A Parting of Ways (31/8/2010)

Posted in Critical Failures

This week’s post isn’t about books. It’s not about the state of the world. Today I need to talk about something much more personal, more intimate. I need to talk about the break-up of a relationship that’s been with me for a very long time, for a decade and then some. A relationship that was once filled with love, but which, if I am honest, has become tired and drab and has lived off  its memories for years. Something I need to get out of my system.


Dear Ben and Jerry

We’ve been together such a long time. that it’s hard to believe there was a time before we met. I remember it, though. I was a single guy who liked to sit down on an evening from time to time and watch some TV, or maybe a movie with a little company. I wasn’t picky about that. A bag of cheesy nachos one week, maybe some salted cashew nuts the next, or maybe a small trifle. I guess I wasn’t the sort for a long-term commitment, or at least that’s what I thought. I played the field. And then I met you. I’ll never forget the flavour your wore for our first evening together. ‘Chocolate Fudge Brownie’, I think it was, but that was mere foreplay. With ‘Pulp Addiction’, you seduced me deep into your creamy folds. With ‘From Russia With Buzz’, we should have been together forever.

But then you changed. For a while, I thought you’d left me, but then you came back, dazzling and renewed. With ‘Dublin Mudslide’, and my tongue yearned for nothing else. I thought we were the perfect couple. All those evenings we sat together on the sofa. And yes, there were children, and they took their toll, but they would have loved you too, in time. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure they would have loved you too. Let’s face it, they’re not exactly picky.

You haven’t had those flavours for me for a long time now. Sure, you came up with some others. ‘One Sweet Whirled’, ‘Bohemian Raspberry’, but they weren’t the same. It hasn’t been the same for a long time. Who are we kidding? We’ve moved apart, so far apart that you’re not even the first thing I look for in the freezer aisle any more.

You don’t excite me any more. Maybe it’s me that’s changed, but I’m fairly sure it’s you. The list of ingredients pretty much gives you away there. I don’t suppose you even care now, but it’s over between us. I have to move on. I have a new sofa-desert in my life now.


Ultimate Fantasy Cover Art (24/8/2010)

Posted in Critical Failures

Abercrombie, Charlton, Sanderson, Newton, you think you and your swanky new covers look so goddamn pretty, but pretty is a relative thing…Master of the Obvious

I don’t know who the artist is, but I’d like to shake him by the hand.

Can I have a Young Adult please? (24/8/2010)

Posted in News

“I highly recommend The Admantine Palace to all readers of fantasy. Even if it has been years since you last read a book about dragons, don’t hesitate to give this one a try. You will not be disappointed. SFF Chat. Yep, can’t resist starting with another fine review for The Adamantine Palace.

Back to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (3-star review in issue 200 of SFX on its way, apparently, but I don’t know what it says). While we’re at it, Civilian Reader has this to say: “I really enjoyed reading Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, and I’ll definitely be looking out for future novels in the series.”

Well good. However, a couple of comments have captured my attention.

“I was also not sure, upon finishing, if this was YA fantasy or not – I’ve read that it is, but there are some pretty dark and/or graphic scenes in the story, which makes me question if this is accurate.” (from the same review)

“I actually liked Syannis as a character more than I liked Berren because as Thea says, he did have a certain degree of unpredictability as well as an intriguing back story, and that is perhaps another issue since the book is a YA novel and I ended up liking the adult character more.” (from the Booksmugglers)

These aren’t isolated observations either, there are similar comments in other reviews and I’m sure they will continue. I have no problem with that. All opinions are equally valid. So here’s mine:

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is intended to be a YA book. That’s not to say adults shouldn’t enjoy it too, but in this book, I’m specifically writing for teenage boys. I happen to think that teenage boys who read fiction probably deserve to be treated pretty much as adults. The content and the style of prose remain as they would be for an adult fantasy novel. And yes, here and there it’s dark. Knives figure prominently and knives are nasty. But look, knives and knife-crime are (apparently) an issue for teenage men. How big an issue I’m not sure, but big enough to make the news every few months. I see no reason why the sort of fourteen-year-old who’s at all likely to pick up a book like this and read it should be talked down to.

And it doesn’t surprise me at all that an adult reader finds Master Sy more interesting. He’s got secrets he holds very close, and they’re big and dark and yes they’ll be back with avengance in the second and third books. In this book, I too find Master Sy to be the more interesting character (that changes as the series goes on, I might add). He’s much more my age, he has a past with some pretty ugly bits, he’s much more like the me of today than Berren, who lives almopst entirely in the here-and-now, is. But on the other hand, I was fourteen once. I remember what it was like and I remember who my heroes were back then, and I’m pretty sure if I asked teenage me which one I liked best, I’d have gone for Berren. Master Sy is written for adult me, Berren for the person I used to be more than half a lifetime ago.

