Tag Archives: Battlemage

Class is in session: Fantasy world building

I’m delighted to announce that starting in May I will be teaching an online writing course with LitReactor. This will be a two week course, available to anyone around the world, on fantasy world building.

As you can imagine I’ve spent a lot of time creating fantasy worlds and thinking about all of the elements that contribute to making a memorable setting. In addition to this, the world needs to be populated with interesting characters to make it feel like a real place. LitReactor has given me a great opportunity to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. My goal is to provide my students with a range of tools and open their minds so they start thinking about fantasy world building and characters in new ways.

I’m really excited to be doing this and it’s going to be a fascinating experience. Places are limited to 16 people for this two week course. So if you’re interested I suggest you sign up as quickly as possible on the LitReactor website here.

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Something new and doubt

I’ve just sent in the first draft of something totally new to my agent for her feedback. This is still fantasy, but the story is not set in the same world, there aren’t any mages in this book and it’s a bit different in terms of style and pacing. Now comes the waiting.

It was both refreshing and scary to start something brand new. Clean slate means no preconceptions and a totally new world where everything is shiny. There’s so much for me to discover and build. New characters to create. A whole new continent to populate with towns and cities. I spent so much time thinking about random things like heritage, architecture, trade and industry, weapons and armour. The list is endless.

It’s liberating but I also need to make sure that everything I create fits together in a cohesive and logical manner. It always baffles me when people who don’t read fantasy think we can basically write without rules and do anything we like, as if readers won’t mind that none of it hangs together. If anything fantasy authors have to work harder, especially when it comes to things like magic. It has to make sense, there have to be rules and costs, otherwise any time there’s any kind of a threat in a story someone can just wave their hand and the problem is solved.

The scary part comes from the little voice inside that wonders if I know what I’m really doing and if the first time was a fluke. That little voice of doubt is healthy, but it’s also a jerk. I think every sensible writer has doubts (any sensible creative person really) and if they don’t then we’ve all seen what kind of monsters they turn into (see Hollywood for example). Whether it’s your second book or your twenty second, if you don’t have doubts then it means you think you’re perfect and everything you write is gold and that is scary. Doubt is fine, it keeps me sharp, it keeps me hungry and it keeps me moving forward. But there are times when I have to point out to that little voice that I’ve gone a lot further than thousands (maybe millions?) of other people.

Even now I meet an endless stream of people who when they ask what I do and I tell them I’m an author their response is ‘Oh, one day I’m going to write a book.’ That one line has many connotations. When people say it now I just smile back, because I’ve done it. I wrote the book. I got the agent and then the book deal, and as of June this year I will have had 6 books published.

It’s not arrogance. It’s me reminding myself of how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved. I put my money where my mouth was and I did it. It took a long time. Many years. Many failures. Many false starts and rejections. A lot of sacrifice and effort. But I’ve done it. They really can’t say the same.

So I still have doubts, but for now I’m going to ignore that little voice, put my head down and get on with writing a new book.

 

 

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Recent TV

The joy of Netflix means I can start on a series and just really soak into it, and consume the whole thing in one stretch. No waiting weekly for episodes, and go at my own pace. There are some shows that are released weekly, to keep them in line or just behind the US, but for those I’m just stockpiling episodes until the series is done. It’s not as if there’s nothing else to watch in the meantime.

I’ve avoided spoilers in the following, so I’ve not given away anything about the stories for anyone who is worried.

The Last Kingdom – I’m not sure why I held off watching this show for so long. I’m a big fan of Bernard Cornwall’s books, I enjoyed the odd Sharpe episode back in the day with Sean Bean, and I’m a massive fan of his Arthurian trilogy. This falls into the same kind of mould, based on his long running book series that has been renamed to The Last Kingdom series I believed. Only instead of King Arthur, we’re focusing on King Alfred of Wessex.

Uhtred Ragnarson, son of Uhred of Bebbanburg is a Dane, but not, an English man of Northumberland but also not and heir to Bebbanburg (Bamburgh to use its modern name). Fantastic stuff. I cannot fault the show. The cast is amazing and some characters are really interesting, both to love and hate, sometimes at the same time. Uhtred himself is not someone you always root for and I have to praise David Dawson who plays King Alfred. You want to hate him so much for some of his decisions and yet a moment later you feel sympathy and can understand his motives. Such a gloriously rich and layered character, it must have been a dream of a role for the actor. The brilliant Ian Hart as Father Beocca and so many of the others in the cast are amazing, especially those who play Hild, Finan, Brida, Steapa and Leofric. Three glorious series to soak into, do it now, and season 4 is in production.

