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The Alchemist of Souls: release dates

I hate to disappoint my fans who are eagerly awaiting their copy of The Alchemist of Souls, but I’ve just learnt that Amazon have been using the wrong dates in their database. The correct dates are:

  • US: 27th March 2012
  • UK: 5th April 2012

Angry Robot have informed Amazon, who have fixed their database and hopefully have emailed everyone who placed a pre-order.

On the upside, this means my book comes out in the UK over the Easter weekend, which means even more reason to look forward to Eastercon!

Cover art for “The Alchemist of Souls”

At long last I’m able to unveil the cover art for my debut novel The Alchemist of Souls – and what a cover it is!

Mal Catlyn in all his glory - click for larger version!
Mal Catlyn in all his glory - click for larger version!

I was delighted when Marc at Angry Robot told me he was commissioning Larry Rostant, who has done covers for practically everyone from George R R Martin downwards – I had been admiring Larry’s work not long beforehand, on the cover of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Fallen Blade. I was asked for a description of my protagonist and one or two other characters from the book, then when Larry sent in a couple of slightly different versions of the design, Marc and I discussed which one worked best. Fortunately we were in complete agreement, quickly settling on the version you see here.

Ultimately the purpose of a cover is to sell the book to readers, not to stroke the author’s ego, and to that extent, I really don’t mind what goes on my covers as long as it achieves that aim. Of course I’d be upset if the artwork wasn’t up to scratch – I’ve seen some appalling fantasy covers over the years, with badly proportioned, disjointed anatomy that would shame a first-year art student – but if there’s one thing you can say about Angry Robot, it’s that they take their cover art seriously. I don’t think I’ve seen a single one that’s less than good, and many are utterly gorgeous in their different ways.

I’m not sure what I love most about this image. Maybe it’s the gorgeous costume Larry chose, perfect for the period (1590s) and in colours that just happen to match those in my usual online avatar*. Maybe it’s Larry’s great intuition in adding a flaming torch to the original specs, thus echoing some of the recurring imagery of the book. Or maybe it’s the wicked gleam in my hero’s eyes…

Of course no cover ever matches the author’s mental image 100%. I could point out that in the book, Mal Catlyn has a proper Elizabethan beard, not designer stubble! On the other hand the model’s hair style, though superficially modern, is pretty much as I described it. Mal is an ex-soldier and formerly wore his hair in a short crop (as is seen in many portraits of the period) but has let it grow out in recent months as he’s settled back into civilian life. Overall I’m delighted with the finished result, which I think captures the mood of my book perfectly.

I was tempted to title this post “Angry Robot hacked my brain”, but I decided it would be in poor taste, given recent headline events in the UK. The truth is, having lived with the cover art for a while (it makes an awesome lock screen for my iPhone!), I now find myself automatically visualising Mal as the figure from the cover when I’m writing a scene about him. The first time this happened it was quite unnerving, but I’m starting to get used to it!

I can’t wait to hold the finished book. I think I may die of joy :)

* a detail from Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps, painted c. 1594

The Cardsharps, by Caravaggio
The Cardsharps, by Caravaggio

A Year in the Life

Since I’ve been struggling to stay focused of late, I’ve decided to try an experiment. I’ve created a Twitter account in the name of my protagonist, Mal Catlyn, and will be tweeting the twelve months of his life that lead up to the events ofย  The Alchemist of Souls.

The story begins in July 1592, and will continue up to the beginning of the book in June 1593. Admittedly the first post is “dated” May 1592, just to establish the inciting incident, but from this week onwards the story will unfold in real time.

I have no idea if or how this is going to work – I just fancy trying something a bit different to boost my creativity and keep my mind focused on these books and characters. And if it brings a little publicity my way, well, all to the good!

You can follow the story at @MalCatlyn, and as I may also be using the account to reply to followers, you can filter the actual “diary” posts using the #malsdiary hashtag.

Enjoy!

More Chinese Whispers

In late-breaking news, The Alchemist of Souls has now appeared on the Random House website for pre-order, with a US print publication date of February 28, 2012 :)

Unfortunately, the blurb is currently suffering from an even worse attack of Chinese Whispers than the Bookseller announcement back in April, so I’m a bit loath to publicize it until I can get that fixed. I feel like the actual plot of my book is getting buried under the weight of increasingly wild (and inaccurate) speculation about the part of my world which doesn’t even feature in the novels, which is very frustrating.

