A Brief Sentimental Post on Finishing a First Draft

DRAGON

Ephemeral is ready to melt your faces!

So I reached STAGE SEVEN with the third book yesterday – which is to say I finished the first draft. I tend to find the last few chapters difficult (they always take much longer than I think they will, for a start) so this weekend was one big writing sprint fuelled by chocolate, chocolate ice-cream, tea and eventually, mead. I typed THE END through a haze of honey wine and tears, and it has to be said I’m fairly glad no one was there to witness the sobbing mess I was by that point.

That’s not to say that the end is necessarily sad (I can’t comment either way in that regard because SPOILERLZ etc) but it was a very emotional moment to bring closure to a series I’ve devoted years of my life to, and to characters who are as close as family to me now.

Now there is an actual shit-ton (the correct technical term, I believe) of work to do, and I’m very much looking forward to editing the living heck out of final volume of the Copper Cat trilogy, until it is the best possible thing it can be. There will be more tears before I’m done, no doubt, and more mead.

For the moment though I will take a brief break to poke the sodden goo that is my brain back into working order, and to come to terms with the fact I’ve now got the bones of an actual trilogy on my hands. Crazy times.

THE IRON GHOST cover reveal! And where to get a sample…

So here it is, the cover to the sequel to THE COPPER PROMISE in all its icy glory…

IronGhost_v2 jpg jpg

 

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.               

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, getting ready to return, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

Join the reckless adventurers of THE COPPER PROMISE as they face even darker challenges than they could have imagined.

It’s out in February, and you can even pre-order it already in various places! I am very, very excited, (and about 47% terrified) to share this story with you. It’s darker, longer, and, dare I say it, sexier than THE COPPER PROMISE, but THE IRON GHOST still has adventure, mayhem and copious amounts of mead at its heart.

Now, I do have little samplers of THE IRON GHOST to give away, showcasing the first chapter of the new book, and given that the next few weeks are basically GEEK CONVENTION EVENT HORIZON it’s very likely that you may bump into me giving these out. Here’s a quick round-up of where I’m going to be and what I’m going to be doing:

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014

8th – 10th August

I loved this con so much last year! This time round I will be part of a panel called Writing the Inhuman at 1.30pm to 2.45pm, followed immediately by a signing with those lovely Forbidden Planet chaps at 2.45pm. I’ve no idea if the venues are near each other, so if you happen to see me pelting down the corridor, you’ll know what’s happened. I will have samples of THE IRON GHOST with me.

Fantasy in the Court

12th August, 6 – 9pm, Goldsboro Books

Here I will be generally hanging about, doing author stuff, trying not to look too awkward. I’ll have samples of THE IRON GHOST here too, depending on how many I can shove in my handbag (it is a reasonably large handbag).

Gollancz Festival

13th August, 6 – 9pm, Waterstones Piccadilly

As well as mooching about attending talks and fangirling like a wally, I’ll also be taking part in the Mass Signing, where I will try not to look too terrified and hopefully draw dragons in people’s books (whether they like it or not). Samples of THE IRON GHOST available!

LonCon

14th – 18th August

Now, technically I am not really here as such, but I will be there. That is to say, I’m not a guest but I will be wandering about on at least a couple of the days, and if I’m there I will have THE IRON GHOST samples with me, which I will be more than willing to draw dragons inside. Just saying.

So that’s it for now! The next month is going to be crazy-busy, and I look forward to catching up with you all. 😀

The Terrifying Passage of Time, Or, Two Months on from Being Published

Today is the 19th of April, which means it’s been about two months since I launched The Copper Promise at Forbidden Planet. It feels like that was roughly an eyeblink ago, but no, two whole months have zoomed past, and now it’s bloody Easter already.

Forbidden Planet - so bamboozled I forgot to eat any cake.

Forbidden Planet – so bamboozled I forgot to eat any cake.

It’s been an interesting couple of months. I suspect it has gone quickly because I’ve been working like crazy on the follow up to The Copper Promise, with an actual deadline looming over my head, but also because it’s been filled with the surreal experience of people reading my book. Friends and acquaintances have sent me photos of my book in bookshops, which is strange and lovely enough, and readers have got in touch to tell me if they enjoyed it, and who were their favourite characters. Stuff like that. For someone who believed a short while ago that they would probably never be published, that’s pretty amazing.

