Diamond cascade: Ah, so that’s why the wizard didn’t want to hang with us.

Posted in DC

So this is it. The ending of an epic story, coming right up, in which the heroic Diamond Cascade and a bunch of supporting characters who, along with the truth of what actually happened along the way, have never been allowed to get in the way of a good story. Well, I say a good story, I mean a good for me story, as in one in which I, Diamond Cascade, get to look great and noble and heroic and also deadly, brooding and highly desirable to all passing fair ladies. We stand poised on the brink of a finale. The great and powerful artefact that will bring peace to the Karibia is within reach. All that stands in our way is a terrible and vengeful spirit from beyond the grave and his minions. Characters from my past have returned, friends and enemies both. Villains have been defeated, mighty victory or terrible defeat lie before us, and if we’re not ambushed by a last twist in the tale if and when we escape, I’ll eat my Story-Telling for Beginners manual.

And if there is a victory, the story will end something like this: And thus did Diamond Cascade free the Dragon-Orb from its prison and cast the evil dragon away into the void, never to return again, and the people of Karibia rejoiced and were free and lived happily ever after. And when we get to that bit in a few chapters time, consider these few things: Were the people really so free, ruled by one dragon instead of fought for by two? Was choosing the side with the most attractive secondary character really a valid way to decide the destiny of an entire continent? How long, exactly, is Diamond Cascade going to hang on to that all-powerful orb before sixty thousand million sword-swinging magic-blot-firing NPCs descend on him, some of them probably sponsored by the very dragon he catapulted to power. Is there such a thing as a good dragon? Can such a conflict evert truly be resolved? And, come to that, how exactly does ordering a ten-thousand year old dragon to piss off my island work? Will there really be no collateral damage?

Fortunately, I have a negative wisdom modifier. So mostly what I’m worrying about is how much money I can make selling tickets to the greatest show ever: Celebrity Dragon Deathmatch! In a Cage!


Publication Day (again) (25/2/11)

Posted in News

The Order of the Scales officially became published on Thursday last week. Since there were no ARCs or review copies sent out, much nail-biting continues; but if covers sell books, this one should be a winner. Have I mentioned how good the cover is? Have I mentioned it enough yet? The online pictures simply don’t do it justice. Foil! Flames! Dragons! Complete lack of anything obvious to say it’s the third book in a trilogy… oh, wait, maybe that’s not so great. Ah well.

So apart from the nail-biting, that’s that.I’d post an excerpt, except I already did that. So here’s a tiny tiny snippet of the next book to come out instead: The Warlock’s Shadow.

Sailors swaggered back and forth, some of them bleary-eyed from a sleepless night in one of the drinking holes that filled the darker alleys beyond. A line of burly men had formed a human chain, picking up sacks and crates from boats drawn up against the edge of the harbour and passing them along to a milling cluster of carts. Further along the waterfront, another chain was passing supplies across the dockside from a warehouse out onto a cluster of jetties. A party of black-skinned Taiytakei traders in their rainbow robes and their bright feathers walked serenely out from the Avenue of Emperors, discretely escorted by half a dozen snuffers to keep the worst of the riff-raff at bay. A squad of imperial soldiers lounged around a covered wagon. Yellow and silver robed priests of the sun and the moon walked side by side, the faithful and the desperate following in their wake like the tail of a comet. Gangs of rough men, press-gangs, lurked by the dockside flophouses like sand-spiders waiting to pounce. Boys ran weaving between them all, carrying news and messages, or else simply mischief. Berren smiled to himself. He could never quite shake the feeling of coming home whenever he visited the docks.

Diamond Cascade: You? Again?

Posted in DC

…Yet before Diamond Cascade could enter the cursed tomb, who should appear but the renegade villain Durmijeron with his legion of dark minions! Long and hard they fought, Diamond Cascade cleaving the wicked ones left and right. Terrible was the slaughter, yet when ity was done, the foul dwarf lay dead while his hired minions lay bleeding and pleading for mercy around him. Once more, good triumphed over evil, as good always does.

