French Interview

Earlier this year I went on a very quick overnight visit to Paris to attend an event to celebrate the first Hellfest Inferno Prize. This was at the offices of my French publisher, Bragelonne, and it was also my first trip ever to France. It was a great party atmosphere and everyone was having a lot of fun, as the video shows.

I was a finalist up against some incredible fantasy writers and was delighted to be nominated. After a public vote I was announced as the winner.

Below is a link to an interview in English with French subtitles I conducted while I was there, intercut with me picking up the award, talking about my books and my influences. There are no spoilers in the video so it doesn’t reveal anything from the plot.

Real Ale: Plum Porter – Titanic Brewery

I’ve not done one of these in ages, and I’m not really sure why. I’m busy but I’ve also still been regularly drinking real ale, so I’ve no real excuse. Now I’m at the point where I look at the shelves in my local shop, farm shop, supermarket and say ‘ Have I tried that one?’ and I’m not really sure. So this is now becoming a personal record as well!

So, my first real ale post  in a while and it is my favourite type of ale – a porter.

Plum Porter Titanic Brewery“This beer is dark strong and well rounded; the richness of such a rotund beer is brought to an even keel by the late addition of Goldings hops and natural plum flavouring. Take the opportunity and go for the low hanging fruit, this sumptuous beer really is a plum!”

This is a rather special porter. I will say right now, I don’t like fruit beers, that is any that say ‘a hint of citrus’ or ‘a zesty finish’. They are just not for me. If I’m browsing in the shop and I see that on the tasting notes, it goes back on the shelf. Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit in a beer are not for me. I’ll have the fruit and the beer separate. So, having said all of that, a fruit porter. My initial response was to put it back but it’s not citrus and I’ve had coffee, toffee, liquorice and smoky porters, but never a plum porter.

This is a really tasty beer. It’s not zesty, but also the plum taste is very clear. You can smell it and the colour is a rich purple when you hold it up to the light. And I’m delighted to say it really works. The ale has a slightly bitter aftertaste, more than I was expecting, but it’s not unpleasant. Also at 4.7% it’s not too heavy at all and could make for a good session ale. It has won several awards over the years and I can see why. A really pleasant surprise and much tastier than I was expecting.

The Plum Porter is brewed by Titanic brewery based out of Stoke on Trent which was founded in 1985. So it’s relatively new, if you can count a 30 plus year old brewery to be new these days. There is a lot of information on their website about them and all of their beers, including a chocolate and a vanilla stout, and a cappuccino stout! They’re not a brewery I’ve come across before but since moving to a different part of the country the local shops stock all sorts of new beers. I will definitely try another of theirs in the future and keep an eye out for their stouts.

MCM London Comic Con Roundup

MCM May 2017

MCM May 2017

A little over a week ago, during the bank holiday weekend, I attended the MCM London Comic Con which is the largest convention we have in the UK. Last year had a record crowd of about 133K and I expect the numbers for this year will be as high. It takes place twice a year and the next one is in October, so make a note in your calendar.

 

It’s a real cross genre geek pop-culture event, with a mix of TV and film stars,  games companies, film and TV companies like DC and Warner Brothers, comic book creators, manga and anime, lots of cosplay and a whole gaggle of fiction authors.

Batman catching up on the news in Gotham

About thirty authors over the course of weekend took part in a range of panels and discussions covering all sorts of topics from the weird to the hilarious. I took part in two panels on Sunday, but before that I popped by on Saturday to take a look around, catch up with some old friends, make some new friends over a few pints, and nose around the convention.

The event itself was packed and it was a gloriously hot summer day, so the outdoor area was awash with hundreds of people enjoying the weather, many in bright and colourful cosplay. From a distance it looked like a weird field of moving flowers dancing about in the sun.

Cosplay in the sun

Inside it was cooler but there were so many people it was difficult to move around in the main foyer, but the halls themselves were large enough that you were never squeezed in too tight and there was a lot to see in the two massive halls. I picked up a few bargains on Saturday, then did the usual author thing and went to the pub with some fellow writers.

Big thanks to the kind traffic warden on Saturday night who helped me find my hotel when the maps on my phone proved to be utterly useless. I was down to 1% battery at this point and I was starting to think I’d have to just call a taxi. It turns out it was only a couple of minutes walk from the DLR station but it was a totally new part of London to me, but I will know for next time if I ever stay there again.

Sunday was a lot more relaxed with one panel focused on Orbit, old versus new. Somehow Jamie Sawyer and I, despite both only having one trilogy out each, were on the Old side of the table, versus the youngsters who had just debuted or are due to later this year. It was a funny and weird panel and despite it being fairly early on a Sunday morning it went well and the audience seemed to enjoy it. The afternoon panel was about creating fight scenes and that led to a few laughs from the audience. Afterwards I signed some books and then it was all over. I was super tired after a long day and a half, but it was really good to meet up with some fellow authors.

I also got to meet fellow Orbit author, Nick Eames, who made the long journey from Canadia-land for the event. Sadly I didn’t have any Timbits to make him feel welcome, but we are getting our first Tim Hortons in the UK very soon. Also a quick hello to lots of other authors I chatted to over the weekend including Jamie Sawyer, Jen Williams, Adrian Selby, Ed Cox, Ed McDonald, Claire North, Mike Carey, RJ Barker, GX Todd, Laura Lam, Kim Curran, Jason Arnopp, and anyone else I’ve forgotten. The moderators on our panels were also awesome and thanks to the press officer at Orbit, Nazia, for being excellent as ever. Organising authors is much like herding cats and we had several examples of that over the weekend!

If anyone took any photos during the panels please let me know and I’ll add them to the post. Right then, back to the first draft of book 5 for me.

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.