Category Archives: Writing

Magefall – Time is weird

So, Magefall is published this week. Yeah, how did that happen so fast? On the one hand, it feels like 5 minutes since Mageborn was published. On the other hand it’s actually been nearly a year and thinking back over the last twelve months quite a lot has happened to me in that time. To quote Roy Batty “I’ve seen things….”

I never used to understand keeping a journal but now, as time goes on and the years tick by, I can see the appeal. It’s easy to forget about what you’ve actually done in a month or a year as your brain only picks out a handful of  highlights unless you really dig down and focus. I’ve taken to writing things in my calendar and occasionally I flick back through it to remind myself what’s happened, and to try and make time slow down a bit.

So my first novel, Battlemage, was published in 2015. Also, that feels like ages ago and, at the same time, just like yesterday. As a debut author with Orbit my first trilogy was on an accelerated release of 6 month gaps so we had Battlemage in 2015, then Bloodmage and Chaosmage in 2016. Mageborn came out in 2017 and now we’re here with Magefall in 2018 – plus I had a digital/audio novella, Of Gods and Men, come out in February this year. Mage 3 (no idea for a title yet) is already written and will be out next year in 2019. Currently I’m working on something new, which in theory would come out in 2020 or later.

So my head is constantly split between different time periods. I’m pondering about the past, trying to live in the present and am always thinking about the future. It was a lot worse when I was working on the first three books at the same time in different stages. All of this jumping around is confusing and sometimes it can give me a bit of a headache.

So, right now, this week, I’m going to celebrate Magefall being published, my 5th novel, which is available to buy in the US from here or in the UK from here and leave you with a shiny picture of the two books in this trilogy together. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on Magefall – Time is weird

Filed under Books, Writing

Breaking all the rules

I’m currently working on my 7th novel (since being published – not including all the trunk novels) and something weird has happened. I’m breaking some of my own rules.

You have to write every day. You have to plan every book. You must not plan the story, let it flow organically. You need to set a daily word count. You should write to music. You should write in silence. Write in different places. Don’t have a set routine, be organic. Write in public. You absolutely have to get scrivener (or another program) in order to write. Use cards on a white board and plan stuff that way.

There is not one way to write a book. I need to make that clear because the most common questions I’m asked by writers trying to get an agent and then get published are focused on the above. Do I have to write a 100o words a day? Is it better to write in the morning or afternoon? Should I write with music? Should I work on more than one book at once?

Find your own way. Find what works for you. My way might not work for you. I’ve included a few conflicting statements above as I know some people who plan and some who write organically. Some who write in silence, some who need music. The following in my approach. It may not work for anyone else except me.

I always write at home, on Word, and nothing else. I plan my books, start, middle, end and milestones. The creative part comes in the leaps between milestones. I make notes in a notebook, on post it notes, on my phone, on scraps of paper, then write them up, and collect them together. I plan my stories. I always write with soundtrack music and can’t write with any music that has lyrics. I tend to write most days but am not rigid about taking a day off and I tend to set a daily word count for myself as I have deadlines. The word count keeps me moving, keeps me motivated and I constantly have one eye on the calendar. All of those are my rules and that’s what works for me. The music and being at home helps get my brain into a familiar space and off I go, sort of like muscle memory.

For my 7th novel, I’ve broken quite a few of my own rules. I found out when I started I couldn’t write with any kind of music. Nothing was working, which at first had me worried. So one day, after I’d revised my notes so many times I knew I had to actually write something I just tried it without any music. And suddenly it worked. The words started flowing. I had a new rhythm. I didn’t care why it was working only that it was working, so I continued. Months later I’m still writing this book without any music.

I’m tweaking my chapters. I never do this. When I sit down to write, I look back at what I’ve done on the previous day, I might tinker with the last paragraph or two, if it’s mid-chapter, or just glance at it if I am starting a new chapter. Then I move forward. Always forward so I finish a first draft and don’t get stuck in the endless cycle of trying to make it ‘perfect’. A first draft is never perfect. It’s always a mess. As Terry Pratchett said ‘A first draft is just you telling yourself the story’ and I absolutely believe that. The reworking comes later to make it flow and make it into more cohesive whole.

