EPIC 5: Enemy One, Coming Summer 2016

Coming Summer 2016


Epic faithful, the wait is finally coming to an end. In Summer of 2016 (month TBD), the most daunting book in the Epic series, Enemy One, will see the light of day.

Fans, you have been waiting for this a very long time. You have been patient with me while I battled cancer and experienced the birth of two sons. You waited for me to get my head right, then my heart right, as I wrestled this story from its inception to its end. Enough words in Enemy One were rewritten and left on the cutting-room floor to create a whole other installment. After a two-year personal hiatus from writing, you all deserved the very best I could give. Enemy One is the very best.

Between now and release, I will be teasing various aspects of Epic’s fifth installment. But for now – for tonight – enjoy that something new is on the horizon. Your comrades are coming back.

Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for sticking with me. It’s almost time.

Vivat 14,

– LS

Update from the Terminal

It’s been a little while since I’ve given an update on things in general, so a post like this is overdue. Anyone who keeps up with me at all knows I don’t blog terribly often, but when I do, I try to give my entries a little substance. My aim with this entry is to provide a little insight into the many things I have on my literary plate.

Firstly, and what I’m sure most people are curious about, is Enemy One, Epic’s fifth installment. Progress on the book is going very well, as it’s currently Outlaw Trigger length but still with a ways to go. Though my original plan was for this to be a book somewhat longer than the first two, I was hoping to keep it under the lengths of Hero and TGB. Being as far into the book as I currently am, that may or may not be the case.

Enemy One is, without a doubt, the most difficult book I’ve ever attempted to write. One of the biggest challenges has been that, to be perfectly honest, it hasn’t even been the book that I’d expected it to be. TGB ended on a fast note, leading me to assume that book five would pick up with that same tempo. In actuality, the Enemy One experience has been quite the opposite. The more I wrote, the more it occurred to me that the natural transition from the frenetic conclusion of book four was the literary equivalent of a long, deep breath. Much needed to be digested, both by the reader and by the crew of the Fourteenth. An attempt was made to maintain E4’s action-heavy finale’s pace, but it just didn’t feel “right.” So I did what I felt was best, discarded any preconceived notions of what I felt readers expected, and just wrote the way the story asked to be written. In my experience, writing bears the best fruit when stories are given free reign to direct themselves, with me acting merely as a mediator between thought and keyboard. I think this approach as served Enemy One well. The tagline of “Run” still applies. But the concept of running is multifaceted, not simply relegated to literally running through city streets firing assault rifles. A story that would simply be that would be style over substance. As in all Epic books, there are action sets sprinkled throughout book five. They just have a purpose beyond being “action for the sake of action.”

Epic 5 is going to be different. I’m well aware of the notoriety of fifth installments (Rocky 5, Star Trek 5, etc.). Enemy One could very easily fall into the “weak link” category of the series if it were forced into the same mold that was used for TGB. Because of this, the approach has had to be different – and careful. There is a story to continue, but Enemy One can’t be The Glorious Becoming Part II. It has to stand on its own, with its own merits, its own uniqueness, and its own pacing. What has this led to? A book that is far deeper, and far more psychological, than I ever could have anticipated. It has the potential to be the most thought-provoking installment in the entire series. The first four books in Epic are the intro. The last three are the journey to finality. It’s Enemy One‘s job to link them together. If done the right way, this transitional book can be mesmerizing. Don’t ask me for a release date. I’m writing every day, but the editing process for this book will be longer than most. It’ll be done “when it’s done.” I anticipate that being in 2015. As always, bear with me.

Epic is not all that I’m working on! I’m actually juggling a whopping five writing projects right now (Enemy One included), meaning that there will soon be some non-Epic lit out there by yours truly.

One of these projects, I can’t talk about yet. But it’s big. That’s all you get.

I’m also in the beginning stages of a second novel series that I can’t talk about too much at this point, only to say that it’s a major change of pace for me and something I’ve wanted to get to for a very long time.

Then, there’s a story I’m working on that…look, I’m just gonna be honest. It’s chick-lit. My wife was watching a Hallmark movie one day, I plopped down on the sofa, got sucked in for a bit, then made the dreaded statement, “You know what kind of story I bet this channel would love? Something about…” As it turned out, the idea was good. Really good. “I have to do it now” good. So now I’m stuck. All I can say is that if I told you the idea, too, you’d be like, “dude…yeah…that one’s a winner.” I hate chick-lit. Nicholas Sparks is my bane. This will be interesting!

The last item I’m juggling is purely conceptual. It’s about gangster rap and vegetables. There’s really not much more to say.

And so those are the goings-on as of 2015! Oh, and we’re having another baby. This is gonna be one heck of a year!

