Where’s My Book? (13/12/2012)

Posted in News

Possibly I should have posted this under Critical Failures…

Dear frustrated US readers who keep asking where they can get hold of the thief-taker books over on that side of the Atlantic. Look, frankly I share your pain. You’d have thought as the author I’d be the one person most likely to know. Well up to a point I do – you can get the first two from Amazon if you don’t mind getting the kindle edition. Amazon lists what appears to be a paperback US edition of The Warlock’s Shadow due to come out in June next year. Why the second one of three is coming out but not the first, I have no idea. I can tell you the reasons for all the delay and uncertainty: no US publisher wants to take it on. Allegedly my UK publisher has now given up and is distributing to the US via Trafalgar Books who do this sort of thing all the time. Can I find them there? No. If anyone out there has any kind of answer, do please share it so I can share it in turn. I realise there aren’t that many of you out there who care, but if you get as far as reading this, sorry: I really wish I could be more help.


Frustrated author.

Post-Script. It’s been pointed out below that you can order copies of the UK editions for anywhere in the world from The Book Depository. Shipping is free (or included in the price anyway) to most countries.

Lowca Zlodziei (10/04/2012)

Posted in News

It’s not the face I had in mind for Berren, but it’s growing on me. Certainly not a “Gollancz” cover, but it has a certain charm I think, especially if you remember it was originally marketted as a YA story.

Polish cover (lo-res)

Hooded Man With Sword Spotted In Throne-Room (13/12/11)

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Here’s the cover for the last of the three Thief-Taker books. A shady fellow with a hood and a swanky sword skulking around a throne-room at night? Could this be the The King’s Assassin, perchance? I think, at last, it could be. Berren, at last, on the cover of one of his books. I want his boots.

kings assassin new

The Warlock’s Shadow – Taster

Posted in Excerpts

That mysterious past the thief-taker has? Anyone out there really think it *wasn’t* going to catch up with him. And Berren. And be bad?

Poland. New Reviews. Stuff (14/6/2011)

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The King of the Crags is to be published in Poland (probably) next year by Dwojka bez sternika, who recently published The Adamantine Palace. The Thief-Taker’s apprentice, meanwhile has been acquired by Proszynski, who also brought out (are bringing out?) Wolfsangel. I think it would amuse my thief-taker to be in the company of a werewolf. Possibly this is an excuse to visit Poland…

There have been some reviews recently.

The Adamantine Palace first: “…fast, furious and action packed…” Vilutheril

And finally, a couple for the Order of the Scales: “Great Stuff” Falcatta Times and “enthusiastic … brilliantly executed … heart-thumping dragon action” from LEC Book reviews.

For the handful of you following the adventures of Diamond Cascade, there will be a large hiatus shortly (we played the last session last week and left everything on a total cliff-hanger – which I guess is what you get when you put the fate of the world into the hands of a bunch of chaotic thieves and wizards, most of whom are carrying negative wisdom modifiers (and believe me, when it comes to party actions, those modifiers do stack).

I had a go at a couple of other projects to replace Diamond Cascade, but they were rubbish. In fact, everything I write at the moment appears to be rubbish, but that’s what rewrites and editors are for, so no worries – yet. There might be some cartoons instead. Which will also be rubbish since I can’t draw. But it’s my blog, so nyer!

Genre for Japan (28/3/2011)

Posted in News

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, genreforjapan.wordpress.com 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

Best Review Ever Not (12/10/10)

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The next stop in the Chainsaw Gang tour: Alex Gordon Smith reviews interviews David Gatward.

And an assortment of review for Thief-taker that have piled up over the last few weeks.

“…Berren’s imaginary city is full of recognizable people and emotions all of which are brilliantly conveyed in Stephen Deas’s spare and powerful storytelling” www.lovereading4kids.co.uk

“any reader, young or old, should give this a try and see what I am talking about.” Literary Musings

“…gripped me enough that I want to read the sequel! Great, unique storyline with well-crafted characters.” Chicklish

One from Australia too: “The characters are interesting and even mysterious … a good, well-written story for teens.” Ysfetsos

But the world is a big place, filled with diverse opinion. “The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice’ by Stephen Deas is another example of mediocrity that shouldn’t have been let past the editor’s desk,” Yes. Stupid editor. Blame him, but don’t worry, the hose is quickly turned on me. We could also call it “very soggy and misshapen cake, or book, depending on how far we’re taking this analogy.” Why? Well because it plot has been “thrown against the wall like the proverbial pasta to see if it’ll stick” with “one contrivance after another” and “Nothing is explained, everyone acts entirely unrealistically, and by the end of the book the characters you have been reading have as much depth as a sheen of water on the driveway.

Crikey, Fantasy Book Review. That sure sounds like a that sucked as a reading experience. And I kept you up late and made you miss sleep and everything, even though you skimmed and skipped large chunks? I do apologise.

Reviewed by an aspiring fantasy author who, I guess (I hope!) reckons he could do a lot better. Well go on then. Let that wasted evening goad you into achieving something and not be wasted after all.

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…

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

Can I have a Young Adult please? (24/8/2010)

Posted in News

“I highly recommend The Admantine Palace to all readers of fantasy. Even if it has been years since you last read a book about dragons, don’t hesitate to give this one a try. You will not be disappointed. SFF Chat. Yep, can’t resist starting with another fine review for The Adamantine Palace.

Back to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (3-star review in issue 200 of SFX on its way, apparently, but I don’t know what it says). While we’re at it, Civilian Reader has this to say: “I really enjoyed reading Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, and I’ll definitely be looking out for future novels in the series.”

Well good. However, a couple of comments have captured my attention.

