Gollancz Festival

For the handful of you who’ve not seen any mention of it, The Gollancz Festival will be taking place in London on the 17th and 18th of September and despite a petition from certain authors, I’m going to be there!

You can find all the details here – http://bit.ly/2caytM5 I’ll be there all day Saturday and as much of the evening as I can manage before I fall asleep, plus the Sunday morning. There’s also, I believe, a bonus event on the Monday night in Manchester featuring myself and a couple of bestselling novelists besides.

How Many Fuck’s Do I Give?

 

Swearing in fantasy – perhaps not quite the most polarising of subjects in the genre, but usually one where people have an opinion they’re unlikely to ever change. For several reasons I went back through my books recently and did a search for how often I’d included the word “fuck” in one form or another, curious at how things might have changed for me over the years. I’d specifically been looking at how sweary my mercenaries in Stranger of Tempest were, how much it was natural and how much I needed to try and be a bit more inventive or entertaining in their cursing.

 

Some people think there’s no place for it in secondary world fantasy – that it should be era-appropriate or world-appropriate. Others want to hear characters speak in a way that’s familiar, following some idea of realism or authenticity. For myself, I’m a fairly sweary person, but that doesn’t mean my characters should always be.

 

Doing the sums, it’s clear I’m reminded that I was overly cautious about it in the early days. For Stormcaller and Twilight Herald, while things hadn’t got as desperate as they did later on in the series, Isak is an angry young man from a poor background, and nowadays I realise that (particularly in the first edition of Stormcaller) he spoke a bit too proper, as it were. The more comfortable I got in the series, the more confident Isak became in his role and the more relaxed his speech became. And the more people swore, in part because of that but also simply because there were more veteran soldiers and awful things happening.

 

I read The Way of Kings recently, and to someone like me it really stood out how Sanderson had avoided real-world swearing. You swap in “fuck” for every time you have “storm” used as a curse and you’ve got a reasonably sweary book, so I found it interesting that he’d avoided the word. Battlestar got around it with “frak” in a way I got used to soon enough, it didn’t distract me, but in Way of Kings it nagged more. My impression of the US is that everyone outside of NY swears a fuckton less than the average Brit and Sanderson is of course writing for the US readership (and standards of US publishing). It’s a market where I suspect many more fans will put a book down at too much swearing, but to me it jarred to so overtly avoid it. I’ll be very interested to see if my language gets mentioned in feedback from US editors as we try to find a publisher for Stranger there, whether anything would need to be toned down even.

 

There’s certainly a lot more naughty language in the new series. It’s about hard-drinking and somewhat childish mercenaries so there was never a way to avoid that even if I’d wanted to. Moon’s Artifice wasn’t the same sort of book so the numbers dropped there, but for these ones I’d have felt almost dishonest to pretend they weren’t foul-mouthed folk. Like sanitising violence, it can be a tricky slope towards hypocrisy. You spend too much time glorifying it, enjoying the gory detail, and you come across pathetic and sad, but if you hide it you risk cheapening your work and more besides.

 

Authenticity, or a perceived version of it, is important for some and I can see their point in many ways. But I’m not writing a historically accurate novel and while there are some things that need to be broadly era-appropriate for the level of technology and state of society etc, I’m writing for people who live in the same world as me. Crucially I feel, I’m writing what I hope to be fun, exciting and occasionally irreverent books. To tiptoe around such things when most people aren’t experts in the field forces me to change the style I’m working towards.

 

If you don’t like swearing in books then that’s an entirely different matter and hopefully from the way the book is presented, you’ll be able to see what style it is before you pay money for it. I’m not out to deceive or offend, but I write for me first and foremost.

 

So, for those of you who’re interested, here are the figures.

How many fucks I gave in each book:

 

The Stormcaller: 6

The Twilight Herald: 2

The Grave Thief: 31

The Ragged Man: 52

The Dusk Watchman: 63

 

The God Tattoo: 12

 

Moon’s Artifice: 24

Old Man’s Ghosts: 20

 

Stranger of Tempest: 82

Princess of Blood: 142 (first draft), 71 (second draft) 84 (third draft)

 

That last figure, I’d not even intended to bring the number up again. I’d gone through every mention of the word and tried to be a bit more inventive or amusing with it – some of them worked, others I realised I just needed to say “fuck” and pretending otherwise would be silly. It’s going to remain on the list of things I’ll check at the end of each draft however.

