Monday, 23 December 2013

2013

What a year 2013 was.

It started with baited breath. I’d submitted The Boy with the Porcelain Ears (later to be ‘Blade’) to Gollancz, via my agent Juliet Mushens. Then in late January an offer was made and my agent swung by the bookstore to tell me the good news. Gollancz didn’t just want the book, they wanted the trilogy. Music to my porcelain ears.

February was going to be great, or so I thought. I was editing the War-Fighting Manuals and feeling good, until the bookstore made me redundant. Departing any sort of regular work for the life of a full time writer was not what I had in mind, but 2013 had other ideas. The month was rounded out with the excellent Kitschies awards, and then a massive weekender of watching all the Avengers films. Because if you’re going to be unemployed you may as have a Hulk.

I took March off. I say ‘off’, I wrote about six stories for Fox Spirit, back-to-back, two of which are now in print from Lulu here. The year also saw a short story for NewCon Press’ Looking Landwards competition (which later ended up in the anthology), and a story called All is Dust for The Book of the Dead. That’s not counting a story that ran to over 10,000 words that won’t see the light of day. You win some, you lose some.

April and May passed by in a blur of commuting and copywriting for an online fashion company. Publishing deals take a long time to finalize, so I was in need of the cash at this time. To say going back to an office-based 9-5 was a shock to the system might be the understatement of the year. I was grateful for the work but when the time was up I was only too happy to get back Landfall, the setting for my novels. 

June was devoted to redrafting The Boy Who Wept Blood, the second book in The Erebus Sequence, with July seeing the start of the third book underway. During this time I was getting various corrections for the War-Fighting Manuals and attempting to leave the house and speak to people on occasion. A quick look through the calendar reveals my socializing consists of book launches and meeting other writers in the Royal Festival Hall – I might need to work on that in the new year.

August was particularly good due to the Nine Worlds Convention. I sat on two panels and read from Porcelain for the first time. This was such a great weekend and I’ve booked my ticket for the following year already. I think Nine Worlds will do really well in the years ahead. August also saw the release of the Orcs War-Fighting Manual. I was a bona fide Gollancz author. Not bad for a kid who loathed school and didn’t hang around for sixth form.

September had me re-reading and giving another polish to The Boy Who Wept Blood, before it was sent off to Dark Lord Spanton, my editor at Gollancz. This might ordinarily signal a good spate of fretting by some authors, but I was too busy trying to finish book three to give it much thought. Thinking leads to more thinking, writing leads productivity.

I also took time out to hop over the Northern Island for Off the Page: Storytelling Without Borders. This was a one day workshop led by Glen Mehn, who had attracted a band of merry helpers including Lou Morgan, Tom Pollock, Anne Perry (of Hodder and Stoughton), and Jenni Hill (of Orbit books). It was a fun to watch people develop their own ideas and listen to other peers talk about the craft.

Just a month after Orcs was unleashed the Elves War-Fighting Manual joined the fray, but the launch party would have to wait until October.

October, November and December were not unlike a marathon. I’m pleased to say I staggered over the finish line on Dec 8th. The first draft of book three (title pending) was complete. And what a shaky, scruffy looking beast it is. The hard work starts in the new year when I start putting it through it’s paces and re-writing the weak chapters, polishing the strong ones, and making sure the characters are behaving themselves. 

I realize the above paragraph makes it sound like I sat in my garret, churning out thousands of words and nothing else. There was also a launch, namely my own in October, with the very excellent Andrew James (illustrator of the War-Fighting Manuals), World Fantasy Con and a smattering of birthdays and Halloween parties. The Book of the Dead also emerged from the vault at this time.

So, here I am twelve months later, a full time writer largely by accident than design. Three books are in the wild, a half dozen short stories in print, and my first novel due out in March. 2013 has been anything but quiet. It has not always been smooth sailing. If asked to sum up what I’ve leaned I’m not sure I could tell you, but I know it’s been a huge year of change and growth. Just reading The Boy with the Porcelain Blade again recently showed me my writing style has changed (hopefully refined). I’m more aware of what to expect from a life in publishing, have seen friendships deepen, professional relationships flourish, and realized just how hard people work. Writing takes a lot of time, not just for authors, but for agents, editors, publicists and so on.

Thanks to everyone who spared the time to lift a glass, share a smile, join a conversation, or just generally hang out.