But this time I’m…tweaking things. Not to the point where I’m frozen and stop, but overnight, or when I’m away from the keyboard, I’m running conversations or bits of the previous day in my head, then I rush back and fix it that day, or first thing the next day. I’m still making good progress but this is very new and different. It might be because it is set in a new world, and I am still discovering it and the characters, but I also think it’s partially because this is a new style for me.

No music and polishing as I go. The first draft is still going to be rough, no doubt, but I’m happy with it so far. Ask me again in 6 months when I start to revise it and I will have a different answer, but it’s good to feel that way right now. I’m still planning and I have a skeleton plot which I’m following. I still set daily word counts and I still take a day off when I feel like it, especially if I’m tired or the well is getting a bit dry. A rest and complete break really can help me recharge the batteries.

So, somehow this time, it’s all new and different and fresh, despite it being my fifteen or sixteenth novel. I’ve honestly lost count at this point. But the important thing is it’s working and I will finish this first draft as planned. Stop worrying about how other people do it. Find what works for you and just finish the book.

Comments Off on Breaking all the rules

Filed under Books, Writing

On Time Every Time

This post has been bubbling under for a while but it was brought to the forefront of my mind today by a tweet. Someone commented that they wait until the series of books is finished before picking them up in one go because they were shy about starting a series with an unpublished finish. Ok, there’s a lot to chew on there.

First, I’m not picking on this individual as I know it is an attitude shared by some SFF readers. However, it’s actually one that is damaging for writers. Myke Cole sums it up very succinctly here.

It really is that simple. I know binge watching is now common and binge reading is a thing too. There’s nothing wrong with either. So, one person posted a simple and elegant solution if binge-reading is your thing – Buy the books (or pre-order them) on the day they come out and then leave them on the shelf until the series is done. Then you can still binge read the whole lot in one go. There are drawbacks to this approach such as talking and engaging with other readers in the SFF community as the books come out, but I also realise that some SFF readers don’t get involved in conventions or social media. They just buy and read the books in their own time.

The second important point I wanted to raise is the vast majority of SFF published authors deliver their books on time, every time. Yes, there are a few very high profile, very celebrated authors who are behind on their deadlines (we all know who they are and the books in question) but everyone else just gets on with it and delivers their books. And no, this is not a dig at those authors either. The only issue is, some readers then assume that the rest of us will follow suit and it is just not true.

Here’s my current timeline of published books from Orbit :-

Battlemage – September 2015

Bloodmage – April 2016

Chaosmage – October 2016

Mageborn – October 2017

Magefall – September 2018

Mage3 – Sept/Oct 2019 (first draft is written)

Of Gods and Men (novella) – February 2018

That list is not there so I can pat myself on the back. Nor is it a pity party, because while it was difficult to work on the first trilogy of books at the same time, all of them at different stages so they could come out every 6 months, it was and is my dream job and something I’d wanted to do for decades. I also want to stress something because it is very important – writing is my job. This list is there to demonstrate I delivered the books on time, every time.

To that end, I’ve already handed in Mage3, and my deadline is December 2018. I’m now hard at work something new and different, which if all goes to plan, it will be published in 2020, or sooner, who knows. In theory, I could finish the first draft of the brand new book by the end of this year. It’s possible. Again, this is not here for people to pat me on the back. I love writing books. Yes, sometimes the process is difficult and challenging and I’ve written about that in previous blog posts. This isn’t about that. If I don’t hand in the books I don’t get paid and as I’ve said, writing is my job.

How you can help

The bottom line is if you like an author and want to support them – buy their books when they come out (from your local bookshop if possible). If you want to do more, then tell someone else about the book and the author. Word of mouth and personal recommendation from friends are very powerful. Shout about a book on social media if you loved it. If you want to go one step further, write a review and post it somewhere online. Goodreads and Amazon if possible because that will help other people find the books. Even if you didn’t buy the book from Amazon, it is the first port of call for a lot of people and reviews on there matter. Lots of people now have book blogs and vlogs on YouTube. Talking about books on there is another great way to spread the word.

