Of Hoods and Men (28/9/2010)

Posted in Critical Failures


Berren: ‘Ere, look. No one’s using this site right now. We could squat here for a bit.

Syannis: Oh, for pity’s sake. Can’t we just go home?

Berren: But there’s snuffers!

Syannis: Right. So I kill them. Sorted.

Berren: But I like doing sneaky stuff.

Syannis: Get that hood off. You look like an idiot.

Berren: Everyone else is wearing hoods these days. It’s a fashion statement.

Syannis: No it’s not. It’s ooo-ooo, look at me, I’m all dark and sinister. I have, like issues and stuff.

Berren: You mean like you.

Syannis: Stupid boy. I don’t have issues. I have a deep simmering rage that burns for revenge on those who stole my kingdom and butchered my family. That’s not issues. Issues is having a big sister who humiliates you with cutting sarcasm. Or parents who’ll only buy you a cheap second-hand car when you’re old enough to drive instead of a brand-new 4×4 like all the rich kids have. I don’t have issues – you’re the one with issues.

Berren: Me?

Syannis: You’re the one who wants to skulk about wearing a cloak and a hood all the time, loudly proclaiming to the world how sinister and dangerous you think you are, even though you’re not.

Berren: And you won’t let me!

Syannis. Exactly. That’s what I mean. You have issues.

Berren: You kill people for a living. That’s not having issues?

Syannis: No. That’s a job.

Berren: Er… Threehands? You remember Threehands?

Syannis: (pausing) That might have been a little over the top.

Berren (smugly): See. Issues.

Syannis: Look, just because I’m a bottomless lake of acid anger and resentment with a dark undertow of bitter vengeance, that’s different. And even if it isn’t, just because I’m a bit crotchety…

Berren (spluttering): A bit crotchety?

Syannis: … doesn’t mean I want everyone to know about it. You hood-and-cloak youngsters, it’s a fashion statement, that’s all it is. OOOooh… I don’t care about social values and conformity and fitting in and tedious crap like that, no, I have to be different and I have to make sure the world knows that I’m different and scary and filled with troubles. Ooooh, I’m so dangerous.

Berren (under his breath): Goes down well with the ladies though.

Syannis: What?

Berren: A bit of danger. A bit of edginess. Has an allure, doesn’t it? And attraction, eh? (under his breath again) not that you’d know about any of that.

Syannis: You mean, you set yourself up as a loose cannon who’s on the edge, who might turn into a psycho nut-job at any moment, who’s driven by dark desires he can’t entirely control, who’s probably an obsessive borderline stalker, just might turn out to be a rapist or an axe-murderer but more likely will end up dead in a ditch with a knife in him like the sad loser he actually is under all that facade, and women like that?

Berren: (points silently to the urban fantasy and paranormal romance section)

Syannis: Oh for pity’s sake… This site sucks. I don’t know why we even came here. I’m going home.

Berren: Don’t forget your hood!

Syannis (leaving): Boy!

Berren (running after him): I’m just saying you might get laid more…

Diamond Cascade: Shifty’s Friends

Posted in DC

Alturiak 13: Strong was Diamond Cascade’s desire to leave this sink of corruption and return to battling the vile hordes of darkness sweeping the land; yet as he prepared to leave, word came of one of Diamond Cascade’s most dire foes. No less than the wicked dwarf Durmijeron might be found within this place, for he is a servant of the seventh house of the city, the house of Valdas whose symbol is the two-headed serpent, and in matters of this house, many strange deeds are afoot. Diamond Cascade vowed to bear the stench of this City of Sin for as long as it would take to bring the “white dwarf” to final justice.

No hurry though.

