If you enjoyed my work, I would love if you nominated it for awards: these always help visibility, and it’s been a rough few years in terms of that (thank you not thank you divorce, pandemic and the apparent implosion of twitter, sigh).
Both The Red Scholar’s Wake and Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances are on the BSFA longlist, and voting for that closes Feb 19th; meanwhile, Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances is on the Nebula Recommended Reading list. Voting is this way for the BSFA, and this way for the Nebulas.
-The artwork by Alyssa Winans (UK cover of The Red Scholar’s Wake) is eligible for Best Artwork, and it’s notably on the BSFA longlist. Would love to see that one recognised because Alyssa has been doing stellar work. See above for the voting link.
–“Elsewhere, Elsewhere”, L. Chan (Giganotosaurus, short story): time magic, timeless love and timeless betrayals.
-The Sunday Morning Transport ed Julian Yap and Fran Wilde is eligible for Best Semiprozine. If you’d like to see what they publish: aside from my own “Sword of Bone, Hall of Thorns“, you can check this Yoon Ha Lee story they published last year which I absolutely loved.
Would also recommend checking out Sara A. Mueller’s The Bone Orchard for Best Novel which is court intrigue + Gothic decadence + whodunit!
This is the UK paperback edition of The House of Shattered Wings, which includes “The House, in Winter”, an exclusive short story set twenty years before the book, during Asmodeus’s coup in House Hawthorn (yes, that’s the first paragraphs of said short story in the last picture). And will you look at all this shiny foil 🙂
To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 (signed) copies: all you have to do is enter below. Open worldwide, I’ll pick a winner in a week’s time. If you win I would obviously love it if you left a review on amazon/goodreads (which do help a lot), but that’s not an obligation, I know this is a large time investment!
Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Safe delivery of Librarian into the world: check. All went well and we’re now back home while I try to keep my eyes open °_°
And, a bit before Librarian was actually delivered: safe delivery of manuscript of The House of Binding Thorns, the sequel to The House of Shattered Wings, to both my editors at Roc/Gollancz. Good thing I did that first…
Also, was rather chuffed to see that The House of Shattered Wings is on the longlist for a Legend Award, and the cover is on the longlist for a Ravenheart Award. Voting is open to anyone, and there’s a lot of other cool books and art on that list (Black Wolves!)–if you’re so minded to drop by, it’s here.
(I’m really pleased at that, because part of the reason I’m writing epic fantasy is because I found David Gemmell’s books as a teenager: The King Beyond the Gate and Tenaka Khan made a profound impression on me, and I subsequently devoured all the other Gemmell books I could find in libraries. I was really sorry I came into the UK SFF scene too late to meet him and tell him how much his books meant, and still mean, to me).
So… a lot of what I write today is to deadlines–and I know I’m not necessarily in the majority here, but I like deadlines. I’m one of the world’s natural procrastinators, and without the focus sheer existential dread of a deadline, I would be writing a lot less.
Thing is… it’s very tempting to think that, with all the time in the world, I could write a novel/short story that I would be happy with, rather than having to rush to meet a tight delivery date. I’m also aware, because I’m one of the world’s natural pessismists, that the correlation between the time I have to write something and the quality of the thing is actually weaker than I’d think.
For starters, “happy with” is a complicated thing. I’ve read a quote somewhere that writers don’t finish stuff, that we merely abandon it, and that’s certainly very true with me. There’s always something I could do to a piece, always some revisions I could do that I feel would make it better. I’m not convinced that they *would* make it better, in the sense that I’ve also edited pieces to death. The late Jay Lake used to say that voice is the easiest thing to edit out of a manuscript, and he’s right. Prose shouldn’t be unformed, but equally being too polished is a sure sign that life has been taken out of it–I’m a big believer in the rawness and energy of it. Which is to say: I do edit my prose, but I’m careful not to go overboard. I also tend to think my stuff sucks whatever the stage it’s at (except possibly those very early stages when it’s still fresh and new and exciting)–yeah, impostor syndrome–and part of the reason I love the H is that he will just prod me into delivering the freaking thing already even if I feel terrible about it.
