Category Archives: Writing

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—”


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.

How Did I Get Here?

Disclaimer: I have no idea what this will be about. I’m sitting on my ass-damaged chair and I don’t feel like doing any ‘real’ writing and I’m gonna hafta go meet my daughter at the bus stop soon, but I wanna write something and so…

I have always read books. My earliest memories are of reading Winnie-the-Pooh with my parents. Or more likely demanding they read it to me. In grade seven/eight the school I went to gave out awards to students who read X number of pages in a year; ten thousand, twenty thousand, fifty thousand, etc. They didn’t have an award for the number of pages I read.

I don’t often think about the past. Though those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, those who invent the past…

It’s only now as I sit here wondering what I’m writing about that I realize why I read so much. Escapism. It seems obvious, but to me it’s what I was escaping that’s more interesting. As a child we moved a lot. I was rarely in the same school more than a year or two before we packed up and went elsewhere. I started grade seven as the new kid; I knew no one. I was (and am) extremely introverted, though whether that’s a genetic thing, or the result of moving so often I have no idea. By the end of grade seven I had one friend and he moved away during the summer. Grade eight was a whole new hell. I spent most of the outdoors time secluded in the library and when they kicked me out of the library I sat in a corner of the playground and read.

My memory is pretty shaky, but I believe I was reading a lot of Farley Mowat at the time. Someone had bought me And No Birds Sang, and that set me off reading pretty much everything he wrote.

Somehow, by the end of grade eight, I’d made a couple more friends. During our first year of high-school one of them introduced me to the Role-Playing Club. I was hooked. I stopped reading Farley Mowat and Hardy Boys books and set out to read every science-fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on.

IMG-20151016-00565By grade ten I’d become addicted to being the GM (Game Master AKA Dungeon Master) and was creating my own story lines and adventures. From there it went rapidly downhill. At some point my parents took away my RPGshiding them in their closet—in the hopes I might pay more attention at school without that distraction. Or maybe it was a blackmail situation; I don’t clearly remember. It also didn’t much matter as I took all the books (we were paying a lot of Chaosium’s Stormbringer) and left them the emptied boxes.

Thirty years later I still get together with a couple of those guys (and some new friends met during university) to role-play. The stories have become more complex and at some point back in the 90s we wrote our own gaming system (which has also grown more complex), but the magic is still there.

Sometimes it’s escapism; everyone has stuff they need to get away from. It doesn’t have to be something huge and tragic, it can be something as minor as a crap day at work or a looming project. Hell, sometimes you just gotta get away from your kids. Much as you love ’em, they’re insane, demanding little monsters.

But sometimes it’s more than that.

A good role-playing campaign allows us to lose ourselves in the story, to be the villain or the hero. We can topple civilizations, ride dragons, or twist the world with our delusions. I think that’s how I got here. I learned my love of story telling while role-playing. But writing it down—capturing an adventure and making it eternal (or at least lasting more than a few hours) and sharing it with people beyond your half-dozen closest friends—is an entirely different experience.

And it’s addictive.


I spent the weekend of October 10th in New York attending NYCC 2015. It was an amazing experience on so many levels. That was the first convention I have ever attended. Ever. And to do so as a speaker, to sit on a panel with the Myke Cole and Peter Orullian, made the experience rather surreal. When I heard I would be joining the two of them discussing metal music and fantasy writing, I rushed out and bought their books. These dudes can write. If you haven’t read them, you’re missing out.

The good folks at NYCC have already posted a video of the panel.

I must learn to stop mumbling.

The convention was a great chance to meet new folks; never easy for an introvert like myself. I also got the chance to meet and hang out with people I’d only met on-line (including many of the awesome staff at Harper Voyager), and sit on a hotel floor and share drinks with Kristopher Neidecker.  Note the classy plastic cup.  Yup, that’s how I roll.


