Weekend Buys 9/26/2014

Haven't done a Weekend Buys for a while, so thought I'd throw one up.

“Each weekend I recommend three books. Some are books I’ve read and some are books I want to read. Some have been written by my friends. Or maybe I’ll just post a good deal I saw online. Just a little something to expose you to the kind of books that interest me.”

You might remember that back during the spring, when I last did these Weekend Buys updates, I mentioned Stephen Blackmoore's Dead Things and how it looked awesome, Stephen was a cool guy, and I wanted to read the book. Well since then I have read Dead Things as well as the sequel, Broken Souls, and both books are really freaking awesome.

I will give a content warning. The series is about a necromancer in LA, and all the horrible things that go with it. Lots of gore. But it's SO GOOD. Get both Dead Things and Broken Souls. They're $5.99 each, which really is a steal for an afternoon of fun.

This summer I took a big chunk of time to catch up on my reading, including the aforementioned Dead Things. One book I haven't gotten to yet, which I really, really need to get to, is The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley. Not just because he spells his first name right, but because everyone I've talked to who read it has really enjoyed it. Right now is a good time to get your mitts on the ebook of Emperor's Blades, because it's only $2.99. I have no idea how long it'll be that price.


Finally, we'll take a look at a book most of you have (or should have) already read. Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book in Brandon Sanderson's first trilogy and it's currently on sale for $2.99. I read this book for the first time while taking his class a bajillion years ago and loved it enough to get in hardcover even though I was a poor college student. For those keeping score, the whole trilogy (Mistborn, Well of Ascension, Hero of Ages) has been out for some time, so you won't have to wait for a conclusion.






Review of the Short Fiction

Over the weekend, Fantasy Faction had a great write-up and review of all the Powder Mage short fiction so far. There are plenty of people still on the fence about whether to get into them, so this might help sway you!

Someone made a comment on my Facebook page that they'd love to see prequels to the Powder Mage Trilogy. FYI, the short fiction pretty much are the prequels. I don't know if I'll ever expand to novel-length works during that time period of the universe, but I'll definitely be writing more novellas. I think they work better for the purpose of expanding the universe.

Audiobook for The Autumn Republic

Audiobook listeners will be pleased to hear that Orbit will be doing an audiobook of The Autumn Republic. It will be read by Christian Rodska and released February 10th.

These things are always up in the air pending sales of the previous audiobooks and availability of the reader, so I'm very happy that this is the case. Everyone I've talked to has absolutely loved Christian's reading.

Don't forget that you can pre-order signed physical copies of The Autumn Republic directly from me through my store, as well as regular signed copies through a number of other venues as found here. I'll update that list as it grows.

Honey Harvest

Today I'm going to step away from your regularly-scheduled writing and Powder Mage updates for something a little different. As many of you know, I keep a hive of honey bees. Yesterday was our fall harvest and I thought I'd walk you all through it. If, like me, you find this kind of thing interesting then read on! If not, go grab a Powder Mage novella and read quietly in the corner.

The hive I harvested was a first-year hive (the hive from last year was sick this spring and has now died off completely). A first year hive means they have just a couple thousand bees to start off and probably won't make a lot of honey. We ended up having four (out of possible 6) medium supers filled, and I left three of those for the bees to winter over. That left me with a single super, plus a couple of choice frames from the next one down because I'm greedy.

Getting equipment ready. Plastic jars (in the bag), extractor, 5-gallon bucket, and uncapping tank..

Getting equipment ready. Plastic jars (in the bag), extractor, 5-gallon bucket, and uncapping tank..

A super full of honey.

A super full of honey.

I got stung once pulling the top super off the hive and emptying it of bees. One girl climbed up my pantleg and stung when I tried to gently shake her out. Sadness. Everything else went smoothly and I brought the whole thing inside!

A frame full of capped honey. Pretty much the ideal frame.

A frame full of capped honey. Pretty much the ideal frame.

Doing the cleanup work.

Doing the cleanup work.

The first thing you do is uncap the honey. You can see my uncapping knife in the picture below. One of these days I'll spring for an electric uncapping knife. The one I use has to be dipped in hot water between frames so it's hot enough to cut through the wax. I also use an uncapping scratcher to pick the caps off of any cells that the knife missed.


