Cassia on the Gemmell Awards Longlists again!

The David Gemmell Awards are among the most respected awards in fantasy fiction, and their longlists alone could fuel a good-sized TBR pile for several years straight. This year the Gemmell Awards will be hosted by my sort-of-home convention Edge-Lit, in Derby, on 15th July. The longlists are open to public vote, as of today, and will be so until 31st March.

Last year, Heir to the North was nominated to the longlist of the Legend Award by some extremely generous and lovely people. That was brilliant. 🙂

Full wrap cover for HKV, by Jorge Luis Torres (@Uttotor)
Full wrap cover for HKV, by Jorge Luis Torres (@Uttotor)

This year, The High King’s Vengeance is on the Legend longlist, alongside my fellow Grimbold authors Joanne Hall (The Summer Goddess) and Joel Cornah (The Sky Slayer). But not only that – my cover artist, Jorge Luis Torres (whose portfolios you can find here and here) is on the longlist for the Ravenheart Award too.

Your votes may, or may not, make a difference – but if you enjoyed any of the longlisted books last year (mine in particular but yes, other choices are available) then please go vote.

The Gemmell Awards – Voting Page

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…

Voice of the North!

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. But, much like an iceberg, there’s plenty of frantic paddling beneath the surface. No, wait, that’s ducks…. 90% of a duck is under the surface… or summat….

Anyway.

Here’s some news that you might already know! Heir To The North, which is slowly gathering praise all across t’net, will be coming to Audible as an audiobook later this year! We (that is, Kristell Ink/Grimbold Books and myself) have signed up a wonderful narrator – Diana Croft – who we reckon can more than do justice to Cassia’s story. Obviously, this may take some time, but keep your ears open for the release dates…

And talking of release dates, High King’s Vengeance is pencilled in for late 2016. It may seem months away yet, but it will be upon us before you know it…

And where can you see me this year? Aside from the Sheffield Socials – the first of which will be on February 20th, with guests David Tallerman and Adele Wearing – I will once more be at EdgeLit, FantasyCon and BristolCon. More details on those closer to the time, of course…

Now, back to TFL. Enjoy your weekend!

“Not much of a go-getter”: the 2015 round-up post

It’s that time of the year again, when I look back at my mother-in-law’s tired and less than complimentary put-down¹ and measure myself against it. Well, nothing very memorable happened in 2015, did it?

Apart from (and with no apologies for beating my own drum here):

  • Photo: Sophie E Tallis
    Photo: Sophie E Tallis

    Fox Spirit Books published That Sinking Feeling in the Fox Pockets anthology Under The Waves.

  • Heir To The North launched at Fantasycon in Nottingham, with a platoon of matching t-shirts courtesy of the magnificent folks at Grimbold Books. What an absolute blast of a weekend that was, even if I never made good on my threat to do Holding Out For a Hero at the karaoke (next year…).
  • There was a road trip to Shropshire to scout the lay of the land for Project:TFL (which is being built from the keel up, as they say). So much pub grub…!
  • Being a panelist for the first time at Bristolcon, alongside Rosie Oliver, Misa Buckley, Dean Saunders-Stowe, and Gareth L Powell. And a long-overdue catch-up with Tim Wreford-Bush!
  • Being a panelist, and also moderating a panel for the first time at Sledge-Lit (with Rod Duncan, Julia Knight, Gavin Smith, Susan Boulton, Stephen Aryan, Alex Davis and Natasha Pulley).
  • nibs1We adopted a three-legged cat called Mycroft who now absolutely loves cuddles. This little dude has made himself right at home!
  • I know exactly what the cover for High King’s Vengeance will look like (you folks will have to wait a while longer for that, I’m afraid…).
  • Heir To The North got some awesome reviews from some equally awesome people. Reviews are important. I haven’t had to break out the HMHB “Bad Review” link yet, so let’s cherish the time before it has to happen!
  • We watched John Cameron Mitchell film exteriors for How To Talk To Girls At Parties on the street outside our house. Blink and you’ll miss it!
  • SFSF Social #1 Adrian Tchaikovski close upWe started up the SFSF Social with readings by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas – and going on to feature Dana Fredsti, Ian Sales, Jacey Bedford, Paul Kane, and David Barnett in the Socials after that.
  • We were a part of Sheffield’s Off The Shelf Festival with the 4th SFSF Social and hosted our very first Ask The Agent session with Amanda Rutter!
  • I appeared on Sheffield Live Radio and BBC Radio Sheffield –
  • Myself, Kevin Redfern, Hayley Orgill, Alex Bardy and Roy Grey successfully defended our team’s crown and reputation at the EdgeLit quiz, much to Alex Davis’s evident delight (sorry, Alex!)
  • I got invited to contribute to an anthology (Woodbridge Press – keep them peeled….)
  • It doesn’t signify anything, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the the suggestions list for the British Fantasy Awards next year (not self-nominated, I promise you!).
  • Fox Spirit Books published Junior Twilight Stock Replacer in the Fox Pockets anthology Things In The Dark – as the year started, so it ends!

