Gemmell Awards Again

Posted in News

It’s that time of year again. The King of the Crags and The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice are on the long-list for the Gemmell Legend Award and the cover of Thief-Taker is up for the Ravenheart award (which, let’s be clear, is an award for the artist, not the author).

You can vote here for the Legend award (at the time of writing that’s the only award that’s set up for voting) or find out more about the Gemmells on their home page here.

There are a lot of good titles to vote for, at least a few of which I happen to think are better than mine. If you happen to disagree but can’t decide which one to vote for, got for King of the Crags. Sadly (not) you can only vote once!

I’m going to start something a little different in the New Year once my logjam of deadlines is out the way. In the mean time, happy holidays and have a good start to 2011

Diamond Cascade: A Fat Beardy Bloke in Red Pyjamas

Posted in DC

…the corruptors of children,…

In the morning, I followed the trail of that ogre I shot in the night. Blood, dripped into the dirt and plenty of it. Followed him up into the hills, into the winter mountains full of snow, into tunnels filled with goblins. Slimeys. A cut them down as a scythe cuts the harvest. They were making things, nasty little wooden things, little soldiers and swords and wooden horses. There were hundreds of them, and stone floor of their cave ran red with goblin blood. At the far end, sitting in a great chariot, sat the ogre. His clothes were stained crimson from head to toe with his own blood. Finishing him was easy. Strange thing though, when I caugfht up with him – I don’t remember him having that big white beard when I shot him. Or the silly hat.

So it was a dream and I must have got some sleep later that night on that wind-blasted gods-forsaken cliofftop after all.

Ho ho ho.

Shit. And now I keep having premonitions about a bunch of really annoying elves.

The Emergency Editor (21/12/10)

Posted in News

I have an emergency editor. I know several writers who have them these days, or else beta-readers or someone who’s going to give them a second opinion on their work before they submit it to their publisher. I have no idea whether we’re a small minority or a vast majority, or whether such things are far more common now than they used to be. I’d say I don’t really care either, but if some knew the answer, I’d be curious enough to listen. Point being, really, we all have our own way of doing things; for me, every now and then, that means wheeling out the emergency editor whenever something just isn’t working.

Roughly, the way it works is that I read the manuscript, chapter by chapter, and get stopped every seventeen-and-a-half seconds to be told that I’ve now used the word effervescent twice in living memory and why is one of my characters explicitly walking slowly in one sentence and then observed to be moving quickly in the next (fortunately allowing me to simply skip the next sentence in which they dismount from the horse they never actually had in the first place). Often there is a little coda, along the lines of ‘that chapter’s quite good’ or ‘that was a bit long’ or the dreaded ‘Meh. OK I guess,’ which means it isn’t.

As you can imagine, sometimes this can mean that reading through a chapter, even one of mine, can take quite a long time. I’d been mentally thinking of it as extreme editing, since we really do pick apart the manuscript line by line sometimes. However, I understand from several of my fellow authors that extreme editing is already taken and refers to re-writes carried out while free-climbing the Tsaranoro Massif or hiding inside a cave somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. My version takes place curled up somewhere warm and cosy and usually involves either hot chocolate or hot and sour soup. Not all that extreme really.

Admittedly, what comes to mind when I think ‘emergency editor’ is the emergency pilot from Airplane! but that just. . . No, just let’s not go there.

So next time you put down a book and revel in the buzz of just how good it was, spare a thought for the beta-readers, the emergency editors, the unpaid (I’d say unsung, but I guess they’re often among the names credited in the this-novel-would-never-have-existed-if-it-wasn’t-for bit that I never used to read up to a few years ago (please tell me I’m the only one) helpers who do it for the love. And the chocolate. And the soups. And maybe an episode of Dexter every 2-3 chapters, but still, mostly for the love.

(You can follow my muse, my better half, my emergency editor and many other things, the gorgeous and heroic @adamantine_lady, on Twitter. Just, for the love of Planck’s Constant, don’t say anything bad about Name of the Wind. Meanwhile The Warlock’s Shadow has been moved out of theatre and into intensive care).

Diamond Cascade: Interlude on the Elvish Border (part four)

Posted in DC

Number One sniffed the air. Humans. You could always smell humans. Smell their unwashed rancid stink from miles away. The question usually was whether you got to hear them first, always arguing and shouting in the raucous way. Today it was the smell. The unchecked stench of bodily functions, wafting out of their primitive little settlement. Number One shuddered.

