Feb – More events and stuff

Eesh, it’s already been a couple of weeks already since my last post. This is going to be a quick one. So book stuff first, then some event stuff, and then some award stuff.

Book 4

We’ve settled on a title for book 4 (the first in the new Age of Dread trilogy). However, now comes the part where the publisher goes away to check it doesn’t already exist, so unfortunately I can’t reveal it just yet. I’ve also sent in some thoughts for the cover and I’m in the middle of my edits. So book 4 continues to roll forward at a good pace and it will be a real, shiny, physical thing by October of this year. That seems so far away and yet also just around the corner.

Events

I’m doing another one with those lovely people at Waterstones in Birmingham. Only this time it’s not a publishing workshop, it’s just an evening of SFF goodness alongside two other local authors,  James Brogden and Ren Warom. It’s on Friday 10th March at 6.30pm, and you need to get in touch with Waterstones to reserve a seat, but the event is FREE. We’ll be chatting about our work, influences, getting published and whatever else comes into our heads. So come along, get some books signed and enjoy!

Don’t forget I’m also going to be at Eastercon in April, 14-17th, at the Hilton Metropole, in Birmingham, which is basically right next door to the NEC and super easy to get to via train from Birmingham International. I’m hoping to be on some panels but no news yet.

Battlemage shortlisted for Hellfest Inferno Prize

Battlemage has been shortlisted by my French publisher, Bragelonne, for the first Hellfest Inferno Prize! Hellfest Inferno is a readers’ choice award launched by Bragelonne and Hellfest, a very famous French metal music festival. Voting is via the following website where you can win a 3 day free pass to the Hellfest festival and voting closes on March 6th with the winner announced later in the month, so get voting!

That’s it for now, I’m off to do some more editing.

Mass Effect Trilogy

I don’t normally post about games, mostly because I describe myself as these days a lapsed gamer. I used to play a lot more, as I had more time, and have been playing MMORPGs since the beginning with the first Everquest. Before that I’ve been playing computer games since we had personal computers (yes, I am that old), but I’ve not played WoW in over 5 years. Now I tend to pick up the occasional game that I can dip in and out of, finish and move on to something else.

Recently in the mood for something new I saw the first Mass Effect game on sale on Steam for less than £5 so I thought, sure, why not. This was after having finished Fallout 4 and it recommended ME as something I might like to try.

Mass EffectI love immersive games that are part sandpit, part first person shooter and part role playing adventure. Fallout 4 was a brilliant example of that in a familiar yet strange new world and ME was more of the same. However, ME went far beyond that because very soon after finishing the first game I was hankering for some more. I wanted to know more about the alien races and the Reapers and Collectors and all of the mythology. A friend said it reminded him a bit of Babylon 5 and he’s right. There’s a rich history to the different alien races and you feel it. As much as I love Star Trek, there were times when a new alien race was nothing more than a slightly different bit of plastic stuck to someone’s nose. Here, the alien races are fleshed out beings that are very different from each other. I’d never mistake a Centauri for a Narn in B5 and likewise a Krogan and an Asari.

Mass Effect 2After finishing ME1 and desperate for more I realised I could import my character to ME2. I was also delighted to see that my choices in the first game had real and lasting consequences. Minor spoiler, but someone dies in the first game and in ME2 on a mission you meet up with an old friend. Their identity depends on who lived or died in the first game and this echoes through to ME3. Also people react in different ways depending on your decisions. Suddenly I felt bad at some of the things I’d done in the first and second game. I didn’t realise acting so cavalier at times would have long term effects! I love that the games don’t punish you for making certain choices but you have to live with the consequences. I blasted through ME2 and rolled straight into ME3, barely pausing for breath.

Mass Effect 3The ME world is so rich and romance is another fascinating aspect of them. Relationships with NPCs isn’t new, but I was pleased by the possibilities in the series, again which are controlled by your actions. Act like a crazed renegade and you’ll attract a certain type of person. Act within the law and by the book at all times and someone else will flirt and suggest you have some quiet time together.