“I was also not sure, upon finishing, if this was YA fantasy or not – I’ve read that it is, but there are some pretty dark and/or graphic scenes in the story, which makes me question if this is accurate.” (from the same review)

“I actually liked Syannis as a character more than I liked Berren because as Thea says, he did have a certain degree of unpredictability as well as an intriguing back story, and that is perhaps another issue since the book is a YA novel and I ended up liking the adult character more.” (from the Booksmugglers)

These aren’t isolated observations either, there are similar comments in other reviews and I’m sure they will continue. I have no problem with that. All opinions are equally valid. So here’s mine:

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is intended to be a YA book. That’s not to say adults shouldn’t enjoy it too, but in this book, I’m specifically writing for teenage boys. I happen to think that teenage boys who read fiction probably deserve to be treated pretty much as adults. The content and the style of prose remain as they would be for an adult fantasy novel. And yes, here and there it’s dark. Knives figure prominently and knives are nasty. But look, knives and knife-crime are (apparently) an issue for teenage men. How big an issue I’m not sure, but big enough to make the news every few months. I see no reason why the sort of fourteen-year-old who’s at all likely to pick up a book like this and read it should be talked down to.

And it doesn’t surprise me at all that an adult reader finds Master Sy more interesting. He’s got secrets he holds very close, and they’re big and dark and yes they’ll be back with avengance in the second and third books. In this book, I too find Master Sy to be the more interesting character (that changes as the series goes on, I might add). He’s much more my age, he has a past with some pretty ugly bits, he’s much more like the me of today than Berren, who lives almopst entirely in the here-and-now, is. But on the other hand, I was fourteen once. I remember what it was like and I remember who my heroes were back then, and I’m pretty sure if I asked teenage me which one I liked best, I’d have gone for Berren. Master Sy is written for adult me, Berren for the person I used to be more than half a lifetime ago.

I set out to write a book here that will appeal to adults both old and young, and I’m glad that the, er… older ones ones only barely past their teens and still in the first flush of youth, honest guv, are finding the thief-taker and his lad to be a good read. But that’s only half the story. I’ve reviewed young adult fiction in days gone by, and I found a lot of it pretty tiresome, actually, but that was adult me reading a book that wasn’t meant for adult me. When, much too late in a couple of cases, I turned around to teenage me and asked him what he thought, I found I got quite a different answer. Where are the Young Adult readers? Where are the Young Adult reviewers? Boys in particular? Difficult, I imagine, to set yourself up a review blog and be taken seriously at that sort of age. Who speaks for you? Do they do so fairly? The consistency of review for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice troubles me. Maybe the readers I mostly wrote for will  think TTA is total tosh that doesn’t speak to them at all. Or maybe they think it’s great. How will I know if I never hear from you?

So I’d like to find out. I know there are “Young Adults” out there who have read The Adamantine Palace, so maybe you’re reading this. Maybe you came here by another route. Anyway: I have half a dozen copies of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice I’d like to give away. You have to be under eighteen, you have to be male, and you have to give me an honest opinion of what you think. Doesn’t have to be articulate or eloquent or at any great length, just honest. You don’t have to tell me your name, but you will have to give me an address I can post to. That’s the deal. I send you a free book, you tell me what you thought.

Oh, and probably best to get in touch via the contact page, eh?

Back (17/8/2010)

Posted in News

I have battled Poseidon, I have scaled mighty cliffs, explored lost islands and hidden coves and supervised the construction of irrigation projects that would make a rice-farmer weep for joy. I have…

OK, OK, I’ve come back from a family holiday at the beach. My way sounded better <sulk>.

I have also, finally, finally, truly and really arrived as a fantasy author, as the ultimate you-write-epic-fantasy thing has happened at last. Yes, it’s a Tolkien comparison. Sort of. If the implication is meant to be that we both drew on bits history for inspiration, well then I think JRR wins that by a country mile, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s a little article about thief-takers (the real thing) on Wikipedia. It really only scratches the surface, but it turns out that’s about as much as you need to know to write a book about them…

There’s a few new reviews kicking about. One from The Booksmugglers for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. Some “truly brilliant moments” aside, I can’t help but smirk a little when someone finds the thief-taker more interesting than his apprentice. Yes, indeed, Syannis is the enigma for the not-so-young adult readers.

Didn’t make me smirk as much as this review of The Adamantine Palace, though.

“Deas has a deft hand with worldbuilding and history. I absolutely loved all the strange and sinister little touches, like the Scales, that he put into his world. I could have gobbled up twice what he put in without blinking. And honestly, history in fantasy novels usually puts me to sleep, but in TAP I got just enough to keep me curious.”

But the smirk comes at the bit about Zafir. “I sincerely hope that Zafir proves to be more than Jehal’s puppet in the sequel” and a whole lot more. If you’ve read King of the Crags, go and read this review and you can smirk too. It’s nice to know that there’s one reader out there who’s most likely going to punch the air and whoop with joy about exactly halfway through… heh heh.

Status report for editor: The Warlock’s Shadow remains one rewrite away from submission, I appear to have a synopsis of The King’s Assassin that’s about as long as the book itself is supposed to be, I’m still waiting for the edits for The Order of the Scales to Come back and I have a steadily growing urge to get on and start The Black Mausoleum[1], The Sea Princes and something for which I don’t have a title yet but which amused me enough to go and find out who holds the copyright to Fu Manchu.

[1] Yes, I know, I started this some months ago, but it turns out I started something else. Hey ho.

Foreshadowing (7/6/2010)

Posted in News

First off, a couple of early reviews for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice: - “a gripping read, with engaging characters, that bodes well for future books in the series (and it has me that little more eager for ‘The King of the Crags’)” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review. Not going to argue with that, although I’m sure there will be plenty more. And

“This apprentice has potential. Please, Mr Deas, can I have some more?” Yes, International Writers Magazine, you may. Books two and three, The Warlock’s Shadow and The King’s Assassin will follow in 2011 and 2012. I’m writing them both right now (strictly rewriting, if there’s truly a difference). Faster than I was a few days ago, having been poked about King of the Crags…

“I also sincerely dislike the fact that I now have to wait for the next instalment to find out what happens next. *Pokes Stephen with a pointy metal stick* Write faster!! Ow! The next installment is with my editor! Poke him!

