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AGE OF IRON by Angus Watson

AGE OF IRON Angus Watson

Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the first volume of this action-packed historical fantasy trilogy.
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SYMBIONTMira Grant

The second terrifying novel in the Parasitology series by New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant!
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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

SFF Interview Swap: Elizabeth Moon Interviews Rachel Bach

What happens when two writers from different genres come together to talk about science fiction, fantasy, and story crafting? You’re about to find out!

Rachel Bach grew up wanting to be an author and a super villain. Unfortunately, super villainy proved surprisingly difficult to break into, so she stuck to writing and everything worked out great. Her current project, the Paradox series, is a high-octane SF adventure across many fascinating alien worlds.  Look for the third novel, HEAVEN’S QUEEN (US | UK | AUS), online and in stores on April 22nd or start at the beginning with FORTUNE’S PAWN.

Elizabeth Moon has degrees in history and biology, and served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. CROWN OF RENEWAL (UK | AUS) is the final installment of her Paladin’s Legacy series. This gripping epic should be on every fantasy reader’s To Read List. Expect it to be hitting bookshelves on May 27th.

HEAVEN'S QUEEN   CROWN OF RENEWAL

Elizabeth: You’re well known as someone who can write very fast without loss of quality, and your recommendations for increasing speed–both in your blog and in your book–make good sense. (In fact, I’d been using only two legs of your “triangle” for years and after adding the third had such good days with a new story that it slowed me down in getting these questions ready.) I’ve had 10K word days in the past, but I’ve also experienced increasing physical difficulty–arthritis in my hands, neck, and back that limited how much I could write in a day. Have you considered expanding your advice to include the ergonomic issues arising from very fast writing? How to generalize the skills to using alternate input methods, such as using a speech input? (I’m waiting for the direct brain-to-page technology. Visualize the scene: boom, it’s in the file or on the page, ready for editing. Hear the conversation between characters: there it is, with all the uh, um, er…but nothing vital missed.

Rachel: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to hear my writing triangle helped you have a good writing day! Best thing ever.

I’m not at all surprised to hear you’d already figured parts of the triangle out. I’ve heard the same thing from several experienced authors, and I’m starting to think that all I did here was put words to what’s actually a universal writing concept. Can’t stop the signal, Mal!

You’re also not the first person to mention the physical difficulty of writing ten thousand words a day. The most extreme example of this was when I did my an annual open Q&A on the NaNoWriMo forums. One of the writers I talked to had stared out as a professional musician, but she had to stop when she injured her hands through repeated stress caused by playing. This injury effected her writing as well. She wasn’t even able to type two thousand words a day before her hands gave out, much less ten. It’s an admittedly extreme example, but it highlights the fact that writing is much more of a physical activity than most people give it credit for, especially if you have a pre-existing injury or ailment, like arthritis.

So, yes, I think this is a very valid point and I will be updating my book and blog to include it. Even with my healthy hands, it is physically exhausting to type that much, and it would be very easy to seriously injure yourself if you’re not careful. That said, though, I don’t actually know what to recommend as a solution. Right now my best advice is to listen to your body and stop if something hurts. Likewise, you should pay attention to your writing position and invest in a keyboard that’s comfortable for your hands over long periords. Speech to text programs have also come a long way in recent history (prolific author Lynn Viehl swears by Dragon Speaking Naturally), but I’ve never personally used them as anything other than a novelty.

Anyway, long story short, you make a very good point and I will be definitely be amending my process to include this issue. After all, my hands might be good now, but I intend to be in this writing business for as long as I can, and at ten thousand words a day, I’ve got a lot of typing in my future.

When can we expect that brain to page interface, science?

