Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A little straight talk from Uncle Mike for new self publishers

I've got some things to say. Some of it won't be very popular, but I believe all of it is true. This only applies to fiction writers, and specifically fantasy and science fiction writers. If you don't agree with me, that's okay. I'm still right, though.
  • 80% of what's self published isn't worth paying for. A lot of people like to compare the price of an ebook to the price of a cup of coffee. Let me extend the comparison: If my cup of coffee has a hair or a dead fly in it, I'm not going to enjoy it, however delicious it might be otherwise. Even if I get my money back, I've lost time and had an unpleasant experience. A bad book is the same. Be in the 20%. 
  • If it's free and you hate it, you shouldn't complain. (because writers are readers, too.) I mean, really. Continuing with the coffee thing: You didn't enjoy it? Toss it out and move on with your day. Or you could be like people who leave one star ratings, and complain to literally the whole world. No, you aren't doing other readers a service and it isn't some noble, self-sacrificing deed; you're expressing your subjective opinion. Also, you look kinda petty.
  • Writers are not owed good reviews. Or any reviews for that matter. You write. You publish. After that, what people think or don't think isn't frigging up to you, so stay out of it. Are we still having this conversation in 2016?
  • Readers are not very good at spotting great books. They are excellent, however, at knowing what they enjoy and finding more like it. Writers can draw their own conclusions as to what they should do with this nugget.
  • Writers are delusional about the quality of their work. Especially young writers, and new writers. You wrote a book. Good for you. Finishing doesn't mean winning, and doesn't automatically come with accolades. Stop being millennial. Shorter: It's probably not that good. Write more. Each one you finish moves you closer to realizing your writing potential.
  • No, you DON'T have to pay for editing, covers and formatting. Not if you're willing to learn how to do these things yourself, and are able to pay in time and learning curve what you can't in cash. Other writers will tell you that you "must" pay professionals for these things. They have obviously never been in a situation where that simply wasn't an option. If you try to explain it to them, they'll talk about budgeting and savings plans and prioritizing. They just don't fucking get it. They never will. Ignore them. Do what you can with what you have, and constantly improve.
  • It doesn't matter if a book has a beautiful cover, zero typos and impeccable formatting, if it sucks ass. A turd is still a turd, even if it's covered in gold leaf. Write a good story first. Readers will forgive a number of sins if you give them a kick-ass story. You shouldn't forgive yourself for those sins, however, until you've corrected them.
  • If you did your cover and editing yourself, it probably sucks. Mine certainly did at first. But I wasn't delusional about it. I knew it, but it was the absolute best I could do at the time. I kept working on my skills. I kept improving. I kept getting better. You will too, if you're serious about it. If not, you'll sink deeper and deeper into the deep, deep ocean trench that is Amazon's algorithm, never to be heard from again.
  • Other writers are not your enemies, but they may not be your friends either. Writing is ego-intensive. Some writers will do weird, nasty things to anyone they perceive as competition. Best keep your distance.
Yes, I'm a little grumpy today. But everything above is the honest truth as far as I have seen and experienced. I hope it helps someone.

Oh, look, the beginning of a new series!

A few years ago, my eldest started reading a series of books called Beast Quest. I was very happy he was reading, and fantasy, no less - but one thing bothered the crap out of me: It didn't seem to matter to him what order he read them in. It made no sense - how could he follow the plot if he read book five before he read book three? Or book seventeen before book nine?

Then I actually read a Beast Quest book. He was right. It really didn't matter much at all, since each book was essentially the same book, but with a different Beast to contend with. Each book was about ten thousand words, and profusely if poorly illustrated.

I thought to myself "I could do that in my sleep. Well, not the illustrating part; even kids have standards. But I could write a series for kids like him, and I could do it better in just about every sense."

Well, long story short, I've started the series. No illustrations, apart from a map, but I've made up for it by making each book roughly forty thousand words. Maybe down the road I can get someone interested in illustrating. That would be awesome. And that's also the great thing about self-publishing; when you come to a place where you can improve the book, you don't need anyone's permission. You can just go and do it.

But let's see how this edition fares first.

You can pick up copies in these fine virtual establishments, with more on the way:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon OZ

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

5 years, 100,000 free. Time to change tack.

I started self-publishing in 2011. I've made a little bit of money; nothing approaching minimum wage. But I've also had hiatuses and sabbaticals in the last five years. Still and all, I've had a lot of downloads. Especially free downloads.

Across all channels, I've given away roughly 100,000 ebooks since 2011.

Inarguably, this has resulted in a fair few people finding my work, and going on to purchasing other ebooks I've written.

I'll be generous and say I've had about a 5% conversion rate. Which is actually pretty terrible, if you ask me. I've though long and hard about why the conversion rate is so atrocious. The first and most obvious possible reason is that my writing is godawful. But my ratings simply don't bear that out. Sure, there are those who don't find it their cup of tea; you can't please everyone. But I maintain a consistently good to great average everywhere my books are available, and on Goodreads.

No, I've come to the conclusion that readers interested in free books are primarily interested in the free part, rather than the book part, and when 'free' is replaced with another word, like '$2.99', they quickly lose interest.

So. Starting today, I'll be charging for my work, barring the Comes the Conqueror serial and the works I have on Wattpad.

I've given free five year's worth of a fair shake. Now let's see how paid treats me :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2016: What to expect, writing-wise, from moi

First off, there are two more covers to reveal in the Amra Thetys reboot, but instead of showing them here, I'll just direct you Ragnarok's Amra Thetys page. Luscious, ain't they?

So in 2016, Book 4 of the Amra Thetys series will be released (The Thief Who Wasn't There), probably sometime around September. The other books will be re-released March-ish? When I know, I'll certainly tell you!