Even a new review of The Adamantine Palace “Deas gives classic fantasy a unique twist, and I am really curious to see where he will take us from here.”

After posting last week about how role-playing games were a fantastic sandbox for story design, I thought maybe I should justify that statement (of the obvious, to my mind) in a little more depth. So here and there I’ll be putting up what hints and tips I can that I think help in the design of a good story. With a bit of luck, they’ll work for writing novels just as well as for writing adventure campaigns, and I thought I’d start with foreshadowing.

So what is this foreshadowing thing and where do I get some? It’s actually pretty straightforward. Look it up on the internet if you want, but basically, it’s dropping hints early on about stuff that’s going to happen later. So in the first scene of your story, you describe the room where your main character lives and you put a gun on the wall and make of point of mentioning that it’s loaded. In the last scene, someone takes the gun off the wall and shoots him. Mentioning the gun much earlier than it was actually relevant to the story, that’s foreshadowing. Easy. If the apparently goody two-shoes king’s mage is actually going to launch a coup half way through your story and seize the kingdom in the name of Zarkz the Lord of Demons, then foreshadowing is, well, mentioning the existence of Zarkz the Lord of Demons at some point before it happens. Foreshadowing is having the players/protagonists get wind that the king’s mage isn’t quite as nice as people think, whether they see something themselves or hear it through others (if the entire focus of the plot is stopping Zarkz, then it’s arguable that this isn’t foreshadowing so much as, well, plot. So imagine the focus of the story being elsewhere…)

Anyway, the lesson I’ve learned from running too many RPGs is that, whatever you think your story is going to be about, there’s a fair chance that your players will have other ideas and go find some other piece of story. So you might have meant them to investigate the king’s mage and stop Zarkz from being summoned, but in fact, chances are they’ll start running a scam involving bear-baiting, a druid and a lycanthrope, and the first they’ll know about Zarkz is when the Abyssal Palace rises from the earth, half the city falls apart around their feet and there are demonic servitors roaming the streets. So look, for my playing group, I don’t just put a loaded gun on the wall and hope they players notice; scatter them about like confetti. The champion bear is called Zarkz and everyone goes on about how he fights like a demon. That sort of thing. I ran a game once set in the near future where every single item of news ended up being related to the plot, somehow. Just litter the storyline with stuff that takes your fancy, even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with it. Half the time your players won’t notice, the other half you’ll come up with something ten sessions later. Trust your imagination. You can throw in a bit of foreshadowing without having a clue what you’re going to do with it. Have no fear – you’ll find something. Leave ‘em lying around, and whenever you need a bit of inspiration as to how the hell you’re going to cope with whatever bizarre plan of action your players come up with, they’ll be waiting for you with open arms…

Books, I think, are much the same. Maybe a bit easier and a bit harder at the same time, in that readers are a little more attentive than players. You don’t need to litter the place with bits of foreshadowing quite so much and you need can’t let them go unused quite so much.

I’ve heard it said, on the subject, that if you’re going to put a loaded gun on the wall in scene one, someone had better use it before the end of the story. Well if you make a big deal of it, yes, but otherwise my advice is to throw the kitchen sink at the foreshadowing, don’t worry if you don’t even know where half your ideas will lead or how they tie into the plot, and don’t worry about the devices you end up not using. In a game, your players will pick up on the ones that interest them and all the rest, well, they probably never noticed in the first place. In a book you can take out the ones that didn’t go anywhere later. That’s what rewrites and editors are for.

Into the Wild Once More (28/6/2010)

Posted in News

Weird. Today the corrected proof for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice went back to Gollancz. I find proof corrections are the very worst part of the process of making a book. Partly because proof-reading is a different sort of reading and not one that I particularly like, and partly because I inevitably find clunky sentences and repetitions of words that I really REALLY wish had been sorted out at the copy edit stage.

The weird thing, though, is handing over the final paper manuscript knowing full well that there’s a review already published (yay – two more authors to add to my growing collection of people I have failed to be[1]) and copies have been on sale on e-bay for a month.

And yes, Clare, you can have some more.

[1] Failing to be other authors is easy. I succeed at it without even trying. In fact, I’m so good at it, I think I’m going to start a collection. Although I suppose the real art is to publish something under a nom-de-plume and then fail to be yourself.

The Worth of a Man (8/6/2010)

Posted in News

As I write this, there are two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice available up on eBay. One of them is signed, the other is unsigned. The difference in price is considerable. My thoughts on this are conflicted. Along the lines of:

Wow. That’s a lot of money for a book.

So my signature is worth that much? Coo.

To someone else.

Which bit of NOT FOR RESALE isn’t clear?

The book isn’t out for NEARLY THREE MONTHS yet.


I’ve signed exactly two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. Signed them at Forbidden Planet. I’m really quite sure I haven’t signed any others, and, well, the fact that it’s got a date on it kind of dots the i’s and crosses the t’s quite nicely. So, Britobooks, now I know who you are. The question is, do I mind?

On one level yes, simply because ARCs state that they are NOT FOR RESALE and so selling them on e-bay is riding roughshod over the wishes of the publisher, who presumably supplied said ARC free and gratis and entirely at their own expense. And my publisher is my friend and if you upset my publicist, you upset me in a big sticking together all-on-the-same-team group-hugging kind of way.

But should I care? Exactly how does an author, lose out? So what if it’s on sale on eBay? Seriously, is there anyone so desperate to read The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice that they’re prepared to pay five times the recommended retail price just to get it three months early? No. So it’s going to go to a collector who’s only interested in it because it’s an expensive and a rarity. In fact, signing the ARC is a marginal win for me, isn’t it, since it pushes the price up and ensures that the book isn’t bought by a casual reader who might otherwise have bought a copy from a shop. Since that ARC would otherwise presumably have languished in a box and might now be read, leading to the (unlikely, perhaps, but still extant) possibility of enthusiasm, further book purchases, reviews, etc., strictly I think I should be pleased it’s on e-bay instead of in a box.

