An Update on Book Five in A Pattern of Shadow and Light | Official Author Website of Melissa McPhail

An Update on Book Five

Once upon a time I had a dream, a dream of a book, a book to complete a fantasy series, a fantasy series to please fantasy readers, reading the completed book of this series from this erstwhile dream.

If this sounds oddly wistful, it’s rather a reflection of my state of mind about A Pattern of Shadow & Light Book Five. You see, I’m trying to make it the final book in the series, and that’s bittersweet—in some ways for all of us, I suspect.

On the one hand, this sort of needs to be the last book. I only ever intended five books (five strands, five books; seemed a no-brainer), and the conflict was only meant to span this much story space. You can tell when a publisher pushes the author to stretch a standalone into a trilogy, or a trilogy into a decalogy. Like a city overspilling its borders, the story loses its sense of self and meanders all over the place. You feel lost and encounter a lot of unwelcome filler. 

On the other hand, I don’t actually know if I can do justice to all of the story threads I need to tie off within the space of a single book. It’s still too early to say.

Meanwhile, thousands of you are asking, “Where is the next book?” (Never you mind that Kingdom Blades only just released last October. That was nearly a year ago, right? Surely I should have the next 400,000 word book finished by now!) And those of you who aren’t asking, well…I know it’s just because you’re being overly polite.

It only took about a thousand iterations of the same question for me to realize it was time to delve into my writing bucket for an update, even if it meant upending it to retrieve the few drops of creation that I’d managed to collect thus far.

Mustering some courage, I’ll get on with the update then.

The good news is: the book is mostly planned. That is…to the degree that I plan anything, which is not unlike one of those rough charcoal sketches that you’d find in an antique store, the kind you stare at for an embarrassing length of time trying to decide if it’s a picture of a boat or a strangely elongated elephant. Which is to say, more precisely, that I have ideas for most of the important characters in terms of the general direction I want them to go.

That probably sounds very vague. And it is. But don’t let this worry you, because that’s about as much as I ever have to start with. An idea, a mountain on the horizon. Maybe a couple of scenes envisioned to get my creative juices flowing, or at least provide some anticipation and excitement about the journey ahead.

You see, things change a lot along the way, so I don’t spend much time trying to anticipate what lies beyond the first couple of bends in the story. Most of the time, I find out what happens with each character much the same way you do—that is, as it’s happening. The only real difference is that I find out a year or two earlier than you (#authorperk #Iearnedit).

As many of you who’ve read my updates know, I write in threads, one character at a time, writing his/her storyline as far as I can take it before switching to another interrelated character to rinse and repeat. This is probably not the most efficient way to write, as I end up with copius notes for sequencing later on. Notes heading each chapter, like, “This chapter has to come after Tanis goes to the Sormitáge but before Shail shows up in Tambarré and needs to come between the time hal’Jaitar sends Trell off and when Dore talks to Shail because of the conversation about Ean, but it can’t come until after…”

Well, you get the idea. Sequencing gets pretty complicated. But trying to write 23+ viewpoint characters sequentially, switching from one viewpoint to the next with each chapter…? You might as well shoot me now.

Moving on with the update…happily floating in the (mostly) completed planning bucket are Tanis, Trell, Alshiba, Franco and Felix. I think I have enough to also start writing Alyneri, Sebastian, Fynnlar, Carian and (fingers crossed) Ean. There are definitely still a lot of unknowns.

Standing at the beginning of each book, looking into the behemoth I’ve created (why, oh why, did I think it was a good idea to have twenty-five interwoven storylines?), it always feels pretty overwhelming. You look into that vast beyond of unknownness and worry that you’ll drown before you reach solid ground. I am kind of used to that feeling now. It’s not as uncomfortable as it used to be, the whole breathing-under-water thing.

So while what I have written isn’t exactly newsworthy, more will follow, and hopefully soon I’ll have much more to say to you than a rather desperately gasped, “Someone throw me a lifeline, please!”

If you have other questions about the progress of the book or the series in general, or confusions or mysteries you’d like to see answered, be sure to comment below. You can also send them my way on whatever communication channel is easiest for you. Now’s the time to speak up, folks! 

