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The Prince of Lies – Christmas giveaway

My author copies of The Prince of Lies turned up the other day, so I thought it was about time I did a giveaway!

I have three paperbacks (UK edition) to give away, open to entries anywhere in the world. All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post – please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.

Rules:

  1. One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified (unless you’re replying to a question on the post or similar).
  2. 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.
  3. Closing date for entries is noon UK time on Tuesday 10th December. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
  4. I will be picking three separate winners (using a random number generator), to receive one copy each.
  5. I will aim to get the books out promptly, but given how close it is to Christmas, I can’t guarantee delivery times.
  6. If a winner does not respond by Christmas Eve (24th December) or doesn’t provide a valid email address, I reserve the right to select a replacement.

Good luck!

 

Mal Catlyn’s last stand

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?)

Mal’s Diary

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:

ePub | Kindle | PDF

The Prince of Lies: finished cover

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…

Goodreads giveaway

Just a quick (and belated) update this week, as I’ve been too jetlagged from my day-job trip to California to put together a proper blog post…

Next week I’m doing a giveaway on Goodreads – two signed copies of The Merchant of Dreams are up for grabs. The giveaway runs from 3rd to 6th March, so get in there quick!

View the giveaway on Goodreads

NB: this is a worldwide giveaway – no geographical restrictions – and is for the UK paperback (which is bigger and, IMHO, nicer than the US mass market paperback).

The Prince of Lies is handed in!

I’m very happy to say that on Sunday afternoon I finished the first clean(ish) draft of The Prince of Lies and sent it off to my editor Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot Books. Unlike the previous two manuscripts, this one has been running a bit late – not something I’m proud of, but sometimes these things happen.

The two sweetest words any writer can type?
The two sweetest words any writer can type?

In this case I don’t have any solid excuses apart from inexperience. Tying up all the loose plot threads so that my third book made sense was the hardest part; I knew how I wanted the trilogy to end, but getting there? Sheesh! Talk about herding cats… Anyone who’s read the books will know that by the end of The Merchant of Dreams there are a fair few balls in play, and I had only one book to resolve them all in. My choice, admittedly; I didn’t want Night’s Masque to be one of those sprawling fantasy series that drags on for book after book until the author is utterly sick of it. Better to wrap it all up neatly before my heroes outstay their welcome!

So what now, I hear you ask. Well, there’ll be another round of revising and polishing before it goes off to copyedits, but I need a break from this project in order to get some distance (and avoid burnout), and in any case it’ll be a while before I hear back from Marc and my beta-readers. In the meantime I’m going to catch up on my reading and DVD-watching and generally enjoy having a normal life for a little while.

What, you expect more books?

Yeah, OK so I have a notebook where I’ve been jotting down ideas for a new series, but I’ve not committed to anything yet. I want to let the ideas brew until something jumps out and grabs me so hard I can’t not write it, just as happened back in 2006 when I wrote the first draft of  The Alchemist of Souls. Writing a novel is damned hard work, so it’s worth finding the right idea before knuckling down to it.

I also don’t want to dive into this new project only to have to come to a screeching halt when it’s time to polish up The Prince of Lies. I’m pretty happy with how the book turned out, but I know there are pacing issues and dropped plot threads that need fixing, so it’s going to need all my attention one last time.

And then it really will be The End…or will it?

The Merchant of Dreams – Giveaway, Part 2

Update: congratulations to winners Paul, DeeDee, Gwen and Abhinav – your goodies will be on their way soon!


As announced last week, I have a stack of copies of The Merchant of Dreams just begging to be given away, so here’s the second batch!

This time it’s a worldwide giveaway, open to anyone anywhere. I have two copies of the US paperback to give away, plus two single-CD (MP3) copies of the audiobook, read by the excellent Michael Page.

All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post, and say if you prefer the paperback or audiobook (or either). Please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.

Rules:

  1. One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified.
  2. 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.
  3. Closing date for entries is noon PST on Tuesday 28th January. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
  4. I will be picking four separate winners (using a random number generator), to receive one copy each.
  5. Selected winners must respond to the confirmation email by Thursday 7th February, so that I can get the books out in a timely manner.
  6. If a winner does not respond by the stated deadline, I reserve the right to select a replacement.

Good luck!

 

The Merchant of Dreams – Giveaway, Part 1

Update: congratulations to Dave, Herdis, Lucy and Steven – your goodies will be in the post soon!


My author copies of The Merchant of Dreams turned up the other day, so I thought it was about time I did a giveaway. In fact I’ve got so many different editions, I decided to do two!

First up is a UK/EU giveaway for the benefit of my fans here who waited so patiently for the UK paperback. I have three paperbacks (UK edition) to give away, plus one 12-CD set of the audiobook. As with The Alchemist of Souls, the audiobook is read by the excellent Michael Page.

A second giveaway open to the rest of the world will follow next week.

All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment on this post, and say if you prefer the paperback or audiobook (or either). Please note that comments are moderated to reduce spam, so don’t panic if yours doesn’t appear right away.

Rules:

  1. You must live in the EU to enter (sorry – worldwide postage gets expensive)
  2. One comment per entrant, please – multiple commenters will be disqualified.
  3. 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.
  4. Closing date for entries is noon UK time on Tuesday 22nd January. Any comments posted after that deadline will be deleted.
  5. I will be picking four separate winners (using a random number generator), to receive one copy each.
  6. Selected winners must respond to the confirmation email by Thursday 31st January, so that I can get the books out in a timely manner.
  7. If a winner does not respond by the stated deadline or cannot supply an EU postal address, I reserve the right to select a replacement.