Yeah, not much, huh? Typing it out makes me realise just how much I’ve tried to fit into the last year – and yes, I’m probably going to try to do the same again next year too. That’s me, diving in like a loon…

Somehow, I found time to read other people’s books this year, as well as all of the above. I’ve been a bit more consistent in logging them on Goodreads, so it doesn’t take long to discover that some of my absolute favourite reads from this year (though not necessarily published this year) were:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic, by VE Schwab
  • Guns of the Dawn, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • breedBreed, by KT Davies
  • Planesrunner, by Ian McDonald
  • The Stars Seem So Far Away, by Margrét Helgadóttir
  • All That Outer Space Allows, by Ian Sales
  • The Art of Forgetting: Nomad, by Joanne Hall
  • The Burning Land, by Victoria Strauss

And I heartily recommend them all to you if you haven’t already caught them.

Plans for 2016? Well, there’s TFL to finish, Socials to plan, and conventions to book, HKV to edit, and the next, long-delayed installment of Empire Dance to sort out. And conventions too – Edge-Lit and Fantasycon again, and perhaps Bristolcon again too. I hope to see you all out there somewhere – and may the road rise with you!

 

 

¹Also, obviously, wrong. But hey, smile and wave folks, smile and wave…

Sledge-Lit: The Final Chopper On Tour 2015 Post!

It’s been a long year, and it isn’t quite over yet. But the Chopper On Tour tag is bedding down for hibernation through the winter, after one last hurrah at Derby’s Sledge-Lit event.

And what a hurrah it was! Sledge-Lit turned out to be a very good way to wind down. Alex Davis had done his usual bang-up job of inviting interesting guests of honour – Charles Stross, Alison Moore, Rob Shearman and Adam Roberts – and surrounded them with a host of panels, readings and workshops designed to make you want to be in three places at once. I’m at the point – I think – where workshops aren’t going to add an awful lot to what I already know, so I can’t comment too much on them (there may be a blog post from Sheffield’s SFF Writers’ Group later on that covers one or two of the workshops). Aside from that, I was somewhat busy anyway…

The first panel of the day was on the value of subgenres in fantasy & SF. With me were Julia Knight, Susan Boulton, Rod Duncan, and Gavin Smith. Because of family stuff, I had questions, but I hadn’t been able to pass them around in advance. As a first-time panel moderator/chair, I came into it feeling a bit like a support act without instruments. That soon passed – even though the panel helpfully touched on all of my questions within the first five minutes! – and hopefully we made for an interesting start to the day.

Some good questions came from Andrew Bannister, whose first book comes out through Transworld next year. I managed to miss the panel about small presses while chatting to him and David Tallerman (the new TOR novella is well worth getting hold of), after which it was time to take a break from taking a break and go out for chips (now a firmly-established tradition for me in Derby…). With my SFSF hat on there were brief conversations with Penny Reeve, Helen Armfield, Natasha Pulley, and Tony Ballantyne, as well as a chat with Simon Marshall-Jones, whose Biblia Longcrofta I’ve recently finished reading. Recommended, by the way.

