Gimme Fantasy

Recently an ‘internet friend’ – a guy I’ve met only once in person—made a genuine offer of assistance at a time when I needed it and that got me thinking.

As always I’m going to ramble around the topic and hopefully get there in the end.

Bedeckt

Does he look lonely?

Many years ago I had a conversation with my father about friendship and what it was to have real friends. I think I was in my early twenties. I said something along the lines of My friends will help me bury bodies and go to war with me should the need arise. His response was that this was juvenile and romantic and that real life wasn’t like that.

And I realized he was correct.

But I too was correct.

I lived in London, Ontario at that time with several friends from high-school who were there attending university while I tried to figure out what the fuck I was going to do with my life. At one point there were five of us: Two friends from high-school, two others my friends had met while in university, and myself. My high-school friends were the same dudes I’d been role-playing with for years. One of the other two didn’t role-play and (gently) mocked us as nerds when we did. We’ll call that guy Pete.

One day three of us—myself, Pete, and Rich—were standing around the kitchen making fun of Pete’s habit of eating cereal from a pot when his car alarm suddenly began screaming. Pete was in love with his shitty late-eighties VW Golf and took off after whoever was messing with his baby. Rich and I shared a look (Should we? Yeah.) and followed after him.

Pete caught the culprits first and had launched into a tirade of dire threats when he realized there were three of them and they were no longer running away. In fact, realizing they vastly outnumbered their pursuer, they’d turned to face him.

Oh shit, thought Pete, his stream of profanity dying a quick death.

And then Rich and I arrived on the scene to flank our friend. There was some silly posturing but (thankfully) no one really wanted a fight and they soon fucked off. I might add that I had hair hanging to my ass which I’d died black, a month of stubble, and looked like a sleep-deprived psychotic. Truth is I was and am a teddy-bear; looks can be deceiving.

VW GolfThat day changed our relationship with Pete. Never before had he had friends who would stand at his side for no reason other than he needed us. Prior to that day he had no idea we were that kind of people.

Why did we do it, why did we rush to back up our friend?

Legend. David Gemmell. If you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go read it.

Twenty years later Pete joins us every Monday to role-play. His understanding of what friends are changed that day. In recent years Pete has saved my bacon in more ways than I’d care to share.

My understanding of friendship may be juvenile and romantic but I’ll take that over reality any day.

 

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Drunk on Blood and Fear

I spent two months promoting Beyond Redemption to the best of my meagre abilities. Even though it didn’t result in Harper Voyager picking up the sequel, I’m curious to see the results of my efforts. In truth, no matter what happens, it was worth it. I met a lot of amazing people in the SF/F world, bloggers and reviewers and readers. I got to interact with them, chat about books and writing and SF/F in general, and I still interact with most on twitter and facebook and even make the occasional appearance at r/Fantasy.

The only numbers I have easy access to are the GoodReads stats. A while back Mark Lawrence did a post about equating the number of GoodReads ratings to sales. The magic number, based on the data Mark collected was 7.7. Multiply the number of GoodReads ratings by 7.7 and you’d have a pretty accurate idea how many copies the book has sold. It sounded off to me and I hoped that the number didn’t work for folks who had sold less than 10,000 copies, but each time I got real numbers from Harper Voyager the math worked out.

In late October I was told the book had sold ~750 copies (print and ebook). At that time Beyond redemption had ~100 ratings. If you’re curious what they’d hoped for, I was also informed they’d expected the book to have moved 2,500 copies by that point. Keeping in mind that the book was published June 16th, that’s 625 copies a month. Clearly sales were well short of that.

When I reconnected with HV in early January I was told the book had sold ~1600 copies. It was also sitting at around 200 ratings on GoodReads at the time. That 7.7 thing is still looking pretty solid.

GR screenToday (Feb 2nd, 2016)–almost eight months after the book’s release–there are 295 GoodReads ratings which should, in theory, mean the book has sold ~2,270 copies. While this shows a massive spike in sales since my mad publicity push in November, you’ll note it’s still shy of where HV wanted the book to be back in October.