In the words of Wizard Daftboy:
“Great…..lets see….a big flash of light that blinds most of the party…..the rogue disappears…….a failed diplomacy check……Diamond Cascade bouncing off the top of the ceiling like a discarded party balloon……lots of sticky web everywhere…..lots of shouting from the blind elf with bodies falling like leaves around him…..said blind elf falling flat on his face…..a lizard with a large flaming sword…..dwarves on steriods……And finally my lights been punched out by one of said dwarves….NICE…it could be worse though I could be at home having a nice cup of witches brew and reading the adventures of ‘Gollum the missing years’….”

So we end with a little stand-off, me and some wizard, him with his finger on the trigger of a fireball spell, me with two arrows aimed at his black heart. And then it dawns on both of us that we’ve met before – this is the very wizard who once long ago set us off on that first quest for batshit. I could shoot him just for that, I really could. But then he fireballs the dwarves, because let’s face it, there’s only so many racial slurs an elf can take, and we’re all friends. Sort of. Well, friends insofar as we all agree not to kill each other just yet and have nothing further to do with each other. Which is pretty much how the rest of this band of avdenturers works. Don’t know why he didn’t just tag along, really.

I wonder if we’ll see him again. Can’t help this little suspicion that we might, just as soon as we emerge with the dragon-orb… Or someone else…

PS: Note for hammer wielding dwarves: When up against a flying archer, bring ranged weapons. Otherwise you look really, really stupid. Oh how I love my Alter Self spell.


Uncaged Alchemists (17/5/2011)

Posted in News

In two days, The Order of the Scales is officially published in the UK, although you can probably wander into Waterstones and buy it now. That’s the end of the memory of Flames trilogy, for better or for worse. It’s a series that has tried to dig a little deeper with each book. We started with politics and intrigue, murder, sex and betrayal in The Adamantine Palace. Now it’s a battle for survival, one species against another, and both of them will do terrible things. There was never meant to be a ‘right side’ or a ‘wrong side’ and there are certainly no traditional heroes in either camp (and hopefully by the end, the villains will turn out to be more complex than they initially seemed). What there is is a big fucking great problem and not enough being done about it. For some, it’s simply too difficult, but for most, it’s simply that dealing with it gets in the way of their own ambitions, and frankly, the problem belongs to someone else – it’s what the alchemists are for, dammit.

If you read the book and read the dedication, you’ll probably guess that I, personally, would root for the alchemists. And whether they suceed in the end and somehow put the genie back in the bottle, whether they fail and all burn, whether they manage some sort of ugly compromise, or mysteriously unite into a future of happy co-existence, you can be sure it would have been a lot easier without any of the people with crowns on their heads getting in the way.

By co-incidence, I happened to be at a talk last night given by a a group of people I will describe as contemporary alchemists. Bad Science (Ben Goldacre’s blog – I particularly liked this one) is worthy of your attention. As is this, this (sorry to pick on Canada) and this if only for the mission statement.

Support your neighbourhood alchemist! Or dragons will get you :-)

Diamond Cascade: You Agreed to What?

Posted in DC

Deeper and deeper into the lost citadel of Mektropica delved Diamond Cascade and his noble elven companions. Slowly they unlocked the secret of releasing the great Dragon Orb – three bells of mighty magical power to be rung at once, yet of the bells there was no sign. Great sorceries unleashed would not reveal them, hidden as they were by the ancient powers of long forgotten gods and the dire curse of Umberlee. Yet Diamond Cascade and his friends would not veer from their purpose to restore peace to the land. They sought the shade of the high priest to this once all-powerful empire and summoned him forth. Great were the temptations offered, refused one and all as one by one, virtuous Diamond Cascade wrung the secrets of this desolate place out of the shifty shade. For the great bells were learned to lie within a crypt, the cursed crypt of the last Emperor . . .!

Yeah . . . went a bit like that. Bit. Look, you just have to accept some bardic licence here. Particularly with words like ‘virtuous’ and ‘wrung’ and ’shifty’. And yes, maybe the only reason we didn’t jump at the offer of taking one thing, anything we liked, from the untouched treasury of THE RICHEST EMPIRE EVER in return for never coming back is that we rather fancied the idea of coming back and taking the lot. Maybe.