Which later looked like…




The Old-School Edit

EDIT: In one of those odd coincidences the folks over at The Everyday Author (I did an interview there not long ago) posted a blog on editing (with actual advice) at the same time I was blathering on about my own process: Polish like a boss: tips for revising a manuscript.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

I wish I was one of those mythical writers who spewed out first drafts so good they didn’t require the gentle massaging love of the Bloody Red Pen of Editing and Evisceration. But I’m not. Nope, my first drafts are fucking awful. They’re chock full of typos, grammatical and tense errors, long and shitty sentences, gaping plot holes even an Imperial Stormtrooper could hit, and unfinished story lines.

My first drafts are stank.

I have learned—the hard way—that editing is absolutely critical. And not just one pass of editing. Many, many passes. I’m not even sure how many, as I do different kinds of passes.

For gits and shiggles, I’m going to break them down. None of what follows is advice. This is just the way I do things, and I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.

The No-Brainers

The first few editing passes require very little brain. I can listen to music and have a few drinks while I’m doing them. They are seek and destroy missions. I use the search function of my word-processor (LibreOffice these days) to find and murder the words I either over-use, or which weaken my writing.

Off the top of my head here are a few of the more common ones: That, was, just, still, could.

Sometimes, as with the word ‘just,’ it’s simply a case of just deleting it.

Sometimes, as with ‘could,’ it needs to be replaced: She could see it was about to rain might become, She saw it was about to rain. Or even, It was going to rain.

The First Read(s)

For these passes I read the entire book from top to bottom, correcting typos and fixing particularly egregious sentences. If any plot holes (etc.) leap out I’ll leave myself a note (making use of the Comments tool) as what needs to be done. I’ll also highlight any paragraphs or chapters in need of a complete rewrite. I’ll do this at least three times, on each pass leaving more notes and comments and always finding more shitty sentences in need of evisceration. These edits are done in complete silence, no music and no booze. All three of my functioning neurons are put to work.

Actually Fixing Things

Once I’ve reached the point where I can’t find any more crappy sentences, I go through the book addressing all the notes and comments I’ve left myself. I can’t really count the number of ‘passes’ this requires as it’s an all-over-the-place process. Any new writing or rewriting will likely be completed while listening to skull-crunching death metal. Any actual editing will be done in silence.

To the Test Readers!

At this point I send the manuscript off to my test readers, telling them it’s my first draft. Bawah! I am an evil genius. While they’re slogging through it I get to work on another book. If you’re working to a schedule, guess at how long you think your readers will take and then multiply it by six! These folks have their own lives and I don’t pay them. They’ll get to my book whenever they get to it. Hassling your test readers is the true mark of an arsehole.

I find it takes about three months to hear back from all my readers. Luckily, assuming the world-building and background work is  already finished, that’s also about how long it takes me to finish a first draft.

The Big Fix

When I get the book back from my test readers there’s always more work to do. Some of it will be minor repairs like clarifying a scene. Some of it will be much bigger. Sometimes they want a whole pile of new chapters expanding the story on what I thought were background characters. If one of four test-readers says this I will think about ignoring them. If two or more are asking for the same thing, I listen.

I’m Almost Finished! (not)

At this point I try to convince myself the book is ready to send off to my agent for her thoughts. It ain’t. I do two more passes of editing looking for crap sentences and always find some. As with other editing passes, this is done in complete silence. When these passes are completed I desperately want to send her the manuscript; I want this damned book out of my hands. I want to stop thinking about it. But no. It’s time for the…

Old-School Edit

Brampton-20150813-00529I’m lucky in that all my friends have real jobs and even luckier one of them works for a large company that either doesn’t care (or doesn’t notice) that he occasionally prints 500+ page documents. Once I have the stack of printed pages I attack them with the Bloody Red Pen of Editing and Evisceration. Think back to what you’re read here. How many passes of editing have I done at this point? And on this pass, the printed paper and red pen pass, I often find more than I found in the last several passes combined. There is something different about reading paper while holding a pen that focusses my brain. Sentences that looked fine on the computer stand out as utter shit on paper.