Elizabeth: You decided on a writing career early, but then found an English degree not particularly helpful. Writing our kind of fiction demands skills–for worldbuilding, for inventing new technology, for creating invented cultures that “work” in story terms–not taught in English classes. Have you ever wished you majored in something else, and what do you think would be the perfect degree plan for a spec fic writer? What research sources do you like to use when creating the surrounding cultural environment and technology for your invented worlds? What’s been your favorite thing to research in each of your genres? What was hardest to find or understand? Have you had life experiences that you feel were particularly important in expanding your writing scope? Do you schedule specific time for research and general reading, or is it “grab it when you need it?” (Yes, I know, I packed too many questions into one. Pick one or a few…)

Rachel: Actually, I think all of these questions interrelate beautifully! Like a lot of writers, I already knew what I wanted to be when I went to college, and English Major seemed like the most logical choice. How better to learn about writing books than by studying how the best are put together?

The reality of my experience was very different. This is not to disparage the University of Georgia’s English program, which is actually very good, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. College English programs are excellent at teaching you how to be a good non-fiction writer: how to properly use sources and make solid arguments and write thoughtful essays. But fiction writing is a different beast all together, and even though I took several creative writing classes, they were all focused on literary short story writing, which is about as far from genre novels as it’s possible to get and still be called fiction. Even worse, I was in an environment that actively looked down on the sort of commercial books I enjoyed and wanted to write. So yeah, not a good choice for me in hind sight.

If I had it to do over again, I would have majored in something much broader, like history or sociology, or even Comparative Lit, which focuses on international fiction instead of the Western Euro-centric literary cannon. I would also have taken a lot more electives, because the most useful thing I’ve found as a novelist is having as wide and diverse a base of knowledge and interests as possible. The more you learn about the boarder human experience, the deeper the well of ideas you can draw from becomes.

As to the more specific of your questions about what research or experiences I’ve found most important or difficult, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you. I’m not dodging the question, I just can’t remember the individual acts, because for me writing has always been a process of running the entire sum of my knowledge and experience through the grinder. The Paradox novels, for example, pull ideas from everything: books I’ve read, jobs I’ve worked, that essay on binary gender I wrote for my one sociology class, a picture I saw on Deviant Art, video games, a role playing game my husband ran in middle school ten years before I even met him. All of these seemingly unrelated experiences and influences get mashed together as I write, and I couldn’t separate them out again if you paid me.

People have actually asked me what degree or life experience they should get in order to become a genre writer before, and my answer to them has always been that writing genre stories makes you a genre writer, nothing else required. But if I had to recommend something, I’d say you’re best off studying whatever you find most interesting. Go wherever your passion leads, whether it’s in formal schooling, a challenging job, or just something you do for fun. Whatever you do, though, make sure you’re paying attention, because it’s these memorable, seemingly random notes of experience that you’re going be drawing from later as a writer. They’re the fuel that will keep your idea furnace blazing bright. All the other stuff—story structure, pacing, characterization, and so forth—is just a matter of practice.

Or, at least, that’s how it’s been for me. Every writer works differently, so your mileage may vary.

Elizabeth: You also commented in an interview that you feel your fantasy is informed by an SF sensibility. After reading Dr. James Gunn on writing science fiction, and the difference he sees between how SF and fantasy are approached differently, I realized that although the two genres feel different to me, I use much the same process in writing both. I want the deep logic in both to be similar–everything links together into one coherent system. What do you mean by having that SF sensibility in your fantasy? That leads to the impossible question of “Where do you see the difference between SF and fantasy?” and the closely related “Is there a line between worldbuilding everything but the “people” part of the story and worldbuilding the cultures the characters come from?” And if there is such a line, is that where the divide between science fiction and fantasy lives?

Rachel: I don’t think anyone has ever drawn a line between Science Fiction and Fantasy that we can all agree on. Take Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. Are they Fantasy or SF? On the one hand, you have dragons with mystical psychic bonds to their riders who can blink through space and time, on the other, humans are only on Pern because of space colonization and the Thread they ride dragons to burn is itself a space born spore.

The easy way out of this is to just say “what does it matter? Pern is awesome!” but it does matter to readers. The F and SF parts of SFF attract different audiences with different expectations and tastes. That said, I absolutely agree with you that, from the perspective of a writer looking at her own books, the creation process for each is pretty much the same.