Then it was time for the second panel of the day – the flip side of the subgenre discussion – Is Fantasy Broadening As A Genre? Well, yes, obviously, and a good thing too, was the general consensus from Alex, Julia, Natasha, Stephen Aryan and myself. We wandered over the genre landscape and dished out some sterling recommendations, and I had a bit more of a relaxing time of it since Alex was moderating this one. Fueled by increasing amounts of coffee, I even manned the TTA Press stall for a couple of minutes while Roy popped away. Don’t worry, I know retail. I didn’t sell anything though…

Apart from a few copies of Heir To The North, which is always a bonus. 🙂

For my final panel of the day, I was hiding in the audience, listening to Jacey Bedford rein in Adam Roberts so that Amanda Rutter, Gavin Smith and Andrew Bannister could get a word in edgeways on the subject of dystopian SF.

The Edge-Lit raffle is a thing of legend – almost as legendary as the SFSF raffle, in fact – and if you squinted hard enough and ate enough of Brian Marshall’s vodka jelly babies, you could probably confuse Robert Shearman for Sarah Pinborough. I didn’t win anything, but it’s the taking part that counts….

One thing I didn’t get was any photos – if anybody has some, I’d be happy to see them! And so, with the 2015 leg of Chopper On Tour concluded, it’s time to get some words laid out on TFL and start the planning for next year….

We Have A Roy – EdgeLit 2015

EdgeLit is a highlight of my calendar, and as close to a “home convention” as it is possible to get right now – I’ve attended each of the previous three events in Derby, and I certainly wasn’t going to break the habit this year. Not least because I had a reputation and a crown to defend…

That crown being EdgeLit Quiz Champion, of course. Our team – Kevin Redfern, Hayley Orgill, Alex Bardy, Roy Gray, and myself – have beaten allcomers for the last two years, and we were looking for an unprecedented third win in a row. This year’s quiz promised to be a mighty tight and difficult affair, with organiser, host, MC and all-round decent chap Alex Davis out to break our winning streak… but more on that later.roy2

EdgeLit has grown year on year into an absolute must. Guests included Joanne Harris, Mike Carey, Samantha Shannon, Claire North, Paul McAuley, and John Connolly; workshops were being run by Kim Lakin-Smith, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Rod Duncan, Jenny Colgan, and Gav Thorpe amongst others; the programme was packed full of book launches from exciting British small presses, panels, readings, and the now-infamous Edge-Lit Raffle. It’s a two-day con condensed down into a single day, and there’s so much to do and so many people to chat to that it’s outright impossible to do everything you’ve marked as interesting on the schedule (although that didn’t stop one member of our writers’ group trying!).

That’s not a criticism, by the way – hell no, it’s the mark of a good convention. I used the schedule as a starting point, and then just wandered about. Stephen Deas chaired an interesting discussion on the interface between history and fantasy fiction, although it was obvious early on that all the panellists were on the same page; Fox Spirit author and SFSF Social regular Jo Thomas launched her new book Pack of Lies alongside Alec McQuay and writers from Boo Books. Spectral Press launched three novellas – Stephen Volk’s Leytonstone really did catch my attention, although by that point I was already running low on funds. One for the future, however.

Gary Compton, main man behind Tickety Boo Press, had come down from the North-East with a truckload of books to sell. I helped set his table up, just outside the main dealers’ room. I recommend you buy Goblin Moon, Abendau’s Heir, The Last War, Oracle, A Prospect of War – it’s a bloody good catalogue he’s building up there. He had cakes too; I managed to stop myself eating more than one.

I hadn’t seen Kate Laity for several years – not since AltFiction in Leicester – so it was cool to be able to say hi to her and get a signature on my copy of White Rabbit. I also chatted to David Tallerman (who will be running a workshop at Nine Worlds later this year), Ian Sales (also promoting the fourth volume in the Apollo Quartet; more on that when I’ve read it), Aunty Fox Adele Wearing, Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan, Amanda Rutter.

Oh, and there was a quiz too. Did I mention that?

See, we have a secret weapon – we have a Roy.roy1

Roy promotes TTA Press titles – Interzone, Black Static, novellas – at pretty much every convention in the UK. But to say he just does that would be doing him a great disservice. A convention without him would be a dull place indeed. And believe me, he knows his stuff.

Did we win?

Just a bit.

🙂

Reasons to be Cheerful – 2014 edition

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!

All welcome!

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)

Cool cover, cool book!

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!

Should’ve gone to Specsavers…..

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.