“Right,” hissed Number Three. “There’s one bunch of humans who have houses with wheels and another bunch of humans who have houses that sit on the ground. Best I can tell, the wheelies showed up yesterday. The groundies reckon the wheelies made the dead rise. Looks like the groundies had a bad time of it last night too. Anyway, there’s lets more groundies than wheelies and they’ve got torches and pitchforks and they’re all hard at work building an Angry Mob. Let’s go watch humans fight each other!”

Number Two shook his head. “Nah. You know how it is. They’ll accidentally burn their own town down and then blame it on the first elf they see. Let’s just go. We know what we wanted to know.”

“What was that?”

“Whether the humans had zombie problems too.”

“Makes you wonder where all these zombies come from,” mused Number One. “I mean, there can’t be lots of nearly-fresh corpses permanently littering the moors. Yes, there have been lots of battles over the years and I suppose I can understand the skeletons, but the zombies? Wouldn’t they rot?”

Number Three kicked at the snow under their feet. “It’s cryogenics, that what it is. Keeps them fresh.”

“Right.” Number Two pointed randomly eastwards, away from the village. “That way then.”

“I want to buy a bow,” said Levincious suddenly.

There was a long pause.


“I want to buy a bow.”

Unthall’s face screwed up into a blancmange of horror and disbelief. “You want to go into the human village. To buy a bow?”


“You’re an elf!”

Levinicious looked himself up and down. “Last time I looked.”

“And you want to buy a bow. From humans.”

“Look, I haven’t got one. . .”

“When the best bow-makers in the WORLD are about half a day’s walk back behind us.”

“But we’re going this way. . .”

“So. You’d rather buy some grotty, ill-made human bow. You could have something made of sapient pearwood strung with the ligaments from a unicorn, but you’d rather have something made OF STRING? AND YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ELF?”

Number One looked at his own bow. “Unicorn ligaments? Ew. . .”

“Running away, remember?” hissed Levinchius under his breath.

“Because of you and the chieftain’s wife,” growled Unntha.

“Because of you and your magical accident,” grated Levinichius. He looked up brightly. “Come on, escort. This won’t take long!”

“Yay! We get to watch the humans fight!” squealed number three. He pulled a bag of oiled corn seed out of his pack and waved them at Uthaal. “Got a Burning Hands going spare?”

They walked into the village, holding their noses. The hubbub of shouting drew closer. All the humans, it seemed, had joined the mob.

“Go away!”

“Don’t want your kind here!”


“They eat babies!”

“Get your curse away from us!”

“This is silly.” Number One shook his head. “These wheelies, if that’s what they’re called, clearly have nothing to do with the walking dead. Look at them! They look. . . Well, they look more respectable than the rest of this rabble.” Number One cleared his throat. “I say! You! You humans! Peasanty types! Blaming them is stupid! I say! Are you listening?”

Number Two scrunched up his face. “Number One, do we need to have that conversation about you not talking to strangers again, because. . .”

That was when someone punched Number One in the face.


The Grudge (14/12/10)

Posted in News

So here’s a rather soundtrack for the whole Memory of Flames trilogy. It’s not music that I write to, but they’re a few songs that resonate with the story or the characters within it.

Ultravox: Young Savage

Placebo: EveryYou Every Me

Tool: The Grudge

Muse: Knights of Cydonia

OK, not much of a soundtrack for three whole books, but it makes quite a good set for a session on the cross-trainer :-)

And here’s a little taster for book three. It was quite hard to find a chapter that didn’t have a spoiler in it, but I don’t think it’s giving too much away to let it be known that there are some seriously peeved dragons on the loose. I reckon y’all were expecting that…

The Order of the Scales (May 2011 UK, 2012 US, Fr, Ger)

Imagine you’re a dragon. Monstrous, tireless, ageless. You have seen the world broken into pieces and assembled back together again. You have travelled the lands of the living and the dead. You know what lurks in both and you have no fear of anything that you have seen, because you are a dragon and nothing is your equal.

Imagine there are men. Little scurrying things that run on two legs instead of four. They are unremarkable prey – small and slow – save for one thing. They think. They understand what you are when you come for them. They feel fear, hope, dread, despair and you have come to savour the taste of those things. They are delicious little treats, rewarding, even if they are hard to winkle out of their holes.

Now imagine that something has changed. Imagine the men have learned a trick. Imagine they have found a way to make you stupid. They no long scurry and hide and fear you, no – now you are their pet. They feed you and nurse you and ride you. They wear your skin for their armour and make bows from your bones. They make you dull, like a dog, with their alchemy. They strip you of your power and and your glory and your rage. For hundreds of years, they grow rich and fat on the back of you. They make you forget what you are and then they forget themselves, and the fear and the dread are all gone and everything is made drab and meaningless.

