Vicarious Pleasures (30/3/2011)

Posted in News


I bought a tablet. That is all.

Genre for Japan (28/3/2011)

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Berren: Here, look master, no one’s doing anything useful with this site at the moment – let’s crash here again for a bit.

Syannis: Can we just go home?

Berren: There was this bloke in the night market last night and he was selling all this weird stuff that looked really cool. Yeah, and next to him was this old bloke with a stack of books. Had a sign up that said something like Johnner for jug pan. Dunno what that was about.

Syannis: I think you mean Japan.

Berren: A what-pan?

Syannis: Japan. It’s a place.

Berren: Never heard of it.

Syannis: Powerful rich kingdom across the sea. Sea swallowed a a good chunk of it and then spat it out again. Lots of people died.

Berren: And who’s this Johnner?

Syannis: Genre, idiot.

Berren: Eh?

Syannis: Stuff like us. Made up stuff from places that don’t exist. Low-brow escapism if you ask some people. Stories. Bad for you, apparently, like listening to the story of some miserable old quack-intellectual merchant musing over the spiritual emptiness of his life of obsessive avarice and acquisition has any more relevance to my life. I’m talking about stories that touch upon the primordial myths we all carry inside us, our basic hopes and fears and desires stripped of contemporary complexities and concentrated to their bare essentials.


Syannis (with a quiet sigh): With swords and dragons and fighting and stuff.

Berren: Sweet! (frowns)

Syannis: Mind you, with these bloody sword-monks busy cutting everything to bits left right and centre and with us being all out of work and skint, I dare say you can’t afford a bunch of tawdry stories about dragons and stuff.

Berren: Oh that’s all right. I’ll just go and steal s . . . er, go and do some extra work. Dragons? Did you say dragons? Are we in it?

Syannis: ‘Fraid not. Go and have a look for yourself. Visit the night market, or click here for more. Can we go now?

Berren: Dragons! Dragons dragons! Oh, wait, and there was this bloke hanging around shouting stuff. Rijerd Little-Dick or something. Said we shouldn’t be helping foreigners.

Syannis: You mean foreigners like me?

Berren: Er . . .

Syannis: I’ve really had enough of that nob. (heading for the exit while sharpening sword) Where was he, exactly . . .?

Berren (running after): Anyway, Johnner for jug pan! I mean Genre for Japan! Cool stuff! Rare stuff! Cheap stuff!

The Genre for Japan auctions opens at 9am today (monday 28th) and will run until the following Sunday. If you’re after dragons, you can bid on a complete set of A Memory of Flames here; alternatively, if you want something read, written or can otehrwise think of something useful for me, you can bid for some of my time. Unless it’s too do software, because that counts as too humiliating. There are loads of other great books up for grabes and numerous opportunities to get yourself into various fantasy and SF novels.

For more Berren and Syannis, The Thief-taker’s Apprentice is available in paperback from 7th April

Busy busy (22/3/2011)

Posted in News

This week’s post was going to be on leakage and how writing several series at once inevitably (if you’re me) leads to a certain level of cross-fertilisation. But that’s going ot have to wait, because this week’s been Busy McBusy.

The Black Mausoleum has finished it’s penultimate rewrite. One more to go – spit and polish and scrub up the fine details of the words. Another one I’m pleased with and that’ll go to my editor around Easter.

I’ve now got the editorial rewite of The Warlock’s Shadow in front of me, which is going to be the biggest rewrite I’ve had to do after a submission. I don’t know quite how it’s possible to write a story and read thorugh it several times and be quite sure you’ve written something good, only to have a series of flaws pointed out that largely amount to having forgotten to put the story into the second half of the book. OK, it’s quite not as bad as that makes it sound, but I do feel like I’ve got a very pretty looking corpse in front of me that is somehow missing its spine.

All of which mean’s The King’s Assassin, which was coming along nicely, has gone into suspended animation pending the outcome of surgery, just to make sure there aren’t any characters central to the plot who suddenly aren’t there any more. Yes, this can happen.

However, most of what’s been keeping me busy these last few days has been storyboarding. Storyboarding, storyboarding and more storyboarding. Partly that’s been for the next dragon book, current working title The Prince of Swords. A lot has been on something new. Yes, an entirely new top secret hush hush project.