Titans – So, as an old school long time DC comics fan I was torn about this and initially had mixed feelings. I read Teen Titans growing up. I know the characters and the trailer for the TV showed something very different. However, I gave it a shot and if you can get past some of the changes to the main characters, and put that aside then it’s an enjoyable show. The writers had to change some stuff to adapt it to TV, and I don’t have an issue with that, but at times it feel as if some of the violence and language was dialled up to 11 just because they could, not because it was always necessary for the story. Changing characters is fine, as long as they stay true to the heart of them.

Dick Grayson is a lot angrier than normal, however, they explain why this version id Dick is like that. Kori is perhaps the most difficult character to do in a TV series (more so than Beast Boy in fact with modern CGI) because she’s not human. She has orange skin, which the could have created using CGI, however, it would mean wherever she went people would stop and stare, and since it’s supposed to be set in the real world where there aren’t many aliens walking around, I can see why they didn’t go with that. The actress in the role Anna Diop fills the character with warmth, heart and compassion, and I think she did an amazing job, although the wardrobe they gave her initially, and in the trailer, was not a good choice, at all. It really gave out the wrong message.

The first series is also packed with a lot of cameos, and I mean A LOT. There is the potential for at least 3 spin off TV shows from this, and I know that one of them, Doom Patrol, has gone into production. In Titans we get to meet all of those characters for the first time, get a basic introduction to them and their powers, and then the story moves on. Lots of tie-ins to Batman and the city of Gotham, which is to be expected as part of the story explores Dick’s backstory. Overall I was able to put aside my issues about the changes that were made and I enjoyed it. Will definitely be tuning in for season 2.

The Punisher Season 2 – Given all of the faffing around behind the scenes between Marvel and Netflix this could be the last time we’ll see Jon Bernthal playing Frank Castle so I’ve mixed feelings. He’s the best version of Frank I’ve ever seen. The first series was perfect. Gritty, brutal and heart-breaking in equal measure. This season is trying to recapture that formula and although there are moments, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first season.

The acting is all spot on, but some of the storylines are jumbled, the pacing is off, it gets quite mixed up at times, and not in a good way, so Frank is bouncing around between things, juggling too much stuff, but it just doesn’t work. Some of the actors don’t have a lot to do except mope about, a lot. I understand this season is all about broken people and those kind of people don’t always make logical choices and deep-seated mental problems are not resolved overnight but even so, this is a TV show not a documentary and it’s an action show too, so some parts of this season were a bit repetitive which made them dull for me.

When Frank is unleashed the violence is explosive, difficult to watch and Bernthal is terrifying, as he should be in the role of Frank, a brutal force of nature. Some outstanding acting once again from a few people in the show. It’s worth watching but I don’t think this season reached the highs of season 1 by a good way. I hope there is a season 3 but I have massive doubts that will happen. I expect Netflix to announce the cancellation of The Punisher very soon and then Jessica Jones.

 

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End of an Age

Just a quick update post to say that I’ve just sent off the amended proof for Magebane, book 3 in the Age of Dread trilogy. So that’s the end of the second Age in that world and, for now at least, the end of the story of those characters.

I started writing Battlemage many years ago, and even though it doesn’t seem like all that long in terms of when the books came out – as Battlemage was published in 2015 – it was back in maybe 2009 or 2010 that I started writing it, so it’s almost been a decade for me. I didn’t send it off to agents until 2013. At that time I was just another hopeful aspiring writer and it was just another book (book 7 or 8?) that I had written and was sending out to literary agents. Six books and a novella later, here I am. So, what have I learned since then?

Here’s my top 5 things I’ve learned about traditional publishing. This is just my perspective so others may disagree with some of this.

1. Traditional publishing is slow

By its nature, the business is fairly slow because there are a lot of moving parts. A book goes through a lot of different stages in the publishing machine before it pops out the other end on bookshelves as a finished thing.

Self publishing is a lot faster, but it requires that you spend a lot more time and energy on aspects of the book beyond writing it. At this stage I’d prefer to let others handle the bulk of that work, be it editing, marketing, coordinating with bookshops and suppliers. I am still involved in some stages (editing etc) but there are many parts of the process I know nothing about and am not consulted because I don’t need to be, such as storage, shipping, pricing etc. My job is to write the book so that’s what I am focusing on.

