Your Author Needs YOU (27/7/2010)

Posted in News

A stern man with a handle-bar moustache and a swanky hat is pointing at you. Yes, YOU.

No, nor her. Or him. YOU!

It has come to my attention, over the year-and-a-bit since it first came out, that The Adamantine Palace is IMPERFECT. Not in imperfect in the sort of way that reviewers object to (the snail-like pace, the soulless carboard cut-out characters, the bizarrely camp yet lifeless dragons, the risotto-like dialogue, blah blah blah). Those are merely differences of opinion in which we can all serenely smile at each other in the quiet certainty that we know EXACTLY who’s right and who’s a dickhead wrong.

Imperfect in the sort of categorically wrong sort of way. Such as refering to someone as a ‘her’ when they are categorically a ‘him’. That sort of thing. Using the wrong word, basically. Categorically, indisputably wrong. Failures of the proof-readers, one of which was me.

Well we’re not having that. So, in preparation for a future career, I’m here to tell you that these are NOT typos, not a bit of it. They are… OPPORTUNITIES, that’s right. Deliberately and painstakingly woven into the fabric of the manuscript to provide you, the reader, with a chance to win prizes…


OK, look, just help me look less stupid. There are probably some, er, “opportunities” in King of the Crags too and I’d like to get rid of them. So the deal is, if you find one and you’re the first person to tell me, you get to choose a prize from my box of prizes, filled with books, Xbox games, the odd DVD and other stuff I’m throwing out cool stuff. To enter, simply post the typo you think you’ve found as a comment to King of the Crags and we’ll take it from there.

Please be sensible and constructive. And sorry, but (when this eventually becomes relevant), the offer of prizes applies to the UK only. Postage, man.

Alternatively, if you want to laugh at me without going to the trouble of reading an entire book and trying to find the one or two mistakes it may contain, go read tomorrow’s SFX. There might be an interview. Frankly, I have almost no memory of what I said. However, since it was in a pub and I distinctly remember not being able to shut up for at least an hour, I’m sure there must a few things worth a cringe.


There will be (more) flames… (23/7/2010)

Posted in News

Yesterday’s big news, which probably almost everyone who reads this already knows, is that I’ve signed up with Gollancz to write four more fantasy books. Strictly, the signing thing hasn’t happened yet, but the deal is done. So, here I’m going to say a little bit more about what’s coming. However, first…

… a cracking fantasy that deserves to be widely read and enjoyed. – My Favourite Books. With “sharp dialogue” and a “rich setting.” Yes, it’s another review for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, and the more they come in like that, the more stressed I’m going to get about The Warlock’s Shadow not living up to its predecessor. However, I dare say Strange Horizons will pop up at some point to rip it to shreds and generally put me in my place.

Anyway, little more about these new dragon books:

The Black Mausoleum, is intended to be largely a standalone novel, although several of the major characters appear in The Order of the Scales and if there are any major characters left from The Adamantine Palace by then, well, they might make a brief appearance too. The truly dedicated will have noted that The Black Mausoleum doesn’t get a mention in either The Adamantine Palace or King of the Crags, but gets an entry in the gazetteer:

According to legend, the Silver King predicted his own demise and ordered a mausoleum to be built ‘in black marble across the great river from the endless caves.’ The mausoleum is almost certainly a myth, but this has not stopped dragon-riders, priests, blood-mages, alchemists and speakers (most notably Voranin and Vishmir) from looking for it. The Black Mausoleum allegedly houses the Tomb of the Silver King and whatever treasures that entails.

Make what you will of that. There will be some characters. They may well be looking for the Black Mausoleum. There’s a possibility that one or more has a hidden agenda. One of them will be called Indiana Jones.

