Kind Words – and Critical

Because the first review of High King’s Vengeance came in over the Fantasycon weekend, it kind of slipped under the blogging radar somewhat, so I’m going to take the opportunity to point you to it now.

Paul at The Eloquent Page was kind enough to read Heir to the North last year, and also to say nice things about it. I wondered what he would have to say about the sequel – would it live up to his expectations?

Viewed on its own, The High King’s Vengeance is a well-executed epic fantasy that is bound to please many a genre fan. As the second part of a much larger story, it is something far better. Seeds that were sown way back at the beginning of the first book suddenly become relevant, and there are a host of splendidly brain-melting revelations.

I get the distinct impression that though Cassia’s story has drawn to a close, there are other tales of Caenthell, Hellea and Galliarca still to be told. I do hope so, I’d be more than happy to read them.

I think that’s a “yes”.🙂

You can read the full review over here, and I respectfully submit that The Eloquent Page is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, this review came in for Heir to the North:

I do wish, however, that this novel didn’t join the apparently infinite ranks of “Gender-as-Obstacle,” in which the female lead is oppressed/undervalued/underestimated chiefly or entirely because she’s female. That Cassia is very much a Smurfette, with never a single meaningful interaction with another woman, only makes this worse, as it gives me a depressing impression of the world she inhabits.

OK, with hindsight, guilty as charged. It wasn’t something I even thought about when I wrote HTTN, and I suspect that’s rather the point. Other people have made the same point in passing, though not as bluntly as this reviewer. (And that bluntness isn’t a bad thing either. Nor am I quoting the review here so that others can pile on the reviewer. Don’t ever do that. Seriously.)

I’d like to think that I’m a slightly wiser person now than I was when I wrote Heir to the North. I’m certainly more aware of what I have written and how I wrote it. You may not find too much of a progression in High King’s Vengeance (it was written before HTTN was even signed by Kristell Ink), but you will in future projects.

And so I respectfully submit that Kelley Ceccato is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.


aliensThe truth is out there – almost. Tickety Boo Press release their next anthology, Aliens: The Truth is Coming, at the end of the month, and the full list of stories goes as follows:

In Plain Sight by Juliana Spink Mills

Geometry by Alex Davis

Gods of the Ice Planet by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Island Visit by Nathan Hystad

Even the Klin Are Only Human by Bryn Fortey

A New Dawn by Liz Gruder

Rent by Steven Poore

Salvage by MJ Kobernus

The Devil’s Rock by William Anderson

The Man Who Wasn’t Dead by Terry Grimwood

We Three Remain by Stewart Hotston

Welcome to Cosmic Journey by Michael Chandos

The Zoo of Dark Creatures by Leslie J Anderson

Here by Tim James

If that’s not a line-up to whet your whistle, I’ll eat your hat. Rent is a rare excursion into SF short fiction for me, as most of my recent short stuff has been set firmly in the modern era. Rent harks back to This Place Sucks in tone and style, so if you enjoyed that little shaggy-dog tale, I hope you’ll enjoy this one too.

I don’t have buy/reserve links for the anthology yet, but I’ll add them to this post (and the forthcoming short fiction links page) as soon as they appear. Meanwhile, you can find out more over at the Tickety Boo Press Facebook page. And, as ever, we stand and fall on our ratings and reviews – add Aliens to your Goodreads TBR and leave honest reviews, and make a bunch of authors happy.🙂

Derby Writers’ Day & Bristolcon!

For the remainder of this month I’ll mostly be battening the hatches and hoping that my voodoo dolls of certain neo-fascistic politicians actually have some bloody effect while I work on two, no three, different projects all at the same time.

But between all that, Chopper on Tour 2016 has two more dates for the diary:

Derby Writer's Day 2016
Derby Writers’ Day

Next Saturday, 15th October, you’ll find me at the Derby Writers’ Day, organised and run by the indefatigable Alex Davis. I’m on two panels, both moderated by the suave and sophisticated Kevin Redfern –
10am: The Writer & The Small Press (KR, SP, James Everington, Emma Lannie)
11am: Fantasy & Science Fiction (KR, SP, Amanda Rutter, Andrew Bannister)

After that I’ll be hanging around, striking writerly poses, and open to chat about my experiences in publishing so far.

On Saturday 29th October (and the night before for the pre-con events) you’ll find me at Bristolcon, in… um, Bristol. One of the UK’s best one-day conventions, and a charitable organisation to boot, which means it’s well worth your time and your money goes to help local genre and writing projects. And with guests of honour like Ken MacLeod and Sarah Pinborough and artist Fangorn you have even less excuse.

I’m panelling and reading:
12pm: Beyond Evil (with Dev Agarwal (Mod), Sarah Pinborough, Steven PooreSophie E. Tallis, Ben Jeapes)

6.50pm: Reading, in Programme Room 1. Reading what? Well, I do have a new book out, y’know….

Other than that, you may find me either in the bar or the Dealers’ Room – Grimbold Books will be there in full effect, and there’ll be several great offers on the table, with Christmas only a couple of months away…

Right – on with the words….

Chopper on Tour 2016 – Fantasycon by the Sea!

