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An Author’s Book Review – INISH CARRAIG by JO ZEBEDEE

I was at work totally working at not at all daydreaming when it occurred to me that it might be fun to host a series where author’s reviewed their own books. With my usual planning and foresight and deep contemplating of consequences I immediately began pestering several of my favourite novelists. Some agreed. Some wanted me out of their bathroom.

And so I bring you the first in a series of indeterminate length!

 

JO ZEBEDEE  Reviews INISH CARRAIG

This book confuses the hell out of me, on just about every level. It’s sci-fi, with not much sci-fi, it’s young adult, but it’s also adult. And half of it is written in a Northern Irish accent. This, I have to admit, intrigued me. I expected words like ‘eejit’ and ‘wee’, with the odd ‘ye boyo’ thrown in. Instead I got just about every swear word I’ve encountered before – 30 years of inventive language captured in around 150 pages. And this from an author of the fairer sex – she must have a serious potty-mouth.

Anyhow, to the plot. We have two sets of aliens with various unpronounceable names, and both want to take charge of Earth. One set are evil and invaded Earth – but might not be evil, really – and one set arrived later to help – but they might not be helping. In fact, because the author stays in her pesky characters’ thoughts the whole time, and because her characters know nothing useful, we end up as confused as they are. It has the unsettling effect of feeling like you’re the person in the sodding book. I read for escapism, not to end up glancing behind me in case the dog has turned into some sort of alien monster. (Hard to tell the difference on a bad day. All most unsettling.)

And then there’s the title of the damn book. Inish Carraig? What in the name of God does that mean? It’s not even syfy.

Turns out Inish Carraig is a bloody big alien prison (which was cool, I’ll give the author that) called the Irish for Rocky Island. How it escaped having a fucking in there for good measure I have no idea. From there, our hero has to escape and there are bots – at last, something scifi – and sisters on the run down spooky train lines and cops getting beat up by aliens. On top of that, it’s set in Belfast, but the city has been trashed (didn’t notice much difference, truth be told) and everyone’s fighting the aliens now instead of each other. (So, like, minus points for utter fiction there.)

Would I recommend this book? Only if you like alien shit and don’t mind dark scenes and dark humour. Oh and the most scarily creepy prison walls I’ve ever read (thanks for the nightmares, Zebedee.) Ignore it if you don’t like curse words and characters who remind you of real people you might actually meet. Cos, you know, fiction. If I wanted real life and real people, I’d get out more.

1 star. And that’s for the walls. They were pretty cool. Oh, and the babe who came into it near the end. More of her!

 

Back Cover Copy

Post-alien invasion Belfast. Earth has been defeated. Pity the locals aren’t listening. Teenager John Dray will do whatever he must to survive. When he’s offered desperately needed food in exchange for dispersing a mysterious compound over the city, he takes the job. The compound turns out to be lethal to the alien invaders and John is charged with xenocide. He’s sent to Inish Carraig, a forbidding prison, where he discovers a conspiracy that threatens Earth and everyone he loves. He has to unveil the plot. He just has to get out of prison first.

Buy INISH CARRAIG.

Ghosts of Tomorrow – The Evolution of the Art

When it came time to find an artist for Ghosts of Tomorrow, I immediately turned once again to John Anthony di Giovanni. He did an amazing job on The Mirror’s Truth and I’ve always loved the idea of my novels having a cohesive look.

I ‘d like to take this opportunity to share with you the kind of effort that goes into putting something like this together. It’s not quite as simple as “Hey artist-human art for me a cover that is awesome and captures the feel of my book.”

I’m going to walk you through each of the stages here. Keep in mind, I’m not sharing every single version Anthony sent me. These are just the changes major enough I figure they’re worth sharing.

The Roughs

We started by discussing the scene I wanted to show. As Anthony had already read the book he knew exactly what I was talking about and already had visuals in mind.

This is the first rough Anthony sent. I’m already at holy fuck this is awesome. But then we put on our business brains and discussed the merits of each.

