Diamond Cascade: Aimlessly Wandering In The Dark

Posted in DC

Hammer 9: Through many perils fought Diamond Cascade and his noble companions, for the Underdark is a vile and wicked place where only the foulest of creatures dwell, those that cannot bear the light above, or have been driven to this place for there is no place above that will abide them. Through all these our valiant heroes fought, for no foe stood taller than they, and no danger could overwhelm their brave hearts and noble purpose…

Blah-blah, blah-blah blah-blah. There are a few reasons why not much of this is going to make it into the epic tales of Diamond Cascade and his heroic deeds. At least there’s a reason why there won’t be any detail. Can you guess? It’s because it’s all pissing dark down here. Have you tried wandering around an endless bunch of caves with nothing but a few lanterns? Can I see anything? No. Mostly what I see it rock, a few feet from my face. Don’t mind small cramped spaces, but this is like living in a coffin. Then there’s the constant tripping over stuff I don’t notice, banging my head, bashing my elbow. Yes, I got some light armour on which probably saves me from a concussion every few hours, but by the end of the first day I’m black and blue from bruises and quivering. I want out, back out. I want out bad. It’s fine for the mad dwarf and The Gnome, who can see in the dark and are used to living in holes in the ground. As for the rest of us, though… I’m surprised Wolfgirl hasn’t gone completely mad.

And then there’s the critters who live down here. The first lot we run into are a gang of dark dwarves trying to bring down a huge bear. Don’t know why. Don’t know what the bear is doing down here either. Looking for a place to hibernate? Largely we stand around and watch while the bear makes a mess of the dwarves (yes, it’s a seriously big bear). When it’s done. Wolfgirl makes friends with it and fixes it up. From that point on, half the time what I can see ahead of me is bear butt. Woo-hoo.

Then there was the half-cat half-octopus thing that seemed to shift about. In the dark. Which we could barely see in the first place. I don’t think half of us even had a clue there was something there, just lots of screaming. I saw a shadow or a flicker of movement and swung a sword at it. Not sure I hit anything at all. In the end, the bear sat on it, which made a right mess. Displacer Beast, I think. Heard of those back in North Horn Ridge. We take its skin. Which stinks and probably lures out every scavenger down here. At some point I think we ran into a couple of goblins, but the psychotic dwarf had them smeared across the stones before I even knew they were there.

About the only place where I can actually see my hand in front of my face without having seizures from all the lights bobbing about the place is some cavern full of glowing crystals. The dwarf gets all twitchy about moving on and not picking anything up, which is a red rag to a bull if ever I saw one, and anyway, it’s light enough I can see for once, so I hang around. True, there are piles of skeletons about the place, so maybe he had a point. Anyway, there are all these glowing crystals and some of them are broken, and so I figure, whatever lives here, it probably doesn’t care too much about the broken stuff, so I pick one up and mend it, figuring I might walk off with it, and that a glowing crystal might be a handy thing to have in a place that’s pitch black. Certainly doesn’t make my eyes sting as much as one of the lovely smoke-machines we call torches (and I think we might be running out by now). The next thing you know there’s this monstrous crystal creature rising up out of the earth and we’re all pissing our pants. Apparently I did a good thing, though, since it doesn’t smash us into pieces, so as soon as I recover my wits, I ramble on at it about our noble quest to save the underdark from crystal-smashing despoilers. It might have bought this, it might not, but it doesn’t seem to mind me helping myself to a rather nice-looking silver comb. It has some protracted conversation with The Gnome. Surprisingly, the result isn’t a dead gnome.


One Last Review (30/3/2010)

Posted in News

Well, straight to the point, and here it is. There have been others for TAP since it came out in the US, but they don’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, while this one, I thought does. Even if it’s as thumbs doen in the end :-(

And that’s it. No more TAP reviews being posted, because here comes The King of the Crags. I have copies in my sticky hands and some of them will be coming to Eastercon with me (but not very many). Special opportunity to get an advance signed first edition copy for the two of you who are actually interested. One lucky fellow who won the spot the difference competition more than a year ago will get to be the first person IN THE WORLD to read it. Well, apart from everyone who had anything to do with its creation. And everyone who got advance review copies (and where are the reviews, boys and girls – you’re all being very good about waiting for release day, but it’s killing me here! Not even one of you being a bit naughty)?

