Tag Archives: fantasy

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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Mageborn competition winners

JMageborn by Stephen Aryanust a quick post to say I’ve chosen 5 names at random and the following people have won a signed copy of Mageborn!!!!

1) Cyberdechu

2) Lauren Maharaj

3) kaladanuk

4) theamazingmrg

5) psoans

Please email me your full name and postal address to receive your copy to stephenaryan56 [at] gmail.com

 

 

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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.

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Achievement Unlocked: Blacksmith

Here’s the thing. I write fantasy books for a living featuring warriors and wizards. In every single book there are many characters waving weapons around. Swords, axes, bows, daggers, the occasional mace, spears and all manner of weapons designed to main, mutilate and murder. But I’ve never done a day’s work as a blacksmith in a forge in my life…..until now!

BLACKSMITH badge

 

 

 

The moment I entered the forge the smiths all asked us level 1 noobs, what we did for a living. I then spent the rest of the day apologising for everything wrong in my books about blacksmiths, making weapons and forges. I do research but some things are always going to be wrong. The owner of the forge, John, promised to seek out my first book and read it. So I had to apologise to him some more.

I wouldn’t say I got everything wrong, but just like any other craft or skill, unless you do the thing, you won’t know what it’s really like. Just talk to Mike Shevdon about archery in films and TV and he’ll put you straight! I’ve done 2 years with a recurve bow so I’ve already unlocked my archery achievement. Now I know slightly more about being a blacksmith than before but there’s still an awful lot to learn before I could comfortably say I know 1) how a forge works and more specific to me 2) how to make weapons.

One of my birthday presents this year from back in March was an experience day in a forge making something. I thought it would be great fun to make my own sword. In one day.

A Sword in a Day

Every professional blacksmith is now laughing at me a lot. Making a sword takes time. A lot more time than one day, which I didn’t have. The people on Forged in Fire make it look easy because they’re professionals and they have something I lacked – editing. It also takes skill and precision, neither of which I naturally possess when it comes to working metal. Nevertheless, I had one day in the forge and at the end I was determined to come away with something. It’s a sword to be sure, but we cheated. A lot. Ultimately the goal was to have fun, learn about being in a forge and have a great experience which I did.

Here’s the other thing about being a blacksmith. It’s hard work. It didn’t help that by chance I happened to be in the forge on one of the hottest days of the year so far, but hey, I didn’t know what the weather was going to be like in early July in the UK. It could have been raining or cloudy.  There might have been snow on the ground. By chance it was hot in the morning and then over 30 degrees in the afternoon and it was even warmer in the forge.

The Riddle of Steel

So I started with a big chunk of steel. No, I didn’t fold my own metal. Then I used a grinder to shape the tip of the sword and after that came the toughest part. After heating up a section of the metal one piece at a time I then firmly began to hammer the edge flat on an anvil. Now, at the start of this process, I had a piece of metal long enough for a 5-6 foot longsword. After 3 hours of working the metal I hadn’t really progressed very far. Partly because it was hard work and very hot, but mostly because I was a total beginner and it’s really not that easy. So we chopped off a chunk of the steel and made it a slightly shorter sword.

Here’s the other thing I didn’t realise. When you start beating the metal one way it tends to bend, so I then had to flip the steel over and beat the other side to try and create a straight weapon. Then flip it back to do side 3 and flip it again to do side 4 of the same section before the metal grew too cold. If you didn’t manage it in the given time then the metal had to go back into the fire to heat up. Repeat and rinse. Over and over. For hours. So, my blade is kind of straight. Just don’t look down the length of it!

So, short of time, I skipped a bit and then jumped to using an axle grinder to sharpen the sides of the steel and give it an edge. This got me up to about 3-4 foot. There was the option of making the crossguard, but with the time remaining and my skill level, it would have been basic. So I opted for something that looked a bit cooler and was pre-made! Normally you’d continue shaping the rest of the steel, cut the tang, work on the grip and pommel but we fudged a few parts with welding and the like. The end result looks like a sword and it is actually fairly sharp (in places) but it’s not a weapon I’d use in a real sword fight as it might break.