I’m facing 2014 with a smile. I don’t know what happens next, but then who does?

Monday, 28 October 2013

All is Dust – An Excerpt from The Book of the Dead

I'm delighted to be part of The Book of the Dead anthology by Jurassic London, in association with the Egyptian Exploration Society. This ancient tome focuses on all things sandy, cursed, and god-like, but specifically on that B-movie favourite – Mummies.

I'm posting an excerpt here to coincide with Halloween Shorts, curated by the excellent Andrew Reid. Andrew, myself, and a cabal of other authors represented by Juliet Mushens, will be blogging short pieces of spooky fiction in the run up to World Fantasy Con. And without further ado, I give you:

All is Dust

‘I always thought the DLR was hateful,’ she says. From anyone else I’d call this pretentious, but one does not describe Amunet Kebechet in those terms. At least, not if you’ve been trying to get into her pants for the past decade. It’s fair to say I practically worship her, despite all the differences between us.

The DLR, or Docklands Light Railway, is a train service that runs through the east part of London, through districts poor, rich, and insanely wealthy, including the small banking empire of Canary Wharf. The trains themselves always run on time, even when the rest of London’s underground trains have gone tits up.

‘Why’s it so hateful, Moon?’ That’s what we call her. Moon. She despises her real name, but she’ll always be Amunet Kebechet to me. I used to sit in the row  behind her in physics class, whispering her name like a mantra. 

‘It doesn’t have a fucking driver.’ She turns the unlit cigarette over in her petite hands. ‘A dead train going to dead parts of London.’

She smokes as much as she swears, wears eyeliner as if it might suddenly go out of fashion, and dresses in a style that’s neither Goth nor punk. Bangles in a riot of colours add a light touch to clothes that start at slate grey and get progressively darker. She has been, is currently, and quite possibly will always be, an art student. You can afford those sort of life choices when your dad is the Egyptian Ambassador in London. 

My own background is far more modest.

Throw a stone in Erith, Kent and you’ll likely hit someone called Darren. That’s the name I got lumbered with. She breezes through life on a cloud of Marlboro smoke, rejoicing under ‘Amunet’. I get Darren, or the inevitable shortening, ‘Daz’. Which is a fucking washing powder.

‘I said there’s no driver,’ she’s leaning forward now, and I find myself blinking, taking in the sight of her. Olive skin and green eyes, hair falling in wisps of bleach blonde and purple and green. She is a firework of a woman.

‘Doesn’t that bother you?’ She purses her lips. ‘That we’re just being carried through the city by a machine.’ 

‘Never really thought about it,’ I hear myself say. A second later I curse myself. The blokes Amunet dates have opinions about everything. They have opinions about their opinions. I have no idea why she still meets me.

Which is not strictly true.

We are a gang of four, separated by the twelve years it has been since we were thick as thieves. A more unlikely band of friends you’d struggle to find in any sixth form college. And yet that’s how we met. Amunet and I meet every few months or so, when I take her to the cinema or the Hayward Gallery. She is perpetually skint.

Member number three of our happy band is waiting for us on the platform when we step off the DLR at Greenwich. Yvonne is the matter to Amunet’s antimatter. Tall, blonde, gym-hardened body with obligatory breast enhancement, dressed to the nines in a pinstripe pencil skirt and heels. She looks like the sort of replicant the Tyrell Corporation would make if it were based in Sweden. She is pretty and generic in the way of news anchor women the world over. Yvonne grins, yet there is no humour in her eyes.

‘How’s the Met, Daz? Shot any ethnic minorities lately?’

‘I’m not armed response, I’m regular police. I don’t shoot anyone.’

Amunet lights her cigarette and presses ahead of me.

‘You still snorting cocaine off your boss’ cock every weekend?’ She pitches this question at Yvonne as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Yvonne shivers, her smile has weakened somewhat.

‘I don’t do that anymore,’ she says quietly.

‘The coke or the married men?’ Amunet smiles like a scalpel.

‘You still fucking unsigned musicians and complaining about “the establishment”.’ Yvonne actually makes the quote signs on the air as she says it.

‘Not nearly enough of the first,’ Amunet winks at the taller woman, ‘and always too much of the latter.’ She blows out a plume of cigarette smoke. ‘What else is there?’

