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

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Welcome, December

I am sitting at a coffee shop in Da Nang, Vietnam. It's a gray sky, blustery, with a thin drizzle coming down -- just enough to make the roads slick and put that squinty-eyed frown of distaste on everybody's face. You know the one I mean.

I'm going through revisions for Prayers in Steel (this blog post is my reward for finishing up a chapter that's taken me two and a half days). I'm drinking iced coffee and smoking a cigarette. I tried to quit yesterday, and made everybody hate me, so I'm gonna have to rethink my approach on that one. Cold turkey is hard when you have to be human around humans. I have to quit, one way or another. Just.. not today.

But about those revisions, about that book:

Prayers in Steel was originally conceived as a series of novellas. It was my attempt at serialized fiction. I did publish it, or rather two episodes of it, in an earlier and far different form (Blood Tempered and Weaving Steel, for the curious). The sales were dismal, and the story (as much as I liked and still like it) had problems -- the biggest problems being I've never told a big, multiple point of view story before, and that I was trying to tell an epic story in a sword and sorcery fashion.

You see, sword and sorcery as a sub-genre does not linger; it rushes through the plot all fire and fury and blood. (If you've read my Amra Thetys, series, that's sword and sorcery, tempered with a healthy dose of noir detective sensibilities.) I've been writing this sort of story for years, and so whenever I stop to smell the roses in a story, I feel like I'm cheating.

Epic fantasy is different. Multiple points of view are different.

I am in the process of revising in order to let the reader stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It's really hard, people. When you get into a writing groove, when you develop a style, it takes real effort to do something different and new. I hope, once it's finished, you find the effort worth it, because I really like these characters, and their world. As messed up as they are, and it is.

This will be a trilogy - Prayers in Steel, An Unclean Strength, and Armor of Faith. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A new addition to the Amra Thetys series, among other news

No, it isn't Amra #5 - that'll be out next year. But it is set in Amra's world, and features a character many have said they enjoyed. You might remember Lhiewyn, the grumpy old priest from Trouble's Braids (who also penned the Amra's World appendix). In The Last God, we get three interconnected stories told from his point of view.

It isn't necessary to have read any of the Amra books in order to enjoy The Last God, but if you have read them, this novella-length book may well deepen your enjoyment of the series. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a read. I'll put links to the various outlets at the bottom, if you'd like to purchase.

In other news, the pace of my writing has slowed considerably over the past couple of years, but for a very good reason. I've been working on my bachelor's degree. It's been a long time coming, but better late than never, amiright? I'm happy to announce that I've completed my studies, and will be graduating this December with a Bachelor of Arts. Now I have to decide whether to pursue a master's degree...

Speaking of which, I have decided to focus on just two  things, writing-wise, in 2018: Amra book 5, and the first book in a new series, Prayers in Steel. Once those two are finished, I can think about what comes next. Oh, and the title of the fifth Amra book is The Thief Who Went To War.

I have a little extra Amra news to share: There will be audio books! I've signed with Podium Publishing (the folks who did the audio book for The Martian) and hopefully you'll be able to stick Amra and Holgren in your ears come December. As things get firmed up, I will definitely update.

In other other news, fellow author Steven Kelliher is about to release the third book in his Landkist saga, and to celebrate, he's putting the first two books on sale for 99 cents each, starting November 3rd. I don't know how long he'll be doing this, but if you like old school epic fantasy, you should give 'em a try! Those covers are practically lickable. Here's the link, but check the price before you 1-click, okay? mybook.to/valleyofembers

Well, I think that's me all caught up. How about you? What have you been up to?

Get yer copy of The Last God here (or here or here or):

Amazon US     Amazon UK     Amazon CA     Amazon AU     Amazon DE     Amazon FR

Barnes & Noble     Kobo     iBooks     Scribd     Playster     24 Symbols



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dear Amazon Customer Service representative,



Good day to you. I read with real surprise that readers had noted 'errors' in my text, and was even more surprised when these supposed errors were listed in your email. They are not errors, typographical or otherwise.