OK, so maybe not the first person IN THE WORLD. Maybe about the twenth-seventh. But Lewis, it’s in the post right now and I hope you enjoy it. At some point I’ll dream up another competition. One that involves less waiting around for an entire year for the prize…

In other news, the re-write-athon continues. The penultimate rewrite of OOTS got rudely interrupted last week by the copy-editing of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. It’s wierd jumping back and forth between the two because they’re really very different. The dragons books move at a hectic pace, jump from character to character and deliberately show the world in fragments. TTA… doesn’t.

Anyway, that’s out of the way now. OOTS is still just about on schedule to be rewritten by mid-April and then comes…

MYSTERY PROJECT X. In which I get to write some new material for the first time in six months and about which I shall say nothing. Yet.

Diamond Cascade: Oh No, Not You Again (aka Ambush!)

Posted in DC

Hammer 9: Slipping in secret into the baleful dominion of EVIL that is the Underdark, Diamond Cascade had thought to enter unnoticed; but no, for he and his less stealthy companions had been FOLLOWED, and by none other than the evil servitors of the dark dwarf Durmijeron! Yes indeed, the servitors that Diamond Cascade and his companions had already once put to the swords! Against the swift senses of Diamond Cascade’s friends, however, these two creatures of wickedness could not long keep themselves concealed and were soon exposed. A mighty duel of swords and arrows and sorcery ensued, but Diamond Cascade and his companions were soon victorious. The foul troglodyte’s attempts to escape were quickly thwarted by Diamond Cascade’s mighty sorcery. Begging and drooling, the pathetic wretch offered Diamond Cascade wealth and power. He spokes of Axolim, the great green dragon whom they serve, who has brought them back from the dead and who grants his servitors tokens and favours to aid them in spreading their wickedness. Unrepentant, the monster left Diamond Cascade with little choice but to kill him for a second time.

So we go down some rickety starircase at the back of some cave that the mad axe-talking dwarf reckons is some sort of emergency exit. Presumably in case of fire or something. He claims to have a map and to know where he’s going, but he hasn’t a clue about the map and keeps contradicting his own directions. And yet we follow him. Why? WHYYYYY??? I suppose there’s some sort of underlying certain belief that he’s a dwarf in some tunnels and so he must know where he’s going. So we’re arguing about all this when Shifty hears something following us and slips back to investigate and yes, there they are, the two tits from the ruined tower north of Neverrest. Yes, the ones we killed once already, Troggy and Dogboy. There’s arrows and magic missiles between me and the halfgit and Troggy and Stalker and The Gnome have at Dogboy and his warg. Doesn’t take too long to bring them down. Troggy tries to hide, but here’s a clue for you thief-types: Trying to hide from a wizard (or in fact anyone who can do any magic whatsoever) who’s looking for you? DON’T CARRY MAGIC ITEMS! One Detect Magic cantrip later and he’s wriggling at the end of my sword-point and his magic scarab-pendant is in my pocket.

And yes, these offers of gold and gems and magic and territory if we were to join up with ‘the greens’ were all very tempting. Two slight little problems I have with this: Firstly, I think this whole malarkey about an eternal war between a pair of dragons is a pile of tosh (although that doesn’t meant here’s a bunch of people loaded with gold and gems and magic and stuff who are pretending to be a pair of evil dragon overlords). Secondly, if it isn’t, I can’t help thinking that butchering a baby green dragon and slicing it up for its saleable body parts might count against us. Anyway, apparently this pair of idiots have been tracking us ever since we killed them the last time to find out what side we’re on. It gives me some pleasure to think they might have had to suffer gnomish pranks and pixies too, and then Shifty, reading my mind, sticks a knife into Troggy. From the dead he came, and back he goes. If he want’s to tell his green scaly master whose side we’re on, good luck to him. I imagine he leaves as confused as he arrived. Do we know what side we’re on? Do we even know there are sides? Did we have to choose? We’re all on our own side – what’s the chances we’d even all pick the same one? Well, great green dragon, if you’re listening, I’m on the side of limitless wealth and power, of endless wine, women and song.