After finishing ME3 I did some reading up and realised there were whole sections I missed in ME2 and ME3. So feeling no guilt at all, I’ve gone back to ME2 and am going through it again, thinking more carefully about my choices and how they will ripple forward into the next game.

Everything I consume, films, TV, comics, book and so on, gets fed into my brain and parts of it trickle through into my writing. This is probably the first time in many years that a series of games has had such an impact. I really enjoyed playing this trio of games. It was such much fun in fact that I’m replaying two of them over again, plus I’m also fighting with other players against AI enemies in the co-op stuff online in ME3. I can’t remember the last time I played such an immersive game.

And now, we’re at the dawn of a new Mass Effect game. Mass Effect; Andromeda. It’s a whole new world and a new adventure. It looks both fresh and it has some familiar elements will no doubt please old school fans who were there in the beginning as well as latecomers like me. I’m not sure if my PC is up to spec to play it, but I am certainly going to investigate.

Have you played the Mass Effect games? Which is your favourite? Which is your favourite race? If you were one of the aliens, which would you be? Who did you spend time romancing? And what should I be playing next if I enjoyed these? Let me know.

January – quick update

Happy New Year! Just a few quick things to mention.

Interview

My interview with Mur Lafferty on the I Should Be Writing podcast ep369 is now available on iTunes and also here on her website.

So if you’re an aspiring author and want to hear some good and varied advice from all kinds of authors, then check out the podcast.

Events

In about two weeks time I’m at Birmingham Waterstones for a publishing workshop on How to edit your novel alongside 2 other authors (Gemma Todd and Gillian McAllister) and an editor/agent (Amanda Rutter). The event is free and tickets are still available. Contact the bookshop to reserve a seat.

We’ll be talking about our experiences with editing our novels, the standard steps a novel goes through when you work with an agent and then an editor at a publisher. We’ll also be answering questions from the audience and there will be copies of my books and Gemma’s first awesome book, Defender, if you want signed copies.

Eastercon

This is an annual convention that moves around the country which is organised by a different group of people each year. For 2017 the event is called Innominate and is being held in Birmingham at the Hilton hotel from 14-17th April.

I’ll be attending the event, hopefully on a panel or two, and will be hanging around all weekend so will be signing books and probably chatting in the bar! If you’ve never been to an event like this before then I would recommend it. You could just come along for the day, sit in some talks and panels, meet some authors and just relax with a crowd of people with common interests.

Good things in 2016

Given that for a lot of people 2016 has been a pretty tough and demoralising year, I thought I’d just post some of the good stuff that happened to me.

Bloodmage is Published
Way back in April, which feels like a decade ago right now, Bloodmage was published. In some ways it’s a more accomplished novel than my debut, because the story is more complex, more personal, smaller in scale and yet it builds on the previous book. I’ll always love Battlemage, because it was my debut and because it was the book that got me an awesome author and  great publisher. Bloodmage couldn’t exist without Battlemage either, because I could go places in the second book that I would have struggled to reach if I’d done it first. It’s also so different to the first, as was always the plan, as it’s more of a crime thriller story, set in a fantasy world. I never wanted to do a predictable three part trilogy as my debut series and I believe I accomplished something a bit different.

Chaosmage is Published
By contract October feels like a couple of weeks ago and this novel wrapped up my first trilogy, the Age of Darkness. I’ve seen it called the Battlemage trilogy in some places, but that’s just what some people called it, for some reason. I’m not sure why. So Chaosmage closed out the trilogy which turned out to be a lot more ambitious than a lot of people were expecting. I went in all different sorts of directions, but all under the guise of epic fantasy. This book started out as a love letter to Matheson’s I Am Legend, although so far no-one has mentioned that when they’ve talked about it despite the clear parallels at the start. This book was a lot of fun to write, and was both challenging (as I had to wrap things up and pull certain threads through from the previous two books) and satisfying, as I got to close the door on the series. It’s not the end though.

