High King’s Vengeance Launch Details!

You might have missed the news last night, so here’s the deets as we know them!

High King’s Vengeance, the sequel to Heir to the North and the concluding volume of the Malessar’s Curse duology, will launch at 5pm on Friday 23rd September at Fantasycon-by-the-sea in Scarborough. There will be paperbacks. There will be hardbacks. There may even be alcohol. If you’re dreadfully unlucky, I’ll read a few pages too!

But, that’s not all, not by a long chalk.

Kristell Ink doesn’t do things by halves – which is why this launch slot is a co-launch with Joanne Hall‘s latest fantastic standalone novel in the world of Hierath, The Summer Goddess. Summer_Goddess_Cover_by_Jason_Deem_largeHaving deservedly won Grimdark Magazine’s “Battle-Off” last year, Joanne has got stunning cover art by Jason Deem to show off as well as a rocket-paced rescue quest.

So, come and join us for what, in my humble opinion, will be the best launch of Friday night at Fantasycon so far!

Oh, and if you want sneak previews of both books, as well as bonus short stories and notes about our writing processes and themes, and you want to support one of the very best indie fantasy publishers in the UK today, go visit the Grimbold Books Patreon site and join our club.

Chopper on Tour: Edge-Lit 2016

After that frankly pants first half of 2016 (see previous posts) I was looking forward to a day out in Derby. Time to get back in the saddle, dive back into the genre, go see some very good friends and caress some very good books. Yes, I like books. You might already have guessed.

Edge-Lit never disappoints. Alex Davis and his team of non-expendable Redshirts can cope with pretty much everything a summer’s day in Derby city centre can throw at them, up to and including a Caribbean carnival and a king-sized showroom’s worth of high-revving hot ride motorbikes on the pavement outside the bar. Which was what happened, obviously. Sometimes there’s only so much bass you can physically take before you have to retreat into the murky depths of Derby itself in search on bass-uninflected caffeine rations.

I still remember being the hyper-hyper newbie at my first AltFiction (as it was back in t’day) and even back then the whole con seemed a welcoming a cheerful place. On my first day I waited outside a sandwich shop while Ian Watson got a bacon buttie on his way in to the venue. That felt bizarre. Coming back the following year, people were waving to me even before I got through the door. It’s that sort of convention. Hopefully the Sheffield SF Writers who made the trip this time – David R Lee, Kathryn Wild, David Sarsfield – felt that level of positivity too. I know Dave L thoroughly enjoyed his workshop with M John Harrison, and David Sarsfield was making his debut as a published member of the Fox Spirit Skulk, which is a positive force in its own right.

It took me a while to settle down this time, though the red wine at the combined NewCon/Fox Spirit launch definitely helped matters. David Tallerman’s short Cthlonic “school report” reading was a highlight, though I couldn’t really afford the hardback of his collection and came away instead with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Apt collection and VC Linde’s poetry based on three words selected by a collection of different authors (if that makes sense). I’m not usually a great fan of poetry, but the whole concept was interesting enough to draw me in.

Before that launch there were the obligatory panel sessions to attend. The morning panels were more up my street than the afternoon ones. Alistair Reynolds, Ian Whates, Nina Allan and Adele Wearing asked if small presses were producing the best SF (the answer was a resounding yes, if you needed to ask). Marc Turner took the chair for a journey through the landscape of literary fiction and its on-off relationship with genre, with Jen Williams, Edward Cox and Cherry Potts all somehow managing to not mention Michael Moorcock along the way.

Lunch was the now-traditional stagger (wine, remember…) through the covered market in search of a £1 tray of chips. And after that exhaustion kicked in as hard as the carnival bass, meaning that the afternoon became a blur of coffee, juice and sitting down in various combinations. Team Newman (Emma and Pete) combined for Emma’s Guest of Honour interview, with readings from both After Atlas and the forthcoming fourth volume of the Split Worlds saga – which I probably shouldn’t have listened to, given that I still haven’t read the third… As ever Team Newman went the extra mile in making more of the time and the format.

With the Edge Lit Quiz on hold this year, the evening’s entertainment belonged to the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, hosted by Jen Williams and Pete Newman, with guests Jason Arnopp and Maria Lewis. I’m fairly ambivalent about werewolves in fiction although Maria’s take on the monsters seemed agreeably uncuddly and bloody. Jason’s Last Days of Jack Sparks on the other hand is pitched much better to my caustic, agnostic self.

We shall draw a veil over the shenanigans of the Pinborough-helmed raffle, save only to say that it was not for the faint of heart. And, as I warned various folks beforehand, never sit near the front….

Over at the Fox Spirit Books stall, Adele Wearing and Daz Pulsford kindly agreed to make room for a small pile of (the British Fantasy Award-nominated – have I mentioned that yet?) Heir to the North. I was well chuffed and over the moon to discover that they all sold. I love you, whoever you are🙂

Taking my cue from Alex Bardy, who this year cosplayed as one of the Expendables and carried it off with remarkable aplomb, I used a few spare moments to point people at other people., networking by proxy. I can point you all at Dan Grace and Gemma Todd, both names to watch out for in the future. Dan’s novella Winter is out now through Unsung Stories, and Gemma’s novel Defender is out early next year from Headline.