‘Did you forget the way to Jeremy’s house?’ I ask innocently, but Yvonne bristles all the same.

‘I was waiting for you two. I didn’t want to walk there alone. What with the jackals.’

Amunet and I stare at each other and then burst out laughing for what feels like five minutes.

‘I think I need a TENA Lady,’ gasps Amunet, struggling to contain her giggles.

‘The what?’ I manage, trying to compose myself.

‘The jackals.’ Yvonne speaks, as if to very young, profoundly deaf children. ‘Three of them escaped from London Zoo. Egyptian ones.’ She gives Amunet a piecing look, as if the art student is responsible for the missing beasts.

‘Ah, I was wondering how long I’d have to wait for the casual racism.’

‘Fine, but you won’t be laughing so much if they cross the Thames. Jackals in south London–’  Anything else Yvonne says is drowned out by the hooting and howling of, not jackals, but one Amunet Kebechet and PC Darren Butler (off duty).

--

Discover the fates of Darren, Amunet and Yvonne in The Book of the Dead, released 29th October. Buy it from Amazon or Spacewitch.

© 2013 All is Dust by Den Patrick. All rights reserved.

Monday, 14 October 2013

An Eventful October


I’m pleased to announce that Rachel Connor has won the competition for the War-Fighting Manuals. Three tomes of orcs, elves and dwarves will be carried by giant eagle and delivered by near-silent rangers shortly. Congratulations to Rachel, and thanks to everyone who took part in the competition.

For those of you who didn’t win, you can buy a copies at the launch this Saturday. I’ll be signing at Forbidden Planet from 1-2pm with the illustrator, Andrew James. Sign up at the Facebook event page. I’ll also be reading a short excerpt from my novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, released March 2014.



In other news – I have a short story in the forthcoming Book of the Dead anthology by those talented devils at Jurassic London. The launch night for this event is on 29th October at the Phoenix Arts Club

As if this wasn’t exciting enough you can download the grisly tale as a free audio story from Dark Fiction.

See you at an event soon.

D.





Monday, 7 October 2013

The War Manuals – Reviews, Signing, and a Competition


It’s just ten days until the third War-Fighting Manual is released. October 17th sees the dwarves take their place in the world Naer Evain, alongside the ferocious orcs and wise elves.

The orcs have already picked up some favourable reviews, namely at One Chapter More and Wilder’s Book Review.





I’ll be signing copies of all three books at my very first Forbidden Planet event on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, on Ocotber 19th. Andrew James, my wingman and illustrator, will be joining me, and may even knock out some sketches. The Facebook event page is HERE if you’re keen to attend.

And lastly, I’m giving away all three titles to one lucky reader (within the UK only I'm afraid). That’s right, the winner will receive orcs, elves and dwarves in all their glory, with excellent illustrations by Andrew James.


All you need to do is tell me who the fictional translator of the War-Fighting Manuals is (in the comments section below).

Is it?

– Lukas Fehrwright
– Delfino Datini
– Sebastian Venghaus

The closing date for this competition is Sunday 13th October.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Things I Am Doing This Week


Riding my Elk around town like a mother-loving BOSS.


Looking kinda enigmatic and smug all at the same time.


Hanging out with my friends and finding everything, like, way tedious.


Casually firing arrows in an impossible fashion. Sure.



Monday, 9 September 2013

Thoughts on the Low Town Novels


The Low Town novels are strange and wonderful things, part Fantasy, part Noir. My own relationship with them has been anything but straight forward. I confess, the first novel,  Straight Razor Cure passed me by. It was only when a book rep visited me in store and began telling me how great Tomorrow, the Killing was that I pricked up my ears. I was working as a bookseller at the time and was on the look out for Fantasy that sidesteps the usual cliches. Reading the Low Town novels out of order is no great problem as they are written as stand alone stories. To a point. That point would be She Who Waits. You’ll want to read the first two Low Town installments before you embark on this particular novel.


No, I’m not telling you why, just trust me on this one.

Straight Razor Cure has a very Noir plot, but still feels like a Fantasy novel. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Joe Abercrombie’s work. These are hard cynical people operating (often barely surviving) in a hard cynical world. 