New Trilogy – The Age of Dread
I’ve been picked up by Orbit to write another trilogy, the Age of Dread, set in the same world! This second book deal was a wonderful boost as it shows I’m not a one-hit wonder and that I’m not going anywhere for a while. Orbit have been fantastic and  despite book 3 not being out very long, it shows the faith they have in me and my work. I’m very grateful for all of their hard work on my behalf and that of my agent over the last few years. It’s odd to think I’ve only been published for about 14 months as it feels like a lot longer at times.

Awards
I was nominated and then shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar award for debut fantasy novel. This was very important to me and even though I didn’t win (that honour went to my agent-bro, the very deserving Peter Newman for The Vagrant) it was a great night. As I’ve said many times before Gemmell is the biggest influence on my work and it was a very special night for me to be there, with some of his family in attendance, at the ceremony.

The Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social Club had their inaugural awards and the Age of Darkness was awarded the Mycroft Award for Best Completed Series alongside another agent bro, Jen Williams, for her Copper Cat trilogy that also wrapped up this year.

Charity
There is still time to take part in a charity thing I’m involved with. The deadline is getting close but there is still time. 100 authors have donated 100 signed books. For a small donation of £1, your names into the hat and there are several prizes to win batches of signed books. All info is on the page and the money raised is going to Doctors Without Borders.

2017
Next year will see the debut of the first book in the Age of Dread in October, but in the meantime I’ll be busy with events (January in Birmingham at Waterstones), attending Eastercon in April and no doubt other events after that.

A review of 2016

This is going to be a best of the best post for me for 2016 covering TV and films.  Not the best ever. Not everything I’ve seen, or read or done, just some of the highlights.

Books

Bloodmage Stephen AryanBook round up first. So this year book 2 (Bloodmage) and book 3 (Chaosmage) were published. And it’s just over a year now since Battlemage was published. So that’s it. The first trilogy, the Age of Darkness, is done. To me it feels like Battlemage was published a long, long time ago, but that just because I’ve been working on it for a few years behind the scenes.

Looking ahead, the first book in the new Age of Dread trilogy will be coming out next October. Seems like a long way away, here in December. It will be here before I know it and I have a lot of writing to do before then.

Films

Captain America Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War – or Avengers 3 as it could easily be called because it had just about everyone in it, apart from Thor and Hulk. But Chris Hemsworth did a funny Thor video about what he’d been up to and why he wasn’t asked to join the fight. Anyway even without them the film was excellent. It was a top 5 Marvel films for me and maybea  top 3 although I need to rewatch it a couple of times before making that call, as currently The Winter Soldier is in the top spot. First outing for Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther too and he was incredible, so I’m really looking forward to his solo film.

Dr StrangeDr Strange – It was weird, and different, and yes, Strange, and it made magic in the real world a bit more understandable and relatable. Also kind of familiar, for me at least, what with all the wizards and stuff. But this could easily have been a weird outlier of a film that didn’t connect to the others, but Cumberbatch made it fun and engaging and the rest of the cast were fantastic, from Benedict Wong to Chewitol Ejiofor to the entrancing Tilda Swinton.

Deadpool – I didn’t see this at the cinema. I’m not a fan of the character in the comics and think it’s one note that’s only amusing for 5 minutes. However, after some serious persuasion I finally watched the film on DVD. And then I proceeded to laugh all the way through from start to finish. It was the antithesis of superhero movies in so many ways. There were so many jokes I’m positive I missed lots of them, but the fact that it was a really amusing film was what completely surprised me. I can see why it was such a big hit as it made fun of so many things and bless Ryan Reynolds for having a sense of humour and broad shoulders, as he took the piss out of himself a lot.

CreedCreed – This film was released in November 2015 in the USA but here in jolly old England we didn’t get it until February 2016 for some reason. An oddity in modern cinema when the gap between America and the UK is normally a couple of days and sometimes we get the film first. Anyway, that aside, this film was a gem. I never wanted another in the Rocky franchise after the perfect end that was Rocky Balboa, and yet this film works. I’m a huge fan of the Rocky franchise, and if you don’t know already I co-host a podcast where we talk about action movies once a month (Bags of Action – on iTunes). I was amazed by the film and it quickly entered the top 3 films in the franchise for me. A new film for a new generation with a new hero that also respects everything that came before.