Well I’m not. Publication day is three months away, the ARC is in ‘fine unread condition’ (one therefore assumes no review will be forthcoming[2]). Britobooks, you have cost me nothing, but  your don’t-give-a-shit attitude is rude and makes my publicist sad. I wave my private parts at you, fart in your general direction and speak your name to my friends in Her Majesties Revenue and Customs. However…

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Britobooks, whoever he/she is, had in fact read the ARC and had reviewed it (and is simply waiting, as asked, for a few days before publication before releasing their review into the wild) and had waited until after publication day[3]. The ARC has served its purpose and a surfeit of ARCs, after all, is a problem… So if it’s sold on e-bay, who exactly loses? If an ARC is read, reviewed and then sold after the first edition is in the shops, frankly why should either author or publisher care? [1]

(Progress report: Working on the last rewrite of OOTS. Can’t decide if it’s a disordered mess or the best thing I’ve ever written. Possibly both. Aiming to submit to my publisher around about the day of the Gemmells).

[1] My personal preference would be for spent ARCS to find their way to charity shops and be read several times more rather than languish on the shelves of a collector, but hey, you take the trouble to write a review, I’m not going to complain.

[2] Also, from a quick stock check of other signed proofs in their store, I can also reveal that I’m worth about a quarter of an Abercrombie. I find I can live with that.

[3] Late edit: It’s been pointed out to me that early release of ARCs into the wild like this then leads to the possibility of pre-release torrenting of the book, and that surely does hurt both author and publisher.

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (August 2010 UK, 2012 Pol)

When Berren makes the mistake of stealing a purse from a thief-taker, it should have condemned him to a short and brutal life in the slave-mines. So when the thief-taker offers to train him as an apprentice instead, he can’t believe his luck. But Berren’s new master has secrets of his own, and thief-takers and their apprentices are wont to make enemies far more readily than friends.

thieftakers apprentice cover

The first Thief-Taker’s Apprentice was written as a stand-alone book back in 2006, largely. The Taiytakai and the Moon-Sorcerers of the Diamond Isles were both conceived back then. As of May 2009, Thief-Taker is now due to be published as a trilogy of short novels with the first, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice coming out in the UK on 26th August 2010. An early excerpt (chapter one) is here for those as are interested. The second and third books, The Warlock’s Shadow and The King’s Assassin followed in 2011 and 2012. For some of the stuff in the blurb, there, you have to wait until books two or three.

Other covers: Polish

Polish cover (lo-res)

[Has] the clear potential for a great series if the foreshadowing and hints of much deeper stuff materialize in further installments.” Fantasy Book Critic

A rather nice review from Locus (you have to put up with scanned hardcopy for now):

TTA locus 1

TTA locus 2

“An engaging tale” SFX (although noting that teenage boys can be, well, really quite annoying company at times. Yes they can.)

9.5/10 - “a gripping read, with engaging characters, that bodes well for future books in the series (and it has me that little more eager for ‘The King of the Crags’)” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review. Not going to argue with that.

… a cracking fantasy that deserves to be widely read and enjoyed. – My Favourite Books. With “sharp dialogue” and a “rich setting.

“This apprentice has potential. Please, Mr Deas, can I have some more?” Yes, International Writers Magazine, you may.

“This is very well realised and written fantasy.” Civilian Reader.

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.” Total SciFi “Online

“…great pace and some impressive depth…” The Wertzone

“…a story for all ages to enjoy…” SFSite

“like Oliver meets Graceling The Bookette review

Or  very well written and full of action and adventure. The Fringe.

Some “truly brilliant moments” for The Booksmugglers.

“A good solid fantasy for all ages.” Books for Life

The Fantastical Librarian “really enjoyed The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice”

“Tautly told, this gripping adventure tells how following one act of outrageous boldness a young cutpurse becomes apprentice to the city’s thief taker, a man driven by a powerful need to settle an old score …” www.lovereading.co.uk

“As a YA read I give this one top marks” – Fixed on Fantasy

“The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs.” www.nudgemenow.com

Is the thief-taker more interesting than his apprentice? And how much, I wonder, does that depend on who you are? Or how young you are? See, the thing is, unless you are in your teens, the main character, he’s not meant for you. LEC book reviews tries to consider 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.

“…a great reintroduction to the fantasy genre: a well-written tale that well deserves a read.” Jaime Reviews

“a slow-burning but skilfully crafted affair” Quippe

A couple from Australia too: “The characters are interesting and even mysterious … a good, well-written story for teens.” Ysfetsos

“realistic, complex characters, with a realistic, complex relationship and adventures to match” Specusphere

But the world is a big place, filled with diverse opinion. here’s another Australian: “The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice’ by Stephen Deas is another example of mediocrity that shouldn’t have been let past the editor’s desk,” Yes. Stupid editor. Blame him, but don’t worry, the hose is quickly turned on me. We could also call it “very soggy and misshapen cake, or book, depending on how far we’re taking this analogy.” Why? Well because it plot has been “thrown against the wall like the proverbial pasta to see if it’ll stick” with “one contrivance after another” and “Nothing is explained, everyone acts entirely unrealistically, and by the end of the book the characters you have been reading have as much depth as a sheen of water on the driveway.” Crikey, Fantasy Book Review. That sure sounds like a that sucked as a reading experience. And I kept you up late and made you miss sleep and everything, even though you skimmed and skipped large chunks? I guess we weren’t made for each other, eh?