Jen Williams and Edward Cox were a delights to talk to, and Adrian Tchaikovsky was very kind. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Shellie Horst and Susan Boulton (Hand of Glory – coming soon!) Other SFSF regulars – Marc Turner, Dan Godfrey, Andy Angel, David Tallerman, Ian Sales – crossed my path and reminded me that it is probably well past time to start planning more events. Which is part of the reason me and Sara Smith were there anyway, to get our collective heads back into gear following the last few months. So no need to worry on that score – SFSF will return.

Amongst the EdgeLit debuts this year was author, editor and Bristolcon-wrangler Joanne Hall. Standing in at short notice for Pete Sutton, it was brilliant to see her again and give some power to the Grimbold presence at the con. T-shirts featuring a fox and a cat riding a dragon were mentioned in all seriousness in conversations with Auntie Fox…

Lastly, it’s not a convention without swag. Some of it is still hidden in the car until I can sneak it all in (I hope Rachel isn’t reading this…) but as well as the Tchaikovsky and Linde, I picked up Dan Godfrey’s New Pompeii, Jen Williams’ The Silver Tide, and Paul Kane’s Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. The TBR is teetering on the verge of collapse. I wanted a copy of Pete Newman’s The Vagrant as well, but the bookstall ran out of that before I could get to it. Bah. Still hope to have read it and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown by the time Fantasycon comes around, which means I’ll have read the whole Best Newcomer shortlist.

So, a very successful – if exhausting – day. If I met you and haven’t mentioned you, it’s mostly because I may have been on remote control at that point…

The Sound of the North!

It’s here! It lives! The North has risen!

Diana Croft’s epic reading of Heir to the North is live now on Audible. You can listen as Cassia, Baum, Meredith, Arca, and all the rest of the cast, come alive in your imagination. And all it will cost you is one – one! – Audible credit. If you’re not already an Audible listener, go ahead and choose Heir to the North as your introductory title in a 30-day trial period.

The Heir to the North Audiobook
Click the pic to go straight to Audible!

And, as with everything else in this creative world, feedback is everything. Like it? Review it. Love it? Review it. Not your cup of Earl Grey? Review it. I won’t hold it against you.🙂

July Update 2: High Points

I like using the two-act structure. There’s either a peak or a trough at the end of the first act, depending on how you want it to work. I’ve used this structure for Malessar’s Curse – the plot rises to a crisis point – not a cliffhanger as such, but a definite break.

I’m trying to view 2016 in the same way. The first half has been a definite downward curve, sinking to a nadir over the second half of June. Not unexpected, but unwanted nonetheless. I write about gods, but I don’t believe in them, so I’m not going to blame some mystical non-existent deity for the non-stop cull of celebrities and cultural role models. No, you can blame cancer for that. And that means that the Brexit vote is even more stupid than you previously thought, given the potential and probable effects on pan-European cancer research.

But enough of the negative vibes for now – after all, I’m supposed to be looking forward, as the Brexiters have desperately requested, rather than back. So let’s ignore the impending economic and socio-political apocalypse and think about the good shit.

Because believe it or not there is still good shit to celebrate. Some of that good shit even turned up in the first six months of the year, diluting the effects of the downcurve so that it was more or less tolerable (rather than downright intolerable). And because it’s me, most of this good shit has to do with writing. (You see, this is what I was missing through the interminable years with the dog’n’dansette – something to balance out the grind & cliquey bullying.)

So let’s go RAH! for the high points:

Nominated onto the longlist for the main Legend Award at the David Gemmell Awards. (Didn’t get onto the shortlist, but I wasn’t expecting to)
Nominated onto the shortlist for Best Newcomer at the British Fantasy Awards. Now that caused dancing in the streets round our way, I tell thee.
Four (four!) short stories published in the excellent Fox Pockets series. And I’m inordinately proud of all four of them.
Audiobook version of Heir to the North recorded and almost ready to go! (In fact, as I type this it has just been signed off and authorised for sale on Audible. Get ready…!)
Hardback editions in the works!
High King’s Vengeance all set for launch!
And of course July marks the start of my personal convention season – EdgeLit, SledgeLit, Fantasycon and Bristolcon (and this year, Derby Writers’ Day too). Days spent talking SFF with great people and fantastic friends.

This is the list I go to when my brain tries to tell me I’m not good enough (shades of the mother-in-law Jan’s backstabbing imprecation that I’m “not much of a go-getter”). Brain is right, but only in that so much of the above I would never have been able to achieve on my own. The list reminds me that I’m part of a team, and that they’ve got my back. And that increasingly, I’ve got theirs. That’s a damned good place to be in.

