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!

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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…

Image result for dragon's blade

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…

Chopper On Tour – Triumph in Nottingham!

Welcome to Fantasycon! Photo: Joel Cornah
Welcome to Fantasycon!
Photo: Joel Cornah

I guess there’s a serious amount of ego and hubris involved in using the word “triumph” in the title of this blog post, and I’m usually a little more modest than that, but at the same time everybody’s got the right to blow their own trumpet once in a while and if this ain’t the time then I’ve no idea when will be, so Triumph in Nottingham it is, because Triumph in Nottingham it was!

You may have been aware that Heir to the North was launching officially at Fantasycon this year, with a proper slot in the programme and everything. If you didn’t know, then Grimbold Books’ incredible co-chief conspirator Sammy Smith made sure everybody did by the end of Saturday by also launching a very natty line in HTTN promotional t-shirts for us all to wear. Like the Fox Spirit Skulk at Edge-Lit, it turned the Grimbold posse into a brilliantly visible presence throughout the rest of Fantasycon. I reckon that helped pull in a few people for the launch itself, and it certainly made the table in the dealers’ room busier.

Grimbold posse
Photo: Joel Cornah

The launch itself – aside from mild-to-severe panic beforehand, kept pretty much under control with much appreciated help from Jo Thomas¹ – was an absolute blast. With launch music by The Fall (played through gritted teeth by Jo Hall²), I read from a fight scene in chapter five and answered questions, and then signed books for a crowd that included folks I’d never met before. That’s an incredible thing: I could happily get used to that.

Photo: Sophie E Tallis
Photo: Sophie E Tallis

The best part was that when the room emptied, the table in the dealers’ room suddenly got very busy as a result. Awesome stuff, and a day I’m not going to forget in a hurry, even if I’m having trouble remembering half of it even now (that ol’ flight or fight thing going on in the background…). But what was the rest of the convention like?

In contrast to last year’s FCon in York, where panel items happened down at the far end of long corridors, and you ran the risk of encountering a small boy on a pedal cart in the darkness, Nottingham’s De Vere Conference Venue was laid out with everything set in a square around the edges of the main Conference Theatre, in a sort of Roman villa arrangement. You could walk right around the square and see all the panel and reading rooms, the dealers’ room, and the two bars (one serving alcohol, the other intermittently not serving anything at all depending on which way the wind was blowing), and the little break-out spaces. And despite everything being closer together and the convention itself being a sell-out, it didn’t feel crowded.

Photo: Adele Wearing
Photo: Adele Wearing

That’s got a lot to do with the schedule itself. Richard Webb had done an ace job as event co-ordinator, and I could have gone to two fascinating panels in different rooms at every hour of the day, with readings and launches always competing for attention. I’m fairly sure everybody was in panels most of the time, which explains why the bar was never crammed full (well, that and the stupefying lack of food available at the venue).

As it was, I actually ended up seeing very little across the weekend, spending more time chatting and generally getting around. The Diversity in Genre was very well supported, and an hour well-spent – Laurel Sills, Naomi Foyle, Joanne Hall, Joel Cornah, Anna Smith-Spark, and Isabel Yap are all names worth following. A marketing panel moderated by Adele Wearing didn’t illuminate all the great secrets I had been hoping for but was useful nonetheless, and with my SFSF hat on I introduced myself to Gollancz’s Sophie Calder afterwards.

Last year, the disco on Saturday night was a stunning combination of book deals, bad dancing, and vodka. This year, with Sunday on my mind, I found myself trekking across Nottingham in search of a Sainsbury’s instead, and hid the packs of muffins and bottles of wine in the car rather than take them into the hotel to face the judgemental stares of the night staff. Friday night had been a different matter – karaoke courtesy of Abaddon Books: I wheeled out the big guns and swung the mic to the Cutting Crew.BobDylanSmileyBuzz There’s video footage of Lee Harris (Desperado) and David Moore (Werewolves of London) which I would happily use as blackmail material if those performances weren’t so damned good. Curses, foiled again!

And talking of tour-de-force performances, the stand-out reading of the weekend was given by Anna Smith-Spark, from her agented but currently unsigned queer existential grimdark novel The Court of Broken Knives. In those shoes, with that subgenre, and a background in performance poetry to draw upon, a reading that climaxed with cries of “Death! Death! DEATH! DEATH!” was always going to be a damned hard act to follow. That book needs a home, and quick.

Brain bleach is needed to drive from my mind the conversation about BizarroCon in America early next month. Dude, watch that cattle-prod. I headed back to the Boo! Books table in the dealers’ room for more vodka-laced gummy bears after that one. Edward Cox recited his one-star Goodreads “review” (more like a bilious fart than a review). Marc Turner and Daniel Godfrey hung out at the bar; the Sinister Horror Company and Unsung Stories were great to chat to; Will MacMillan-Jones was indefatigable; the Redcloaks were stellar; there were so many people and I have so little memory…

That's not a knife...
That’s not a knife…

And of course, there were the awards. Last year I live-tweeted them; this year I left that to the BFS team and just enjoyed the ceremony. Every single nominated author, artist and publisher was deserving of their success and recognition. The winners all deserved their wins. Especially, from my point of view, Juliet McKenna³ as part-recognition for her brilliant hard work on the VATMOSS quagmire (on top of a massive catalogue of fifteen novels and more stories besides), and the drop-kick ace Fox Spirit Books as Best Small Press.

Let’s do it all again, shall we? See you in Scarborough next year!

¹Buy her books.
²Buy her books.
³Buy her books.