In my own case, I’m a systems oriented, logical sort of person, so when I sat down to write a fantasy series, I took a logical approach to it. I built an internally consistent magic system and a world to contain it, and then I worked out from that framework to determine out how everything else in the story would function. When the time came to write Paradox, I built its universe the same way, only on a much grander scale. Both times, however, I figured out the why of reality first, and then used that to derive the how, who, and what.

This is what I meant when I said I approached my Fantasy with a Science Fiction sensibility, because, as Dr. Gunn says, one of the fundamental elements of Science Fiction is the scientific idea that everything is ultimately knowable and explainable, even if we don’t understand it at the moment. For me, though, this is as true in a fantasy world with an active goddess figure who makes things happen on her whims as with a galaxy that formed by the accidents of nature. Everything is knowable, everything is explainable, everything happens for interlocking reasons, and discovering those reasons is often the whole point of the story.

So at the worldbuilding, story crafting level, I don’t actually think there is a line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, at least not for me. Even when you start talking about characters, both Fantasy and Science Fiction favor larger than life heroes who change the world through significant personal action and sacrifice, be it exploring a new planet and ending up the unlikely champion of the indigenous population against your own corrupt galactic government or journeying to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom. Even the window dressings are somewhat interchangeable, because I’ve read Fantasy with complex machines and written Science Fiction with magic. There are short, lightning paced Fantasies and glacially slow SF epics with thousands of characters. Even the relative perception of time is no guarantee when the most famous Science Fiction story of all time took place long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe the only real, measurable line between Science Fiction and Fantasy is one of flavor and emphasis. Fantasy novels tend to emphasizes the fantastical elements—magic, monsters, fully developed secondary worlds, the sense of being in another place, etc.—while Science Fiction generally places its accent on the products of scientific achievement—gadgets, fast travel, galactic expansion, exploration in the vastness of space, and so forth. Otherwise, the two are so similar as to be almost interchangeable, as evidenced by how easily and often they get lumped together. Both genres tend to be deeply humanist, both reflect and comment on issues present in our own world, both provide a stage for the invention and exploration of alternate cultures, both are given to power fantasies, you get the idea. They’re both wonderful, delicious ice cream, and the only actual question here is which flavor do you prefer in your sundae.

Elizabeth: Thinking ahead, do you imagine yourself delving into each of the various subgenres of our big playground, or do you think you’ll settle into some favorite pair (or quartet) of niches? So far you’ve done witty, rollicking fantasy and hard-edged action-packed SF…what other areas intrigue you and set the writer-vibes going? SF mysteries? Epic fantasy?

Rachel: I freely admit that I’m an agent’s worst nightmare, because I write everything! In addition to my current roster of Fantasy and SF, I’ve finished the first in a near future Urban Fantasy series about dragons that I’ll be using as an experiment in self publishing this July. I also have an alt history mystery novel about magic in the Industrial Revolution set in Manchester complete with necromantic workhouses and a spell breaker detective that’s currently with my agent. And as if that weren’t enough, I’m also planning a darker military fantasy young adult book, another Paradox novel focusing on the secrets of the Sainted King, an epistolary series of shorts chronicling the tragically comedic and unavoidable fall of a Dark Lord called “Speeches to Orcs,” and about a thousand other things that I may or may not actually finish in 2014.

So yeah, you could say I’m running all over our genre playground like that one weird kid who always eats waaaaay too much sugar. But then, what’s the point of writing fast if you don’t also write far and wide?

Elizabeth: Thanks for being part of this–it’s been a lot of fun learning more about you and your work, and thinking about the questions you proposed.

Rachel: Thank you for taking the time and for talking with me! Again, I can’t stress enough what an honor and a delight it’s been to get the chance to talk with you. (When I told my mother I was doing this, her response was “You’re interviewing Elizabeth Moon? Can I touch you?!”) Thank you again, and I can’t wait to get my hands on The Crown of Renewal later this year!!

