Authors Talking About Writing

Given that there are no conventions at the moment, a lot of stuff is moving online. I miss talking to authors about writing, characters, world-building and so on.

With that in mind I’m going to do a late night talk with Angus Watson on Tuesday 15th September.

If this one goes well I might do some more in the future.

Angus’s first series, the Iron Age Trilogy, debuted a year before me, also published by Orbit books. And this month, it will be 5 years since Battlemage was published. It’s also 5 years since the final book in his first trilogy, Reign of Iron, was published. So we’re going to celebrate that and talk about writing.

Tweet any questions about writing, books, publishing, whatever you fancy to @LateNightTalk3 and we’ll answer what we can.

The video will be uploaded to YouTube a few days after 15th September and I’ll the links.

Good and Bad Advice About Writing and Getting Traditionally Published

I’ve been working on this for a while in parallel with other projects. Over the last few months I’ve been working on an ebook for writers. It’s called – Good and Bad Advice About Writing and Getting Traditionally Published.

This is predominantly aimed at fiction writers and those looking to be traditionally published. The rules are different for non-fiction (which I touch on briefly in the book) and I have little experience with self-publishing, so I can’t really talk about that. I briefly explain some of the alternatives to traditional but not in any great detail.

The ebook is now available to pre-order. It will be published on 24th August.

ebook on Amazon UK

ebook on Amazon.com

This is a kindle ebook and it has a lot of information about good advice to listen to and bad advice you should completely ignore. I debunk a lot of the myths around writing a novel, debunk the rules people claim are necessary for success, information about writing a novel, finding an agent and then submitting to an agent.

Writing a synopsis is difficult and painful (and I still don’t like doing it), so I’ve also included my original synopsis for Battlemage (which then got me an agent) together with the back and forth correspondence from my agent. She explains what she liked about it and so on. Hopefully it will help you to write your own synopsis.

I also pull the curtain back a little on traditional publishing and explain the typical stages a book will go through from when you sent it to your agent to when it lands on a shelf in a bookshop.

There is information in there about lessons I’ve learned about being published, information about finding your style and other practical help for writers who are struggling.

There’s a lot of good information in there, plus some topics I don’t see people often writing or talking about. Hopefully it will help you if you’re trying to get published or find an agent.

If you know anyone who would be interested, please send them the link to pre-order the book, which will be published Monday 24th August.

ebook on (Amazon UK)

ebook on Amazon.com

That’s a wrap

So, a quick update from me. I’ve been on furlough from my freelance day job during lockdown. That’s the bad news. The good news is I’ve been able to focus more on my writing. As a result of less interruptions and with nowhere to go, I’ve finished the first draft of my current work in progress in record time. Normally a first draft takes me anywhere from 8 months to 13 months. I wrote this first draft in 6 months.

This is book 2 of 2, in the new fantasy duology coming from Angry Robot Books. Book 2 will be published in the summer of 2022. However, book 1, The Coward, will be published next summer. So I’m a bit ahead of my deadlines.

Time to take a little break, clear my head, and then get to work on the next project.

Here’s a link to the press release with more information about The Coward, coming next summer.

Conventions during lockdown

Because all of the conventions have been cancelled during lockdown, a lot more are going online.

I’ve already been involved in one, called CONtagion. A SFF convention and also meeting space on Facebook, which has links to panels, workshops, readings, blog posts and all sorts to keep you busy.

I moderated a panel about writing fantasy series and how most writing advice is about how to get the first book written or published. This panel is focused on the demands of writing a series of books. How do you keep it going? How do you keep yourself motivated? And how do you deliver something interesting to reading on time, every time? You can download the MP3 of the panel here

QuaranCon2020

I’m also getting involved with QuaranCon2020, which is running for the next few days from today, Friday 24th, over the weekend and into early next week. These will be live panels, on YouTube, via Zoom, where viewers can ask the panel questions at the end.

Friday 24th April 8pm (UK time) I’m on a panel – Fantasy book series, how long should they be? Here’s the link to YouTube for tonight

Monday 27th April 9pm (UK time) I’m on a panel – Magical systems in Fantasy.

The website with the full schedule for all panels is available on the QuaranCon2020 website here.