One thing: He seems to recognise Stalker. Calls him Boduku, who was apparently supposed to let the ‘greens’ into the dwarven stronghold of Dwarf Mountain (OK, OK, it has a proper dwarfish name that I can’t remember and couldn’t pronounce anyway). All this, of course, would have happened before Stalker lost his memory. Now this is probably all desperate bullshit in an attempt to sow bickering and discord among us (which just goes to show that he hasn’t been following all that closely to he’d know there was little more he could have done in that regard). But still, it does have an annoying ring of possibility to it.

Before we can question him any more, Shifty stabs him. I’m glad. It’s all very well having Stalker’s dubious past trotted out for all the rest of us to laugh at, but he’s not the only one with a history he’d rather keep to himself. Don’t trust Shifty, but boy is he useful to have around when you secretly want someone stabbed and can’t quite bring yourself to do it.


They Live! (24/3/2010)

Posted in News

Gemmel awards last reminder: You vote for the Morning Star award here, the Legend award here and the Ravenheart (cover art) award here. Inside information is that the Ravenheart award in particular needs your love, and given the passion of debate about cover art I’ve seen here and there over the last months, that’s a bit of a surprise. Vote, if you haven’t, and if you have, make ten other people do it. And then make each of them make ten more people vote. Build your own block-voting pyramid scheme! Anything, as long as it’s not apathy. Apathy would be bad. This round of voting is just for the shortlists, after all. A month from now, I shall be bothering you all about this again.

Today’s news is that the final printed copies of King of the Crags have arrived, and very fine they look too:

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Nice sample on the back of the hardcover, too: He’d tried to hide deep amid the darkness, beneath layer upon layer of leaf-shadow and branches, but they always found him. He’d tried to run, but the fire always followed him and the forest turned to flames and ash behind him. He’d tried the freezing waters of the river and the dragons had simply boiled it dry… (from chapter one).

On Order of the Scales, I spent the last few days rearranging the chapters in the first third until my eyes bled, trying to get the pacing right. But that’s done, and once I can see again, I’ll be about halfway through by the end of the week. I’m very close to a draft that’s ready to submit with this one.

Oh, and at the Gollancz quiz night last night, I think I got at least one question right, and we all left hot with the buzz about the latest offering from Adam Roberts, who largely stole the show with his plug for Yellow Blue Tibia III, Yellowest, bluest, most-tibia-like-thing. Or something like that. Am already looking forward to any news on part IV, Yellow Blue Tibia with A Vengeance.

I may also finally be living my childhood dreams. Or I may not. For now, this is as uncertain as Adam’s aliens.

Diamond Cascade: Going Underground

Posted in DC

Hammer 8: Foul and vile as the enemy were, the army on the surface was not the true peril facing the noble race of gnomes. No, ’twas the vile legions of DARK DWARVES and BLACK ELVES, their souls twisted by evil, servants of DARK GODS and FIENDS and FOUL BLACK SORCERERS, every one of them twisted by the black magic that leaks from the lower planes of wickedness into that wicked place, the UNDERDARK! Finally Diamond Cascade and his brave champions of honour and good reached the edge of the MOUNTAINS OF EVIL and the forbidding caves that marked the entrances into the foul under-realms. Without pause for thought, sworn to save the kingdom of the gnomes from falling under the sway of evil, Diamond Cascade and his friends set forth into the darkness, into the heart of evil itself, set upon bringing death to the leaders of this ARMY OF DARKNESS. And thus began the first of Diamond Cascade’s Great Adventures

Yes, our band of self-serving thieves and anarchists did indeed follow a mad dwarf who spends more time talking to his axe than any of the rest of us and is set on dying a glorious death in battle at the earliest possible opportunity. Yes, we did follow him into the butt-end of a cave and happened to find some tunnels. Why? Why follow a deranged dwarf berserker into the under-dark? You know why? Because we couldn’t agree on anything else to do. How pathetic is that? Nevertheless, thus did indeed begin our great adventure into the under-dark, in which we were, largely by accident, of some small use to the kingdom of the gnomes and their bizarre monarch, Heapofcrapthatsitsontopovus. Or whatever his name is. And you know what? We’re right back where we started. Right back near the caves where we came for bat-shit all those months ago.