Rachel and Elizabeth will be back again soon, and next time the tables will be reversed! In the meantime, check out their novels and get ready for their upcoming releases!

author post

Nature abhors a vacuum—nowhere more so than in politics. Remove a dictator, and a hundred evil wanna-be despots arise in his stead. Depose a king, and the nobles squabble among themselves. Take down a tyrant, and the underlings kill each other off until only one remains.

In my first Ascendant Kingdoms novel, ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS), the war between Donderath and neighboring Meroven got out of hand after years of ground assaults, leading to devastating strikes and counter-strikes by the mages on both sides. The strikes were intended to kill the king and the families of the nobility, which they did. But the strikes also severed the bond that enabled mortals to control magic, making it a wild force of nature. The civilizations of Donderath and Meroven, which had depended upon magic, collapse.  Leaderless, with the magic gone and the infrastructure in ruins, Donderath and Meroven descend into chaos.

Unfortunately, anarchy has its advocates.

One of the aspects that intrigues me with the Ascendant Kingdoms books is the tension between order and chaos.  On the plus side, chaos can permit natural talent to rise, unencumbered by inherited position, social convention or historical precedent. More often, this means that might makes right, the strong oppress the weak and justice fails.

Among those who see opportunity in chaos and anarchy are men who have styled themselves as warlords, mustering Donderath’s defeated returning soldiers to their ranks and gathering the displaced farmers and tradesmen who have nowhere else to go. Bandit gangs and highwaymen prowl the byways and the city streets now that the king’s guards are no longer to be feared. The talishte—vampires—are split between those who see an opportunity to take the power for themselves as the strongest predators and subjugate mortals, and those who prefer the rule of law. Mages also split between those who desire to use their power to rule over the non-mages by magical force, and those who prefer to work in service to governing powers.

Between the warring factions are the farmers, tradespeople, soldiers and townsfolk whose entire existence was upended by the war and the Cataclysm that resulted from the mage strikes. Unlike the court mages and the battle wizards who worked magic on a grand scale, the common people relied on small magic to make their lives easier in hundreds of ways. Before the Great Fire, magic kept milk from souring and healed sick children and lamed horses. Magic shored up wobbly walls and kept fences together and kept the river from flooding its banks. The Great Fire burned their towns and destroyed their leadership. They lost their livelihoods and crops to fire and flood, along with losing their livestock to illness and their sons to the war. Some try to make the best of it and get on with their lives. Others choose sides, pledging themselves to the service of one of the new warlords.

Blaine McFadden was willing to be stripped of his lands and title to save his sister from dishonor, and the murder he committed resulted in his exile. When he discovers that he is the only living Lord of the Blood and returns to restore the magic, he finds that creating some degree of order is necessary to enable the lands to rebuild. The title he never coveted is now his, along with the responsibilities. And it is increasingly clear that he’s going to have to win a new title—that of ‘warlord’—in order to live long enough to accomplish his goal and protect everything he holds dear.

REIGN OF ASH (US | UK | AUS), book two of the Ascendant Kingdom Saga, releases today! Read an excerpt now or start from the beginning with ICE FORGED.

Return to Mirgorod with TRUTH AND FEAR!

“I fell into Wolfhound Century and devoured it in three days.”— Richard Morgan

Today we are proud to release the greatly anticipated TRUTH AND FEAR, Peter Higgins’s enthralling sequel to WOLFHOUND CENTURY. TRUTH AND FEAR is the second novel in the Wolfhound Century trilogy, published by Orbit in the US and Gollancz in the UK.

TRUTH AND FEAR finds Investigator Lom returning to a Mirgorod in crisis, with the war against the Archipelago looking grim for all. Enemy divisions are massing outside the city, air raids are a daily occurrence and the citizens are being conscripted into the desperate defense of the city.

But Lom has other concerns. The police are after him, the mystery of the otherworldly Pollandore remains and the vast Angel is moving, turning all of nature against the city.