More details will follow shortly. In the meantime, for anyone interested, those clever chaps at the Functional nerds were kind enough to ask me to podcast with them, so if you want to listen to me pontificate about covers, bookshops, dragons and which classic eighties fantasy series had a real let-down of an ending, go listen here.

Diamond Cascade: Sharks Again

Posted in DC

101 Things to Know About Elves Number 5: Land sharks don’t like the way way elves taste. Or smell. Or something – anyway, they don’t like elves. When travelling with a group of dandelion-eaters, do not encounter a land-shark, for in this case, fact number three will not save you.

101 Things to Know About Elves Number 6: Despite being dandelion-eating wusses, it turns out that even a blind elf with a big sword can take down a land-shark if he swings it in the right direction. This is not to say very much about elven swordsmanship, which is much the same as that of any other race, but more an observation of the courage that eating dandelions can, apparently, imbue.

Stupid bloody land-shark. Spent days avoiding the bloody thing.

For reasons noted, the blood was largely mine.


My Little Secrets (part one)

Posted in News

Now and then we find little gems that no one else seems to have noticed. Maybe it’s a book whose author remains largely unknown. Maybe it’s a TV show no one else seems to like, or a piece of music that goes largely unplayed. Perhaps it might be a particular flavour of ice-cream that no one else seems to care for (yes, Ben and Jerrys, I’m looking at you).

My little secret gem is The Boxer Rebellion. I’ve seen them four times in the last three years since I first heard them supporting The Editors, always in little venues. Now I like little venues. I like the intimacy and I like not having to re-mortgage my house for a ticket, and when my little secret bad that I like but no one else has ever heard of finally gets some notice, I shall put on my sad face, because it just won’t be quite the same in a bigger venue with thousands of people. But on the other hand, what’s a fan for if not to prosthelytize. Fans should do that (Readers of A Memory of Flames, I’m looking at you now :-)

So do me a favour and maybe yourself: go and take ten minutes to listen to some good music and a current single from a band that ought to be on the cusp of being big. Comes with a rather steampunk video for added cool.

I shall have more to say about little secrets, this time one of my own, shortly.

Diamond Cascade: Daftboy the Lion-Tamer

Posted in DC

101 Things to Know About Elves Number 2: Elves have good hearing. This means they can hear lions creeping up on you better than you can. This is important to know. When an elf shouts: “There’s a lion creeping up on you!” a wise man will listen. Or possibly run.

101 Things to Know About Elves Number 3: Elves, when compared to humans, are a little on the frail side. They don’t quite have the same strength and stamina as those of us with our shorter, more brutal lifespans. This can also be important to know, especially then the lion that has been creeping up on you stops creeping and starts chasing. Remember always – run towards the elf. You don’t need to be faster than the lion, only the elf.

101 Things to Know About Elves Number 4: Elves fancy themselves as wizards. This has a well-founded basis in truth – elves after, in general, more adept at the arcane than the rest of us and living so long means they tend to know at least a little about it. However, you should not be fooled by such generalisations. Just because an elf knows a few spells doesn’t mean he’s bothered to read the spell description that carefully and it doesn’t mean that, under situations of stress such as being chased by a lion, they will use their tricks in necessarily the most optimal way. It certainly doesn’t mean they won’t let off a Scare spell right in the middle of a melee and send you and your sword-brothers all screaming in terror in different directions when they should have been using it on a lion.


Why Comparisons are a Good Thing(TM) (8/3/2011)

Posted in Critical Failures

Various quotes from the internet:

“Your review should … make comparisons to other authors or works that may be better known…” (no, the missing words aren’t ‘not’).

“The danger with mentioning comparisons to other authors is that …  you’ll mention an author that somebody doesn’t like.”

“It is good to make comparisons to other authors, but do so with care…”

“I don’t like to make comparisons to other authors, but…”

And my personal favourite: “Comparisons to other authors, however, are Halloween masks for critical thought.”