Of course, if the delivery date is ridiculously tight and I’m under high pressure to meet it, there’s going to be a strong temptation to do a hack job–to deliver for the sake of delivering what really is inferior work (and not what I consider to be inferior work, which isn’t necessarily representative, see above). “Inferior” means “not finished” to me, and my biggest “not finished” issue is complexity and layers.
My writing process is all about layers. I build my stories and my novels that way, on the slow accretion of completely unrelated elements–I just throw everything in, and at some point the magical alchemy happens and they all come together for a story (I’m serious about alchemy. My subconscious is in charge at that point, and it really does feel like it miraculously coalesces from a mess of unrelated things into an actual story). For that to happen, I need space, and some research reading, and some cogitating, before I can have the piece click for me–before it can unfold in all its glorious (and sometimes) messy complexity.
For a short story, I generally need two completely unrelated ideas: for instance, the latest one I wrote started with the image of a Vietnamese dragon flying out from the sun, and over it I layered the idea of a messy and protracted war between two nascent space federations. For a novel, I need more: I need a good idea of the setting, a bunch of characters I feel comfortable with, and a plot that has enough content and twists to keep me happy. The House of Shattered Wings‘s setting started as the confluence of Fallen angels whose flesh was being used to make magical drugs, and of a big, WWI-style magical war in turn-of-the-century Paris. But it didn’t actually gel together until I got all my characters lined up (most significantly, Philippe, the unexpected Vietnamese ex-Immortal and general wrench in the works), and my plot sketched in (I’m not going to give spoilers, but one major plot point involving the death of a visiting dignitary in Silverspires turned out to be the lynchpin on which I could hang part 1–and part 2 was, in turn, hung on a vivid image of Notre-Dame ruined in a very particular fashion). Accordingly, if I haven’t had time to get those layers/unrelated things, or to integrate them properly… Yeah, then it would be a problem.
But. But I’ve written stuff that was brilliant in a couple of days, and stuff that sucked over a period of nine months; so, again, it’s not like more time necessarily results in more brilliant stuff? I think past a certain incompressible time period I need to get the story together, more time just either gives me: a. more time to procrastinate (and lose some of the original passion and drive for the project as the excitement dies down), and b. more time to make the story into a Frankenstein mashup of intractable complexity. At some point I just need to put words down I guess? They might need to be heavily edited (or deleted), but they’re here. They’re not some abstract notion of what the story should be, which I can never do justice to in any case, because the story I write is *never* going to be as perfect as the vision in my head (it never is). They’re real, and they’re on paper (or on the screen), and I can work with that.
(yeah, my other motto is “you can’t fix what’s not written down”)
So, yeah. Mostly I work with deadlines and I love them (honest!). From time to time, of course, I need a break: I need some space for a personal project that I don’t feel I owe to anyone. Works like The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, the Xuya novella with the twined four POVs, or Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, the courtship/caper between two characters of The House of Shattered Wings–I just write them for fun, and for a while it feels liberating not to have a deadline or the perpetual feeling I’m late. But only for a while, and because it’s a change–I need my deadlines, and if they didn’t exist I suspect I’d make them up!
What about you? How do you handle deadlines? Do you like them/hate them with a passion? Does it not make a whit of difference to you whether you have one or not?
So… I’m on a plane so I can’t really do much except fret (and write book 2!), but in the meantime, today is the release day for The House of Shattered Wings in the US, from Roc Books. So happy book day to everyone who was kind enough to preorder it or who’s going to pick up a copy soon–hope you enjoy!
Just a quick heads-up that the RT Books website has a large chunk of The House of Shattered Wings, featuring a third point-of-view character who isn’t in Chapter One: Madeleine, the geeky alchemist of House Silverspires. And it comes with a chance of winning an ARC of the book with the pretty “burning feathers” cover ^-^
Welcome aboard for another episode of Shattered Wings Thursdays, the time of the week where I pick a particularly nice or evocative picture from the Pinterest board for the novel, and provide some teasers on plot, worldbuilding and characters. 47 days until the release of the Roc edition of The House of Shattered Wings in the US, and 49 days until the Gollancz edition in the UK/Commonwealth!