Clapham Books

Clapham Books

Waterstones Cardiff

Waterstones Cardiff

 

One of the things I didn’t realise before I hit the alarmingly steep learning curve that is being a published writer, is that you have to be thinking about several books at once. While I’m talking to people about book 1, I’m editing book 2, planning book 3, and contemplating books beyond The Copper Promise series. After feeling like writing is such a slow process, everything suddenly seems incredibly fast; after all, this time next year people will be reading book 2, and I will have just finished book 3. No wonder my perception of time is wonky.

Waterstones Milton Keynes

Waterstones Milton Keynes

Waterstones Manchester

Waterstones Manchester

Anyway. I just wanted to say another huge thank you to everyone who read The Copper Promise, everyone who came along to the launch and to the interview at Blackwells, everyone who has sent me a photo of the book out in the wild or sitting on their sofas, everyone who has written a review (you ROCK), everyone who has contacted me to say kind things, everyone who took these characters to their hearts, as I did, all those booksellers who put the book out on display… Basically, everyone. Writing reviews and talking about the book – these things are incredibly important to a debut author, and you have all helped me more than you can ever know.

In a dodgy tavern somewhere, with a leaking roof and a number of swords leaning by the fireplace, Wydrin the Copper Cat of Crosshaven is pouring another glass of mead and toasting your health.

How a Video Game Changed my Life

Dragon-Age-Origins-wallpaper-1951

You knew it would be this game, didn’t you?

 

A few years ago, Marty and I decided to buy ourselves an XBox 360 as a joint Christmas present. We were both casual gaming fans, and it seemed like time to step into the world of frighteningly-clever-next-generation consoles. Marty’s sister asked if she could buy us a game to go with it, and we worked it down to a couple of choices that we sort of liked the look of. I can’t for the life of me remember what the other game was, but one of them I vouched for because it had a dragon on the cover that appeared to be made of blood, and really, how could I resist a game like that?

The game was Dragon Age: Origins, and it was that game that Karen, Marty’s sister, ended up sending us for Christmas. I vividly remember loading it up on Christmas morning (Marty played it first) and thinking, “Wow, this looks complicated. I’ve going to have read maps and stuff.”

I was bamboozled at first. I’d never played a game this complex, and as I played, I seemed to uncover more and more layers to it – you had to be nice to your companion characters, otherwise they would get the arse with you and that could cause problems, except you had to be nice to them in different ways, because each one was a complex character with a back-story and secrets to discover. There were actual choices to be made that would affect the world of the game in ways you couldn’t predict, and you could make mistakes – more than once a choice backfired in a way that had me sulking for hours (and let’s be honest, loading up an earlier save and attempting to fiddle it).

DragonAgeOrigins-scr007

Alastair (my favourite) smacking an ogre in the nuts

 

Over time, I found myself getting up early to play the game before work. I found myself planning how I would play the game again on a second play-through. It ate up hours and hours of my life, and I adored it. Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows my mildly unhealthy relationship with Dragon Age. And, you know, it legitimately changed my life.*

Firstly, it changed how I felt about video games. I’ve always been a fan, but this was the first time I realised that a video game could be as immersive as a book, and that a video game could drag you through a whole range of emotions. I fell in love with all the NPCs, I was swept up in the epic storyline, and I got utterly lost in it. Secondly, and more importantly, it reignited my love for a certain sort of Fantasy. You know the sort. The type with dragons and elves and adventure and secrets hidden in the deep. I’ve always loved that particular type of Fantasy, but I’d drifted away from it, perhaps feeling like it was too po-faced for grown-up me. Dragon Age showed me I was wrong about that – traditional fantasy could be funny, traditional fantasy could be thrilling, and traditional fantasy could still surprise me.

Morrigan

Morrigan is voiced by Claudia Black, which should tell you how awesome this game is…

 

And Dragon Age was really funny. The complexities of your companion characters meant that sometimes they got on with each other, and more often they didn’t, and there was a lot of snippy banter between them all. Dragon Age loved the genre, but it wasn’t afraid to have its little references and jokes that fans would pick up on (I still love the Superman meteor sequence, or how so many Star Trek actors turned up as voice actors) while at the same time smacking you in the face with a story that was as epic as any seven book fantasy series (I still get chills at the Battle of Ostagar).