In addition, here's what I've got on my plate, and hope to accomplish in 2016:

I've already started on the fifth book in the Amra Thetys series, but realistically, it won't see publication in 2016 considering book 4's late release. I don't have a title yet, clever or otherwise, unless "The Thief Who Did Something" counts.

I've got two urban fantasies that I'd like to get out of my system, one set in Singapore and the other in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They share Southeast Asia as a setting, so I might well put one out under a pen name. I'll let the market decide which I should turn into a series, if it comes to that.

I'll be publishing at least two Amra Thetys novelettes, and hopefully more, to fill in the long lag between books 1-3 re-release and book 4's release. The first is called "How To Make A Killing In Kirabor"and is set before Amra met Holgren, when she was still fairly new to Lucernis. The second will likely be a peek into Holgren's past, just to balance things out. Or if the writing gods smile, I might manage to write a little series of interconnected novelettes focusing on Amra's actual thieving exploits.

I've got a short story in the works set after the events of Amra 4, so I'd best say not much about it, other than that it follows the fates of a few minor characters from books 3 and 4. If you liked Keel, you'll probably like this story, though :D

I'm also committed to finishing a very different kind of fantasy tale this year, for personal reasons. It's called "All That Glitters." This one is a lot more intimate, and it goes back to fantasy's fairy tale roots as inspiration rather than sword & sorcery action/adventure. It's bittersweet.

I'm currently cleaning up the mess I made of the Sword Monk 2: Weaving Steel. I'll re-release that one when I am satisfied it won't embarrass me to do so. When I released it originally, I must have been out of my mind. I was definitely sleep deprived and emotionally low, but that's really no excuse. I'm fixing it, and I will prod Amazon to push the updated version to those kind souls who bought it the first time around.

If there's still some free time (ha!) I've got lots of other projects I could be getting on with. I've been threatening for years to write a sequel for Waste Land, my free sci fi story that does so well at the iBookstore. I've made several stabs at it, but haven't been satisfied. It's a difficult story. Maybe it just hasn't fully germinated in my subconscious yet.

And that, as they say, is enough to be getting on with for 2016.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cover reveal #2: The NEW Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye

Behold! (that's me trying to make an eye joke)

The second Shawn King cover for the series re-release. When I first saw the covers I told him they were so good I wanted to eat them. His response was, paraphrased, 'I don't approve, but you do you.'

The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye by Michael McClung

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cover Reveal #1: The NEW Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids

So as you folks know, the Amra Thetys series has been picked up by Ragnarok Publications and will be re-released this year. It'll be available to bookstores and libraries and suchlike, even!

As part of this new chapter in the life of the series, the books have gotten a new cover treatment, thanks to Shawn King, cover designer extraordinaire!

Here is the new cover for "Trouble's Braids" just to give you a taste :)

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Hard post

There may be a few of these over the next few weeks. We'll see.

This one has to do with Sword Monk #2 - Weaving Steel, which was recently released on Amazon.

Frankly, I think it sucks, so I'm pulling it.

Longer form is like this: I got in a rush to complete the instalment before the preorder was due to go live and released a book I'm not proud of. I should have delayed it.

For those who bought it, I apologize. When it's up to a standard that is acceptable, I will post a link to a free copy here on the blog alongside SM #1.

Sorry guys. Won't happen again. I'd rather people were unhappy that they had to wait for something good than disappoint.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Genre and same-old same-old: random pondering

Occasionally I see reviews (not my own yet) that say something to the effect of "while this story doesn't bring anything new to the genre..." and it always gets me to thinking. Is it the default opinion out there of reviewers that a genre story should always be pushing boundaries? And if so, when did that happen? I sort of understand the mentality when it comes to sci fi. I mean, really the whole genre is about pushing boundaries, or at least can be legitimately be seen in that light. But for fantasy,  I've never seen the reinvention of the genre as a critical function of the writers of said genre. And yet, change, carefully applied, can be a breath of fresh air in a stale genre.

Tropes vs cliches

Now to be sure, I'm not talking about cliche'd writing being okay. I'm personally sick of farm boys who are destined to blah blah, at least in adult fiction (juvenile fiction is another matter. Those kinds of stories are important to young readers, in that starting with someone they have a chance of identifying with hooks them as lifelong readers. But even juvenile fantasy could use some diversifying). I'm not saying no one should write that kind of story anymore, but I am saying it's such a tired trope that it has become a cliche. And when a trope becomes a cliche, the writer is almost obligated to bring a twist to it so that it has new life for the reader.

But fantasy tropes, especially in sub-genres, aren't something that can be dispensed with or in my opinion even messed with over-much, else you risk writing something that's missing what the reader came to the book for in the first place. You have to respect what came before and change only what is necessary to tell your story, the story that only you can write.

(I'm gonna talk about my own writing now for a minute, simply because I know it best)

Take Amra Thetys, for example. I love Sword & Sorcery. But I wanted to avoid many of the tropes that had become cliches. The two main characters of the series do not sling swords. They are not barbarians. They do not delight in battle. One is a female thief and the other is a mage who doesn't particularly like magic. And yet their adventures, even if I do say so myself, are often every bit as insanely gory and over the top weird as anything Conan or Fafhrd and the Mouser got up to.

Or my new series, the Sword Monk. Here we have a main character whose skill with a sword borders on caricature, but what defines him is his wrestling with his faith. We also have an antagonist who starts, at least notionally, as a damsel in distress, but who has taken the idea of empowerment so much to heart that she verges on becoming a monster. And yet this series is even more true to its pulp S&S roots than Amra Thetys.

I suppose my point is this: Sometimes there is no reason to change what works. I would be ecstatic to read a newly discovered Conan story. But sometimes it's awesome to read things with a new spin.

And sometimes it's not what you add to a genre story, but what you (carefully) cut away that makes for a good read.