Backing up a bit…

In the month of November (NaNoWriMo for most) I wrote well over 50,000 words of blog posts and interviews and not a single word of fiction. When I started, I was fine with that. I’d written and edited two novels in the last year totalling over 275,000 words and I needed a break. But now I’m jonesing to get back to my fiction. I have a new world to explore with new gods and a whole new reality. I have new characters who want me to tell their tale and they aren’t going to take no for an answer.

These new gods are dark. They’ve imprisoned their worshippers for millennium, making them insular and dependant. It’s a breeding experiment overseen by gods drunk on blood and fear, rats in a cage designed to cause strife.

There will be blood.

But it won’t be easy. It’s going to be interesting finding a new life balance. My job search continues and at some point I shall experience the joy of holding down full-time employment while still writing. My wife has basically supported us for the last two years and it’s long past time I brought in some cheddar. We’ve tried being poor and decided we’re just not good at it. We like wine and cheese and whiskey and expensive grass-fed meat. Also, the holes in my boxers have holes in them.

Brampton-20160202-00644

Write about Mirrorists while your Reflection glares hatred.

Truth be told I’m kinda looking forward to working again, though I know that will change pretty damned fast. I need something to get me out of my office before those Reflections claw their way out of the mirror. Also, it might be interesting to have a reason to change outa my jammies. I wonder if I can still withstand direct sunlight.

I think real bloggers are supposed to write about nice vague topics like how to avoid passive sentences and POV errors but…fuck that.

This is my little corner of madness.

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Emotional Weakness

As a young teen I came to understand that emotion was a weakness. Or at least the showing of emotion was a weakness. If someone knew you loved something, they could use that knowledge against you whereas, if you were ambivalent about everything, you were armoured. Protected. Emotions on the other side of the spectrum were equally useful to those who might seek to manipulate.

But emotions aren’t as simple as like/dislike. Think about those things that make you happy, whether it’s an object or a personal goal (like being the kind of person people can depend upon). These too can be used against you, can be used as a fulcrum to tilt you toward whatever your would-be manipulator wants to achieve. How about anger? If someone can make you angry about something (politics, religion, gun control, pick your hot-button topic) they can move you to do things you wouldn’t when calm and rational.

I learned this lesson young and held it close. My sister used to say that I didn’t have wrinkles because I’d never had a facial expression (and what are facial expressions but the outward signals out internal emotions?).

The Slaver

The Slaver, by Quint VonCanon

I was well armoured against the world and all who might seek to use me. I met a sociopath and found him to be amusing company.

For many years I viewed emotion (or at least the showing of emotion) as a weakness. That’s not to say I never showed emotion; I have a close-knit group of friends with whom I can share anything. Beyond that, people rarely knew what was going on inside.

And then I got married. And then I had a child. My world changed.

I need for my wife and daughter to understand how much I love them; there must be no doubt in their minds. To aim for anything less would make me a failure as a husband and a father.

If you’ve read Beyond Redemption you will (maybe) have noted that this is a theme in the novel. It’s not the main one, but it’s in there. I wonder how people interpret the book. Do they take my mad ramblings at face value, or are they looking deeper?

Do some people read it and walk away thinking yes, all communication is manipulation?

Because it isn’t.

Do they think yeah, emotions are the fulcrum upon which others will tilt me to their purpose?

Because it is…if you let them.

Yes, your emotions can be a weakness if you let people use them against you. But that’s the part I missed for so many years: If I let people manipulate me in that way, I am as much to blame as the. Your emotional reaction to any given situation or stimuli may not be a choice–though I’d argue that it might be–but how you react afterwards definitely is.

The last half dozen years have taught me a new lesson:

Emotions are not a weakness. Being afraid to show them is.

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The Ever-Evolving Success

Assuming you’re a writer, what the hell is success?

