First off, congrats to everyone for being shortlisted.
Secondly, here are the figures using my my semi-arbitrary criteria, after which I’ll put some more expanded thoughts.
The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron (Gollancz) – 2k ratings (not looking good for me so far, book 1 has 7k but it’d be a stretch to make that claim)
So, first and foremost, apologies to the Gemmell committee. Clear (and perhaps inevitably) it’s a more nuanced matter as to who’s getting the votes in these awards that I’d characterised.
As for further thoughts about the list. Cameron actually has sold better than I’d realised. They’re not vast numbers on Goodreads or Amazon but very good all the same. He’s got a very successful career in historical fiction I know, but I’m not sure that could explain it by itself. Correia’s fanbase is large and motivated on the awards front so… yeah, there’s that. Interestingly he’s the only one to not have a UK publisher on this UK-based award. Guymer is a Warhammer writer and so far as I’m aware they follow different sales paths – checking Goodreads and Amazon you’d think it’s sold almost nothing, let alone enough to get ahead of folk like Abercrombie on a popular vote.
As for Gwynne and Lawrence, they’re the least surprising ones on the list even if I didn’t think they’d be on it.
And lastly – I’ve got no bloody idea who’s going to win out of that lot! If I had to put money on it I’d go for Lawrence, but clearly there’s a lot going on in this vote so I’ll be keen to see the numbers if they get released. I’m reminded that I originally said it’d be a big old sausage fest, and there I did seem to get it right, but there’s probably a lot to be unpicked by others about the nature of various fanbases.
I’m delighted to say that, because the début class of 2006 was of such exceptionally high quality, Gollancz have decided to release a 10th anniversary edition of each of their four débuts from that year – Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson and myself!
The collector’s editions will be £15 hardbacks with special new covers and are going to look stunning on your bookshelves – especially as a complete set!
More details here, the books will be out in September, just in time for GollanczFest where three of us will be in attendance too.
Oh wait, that’s just the pre-order page for my book. Oops, the actual announcement is this one:
I was doing a bit of checking back in my files and found the cover copy of a book I’ll almost certainly never write – the third of the Empire of a Hundred Houses (probable) trilogy. Given it’s just sitting there, I thought I might as well post it for those who are curious. So, if you are I present you with The Army of Stolen Children:
The Army of Stolen Children
One person’s crime is another’s opportunity. You have to be special sort of bastard to believe that, but cometh the hour, cometh the madman.
The great beasts of the Empire of a Hundred Houses are stirring. After five hundred years House Dragon appears weakened to the other hegemonies – shamed by repeated failure to control the Imperial City while the ranks of their Astaren are bloodily thinned.
Investigator Narin had been looking forward to a quiet life with his new family, hoping the sanctity of the Emperor’s person would keep the city safe. But then a third faction announces itself, one whose origins are too close to home for comfort.
And this time there is no right or wrong, no side Narin wishes to choose. There is only the game of power, played by the high-born rulers of nations, but the opening move of that game is aimed directly at Narin and his friends.
The Army of Stolen Children is coming for them all.
So Wednesday was a little anniversary for me, assuming my memory can be trusted. Nope, nothing to do with meeting my wife, I dunno when that happened. Who keeps track of such things? There is, however, one date that has stuck in my mine – 16th of March, 2006 – because that’s the day I began a published author and The Stormcaller was unleashed upon the world.
Yup, my little (?!) boy Isak is ten years old.
Back then publishing had a different landscape, the interweb was a very different place, and the SFF community was almost entirely foreign to me. I’d just written a book because it wanted to be written. And then? Well it got released into English twice (three times if you count the audio edition), Russian, German, French, Czech and Polish. The English versions of Stormcaller have sold over 60,000 copies between them and just yesterday I got an email from a guy who enjoyed the series enough to take the time to write to me and tell me that, ten years on.
It’s been by far my most successful book; it’s paid a lot of bills and remains something I’m very proud of. Even when I got the chance to revise it I didn’t want to do much, just tidy up a few parts to make them easier to read. For better or worse it’s my debut book and the start of the million+ words that comprise the Twilight Reign. While it may not become a worldwide phenomenon with HBO series or movie deals, it’s still quite an achievement.
Some people loved it, some hated it. Some people wanted it to be another book by Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch (with whom I was published as a trio of debuts… I know, tough company right?), and were furious when they discovered a traditional epic instead. But lots of people loved it and I continue to feel humbled whenever I’m told someone’s read (and re-read) the idle thoughts of this modestly talented writer.