The Sea Prince, The Dragon Queen and The Silver King:

We’re back in trilogy-land here. Want to know more about the mysterious Taiytakei? You’re in luck – most of the first two books will be set there. Want to know more about the mysterious Silver King? Wellll… OK, a bit. A mystery from The Adamantine Palace will finally be solved (but at least one won’t). A few new ways to try and control dragons will be explored. One will succeed. There will be a magic knife and a spear, too. There is the possibility of some more overt magic, although to be honest I’m still a little hazy on that part of the story. The cast will largely be new, but at least two characters from The Adamantine Palace will make it at least as far as The Dragon Queen. Jon Weir’s favourite character will continue to be annoying. And, as advertised elsewhere, the Thief-Taker’s Apprentice YA trilogy will be one of the major protagonists in this trilogy too.

However, further books notwithstanding, The Order of the Scales will still have a proper end. No major cliffhangers, I promise.

The Black Mausoleum will come out in Spring/Summer 2012 and I expect to start the business of actually writing it in October. The other three books will follow at yearly intervals. More news as and when it happens.

And before anyone asks, no, I don’t know if there will be a map.

Thank Goodness for Trilogies (19/7/2010)

Posted in News

The writing is still sharp, right to the point, without being excessively extravagant and just harsh and biting enough to give it some edge. … Bring on The Order of the Scales, I’m hungry for dragons eating useful food!

Yes, another review for King of the Crags, this time at A Fantasy Reader. A nice one, too. However, it was eclipsed by a piece of fanmail that showed up about the same time (sorry Fantasy Reader):

I read TAP a few months back and instantly fell in love with it, especially Princess Jaslyn and Snow. My only regret was that it was a first novel and that I thought I’d have to wait ages for the second to come out. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago where I suddenly found King of the Crags, devoured it as soon as I finished my exams … and then instantlyhopped online to see if there was going to be another part.

It’s 4AM over here as I write this and when I saw that it’s a trilogy, I squeed so loudly that my puppy woke up and started barking out of fright. YES! There is going to be another part and it’s going to be the end part so that I will finally know how it all turns out — and yet, despite my glee, I’m sad at the thought of everything ending.

I loved the implication that Jehal’s brother and uncle might’ve been lovers; one of the things that did make me sad about your book was that all the romances seemed to be heterosexual ones so I was thrilled to see at least a hint of something else. Lystra was amazing in King of the Crags, you really get to see her come into her own and most of all, I loved seeing so much more of how the dragons think and interact with each other. I love sentient dragons and there are so many dragons-peacefully-allow-humans-to-dominate worlds out there, it was fantastic to come across one where they are breaking free of their bondage and fighting back.

You built an amazing world, populated it with a rich range of believable characters and peppered everything with minor NPCs and backstory galore — speaking as a roleplayer, I would love to be in any game you GMed. XD

Can’t wait for Order of the Scales to come out!

As fanmail goes, there are so many things right with this. Articulate, heartfelt, and full of delight for some relatively little things that not one single review has mentioned (as well as a few bigger things that they have). It’s really nice to know that’s someone’s actually noticed things like Meteroa’s sexuality isn’t entirely straightforward, or appreciates a character like Lystra, who doesn’t get very much of the limelight, but who still has a crucial part to play. Mails like this popping up in my inbox make the whole day glow, they really do. Bad reviews suck, good reviews are great, but speaking for myself nothing beats a good piece of fanmail.

However, the most poignant thing, the reason I’m posting this, was the title of the mail: Thank Goodness for Trilogies. Usually I hear nothing but complaints about that. Sometimes from readers, more often from reviewers. Why oh why oh why does it always have to be trilogies. I’m not even that enamoured of them myself.

Well now I know the answer. It’s so we can make people wake up their puppies at four o’clock in the morning. THAT’s why we write trilogies.

Thank-you, anonymous happy reader.

Diamond Cascade: Interval

Posted in DC

Imagine some tinny music. Buy yourself some ice-cream and some popcorn. Diamond Cascade will now return in September. Dungeon Master permitting.


Sales on a Stick (12/7/2010)

Posted in News

The US cover for King of the Crags, again by Stephen Youll. Magnificent.

Might be some more big news later in the week, but this deserves a post of its own.