47 Responses to “An Update on Book Five”

  1. Ken says:

    Melissa, Thank you for the update. the ‘four’ are on my summer (August – October) re-read list as I patiently await 5. I don’t think I really saw, understood, the task you faced in letting your words flow to paper until I read your blog. Overwhelming was the first word that popped into my mind. Will it wrap in 5, or 6? Don’t know. From a very selfish perspective, don’t care. Well, I do care I know, but more about you and your ‘Path of Alir’ as you work your creation, your world, your blood, sweat, tears, frustration and genius through it’s process of bringing balance to it all. And a story, and the answers to my questions and thoughts, to my curiosity and projection(s) as the result.

    Thank you for the update on ‘our’ book, and your creative processes. It, too, is a good read.


    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you so much, Ken. I appreciate your acknowledgement on the challenges I’ve expressed in writing these books. It’s nice to be understood! It’s also a welcome relief to know that you have such trust in me to do the right thing with the series. Thank you for reading.

  2. Nevin Miller says:

    Melissa, take your time. Do I want to read the next book? Absolutely! But, I would rather it be given the time it needs rather being rushed and not having the time to create the scenes as completely as you would like. I’m patient. The story will come. My heart and mind will be overjoyed when I am blessed to read your creation! One of your biggest fans!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Nevin. I definitely won’t be rushing this book, but I do feel a pressing need to kick the creation into a higher gear. Glad to know you’ll be keeping pace and ready for it when we get to the finish line.

  3. Peter Henriksen says:

    Hello Melissa,
    Thank you so much for the update. I absolutely enjoy your series and, like all other readers, eagerly await book 5’s arrival. I truly appreciate the work involved in making such a massive story come together and can only imagine the insane process it takes to complete each amazing book. Take your time; as a fan, I can (and will) reread each novel several more times because each time I reread the novels, I discover new and interesting pieces of information I missed the first time (or in this series case, the second & third time as well )
    Thank you once again for bringing such a great series to life. I will wait patiently for the next exciting chapter (or closure…although I certainly won’t complain if you decide to make it one or two more books longer…but that’s just because I thoroughly enjoy reading about these characters adventures and don’t want them to end)

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Peter, I’m so glad to know you’re enjoying the series. There are so many things you catch on rereads that it’s almost impossible to catch the first time through. For those that read the series more than once…it’s a bit like an insider briefing. 😉 Thank you for your encouragement, and thank you for reading!

  4. Kenneth says:

    Melissa, you mean you can’t just word vomit a story with more viewpoints than 5-7 other “fantasy” books combined?! 🙂 In all seriousness after multiple reads my mind keeps coming to the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers at the end of book 4. Other cliffhangers look with jealous eyes at the grandeur of it. Take your time pleeeeze! And if it takes 900 pages instead of 700 pages to cap it all off, I believe I can speak for most of your readers, we will still read the entire thing on the edge of our seats in one to two sittings. 🙂 I can’t wait, but I’m very patiently waiting, for book five. Best of luck and don’t rush to please us. We’ll love it pretty much regardless.

    -Kenneth from Seattle

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      You’ve left me feeling warmly encouraged, Kenneth. Thank you so much. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the ending of book four. One of my biggest challenges is maintaining perspective. I’m so close to the characters and the story, it’s difficult sometimes to know how my readers will receive a scene. I love finding out that a particular scenes had a big impact. So thank you for that feedback also. 🙂

  5. Linda says:

    Thanks for the update. And…thank you for not pulling a George R. R. Martin on us! lol

  6. Justin says:

    I know you’ll do wonderfully. I can’t wait (but i will) 🙂
    Carian is gonna kick ass. I know it!

  7. Perry Blount says:

    Melissa, You are an incredible writer, so just take your time. I truly Love the series and would much rather it be stretched out than to see you trying to fit it into one final book just because you initially planned it that way. Thank You for sharing your amazing creatively with us. Reading your work is truly an escape into an incredible new world!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      You make a great point that I’ve thought myself, Perry. I am definitely not going about this with the view that I have to finish the story in this book come hell or high water, (that’s one of the freedoms of being an independent publisher – you can make those decisions yourself). Rather, I’m going to get the story written and see where we’re at. I may copy Tad Williams and do a part 1 and 2. We’ll see…

  8. Diane Silva says:

    Melissa thank you for this great series. Please don’t ever feel rushed.Take all the tine you need as youplot put what happens next. You have brought us such memorable characters in this series and we thank youfor taking us to their worldJust twkectonecto breath and the story will cone

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you so much for your continuing support, Diane. I always appreciate your kind words of support.

