Friday, 2 May 2014

Sword of the North Finished!

Or at least the first draft is finished. I sent it off to my agent two days ago. It came to just under 140,000 words, or 535 manuscript pages.

This has been a really difficult book to write. Shortly after finishing The Grim Company, I became ill for several months. Then my wife got ill, or rather, developed a chronic condition that took some time adjusting to cope with. To cut a long story short, I didn't really get back to writing until near the end of 2012. It turns out that taking a six month break from writing is a bad idea - like a muscle, writing craft has to be utilised often or it begins to atrophy.

In my case, I found myself doing a lot of rewrites after being unhappy with my initial 35,000 words. Then, after The Grim Company was released, I became caught up in reading reviews and evaluating criticism, and that led to further revisions. A lot of world-building was also required to bridge the first and third books, and indeed support any additional volumes or tie-in projects (like video games) I might wish to turn my hand to further down the line. I wrote The Grim Company in 10 months, creating the setting on the fly, so I didn't have hundreds of pages of notes to fall back on.

All in all, I'm fairly pleased with how Sword of the North turned out - though I had to shift some of the material I had planned to include back to the third and concluding volume. Now begins the nervous wait to hear back from my editors. Hopefully they'll love it, and a late 2014 release will maybe, just maybe, become a possibility. I wouldn't bank on it, but we'll see.

In the meantime, The Grim Company has made it to the final shortlist for the Gemmell Morningstar Awards! You can vote for me (or not) here:

The voting ends May 31st, so be sure to drop a vote before then.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Gemmell Awards 2014

So this is my first blog post in three months. Sorry about that. I could offer up all kinds of feeble excuses to explain my lack of updates, but the simple truth is that I contracted a flesh-eating disease while in South America and lost both my hands. I've had to learn to type with my feet.

All right, that's not entirely true. But I have had a pretty nasty cough these last couple of weeks. And I've been really busy trying to finish Sword of the North.

Still - what I have to say now is important. Like a relative who barely stays in touch and only phones you every now and then to ask for something, I'm going to ask for something. A vote, as it were. The Grim Company has been nominated in three categories in this year's Gemmell Awards!

The Gemmell Awards are designed to reward the year's best fantasy literature and are voted on solely by the fans. No hidden (or not so hidden) agendas being pursued, just readers casting their vote for the book they liked best. Truth be told the open voting system often throws up some unlikely winners... but it's all part of the charm!

You can vote in the Morningstar poll for best debut here. The Ravenheart award is handed out to the book with the best cover art. I'm also up for the Legend award, whose prize is a coveted to-scale model of the axe Snaga (see above) - but my chances of winning that award or even being among the top five nominations are slim. If you think The Grim Company deserves a nomination, it's probably best to cast your vote in the Morningstar poll.

I've only read a few books on the Legend list. My vote would probably go to Emperor of Thorns. I really enjoyed Herald of the Storm, too, and have a bunch of other nominees on my to-read pile.

I should have news on Sword of the North soon, all going well...

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Shadow Sun Now Available!

As some may be aware, my talents don't end at writing fantasy novels. They also extend to, ah, writing fantasy games.

The iOS (that's iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch) fantasy RPG I've been working on for the last 4 years, The Shadow Sun, has just been released - and it's available for the discounted price of £5.49/$7.99 through until December 28 (after that it's £6.99/$9.99). You can download it here:

Here's the official description:

The groundbreaking Western RPG iOS gamers have been waiting for! Created by the developer of Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate and the former BioWare producer of Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal.
With The Shadow Sun, Ossian Studios brings together all its expertise from working with Dungeons & Dragons and The Witcher in order to create a deep, story-driven RPG experience for iOS. Prepare yourself for visceral real-time combat, a gorgeously detailed world to adventure in, complex characters to interact with, and an epic tale of an ancient city held within the grip of a mysterious plague.
Enter a world that has felt an alien touch upon its sun. An ever-increasing shadow that creeps across the sun's brilliant face, with consequences that are only now becoming horrifically apparent...

Now it's not grimdark - this is a T-rated product - but the game is nonetheless a dark swords & sorcery romp that touches on some adult themes. If you liked my novel (and you did, right?) and you like RPGs (chances are you might), go check this out!

Friday, 8 November 2013


So a couple of weeks ago I attended my very first fantasy convention - BristolCon, in my home town. I would have gone last year, but my wife and I were in the process of moving house and rather than rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the literary world, I instead lugged flatpack furniture around Ikea for four hours. This year I swore I would make amends. And guess what? I had a lot of fun.

The above is the contents of the "goodie bag" I was handed on paying for my membership. Once inside, my wife and I wandered around the dealer's room for an hour and bought a few bits. I purchased The Wasteland Fairy Tales, a new comic by Dave Powell set in a post-apocalyptic world; she picked up some Hello Kitty jewellery and a custom-made keyring character. I made a tit of myself by smugly identifying one as Megaman, when it was in fact Solid Snake...

