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Mike Reeves-McMillan
Attended Massey University
Lives in Auckland
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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Would you like to be part of an SF Signal #MindMeld? Let us know! http://goo.gl/forms/cs9pRpkVJO
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

Self-Promo Saturday  - 
 
Not a self-promo for a fantasy book; instead, it's a non-fiction book that may help you with your writing.

I'm a former professional copy editor (with Hodders, now part of Hachette), a former technical writer, and I review a lot of books, as well as writing my own. I saw a need for a straightforward, no-fluff book on the most common errors I see fiction authors making, and how to avoid them.

The link takes you to the blog where I drafted the text, so you can get an idea of what's in it. It's very much expanded and revised from the blog content, though, with extra material on sentence structure, punctuation, research and continuity.
The Well-Presented Manuscript is a book, of which this blog is a draft. The final book contains extra material not on the blog, and you can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Oyster, Scribd or Inktera. catselfie I'm Mike Reeves-McMillan, former copy editor and tech writer, ...
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Just downloaded it.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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7 Posts to Help You Use Hooks Better
Hi everyone, this is Travis. I realized that we have a lot of new readers lately. If you want to be a better writer, there's years  of materials here on Pretentious Title to dig through! But no one likes digging through years of old posts. So, to help you a...
Hi everyone, this is Travis. I realized that we have a lot of new readers lately. If you want to be a better writer, there's years of materials here on Pretentious Title to dig through! But no one likes digging through years ...
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The one on prologues is especially good.

I've been watching a lot of the TV show NCIS lately, and they do excellent prologues/cold opens. They're like a little flash piece in which a couple of interesting characters have an interesting interaction that implies a lot about them and their relationship, then discover the body... and are usually not seen again.

What a prologue like that does is demonstrate that the writers can write interesting characters and dialogue, and set up interesting situations, and they can do it so well that they can just throw one away as an intro to the actual story. It signals that you're in good hands.

If you're not in good hands, of course, it's a terrible, stupid way to start a story. But at least your readers will find out quickly.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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So here's a game.

I've been thinking about doing a promo post each week for one of my books (a process which would now take me eight weeks to get through, and by then it might be nine).

And then I thought, how about I build up some preemptive karma by first promoting someone else's book that I think is worthy?

So here's what I'm planning:

#fridayfeature will promote an indie book that I didn't write, but have read and enjoyed and given a four- or five-star review. I won't tell the author beforehand that I'm planning the promotion, and I absolutely don't expect them to reciprocate. In fact, if they're grateful and want to do something, they should do their own #fridayfeature of someone else's book that isn't mine or theirs.

#sundayspotlight will be where I highlight one of my own books.

Anyone is welcome to join me in this game, of course. 
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Oh, yeah, that's more understandable. You're not talking about actually reading and reviewing one a week. Merely impressive, then, and not quite jaw-dropping. ;)
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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Genre Considered as a Restaurant

(This is a blog post, which I'm copying in full here to promote discussion.)

If you’ve spent much time around writers, you’ve probably heard someone complain that “genre” is just a way for publishers and booksellers to impose marketing categories for their own convenience, and it should die in a fire, because we’d all be better off without it.

I’ve said things adjacent to this myself. After all, my first novel is set in a secondary world--like a fantasy, but with no magic--that’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s Italy, and combines the language of a literary novel with the plot of a serial-killer mystery thriller, told in diary entries. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to sell, because what’s the audience for that? What genre does it even fit in?

It’s easy, then, to fall into bemoaning the idea that a book even needs a genre. Recently, though, I’ve started to think about genre with a new metaphor: that of a restaurant.

We’re very fortunate in the 21st century to have access to the cuisine of so many cultures. My father, who grew up in New Zealand in the 1930s, once told me how much things had improved in his lifetime. When he was young, “going out” meant going to the pub for a roast dinner, which probably wasn’t even very tasty. At the time we were talking (the 1980s, I think), you could choose to get a meal from most parts of Europe and Asia, plus Latin America if you looked around a bit. These days, in most major cities worldwide, you can eat food from any inhabited continent.

