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2013 Schedule

2013 is going to be a little quieter for me than 2012, but I still have a fair few events lined up so I thought I’d look ahead to the rest of the year. You know, in case you fancy catching up with me, getting a book signed or whatever!

16-17 February: PicoCon, London

PicoCon is a small convention, formerly only one day, that’s held at Imperial College in south-west London. I shall definitely be there on the Sunday in time for guest Richard Morgan’s talk, and will no doubt hang around for a good chunk of the day. I don’t have any programme events lined up, however – I’ll just be there to hang out with my SFF buddies (and get my copy of The Steel Remains signed!).

29 March – 1 April: Eastercon, Bradford

As far as I know the programme for Eastercon (aka Eight Squared) hasn’t been organised yet, but I’ll be there for the whole weekend and there’s bound to be some kind of signing event for The Merchant of Dreams – just ask at the Angry Robot stall in the dealers’ room!

13 July: Edge-Lit, Derby

Another great little convention, currently only one day but well worth attending. The Derby QUAD is a great venue, and since the con is small it’s a great place to dip your toe in the waters.

26 October: BristolCon, Bristol

Another fantastic one-day regional convention with a strong programme and a great location (I went to university in Bristol, so maybe I’m biased…). I usually do a couple of panels, and hopefully I’ll get a reading slot for The Prince of Lies.

31 October – 3 November: World Fantasy Convention, Brighton

The big convention of the year for me – fingers crossed, The Prince of Lies should be out by then, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get a signed copy fresh off the presses!

I hope to see some of you at one of these events – don’t be shy, I don’t bite! :)

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 21-25

Another week of slow progress, followed by another weekend of binge-editing! Most of the scenes in these next few chapters seem to be pretty solid, but I needed to fix the narrative flow by restructuring the chapters and adding an extra scene or transition here and there to make it into a coherent story.

Chapter 21 was quite hard work as I’d moved a major plot event from here to much earlier in the book, but bridging that gap gave me an opportunity to deal with the fallout from Chapter 20 instead of plunging directly into the next bit of plot. Chapters 22-25 have been rather easier, though the timeline that seemed entirely logical during the first draft turned out to be a complete mess. When you look at the sequence of events and you can’t quite get your own head around the passage of time, you can be sure the poor reader’s going to be totally lost! Hence a bit of shuffling and the insertion of a scene or two that isn’t vital to the plot per se but (I hope) results in a clearer picture of what’s going on.

In summary, the editing might not be going quite as fast as I’d like, but I’m much happier with the way the story is turning out :)

The Merchant of Dreams – Giveaway, Part 2

Update: congratulations to winners Paul, DeeDee, Gwen and Abhinav – your goodies will be on their way soon!


As announced last week, I have a stack of copies of The Merchant of Dreams just begging to be given away, so here’s the second batch!

This time it’s a worldwide giveaway, open to anyone anywhere. I have two copies of the US paperback to give away, plus two single-CD (MP3) copies of the audiobook, read by the excellent Michael Page.

All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post, and say if you prefer the paperback or audiobook (or either). Please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.

Rules:

  1. One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified.
  2. For security reasons, please don’t leave contact details in your comment – there’s a space in the comment form for your email address, I’ll use that to get hold of you.
  3. Closing date for entries is noon PST on Tuesday 28th January. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
  4. I will be picking four separate winners (using a random number generator), to receive one copy each.
  5. Selected winners must respond to the confirmation email by Thursday 7th February, so that I can get the books out in a timely manner.
  6. If a winner does not respond by the stated deadline, I reserve the right to select a replacement.

Good luck!

 

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 16-20

I haven’t blogged about this draft in a while because to be honest, I wasn’t making progress. I got stuck on Chapter 16 for ages, and it eventually became clear to me that I wasn’t happy with the narrative flow of the preceding chapters. I wrote some new scenes that ended up being a new Chapter 17, clarified the run-up to Chapter 16 and was finally able to work out what needed to go into 16 in order to move the story forward. That done, it was straightforward to edit Chapters 18-20 and complete Part One of the book! Admittedly Chapter 20 did give me a bit of trouble and I wasn’t able to edit the whole thing on Sunday as planned, but it’s one of those plot turning points that absolutely has to be right if the rest is going to work.