And now some actual YA reviews (I think):

“I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was written very well and I really enjoyed how the author moved the story along quite quickly … I would recommend this book for young adults who enjoy fast paced books with lots of action. I would not recommend it for people who enjoy books that are happy and optimistic.” from the Little Book Room.

Hmmm. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recommend ANY of my books to people who want happy and optimistic.

The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs. Bookgeeks.

What amounts to a ’suitability for its target audience’ review for Thief-Taker from Readplus in Australia: The novel does contain positive messages and meaningful themes for teenagers about growing-up too fast and wanting to live in an adult world before they are fully prepared to deal with the full consequences.

“Great combat, some magical twists and an author who plays for keeps which makes this title a book that really was a real joy to read.” Tattys Treasure Chest

“…highly enjoyable and gripping.” Scottish Book Trust

“…Berren’s imaginary city is full of recognizable people and emotions all of which are brilliantly conveyed in Stephen Deas’s spare and powerful storytelling” www.lovereading4kids.co.uk

“It doesn’t necessarily change the genre in any groundbreaking ways; but what is available within it is pulled off so well, you can hardly blame him for it … any reader, young or old, should give this a try and see what I am talking about.” Literary Musings

“…gripped me enough that I want to read the sequel! Great, unique storyline with well-crafted characters.” Chicklish

“I would suggest this book to anyone who likes a darker world with very little magic and heroes who are not at always winning the fight.” - KJ

Yup. Reckon I’d go with that.

Interviews (2/3/2010)

Posted in News

This week, as work on their final rewrite approaches completion, we interview Syannis and Berren, leading characters in the forth-coming Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. So, guys, tell us a little about yourselves…

Berren: Ok, so I’m learning to be this really cool dude who springs about the place, whacking down bad guys and I’m totally the star of the story and everything…

Syannis: What my idiot apprentice means to say is that he’s learning the trade of thief-taking. What he has still failed to grasp is that this largely consists of talking to people. As you’ll see from his story, he used to cut purses and, literally, shovel shit for a living. I’ve taken pity on him and…

Berren: You mean you were too embarrassed that I stole your purse!

Syannis: …and taken him to teach him the ways of taking thieves. Which mostly consists of trying to batter a few manners into his head and teaching him to read and write.

Berren: And swords! You’re going to teach me swords, right. One day.

Syannis <rolls eyes>: If you ever learn your letters, yes.

Berren: That’s why I want to be a thief-taker. The first time I saw Master Sy, he killed three men who tried to jump him. It was awesome. I want to be like that.

Syannis: It was an unusual day.

(To Syannis) Are the rumours true that you only took Berren on because he’s the spitting image of someone you used to know?

Syannis: I don’t know where you heard that. I fancied an apprentice, that’s all.

Berren: No, he was just mad because I took his purse.

So, Berren, you used to be a thief and now you’re a thief-taker? How did that come about? What’s wrong with a bit of honest work in the first place?

Berren: Look, after the war and the siege and everything, there were a lot of boys and girls born without any fathers. Khrozus’ boys they call us. What happens if there’s no one to look after you in a place like Deephaven, is that you get put into a city orphanage until you’re old enough so they can sell you to someone who wants a young pair of hands. I was lucky to not  wind up on a Taiytakei slave ship. So I got sold to Master Hatchet, who sends his boys out to clean the dung up off the streets and he expects us to pay for our food while we’re at it. How? It’s not as though anyone else is giving us any money. Cleaning up the streets pays off our debt, he says. So we have to start picking pockets and cutting purses to eat. And then he has us running all sorts of other errands. Not like we had much of a choice.

Syannis: This city breeds thieves. That’s what happens when money falls out of the sky.

What about you, Syannis, what’s your story. How did you end up a thief-taker?

Syannis: I came to Deephaven about eight years ago. It seemed to suit my skills. I hate thieves.

Is there a particular reason for that?

Syannis: Yes.

Care to share?

Syannis: Not really, no. It has nothing to do with what I do now.

Berren: That’s not quite… <bites lip>

Well what did you do before?

Syannis: Nothing of any consequence.

Berren: Well where did you learn to fight like that, eh? And what about Kasmin – he called you…

Syannis: He calls me all sorts of things. I had another life before I came to Deephaven. That life is finished. There’s nothing more to say.

Berren: He called you a…

Syannis: Nothing. To. Say.

So this story, why don’t you tell us about what happens?

Berren: Like I said, we’re these really cool dudes who spring about the place, whacking down bad guys and there’s this gang of pirates we’re after and then there are the snuffers and there’s this girl, Lilissa, who’s really sweet and she gets into trouble and then there’s Jerrin who used to be one of Master Hatchet’s boys who’s got it in for me for some reason and he’s doing all this stuff and…

Syannis: Mostly it’s about how hard it is to teach Berren anything that he actually ought to learn. Like how to read and write.

Berren: And I stow away on this boat and there’s this big fight and…

Syannis: And how to keep out of fights.

Berren: Oh, and then there’s this time when I caught out in The Maze and I have to hide…

Syannis: And how to stay out of trouble.

Berren: And then there’s this time when Master Sy fights four men at once! (Looking at Syannis) and the time when I saved your life and you cut that bloke’s hand off. And then there’s that weird scary warlock down at the House of Cats and Gulls that Master Sy knows, and there’s this knife…

Syannis: (pointedly) And how to keep his mouth shut.

Berren: And then there’s this really big fire…

Syannis: And that thief-taking is mostly about talking to the right people and a little bit of detective work and that once you finally know who it is you’re after, you send in a big posse of militiamen while you wait at the back… Fire? What fire? I don’t remember a fire.

One final question. You’ve seen the cover art for your story now. What do you think.

Berren: I think we look cool.

Syannis: Wait, that’s supposed to be us?

Berren: Can I have a big black cloak like that? With a hood? That looks so sweet. I bet it billows out behind you like a great black cloud when you run, too.

Syannis: I bet you’d trip over it.