I’ve today sent the full ms of Princess of Blood to my agent and brother for first thoughts. It’ll be my ninth book to come out and this week I’ve had several hugely talented authors say humbling things about book 1, Stranger of Tempest, so tonight there will be wine. While I’ll be raising a glass to Isak, Mihn and all the others (not individually though, the cast list had approximately 500 names by the end) I’ll also be toasting two others in particular – John Parker, formerly of MBA and Zeno literary agencies, and Jo Fletcher, formerly of Gollancz now rightful queen of her own imprint, who saw something in the manuscript that made them willing to put more work in than anyone could reasonably expect.
And lastly, cheers to all of you who bought it. No refunds.
So my stand-alone novella Fear The Reaper is now on sale – the paperback edition anyway, the ebook’s listed as to be released in a week or two. It was a story I started just as a bit of practice and finished as a nice change of pace between finishing one series and starting the next, so I’m very fond of it for a few reasons and I’m inordinately pleased with how it looks now – photos don’t do the cover (by v talented artist Nele Diel, go find her on DeviantArt) justice, the proof I’ve got looks really great sitting in my hand.
So I’d be delighted if you went and bought a copy from somewhere like Amazon. They’re an unpleasant company who’re abusing a monopoly position, but it’s hard to avoid them in this game and I’d be a liar if I said I never bought anything from them so…
However, you could also place an order with me if you like. I’m going to get some stock from Kristell Ink and will gladly sign/date/scribble over them to your exact specifications, charging cover price plus whatever the postage is. If you’re interested, drop me an email and tell me where you’re based and I’ll let you know the cost. I will do drawings if people want, but I’m terrible at them and not even in a funny way, just a kinda sad scrawling way, so buyer beware there…
In case anyone’s curious, here’s what I’m up to at Dysprosium – I’ll be around from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and available to be bought drinks throughout most of that period. You’re very welcome to talk to me too should you want, but I understand that mostly people wouldn’t choose that so don’t feel you have to.
Friday at 17.30 – Cryptids: A Modern Bestiary?
Impossible creatures as the focus of literature and art, with Peter Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Friday 21.15 – Apocalypse Yesterday:
The Apocalypse has come and gone: what is in store for the survivors? Are post-apocalyptic representations in literature, television and film true to current thinking? Has this changed significantly from Survivors to the Walking Dead? How does this affect people as people and their representation as characters in fiction? With John Bray (mod), Nigel Furlong, Sabine Furlong, and Sarita Robinson.
Saturday – 4.15 – Signing!
Naturally I’ll be the big draw at the Saturday signing. And by that I mean I’ll be doodling the size of the line in front of Jim Butcher… But there will also be Aliette de Bodard, Charles Stross and Adrian Tchaikovsky, so there’ll be a range of fans waiting there and idly wondering who I am.
Sunday 11.15 – Gollancz Room Party
The reprobates in the Gollancz stable will be herded out by judicious use of cattleprods to meet a crowd of people hoping to meet Joe Abercrombie
Sunday 12.15 – Reading!
John Kaiine (whom I don’t know but after a quick google looks like a cool guy, artist, photographer and writer) and I will be doing readings. I’m down as reading from Old Man’s Ghosts as it’s the new book out, but I’ve struggled to find a section short enough so I’ll be coming armed with the first scene of my next novel Stranger of Tempest too – which is brief, a bit bloody, and a little sweary, and thus sums up the book nicely.
But I have now found a scene from OMG so we’ve got a choice, depending on what people fancy and whether anyone’s interested.
So it’s been ten years this Sunday since I signed my first contract with Gollancz. Which remains somewhat astonishing to me, mostly that I’m still allowed to make stuff up when I should be working a proper job… But anyway I was going to do a giveaway of all my books to celebrate when it occurred to me that I’ve done a few of those over the years and it was maybe time to do something different.
Instead, I want your money. Or rather, I want it to go to my local charity. I’m looking for bids on a set of all my published books (that’s the entire Twilight Reign plus the two Empire of a Hundred Houses books, seven novels and one collection of short stories – plus, if someone proves particularly generous, perhaps also a promise for copies of the novella and novel I’ve written but haven’t come out yet).
The charity is Helen and Douglas House, a hospice for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. http://www.helenanddouglas.org.uk/ – and in case you want to just throw money their way right now, the best place for that is via their website or here - https://www.justgiving.com/hhadh/ – the do brilliant work and are lovely people so well deserving of your generosity.
So put your bids in the comments here, as replies on facebook or twitter or emailed through my website even – I don’t care where, I’ll do my best to collate them and make it clear what the leading bid is. I’ll be covering postage (so kinda hoping for a UK-based winner ;0) ) and I’m open to negotiation when it comes to format, size of winning bid depending – I think I’ve got most of the ones printed – and will sign/dedicate/first line as requested so long as it’s vaguely reasonable.