2. Traditional publishing is a mystery

There’s a lot more information online these days compared with when I started, but from talking to other writers trying to get that first book published, there’s still a lot they don’t know. Some of it is also contradictory which is scary and people are afraid to do the wrong thing in case it messes up their chances. From my perspective, there are many aspects of the business that I still know nothing about and others that I am still learning about, such as lending rights and overseas sales. Did you know every author in the UK and Ireland gets a few sheckles every time you borrow their book from a public library? I know, right!

My advice is, if you’re not sure, ask an agent or author. We’re all fairly approachable and with social media it’s so easy to get an answer before you press SEND. I asked an agent a few questions via twitter to clarify something before I sent off Battlemage. So it’s worth double checking.

3. First impressions matter

Related to number 2, people still ignore clear instructions. If you are sending a submission to an agent and their name is John, don’t call them Johnny, or Jo-Jo, or mate, or pal, or something witty and hilarious. That’s going to turn them off immediately, and even if you’ve seen other people call them that on social media, you don’t have a relationship with that person. Don’t assume. Be professional.  Also if they say send 3 chapters, don’t send 5, because that’s where the story really gets going!!!

Also, and here’s a really big one that I’ve seen a lot, if an agent is a woman, don’t address the person in your email as Mr Smith. Time and again I see aspiring writers shoot themselves in the foot. Agents get thousands of submissions every year. They will drop yours and move on to the next one if you can’t follow instructions. Don’t give them an excuse. If, for example, they request 5,000 and your first 3 chapters are 5,500 words long, then yes, by all means contact them to double check that kind of thing. Take the tine to read the guidelines and tailor each submission to suit their requirements. Be professional, don’t try to be funny or their mate. The best thing you can do is send them an awesome book that really gets them excited.

4.Be the best version of you not the best copy of (Author X)

Don’t claim to be the next JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett etc, or even worse, claim to be better than them. Maybe, perhaps, there’s a very very VERY slim chance you will be more successful than one of those authors, however, don’t say it in your submission letter to anyone. Ever.

Here’s the truth. The market is crowded. A lot of books are published every year. It’s a tough business. I’m not saying that to scare you but to make you aware of reality. Publishing is super weird because it’s a business, so they need to make money, but it’s also built on imagination, the creative meanderings of authors. So you need to keep that balance in your mind. Bring the best version of you to the table. A unique voice, created from your own personal experiences and your imagination. In time your work might be compared to various authors, and that’s fine, but you shouldn’t be trying to emulate others because you think it’s a winning formula. It’s the same as when people try to chase a trend. “I read 20 sparkly vampire novels last year, so he’s my vampire novel which is 100 times better than all of the other ones which were awful!” You may laugh, but I’ve seen this kind of thing. No, really, it still happens. So, focus on being you, not someone else.

5.Getting published is only the beginning

As I said the market is crowded. Getting noticed is difficult and even before that first book has been published your agent and publisher will want you to start work on the next book. I’m now writing my 7th novel since being published and at the same time as doing that I was editing book 6. Depending how fast the books are being published there will usually be an overlap. If you want writing to be a career then you need to produce a body of work and that means you’ve got to keep writing more books. Writing is definitely a marathon, both to produce a finished novel and to build a career. So, with that being said, I’d better get back to it. Any questions, just ask.

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2019 Events

It’s almost Christmas but I’ve already been busy planning a number events for 2019. The first I will be taking part in is a new one for me, the Wolverhampton Literature Festival.

It runs from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd February at a number of  different venues around the city. The full PDF programme of events will be posted shortly but in the meantime you can peruse the website to find a brief summary. This is the first year they’ve done any SFF talks at the event so I was pleased to be able to bring it to the festival.

On Saturday 2nd February from 1.15-2.15pm Anna Stephen  and Gemma Todd will be hosting a panel on How to Find a Literary Agent as they share their stories and experiences with attendees. More info on the time, location and how to get tickets is available here. Tickets go on sale Monday 10th December.

On Sunday 3rd February at 4.30-5.30pm is a panel called Writing the Fantastic. I will be hosting this event with Anna and Gemma. We’ll be talking about why we write fantasy, our inspirations, what we love about the genre and how it allows us to talk about the real world. More information on the location and how to get tickets is available here.

I hope to see you there!

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All I want for Christmas….