 

5 Cool Comics to Read

Something to keep you occupied during lockdown.

sleeper ed brubakerSleeper – This is still one of my favourite series of all time. It’s gritty and sometimes grim, but not overly so but it’s definitely not a comic for children due to the adult content (violence, swearing, sex etc). It’s about a guy who has some powers (no capes, no tights) that are kind of low key but useful and brutal, going undercover in a criminal organisation. It’s espionage with an edge as there is the constant fear that he could be discovered at any time and the repercussions if that happens will be very bad. It’s two seasons, well 2 x 12 issue trades. Self contained and an excellent read. Amazon UK

Y the Last ManY: The Last Man – Only slightly close to the knuckle given the current situation, however, it’s still worth your time. A virus wipes out every male on the planet except one guy, Yorick, and his pet monkey. It’s about his journey across America in a strange new world. Yorrick has lots of interesting and thought provoking adventures. This 10 trade paperback comic book series is also in development to be a TV series, coming maybe 2021 given changes to scheduling and so on. Amazon UK

joyride vol 1

Joyride – A fun sci-fi comic about a girl living on Earth during a particularly difficult time who just wants to get out and explore, have fun and find out what’s going on in the wider galaxy. So she steals a spaceship because Earth sucks, and together with two friends, goes off to have some adventures. It’s that simple. It’s fun, brightly coloured, not too heavy, but it’s sometimes emotional, often funny, and the whole thing is only 3 trades long from start to finish, so it is a self contained story with a satisfying end. Amazon UK.

locke and key vol 1

Locke and Key – You’ve probably heard about this because of the TV series, however, as with many things, the source material is better. The TV series crams a lot of stuff in and picks bits and pieces from across the whole 6 trades. This comic has more time and space to explore areas, take it’s time, sets things up gradually and creeps you out. When the TV show was first being advertised I spoke to a few people who thought it was a teen drama or YA series, and I can see why but the comic book is definitely not. It’s a lot more brutal than the TV series, scarier at times and it will creep you out. Also it is also a self contained story. The TV series is going off in its own direction, so even if you are watching you’ll get two different stories. Amazon UK.

Mister MiracleMister Miracle – This is a 12 issue, self contained story. While it is part of DC comics, you don’t need to know much about the character or the series beforehand. You don’t need to be a fan of superhero comics because it’s not about that. At all. I’ve spent hours with friends discussing this book. I’ve done a whole podcast on it where 4 of us talked about the themes and ideas being explored in it for over an hour and barely scratched the surface. The book is fascinating and it is the kind of thing you can reread and will get something different from it every time. If you want something to spell everything out and  give you all of the answers, then this isn’t that kind of book.

Very simply put, imagine if the Devil and God each had a son, and to ensure a form of peace between the two warring empires, they each raised the other’s son. That’s the basic premise. Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle, was raised in a hellish dimension by Darkseid, the epitome of evil. At the same time Orion was raised by Highfather, the epitome of pure goodness, in the equivalent of Heaven.

This story takes place years later when Scott is an adult. Scott has done it all. In the past he’s been a superhero but now he and his wife are just trying to live a quiet life on Earth. He’s a professional escape artist and celebrity. The story is about family. It’s about being an adult. It’s about faith and destiny. It’s about being a parent, but also being someone’s child and the expectations that come with that. It’s about freedom and choice. It’s about a hundred other things that I don’t want to spoil. It’s also an action and adventure story with a war, and duty, and honour. It’s a family drama with real weight and consequences. It’s also hilarious at times and very emotional and terrifying.

It’s one of my favourite comic books of all time. Read it. You can thank me later. Amazon UK

If you read any of them, get in touch and let me know what you thought or send me 5 comics you think I should read (self contained stuff only please).

Battlemage on sale – Kindle deals

I thought this was just a daily deal thing and it might now just be a weekly deal so it could end on Sunday, however, as of this minute, Battlemage is 99p on Amazon UK on Kindle.

So if you started with Mageborn, now is the right time to go back to the beginning and get a deal.

Also, Battlemage on Amazon.com is currently $1.23 but this could change at any minute as it doesn’t have the limited time deal sticker on it. So get it ASAP.

It’s my birthday

Yes, today. What a day. I thought it was going to be a fairly forgettable one. Not a big or special number. I thought it would just cruise past and I wouldn’t remember it in years to come. Never forget the old saying or curse, depending on how you look at it “May you live in interesting times.”

Anyway, since it’s my birthday I’m going to ask a favour!

Write a review

If you’ve read one of my books and you enjoyed it, please take a couple of minutes to leave me a review on Amazon. It really helps get the books noticed by other readers who may not have heard of me. Also, Amazon has lots of complex algorithms, which are always changing, however one thing remains constant; the more the reviews you have the better.

Something to read

If you like comics and want to read something quite different from me, the first issue of Flux, a comic book mini series (4 issues), that I’ve co-written is now available on Gumroad. It’s a science-fiction thriller about the threat of time travel, government issue wearable tech and one detective’s search for the truth.

We’re hoping to launch issue 2 on Kickstarter on April 1st. We were in two minds about whether or not to proceed, but we’ve polled our previous supporters and the majority said we should continue as normal and sort out posting physical copies later. Anyway, Issue 1 is now available on Gumroad is you’re interested.

Bonus

A small bonus for loyal readers on here, and for those of you that have made it this far! As you’ve seen, the new book being published next year, The Coward, is book 1 in a 2 book series. I’m delighted to tell you that this book has a fantastic map which has been drawn by an excellent artist. I gave him my crappy hand drawn nonsense and he turned it into a thing of beauty. So watch out for that!!