A, B, and C have people dead and or dying. Word is Amazon isn’t cool with that. Also, I want parents to be willing to buy this for their teens. So, we decided with either the promise of violence, or maybe, you just missed mad violence. D, E, and F were all very cool, but I wanted more of the second set of arms. This dude ain’t human.


Next up we had two more roughs. H in particular had great potential, but neither pose quite grabbed us.


The third set of rough triggered the Oh shit, we’re close! moment. Smoking guns. Swords. Four arms. Duster coat snapping in the wind. Gritty as hell.

We knew we were close.


Next Anthony began playing with poses, moving the action around, experimenting with visual balance. There was neat stuff here, but the slight backward bend to the torso didn’t quite fit Archaeidae’s ninja perfection.



Yes! When I saw this, I was sold. Good pose. Promise of action. This had everything I wanted.


Next Anthony played with modifying the pose and the POV. The last one, including what Anthony informed me is a slight Dutch Tilt, was our baby. I wasn’t quite sold on the tilt thing, but the more I saw it the more it grew on me. It gave the feeling that he’d just shot you down and you were lying in the dirt staring up at him. After we decided on that, Anthony began working in details and colour.


Awesome! We wanted a little more grit and dust and a little bit of blood on the blades. Anthony also decided to play with the colour a bit and oh baby!


This is the final artwork. I’ve sent it off to Shawn King for typography and will share that when it’s ready.

 

Cool process, eh?

The Coolest Award Ever!

I want to take a moment and thank the awesome community at r/Fantasy for the amazing STABBY award. I have coveted this and glared daggers (muahaha!) at Mark Lawrence for years. To actually have one…it’s surreal.

I thought that when the dagger arrived in the mail, it would finally seem real. Well, I’m still not sure. Am I hallucinating? Are my delusions finally manifesting?

We know how dangerous it is to embrace one’s delusions.

I love my old Mac keyboard!

Thank you r/Fantasy!

And thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed my mad little novels.

Cheers!

–Mike

UPDATE on MADNESS

Where to begin? Well, my Doppels have managed to crack the wifi password and have created for themselves a facebook account so they can harass me. So far they don’t seem to have figured out reddit.

THE MIRROR’S TRUTH

The Mirror’s Truth is available through Amazon! I made sure there is no DRM (Digital Rights Management) on it so you are free to purchase it and convert it into whatever format you like. Calibre is awesome for this and totally free. And apparently the book is already available through various pirating sites so there’s that option too. You know, if you’re totally broke and can’t afford the $6 for the ebook, send me a message through the site and I’ll probably just send you one myself. At least then you won’t have to worry about accidentally downloading a virus.

In other news, the book has made several Best-of-2016 lists and won a STABBY from r/Fantasy for Best Independent/Self-Published novel of 2016.

Back Cover Copy:

Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?

Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.

The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence.

The dead shall rise.

 

SWARM AND STEEL

Swarm and Steel has a cover and I’m allowed to share it! Woo! And, like, there it is!

Here is a link if you’d like to pre-order the hardcover.

Back Cover Copy:

To escape the hell she created, a woman must team up with a novice warrior and return to her homeland in this gritty epic fantasy where delusions are literally made real.

Zerfall awakens in an alley, wounded and unable to remember her past. Chased by an assassin out into the endless wastes of the desert, she is caught, disfigured, and left for dead. Her scabbard is empty, but the need for answers—and the pull of her sword—will draw her back to the city-states.

When Jateko, a naïve youth, accidentally kills a member of his own tribe, he finds himself outcast and pursued across the desert for his crimes. Crazed from dehydration, dying of thirst and hunger, he stumbles across Zerfall.

Hunted by assassins and bound by mutual need, both Zerfall and Jateko will confront the Täuschung, an ancient and deranged religion ruled by a broken fragment of Zerfall’s mind. Swarm, the Täuschung hell, seethes with imprisoned souls, but where gods—real or imagined—meddle in the affairs of man, the cost is high.