Is it landing an agent at a respected New York agency? Is it having your book published by a Big-5 publisher? Is it selling X number of copies or making a certain amount in a year? Is it seeing your book on Best-of-the-Year lists? Or is it to be found in the response of the folks reading your books?

In 2008 I wrote 88, a cyberpunk novel about harvesting children for their brains. I didn’t find a home for it until 2012 when Five Rivers decided they liked it but wanted me to rewrite it with much less suck. Between 2008 and 2013–when 88 was released–I wrote a slop-bucket full of short stories and managed to sell seven or eight. I also collected hundreds (no exaggeration) of rejection letters.

When Beyond Redemption first landed me an agent and then sold to Harper Voyager in 2014, I thought I’d achieved my every goal. I was left wondering what was next. Obviously the answer was write the next book. And I did. I wrote the next two books!

And then Harper Voyager decided Beyond Redemption wasn’t selling enough to warrant investing in a sequel.

SHIT.

So…what’s my definition of failure?

The truth is, I don’t really think in those terms. Success isn’t a goal, it’s a state of mind. The thing is, you get to define your own successes and as long as you’re doing the defining, why would you pick a definition that doesn’t help you?

Yeah, all the stuff that happened in the last year was amazing and I feel great about it. And I’m not thrilled that HV has decided to pass on the sequel. But I’ve written two more books and I’m really proud of them both and the writing process is something I love doing.

What I’m saying in a round about way is that if you want to write and remain sane and happy you’d best embrace a very fluid definition of success.

GTPC logoTo hear more, wander over to the Grim Tidings Podcast. I chat with Philip Overby and Rob Matheny about what comes next. What is my Plan B?

So…what’s your definition of success?

 

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Music Monday

I thought I’d take a few minutes each Monday to talk about music. More specifically, I thought I’d talk about the music I listen to while writing, the stuff that inspires and acts as the soundtrack to whatever madness is currently being brain-barfed onto the page. These are not so much reviews, but you can safely assume any band/album I discuss here is worth checking out… if you like metal. If you don’t, well, maybe ignore me on Mondays.

Today will be a flashback. Cue trippy lighting.

I don’t think I listened to any band more that I listened to Hypocrisy during the writing of Beyond Redemption. By the time I was editing the novel I had Into the Abyss, Catch 22, The Arrival, Virus, A Taste of Extreme Divinity, and End of Disclosure on continual repeat.

virusI’m going to focus on the album, Virus. With tracks like Let the Knife do the Talking, Compulsive Psychosis, and Living to Die, this is the quintessential Beyond Redemption soundtrack.

Some songs were spun over and over on continual repeat: Let the Knife Do the Talking was Stehlen’s song. The brutality of the track–the senseless violence–perfectly caught the filthy Kleptic’s willingness to do harm.

Living to Die became the track I’d listen to over and over while trying to capture the feel of the world.

I am the great messiah of the fallen paradise
Destroyed by my own creations, I cannot cope with life
The truth you think you know so well- it’s just a big lie

And…

The things we do- it’s just a battle in hell
We are the dirt- can I break these chains?

For any fans of Death Metal out there, this one is definitely worth the investment. Turn it up until your fine glassware rattles and your ears bleed.

We are the slime that kicks in the dirt
We are the plague spreading through the world
We are the disease- the virus eating away
We are no one, we’re just living to die

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Progress Update: Friday, Jan 22nd

A Crazy Few Months

Does this look like someone who is well?

Does this look like someone who is well?

At some point in the last year I got sick and didn’t even realize it. After (far too many) months of increasing depression and fatigue and strange stomach issues which seemed immune to dietary changes, my wife kicked my ass all the way to a doctor’s office. Turns out I’d picked up some rare and nasty parasite somewhere—one of those cool ones with subtle mind-control powers. And here I’d just thought I was stressed out. I finished the run of antibiotics a couple of weeks ago and I feel like a different person. It’s crazy how connected gut and mind are. Scary, even.