Imagine you wake up. Imagine you remember. All of it. Imagine the fury.

Now imagine there are thousands of you.


A long time ago, I made some comment about this trilogy coming in layers. The Adamantine Palace shows the surface of what’s going on, glittering and shiny but superficial. The King of the Crags peers beneath, and the Order of the Scales takes you to the heart. That’s the way it was supposed to be, at any rate. I think it has more depth than King of the Crags and I think it flies at a pace to put The Adamantine Palace to shame. I think this is the best of the trilogy by far. If you found the other two fun, I’m quietly hoping this book will blow your mind.

I may, of course, be entirely deluded.

The Order of the Scales comes out in the UK on 19th May. The dragons are by Domonic Harman again. You can read the first chapter here.


“But it’s not the battles or the monsters that captivate, it’s the characters” SFX

“…a fast-paced and violent conclusion to an interesting series, epic in scope but low in bloat, marked out by memorably vicious characters (scaled and unscaled).” The Wertzone

“Great Stuff” Falcatta Times

“enthusiastic … brilliantly executed … heart-thumping dragon action” LEC Book reviews

“The final chapters however are bliss.”  “I’m glad to have picked it up and I think you should give it a try. A Fantasy Reader

“This is how epic fantasy should be: horrifying dragons, political intrigue, mystery, epic world building, neck-breaking pace, interesting magic and breathtaking battle sequences. There is no wrong or right, there are no heroes; there is only blind ambition, blind devotion, and a struggle to survive. With all its layers and subplots, and a different agenda for pretty much every character, The Order of the Scales proves to be a complex story that will never grow dull.” The Ranting Dragon.

“This is a book that bears some thinking about.” Lowly’s Book Blog

SfSite have a review of the trilogy as a whole: “If you don’t want to get bogged down … and like your fantasy on the dark side you’re going to really enjoy Stephen Deas.

a strong bloody finish to the Memory of Flames fantasy trilogy according to Alternative Worlds

“unremitting violence at a blistering pace” from Kirkus reviews, but beware, for “also almost everything … is mystifying if you haven’t read the previous books” Yeah. Book three of three thing going on and I didn’t do a recap. Because recaps are BORING.

“The dragons are brilliant…” (Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews, who would definitely like some of the characters to live longer. And possibly be nicer too).

Media Culture have a fairly comprehensive review up

“Pacing aside, it’s very difficult to resist getting caught up in the cold, calculating behavior of Stephen Deas’ majestic and determined dragons.” Citybookreviews stand out from the crowd by finding the story moves too slowly.

A riveting, relentless and violent war of wings, Deas’ dragons are the scariest thing in fantasy today … to be savoured again and again. Fantasy Book Review.

Blood and fire. A must for dragon lovers everywhere. Antipodean SF

US Cover (artwork by Stephen Youll):

Order+of+the+Scales+USA Cover art

French cover (Alain Brion)

Order of the scales french cover

Diamond Cascade: Interlude on the Elvish Border (part three)

Posted in DC

Number One looked about him. He was the last man standing. There were dead bodies everywhere. Or, rather, un-undead bodies. Except, no, that would mean brought back to life. Proper life. Wouldn’t it? Re-dead. Was that a word? Multiply life-challenged?

He reached for a bottle of wine. Wine always helped when he felt a headache coming on. Then he looked outside.
Number Three was in the tree next door, where Number Three, Levinchius and Unthal were watching nervously.

“Good shot?” suggested Number Three.

Number Two was standing up in the snow below the tree-house, looking confused. A minute ago, he’d been face down in the snow, not moving, about to be eaten by zombies. Now there were just a lot of dead zombies and some skinny-looking woman with slightly scaly, slightly coppery skin who Number One had never seen before. Who shouldn’t have been there. Who was. . .

Who was really, really hot.

Number One swallowed hard. “Hello there, mysterious yet unusually beguiling lady of slightly draconic appearance.”

She was standing next to Number Two. Number Two was, unexpectedly, not dead. Not half-eaten. The unusually beguiling lady of slightly draconic appearance, she’d. . . She must have cured him! Which meant. . .

She’d touched him.

Number Two grinned up at him. “’Awright?” Number One shuddered. Never, ever in his life had he so wished that he had been the one to be pulled bodily out of a window by a tree-climbing zombie, plummeted twenty feet to the ground, missed all available snow-drifts and landed head first on the only rock for miles around in the midst of a horde of ravening zombies.

“Oh for pity’s sake!” The woman vanished in a flash of light and appeared in the tree-house. She had Number Two beside her.