 

My sense of humour may be childish and crude, but sometimes I need to rein it in a bit. Indulging myself needs to be justified in every case and one day my kids may be reading this. That’ll be a fun day…

Fantasy in the Court & Nineworlds

So, I’ve been on holiday and am bewildered to discover the world has not stopped for me. As a result, I’m late about stuff and generally unprepared for reality. In case anyone is interested however, I’ll be at Fantasy in the Court tonight and at Nineworlds on Saturday with a panel in the morning and one in the evening. The rest of the time I’ll be loitering around the bar and would be delighted to be told exactly what’s wrong with my books over a beer!

As for those panels themselves:

http://schedule.nineworlds.co.uk/#part/213

Gemmell shortlist and apology

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)
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia (Baen) – also 2k, though Correia + awards is a complicated matter I believe.
Gotrek & Felix: Slayer by David Guymer (Black Library) – 92 ratings. Seriously?! Oh come on. I know it’s a Warhammer novel and that may distort things but come on, gimme a break here!
Ruin by John Gwynne (Pan Macmillan) 1.7k – A man who’s done well at the Gemmells and seems to be selling loads, but still far fewer ratings than others on the list
The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence (Harper/Voyager) 5k – perhaps I should have expected this would do well given how committed his fans are, but still it was book 2 in a new series with lots of big names on the list.

 

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.

Some inaccurate Gemmell figures

So I thought I needed to do a follow-up to my last, esp in light of Stan Nichols replying to my last. To get more of a clue I fetched up the list of winners and shortlisted books for the Legend award to see what Goodreads ratings they have – yes, I know that’s hardly scientific, but it’s a handy rough guide for how books have sold in the US & UK markets so it’s a starting point:

 

2009

 

Best novel: Andrzej Sapkowski for Blood of Elves – 20k

Nominated: Juliet Marillier for Heir to Sevenwaters – 10k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for The Hero of Ages -128k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Last Argument of Kings -61k

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Way of Shadows -98k

 

2010

 

Best novel: Graham McNeill for Empire 335 ratings

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Best Served Cold -32k

Nominated: Pierre Pevel for The Cardinal’s Blades – 575 ratings

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for The Gathering Storm – 89k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for Warbreaker – 53k

 

2011

 

Best novel: Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings – 129k

Nominated: Pierre Pevel for The Alchemist in the Shadows 0 269 ratings

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Black Prism – 52k

Nominated: Peter V. Brett for The Desert Spear – 51k

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for Towers of Midnight – 87k

Nominated: Markus Heitz for The War of the Dwarves – 3k

 

2012

 

Best novel: Patrick Rothfuss for The Wise Man’s Fear – 230k

Nominated: Brandon Sanderson for The Alloy of Law – 67k

Nominated: Kristen Britain for Blackveil – 7k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for The Heroes – 25k

Nominated: William King for Blood of Aenarion – 200 ratings

 

2013

 

Best novel: Brent Weeks for The Blinding Knife – 36k

Nominated: Helen Lowe for The Gathering of the Lost – 464 ratings

Nominated: Mark Lawrence for King of Thorns – 32k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Red Country – 19k

Nominated: Jay Kristoff for Stormdancer – 8k

 

2014

 

Best novel: Mark Lawrence for Emperor of Thorns – 24k

Nominated: Peter V. Brett for The Daylight War – 32k

Nominated: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson for A Memory of Light – 61k

Nominated: Scott Lynch for The Republic of Thieves – 40k

Nominated: Adrian Tchaikovsky for War Master’s Gate – 537 ratings

(because I was curious, seeing that as the most obvious outlier, I checked book 1 in that series: 6k ratings – very good, but not high enough to be an explanation)

 

2015

Best novel: Brandon Sanderson for Words of Radiance -81k

Nominated: Joe Abercrombie for Half a King – 24k

Nominated: John Gwynne for Valour – 3k

(was also curious about that one, book 1 won the Morningstar award but only has 5k ratings, so not enormous, Valour’s got over 200 Amazon reviews, more than Prince of Fools so maybe it’s sold better than this suggests, maybe just highlights the flaws of my method and original thinking!)

Nominated: Mark Lawrence for Prince of Fools – 11k

Nominated: Brent Weeks for The Broken Eye – 21k

 

 

So there are a number of outliers there, Pierre Pavel being one, McNeill, King, Lowe, & Tchaikovsky. Pavel is translated from French so there *may* be a distortion there given Goodreads is an English language  site, (similarly Heitz is I believe bigger in his home country than in English language territories) McNiell and King are Games Workshop books which I suspect distorts the figures, but Lowe and Tchaikovsky are very interesting results that my theory certainly can’t explain. I know Tchaikovsky is active on social media and his series has a good following, but not to the extent that he could (or would) game the vote, and I assume Lowe is the same on that front.

