Monthly Archives: January 2016

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 they. 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.

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?

 

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

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.

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

BEYOND REDEMPTION in the r/Fantasy Stabbies

Every year the r/Fantasy reddit community hold their Best-of-the-Year awards.

Here are the 2015 results, poached from Mark Lawrence’s site:

BEST NOVEL

Shadows of Self – Brandon Sanderson

The Liar’s Key –  Mark Lawrence

Fool’s Quest – Robin Hobb

The Autumn Republic – Brian McClellan

The Fifth Season – N.K Jemisin

BEST FANTASY DÉBUT

The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson

The Grace Of Kings – Ken Liu

Beyond Redemption – Michael R Fletcher (Squeee!)

The Vagrant – Peter Newman

The Library At Mount Char – Scott Hawkins

Best Self-published / Independent Fantasy 2015

Labyrinth of Flame – Courtney Schafer

Forging Divinity – Andrew Rowe

Fae – The Sins of the Wyrde – Graham Austin-King

Bloodrush – Ben Galley

Malus Domestica – S.A Hunt