Group Chess

Chess BoardI’m sure someone has done something like this before, and yet…I don’t care.

The basic game mechanics of chess remain unchanged. Pawns move as pawns move, Kings move as kings move, and the little horsey guys do what little horsey guys do.

Here is where it gets interesting.

instead of being a two person game, Group chess requires at least three players on each side. If you can manage five players a side, do that. You can work out variations with fewer players if you must.

The Three Players

The Royalty: The person playing the Royalty can move only the King and Queen pieces. As the monarchy they get to send orders downward through their General.

The General: The person playing the General can only move the pawns. They receive orders from the Royalty as to the disposition of troops. Here is where it gets interesting. They can chose to ignore those orders and pass along orders of their own to the Rooks, Bishops, and Knights.

The Elite: The person playing the Elite can move only the Bishops, Rooks, and Knights. They receive orders from the General which have (maybe) been passed down from the Royalty. Just like the General can ignore the orders of the Royalty, the Elite may ignore the orders of the General. If you have enough players, get one person to pay the Rooks, one to play the Bishops, and one to play the Knights.

Let the chaos ensue.

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Two Manifest Delusions Novels Coming Your Way!

The awesome folks at Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing in New York) will be publishing the next Manifest Delusions novel! We’re currently bouncing title ideas around (they won’t let me call it Fred) and discussing artistic direction for the cover (they won’t let me do a crayon sketch of the characters). I can’t wait to see what comes of all of this. Maybe someday down the road I’ll share the list of titles we’ve put together so far; we have about 30.

Tentative release date for this novel is mid-2017.

Without giving anything away, I can say that this book takes place in the same world as Beyond Redemption but introduces a completely new cast of characters. It is not a sequel.

“What,” you say, “not a sequel? But I thought—”

SILENCE!

There will be a sequel!

beyond_redemption_map_finalI’m currently giving The Mirror’s Truth—which takes place where Beyond Redemption leaves off—one last read through and making some minor tweaks before sending it off to the lunatic who has agreed to edit this monster. You’ll see many of your old friends and most of them will likely try and kill you. I’m also researching artists, trying to find the mad genius who will work for pocket lint and grilled cheese sandwiches. I keep thinking about running a Kickstarter for art and editing expenses, but if you sent me money my Doppels would just drink it. Bastards.

Anyway, my editor at Talos has asked if I’d be interested in including an excerpt from the as-of-yet untitled novel they’re publishing in The Mirror’s Truth and I think that’s a brilliant idea!

I’m self-publishing this novel and aiming to release it by November, 2016. So if you’re jonesing for some maddark, I should have two new novels coming your way in the next 12ish months.

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The Best Advice Ignored

Writers are awesome at giving other writers advice. We’re even better at ignoring it.

For no real reason whatsoever I decided to ask the folks of the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers facebook group what they thought the best/favourite advice they ignore was.

For me it’s ‘write every day.’ I don’t. Not even close.

Here are their responses. This is pretty much a cut and paste job.

Scott Oden “Kill your darlings.” Hell, no, I say! Instead, I find a way to make my darlings relevant to the story.

Mark Lawrence revise revise revise

Auston Habershaw Write every day, for me, too. I’d add in the whole “finish what you write.” Generally good advice, but some drafts are such a train wreck it’s best to put them out of their misery early.

Richard F. Gallipeau Exposure bucks?! Someone on the other thread said finish the first draft completely before revising. Not only do I not write in sequence, I’ll “pre-edit” a little bit as I write the other sequences. I’m going to start trying to finish the draft as completely as possible before editing anything next chapter.

Jeff Bryantwrite every day and don’t think about world building while you are writing.

Mark Turner ‘Lay down the bones of the story first. Go back and flesh it out later.’ I can’t remember where it came from, but I always think of it when I start something, then find I’m unable to do it. Gotta add some flesh as I go. Scared I’l forget something good otherwise.

Kareem Freshpots Mahfouz Sometimes the pace needs to come down so it can build back up. Oh no’s it doesn’ts precious!!!!!

Jonathan Ashman Agree. I don’t write every day either. I write when I want to, otherwise it’s shit heh

Jake Scholl Write what you know is a limiting thing I don’t follow. Also I don’t write everyday.

Wade Garret Do you, don’t Do someone else; if I wanted to read Tolkien I would…

Dick Hitchcock “Don’t quit your day job.” Granted, I don’t actually have one, and haven’t had one in almost 4 years…

Anna Smith-Spark No one’s ever given me writing advice. They know I’d either punch them or cry.

