Good things in 2016

Given that for a lot of people 2016 has been a pretty tough and demoralising year, I thought I’d just post some of the good stuff that happened to me.

Bloodmage is Published
Way back in April, which feels like a decade ago right now, Bloodmage was published. In some ways it’s a more accomplished novel than my debut, because the story is more complex, more personal, smaller in scale and yet it builds on the previous book. I’ll always love Battlemage, because it was my debut and because it was the book that got me an awesome author and  great publisher. Bloodmage couldn’t exist without Battlemage either, because I could go places in the second book that I would have struggled to reach if I’d done it first. It’s also so different to the first, as was always the plan, as it’s more of a crime thriller story, set in a fantasy world. I never wanted to do a predictable three part trilogy as my debut series and I believe I accomplished something a bit different.

Chaosmage is Published
By contract October feels like a couple of weeks ago and this novel wrapped up my first trilogy, the Age of Darkness. I’ve seen it called the Battlemage trilogy in some places, but that’s just what some people called it, for some reason. I’m not sure why. So Chaosmage closed out the trilogy which turned out to be a lot more ambitious than a lot of people were expecting. I went in all different sorts of directions, but all under the guise of epic fantasy. This book started out as a love letter to Matheson’s I Am Legend, although so far no-one has mentioned that when they’ve talked about it despite the clear parallels at the start. This book was a lot of fun to write, and was both challenging (as I had to wrap things up and pull certain threads through from the previous two books) and satisfying, as I got to close the door on the series. It’s not the end though.

New Trilogy – The Age of Dread
I’ve been picked up by Orbit to write another trilogy, the Age of Dread, set in the same world! This second book deal was a wonderful boost as it shows I’m not a one-hit wonder and that I’m not going anywhere for a while. Orbit have been fantastic and  despite book 3 not being out very long, it shows the faith they have in me and my work. I’m very grateful for all of their hard work on my behalf and that of my agent over the last few years. It’s odd to think I’ve only been published for about 14 months as it feels like a lot longer at times.

Awards
I was nominated and then shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar award for debut fantasy novel. This was very important to me and even though I didn’t win (that honour went to my agent-bro, the very deserving Peter Newman for The Vagrant) it was a great night. As I’ve said many times before Gemmell is the biggest influence on my work and it was a very special night for me to be there, with some of his family in attendance, at the ceremony.

The Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social Club had their inaugural awards and the Age of Darkness was awarded the Mycroft Award for Best Completed Series alongside another agent bro, Jen Williams, for her Copper Cat trilogy that also wrapped up this year.

Charity
There is still time to take part in a charity thing I’m involved with. The deadline is getting close but there is still time. 100 authors have donated 100 signed books. For a small donation of £1, your names into the hat and there are several prizes to win batches of signed books. All info is on the page and the money raised is going to Doctors Without Borders.

2017
Next year will see the debut of the first book in the Age of Dread in October, but in the meantime I’ll be busy with events (January in Birmingham at Waterstones), attending Eastercon in April and no doubt other events after that.

Guardian Masterclass and Fantasycon

Yesterday  I was at the sold out Guardian Masterclass on ‘How to find a literary agent’ in London, being run by my agent Juliet Mushens. For a portion of the afternoon she was ably assisted by two of her clients, Elodie Harper and myself.

It was a really great event where the engaged audience listened intently as we answered some questions about our individual journeys to publication, and also learned about some of our mistakes that they will hopefully avoid.

guardian masterclass

Juliet Mushens, Elodie Harper, Stephen Aryan

There was just enough time for a short Q and A session, before the break. The time flew by and I had a great time and even managed to coax a few laughs from the audience.

Looking back I wish there had been something similar when I had first started searching for an agent, but such a thing didn’t exist. The internet was in its infancy and all agents only accepted paper submissions. If you’re getting ready to submit or will be in a few months time, I would definitely keep an eye out for similar events like this in the future.

This weekend coming I’m off to Fantasycon in Scarborough. On Saturday I’m on a panel at 2pm called ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ asking – Should we be killing off our main characters?

In the evening, from 7pm-9pm, I will be attending the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, where Battlemage has been shortlisted for the Morningstar Award, the category for best debut. I have a one in six chance of winning, so fingers crossed everyone.

Apart from that I’ll be wandering around the event and you’ll most likely find me either at the bar in the evening, talking and drinking, or pottering around the dealer room and sitting in the audience at some other panels as there are some wonderful guests of honour. Hopefully I will see some of your there.

Guardian Masterclass – How to Find a Literary Agent

Next month in London, I will be taking part in a Guardian Masterclass all about How to Find a Literary Agent. The event is being led by my agent, Juliet Mushens, on Sunday 18th September.

Below is a snippet of information about what to expect during the event, but there is a lot more information on the Guardian website. I will be one of the guest speakers alongside Elodie Harper, another of Juliet’s clients. If you are interested I would book early as places are limited.

“If you’re a new writer, the process of getting your book into print might seem a bit daunting. This unique masterclass with leading literary agent Juliet Mushens will demystify the publishing process and reveal what agents look for in fiction submissions.