So Shifty takes us to some place he knows, The Flying Goose or some-such, not that I much care apart from needing to know where to stagger back to once I’m done partying. I have to admit, I’d kind of thought the whole letter delivering business was Shifty’s problem, since he’s the one carrying it, and the rest of us would be left to our own pleasures (or whatever substitutes for them in the case of The Monk and the Knight of Something). But no, there’s a mad dwarf (can we meet a dwarf who’s not mad, please, one day? Or mad in a has-a-fetish-for-stamps sort of way, instead of mad in a has-a-fetish-for-severed-heads kind of way? Or do dwarves have the same social management principles as the elves and the reason we only ever find lunatics is because they’re the ones who weren’t allowed to stay at home)? Mad Dwarf recognises Shifty but not before The Monk has to kick his butt in an arm-wrestle and thus piss him off (because the loony social outcasts of elves and dwarves getting together is, like, a total recipe for social harmony. Not). The Mad Dwarf has a  friend (Karallis Fane? But I’ll remember him as the man who thought that wearing a deep purple cloak over dark red clothes mad him look cool instead of making him look like he’d just crawled out from under a bad accident involving several tuns of wine) who has to show up and we all have to walk off to some swanky house run by some Lord Smelly Arse (Aros Reekiel, was it?) who then proceeds to ask all sorts of questions that I, for one, would prefer not to answer, such as ‘who are you and why did it take so long for my letter to get here and what have you been up to on the way’? We tell him some bollocks, but here and there the odd bit of unguarded truth slips out. On the plus side, Lord Smelly Arse shares our dislike for Durmijeron. On the minus, well, now everyone knows about the stupid riddle the Gnomes left for us.

Afterwards, Shifty and I go to a pawn shop and offload the shit we lifted from the dark elves while we were busy pretending to help the Gnomish Kingdoms. Got to say, the plus side of having half your old friends killed: You get to keep their share. Never seen so much gold. Ever. Or so many pornographic paintings of dwarvish ‘ladies,’ but that’s another matter.

Downside of half your old friends getting killed? New friends. Yes, The Monk, The Mage and The Knight of Something, all still here. Come on bandits, where are you when I need you?

After that, maybe some more shit went down, but if it did, I was in an alcohol, sex and I-have-more-gold-than-I’ve-ever-seen related coma, and it went down without me. Unlike my temporary friends Romana and Tallulah.


FREE!!! (21/9/2010)

Posted in News

The author of this site is current in Peru, somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca, fervently conducting some thorough research on mountains for The Order of the Scales.

I’ve cleared my desk and handed in my pass. By the time I come back, I’ll officially be a full-time writer.

Diamond Cascade: The Most Beautiful City in the World

Posted in DC

Alturiak 13: The cesspit of the north, they call it in the more civilised cities of Osmuld. The Strip. Those who live there call it the Beautiful City, yet it is to beauty as a whore it to a lady. The miles of unadulterated, undiluted vice that lie along the far cliffs of the North Coast. Yet here, amid this nest of corruption, amid the endless bawdy houses and taverns and drinking holes and gambling dens and smoke houses, all wreathed in gaudy faerie fire, brazen as the strumpets within them, lay Diamond Cascade’s destination. Delivered at last, the letter carried from Gammersbridge, was like a weight taken from Diamond Cascade’s back. An onerous and repellent duty, finally discharged. Outside, the kingdoms of the isle groaned under the crushing weight of the evil bearing down on them, yet here it was as if no such peril awaited; indeed, should an army of darkspawn approach this place, they would doubtless be welcomed with the same open arms as any other and fleeced of their worldly goods.

Ah, man, can I stay? Can I just live here? Like, forever? Why am I running about getting myself nearly killed when I still have gold in my pockets and a place like this exists in the world. I so don’t want to leave.


In Defence of the Urban 4×4 Driver (14/9/2010)

Posted in News



Ah well. Drawn a blank there, so I’ll wallow in self-indulgence instead. Take this Trudi Canavan (at last)!


There’s also another review that looks at both The Adamantine Palace and King of the Crags: “The first book was a marvellous debut.  The second book trumped it hands down.  The excitement, thrills and spills anticipated in the final book promise to be an incomparable fantasy ride.” Media Culture. Makes me wonder how you reviewer folks deal with trilogies – sure, the first book has to stand on its own, but does the second book? Or does the first book influence how you review the second? Do you go back and re-evaluate the whole trilogy when you’ve read all three? How often do you find yourself thinking differently about the first book after reading the last?

Something for another day. Back to the self-indulgence, and here’s a whole slew of reviews for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (the thematic similarity of the covers in this picture says something. I’m just waiting for the local Waterstones to have a special hooded man display (or in the case of City of Ruin not-actually-hooded-but-trying-to-act-like-he-ought-to-be) in their SFF section).


