A Few Further Tales of Einarinn – now available!

Yes, today’s the day! You can now buy my very first ‘independent’ ebook from Wizard’s Tower Press, in the format of your choice, worldwide without DRM.

Listings on Amazon and Barnes & Noble will follow shortly, as you prefer.

I am so excited about this on so many levels. It’s great to think that fans of the Tales of Einarinn have a further chance to read these stories, now available so much more widely than before. I’m also hoping the book will serve as an introduction to my writing and to this world for new readers. Finally, I really am thrilled to be including the splendid artwork first commissioned for The Wedding Gift portfolio project.

To recap, the stories are:

Win Some, Lose Some tells the story of that first encounter with Arle Cordainer which Livak mentions from time to time in the Tales. Find out why she’s intent on revenge.
A Spark in the Darkness sees Halice, Livak, Sorgrad and Gren coping with Halice’s injury between The Thief’s Gamble and The Swordsman’s Oath – tricky, when someone wants them all dead.
Absent Friends details Livak’s first introduction to Ryshad’s family, and what followed – this story’s first publication Why the Pied Crow Always Sounds Disappointed explains why Sorgrad and Gren were in Solura before The Assassin’s Edge – and why leaving them to their own devices is seldom a good idea.
The Wedding Gift sees Livak and Halice looking forward to the future, just as long as they can tidy up a few loose ends from their old lives.

And when I say ‘independent’, do please note that this project would never have happened without the invaluable assistance of Wizard’s Tower Press and Antimatter ePress.

Enjoy – and spread the word!

The Appeal of Dog-Headed Men, or, Exploring the Non-Human Condition

When I was invited to write a story for Tales of the Emerald Serpent, I was sent some fascinating background material on the city and its inhabitants. My attention was instantly drawn to the Lowl, described as ‘dog-headed humans’, taller than an average man, with some fire magic and an inclination to warrior and mercenary lives.

My university degree’s in Classics, so I immediately recalled Hesiod and Herodotus’s tales of the Cynocephali, the dog-headed tribes encountered by Greeks exploring the mysteries of Africa and India. More than that, I remembered the pictures in the books of myth and folklore which I’d read many years before. I recalled those wonderful maps where pictures of such half-human races separated known lands from the wilderness where all the mapmakers said was ‘here be dragons’. My love of fantasy fiction, as reader and writer, most definitely has its roots in such stories. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if there truly were such creatures?

A Lowl from the city of Taux, art by Jeff Laubenstein

This may well surprise fans of my novels. Readers observe from time to time on the absence of non-human races in my books, curious rather than critical. It’s a valid observation and that was a definite choice I made at the outset. Then as now, I’m looking for new perspectives on epic/high fantasy, those tales of princes, heroes and wizards – and in the ones I write, any and all of those characters can be men or women. I chose not to include ‘classic’ fantasy non-humans like orcs, dwarves or elves because they come loaded with so much baggage. So many readers will instantly see such characters through the prism of their own preconceptions. Some writers work very well with that challenge but I knew it wasn’t for me. I aim to test assumptions on class, gender and political power-structures in other ways in my stories, best done in an all human world. Along with writing a vivid, fast-moving story of course, with whatever sword-play, trickery, magic or dragons seems best suited to that particular adventure.

Writing short fiction offers me opportunities to do different things. Exploring the non-human condition is something I’m increasingly interested in. I considered dryads in my story for ‘The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity’; nigh-on immortal beings whose life is nevertheless lived in a constant here-and-now. Bound to the natural world and its seasons, their concept of time, life and love is utterly non-human – which is all very well until they’re forced to deal with humans intent on building a road through their oak grove.

Lowl are something else again. Their dual nature fascinates me, not only when considering how humans will react to them but wondering how Lowl see themselves. Are they neither one thing nor the other? Or enjoying the best of both worlds? Or something else entirely? What will that mean for an individual’s opportunities and choices?

Help our Kickstarter reach its target, and you’ll be able to read my story as part of a truly fascinating collection. The minimum buy-in is $5, for readers world-wide, and if you have more cash to spare, there are a whole range of bonus benefits after that.

Here’s a taste to whet your appetite.

Zhada was heading instead for the Emerald Serpent, first and most famous of all the Black Gate’s taverns. Whoever had first claimed that half of the long building had known a trick or two about keeping customers coming back even more readily than they visited the neighbouring Silk Purse and that house’s fragrant courtesans.

The pastry triangle in his hand was still warm plump with hotly spiced meat and fruit. He wolfed it down, relishing the bite of the pepper pods. So much human food was tediously bland to Lowl tastes but Mistress Talleran was Taux born and accustomed to using all the Free Coast’s bounty in her cooking.

‘Here comes a hound for hire!’

Zhada halted as he rounded the corner into the wider thoroughfare cutting straight towards the stadium.

‘Varrach.’ He let his hand rest lightly on the hilt of his sword. ‘Don’t you find the day a little chill?’