 

So all this doesn’t prove or disprove much, not least because some of these books weren’t massive sellers at the outset. Books like Hero of Ages have sold vastly more than those they lost to, but I believe Sanderson’s sales were more modest at the time.

 

However, it doesn’t offer a huge amount of hope to a minnow like me for next year’s award (Stranger of Tempest is eligible for next year, this year I’ve got Old Man’s Ghosts on the longlist but really almost no-one bought that and it’s less of a Gemmell type fantasy anyway).

 

But for all this, there’s little more to say until the shortlist is released (on Friday I believe?) so I’ll do a follow-up when I can get near a computer over the weekend.

 

 

Embittered Ranting about the Gemmell Awards

 

I got a lovely review for Stranger of Tempest today – for context, here it is: https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/tom-lloyd-stranger-of-tempest-review/

 

 

And in said review, there was again a mention of some Gemmell-esque qualities, which is great not least because Gemmell was one of the benchmarks for the sort of fantasy story I want to write and tried to write with Stranger of Tempest. So while of course my first reaction was “woohoo!” my second was “of course it never stands a chance in the Gemmell awards because only rich authors are allowed to win.”

 

Now of course that sort of thinking sounds like the musings of an embittered mid-list fantasist and that is exactly what I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong. Bear with me a minute…

 

For the sort of writer I am and the books I want to write, I’m unlikely to trouble most awards. They’re looking for a more literary type of book and that’s fine, but when the Gemmells were announced, the goal was something a little different. They wanted to celebrate books in the spirit of David Gemmell, which is good news to someone who writes and reads that sort of book. But in the name of popularism only the rich are properly eligible to win.

 

That might be a flippant way to put it, but publishing these days is a global beast and all the money runs to the top just as conservative politicians would like it to. So modest success is a rare thing to see, you’re either big across half the world and your success breeds more success, or you’re struggling. The mid-list continues to be squeezed and that’s just the way life goes.

 

So why the whinging from this corner of the mid-list? Simply put – the Gemmell awards are a popularity contest, so you need to have sold a lot of books to get a lot of votes. It might not be a guarantee of votes, but it’s the very first criteria. If I wasn’t an embittered mid-listers but someone who sells loads, I’d be reaping the rewards of my success. Bigger advances, a dozen or more translation deals, GoH slots at conventions etc etc. My mortgage would be paid and I’d be able to write with a lot less pressure, but also, I wouldn’t NEED to win awards as a result. They would be nice certainly, but they wouldn’t make much difference to my career and life.

 

Sad to say, because it’s a popularity contest open to the world, the only people who can win it are the ones who don’t really benefit. And conversely, those who could benefit from winning, don’t stand a chance. Which is fun for us.

 

But sure, life’s not fair and this is hardly the biggest injustice around. However it rankles a bit and in large part because of one particular reason. The rules were changed – deliberately amended – to allow this to happen. For whatever reason, the awards committee decided to change their original plan to the open vote, and as a result they screwed those of us who could actually be helped by their award.

 

Yes, they screwed us. In the spirit of… well, something… they changed the rules with the net result that only massive-selling authors stood a chance. I could stand losing out to, say, Joe Abercrombie, on literary merit – the man’s a cracking writer after all – but to never be in the game, to never have a chance of comparison, is a kick in the crotch.

 

I think I’d guessed the Legend shortlist would look something like this:

 

Abercrombie, Brett, Hobb, Sanderson, Novik

 

But I could be wrong, I often am! I based that mostly on who has the most Goodreads ratings, with a few close calls going to ones who’ve got a bigger internet profile that I can see,

 

If any of the books on the actual shortlist has less than… say 5000 ratings of Goodreads (picking a figure that’s double my highest-selling book), I’ll gladly apologise and owe the award committee a drink or two. But I doubt that’s a bet many people would want to take.

 

 

 

*** Edit – Stan tells me that it was never intended as a juried vote so that is clearly either my faulty memory of being given incorrect information back when I first heard about it. Thought it best to note that here rather than rework the post and then have following comments refer to things unseen ***

The Stormcaller – 10th anniversary edition

Stormcaller special ed

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.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stormcaller-Collectors-Anniversary-Limited-TWILIGHT/dp/147321680X/

Oh wait, that’s just the pre-order page for my book. Oops, the actual announcement is this one:

http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2016/06/cover-reveal-the-10th-anniversary-editions/

A short note from the department of unwritten books.

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.

The Stormcaller – ten years on.

 

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.

Fear The Reaper – copies for sale.

 

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…