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

Upcoming: SMOKE IN THE GLASS by Chris Humphreys (Gollancz)

HumphreysCC-SmokeInTheGlassUKIn a couple of months, Gollancz are due to publish Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphreys, “a thrilling new dark fantasy series about immortality, war and survival.” It is the first novel in the Immortal’s Blood series, and the most recent fantasy novel from Humphreys, who has also written a number of historical novels as “C.C. Humphreys”. The cover was recently unveiled (it’s quite nice), and I think the book has an intriguing premise:

A world of immortals living among humans. Anyone may be immortal, but there is no way to know until you die. If you are one of the very lucky few, you will live an endless life of pleasure and power, considered to be a god. Only decapitation and the rapid separation of body and head for a few days can kill an immortal.

In the southlands, a common soldier dies and is reborn, and is inducted into the world of the immortals. But the Empire has become decadent, and what he discovers there will shock him.

In the dry lands of the west, one man has set himself up as the sun god. But there is a prophecy that he will be killed by his son – and so all of his male children are killed at birth. Until his most recent wife bears a child who is nether male nor female, and is determined to protect them from sacrifice.

In the cold north, the immortal Luck – clever, tricksy, clubfooted – harbours suspicions that many of the immortals have been killed. When he intervenes in an attack on one of his fellows, he realises something new. Someone is hunting the Gods.

For there is a fourth land. They know of the other three. And they are planning their attack.

Our three heroes – damaged soldier, protective mother, clever cripple – must find a way to unite their different lands, and defend against this new enemy.

I’m looking forward to reading this. Smoke in the Glass is due to be published by Gollancz in the UK, on May 16th, 2019.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Guest Post: “Interview with the Gumshoe” by Graham Edwards

EdwardsG-AuthorPicI knew I shouldn’t have gone to that bar. There I was, sitting on a stool staring down a shot of Southern Comfort, when in he walked – a weary-looking gumshoe wearing a crumpled fedora and tattered leather coat.

I knew him at once, and why wouldn’t I? He was the hero of my new novel, String City, large as life and looking mad as hell. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. I’ve called it an interview, but really it wasn’t.

It was an interrogation.

GUMSHOE: What in the name of Hades do you think you’re playing at?

GRAHAM EDWARDS: I’m sorry?

GUMSHOE: (pulling a copy of String City from his coat pocket) You think this is funny? Continue reading

Upcoming: WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW1-WeAreTheDeadUKI spotted this cover last night on AmazonWe Are The Dead, the debut novel by Mike Shackle! The novel was announced a little while ago, and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to it ever since.

Due to be published on June 13th by Gollancz in the UK, here’s the synopsis for the first book in the Last War Trilogy:

The war is over. The enemy’s won. Now it’s time to fight back.

For generations, the people of Jia — a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals — have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, but their enemy has not been idle. They have rediscovered magic and use it to launch an overwhelming surprise attack. An invasion has begun.

And in moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the warriors are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.

Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet… there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby… and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Reviews: THE BONE DESERT by Robbie MacNiven & ONE, UNTENDED by David Guymer (Black Library)

MacNivenR-AoSG-BoneDesertTwo short Age of Sigmar outings for Gotrek Gurnisson, my favourite dwarf…

The world that Gotrek Gurnisson knew is long dead, alongside every soul the legendary monster slayer once cared for. Adrift in this curious new age, the duardin scours the treacherous Bone Desert in search of the axe he inherited from the God Grimnir, which too has been lost to the annals of time.

When a series of assassination attempts strike, Gotrek and his aelf companion Maleneth soon learn that it is not only the wasteland’s ravenous beasts and sinking sands that hunger for their flesh. The heroic duardin is certain these highly calculated and creative attacks are the work of his infamous nemesis – the skaven, Thanquol. But is all as it seems?

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a couple of times (at least) on CR, I’ve been reading about the exploits of Gotrek Gurnisson for decades. I first stumbled across his adventures, alongside his human companion Felix Jaegar, in the Warhammer Armies books. Then, William King and others’ novels that I still return to whenever I feel like a fantasy-comfort-read. With the demise of the Old World, and the shift to the Age of Sigmar, the venerable dwarf returns! Continue reading

Upcoming: SHADOWS OF THE SHORT DAY by Alexander Dan Vilhjámsson (Gollancz)

VilhjalmssonAD-ShadowsOfTheShortDaysUKI first learned about this novel this morning, when I spotted some Tweets from various Gollancz peeps announcing that ARCs had come in. I’m not sure how I managed to miss it entirely before today, but it sounds fantastic. Alexander Dan Vilhjámsson‘s Shadows of the Short Day is set in “a strangely familiar alternate Reykjavik where wild and industrialised magic meet”, and is pitched as “perfect for fans of… Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or China Miéville’s The City & The City“. Colour me most definitely intrigued.

The novel is due to be published in July 2019 by Gollancz, in the UK. Here’s the synopsis:

On frost-covered streets beneath the northern lights, an outcast guerrilla artist and a rebellious, drug-addicted sorcerer will start a revolution.

Sæmundur the Mad, addict and sorcerer, has been expelled from the magical university, Svartiskóli, and can no longer study galdur, an esoteric source of magic. Obsessed with proving his peers wrong, he will stop at nothing to gain absolute power and knowledge, especially of that which is long forbidden.

Garún is an outcast: half-human, half-huldufólk, her very existence is a violation of dimensional boundaries, the ultimate taboo. A militant revolutionary and graffiti artist, recklessly dismissive of the status quo, she will do anything to achieve a just society, including spark a revolution. Even if she has to do it alone.

This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavik fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, interdimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with HOWARD ANDREW JONES

JonesHA-AuthorPicWelcome back to CR! It’s been quite some time since we last interviewed you (2011!), so let’s start with an introduction for new readers: Who is Howard Andrew Jones?

When I’m not writing, I’m editing, and if I’m not editing I might be feeding our horses or repairing the horse fence, or reading, or playing solitaire tactical board games, or running a tabletop role-playing game, or cleaning the house, which unfortunately seems to be the spare time activity that gets the most spare time! I’ve been happily married to the same wonderful lady since 1991, and we have two kids in college, one about ready to graduate. I’ve been a TV cameraman and a recycling consultant and a technical book editor and a magazine editor and an adjunct professor of English. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching, and if I hadn’t gotten that first publishing contract I might have gone back to school for my Ph.D.

I’m a fairly competent piano player, but don’t get much time to play anymore. I used to gig around in rock bands in high school and college, and picked up a little guitar skill as well, although I’m only good enough to strum accompaniment for singalongs. I hold a second degree black belt in Shotokan karate and am studying for my third. I have a deep love of ancient history and have long been fascinated with the Abbasid Caliphate and Hannibal of Carthage. Continue reading