Uncapping knife in action.

Uncapping knife in action.

I'm getting better. The last harvest (two years ago, as last year was a tough time for the bees) I wound up just butchering the wax. You can see below what it looks like post-uncapping. You do this to both sides.


Once I have three frames decapped on both sides, I put them into the honey extractor and give them a spin. If the weight distribution is even it's a breeze. If it's off a little, the whole thing wobbles and shakes all over the place and I have to hug it close.

This is the best part of the whole process because you suddenly go from having a wooden frame full of sticky stuff you stole from a bunch of bugs to a drum full of gorgeous honey.

Once you've spun the extractor for fifteen seconds or so in each direction, you lift the lid and check the frames. If they're clean, take them out and move on to the next trio. My extractor lets me get through six frames before it's too full to spin, at which point we open up the cap in the bottom and let it filter through a sieve to get all the bug bits and wax out.

Above you can see a video of the honey pouring out of the bottom of the extractor. Very satisfying moment! Once we've gone through all the frames, it's time for cleanup, wax processing, and honey bottling.

All the honey dripping out of the wax cappings. Saved a good two pounds of honey this way!

All the honey dripping out of the wax cappings. Saved a good two pounds of honey this way!

The final result after all the filtering. About three gallons (36 pounds) of gorgeous wildflower honey.

The final result after all the filtering. About three gallons (36 pounds) of gorgeous wildflower honey.

After the extraction, I put the empty frames outside in front of the hive and the bees come and clean them all up for me so I can put them in storage for the winter.

After the extraction, I put the empty frames outside in front of the hive and the bees come and clean them all up for me so I can put them in storage for the winter.

The final product!

The final product!

Signing in Willoughby

Local friends!

I'm participating in an "Author Expo" at the Willoughby Hills Community Center in Willoughby Hills. That's happening this coming Saturday, September 13th, from 11AM to 3PM. I'll be hanging out signing books and chatting with fans. There will also be several dozen area authors in attendance, if you're looking to support the local crowd and find something new!

They'll have copies of Promise of Blood and Crimson Campaign. Drop by and get a book or just say hi!

Salt Lake Comic Con Wrap-up

I've spent the last three days at Salt Lake Comic Con and let me tell you, it was a crazy experience. The initial number I heard for attendance was 150K people, which would put it at the very top of the pile with San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con. That's pretty amazing for just their second year.

Let's start with the bad: Thursday wound up being a disaster of registration and lines. Something about too few volunteers on registration, and those not quite handling things properly. I honestly don't know the whole story so I certainly won't point any fingers. A lot of people wound up being pretty angry about it. My aunt, uncle, and cousins waited in line for hours in the sun before giving up. Contrast that to inside the center where we were wondering where everyone was.

The good news is that the line management seemed to go a ton smoother on Friday and Saturday (little condolence to those that only had Thursday passes). The worst I heard was a half hour in line on those days, as opposed to 2-5 hours on Thursday. Inside the center, most of the crowds were manageable, though mid-day on Saturday was shoulder-to-shoulder.

Moving on to my own personal experience. This was my first time participating in a big convention as a vendor. I spent most of my time either at panels or the Schlock Mercenary booth (thanks again to Howard and Sandra for having me!), with just a couple hours spent walking around. I thought being on this side of things was a lot of fun, if exhausting, and I was shocked to find out how many fans I actually had in the region.

A blurry photo of the booth during set up.

A blurry photo of the booth during set up.

I was fortunate enough to have friends like Brandon and Howard who sent new fans my way, and I had a fairly steady stream (better than most of my signings) of people come by and say they had read my books and ask about Autumn Republic. For three straight days!

I took several boxes of hardcovers with me, expecting (based on experiences at PHXCC and Gen Con) to sell about half of them. By Saturday morning I was taking mail orders. Based on my early math, the convention paid for my entire 11-day trip as well as a little bit on top and I won't have to ship anything home.