Tomorrow, the Killing continued in that vein, introducing us to more of Low Town’s denizens and the murky backstory of Warden, the protagonist. Warden is a genuinely interesting protagonist; a kid off the streets turned war veteran, turned watchman (and then drug dealer). Warden has enemies and feuds, allies and old grudges, he’s a man that’s done a lot and still has a way to go. He’s half way between an everyman and the sort of guy you don’t want to meet in the wrong sort of pub. Or any sort of pub. There’s nothing special about him; aside from his, intelligence, wit and tenacity. 

She Who Waits brings the three novels to a conclusion, setting Warden against his former master at Black House (the not so secret police), and various rival gangs. Of the three it feels the least Fantasy, The Noir is definitely in the driving seat for Polansky’s third offering.

A large part of She Who Waits focuses on Warden trying to keep the peace between the various factions. Flashbacks introduce us to more of Warden’s career at Black House, and his relationship with the Old Man, who rules with a Machiavellian ease. The stakes are high. Warden has a family of sorts, his best friend, Adolphus, his wife Adeline, and a stray from the streets now grown to maturity, Wren. Warden finds himself under pressure, from his old masters to discover the source of a new drug that is having homicidal side effects, and from an old rival. This is the darkest of the three Low Town novels, even Warden’s trademark irreverence takes a backseat as the tension ratchets up.


In short, you should buy these books now. All three of them. You won’t regret it. They’re filled with short, sharp chapters, full of glass half empty world weariness. There’s nothing flabby about these stories; it’s all lean and very mean. 

Very mean.






Monday, 26 August 2013

Structura 2 – The Art of Sparth

Structura 2 – The Art of Sparth
As mentioned in last week’s post, I was fortunate enough to receive not one but two art books. You can read about the first volume HERE

Halo 4 concept artwork by Sparth
Structura 2 – The Art of Sparth is the second collection of work from the concept artist Nicolas Bouvier, better known as Sparth. The artist’s output covers concept work for video games as well as book covers.

I think I’ll let the art work speak for itself in this post, only mentioning that the last picture is a favourite.

Until next time,

D.















Monday, 19 August 2013

Structura – The Art of Sparth

Imperial Runner – Sparth
I recently received not one but two art books (more on the second next week). 

Structura – the Art of Sparth is from Design Studio Press, the same folks who brought you The Skillful Huntsman, which I wrote about back in May.

Sparth, or Nicholas Bouvier if you prefer, has been a a concept designer and artistic director for over ten years and has worked on projects like Prince of Persia – Warrior Within, Alone in the Dark 4 and Assassin’s Creed to name just a few.

He was first brought to my attention by my old friend Jess over at the CG Society forums. 

House Atreides – artwork Sparth
When not hard at work creating environments for video games, Sparth illustrates book covers, and designs all manner otherworldly machines. His work on the French editions of Dune is genuinely exciting, and all of his work is distinctive.

These books are great for inspiration, ambiance and, dare I say it, procrastination. Sparth gives us dark worlds, frequently fast moving space ships, and vast panoramas that demand attention. His compositions draw the viewer into the picture, guiding the eye to the narrative. 

What’s happening here? 
Where are they going? 
What comes next?


Until next time,

D.

Odes and Thieves – Sparth

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Publication Day – The Orc War Fighting Manual

The orcs are here with their own brand of mayhem, lovingly (painstakingly?) translated by Sebastian Venghaus. This is the first of three War Fighting Manuals, illustrated by the super talented Andrew James, set in the High Fantasy world of Naer Evain.

Not the most vegetarian-friendly book
 I've ever written to be fair.
A few words of thanks:

Everyone at Gollancz and Orion – particularly Simon Spanton, Gillian Redfearn, Charlie Panayiotou and Jon Weir.

Supportive writer types – Tom Pollock, Kim Curran, Jen Williams, Will Hill, and all of the London gang. Also: James Dawson who helped me get unstuck during the dwarf book.

Supportive awesome types – Jared Shurin, Anne Perry, James Long and J for Jetpack, all at Fantasy Faction, Juliet Mushens, and Matt Rowan.

I remain incredibly grateful to Jon and David for the lap top.

And if you’re wondering when the launch party will be – October, to coincide with the dwarf book. See you then.



Saturday, 27 July 2013

Release Dates


The time is upon us, where I unleash my unholy progeny upon the world. Or failing that Amazon and the three bookshops still open in the UK. Here’s what they are and when they’re out:

The Orc War-Fighting Manual – the first of the three manuals, full of tips on how conduct warfare in true green-skinned fashion. Not the faint of heart or vegetarians. This tome is illustrated by the rather excellent Andrew James and is presented as an instructional volume on the finer points of orc warfare.