Gollancz Novel Deathmatch (18/3/2010)

Posted in News

The Adamantine Palace is apparently in a reader-voted cage-match with Retribution Falls (ouch – close fight!) over at BSCreview.

You can go and vote for TAP here (or Retribution Falls if you absolutely must – I won’t hold it against you. Much).

Alternatively, you can watch the whole match unfold (there are 64 titles involved in all). Nights of Villjamur vs. Hater? The City and the City vs. The Forest of Hands and Teeth? Double ouch!

Earwig Sandwich (16/3/2010)

Posted in News

This week’s news was that the Poles are going to publish TAP. I have nothing much to add to that as I sit here watching cats exhibit various displays of cold territorial envy towards a) each other and b) the laptop, except that this is also from Poland. There are three cats around me. One tabby moggy who insists she has to sit on the laptop whenever it comes out, one shiny black moggy who thinks he’s a celebrity and gets the hump whenever anyone else gets any attention and then there’s the Norwegian Forest Cat, who is oblivious to all of that and sacks out wherever he damn well pleases. He’s like a mobile purr-rug. Wedgies. They’re great. I’ll post a photo one of these days. In fact, why not now:

The Ferg

There. He looks a little less regal when being dragged around by his armpits by a toddler, but only a little.

Anyway, cats isn’t what I came here to blog about today. It was this, earwig sandwich (or how to nail jelly to walls). A proper blog from back in the days when blogs were on-line diaries. Lulu Labonne is a pen-name, but the rest is real. I like it. It’s a nice change from dragons and swords and blood from time to time. Since I have nothing of any value whatsoever to say this week, I recommend you go read that instead.

OOTS rewrite #3 is underway. The flooring and plasterwork rewrite, the structural stuff having been finally sorted out, the paint-and-polish work yet to come. Blah blah blah. Nothing to see here, move along, move along. I am in love with the ending but I have no doubt my love will not be uniformly shared.

Dragons World Tour: Poland (12/3/2010)

Posted in News

Brief news flash: TAP has been bought by the Poles. Which means the dragons of The Adamantine Palace will soon be playing with Geralt of Rivia on his home turf…

Details later, when I actually know them.

Diamond Cascade: These are not the orcish hordes you’re looking for

Posted in DC

Hammer 7: Bold and daring, yet stealthy as a shadow, Diamond Cascade slipped into the very heart of the enemy camp, intent on learning their numbers. With all the intelligence needed to defeat the foul creatures of darkness, Diamond Cascade slipped away, silent as the night, and yet he was not alone. Another creature has also taken it upon themselves to learn the foul army’s strength, a lady of unsurpassed beauty, with skin of scaly bronze – none other than one of the great dragons that protect the land! With a wink and a nod to one another, Diamond Cascade and the dragon-lady crossed paths and were on their way.

I forget when it was. At some point we took a slimy captive. Turns out our new halfgit friend can talk slimy. Don’t remember whether it was the slimies in the day or the slimies in the night when we took one alive. Slimies in the day, I think. Asked it a load of questions. I think we even had some idea of getting it to lead us to the army it came from (Why? Why would we do that? Why are we going towards the army or orcs and slimies and gods-know-what? Because last I heard, we were supposed to be following a homicidal dwarven priest who was going to lead us to some caves that would take us down to the Underdark where we could fight our way into the middle of an entirely different army. An entirely different army made up of grey dwarves and black elves, half of whom are priests or wizards. And it’ll be in the dark. And miles underground. In tunnels. Where we won’t have a clue where we are. And the dwarven priest has gone to meet his dwarven maker and now we’re following an even more homicidal dwarf who talks to his axe. Yes, you may wonder why we’re looking for this other army, or even for any army at all. But we’re certainly not looking for one made up of orcs and slimies. This is not the orcish hordes we are looking for). Eventually some sense prevails and Shifty sticks a knife in the slimy and sends it off to slimy heaven. If only he’d follow up with The Gnome.