Buy the books. Don’t wait.

Comments Off on On Time Every Time

Filed under Book review, Books, Writing

That’s a wrap….for now

The first draft of Mage3 (currently untitled), the third book in the Age of Dread trilogy, has now gone off to my editors at Orbit. So that’s it, I’m done….for the time being at least. In a few months’ time the next round of hard work will begin with edits and so on, but for now, I’m finished.

Looking back I think it will be about 10 years since I first sat down and started writing the first draft of Battlemage. I worked on that book for about 3 years on and off before I finally thought it was ready to submit to an agent. After that there was more work on it with my agent and then the publisher, and then I started work on the subsequent books in the first trilogy, the second trilogy and the novella.

I hate how everything is now ‘a journey’ and I’m not going to say I’ve been on one but these last 5 years in particular have been very interesting. Whenever you enter a new industry there’s always a lot to learn. In my case there was the perception of publishing from an outsider’s view and then I discovered the reality once I sat down with people like my agent, my editor and so on. It’s been eye-opening and thought provoking experience, that’s for sure.

Over the last few years I’ve definitely learned a lot from professionals in the industry but also from other writers. Those who have been in the business longer than me and have more books on the shelves. People have been happy to share their experiences and although everyone’s is unique to some degree there are patterns you can learn from.

When I started trying to get published (many years ago) self publishing was purely a phrase that meant vanity press. Now it’s transformed into something totally different. Many people prefer self publishing. Some have moved from self publishing to more traditional publishing and I know of a few authors who have gone the other way, preferring more freedom and control over all aspects of the process. I also know of a few hybrid authors who do a bit of both. So the landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years, especially with the growth of ebooks and the internet.

So what’s next? I’ve already got some ideas, but I need to sit down to discuss them with my agent before being able to share any news. I can say that whatever I do next it will not be set in the same world. It will be something different and fresh in a new world. I need a change. That’s not to say I won’t ever come back to the same world, just not right now. I have two very distinct options at the moment but I need to mull them over and talk them through before deciding.

So at the moment I’m having a little bit of a break, I’m going to put my feet up, catch up on all the TV I’ve missed, maybe see a few films and then get back to work. So watch this space for any news!

 

Comments Off on That’s a wrap….for now

Filed under Books, Writing

Crash Landing – New Podcast

As you may be aware, maybe not, as well as writing novels and comics, I am also a podcaster.

Grouchy Old Geeks
IGrouchy Old Geeks‘ve been podcasting 11 years this July with my co-host Scott Grandison. It started out as Comic Book Outsiders but then morphed into Grouchy Old Geeks (as we both drift closer to middle age), where once a month we talk about comics, movies, TV, games and whatever else takes our fancy.

Bags of Action
Bags of ActionI also podcast with Pete Rogers (with whom I co-write comics) where once a month on Bags of Action we talk about an action movie that we’ve both watched in the previous weeks. We love classic action movies but we also dig into some of the modern blockbusters that have really surprised us.

Crash Landing
Crash Landing LogoToday sees the launch of a new podcast, Crash Landing. This one is more focused on books and fiction. It’s just me, talking to a guest, about 5 books that they couldn’t live without if they were being crash landed onto an alien world. So these are not necessarily their favourite books (although for some guests they are one and the same), they are books that are powerful, special and important to them and each episode I find out why. I love talking to other writers about process, their approach and their work, but often at gatherings with crowds there isn’t the time, space or sometimes just the inclination to talk in depth on these topics. Also at conventions when you get a group of writers on a panel you have to be considerate for the other and not just talk non-stop for an hour.

So this podcast gives me a chance to have a more detailed conversation with writers, one on one, about the books that shaped them and still hold special meaning to them. It’s always fascinating to hear a person’s choice and then see how it has influenced their own work and the direction of their life.