  9. suzy says:

    love your books. get with fifth and walk your path with no fear ,lol,maybe a little. cant waite. thank you!!

  10. Kevin Thomas says:

    Thank you for the update Melissa! We have every faith in you.

  11. Tristan Martens says:

    Thank you very much for the update! I think I’ve already told how I feel about ‘the next book’. If it’s 800 pages, great. If it’s 1100 pages, outstanding. If it’s 1400, most excellent! Assuming the publisher will publish it. I understand your reasoning for 5 books. Makes perfect sense. But if it ends up being six, I’m sure your readers will be just as thrilled. I think (we) rather not have a bunch of loose ends or story threads not tired off. As I have read from some of the other comments, please take your time. I, very much so, want the next book yesterday! But, I rather have a well thought out book over a rushed one. Quality over quantity? Yeah, that sounds right. Happy writings!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you, Tristan. I definitely don’t intend to rush this book. I’m not sure I’m capable of that, to be honest. I can’t really leave a scene until I’m perfectly happy with it, so the story builds on certainties, chapter by chapter.

  12. Kurt says:

    Thank you for the update, however, I am new to your stories and I am nearing the end of book two. I have not enjoyed a read this much in years and I am a heavy reader, so please keep up the good work. If you so decide to further your story lines for a ten book series, that be wonderful.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the series so far, Kurt. Oh boy, are there some great adventures ahead of you! Please stay in touch. I would love your thoughts as you go through the rest of the series. I love real-time updates! 🙂

  13. Derek says:

    These books are masterpieces! Definitely do not rush the writing. I have been wondering (maybe getting way ahead here) if you’re considering writing other stories within this universe you’ve created? As in on other worlds within the 1000 realms at another time in its history, etc. Because I can’t get enough of this universe!!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I definitely plan to write more stories in the universe I’ve created, Derek. Whether we take up an adventure with Tanis and Pelas or explore another world of the Thousand Realms, I have a lot of potential for creation there. I’m also personally interested in Tannour’s backstory and exploring the Vestian Sorceresy…maybe more of them in the prequels. 🙂

  14. Ben Barlow says:

    Melissa, I have said it to anyone I tell your books about. They are amazing. While I do hope that it is wrapped up in book 5, given the scope of the plot and story as I the reader understand it, I am suspecting a book 6. Your books, plots, and characters have brought myself and a friend of mine hours of speculation and honest debate. Thank you so much.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you so much for telling me that, Ben. The idea of sparking debate and discussion is one of the reasons I write allegorical fantasy. I hope I’ve given you some ideas worthy of exploration. Thank you, as always, for your support and encouragement.

  15. John ard says:

    DONT rush to end it for your fans sake. I personally wouldnt mind a few more books! Our ten!

  16. Pamela says:

    I wait with so much excitement because I know it will be wonderful

  17. Leah says:

    Hi Melissa! First, let me say I appreciate and admire your ability to write from so many different perspectives. A dream of mine is to write my own fantasy novel one day and I feel instantly overwhelmed and humbled at the thought of creating anything close to your universe and characters. How ever did you come up with the laws and esoterics?

    I just finished book 4 last week and I’m not surprised I haven’t been able to connect to another book yet. When someone asked me how I choose the books I read I told them it depends very much on the book I just finished – to give the book a “moment of silence” both in celebration and in mourning it deserves. Yours deserve quite long ones. 😉 I think I will return to Cephrael’s Hand and start the journey over again, for an insider’s view!

    PS I’ve dog-eared a number of pages in each book to mark scenes that struck me deeply and for poignant juxtapositions of words (which I adore) few would use. Thank you sincerely for the care you’ve put into this universe. I love it when I fall in love so easily with characters (Pelas, Trell, Tanis, Isabel, Alyneri, the Sundragons, and even Darshan!) I think someone else wrote this but I feel there are no truer words about me: My best friends and greatest lovers are fictional. I’d rather spend my time with them than live in the “real world”. So thank you. 🙂

    PPS I would love a prequel about Tannour!!

