Legends Anthology – Pelicos the Brave Swings into Action!

That last post concerning the winding up of the David Gemmell Legend Awards was something of a downer. But earlier this week NewCon Press announced the table of contents for the third – and now final – Legends Anthology, packed full of stories in tribute to the late great master of modern fantasy fiction, David Gemmell.

I’m over the moon about this, because – look! That’s me, on the cover, alongside a whole host of extra-talented and awesome folks! There’s an RJ! And an Anna! And a Danie! KT Davies is in there too! Seriously, I’m excited to read the other stories in this, not least because what I’ve seen so far is absolutely top notch. Plus, it’s NewCon Press, y’all – Ian Whates makes his books with love and attention.

Cover artist: Dominic Harman

1. Introduction by Stan Nicholls
2. Blood Debt – Gail Z. Martin
3. A God’s Mercy – Richard Webb
4. Berserker Captain – Neal Asher
5. The Price of Passage – Keris McDonald
6. Summoner – Danie Ware
7. Pelicos the Brave and the Princess of Kalakhadze – Steven Poore
8. The Timekeeper’s Tarot – Den Patrick
9. Her Grail – Ben North
10. Piercing the Mist – Shona Kinsella
11. Chosen of the Slain – K.T. Davies
12. The Dying Land – Nick Watkinson
13. A Hero of Her People – Anna Smith Spark
14. All Deaths Well Intention’d – RJ Barker
15. By Any Other Name – Justina Robson

So – what’s my story?

Heir To The North and The High King’s Vengeance were both at heart stories about stories. One of the heroes of these shaggydog tales within the narrative, often merely mentioned in passing, was Pelicos the [Insert Noun]. A swashbuckler with a heart of fool’s gold, Pelicos undertook every daft quest you could think of, and more besides. In Pelicos the Brave and the Princess of Kalakhadze, our titular jack-of-all-trades scales the heights of a fabled island city to rescue the Dunundaya Heir from her tower cell so that she and her beau can elope together! Except, of course, that’s not what really happened…

Keen readers will observe a cameo appearance by a certain warlock. And, in keeping with my liking of buried histories, the Princess of Kalakhadze feeds gently into the setting of the upcoming Age of Talons trilogy. But sssshhh…. go, preorder, and enjoy!

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Books Wot I Have Read: 2018

Everybody else is doing it, so I figured I ought to jump in too. Why not? A touch of positivity is always welcome at this time of year.

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My TBR, yesterday

Alas, my TBR pile resembles the Arts Tower of Sheffield University right now, and it’s absolutely impossible to catch up with everything that was released this year while I’ve still got so many other worlds to visit. So this round-up of the best books I’ve read over the last twelve months also includes a number that weren’t actually published this year, and I refuse to apologise for that.

In no particular order:

Under The Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot, 2017)

34643773Holy heck. This is Angry Robot at its best, putting the WTF into fantasy once more, combining the detailed, refined and steady narrative of a gothic Victorian romance with the sudden sharp turns and queasy horrors of modern fiction. Jeannette Ng has created a disturbing world that resonates all the more true for the passions and obsessions its characters confront. Catherine’s arc – from Yorkshire to Gethsemane, from fragile English traveller to changeling, and beyond – is told with a sort of spellbinding quality – you want to shout and scream, and wrench her and Laon away before it is too late, and yet even when that line has been crossed you can’t help but read on and cheer their courage.

Quite probably the best treatment of the Fae since Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Graham Joyce), and that’s saying something.

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2016)

Holy heck (again), this was good. A broken earth, with fractured characters, and a history that is more geology and archaeology than anything else, plus giant floating obelisks, institutionalized slavery, and a narrative device that sinks the reader deep into the heart and soul of one of the most damaged characters of all. Make no bones, this is not a comfort read. The characters herein are not heroes, they are all survivors. You might call this grimdark if that label didn’t have so many negative connotations.

22468727The City of Silk and Steel, by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, & Louise Carey (Gollancz, 2012)

A wonderful, multi-layered tale of storytellers, their stories, and a full harem of concubines who escape death during a revolution by a cult of fanatics and return to the city of Bessa to depose the cultists in turn. Told in the voices of the characters themselves, with recipes, tall tales, legends and fourth-wall-breaking meta-narratives, The City of Silk and Steel is full of action, dry wit, diplomacy, and subtle magics. I can’t believe it isn’t better known than it is.

Do yourselves a favour and search this one out, trust me, you will not regret it.

38213770The Tower of Living and Dying, by Anna Smith Spark (Harper Voyager, 2018)

If you’ve made it this far into the glorious and murderous chaos of Anna Smith Spark’s world, then you know just how fantastically she uses language, repetition, broad strokes, and needle-sharp observations to tell a story. You won’t be disappointed this time either.

In my review of the first book in the trilogy I likened Marith to one of rock’n’roll’s early pioneers, despoiling his way across a continent. Now, with Thalia at his side, he’s an analogue of Elvis in his pomp, if Elvis had ever led an army of devoted berserkers to war.

Next? Can’t wait.

