Monday, 29 December 2014

Mages, Sorcery and bullets???... What the heck?!

I have a few pretty firm prejudices when it comes to fantasy. There are some things that just shouldn't be messed with. It's a bit like the way I've always thought that women shouldn't try and sing songs by Queen. No matter how well it's done, it just never sounds right to me.

When it comes to classic fantasy, I've always had a thing against gunpowder and guns in general. In my head at least, if you're going to have wizards then you can't have modernity to that extent. Oddly I have no issue with steam power. You want trains and pumps? No problem... get shovelling. Gunpowder? Oh hell no! Gandalf wasn't packing heat now was he? As for Saruman's bomb - well the less said the better.

Dwarves were always restricted to crossbows and axes in my imaginings. Sure they could have mines and all manner of innovations but we're not having guns and cannons. I know this is silly but then clich├ęd stereotypes do  have their place and, if you think about it, they form the core of any genre. Give me a dwarf with a vaguely Scottish accent swigging beer by the tankard and with a beard that comes down to his knees and I'm happy. We won't think too closely about how much of a pain that beard would be... Eating soup? Washing? Sleeping without strangling yourself?

With all this in mind then, I should have been less than keen on Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood. The novel is the first in his Powder Mage trilogy and delivers on every image that those two words conjure up. Mages with the ability to draw their power from gunpowder itself and influence the path of bullets. People with the capability to enter powder trance by snorting the stuff like snuff and enhance their senses and strength When you add in the fact that there are classical sorcerers too then this should really not have been my thing at all. I should have HATED this.

Against all odds I absolutely loved this book. McClellan has an engaging voice and delivery a nation that has a feel of revolutionary Paris (or maybe that was just the guillotines). The reader is dropped right into the middle of the action with the city writhing is the throes of insurrection as a monarchy is overthrown and a fledgling republic created. There are no overly glaring info-dumps and the reader learns about the world through the eyes of McClellan's characters.

This is a book that is one huge juxtaposition. Classical fantasy tropes like sorcery are pitted against a clearly industrialised society with newspapers and unions. The powder mages themselves personify this clash between magic and modernity. Throw into the mix the re-emergence of half-forgotten gods and the concoction is complete. This combination of concepts should be jarring. It should clash horribly and the book ought to be a colossal train wreck, but it isn't. It's fabulous.

Are there holes in it? Of course there are. I think there are probably holes in any story if you choose to look hard enough. Writing is like any art, it needs to be observed from the correct distance. Sit too close to the stage at a ballet and you'll ruin the illusion. Stand too close to the painting and you'll miss the art and see nothing but brush strokes. A good story takes you out of yourself, up and away on the threads of the tale, if you choose to poke holes in it then you deserve to fall out of the sky.

The writing is solid with well-woven characters and an intricate plot. The machinations are cunning and the world well-forged. The magic is especially well done and balanced carefully so as not to be all-powerful. For me however, the real gem in this novel was the politics, both on the international level and also within the coalition behind the revolution. The fledgling leaders work on a basis of realpolitik and the brutal practicalities of their decisions lend a depth to the novel that would have been missing if it had all been fairy tale endings.

I simply cannot recommend this novel enough. Hands down the best thing I've read since Prince of Thorns and for many of the same reasons that made that work brilliant.

Monday, 28 July 2014

A giveaway because... well it just wouldn't be very fair would it?

With WorldCon rapidly approaching and the paperback due out shortly it occurred that it wasn't really very fair to all of those people who want signed copies and can't get to London. Plus I thought it might be fun  and so here's a little giveaway... feel free to share the news and shout it from the rooftops.

I am giving away two signed copies of the paperback along with an exclusive bookmark not available anywhere but here and WorldCon. The contest is open to entrants from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Good luck everyone :)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Fae - The Wild Hunt by Graham Austin-King

Fae - The Wild Hunt

by Graham Austin-King

Giveaway ends August 19, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, 29 June 2014

a paperback edition and the coolest book launch ever!