My Uncle John with his '65 Mustang

My Uncle John with his '65 Mustang

A few words on the rest of my trip: outside of SLCC, the highlights were getting to see the friends and family I left behind after wifey and I graduated school. I saw wifey's sister (who is working on a cool Powder Mage project for me) and grandparents, and hung out with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I also got to attend Brent Weeks' signing alongside Brandon Sanderson. Spending time with two of the modern giants of epic fantasy was pretty awesome.

Over all, both Salt Lake Comic Con and the trip itself were a giant success, but I'll be happy to be back to wifey and my own bed and office.

Salt Lake Comic Con Schedule

Next week I'm going to be at Salt Lake Comic Con. I'll wander the Dealer's Room, hang out and sign/sell books at the Schlock Mercenary table, and do a handful of fun panels with some very cool and talented authors. Really looking forward to it.

You'll be able to find me at the Schlock Mercenary table (booth #1600) Thursday 4-5 PM, Friday 11 AM to 1 PM and 3-4 PM and Saturday 11 AM to 1 PM. I might be there at others times as well and if I'm not they'll have signed copies of both my books.

My panel and official signings schedule is:

  • Thursday, 5 PM: Signing at the Shadow Mountain Booth #111
  • Friday, 1 PM: The Monster or the Man, Who Makes the Best Villain? RM 255F
  • Friday, 2 PM: Is Epic Fantasy Still Relevant to the Genre? RM 255B
  • Friday, 6 PM: Signing at the Shadow Mountain Booth #111
  • Saturday, 4 PM: Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy. RM 255E
  • Saturday, 5 PM: Building a Move-in Ready World. RM 255B
  • Saturday, 6PM: The Business Side of Your Dreams. RM 255B

Weller Book Works Signing

I'll be signing at Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City on August 30th, from 2-4PM. This is my "for people who aren't going to Salt Lake Comic Con" signing, as I have tons of friends, family, and fans in the area who won't be at the big event (for those of you who are attending SLCC, I'll post my schedule early next week).

Come on by Weller Book Works to get your copies signed or just to say hi and chat! I look forward to seeing you all! Here is the Facebook page.

Gen Con Schedule!

I'm going to be at Gen Con this week in Indianapolis! It's going to be a wild ol' time, so come on by and say hi. There will be plenty of copies of both my books at the Author Alley bookstore, or I'll sign one you bring with you.

I'll probably be bouncing around between Diet Cokes at the bar and loitering in Author Alley with my friends. Otherwise, you can find me at these panels:


  • 11AM signing in the Dealer's Room. Probably at the bookstore.
  • 7PM Writer's Craft: Non-Medieval Fantasy. Room 244


  • 7PM Writer's Craft: Twists vs Gimmicks. Room 245
  • 8PM Writer's Craft: Character Backstory. Room 244


  • 8PM Writer's Craft: Death of a Hero. Room 243

Pre-ordering The Autumn Republic

As I'm sure many of you are aware of by now, my publisher Hachette is in a bit of a spat with Amazon as they try to come up with an agreement on ebook pricing. One of Amazon's negotiating tactics is to delay shipping of many of Hachette's books (like Promise of Blood). Another is to take the pre-order buttons down off of future Hachette titles, including the final book in the Powder Mage Trilogy, The Autumn Republic, which is due out February 10th, 2015.

This has become a bit of a concern for me. Amazon accounts for a huge portion of the book market and there are plenty of people with no knowledge of the ongoing fight between the two companies that are no doubt going to my book page on Amazon, scratching their head at the lack of a pre-order button, and moving on with their lives.

Pre-orders are kind of a big deal. They tell the publisher how many physical copies they should print and whether they should bother putting marketing money behind a book and so on. I'd rather not lose those pre-orders.

To that end, I'd like to draw your attention to my very own little book store, where you can now pre-order a signed and dated copy of The Autumn Republic directly from me.

But that's not all. If you're looking for a discounted hardcover or to support an indy bookstore or for the ebook pre-order, I've included a big old list of the places you can put your money down for a copy of Autumn Republic:

United States

United Kingdon


Signed Copies

Short Story Giveaway

I've been off in sideprojectland the last few weeks, cleaning out my brain before I start book one of the next trilogy of Powder Mage books. Just popping in to say hello because I thought it would be a good time for a giveaway!

For Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, you can download a *.mobi, *.ebup, or *.PDF file of the Powder Mage short story "Hope's End" for absolutely free. No strings attached, no DRM. All you have to do is grab it from right here (some people have mentioned problems using that download on mobile - try this)

The giveaway is finished! Thanks to everyone who grabbed a copy!

If you'd like to just go ahead and buy the story you can still do so for $.99 by going to my store or your favorite ebook marketplace, where you can get the other stories as well: Forsworn, Servant of the Crown, "The Girl of Hrusch Avenue," and "Face in the Window."

New to the Powder Mage Universe? Pick up a copies of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign today!

Short Fiction Reading Order

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about the reading order of my Powder Mage short fiction. I figured it's about time I actually put that someplace people could find easily. First, I should note they were not written in chronological order. One of the reasons I write the short fiction is so I can jump around and tell stories where and when I want to.

Each story is meant to be mostly self-contained, so you can read them out of order if you want. However, I suggest reading Forsworn and Servant of the Crown as a pair (in that order).

So, in-universe chronological order:

  1. Forsworn: Occurs about thirty-five years before Promise of Blood.
  2. Servant of the Crown: Takes place immediately after the events in Forsworn but before the epilogue.
  3. "Hope's End": About nineteen years before Promise of Blood.
  4. "The Girl of Hrusch Avenue": Ten years before Promise of Blood.
  5. "The Face in the Window": About two years before Promise of Blood.

You get get any of these stories from your favorite ebook store, or directly from me on this website.

Servant of the Crown now on Audio

Happy Monday everyone!

The news today is that the latest Powder Mage novella, Servant of the Crown, is now available as an audiobook! It's narrated by Daniel Dorse, who I think did a great job. You can pick it up over on Audible or iTunes.

You'll note that I didn't go with Julie Hoverson on this one or "Face in the Window". No complaints at all about Julie, but I wanted a male narrator because the viewpoints in both these last two stories have been male.

Hope you enjoy!


Giveaway Results

Sorry I'm a bit late on this! I've been working on copy edits for The Autumn Republic like a madman. But now the results of the giveaway are in!

Congratulations to the winners of the international Audible portion of the giveaway: Oskar Karlsson, Jeremy Hughes, Darren Pries, Keelyn Wright, and Jamie Smith. You'll all be recieving Audible codes for the Powder Mage novella Forsworn.

And the winner of the US-only ARC giveaway for Promise of Blood is Monica Mileti of Caramel Valley, CA.

The Cost of a Good Book

The first thing that hit my eyes this morning upon jumping on the internet was this petition that's going around. Reportedly written by self-publishing cheerleader Hugh Howey, it's the biggest crock I've seen in a while. If you want to be very confused and misled for the next twenty minutes, go read it. My beard-brother Chuck Wendig has a great response over on his blog.

In his argument that Amazon is the best thing since sliced bread, Mr. Howey goes after my publisher, Hachette. The publisher that took a wild chance on my first book. The publisher who has treated me fantastically from start to (as of February 2015) finish on my first trilogy and has me under contract for another trilogy. Mr. Howey spends a lot of time talking about how horribly publishers treat their authors and how little they pay us and why Amazon is so much better. Because I don't have time to say all the things I want to about that petition, I'll just address the one complaint: payment.

Let's take a quick moment and note that, like Howey, I am a hybrid author. I publish my novels with Orbit and I self-publish my expanded universe short fiction via Amazon, Kobo, Nook, etc. You can read more about that on a guest post I did just last week. I do this because diversity is good and I have rent to pay.

But maybe Howey has a point. Maybe Orbit (imprint of Hachette) should be paying me more than industry standard 10% on hardcover and 25% of net on ebooks and audio. So I thought it would be a fun thought experiment to figure out how much it would have cost me to produce my first novel, Promise of Blood, all on my own.

Let's say that Promise of Blood, as it is on shelves now, sprang fully formed into my brain and I was to put it into motion exactly as Orbit had done (which it wouldn't have, because Orbit employs amazing creative minds to help it become what it is). Here's our breakdown, all of which I've tried to be conservative on:

I spoke to a couple freelance copy-editors and looked at this handy guide here, and am guessing around $4000 for three rounds of editing: copy editing, substantive, and typesetting.