Berren: Have you actually got a cloak like that? Does that mean I’m going to get one too? And a sword! I have a sword! When do I get my sword?

Syannis: When you learn your letters.

Berren: Yeah, I think the picture’s really great. That’s exactly how I want to be in a couple of years. It’s really us. We’re going to be the most feared thief-taking team in the whole of Deephaven.

Syannis: With a hood? So that all that being feared is completely wasted when no one can recognise you?

Berren: Yeah. All dark and mysterious. Girls go weak for a tall dark mysterious stranger.

Syannis: Firstly you’re a short-arse, and secondly, no generally they don’t.

Berren: Especially with a really cool sword. I think it’s great. As soon as I can, that’s the way I want to look. I’m going to get some clothes like that right now.

Syannis: I think it makes us look like a pair of virgin wannabe snuffers.

Berren: Well you look like an old shopkeeper in your stupid old coat. Those new cloaks are great! When do we get them?

Syannis: And clumsy old cavalry swords left over from the war? I don’t think so. Try using one of those in a narrow alley. You probably couldn’t even hold it properly…

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is published in August 2010

A Tale of Four Covers (2/2/2010)

Posted in News

…or how, after weeks of nothing much apparently going on, all the buses arrive at once. Yes, today there’s actually some news. In fact, there’s news about four different books and a couple of appearances…

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Firstly The Adamantine Palace is officially released in the US by ROC today, which seems as good a reason as any to show off the extremely gorgeous cover yet again. Love the Gollancz cover as I do, the little collection of first-edition ROC hardbacks now has a special place in my book cupboard. To, er… celebrate, there are a few interviews and articles from the last few weeks that are starting to surface. Here (interview with someone who actually read the book first!), here (complete with opportunity to win an autographed map) and here (so far). Also spotted: a late review in from Australia. Nothing that hasn’t been said before in a different way, but I did like: “Mr Deas has, in my opinion, created the most terrifyingly natural and malign dragons to have ever graced the page.” Thank-you. My work here is done.

At the same time, yesterday was the official UK release  for the mass-market paperback edition of The Adamantine Palace, and for anyone who’s been waiting for the pocket-sized version, this one comes with the map. I’m not sure why, but it does. The Adamantine Palace is Waterstones’ fantasy and science-fiction pick of the month for February, which is  a bit mind-boggling. It’s also one of the local store’s picks of 2009, but I think that might have more to do with local prejudice than anything. Credit where credit’s due, though, they’ve been immensely supportive over the last year and I shall continue to sneak into their coffee shop with my laptop from time to time. There may even be an author signing event thing in April for King of the Crags – more on that when it happens.

On the subject of which, the proof corrections for King of the Crags are almost done. OK, not very exciting after all, so here’s yet another pretty cover that you’ve seen before. King of the Crags will have the map in it too, by the looks of things. Sounds like an excuse to show off another gorgeous cover…

Cover first draft

And then there’s the SFX weekender coming up next weekend, in which I shall orbit like a piece of small cosmic debris around such collossi as Al Reynolds and Joe Abercrombie. If you want to come and snooze for a while in a quiet and largely empty room, I shall be reading from various works, some of which might even be my own, on the appropriately named Slaughtered Lamb stage at about 2:30. If Fantasycon was anything to go by, this will be a fine place to come for a bit of peace and quiet, and I promise not to read too loudly.

thieftakers apprentice cover

Covers. Yes. The big news of the week, of course, is the revolutionary, ground-breaking cover to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, in which we bring you not one, but TWO hooded men. This audacious leap away from genre convention should be in the shops come August, and will doubtless be followed by a slew of imitators, culminating in covers with COUNTLESS HORDES of hooded men. When that happens, just remember who took that first leap of faith…

Work on book two, recently re-titled The Hooded Hordes will begin shortly.

Skipping ahead to The Order of the Scales, the first rewrite is all done bar the shouting. For anyone who’s interested, this is a structural rewrite (if anyone cares, largely around the story-arcs for Kemir and the Adamantine Spear). The horrible snapping rending grinding noises are the sounds of plot-bones being snapped off and attached in different places. Despite the sound effects, though, the story feels much better for it. There’s no cover I can offer up for The Order of the Scales, but I think we’re seeing a pattern here, so I’m guessing a deep red background (so the series will colour-coordinate with your Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD set, which is only right and proper after all) and three dragons this time. I’m thinking two facing each other like on the Crags cover (green and blue to match the backgrounds of the first two books) and  a third one behind them, the white one, wings spread, coming out of the page. And increased cripsyness at the edges. But I know squat about designing covers, so don’t imagine that any of that actually means anything.

In the absence of the actual cover for Order of the Scales (and I really can’t wait, because so far these Gollancz covers have been great), here is a picture of Niagara Falls in the winter of 1911. My wife showed me this, having been passed it via a friend, friend of a friend, etc. etc. (so sorry, original photographer, copyright owner, and subsequent toucher-upper, but I have no idea who you are to attribute any credit) with the observation that it was a) a magnificant picture and b) would make an excellent fantasy cover. Just stick a sodding great dragon peering down at the man and there you go – the opening scene of King of the Crags (almost).

Niagara in ice

I can’t quite tell, but f you look closely enough, is that fellow wearing a hood? Or is it just a ninja outfit?

When in Doubt, Cut (28/9/09)

Posted in News

The great re-write-athon continues. King of the Crags has gone back to Gollancz now (ARCs expected around the end of October or early November). The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice has exited its penultimate rewrite, with another pre-submission spit-and-polish coming up in November. Next up, it’s another rewrite – the Gazetteer this time, then another one (that spit and polish), then probably another one (The Order of the Scales) and then probably yet another one, this time the edit to Thief-Taker. All in all, the great re-write-athon looks like it’s going to add up to something like seven months. With a bit of luck there might be a chance to work a bit on The Warlock’s Shadow and one or two bits and pieces. Or maybe I’ll spend my few spare hours watching True Blood and Dexter and other uplifting entertainments. Dammit, for a moment I had a flash of yearning for the good old days of NOT being published, when everything was new and shiny and rewriting  didn’t occupy HALF A F**KING YEAR!

