Tag Archives: stephen aryan

How many pages do you give a book to grip you before giving up?

Having just put down a book before reaching the end, I asked this question on Twitter as I was curious about how others felt.

To my surprise the majority of people stop reading if they are not enjoying a book, rather than persisting to the end. There was a range of answers related to page count and chapters, with the most extreme answer, I think, coming from Philip Pullman:-

Sometimes the answer was proportional to the length of the book

Sometimes the answer was related to cost

So, here’s a follow up question as a poll. I wonder, if the general stance has changed because in 2019 we have TV and films on demand, whole TV series arrive in one chunk and can be binged, hundreds of cheap digital books available at the press of a button, and there’s more content than ever before.

Are we less patient with books? Do we want them to get to the good stuff sooner? Has all of this impacted your reading attention span? Are you less forgiving?

 

 

 

 

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Class is in session: Fantasy world building

I’m delighted to announce that starting in May I will be teaching an online writing course with LitReactor. This will be a two week course, available to anyone around the world, on fantasy world building.

As you can imagine I’ve spent a lot of time creating fantasy worlds and thinking about all of the elements that contribute to making a memorable setting. In addition to this, the world needs to be populated with interesting characters to make it feel like a real place. LitReactor has given me a great opportunity to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. My goal is to provide my students with a range of tools and open their minds so they start thinking about fantasy world building and characters in new ways.

I’m really excited to be doing this and it’s going to be a fascinating experience. Places are limited to 16 people for this two week course. So if you’re interested I suggest you sign up as quickly as possible on the LitReactor website here.

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Recent TV

The joy of Netflix means I can start on a series and just really soak into it, and consume the whole thing in one stretch. No waiting weekly for episodes, and go at my own pace. There are some shows that are released weekly, to keep them in line or just behind the US, but for those I’m just stockpiling episodes until the series is done. It’s not as if there’s nothing else to watch in the meantime.

I’ve avoided spoilers in the following, so I’ve not given away anything about the stories for anyone who is worried.

The Last Kingdom – I’m not sure why I held off watching this show for so long. I’m a big fan of Bernard Cornwall’s books, I enjoyed the odd Sharpe episode back in the day with Sean Bean, and I’m a massive fan of his Arthurian trilogy. This falls into the same kind of mould, based on his long running book series that has been renamed to The Last Kingdom series I believed. Only instead of King Arthur, we’re focusing on King Alfred of Wessex.

Uhtred Ragnarson, son of Uhred of Bebbanburg is a Dane, but not, an English man of Northumberland but also not and heir to Bebbanburg (Bamburgh to use its modern name). Fantastic stuff. I cannot fault the show. The cast is amazing and some characters are really interesting, both to love and hate, sometimes at the same time. Uhtred himself is not someone you always root for and I have to praise David Dawson who plays King Alfred. You want to hate him so much for some of his decisions and yet a moment later you feel sympathy and can understand his motives. Such a gloriously rich and layered character, it must have been a dream of a role for the actor. The brilliant Ian Hart as Father Beocca and so many of the others in the cast are amazing, especially those who play Hild, Finan, Brida, Steapa and Leofric. Three glorious series to soak into, do it now, and season 4 is in production.

Titans – So, as an old school long time DC comics fan I was torn about this and initially had mixed feelings. I read Teen Titans growing up. I know the characters and the trailer for the TV showed something very different. However, I gave it a shot and if you can get past some of the changes to the main characters, and put that aside then it’s an enjoyable show. The writers had to change some stuff to adapt it to TV, and I don’t have an issue with that, but at times it feel as if some of the violence and language was dialled up to 11 just because they could, not because it was always necessary for the story. Changing characters is fine, as long as they stay true to the heart of them.

Dick Grayson is a lot angrier than normal, however, they explain why this version id Dick is like that. Kori is perhaps the most difficult character to do in a TV series (more so than Beast Boy in fact with modern CGI) because she’s not human. She has orange skin, which the could have created using CGI, however, it would mean wherever she went people would stop and stare, and since it’s supposed to be set in the real world where there aren’t many aliens walking around, I can see why they didn’t go with that. The actress in the role Anna Diop fills the character with warmth, heart and compassion, and I think she did an amazing job, although the wardrobe they gave her initially, and in the trailer, was not a good choice, at all. It really gave out the wrong message.