Released: 15 August – buy it  HERE

The Elves War-Fighting Manual – the second of the three manuals. Details everything you need to know about being an otherworldly, aloof and unrepentantly superior enlightened being. Also some fighting. Illustrations provided by Andrew James.

Released: 19 September – buy it HERE

Dwarves War-Fighting Manual – because one excludes the dwarves at one’s peril. The last of the instructional manuals set in the world of Naer Evain. Each volume comes with an account of a historical battle. Illustrations again by the superb Andrew James.

Released: 17 October – buy it HERE

You’d think after writing all that I’d be dead on my feet, so what better than a short story anthology about Egyptian Mummies?

Jurassic have a formed a partnership with the Egypt Exploration Society. Here’s what editor of The Book of the Dead, Jared Shurin, has to say about it:

“This is a dream come true. Although the opportunity to go poking around in forbidden tombs has always been (wisely) denied me, thanks to all these fantastic authors and the EES, I still get a chance to unleash some ancient evils on the world.

“I’m delighted by how the themes of the mummy have been brought to life (pun intended) by the stories in this volume—not only brilliant tales of both revenge and romance, but also explorations of race and imperialism, immortality and humanity.”

Read the whole press release HERE

Released late: Late October

If you just can't wait that long you might enjoy Piracy from Fox Spirit Books. This anthology features a fleet of tales from a crew of scurvy dogs. My own story charts the fortunes of the Absent Friend and her crew, who run afoul of greed (and sea witches).

Released: Now – buy it HERE for Kindle or a physical copy HERE.

And that is just part of why I’ve not been blogging so much lately. I’m sure I’ll bore you to death with a half-arsed album review at some point. 

Until next time,

D.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Here Be Pirates

From left to right: Piracy, Shapeshifters, Guardians, Under the Waves, and Things in the Dark – all featuring tales of the the Lacuna's End and her love-cursed Captain.

What started in Piracy continues in four more Fox Spirit Books. I enjoyed writing about the fate of the Lacuna’s End and her Captain so much I went back for second and third helpings, as well as dessert.

The covers for for these sinister maritime tales are displayed above, crafted by Sarah Langton (of Hodderscape and Fizzy Pop Vampire fame). Each of these tiny tomes is the perfect size for a back pocket, meaning you can take them anywhere. You can buy Piracy from Lulu HERE, or as an eBook HERE. 

More details on further voyages for the Lacuna’s End as and when they are released. There's also a brief interview with yours truly over at the Fox Spirit Books website HERE.

Until next time,

AVAST!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Nine Worlds Convention Appearance

I’ll be at the Nine Worlds Convention this August should you be inclined to see me in person. I’m unaware which day I’m currently scheduled for. This means you should attend the whole convention, lest you miss my rapier wit.

Update: I'll be on at –

18:45 on Friday 9th August (Finding An Agent with Juliet Mushens)
22:15 on Saturday 10th August (New Voices Slam Session)
15:15 on Sunday 11th August (Debut Novelists Panel)

I’ll be there with my partner in crime (read agent) Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group for my first appearance. Here’s what the Nine Worlds website says about us:

‘Agent Juliet Mushens and Gollancz author Den Patrick talk you through the publishing process from both sides. Den will share his writing tips, suggestions for preparing to submit to agents, and insights into the process from finishing your book to publication. Juliet will explain what she looks for in submissions, how to catch an agent's attention, and how her role continues far beyond when the deal is inked.’

I’m not sure there’s ever been an agent/author double act before, so this will (hopefully) be really useful for fledgeling writers. 

Nine Worlds takes place from the 9-12th August at the Renaissance and the Radisson Edwardian, near Heathrow. Buy tickets for the event HERE.

The guest list is long and impressive, there are a ton different events planned, and there is strong commitment to making sure everyone has a good time without fear of asshats.

See you there?


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Piracy from Fox Spirit Books – On Sale Now

Here's an excerpt form my story, Becalmed, which opens the Piracy anthology by Fox Spirit Books. You can buy it from Lulu in physical format. The digital version will be on sale in a month I'm told.