That gives us a richness of choice which itself creates a new situation. We now have to ask ourselves, when going out to eat, which flavours, which experience, we want to have. What are we in the mood for?

Hence my metaphor of genre as restaurant, or rather, as cuisine. Different cuisines offer different satisfactions. Do we want the blended spices of India? The balance of sweet, hot and sour that Thai offers? The subtle flavours of France? Robust, earthy Mediterranean food? And if we want Mediterranean, is that Italian, Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, or North African?

Likewise, different genres offer different satisfactions too. Some of them are emotional: horror offers a thrill of fear, suspense offers a thrill of excitement, romance offers the warmth of intimacy, fantasy offers the imagined experience of having magical powers. Others are mental: mystery offers an experience of a puzzle solved, SF offers the exploration of a what-if. Our brains are wired to find these things satisfying, originally for survival reasons. The most successful genres, and the most successful books, I believe, combine emotional and mental satisfaction, but depending how you blend the flavours and which ones you emphasise, you can satisfy very different palates.

This is also why, although I read primarily fantasy, there are fantasy books (and authors) that leave me cold. Something in the blend is off. I had the experience, while in the US, of eating at a Thai restaurant where all the food primarily tasted sweet--no sour, no hot, just sweet. I love Thai food, but I didn’t love that.

I’m not always in the same mood, either. Just like I don’t always eat the same cuisine, I don’t always read the same genre or subgenre (or write it, either). Sometimes I want my fantasy to also contain mystery, or comedy, or be a thriller.

Just as there are different approaches to cooking, there are different approaches to writing. If you are working in a classic genre--French provincial cuisine, say, or noir detective--you have to get it exactly right. There’s nowhere to hide. You either produce an excellent, textbook example of the genre you’re attempting; you successfully update it into a modern version, without losing the essentials that made it great originally; or you fail, because you’ve created something that doesn’t match up to expectations, that isn’t well executed. And your failure is obvious, because we have well-known examples to compare with. We know what it should taste like.

If you’re being more experimental, or attempting “fusion,” using fancy techniques or ingredients, or combining ingredients that don’t classically go together, your possible failure modes are different. People may give you credit for attempting something new and different, but then go back to the classics for their next meal, because your imagination exceeded your ability to execute (for example, 99.99% of steampunk); or they may enjoy it, think you did it well, but decide that it’s not an experience they want all the time. Or they may become extremely excited if you pull it off, and come back again and again, and rave about it to all their friends--while struggling to express exactly what it is.

Genre, then, is like a restaurant sign. It tells us approximately what kind of experience we’re about to have. Covers and blurbs elaborate on this, which is why covers are so important, and why you need to have a cover that fits into your genre as well as standing out, and which doesn’t mislead readers about what the book is like. (This is a large part of the reason that I self-publish: because I don’t trust publishers to make good decisions about my covers.) And among the things I look for in a blurb (and in reviews) are the signals that tell me: this book is tragic, this book is funny, this book is action-packed, this book explores character deeply.

A bookstore, then, is a food court. And to market your book, you need to convey to people what they’re going to get when they consume it. One way, the easy way, to do this is to sit within an obvious genre, to, metaphorically speaking, call your food stand The Spicy Wok or A Taste of Turkish. If you’re going outside the well-understood genres, though, you need to think hard about who is going to want those particular flavours, and how you convey to them that that’s what you’re selling.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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A couple of hours' lost sleep drops thousands of words from my...

Thing. Begins with a V. You know, wossname.
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Verbosity? :-)
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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If the Money Fairy gave me half a million dollars tomorrow, I could write full-time until it ran out and still have stuff left in my ideas file, without getting any new ideas.

Kind of... a good problem?
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If I got a visit from the Money Fairy, the biggest change would be my venue- I would take off for an isolated, rustic cabin in northern Wisconsin for a few weeks. It would not make a dent in the ideas file. In fact, if I gave myself too much time at the cabin, the ideas file would get bigger, not smaller. 
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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Dear +Google+

Collections are wonderful. But they've been around for a while now, and I still can't use them in the iOS app, which is where I mostly interact with G+. (Since it slows down my Chrome browser horribly, and I no longer have the option to post from Gmail.)