I’ve learned some harsh yet valuable lessons as well. In spite of making fourteen best-of-2015 lists, taking third in the r/Fantasy STABBYS for best début, placing 27th in the Fantasy-Faction best of 2015, and a slew of rave reviews, Harper Voyager have decided to pass on the sequel to Beyond Redemption. It came as a surprise to everyone. But here’s the lesson: Reviews do not equate to sales, and they’re not the same as real word-of-mouth.

First, let me say that I understand Harper Voyager’s decision. It’s a business, and my mad little novel was not selling up to expectations. That said, it is still selling, and it is still getting rave reviews. In the past few weeks I’ve heard from a couple of for-realsies writers that they’ve read and really enjoyed the book. I’ll resist the urge to name drop, but I did go SQUEEEE when they reached out to say nice stuff about the book. I’m also seeing increasing chatter about the novel on-line in such fine communities as reddit’s r/Fantasy sub-group, SFF Chronices, and various GoodReads groups. I’m beginning to wonder if I may have a bit of a sleeper on my hands. People have been slow to discover the book, but when they do they really seem to like it.

Here’s hoping!

Yesterday I finished proposals (query letters, short-pitches, and sample chapters) for The Mirror’s Truth (the sequel to Beyond Redemption) and The All Consuming (which takes place in the same world but with a whole new cast of characters). My agent has them and is reading them over. If she thinks they’re good, we’ll start the submission progress. I’ve seen the list of publishers she’s put together for this and am seriously excited.

Character Art

As a writer you hope and dream people will be inspired by your work. The artist/actor Quint VonCanon has been reading Beyond Redemption and sharing some of his art and it’s amazing. This is beyond my wildest dreams. Okay, I am still really hoping someone someday tattoos something Beyond Redemption related on themselves.

Here is Quint’s Work:

Gehirn trio_from_michael_r__fletcher_s_beyond_redemption__by_quintvc-d9nnkwq The Slaver The Mirrorist's Eye

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

Other Cool Stuff

My story, At the Walls of Sinnlos is in the current issue of Grimdark Magazine. It’s a Manifest Delusions short story and my Hassebrand races the cover.

GdM Issue 6 Cover MEDIUM

What I’m Working On

I’m still putting together a proposal for my YA fantasy novel. No details there as I’m not ready to talk about it. It is however very different from Beyond Redemption.

I’ve also been work-building for two new series and have wikis under construction for both. One is leaning in the epic fantasy direction with huge emphasis on the word epic. It’s a monstrous clash of magic systems. It’ll probably get labelled grimdark as I can’t help but write with a certain darkness. The other is something different, an experiment with a new magic system I’ve been playing with spiced with Incan mythology that’s been twisted beyond recognition.

I’ve also been chatting with Marc Aplin (Fantasy-Faction) about doing a story in the Guns and Dragons Anthology. I’ve got an idea I’d really like to explore but can’t talk about.

So…busy busy busy!

Oh yeah. I’m also looking for a job. I’ve been a quasi-self-unemployed writer for too long.

Daddy needs some new boxers. And whiskey ain’t cheap.

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Grimdark Magazine

Grimdark Magazine issue #6 is live!

Buy it HERE!

GdM Issue 6 Cover MEDIUM

Fiction:

  • At the Walls of Sinnlos by Michael R. Fletcher (a Manifest Delusionsshort story)
  • A Fair Man by Peter Orullian (a Vault of Heaven short story)
  • Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang by T. R. Napper
  • Excerpt: Blood of Innocents by Mitchell Hogan

Non-Fiction:

  • The Grimdark Villain by C. T. Phipps
  • A review of Larry Correia’s Son of the Black Sword (review by Malrubius)
  • An Interview with Aliette de Bodard
  • Publisher Roundtable with Tim Marquitz, Geoff Brown, Katie Cord, and Shawn Speakman
  • A Review of Dishonoured by C. T. Phipps

Art:

  • Hassebrand by Jason Deem
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