As ever, if you would like to support any of these podcasts, or others on the Geek Syndicate network, I would really appreciate it if you became a Patron via Patreon.

All podcasts are available for free on iTunes or via the Geek Syndicate website

Comments Off on Crash Landing – New Podcast

Filed under Books, podcast, Writing

Les Imaginales Festival

I am delighted to be able to announce that this May, from 24-27th, I will be attending my first convention overseas, Les Imaginales in Epinal, France.

Les ImaginalesAs well as a host of European authors there are 5 British authors attending (RJ Barker, Ed McDonald, Al Robertson, Christopher Priest and me) and 5 American authors (Marie Brennan, Ellen Kushner, Nnedi Okorafor, Delia Sherman and Robin Hobb).

I am very excited to be attending this event for so many reasons, not least of all the amazing company I will be keeping. I’m going to really struggle not to fanboy over Robin Hobb but I’ve had a few months to prepare myself. I only started reading her work in the last few years. I was aware of her for a long time but as ever it was a matter of only so many hours in the day and too many books but I was determined to fill in that gap in my reading history. After racing through the first Assassins trilogy I’m now taking my time with the Liveship Traders trilogy.

Last year I visited France for the first time ever and the offices of my French publisher, Bragelonne in Paris, where I was awarded the first Hellfest Inferno prize for Battlemage. I had an amazing visit and everyone was so nice so I’m really looking forward to catching up with people.

Also from talking to other authors who’ve attended in previous years they’ve told me how wonderful a time they had at the festival. All of which adds up to me sitting on my suitcase as I can’t wait to go and meet French fantasy readers at the event!

Comments Off on Les Imaginales Festival

Filed under Books, Events, Writing

Stuff this week

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men novellaThe new digital and audio novella has now been published!!!!!

Of Gods and Men is a prequel to the entire series so far, it is set before the events of Battlemage, so if you’re brand new you can read it as an intro to my style of writing and the whole world. If you’re an existing reader then it gives more info on a favourite character that people often ask me about, Vargus, and it has easter eggs that feed into the second trilogy. It’s available on Amazon UK, and Amazon US, with links from there to the audio Audible version.

Reddit Fantasy AMA

REDDIT LOGOI’m doing an AMA tomorrow on Thursday 7th February. What’s an AMA? Well, it’s an Ask Me Anything thread where fantasy fans can log on and ask any question they like about the books, characters, my writing technique, publishing, my hobbies, computer games, my favourite cheese, pretty much anything really. For about 24 hours I will periodically log on and answer all questions on there.

Reddit is free to join and free to use if you’re not already on there. And the Fantasy section is where fans, and many authors, gather to geek out about all things fantasy related, be it books, TV, films, games or whatever.

 

Comments Off on Stuff this week

Filed under Books, Writing

The Year Ahead

A new year and already I’ve got a number of plans, events and books plotted out for the coming 12 months. It looks as if it is going to be a busy one.

Books

In less than a month in February, Of Gods and Men is published, a digital and audio novella. It will not be available in paperback or hardback. Maybe, perhaps, if I wrote a number of them then they could be collected in the future. But at this stage, it’s only ebook and audiobook, but the good news is we managed to get Matt Addiss back in to record it. He did the audio books for Battlemage, Bloodmage and Chaosmage. He’s also coming back for the new trilogy and has already recorded Mageborn.

So, Of Gods and Men, what’s it all about? It’s a prequel to Battlemage, and it focuses on Vargus. If you’ve never read anything by me before it works as a great intro and standalone story. It gives you a taste of my world, characters and style while also being a complete story.

If you’ve read everything then it provides more background on a popular character, but it also has info for the current series buried in there too. Yeah. So it was a bit tricky to write but was also enormous fun. The title is a direct nod to Steinbeck, as this story also focuses on two drifters moving from town to town in search of work. And yes, before someone says it, I know the original quote comes from Burns.

