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The Prince of Lies: finished cover

Yesterday one of my favourite genre websites, Fantasy Faction, did an exclusive cover reveal for the final book in my Night’s Masque trilogy. However I can’t resist posting it on my blog as well, as I’m so pleased with it!

As with The Merchant of Dreams, I briefed my editor Marc on what I wanted to see on the cover and he passed it along to Larry Rostant, who interpreted our instructions beautifully. The lightning bolts weren’t in my original brief but I have to admit they give it an extra pizazz that leaves you in no doubt that some serious magic is going on here!

To go with the cover I have an updated description as well:

Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted—his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it—but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting; their leader Jathekkil has reincarnated as the young Henry Tudor. But with the prince still a child, Mal has a slim chance of destroying his enemies while they are at their weakest.

With Sandy’s help Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…

I’m really looking forward to unleashing the book on the world come October – the fact that I shall be waving goodbye to Mal, Coby, Ned and friends hasn’t really sunk in yet…

What next?

The Prince of Lies is revised and handed in, which means it’s all over for Night’s Masque apart from final tweaks and copyedits. Yes, sorry, fans of Mal, Coby, Ned and Gabriel – their adventures are over, at least for now. I have no immediate plans for any more books in that universe, though if I were to get a great idea for a story, it’s certainly possible.

So what next, you might ask? Well, I’ve been jotting down notes in-between drafts of The Prince of Lies so that I could hit the ground running once that book was complete. However I couldn’t really allow myself to commit to it until now because I don’t have time in my busy schedule for distractions and side projects. Now I can, I’m sooo excited to be launching into something new! Read more

Eastercon programme

I now have my programme for EightSquared, the 64th Eastercon, so I hope I’ll see some of you at the following events:

Friday, 7pm: Genre Get-Together – Fantasy (seems to be a big informal signing event)

Friday, 9pm: Panel – Underground London

Sunday, 2pm: Panel – The Changing Portrayal of Gender and Sexuality in SF & Fantasy

Monday, 11am: Panel – Selling Space

I have no idea what I’m going to say on that last one, as I know little about the space industry – I think I got involved because I do know a bit about “big science and the commercial sector” :)

You can see the whole schedule online at 8squared2013.sched.org (there’s also a web app you can use on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry).

Introducing the BookSworn

Writing is a lonely business, which is why we budding authors tend to be a gregarious lot given half a chance – we love to meet up and share both our writing woes and our useful tips for making it in this tough world of 21st-century publishing. Conventions are a great way to do this, but there are only so many one can go to each year, so we also communicate a lot through social media.

Just as important as talking to one another, if not more so, is communicating with readers – but as new authors, how do we get our voices heard? When a bunch of us were invited onto Reddit last year for a very successful AMA (Ask Me Anything), we decided we didn’t want the fun to stop. So, we began exchanging emails, and what came out of that was a plan for a joint blog (and accompanying social media presence) where we could engage with fans in a bigger way than on our individual blogs.

And so without further ado, may I announce BookSworn! We’re doing a fantastic giveaway contest – 16 signed fantasy books! – to celebrate the launch, so do check the site out. You can also follow us on Twitter @BookSworn.

(The name is my fault, by the way. Two of our members, Mazarkis Williams and Douglas Hulick, have new books with the word “sworn” in the title – I thus suggested “Book Sworn” as a joke, and the name stuck. Sorry!)

Transitioning between projects

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about the pressures of writing a book a year, and how you have to start thinking about what to write next even whilst you’re working on your current novel. I still believe what I wrote in that post, and in fact I’ve been putting it into practice over the past few months.

At the time of the original post (summer 2011) I was four months into a contract that would see my trilogy being published at 8-10 month intervals during 2012 and 2013, so I was totally focused on those books. As of February this year, however, I handed in the final book in the trilogy and found myself with no deadlines for the first time since late 2010! This was an intoxicating feeling, but I knew it wouldn’t last for long because I still had to do one final revision pass on The Prince of Lies. Still, it marked the beginning of a transition period, when I was able—even obliged—to begin dividing my attention between the outgoing project and my plans for the next book.

A writer can never have too many notebooks! (Photo: Mhairi Simpson)
A writer can never have too many notebooks! (Photo: Mhairi Simpson)

Fortunately, as per my blog post, I had already started a notebook in which I jotted down my initial ideas. It was all very vague: based on my experience of writing the Night’s Masque trilogy, I knew I wanted to continue writing urban-based fantasy with a historical flavour (though not necessarily in a real-world setting), but I didn’t want to commit to anything beyond that. So, I simply jotted down ideas for characters, setting and plot as they came to me, without making any decisions as to which one was best.

I did this throughout February and accumulated a bunch of new ideas, as well as digging through trunk novels and their associated worldbuilding to see what I could reuse. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t come up with anything, because I’d been so focused on the Elizabethan stuff for the past five years, but that concern was misplaced. Once I let my Muse out of her cage, she really went for it, spewing out character backstories and plot ideas as if a dam had been burst (apologies for the mixed metaphors). Most importantly, the “gestation” period imposes a kind of “survival of the fittest” selection pressure on my ideas. If my Muse keeps gnawing on an idea even though my conscious mind has tried to discard it, that’s probably a clue that I ought to pursue it!