Thomas James Clews Use less words make them tighter. I struggle with this a lot as I tend to enjoy being verbose.

Wade Garret Be a Storyteller 1st and a Writer 2nd

Quint VonCanon use as many German words and names as possible.

Matthew Summers Never revise as you go… yeah… that isn’t happening.

Charles Phipps Write in other ways than the first person.

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Living the Dream: A Working Writer’s Survival Guide – Guest Post by Brandon Draga

Today I have the great pleasure of hosting a guest post by Brandon Draga, a fellow Torontonian who has fled to the ‘burbs. He’s the author of three books, the most recent of which, The Council of Tymenthia: The Four Kingdoms Saga Book 3, is to be released shortly! Links to those books can be found below.

And now…without further things and stuff…

Living the Dream: A Working Writer’s Survival Guide

*Looks at watch*

Hmm, looks like I have a book coming out soon

So a while back I told the internet that, in anticipation/promotion of said book, I would do a series of guest blog posts, and my lawyer tells me that everything you tweet is legally binding.

He also tells me that lobster is actually a sentient fruit.

I should find a new lawyer.

Anyway, I had actually planned to write this post on my own site months ago, except for the fact that, inevitably, I arrived home on the night I planned to post it and promptly deflated, not unlike Beymax in Big Hero Six once he learns that he has been a successful helper. This is more or less a nightly ritual with me, and in a way it’s largely what helped spur this blog idea.

I’ve made it clear before, in various media, that I have a full-time job that is begrudgingly not writing. Many writers will attest that hocking yarn for a living doesn’t guarantee financial security, and so I subsidize my frivolous literary career aspirations by working as a retail pharmacy technician. This means that I have staggered days off, work one day during the weekend, and frequently finish work between 7 and 10pm every day. Further, the interesting combination of having to be “on” both mentally (dealing with prescription meds = kind of a big deal) and socially (customer service) means that by the time I cross the threshold of my home each night, I usually only have the creative energy to watch the Game Grumps fruitlessly try to complete a level of Mario Maker on YouTube.

All that said, I still manage to write. Heck, in the last year I wrote one novel and four short stories, all on top of attending a bunch of events to promote the two novels and picture book I wrote the year before. I won’t lie to you, Marge, writing is tough. The brain is fickle, and there is not nearly enough time in the day to reconcile what we want to do and what we are required to do, and once you have people paying you to do what you want, but still have to do what is required, some days you can feel not unlike you’re being chased by a dire lava bear while wearing cursed pantaloons of encumbrance.

Other days, however, work like magic. You hit your word count, you wrap a chapter, everything comes up peaches and wildebeest. The trick is to try and mitigate the lava bear days in favour of the wildebeest days, and that can be tough.

I have no doubt that some of you are in a similar position as I, whether you’re writing books, poetry, songs, or maybe you’re a freelance artist. So, I decided I wanted to bestow unto you, faithful readers, my entirely finite wisdom in the world of blue-collar professional creativity. Some of these bits of advice may be completely irrelevant to your situation, of course, or only moderately so, so please be sure to add salt to taste.

  1. Know when you are most creatively energetic

    For me, this is mid-late morning, before I’ve spent hours counting blood pressure pills and explaining people’s own insurance policies to them. I make a point of doing everything I can to get an hour or two of writing time in before I head off to work. If I’m lucky this can usually net me around 500 words or so, and if I’m really lucky it can net me my target 1000. Which leads me to my next point…

  2. Have a target

    I try my hardest to write 1000 words every day. If I’m on-point that day, I’ll usually write around 500 words before work, and another 500 on my lunch break. I can’t speak enough about how great the word count box in Kingsoft Office is for this. Some people swear by Scrivner, total masochists adore Write or Die, but for me little is quite as satisfying as looking down at the bottom of my screen and seeing the steady increase of what is essentially my high score meter.