Magefall – Book 2, in the Age of Dread trilogy is being published on 6th September this year. This trilogy is much more integrated than the first. It focuses on the same main characters and there isn’t a time gap between them like there was with the previous trilogy.

Mage3I’m currently writing the last quarter of the first draft of Mage 3 (working title) of the Age of Dread. This will be published in 2019, probably around September or October time again. So later this year I will be editing it and then sorting out the proof.

Something New – Once Mage3 is done I will be getting stuck into something completely new and different. It’s already planned. The first chapter is already written but I need to look at it with fresh eyes, rewrite it, write a few more chapters and then send it off to my agent for her opinion. If all goes well we’ll pitch it to a publisher later this year and by Christmas I’ll be well on the way with book 1 in this new trilogy. New world. New characters.

Events

There are a couple in the pipeline already, a couple in the planning stages and I’m really excited them but can’t talk about them just yet. More info on them as soon as I can share. I might be looking at doing a more northern signing event for Magefall later this year too. Just an idea but as well as hopefully doing one in Birmingham (my now-adopted home city), I might be drifting up to Manchester or even further north to Liverpool. If anyone reading this is up that way let me know.

 

 

Comments Off on The Year Ahead

Filed under Books, Events, Writing

December update

Somehow it is December already. It seems like only yesterday (actually February) when I was in Paris, picking up an award for Battlemage in French. The year has gone by really quick.

So, December 1st and I’m now working on the first draft of book 3 in the Age of Dread trilogy. The copy edits for book 2, working title and probably real title Magefall, are done and were sent off about a week ago. I’m now trying to keep all 3 books in my head, focus on what happened in book 2 and make sure book 3 works well and lands properly, plus I need to make sure I tie up as many loose ends as I can, because this is the end.

I’m writing something different next, not set in the same world. That doesn’t mean I won’t come back to this world, and I have a couple of seeds of ideas in the back of my head already, but after 6 books and 1 novella, and about 10 years, I need a break. Battlemage came out in 2015, which is only 2 years ago, but I was working on it for 2 years before that with my agent and then my editor, and before that I was working on writing it for a few years. So a change is good. It will keep me fresh, stretch me to do something different and new.

Publishing schedule
At the moment, the novella, Of Gods and Men, (available digitally and in audio) will be coming out in February 2018, then Magefall in October 2018 then Mage3 in October 2019. So in theory, the new book I am going to start writing next year in the summer will be coming out in 2020. I’m Doc Brown without trying somehow, with half of my mind here in the present and half somewhere else in the future. I constantly find myself travelling back and forth in time. When someone asks me about a book it can take me a couple of seconds to work out which book they’re talking about and this is the reason why.

Christmas
As is my tradition, and as is right at this special time of the year, I will be writing one or more posts on my favourite sports, World’s Strongest Man. The qualifiers, the heats, and then the glorious final. There won’t be any more writing updates this year, so happy holidays everyone and I’ll see you in 2018.

 

Comments Off on December update

Filed under Books, Writing

New Novella – Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men novellaI’m delighted to announce that a new novella I’ve written has been revealed today, along with the awesome cover! Of Gods and Men, a digital and audio novella is set to be released in February 2018 by Orbit books. So there’s only a few short months to wait!

This story can be read at any time and it will still make sense. If you’ve read the first trilogy, the Age of Darkness (Battlemage, Bloodmage, Chaosmage), or even just the first book, then it provides some info and background that feeds into the second trilogy without spoiling what’s to come.

If you’re completely up to date and have read Mageborn and are eagerly waiting for the next book, this gives you something new  to read in the meantime that fills in some background on a much-loved character…or two. There are also a few easter eggs in there as normal for loyal readers.

And, if you’ve somehow stumbled across this post and have not read any of my books before, but want something lighter and shorter to try before wading into a trilogy, then you can read it and the story is self contained enough that it will also make sense.

The title also gives you a big clue in some ways about its structure and one of the non-fantasy influences for the story, but it doesn’t reveal any spoilers.

Comments Off on New Novella – Of Gods and Men

Filed under Books, Writing