    With much admiration,

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you for so much wonderful feedback, Leah. I love knowing that you’ve found some favorite passages in the books. I have many also, but the ones that tickle me the most are almost all Phaedor’s. 😉

      I don’t think you can go into a work of creation thinking of other things already created. As you’ve found, you’ll only overwhelm yourself. You just have to go into it with this passion for the story you want to tell and see where it takes you. Enjoy that journey, write to entertain yourself first, and you’ll find happiness at the end.

      I know what you mean about connecting with books post other books. Sometimes after a really intense book, I need a break from the entire genre and have to jump over and read spy thrillers or romance, because books in the same genre pale in comparison to the one I just finished. I think I’ve ended up being harder on certain books as a result. When that happens, I try to come back to them after I’ve cleansed my palette and see if I like them better the second time around, when I’m not endlessly comparing them to some other incredible book I just finished in the same genre.

      If this was your first time through my series, I think you’d definitely enjoy a reread. You’re almost guaranteed to find meanings and facts you missed on the first time through. There’s just too much and things are too new – you don’t know what information is important, or what you’re really supposed to pay attention to.

      I would love a spin-off story about Tannour also. Good to know you’re in his fan club with me. 😉

  18. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for the update. Just yesterday I was checking out the site for news. I was very excited when I saw notice of an update today. I think you should take all the time you need to craft an appropriate and fulfilling end. Whether it ends with book 5 or book 6, I care not. I am happy that I found such an enjoyable and exciting series. Thank you for sharing your dream with us.

  19. Tyra K says:

    I also wait patiently for book 5 and I really hope you use the same narrator ( Nick Podehl) for the audiobook version because he is fantastic! This was/is a great collaboration!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      It is definitely my publisher’s intention to continue to use Nick for my other books. He’s become the voice of my series. I feel very blessed to have him. So glad you’re enjoying the audiobooks, Tyra. 🙂

      • Anna Harding says:

        Yes! Love Nick! I drive a good distance to work and also get to listen to audiobooks while at work. At home, I then switch over to reading. Funny how I end up hearing the characters in Nick’s voices as I read. Love your world. When the Kingdom Blades are done, maybe you’ll do stories on The Zanther?

  20. Eric says:

    Love the series appreciate the updates so much just named our son Fynn after Fynlar. Can’t wait to read more will definitely be rereading a third time before book five.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the series so much, Eric. What fun that you named your son Fynn. It bodes well for a bright, adventurous spirit. Blessings to your family.

  21. Louis Melendez says:

    Ms. McPhail,
    When I picked up the first book I was immediately hooked. I have since had a couple of friends get through Kingdom Blades and we are all eagerly anticipating the next book. My definition of a great writer is one that has the ability to make you root for characters that appeared as villians in the beginning. You know who I am referring to and won’t say because of not knowing who reads your blog. My wife is currently reading book one and is thoroughly engrossed in the story. Take your time and complete the story arcs as they should be done. I am going to read them all again shortly since I am sure I missed something first reads. We love your writing style and I added your books to our traveling library for all my co-workers who like me travel for business.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the series, Louis. Thank you so much for your kind words, and another thank you for sharing my work with your friends and colleagues. It’s one of the highest compliments you could give me to personally introduce your friends into my world. I’m very grateful.

      I would love to know if you learn or catch anything new on that second read, whenever it comes about. It’s a little vicarious living for me, hearing from my readers about those discoveries. Thank you for reading. 🙂

  22. Elaine says:

    I absolutely love this series, Thank you for putting in the hard work and Thank you so much for it and thank you for Ean and Trell I love them both 🙂
    I understand this is an odd question out of a huge cast of characters but who would you describe as the main main characters in this series? I thought at first it would be Ean Bjorn and Tanis but it seems more and more like Pelas being a Mary Sue type character and seemingly stealing the spotlight?

    Thank you again Melissa.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      That’s a great question, Elaine. For me the primary characters through whose viewpoint we see most of the story are Tanis, Trell and Ean.

      I’m not sure it’s fair to call Pelas a Mary Sue. He’s had plenty of things go wrong for him.

      ****Spoiler if you haven’t read book four, don’t read the rest of this*****

      Sometimes it’s easy to forget because he’s charismatic and resilient, but no Mary Sue gets trapped by revenants and fed on for weeks. 😉

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