Oh look! Snow!

Oh look! Snow!

Diamond Cascade: Things That Aren’t Supposed to Happen

Posted in DC

Alturiak 9: Stalker goes into the cells. I spend the evening talking to the magistrates. There has to be a way out of this, right? Stalker, maybe he was possessed. There’s something not right with him, I can tell. But all I get out of the townsfolk is talk of gallows. Give them half a chance, they’d hang us all. Except they can’t do that, can they? He’d the king’s nephew. King’s nephews don’t hang for merely murdering a few guards.

Murdering a few guards. As if they didn’t matter. That’s what he did. That’s what Shifty did to The Gnome, crazy mad bitch that she was, it was still murder. I’ve killed men. I’ve killed slimeys and thuggers and other things besides. I’ve done a lot of things that were wrong. But I’ve never murdered someone. Not like that. Not with no reason.

And then in the morning, when we go down to see him, when go down to the cells to shake our Stalker by the throat and demand to know what the flying FUCK he was thinking, he’s gone. There’s a dead guard in his cell, the night watchman, and Stalker’s gone. Just like that. And the gibbering halfgit in the cell next door is telling us that what we brought back out of the snow wasn’t Stalker at all, but face-eating shape-shifting monstrosity. Stalker is gone. The Stalker we knew was gone a long time ago, but this is what he’ll be remembered for. Not for the noble things he did, even if most of them were by accident or to fill his own pockets, but for the pointless murders of a monstrosity while the real man we knew is out stiff and cold somewhere in the snow.

No, I’m not having this. I’m a bard. A slayer of stories as much as a maker of them. I can’t bring him back, can’t even find where he fell, but I can change how he ended.

Swayed by the wisdom of Diamond Cascade’s words, the good soldiers of Osmuld quickly galloped away to sound the alarm and call forth the good swords of the north, but it is not before the mystery of Stalker’s memory is solved: It seems he is none other than Lord Corren, nephew of the King of Osmuld himself! This joyous news flooded our hearts, and as the sun set, we bent our knees to the noble lord of this land and pledged, as did he, that our blood would feed the earth before any evil would pass us that night; and so we steeled ourselves to face the orc once more.

Nor did they disappoint. Goblin wolf-riders came, drawn to our lures. Then foot soldiers. Orcs, too many to count. Long and hard, Lord Corren and his valiant company fought them off, slaying many. Many a wound was given, and many taken too, until in the dead of the night, under the glare of a gibbous moon, a great ogre strode forth, a mighty monster, a champion of champions, scattering Diamond Cascade and his friends aside. Yet Lord Corren, alone, had the courage to face him, and one against they other they fought, in a cataclysm of blows that shook the very earth and made all else seem futile. Around them, the victorious goblins paused, transfixed by the fury of their duel, and yet, in the end, it was the ogre who fell with a mighty moan, and Lord Corren who stood victorious, drenched in blood that was not his own. And the goblins and the orcs wailed and shrieked and slid away into the night, so many, yet so afraid of but one man whose strength and spirit would not break. And thus Lord Corren, blood of Osmuld, served and saved his land unto his last breath, as he stood, still like a statue, glaring into the darkness until every last goblin was gone before he too fell dead beside the monster he had slain.

There. Let that be the story we sing of him.


[In fact, Diamond Cascade will be taking a short break, but should be back, with luck, by the end of the month]

Foreshadowing (7/6/2010)

Posted in News

First off, a couple of early reviews for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice: - “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, although I’m sure there will be plenty more. And

“This apprentice has potential. Please, Mr Deas, can I have some more?” Yes, International Writers Magazine, you may. Books two and three, The Warlock’s Shadow and The King’s Assassin will follow in 2011 and 2012. I’m writing them both right now (strictly rewriting, if there’s truly a difference). Faster than I was a few days ago, having been poked about King of the Crags…

“I also sincerely dislike the fact that I now have to wait for the next instalment to find out what happens next. *Pokes Stephen with a pointy metal stick* Write faster!! Ow! The next installment is with my editor! Poke him!