So when "Fae - The Wild Hunt" came out back in March, I knew I wanted it to be out in paperback. I wanted it in bookshops, and I wanted to be signing it and generally getting out there and meeting people who'd read it and enjoyed it.

I'll be honest, and say I also wanted to hold it myself. It's a bit childish, but I need to feel it in my hands, smell it... maybe hug it a little. Is that so wrong? Judge all you want, I don't care...

Anyway, the slight snag was in finding a publisher who was insane enough to take me on and get this thing out there. As I might have mentioned once or twice, there is an insane amount of competition in this game and even getting your book considered is a feat in itself.

If I'm really really honest, then it also has a large amount to do with my own impatience. I could have sat home, editing and polishing the book and sending it off to agent after agent,  publisher after... Well you get the idea. I wasn't prepared to do that forever, and so I decided to self-publish it on kindle and the other eBook platforms.

Since day one people have been asking for a paperback edition, and I have looked long and hard to find a way to do this. There are a quite a few self-publishing options out there, but using most of them would result in the price of the book being much higher than I think is reasonable. If I wouldn't pay that amount myself, then I definitely can't expect other people to.

And so there it sat... I was doing okay on eBook sales and it was all ticking along nicely, but the lack of paperback edition nagged at me. Like an itch you just can't quite reach. The funny thing is that paperback sales, unless you are selling  absolutely shed-loads of books, really don't make a writer much. The real money is in eBooks but it's really kind of hard to sign an eBook and tends to mess up the screen. Even the various e-signing apps out there don't really give the same impact.

BUT.... (and you can gasp in anticipation here if you like...)

I have managed to find a way! That's right folks, I am releasing a paperback edition which should (we hope) be available from August 14th!

But hold on... that's not the cool part. (Again, a gasp isn't going to be out of place here... give something back you know?) No the cool part is just how, and where, I'm going to launch this puppy. There is a little gathering happening in London on this weekend in August. An intimate gathering of say... SEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE who are all going to LonCon, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention!

I will be there! Not camped out on the pavement outside but actually in the dealer zone! I'll have my own table and paperbacks for sale. I will be signing, hanging out, and probably giving away some cool things too.

For those that don't know, this thing is truly huge. Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Peter V Brett, and Joe Abercrombie will all be there, to name but a few. And there, in the midst of literary greatness, will be me... (*gulp*)

So there you have it... cat out of the bag and all that. If you are going to LonCon then be sure to scout out the dealer zone and see if you can find me. I'd love to meet anyone who has read and enjoyed the book. I'd love to meet anyone who hasn't read the book but quite fancies a copy. Hell I'd love to meet all of you... Come on over.

For those that can't get there but who still want a copy, it will be on sale via amazon and the usual sites. I'll have to think up something fun to celebrate the launch.

Now, all those people that are on my mailing list knew all of this days ago. They've also been able to read some of the next book. I've put a form just below where you can sign up to get cool news like this, and also to receive raw snippets from the sequel. These are as fresh as it gets, sometimes not even proofed. It's as close as you can get to reading over my shoulder as I type!

That's it for now. I have a new editor cracking her whip and revisions to make. See you in London!

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

I might just be crazy but... why not?

I'm probably crazy for thinking this one up but here goes. Reviews are all well and good but it's rare that I get any real feedback on my book. It's written now and although there is some editing going on with it, it's unlikely anything major is going to change between now and when the paperback comes out (yes I did just let that slip didn't I?).

So this brings me on to the sequel. It would be great to have some real feedback, what works and what doesn't and why... This is usually done with a handful of beta-readers who go through the book in secret, but does it have to be? This got me thinking. What if there was a way you could read the book as it was being written? What if you were emailed a few pages every couple of weeks? It wouldn't totally spoil the finished product for you as it would naturally change as we progressed due to your feedback and my own edits. Plus I wouldn't send entire chapters, just snippets. It would be a totally organic way of writing, the book would evolve as it was written.

