As has become traditional, over the next few months Mal will be tweeting a “prequel” to his upcoming adventures in The Prince of Lies. Previous tweets ran in real time, connecting us with events 420 years ago, but owing to an unexplained phenomenon that Mal is in the process of investigating, there’s some kind of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing going on that means his latest batch of tweets are arriving some months out of sync with our timeline. For clarity, the date at Mal’s end will be appended to all tweets.
Please feel free to tweet back to him with your questions, but bear in mind that for reasons of national security he may not be able to answer frankly or in full. Also, please be aware that Mal is being followed by @SirRobertCecil, the queen’s new secretary of state and alleged spymaster, and that any potentially seditious tweets may result in a closer acquaintance with the Tower of London. (Do not be fooled by any “page not found” messages when looking for Cecil’s Twitter account – you think a man with his influence can’t hide his activities from public view?)
Want to read the original “Mal’s Diary” tweets, the prequel to The Alchemist of Souls, all in one convenient free download? I’ve compiled an ebook version of the feed for your reading pleasure:
Yesterday one of my favourite genre websites, Fantasy Faction, did an exclusive cover reveal for the final book in my Night’s Masque trilogy. However I can’t resist posting it on my blog as well, as I’m so pleased with it!
As with The Merchant of Dreams, I briefed my editor Marc on what I wanted to see on the cover and he passed it along to Larry Rostant, who interpreted our instructions beautifully. The lightning bolts weren’t in my original brief but I have to admit they give it an extra pizazz that leaves you in no doubt that some serious magic is going on here!
To go with the cover I have an updated description as well:
Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted—his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it—but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting; their leader Jathekkil has reincarnated as the young Henry Tudor. But with the prince still a child, Mal has a slim chance of destroying his enemies while they are at their weakest.
With Sandy’s help Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…
I’m really looking forward to unleashing the book on the world come October – the fact that I shall be waving goodbye to Mal, Coby, Ned and friends hasn’t really sunk in yet…
Earlier this year I released desktop wallpapers of the lovely Alchemist of Souls cover art by Larry Rostant, and they proved rather popular. Since I love the cover of The Merchant of Dreams even more, I thought I’d better do the same for it!
So, here’s the lovely Jacomina “Coby” Hendricks for your computer-decorating pleasure. Just don’t say anything ungallant or she might cock that pistol of hers…
I’ve created two versions, one widescreen (8:5) and one standard proportion (4:3), both in sizes large enough for all but the biggest monitors.
It’s all go this week! Since it’s Christmas I’m not doing a “physical” book launch at a bookshop, so I have a number of online events lined up instead.
First, thanks to the lovely chaps at my publisher, Angry Robot Books, there’s a competition to win both The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams in audiobook format. Just pop along to the Angry Robot website and tell us your favourite Christmas joke!
The competition closes on Sunday 23rd January, so get your answers in quick!
The second launch event this weekend is an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on Reddit. The post is up now, awaiting your questions and I’ll back at midnight (evening US time) to answer them.
You know, I really can’t believe it’s only been eight months since my first novel came out – it’s been such a crazy hectic year, I feel like I’ve been doing this forever! And yet…today is the day that most editions of The Merchant of Dreams officially see the light of day (just waiting on the UK paperback which, owing to distribution schedules, won’t be out until 3rd January).
Back in the summer, after the manuscript was handed in and being copyedited, I started getting really nervous about how it would be received. Not because I thought it was terrible, or because it’s markedly different from the first (it isn’t), but there’s always the fear that you were a one-hit wonder and that the book you dashed off in under a year cannot possibly match up to the one you poured your heart and soul into for five times that long.
Apparently I needn’t have worried. Merchant has been getting some glowing reviews, most of which reckon it’s actually better than Alchemist. Maybe it’s the pirates, maybe it’s the steamy sex (well, steamier than the first book at any rate), but whatever it is, I’m just awfully relieved that readers are enjoying it!
Meanwhile The Alchemist of Souls is still humming along – it’s been chosen as the Nov/Dec read by The Book Club on Goodreads, and I’ll be recording a podcast in January with Steve Aryan.
If you have any questions about either book, I’m doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on Friday 21st December – do come along and join in!
* Christmas Market – a fun bit of flash fiction for Literary Escapism, in which I take Mal Christmas shopping in Cambridge. Includes a contest to win copies of both The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams!