In the meantime, however, it seems I am doomed to become a re-write expert. With two down and four to go, you’ll all doubtless be hugely please to know that I already have much unwanted wisdom burning to be shared. We’ll start with a simple mantra with which I shall beat myself repeatedly, probably wrapped around a handy piece of two-by-four: When In Doubt, Cut.

See, that uneasy feeling you get reading through your own manuscript at some point is the creeping realisation that your near-perfect work might, in fact, have an itsy-bitsy flaw in it. Now if you’re me, you’ll get this sensation  around about the time you get to a certain scene, say, of which you are particularly fond and proud. A scene that is, you believe, essential to the overall greatness of the story you’re trying to tell. A scene that will make your readers gasp with awe and bow at the mention of your name. A scene that is pivotal to atmosphere or to the understanding of some character, even if it’s a but superfluous as far as the plot goes and, in fact, had to be mangled into place with a crowbar and a mallet between two chapters that had previously been perfectly cosy neighbours.

You get where this is going, right. When In Doubt, Cut. No matter how awesome your scene is, if it doesn’t belong in your story then it doesn’t belong in your story. Cut it. Do it Now! Don’t think about it, just do it, and revel in the relief of knowing that that, even though it was hard, you did the Right Thing. Yes, I’m afraid some scenes need some Tough Love. You can always put them in some other story, right?

Or you can cut them out and post them on the internet (this is one of those Blue Peter here’s-one-I-made-earlier outtakes because what I cut out of Thief-Taker was pretty naff. But I promise, any more polished finished scenes that end up lying bleeding on the floor, I’ll put them up :-)

And if my recording of True Blood doesn’t start behaving itself RIGHT NOW then the next thing I’ll be re-writing is a letter to my insurance company explaining how exactly I accidentally dropped a laptop through the TV screen and right out the other side.

Anyway. Yes. When In Doubt, Cut.

Another One Bites The Dust (31/7/09)

Posted in News

Today’s handy writing tips, one do, one don’t. DO listen to music while you write. I Have the unusual luxury of a house to myself[1] for the first time in a long time and as I write this, the music is cranked up LOUD. House-consuming, brain-swallowing chords fill the world, cascades of notes do battle with warlike flights of arpeggios and give life to the symphony of mayhem in my head waiting to be writ as space and time rip and swirl and fall apart…

Er. Or something like that. Music good. Let’s leave it at that. It doesn’t *have* to be Wagner after all. It could be… Rammstein. Anything at all. Anything as long as it’s loud and German, apparently.

Today’s DONT. DONT write with a kitten on your lap. Don’t even try. Don’t write with a kitten in the same room as you, looking up at you with its big mournful eyes, chirruping it’s heart away at the merciless cruelty of an owner who won’t let it have the lap it so clearly deserves. Don’t do this, because this will inevitably turn into a kitten-on-lap situation. Don’t write with a  kitten in the same house, because that soon becomes a kitten in the same room. And don’t think you can fob them off with food, because yeah, sure, off they go and being the little balls of accelerated space-time that they are, they’ll simply inhale whatever you’ve given them and be back before you can remember what a paragraph is. And then they’ll be back you’re right where you started except with cat-breath and the occasional cat-fart now.

Now I love my kittens to bits, but there are limits, and those limits include being having one kitten walk all over the keyboard while I’m in the middle of the last chapter of something while the other one gets a bit playful and starts batting at the USB stick in the hope that it’ll somehow grow legs and fur and a tail, jump off the desk and run squeaking in terror for the nearest sofa. Polite notice to my feline friends: Miaow rawwwaram prrrrrupmiaw! [2]

So yes, feline readers, there are limits and you’d best beware, for while a kitten is tradi – GET OFF THE FRIGGING USB STICK FOR PITY’S SAKE – traditional friend, there are certain necessities to m – OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T CHEW THAT – maintaining the supply of catfood.

It’s possible that the first draft of The Thief-Taker’s – GET OFF THE FUCKING MOUSE BUTTONS –  Apprentice is finished. I have to go now. Cat fart. Bad one <sounds of choking> <transmission ends>

[1] Except for kittens, as will become clear.

[2] No, this is not a new and interesting species of mouse that you have discovered. It is in fact my work. My life’s work.  Possibly the sole repository for my life’s work, given what your litter-mate appears to have done to my laptop.

Plugging Holes (21/7/09)

Posted in News

Three weeks ago I said something about how following your synopsis was a good thing and that I might have made a wee little cock-up on this front but that it was easily fixed…

Jeez. Well it’s fixed now. Three weeks later, which means three weeks of words, which means there was a 15,000 word hole in the middle of what I was writing. <furrows brow> No wonder it seemed a bit off. Well it’s done now. Thief-Taker is now on the home straight and should still finish by the end of next week. Just about. Which means I can finally turn my attention to… T-shirts? Signings? the Absurd Movie-Trailer Project? Sollos and Kemir short stories? Ah, the choice, the choice, the CHOICE!

Except it’ll be none of that because then I rather hope I’ll be straight into the re-writing of King of the Crags.
<sigh> No rest for the wicked. At least I got the map done, eh?

