The Long Road to The High King’s Vengeance Starts Here!

The best thing about Heir To The North (apart from all the other things, of course!) is that the story doesn’t end there. Baum’s quest is completed, he has won, Malessar’s Curse has been broken, and now Cassia can see the enormity of what she has done.

So, what’s next? That’s what all the cool folks want to know. And, as it happens, there is an answer. That answer is The High King’s Vengeance, the second half of the story. This is the one with dragons and princes. This is the one with armies of stone and desperate duels. This is the one with romance and revelations. This is the one where Cassia comes to terms with herself and returns to Caenthell and the North.

Now all I have to do is let my editor beat the actiony action into it.

And all you have to do, for now at least, is add it to your TBR lists on Goodreads.

And soon – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon – we’ll be revealing the finished cover art for The High King’s Vengeance, and you’ll get your first look at Cassia’s new companion for this second half of her journey…

Voice of the North!

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. But, much like an iceberg, there’s plenty of frantic paddling beneath the surface. No, wait, that’s ducks…. 90% of a duck is under the surface… or summat….


Here’s some news that you might already know! Heir To The North, which is slowly gathering praise all across t’net, will be coming to Audible as an audiobook later this year! We (that is, Kristell Ink/Grimbold Books and myself) have signed up a wonderful narrator – Diana Croft – who we reckon can more than do justice to Cassia’s story. Obviously, this may take some time, but keep your ears open for the release dates…

And talking of release dates, High King’s Vengeance is pencilled in for late 2016. It may seem months away yet, but it will be upon us before you know it…

And where can you see me this year? Aside from the Sheffield Socials – the first of which will be on February 20th, with guests David Tallerman and Adele Wearing – I will once more be at EdgeLit, FantasyCon and BristolCon. More details on those closer to the time, of course…

Now, back to TFL. Enjoy your weekend!

“Not much of a go-getter”: the 2015 round-up post

It’s that time of the year again, when I look back at my mother-in-law’s tired and less than complimentary put-down¹ and measure myself against it. Well, nothing very memorable happened in 2015, did it?

Apart from (and with no apologies for beating my own drum here):

  • Photo: Sophie E Tallis
    Photo: Sophie E Tallis

    Fox Spirit Books published That Sinking Feeling in the Fox Pockets anthology Under The Waves.

  • Heir To The North launched at Fantasycon in Nottingham, with a platoon of matching t-shirts courtesy of the magnificent folks at Grimbold Books. What an absolute blast of a weekend that was, even if I never made good on my threat to do Holding Out For a Hero at the karaoke (next year…).
  • There was a road trip to Shropshire to scout the lay of the land for Project:TFL (which is being built from the keel up, as they say). So much pub grub…!
  • Being a panelist for the first time at Bristolcon, alongside Rosie Oliver, Misa Buckley, Dean Saunders-Stowe, and Gareth L Powell. And a long-overdue catch-up with Tim Wreford-Bush!
  • Being a panelist, and also moderating a panel for the first time at Sledge-Lit (with Rod Duncan, Julia Knight, Gavin Smith, Susan Boulton, Stephen Aryan, Alex Davis and Natasha Pulley).
  • nibs1We adopted a three-legged cat called Mycroft who now absolutely loves cuddles. This little dude has made himself right at home!
  • I know exactly what the cover for High King’s Vengeance will look like (you folks will have to wait a while longer for that, I’m afraid…).
  • Heir To The North got some awesome reviews from some equally awesome people. Reviews are important. I haven’t had to break out the HMHB “Bad Review” link yet, so let’s cherish the time before it has to happen!
  • We watched John Cameron Mitchell film exteriors for How To Talk To Girls At Parties on the street outside our house. Blink and you’ll miss it!
  • SFSF Social #1 Adrian Tchaikovski close upWe started up the SFSF Social with readings by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas – and going on to feature Dana Fredsti, Ian Sales, Jacey Bedford, Paul Kane, and David Barnett in the Socials after that.
  • We were a part of Sheffield’s Off The Shelf Festival with the 4th SFSF Social and hosted our very first Ask The Agent session with Amanda Rutter!
  • I appeared on Sheffield Live Radio and BBC Radio Sheffield –
  • Myself, Kevin Redfern, Hayley Orgill, Alex Bardy and Roy Grey successfully defended our team’s crown and reputation at the EdgeLit quiz, much to Alex Davis’s evident delight (sorry, Alex!)
  • I got invited to contribute to an anthology (Woodbridge Press – keep them peeled….)
  • It doesn’t signify anything, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the the suggestions list for the British Fantasy Awards next year (not self-nominated, I promise you!).
  • Fox Spirit Books published Junior Twilight Stock Replacer in the Fox Pockets anthology Things In The Dark – as the year started, so it ends!

