Chaos Armor map

And it’s a triple lift if you’re an indie author

Writing a book series no one asked for may be one of the most massive creative commitments on Earth. And that’s especially true for indie authors. 

Collaborative art projects—film, television, theatre, etc.—strike me as equally bonkers in terms of their ambition. You get a lot of competing ideas about the final product. Sometimes the piece you worked on ends up on the cutting room floor. 

But writing is, by and large, done by solo creatives.  

And in the modern publishing space, books are increasingly published by sole creators, too.  

I started thinking about Anna Lin, Dave Montcalm, Jason Lin, the skyworms, and a bunch of characters you still haven’t met in Spring 2014.

This April, they’ll have been with me for a full decade of my life. 

It’s a long time to think about the same characters and their problems. 

For this reason, I have great sympathy for George R. R. Martin. He’s been thinking about Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and all the rest since, oh, 1988. And probably longer. 

Because no matter how much I, as an admirer of Martin’s, want those last books to be done (especially after how the series ended, gah), I know he wants to be finished even more. 

Consider how tired he must be after more than 35 years on the same project. Thinking about my own work sometimes makes me want to take to my bed, and it’s only been a decade. 

Getting a fantasy series off of the ground is a heavy lift.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Surprise! That first draft was a whole series 

In 2015, I finished the first draft of Chaos Calling. Little did I know, I’d written a whole series.

In the plot maps and journals from when I wrote the second draft of what became Chaos Calling and will one day be Chaos Armor, it’s clear that I thought I had a trilogy.

Roughly from 2016 to 2019, the story existed as one book–which seems like utter madness now! Past me estimated that I would be done, with all three books published, by 2025. Maybe 2026 at the latest. 

Great, I wrote back then, with zero awareness of my naivety. I’ll be in my 40s. Young enough to still travel easily and meet readers while taking the victory lap that may come from having a completed series

Well friends, it’s January 3, 2024. I’m in my 40s. Only one of my books—in what is most likely a five-book series—is out. 

On December 31, 2023, I finished Book II’s fourth draft.

In part, I’m posting to celebrate its existence for the first time as a fully-fleshed out, self-contained book. The manuscript now enters what I anticipate will be an 18-month production phase. That assumes its timeline will follow a similar path to what I experienced for Chaos Calling. I won’t really know until I finish. 

As I fix page numbers, I keep thinking back to that past self as she stands in the subway doors, furiously writing on her phone. And I think of her with so much love.

Because if she’d known the scope and magnitude of what she was tackling, she may have given up.

Writing a book series is not for the faint of heart.

Writing a Book Series in 2024

On average, self-published books sell 200 copies through the author’s personal network. 

Some of the most stunning data to come out of that wild Penguin vs Simon & Schuster lawsuit? Many traditionally published books also only sell a handful of copies. We’re talking less than 12. 

I can proudly say that I beat both scales handily in my first year, and continued to challenge my sales numbers in Chaos Calling’s second year. If I’d based my success on those metrics, I may have viewed my project with more wisdom. I would definitely have saved myself a lot of grief. 

But I’m ambitious. It’s my nature. I wanted to sell 5,000 copies in one year and, long-term, a million copies of my series. 

I still do. And it hurts that there is no shortcut to that outcome.

I may never achieve that depth of readership. Or it may happen after I’m dead. After all, I wouldn’t be the first author that’s happened to.

Since starting this project, I’ve thought a lot about Jane Austen. She had no idea what her work would become when she died. She never saw a word of the critical success or a dime of the massive fortune her books continue to earn. 

That woman’s pen produced a billion-dollar, critically-acclaimed literary empire.

And when you consider how much the fear of poverty and homelessness runs like a wound through her books and letters . . . well, friends, that breaks my fucking heart. 

Calling a truce with my ego 

My writing chart wall is blank

I chart the novel I’m working on using this wall.
As you can see, it’s beautifully blank right now.

When I started, writing a book series was never my goal. Yet, it’s where I landed.

Sometimes I want to write other books.  Sometimes it feels like The Xenthian Cycle will never be done.

Yet I remember looking at my Book II sticky wall in January 2023. Only four out of eight purple stickies for Jason’s chapters had checkmarks. Checking off every chapter in the book felt impossible. 

In total, I wrote over 107,0000 words this year. And Chaos Armor’s current draft is complete.

While I congratulate myself on achieving that goal, I am also working to accept that my books’ fate is entirely out of my hands. That’s a truth you’ll hear authors acknowledge, but there’s extra mind-fuckery involved when you’re also the publisher and marketing team. 

In my bones, I believe in The Xenthian Cycle. That belief keeps me coming back to write and market this story.

I’ll deliver it to the best of my ability. And only a small readership may ever care. 

I have to be okay with that, and make the art I make. 


Perhaps you’re reading this post on an idle Thursday. Maybe you’re writing a book series, too, or feeling the creative weight of your other dreams.

If you are, I feel for you. I have been in the dark place before, and I will be there again. We all get knocked down.

So get up with me, and let’s keep pursuing our dreams. I know that we can do it.