Of course, seeing as we are so amazingly competent, we nevertheless find the army we’re not looking for anyway. Admittedly, I say this as though it was some sort of random accident, but I’m not really a woods and wilderness sort, so for all I know, Wolfgirl led us straight to them under the mistaken impression that this is where we wanted to be. Close run thing as it is, we spot the enormous noisy smelly army only just slightly before they spot us. Trouble is, we’re really stupid, and also cold and hungry. For some reason largely related to the presence of food and warmth within the army camp and the distinct lack of it anywhere else, Shifty and I have this daft idea of sneaking in for a closer look and maybe helping ourselves to some food and blankets. And then let’s not talk about what happened next. We’ll not talk about the being spotted well before acquiring any such warmth or food. Nor about being chased by a gang of orcs and slimies, nor about hiding up a tree and feeling really smug and clever about giving them the slip. Certainly not about the dead branch I happened to hold on to and the being shot at and having nowhere to run. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the dragon-lady showing up and scaring them all off, there’s a good chance that the epic poem of Diamond Cascade would have come to an abrupt end right there and then. As for useful intelligence about the army, well, it’s big and full of slimies and orcs and ogres, right. And it’s still not the army we were looking for.


The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (August 2010 UK, 2012 Pol)

When Berren makes the mistake of stealing a purse from a thief-taker, it should have condemned him to a short and brutal life in the slave-mines. So when the thief-taker offers to train him as an apprentice instead, he can’t believe his luck. But Berren’s new master has secrets of his own, and thief-takers and their apprentices are wont to make enemies far more readily than friends.

thieftakers apprentice cover

The first Thief-Taker’s Apprentice was written as a stand-alone book back in 2006, largely. The Taiytakai and the Moon-Sorcerers of the Diamond Isles were both conceived back then. As of May 2009, Thief-Taker is now due to be published as a trilogy of short novels with the first, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice coming out in the UK on 26th August 2010. An early excerpt (chapter one) is here for those as are interested. The second and third books, The Warlock’s Shadow and The King’s Assassin followed in 2011 and 2012. For some of the stuff in the blurb, there, you have to wait until books two or three.

Other covers: Polish

Polish cover (lo-res)

[Has] the clear potential for a great series if the foreshadowing and hints of much deeper stuff materialize in further installments.” Fantasy Book Critic

A rather nice review from Locus (you have to put up with scanned hardcopy for now):

TTA locus 1

TTA locus 2

“An engaging tale” SFX (although noting that teenage boys can be, well, really quite annoying company at times. Yes they can.)

9.5/10 - “a gripping read, with engaging characters, that bodes well for future books in the series (and it has me that little more eager for ‘The King of the Crags’)” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review. Not going to argue with that.

… a cracking fantasy that deserves to be widely read and enjoyed. – My Favourite Books. With “sharp dialogue” and a “rich setting.

“This apprentice has potential. Please, Mr Deas, can I have some more?” Yes, International Writers Magazine, you may.

“This is very well realised and written fantasy.” Civilian Reader.

The characters are solid and the setting believable, and though the story takes a little while to get off the ground, the narrative developments are engaging, and there’s enough action and revelations to keep the pages turning. The Thief Taker’s Apprentice is the perfect adventure story for teens.” Total SciFi “Online

“…great pace and some impressive depth…” The Wertzone

“…a story for all ages to enjoy…” SFSite

“like Oliver meets Graceling The Bookette review

Or  very well written and full of action and adventure. The Fringe.

Some “truly brilliant moments” for The Booksmugglers.

