Competition (6/9/2011)

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About a year ago, I offered an (unspecified) prize for the person to find the most typos in King of the Crags.  The hands down winner won a small slice of immortality, and ‘uncle’ Silvestre now has a small part in The King’s Assassin (out in late 2012) as a sword-master who teaches Berren a lesson or two.

This month’s competition prize is an opportunity to be an Adamantine Man in The Black Mausoleum. Possibly several opportunities. A fiery death is guaranteed, but you’ll appear for at least a few chapters. As usual with these things, I get to veto names that don’t fit. To win one of these cameos, you have to find typos in The Order of the Scales. The prize is nominally for whoever finds the most. Someone on Goodreads claims to have found eight. There may be further prizes for effort if I get several replies.

You can either reply to this post or mail me. Happy hunting.

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

Another Prologue Bites the Dust (23/11/2010)

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Finally, finally, my editor has sent back his comments on The Order of the Scales. If you like my dragons, you should thank him. Every time, and this is no exception, he comes back demanding more, more shock and awe. I’m beginning to think he’s an American military strategist in disguise.

The other thing he always comes back with is ‘ditch the prologue.’ And I have to admit he’s always right. It’s easy this time to see why – the prologue explains a load of stuff about the Taiytakei and, in particular, the mysterious Picker, that maybe takes the edge off what comes next. I thought you guys deserved to know at least part of what was going on over on that side of the plot, but that was before we had a deal for a pile more books. So those who were looking forward to having the secrets of the Taiytakei revealed, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little more – but there is an upside: they will be revealed in considerably more detail. Unlike the King of the Crags’ “Night of the Knives,” this one won’t be going up as a taster.

I like prologues, though. Always have. Comes from a fondness for the old pre-credits sequence that Bond movies used to have (which, I realise, rarely had anything to do with the subsequent plot). If I manage to finish The Warlock’s Shadow by the end of the year (bit of an if at the moment), I shall try again :-)

Round-up of the week’s other news: Jasper Fforde, Leanna Renee Hieber and I talk about the differences between adult and young adult fantasy over at SFF chat; The Ranting Dragon has (another) Sneak preview of the cover art for Order of the Scales while the Yetistomper has noticed the US cover for King of the Crags (and who wouldn’t)

They Live! (24/3/2010)

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Gemmel awards last reminder: You vote for the Morning Star award here, the Legend award here and the Ravenheart (cover art) award here. Inside information is that the Ravenheart award in particular needs your love, and given the passion of debate about cover art I’ve seen here and there over the last months, that’s a bit of a surprise. Vote, if you haven’t, and if you have, make ten other people do it. And then make each of them make ten more people vote. Build your own block-voting pyramid scheme! Anything, as long as it’s not apathy. Apathy would be bad. This round of voting is just for the shortlists, after all. A month from now, I shall be bothering you all about this again.

Today’s news is that the final printed copies of King of the Crags have arrived, and very fine they look too:

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Nice sample on the back of the hardcover, too: He’d tried to hide deep amid the darkness, beneath layer upon layer of leaf-shadow and branches, but they always found him. He’d tried to run, but the fire always followed him and the forest turned to flames and ash behind him. He’d tried the freezing waters of the river and the dragons had simply boiled it dry… (from chapter one).

On Order of the Scales, I spent the last few days rearranging the chapters in the first third until my eyes bled, trying to get the pacing right. But that’s done, and once I can see again, I’ll be about halfway through by the end of the week. I’m very close to a draft that’s ready to submit with this one.

Oh, and at the Gollancz quiz night last night, I think I got at least one question right, and we all left hot with the buzz about the latest offering from Adam Roberts, who largely stole the show with his plug for Yellow Blue Tibia III, Yellowest, bluest, most-tibia-like-thing. Or something like that. Am already looking forward to any news on part IV, Yellow Blue Tibia with A Vengeance.

I may also finally be living my childhood dreams. Or I may not. For now, this is as uncertain as Adam’s aliens.

The rewrite-athon continues (4/1/10)

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I was having a minor grump over the holidays about how much time the rewriting of Order of the Scales was going to take (Simon, don’t expect to see it early). Well, the rewrite is going OK, but it’s still taking up a lot of time that could otherwise have been spent doing more worthwhile things like playing Dragon Age: Origins or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II or Assassin’s Creed II. But over the weekend, someone dropped me this comment:

“I’ve bought and half finished 5 books in the last month and had thought I’d lost my passion for sci-fantasy. Now I realise I’ve just been picking shitty books to read. Until now that is. I bought and finished The Adamantine Palace today and absolutely loved it. Thanks for giving me what I thought was lost Stephen!”