Honourable mentions – 10 Cloverfield Lane, Suicide Squad, The Magnificent 7.

Turkeys – Star Trek Beyond. I like the new Trek films. Love the cast. Very excited by them. Even with all of the flaws in Star Trek Into Darkness, this was the worst of the new Trek films. It was Star Trek: Kirk Too Fast Too Furious on a bike. It was action and effects over substance and character. A few funny character bits do not make a good Trek film. 10 minutes of good stuff in a 2 hour film is crap. Star Trek should make me feel something and normally it does. Whether that’s the TV shows or the Shatner films or the Next Gen films. I came away from this film feeling nothing at all. It was a hollow waste of so many talented actors. Another turkey was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Yawnsville. Utter toilet. Again, great actors, huge waste of time and money.

Television

The Flash Season 2The Flash and Supergirl – These two shows are the best of the CW DC comics TV shows. They’re funny, quirky, don’t take themselves too seriously, inventive, they make me laugh, they give lots of nods to the comic book fans like me, and they’re uplifting and entertaining. Arrow and Legends are good, but not as good.

Daredevil season 2 – For me Daredevil is still the best of the Marvel Netflix shows. Luke Cage was good, but a bit too long at times, but even with some niggles this season, DD was amazing. From Elektra to the Punisher to Stick to Karen Page. Wow. How Deborah Ann Woll hasn’t received an award for her performance in this show I’ll never know. She’s mesmerising and a breath of fresh air. Also she’s a new face for me, as I didn’t watch Tru Blood, so I’m not thinking of her from that show. I’ve already rewatched most of this season again. It has that rewatch factor that the others don’t.

WestworldWestworld – no spoilers here, but this show was disturbing and worrying and very dark. It also bears rewatching now that I’ve come to the end of it and some things have been revealed. There are various mysteries in the show which they explain but a second run through will see if it all holds together now that I know what I’m looking for. Overall a great new TV show.

Marco Polo season 2 – Sadly the news just broke that this was the last season as Netflix cancelled it. I’m very saddened by this news as this show was fantastic. Amazing international cast of actors, filmed in glorious locations around the world and a fascinating fictionalised glimpse of a period in history in Mongolia and the court of Kublai Khan. Well, at least there are 2 seasons, and a special one off about a much loved character on the show. If you’ve not seen it, I would recommend watching it but take your time as it seems highly unlikely we’ll ever see any more of it in the future.

Stranger ThingsHonourable mentions – iZombie season 2, dark and twisty and weird. Stranger Things – an amazing and clever and weird and glorious homage to the 1980s. Loved it. Can’t wait for more next year.

This year we’ve had a complete glut of amazing films and TV shows in particular and next year looks to be no different. There are so many amazing things to look forward to I’m both keen to hold on to the few remaining days of 2016 as I don’t like to wish my time away, but I’m also desperate to watch some of the upcoming things like Defenders on Netflix, Iron Fist, Punisher, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Star Wars Episode 8, Thor 3, the new Star Trek TV show and so much more.

What were some of your favourite TV shows and films from this year?

November round up

A general update on what’s been going on for the last month or thereabouts. Starting with some book news.

Book 4

The first draft of book 4 (currently untitled), the first book in the new Age of Dread trilogy, has been sent off to my publisher. Phew. I got it in a couple of weeks early and I had enough time to do a pretty solid revision with some input from a trusted source. As it was the first book in a new trilogy, and even though it was set in the same world, I was super nervous. Digging in and giving it a good polish before it went off to my editor, and getting some positive feedback, has helped a lot. So now I am cracking on with book 5. I should say, you don’t have to have read the first trilogy (Age of Darkness) to read this book, however, it does follow on chronologically from the first and there are lots of overlaps in terms of characters and so on. But it is possible to come in as a fresh reader and it will all make sense. Book 4 comes out next year in October.

Blog posts

I’ve recently done some guest posts on a few blogs. The first was My Book: The Movie, where I was asked who would I cast if they were going to make a film of Battlemage. My answers often change but right now these are the people I see in the roles, so it gives you a bit of an idea what they look like in my head beyond what you read on the page.