“A good solid fantasy for all ages.” Books for Life

The Fantastical Librarian “really enjoyed The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice”

“Tautly told, this gripping adventure tells how following one act of outrageous boldness a young cutpurse becomes apprentice to the city’s thief taker, a man driven by a powerful need to settle an old score …” www.lovereading.co.uk

“As a YA read I give this one top marks” – Fixed on Fantasy

“The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs.” www.nudgemenow.com

Is the thief-taker more interesting than his apprentice? And how much, I wonder, does that depend on who you are? Or how young you are? See, the thing is, unless you are in your teens, the main character, he’s not meant for you. LEC book reviews tries to consider the novel from both an adult and a YA perspective:

“With writing, plot and characters on par or above any other YA fantasy I’ve encountered, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is an exciting start to a new series. This book deserves to find its way onto many, many bookshelves, be that of younger or older readers.

“…a great reintroduction to the fantasy genre: a well-written tale that well deserves a read.” Jaime Reviews

“a slow-burning but skilfully crafted affair” Quippe

A couple from Australia too: “The characters are interesting and even mysterious … a good, well-written story for teens.” Ysfetsos

“realistic, complex characters, with a realistic, complex relationship and adventures to match” Specusphere

But the world is a big place, filled with diverse opinion. here’s another Australian: “The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice’ by Stephen Deas is another example of mediocrity that shouldn’t have been let past the editor’s desk,” Yes. Stupid editor. Blame him, but don’t worry, the hose is quickly turned on me. We could also call it “very soggy and misshapen cake, or book, depending on how far we’re taking this analogy.” Why? Well because it plot has been “thrown against the wall like the proverbial pasta to see if it’ll stick” with “one contrivance after another” and “Nothing is explained, everyone acts entirely unrealistically, and by the end of the book the characters you have been reading have as much depth as a sheen of water on the driveway.” Crikey, Fantasy Book Review. That sure sounds like a that sucked as a reading experience. And I kept you up late and made you miss sleep and everything, even though you skimmed and skipped large chunks? I guess we weren’t made for each other, eh?

And now some actual YA reviews (I think):

“I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was written very well and I really enjoyed how the author moved the story along quite quickly … I would recommend this book for young adults who enjoy fast paced books with lots of action. I would not recommend it for people who enjoy books that are happy and optimistic.” from the Little Book Room.

Hmmm. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recommend ANY of my books to people who want happy and optimistic.

The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs. Bookgeeks.

What amounts to a ’suitability for its target audience’ review for Thief-Taker from Readplus in Australia: The novel does contain positive messages and meaningful themes for teenagers about growing-up too fast and wanting to live in an adult world before they are fully prepared to deal with the full consequences.

“Great combat, some magical twists and an author who plays for keeps which makes this title a book that really was a real joy to read.” Tattys Treasure Chest

“…highly enjoyable and gripping.” Scottish Book Trust

“…Berren’s imaginary city is full of recognizable people and emotions all of which are brilliantly conveyed in Stephen Deas’s spare and powerful storytelling” www.lovereading4kids.co.uk

“It doesn’t necessarily change the genre in any groundbreaking ways; but what is available within it is pulled off so well, you can hardly blame him for it … any reader, young or old, should give this a try and see what I am talking about.” Literary Musings

“…gripped me enough that I want to read the sequel! Great, unique storyline with well-crafted characters.” Chicklish

“I would suggest this book to anyone who likes a darker world with very little magic and heroes who are not at always winning the fight.” - KJ

Yup. Reckon I’d go with that.

Appearances (10/3/2010)

Posted in News

Start with the important stuff, right: There’s plenty of author interviews kicking around out there, but it’s not all that opften you get an interview with a muse. Check it out. Check out also the reviews for TAP…

The rewrite of Thief-Taker went back to Gollancz a couple of days back. I’m supposed to be back working on Order of the Scales, but frankly, a short break is in order. OOTS is going to be some heavy work between now and the end of June when it’s supposed to be ready, and I need to catch my breath for a moment, if only to take stock for a moment of how busy I suddenly seem to have become. It all started with this:

Waterstones book of the month

which very quickly turned into this:


Forgive them, for a moment, for getting the title of King of the Crags slightly wrong…

Then there’s this: The Write Fantastic’s fifth anniversary event in Oxford (St Hilda’s College no less, which is about the one college I actually recognise in Oxford) on Sunday 9th May. For anyone who doesn’t know, The Write Fantastic exists to promote fantasy fiction to non-fantasy readers, particularly younger readers.