As complete destruction looms, Lom must find a way to save the city and save himself – before the horrors of war overtake them all.

Praise for WOLFHOUND CENTURY:

“Like vintage China Mieville, but with all the violent narrative thriller drive of Ian Fleming at his edgiest” RICHARD MORGAN

“An amazing, fast-paced story in a fantasy world poised dangerously on the edge of quantum probability, a world where angels war with reality” PETER F. HAMILTON

“I absolutely loved WOLFHOUND CENTURY. Higgins’s world is a truly original creation, Russian cosmism and Slavic mythology filtered through steampunk and le Carre. What really captured me was his beautiful style and language” HANNU RAJANIEMI

“An alternate history that will grab you by the lapels and snap you to attention.”— io9

“Sentient water, censored artists, mechanical constructs, old-fashioned detective work, and the secret police are all woven together in this rich and fascinating tapestry” — Publishers Weekly

“WOLFHOUND CENTURY merits the attention of Miéville fans looking for something new.” — Far Beyond Reality

“WOLFHOUND CENTURY is a strange, complex, earthy, sometimes violent read, and one of the best debuts I’ve gotten my hands on.” — My Bookish Ways

“This is a great, dark and fantastical thriller. It has the suspense of classic spy thrillers, mixed with the strange and the bizarre found in any number of critically-acclaimed fantasists.” — Civilian Reader

“Higgins doesn’t just build a world, he also thrusts the reader into it thanks to his incredibly adept use of an intense and stark atmosphere.” — Bookworm Blues

“Very dark, very gritty and very atmospheric. WOLFHOUND CENTURY is also a book free of genre constraints, allowing for a great original and entertaining read. Top Notch stuff by Peter Higgins.” — The Founding Fields

“Fans of dystopian fiction, noir, and science fiction and fantasy (especially those weary of tired old world building that always seems to center on English history or Western European norms) will find much of interest in this book.” — Nerds of a Feather

Read an excerpt from TRUTH AND FEAR or start from the beginning with WOLFHOUND CENTURY

An interview with Glenda Larke

Saker appears to be a simple priest, but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. Wounded in the line of duty by a Lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility it brings, Saker can only follow its lead.  The Lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

THE LASCAR’S DAGGER (US | UK | AUS) is the first book of an brand new trilogy by Glenda Larke. Get to know Glenda and find out what her new series is all about in the interview below. 

1.) When did you first start writing?

I was still in elementary school when I discovered I could write stories and – better still – I could persuade other kids to listen to them. When a teacher asked us what we would like to be when we grew up, my reply was ‘an authoress’!

2.) What made you want to write fantasy?

My first novel (unpublished!) was actually not fantasy at all. It was a thriller with a strong dash of romance, set in Malaysia, where I was living at the time. I showed it to someone, and to my alarm discovered that she equated the main character’s views with mine simply because the main character was, like me, an Australian living in Malaysia. I figured that the book – if ever it was published – would get me into trouble with the community I was living in at the time, so I shelved it and turned instead to writing fantasy. After all, no one was going to equate me with a woman born in the Keeper Isles and living in a place called Gorthan Spit, were they? (It was no hardship switching genres, of course. I loved reading fantasy and it makes sense to write what you love.)

3.) Who are some of your major influences in the genre?

It’s hard to single out any particular book or writer. I suspect it was Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ that started me reading fantasy in the first place. The authors I read in the 1980s as I was developing my skills as a writer of fantasy were people like Barbara Hambly, Janny Wurts, Guy Gavriel Kay, Raymond Feist and Ann McCaffrey.

4.) Where did the idea for The Lascar’s Dagger come from?

There’s never a single idea! If I had to sum up the sources for my inspiration, I’d say: the great port cities of the Netherlands and the U.K. in the time of sailing ships, my mother-in-law’s kitchen, the Malay dagger, my ancestor sailing around the world on Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavor’, the spice trade, my husband’s background, privateers, birds of paradise…

The Malay/Indonesian dagger, with its distinct wavy blade, is part of my husband’s culture. Called a kris, it is a traditional weapon of his people, and historically it was thought to contain a spirit or presence (which can be good or evil). Folk tales often tell stories of a kris with magical powers. What fantasy writer can resist the idea of that?