This month I’m back into editing mode on The Prince of Lies, which means that I have to put this new project on the backburner for a few weeks. After that, though, it’s all over for Night’s Masque bar the usual round of publicity when it comes out. That’s when I find out if my lengthy brewing of ideas has produced a firm basis for a new fantasy series. I’m pretty sure it has – and I’m looking forward to applying all the experience I gained in the past five years to the creation of new novels. I’m also looking forward to sharing it with you guys, but that’s going to take a lot longer, since I have to write—and sell—the damned thing first!

The Prince of Lies is handed in!

I’m very happy to say that on Sunday afternoon I finished the first clean(ish) draft of The Prince of Lies and sent it off to my editor Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot Books. Unlike the previous two manuscripts, this one has been running a bit late – not something I’m proud of, but sometimes these things happen.

The two sweetest words any writer can type?
The two sweetest words any writer can type?

In this case I don’t have any solid excuses apart from inexperience. Tying up all the loose plot threads so that my third book made sense was the hardest part; I knew how I wanted the trilogy to end, but getting there? Sheesh! Talk about herding cats… Anyone who’s read the books will know that by the end of The Merchant of Dreams there are a fair few balls in play, and I had only one book to resolve them all in. My choice, admittedly; I didn’t want Night’s Masque to be one of those sprawling fantasy series that drags on for book after book until the author is utterly sick of it. Better to wrap it all up neatly before my heroes outstay their welcome!

So what now, I hear you ask. Well, there’ll be another round of revising and polishing before it goes off to copyedits, but I need a break from this project in order to get some distance (and avoid burnout), and in any case it’ll be a while before I hear back from Marc and my beta-readers. In the meantime I’m going to catch up on my reading and DVD-watching and generally enjoy having a normal life for a little while.

What, you expect more books?

Yeah, OK so I have a notebook where I’ve been jotting down ideas for a new series, but I’ve not committed to anything yet. I want to let the ideas brew until something jumps out and grabs me so hard I can’t not write it, just as happened back in 2006 when I wrote the first draft of  The Alchemist of Souls. Writing a novel is damned hard work, so it’s worth finding the right idea before knuckling down to it.

I also don’t want to dive into this new project only to have to come to a screeching halt when it’s time to polish up The Prince of Lies. I’m pretty happy with how the book turned out, but I know there are pacing issues and dropped plot threads that need fixing, so it’s going to need all my attention one last time.

And then it really will be The End…or will it?

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! :)

Audiobook contest and Reddit AMA

It’s all go this week! Since it’s Christmas I’m not doing a “physical” book launch at a bookshop, so I have a number of online events lined up instead.

First, thanks to the lovely chaps at my publisher, Angry Robot Books, there’s a competition to win both The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams in audiobook format. Just pop along to the Angry Robot website and tell us your favourite Christmas joke!

The competition closes on Sunday 23rd January, so get your answers in quick!

The second launch event this weekend is an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on Reddit. The post is up now, awaiting your questions and I’ll back at midnight (evening US time) to answer them.

Go on – Ask Me Anything (within reason!)

Publication day – again!

You know, I really can’t believe it’s only been eight months since my first novel came out – it’s been such a crazy hectic year, I feel like I’ve been doing this forever! And yet…today is the day that most editions of The Merchant of Dreams officially see the light of day (just waiting on the UK paperback which, owing to distribution schedules, won’t be out until 3rd January).

Back in the summer, after the manuscript was handed in and being copyedited, I started getting really nervous about how it would be received. Not because I thought it was terrible, or because it’s markedly different from the first (it isn’t), but there’s always the fear that you were a one-hit wonder and that the book you dashed off in under a year cannot possibly match up to the one you poured your heart and soul into for five times that long.

Apparently I needn’t have worried. Merchant has been getting some glowing reviews, most of which reckon it’s actually better than Alchemist. Maybe it’s the pirates, maybe it’s the steamy sex (well, steamier than the first book at any rate), but whatever it is, I’m just awfully relieved that readers are enjoying it!

Meanwhile The Alchemist of Souls is still humming along – it’s been chosen as the Nov/Dec read by The Book Club on Goodreads, and I’ll be recording a podcast in January with Steve Aryan.

If you have any questions about either book, I’m doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on Friday 21st December – do come along and join in!

Other online launch highlights:

* My Favourite Bit – a guest post for Mary Robinette Kowal, about one of the Venetian locations I researched for The Merchant of Dreams

* Christmas Market – a fun bit of flash fiction for Literary Escapism, in which I take Mal Christmas shopping in Cambridge. Includes a contest to win copies of both The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams!

Previously, on Night’s Masque…

The trouble with series books coming out months or even years apart is that you tend to forget what happened in the last one by the time you get hold of the new one. With that in mind, I decided to take a leaf out of TV’s handbook and provide a summary of each of my novels, so that busy readers could refresh their memories if they didn’t have time for a full re-read.

Note that it will of course involve serious spoilers, so don’t read it unless you’ve already read the book (or are one of those weird people who like spoilers…)!

Previously on Night’s Masque: The Alchemist of Souls

(If you read it and think of anything vital I’ve missed, do let me know!)

I’ve also uploaded the official Merchant of Dreams three-chapter free extract, just to whet your appetite for the sequel!