I can see why some authors don’t like to be compared to others. None of us are the same. We all think we have are own unique shtick that makes us special and unlike anyone else, and it’s probably true that we do. Being likened to some other, more established author is both being put into a box that we don’t quite fit and a reminder that we are still small-fry, struggling to establish ourselves in the big wide world. I can’t say what it’s like from the other side of the fence, being linked to every other upstart new author, but if I think about it, mostly what I imagine is eye-rolling. Mind you, I reckon if that ever happens to me, I’ll be immensely pleased about it the first few times. Sign of having become a pillar of the genre and all, so maybe not eye-rolling after all. On the whole, though, as a relative newcomer, I’ll take what I can get. I think, so far, my books have drawn comparisons to Joe Abercrombie, Anne McCaffery, Robin Hobb, Paul Kearney, George RR Martin, Naomi Novik, Oscar Wilde, and Christopher Paolini on a meth-fuelled bender. Do any of those bother me? Not at all. Bemuse me? I suspect one or two might simply refer to the fact that I have dragons in my book and little else. But on the whole, I don’t see anything for me, as an author, to object to here.

Reviewers then: That’s easy though – you’re job is to serve readers, so you don’t get an opinion :-p

And as a reader, yes, I’ll take a comparison. I like things that are new and I like things that are familiar, and some days I want one and some days I want the other, and if I’m after something familiar, then why not try an author who’s (allegedly) similar to another that I like? It’s patently obvious that the bulk of what people read is driven by a desire for more-of-what-I-had-before-that-I-liked, and that’s exactly what these comparisons serve.

So I have no problem with comparisons at all, provided they’re done well. The point of a review is largely to tell the audience enough about a book that they’re able to draw a conclusion as to whether they’re likely to enjoy it, and if the review is thoughtful and well-crafted, that conclusion ought, largely, to be correct. Comparing X to Y is a perfectly acceptable shorthand for doing exactly that. Fussing about the rightness or wrongness of doing so strikes me as missing the point: A review with a poor or lazy comparison is a poor or lazy review, and those who are minded to fuss about such things would serve the rest of us better if they fussed about that instead.

None of which is to say that they’re not Halloween masks for crical thought – merely that they don’t have to be, and if you take a mask away from a man who wants to wear one, well then he’ll likely just pick up another one instead.

Diamond Cascade: A Day out at the Beach (Take 2)

Posted in DC

Many and great were the perils Diamond Cascade and his band of heroes faced on their epic adventure across the southlands to the great desert that was once mighty and Mektropica. Terrible beasts were fought and bested, so many that their tales blur into one. Bloody was Diamond Cascade’s Sword and the southlands became littered with his arrows, yet each time the heroes prevailed until they reached the vast extent of the southern desert. Somewhere out there lay the ruins for which they searched!

Fine, maybe called a hundred-mile wide desert a “beach” might have been misleading, but anywhere, there we were. Pity we have no idea where to look, so I guess we could be here for a while. However, while we search, I have a project to engage my attention: 101 Things to Know About Elves.

Number one: Elves don’t sleep like the rest of us. They sit there with their legs cross and their hands on their knees and their eyes rolling and go ohmmmm a lot, and that seems to be all they need. This can be quite annoying, but it’s best not to comment, as the elves will be the ones who are wide awake while the rest of you are sleeping. It’s best to stay on their good side so they spend this time wisely – i.e. watching for wandering predators and writing poems or whatever it is that elves do in their spare time – rather than spending it riffling through your backpack, stealing your purse, or tying you up and then poking you awake with a stick.

Elves. They’re lovely. OK?


No News (2/3/2011)

Posted in News

There was going to be a long post about the Jorvik Viking festival today, filled with juicy facts and photos of people covered in lots of metal hitting each other with more metal. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen sparks really fly when two fellows have at each other with swords and the whole experience was quite educational for anyone wanting (as I do) an understanding of the evolution of military tactics and technology in the middle ages.

But then some stuff came up that was more exciting. MUCH more exciting. And rather appropriate to the setting but sadly I can’t talk about it just yet. There will be an announcement at the start of April, and that’s all I can say. In the mean time, I leave you with the facts that the vikings used to wash their hair in horse piss to burn the nits out, which is why they often had yellow hair, and that a certain kind of parasitic worm was rife that just wandered around inside viking bodies as it pleases. So add to your generic picture of a viking a strong scent of horse wee and maybe a worm hanging out of his eye. Yum.

Proof-reading for The Order of the Scales is done. Working on The Kings Assassin now – should have a finished first draft in the next couple of weeks. No flying castles in this one, but a nasty, nasty little girl.

There’s also a nasty rumour going around that Diamond Cascade was eaten by a sand-shark while I wasn’t looking. There. Will. Be. Trouble.