The first series is also packed with a lot of cameos, and I mean A LOT. There is the potential for at least 3 spin off TV shows from this, and I know that one of them, Doom Patrol, has gone into production. In Titans we get to meet all of those characters for the first time, get a basic introduction to them and their powers, and then the story moves on. Lots of tie-ins to Batman and the city of Gotham, which is to be expected as part of the story explores Dick’s backstory. Overall I was able to put aside my issues about the changes that were made and I enjoyed it. Will definitely be tuning in for season 2.

The Punisher Season 2 – Given all of the faffing around behind the scenes between Marvel and Netflix this could be the last time we’ll see Jon Bernthal playing Frank Castle so I’ve mixed feelings. He’s the best version of Frank I’ve ever seen. The first series was perfect. Gritty, brutal and heart-breaking in equal measure. This season is trying to recapture that formula and although there are moments, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first season.

The acting is all spot on, but some of the storylines are jumbled, the pacing is off, it gets quite mixed up at times, and not in a good way, so Frank is bouncing around between things, juggling too much stuff, but it just doesn’t work. Some of the actors don’t have a lot to do except mope about, a lot. I understand this season is all about broken people and those kind of people don’t always make logical choices and deep-seated mental problems are not resolved overnight but even so, this is a TV show not a documentary and it’s an action show too, so some parts of this season were a bit repetitive which made them dull for me.

When Frank is unleashed the violence is explosive, difficult to watch and Bernthal is terrifying, as he should be in the role of Frank, a brutal force of nature. Some outstanding acting once again from a few people in the show. It’s worth watching but I don’t think this season reached the highs of season 1 by a good way. I hope there is a season 3 but I have massive doubts that will happen. I expect Netflix to announce the cancellation of The Punisher very soon and then Jessica Jones.

 

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Other Worlds Event – Sat 6th October

Just a quick post to serve as a reminder that next Saturday, 6th October in Nottingham, I will be taking part in the Other Worlds event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

This is a full day of panels and workshops. The schedule and more information about the event is available on the website here, as well as how to buy tickets for the day.

I’m going to be there from mid-morning and I’m doing a couple of panels and a workshop on Fantasy Worldbuilding, with a special subtitle – Consider the Potato. All will be revealed about what the heck I’m talking about in the workshop which is going to be interactive and hopefully a lot of fun. All you need is a pen and an imagination!

Click here for more information about the event and to book your tickets

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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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Magefall – Time is weird

So, Magefall is published this week. Yeah, how did that happen so fast? On the one hand, it feels like 5 minutes since Mageborn was published. On the other hand it’s actually been nearly a year and thinking back over the last twelve months quite a lot has happened to me in that time. To quote Roy Batty “I’ve seen things….”

I never used to understand keeping a journal but now, as time goes on and the years tick by, I can see the appeal. It’s easy to forget about what you’ve actually done in a month or a year as your brain only picks out a handful of  highlights unless you really dig down and focus. I’ve taken to writing things in my calendar and occasionally I flick back through it to remind myself what’s happened, and to try and make time slow down a bit.

So my first novel, Battlemage, was published in 2015. Also, that feels like ages ago and, at the same time, just like yesterday. As a debut author with Orbit my first trilogy was on an accelerated release of 6 month gaps so we had Battlemage in 2015, then Bloodmage and Chaosmage in 2016. Mageborn came out in 2017 and now we’re here with Magefall in 2018 – plus I had a digital/audio novella, Of Gods and Men, come out in February this year. Mage 3 (no idea for a title yet) is already written and will be out next year in 2019. Currently I’m working on something new, which in theory would come out in 2020 or later.

So my head is constantly split between different time periods. I’m pondering about the past, trying to live in the present and am always thinking about the future. It was a lot worse when I was working on the first three books at the same time in different stages. All of this jumping around is confusing and sometimes it can give me a bit of a headache.

So, right now, this week, I’m going to celebrate Magefall being published, my 5th novel, which is available to buy in the US from here or in the UK from here and leave you with a shiny picture of the two books in this trilogy together. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Magefall publication event

To celebrate the publication of Magefall, book 2 in the Age of Dread trilogy, I will be taking part in an event at Forbidden Planet in Birmingham.