I tried to slither out of this at first, but then I woke one morning at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep, but couldn’t get into the writing groove either, so I thought I might as well give it a go! The Next Big Thing is a blog post chain for writers. You talk about your work-in-progress (or in my case, about-to-be-published novel) and then tag five other writers to carry the torch forward. It’s been going a while, so practically every writer on the planet has already done it – soon we’ll have to start linking back to existing posts and it’ll go all Ouroboros on us…
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The Merchant of Dreams. That’s the official title, btw
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’s a sequel to my debut The Alchemist of Souls, so it picks up where that book left off. Also, I’d always wanted to set a novel in Venice, so I just needed to work out how to get my characters there!
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Historical/alternate history fantasy.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm, I’ve debated this one a lot, but eventually I came down in favour of Aidan Turner (Being Human, The Hobbit) to play Mal, especially after seeing photos of him as Kili (below). He has the right mix of charm, intensity and darkness to play my swashbuckling hero and his mentally unstable identical twin brother.
I’ve also cast a number of other actors in my head: Dominic Cooper (The History Boys, Captain America) as Ned Faulkner; Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Robert, Prince of Wales; and Bradley James (Merlin) as his younger brother Prince Arthur. And whilst it would require a significant makeup job, I totally envisage Seth Green (Buffy, Austin Powers) as Ambassador Kiiren
The character I have most trouble with is Coby Hendricks, my girl-disguised-as-a-boy; someone suggested Olivia Thirby (Juno, Dredd) but it would depend if she could do the accent!
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn’s dream about a skrayling shipwreck proves a reality, it sets him on a path to the beautiful, treacherous city of Venice – and a conflict of loyalties that will place him and his friends in greater danger than ever.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s represented by John Berlyne of Zeno Literary Agency, and published by Angry Robot Books. It will be out in ebook, audiobook and US paperback on 18 December 2012, and UK paperback on 3 January 2013.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I did the very first draft for NaNoWriMo, back in 2007, so technically, only a month. However I had to completely rewrite it from scratch; not only was it far too short at only 50k, but the previous book had changed substantially in revisions so the plot no longer fitted. The new draft took about eleven months, although I had to take time out to edit and promote the first book so it wasn’t a non-stop process. Actual hands-on writing time was probably nearer seven months.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The closest ones I can think of are Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series and Mark Chadbourn’s Swords of Albion. Like the former, several of the main characters are gay or bisexual, and like the latter it revolves around the Elizabethan secret service.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The city of Venice – I absolutely love it! It’s hardly changed in the last four hundred years, which makes it perfect for any writer of historical fiction, realistic or fantastical.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s probably one of the few Elizabethan fantasies that doesn’t feature either fairies or William Shakespeare (though the Bard does have a couple of cameos in the third book of the trilogy). My “magical beings” are a race of non-humans called skraylings who evolved in the New World at around the same time that humans appeared in Africa. They now live alongside the Native Americans, acting as go-betweens and traders, and since Columbus showed up and the Spanish started hassling them, have allied themselves with the English in an attempt to keep the Europeans out of the Americas.
Right, that’s my bit done – time to pass the torch to my victims, ahem, writer buddies:
I first met Adrian at EasterCon 2011, I think – he’s a great guy, and like so many people I met that year he now has a book deal! His first fantasy novel, The Four Realms, is due out from Anarchy Press in late December.
Jennifer is another convention buddy, this time introduced to me by fellow Angry Robot author Adam Christopher. Her fantasy novella The Copper Promise has been self-published on Amazon, and I know she has plans for more stories in that world!
Jacey was a fellow panellist at EasterCon 2012, where she impressed me with her witty rejoinders! Like me she writes swashbuckling alternate history fantasy, but Regency instead of Elizabethan – really looking forward to that one!
You’re supposed to link to five others, but this meme’s almost played out and I didn’t have time to hunt down any more. Bite me!
Christmas is coming early for one of Mal Catlyn’s fans…
One of the (many) cool things about Angry Robot Books is that they now publish an audiobook version of all their titles, simultaneously with the paperback and ebook. This is a great thing for both authors and readers, since there are a lot of fantasy fans who don’t have much time to sit down and read a book but will happily listen to one on their daily commute or whilst doing chores (I listen to audiobooks whilst washing up).
Anyway, I have a spare boxed set of The Alchemist of Souls on CD to give away. This is the unabridged edition, on 13 discs, narrated by award-winner Michael Page (see my June blog post announcing the audiobook release).
All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post. If you win, you will receive a brand new CD audiobook set of The Alchemist of Souls, with disc 1 signed by yours truly! Unlike previous giveaways, since I only have the one spare copy, entry is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. This is a one-off chance to own the only signed copy currently available
Please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.