And after all the above, when a real editor finally gets hold of the manuscript, it still comes back with edits, suggestions, corrections, and requests for rewrites.

So…what’s your editing system?

Remembering Why I Do This

BR Cover with blurbI wrote BEYOND REDEMPTION with no expectation of it either landing me an agent or being published. At best I hoped the folks at Five Rivers Publishing (who published 88) might publish it, but it seemed just as likely they might say it was too damned weird. I wrote the book thinking only a half-dozen of my close friends would ever read it. To some degree I wrote it for them, but mostly I wrote it for me.

After the good folks at Harper Voyager bought BEYOND REDEMPTION I threw myself into writing the next two novels. All was well and good until the reviews started rolling in. I found myself reading about how great the writing was, how original the concept was, and how well-written the characters were. It’s even made a few Best of the Year (so far) lists. Publishers Weekly gave it an apparently rare starred and boxed review. Booklist said, “The journey is dark and emotionally taxing, but there aren’t many fantasy novels as smart, ambitious, and excellently written as this one.”

PW Starred ReviewBy this point I’d finished the first drafts of both THE MIRROR’S TRUTH and THE ALL CONSUMING and was into editing. The reviews didn’t give me confidence, didn’t calm the fear that I had no fucking idea what I was doing. The reviews scared the shit out of me. How the hells did I write a book worthy of this praise? It felt like I’d done it by mistake, in spite of myself rather than due to skill or long hours of psychotic editing.

I began to look at the two books I was editing with doubt. Would people like them as much as they liked BEYOND REDEMPTION? Should I rewrite or edit to make them more accessible? Should I be trying to recapture what I wrote in BR? Did folks want more of the same, or something different but kinda the same, or did they expect me to come up with something equally genre-bending but totally different?

In short, I began to look at my books not as something written for myself, but as something written for you, the reader. It stressed me out. I don’t know you. We’ve never met. I have no fucking idea what you like. Writing for you is totally unlike writing for my half-dozen close friends.

Which is when I realized I was making a mistake. I can’t write for you. All I can do is write for myself and the handful of friends I’ve known most of my life. I will do my best to write books they will enjoy. I hope you enjoy them too, but that’s beyond my control and I tire of stressing myself out over things I can’t change.

BR at ChaptersI will say this: Each book will be different; I have no interest in rewriting BEYOND REDEMPTION over and over. I did it and it’s done. But there’s a lot in that world I still want to explore. Different cultures, religions, philosophies, and characters. The books might share some common themes, but there will also be new ones. Sometimes there will be heroes and sometimes there won’t. Sometimes those heroes will struggle through adversity to win the day, sometimes they’ll die trying.

And if you liked BEYOND REDEMPTION, maybe writing for you isn’t so unlike writing for my friends after all. Maybe you share their rather odd tastes.

I can but hope.

-Mike Fletcher

Interview with a Literary Publicist

Back before HARPER Voyager purchased Beyond Redemption I both heard and read a lot about what it was like to be published by a major publisher. Most of it was bad. Here is the super-fast summary: Unless you are already famous, they don’t care about you, they won’t talk to you, they won’t promote you, you will have no say in anything, you are doomed, you should self-publish, everything is going to hell, fire and brimstone.

I can’t talk for other big publishers as this is the only one I’ve had experience with, but my experience has not been like that at all. I was consulted regarding the art cover, and choice of artists. During the editing David Pomerico (Editorial Director) and I were in constant contact. Now that we’re past that stage I chat weekly with publicist Caroline Perny and we’re still a few months off from the release date when, apparently, things will get really nuts. The staff, particularly Rebecca Lucash, have been amazing about answering my questions (what the heck is a cover mechanical?) and walking me through the entire process. They’ve shared early drafts of cover art and book covers, and even let me rewrite the back of book blurb!

They even took the time to mail me a print copy of the Publishers Weekly issue the Beyond Redemption starred review appeared in! Like, how cool is that!

I know far more about publishing now than I did, and they are the reason. That said, there’s still a lot I don’t know.

This is a cover-mechanical!