In the space of three hours, you’ll learn everything from how to prepare the perfect submissions package to how to edit your manuscript and pitch your novel to an agent. On the evening, Juliet will be joined by two of her most exciting authors, who will discuss their journey to publication. With plenty of time for questions and some practical activities, this is a class budding authors won’t want to miss.”

If you are serious about wanting to know how to find an agent and what they are looking for, and you are getting close to submitting your novel, then I would definitely consider it.

 

6 Things I Discovered at World Fantasy Convention 2013

1. Some panellists like to talk a bit too much. To the point where others panellists can become silent witnesses. The point being raised may be valid, but time is always limited and panellists need to be mindful of that. Personally I always like to hear a range of opinions and everyone is up there for a reason, so they should have an opportunity to speak. On one panel I attended, it was dominated by one speaker, on another, the panellist actually said ‘I’m talking too much, someone else go’ and he zipped his lip and sat back, so he was very aware of how much he talked and made a conscious effort not to talk too much.

2. Joe Hill is a really funny guy. I was genuinely surprised, although I’m not particularly sure why, as I’d never met him before. But we all create versions of people in our head from the little information we know and we fill in the gaps ourselves. I didn’t expect him to be brooding and sulky, or maybe I did, but he was warm, witty, very friendly and he spoke with great passion about his books and comics collaborations. Listening to him speak during his guest of honour panel made me want to go out and buy his new book Nos4R2, or Nos4A2 as it’s known in the US. I was already a big fan of Locke and Key, but I saw several people picking up comics in the dealer room after he’d spoken about the comic book series.

3. Moderators are there to moderate, not be an active participant. Quite often the moderator is knowledgeable about the subject, so they can offer interesting counterpoints, or use their experience to raise interesting and thought provoking questions. There’s a huge difference between that and actively talking as much, or more than one of the panellists. Some people might not mind that and might disagree with this, but to me sometimes it felt as if the moderator felt snubbed for not being on the panel as a participant, so they took the opportunity to insert themselves into the discussion. The best moderators at WFC guided the discussion, made sure everyone had an opportunity to speak, even brought someone else’s comments to a close in order to hear from someone who had not spoken very much. Some had a list of questions and they ran down them one by one, others picked up on points raised in the discussion and then asked follow on questions, which made it more organic.

4. Authors are lovely. Speaking in general terms, of course, most of the writers I met at WFC were really, really nice people. Some I’d talked to online for ages but never met in real life (hello Liz, Jen and Den!). Some I’d never met before but was introduced to them over the weekend (hi Amy, David, Richard and James!), and some were old friends (Hi Adrian, Kim, Andrew, Laura, Catie, Mike). It was great to catch up with them as I don’t see them more than once or twice a year, as we live all over the country, so it’s great to just hang out in the flesh, talk nonsense and writing. If I’ve forgotten anyone then please excuse me as it’s not been done on purpose, but if you want to make me feel guilty then say hi.

5. Some people are just dicks. Other people have gone into the specifics of what happened at WFC in detail elsewhere, but from my perspective these events are social gatherings where like minded people can get together, have a bit of fun and relax. It’s supposed to be enjoyable and a little secret universe away from the real world and daily life. Most people during my day job and ‘normal’ life couldn’t tell you who Neil Gaiman was, or what Gollancz is or does. That’s not a criticism (ok maybe a little) but it’s just not their thing. So, in saying all of that, I am always horrified, shocked and appalled when someone from our corner, who is one of us, turns out to be a revolting, creepy and pervy dick. Most conventions have very specific harassment policies, others have general guidelines, some have none. Regardless, behaving like a creepy dick in any situation, bringing what is unacceptable behaviour in the real world into the SFF con scene, and somehow thinking it might be ok or that you can get away with it, is seriously messed up. I’ve read a number of horror stories about women being harassed, or leaving the con scene because it’s just too horrible, and I’m very sad to hear it’s still going on. However, I’m am glad to hear the WFC organisers have stamped down hard on what happened and the person responsible will be ejected from the convention scene.

6. Card and board game are awesome. Cards Against Humanity is a fun game. If you have a dark and slightly twisted sense of humour, like me, then it’s hilarious and it is not in the slightest bit politically correct. I laughed until my stomach was aching from some of the random combinations and answers Adrian and I played, while a slightly bemused and possibly scared Mike Shevdon looked on in surprise at our antics. One convention that I missed this year was the 9 Worlds, and they had a games thread with board games in there too. Hopefully I will be able to attend the event next year and if I get there, I’ll definitely take along a few games and spend some time destroying empires and so on. For all that I love computer games, and I have been playing them since the ZX81 Spectrum days, there is still a lot of fun to be had with some of the new and really interesting board games knocking around. At WFC we played a few card games, mostly because of transport and lugging stuff around, and these included Gloom, Pirate Fluxx and Cards Against Humanity. Drinking probably helps with the last one, not so much the first two as there are rules.

Overall for me the convention was a great long weekend away by the sea and I spent my time surrounded by some wonderful people from the writing world and all extensions of that area, agents, editors, publicists. Hopefully I will see some of you again at events in the near future.