When are we going to get collections on iOS?

And if you could stop the iOS app from crashing basically every time I visit a web page with more than two graphics, that would also be good.

Thanks. 
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I haven't. I'll give that a go.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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For my inaugural #fridayfeature  I want to mention +S. A. Hunt’s book The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

The thing about Whirlwind is that, in theory, it’s not a book I should enjoy. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t pick it up, because it had so many features that normally put me off a book: epic length, dark fantasy, horror, postapocalyptic. 

Thing is, I read some of Sam’s writing on a Saturday Scenes post, and it showed me that the man can write really well. Really well. I decided to give Whirlwind a shot. 

I’m so glad I did. Not only does Sam have a powerful prose style, but he can tell a good story, good enough that I don’t care that it’s dark, or that it’s epic, or that it’s those other things that I normally shy away from. I’ve eagerly read both the sequels, and look forward to the next one. 

The really clever thing? He mashes up all the genres, and makes it work. Portal fantasy, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, Western, dark fantasy, horror, postapocalyptic SF, post-cyberpunk, and I’ve probably forgotten a couple. Yet it doesn’t seem like a patchwork of disparate elements. It’s somehow an organic whole.

If you haven’t read it, run, do not walk, and get yourself a copy (it’s now bundled with the second book, which is also excellent): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BJCLMFU

The Rules of the Game
If you also want to play #fridayfeature , this is how.

1. Promote a book you didn’t write.

2. If someone promotes your book and you want to play, don’t promote their book; pick a third person.  

3. If you can, talk about your personal experience of the book, rather than giving a formal review. Why did you enjoy it? What do you admire about it? What surprised you?
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Hunt's prose punches with arms like railroad ties. Also, I envy his naming ability.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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Exactly.

And, even better than the title, are the closing lines with a quote by the cofounder of Singularity University and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation...
As Peter Diamandis has said, “on the road to abundance there will be turbulence.”  The light at the end of this tunnel, however, may be a world in which the pursuit of enlightenment is more cherished than the pursuit of money.
Not long ago, schoolchildren chose what they wanted to be when they grew up, and later selected the best college they could gain admission to, spent years gaining proficiency in... read more
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

Covers (Blurbs, Marketing Text, Design, Art)  - 
 
Genre Considered as a Restaurant

(This is a blog post, which I'm copying in full here to promote discussion.)

If you’ve spent much time around writers, you’ve probably heard someone complain that “genre” is just a way for publishers and booksellers to impose marketing categories for their own convenience, and it should die in a fire, because we’d all be better off without it.

I’ve said things adjacent to this myself. After all, my first novel is set in a secondary world--like a fantasy, but with no magic--that’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s Italy, and combines the language of a literary novel with the plot of a serial-killer mystery thriller, told in diary entries. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to sell, because what’s the audience for that? What genre does it even fit in?

It’s easy, then, to fall into bemoaning the idea that a book even needs a genre. Recently, though, I’ve started to think about genre with a new metaphor: that of a restaurant.

We’re very fortunate in the 21st century to have access to the cuisine of so many cultures. My father, who grew up in New Zealand in the 1930s, once told me how much things had improved in his lifetime. When he was young, “going out” meant going to the pub for a roast dinner, which probably wasn’t even very tasty. At the time we were talking (the 1980s, I think), you could choose to get a meal from most parts of Europe and Asia, plus Latin America if you looked around a bit. These days, in most major cities worldwide, you can eat food from any inhabited continent.

That gives us a richness of choice which itself creates a new situation. We now have to ask ourselves, when going out to eat, which flavours, which experience, we want to have. What are we in the mood for?

Hence my metaphor of genre as restaurant, or rather, as cuisine. Different cuisines offer different satisfactions. Do we want the blended spices of India? The balance of sweet, hot and sour that Thai offers? The subtle flavours of France? Robust, earthy Mediterranean food? And if we want Mediterranean, is that Italian, Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, or North African?