Most of the trilogy, though, is set in my version of Europe about to embark on colonial expansion and trade dominance of the East. There’s a bit of a twist on our history, though: in my books, the East has a novel way of fighting back…

Read more. 

Press Release: Orbit UK to publish Welcome to Night Vale novel

Night Vale logo by Rob WilsonOrbit UK has acquired a novel based on WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, to be written by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink. The WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE podcast is described by the TELEGRAPH as ‘a cultural phenomenon’, the GUARDIAN calls it ‘extremely addictive’ and it has topped over twenty-three million worldwide downloads since its first episode aired in 2012. The Night Vale book will feature both new characters and beloved favourites from the show.

Commissioning editor Jenni Hill bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Angharad Kowal at Writers House UK, on behalf of Jodi Reamer at Writers House US, in a heated auction last month. Publication is expected for autumn 2015.

 WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a free, fictional podcast set in a creepy desert town. It takes the form of a radio show full of news reports from Cecil Palmer, the town’s affable radio host who doesn’t quite understand that hooded figures in the dog park and hypnotising glow clouds in the sky are not facts of life anywhere outside Night Vale. As hilarious as it is disturbing, the show can be described as a cross between THE TWILIGHT ZONE and TWIN PEAKS, or your local news report written by Stephen King.

Angharad Kowal said: “Orbit is the perfect home for the WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE novel – their enthusiasm for the project is hard to surpass. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Jenni Hill said: “I first listened to WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE last summer, and I fell in love instantly with Jeffrey and Joseph’s smart writing, fascinating characters and comic but wonderfully creepy storylines. I’m overjoyed that Orbit will be publishing this in the UK and I know that the novel is going to absolutely delight both Night Vale’s loyal fans and plenty of new readers.”

And now, the weather.

About WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE: The brainchild of writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE podcast is narrated by Cecil Baldwin, with music by Disparition. More information, and links to the podcast, can be found at www.commonplacebooks.com/welcome-to-night-vale.

 

Now available in paperback – WOLFHOUND CENTURY by Peter Higgins!

Citizens! WOLFHOUND CENTURY is out now in paperback with a brand new look for the new format. (Click here for a larger view.)  This brilliant debut will have you at the edge of your seat and waiting eagerly for more, so it’s a good thing that the next book in the series, TRUTH AND FEAR, will be available for purchase next month!

Higgins_WolfhoundCentury_TPG   Higgins_TruthandFear-HC

In WOLFHOUND CENTURY, Investigator Vissarion Lom is summoned to the Capital to catch a terrorist, and his task will not be an easy one. The flame of revolution burns brightly in Mirgorod, pulling Investigator Lom deeper into a war between the people and their corrupt totalitarian state. Meanwhile, in the forests beyond the Capital, a powerful archangel has fallen to Earth. Great and terrible changes are coming to the land.

As you can see below, the hardcover release received many fantastic words of praise, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Praise for WOLFHOUND CENTURY:

“Like vintage China Mieville, but with all the violent narrative thriller drive of Ian Fleming at his edgiest” RICHARD MORGAN

“An amazing, fast-paced story in a fantasy world poised dangerously on the edge of quantum probability, a world where angels war with reality” PETER F. HAMILTON

“I absolutely loved WOLFHOUND CENTURY. Higgins’s world is a truly original creation, Russian cosmism and Slavic mythology filtered through steampunk and le Carre. What really captured me was his beautiful style and language” HANNU RAJANIEMI

“An alternate history that will grab you by the lapels and snap you to attention.”— io9

“Sentient water, censored artists, mechanical constructs, old-fashioned detective work, and the secret police are all woven together in this rich and fascinating tapestry” — Publishers Weekly

“Wolfhound Century merits the attention of Miéville fans looking for something new.” — Far Beyond Reality