Cloudroot vs Cloud root

In the first instance, I wrote 'cloudroot' and your email suggests I should change this to 'cloud root'. Since my novel is fantasy and these vegetables only exists therein, I believe that I (as the author and creator of this imaginary tuber) have the right to decide how they are to be spelled.  But if further evidence of the correctness of cloudroot is required, I have followed the same general guideline that dictates the spelling of 'beetroot' (a real thing that people eat) rather than 'beet root'. The difference is small, but I stand by my right as an inventor of imaginary vegetables to decide whether they will be spelled as compound nouns or not.

Tssked vs Tasked

In this second supposed typo, the character did indeed 'tssk', which is an audible sound of disapproval.made by quickly disengaging the tongue from the roof of the mouth. Perhaps you might recognize it from childhood, when your mother would look at you unhappily after you'd done some small, annoying thing. I certainly do. I can still hear her making that sound through pursed lips, decades later. Regardless, the character did not 'task' anyone to do anything in the sentence in question, which is something completely different as I am sure you will agree. Here, the suggested correction would make the sentence in question literally make no sense.

I am not sure who might have reported these supposed 'errors', nor do I have any interest in finding out. But you might, perhaps, cast a jaundiced eye on any of their future 'helpful' suggestions.

Sincerely,

Michael McClung, cloudroot farmer and reformed tssker.

Friday, July 28, 2017

How not to write a fantasy series

I do things, as a writer, that are not in my best interest.

When you write a series, there should be a clear progression, an arc that bends toward a final conflict in the story's world, without much deviation. When you write a first person point of view series, you should never stray from that point of view, that character. These are not complicated guidelines, nor are they arbitrary. So of course I ignore them.

Is it stubbornness? Contrariness? Self-sabotage? There may be some element of each of these things, but primarily, my answer is no. I'll tell you a secret about the Amra Thetys series: It is at least as much about the eightfold goddess as it is about Amra. This shouldn't be much of a secret to those who've been paying attention, honestly. But in Amra's world, there are very few straight-up villains. She Who Casts Eight Shadows may very well be the ultimate antagonist of the series, but she is no cartoon villain, twirling Her metaphorical mustache just off-stage. She is the prime mover of the entire story, while Amra is the primary lens through which we view it. There is a balance to be struck, in order to tell the story completely. That balance demands certain deviations from your standard fantasy series arc.

I suppose this is a caution to readers – the series I'm writing may not always be the series you are expecting. But I know where it is going, and I know how it will end.


I do things, as a writer, that are not in my best interest. But I do not do things that are not in the best interest of the story. Or, ultimately, the reader.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A review of Graham Austin-King's Faithless

 I'm going to get a little personal with you here, guys. I've been really, incredibly poor for a couple of years now. Virtually everything I earn, after basic necessities, has been going towards getting my degree. Why am I telling you this in a book review? To explain why I don't do book reviews. Put simply, I don't buy books to read for pleasure, nowadays, because that's a luxury I've had to put on hold. No books means no book reviews.

While this kept me sane during the first SPFBO (when you can't read the competition, you can avoid obsessing about whether another's prose is better or worse), it's been a bit of a disappointment since then. I wanted to read everyone's SPFBO books, afterward. And someday I will. After the degree is paid for.

So along comes Graham Austin-King the other day (one of my SPFBO cohort), and he says “Psst, hey kid, wanna read an advance copy of Faithless?” To which I replied “Yup.” And then he said “So let it be written, so let it be done.” (Okay, I might be paraphrasing.) It didn't hurt a bit that Sarah Chorn had edited it. Sarah was, is and will be one of the ten bloggers who judge the SPFBO, if you aren't aware, and while “Trouble's Braids” wasn't one of her favorite books from the competition, her review of it is one of my favorite reviews to this day.

Wow, okay, that's three paragraphs and I still haven't started talking about the book. I should probably do that.