You'd have to have read the first book to really understand the second but it's only a few dollars/pounds/yen and actually only 99c at the moment (well until Thursday). It's a bit of a crazy idea but hey... why the heck not. You provide the eyes and some feedback... I'll do the rest.

I'm posting the form here... let's see who signs up.

Subscribe to my mailing list for excerpts of Fae 2 (in production)

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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Giveaways... Nook, Kobo, and iTunes Oh My!!

Okay so this isn't much of a blog post but I wanted to throw it out there. Fae - The Wild Hunt is coming out on Nook, Kobo, iTunes and a myriad of other platforms on or about June 16th. At the same time there will be a bit of a publicity blitz including a GIVEAWAY. That's right folks I am giving away three ecopies of the book via a funky little program called rafflecopter. You should be able to see details below provided the internet gods cooperate.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A sneak peak...

A tiny snippet from the sequel (as yet unnamed) to "Fae - The Wild Hunt". I'm posting this to celebrate hitting 500 likes on that Facebook thingy... but mostly because I kind of like this section.

   She stood carefully, “Let me get this little beast into bed and I'll be back,” she paused at the doorway, looking back over her shoulder at the drink in his hand. “Get me one of those while I'm gone, I think I'm going to need it.”
   The trip up the climbed the stairs was a slow and cautious one, practice allowing her to avoid those steps that creaked. He was a good baby but he was a light sleeper and she'd quickly learned to avoid noises. She laid him down into the cradle, pulling the light blanket over him. The sun had almost set, just a sliver remaining above the silvery horizon as it sank into the seas. The stars were slowly becoming visible through the thin clouds. 
   Ylsriss moved to the window and stared out over the city towards the harbour, her thoughts far across the ocean as she glanced back at the baby for a moment. Voices from the kitchen brought her back to herself and she turned to the doorway. She didn't look at the rooftop opposite Rhavin's house. It would have taken sharp eyes indeed to have picked out the figure crouched low beside the chimney. As the last light of the sun faded, the green-tinged mist rising from its shoulders was just visible below the burning amber eyes. Eyes that had watched so intently as she lay the baby down.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Kindleboards, Spotlights and Wine...

A feature spotlight on Kindleboards today, check it out here. Apparently they are the biggest internet kindle forum going so hopefully this will provide some exposure for the book. I've also dropped the price down to 99c for the event so grab a copy while you can. For those of you on Nook and Kobo don't despair because my exclusivity with Amazon ends mid June. Because of this Fae will be rolling out to all the other platforms like Kobo and iTunes with June 16th as the release date.

All hail and rejoice! Let there be wine and women and song! Or... you know... read a book?

Monday, 12 May 2014

Of Slash, Garage Rock and Writing...

I'm writing today. It's hard. I'm out of practice and the whole process seems forced and unnatural. It's a bit hard to describe it to a non-writer, wow I just read that back and realised how pretentious it sounds. This doesn't make it any less true though. That said, I've never discussed this with any other writers, so maybe it's just me. There's a point when you just fall into it and it just flows... It just happens. This is the stuff that you read back when editing weeks or months later and wonder who wrote it.With me though, there is a feeling that goes along with it and I'll try my best to explain it to you.

Many, many moons ago a ROCK GOD was born. Not in a hospital  with nurses or a bedroom attended by a midwife, but in a garage attended by a couple of mates and a misguided belief in his own musical ability. I had a cheap fender knock-off, a scratchy amplifier and little to no talent. I didn't know the difference between and arpeggio and an archipelago but I was convinced I was going to be able to learn.

The funny thing about music, and I am pretty sure I am plagiarizing someone here but can't remember who it is, is that musicians are rarely taught. They are born. You can take someone and show him the right finger positions, make him learn the notes and the timings, teach him the tunes... This will not really create a musician... a true musician has the music inside of him and the former will never equal the latter.