Thanks for reading, take care and stay indoors.

PS. – What are you reading at the moment? I’m always searching for new fantasy and SF books and you can’t get better than a recommendation.

New Book Deal

I’m been sitting on this news for a while so I’m very glad that I can now officially share it. I have a new book deal with Angry Robot books!

Here’s the link to the press release and story in the Bookseller

As the story mentions this is a two book series and it is set in a totally new world. After six books and a novella set in the world of Balfruss, Vargus, Munroe and the rest, I was ready for a change. I have other ideas, and at some point in the future I might revisit that world, but for the time being I’m done. We’re going to let it rest.

It’s exciting and slightly terrifying to start with a clean slate. The exciting part is that I get to make up everything but that’s also the scary part as no-one knows what is going on. So I have to explain it in a way that’s clear to new readers without it being too exposition heavy.

Book 1, The Coward, is obviously written and this year I will be working on it with my new editor at ARB. This year I will also be writing book 2 and I’ve already made a good start. So that means next calendar year I will start writing something completely new. Exciting times ahead!

March Progress Report

Hello. I’ve been a bit quiet on here over the last couple of months, mostly because I’ve been so busy, and somehow it’s March already. So I thought a quick update report was due. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t talk about yet, which is the other reason I’ve not posted in a while. So, time to dance between the raindrops a bit. So please bear with me a while longer.

Books

What I can say is that I’m currently working on three different novels. All of them are at different stages and at least one of them is not what you would expect from me. I’m still writing fantasy but these are stories set in a new world.

For the time being I’m done with Balfruss and the rest. I have no idea at the present time if I will ever revisit that world. I have a few ideas rattling around that would need developing further. So never say never, but for the time being I’m working on something completely different. It’s scary and exciting, creating new worlds, new people, new creatures. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done anything in a new world so it’s been a lot of fun.

I hope to have some news in the next few months that I can share but for the time being I’ll just have to be vague.

Reading

I’ve been doing an interesting experiment over the last couple of months. In addition to watching TV shows including, The Witcher, Altered Carbon, Star Trek Picard, I’m Not Ok With This, and many others, I’ve been rewatching The Expanse.

When I first started watching Season 1 a couple of years ago, I really struggled. I’ll admit it, I had to force myself to chug away on season 1, but then something clicked and I began to love it. Now, it’s one of my favourite SF series. The experiment I’ve been  conducting is that I’ve been reading the novels for the first time and then rewatching the corresponding TV series. It’s not a perfect 1:1 ratio, so there’s some overlap. However, it’s proving fascinating to see where changes were made to the TV series from the book and try to understand the reasons why it was done. Over time I’ve began to notice quite a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the two mediums. There’s all sorts of stuff you can do in a novel that you just couldn’t get away with on TV and vice versa. From a storytelling perspective it’s not something I’ve done before and I’m learning a lot.

Events

It’s early in the year, and obviously with a lot of uncertainty in the media at the moment things might change. However, next month from 10-12th April, I will be attending Eastercon. This is an annual SFF event for fans. There will be lots of panels, readings, fantasy and SF and basically it’s a chance for SFF fans to just hang out for a long weekend. I’ll be there, on a couple of panels probably, but I don’t know which ones yet. So keep an eye out on the website for more information about the programme. The event moves around the UK and this year it is taking place at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel, which is walking distance from the NEC. So it’s easy to get to via train and car. Come along and say hi if you’re around.

I’ll see how the rest of the year pans out but I suspect I will be at at least a couple more events later in the UK.

Changing media over the last decade

About this time of year people typically post things about what they’ve done over the last year, or even the last decade. I thought about it, but decided not to do that. I could list some of the TV and films I’ve watched but there’s too much and picking out favourites is difficult. Instead I’m going to write about how I think the different mediums have changed over the last ten years and my rambling thoughts on it all.

TV and Film

The short version is we are in a golden age of entertainment. In the last 10 years I’ve watched some of the most engaging TV shows of my life. I’ve seen films that have amazing spectacular visuals, that make it worthwhile seeing on a big screen with surround sound in a giant room. Those films are just not the same on a TV at home no matter how big the screen, it can’t compare and for that and other reasons I think cinemas will always be around. Games (computer and console) have also leapt forward, with new consoles with better graphics, three dimensional characters with interesting relationships and there again more thoughtful  and intricate stories as well as lots of explosions and FPS which I also enjoy. I’ve recently been replaying Half Life 2 again and it’s been lots of fun. Sales of some console games leave films in the dust because they are so popular and have such a huge following around the world.