Ignore your synopsis at your peril (30/6/09)

Posted in News

What’s the point of a synopsis? I suppose you might think that’s pretty simple, really, that the synopsis is there to, you know, summarise the story and stuff like that. Actually that’s quite a hard thing to do; to be blunt, I find writing a synopsis a lot more challenging than writing a novel (although it is a bit quicker). What a synopsis is NOT is a summary of the plot. A synopsis is also not a dramatis personae. It is not a chapter-by-chapter summary of your story. You might think it’s one of those things, but it isn’t, even if it cunningly disguises itself as one. What a synopsis isn’t is a summary of what you want to say and nothing more. It needs to be a summary of how you mean to say it too. Remember, after all, what your synopsis is for, after all. It’s for making your agent, editor, other editors, preferably everyone in the whole world, be so convinced that the thing your synopsis is a synopsis of is so damn good that they salivate at the thought of being able to read it one day. It’s a marketing tool. In fact, when it comes down it, your synopsis doesn’t need to bear any actual resemblance to what you end up writing. By the time a manuscript finally arrives, it’s long done its job. Hasn’t it?

Well I think the answer is yes to the above. All of the above. Even the bits of the above that directly contradict each other. And while I certainly do worry about making sure my synopses are marketing tools (you have to bear in mind here that everything I’m under contract to produce has been on the basis of a synopsis and a few chapters being all there is to show) and that they reflect the tone and the style of what I plan to write, they do still, you know, summarise the story and stuff like that. Things might change a bit here and there, but quite a bit of thought goes into the story design at this stage. It’s all mapped out, at least as a sketch, and that’s what the synopsis is supposed to show – that you know the way. A map, that’s what a synopsis is to me. A really cool map that tells you how you’ll get from the start of the story to the end, and shows you just how irresistibly cool the journey is going to be. A map that always reminds you where you’re going and how to get there.

So, having extolled the virtues of the synopsis, can I know extol the virtues of actually following the damn thing. Just like I didn’t recently. Don’t look at your word count and think Hmmm… going a bit long here… Can recover that if I just skip a bit. That was just character development, after all.

No. Bad Steve. BAD Steve. Several tens of thousands of words later, Syannis the Thief-Taker does something that’s unexpectedly out of character. It needs to seem a bit off-kilter. Except it doesn’t. Why? Because Syannis the Thief-Taker hasn’t had the attention he needs to make an outburst of [spoiler deleted] seem a bit odd. Which means that the reaction of Berren, his apprentice, doesn’t work. Which makes what he was about to do next seem a bit odd. And thus the whole rest of my novel unravels before my eyes.

Bah. But like every boy scout knows, maps don’t work if you don’t follow them.

Well it’s spotted now, it’s easily fixed on this occasion and if I overrun, well then it won’t be by much and it won’t be the end of the world. It’s cost me a couple of days and a slight headache from too much brow-furrowing. It could have been a lot, lot worse. Still – note to self for the future: Write the story you set out to write, dammit.

Lots of other stuff bubbling about at the moment. Some signings, some world-building, a map (yes, you heard, a MAP!) of the dragon-realms and maybe some new stories. All on hold for now while I finish the first draft of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, but watch this space about a month from now.

Little Things (2/6/09)

Posted in News

I signed a book for an engineer at work yesterday. Sometimes little things like that mean as much as big reviews.

King of the Crags still hasn’t come back from my editor (Oi! Simon! This means you!). I Can’t decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Or maybe it’s a don’t-submit-so-bloody-early thing. Anyway, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is half written now so I’ll probably finish that first anyway. And then I’ll submit that AND Order of the Scales AND The Warlock’ Shadow AND The King’s Assassin. All at once. And some other stuff too! Ha HAAA!

<sigh> Yes, it seems that dieting CAN trigger delusions.

The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (taster)

Posted in Excerpts

Berren is one of “Khrozus’ Boys,” the splat of unwanted bastards that the army of Khrozus the Butcher left behind at the end of the civil war. A life of petty larceny and clearing crap off the city streets looms large, until one day he goes to watch a rare public execution and what he sees changes the whole course of his life.

Pat Rothfuss in town (19/5/09)

Posted in News

If you read fantasy, you’ll almost certainly have heard of The Name of the Wind. If you don’t then it’s either

a) The back-story of a high-level AD&D bard and the inspiration for my current AD&D character.

b) The fantasy equivalent of ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt

Hmmm. b) is probably rather more convincing. Anyway, it’s a very fine book, extremely engaging (more so than any other fantasy I’ve read for a long time, including my own). The author, the very likeable Patrick Rothfuss, is in town for what will probably be the first and last time for some while, doing a signing in Forbidden Planet and a reading, for some lucky winners, at a mystery location afterwards.

In far less interesting news, my own lowly efforts are proceeding to plan. Have been a bit distracted by Facebook and Twitterness of late <insert assorted vague promises to blog more substantially at some point in the future>

If you’re really interested, you can check out an early taster for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice


(Post-Script: Have now removed the plethora of errors from the taster. Clearly need to read own work a little more carefully before sending samples off to editor (who has very kindly not taken the piss for this rather shameful effort. Either that or TGM intervened en-route and quietly got rid of them all. Still… Glarg!))

More Books (12/5/09)

Posted in News

“John Jarrold has concluded a three-book World Rights deal with Simon Spanton of Gollancz, for a YA fantasy series by novelist Stephen Deas, for a good, five-figure sum in pounds sterling. Deas’ debut novel, a dragon fantasy titled THE ADAMANTINE PALACE, was published by Gollancz in March 2009 to plaudits and a fast reprint. There are two forthcoming sequels.

This new series will be interleaved with the adult dragon fantasies. The first volume, THE THIEF-TAKER’S APPRENTICE, will be delivered in December 2009, for publication in early autumn 2010. Deas is presently completing final editorial work on the sequel to his debut, KING OF THE CRAGS, which is due for publication in April 2010.” (Full press release)

Yes, I can now officially announce that I’ll be signing a second contract with Gollancz for a series of books to be written and published in parallel with the current dragons series. The new books will be YA fantasy and will have almost nothing to do with the existing dragons series. Almost.


The series will be based around an adult novel I wrote a few years ago. So since this is intended as YA, I will be a) making the protagonist somewhat older, b) adding more sex and gory violence. More later, including a snippet of the work in progress in a few weeks time, perhaps.