What happened at MCM

Last weekend was the super busy London MCM Comic Con. For those who’ve never been it’s a massive event at the Excel Centre in London with tens and tens of thousands of people in attendance. I’m always amazed at how many people attend and again it was slightly overwhelming to walk through the vast crowds, many of who were dressed in cosplay. I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognise about 50% of the cosplay because many of them were from anime, computer games I don’t play (you can tell how old I am because I still call them computer games!), comics and other things I’ve probably never even heard of. Even so it was amazing to see the time and effort that people had put into their costumes. I saw several women with fairy-like wings that moved independently with some sort of motor. Very clever and creative.

Both Marvel and DC had a presence at the show this year. Marvel had taken over a whole section and had lots of cool things you could do, as well as see, including some costumes from the Thor Ragnarok film and forthcoming Black Panther film. There were also some cool statues of Captain America, Spider-man, Iron Man and the Hulk.

When not mooching around the show trying not to buy everything I went to a couple of talks and was delighted and charmed by Hayley Atwell. She was funny, warm and spoke about her time on the Marvel films and Agent Carter with great affection. It was wonderful to hear about how her relationship with various actors, such as Chris Evans, had developed over time as they’ve now worked together in the same universe on several films.

I was also on a few writing panels during the weekend alongside other science fiction and fantasy authors. Below are a few photos from our panels ,as well as Ed Cox attempting to get everyone to put on a serious author face. Without a doubt the funniest panel during the weekend was one moderated by RJ Barker. The audience, and everyone  on the panel, had no clue what was about to hit them and it was hilarious. Ben Aaronovitch was in tears several times and Guy Adams had a few funny rants.

The weekend was a lot of fun. I got to spent time with some old friends, met a few faces and came home exhausted but happy. I must thank Travis from MCM for inviting me back again and maybe I’ll see you at the next event, which is the one day Sledge-Lit festival in Derby on Saturday 25th November.

MCM London Comic Con this weekend

MCM London Comic ConThe title says it all really. This weekend I will be attending the MCM London Comic Con alongside some other fantastic fantasy and science fiction authors.

The event is 3 days but my fellow authors and I will be appearing on panels and doing signings on Saturday and Sunday. After each panel there will be a signing with books for sale in the room for all of the authors appearing on each panel.

Apparently, as well as authors, there are some other guests attending the event! Who knew? People like Anthony Mackie, Hayley  Atwell, Manu Bennett, David Bradley, Andrew Scott, Julian Glover, three of the boys from Red Dwarf…the list goes on and on. There’s going to be tonnes of cosplay, comics, Marvel have a big presence there this year, video games, manga, the list goes on and on.

In May this year at the event they had a footfall of something like 110K people over the three days making it the biggest convention in the UK. I wonder if they will exceed that number this weekend?

Check out the Author corner for the full list of authors attending and keep an eye out for the panel schedule in the Platinum suite. See you there, and if not, next month I’m in Derby at Sledge-Lit on Saturday 25th November, but more info on that soon.

And that’s a wrap

Just a short post to say the first draft of book 5,  (well book 2 in the new Age of Dread trilogy), is done.

The first draft is raw, rough and it still needs a lot of work, but the main framework of the story is now done. I’ve had this story in my head for over a year and it’s taken me months and months to gradually shape the idea into a real thing. It’s changed a bit, despite planning it ahead of time, and I’ve already got a few things in mind I need to revise before anyone sees it. Then once I’m relatively happy with it I will send it on to my editors.

I know it is going to be edited several times and I’m going to be revising this text for the next year or so, but even so I want to get this current version to a comfortable state. There are a number of things I need to fix. Namely writing tics. Things I’ve realised I’ve started to develop, and some I didn’t even know I was doing but have been pointed out by other people. They’re crutches or cliches I might use too often so I’m going to file them off for starters. Other things are part of the plot that already stick out like a sore thumb. Polish the dialogue to make it more natural. There’s a list.

Now is actually the best time to do this, because once it goes into the publishing process I’m on much tighter deadlines, and working on the next book, so my focus is split. I’m ahead of my deadline at the moment so I have time to knuckle down and sort it now. Hopefully by doing so it will pay off later when I get my first set of editorial notes back on this new book. That’s the plan anyway.

Once this goes off to the publisher it’s back to fleshing out my notes for book 6 and then the hard work of a first draft begins again! No rest for the wicked and all that.