Becalmed

‘We’ll live like kings,’ the captain said. ‘We’ll not want for anything. Even death will turn his face from us.’
That’s what the captain said.
No one has seen him in three days now. He retired to his quarters and locked the door. The first day was all crying. The second day there were voices tangled in dispute, then a scream. We’ve not heard anything since. No one wants to go in there.
We’re becalmed. The sea is as flat as any mirror, reflecting the dull grey of the sky. The sun is a smudge of white light behind indistinct clouds that stretch to the horizon in every direction. Rotting fish float in the water, unholy flotsam, and I know in the marrow of my bones we’ve brought this on ourselves.
The Absent Friend isn’t like most ships, certainly not most pirate ships. Not that I’m an expert. This is my first time signed on under that shady profession. Still, how many ships willingly let women aboard? Much less three of them. And the none-too-small issue of them being witches. The captain calls them theurges, and I dare say there are prettier names, but we all know they’re witches. They were part of the captain’s great plan.
‘We’ll go ashore at night,’ he said, ‘only small towns mind.’ He was a hearty man in his fifties with a tangle of dun brown hair and a beard touched with grey. He wore a patch, but only to cover his cock eye and protect his vanity. His parrot had shed most of its feathers, always sick and withdrawn. ‘The theurges will scale the rooftops and position themselves by the chimneys,’ he looked around, daring us to speak out. ‘Your job will be to carry the dreams back to the ship.’
We all laughed at that. The parrot flapped its stunted wings and shat, jetting foul grey liquid across the captain’s frock coat. 

‘Dreams? What use have we for dreams?’ snarled Horgan. He was as sour as they came; his crimes didn’t stop at pillaging. They said he had cruel tastes to match his temper.

‘You’re all here because you lost something,’ replied the captain with one hand on the hilt of his cutlass. ‘Some of you have a name for the thing you lost, and some of you don’t.’ He eyed Horgan and there was an uncomfortable pause. ‘Some of you might even deny your loss, but no man becomes a pirate unless he’s missing something. Maybe you never lost it,’ his eyes settled on me, ‘perhaps you lacked it from birth.’


Monday, 27 May 2013

Poetry by Aki Schilz

I have always thought
laughter lines
to be
beautiful

his are
delicately spun
and each laugh 
deepens them

I cannot help 
but laugh, too

It’s not everyday you have a poem written about you, so it’s nice to be able to share this one.  I met with the author, Aki Schilz (@AkiSchilz on Twitter), a few nights ago. The conversation roamed from cage fighting to Anne Summers’ parties to being banned from Bournemouth caravan parks. None of this was autobiographical, for me at least.
 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Skillful Huntsman


I’ve always loved the visual element of fantasy and science fiction. From the illustrations of  Games Workshop to the comics of 2000AD. Hardbacks full of adventurers and monsters came along in the shape of Dungeons and Dragons, whilst concept art continues to fascinate me. And let’s not forget Star Wars: A New Hope, an influence from a young age, which features pace and visuals that changed modern cinema (in the shape of summer blockbusters at least) In short I find art inspiring, even Magic the Gathering card artwork has influenced my writing. I’m a visual magpie.

I couldn’t resist picking up The Skillful Huntsman by Design Studio Press when I saw it. I was just about to start planning book 3 of The Erebus Sequence, but needed something to whet my appetite for the task at hand. I needed to know what things might look like in that world, because if I don’t know then I can’t communicate that, and the world becomes vague and inauthentic – to me at least.

The Skillful Huntsman is a concept art book that tracks three very talented artists as they  create character designs and environments based on the original tale by the brothers Grimm. Pages of silhouettes, thumbnail sketches, pencil illustrations and full colour art adorn the pages of this book, bringing a wealth of ideas and inspiration. Chapters full of vehicles and beasts of burden run alongside fairytale princesses, kings, captains and the titular huntsman himself. This book is a trove of ideas.

The art doesn’t just linger in the realm of the traditionally fantastic, but takes in post-industrial influences, even science fictional worlds. The characters are deliberately not European-analogue barbarians and knights, but something stranger, more exotic. Eastern influences combine with a modern design aesthetic to create genuinely intriguing characters; even a dash of American Indian seems to bleed into the mix.

Character designs, and by extension the apparel of those characters, also informs the reader about the nature of that person. We make many assumptions everyday based on the way people talk, walk, the way they wear their hair, and not least how they are dressed. So why not fictional characters too?

