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.
So... I’ve done something I hope none of you actually notice. I can smell your anticipation already.
You know the saying that a book is never truly finished, only abandoned? Well that’s never truer than with a first novel. At some point you have to just step back and unleash the thing on the world. You might fix a few more errors when you’re checking the paperback proofs or whatever, but over all – just get over it, move on and start your next book.
Apparently I’m not so good at that bit.
With the Twilight Reign finished, one thing I was so pleased about when Moon’s Artifice hit the shelves was simply that I had a new first book to show people. Before that point, if you wanted to get into my work there was really only one place to do it, my rookie novel. But it got me thinking about how sometimes you get to revise those first novels and it occurred to me I REALLY couldn’t be bothered to do that. Not only couldn’t be bothered, but I didn’t want to.
It’s the book I wrote and I’m very happy with it, hell – I’ll enjoy it if I sit down and read the thing as I have done before. There were bits about the book that some readers didn’t like and fair enough, but for all that I might not write it exactly the same way if I started it all over again, a big overhaul isn’t ever what I’d wanted to do.
But maybe the odd tweak. Maybe a few sentences could be a bit shorter. Maybe there’s the odd scene where the POV switches and I’ve confused the reader. Maybe Isak sounds rather more well-spoken in book 1 than he does in later novels. Little mistakes you don’t notice as much as you should and it’s not second-nature to avoid them yet. Yeah, I’d totally fix a couple of those.
And that’s what I’ve done. My new editor in a fit of inadvisable politeness failed to trot out the usual editorial line of being swamped at work (despite actually being so) so when we were having a chat about a free Tom Lloyd sampler – forthcoming, to contain a massive chunk of Stormcaller on top of a massive chunk of Moon’s Artifice and a few short stories for good measure – he failed to splutter in outrage through his pint when I asked if I could do a few very minor adjustments to make it an easier read.
For formatting reasons, that proved to be a colossal and hideous mistake on both our parts, but we only realised it too late and had to press on until the end. I now know that the road to hell is not paved with good intentions but line breaks and margin changes. Manually fixing every line of a 175,000 word document was, ah... not fun.
But we got there and lo a new e-version of The Stormcaller is born. It’s almost exactly like the old version. Fans re-reading won’t be able to tell the difference I suspect, at least I hope not. But I also hope it’ll be just that bit smoother to new readers too. You try to replicate on the page the story that’s in your head and your skill as a writer determines how well it appears to those reading it. So this isn’t a revised edition of the book, that would be over-stating things, but it is a version that is simply a little truer to the story I was trying to tell.
And so the wheel of interview turns, and in another age, called about tea time by some people, A J Dalton answered me thusly:
1. Adam, your books (Empire of the Saviours, Gateway of the Saviours, etc) are pretty hefty. How much does size matter in fantasy, do you think?
Well, when I started reading fantasy (a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away) the 'big fat' 1000-page epic fantasy was the norm. I loved it - cos I find such books so 'immersive'. You never want them to end. However, tastes are changing - life is too short, time is money, blah, blah. The 'big fat fantasy' isn't selling like it used to. My publisher is asking me to go shorter. So, my most recent release (Tithe of the Saviours, April 2014) is a mere 145K words, the shortest book I've written in my 'career' (if I may use such a grandiose term for it!) so far.
2. Of all your books, do you have a favorite, or do you love all your children equally?
For some weird reason, I always enjoy writing the third/last book in a series, cos I know it's only the true fans who will be reading as far as that book. I find I have more permission to 'go for it' with that book. And my publishing editor is far less fussy/nit-picky about that book too. So, I've enjoyed Necromancer's Fall and Tithe of the Saviours most. I'm (probably) getting better with practice, so my most recent is probably the best - Tithe of the Saviours.
3. Readers always ask authors where they get their ideas or inspiration. Do you have a muse? What's your secret?
The problem is too many ideas really - and deciding which should be left out. I read a lot of fantasy and will sometimes read something and think, 'Hmm. I wouldn't have written it like that. I'd have written it like this. Oo. That's a good idea. Maybe I will write it like that!' It's like writing a photonegative really. So, that's my muse and secret in one - reading other fantasy authors. One of the UK's leading fantasy author (in terms of sales anyway) often says he doesn't read fantasy very much. I just don't get that. Doesn't he enjoy the genre he writes in?
4. Who is your favorite fantasy author now deceased? Why them?
David Gemmell. I grew up reading a lot of his stuff - you don't get better fight scenes - and they've helped me with my own stuff.
