Attention, fans of Niemeierian fiction:
The first draft of The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is now complete at 125,000 words!
You can check out a preview of SK here. Note that the preview poses a moderate spoiler risk if you haven't read Nethereal.
Having draft one of the third book in the can has given me a better perspective on the Soul Cycle series as a whole. Even though I'm the author, publishing these books has been something of a journey of artistic self-discovery, especially in light of how each book has its own feel derived from its particular influences.
Nethereal has been described as what you'd get if A. Merritt had been contracted to write a novel in Dune's Known Universe after binge-watching two-cor anime series from Studio Deen. It bucks the rigid genre conventions imposed by editors trying to suck up to the New York literati and the chain book stores after WWII by mixing pirate stories with 70s-style weird fiction.
Souldancer continues the genre-bashing but draws inspiration from Japanese RP video games of the 16 and 32-bit console eras. SD is an adventure tale at heart but actually increases the horror quotient compared to its predecessor. The story itself is far more intimate than the first book's, and one of the main narrative threads fits the industry standard definition of a romance plot: "Boy meets girl and they live happily ever after (or happily for now)".
How does The Secret Kings measure up? Though still in an unfinished state, SK already bears the hallmarks of an epic space opera. The first seventy percent of the book follows the main characters as they voyage between multiple Middle Stratum spheres (that's "planets in space" for the uninitiated).
There are more space battles than in either previous book. In fact, the overall action has been cranked up several notches. Considering that more than one reviewer described the action in Nethereal as "non-stop" and the basic structure of Souldancer as "an escalating series of fight scenes", I may have gone too far this time.
And of course, no Soul Cycle installment would be complete without at least one battle that rages between planes of existence.
SK, on the whole, is the story where the journeys that many characters in Nethereal and SD began get tied together. I'm eager to see readers' reactions.
Which leads us to...
Calling all beta readers
My goal is to have the second draft of SK finished in 2-3 weeks from the date of this writing. The second draft will be made available for immediate release to all SK beta readers. The beta readers will have exactly two weeks to read the manuscript and report back to me. Beta readers will be charged with two, and only two, primary responsibilities:
- Identifying parts of the MS that confused them.
- Identifying parts of the MS that bored them.
It's as simple as that.
Just as important, here's what beta readers will not be responsible for:
- Pointing out spelling/grammar errors. I line edit at a pro level anyway, and any typos I miss can be fixed in post as readers find them.
- Suggesting ways to fix plot/structural/character problems. That's Jagi's job.
- Anything other than pointing out parts that are confusing and/or dull.
Note: you will find the above problems in the second draft of any book. Since we're trying to hit a Christmas release, don't let minutiae bog you down. Skimming the text for punctuation errors isn't helpful at this stage. We need readers who can commit to and focus on the text so they can accurately report on content issues that inhibited their enjoyment of the story.
I hate typos as much as any of you, but bigger indie authors than me have conducted experiments proving that the vast majority of readers don't care about misspellings, erroneous punctuation, or grammatical mistakes. Remember: story comes first!
With the necessaries out of the way, among the benefits that my beta readers will enjoy are first access to the latest book in an award-winning series, the chance to make a positive impact on the finished version of that book, and a complimentary eBook copy of The Secret Kings prior to the book's official release.
If you're interested in becoming an SK beta reader, I strongly advise reading the first two books in the Soul Cycle before signing up.
The call for beta readers will be open for two weeks, starting today. To sign up, contact me via the "Send Me an Email" button in the upper left sidebar or copy and paste the following email address: email@example.com