Now I’m moving onto Part Two, which takes place several years later. I’m going to try and do a chapter a day for the rest of the month, but I’m not sure how feasible that’s going to be. Not impossible, but I’ll have to spend practically the whole of every weekend on it as well as a fair chunk of each weekday. Still, I’m feeling less hopeless about hitting my end-of-January deadline than I did a week ago :)

The Merchant of Dreams – Giveaway, Part 1

Update: congratulations to Dave, Herdis, Lucy and Steven – your goodies will be in the post soon!


My author copies of The Merchant of Dreams turned up the other day, so I thought it was about time I did a giveaway. In fact I’ve got so many different editions, I decided to do two!

First up is a UK/EU giveaway for the benefit of my fans here who waited so patiently for the UK paperback. I have three paperbacks (UK edition) to give away, plus one 12-CD set of the audiobook. As with The Alchemist of Souls, the audiobook is read by the excellent Michael Page.

A second giveaway open to the rest of the world will follow next week.

All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post, and say if you prefer the paperback or audiobook (or either). Please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.

Rules:

  1. You must live in the EU to enter (sorry – worldwide postage gets expensive)
  2. One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified.
  3. For security reasons, please don’t leave contact details in your comment – there’s a space in the comment form for your email address, I’ll use that to get hold of you.
  4. Closing date for entries is noon UK time on Tuesday 22nd January. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
  5. I will be picking four separate winners (using a random number generator), to receive one copy each.
  6. Selected winners must respond to the confirmation email by Thursday 31st January, so that I can get the books out in a timely manner.
  7. If a winner does not respond by the stated deadline or cannot supply an EU postal address, I reserve the right to select a replacement.

Good luck!

 

Doing it Elizabethan Style: Shakespeare’s Richard III

A few weeks ago I heard that the Globe had transferred two of their summer productions to the Apollo Theatre for the winter – and more importantly from my perspective, these were two new all-male productions starring Mark Rylance, former artistic director of the Globe. I’d read about the similar productions he’d done almost a decade ago, so the chance to see one at last was irresistible!

Johnny Flynn as Queen Anne and Mark Rylance as King Richard III (Photo: Globe Theatre)
Johnny Flynn as Queen Anne and Mark Rylance as King Richard III (Photo: Globe Theatre)

I hesitated briefly over which to choose, and eventually plumped for Richard III. Much as I love Twelfth Night, it’s a play I’m very familiar with, whereas the only version of Richard III I’ve seen is the well-known Laurence Olivier film. The reviews of Rylance’s performance suggested that this might be the better of the two, which swayed me further.

I booked stage seats, for the best possible view at the most reasonable price. This meant we were seated in one of two two-tier wooden stands, almost like a bit of the Globe Theatre brought to the West End, on each side of the stage. Unfortunately we arrived too late to get a lower-level seat, but the upper level still gave wonderfully up-close-and-personal views of the actors and set. The costumes were absolutely gorgeous – I spent a good deal of the play just taking in all the details, from the various styles of men’s hats (including a very silly fluffy white one with a pink hatband, like something a pimp would wear!) to the daggers worn tucked horizontally through the belt, in the small of the back. Another benefit of our seats was that we could see many of the costumes hanging up backstage, and even got a chance to thank the actors personally as we left, since they were still standing in the wings.

The undisputed star of the show was of course Rylance. He plays Richard as an almost pantomime villain, confiding in the audience about his wicked plans and getting them on his side. The result was an extremely funny play – surprisingly so, for a Shakespeare history play – at least until his final downfall. He was ably assisted in this by his foil, Roger Lloyd Pack as Buckingham (better known as Trigger from Only Fools and Horses). Most of the actors apart from the few leads played multiple roles, but the distinctness of their costumes meant that I was never confused when they returned in new guise. From our stage seats we could also make out little details invisible to the rest of the audience, like the fact that the pewter inkwells really did contain ink and you could see the actors signing the various documents that appear in the play. This added a startling verisimilitude that I had not expected – and nearly gave Mark Rylance a turn when he all but dropped an inkwell in his lap!

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons I wanted to see this production was that it was being staged with full Elizabethan practices as far as possible. The stage was lit by masses of candles (albeit backed up by some electric lighting for the benefit of modern theatre-goers) – four huge wrought-iron candelabra hanging from the ceiling, and a large floor-standing one at the back of the stage. Scenes flowed seamlessly from one to the next, with incoming actors beginning their lines even before the previous ones had left the stage. And then of course there were the men in female roles.