This is a cover-mechanical. I should also add that this is the first draft.

This interview was really an excuse to ask a bunch of questions I really didn’t know the answers to.

And so…

Who are you, who do you work for, what do you do there?

I’m Caro, I’m a publicist at HarperCollins Publishers, and I work in the William Morrow division on mostly genre fiction. Namely, romance and SFF, in our (extremely excellent) Avon and Harper Voyager imprints. I get to spread the nerd love!

What does the job entail?

This is kind of a broad question. In very general terms, publicity handles things that you pitch, rather than things you pay for, like ads (that would be marketing). I interact with traditional media like newspapers, radio, TV, etc., but also with a lot of online, genre-focused outlets, and a lot of blogs.

The fun does not stop there, though—there’s event planning, too! That goes for anything from a signing at a bookstore, to appearances at conventions. Side note: I LOVE conventions, and getting to attend them as part of my job is the cat’s meow. Then there’s also a mishmash of other things, like coordinating social media stunts, interactive events, and working with our super-readers, to name a few.

I see myself as an advocate for the books I work on. It’s my job to get them out there to the right readers and the loudest voices in the genre. I talk about books to the people who will then talk about them to more people, and get more people to read them.

How many books do you work with at once?

Ermmmm…a lot. In any given month I’m usually assigned to about 4 books, but we work on books for much longer than just their on-sale month, so it varies. When I first started, my boss told me I’d have to learn to juggle—but it’s never boring.

How do you handle interesting books that contain things not for all audiences (you know, like sex-fiend cannibals…) Do you have to change a few tactics in order to cope with less family friendly books?

Generally speaking, I don’t work on so many books that would be considered “family friendly,” whether it’s a choose-your-own-adventure style erotica novel, or a grimdark novel starring a certain infamous sex-fiend cannibal. I always try to pick out what about a book it is that I love so much, what it is that stands out about it. That helps me position it to myself, and figure out what my personal publicity goals are for any given title.

We don’t really do one-size-fits-all campaigns at Harper Voyager and Avon, so I always change my tactics. Media changes every day, and so does the industry, and so should publicity plans. The more I can analyze the book in my head, the more I can mold my campaign to be the most effective. I wouldn’t send a historical romance to an epic fantasy reviewer, despite the fact that I happen to love both.

Do you bring your work home?

Yes. All the time. I have always been a big reader, and that hasn’t changed since I started working in publishing. I read on the subway, when I can’t sleep, when commercial breaks bore me to tears…all the time. It so happens that a lot of what I read is either for work, or related to my work. So in that sense, I definitely take my work home.

Also, publicists can never really be “off.” If I have an author travelling, and she gets delayed for an event, then I need to deal with that. Ditto for a media opportunity. It’s one of the weird side-effects of the internet age that you don’t completely disconnect all that frequently. I do try not to answer emails over the weekend, though.

Do you actually read every book you work with?


You work with authors to promote them. What is the one thing you wish they’d do/say/ask?

There’s one BIG thing: talk to me! The most successful campaigns I’ve worked on, there’s been a lot of communication between the author and publicist. I like knowing who you’re reaching out to, as an author, so that I don’t double-pitch. I like to know if you’ve planned an event on your own, or an interview.

It’s nice to know what the author I’m working with really is looking for, what will make them happiest. I have an author who is especially excited any time she gets local press from the area she grew up in, because it means a lot to her. That’s not to say that I won’t reach out and try to get as much of a variety of press as possible, but prioritizing does help. Talking with my authors also gives me more insight into how they came up with and wrote their book, who they are as a person. That’s helpful in pitching, but I’m just a nerd girl at heart. I like talking to my authors because it’s the coolest kind of backstage pass.

Thank-you Caro for taking the time to do this interview!

Uh…how does one normally end a blog post?

A Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

Beyond Redemption just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Cool, I thought, but what is a starred review and who the heck is Publishers Weekly?

And so, after thirty seconds of googling:

Publisher’s Weekly: (lifted from Wikipedia): Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine  targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents.