Yeah, not much, huh? Typing it out makes me realise just how much I’ve tried to fit into the last year – and yes, I’m probably going to try to do the same again next year too. That’s me, diving in like a loon…

Somehow, I found time to read other people’s books this year, as well as all of the above. I’ve been a bit more consistent in logging them on Goodreads, so it doesn’t take long to discover that some of my absolute favourite reads from this year (though not necessarily published this year) were:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic, by VE Schwab
  • Guns of the Dawn, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • breedBreed, by KT Davies
  • Planesrunner, by Ian McDonald
  • The Stars Seem So Far Away, by Margrét Helgadóttir
  • All That Outer Space Allows, by Ian Sales
  • The Art of Forgetting: Nomad, by Joanne Hall
  • The Burning Land, by Victoria Strauss

And I heartily recommend them all to you if you haven’t already caught them.

Plans for 2016? Well, there’s TFL to finish, Socials to plan, and conventions to book, HKV to edit, and the next, long-delayed installment of Empire Dance to sort out. And conventions too – Edge-Lit and Fantasycon again, and perhaps Bristolcon again too. I hope to see you all out there somewhere – and may the road rise with you!



¹Also, obviously, wrong. But hey, smile and wave folks, smile and wave…

Star Wars – The Force Awakens: A Few Thoughts

We have Star Wars’d. After the disappointing experience of watching Attack of the Clones at the Showroom when it came out (CGI Yoda leaping in the air like Nureyev on speed threw us out of the movie, with Rachel dissolving in fits of giggles as the rest of the audience glared), I didn’t bother with Revenge of the Sith and I was wary of going into The Force Awakens with high levels of expectation.

Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. TFA is everything the prequels were not. It is a film by fans, for fans. And not just old fans like myself (Class of ’77) – it’s a film that effectively bridges the gap between my generation and younger geeks and nerds and genre fans as much as it bridges the gap between the fall of the Empire and this fresh struggle with the First Order. If you want, it’s a passing of the baton, fresh legs in the race. TFA isn’t hamstrung by its own future, as the prequels were; it can look in new directions, and do something exciting with Star Wars.

Of course it’s exciting to see the return of familiar faces and characters – Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, the droids, hell even Nien Numb gets in there! – and they aren’t just there as fan-service nods either, they play pivotal roles in the plot. But I mentioned passing on the baton, and TFA introduces a whole slew of new characters who not only take up the baton but rip up the whole damn track as they charge into the next installment of this trilogy.

Let’s start with Rey (Daisy Ridley). She’s our first new POV. Like Luke, she’s grown up on a desert world; like Luke she can tinker with droids and knows their language. She’s more go-getting and less whiny than Luke, and doesn’t have his privileges (he always had food on the table at the end of the day, didn’t he? Rey doesn’t have that – she has to slave for it). I’m determined not to let spoilers in here, but she’s a real fighter, and it’s clear from the climactic fight that she’s on the side of light. There’s some weird bullshit on the net about Rey being “too perfect”, a Mary Sue, a sop to the dictates of PC – I don’t see that, and if folks saying that have their heads stuck that far up their arses I’m surprised they managed to see any of the film at all. Rey’s no more perfect than Luke was in A New Hope; she’s just as fallible in fact, if you look at her decisions in the film. “But she has skills!” – well of course she has skills – she has to fight for her own survival every damn day!

John Boyega’s Finn attracted just as much vitriol from the arse-end of the net for… not being white. In a whole galaxy filled with aliens, we can’t have a guy who isn’t white? Hmm. See my previous comment. Meanwhile Boyega does a bloody good job of portraying a man who has seen what the First Order is, seen what he is required to be, and has decided he can’t – and won’t – do it. The panic, the anxiety, it comes across as very real. Rey and Finn work well together as a team too, and I had no problem cheering them on.

Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is another perfectly-pitched character. He’s got his own set of stresses to go with a fractured personality, and a temper that reminds me of my troll-in-law Sebastian. The audience has very good reason to pile in against him. Rachel reckoned Adam Driver managed an understated performance; it was certainly far better than anything the prequels managed in writing a villain.

