Yes, it’s true, at last, the fifth part of The Empire Dance is live! Weapons Free was released digitally this morning – hurrah!
You may be wondering why it has taken so long to get this fifth part onto the shelves. The answer is remarkably simple: there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Since The Packard Defence, I’ve been promoting Malessar’s Curse (Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance), getting both those books converted into audio format, writing short stories (one of which, The Witness, is eligible for short story awards this year – just sayin’), writing articles for Fantasy Faction, generally defending small presses and promoting Grimbold Books, and sometimes presenting the SFSF Socials here in Sheffield. Oh, and I have a mundane job, too. Not to mention that I was reluctant to release Weapons Free until I had brushed the rest of the Empire Dance books into more glossy shape.
It’s true! No, really! Weapons Free, the fifth installment of The Empire Dance, a serialised, trope-waving, planet-busting, space opera that began waaaaay back in 2010, is finally in the gates! It’s gnawing at the metal, flanks heaving, eyes on the prize….
…and can be all yours for just 99p, come January 6th 2018! Preorder now!
The lines of power must be redrawn – they cannot remain as they are.
The carefully plotted steps of the Irian Disciples have led to this – a crushing attack on First Fleet’s operational home, Belsea. But with Drift Ghost returned to the fold, High Admiral Bessemer isn’t ready to surrender. On Capitol meanwhile, and deep in the nether dimensions of K-space, Chris Taylor and Mark Ibsen make startling revelations of their own – discoveries that place them even deeper in peril. Something must give, something must change.
I often get asked when the next installment of The Empire Dance will come out. (When I say often, I mean at least two people have expressed interest in it. That’s good enough for me.) More on that to come, but it did make me wonder if I ought to give the first four volumes of the series a bit of a clean-up – Echoes of War first came out in 2010, and I’ve learned a fair bit since then. Plus, the cover art was rather… yeah. Not good.
So I’ve disabled all the old paperback versions, and decided to retire the series from Smashwords – no offence to Mark Coker, but I don’t think anybody goes to Smashwords for decent genre fiction these days. I certainly can’t remember the last time I bought anything from there.
Volume by volume, I’ve worked my way through the series and quietly reissued them through the Kindle Unlimited programme (much as I may dislike Amazon’s chokehold on digital fiction). Echoes of War was the first to benefit, of course, with a couple of additional scenes and a bit of tightening up, as well as some funky new cover art. I’ve taken the opportunity to tweak the hyperlinks inside too, because by ‘eck it needed it. All of the first four titles – Echoes, Midwinter Fury, The Kiiren Boy, and The Packard Defence – are out with spiffing new artwork, and if you’re not a big fan of the Unlimited package then you can still grab them all for less than the price of two cups of coffee. Good value, what?
You want to see those covers? Eh? Go on then….
You can find out more about each book by using this site’s menu – see the Empire Dance there? Go on…. dare ya.
Granted, there aren’t all that many reasons to be cheerful, looking back at the mess the world made of 2014.¹ But on a personal level, it’s been pretty stellar. The year has built and built like an over-extended Zarathustran overture. I can’t guarantee obelisks, but we’re definitely leaving the under-developed grunters behind…
Anyway, what have I got to be so happy about?
Heir To The North, the first part of Malessar’s Curse, will be released in print and e-formats by Grimbold Books/Kristell Ink in late summer 2015. I may have mentioned that already. I make no apologies for mentioning it again. The cover art looks plenty cool so far, and I’ll share it as soon as I’m allowed to!
The deal was pretty much done at FantasyCon in York, back in September. That was a brilliant weekend. At the same time, I accidentally became the point man for Sheffield’s own variant of the successful Super Relaxed Fantasy Club and York Pubmeets. The first of these SoYo genre afternoons, the SFSF Social – in which there will be readings, and prizes, and all for the grand price of £absolutelynowt – takes place in January. If you’re interested – and with guests Jo Thomas and Adrian Tchaikovsky, why wouldn’t you be? – click this way and see the details. There’s been a bit of a dearth of this kind of thing in Sheffield, despite the city being home to the annual Off The Shelf literary festival, so we’d like this to become something of a regular fixture.