“Wolfhound Century is a strange, complex, earthy, sometimes violent read, and one of the best debuts I’ve gotten my hands on.” — My Bookish Ways

“This is a great, dark and fantastical thriller. It has the suspense of classic spy thrillers, mixed with the strange and the bizarre found in any number of critically-acclaimed fantasists.” — Civilian Reader

“Higgins doesn’t just build a world, he also thrusts the reader into it thanks to his incredibly adept use of an intense and stark atmosphere.” — Bookworm Blues

“Very dark, very gritty and very atmospheric. Wolfhound Century is also a book free of genre constraints, allowing for a great original and entertaining read. Top Notch stuff by Peter Higgins.” — The Founding Fields

“Fans of dystopian fiction, noir, and science fiction and fantasy (especially those weary of tired old world building that always seems to center on English history or Western European norms) will find much of interest in this book.” — Nerds of a Feather

Read the first two chapters for yourself, or check out this interview to find out more about Mirgorod and the world of WOLFHOUND CENTURY.

Our good friends at Gollancz are publishing the UK edition of WOLFHOUND CENTURY. Visit their website for more info.

ARCANUM – epic fantasy with a spark of genius

Today we are proud to release ARCANUM (UK | US | ANZ), a majestic standalone epic fantasy from none other than the Philip K. Dick award-winning Simon Morden.

Having won the prestigious award for his science fiction series starring deliciously sociopathic Russian genius Samuil Petrovitch, Simon has now turned his considerable intellect to fantasy. And what’s resulted is rather mind-blowing . . .

Imagine that long ago, the Roman Empire was crushed by wild spell-casting shamen.

Imagine that a thousand years later, a mighty kingdom has been founded on this formidable power – with magic their tool and their ultimate weapon.

The secret to Carinthia’s dominion is the Order of the Hexmasters, whose magic can power cities, build bridges and exterminate whole armies.

But then imagine taking this power away . . .

When the age of magic dies, the world will be ignited. Some believe that any act, no matter how horrific, is justified to bring the magic back. But some believe that when the magic has gone, the age of science will be born anew.

The twelve-year old Felix will be thrust onto the throne after his father’s demise, the fiery Nikoleta must wield her power carefully as the last remaining hexmaster, and the librarian Thaler believes that salvation lies in the knowledge stored in the great library of Carinthia . . .

Chaos and order, future and past, technology and superstition – all will clash with violence in the magnificent ARCANUM, out today.

‘An enthralling read for aficionados of intelligent, impeccably rendered fantasy’ Kirkus

‘A captivating novel as well as an interesting commentary on fantasy as a genre’ Tor.com

‘A masterful foray into an alternate universe . . . An engrossing rollercoaster of a plot winds up with a solidly satisfying climax that leaves the reader craving more’ Publishers Weekly

If you’re based in the UK and would like to celebrate the release with Simon and get hold of a signed copy, there will be a signing held at the Newcastle branch of Forbidden Planet on Saturday 15th February from 1-2pm.

author post

There’s a whole fantasy trope based around the protagonist of the story discovering that, after the initial skirmish with the forces of evil, he or she is the Chosen One, the one person who has all the skills – mental, physical and magical – to defeat the big bad and win the day.

And we love hearing about them because we can dream we are them. We’re no longer ordinary; quite the opposite. We become, for the length of the tale, extraordinary; possessing such skills, strength and stamina that no other mortal can command. The Chosen One is the archetypal super-hero story: think of Greek and Persian legends, and you’re halfway there already.

But when the story ends, the clouds come over, the sky darkens, and the world becomes colder, harsher and less caring. We’re not the Chosen One. We’re nothing unusual. Not only can we not take the battle to the forces of evil, we don’t even know where to start. We simply have to accept the way things are, with no hope of changing the slow grind of life.