Of Gods and Men novella…..is a review. Well, ok, I would like people to buy my books, but if you’ve done that already, then thank you. But if you have a bit more time then I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on Amazon, and Goodreads (if you are on there), even the same one copy and pasted on both sites.

Now, I know there are lots of issues with Amazon, and it is not the only place to buy books, or the best for various reasons. I would always encourage people to buy first from their local bookshop or local/national chain (Waterstones here in the UK). However, a lot of people use Amazon to browse as it is easy and convenient, and cheap at times, but if you have an account on there you can still leave a review for any product. Why Amazon? And what difference will it make?

MagebaneWell, Amazon has complex algorithms I won’t even pretend to try and understand, but the bottom line from what I’ve been told is – the more reviews on there, the better. This means the books get picked  up and promoted, put on special deals, put on lists and so on. That means my books will get put in front of more potential readers. Even if you read the book a while ago it doesn’t matter. Amazon doesn’t ask when you read the book like Goodreads, so you can leave a review at any time.

Magefall_finalcover_StephenAryanThe other reason to leave a review is for the readers. People want to find out why you particularly liked a book. What was it that you enjoyed? Was it the characters? The action? The style of writing or the pace? The themes it explored? The blurb on a book can only tell you so much out of necessity to avoid spoilers and because of space, but readers can often talk about a book at length without spoiling every beat of the story.

A quick note, as I have had few people ask. Below is the list of all my books and my recommendation for the reading order, which isn’t what you might think.

Battlemage - Stephen Aryan

Age of Darkness trilogy

Battlemage

Of Gods and Men (digital/ audio novella)

Bloodmage

Chaosmage

Age of Dread trilogy

Mageborn

Magefall

Magebane (coming June 2019)

 

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Magebane Cover Reveal

MagebaneThe word is out. The final book in the Age of Dread trilogy is called – Magebane. This is the big one. It wraps up everything. Six books and a novella worth of story and characters. That’s not to say every little thing is tied down and sorted, but I had to make sure a lot of it was squared away.

As a result the book is currently longer than the others and I think it’s my longest so far. We’ll see when it gets to the final cut. I’m currently working on the copy edits as I write this.

In theory, I may never return to this world, so there was a lot to get sorted. Never say never, but right now, I’m done with stories told in this world and moving on to something new. I may return in the future but that depends on a number of different factors beyond my control.

So, because I’m ahead of schedule on my deadlines Magebane is going to be published in June 2019. That’s right, you lucky people, you don’t even have to wait a year for the next book! I’m really spoiling you.

Below is a link to the Orbit books blog post with a bit more info of what to expect and a bigger version of the cover.

Orbit blog post COVER REVEAL

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November update

A quick update on everything.

Book 6  – This now has a title for those with eagle eyes on Amazon, and a release date next summer. I sent back a second draft to my editor about two weeks ago and like a rubber ball it’s going to be coming back to me very soon from the copy editor. I’ve got two and a bit weeks to turn that around and then I should, in theory, be ok until the new year to focus on new stuff.

New book – I’m making steady headway on the first draft. Parts of it have morphed as I’ve gone along, surprising me at times, but the overall shape of the story has remained intact. It’s different to what I’ve done before. There’s also not even a sniff of a mage or a wizard anywhere. Although I can say it’s still fantasy. I had hoped to get the first draft done by Christmas but it seems unlikely now with book 6 edits come back again so soon. However I should be able to finish off a first draft early in the new year.

British Fantasy Society – I wrote a piece about finding an agent for the BFS. For those who are members it appeared in their Summer 2018 Focus magazine.

New Interview – To celebrate the publication of Magefall and because it had been a while, I recently did a podcast interview with Hank Garner on the Author Stories Podcast. Hank has interviewed hundreds of writers across a range of genres, including some really big names in fantasy and SF. You can find the podcast on iTunes as well as my episode here

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Other Worlds Event – Sat 6th October

Just a quick post to serve as a reminder that next Saturday, 6th October in Nottingham, I will be taking part in the Other Worlds event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

This is a full day of panels and workshops. The schedule and more information about the event is available on the website here, as well as how to buy tickets for the day.

I’m going to be there from mid-morning and I’m doing a couple of panels and a workshop on Fantasy Worldbuilding, with a special subtitle – Consider the Potato. All will be revealed about what the heck I’m talking about in the workshop which is going to be interactive and hopefully a lot of fun. All you need is a pen and an imagination!

Click here for more information about the event and to book your tickets

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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