Today is this picture:
Spire of Notre Dame
In the world of The House of Shattered Wings, life revolves around the Great Houses: once safe havens built to protect the Fallen in their infancy from those who would prey on them, the Houses in post-war Paris have become fortresses, hoarding their wealth and dependents and fighting each other for scraps of power.
A House actually encompasses a small area of Paris: it’s not a building, but generally a series of streets and associated buildings. For instance, House Silverspires, the setting of much of the novel, covers the entirety of Ile de la Cité. Each House has a formal uniform with different colours, a coat of arms (and a motto etc.), as well as a … slightly different philosophy in its dealings with others, which is mainly due to the policy pursued by the head of the House. House Silverspires’s colours are red and silver, and its motto is “Look to the risen sun” (yeah, House founder Morningstar wrote the motto. You can rely on him not to be subtle in the least).
Just a quick heads-up that I put chapter one of my upcoming Gollancz/Roc release The House of Shattered Wings online for your reading pleasure 🙂
It is almost pleasant, at first, to be Falling.
The harsh, unwavering light of the City recedes, leaving you in shadow, leaving only memories of relief, of a blessed coolness seizing your limbs. Nothing has turned yet into longing, into bitterness, into the cold that will never cease, not even in the heat of summer.
Welcome back to Shattered Wings Thursdays: your weekly picture and teaser text about The House of Shattered Wings, excerpted from the Pinterest board I’m running for the novel. We are now 55 days away from the release of the Roc edition (and just a teensy bit more away from the Gollancz edition).
Here’s today’s picture:
Aka, pretty close to my mental image of Lucifer Morningstar, pre-Fall…
One of the key differentiators in The House of Shattered Wings is the presence of Fallen angels. Fallen are immortal, ageless, and sterile: they have no memory of anything before their Fall. When they Fall, they lose their wings and manifest as human; and for a brief moment until their innate magic heals them, they are at their most vulnerable: amnesiac and wounded and struggling to understand what they are doing in the mortal world. Needless to say, in a world where Paris is a devastated city where everyone struggles to survive, this makes newly Fallen particularly sought after–and generally not to give them hugs or flowers…
The firstborn and foremost of Fallen is Lucifer Morningstar, the founder of House Silverspires on Ile de la Cité; his power, invested in wards and other protective spells, kept the House at the top of the hierarchy of power, even in a devastated city. However, Morningstar has been missing for twenty years, and Silverspires has slowly declined in importance and strength…
There are other magical beings besides the Fallen, but this is a topic for another blog post ^^
So… apparently it’s two months until the release of The House of Shattered Wings (eep!!) With that in mind, I thought we’d start doing a little related content on the blog; and what better way to whet your appetite than evocative images? I’m already running a pinterest board for the novel here: over the next two months I’ll excerpt the images I prefer and provide some commentary that will hopefully make you want to read the book 🙂
Ok, so let’s start with basics: this is Paris in the novel. Your basic nuked city setting: following the Great Houses War (aka magical factions tearing Europe apart from 1914-1918 ), Paris is now a devastated city, its monuments scorched ruins (with the occasional magical trap), its streets covered in soot; and the Seine… the Seine not only runs black with ashes, but has become the place you really don’t want to get close to: the accumulated spells have turned dark, and people who walk too close to the river banks get snatched and dragged underwater; or strangled by tendrils they can’t see… Even bending over a bridge can rapidly turn lethal.
Nice place to live in, isn’t it? :p
Also, yes. If you’re holding an island like Ile Saint-Louis,Ile de la Cité, or Ile aux Cygnes, (Paris’s three islands), you now have a virtually impregnable fortress, if you don’t mind the fact that your river banks are totally off limits lest you lose your own people. The major setting for the novel is Ile de la Cité, which is the location of House Silverspires, sixty years after the end of the war: the city is still devastated because the damage was extensive and the infighting between Houses has never really stopped, but people are doing their best to live among the ruins.
Broadly speaking, the technology and clothing are a distorted version of the Belle Epoque: there have been some changes since then, but the Belle Epoque is understandably seen as halcyon days, a Golden Age everyone more or less overtly longs for, or regrets.