Samuel Barnett (perhaps best known for his role as Posner in The History Boys) was brilliant as Queen Elizabeth, graceful in his movements and acting as effortlessly as if this were his usual type of role. Johnny Flynn was less successful as Anne Neville; he declaimed his lines stiffly, as if it was taking all his effort to maintain a believable falsetto. A pity, as this has put me off going to see Twelfth Night, in which he plays the key role of Viola.

Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth and Colin Hurley as King Edward IV (Photo: Globe Theatre)
Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth and Colin Hurley as King Edward IV (Photo: Globe Theatre)

One difference from Elizabethan practice is that the actors playing female roles were a lot older than they would have been in Shakespeare’s day – Barnett, for example, is 32. Some actors did indeed continue in such roles until their early twenties, but the majority would have been around fifteen or sixteen, an age at which many an undernourished Elizabethan apprentice might still have an unbroken voice. These days, finding boys young enough to have such voices but old enough to play leading roles in Shakespeare must be practically impossible!

What struck me, though, during the play was that I soon stopped thinking of them as “men in drag”. On the one hand, they clearly weren’t actual women, but the combination of the artificiality of the stage environment and the contrast between male and female Elizabethan dress made them so distinct from the men as to seem like women by virtue of that fact alone. It gave me a striking insight into the Elizabethan mindset, whereby a person’s identity (both in gender and status) was judged very much by their clothing and far less by the human body inhabiting that clothing.

The play ended, as all Globe productions do, with a traditional jig performed by all the company. The dancing was superb, with so much leaping, stamping and clapping that I almost expected the men to start break-dancing any moment! It also reminded me a great deal of the ball scene in A Knight’s Tale where they suddenly start boogying to Bowie. Anyone who thinks that an Elizabethan ball would have been as sedate an event as its equivalent in Jane Austen’s day should think again – this was seriously sexy stuff!

All in all it was a wondrous experience, and well worth the considerable sum I paid for the tickets. I’m already starting to eye the coming season at the Globe Theatre with interest…

Another year over, and a new one begun

So, the obligatory New Year blog post…

Snuggled up between Helen Lowe and Scott Lynch in Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue!
Snuggled up between Helen Lowe and Scott Lynch in Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue!

It’s been an utterly amazing year Chez Lyle, with not one but two novels published – and people actually buying them all over the world, from Canada to the United Arab Emirates and probably beyond. The response has been tremendous, with The Alchemist of Souls appearing on at least a couple of Best of 2012 lists (that I know of), and of course being a debut it’s up for the usual award nominations. Not that I have any pretensions of being an award-winning author; I’d rather sell heaps of books to satisfied readers :)

I’ve also made lots of new friends in the SFF community, been to a big US convention for the first time, met some megastar authors who were previously just names on my bookshelves, and generally had a fantastic time. I can’t recommend the convention circuit strongly enough to any SFF writer who wants to break into commercial publishing. Even if you don’t get a chance to pitch to an agent or editor, the friendships you make with other writers will be hugely important in seeing you through the highs and lows of the publication process. Our books aren’t the “competing products” that Amazon likes to claim – we’re all in this together.

2013 is set to be a somewhat quieter year for me, as I have only one book out (The Prince of Lies, the final volume in the Night’s Masque trilogy). I have another project underway, but it’s still at the very early stages of development, so even if I were to sell it this year, there’s very little chance of it appearing before late 2014 at best – sorry! This is the downside of selling your first completed novel – you are constantly running to keep up with your publisher’s release schedule, because you don’t have anything else under your hat. In that respect I envy writers like Michael J Sullivan who had a complete trilogy to offer when he got his book deal. Indeed, the only reason I’ve been able to commit to a book every 8-10 months is that it’s a trilogy with the same setting, lead characters and overarching conflict, so I’ve had plenty of time to at least think about where I was taking it, even if I didn’t write all three books in advance. The new project is going to be totally different in setting and characters, so it’ll take me a while to get all my ducks in a row – I’d rather make you guys wait, and have a much better book as a result.

On the plus side, once The Prince of Lies is handed in I’ll have more time for reading, which has had to take a back seat this year. There have been so many good books out and I want to read at least some of them! Last year I discovered several new favourite authors, so I have their latest offerings to keep up with, as well as the books I didn’t get to for lack of time. In fact I’m somewhat surprised that, according to Goodreads, I managed to read 16 books last year! I think this year I’ll try for 24, since that’s the exact length of my current TBR list…

Here’s wishing you all have as good a 2013 as my 2012! :)