I set out to write a book here that will appeal to adults both old and young, and I’m glad that the, er… older ones ones only barely past their teens and still in the first flush of youth, honest guv, are finding the thief-taker and his lad to be a good read. But that’s only half the story. I’ve reviewed young adult fiction in days gone by, and I found a lot of it pretty tiresome, actually, but that was adult me reading a book that wasn’t meant for adult me. When, much too late in a couple of cases, I turned around to teenage me and asked him what he thought, I found I got quite a different answer. Where are the Young Adult readers? Where are the Young Adult reviewers? Boys in particular? Difficult, I imagine, to set yourself up a review blog and be taken seriously at that sort of age. Who speaks for you? Do they do so fairly? The consistency of review for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice troubles me. Maybe the readers I mostly wrote for will  think TTA is total tosh that doesn’t speak to them at all. Or maybe they think it’s great. How will I know if I never hear from you?

So I’d like to find out. I know there are “Young Adults” out there who have read The Adamantine Palace, so maybe you’re reading this. Maybe you came here by another route. Anyway: I have half a dozen copies of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice I’d like to give away. You have to be under eighteen, you have to be male, and you have to give me an honest opinion of what you think. Doesn’t have to be articulate or eloquent or at any great length, just honest. You don’t have to tell me your name, but you will have to give me an address I can post to. That’s the deal. I send you a free book, you tell me what you thought.

Oh, and probably best to get in touch via the contact page, eh?

Back (17/8/2010)

Posted in News

I have battled Poseidon, I have scaled mighty cliffs, explored lost islands and hidden coves and supervised the construction of irrigation projects that would make a rice-farmer weep for joy. I have…

OK, OK, I’ve come back from a family holiday at the beach. My way sounded better <sulk>.

I have also, finally, finally, truly and really arrived as a fantasy author, as the ultimate you-write-epic-fantasy thing has happened at last. Yes, it’s a Tolkien comparison. Sort of. If the implication is meant to be that we both drew on bits history for inspiration, well then I think JRR wins that by a country mile, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s a little article about thief-takers (the real thing) on Wikipedia. It really only scratches the surface, but it turns out that’s about as much as you need to know to write a book about them…

There’s a few new reviews kicking about. One from The Booksmugglers for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. Some “truly brilliant moments” aside, I can’t help but smirk a little when someone finds the thief-taker more interesting than his apprentice. Yes, indeed, Syannis is the enigma for the not-so-young adult readers.

Didn’t make me smirk as much as this review of The Adamantine Palace, though.

“Deas has a deft hand with worldbuilding and history. I absolutely loved all the strange and sinister little touches, like the Scales, that he put into his world. I could have gobbled up twice what he put in without blinking. And honestly, history in fantasy novels usually puts me to sleep, but in TAP I got just enough to keep me curious.”

But the smirk comes at the bit about Zafir. “I sincerely hope that Zafir proves to be more than Jehal’s puppet in the sequel” and a whole lot more. If you’ve read King of the Crags, go and read this review and you can smirk too. It’s nice to know that there’s one reader out there who’s most likely going to punch the air and whoop with joy about exactly halfway through… heh heh.

Status report for editor: The Warlock’s Shadow remains one rewrite away from submission, I appear to have a synopsis of The King’s Assassin that’s about as long as the book itself is supposed to be, I’m still waiting for the edits for The Order of the Scales to Come back and I have a steadily growing urge to get on and start The Black Mausoleum[1], The Sea Princes and something for which I don’t have a title yet but which amused me enough to go and find out who holds the copyright to Fu Manchu.

[1] Yes, I know, I started this some months ago, but it turns out I started something else. Hey ho.

Dear Activist (10/8/2010)

Posted in Critical Failures

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve come across the phrase “This is the fault of governments” while browsing otherwise interesting and thought-provoking articles on the internet. There is a risk, if I see it again, that I may poke myself in the eye with something sharp just to relieve the pain. What made it particularly painful was that, in both cases, the point being made was otherwise lucid, well-researched, references were given to source material to back up its assertions and one with which I happened to strongly agree. Hurrah! Fill the internet with intelligent, well-reasoned SOLUTIONS to the problems of the world. More please!