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.

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?

November round up

A general update on what’s been going on for the last month or thereabouts. Starting with some book news.

Book 4

The first draft of book 4 (currently untitled), the first book in the new Age of Dread trilogy, has been sent off to my publisher. Phew. I got it in a couple of weeks early and I had enough time to do a pretty solid revision with some input from a trusted source. As it was the first book in a new trilogy, and even though it was set in the same world, I was super nervous. Digging in and giving it a good polish before it went off to my editor, and getting some positive feedback, has helped a lot. So now I am cracking on with book 5. I should say, you don’t have to have read the first trilogy (Age of Darkness) to read this book, however, it does follow on chronologically from the first and there are lots of overlaps in terms of characters and so on. But it is possible to come in as a fresh reader and it will all make sense. Book 4 comes out next year in October.

Blog posts

I’ve recently done some guest posts on a few blogs. The first was My Book: The Movie, where I was asked who would I cast if they were going to make a film of Battlemage. My answers often change but right now these are the people I see in the roles, so it gives you a bit of an idea what they look like in my head beyond what you read on the page.

The second blog post was over on The Page 69 Test. This is where if someone were to open my book to that page, what would they find? Is it representative of the whole book or not? Would it give new readers enough to make them keep reading? It was an interesting idea to explore and in this case p69 of Battlemage gives a flavour for one aspect of the book.

Interviews

There are a couple of these coming up. One I did for Mur Lafferty on her podcast, I Should Be Writing. Once this goes live I will repost it. I also did my first video interview! Very nerve racking and tense. However, I got through it and the two people who interviewed me were very friendly and helped me relax. This was during my recent trip to the MCM Expo in London and it was for Solarstorm Entertainment. The video will be on YouTube. I was interviewed along with several other Orbit authors on the day. [edit, the interview is now live]

Gaming

I don’t tend to talk much about games, but I thought I would add something for a change. I mostly say I’m a lapsed gamer, as I don’t have time to play as much as I used to. However, recently I have picked up the odd game from Steam and the best of them has been Fallout 4. This game is remarkable. It’s probably one of the best games I’ve played in the last 10 years or more. It has all of the elements that I like, exploration, a deep back story and world building, a sandpit aspect to the game, a strong storyline with some major twists that keep me guessing and also wondering about my actions and the choices I’ve made as my character. It is also massive. There is a lot to explore. It’s been a great way to unwind while wiping out a few settlements of Super Mutants.

That’s it for now. If you have read any of my books and would like to do me a favour, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, as it does help to me noticed by other potential readers.

Win an early signed copy of Chaosmage

Chaosmage Stephen AryanI’ve received a few early copies of Chaosmage from my publisher, Orbit. It’s not officially published for a few weeks (Oct 12) so I’m going to run a simple competition.

The winner will be chosen at random and I will sign and personalise a copy of Chaosmage and post it to you, anywhere in the world. This is open to anyone internationally.

In order to enter the competition, all you need to do is donate some money to the following charity, Leeds Cat Rescue, via PayPal, or if that link doesn’t work, visit their Facebook page here – where there is a PayPal link on the right hand column – and send me proof via email (stephenaryan56[AT]gmail.com)

How much you donate is up to you. Amounts will not be posted anywhere and no-one will know except me. The money will be used to help the charity, which is run by volunteers, to rehome and care for cats and kittens. They are also trying to raise money for special equipment for critical care.

For whoever is the most generous, I will also send out a signed full set of the whole trilogy.

If you are unable to use Paypal, then as an alternative you could buy something from their Amazon wishlist here, and again let me know via email.

Deadline for entries is midnight Wednesday 21st September. Any questions in the meantime let me know.

June Events

This June I’m off to a few events.

On Tuesday 7th June, Joe Hill will be appearing at Waterstones in Birmingham, and I’m attending as a fan to hear about his latest book, The Fireman. It sounds really, really, really good, so I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of that. Plus he is always a very engaging speaker at events and I like hearing about his unique perspective on storytelling, given his family.

On Wednesday 8th June, from 6pm to 8pm, I’m going back to Waterstones in Birmingham and this time I’m one of three local authors who will be taking part in a Publishing Workshop. All three of us, Liz Tipping, Gemma Todd and I, will be speaking about how we found a literary agent. We all have very different origin stories and our books are also very different, so it should prove to be  an interesting and useful event. If you are trying to get published and want to find an agent, come along with your questions.