Even a new review of The Adamantine Palace “Deas gives classic fantasy a unique twist, and I am really curious to see where he will take us from here.”

After posting last week about how role-playing games were a fantastic sandbox for story design, I thought maybe I should justify that statement (of the obvious, to my mind) in a little more depth. So here and there I’ll be putting up what hints and tips I can that I think help in the design of a good story. With a bit of luck, they’ll work for writing novels just as well as for writing adventure campaigns, and I thought I’d start with foreshadowing.

So what is this foreshadowing thing and where do I get some? It’s actually pretty straightforward. Look it up on the internet if you want, but basically, it’s dropping hints early on about stuff that’s going to happen later. So in the first scene of your story, you describe the room where your main character lives and you put a gun on the wall and make of point of mentioning that it’s loaded. In the last scene, someone takes the gun off the wall and shoots him. Mentioning the gun much earlier than it was actually relevant to the story, that’s foreshadowing. Easy. If the apparently goody two-shoes king’s mage is actually going to launch a coup half way through your story and seize the kingdom in the name of Zarkz the Lord of Demons, then foreshadowing is, well, mentioning the existence of Zarkz the Lord of Demons at some point before it happens. Foreshadowing is having the players/protagonists get wind that the king’s mage isn’t quite as nice as people think, whether they see something themselves or hear it through others (if the entire focus of the plot is stopping Zarkz, then it’s arguable that this isn’t foreshadowing so much as, well, plot. So imagine the focus of the story being elsewhere…)

Anyway, the lesson I’ve learned from running too many RPGs is that, whatever you think your story is going to be about, there’s a fair chance that your players will have other ideas and go find some other piece of story. So you might have meant them to investigate the king’s mage and stop Zarkz from being summoned, but in fact, chances are they’ll start running a scam involving bear-baiting, a druid and a lycanthrope, and the first they’ll know about Zarkz is when the Abyssal Palace rises from the earth, half the city falls apart around their feet and there are demonic servitors roaming the streets. So look, for my playing group, I don’t just put a loaded gun on the wall and hope they players notice; scatter them about like confetti. The champion bear is called Zarkz and everyone goes on about how he fights like a demon. That sort of thing. I ran a game once set in the near future where every single item of news ended up being related to the plot, somehow. Just litter the storyline with stuff that takes your fancy, even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with it. Half the time your players won’t notice, the other half you’ll come up with something ten sessions later. Trust your imagination. You can throw in a bit of foreshadowing without having a clue what you’re going to do with it. Have no fear – you’ll find something. Leave ‘em lying around, and whenever you need a bit of inspiration as to how the hell you’re going to cope with whatever bizarre plan of action your players come up with, they’ll be waiting for you with open arms…

Books, I think, are much the same. Maybe a bit easier and a bit harder at the same time, in that readers are a little more attentive than players. You don’t need to litter the place with bits of foreshadowing quite so much and you need can’t let them go unused quite so much.

I’ve heard it said, on the subject, that if you’re going to put a loaded gun on the wall in scene one, someone had better use it before the end of the story. Well if you make a big deal of it, yes, but otherwise my advice is to throw the kitchen sink at the foreshadowing, don’t worry if you don’t even know where half your ideas will lead or how they tie into the plot, and don’t worry about the devices you end up not using. In a game, your players will pick up on the ones that interest them and all the rest, well, they probably never noticed in the first place. In a book you can take out the ones that didn’t go anywhere later. That’s what rewrites and editors are for.

Diamond Cascade: Probably the Worst Thief in the World

Posted in DC

And another thing. The daft halfgit who thinks he stole the Scales of Tyr is languishing in prison here. Well, I say languishing. Languishing in the sort of nipping-out-to-steal-the-guards-supper-whenever-you-feel-like-it way. As far as I can tell, he sees prison as being a handy sort of free hotel. Obviously hasn’t been in some of the prisons up north. Well he’s in for a surprise tonight.