I’m not intending to plunder any of these designs for my own world, but rather use it as a jumping off point to imagine what Demesne (the castle in my novels) and Landfall, (the island where it takes place) might look like. What do those people wear? What are the customs? How does the environment they live in shape their attitudes and social lives? This may sound like daydreaming for daydreaming’s sake, but if the internal logic of the world doesn’t hold up to scrutiny the reader will stumble and be taken out of the story. Suspension of disbelief is a fragile thing.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A Portrait Shoot with Lou Abercrombie

Photography by Lou Abercrombie

Things are certainly hotting up on the author front. The War Manuals release dates creep ever closer, and now The Erebus Sequence is going to be unleashed on readers across the land (and hopefully other lands too) in 2014.

With this in mind I thought it time to get a portrait shot. My photos up until now have been courtesy of my Mac and the Photo Booth application. The black and white mode is always switched firmly to ‘ON’. Whilst good for Twitter avatars I needed something stronger I could send to publishers for publicity. 

Enter Lou Abercrombie, known as @LadyGrimdark, photographer, and wife of one Joe Abercrombie. I don’t mind admitting I had a distinctly fanboy moment as I wandered into the conference room at Orion House and met Joe and Lou. A few years ago I was reviewing Joe’s books, now I find myself casually chewing the fat with him about comics and how good Andi Tong is.

Back to the plot.

I took along a selection of clothes for the shoot, not knowing what to expect. I knew we were going to do some moody interior shots against a dark background and some exterior shots for variety. We live in a time when photographs are currency. Even our phones have cameras. Having a picture taken is commonplace. Not so with portraits, which are there to hopefully say something about you beyond ‘they looked like this’.

I didn’t want all my shots to be brooding black and whites with a face that scowls ‘VEH Serious Author Now’. Humour is important to me; in life and in my novels. I was feeling very content on the day, which is why some of the pictures feature a cheeky smile. I just signed a three book deal with Gollancz, there’s a lot to smile about.

Photography by Lou Abercrombie
Lou has a very calm aura about her, but focused too. I always felt I was in good hands and  appreciated her eye for a good background. She was fascinated with the stone textures of London. We also managed to capture a variety of colours in a very short space of time.

Just as we were heading back to Orion House we spotted some flaking blue paint overrun with vines. This unplanned backdrop provided my favourite picture of the set.

Photography by Lou Abercrombie
If you’re in need of an author shot I’d heartily recommend Lou. You don’t need to be an author, why not have a portrait shot taken for the sake of it?


Saturday, 20 April 2013

The April Round-up

Just a short post this week. A quick round up of news – I know people do actually use the blog as a way of keeping up with Planet Den (or The Republic of Den as I like to call it).

Telling Stories

I’m pleased to announce I have a short story in the forthcoming Piracy anthology by Fox Spirit Books. My story focuses on an unnamed pirate who is complicit with the theft of rather unusual treasures. I’m delighted that my story opens the anthology and am looking forward to reading the works of the other writers. You can see the full list of contributors here.

My short story Red Hot Hate is still available. You can pick up the Kindle edition of A Town Called Pandemonium from Amazon.

Blackwell on Charing Cross Road London also have physical copies on their shelves and will send them out to you if you ask nicely.

Those of you money to burn may like pre-order The War-Fighting Manuals from Amazon. Those of you that love bookshops should buy them there in due course.

Real Life

I’ve had some good fortune and am copywriting for a large fashion website. I may even blog here about clothes at some point. Anything could happen. The commute has given me a lot of reading time, during which I’ve digested the chilly Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, the excellent Gun Machine by Warren Ellis, and have begun Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, which has some very strong opening chapters. I may write at length about these in the future.

My own writing begins anew on June 1st, when I’ll be working on the third draft of The Boy Who Wept Blood – which is the second book of The Erebus Sequence. Until then I’m happy reading and writing the odd short story.

Author Stuff

I’ve just had a portrait shoot with the lovely Lou Abercrombie. You may know her on twitter as @LadyGrimdark. She’s a photographer, mother of three and married to some hooligan by the name of Joe Abercrombie. I’m told he also writes books and is ‘pretty good’. Lou also has the best hair in Somerset. This is a fact.

Pictures of my brooding brow will no doubt appear here in the not too distant future.