I’ll write more as the above things develop. In the meantime, I’ll be cranking out Enemy One and the many other things I’ve got on the burners. Stay tuned, people!


Enemy One’s Chapter Zero has Arrived!

Of all the official “announcement” type messages I’ve relayed to the fan base, this may be the one closest to my heart as it concerns the Epic community. This is why this particular message is going across all platforms: the blog, the mailing list, the forum mailing list, Facebook, Twitter, deviantART…everything. For me, and for Epic, this is as important as it gets!

As the header indicates, Chapter Zero of Epic 5: Enemy One, has been released, and you can read it on the Epic Universe Forums. You can find the very thread containing it right here. You’ve been patient enough with me as I’ve dealt with life and health issues; you don’t need to wait for something new any longer, even if a finished fifth novel is still a little ways away (mid-2015). But while I do want to talk about Chapter Zero, there’s something much more critical to Epic that I want to talk about. That something is the forum hub itself.

Quite simply, the reason Chapter Zero has been released there is because I want Epic’s fan base to go there. I want you to see what the forums are about. I want you to see what they can become – what they need to become – for Epic to become the expansive universe it was always intended to be. Bar none, the most important aspect of anything worth being built is the aspect of community. It’s getting people together. Talking, laughing, debating…being there, sharing a sense of commonality in something they all enjoy. I could write four hundred novels, but without you, both the singular and collective, it’s a fruitless labor. The Epic Universe Forums were made for you.

Though there have always been sporadic posts here and there on the forums, on most days, the waters are calm and the visitors few. If life is full of trial and error, my experience in building up the forum community has been mostly the latter. I’ve over-designed it. I’ve underused it on a personal level. I’ve relied more on hoping its very existence would draw users in rather than giving them solid reasons to visit and engaging them when they did. All of those failings are on me. I’m ready to overcome them.

The design of the forum has been simplified. Rather than a section dedicated to each novel, you’ll simply find one for all of them: The Epic Octalogy, dedicated to discussing the eight books that will comprise Epic’s core series. Beneath the Epic section, you’ll find the Forum’s Off-Topic, for anything and everything not related to Epic. Talk sports, talk politics, talk current movies, games, or events. It doesn’t matter. Be heard! I’ve always felt, and I still do, that it only takes ten consistently active forum members to keep a place relevant. I want you to be one of those ten! Check in, start up a convo, whether in Epic or Off-Topic, and light that place up. If you’re not up for starting a new thread just yet, check out some of the many that are already there. Toss in your two cents! We want to hear it!

If you’ve tried to plug into the forums already and simply found a lack of new Epic topics to discuss, rest assured – the speed at which books are being written is picking up. Despite the long span of time since The Glorious Becoming, Enemy One is being written right now at a record pace. The plan is to release a new installment every one to one-and-a-half years, which would wrap the core series by 2019-2020. That’s not far away!

Which brings us to Chapter Zero of Enemy One!

You guys have waited long enough for something new to talk about. Chapter Zero will definitely give you reason to talk. Of all the questions I’ve received from fans after they’ve read The Glorious Becoming, the most numerous (and enthusiastic) begin with, “What happened to…?” That’s what Chapter Zero is all about.

Obligatory warning: this is Chapter Zero in draft form, untouched by an editor. The final version is bound to have small changes here and there. But these won’t be story changes. They’ll be a word here, a word there, a grammar correction, and a rephrased sentence or two. Any differences you’d notice in the final version of Enemy One would be minor and of no plot-related consequence. I’m confident enough in it to share it early. Get ready, because the game is changing!

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in some forum posts! Let’s get this place rocking.



The April Round-Up!

This entry’s been a long time coming! As many of you know, April was a ginormous (wow…spell-check apparently considers “ginormous” a legitimate word…what have we come to?) month for Epic. In other words, there’s a LOT to talk about.

But I want to start with this:

THANK YOU. Seriously. THANK YOU. To everyone who posted reviews on Amazon, to everyone who spread the word about the promos Epic had going on, to everyone who did anything whatsoever in support of the series this month, you cannot imagine how unbelievably appreciative I am! For those unfamiliar with what’s been going on this month, here’s the 30-second summary. During the month of April, Epic ran several free promos on Amazon, two with Dawn of Destiny and one with Outlaw Trigger. All in all, over 18,000 copies of the two books were downloaded on Kindle. The goal was to introduce Epic to a wider audience and hopefully draw attention to the series as a whole, now four books strong and growing. The determining factor as to whether or not this worked was whether or not the subsequent books in the series experienced increased sales. So did it work?

Resoundingly, yes.