The second blog post was over on The Page 69 Test. This is where if someone were to open my book to that page, what would they find? Is it representative of the whole book or not? Would it give new readers enough to make them keep reading? It was an interesting idea to explore and in this case p69 of Battlemage gives a flavour for one aspect of the book.

Interviews

There are a couple of these coming up. One I did for Mur Lafferty on her podcast, I Should Be Writing. Once this goes live I will repost it. I also did my first video interview! Very nerve racking and tense. However, I got through it and the two people who interviewed me were very friendly and helped me relax. This was during my recent trip to the MCM Expo in London and it was for Solarstorm Entertainment. The video will be on YouTube. I was interviewed along with several other Orbit authors on the day. [edit, the interview is now live]

Gaming

I don’t tend to talk much about games, but I thought I would add something for a change. I mostly say I’m a lapsed gamer, as I don’t have time to play as much as I used to. However, recently I have picked up the odd game from Steam and the best of them has been Fallout 4. This game is remarkable. It’s probably one of the best games I’ve played in the last 10 years or more. It has all of the elements that I like, exploration, a deep back story and world building, a sandpit aspect to the game, a strong storyline with some major twists that keep me guessing and also wondering about my actions and the choices I’ve made as my character. It is also massive. There is a lot to explore. It’s been a great way to unwind while wiping out a few settlements of Super Mutants.

That’s it for now. If you have read any of my books and would like to do me a favour, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, as it does help to me noticed by other potential readers.

October news round up

The Age of Darkness

My first series with Orbit, the Age of Darkness, is now at an end. This first trilogy was many years in the making but for you lucky readers, it only took 13 months to come out (September 2015, April 2016 and now October 2016). So all three books are now out there. If you were waiting until the trilogy was done before dipping your toe in, then get stuck in now.

Interviews

I’ve recently done a couple of events to promote Chaosmage and the trilogy as a whole, including some blog posts and interviews. The first of which is with DJ over on his book blog where I talk about my influences for the series, give some general info on characters, the overall themes and the world. It’s a good introduction to the series and there are no spoilers.

I was also recently a guest on the I Should Be Writing podcast, with Mur Lafferty, so keep an eye out for my episode which will be coming up in a couple of weeks time, either on the website or via iTunes.

I also wrote an article for Sci Fi Bulletin which you can read here about Fantasy being an Umbrella, which makes complete sense, right?

The Age of Dread

The big news I’ve been sitting on for months is now out of the bag. I’m delighted to announce that Orbit books have signed me up for a new fantasy trilogy, called the Age of Dread. This series follows on from the previous one, and it is set in the same world a few years after the events of Chaosmage. I can’t say too much about the book, but I can reveal that this trilogy will be more closely tied together than the Age of Darkness.

So we will follow the same characters through the series and it is one massive sprawling story. I’m currently hard at work, in the home stretch in fact, of the first draft of book 1 and am currently a little ahead of my deadline, for the moment! The first book, currently called Seeds of Destruction (although this might change), will be published in October 2017, which seems like a long way off, but from this side of the table, it’s not. With that in mind, I have lots of writing to do before then, so I better get on with it.

End of one chapter…and the start of another

So, this week Chaosmage comes out. Book 3 of 3 in the Age of Darkness trilogy. The last book in my first trilogy from Orbit books.

A quick aside…

Chaosmage Stephen AryanFor all of you out there waiting for the series to finish before picking it up in case a) I died in the middle of writing it or b) not believing it would actually come out every six months and there would be a sudden 2-5 year gap between books, well, you were wrong on both counts. I’m still alive and the trilogy is done. So now you can pick up all 3 books in one go. They’re all here on Barnes and Noble if you’re in the USA, or Waterstones if you’re in the UK. And there’s always Amazon of course.

Second quick aside, I’m at a big fantasy panel on Wednesday 12th October at Waterstones Piccadilly in London at 7pm, alongside 4 other awesome fantasy authors. They are Den Patrick, Jen Williams, Francesca Haig and Peter Newman. So please do come along and say hi. We’re doing a talk and then a signing. It’s free but you have to book a seat.