One happy reader doesn’t make a book good, but it makes an author happy too and not mind that he’s spending his evenings in front of his laptop. Also, he is apparently not alone. Been a while since a new review for The Adamantine Palace came out…

As noted my last post, my the first draft of Order of the Scales is needing rather more work than I’d hoped (largely because it was written about a year ago before King of the Crags went through its edit and the Gazetteer changed a few things). So instead of the usual two re-writes, this one’s going to need three before submission. Usually, there’s a first rewrite to iron out any inconsistencies in the story, character or background and put on the last icing and sprinkles. Then there’s a pause of a month or two while I go and do something else and then a second rewrite that all buff and shine and polish.

I like re-writes when I’ve finished them. I don’t like doing them. They’re treading familiar paths and rarely taking me anywhere new. Bleh.

Right. And that really is about it for any ’system’ I use.

Travelling Hopefully (30/12/09)

Posted in Critical Failures | News

Someone asked me a couple of days ago whether I plan in detail or use the ‘travel-hopefully’ method. Now being asked questions like that makes me feel all unnaturally important, as if my words and methods might carry some weight and I was all set to write a lengthy post on how to set about writing a story. Fortunately some sense prevailed; the fact is that everyone seems to write in different ways and I think everyone probably has to find what fits the way their head works.
That said, ‘travel hopefully’ does describe the way I write quite well once I get going, but having said that, there does have to be some sort of framework in place before I start; everyone has to have something, right? Otherwise how do you know where to begin? I don’t think I know anyone who sits down in front of a keyboard knowing nothing more than that they are about to write a story…

So what do I need? I need:

  • A world. It doesn’t have to be fleshed out an detailed, but it needs to be there in skeleton form. In particular, I think what matters are the general rules by which the world operates. The big things that will shape it need to be thought through. The Adamantine Palace may not have that much world-building actually in it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t thought about. For a fantasy world, is there an analogous period in history? I will always start from something real and then add bits (magic, dragons, the fact that the moon is made of cheese, whatever). These bits need a little basic thinking through, too, about what the consequences are for the base society when you add the extras. I’ll do most of this as a go along, but I need to know how the rules that govern the way the world works have changed because of whatever I’ve added (or taken away). Same principle goes for Science Fiction and technology. If you’re going to set a story in the real world, then which part of the real world and which time in history?
  • Some driver characters. A few main protagonists with what they are trying to do and why and very roughly what they’re like. These might be characters who will be in the foreground of the story (example: Prince Jehal: Intelligent, cynical, callous, wants to be top dog (because being the top dog is the only place that’s safe), deep down also wants to be… <spoiler deleted>) or they might be in the background (Saffran Kuy in The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice). They are the characters who are shaping events. What they are trying to do and why they are trying to do it will define the way the world changes during the course of the story.
  • Some front-line characters. These might be the same as the above or they might be different, but these are the characters who are in the foreground of the story. I find they tend to acquire their own personalities and colour themselves in as the story goes on, so all I have here at the start are a few seed characteristics that make them stand out from those around them (Angry, guilty, can swing a sword. That sort of thing).
  • An end. In some ways most important of all, I need to know how the end is going to feel. Someone has to either achieve something or fail to achieve something. It’s not so much the specifics of what that I have up front, it’s how it’s going to feel for the reader (bitter-sweet is always a favourite with crushing despair a close second, but there’s always the possibility of a happy success). There may well be several ends for several different story-lines.

And that’s it. After that it’s travel hopefully time. Which has worked extremely well on some occasions and less well on others. This year’s submissions will be The Order of the Scales and The Warlock’s Shadow, both already written in draft straight off the back of their prequels (on the grounds that all the preparation work had already been done) and both examples of FAILURE of the method, dammit! The Order of the Scales in particular has rolled a fumble (er, I mean has a lot wrong with it). I can see at least three re-writes being necessary before it’s good enough to be submitted. The first one started this week, along with the stress headaches.

This would also be the time when some sort of review of the year would appear, but I haven’t got time for that right now. Here’s one someone else made earlier.

Finished (kinda) (4/5/2009)

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The first draft of dragon book three is finished.

Well kind of finished.

Finished as in I’ve reached the end. Not finished as in there’s a fair bit of work to be done before I’ll be sending it in for edit. Like sorting out the plotline that started off in King of the Crags and tripped over its own cleverness halfway through. I can hear my editor telling me to get rid of it already. But still, I get to dance my little victory jig and have a week off and slap myself on the back and stuff like that.

Um. Now what? I suddenly have nothing to do.