A new podcast for writers

Are you struggling with your first draft? With editing? Do you want to be traditionally published but are not sure where to start? Do you know how to write a synopsis? How to find an agent? How to write a covering letter? Have you been rejected and are not sure what to do next?

Twice a month, I’m going to be releasing podcasts on Patreon about getting traditionally published. These will cover both aspects of writing (editing, the first draft, characters, world-building) as well episodes focused on the more technical side – such as finding an agent, attending events, social media, beta readers, writing a covering letter, the different stages your book goes through when you are picked up by a publisher and so on.

I want to help writers avoid some common mistakes, answer questions I see all the time and help you get your novel into the best shape possible so that it is ready to go out on submission. The odds of getting published are tough, so you want to make sure your book is ready. My novel was picked up off the slushpile, and I tried for many years (and many novels) before being published. So I have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. I’m going to be direct, pull no punches but also be honest in these podcasts.

Stephen Aryan on Patreon

London Comic Con Schedule

MCM London Comic Con

The MCM London Comic Con has updated their website and added the Author Corner section. So I can now provide details of the panels I will be taking part in, on Sunday 28th May. There are panels throughout the weekend so follow the link above for information on all of the panels, and my two are detailed below.

There will definitely be a signing after the first panel, I’m not sure about after the second. I hope to see some of you there.

Orbit Presents:  Old Vs New

Orbit has been publishing the best genre fiction since time began.  Okay.  That part we made up, but they have been in the game for a very long time.  Forty years to be exact!  And we figured the perfect way to celebrate that milestone would be to team a bunch of veteran Orbit writers against a bunch of rookie Orbit writers and watch the sparks fly!  Join veteran authors M.R. Carey, Claire North, Stephen Aryan and Jamie Sawyer as they go up against young guns Nicholas Eames, RJ Barker, Jason Arnopp and Adrian Selby in a battle of steely wills and wily wit.  Actually they’ll probably just shout juvenile insults at each other but it should be fun to watch nonetheless.

  • Time: Sunday 28th May, 11:15am – 12:30pm
  • Room: Lower Platinum Suite
  • Author Signing

It’s Clobbering Time – Fighting & Fantasy:

Everyone loves a good fight, especially in fantasy, and the nastier the better.  Join authors Ed McDonald, Jen Williams, RJ Barker, Stephen Aryan, Nicholas Eames and Ed Cox as they talk about what it takes to write a great fight scene.

  • Time: Sunday 28th May, 2:15pm – 3:30pm
  • Room: Lower Platinum

How to find a literary agent

Next month on Saturday 6th May in London, I will be taking part in a Guardian Masterclass on How to find a literary agent. The masterclass is being led by my agent, Juliet Mushens, and both Peter Newman and I will be there for part of the event.

If you’re a new writer, the process of getting your book into print might seem a bit daunting. This class will demystify the publishing process and reveal what agents look for in fiction submissions.

In the space of three hours, you’ll learn everything from how to prepare the perfect submissions package to how to edit your manuscript and pitch your novel to an agent.

More information and how to book a ticket is available on the Guardian Masterclass website for 6th May, but there are also other dates available later in the year in September and December.

I hope to see some of you there!

Writing questions for April

This is going to be a short post with some questions that I’m hoping those of you who are following this blog, and anyone else who sees it, will respond to as it will give me a better idea of who is reading this, and also, why. I have a feeling that a lot of people who pop in here are writers, but I will see what the results show.

Questions

1.  With so much information out there now readily available via the internet on blogs, vlogs, social media, author websites, as well as attending events and courses, are there any parts of the publishing process that are still a mystery? And if so, which parts?

2. Are you a writer aiming to, one day, get published? And if so, how far along are you with your current work in progress?

3. Are you struggling with a particular part of the writing process? If so, which part?

4.  If you’re not an aspiring writer, are you  fan of fantasy? Science fiction? Both?

That’s it, short and sweet. Let me know in the comments.

Battlemage wins the Hellfest Inferno Prize

I am delighted to announce that Battlemage (Mage de Guerre in France) has won the first Hellfest Inferno Prize, via a public vote, beating such esteemed authors including Clive Barker, Joe Abercrombie, Bradley Beaulieu, Kim Wilkins and Peter Pevel.

I’ve just returned from a short visit to Paris, where I visited the offices of Bragelonne, my French publisher, to receive my award. Thank you to everyone who voted for Mage de Guerre, and thank you to everyone at Bragelonne who took very good care of me during my brief stay in France. I had a lovely time!

 

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?