In Swarm and Steel, the power of belief can manifest and shape reality, and for political and religious leaders, faith becomes a powerful tool. But the insane are capable of twisting reality with their delusions as well, turning increasingly dangerous as their sanity crumbles. It is here that a long prophesied evil will be born, an endless hunger. The All Consuming will rise.

 

THE MIRROR’S TRUTH Wins a Stabby!

Every year the good folks at r/Fantasy, the largest, most active fantasy community I am aware of, get together and vote for their favourite fantasy-related works. There are categories for best novel, best TV show, best debut novel, and many more. There is also a category for best independent/self-published novel. Which The Mirror’s Truth won!

Yeah. I’m stunned too!

The Stabby Awards also happen to be the coolest looking award. Ever.

Here is the one the amazing Courtney Schafer won in 2015 for Best Independent novel (The Labyrinth of Flame).

Image result for stabby award

I was aware my book had been nominated, but frankly wasn’t paying much attention. There were so many great books released this year I didn’t think it had a chance. And my mad little novel only came out in early December.

Well, last night, as I checked in to social media on my way to bed, I saw a swarm of congratulations, including a message from Steve Drew telling me to check my email. r/Fantasy are going to mail me a Stabby! I still can’t believe it!

Instead of going to bed I sat up drinking whiskey and feeling fine and chatting with folks. This morning? No regrets!

Basically this is a long-winded thank-you. To everyone who read and took the time to vote for The Mirror’s Truth, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. To say I am honoured is an understatement. You folks are awesome! You are why I keep writing. That, and I like to share what’s going on in my head with other crazy people.

Cheers!

And check out the complete list at r/Fantasy!

 

MADNESS WON!

First, I’d like to thank everyone for humouring me with my odd giveaway. It was a lot of fun reading everyone’s offers.

But the MIGHTY THOR JRS has spoken! James has picked a winner and a runner up.

So, in classic Dancing with the Stars fashion (my wife makes me watch it, honest) we’ll start with the runner up:

Edea Baldwin (Alec Baldwin’s younger sister, apparently) is the winner of ebooks of both Beyond Redemption, and The Mirror’s Truth!

And the winner of the grand prize…signed, doodled, drooled on, well-‘loved’ copies of both Beyond Redemption, and The Mirror’s Truth, is…(I’m imagining a drum roll here so just bear with me)…IS…(tension building with ominous music)…WENDELL ADAMS!!!!! Now imagine Kermit going nuts, arms waving everywhere.

Ok.

Stop.

Thanks again folks!

Now I’d better get back to editing or I’m gonna miss the deadline on Swarm and Steel.

Cheers!

WINNING MADNESS

A box of THE MIRROR’S TRUTH just showed up and I’m itching to give one away. In fact, I have one copy left of BEYOND REDEMPTION as well. I think I’ll give ’em both away! As a pair! Signed and doodled and drooled upon and maybe slightly loved but not in a healthy platonic kinda way.

mirrors_truth-ecover-2500px

It probably goes without saying, but every time a writer holds a give away, they’re hoping for something in return. Reviews. Word of mouth. Publicity. A back rub. And I am no different. That said, I also like to muck things up and make them difficult thereby damned near ensuring I won’t get what I want. If reality is madness, expecting sane results would be…crazy!

And as you well know, I am very sane.

So here is the deal. This is a contest. The winner will get the signed copies of both BEYOND REDEMPTION and THE MIRROR’S TRUTH. The runner up will get ebook copies of both books. Third place will be politely ignored as only a Canadian can politely ignore someone.

But as I mentioned, I want something in return. You decide what you are willing to offer in return for the books. You put your offer in the comments below (or, if it’s easier, in the comments on this post on facebook), and a winner shall be picked on Monday, December 12th. You can offer whatever you want. A poem. Publicity. Bad advice. A book in trade. Anything. Wait wait wait. No, that’s a terrible idea. Nothing illegal. Uhhhhhh……Nothing too illegal.