Empire Dance 4: The Packard Defence came out on or around May 4th, and while it didn’t set the world alight (and nor did I expect it to) it did seem to go down particularly well down in the Antipodes. Thank you all ever so much!
Creatively and businesswise, we’ve never been in a better place. When Rachel led a macrame workshop at an event organised by Sheffield Museums, the response was staggeringly positive. So much so, in fact, that I had to rope myself in as an emergency backup demonstrator – learning the knots as I went! Now, if you want to include the Social in the numbers, there are three businesses in the house. And that’s not counting the day job². Meanwhile, my former employer (and I’ll note officially that it’s good to see them still trading) wants to give me more money. How can I reasonably refuse?
Stuff I’ve enjoyed this year? Bear in mind that some of it is probably older than 2014… (and none of these are affiliate links, by the way)
Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series started with a fantastic bang in Traitor’s Blade. Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names, Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood, Ack Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell, The Art of Forgetting by Joanne Hall, Kameron Hurley’s Mirror Empire – all wonderful stuff and highly recommended. The cool Tales of the Nun & Dragon. I’m in the middle of a massive re-read of Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series, enjoying the depths once more. Alastair Reynolds wrote a fantastic Pertwee-era Doctor Who novel, Harvest of Time, which hits all the right notes while still being far-future epic. Ian Sales – Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above – a brilliant continuation of the award-winning Apollo Quartet. And holy frack, Paul Cornell’s London Falling. It Shit Me Up Bad. Due to time constraints I didn’t even get to the parts of the TBR pile I really wanted to (KT Davies, Stella Gemmell, The Expanse, the BFS award winners from this year – and is it wrong that I still haven’t read A Dance With Dragons?). I still can’t bring myself to finish Thea von Harbou’s original novel of Metropolis (prose thicker than gravy). The Demi-Monde started off so well and yet didn’t quite do it for me.
So what’s coming up? What does 2015 hold aside from the publication of Heir To The North? (yep, I said it again…)
High King’s Vengeance will be following on HTTN’s heels. Not immediately, obviously, but fear not – it will come…
Short story fans will love 2015. Fox Spirit Books will be publishing That Sinking Feeling, Junior Twilight Stock Replacer, Take Me With You, and Full Compliance across their expanding range of Fox Pockets anthologies. Two more stories are out at different markets.
With three completed Johnny Silver stories, and two more at the plotting stage, Silverdale’s last best hope for peace and the star of Full Compliance will strike out on his own either at the end of the year or in 2016.
There’s another novel project. This one, Project:TFL, is coming together at a rate of knots. That’s an intentional pun. I’ve been locked up for worse. Without spoilering the plot, I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t another fantasy like this on the market (Drayton). I’m rather excited about it. All that remains is to write the blessed thing.
Which means that something has to give: ED5 is slipping back down the list of priorities, but when something as cool as Project:TFL comes along, and there’s only so many hours in the day, well…
More conventions. I’m already booked for Fantasycon once more – this time in Nottingham – and the Grimbold/Kristell Ink stable will have its very own “holiday home”. Excited? Me? OK, yes, definitely. Especially since either Fantasycon or Bristolcon (which I’ve also booked holiday for!) will probably see the official launch of HTTN. Naturally there will also be EdgeLit in Derby, since the crown of quiz champions held jointly by Roy Gray, Kevin Redfern, Hayley Orgill, Alex Bardy, and myself must be stalwartly defended!