Wrath, by John Gwynne (Pan, 2016)

Fair to say we’ve crowned the next generation’s David Gemmell? I reckon so: there will be a lot of future fantasists using The Faithful And The Fallen as a foundation of their own explorations into the genre.

These are all personal choices, of course. My alternate self over at SFSF is bound to be a touch more relevant…

Art of War Anthology: Out Now!

It’s here! Booknest.eu’s supermassive anthology of war-themed fantasy fiction short stories, produced to benefit Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is OUT NOW as an ebook and a paperback.

What do you get? Stories from Ed Greenwood, Anna Smith-Spark, Anna Stephens, Dyrk Ashton, Laura M Hughes, some bloke called Steven Poore, I have literally no idea what he’s doing in there, Brian Staveley, Ed Greenwood, John Gywnne, Nicholas Eames, RJ Barker, Stan Nicholls, Mark Lawrence, and at least twenty-five more, plus a great fuzzy feeling for having put a bit of money towards a great cause.

Oh, and if you’ve bought the paperback – go you! – each of the 40 stories has a brilliant illustration by Jason Deem specifically for that tale.

Today – 13th February, Pancake Day – you’ll be able to catch some of the contributing authors, as well as project editor Petros Triantafyllou, doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on reddit’s r/Fantasy board. I’ll be popping in & out as time allows (between pancakes, basically, and with Golden Syrup since you ask).

My story in the book, Asalantir Forever, has been getting some good advance notices over on Goodreads – here’s a selection…

So far it’s the first story that displays trenches, an image I have in my head when thinking about wars (due to the childhood nights spent in front of the TV). I liked the language. It offers some strong imagery and nice sentences like this one:
Spill offers a flaccid skin. The Pride takes a mouthful each. The last of the water. It tastes of dirt and death, just as the air does.

More Please! Award: Asalantir Forever by Steven Poore. It’s a really exciting high fantasy story with magic involved in the warfare beyond just as artillery fire.

 I’ve had a weakness for stories that deal with the particular futility of life in the trenches since Blackadder Goes Forth. This one had strong writing and powerful imagery.

Adrian Collins, over at Grimdark Magazine, meanwhile, had this to say:

Jin and her pride join the assault through the bloody trenches to take the walls of Asalantir. A fun read start to finish, and I really enjoyed the idea of trench warfare in a medieval fantasy setting. Plenty to enjoy about this one. 4/5

If I’ve not convinced you yet, go take a good look at that contents page over on Amazon, and do a Good Thing.

Art of War Purchase Link!

The Art of War

Revealed this morning over on Fantasy Book Critic, here’s the rather stunning cover for the charity anthology The Art of War, due on 13th February 2018, raising funds for Medicins Sans Frontieres. There’s 40 stories in this massive, epic project, nearly all of them accompanied by illustrations by Jason Deem. Edited by Tim Marquitz, and conceived by Petros Triantafyllou of Booknest.eu, The Art of War looks to be a veritable who’s who of dynamic modern fantasy and, folks, you should totally get yours reserved.

The Art of War – cover by John Anthony di Giovanni and Shawn King

Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK ¦ Goodreads

Self-interest alert: yes, The Art of War contains something by me – Asalantir Forever! is a nippy little bugger that takes swords & sorcery into the trenches and shows that you can do the same thing over and over again… and the results will never change.

Still here? Don’t forget that Empire Dance 5 – Weapons Free launches in early January! And there’s still time to enter the Twitter-based giveaway compo for e-copies of Malessar’s Curse!

Guest Post at The Dragon’s Blade

I’m over at Michael Miller’s place today, as part of his series on Writing Journeys. Previous entries in the series have included Mark Lawrence, Jen Williams, Ben Galley, Anna Smith-Spark and more, so that’s mighty tall company for a short-ass like me to be in.

A lot of the journeys featured have looked back at how authors start out and get their first ideas and carry those through to completion. I thought it might be interesting to look at a different angle – what about that Difficult Second Idea? What lessons have I learned from Malessar’s Curse?

While you’re over there reading that (and don’t forget to scroll back to see the rest of the series – it’s well worth it, believe me), do sign up/subscribe to Michael’s updates, not least because he’s a good bloke and he’ll give you a free download of his debut novel The Dragon’s Blade for doing so. You really can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Click the book cover to go thataway…

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Every Forum Ever

Hi all, I just finished my latest read, and I wonder if you could recommend¹ –

MARK LAWRENCE

– a book –

BRANDON SANDERSON

– to move onto –

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– with some humour –

R SCOTT BAKKER

– and well written characters –

BRENT WEEKS

ROTHFUSS

GWYNNE

– standalones welcome –

WHEEL OF TIME

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– doesn’t have to be grimdark –

LORD GRIMDARK

BUY MY BOOK³

– and I’m looking to read more female authors.

HAVE YOU TRIED READING MARK LAWRENCE?²

giphy

¹This post is in no way made to insult or otherwise disparage the authors listed. I own and enjoy books by many of them. I’m merely using their names to illustrate a point.

²And there’s the point. Seriously. That conversation really happened.

³Guilty.