Like the rest of his followers, Varrach was shirtless despite the season. Zhada noted that three more had now followed his lead and gone under the needle for tattoos. At first glance the ink extended the Lowl pelt covering their heads and necks right across their human-framed shoulders and down their chests. A closer look would show they were no more furred than any particularly hairy human.

He also saw Varrach’s gaze drop to check that knotted ribbons secured his sword’s hilt to its scabbard, to signal that Zhada had no intention of duelling today.

The tan-furred Lowl squared his impressively muscled shoulders and stared straight into Zhada’s eyes. ‘I choose not to soothe the humans’ fears through wearing their clothes.’

‘Then shouldn’t you be going bare arsed?’ Zhada’s riposte was as swift as any blade.

Varrach clenched a fist beside his tattered ulama trousers, the loose cotton fabric cut short above his knees and bare feet. ‘And throw the ball straight into the merchant guild’s hands? Their Sturgeons would chain me like a cur in their lock-up for goading humans into unsanctioned fighting. Who would challenge their claim on this city then?’

‘But you don’t care to challenge them in their own language.’ Zhada interrupted with a gesture towards the men and women walking past, fewer than half of them sparing curious glances for this exchange in incomprehensible Lowl speech.

Varrach’s scarred muzzle wrinkled as he drew dark lips back from his canine teeth. ‘I have nothing to say to such stunted specimens, as good as deaf and noseless.’

Zhada cocked his head. ‘Why do you feel so threatened when Vitcoska’s blessing has given us so many advantages over them? She chose to form us from humanity. Doesn’t denying that kinship insult her? Don’t you see it every time you look in a mirror?’

Truth be told, he wasn’t speaking to Varrach now but to the pack of younger Lowl loitering behind him. Then he noticed that a couple of those fool pups had done something to their eyes. No longer manlike, their gaze was as dark and featureless as any beast’s.

The fur on the back of Zhada’s neck bristled with irritation. He took an angry step towards the closest, ready to grab his scruff and shake some sense into him. ‘What are you going to do next? Cut off your thumbs so you’re left with useless paws and start scurrying around on all fours?’

Varrach moved to intercept him, both fists clenched. Zhada halted. He didn’t have time to waste on this nonsense or on trying to explain himself to the city’s blue-liveried guards.

Taking a swift sidestep to wrong foot Varrach, he went on his way without another word.

Taken by surprise, the tan-furred Lowl settled for shouting a last insult. ‘Be sure they reward you richly for putting their leash round your neck!’

Zhada ignored him, lengthening his stride. He didn’t want to be late for his meeting and the sun had already risen above the vast stadium. He hurried into its shadow, heading straight for the Emerald Serpent.

When he entered the tavern though, he saw Lareo already deep in conversation with some human. Zhada approached nevertheless, to make sure that the aging Eldaryn had seen him. The diminutive individual was barely two thirds the height of most humans, even sitting on his tall stool.

Catching the human’s scent, the Lowl’s nostrils flared. Magic. A Tome Mage. One of those cheats peddling magic-wrought fakery on the basis of some supposed kinship with true wizards. As if such mountebanks had any link with those scholars who lived unseen in the Star Tower across the harbour.

‘Zhada, good day to you.’ Lareo waved to him over the human’s shoulder.

He shucked his backpack and dropped it on the floor to land with a solid thud. The man turned around in his chair, startled.

‘Good day.’ His smile widened. ‘Ah, I am looking for one of your kinsmen. Do you know a—’ he hesitated ‘—one called Durrau?’

Zhada had the Tome Mage’s measure in an instant. Newly arrived in the city from one of the New Kingdoms. While he’d have heard of Lowl he’d never have seen one beyond the seas. He didn’t know how to pronounce their names, just as he didn’t realise that Zhada now baring his teeth was nothing akin to a human smile.

A Lowl from the city of Taux, art by Jeff Laubenstein

You can find out a whole lot more about Lowl through the second of our Kickstarter updates.

You can read excerpts from Harry Connolly’s story and from Lynn Flewelling’s tale
You can also join the The Art of the Genre Facebook group if you’re so inclined.

Darkening Skies

So if Darkening Skies, the second book of The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy is published in the US on 28th February and in the UK on the 1st of March, what happens on this leap year day of 29th February?

Well, for a start, you can go and read the opening chapter, wherever you might be, over on the Solaris Editors’ Blog.

I’ve also done an interview with the Solaris chaps talking about this book and trilogy as well as what I write and read more generally. There’ll be a few more guest blog spots here and there over the next week or so as well.

In addition, I’m celebrating along with the fabulous and talented CE Murphy, whose new book Raven Calls is also published this week, with a joint launch party at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin on Friday evening, by way of kicking off the fun at P-Con IX where I’ll be spending my weekend along with an array of great writers, great fans and many good friends. I’ll be discussing issues of gender in writing and publishing, internet piracy and the erosion of writers’ rights, and running a writers workshop alongside George Green of Lancaster Uni. By way of lighter topics, a group of us will be tackling ‘I didn’t get a letter from Hogwarts so I left the Shire to become a Vampire Jedi: how do authors avoid writing this book?’