5. Who is your favorite living fantasy author and why (apart from Tom Lloyd or A J Dalton)?
Oh. Easy. Michael Moorcock. '
6. What's the best thing about being an author?
The best thing about the writing is... the writing. I enjoy the process, creativity and discipline of it. You've got to. Otherwise, you just couldn't stay motivated and inspired for the year or so it takes to write a book.
7. And the worst?
Worst thing – never having enough time for the writing. The writing doesn’t pay enough to cover your bills, you see, so you have to go out and get a day-job. Finding time to write is tricky, and the stress of that (especially when you have a deadline) really reduces the pleasure of the writing.
8. What are you currently working on that you can tell us about without then having to kill us?
A standalone ‘science fantasy’ called Lifer. Just 90,000 words, so a snip for the likes of you and me! It’s going well, and I’m enjoying it – cos there’s no deadline or anything (I haven’t looked into getting a publishing contract for it yet). In fact, it’s probably the best thing I’ve written to date (getting better with practice maybe). It’ll be the book I’m remembered for when I’m long gone, I suspect.
9. If people want to find out more about you, what sites do you maintain and what's your handle on Twitter?
My site is www.ajdalton.eu. I'm on facebook. Twitter: @AJDalton1. Beyond that, I tend to haunt the Fantasy Faction fan forum.
10. What question have I not asked you that I should have done? And what's the answer?
Maybe 'What's the trick to life as a writer and reader of fantasy?' Well, write what you enjoy reading, and don't be upset if it isn't published immediately. You're probably born ahead of your time. You have to wait till the world catches up. Or your stuff isn't currently 'in fashion' with publishers. Rejection should never be the same as dejection. Books get rejected for loads of reasons - and 'quality of prose' is really one of the rarer reasons. If you want to get published, focus on what the more common reasons are and address them.
For those as might be interested, my good friend A J Dalton suggested we do a double interview with each other, if that makes sense. He used better words of course... Anyways... here it is - I'll be posting his side in a bit, always interesting how people respond differently!
Well, almost. Though it's an ebook edition so it'll never sell out no matter how many we sell... ahem. I'll come back in.
SALE! The Stormcaller is on 85% discount on Amazon UK - that's just £1.49! It's almost like it's free*
So if you fancy giving my first novel a try, go download it today! it's the start of the Twilight Reign - more than a million words of epicy goodness and if you don't like it, you don't get your money back but it was only £1.49 so not too punishing a price to take a punt on something right?
Here's what some folk said about it:
...fantasy with the same magnificence of conception, the same sense of looming presences whose purposes are not ours to apprehend. -- Time Out - Ros Kaveney
...good ideas and a suitably flawed hero. The world is beautifully realised, the battles suitably grim... -- The Guardian - John Courtney Grimwood
It gallops along with scarcely a dull moment. -- The Times
The Stormcaller shows how high the bar has been raised with its sheer vision and inventiveness -- SFX - Sandy Auden
The world that Lloyd has created seems much more real than that of most fantasy books. -- Emerald City - Cheryl Morgan
Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan. Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish . . .
*almost free not the same as actually free. In many ways it's not free at all. All the ways that are important.
So hey, first online review that I can post, and it's a good 'un from Starburst!
The summary is "Moon’s Artifice is a book that demands the full attention of the reader, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s sometimes frustrating, can be a challenging read, but is ultimately rewarding, working well as a standalone story, while leaving anyone who has invested their time looking forward eagerly to the next volume of what promises to be a fascinating series."
and pleasingly for me if not anyone else, they liked Kesh best.
Yup, it's finally here - so rush, trample or fight your way out of the door to make it to your nearest bookshop and buy a copy!
Alternatively, you could go online I guess. If you're really lazy, here's a link even: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moons-Artifice-Tom-Lloyd/dp/0575131179/ref=tmm_pap_title_1
I'm told these have turned up, so in case anyone still reads things I post here rather than going straight to Facebook/Twitter - who wants a copy?! Preference has to go to UK readers unless my publishers fancy joining in, but otherwise...
Ok then, Give-away time! Miles ahead of publication too, since the book's out the 21st November in the UK, but I have a spare proof to hand so what the hell, right?
Just tell me why you deserve a proof of Moon's Artifice and it could be yours! Best answer wins & there's no right answer, only wrong ones. Probably very wrong ones... I'll choose a winner over the w/e and DM or whatever for an address.
Sorry though, I think it'll have to be UK only, given postage costs these days!