We then headed to the convention bar, where I had the privilege of handing over £5.10 for a bottle of Bulmers before sitting opposite a table of writers who were doing signings. Paul Cornell was there, whom I recognised from the Goldsboro "Fantasy in the Court" event earlier in the year. I also said "hi" to Liz Williams. I hope she wasn't offended when I asked if she was Liz Williams the author. I do stuff like that.

My wife and I also had a chat with, I believe, Gareth L Powell's wife (I'm terribly sorry if I got that wrong). She seemed like a very nice lady.

After a brief wander around the art exhibit, we headed to the hotel bar and my eyes immediately alighted on fellow evil author and grimdark purveyor Mark Lawrence, who was deep in conversation with the lovely Agnes Meszaros. My wife and I joined them. Shortly after Snorri Kristjansson made it a trio of some of the manliest authors ever to gather in one place. Agnes and my wife were positively, ahem, enthralled as they listened to us ramble on in that way writers tend to for around two hours. Agnes gave me some delicious brownies and my wife was kind enough to take a great photo of us:

All in all, it was a very pleasant way to experience my first convention. I don't tend to get out much -  it was nice to ease my way into the fantasy collective by meeting some friendly faces I knew from the internet (and whose books I am somewhat/very familiar with). Hopefully next year I'll be able to return and perhaps sit in on a panel or two...

Monday, 14 October 2013


Sorry for the lack of blogging activity recently. Been very busy working on Sword of the North. Still am very busy, so I'll keep it short and sweet.

Fantasy Book Critic has posted a lengthy interview with me that covers all kinds of exciting topics. Check it out for a riveting read - as well as an awesome photo of me in a sombrero.

If you didn't see the Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session I did a while back, here is your opportunity to make amends.

There's another great review of The Grim Company here. Being compared to Mark Lawrence and Brent Weeks is an honour I'm not sure I deserve (at this stage), but I'll take it. Though I've yet to read any Weeks, which is an oversight I'm hoping to correct soon.

Finally, anyone going to BristolCon on October 26th? I've never been to a con - I was invited to the New York Comic Con but had to turn it down due to cost and no guarantee of a panel - and I guess attending one in my home city is a good place to start. I might bring along some copies of my book to give away. They're spreading across the spare bedroom and I want to use the empty boxes to build a robot...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Reddit Fantasy AMA

I'm going to be hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the Fantasy section of Reddit tomorrow (September 24, 2013). The session will go live at 11am CST (6pm GMT), and I'll be back to answer questions in real time at 5pm CST (12am GMT). Feel free to show up and leave a question - the more the merrier!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Review Round-Up

Yes, it's that time when I round up a bunch of select quotes from various reviews while conveniently ignoring, shall we say, the less savoury aspects of the author/blogger relationship...

First up is Kirkus, which awards the book a hallowed Starred review. That's right, The Grim Company is now officially "A book of exceptional merit." You can't argue. It's scientific fact.

"A noteworthy and gripping debut that promises to develop into an altogether superior series--one well-worth getting hooked on at the outset."


Next is The reviewer had some very nice things to say, with the proviso that some of the language used in the book is simply unfit for human consumption.

This book could well be the next Game of Thrones. A lot is going to depend on where the series goes from here, but I’ve never read anything that reminded me so much of Martin’s saga that also remained extremely original.
But there are derogatory slurs that should never be used. I understand the attempt to make a character seem uncouth and abrasive…even racist or prejudiced. But in my opinion, Scull went too far…

Well, shit.

The Fantasy Barn is next to step up to the plate:

Start by meeting a man who at first you want to feel a bit sorry for, but learn a bit more about him and realize he is a real piece of work that you want nothing to do with. Get just a bit of his backstory then watch the world quite literally fall on him. Yes he dies, and yes it is that type of book. You know, GRIMDARK?

What is this "grimdark" of which he speaks?

Bill Capossere at Fantasy Literature is making me hungry:

 Dominoes and my Italian grandmother use the same basic ingredients in their pizzas — dough, cheese, tomatoes, etc. One pizza I’d crawl over broken glass to get to, the other I’d rather eat the broken glass

Luckily I think my book falls into the former category.

Lastly, Matthew Scott Baker at Fantasy Ravings offers a lukewarm appraisal:

THE GRIM COMPANY is a heck of a debut, though, and is definitely worthy of attention. As this is the author’s first book, he is certainly allowed a lot of leeway as he refines his craft. I am putting Scull on my list of authors to watch, and I will definitely be looking for his future work. I recommend you do the same.

I think that puts me at 95%+ fresh on the non-existent Tomatometer for books, though doubtless there are a few wrongheaded reviewers out there sharpening their hatchets even now. Rest assured that when they do finally pounce, I won't be around to report it on this blog...