  3. Wherever you are, be ready to write

    This was a habit I formed early on during my writing The Summerlark Elf. Summerlark was a NaNoWriMo project, and that meant 1,667 words per day or bust. Because I was young and hungry way back in the heady days of November 2013, I was able to sit down and tap out a few hundred words at a moment’s notice. As a means of augmenting this, I got an old Android tablet from my older brother, later purchasing a bluetooth keyboard for it. This eventually got upgraded to a hand-me-down iPad, and finally to the new laptop my family all pitched in to get me this past Christmas. During NaNo ’13, having a portable means of getting my ideas down was a huge help in getting me to hit, and often surpass the magic 1,667. Once I started working on The Missing Thane’s War, there were days where my tablet was the only way I was getting any writing done at all. Speaking of…

  4. Never, ever assume you have, or will later have, free time to write

    This is part “don’t procrastinate” and part “learn how to multitask”. On the one hand, in the rare instance during a workday when you find that you have an hour or two unburdened by the basic responsibilities necessary to function as a mature human, you are squandering that time if you aren’t writing, because there is a good chance that time will not be there later in the day, or even later in the week.
    Quasi parum et ad momentum quo discurrentes arripere non abscidit caput pulli, as they used to say in 2nd century BCE Rome.
    Or maybe it was just
    Carpe Diem. Rolls of the tongue a whole lot better, that.
    On the other hand, multitasking. In order to operate as a functional human, as mentioned above, you probably need to do banal chores like sweeping the floors and washing the dishes. Further, you probably have to feed yourself as a means of ensuring your survival and general well-being. Where the latter is concerned, you have in those moments between bites prime writing time. Writing on my lunch break at work has been the only way I’ve managed to meet any of my deadlines, especially now that most of them aren’t self-imposed. You’ll find that your ability to write one-handed will improve vastly, and in turn your typing speed when working with both hands will improve as well.

  5. Try your hardest to structure your schedule around your creative high points

    This one can be a little trickier, but it’s something that’s much easier the longer you commit to it, not unlike the act of writing itself. Remember way back in Point One when I mentioned that we all have our time when we’re most creatively efficient? Well as a means of maximizing that time, it helps to ensure that anything that might get in your way be otherwise taken care of beforehand, the more well in advance the better.

    As I mentioned before, I tend to work best in the mid-late morning period, so this means showers are taken the night before, as are dishes cleaned, emails sent, and food made for the next day. It also means an average wake-up time of between 7 and 8am. If you’re the type of person who writes best at night, then by all means feel free to flip all of this as best it suits you. Remember: the key to all of this is to do whatever you can to wrench those precious few extra moments from the clutches of day-to-day life, so planning is totally key.

Now of course, as with any good list, there needs to be some point that seems to completely contradict the ones I already made (my lawyer told me that, too). So here it is, as follows:

  1. Manage your expectations on a daily basis.

    Life is unpredictable. Stuff happens, and as hard as you try to avoid it, there will be days where your best efforts will be for naught. Maybe the battery on your laptop went earlier than expected, or maybe you got tied up with an unexpected chore at home during your golden writing hours. Maybe, against your will, you simply cannot make the words happen that day.

    This is perfectly okay.

    Lots of burgeoning writers I’ve seen will take a bad day or two as a sign that they maybe aren’t cut out for this writing thing, or that maybe the time isn’t right. This kind of self-doubt (and believe me when I say that every author struggles with self-doubt) is especially poisonous, and so the best thing you can do in this situation is to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that this is just one day.

I mean, at the end of the day, writing is a tough gig – no one ever really said that it would be easy, though. Except of course for the countless people who pledge daily the age-old mantra “I should write a book.” and then proceed to never do so. Hopefully these tips will help you not be one of those people, because when all is said and done, the most important thing is that the writing gets done, regardless of what odd hour you need to bathe to do so.

Brandon Draga – The Bio

Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history at York University from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of Olhean, the setting for his “Four Kingdoms Saga” novel series, compared by critics to the works of Terry Brooks, Michael J. Sullivan, and R.A. Salvatore. Brandon has also proven that SF/F can be made accessible at any age, writing the lauded picture book “Dragon in the Doghouse”. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.

Brandon’s Books

The Summerlark Elf: http://amzn.com/B01DPLMHO2
The Missing Thane’s War: http://amzn.com/B01DYW8YQC
The Council of Tymenthia (pre-order): http://amzn.com/B01E0K8S5Y

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CHRONIKEN DES WAHNS – BLUTWERK

The word is BEYOND REDEMPTION will be released in German in January of 2017 and I’ve just received permission to share the cover!

For you German folks who tried to read my mad little book and were put off by my horrendous abuse of your language, I’m hoping you’ll give this a chance. Mirka Uhrmacher, my editor at Bastei Lübbe, has put a crazy amount of work into fixing the names and I’m really excited to see how folks react. Early feedback (thanks Kitvaria!) has been that this is an excellent translation.