And it’s not all about me either. There’s no feeling like that of seeing other people – your friends – be successful too. Watching small presses like Fox Spirit, Boo! Books, Grimbold, Tickety-Boo, and people such as the excellent folks who comprise the Inkbots and the active writers on SFF Chronicles all ramp up their careers and gain the credits and successes they all deserve is just as rewarding as putting in all the hard work yourself. This isn’t a zero-sum game, after all.³
I look forward to more successes and reading cool stuff by (amongst others!) Laura Lam, Josh Vogt, JB Rockwell, Kate Shaw, Susan Boulton, Wes Chu, Joanne Hall, Joel Cornah, AJ Dalton, Mhairi Simpson, Ian Sales (last of the Quartet!), Jo Zebedee and more….
And with that, I’m off to don the writing mittens and get this thing drafted. Happy New Year, everybody!
¹ We’ll relegate being miserable to a footnote, however, as is proper. Miserable even has a postcode – DN17 2LB. Fortunately, Happy postcodes (WR2 5DQ & BH21 3DP, for example) are also available.
² I’ve never had so many Saturdays and weekends off in my life! Less stress, better pay, more weekends? Turns out redundancy was a step forwards, not back.
³ Zero-sum games have a postcode. Funnily enough, it’s the same postcode as Miserable.
…but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening. We’re into the Long Wait (available on request from all good shops, of course) that inevitably happens at this point of the publishing process, but HTTN is still on schedule. That means it’s time for other projects to take precedence.
ED5, for example. The Empire Dance is getting progressively more difficult to write, thanks to my insistence on threading together four or five plots at the same time, but I’m aiming to have Weapons Free! blocked out to full length by the end of December, at which point it should be on course for release in the late spring. In the previous volumes I’ve skirted around the edges of various battles, but ED5 features a real humdinger between First Fleet and the Irian taskforce sent to capture Belsea – it’s not as easy to pull it all together as I thought it would be.
Meanwhile, there are other story threads to knit back into the main narrative, and other “lost” characters to focus upon. To whet your appetites, here’s a little snippet of one of them…
When he opened his eyes, everything looked flat. Instinctively, he knew that something was missing; that his senses had been stripped to their most basic. To the core.
Core. That was an important word. He had a core; he was a core.
He closed his eyes again and attempted to recalibrate his visual cortex. He plucked diagnostic programs from his most immediately accessible files, rewrote them, and promptly discarded them when they failed to appreciably improve his biological functions.
He reopened his eyes. The view was still blandly three-dimensional, and available only from a singular perspective.
A face loomed into view above him; he adjusted the focal length of his vision. It was not yet a perfect reflex, he noted with mild disappointment.
“He’s coming out of it,” the medical officer said. “You’d better contact the High Admiral.”
“Of course.” This second voice was mellifluous, modulated and controlled. He could not fail to recognise it.
The face moved aside again. The room busied with activity. He listened to it all, analysing and filing it for later reference. At the same time he began to test the outer reaches of his new home. His new containment. He needed to be able to control the limbs of this body. Only then could he begin to control what lay outside of it.
After ED5 is put to bed, I’ll be turning in earnest to the next proper novel-length project, code-named TFL, which needs thorough outlining. HTTN & HKV were “pantsed” for the most part – I knew where I was starting from, and I knew where I was heading for, but everything inbetween was a mystery until I got there – but TFL feels like it needs a more considered approach.
On top of the writing, there’s a new, more socially-oriented project that I’m involved with too, and that really kicks off in January. You may have heard already of the Sheffield Fantasy & Science Fiction Social Club. If not, then I invite you to click this linky thingy to find out more about it. If you’re SoYo-based, or you fancy dropping by the Steel City on January 24th to hear Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas read from their new works, shout up and join!
If you haven’t taken advantage of the generous “free period” for the first three episodes of The Empire Dance, don’t despair – though most retailers have now gone back up to full price, Barnes & Noble are still showing digital copies of Echoes of War, Midwinter Fury and The Kiiren Boy as $0.00 each.
That’s a bargain in anybody’s books, I reckon. But I can’t tell you for certain how long they’ll be on sale for no money at all. So if you want to catch up with the Dance, you’d better get jiggy…