Meanwhile, over on another book blog, someone has listed the ten fantasy books they’re hotly anticipating next year. No VE Schwab, no Jen Williams, no Robin Hobb, no Anna Smith Spark, no women at all. Guys, it’s not difficult. You’re not invalidating the existence of us male authors by reading a little more widely.

Westward Ho! – Bristolcon 2016

Image result for bristolconLast weekend saw another epic trek down England’s bleak motorway network to participate in the excellent shenanigans that make up Bristolcon. Over the last eight years, Bristolcon has become one of the highlights of the convention season, and it’s easy to see why. A top-drawer (if slightly expensive) venue, an ace range of guests and panelists, and a fantastically well thought out programme, all combine alongside a relaxed atmosphere to make Bristolcon a very smooth ride for everybody who attends. It’s a not-for-profit affair too – as a charitable foundation, Bristolcon uses any money it makes to fund local writing projects, and that feeling of putting something back into the community undoubtedly helps explain why everybody is more than happy to pitch in and fund it by buying tickets. You’d have to be a bit of a curmudgeon to demand free entry here…

Anyway, I love driving, and I couldn’t wait to meet up again with the rest of Team Grimbold, so me & Elsie hit the road on Friday morning aiming to hit the traditional pre-con open mic event being held that evening. I had a couple of passengers too, since a pending clearout had led to them being evicted from Rachel’s workroom. I was pretty certain I could find them new homes with the baby Grimmies…

After checking in and offloading the stock for the dealers’ room, I found Frances Kay (a fellow British Fantasy Awards-shortlisted Grimmie) and Anna Smith Spark (whose Court of Broken Knives comes out via Harper Voyager next June). We prepared for the open mic session by attending Gaie Sebold and David Gullen’s workshop on public readings. Incidentally, Frances has a great background in both theatre and TV work, so if you were there, it’s well worth taking note of what she had to say on the subject of public readings.

And if you weren’t there, then you missed an action-packed reading of (most of) Full Compliance, from The Evil Genius Guide (Fox Spirit Books), the first story to feature South Yorkshire’s last superhero, Johnny Silver, aka The Forgemaster. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it, which means you’ll definitely be seeing some longer-length Johnny Silver stories further on down the line.

It’s a good thing that the Holiday Inn Express breakfast is a buffet affair – I had three plates on the go. The old convention adage is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s not wrong. Especially when you get to 7pm and realise that you skipped lunch completely. The only downside to a single-day con is that time flies far too quickly – you will never get to talk to everybody you want to talk to, and friends and online acquaintances rush past in a blur.

The first item on the agenda was securing a copy of Juliet E McKenna’s new collection, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) and getting that signed. Then the morning was a whirl of hellos and hugs, especially for the massed Fantasy Faction crew, some of whom had buzzed over from Germany and the Netherlands for the weekend. (Hello Julia, Marielle, Leona, JP, GR, RB, TO!)

Somehow I managed to find a spare 20 minutes to make notes for the midday panel. I had been bricking myself about this, given that Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough was also on the panel, but as usual I wound up worrying about nothing – the Beyond Evil panel was a blast, well directed by Dev Agarwal. Juliet McKenna did raise the very valid point that we had almost exclusively been talking about male incarnations/depictions of evil. I indicated in a post back upstream that thinking diversely hasn’t come naturally to me (but I try…) – it’s taken me this long to think of Annie Wilkes as one of the greatest villains ever put onscreen, and I’m still struggling to think of others who haven’t leapt from the page in the same way (Mrs Coulter & Narnia’s White Witch both got mentioned by Sophie E Tallis during the panel). Feel free to leave your own examples in the comments.

bcon1-2A recent addition to Team Grimbold is Diana Croft, the narrator of the Heir to the North audiobook. As she’s based in the south-west, we managed to meet up at Bristolcon for the first time and it was a proper pleasure to be able to sit down and talk to her about plots, characters, and High King’s Vengeance. If you haven’t heard what Diana’s done with the voices for HTTN – AND WHY NOT? – seriously, go check out the samples at Audible.

3pm saw me pulling people away from the bar to go see Anna Smith Spark, presently the undisputed Queen of Grimdark, on her panel about women in Grimdark fantasy. Well, come on, there weren’t nowt going off in the bar, and this was much more interesting. It could have been more interesting yet if they’d managed to keep to the topic, but herding authors is very much like herding cats on VERY GOOD DRUGS. In a good way, of course.

Oh, and there was a reading from High King’s Vengeance too, near the end of the programming. Most people had been sitting behind the tables in Panel Room One for their readings – nah, not me. Stand and declaim, even if you are feeling exhausted after a few pints of Butcombe IPA.

A good meal at the SevernShed, along with Allan Bott, Joel Cornah, and Tim Wreford-Bush, rounded off the day. And an excellent lunch at the Shakespeare the following day, after helping cart some of the tech gear out of the hotel, made sure I was fortified for the road ahead. It’s a long old weekend, Bristolcon, but it’s a damned good one.

See you next year! And because it’s traditional, here’s the obligatory swag pic…