I’ll leave this to run until Monday morning, get bidding!
Fatigue: you’ve probably been running on caffeine and adrenaline to finish that last chunk of the book, writing longer and harder than at any other time. Now it’s done you realise you’re knackered; you’ve burned yourself out and the chemicals propping your brain up have started to drain away. Warn colleagues and family that all you want to do is curl up and sleep for a weekend so anyone bringing their problems your way needs to use words of one syllable and be prepared to dodge flying coffee mugs.
Elation: Holy crap, you’ve actually finished the book! Sure there’s editing to do but the hardest part is over – the bulk of the words are on the page and it’s time to sink into a whisky or four and celebrate getting that monkey off your back. You’ve got a burst of energy – it’s time to fix that shelf or work in the garden, say nice things to your family and try to remember what being human is like.
Illness: Remember those weeks of marinating your brain in caffeine, adrenaline and panic? Weeks when you were too frantic to be ill? Well I’m sorry, but your body was storing all those germs from people on the tube and plague-ridden toddlers, waiting for its chance. Time to fill the bath with lemsip and stay there for a week.
Depression: Often this’ll come hand in hand with the illness. You’ve got nothing to do and feeling adrift without the book to focus on – the last thing you can summon the strength for is starting a new book and you need a break from the current one. You’re tired and ill and dammit there is a lot of editing waiting for you. The answer is probably chocolate and brainless movies or a box set. Both are excellent at quietening the (by now ingrained) guilt you feel at not working.
Hope: Finally you start revising. There’s a long way to go, but you’ve shaken the flu and can face doing some work. At some point you laugh at a character’s joke or find yourself having no changed anything for five pages because you got swept up in the story. You realise it’s not terrible, that there’s some good to be found in that first draft and the critics may not publicly crucify you. You realise that maybe, just maybe, you can do this again. Which is good, because there’s always another deadline.
Now I know very few people care about my best books of the year, I’m not that in-depth or intellectual about my reviews on top of the fact most books I read came out a while back, but since it’s the season for them I thought I’d just list the ones I though were five stars offerings since I do now record what I read on Goodreads.
In reverse order of reading, because frankly I can’t remember much so I’m running down the list, we have:
The Violent Century – Lavie Tidhar. A brilliant literary take on the superhero novel, encompassing a chunk of the the West’s darker history in this century.
Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovich – a pitch-perfect supernatural crime series – funny and such a breeze to read it feels like a cosy crime novel, but it’s also intelligent and dark at the same time. This is the series that the BBC should be filming for their prime time slot or Christmas specials.
The Wild Places – Robert Macfarlane – I read most of it last year but finished it this year. Non-fiction and just an account of journeys in the last few wild parts of the country, it’s aching beautiful. Probably the best descriptive prose I’ve ever read so worth a mention here.
Leviathan Wakes – James SA Corey – intelligent space opera that still doesn’t take itself too seriously and has what most SF novels are lacking, real humanity.
The Tooth Fairy – Graham Joyce – A dark, elegant coming of age story from a master.
Honourable mentions – Son of the Morning by Mark Alder which was brilliant for the main, and The Shadows of the Apt books (I read a couple last year) by Adrian Tchaikovsky which is one of the few fantasy series this jaded old bastard continues to plough through with childish delight.
So there you go.
There's been lots of talk about publishing and Amazon and I'm not going to add to the debate (much), but I do have one thought that troubles me.
We're effectively at a situation where self-published authors have been set against traditional publishers/authors - there's a natural point antagonism there that companies (not just Amazon) have pushed for their own goals, but it's broadly ended up with self-pub authors on Amazon's side and against the traditional side.
So it's us against them, or certainly that's the prevailing mentality. What Amazon are mostly concerned with are the big five publishers, as the core of the traditional side, and the fight over terms that's going on there. If Amazon win, a lot of self-published authors are going to be pleased/smug about events. Perhaps it'll work out well for them, perhaps well for all us authors. That much I don't know. What I do know is that we'll have an enormously powerful company with a near monopoly over books in the English speaking world, standing over the broken bodies of it's only real opposition. They have no intention of putting up prices of ebooks, that much has always been clear. They believe they should be cheap for consumers and I'm not going to debate that point because there's no point. What I will point out is that, if the shareholders of Amazon have a time in mind for demanding real profits from this multi-billion-dollar corporation, that'd be a good time to do it. Once the war is one, the opposition broken and the Department of Justice still on your side.
And prices aren't going to be going up, which means there's one obvious direction they can squeeze. But maybe they'll never really want profits.