Until next time,

D.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Advantages of Having an Agent


Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group dropped in for a guest post two weeks ago. In the post she set out some best practice for authors when approaching agents. Needless to say a lot of authors found the post really useful and it prompted some thoughts. I received this question on Twitter:

‘Hope you don't mind me asking, but what are the benefits, would you say to having an agent?’ – @KTScribbles

Obviously I can only answer from my direct experience, and I’m a very new writer. To give you some back story – I signed for the War Manuals unagented with Gollancz back in 2012. I then signed with Juliet and we submitted the first book of The Erebus Sequence to Gollancz, which was bought in the early stages 2013. As you can see, I’ve been through the process with and without an agent. So let’s look at those advantages:

A Layer of Quality – I recently spent a few days reading an editor’s slush pile (I’ll do anything for food and free books). The slush pile, for those that don’t know, is made up of manuscripts sent direct to publisher. This is called Open Submissions. Gollancz and Tor both have an open submission policy, other publishers such Angry Robot have windows for submissions. This highlighted to me those writers who are flying solo.

I said 'flying solo', not Han Solo.
Some agents (not all) will work with an author. Juliet in particular gave me notes for a structural edit, and then again for a more detailed line edit. In my case this was ‘Hey, where is the worldbuilding?’ This insight gives the manuscript added edge, and provides a layer of quality you wouldn’t have – unless you have some amazing test readers. An agent will also help refine the pitch, knowing what language to use to successfully communicate what the book is about, who it will sell to, and what makes it a good acquisition for a publisher.

Circles of Contact – And whilst we’re on the subject of slush piles – the vast majority of publishers only accept submissions through an agent - so you're cutting yourself off from a lot of them right away. An agent has the contacts and will have an understanding of which editors buy what type of books and so on. Why not save yourself some massive headaches and endless fretting and let them do the work?

Contract Jargon – Do you know what escalators are? Do you know the industry standard for royalties on mass market paperbacks? Are you an expert on E-books and digital rights management? Of course not – you’re a writer. How can you be expected to know all this legal stuff?

'I find your lack of a Digital Rights Management clause disturbing'
Remember, contracts are there for when things go wrong. It’s important they serve both parties so you need someone who will negotiate on your behalf to serve your interests. A good agent will not only know the nuances of contract negotiation, but also provide a barrier between you and the nitty gritty of the business conversation. Nothing kills creative energy more than worrying about contracts in my experience.

Selling – How much is your book worth? Nasty isn’t it? Putting a cold hard cash price on something you’re emotionally invested in. An agent will have a feel for how much a manuscript is worth, and they won’t tell you if they’ve half a clue, so don’t ask. The agent can then go on to sell the manuscript to a publisher, even getting an auction (where publishers bid against each other) for the book.

Now imagine doing that for yourself. I didn’t know the etiquette for publishing auctions, and I would never have dreamed The Erebus Sequence sold for as much as it did (not a brag incidentally, I’m still shocked as I write this). The temptation for a new writer is to practically give the work away, just so we can see it in print.

Parlez-vous? – Congratulations if you scored a foreign rights deal, your publisher will sell your novel to publishers abroad at their leisure, meaning more royalties for you hopefully.

But what if you only sold in the UK? Do you know who to approach in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and so on? An agent will go to the book fairs and meet with foreign publishers, pitch your novel, and make all important contacts. Meanwhile you can get on with the thing you’re supposed to be doing – writing the next book.

Confidence and Passion – Writing is solitary. Even if you belong to the largest and loveliest writing circle the hard truth is you’re going to spend a lot of time alone. This can lead to an element of doubt creeping in. Some writers lose faith in the work a third of the way in, at the mid point, or just before the end. It’s useful (essential in my case) to have a wingman, someone who believes in the work and wants you to succeed. If this person isn’t your agent you might want to think about finding a new one.

It's essential to have a good wingman, X-wing optional
‘Publishing is based on advocacy’ – Oliver Johnson, Hodder and Stoughton, FantasyCon 2012 (@oliverrjohnson)

If your agent doesn’t love it they won’t be able to communicate that passion to a publisher. If the publisher doesn’t love it you’re not going to get signed. Advocacy is everything. 

And that’s why I’m a big advocate of agents. I wouldn’t be without one, but ultimately you have to choose what is right for you.