Audio Excerpt: SWEET SORROW by David Nicholls (W.F. Howes)

NichollsD-SweetSorrowUKAUDToday, W.F. Howes publishes the audiobook edition of Sweet Sorrow, the new novel by David Nicholls. I’ve enjoyed a few of Nicholls’s past novels, starting with Starter for Ten and The Understudy which I read during a summer at college (can’t remember exactly when, but it’s been quite a while). The excerpt is below, and here’s the synopsis…

One life-changing summer, Charlie meets Fran… David Nicholls’s highly anticipated new novel, narrated by Rory Kinnear.

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling.

The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

The excerpt is narrated by Olivier award-winning actor Rory Kinnear.

The print and eBook editions of the  novel are out now in the UK, published by Hodder & Stoughton; the US edition is still a while away, due to be published by Mariner Books in May 2020.

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Annotated Excerpt: ASH KICKERS by Sean Grigsby (Angry Robot)

GrigsbyS-2-AshKickersToday, we have the annotated first chapter of Sean Grigsby‘s latest novel, Ash Kickers — the sequel to Smoke Eaters. Published this week by Angry Robot Books, the author has added some commentary about the story and his writing. First, though, here’s the synopsis:

With ex-firefighter Cole Brannigan in command of the Smoke Eaters, the dragon menace is under control. Thanks to non-lethal Canadian tech, the beasts are tranquilized and locked up, rather than killed. But for Tamerica Williams, this job filled with action and danger, has become tediously routine.

When a new threat emerges, a legendary bird of fire – the Phoenix – it’s the perfect task for Williams. But killing the Phoenix just brings it back stronger, spreading fire like a plague and whipping dragons into a frenzy. Will it prove to be too much excitement, even for adrenalin-junkie Williams?

And now, on with the excerpt!

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Excerpt: THE LIES WE TELL by Niki Mackay (Orion)

MackayN-LiesWeTellUKToday, we have an excerpt from Niki Mackay‘s latest novel, The Lies We Tell. The novel is published by Orion Books in paperback today.

Miriam Jackson is a famous radio presenter. Married to a successful film director, she has created the perfect life for herself.

Then her daughter goes missing.

Miriam is desperate to find her before her husband finds out and her perfect life crumbles around her. So she calls the only person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, who has just solved the biggest case of her career.

Can Madison find Miriam’s daughter? And will Miriam share the truth about her past?

Read on for the novel’s prologue…

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Excerpt: SNAKESKINS by Tim Major (Titan Books)

MajorT-SnakeskinsToday, as part of the blog tour marking the novel’s release, we have an excerpt from Tim Major‘s Snakeskins. Here’s the synopsis:

Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.

Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.

Read on for just a small taste of this intriguing novel.

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Guest Post & Excerpt: “Making of the Prologue” by David Hair, author of HEARTS OF ICE (Jo Fletcher Books)

HairD-SQ3-HeartsOfIceUKFirst up, I’m a planner: The Sunsurge Quartet is mapped out from start to finish, before I start writing Book One. That includes the Prologues, which I’m using (along with mid-book ‘Interludes’) to introduce the backstory and current status of the villain who’s going to feature most in the next part of the story. They give the reader a chance to see inside the enemy’s heads, and set the agenda for the coming chapters.

In this series, the main villains are part of a cabal trying to tear down human society, and they use theatre masks to disguise their true selves. I was inspired in this by Venetian carnival masques, of which I have a bit of a collection after going mad in a Venice mask shop. I invented my own mask designs and a backstory for them, using the concept of a tradition of morality tales that theatre troupes adlib on stage, every show unique. These can be high art or low farce, always with the same eight characters and central theme – a romance between Ironhelm (the sturdy knight) and Heartface (the innocent maid). Their love is aided or thwarted by the other six characters: the meddling Beak, the prankster Jest, the duplicitous Twoface, the lucky Felix, the nemesis-like Angelstar and the sorrowful Tear. The tale is narrated by a narrator known as the Puppeteer. Continue reading

Excerpt: RUIN’S WAKE by Patrick Edwards (Titan)

EdwardsP-RuinsWakeToday, we have an excerpt from Ruin’s Wake by Patrick Edwards. Published tomorrow, it is a science fiction novel set on a world under control of a totalitarian government, here’s the synopsis:

Ruin’s Wake imagines a world ruled by a totalitarian government, where history has been erased and individual identity is replaced by the machinations of the state. As the characters try to save what they hold most dear – in one case a dying son, in the other secret love – their fates converge to a shared destiny.