But “This is the fault of governments.” makes me want to rant and shout. Aside from the obvious retort (if it’s the fault of governments then quick, let’s get rid of them. Replace them with, er…some anarchy, yeah, that’ll work. Phew, the environment sure dodged a bullet there), what, exactly, makes up a government? People, that’s what. And who votes for a government? That would be people again. Who chooses to run for office? Yep, people. Who implements their decisions? Who abides by the rule they set down? Who enforces them? Er, that would be some more people again. That would be us. So when I get to “It’s the government’s fault,” or “the government is responsible,” or some such, I’m left with this powerless feeling. Y’know, that I can’t do anything, even if I want to. Which is bollocks.

The injustices, the short-sightednesses, the selfish evils, they are the fault of people[1]. But when we have a point to make, we don’t say that. We blame the government, or some other remote body (also made up of people). It’s the first rule of propaganda to reduce all data to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’, ‘Them’ and ‘Us’. Them (the government) bad, us (you and me) good and it really ticks me off whenever I see it. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT, or at least that’s the principle that’s supposed to underlie a democracy, isn’t it? So STOP TRYING TO MAKE OUT THAT I’M NOT.

By following the first rule of propaganda, we are telling people that they aren’t in charge of their destiny. We blame distant politicians and bureaucrats, whose choices may well have little to do with what ‘we’ think or want, but they are still our responsibility. Blaming ‘the government’ over and over is convenient and easy and hardly likely to start a pub fight, but it has a hidden message: Repeat after me: It’s the government’s fault. Not your fault. Them, not us. We are not them. They are not us. No wonder everyone feels so disenfranchised. The subtext of almost every piece of political propaganda from whatever part of the spectrum you care to examine is that ‘the people’ and ‘the government’ are different things. And they’re not [2]. Blaming the government seems to me to be a license for general apathy and aimless discontent. ‘They’ are in charge, ‘we’ have no say in what happens, life’s not too bad (for most of us), so what’s the point in rocking the boat? Lo and behold and look around. Is it simply that you know that you’re only preaching to the converted? Because if it is, that’s pretty sad, and not just for you.

I guess this outcome happens to suit some people. But you, dear activists out there, I don’t think you’d count yourself as part of that happy clique. So why do you keep doing it?

End of rant.

[1] So are a lot of good things, but for some reason we don’t seem to hear nearly so much about those. Which is a shame.

[2] In any country with a reasonably honest democratic process for electing one, anyway.

[3] Although if it was down to me they would be and the Dalai Lama would become dictator-for-life with supreme and unchallenged power across the globe. However, that’s a rant for another day. For now, just make sure you never vote me any kind of worthwhile power. I don’t want it and you wouldn’t like what I did with it.

A Touch of Klaas (3/8/2010)

Posted in News

The first re-write of The Warlock’s Shadow is finished. There’s a sketchy draft of The King’s Assassin almost sorted out. What this means is… It’s finally time to start work on something new. The Great Re-Writeathon, which if I remember rightly started about last September, is over. It has spanned ten months and four books. Time for something new at last. Time for The Black Mausoleum.

Now I’m not going to say much about The Black Mausoleum, mainly because I haven’t written it yet and don’t know much about it[1]. I have the opening scene. I have some characters. There are some bare plot bones. What there aren’t, are any details. All the flesh has yet to be grown and hung in the right places. And within this congealing soup of  ideas and stringy bits of plot, lies the lurking chilli of opportunity.

What? MORE opportunity? Didn’t we already have some of that last week?

Yes indeed.

For a limited time only (16th September, to be exact), I have a something special in my box of prizes. You may, in a very specific way, put a character into my book. In a very specific way, as in they get a walk-on part that consists of showing up and then getting murdered in some very final fashion. Stamped on by a dragon. That sort of thing. Maybe they get to be tormented or tortured some first.

I have it on good authority that there really are at least a couple of “opportunities” in King of the Crags. I’ll extend the offer to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice too (26th August). Spaces are limited[2]. First come, first served. Etc. Etc. So: Find typos and get to see your noisy neighbour, lousy boyfriend, the girl that snubbed you back at school, the boss who just never appreciates you EATEN BY DRAGONS! [3]

[1] But what about the synopsis, I hear you ask. Ha! Like that ever bears more than a skeletal resemblance to the actual plot.

[2] “And Lo, the mighty dragon did stomp upon the sea of pointless characters who are named for no apparent reason, and their names were Shem and Lem and Wem and The Person Who Axed Firefly[4] and Clem and…” Nah. Too Biblical.

[3] I reserve the right to Just Say No to anything that doesn’t seem to fit, names that simply don’t work or anything I simply don’t like. Live with it. If your school bully was called Samson Womblecrotch, I fear I will struggle to find a place for him in my world…

[4] Don’t waste your prize – he’s already in. Along with the constantly-rising-from-the-dead-for-the-love-of-science-and-reason-why-won’t-you-just-die Klimitange Skeptic