Good luck!

 

Doing it Elizabethan Style: Shakespeare’s Richard III

A few weeks ago I heard that the Globe had transferred two of their summer productions to the Apollo Theatre for the winter – and more importantly from my perspective, these were two new all-male productions starring Mark Rylance, former artistic director of the Globe. I’d read about the similar productions he’d done almost a decade ago, so the chance to see one at last was irresistible!

Johnny Flynn as Queen Anne and Mark Rylance as King Richard III (Photo: Globe Theatre)
Johnny Flynn as Queen Anne and Mark Rylance as King Richard III (Photo: Globe Theatre)

I hesitated briefly over which to choose, and eventually plumped for Richard III. Much as I love Twelfth Night, it’s a play I’m very familiar with, whereas the only version of Richard III I’ve seen is the well-known Laurence Olivier film. The reviews of Rylance’s performance suggested that this might be the better of the two, which swayed me further.

I booked stage seats, for the best possible view at the most reasonable price. This meant we were seated in one of two two-tier wooden stands, almost like a bit of the Globe Theatre brought to the West End, on each side of the stage. Unfortunately we arrived too late to get a lower-level seat, but the upper level still gave wonderfully up-close-and-personal views of the actors and set. The costumes were absolutely gorgeous – I spent a good deal of the play just taking in all the details, from the various styles of men’s hats (including a very silly fluffy white one with a pink hatband, like something a pimp would wear!) to the daggers worn tucked horizontally through the belt, in the small of the back. Another benefit of our seats was that we could see many of the costumes hanging up backstage, and even got a chance to thank the actors personally as we left, since they were still standing in the wings.

The undisputed star of the show was of course Rylance. He plays Richard as an almost pantomime villain, confiding in the audience about his wicked plans and getting them on his side. The result was an extremely funny play – surprisingly so, for a Shakespeare history play – at least until his final downfall. He was ably assisted in this by his foil, Roger Lloyd Pack as Buckingham (better known as Trigger from Only Fools and Horses). Most of the actors apart from the few leads played multiple roles, but the distinctness of their costumes meant that I was never confused when they returned in new guise. From our stage seats we could also make out little details invisible to the rest of the audience, like the fact that the pewter inkwells really did contain ink and you could see the actors signing the various documents that appear in the play. This added a startling verisimilitude that I had not expected – and nearly gave Mark Rylance a turn when he all but dropped an inkwell in his lap!

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons I wanted to see this production was that it was being staged with full Elizabethan practices as far as possible. The stage was lit by masses of candles (albeit backed up by some electric lighting for the benefit of modern theatre-goers) – four huge wrought-iron candelabra hanging from the ceiling, and a large floor-standing one at the back of the stage. Scenes flowed seamlessly from one to the next, with incoming actors beginning their lines even before the previous ones had left the stage. And then of course there were the men in female roles.

Samuel Barnett (perhaps best known for his role as Posner in The History Boys) was brilliant as Queen Elizabeth, graceful in his movements and acting as effortlessly as if this were his usual type of role. Johnny Flynn was less successful as Anne Neville; he declaimed his lines stiffly, as if it was taking all his effort to maintain a believable falsetto. A pity, as this has put me off going to see Twelfth Night, in which he plays the key role of Viola.

Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth and Colin Hurley as King Edward IV (Photo: Globe Theatre)
Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth and Colin Hurley as King Edward IV (Photo: Globe Theatre)

One difference from Elizabethan practice is that the actors playing female roles were a lot older than they would have been in Shakespeare’s day – Barnett, for example, is 32. Some actors did indeed continue in such roles until their early twenties, but the majority would have been around fifteen or sixteen, an age at which many an undernourished Elizabethan apprentice might still have an unbroken voice. These days, finding boys young enough to have such voices but old enough to play leading roles in Shakespeare must be practically impossible!

What struck me, though, during the play was that I soon stopped thinking of them as “men in drag”. On the one hand, they clearly weren’t actual women, but the combination of the artificiality of the stage environment and the contrast between male and female Elizabethan dress made them so distinct from the men as to seem like women by virtue of that fact alone. It gave me a striking insight into the Elizabethan mindset, whereby a person’s identity (both in gender and status) was judged very much by their clothing and far less by the human body inhabiting that clothing.

The play ended, as all Globe productions do, with a traditional jig performed by all the company. The dancing was superb, with so much leaping, stamping and clapping that I almost expected the men to start break-dancing any moment! It also reminded me a great deal of the ball scene in A Knight’s Tale where they suddenly start boogying to Bowie. Anyone who thinks that an Elizabethan ball would have been as sedate an event as its equivalent in Jane Austen’s day should think again – this was seriously sexy stuff!

All in all it was a wondrous experience, and well worth the considerable sum I paid for the tickets. I’m already starting to eye the coming season at the Globe Theatre with interest…

Audiobook contest and Reddit AMA

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.

Go on – Ask Me Anything (within reason!)

Publication day – again!

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!

Other online launch highlights:

* My Favourite Bit – a guest post for Mary Robinette Kowal, about one of the Venetian locations I researched for The Merchant of Dreams

* 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!