I haven’t named the sword yet but feel I should at some point. Overall the day was enormous fun, I learned a great deal, have an even healthier respect for blacksmiths and weaponsmiths than I did before and I came home with my own sword. All in all a pretty good day which is why I look so smug.

finished weapon

 

 

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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!

 

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Beer and Fantasy Books

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or even a short time, you’ll know I like beer. More specifically real ale or craft beer as it is called in America, small batches of beer produced by independent or small breweries. I was lucky enough to be able to create my own special beer with a local brewery, Fownes Brewery, to celebrate the launch of Mageborn last October. We called it Mage, of course.

In this article I wrote just before Christmas I expand on beer in the fantasy genre as a whole and there’s also some photos from the Mageborn launch and photos of the Mage ale too. Enjoy!

Beer and fantasy books Medium Article

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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.

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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.

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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.

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End of one chapter…and the start of another

So, this week Chaosmage comes out. Book 3 of 3 in the Age of Darkness trilogy. The last book in my first trilogy from Orbit books.

A quick aside…

Chaosmage Stephen AryanFor all of you out there waiting for the series to finish before picking it up in case a) I died in the middle of writing it or b) not believing it would actually come out every six months and there would be a sudden 2-5 year gap between books, well, you were wrong on both counts. I’m still alive and the trilogy is done. So now you can pick up all 3 books in one go. They’re all here on Barnes and Noble if you’re in the USA, or Waterstones if you’re in the UK. And there’s always Amazon of course.

Second quick aside, I’m at a big fantasy panel on Wednesday 12th October at Waterstones Piccadilly in London at 7pm, alongside 4 other awesome fantasy authors. They are Den Patrick, Jen Williams, Francesca Haig and Peter Newman. So please do come along and say hi. We’re doing a talk and then a signing. It’s free but you have to book a seat.

Anyway, so back in 2013, which both seems like only yesterday and also a long time ago, I wasn’t sure I’d really get to this point. Quite suddenly an agent had just said she was interested in representing my first book and then we were off, and I was editing book 1, writing book 2 and then what followed was two frantically busy years of editing book 1 with my publisher, while writing book 2 and planning book 3. Then once book 1 was completely done, I sunk deeper into book 2 and made more notes on book 3 and so on….which brings me to today where I’m done with my first trilogy.

Battlemage - Stephen Aryan

Three years ago getting one book published was just the dream of an aspiring author. Battlemage was just another book in a long line of novels for me. I’d been trying to get an agent and then a publisher, doing it the traditional way, for many years. In some ways it was no different from some of the previous books I’d written. In other ways it was totally different, as it was a return to my favourite genre after dabbling in other areas and my desire to write a fantasy book that was full of the fantastic (magic, being set on another world, non-human races) which seemed to be lacking at the time. I wanted to both pay my respects to those who had come before, upon whose shoulders I was standing, while blending that with something new. Somehow, through some weird alchemy, I did enough things right for it to catch an agent’s attention.

Bloodmage Stephen AryanWith Bloodmage I did something completely different. I wrote a more intimate story in terms of scope and I wanted to pay homage to many of my crime influences, from Dexter to Columbo*, to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden and Mike Carey’s Felix Caster, to all of the cop shows I’ve watched over the last 30 years and loved. It was a more challenging book to write in some ways and I think it’s currently my favourite, although my opinion may change tomorrow. I’m incredibly proud of it and I accomplished everything I set out to do with it, which is rare. Sometimes you write a story and the end result is close. Sometimes it’s not what you wanted and perhaps that means you can explore the same theme again in another book.

With Chaosmage, I went in a different direction again. I pulled through some of the threads from the first two books, tying the stories together, while also paying my respects to some of my thriller and horror influences, such as Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I set out to create something chilling and disturbing in a horrific and deserted city on the edge of the world. I never want to repeat myself or write the same thing twice and so far I believe I’ve achieved it as each book has a very distinctive flavour.

And now I’m looking ahead to the next story. It’s going to be something different again and it will hopefully challenge me in new ways and also prove interesting to the readers.

One final thing. If you have enjoyed any of my books, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, even a short one, as it helps other people find the book and helps spread the word. And nothing helps sell a book faster than word of mouth.

 

* – Bonus points if you spot the Columbo reference in Bloodmage. Send me a note if you do find it.

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