I shall, however, not be picking the winner. The mighty Thor JRS shall bear that terrible burden! Is he open to bribes? Dunno! Not my problem!

The winners and I shall exchange goods once THE MIGHTY THOR JRS has chosen.

Let the madness begin!

Any offers not appearing here or on my facebook post will be politely ignored as there is no way THE MIGHTY THOR JRS can be bothered to go hunting for this stuff.

 

THE MIRROR’S TRUTH Now for Sale!

Folks, it’s alive!

The Mirror’s Truth is now shipping in print and ebook!

mirrors_truth-ecover-2500px

 

You can buy it anywhere in the world through Amazon.

PRAISE FOR THE MIRROR’S TRUTH

Anthony Ryan, New York Times best selling author of the RAVEN’S SHADOW and DRACONIS MEMORIA series: “Michael R. Fletcher’s The Mirror’s Truth is a dark delight. Our trio of appalling but still somehow compelling protagonists – possibly sane aged warrior Bedeckt, kleptomaniac murder addict Stehlen and manically self-interested ‘greatest swordsman in the world’ Wichtig – return from the Afterdeath to find a world brought to the brink of all-out war by the mad boy-god Morgan. The pitch black humour, magically enhanced insanity and brutality that distinguished Beyond Redemption as a remarkable fantasy debut are present in full force, and often cranked up to eleven. Highly recommended, and not just because my evil reflection told me so.”

Django Wexler, author of the SHADOW CAMPAIGNS series: “Michael Fletcher’s MANIFEST DELUSIONS is the grimdarkest of grimdark, a filthy, rotting, fascinating world full of intriguing psychotics. It’s the sort of wonderful horror you can’t look away from, and there’s nothing else in the genre quite like it.”

Smash Dragons (www.smashdragons.blogspot.ca/): “The Mirror’s Truth is Grimdark at its finest. Dark, brutal, and totally uncompromising, it will cut you over and over again until you lie bloody and stricken on the floor.”

Leona’s Blog of Shadows (www.leonahenry.wordpress.com/) “The Reflections show the reader yet another level of depth and the character development reaches mind-blowing levels.”

Anna Smith-Spark, author of the grimdark fantasy epic, The Court of Broken Knives (Harper Voyager, 2017): “Dark, vile, funny, painfully human…. The best fantasy novel I’ve read this year.”

The Bibliosanctum (www.bibliosanctum.com/): “The Mirror’s Truth is a sequel that builds upon everything that made the first book so great and all-consuming, featuring storylines and characters that are grittier, twistier, and even more insane. In other words, it’s even more fucked up than Beyond Redemption…and I loved it.”

The Mark of a Great Book

I mostly read science-fiction and fantasy with the odd dip into horror, westerns, or war books. On very rare occasions I’ll read about something real (history) and then it’s always because I’m researching something for a novel. While I read primarily as an escape from reality, a great book is not one that simply takes me away. A great book is one that either teaches me something, or at least gets me thinking. It might be a new idea or a new way of looking at an old idea.

78250I’m currently rereading Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan series as research for a book. I read them many years ago in my twenties. They had a huge impact on me back then and it’s interesting to read them again from the viewpoint of a middle-aged dude living in suburbia with his family.

This is a series with many fantastic ideas, but there is one that has always resonated. It’s the concept of controlled folly.

One of the ideas the book discusses is that one must come to understand that importance—like beauty—is in the eye of the beholder. Nothing is in-and-of-itself important. Nothing. Not religion, not politics, not family, not the burrito you’re planning on eating for dinner. None of these things/ideas is more important than the others.

The thing is that most people don’t understand this. They don’t know that they’re making choices and believe these choices have been made for them. Which, if you don’t understand that can choose, becomes true. You hear it in their speech.

“It’s really important that Trump isn’t President.”

“It’s important I get my mortgage paid off before I’m fifty.”