What a weekend that was. Seriously, never has a convention felt both more and less like a holiday than this one. And I say that as a good thing, looking back at it now after all the dust has settled and we’ve shaken the sand out of our shoes and beaten off the seagulls with very long sticks. (And apologies for the belated write-up – it’s been a long month already!)

Low points? Okay, there were a few; let’s get them out of the way now so we can focus on the good stuff. The Grand Hotel was grand in name and decor, but like so many old galleons, there were leaks below the waterline, ghosts in the closet, seagulls in the bathroom… It didn’t affect me, for the most part – the room Joel Cornah and I shared had a glorious sea view and was serendipitously directly opposite our dealer’s table on the first floor balcony. It was basic, and the window onto the balcony had last closed properly in 1945, but there was a kettle, and hot water in the morning, and it was somewhere to sit and breathe for 10 minutes any time I needed to give myself a break. At conventions, that’s the most important thing.

The food? I’ve had worse at many Tesco cafes, though the scrambled eggs did stretch the definition of edible and they certainly made the homeward journey windy. The word basic will be rolled out more than twice in this post. Customer service in the bar was hopelessly slow.



The package – the convention as a whole – was excellent. I’ve always wanted to sweep down that sort of staircase with an entourage. I panelled with brilliant authors and editors. I busted the karaoke with a rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero that the audience won’t soon forget. I said hi to Joe Hill and Scott Lynch, and talked with Elizabeth Bear. I made tentative SFSF plans. For half an hour I abused my PLH to serve wine from behind the cocktail bar. James Bennett proposed marriage¹. I finally met the wonderful Stan Nicholls, and nearly made off with Pete Newman’s freshly-won Gemmell Award before he could flee with it back to the Grand. The lovely folks at Unsung Stories

And as a co-frontperson (with Joanne Hall and Joel) for the Grimbold Books stall, we defied the dispersed layouts to strike fear into the wallets of everybody at the con.🙂

Oh, and there was the small matter of a book launch, or three. The Summer Goddess (Joanne Hall), The Book of Angels (AJ Dalton), and my own The High King’s Vengeance all got officially launched on the Friday evening in a frenzy of wine and badges. A successful little party it was, and thank you to all who came!

And last, but definitely not least, there were the British Fantasy Awards. You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t win – Zen Cho took Best Newcomer, and deservedly so to be honest – but I’m still incredibly honoured to have been shortlisted alongside such a talented fire-team of authors. That makes Zen Cho the honorary Heir to the North, I reckon.

Next up in the tour diary – Derby Writers’ Day on October 15th, and Bristolcon on October 29th. Hope to see some of you at either of those!


¹Dear reader, what can I say? I had to decline – I’m not sure Rach would have been very understanding…

Caenthell Lives!

It’s here, folks – it’s here! High King’s Vengeance launches TODAY. If you’re at Fantasycon-by-the-sea, you can swing by the Cocktail Bar in the Grand Hotel at 5pm to join the launch party, along with Joanne Hall (The Summer Goddess) and AJ Dalton (The Book of Angels). If you’re not at FCon (and why not?) you can follow all the weekend’s fun on Twitter with the hashtag #FCon2016 while you wait for Online Retailers to deliver your copy!

Pic: Tim Wreford-Bush

In fact, some copies have already been seen in the wild – here’s Crunchie, of South Wales, with one of the first! Send me – or Kristell Ink Books – your book pics, preferably with cats, because we’re like that – and we’ll post them up!

Meanwhile, it’s time to load up Elsie with all the launch stock and get on the road. Next month I’m in Derby for their Writers’ Day (15th October) and Bristol for Bristolcon (29th October) and I’ll be happy to sell and/or sign at both events.

Enjoy your weekend, and enjoy the book!

Countdown Commences!

At 5pm on Friday 23rd September, in the cocktail bar at the Grand Hotel, Scarborough, as part of the Grimbold Books Triple Header Launch at Fantasycon-by-the-sea… The North Will Rise Again. Again.

That’s right folks, there’s just over two weeks a mere handful of days before The High King’s Vengeance bursts into the world. And if you can’t make it to Scarborough, don’t worry – you can preorder both paperback and ebook now via Amazon and have them delivered direct! Or, just as thrillingly, you can go into Waterstones and ask them to order it in for you.

There’s several good reasons for picking a copy up in person of course, not least of which is that I’ll be signing and reading! Plus, and this is a biggie, it’s the Triple Header – The Summer Goddess, by Joanne Hall, and The Book of Angels, by AJ Dalton, are being launched at the same time. Who knows what might happen?

And THERE WILL BE BADGES. Limited edition Team Rais and I Am The Heir To The North badges, your choice! All you have to do is turn up…

And did I mention the hardbacks? No? Oh, just wait….

After that, on Sunday 25th September, I hope you’ll join me on the edge of your seat to find out how Heir to the North fares in the British Fantasy Awards. I’m up for Best Newcomer alongside Marc Turner, Zen Cho, Peter Newman, and Becky Chambers – and having read all the whole shortlist over the summer, I have to admit that I feel like a real outsider. Whoever takes this one will thoroughly deserve it.

See you in Scarbie!

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.