X3_Fletcher_01_Chroniken_des_Wahns

In other news: I am putting the finishing touches on a plot outline for the first book in a new series. Just gotta wrap up the final cataclysmic scene.

I can’t wait to write this beast!

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I Have a Web Page?

I keep meaning to write and post stuff here but real life and things that aren’t real life but can totally trick you into thinking they are keep getting in the way. Well….things are happening. Exciting things. And I can’t tell you about any of them because, much like my life, they ain’t real. Yet.

The mirror has been broken and my Reflections set free. My Doppels have shed their chains and left the basement and no longer fear my wrath. On the high side this means I am increasingly able to bend reality to my will. On the low side I am no longer capable of making good decisions. Some interesting shit shall manifest over the next few weeks.

Such exciting stuff going on….nope. Can’t share it yet.

What I can share: My editor, Mirka, at Bastei Lübbeis freaking amazing. We’ve talked about how to handle the names and I’m really excited about how cool the translation is coming along. I’ve heard some early feedback from people who can actually read German that it is looking like a very true translation.

Otherwise I’m working on a new fantasy series which will be very different from Beyond Redemption. As I am once again working a full time job things are going much slower than I’d like, but they are going. If you’d like to support me so I can write full time, that would be excellent.

Quint VonCanon recently shared another piece. This one was inspired by Richard Anderson’s cover art and was done before Quint had even read the book!

Bedeckt

You can find more of Quint’s work at Deviant Art!

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Intellectual Property at StarShip Sofa

Back in 2011 I sold my second short story, Intellectual Property, to Interzone. Though my second sale, it was the first to appear in print.

Well, you can now hear that story narrated by the awesome Austin Learned over at StarShip Sofa. Hearing one of your own stories narrated is a real trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Give ‘er a listen and then drop back to let me know what you thought.

Cheers!

No, seriously, I need a drink.

StarStarShip No 427 Michael R. Fletcher and Mark Zastrow

 

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Noodle

For the last while I’ve been working, looking for work, and writing whenever I can sneak in a few moments. I grab the guitar any time my brain needs a breather and noodle away at whatever riff is on my brain. Lately I’ve been making some funky jazz-type noises. It took a while to track this stuff as there is diddley time left in the day after the other stuff and family, but here it is. The drums are pretty simplistic and you’ll hear a few flubbed notes because I don’t have time to edit it or do multiple takes, but here it is in it’s nasty glory.

And me being me I couldn’t just leave it jazzy. Somehow the metal snuck out.

 

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The Artist as a Mystery

My daughter is home sick and we’re all but snowed in and what I really want to do is eat grilled cheese sandwiches and drink whiskey but whatever the hell is going on in my GI tract is not a fan of grains or fat or whiskey and so I’m eating salad and fruit and writing a rambling run-on sentence about it. I have been completely sober for four days and I must say, I’m not a fan.

I’ve been thinking about how the interaction between authors and readers has changed in the last decade or more. When I first got into fantasy (back before Jesus rode dinosaurs, when the world was still flat) there was virtually no way to interact with a writer beyond going to conventions. As I lived out in the boonies of Ontario that was pretty damned unlikely to happen.

Writers were a mystery to me. All I knew about them was the little ‘about the author’ blurbs sometimes found in the backs of books.  That’s what I was accustomed to and so that seems normal. But times have changed. With internet and social media being so entwined with society, there is a lot of pressure on writers to be accessible in a way there never was.

Mick Farren was a Bacchanalian Dionysian god. He wrote about drugs and booze and rampant gods and devastated realities and he was his books. I never met the man, I have no idea what the truth is.

Is that mystery better than the truth? I have no idea. Would I have liked Mick even more if I’d had the chance to chat with him on Twitter? Maybe.

I’m torn. As a reader I love that I can interact with my favourite authors and that writers like Mark Lawrence, Kameron HurleyDjango Wexler, Teresa Frohock, Marc Turner, Brian Staveley, and so many others are so approachable.

As a writer I wonder if I’d be better off to remain mysterious.

The Mirrorist's EyeCome to think of it, I’ve had folks send me fan mail and share their Beyond Redemption-inspired art (look left) and I am so grateful for these amazing gestures. I think that wins it for me. Having the chance to hear what so many folks think about my books is an opportunity the writers of the previous age did not get to enjoy.

Okay. Screw the mystery.

Well mostly. Maybe I’ll lie about a few things now and then just to keep folks guessing.

 

 

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