“Whoa. . .”

“Shut up!” She pointed a finger at the three elves in the other tree. “You let, get over here.”

It was, Number One decided, time to try again. “Hello there, mysterious yet unusually beguiling lady of slightly draconic appearance. . .”

The woman rolled her eyes. “And you,” she said, and then ignored him.

The other elves crossed from the other tree. There was a rope. Number One didn’t remember there being a rope, but apparently one of the newcomers had found that to be a more useful thing to do than stay and fight the hordes of the undead. Ah well. That was diplomats on secret missions for you.

“My name is Ublosda,” said the woman as soon as they were across, “and now that I’ve saved your skins, I’ve got a job for you.”

“We are. . .” began Number One. The woman shot him a look that was like being very slowly grated through a really sharp cheese-grater for a very long time and then rolled in fresh lemon juice.

“What’s your name?”

“I am Number One,” beamed Number One proudly.

“Your full name.”

“Er, Private Second Class Expendable Border Guard Number One.”

“Right. Think about that while you shut up and ponder your utter irrelevance to me.” She shook her head in exasperation

Uthan was sniggering.

“And don’t think you’re much better.” She rolled her eyes to the sky. “What on earth possessed her to use you as her tool of choice is quite beyond me. I can only assume she’s lost all grasp of sanity. But then I suppose I should have seen that coming after the last lot she picked. I mean really, if ever a more shambolic disaster of an adventuring party stained this beautiful island, it has been mercifully wiped from history. Right.” She turned to look at Uthan and Levinchius. “This should be easy enough that even you two can remember it. This is what you have to do. Go to the north coast. Find a bard called Vale, a Knight of. . .” she scratched her head and looked slightly embarrassed for a moment. “Something and an elvish wizard. And a few others I can’t remember. Finding them should be easy enough. Look for trouble. Then run away from it to the nearest tavern full of whores and cheap spirits. You’ll find the bard there if nothing else, and there can’t be that many elvish wizards on the north coast. Got that.”

The two elves nodded. “North coast. Elvish wizard. Bard called Vale. Knight of Something.”

“Right. Then give them a message.” She rounded on the border guards. “You lot, you can help. Right. Don’t dawdle.” She snapped her fingers and vanished in a flash of light.

“What’s the message?”

The elves looked at one another.

There was another flash. “Just tell them. . . Just tell them to get on with it!

She vanished.

The elves looked at one another some more, before a disembodied voice called out in the night. “And tell that bard that he’s useless!


Too Dark Park (7/12/2010)

Posted in News
chainsaw gang masthead

It’s Christmas. The time for cheer. For giving. For forgiveness and happy endings…

Oh. Wait. Wrong author.

Having finished the editorial rewrite of Order of the Scales last week and finally managed a draft for The Warlock’s Shadow that doesn’t suck last night, this is not the season for joy at all, at least not fiction-land. I wonder, as I start the rewrites for the Warlock’s Shadow, whether this is going too far. It’s not horrific in a gore-fest sort of way or a creepy sort of way, but it’s definitely dark. Ah well – that’s what editors are for.

In the meantime, to get in the right sort of seasonal mood, the Chainsaw Gang bring you the Twelve Days of Christmas, reworked to be filled with chainsawy goodness. We’ve bludgeoned a bunch of bloggers half to death, cut pieces out of their souls[1] and threatened them with various forms of despicable un-life until they agreed to let us write stuff on their websites. We might also have answered a few questions about writing horror for a YA audience while we were at it, but the main point was to get that song out there, to be revealed day by day in an exquisite striptease, until at last it is revealed in all its terrible glory and the great old ones are called back to own the earth once more [2]. It’s kicked off already (yes, too late to stop us now, bwahaha) at My Favourite Books and will then be infesting the blogsphere like the bubonic plague:

So off you go an have a bloody good Christmas.

[1] That was a spoiler for The Warlock’s Shadow, that was.

[2] Karaoke was also discussed, but none of us could cope with that much SAN loss.

First person to make sense of the title of this post gets a prize.

Diamond Cascade: Interlude on the Elvish Border (part two)

Posted in DC

“And stay out.” Number One sidestepped neatly as the last zombie in the border post lunged , tripped and went over the balcony. It landed head first in a deep drift of snow, legs flailing helplessly in the air below. Number One carefully sheathed his sword, picked up his bow and drew back an arrow. Then changed his mind and picked up a second arrow. Double shot. Oh yeah…

(Yeah, yeah, lame I know, three weeks without a proper story. Deadlines! Snow! Christmas! GMs-with-transport-issues! Live with it until new year, damn you.)