If this event goes well and is well attended, we are looking to do more of these events in the future.

Then on Saturday 11th June I will be at a local author event and coffee morning in Lichfield at the Library. I’ll be there to talk about my books, writing and just generally get people interested in reading and writing. Libraries are vitally important and I spent a lot of time in my home town library growing up. So if you are in the area, come and have a cup of coffee and a chat.

 

Bloodmage tour roundup

I’m back from my UK tour for Bloodmage, the second book in the Age of Darkness trilogy.

The first stop was Sheffield, which was a lot of fun. Samuel, and the other staff at Waterstones Orchard Square, had arranged some coffee and nibbles and after rushing to get there, I was ready for a drink and some cake. There were a few writers in the audience so a lot of the questions were around how to get published, finding an agent, working with a publisher and so on. There was still plenty of time for a reading and to sign a few books.

After Sheffield I went to Middlesbrough where Niel Bushnell and I had a great discussion about our different routes to getting published. It was also a good opportunity for us to catch up as I’d not seen Niel since last year at another event. We shared some more tips about writing and getting published and explored some of the different options that are available today, compared with only a few years ago.

The last stop was my home town of Whitley Bay, where I grew up. I’d not been back in a few years and before the event I had some time to explore what had changed and was what the same since my last visit. Many thanks to everyone at the library for their support and for everyone who braved the awful weather to come and see me.

My presentation about my writing and my journey to getting published was very popular and I received a lot of positive comments. Even more popular was the fantastic Battlemage cake that my friend, Katie, had made for me. It was also chocolate cake, which is my favourite, and at one point I almost didn’t get a piece as it was rapidly disappearing. Overall it was a tiring but enjoyable book tour.

It’s only six months until Chaosmage is here and I start all over again. So let me know if you want me to come and visit a bookshop near you next time.

Battlemage Cake - Whitley Bay 2016

February worklog

I thought I would do a quick post about what I’m up to at the moment on various things.

So, book 2, Bloodmage, is completely done and dusted. My publisher, Orbit books, has just sent me the latest version of the cover and I think it looks really good. So that is all set to come out in April.

In about a week’s time the copy edits on book 3, currently untitled, will be coming back to me. I’ve then got a couple of weeks to turn it around and send it back to the publisher. After that, a few weeks later, I get a physical proof.

So at the moment I have a window of time where I’m not writing. I won’t lie. It’s weird. After doing it all the time, almost every day, to suddenly not be working on a novel seems odd.

Not writing at all doesn’t sit right with me, so I’m writing down notes for the next big thing. In theory it will be a new trilogy, but it is very early days, so that might change. In the meantime I’m also working on what is currently a novelette, but depending on how long it runs, it might turn into a novella. It’s set in the same world as the Age of Darkness, and it shines the light on a couple of characters. It is an interesting side adventure they went on together. Chronologically it’s set before Battlemage, so it doesn’t spoil anything, but if you’ve read book 1 already then there are pay-offs.

I’ve just finished doing an Author roundtable Q and A over at SFF World which you can read here. The questions were mostly about process  and more general as there were three of us.

The comic book projects roll on. Flux, co-written with Pete Rogers is going well. We’ve just finished the Issue 3 script (out of 4) and we’re fairly happy with it. Artwork for issue 2 is still coming in and we’re going to start working on Issue 4, and extra content soon. I’ve also got about nine ideas written down for some other mini series and am having trouble deciding what to pursue next. I think a bit of a head to head Skype chat with Pete is what is required.

The podcasting is still going well. I have monthly chats with Scott for CBO and the same with Pete for Bags of Action, where we talk action movies. Later this month I’ll be doing face to face podcasts with both of them, which will be weird, as you learn certain rhythms when doing it over the internet. Seeing the person talk is just odd. Pete and I recently saw Creed, so we’ll be talking about that very soon for Bags. We’re both big fans of the Rocky franchise so it will be an interesting discussion.

Soon I’ll be announcing some events in the UK for the launch of Bloodmage in April, so keep checking back. The first of these as gone up already on the Events page, and I will add more when confirmed. I suspect I’ll be attending a couple of conventions this year but I’m not sure where or when yet. Pie in the sky idea for 2017 is to attend NYCC in October, but right now it’s just a cool idea. Let’s see if it actually happens.