TFA does ape A New Hope in many respects – the epic opening shot, the desert planet, the McGuffin in a droid, attacking an impregnable intergalactic weapon – but I think it does this to emphasise that this is a new beginning as well as a sequel. The filmmakers have managed these homages to the ’70s trilogy so well that they don’t trip up the story, and there are enough new elements that TFA does stand on its own. I’m looking forward to what happens next.

The Great Grimbold Xmas Giveaway!

Yes folks, you could win one or more of twelve paperbacks from Grimbold Books – including a copy of Heir To The North, if you haven’t already got one! All you need to do is visit Grimbold Books’ Facebook page and do the Rafflecopter thing, and you could be a lucky winner. Don’t say we never gives ya nuthin’.

Merry Christmas!

Last interview of the year!

Today I’m over at the homepage of Nathan Hystad, MD of the new Woodbridge Press. Woodbridge is putting together an anthology of epic fantasy journeys for 2017 that should feature authors such as Julia Knight, Gail Z Martin, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Juliet E McKenna, John Gwynne, and… erp… me. No pressure.

You can find the full interview over this way… and you can follow Nathan at Facebook and Twitter. Woodbridge Press news can be found on Twitter too.

Sledge-Lit: The Final Chopper On Tour 2015 Post!

It’s been a long year, and it isn’t quite over yet. But the Chopper On Tour tag is bedding down for hibernation through the winter, after one last hurrah at Derby’s Sledge-Lit event.

And what a hurrah it was! Sledge-Lit turned out to be a very good way to wind down. Alex Davis had done his usual bang-up job of inviting interesting guests of honour – Charles Stross, Alison Moore, Rob Shearman and Adam Roberts – and surrounded them with a host of panels, readings and workshops designed to make you want to be in three places at once. I’m at the point – I think – where workshops aren’t going to add an awful lot to what I already know, so I can’t comment too much on them (there may be a blog post from Sheffield’s SFF Writers’ Group later on that covers one or two of the workshops). Aside from that, I was somewhat busy anyway…

The first panel of the day was on the value of subgenres in fantasy & SF. With me were Julia Knight, Susan Boulton, Rod Duncan, and Gavin Smith. Because of family stuff, I had questions, but I hadn’t been able to pass them around in advance. As a first-time panel moderator/chair, I came into it feeling a bit like a support act without instruments. That soon passed – even though the panel helpfully touched on all of my questions within the first five minutes! – and hopefully we made for an interesting start to the day.

Some good questions came from Andrew Bannister, whose first book comes out through Transworld next year. I managed to miss the panel about small presses while chatting to him and David Tallerman (the new TOR novella is well worth getting hold of), after which it was time to take a break from taking a break and go out for chips (now a firmly-established tradition for me in Derby…). With my SFSF hat on there were brief conversations with Penny Reeve, Helen Armfield, Natasha Pulley, and Tony Ballantyne, as well as a chat with Simon Marshall-Jones, whose Biblia Longcrofta I’ve recently finished reading. Recommended, by the way.

Then it was time for the second panel of the day – the flip side of the subgenre discussion – Is Fantasy Broadening As A Genre? Well, yes, obviously, and a good thing too, was the general consensus from Alex, Julia, Natasha, Stephen Aryan and myself. We wandered over the genre landscape and dished out some sterling recommendations, and I had a bit more of a relaxing time of it since Alex was moderating this one. Fueled by increasing amounts of coffee, I even manned the TTA Press stall for a couple of minutes while Roy popped away. Don’t worry, I know retail. I didn’t sell anything though…

Apart from a few copies of Heir To The North, which is always a bonus. :)

For my final panel of the day, I was hiding in the audience, listening to Jacey Bedford rein in Adam Roberts so that Amanda Rutter, Gavin Smith and Andrew Bannister could get a word in edgeways on the subject of dystopian SF.

The Edge-Lit raffle is a thing of legend – almost as legendary as the SFSF raffle, in fact – and if you squinted hard enough and ate enough of Brian Marshall’s vodka jelly babies, you could probably confuse Robert Shearman for Sarah Pinborough. I didn’t win anything, but it’s the taking part that counts….

One thing I didn’t get was any photos – if anybody has some, I’d be happy to see them! And so, with the 2015 leg of Chopper On Tour concluded, it’s time to get some words laid out on TFL and start the planning for next year….