This was me... the latter. I practiced (a bit), I learned (a bit), I am fairly sure I contributed to my neighbour's wife's early demise with my incessant racket... Every now and then though, it worked. I remember trying to learn to play "Sweet Child of Mine", (Guns and Roses people come on!) it was massively ambitious and unrealistic. I didn't have the talent for it, or the patience to truly practice it, and never really got past the guitar intro and the first solo. The thing is quite hard to play... lots of quick finger movements and it's really really easy to ruin it.

Every now and then though I would get it, no missed notes... no poor fingering leading to buzz from the frets... and it felt like flying... or balancing on a unicycle... One wrong move would ruin it but for the moment it was glorious.

This is what writing feels like to me when it's flowing. It is words bypassing my brain and coming direct from fingertips to screen. It also has the added bonus of not sounding like someone is torturing a cat with a guitar and so far as I know... my writing has never contributed to anybody's early demise.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Chair climbing, political correctness and writing...

So earlier I was in the kitchen, making dinner. My place is sort of open-plan on the ground floor so the kitchen is combined with the lounge and dining room. Anyway there I am, cooking away, when my youngest boy decides that he's clearly had enough of this appalling service and wants food now. Not in five minutes... Not when it's cooked... Immediately, and that's only if it can't be done faster.

A toddler demanding food is nothing new, to be fair just about every parent has been through this at some point. No it wasn't new, but the way he did it was. Rather than stomp across the room and try and climb up my leg, he climbed into his high chair and glared at me. Now this doesn't sound especially impressive, until you realise that the high-chair was away from the table and sort of pushed into the middle of the room. It's far too tall for him to climb into. So without even pausing to think about it, he pushed it across the floor until it hit the wall. Still too high for him, but at least it's near the table. In fact it's also near one of the end tables we have next to the settee too. Not quite close enough though, so he pulls that table over until it's next to the high chair. It's a light table by the way... he's  not super-toddler (wouldn't that be cool though? Hold on... just thought that one through... maybe not.)

So having rearranged the furniture to his liking he then climbs up onto this end table, stands up, walks to the edge of it and then literally climbs (might need to check if there is any monkey in my DNA, this raises uncomfortable questions about my genealogical roots) up the side of the high chair and clambers into it. All told, pretty impressive... and also VERY fast.

So fast in fact, that I didn't have time to stop being impressed and start being horrified at the danger he'd just put himself in. To be fair it wasn't that much danger and the worst could have happened would have been a bump on the head. This got me thinking, my GOD I am overprotective... or is it just everyone now? I never rode my bike with a helmet... we didn't have pads for skateboarding... we didn't have "don't do this at home" statements on television. We just knew. If I fell off my bike or skateboard I got back up and got on with it. If I got cut... well I guess I bled a bit. I knew, without the requirement for a warning notice, that despite what happens on Tom and Jerry, throwing an anvil onto someone's head is going to do more than raise a red lump. So where did this all come from?

It's everywhere once you start looking for it. Government adverts about eating more healthily and making sure you get five, no... seven... no, hold on a second... forty two servings of fruit and vegetable a day? We've also got to be politically correct. It's not okay to say things which might offend someone because of their race, sexual orientation, religion... and okay this is true, it's not... It never was... But it pervades everything...

There was a period when I was writing Fae that I stopped myself from putting in swear words or too much gore and violence. I didn't want to offend the reader. Then eventually I caught myself deleting a piece of dialogue and suddenly I thought, fuck the reader! This is my damned story and if you don't like it then that's fine. I wasn't about to pepper it with blood and profanity but you know what? Some people swear.... So some of my characters swear... deal with it. As for the blood... it's an epic fantasy... nuff said. If  you can't deal with this then I recommend another book... possibly read whilst wearing protective gear and eating your sixty-a-day... My books will be real... true to me, and as good as I can make them. Just try to ignore the kid climbing the furniture in the corner.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

And We're Off!

And We're Off...

So here we go... everybody ready? Got your coffee? Snacks? No bathroom breaks after this... We're off!