Likewise, different genres offer different satisfactions too. Some of them are emotional: horror offers a thrill of fear, suspense offers a thrill of excitement, romance offers the warmth of intimacy, fantasy offers the imagined experience of having magical powers. Others are mental: mystery offers an experience of a puzzle solved, SF offers the exploration of a what-if. Our brains are wired to find these things satisfying, originally for survival reasons. The most successful genres, and the most successful books, I believe, combine emotional and mental satisfaction, but depending how you blend the flavours and which ones you emphasise, you can satisfy very different palates.

This is also why, although I read primarily fantasy, there are fantasy books (and authors) that leave me cold. Something in the blend is off. I had the experience, while in the US, of eating at a Thai restaurant where all the food primarily tasted sweet--no sour, no hot, just sweet. I love Thai food, but I didn’t love that.

I’m not always in the same mood, either. Just like I don’t always eat the same cuisine, I don’t always read the same genre or subgenre (or write it, either). Sometimes I want my fantasy to also contain mystery, or comedy, or be a thriller.

Just as there are different approaches to cooking, there are different approaches to writing. If you are working in a classic genre--French provincial cuisine, say, or noir detective--you have to get it exactly right. There’s nowhere to hide. You either produce an excellent, textbook example of the genre you’re attempting; you successfully update it into a modern version, without losing the essentials that made it great originally; or you fail, because you’ve created something that doesn’t match up to expectations, that isn’t well executed. And your failure is obvious, because we have well-known examples to compare with. We know what it should taste like.

If you’re being more experimental, or attempting “fusion,” using fancy techniques or ingredients, or combining ingredients that don’t classically go together, your possible failure modes are different. People may give you credit for attempting something new and different, but then go back to the classics for their next meal, because your imagination exceeded your ability to execute (for example, 99.99% of steampunk); or they may enjoy it, think you did it well, but decide that it’s not an experience they want all the time. Or they may become extremely excited if you pull it off, and come back again and again, and rave about it to all their friends--while struggling to express exactly what it is.

Genre, then, is like a restaurant sign. It tells us approximately what kind of experience we’re about to have. Covers and blurbs elaborate on this, which is why covers are so important, and why you need to have a cover that fits into your genre as well as standing out, and which doesn’t mislead readers about what the book is like. (This is a large part of the reason that I self-publish: because I don’t trust publishers to make good decisions about my covers.) And among the things I look for in a blurb (and in reviews) are the signals that tell me: this book is tragic, this book is funny, this book is action-packed, this book explores character deeply.

A bookstore, then, is a food court. And to market your book, you need to convey to people what they’re going to get when they consume it. One way, the easy way, to do this is to sit within an obvious genre, to, metaphorically speaking, call your food stand The Spicy Wok or A Taste of Turkish. If you’re going outside the well-understood genres, though, you need to think hard about who is going to want those particular flavours, and how you convey to them that that’s what you’re selling.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan

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I'm listening to +Brandon Sanderson's _The Alloy of Law_ on my commute at the moment. This morning, I had a chuckle when he introduced actual, literal tinfoil hats which protect people from mind control. 

I can just imagine his delight when he thought of that one.
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I don't mind spoilers particularly.
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Mike's Collections
Story
Tagline
Novelist, blogger, book reviewer
Introduction
I write a steampunk-fantasy series about heroic civil servants called The Gryphon Clerks. I do a lot of book reviewing, too. I'm harsh but (I hope) constructive. Currently not accepting review requests.
 
I'll probably only circle you back if you engage me in conversation, and if you either mostly write about writing or something else I find interesting, or you're an unusually interesting and insightful person. Exception: I don't circle erotica writers, just because of what might show up in my stream. Nothing personal.
Bragging rights
While working for a certain notorious NZ publisher in my freelance editing days, I got out with all the money owed to me (if you knew NZ publishing up to the late 90s you'd know who I mean, and be impressed).
Education
  • Massey University
    Health Science, 2008 - 2010
  • University of Auckland
    English, 1986 - 1989
  • Waitakere College
    1981 - 1985
  • Swanson Primary School
    1973 - 1980
  • Auckland University of Technology
    Celebrant Studies, 2005 - 2006
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Other names
Michael McMillan