“Never underestimate the importance of…”

Now believing everything is unimportant, that nothing matters, could be taken as an extremely nihilistic philosophy. It isn’t. Quite the opposite. What Castaneda suggests is that—knowing that nothing is any more important than anything else—you choose the things that are important to you. Knowing that nothing matters, you are free to pick and choose whatever you want and then pretend that it matters.

The importance lies in the understanding that none of these things matter and that you’re intentionally pretending that they do.

Understanding this will change the way you look at the world.

Step back. I’m going to stomp on some toes here. This might upset you, but it shouldn’t. You have no reason to care what I think.

Religion is unimportant. God is unimportant. Patriotism is unimportant. It doesn’t matter than you’re an American or a Canadian or a Ugandan. If you accept this, understand that these ideas hold no intrinsic importance, will you go to war for them? Of course not! Strife comes from people believing that these ideas are real, that they truly are important.

Take a look at your own life. What ideas/things are you already pretending are important? Are those choices making you happy? If not, might I suggest changing your choices, pretending other things are important. After all, if nothing is any more important and you get to choose and pretend, why not make that choice consciously?

 

So what books have moved you? What thoughts and ideas have stuck with you over the years?

Flawed Characters – Nobody Likes a Goody Two Shoes

Today we are graced with the august presence of the incomparable Rob J. Hayes, author of TheTies That Bind series and the It Takes a Thief series.

 

Flawed Characters – Nobody Likes a Goody Two Shoes

Nobody likes a goody two shoes. OK so that statement isn’t entirely true as people do occasionally like to hear about heroes and heroines of uncompromising virtue. If they didn’t Superman wouldn’t be nearly as popular as he is given his ridiculously dull set of powers. However, there is a reason Batman is the more likeable hero of the two: he’s flawed.

In literature, film, and media the general populace always seem to gravitate more towards anti-heroes. We, as a people, love stories of heroism and valour but we also want to be able to connect to our heroes, to be able to see them as people and not Gods and it’s part of our makeup that we connect to and empathise with flaws much more readily than strengths.

For a simplified example:

If I see a character with a mighty beard I don’t automatically think “What a glorious beard. I, too, sport a beard so I will cheer for you.” However, if I see a character struggling to quit smoking because they enjoy it even though it’s bad for them, I immediately empathise with that character because I’ve been there and done that and know their pain.

It’s simplified and those are external examples rather than internal ones but I believe it makes the point. Strengths might attract us to characters, but it’s often their flaws that allow us to relate.

This is the golden rule I used when creating characters for my worlds. Each of them has to have a multitude of flaws to go along with their strengths.

In my It Takes a Thief… series I have two main protagonists. Jacques Revou is a genius thief able to learn at an incredible rate and a master of planning the perfect heist. He’s also extremely arrogant and easily distracted.

Isabel de Rosier is a gifted actress able to completely become a role, and a master thief. She also a little manipulative and has occasional temper flairs that often get her into trouble.

And these are just the protagonists and a few of their traits. My It Takes a Thief… series feature a large supporting cast each with their own peculiar set of flaws and strengths.

Here in the real world we all have flaws, not one of us is perfect (not even me), and we’re all a little bit crazy and we like our heroes and heroines of fiction to be the same way. Once we’re connected to those characters on an emotional level we can laugh along with them, cry along with them, feel fear along with them and, eventually even mourn their passing (I don’t necessarily mean their deaths but those special times when you finish a book and suddenly something feels like it’s missing almost as if you just said goodbye to an old friend).

It’s human nature that we connect to, empathise with, and fall in love with flaws. BUT we fall in line behind strengths.

Bio: Hailing from all over England; north, south, and everything in between, Rob J. Hayes is the author of the dark fantasy series The Ties that Bind and also the steampunk caper series It Takes a Thief… He’s also an avid card gamer, reader of books, watcher of things, and player of video games.

 

The second book in the It Takes a Thief… series, It Takes a Thief to Start a Fire, is available October 25th from Amazon. You can find out more at www.robjhayes.co.uk.