Anyway, so back in 2013, which both seems like only yesterday and also a long time ago, I wasn’t sure I’d really get to this point. Quite suddenly an agent had just said she was interested in representing my first book and then we were off, and I was editing book 1, writing book 2 and then what followed was two frantically busy years of editing book 1 with my publisher, while writing book 2 and planning book 3. Then once book 1 was completely done, I sunk deeper into book 2 and made more notes on book 3 and so on….which brings me to today where I’m done with my first trilogy.

Battlemage - Stephen Aryan

Three years ago getting one book published was just the dream of an aspiring author. Battlemage was just another book in a long line of novels for me. I’d been trying to get an agent and then a publisher, doing it the traditional way, for many years. In some ways it was no different from some of the previous books I’d written. In other ways it was totally different, as it was a return to my favourite genre after dabbling in other areas and my desire to write a fantasy book that was full of the fantastic (magic, being set on another world, non-human races) which seemed to be lacking at the time. I wanted to both pay my respects to those who had come before, upon whose shoulders I was standing, while blending that with something new. Somehow, through some weird alchemy, I did enough things right for it to catch an agent’s attention.

Bloodmage Stephen AryanWith Bloodmage I did something completely different. I wrote a more intimate story in terms of scope and I wanted to pay homage to many of my crime influences, from Dexter to Columbo*, to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden and Mike Carey’s Felix Caster, to all of the cop shows I’ve watched over the last 30 years and loved. It was a more challenging book to write in some ways and I think it’s currently my favourite, although my opinion may change tomorrow. I’m incredibly proud of it and I accomplished everything I set out to do with it, which is rare. Sometimes you write a story and the end result is close. Sometimes it’s not what you wanted and perhaps that means you can explore the same theme again in another book.

With Chaosmage, I went in a different direction again. I pulled through some of the threads from the first two books, tying the stories together, while also paying my respects to some of my thriller and horror influences, such as Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I set out to create something chilling and disturbing in a horrific and deserted city on the edge of the world. I never want to repeat myself or write the same thing twice and so far I believe I’ve achieved it as each book has a very distinctive flavour.

And now I’m looking ahead to the next story. It’s going to be something different again and it will hopefully challenge me in new ways and also prove interesting to the readers.

One final thing. If you have enjoyed any of my books, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, even a short one, as it helps other people find the book and helps spread the word. And nothing helps sell a book faster than word of mouth.

 

* – Bonus points if you spot the Columbo reference in Bloodmage. Send me a note if you do find it.

Guardian Masterclass and Fantasycon

Yesterday  I was at the sold out Guardian Masterclass on ‘How to find a literary agent’ in London, being run by my agent Juliet Mushens. For a portion of the afternoon she was ably assisted by two of her clients, Elodie Harper and myself.

It was a really great event where the engaged audience listened intently as we answered some questions about our individual journeys to publication, and also learned about some of our mistakes that they will hopefully avoid.

guardian masterclass

Juliet Mushens, Elodie Harper, Stephen Aryan

There was just enough time for a short Q and A session, before the break. The time flew by and I had a great time and even managed to coax a few laughs from the audience.

Looking back I wish there had been something similar when I had first started searching for an agent, but such a thing didn’t exist. The internet was in its infancy and all agents only accepted paper submissions. If you’re getting ready to submit or will be in a few months time, I would definitely keep an eye out for similar events like this in the future.

This weekend coming I’m off to Fantasycon in Scarborough. On Saturday I’m on a panel at 2pm called ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ asking – Should we be killing off our main characters?

In the evening, from 7pm-9pm, I will be attending the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, where Battlemage has been shortlisted for the Morningstar Award, the category for best debut. I have a one in six chance of winning, so fingers crossed everyone.

Apart from that I’ll be wandering around the event and you’ll most likely find me either at the bar in the evening, talking and drinking, or pottering around the dealer room and sitting in the audience at some other panels as there are some wonderful guests of honour. Hopefully I will see some of your there.