had to be written first so that Frank Grimes could be properly villainized as the low-life scum that he was. His cut scenes from A Pack Forms had to be published, so he had a real place in the dream. (Please see my earlier reference to deleted scenes at the end of Synner and Sainte.)
Believe it or not, before I could write the story to get to Frank Grimes, I needed to write Fire and a Gryphon so that more of Grimes’s truth was revealed, and I could further connect Draoithe with Blar Elding of Synner and Sainte.
So I wrote Frank Grimes’ backstory in like four original books before I could even write Filth and Death.
How did scum wind up as the lead character in the longest book set in the dream to date? I can only attribute the continued crazy to the magical influence of the readers.
If you haven’t met Frank Grimes, please allow me to introduce him to you. Frank Grimes is filth, and he should be dead! The only question is, who kills him?
I gleefully had the slimy contractor murdered, but if you want to know who did it, you’ll have to read the book. It’s good. The real Frank Grimes loved it. So win-win.
The reader's influence is real and hopefully ongoing. I’m always seeking true blue fans as beta readers for upcoming books, the next series, etc… Please bother me about my books. I want to hear from readers.
Shameless Self Promotion
Time To Feed My Reads
Book review - Dragonesque: Eyrie Iolair by Ophelia Kee
Book - Dragonesque: Eyrie Iolair
Author - Ophelia Kee
Review: Dustin is the Lord of the Dragons and in this short story, he is given the chance to obtain his lifelong love, his mate. When his potential mate is suddenly at death's door, Dustin begins to lose his mind and aims to protect her by keeping all others at bay. But will this save her or harm her?
This is a well-written and great read and the tiny markdown is simply that I believe you would be best to have read the other pieces in this series before going for this one and that was not something that was clear.
Y'all... This was such a wonderful surprise review. I know I've alluded to Feed my Reads before, but I don't pay for reviews. This floored me at my day job when I saw it. I couldn't believe it. Someone else likes one of my stories!
Maybe it's a silly sentiment given how many pieces of my story there are and how many people have bought or read parts of the Draoithe Saga, but whenever someone leaves a kind review, it still makes this old tiger feel good that for a moment I helped someone else relax and enjoy a good story.
A Taste of the latest WIP
Do y'all want a Sneak Peek? Okay, but just a peek. Part 1 is finished, and I'm working on Part 2. This story is heading for exclusivity, y'all. If you want more, you'll have to subscribe to my Newsletter.
Just before midnight, September 29, 2016
Even the destitute and homeless preferred life over death. Leland knew that as he hunted for his next meal. He'd learned how to identify those who were sick or fading and close to crossing the River Styx. It might be a crime to cheat Death, but the Reaper never refused a soul because it arrived early. Only those without coins failed to cross into the underworld. It might be best to avoid the truly lost souls.
Even if he recognized the macabre specter of his existence, Leland preferred his miserable life over the nothingness that Death would bring. He was no better than the homeless and the destitute in that regard. At least, for the last couple of hundred years, that was true.
He occasionally questioned if it was still the case. Did he still cling to life?
As he prowled the late-night streets of Chicago, seeking enough blood to sustain his existence, he reflected upon exactly how true his desire to live still was. Leland thought he wanted to live. He kept hunting night after night, didn’t he?
He preferred feeding on fading immortals. The lingering magic in their blood boosted his own abilities. Barring that, humans and large livestock were excellent sources of blood, even if they lacked the high he received from immortals.
Was the hunt a desire to live or simply the habit of a lengthy existence?
If he found an immortal desiring to cross over or perhaps involved in nefarious criminal enterprises, he could play the role of the white knight and dispense a dark brand of mercy or justice. That might grant his immortal existence more meaning.
Leland smirked at that thought. Was he Batman? No, he was a vampire hunting for a meal, not a dark knight fighting criminals in the streets. If he wasn't the good guy in his own story, how the hell could he be the white knight in someone else's? There was serious irony there.
He frowned as he turned down an alley on the seedier side of the city, continuing his search. The alley curved beyond an overflowing dumpster, and Leland carefully picked his way around the trash so he could see what lay beyond. At five feet eleven inches tall, he could see over the heads of most people, but the mountain of garbage atop the trash bin blocked even a taller man’s view.