First off, an interesting review from LEC book reviews that tries to consier 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.

Total SciFi Online have a go at seeing from both angles too: “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.

An old fan of The Adamantine Palace: “[Has] the clear potential for a great series if the foreshadowing and hints of much deeper stuff materialize in further installments.” Fantasy Book Critic

There’s something slightly flattering about being in the 200th edition of SFX, even if three stars and “An engaging read” is the best I can get out of an it-was-OK review there. Ho hum. However, I’ve had a pretty good response to my request for younger reviews. All six copies have gone out and a couple more besides and the first review is in:

“I very much enjoyed The Thief Takers Apprentice. I was enthralled by the world, the characters and, most of all, the plot.” F – aged 13.

Probably doesn’t mean all that much to anyone else, but I am insanely pleased.

Finally a review in Locus, stuck at the bottom here because it’s scanned. Hard to pull a quote from it, but rather nice if you read it in its entirety.

TTA locus 1

TTA locus 2

Diamond Cascade: What do you mean he’s not actually dead? Oh, he is now.

Posted in DC

Alturiak 12: It was with a heavy heart that Diamond Cascade and those of his companions that remained buried their fallen friends. Many a word was said in praising their honour, their courage and their virtue. Lord Corren had fallen in defence of his kingdom, and the valiant gnomish priest had fallen at his side, in defence of naught but the freedom of a people who were not her own, but who had fought for hers as she now fought for them. Toasts were raised in their memories, songs were sung and yes, tears were shed. Yet duty and honour still called, and all too soon, Diamond Cascade’s eyes turned to the north, to the den of vice and thievery that is the north coast, where Diamond Cascade had one duty left to discharge: To deliver a letter carried all the way from Gammersbridge to the dread lord of thieves that might yet issue a call to arms among those most lowly of fellows against the rising darkness. Inspired by the valour and the courage of Lord Corren and the righteousness of Diamond Cascade’s cause, many flocked to his banner and pledge their swords, yet to face the evils that awaited them, only the most noble were chosen.

Yeah. Many offered to clamp Diamond Cascade and what were left of his companions in irons and let them rot in some oubliette. Or else simply hang them and get on with it. Thanks, Stalker, my erstwhile friend. And thanks to you to The Gnome, in whatever afterlife you’ve found. Thanks a lot. Now even more people want to kill me. Dammit, all I wanted was a quiet life of wine and loose women and maybe some good music. And here I am, traipsing all over the place in the middle of winter, freezing my bits off because we can’t manage to stay in one place for more than a few days (or minutes, sometimes) without pissing off the locals so much that they try to have us arrested.

So. Right. New plan. No way am I hauling my frostbitten arse all the way up to the North Coast in the middle of winter with hordes of Slimeys and Thuggers and gods-know-what else rampaging about the place, not without some serious protection. And the last bit of protection (stalker, yet, this means you) turned out to be more of a liability than an asset. So don’t blame me for being picky this time. It’s not too difficult to convince some of the town magistrates (for ‘magistrate’ read, ‘occasionally useful enforcer of the law’) to up sticks and leave. I mean, who’d want to hang around in a town whose gates don’t fit properly when there’s an army on the march? Of course, we couldn’t be at all straightforward about it. Who do I want to travel with? Well, a posse of the Knights of Tyr, that would do. Hard as rocks and about as bright, too. Just the sort to stand in the way of all the arrows when we’re ambushed by bandits on the road and then be too up themselves afterwards to even notice any looting that might happen to happen. What do I get? Another elvish monk. Whoppee-Doo. Like the last one was such an amazing success. I become more and more convinced that the elvish race has a laudable and straightforward attitude towards those of their kind who don’t quite ‘fit in.’ They kick them out into our lands and hope they’re never heard of again. Just why they all have to land on me is a mystery. Maybe one day, when I meet an elf who isn’t either a blind swordsman on a quest to defeat some mystery monster that he can’t even describe (although presumably what matters is that he’d recognise the smell when he finally blundered randomly into its path) or a bloody monk, someone will explain.