Next week, when life calms down a bit, I’ll see about a book giveaway competition. Why so busy? Well, apart from the above, I’ve been working on a redesign of my website, which will see a whole new blog-based set-up, with a fair bit of additional background material about my writing added to what’s already been available, along with my articles, review, diary and other such stuff. At that point, this interim blog will go into mothballs.

I am indebted to Cheryl Morgan for all her help with this website relaunch, at the same time as she’s been tackling the publication angles for the forthcoming Further Tales of Einarinn ebook. There’s just a few final t’s to be crossed there and that’ll be available soon. Then we finalise an ebook of Turns & Chances, the Lescari Revolution novella. Meantime, of course, the Lescari Chronicles and both of the Hadrumal books to date are available in the eformat of your choice from your preferred supplier.

Right, I had better get back to finalising an Einarinn Gazetteer for the new site…

… after I’ve admired Clint Langley’s fantastic artwork for Darkening Skies one more time…

A Few Further Tales of Einarinn – my first ‘indie’ ebook!

It’s very nearly here! Once the last few tweaks to the text and the ebookery tech are locked down, this February should see ‘A Few Further Tales of Einarinn’ published, with my profound thanks to Antimatter ePress for the initial digitising of the texts and to Wizard’s Tower Press, for handling the actual publishing, including but not limited to making sure the formatting matches up with all the various ereaders available, sorting out ISBNs, making the files available through the full range of ebook outlets, so on and so forth.

It’s been a fascinating and eye-opening project in keeping with the finest traditions of collaboration and mutual support within the SF & Fantasy genre. Because even if I could find the time to learn the necessary skills, and this tech stuff doesn’t come overly naturally to me, there is simply no way I could have found the time to do all the preparatory work I’ve merely summarised above.

The book is a collection of five stories featuring characters from the Tales of Einarinn, beginning with the full story of an early adventure which Livak sometimes alludes to, followed by encounters and incidents in the intervals between the books of that series and finally concluding with one of the marriages promised in the final volume.

Four have been previously published:
2005 Win Some, Lose Some – Postscripts 5, PS Publishing
2006 A Spark in the Darkness – Postscripts 6, PS Publishing
2001 Why the Pied Crow Always Sounds Disappointed (as The Tormalin Necklace) – F20, The British Fantasy Society
2003 The Wedding Gift – An Illustrated Tale of Einarinn, Einarinn Ltd

Absent Friends has never been published before; it was written for a magazine that folded before my story hit their pages, and it has been freshly revised for this collection.

With tablet computer tech now at our fingertips, we’re also making good use of the portfolio of artwork originally commissioned from some of Britain’s finest illustrators and comics artists to go with The Wedding Gift chapbook. Those black and white character illustrations appear throughout the book and we have a splendidly inked version of Livak for the cover.

So this will be coming to an ebook store near you soon!

For more, do visit The Wizard’s Tower Press website.

Next up? We’re working on an ebook of Turns & Chances, the Lescari Revolution novella.

The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity

Image

Some reaction to the anthology news in my last post goes along the lines of ‘but you don’t do steampunk, do you?’ To which the reply is rather, I haven’t done steampunk before now. The same is true of urban fantasy. No, I’ve not done it before and when I’ve been asked, I’ve said I would need a new and original idea since I have nothing to add to the current pack of werewolf/vampire stories.

That’s what I said when Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray invited me to contribute to this anthology. Ah but, they said, you might have an idea. You never know. Just see if something turns up. Well, it did, and there’s not a fang nor any fur involved, just so you know. My story, ‘The Roots of Aston Quercus’ will be there alongside tales from –

Seanan McGuire
Susan Jett
Kari Sperring
Avery Shade
Kristine Smith
Barbara Ashford
April Steenburgh
Anton Strout
S.C. Butler
Jean Marie Ward
Shannon Page & Jay Lake
Elizabeth Bear
Jim C. Hines

Stellar company to be in and all graced with this cover art. Pre-order your copy now or mark your diaries for March 2012

The week ahead will be a tad busy

Okay, here’s the plan

– review page proofs for Darkening Skies
– write catalogue/cover copy for Defiant Peaks (Hadrumal Crisis Book 3)
– finalise my steampunk story for ‘Resurrection Engines – 16 Extraordinary Tales of Scientific Romance’
– write and post Christmas/holiday season cards
– teach an aikido class (Tuesday)
– go to school concert to cheer on Junior Son (Wednesday)
– continue with the Arthur C Clarke Award reading

Then Friday’s the end of term and we get to start doing Christmas preparations.

So, overall, not the best Monday to wake up with a surprise new headcold. Sigh.