Perhaps it shouldn't be amusing that he was the villain in his own biography. There might be aspects of his life that were immutable, but that didn't mean he couldn't be a better man. He actively strove for that goal each night.
The dragon necromancer, known in the immortal realm simply as Blade, spoke those words to him when they crossed paths once, decades ago. The man walked a dark path just as black, if not worse, than what Leland trod. His words still rang true. Leland could always choose to be a better man.
Perfect was an impossibility. Leland didn’t strive for that. Rather, seeking an improved version of the man he was each night was the worthy, if sometimes unattainable, goal. He couldn’t always be a better version of himself, but he wouldn’t throw in the towel just because he backslid occasionally. No, he redoubled his efforts instead.
When he stepped past the overflowing dumpster, he realized the rest of the alley was nothing more than a turnaround for the garbage truck that was late in arriving. If it failed to arrive soon, the turnaround may be just as full of refuse as the dumpster.
The homeless preferred alleys with two exit points, so they could run from the police or worse things in the dream. He scanned the space to be sure he wasn’t missing anything and turned to leave when he knew he wouldn’t feed from that avenue.
The two young vampires blocking his exit when he made his way past the dumpster once again had ideas for interrupting his plans. Leland sighed. It wasn’t a fair fight, even if it was two against one. He knew he held the upper hand.
Dispatching them wouldn’t be easy, but in that instant, the irrefutable answer to the existential question concerning his will to live manifested itself in an ensorcelled sword. He seriously wanted to live.
The blade landed in his palm with an audible smack as he reached for it in the dream. He bared his fangs and allowed his full vampire guise to display for the two young fools. They may as well face Dracula himself for all the chances they truly had to be victorious against the living legend of Leland Mystic Shade. He didn’t practice the sword every evening merely as an exercise routine.
He almost laughed aloud at his internal overly dramatic dialogue as they advanced toward him. Living legends didn’t have to scrounge for meals, give one up to defend their lives, and slink home to sleep for healing on the regular. Living legends shouldn’t be targets for arbitrary execution to gain glory in some enclave Leland had never even heard of.
He left off thinking and engaged in the fight. The dance of life and death once begun had only one resolution. The losers burned to ashes on the Chicago wind with the coming of the sun. Leland needed to decide if he would be a loser or remain victorious in his sad life.
His sword whirled through the evening air, meeting the blades of his adversaries. Fighting two at once took skill, and usually meant he accepted minor wounds in a bid for victory. He was immortal. He could heal.
Leland chose not to back away. He learned that lesson the hard way. Leaving his foes to make a report about his whereabouts or his recent hunts meant more adversaries. No reports and no returning vampires struck fear in his would-be opponents, and he remained free from harassment for longer periods of time.
The tradeoff for choosing not to move away from Chicago and reinvent himself was fighting random glory seekers while hunting for a decent meal each evening. But Chicago was home, and Leland, like many immortals, preferred to stake a claim over his territory.
A little over an hour later, he was limping into his shower to wash away the blood and grime from the fight. True to his determination to remain walking among the living, he’d won the battle of swords, but the victory was a hollow one, having ended the existence of two young vampires. It faded away from him as the brown and red soap suds swirled around the shower drain.
The thirst was rising fiercely, but the need for healing sleep and the coming of the dawn meant he would wait until the following evening. He only hoped he healed enough to hunt well. If not, the cattle ranch outside of town might still be safe. He hadn’t fed from the cows recently.
The thirst wouldn’t end him. It just made it difficult to think straight. That was more dangerous in some respects than consuming too much or drinking from other vampires and gaining no sustenance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from blood lust, the thirst was ever more present and far more likely to get him killed. It never led to good choices. Never.
Leland sighed as he shut off the water in the shower. It didn’t matter whether it led to good or bad choices. It was simply the way things were. He would hunt following tomorrow’s interview for a new personal assistant. That would have to do.
He might just get the office started back on the right track if that went well. A man could hope. Leland had aspirations for success. His realism simply tempered them.
He skipped the towel and his toothbrush. Who would notice besides the man in his mirror if he had morning breath? No one. It wasn’t as if his teeth would rot away. Being immortal had some advantages.
He fell into bed, allowing sleep to overtake him. He needed to heal and face another evening...
Thanks for Reading!
Okay, I have to run away before these blog posts turn into a book of their own. Too late, they already are. But that too belongs in another blog.
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