The after that, there’s the Lincoln Book Festival, where there’s going to be a panel (1pm, Sunday 16th) on genre fiction supplied by the all-powerful John Jarrold. Fantasy, I am your representative, so you’d better all be nice to me for the next couple of months.

Finally there’s the UK Games Expo, on the 5th & 6th June. Might well be there. And of course, there’s Eastercon!

And finally finally,  I got sent these fan-pics of The Sorcerer by Michael Peinkofer! Just goes to show that certain cover-art conventions aren’t limited to the English-speaking editions…

Dragons on tour - Germany

Diamond Cascade: Sleeping in the Woods In Winter

Posted in DC

Hammer 7:  It’s getting rough out here. You’d have thought that we might at least have earned a good night’s sleep after slaughtering slimies. You’d have thought the gods might have smiled on us for that. But maybe they thought hey, there’s a band of brainless tits who think it’s a clever thing to camp down in a forest in the middle of winter in close proximity to a large army of orcs etc. Let’s remind them of all the oh-so-many reasons why they’re wrong. Yeah, there’s nothing like shivering down for a kip in the snow, shagged senseless from a hard day wandering across the icy wilderness and kicking slimy ass only to discover you’re so cold you can’t actually sleep even with enough blankets wrapped around you to look like a small hill. Other bands of wandering sword-slingers, I hear, have wizards or priests who can create magical shelters and can create food and water and warmth. What do we have? We have Holli. Fair play to her, though, she does try to keep people warm at night; it’s just that I’d rather be kept warm by mysterious arcane energy than by a randy gnome. Even the army had, for example, tents and hot food (maybe it was more mud than food, but at least it was hot). What do we have? We have, er… cloaks. And blankets. In the middle of winter.

So yes, maybe we shouldn’t have lit a great big fire when we’re well within the scouting range of an enormous army of orcs and slimies and gods-know-what, but before long it’s either that or freeze to death. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that I finally got warm enough to get to sleep just in time to be woken up in the middle of the night with someone screaming something about ogres and nine-foot tall monsters stomping about the place. They hit hard, too. I see Stalker and Shifty go down one after the other. Like everything else, though, ogres go down when you stick them with enough arrows. That’s what you get for wrecking what little was left of my sleep, you fat-bellied fuckers.


Interviews (2/3/2010)

Posted in News

This week, as work on their final rewrite approaches completion, we interview Syannis and Berren, leading characters in the forth-coming Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. So, guys, tell us a little about yourselves…

Berren: Ok, so I’m learning to be this really cool dude who springs about the place, whacking down bad guys and I’m totally the star of the story and everything…

Syannis: What my idiot apprentice means to say is that he’s learning the trade of thief-taking. What he has still failed to grasp is that this largely consists of talking to people. As you’ll see from his story, he used to cut purses and, literally, shovel shit for a living. I’ve taken pity on him and…

Berren: You mean you were too embarrassed that I stole your purse!

Syannis: …and taken him to teach him the ways of taking thieves. Which mostly consists of trying to batter a few manners into his head and teaching him to read and write.

Berren: And swords! You’re going to teach me swords, right. One day.

Syannis <rolls eyes>: If you ever learn your letters, yes.

Berren: That’s why I want to be a thief-taker. The first time I saw Master Sy, he killed three men who tried to jump him. It was awesome. I want to be like that.

Syannis: It was an unusual day.

(To Syannis) Are the rumours true that you only took Berren on because he’s the spitting image of someone you used to know?

Syannis: I don’t know where you heard that. I fancied an apprentice, that’s all.

Berren: No, he was just mad because I took his purse.

So, Berren, you used to be a thief and now you’re a thief-taker? How did that come about? What’s wrong with a bit of honest work in the first place?