This will be on Wednesday 5th September from 5-6pm. I will be there with Anna Stephens and GX Todd and we might do a bit of a talk and Q and A before the signing, depending on timing.

If you can’t attend but would still like a signed book then you can order it from Forbidden Planet via their website here

Tickets for this event are free so you just need to turn up on the day.

To find the FP Birmingham store the address is  – 74 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6AD

I hope to see you there!

 

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Mageborn Competition

To celebrate the publication of Magefall (which is available to pre-order now from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon USA, your local bookshop) in a month’s time I’m giving away 5 signed copes of Mageborn, book 1 in the trilogy.

To enter the competition is really simple. All you need to do is post a comment below and complete the following sentence in 30 words or less. “I should win a copy of Mageborn because…”

That’s it. Be funny, silly, whatever you like, and with only 30 words to play with you’ll need to get creative!

This competition is open to anyone worldwide. Just put your name in the comments and then check back at the start of September for the list of winners.

I will pick 5 winners and then get in touch with them for contact details. Good luck!

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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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On Time Every Time

This post has been bubbling under for a while but it was brought to the forefront of my mind today by a tweet. Someone commented that they wait until the series of books is finished before picking them up in one go because they were shy about starting a series with an unpublished finish. Ok, there’s a lot to chew on there.

First, I’m not picking on this individual as I know it is an attitude shared by some SFF readers. However, it’s actually one that is damaging for writers. Myke Cole sums it up very succinctly here.

It really is that simple. I know binge watching is now common and binge reading is a thing too. There’s nothing wrong with either. So, one person posted a simple and elegant solution if binge-reading is your thing – Buy the books (or pre-order them) on the day they come out and then leave them on the shelf until the series is done. Then you can still binge read the whole lot in one go. There are drawbacks to this approach such as talking and engaging with other readers in the SFF community as the books come out, but I also realise that some SFF readers don’t get involved in conventions or social media. They just buy and read the books in their own time.

The second important point I wanted to raise is the vast majority of SFF published authors deliver their books on time, every time. Yes, there are a few very high profile, very celebrated authors who are behind on their deadlines (we all know who they are and the books in question) but everyone else just gets on with it and delivers their books. And no, this is not a dig at those authors either. The only issue is, some readers then assume that the rest of us will follow suit and it is just not true.

Here’s my current timeline of published books from Orbit :-

Battlemage – September 2015

Bloodmage – April 2016

Chaosmage – October 2016

Mageborn – October 2017

Magefall – September 2018

Mage3 – Sept/Oct 2019 (first draft is written)

Of Gods and Men (novella) – February 2018

That list is not there so I can pat myself on the back. Nor is it a pity party, because while it was difficult to work on the first trilogy of books at the same time, all of them at different stages so they could come out every 6 months, it was and is my dream job and something I’d wanted to do for decades. I also want to stress something because it is very important – writing is my job. This list is there to demonstrate I delivered the books on time, every time.

To that end, I’ve already handed in Mage3, and my deadline is December 2018. I’m now hard at work something new and different, which if all goes to plan, it will be published in 2020, or sooner, who knows. In theory, I could finish the first draft of the brand new book by the end of this year. It’s possible. Again, this is not here for people to pat me on the back. I love writing books. Yes, sometimes the process is difficult and challenging and I’ve written about that in previous blog posts. This isn’t about that. If I don’t hand in the books I don’t get paid and as I’ve said, writing is my job.

How you can help

The bottom line is if you like an author and want to support them – buy their books when they come out (from your local bookshop if possible). If you want to do more, then tell someone else about the book and the author. Word of mouth and personal recommendation from friends are very powerful. Shout about a book on social media if you loved it. If you want to go one step further, write a review and post it somewhere online. Goodreads and Amazon if possible because that will help other people find the books. Even if you didn’t buy the book from Amazon, it is the first port of call for a lot of people and reviews on there matter. Lots of people now have book blogs and vlogs on YouTube. Talking about books on there is another great way to spread the word.

Buy the books. Don’t wait.

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