Okay so I've written a book, you may or may not have heard of it, "Fae - The Wild Hunt"? I didn't really set out to write a book, it wasn't something that I ever thought I would be able to do. The idea had always appealed to me  and in a fit of madness I thought I'd give it a go. In a weird way it's not that hard, in the same way that running a marathon isn't that hard. You start running, you don't stop... you run some more. Writing a novel was the same way for me. You start writing, you write some more.. and eventually it's finished. So I sat down one day and started typing...

Alright I know I am oversimplifying but before people start hurling abuse at me I have run two marathons and at it's most basic level it really is that simple. So where did this leave me? Well having finished the story I then had proof-reading (really dull), editing (even more dull), polishing (frustrating) and then sending it out for others to read. This, incidentally is the single most terrifying thing I have done in my life. Also the most irritating. I'm a man. I make no apology for this. Men are not by nature, patient creatures. At my core is a spoiled child trying to get out  (although I do let him out to play when nobody else is watching but shhh!) and I wanted instant results, instant gratification and of course, everyone in the world to love my book immediately.

After all these steps and some truly brilliant editing efforts  (thanks Clare, Dawnmarie and of course Gillian) it was time to start submitting. I sent it off to probably twenty varied agents and even a few publishers. Again the spoiled child got in the way. He ranted and sulked and jumped up and down a bit... Why weren't people beating a path to my door? Why didn't I have three agents and four publishers fighting over me already?

The answer to all these questions of course is that the market is competitive. Not just a little competitive either but hugely MASSIVELY competitive! Agents are drowning in submissions they have to sift through. Publishers are swamped in agents trying to sell them their client's work. It's just all a bit frantic and mad. So eventually I decided to self-publish. Not entirely though. I'd seen David Dalgish and Andy Weir publish their work as eBooks and achieve amazing results. Andy Weir actually had 30'000 downloads a month within three months and then was snapped up by a publisher.  Incidentally if you haven't read "The Martian" you really need to. It's amazing writing and this is why he was snapped up and my massive ego aside, this did at least show it was possible.

So I published as an eBook on Amazon exclusively to start with (though I'll be expanding out into Nook and Kobo and iTunes and all that good stuff on June 16th). The initial reaction was brilliant. I hit best seller lists as my friends and family and people who'd caught my facebook ramblings about the book rushed to grab a copy. Then came the slow decline... You see what people don't always realise is the sheer number of books and eBooks on Amazon. The numbers are so large they don't really mean anything anymore. You can picture ten or even a hundred books... a thousand in a stretch. Amazon has over 2,600,000 titles, and even then I am missing a few. You can't even imagine that amount of books. Like three or four HUGE libraries piled on top of each other. That's what we're talking about here. So how the heck was anyone going to find MY book??

And this is what brings us up to the present. THIS is the major difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. The marketing. I'm a writing... I'm not a marketer. I don't want to do press releases. I don't want to be that guy standing on a virtual corner of the internet screaming "buy my book! Really it has fae in it and how cool are they? I mean really nasty ones too at times... it's far better than that other crap you were looking at. Hey no.. where are going?? No not that book! MY BOOK! MINE MINE MINE!!!" And really this is what a lot of internet marketing ends up being. I want to be doing readings and signings in bookshops...

So I decided I'd start this blog, talking about how we got to this point. About the next book (apparently I have not been deterred that easily) and the writing process. Also about the weird and wonderful world of print books and my quest for a publisher. At the moment I can't find a way to publish in print without gouging the customer. I like my book. I know I'm biased but it's good, really it is. It's not as good as Terry Pratchett though, that's something that would just be astounding to achieve and it won't happen on my first attempt. Because of this I refuse to print something that would have a higher price than his work. It's not reasonable and it's a bit arrogant. The problem is that the cost of producing a book with the companies I have looked at (and who will give me a hope of getting it into bricks and mortar shops) drives the price up beyond that.

So for now we will stick with the eBook and keep searching for a publisher/agent. I'll work on the sequel to my novel and try hard....really hard to ignore the child screaming inside my head "PUBLISH MY BOOK! BUY IT BUY IT.. MINE MINE MINE!!"