Berren: Look, after the war and the siege and everything, there were a lot of boys and girls born without any fathers. Khrozus’ boys they call us. What happens if there’s no one to look after you in a place like Deephaven, is that you get put into a city orphanage until you’re old enough so they can sell you to someone who wants a young pair of hands. I was lucky to not  wind up on a Taiytakei slave ship. So I got sold to Master Hatchet, who sends his boys out to clean the dung up off the streets and he expects us to pay for our food while we’re at it. How? It’s not as though anyone else is giving us any money. Cleaning up the streets pays off our debt, he says. So we have to start picking pockets and cutting purses to eat. And then he has us running all sorts of other errands. Not like we had much of a choice.

Syannis: This city breeds thieves. That’s what happens when money falls out of the sky.

What about you, Syannis, what’s your story. How did you end up a thief-taker?

Syannis: I came to Deephaven about eight years ago. It seemed to suit my skills. I hate thieves.

Is there a particular reason for that?

Syannis: Yes.

Care to share?

Syannis: Not really, no. It has nothing to do with what I do now.

Berren: That’s not quite… <bites lip>

Well what did you do before?

Syannis: Nothing of any consequence.

Berren: Well where did you learn to fight like that, eh? And what about Kasmin – he called you…

Syannis: He calls me all sorts of things. I had another life before I came to Deephaven. That life is finished. There’s nothing more to say.

Berren: He called you a…

Syannis: Nothing. To. Say.

So this story, why don’t you tell us about what happens?

Berren: Like I said, we’re these really cool dudes who spring about the place, whacking down bad guys and there’s this gang of pirates we’re after and then there are the snuffers and there’s this girl, Lilissa, who’s really sweet and she gets into trouble and then there’s Jerrin who used to be one of Master Hatchet’s boys who’s got it in for me for some reason and he’s doing all this stuff and…

Syannis: Mostly it’s about how hard it is to teach Berren anything that he actually ought to learn. Like how to read and write.

Berren: And I stow away on this boat and there’s this big fight and…

Syannis: And how to keep out of fights.

Berren: Oh, and then there’s this time when I caught out in The Maze and I have to hide…

Syannis: And how to stay out of trouble.

Berren: And then there’s this time when Master Sy fights four men at once! (Looking at Syannis) and the time when I saved your life and you cut that bloke’s hand off. And then there’s that weird scary warlock down at the House of Cats and Gulls that Master Sy knows, and there’s this knife…

Syannis: (pointedly) And how to keep his mouth shut.

Berren: And then there’s this really big fire…

Syannis: And that thief-taking is mostly about talking to the right people and a little bit of detective work and that once you finally know who it is you’re after, you send in a big posse of militiamen while you wait at the back… Fire? What fire? I don’t remember a fire.

One final question. You’ve seen the cover art for your story now. What do you think.

Berren: I think we look cool.

Syannis: Wait, that’s supposed to be us?

Berren: Can I have a big black cloak like that? With a hood? That looks so sweet. I bet it billows out behind you like a great black cloud when you run, too.

Syannis: I bet you’d trip over it.

Berren: Have you actually got a cloak like that? Does that mean I’m going to get one too? And a sword! I have a sword! When do I get my sword?

Syannis: When you learn your letters.

Berren: Yeah, I think the picture’s really great. That’s exactly how I want to be in a couple of years. It’s really us. We’re going to be the most feared thief-taking team in the whole of Deephaven.

Syannis: With a hood? So that all that being feared is completely wasted when no one can recognise you?

Berren: Yeah. All dark and mysterious. Girls go weak for a tall dark mysterious stranger.

Syannis: Firstly you’re a short-arse, and secondly, no generally they don’t.

Berren: Especially with a really cool sword. I think it’s great. As soon as I can, that’s the way I want to look. I’m going to get some clothes like that right now.

Syannis: I think it makes us look like a pair of virgin wannabe snuffers.

Berren: Well you look like an old shopkeeper in your stupid old coat. Those new cloaks are great! When do we get them?

Syannis: And clumsy old cavalry swords left over from the war? I don’t think so. Try using one of those in a narrow alley. You probably couldn’t even hold it properly…

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is published in August 2010