An old soldier in exile embarks on a desperate journey to find his dying son.

A young woman trapped in an abusive marriage with a government official finds hope in an illicit love.

A female scientist uncovers a mysterious technology that reveals that her world is more fragile than she believed.

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Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of PURE CHOCOLATE by Amber Royer (Angry Robot Books)

RoyerA-C2-PureChocolateFirst chapters are hard, you guys. First chapters of sequels – doubly so.

And first chapters for a ‘verse where you’ve built in complicated linguistics and alien cultures with questionable morality? Well… you still have to start somewhere.

There’s a balance with sequels. You don’t want to bore the reader who just finished the previous book, and you don’t want to stall getting started telling the story to re-cap what is now backstory. But you don’t want to people to feel like they walked into the “middle of the movie” either.

I’ve been a writing instructor for UT Arlington for the past eleven years, so I’m sure if some of my students read this, they’ll get a kick out of seeing me pick apart my own work instead of theirs.

Some of what I’m about to say will be bordering spoiler territory, but I’ll try to keep it vague.

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Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of THE BAYERN AGENDA by Dan Moren (Angry Robot Books)

MorenD-GCW1-BayernAgendaAll right, people: this is not a drill. I’m here to give away all of the precious secrets.

And by “secrets” I mean “hard work and lots and lots of editing.” Because that’s what goes into making a book.

I spent a lot of time working on both my first book, The Caledonian Gambit, and my second, The Bayern Agenda — years, in fact — and as you might imagine, they underwent numerous changes over that period.

The chapter you’ll read below, the opening of The Bayern Agenda, is far from where I started out all those years ago. It’s been tweaked in response to reactions from beta readers, my agent, my editor, and, perhaps most importantly, me. When you spend that long working on something, it’s hard not to learn a thing or two along the way.

So, out of the goodness of my heart — well, and because I was asked to — I’ll be sprinkling observations and comments throughout the chapter, letting you in on the thinking that went into constructing it. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that comes later in the story.) Consider it a look behind the scenes, a VIP backstage pass, a look at how the magician pulls off their tricks. Enjoy.

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Excerpt: FLEET OF KNIVES by Gareth L. Powell (Titan)

PowellGL-EoW2-FleetOfKnivesToday, we have a short excerpt from Gareth L. Powell’s Fleet of Knives. The sequel to Embers of War, it is out now, published by Titan Books. Here’s the synopsis:

The former warship Trouble Dog and her crew of misfits is called upon by the House of Reclamation to investigate a distress call from the human starship the Lucy’s Ghost. Her crew abandon their crippled ship and seek refuge abroad an abandoned, slower-than-light generation ship launched ten thousand years before by an alien race. However, the enormous ship contains deadly secrets of its own.

Recovered war criminal, Ona Sudak, faces a firing squad for her actions in the Archipelago War. But, at the last moment, she is smuggled out of her high security prison. The Marble Armada has called for her to accompany its ships as observer and liaison, as it spreads itself across the human Generality, enforcing the peace at all costs. The alien ships will not tolerate resistance, and all dissenters are met with overwhelming and implacable force. Then her vessel intercepts messages from the House of Reclamation and decides the Trouble Dog has a capacity for violence which cannot be allowed to endure.

As the Trouble Dog and her crew fight to save the crew of the Lucy’s Ghost, the ship finds herself caught between chaotic alien monsters on one side, and on the other, destruction at the hands of the Marble Armada.

Read on for the excerpt…

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Excerpt: A HERO BORN by Jin Yong (MacLehose Press)

yongj-1-aherobornukToday, we have an excerpt from A Hero Born, the first novel in Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes. The second novel in the series, A Bond Undone is also out now in the UK, published by MacLehose Press. Here’s the synopsis for A Hero Born:

China: 1200 A.D.

The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors. Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan.

Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up with Genghis Khan’s army. He is humble, loyal, perhaps not altogether wise, and is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way: privileged, cunning and flawlessly trained in the martial arts.

Guided by his faithful shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must return to China — to the Garden of the Drunken Immortals in Jiaxing — to fulfil his destiny. But in a divided land riven by war and betrayal, his courage and his loyalties will be tested at every turn.

This extract opens near the beginning of the volume with the Song patriots, Ironheart Yang and Skyfury Guo, and their wives exchanging the latest troubles of the Imperial Court by the fire. The dynamics of their simple gathering change, however, when Yang and Guo spot a mysterious passerby and invite him in for a drink.

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