It is also possible that we might have agreed to all go and build temples to the “shifty shade”’s god. Given that his god was the god of money, it was kind of an ‘ah well, we’re all already worshipping at that particular altar anyway – might as well wear the badge’ kind of thing.

That and we had absolutelty no clue whatsoever where those bloody bells were and nor were we ever going to find one.

At some point, I suppose someone should give some thought as to what we’re going to do with the bloody Dragon Orb once we’ve got it. I’m not even sure whether these eleves even realise that’s what it is we’re looking for down here.


Grounds for Divorce (10/5/2011)

Posted in Critical Failures

To a man on a diet, “So, I guess you don’t fancy joining me for a Chinese Takeaway” clearly and unarguably consititute un-reasonable behaviour.  That is all.

Diamond Cascade: Um…?

Posted in DC

And Diamond Cascade and his heroic fellows did wander and wander. And wander. And wander. Aimlessly did they wander, through all possible doors and passages. And bicker they did too, and epic was their bickering, for few were their remaining spells, and lo, it was not possible for the elven mages to go for five minutes without suggesting a long rest while they might recover their energies, and great was their resentment at being summarily ignored, and many were their told-you-so remarks as yet another vagrant posse of undead nightmares did descend upon Diamond Cascade, and much did the elven mages wave their hands and gesticulate, and yet remarkably little was the arcane power unleashed. And mightily did Diamond Cascade and his fellows bollocks up their map and wander around in circles and completely miss the one door that went somewhere useful, and thus it was that Diamond Cascade was pretty much ready to jack it all in and give up and take up farming when they did finally stumble upon a ghostly figure that, most unusually, did not want to eat his brains.


Eastercon Genre-fiction X-factor (a proposal) (3/5/2011)

Posted in Critical Failures

Not exactly a rant, but every Eastercon I find myself on panels about how to be an author, about finding an agent, about what you have to do to get published. Every time, I find myself thinking how unfortunate it is for writers that it’s all such a long, dull, dour process, with a such a long pay-off. There’s nowhere to showcase what you can do in a five-minutes-of-fame sort of way. Imagine it was the X-factor: Show up, perform for a few minutes get judged, vanish into obscurity if you lose, winner is published by Simon Cowell and gets to be a best-seller.

But does it have to be like this? Could we not try to showcase our hidden writing talents? So I’ve been giving it some thought and I’d like to propose the following straw man to be poked at as an attempt to give genre writing a (very) vaguely equivalent platform.

Some pre-selection process occurs to which I’ve given no thought at all, resulting in a maximum of twelve entrants. Each entrant is submits:

  1. A movie-trailer style pitch for whatever they’re writing of no more than 500 words.
  2. A synopsis for whatever they’re writing of no more than 1000 words
  3. An opening chapter or partial chapter of approximately 1500 words

Eastercon (I pick Eastercon because it’s a four-day event and I see this going over three days) – Friday afternoon (say), in a one-hour panel, all pitches are read to whoever shows up as an audience  and a panel of judges. There will be one reader who reads all the entries. Anyone who comes to the readings gets a voting card, allowing them to vote for whichever pitch is their favourite.

The panel of judges (ideally a genre editor, a genre agent and a genre reviewer) get to ask a few questions after each reading if they want to. Afterwards, the judges select the four trailers they like the best. Those four and the two most popular with the audience (probably needs a minimum number of votes) go forward to the next stage. I’m imagining a short panel on Saturday morning to announce the results and take some Q&A on the reasons for the selection.

Saturday afternoon (say), in another one-hour session, repeat the same for the six synopses. Single reader, audience get to vote on which ones they like the best, two synopses go forward selected by the judges, one by the audience.

Sunday afternoon has a final panel. Each of the three surviving entries is introduced with a little about why they’ve made it this far, both the pitch and the synopsis. The opening chapter is read. There is no final ‘winner’, but maybe the audience gets to vote.

And there you go. The Eastercon Genre-Fiction X-factor. Worth trying to make it fly? Or not. Please feel free to comment.