This month, with a day left to go, the Epic series has sold over 1,400 copies. It may even threaten the 1,500 mark. Epic has sold more copies in April 2013 than it has in any other year. During its free stretch, Dawn of Destiny reached as high as #14 on the best-selling free Kindle book list for all free eBooks in all genres in America (and seriously, is there a more appropriate number it could have hit than 14?). It also became the most downloaded, as in #1, free eBook in science-fiction. Basically, the doors of promotion were blown open.

April has been a game-changer for Epic, and honestly, for myself. Now, one month is just that, a single month. But what it’s done has shown the potential of what Epic could be. Though 1,400 copies sold in April doesn’t guarantee 100 sales in May, it shows that these kinds of numbers are possible. The goal now is to maintain. That’s the tricky part – the part no one can do for me. I have never been a promotional powerhouse. It’s just not my strong suit. But though the challenge is hard, the goal is worth it, that goal being to achieve true commercial success. For as much as Epic has been able to sustain itself, it’s never been a series I’ve profited from. The profits have always gone into the costs of production. I’ve stayed afloat. The thought of that changing in the positive is very, very enticing. After going at this for seven years, I think I’m ready.

It would be completely inappropriate of me to write all of the above but fail to mention Duolit, the self-publishing duo of Toni & Shannon who took me on as a client several months back. Saturday marked the last of our twelve weekly sessions together, during which we completely remodeled Epic’s platform. It was my “author boot camp.” The challenge with Epic has always been the total lack of marketing savvy on the part of its author, me. It doesn’t matter how sound a series is, if there’s no fuel in the promotional engine, it’s not going anywhere.

I could probably write ten pages worth of praise for what Duolit was able to do with me and the Epic series, but for the sake of keeping this all in one entry, I’ll sum it up with the following: teaming up with Duolit was the single best decision I’ve ever made as an author. In doing their job, they’ve etched themselves a chapter in Epic’s history. If I was one to label chapters, I’d call it The Turning Point. Everything that Epic has become as an online presence is because of the groundwork they laid and the direction they provided. From a redesigned website to the revival of the Epic newsletter, no stone was left unturned. They deserve all the credit in the world for this month and the two months prior. It will be a joy to share with other authors how Duolit saved this series.

So what’s next? Well, quite a bit! Those of you who signed up for the newsletter know that a major emphasis is being placed on pure writing speed, as I attempt to transform from a once-every-three-years publisher to something a bit more speedy and consistent. That’s huge right now. I’ll have some more specifics regarding that soon, but that will once again likely be a newsletter feature, as that’s more a behind-the-scenes issue than a goings-on of Epic one. But to sum it up quickly, there’s a plan being put into place for speed concerns. It’s time to start pumping out literature.

In the meantime, stay tuned. There’s a lot coming up even in the non-Epic realm, including my podcast interview with Mark Elias, the Next Big Thing cast job for Becan McCrae. Look for that to be posted this week (soon). There are also more cast jobs to be done period, so get ready for new faces in the coming months! Though the casting series isn’t my primary focus, it is something I’ll be diving into every now and then, probably in 3-4 character spurts. As always, it’ll be fun!

Epic’s 90-Day Workout: Teaming with Duolit

In my last journal entry, I mentioned that over the next several months, I will be working with Shannon and Toni from Duolit, a tag-team pair of literary and promotional trainers. Effective promotion has always been Epic’s weakness, as I’ll be the first to admit to anyone that I just don’t promote myself well. I write, I release, and I let things run wild. Up until this point, that’s worked relatively well for Epic. But at the same time, strictly relying on word-of-mouth is not the way to go. Epic deserves better, as does the fan base. The more people who get into Epic, the more engaging the community will become. The more successful Epic is, the more I can actually do.

Tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 10) marks day-one of this 90-day “author boot camp,” as I’m referring to it. There is no doubt in my mind that it will both be an eye opening experience as it pertains to the things I should and could have been doing for Epic, but also a huge step in the right direction for me personally (and professionally) in regards to my writing. I have always been honest even when it comes to identifying my own shortcomings. This process will directly address one of my biggest ones – marketing and to an extent believing in myself.

I will definitely be posting as this process gets underway, not only to let you know how things are going, but also to let you know about some really cool things that Epic is doing. The Epic Universe will become very active over the course of the next three months – I definitely want you guys along for the ride. It is you who make Epic what it is. Without you, this series doesn’t have a reason to exist. I want you guys taking this trip with me!

With that said…it’s time to bring on Duolit. I’m so excited about what 2013 has in store for this series. I know faith will persevere.

Here’s to an epic three months, and brighter things for the series’ future.

-Lee Stephen