Oh, and a wizard, which is so going to spoil all my fun. Crapsticks. Someone else who knows magic when they see it. I’d like to stab him in the back while he’s sleeping, but that’s not really me. What I’d really like it for someone else to stab him in the back while he’s sleeping.

After those two, when a knight does finally show up, I almost don’t care whether he’d a knight of Tyr or a knight of the Monkey-Headed God of Rhyming Gibberish. It has a sword and it can swing it. Good enough. With a bit of luck they’ll all last just long enough to not quite get to the coast.

So. Stalker killed half the town guard. I’ve taken the best men it can offer. The gates are broken and there’s an advancing army less than a day away. Gods. I don’t even know what the place is called. Doomed, probably, but I’ll remember it as Wonkygates.


What Exactly Does Finished Mean Anyway (7/9/2010)

Posted in News

At the time of writing, I have four novels all at various stages of completion.

The Order of the Scales is with my editor for editing. Eventually it will come back. Some form of rewrite will occur. Then there will be copy-editing, another (minor) rewrite and then the proof-reading (during which I probably won’t change the ending this time).

The Warlock’s Shadow is probably one spit-and-polish rewrite away from being ready to be sent to my editor.

The King’s Assassin exists as a complete first draft. It’s a bit rubbish at the moment, needs at least one major rewrite, but it’s recognisable as a complete story and largely the one that will appear in print one day.

The first draft of The Black Mausoleum is, er…. started.

Now all of that’s probably not very interesting unless you’re my editor, but I think I’ve declared that I’ve ‘finished’ at least two of them at some point in the past. Which might have made sense in the context in which it was said, but does make me wonder what an author actually means when he or she says something is finished.

Is it when the first draft is complete? All the creative hard work is done, after all, and the rewrites are just touching up, right? Well I used to think that, but no, sometimes rewrites involve taking large chunks, throwing them away and replacing them with new large chunks. So no, first draft is NOT finished. Kind of obvious when you stop to think about it.

Maybe a more generally accepted ‘finished’ is when something is submission-ready; when an author genuinely thinks they’ve finished and have something that’s ready to go to print. No author would submit if they didn’t think that, right? Right? I mean, we wouldn’t do it just because it was ‘well, mostly done anyway’ and we were aching for that next advance cheque, right? And editors don’t generally change much, do they? Do they? They don’t for example, take your 200,000 word manuscript and advise you to throw away 185,000 words of it and build a new novel around the remainder? They wouldn’t do that, would they?

Yes, they would. In fact they delight in it. If something was always ‘finished’ when it was submitted, editors would be a bit pointless. If we can’t say we’re finished until we’ve satisfied our editor, you might as well throw in the copy-edit as well. Changes here are supposed to be more about the structure of sentences and paragraphs than about scenes or entire acts, but that’s not to say it can’t happen. You can throw in the proof-reading too.

Even once a book is in print, typos still get found and corrected for subsequent editions. If you’re strict with your definitions, maybe a book is finished when it’s permanently out of print. Although maybe by then it’s almost finished in a different way.

In order to eradicate such confusion, I propose the following taxonomy of ‘finished’s

Done: I have written a first draft that seems fine right now, but will bear little resemblance to the final published story.

Sorted: I have written the second draft that apparently needs just a little spit and polish to be complete, but will still bear little resemblance to the final published story.

Poobah-poobah<unnecessary scene>: I truly and utterly believe I have completed the finest work of fiction ever beheld. Every word is a polished jewel of inspiration. I am merely giving this to my editor so I might revel in his gasps of admiration and delight. I am a Hephaestus among word-smiths, whose creative genious will evolve my readers to higher planes of thought.

Finnished: I have taken my editors many and oft sarcastic comments in my stride. I have also taken both the appropriate calming medicines and the necessary remedial action. Although I will never publicly admit this, it’s probably better than it was.

Really Finnished: I have finished the copy-edit and it is perfect. Now leave me alone.

Finished: I have done the damn proof-reading and removed the fucking typos. I never want to see this book again.

So, for future reference, and just so we all know what we’re talking about, The King’s Assassin is Done, the Warlock’s Shadow is Sorted, and Order of the Scales is Poobah-poobah<unnecessary scene>. There. Isn’t it all much clearer now?