Tag Archives: Orbit

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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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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Mageborn launch events

Just a quick round up to say I had a fantastic couple of launch events in Birmingham and London last week to celebrate the publication of Mageborn.

In Birmingham, RJ Barker and I were quizzed by Tom Bissell about magic, writing, our influences, and all the while we and the audience enjoyed a nice glass of MAGE real ale brewed by Fownes Brewery with help from myself. Below are some photos from the evening’s entertainment, which also included a brief game of Bluff my Call (not related in any way to a TV show that had a similar name).

In London I sat down with Ed Cox to have a more intimate one on one chat covering a wide range of topics ranging from our origins, the place where we write every, our parents, influences, world building, magic and exciting books we were looking forward to seeing in the coming months. It was a lot of fun to dig into each other’s origin story and to chat to some new people afterwards.

Later this month I’ll be taking another trip down south for the MCM Comic Con at the Excel Centre (October 27-29th) so if you’re in the area come along, say hello and get a book signed.

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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.

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Battlemage heads to France

In March this year Battlemage comes out in France from my French publisher, Bragelonne. It joins the ranks alongside versions from Orbit and Piper in Germany.

Battlemage is currently available in the UK, USA and lots of other countries around the world in English, but very soon it will also be appearing on French shores. I am delighted to reveal the French cover below and showcase it alongside the Orbit and German covers for comparison.

It is always fascinating for me to see how someone else has interpreted the characters and story. Below are the three covers so far. So, which one do you prefer?

 

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