One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified.
For security reasons, please don’t leave contact details in your comment – there’s a space in the comment form for your email address, I’ll use that to get hold of you.
Closing date for entries is noon PST time on Tuesday 27th November. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
I will be picking one winner (using a random number generator), to receive the aforementioned boxed set.
If I do not hear from the winner before Christmas, I reserve the right to select a replacement.
To mark the upcoming release of his latest adventures, Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn will once more be tweeting his exploits for the next three months. Why, you might ask, would a spy be broadcasting his whereabouts on a public network? Well…
He could well be using one of the many cunning ciphers that were invented by 16th-century cryptographer Thomas Phelippes;
He’s a spy, so you can’t trust anything he says;
The internet didn’t exist in 1594, so who’s going to read them? Duh!
As with his previous outing, #malsdiary, I’ll he’ll be tweeting in “real time” (give or take 418 years), segueing into the events of The Merchant of Dreams in January.
Want to read the original “Mal’s Diary” tweets, all in one convenient free download? I’ve compiled an ebook version of the feed for your reading pleasure:
Back when I was writing the pre-submission draft of The Alchemist of Souls, I rashly promised myself that if I ever sold the book, as a memento I’d get a copy done of the tattoo Mal is given during the course of the story. It felt particularly appropriate since Ambassador Kiiren says that it’s “for remembering”…
The manuscript did indeed sell, and a lot quicker than I expected! However it also happened just before one of the big SFF conventions of the year, so I put off getting the tattoo until I had time between events for it to heal. Weeks turned into months, and logical delays into procrastination (a bit like writing!). I found myself making excuses: I needed someone to design it for me…not true (I’ve worked as an illustrator, I can design a simple tattoo, for heaven’s sake!); this was a serious decision…well yes, but when did that ever stop me from doing rash things before?
A couple of months ago I realised that if I didn’t get it done ASAP, there wouldn’t be time for it to heal before WorldCon, and then I’d have to put it off—again!—until the end of the 2012 convention season. So, I sat down with sketchpad and pencil and drew a design. Here’s the description from The Alchemist of Souls: “…a knot of thorns surrounded by five-petalled flowers”. At the time of writing I wasn’t exactly sure what it looked like, only that it was meant to represent white hawthorn, a North American species similar to our native English hawthorns. On reflection I decided it was probably a stylised, symmetrical image similar to a Japanese mon (a type of heraldic emblem). I really wasn’t happy with the first attempt and I nearly gave up, but I knew I’d kick myself if I did. Instead I did some research online, looking at real tattoo designs similar to what I had in mind, and tried again.
The second sketch (right) was 1000% better, so I went ahead and drew up a final version in black ink. The hardest part was summoning the courage to phone a local tattoo parlour (recommended to me by a friend) and enquire about appointments. As it happened they were all booked up, but they do drop-in sessions on Saturdays. I duly turned up as soon as they opened on Saturday morning, and thankfully they were able to do it there and then, since it was a small straightforward design. Having made my decision, signed the consent form and handed over payment, I felt a lot calmer—the only way to get out of it now meant making an utter fool of myself!
Thankfully tattoo parlours have come a long way from the grubby backstreet establishments of my youth. The basement of Tattoo Crazy is spotlessly clean and looks like a cross between an art supplies shop and a physiotherapy clinic, with big adjustable reclining chairs down one side of the room and boxes of marker pens and layout paper on the other. In the window, watching over proceedings, is a two-foot-tall wooden statue of the Teaching Buddha with, appropriately enough, earlobes stretched from wearing plugs.
The procedure took a little over an hour. To begin with it was a lot less painful than I expected—it felt a lot like being drawn on with a very fine fibre tip pen—but towards the end it did get rather uncomfortable, as my arm and neck were stiff and Thomas (my tattoo artist) was going over areas that had already been done, filling in gaps and generally tidying up the design. I was thus very glad when it was over, but also thrilled with the finished tattoo. In tracing the design for transfer, Thomas had tidied up my rather wobbly flowers but left the more meticulously drawn thorns as-is; as a result, the design is superficially symmetrical but not so rigidly so as to look like it was drawn by a computer. Which is fortunate, since it’s supposed to have been drawn freehand by a skrayling!
I’m told that tattoos are addictive and it’s rare for people to have just one, but this one is so personal that a second tattoo would have to be something pretty special to merit a place alongside Mal’s hawthorn.