WIN_20160412_18_39_28_ProIt’s not all writing-shaped either. Some of it is cat-shaped. Far from being the corner-hugging scaredy-cat that ran for the attic on arrival, Mycroft has become very attached to us both. He’s a source of giggles and fun every day.

And while I still don’t have a writer’s vinyl!“office space”, we have at last managed to drag the vinyl (and some of the DVDs) out of the attic for proper display and use. I haven’t played some of these since the late 90s. Even better, the Dreamcast still works too! Shenmue! Shenmue II! Jet Set Radio! Who needs Next-Gen consoles, eh?

2016 may be one of the shittier years, but there’s enough going on – if you look at the basics – to cushion the worst of the blows. Some days it’s easier to get out of bed than others. And some days, if that’s the best you can do, if that’s all you can do, you look at how far you’ve come and you say: you know what? I’ve already won. The rest is a bonus.

July Update 1: Low Points

It’s been quiet on here. I say that a lot these days. Sometimes I don’t really have much to say; sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all. And sometimes I just want to pull the covers over my head and disappear for a few weeks. You know the feeling.

So while my country is torn apart by self-serving, mendacious public-school leeches who pretend to have some sort of mandate (they don’t, not from me), and some bastard gurning toad raises pint after pint of tepid lager to his yellowed teeth and claims to have “won a war without firing a shot” after stirring up enough hate to cause the murder of a serving MP, and money is carved in thick slices from the education and health services, and from arts and police budgets, in the sainted name of austerity, and the Daily Mail and the Sun blame it all on immigrants, it’s hard not to feel angry, powerless, disappointed and scared all at the same time. And that’s just this small, pointless, grey island. Let’s not talk about ‘Murica, about the ingrained stupidity and self-inflicted terrorism of the GOP and the appalling bigotry on that side of the pond, or the self-righteous, anti-cultural destruction in the name of “god” done by twats who have completely misunderstood the meaning of Islam. When the real world is this shitty, you wonder why I’d rather read and write about other worlds?

It was already difficult to stay positive in the first half of this year, and that was without the discovery, late last year, that my father had an incurable brain tumour. If you saw me at the last SFSF Social in February, you may have noticed that I was quite manic. I wasn’t enjoying myself; I needed anti-depressants. I still do. The entire family has struggled through 2016 to this point, hanging on in quiet desperation as the song goes. It’s been impossible to plan, to commit, to do anything much other than wait. It’s not easy to deal with this level of emotional intensity, to find a safe outlet for it all.

Fuck cancer.
Fuck cancer.

It won’t be easy going forward either. Not personally, nor on the wider front. One thing’s for certain: I have no patience with anybody who believes that the NHS, the education system, our libraries, our futures are safe in the hands of the Conservative Party. The Nasty Party. Nor with the voices that tell us to stop complaining, stop wasting our time, put up with things, celebrate our xenophobia and shortsightedness, blame all the problems on that nebulous “other”. I’m glad that the NHS was there, that it allowed us as much time with Dad as we did have. I saw the cracks, the strains, the pressure on the system – you can’t tell me that five years down the line, the Tories will have put more money into the NHS. They’ll have dismantled it, closed buildings and wards, given more money to private business, priced patients out of their beds.

What can I do? No idea, not yet. But I won’t be shutting up and putting up with things. Fuck that for a game of darts.

SFF World Round Table Discussion

Hey there folks, this is late notice, but you’ll find me participating in the latest Round Table forum discussion over on SFF World at the moment, in the company of ace authors Richard A Knaak, Lucas Thorn, and Marc Turner. Do join us – my TBR pile has already grown another few titles, and we’re only half a day in…

SFF World Round Table Discussion

British Fantasy Awards Shortlists

So, the BFA shortlists were announced this morning. I’m seriously impressed by the range and quality of genre fiction that these awards celebrate. From Gollancz and Orbit, through Angry Robot and Solaris, to Tenebris, Fox Spirit, Alchemy and Undertow; from Jen Williams, Nnedi Okorafor, and Zen Cho to Paul Kane, Paul Cornell and Vincent Chong – these are all good people and great works. You should check those shortlists and base the rest of this year’s reading off them. Really. Especially African Monsters, Guns of the Dawn, The Iron Ghost, The Death House, and The Stars Seem So Far Away.

And then there’s the Best Newcomer category. Marc Turner, Peter Newman, Zen Cho, Becky Chambers, and me.

Eek. This may mean I’ll have to do the Banquet at Fantasycon. You have been warned.

More seriously, whichever of those four gets the win, I’ll be first on my feet applauding.

And more seriously still, much as any writer worth their salt dreams of awards and affirmation, I wasn’t expecting this. So I reckon a massive credit needs to go to Sammy Smith and Joanne Hall, who have made Heir To The North into a book that people think is good enough to stand on a shortlist alongside The Vagrant, When The Heavens Fall, Sorcerer To The Crown and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet.

The North Will Rise Again?

I’ll drink to that.🙂