Battlemage wins the Hellfest Inferno Prize

I am delighted to announce that Battlemage (Mage de Guerre in France) has won the first Hellfest Inferno Prize, via a public vote, beating such esteemed authors including Clive Barker, Joe Abercrombie, Bradley Beaulieu, Kim Wilkins and Peter Pevel.

I’ve just returned from a short visit to Paris, where I visited the offices of Bragelonne, my French publisher, to receive my award. Thank you to everyone who voted for Mage de Guerre, and thank you to everyone at Bragelonne who took very good care of me during my brief stay in France. I had a lovely time!

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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

Bloodmage Launch – Birmingham

Last week was the official launch of Bloodmage, book 2 in the Age of Darkness trilogy, at Waterstones in Birmingham. The shop is amazing. It’s six floors full of books, which sounds like heaven to me! I could spend days in there if they’d let me, and they serve food and drink in the cafes, so I wouldn’t starve.

Bloodmage - Age of Darkness - Birmingham2

 

 

 

 

 

The launch was a great success and I met some lovely people who had read Battlemage and were keen for some answers about what was going to happen next in the trilogy and beyond that.

Bloodmage - Age of Darkness - Birmingham

 

 

 

 

 

After the Q and A I did a new reading from Bloodmage that seemed to well and got a few chuckles. I also signed a few books too and had an encounter with an odd man that kept offering people some of his slice of cake…for some reason. I think we were all supposed to be helping him with his diet.

Bloodmage - Age of Darkness - Birmingham3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone for coming along on a very rainy and stormy night. Special thanks to the booksellers who were very lovely and took very good care of me. In two weeks I’m off on tour, and I’ll be heading to Sheffield, Middlesbrough and then back to my home town of Whitley Bay.