This is one of the (if not the) main magazines booksellers and librarians look at when deciding what to stock on their shelves. In theory, such a review might result in increased book sales. Here’s hoping.

A Starred Review: (lifted from Publishers Weekly) A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality.

Whu? My mad little novel, outstanding? Bah ha!

PW Starred Review

A Novel in Three Months

While writing The All Consuming I happened upon Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It struck a chord in me in a way that no other book on writing had. And I’ve read my share. King talked about the need to gather momentum, to ride the wave of inspiration until the first draft of a novel was finished. He said his goal was always to finish a first draft in three months. To me, this sounded like madness.

As I contemplated attempting this madness, a few things became immediately obvious:

  • There would be no watching TV/movies during writing time.
  • There would be no playing computer games during writing time.
  • I would need a lot of coffee.


It took me a year and a half to finish the first draft of my first novel, 88. I spent two years editing and rewriting as I tried to find a publisher, and another year editing and rewriting once I’d signed a deal with Five Rivers.

My second novel, Beyond Redemption, took a year to write and another year to edit. After HARPER Voyager bought the book I spent several months working with Executive Editor, David Pomerico to further polish the manuscript.

My third novel, The All Consuming, I wrote in nine months and I was amazed. It was suddenly entirely possible I could write and edit one novel a year.

And then I read King’s book. Three months. Madness. But everything else King said rang true. Like me he write without much of a plan, allowing the novel to take him where it would. I had to try. I would write When Far-Gone Dead Return, the sequel to Beyond Redemption, in three months.

I set a goal. I did the math. Ten thousand words a week. If I did that, I would have 120,000 words in twelve weeks. Here is what the reality of that looked like…

Date Start Count
EndCount Daily Count
Jan 15, 15 3350 5797 2447
Jan 16, 15 5797 8879 3082
Jan 17, 15 8879 10525 1646
Jan 19, 15 10525 12080 1555
Jan 20, 15 12080 13763 1683
Jan 21, 15 13588 13992 404
Jan 22, 15 13992 17000 3008
Jan 23, 15 16084 20249 4165
Jan 24, 15 0
Jan 25, 15 0
Jan 26, 15 19050 21987 2937
Jan 27, 15 21799 25703 3904
Jan 28, 15 25236 28937 3701
Jan 29, 15 28669 30491 1822
Jan 30, 15 29733 32491 2758
Jan 31, 15 0
Feb 1, 15 0
Feb 2, 15 31956 35424 3468
Feb 3, 15 33943 36251 2308
Feb 4, 15 35048 37252 2204
Feb 5, 15 36881 36881 0
Feb 6, 15 36881 38733 1852
Feb 7, 15 38733 40355 1622
Feb 8, 15 0
Feb 9, 15 40355 42800 2445
Feb 10, 15 42800 45808 3008
Feb 11, 15 45415 47843 2428
Feb 12, 15 47320 49949 2629
Feb 13, 15 49308 52936 3628
Feb 14, 15 0
Feb 15, 15 0
Feb 16, 15 52173 52173 0
Feb 17, 15 52173 55718 3545
Feb 18, 15 53466 57559 4093
Feb 19, 15 0
Feb 20, 15 57559 60301 2742
Feb 21, 15 0
Feb 22, 15 0
Feb 23, 15 58596 60206 1610
Feb 24, 15 59981 61701 1720
Feb 25, 15 0
Feb 26, 15 0
Feb 27, 15 61701 64227 2526
Feb 28, 15 63170 65540 2370
Mar 1, 15 0
Mar 2, 15 65540 68654 3114
Mar 3, 15 68654 70540 1886
Mar 4, 15 70540 73893 3353
Mar 5, 15 0
Mar 6, 15 73893 76393 2500
Mar 7, 15 0
Mar 8, 15 0
Mar 9, 15 76393 77979 1586
Mar 10, 15 77979 78039 60
Mar 11, 15 78306 81616 3310
Mar 12, 15 81616 81783 167
Mar 13, 15 81783 86590 4807
Mar 14, 15 0
Mar 15, 15 0
Mar 16, 15 85988 90003 4015
Mar 17, 15 87987 91620 3633
Mar 18, 15 90641 94567 3926
Mar 19, 15 94567 96104 1537
Mar 20, 15 93550 98306 4756
Mar 21, 15 0
Mar 22, 15 98306 98319 13
Mar 23, 15 98319 103197 4878
Mar 24, 15 102076 107748 5672
Mar 25, 15 106075 108499 2424