Here’s the thing: if I hadn’t played Dragon Age, and fallen in love with Fantasy again, I probably wouldn’t have written The Copper Promise, and I might not have a book deal now. If I hadn’t picked out that particular video game because of the cool dragon on the front, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now with a proof copy of my actual book on the sofa next to me, because Dragon Age taught me that Fantasy could be funny, sharp, and full of characters who felt real. I should have known this already, of course, but perhaps sometimes it takes a continually pissed-up dwarf with a nug fixation and a sardonic witch to really get the message across. I had been writing Fantasy books for a while, but I had always steered away from the sort with leather and dragons and mead, despite how much I loved them, because I didn’t feel like I could do anything interesting with it. Thanks to Dragon Age, I fell in love with the genre again and had a ridiculous amount of fun writing a book that eventually got picked up by a publisher. Partly because of Dragon Age, a dream of mine came true.

So, you know, thank you, Bioware. If you ever need help moving house or re-grouting the bathroom, then I reckon I owe you one.

(please enjoy video of drunken dwarf ranting)

*I know that some people are still a bit sniffy about video games, and that admitting that one informed my writing will cause some people to titter into their handkerchiefs, but I don’t see how this is any different from talking about how D&D brought you to the genre, or how the Fighting Fantasy books fed your love for adventure. Also, I suspect they just need to find the right video game. The big sillies.

In Praise of HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game-of-thrones-hbo

First of all, I should probably state straight away that I’m an enormous fan of George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I read them at the beginning of last year after hearing endless praise for the books, and immediately fell in love. Here was a fantasy series that knew people, one that was driven by fabulously written, utterly believable characters. There were no totally blameless goodies, and even the really bad baddies, the ones who you totally despised and hated with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, could end up being your favourite characters three books later. A Song of Ice and Fire is an excellent series because it gives us unforgettable, believable characters and it gives us staggering, heart wrenching surprises.

 

So, in the long tradition of the rabid fan, I was either going to violently hate the HBO adaptation, or love it. I’m pleased to say it was the latter.

 

We were lucky enough to go and see the Bafta screening of the first two episodes, followed by a Q&A with Sean Bean, Mark Addy and Harry Lloyd. It’s fair to say that Marty and I were entranced from the very beginning, and I may even have had a bit of a lump in my throat at the title sequence, a beautifully appropriate whoosh across the map of Westeros, where locations such as Kings Landing and Winterfell pop up as little clockwork confections, reflecting the machinations of power and the complexities of the story. Really, it totally gave me a fan-boner.

 

And that’s how I’d describe the whole thing really. For someone who adores the books, seeing the places and people brought to life with such love and attention to detail is like some marvellous, hour-long fangasm. The casting is nigh on perfect, with the young actors who play Jon Snow and Arya Stark standing out as particularly impressive, and in Peter Dinklage I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Tyrion. The sets and the landscapes all look lived in, evidence of a fantasy world that has a long and relevant history, and everywhere you look there are details that let you know this is the story that George R.R Martin was telling in his books; Catelyn wears a fish-shaped broach on her dress, the sigil of the house of Tully, the spinning sun of bronze in the title sequence shows the defeat of the House of Targaryen through the symbols of deer and dragon fighting to the death, Winterfell is grim but sturdy, with Dire Wolves haunting every corner… a large portion of my second viewing was spent excitedly pointing out these details to Marty and the living room at large.

 

Obviously, as such a big fan it is difficult for me to tell if I am giving you an unbiased opinion, but I do also believe that this is good telly, well made. And as fantasy and genre fans I think we need to give it a bit of support. After all, how often to we get something like this? A fantasy series with actual money spent on it, on a channel known and respected for its approach to drama? A traditional fantasy series, in fact; a secondary world fantasy that is set entirely within its own reality with no links to Earth or Earth history. How often do we get that? I shall you-  bloody never. So as a fantasy fan I will be clutching this series to my bosom and lavishing love upon it, for Game of Thrones deserves it.

 

If you’d like to hear more of what we thought, including much appreciation for Sean Bean and his ability to wear leather and look rugged, you can listen to our Box Room Game of Thrones special below (podcast contains plenty of swearing, but no significant spoilers). I also invite you to admire a picture of us watching Game of Thrones for the second time at home, wearing our Greyjoy and Targaryen t-shirts and drinking mead. Yes, we do love this programme.

 


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