But hang on. That’s not necessarily the case. We know through experience that we can claim small, if temporary, victories that bring life and light to us and ours. And we know that being inspired by our fictional heroes and heroines can make us better people – G. K. Chesterton spoke the truth when he said: ‘Fairy tales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Cover launch: UNFETTERED, Tales by Masters of Fantasy

We’re delighted to unveil our cover for UNFETTERED (UK), an anthology of original fiction from some of the biggest names in fantasy, to be released digitally this February.

It will include stories from Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, Mark Lawrence, Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, Michael J. Sullivan, and even deleted scenes from A MEMORY OF LIGHT, the final book in Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series.

Unfettered, Tales by Masters of fantasy including Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Wheel of Time, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, Mark Lawrence, Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, Michale J Sullivan and Many others, edited by Shawn Speakman

This collection is not only a fantastic anthology in its own right, but it’s also a testament to the generosity found in the science fiction and fantasy community.

When author Shawn Speakman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and didn’t have health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, he incurred a huge medical debt that he was unable to pay. That’s when New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story that Shawn could sell to help cover those bills. He also recommended he ask the same of his other writer friends, and UNFETTERED is the impressive result.

The collection includes twenty-four tales, including an extra story for the UK edition from Speakman himself. As the title suggests, the writers were free to contribute whatever they wished, resulting in a truly unique selection from some of the brightest minds in fantasy fiction.

UNFETTERED will be released digitally in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and other territories on 20th February 2014. It is available for pre-order from online retailers now.

author post

The Spiritwalker Trilogy is an epic fantasy coming-of-age-and-revolution in a gas-lamp setting written in first person from the point of view of a single character. While I really enjoyed writing in the voice of Cat Barahal, the single character first person viewpoint also presented challenges. For example, I could only ever see other characters as Cat sees them, and any incident that she does not herself personally witness she can only report on (or hear a report of) later.

As I finished up COLD STEEL (US | UK | AUS), the third in the trilogy, I decided to write a short story “coda” from the point of view of one of the other characters, Cat’s beloved cousin Beatrice (Bee). I also decided that because Bee is an artist I wanted the story to be illustrated. I’ve written about “The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal” elsewhere (extensively here where I talk in detail about the process of creating a chapbook with illustrations).

The artist Julie Dillon did a fabulous job with the black and white illustrations for the Secret Journal. I also commissioned her to do a couple of color pieces, more for my own selfish desire to have the illustrations than anything else (although we are talking about doing a limited edition print run).

Julie did two spectacular pieces based on passages from COLD STEEL.

One, “Rising from the Sea of Smoke,” was debuted over at A Dribble of Ink last week. You can see it there or on Tumblr.

Today, Orbit Books is debuting the second piece, “Amazons.” (Click for a larger view.)

Amazons

I asked Julie to illustration the following passage:

A gust of wind rattled the branches. A drum rhythm paced through the woods. On its beat I heard a woman’s voice call out a verse, answered by a chorus of women singing the response.

A column of soldiers marched into view, although they were almost dancing, so proud and mighty were they, and every single one a woman.

Four drummers led them while a fifth struck a bell, the drummers prancing and stepping on their way with every bit of flash and grin that any young man could muster. Their shakos were as jaunty as my own. All wore uniform jackets of dark green cloth piped with silver braid. Some wore trousers, while others preferred petticoat-less skirts tailored for striding. Most wore stout marching sandals laced along the length of calf, brown legs and black legs and white legs flashing beneath skirts tied up to the knee. Four lancers walked in the first rank, tasseled spears held high, while the rest carried rifles and swords. A banner streamed on the wind. It depicted an antlered woman drawing a bow.

Amazons.

Of the piece, Julie writes:

“I made the viewpoint lower to the ground so the viewer is looking up at them a little rather than looking down, which I thought might give them a somewhat larger than life feel. I also tried to make their poses and gestures, most particularly the arms of the amazons in the front row, have a nice flow of movement between them, to try to convey the sense that they are moving a little more energetically.”

Read the first chapter of COLD MAGIC (US | UK | AUS), book one of the Spiritwalker trilogy.

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