Faithless is a lot of things. It's an exercise in word-building, an exploration of faith and the loss of faith, and perhaps especially, it's a kind of meditation on morality. All of this is experienced through the lens of Wynn, a boy sold by his father to the Temple of the Forgefather to be an “aspirant” – one who might someday become a priest. As Wynn quickly learns, what this really means is he's to be a slave in the mines below the temple. And while there's a real, if pathetically slender, chance of him making it out of the mines and up to the temple, the troubles he would leave behind underground would only be swapped for other, less straightforward dangers in the temple's candle-lit halls. There is a very good reason that the religion of the god of smiths has gone into steep decline, and why the Forgefather turned his face away from his priesthood.

I'm a writer. I can't help but read with a writer's eye. To me, the most striking thing about Faithless is the world building. Graham has created, in Faithless, a meticulous microcosm of a world where the wider, outside world is barely a rumor. There is a claustrophobic, inward-turning flavor to the book that, while uncomfortable, is perfect for the material. The world of Faithless is divided into three parts: The Temple of the Forge Father, the makeshift cavern-town of Aspiration below it, and the mines and caverns below that. And for the first book in a possible series, that's quite enough. Wynn's world is grim, and literally and figuratively dark.

In such a world, it's little wonder that the main character is often faced with terrible choices. It's also not surprising that some of the choices he makes echo the title of the book. In the world Wynn finds himself in, the placing of faith in others is a necessity for survival – but keeping faith others have placed in you means never escaping a hellish existence. Ultimately Wynn is an engaging protagonist because of his flaws, his faithlessness, and his own recognition of them.

So, to sum up, I found Faithless to be an engaging fantasy in an unusual, well-executed secondary world, which is something that I love. I also have a fondness for the exploration of religion in fantasy, which is often glossed over. In Faithless, religion is one of the main themes, and it provides the central mystery and the basis for a creepy and bloody third act. What's not to like?


Many thanks to Graham Austin-King for providing an advance reading copy. I truly enjoyed it. I hope Graham continues the story.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ye Olde Writing Update

So I've got two projects that I plan to finish by the end of February. Here's where we're at on both of them, and after:

Prayers in Steel

This is a rewrite/expansion of the Blood Tempered novella and its unreleased sequel, Weaving Steel. I'm going back and reworking the terse style and fleshing out secondary characters, as well as giving it a more 'epic' tone. It's sitting at about 48,000 words, and I estimate it'll clock in at roughly 80,000 when it's finished.

The Last God

Four interconnected connected short stories set in the Amra Thetys universe, told from the point of view of Lhiewyn, Sage of Lucernis and Grumpy Old Man. It isn't necessary to have read the Amra series to enjoy this one, but it is meant as a sort of companion piece. For those who have read the Amra books, you'll find an Easter egg or two. Also, I'm writing it in Google Docs, so you can follow along if you'd like. Currently at 7,000 words of an estimated 30,000.

After February

Here's what the calendar looks like: Once the first four are back in my control and out of Ragnarok's, I'll release How To Make A Killing In Kirabor, an Amra prequel novelette. Why not release it now? I don't want people to buy the book and be tempted to purchase the Ragnarok editions. I have no faith that I'll ever see those royalties.

I am of course working on the fifth Amra book. If all goes well, you can look for that one around August or September. I'll update as things get more firm.

I'm also considering whether to revive/continue the Comes the Conqueror series. It was an experiment with serialized fiction. I personally really like the story, but readers weren't interested, possibly because of the serial format.

Finally, there are a crap-load of Amra side story ideas that pop into my head on a regular basis. Two of them continue to pester me as I drift off to sleep.

First, the idea of writing stories/novels about the villains that appear throughout, like Red Hand, and the Sorcerer King, and the Telemarch. They've all got back stories, and we only get to see them at the end. They're all tragic heroes, in their own way, like Oedipus or Hamlet. None of them started off as villains.

Second, there's a lot going on with Theiner/Moc Mien. He's actually worthy of a series of his own.

So… I'm contemplating. I don't know if there's a market big enough for these stories. Not that that's ever stopped me before.

Until next time,


mm