Hopefully I can get this straightened out before it gets totally out of hand…

My very first book deal

After many anxious weeks of biting my tongue, I am finally able to share my good news with the world – I have a three-book deal from UK SF&F publishers Angry Robot ๐Ÿ˜€

Back in September last year, this was only a distant, fervent dream. I met Angry Robot head honcho Marc Gascoigne at FantasyCon and pitched him my book and, despite the lateness of the hour and my nervousness, I was apparently coherent enough for him to request some sample chapters and a synopsis. These were duly sent, and a few weeks later I got a reply to say he and Lee (the editor) loved my writing – yay! – but thought that magic should play a larger role in the plot. We bounced some ideas back and forth until we had a solution we were all happy with, and I set about revising my novel along those lines.

At the end of January I sent off the complete manuscript, followed a couple of weeks later by a revised synopsis of that book plus one for a sequel, to form the basis of a potential book deal. My hopes were really up by this point, partly out of sheer keenness to work with Angry Robot but also because of Marc’s enthusiasm so far – but at the same time I was just a little bit terrified that I was being over-optimistic and setting myself up for disappointment. However barely a week later I received another email to say that the synopses had been received – oh, and by the way, they’d like to make me an offer!

Once I had calmed down a bit, I emailed John Berlyne at Zeno, who offered to represent me and negotiate the deal. After that it was just a matter of sending some more emails back and forth, signing paperwork and so on. The worst part was the waiting; signing a new client is a big deal for the agent and publisher as well as the author, so it all has to be coordinated and planned and done properly.

Anyway, now it’s all public! To find out more, including titles and publication dates, visit the Novels section of this site which, unlike this blog post, will be updated as I get more news. As for me, I’m going to pinch myself one last time, then get back to writing the next book in the series…

My not-so-secret agent

For the past four weeks I’ve been biting my tongue and waiting not-very-patiently to make this announcement: I have signed with John Berlyne of the Zeno Literary Agency.

Back in September 2010 when I started my agent hunt, I was disappointed to discover that Zeno were closed to submissions. Not only did they have an exciting client list, from homegrown talent like Maggie Furey and Freda Warrington to huge US names such as Charlaine Harris and Brandon Sanderson, but John B and I share a favourite author in Tim Powers (another of Zeno’s clients).

I put them on my shortlist anyway, and signed up for their RSS feed. A few weeks later they announced they were opening for a short while, and so on 1st December I fired off a query. Maybe it was my carefully-honed pitch, or maybe it was the fact that I already had a publisher interested, but I got a request for sample chapters practically by return of email, and a request for the full manuscript ten days later.

Of course the world of publishing never moves as quickly as we anxious authors would like, so it wasn’t until last month that I finally spoke to John about representation. Since I’m evidently not the only one to be signed up as a result of their two-month opening, I had to wait until they were ready to make an announcement before I could tell the rest of the world. However the embargo is now lifted, and I am free to shout it from the highest hills, even tell the golden da–ffodils…

Because my secret agent’s no secret, any more.

(With apologies to Sammy Fain and Paul-Francis Webster)

Tangled Bank delayed

I discovered yesterday that the ebook version of The Tangled Bank has been delayed until Darwin Day (12 February), owing to problems in getting the formats sorted out in time for the planned December release.
On the plus side, we still get paid on time, and the Table of Contents has been posted on the website. I confess that the only name I recognise is Brian Stableford, but I feel inordinately pleased to have my work published alongside that of a famous British SF author!

First sale

Just checked my email, not expecting anything beyond the usual Christmas junk emails from all the online shops I frequent – and to my delight I found a confirmation that my short story “Hopeful Monsters” has been selected for The Tangled Bank, an e-anthology celebrating Darwin’s bicentennary ๐Ÿ˜€
It’s due out on 28 December – more details when I’ve calmed down and returned the contract!

Read more

Vision On

I got my contract and payment through today for an article I submitted to Vision ezine – my first paid publication in a long time! The article, “Net Benefit”, is about web hosting options for writers, and should be out in the May/June edition.