You’ll note it’s a tad shy of 120,000 words, but that I finished in ten weeks instead of twelve. There remain some descriptions and scenes to flesh out a bit (I call that editing, not first draft writing) and I’ll probably write a ‘What has Gone Before’ for folks who haven’t read Beyond Redemption recently. I will also write an Epilogue.

If you really have an eye for detail and actually studied the above chart you will have noticed that some days started with a lower word count than the previous day ended. This is because for this novel I sketched out a rough guideline for the upcoming few chapters before writing them. I planned, but never more than three or four chapters (and this is a ~36 chapter novel) in advance. I wrote over my notes, and deleted them after tallying my daily count. My actual total word count for those twelve months: 121,772.

For the most part I wrote Monday through Friday and weekends were for my family. The odd time they left me home alone, I dashed for the office to squeeze a few words in. During the week the earliest I could start was often 9am, and I rarely was able to write later than 4pm.

Did I hold down a real job while doing this? Uh…no, not really.

Am I happy? Oh fuck yes.






An Inspiration for Madness

The underlying premise of Beyond Redemption can be found in a song.

It was 2007/2008 and I worked as an audio engineer in Toronto. I spent my nights in shitty clubs–losing my mind and my hearing–and my days playing first person shooters. I hadn’t yet written 88 (or anything) but I was beginning to feel like maybe my life might be missing something. The urge to write was growing, but still I set it aside as a stupid pipe-dream. I had bills to pay, booze to buy, and I’d just met the most awesome woman in all the world and, beyond all expectations, she seemed to be willing to tolerate me.

SATMWhen not going deaf in stinking night clubs, I recorded an assortment of local bands. Dirty Penny was one such band. While recording and mixing their album, Sage Against the Machine, one of the songs caught my attention. It was called Atahualpa and was about the meeting of the Spanish Conquistador, Franciso Pizarro, and the Incan King, Atahualpa. The song was about the clash of ideologies, the battle between conflicting beliefs in how reality worked. Okay, not really. It was kind of about that. Maybe I read a little into it. I dunno. But the damned idea wouldn’t leave me alone.

Years later, after I’d written 88 but before I’d found a publisher, I decided to try my hand at writing short stories. I will freely admit, I had no real interest in short stories. I saw them as a means to an end. I’d write short stories, gain cred as a writer, and then people would be more willing to look at the novel I’d written.

Yeah, it was going to be that easy.

I wrote a short story, Fire and Flesh, about the conflict between Pizarro and Atahualpa and replaced the Spanish muskets with Manifest Delusions. This was the first time I explored the idea and though the story shared some similarities with Beyond Redemption, a lot changed.

The story (unlike most of my short stories) did eventually sell and can be found in the Arcane II anthology. At some point I’ll put the story up in the Free Fiction section here. Uh…maybe I could do that now. Maybe… Okay, there it is. Done.

A rock song by a local Toronto band was the initial inspiration for the world of Manifest Delusions.

After that I realized I wanted to write something beyond the typical fantasy tropes. I was tired of books with picture of beautiful people with swords on the cover. I wanted ugly. I was tired of oh, he’s an anti hero, but he’s still really a nice guy and has (kinda hidden) redeeming features. I wanted bad-asses who stubbornly refused to learn. I wanted people who would gut you for a nickel. And then I wanted them to kidnap an innocent child.

Nothing ever goes quite as planned, but there you have it, the inspiration for Beyond Redemption.