A source within the industry which would like to remain anonymous has guessed my cover, with photography, digital art, model, props, etc, would cost between $4000 and $6000.

The audiobook of Servant of the Crown (my self-published Powder Mage novella) cost me $145 per finished hour to do through ACX, and the excellent reader gently told me he was working cheap because I happened to catch him at a lull. So for 19 hours of Promise of Blood: $2800.

Printing costs is where it gets tricky. My book is a hardcover. Self-publishers will go for Print on Demand because it's free, with Amazon or whoever just taking their cut when the book is ordered. But POD books can be of dubious quality. Let's say I ordered a print run of 8500. At a professional printers, the estimate is about $2.50 a unit. That's $21,250 right there.

We're looking at somewhere around $32-34K to produce Promise of Blood, and we haven't even included marketing, ads, ARCs, ebook production, mailing to reviewers, placement in Barnes and Noble, nor even the cost of the UK printing or the paperback in either country. I'd be shocked if it was made for less than $60K.

You know how much money I made the year Orbit picked up Promise of Blood? About $13,000 with months unemployed and three different crappy jobs. Let's just say I didn't have $60,000 laying around to produce a novel that wasn't just a fun read but a tightly-finished experience. Hell, I didn't have $12,800 it would have cost just to do the ebook and audiobook right.

"Brian!" you protest. "You're a smart, thrifty guy. Surely you would have gotten it done for less than that!"

Probably. Servant of the Crown was my last self-published novella. It cost me $420 for art, $200 for copy-editing, $25 for the ebook layout, and $430 for the audiobook. And I got all of that dirt cheap. I got friends to do beta-reading and cover layout stuff. Let's say I do Promise of Blood to my standards rather than Orbit's. It'll still cost me $1000 for the art, $2800 for the audiobook, and $4000 for the copy-editing. That's $7800.

So, to recap, Orbit pays me the traditional industry standard on my novels because they invested between $34K and $60K into each of my novels. NOT INCLUDING MY ADVANCE.

Sure, my self-published short stories and novellas pay me between 35% and 70%. But do you know how much Amazon has invested in me? $0.

Would I love for the industry standard to be higher? Of course I would! But I understand why it's not, and I'm learning to diversify because this is what I do for a living.

New Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of the the new Powder Mage novella, Servant of the Crown, I've decided to have another giveaway! Or rather, two giveaways. Given the expense of international shipping, I'm going to have one giveaway for USA readers and another of a digital item for the rest of the world. That might ruffle some feathers, but hey. It's free stuff. Winners will be chosen at random and will go for a week or until I'm sick of getting emails from you all.


USA Only:

I'll be giving away a signed advanced reading copy (ARC) of Promise of Blood. This may not sound that cool, but it's a rather rare item that usually only booksellers and reviewers are able to get their hands on. And I just so happen to have some left of my own.

To enter, email contest@brianmcclellan.com with the subject line "ARC Giveaway". Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email so that I don't have to track you down later (this won't be used for anything else).

Outside USA Only:

I'll be giving away Audible codes for the Powder Mage novella Forsworn to five lucky winners.

To enter, email contest@brianmcclellan.com with the subject line "Audible Giveaway." Include your name and country of residence. If you live in a country where Audible won't let you download it, I'll provide you with an epub, mobi, or pdf of Forsworn or Servant of the Crown.


If you want to check out the new novella, go here to find a link to your favorite ebookstore.

Servant of the Crown


The new Powder Mage novella is here!

Picking up between the last chapter and the epilogue of Forsworn, the new Servant of the Crown follows Captain Tamas in his struggles with the Adran royal cabal, his superiors within the army, and the nobility of Adro. It also explores his early relationship with the old Iron King and a certain half-Adran powder mage by the name of Erika...

It's available for early access from my own bookstore here (this allows you to get every format DRM-free as well as puts a little extra money in my pocket). I'll be uploading the files to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks tonight and will add them to the list below as they go live.

Enjoy the read!


United States

United Kingdom



  • Audible
  • iTunes