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

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,


Monday, January 09, 2017

Publishing and self publishing: more straight talk from Uncle Mike

I've got some more things to say. Once again, some of it won't be very popular, but I believe it to be true. Better you hear it from me than find out on your own.

1: Embrace the suck

This is army speak for the inevitability of ending up in a situation that sucks, and the attitude that will see you through it. Complaining, time honored though it may be, will not extricate you from the suck. Pretending you are not in the suck will not extricate you from the suck. Flailing around in a panic will definitely not get your suck-stuck behind out of the suck. What will extricate you from the suck is realizing and admitting that you are mired in suckitude, plotting a course to get away from the suck, and then implementing your plan. This is true whether you are a self publisher or traditionally published.

Wow, I don't think I've written the word 'suck' that many times ever.

2: Talk is cheap

Whether it's a publisher, an agent, or a so-called indie publishing expert that you're listening to, remain skeptical. They are in the business of making money from your books. They will say what you want to hear, and it'll sound really good. Just like your prom date. Yeah, exactly. We all know how that turned out.

The point here: get it in writing, and make sure you understand what it says, and what it means, before you agree to anything. Also remember that money should flow to the author in all traditional publishing scenarios. If you're an indie and money is leaving your bank account, it had better do so for specific reasons with measurable outcomes. For example, a book cover.

3: People love to make excuses

You know what? Crappy things happen to people. They miss deadlines. It's an imperfect world. I get that. But you are not immortal. Your time on this earth is finite. And people who constantly make excuses for failing to live up to agreements are stealing your time.

Scrape them off.

4: Don't be a cheap talker or an excuse maker

You want publishing success, however you define it? You are ultimately responsible for making it happen. Treat others, and especially yourself, with the same respect you want to be given. Don't make excuses that you have no time to write if you just binge-watched Luke Cake or Downton Abbey. Don't throw up your hands and say you don't know where to start if you have access to Google. And don't call yourself a writer if you keep polishing the same 1/3 of a manuscript over and over for months or years.

Yeah, this writing thing is hard. See point 1 above. It's first for a reason – because it will get you through everything else that happens to you along the way.

Give the Suck a big ole hug, and get writing.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

An important announcement

Hi folks,

I've got some disheartening news to share with you this time around, I'm afraid. I've decided to take the rights to the Amra Thetys series back from Ragnarok Publications. The reasons are business-related, and boil down to this: I doubt I'll ever actually get paid the royalties due me for sales of the Ragnarok editions of the books. They seem to be in a pretty big mess over there, so I've decided to cut my losses. I wish I didn't think it were necessary.

So what does this mean? Well, for the next 3-4 months, Ragnarok will continue to sell the first four Amra Thetys books. I'd ask you not to buy them, if you haven't already, for the simple reason that my portion of the money you spend on those editions may well never make it to me. If you'd like to show your support, you could purchase the ebook edition of my short story collection on Amazon, or you could check out Ace of Swords, which is a fantasy geared for slightly younger readers. It's available both in print and electronic format.

Wha does this mean for Amra, going forward, you ask? I'll tell ya :) Of course I'm working on Amra 5, never fear. I've also got one Amra novelette pretty much completed that I've been holding back – How to Make a Killing in Kirabor. Once I've gotten the rights back to Amra 1-4 I'll be releasing it.

I'm also currently working on a series of short stories from cranky old Lhiewyn's point of view. I'm doing something different with this one: I'm writing the first draft in Google Docs, which means you can check in on its progress, make comments, point out my awful typing skills and generally kibitz during the whole process if you like. Sort of like watching the guy at the Italian restaurant make your pizza. I love that guy.

If you like/tolerate Facebook, I'm there. It's where writing things get talked about the most.

And that's about it for this newsletter. I do wish I had better news to report, folks, but the main thing is, the stories are still coming, and as I return to self publishing, they will come at a more frequent rate.

Awkward hugs,


Thursday, October 20, 2016

November brings the fourth Amra book. October brings an apology.

Yes, it's finally (almost) here.

Little did I know, when I wrote 'the end' at the end of The Thief Who Wasn't There, that it would take nearly a year and a half for it to reach readers. Much changed right around that time -- Trouble's Braids won Mark Lawrence's inaugural SPFBO competition, and I was offered a publishing contract.

Both of these things were good things, of course. But handing over the Amra Thetys series to a publisher has meant delays for the fourth book. This is in some ways quite unfortunate, since Sorrow's Gate ended on what, essentially, was a cliffhanger. When I wrote it that way. I "knew" that the fourth book would be following in short order. And then of course everything changed. Looking back, the title of the fourth Amra book was entirely too prescient.

The upside of the situation is the fact that all the books in the series will now be available in bookstores, world-wide (you should go down to your local bookstore and demand that they stock their shelves with Amra goodness!) There's even the possibility of foreign language editions -- we'll see how that goes.

But let me get to what I really want to talk about today: My apology.

If you're reading this, it most likely means you've got an interest in the Amra Thetys series. And that most likely means you've been waiting for sixteen months to read book four. I'm sorry about that, truly. It was President Truman, I believe, who had the sign on his desk that said "The buck stops here." When it comes to my books, written by me, I feel I have to do the same. There are plenty of reasons the book has been delayed, and each time a new delay came up, I had a choice to make: agree with it and let the process continue, or say 'enough' and pull my books and go back to self-publishing. I made the decision, each time, to accept the delay. I did so each time because I felt, on balance, that the ultimate reward for patience was being able to reach a wider audience. Sometimes adulting is no fun.

There's one more delay, friends.

The release date is supposed to be November 8th (some places it is listed as November 1st). There are good odds that the book will not be released on that day.

I am told that we are not talking about a delay of months, or even one month; but I know that some of you have expressed frustration at the state of affairs. Believe me, I share that frustration.

Traditional publishing suffers from the fact that there is no one person who is both accountable and empowered, Self publishing lets the author make virtually every decision, and grants control, along with the responsibility to deliver a good book on time. Self publishing does not, however, give an author access to brick and mortar bookstores.

On balance, and after a couple of sleepless nights, I decided to accept one last delay. I hope that you will do the same, because I personally feel that this fourth Amra book is the best I've written.

When you finally get the chance to read it, I hope you'll agree.

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.