Games

I think MMORPGs are not dead, not exactly, but I think their heyday has definitely passed when 20 million subscribers was the norm. I can be engaged by a game for a few hours but sometimes I just want to play something for 20-3o minutes and not have to pay a monthly fee to do it. Maybe a new MMORPG will come out and hook me again but I doubt it as I’ve not played WoW in years and prefer to dip in and out of other things, or play a game until it is finished and then move on to the next rather than constantly be stuck in the second act of something that has no end. People play a lot more games on their phones and ten years ago this didn’t exist. I see more of that in the future and more free games with micro-transactions.

Books

I don’t think a lot has changed other than to say there’s a lot more to choose from as well. In the SFF arena, the number of books being published each year has increased so there are always books I’ve missed, authors I’m vaguely aware of that are popular and favourites among some readers, and other authors I’ve just not heard of before. People will be aghast and say you’ve not heard of X?? But that’s just because there’s too much of everything to stay up to date. And, people are constantly battling for attention on social media so the flood of information never stops 24×7 which means you can blink and miss it.

So because of all of this I’ve had to become more selective. Some TV shows I was previously watching out of loyalty but not really enjoying, I’ve dropped and don’t miss them. Social media has changed a lot in ten years. Widening it to include stuff like YouTube, as that feeds into what people watch, there’s definitely been a shift. I have some friends with children who only watch YouTube, or 90% of their content comes from YouTube as they consider that TV and their celebs are people on Twitch channels or YouTube personalities. I’ve found myself watching more in the last 2 years, following people I previously knew from elsewhere (sports people, TV stars and a couple of celebs) who have gone on on to develop their own channels. I also follow channels about hobbies I’m interested in but I’m not interested in watching someone else play games. I’d rather be doing it myself.

Comics

I think comics is the least well adjusted medium for 2020 and beyond. Waiting a month between single issues, especially on ongoing series with no definitive end, isn’t something that can continue. It’s too slow, it’s old fashioned, it doesn’t work any more and the number of Wednesday Warriors gets smaller every year. Even with the best writers and artists I’m just not reading as many ongoing titles. I’ve shifted to a digital trial and if it is good I’ll get it in trade. If it’s a mini series or similar I might read it all digitally or trade wait. DC has had a bit of shift, creating Black Label with top creators producing shorter series, as well as launching DC Ink and DC Zoom for younger readers and I think that’s a great step in the right direction but more needs to be done to bring in a lot more younger readers and, more importantly, keep them reading year on year. The temporary boost of big named creators, or a new issue 1 on a big title doesn’t work long term, and I still think a significant change needs to be made.

In comparison to DC, Marvel seem to have just given up on attracting younger readers. They license most of their biggest characters to other publishers to write stories for kids and the YA audience. A lot of young people know Marvel and DC characters from animation, games, movies and even TV shows, but not the comics themselves which is a huge shame. I think many people in suits in Hollywood still view comic books as nothing more than cheap R and D. The glory days of Image comics and even the Kirkman Manifesto are gone. Bar a couple of huge successes like the Walking Dead, Image comics isn’t what it used to be. Also making a decent living just on creator owned titles isn’t possible any more. There are always exceptions but many creators work in multiple mediums, across Big2 books and their own in order to make a living.

What’s next?

I think out of all of the mediums, TV is adapting the quickest to keep up with the times. More paid subscription services are popping up every day. People will begin to swap around, chasing TV shows they like the look of, cancelling one and moving to another for a few months at a time. There’s so much diverse content out there. If you can’t find several shows that you enjoy then you’re just not looking hard enough.

There seems to be a bit of a shift with films. There are few small films being made and by that I mean 20-50 million dollar movies that are not part of a massive franchise. Watching those films at the cinema are few and far between, or you are blink and miss it with one week at the cinema and then the next day they appear on Netflix or Amazon. So there is a place for them to be made, but I think some should still be viewed on a big screen and just won’t get a chance. I don’t think every single film at the cinema will be a franchise of some kind but I think that wave will continue for a while.

E-sports will continue to grow until it starts appearing on more mainstream TV channels. Social media ‘stars’ are also on the rise and I think that will keep going. We’ve now reached the point where some TV shows feature them in order to try and attract a new audience, even on the BBC. Previously such institutions would have ignored such people but the number of followers they command means more crossovers in the future.

Books. They’re a weird one in some ways. I think we’ll see more adaptations, partly because platforms are desperate for content and there are already a dozen or more SFF TV shows in the works based on big series (LOTR, Wheel of Time, Witcher, Kingkiller, GoT prequel, Expanse, Wildcards etc) and I think there will be more going forward. If this then makes people go back and start reading the books between TV series then it’s a win win situation.

For me comics is the biggest unknown and where it goes is the most difficult to predict. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it and I have some ideas of my own but we’ll see. I couldn’t have predicted some of the shifts we’ve seen since 2000 in terms of media development and I think the next ten years are going to be even more unpredictable.