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Note: in the US, this is book is called The City of Death.

ash-mistry-and-the-city-of-deathHere’s what I like in a book: action, humour, a cool setting, great characters, and a plot that doesn’t let up. Not to mention hidden compartments containing little dark chocolate liqueurs.

So, how does Ash Mistry and the City of Death stack up?

Well, it doesn’t have any chocolate liqueurs, so that’s a black mark for a start. But it does have the rest of it, and hooray for that!

This is the second Ash Mistry book. Ash is now the Kali-aastra, the weapon of the goddess of death and destruction. Which kind of gets in the way of the normal life he’s trying to lead back in England. He might have thought he’d left behind the great battles between demons and gods that he’d been caught up in in India, but those battles have followed him home.

The Koh-i-noor, a great diamond from the crown jewels has been stolen. But it’s not just any diamond. It was looted from India by the British, and it holds the power of one of the Hindu gods. If Lord Savage, the English sorcerer who murdered Ash’s aunt and uncle and nearly killed Ash, gets hold of it, he may be unstoppable.

So, well, where does that leave us? Right in the middle of a wild adventure full of demons, magic, deadly living statues, and some serious super-powered ass-kicking.

If I had a criticism of the first Ash Mistry book it was that it took a little while to really get going. Well, The City of Death doesn’t have that problem. It’s into the action right from the beginning, and it doesn’t let up.

Ash is a great character, and with the action, sense of fun, and original setting, this is a book well worth reading.

If you like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, you’ll like this too.

4 ½ stars.

Mirrored from my main blog.

New website!

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sun-behind-cloud

Well, here we are...

About six years ago, I needed a website. Ah-ha, I told myself. I can make one of those myself. After all, that's kind of my job, making websites and all that.

But, I said (this conversation went on for a long time; I'm summarizing it here...), right now, I don't have the time for it. So, I said (to the accompanying suspicious looks of my co-workers on the next desks), I'll just throw up a very quick website and get onto this next month when undoubtedly I will have lots and lots and lots of free time.

So, I put up a temporary website, and...

Well, you've guessed it. Finally, finally, finally, I got around to making one in the last few months. And here it is! (Assuming you're reading this on the new website. If you're reading it on livejournal instead, here is the new website!)

I've got up stuff about my delayed novel, some free short stories, some not free short stories, and an all new blog.

I'm going to cross-post everything from the new blog to my livejournal blog, so keep on reading there if you will.

Well, that took a while. Another website in another six years, everyone?

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Martians kidnapped my novel

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Martians kidnapped my novel. Now it's back.So, some of you may wonder where I've been recently.

No? Really?

Well, as it happens, I've been on a grim interplanetary adventure. No, I didn't get sucked into the John Carter movie (things haven't been quite that bad).

Instead, the Martians kidnapped my lovely debut novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, and I've spent the last few parsecs (yes, I know that's a unit of length, not time) getting it back.

Unfortunately, as a result, the publication date of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb has been bumped back. It won't now be published in Fall 2014. It'll be coming out in Spring 2015 instead.

Still, at least I kicked some Martian butt in the process, so it's not all bad, right?

Right?

Author models

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I've just started to revise my second novel (tentatively entitled The Emperor of Mars, and not due out until autumn 2015, so no panic yet...) and so (because procrastination is easier than actually revising), I've been thinking about exactly what I want this book to be, and I've been thinking about models of authors. Not, like, plastic models, nor the kind of lead figure models we used to make when I was a kid, giving ourselves brain damage from the fumes, but models of the kind of writer I want to be and the books I want to write.

I'm not thinking about the writers I admire most (although I do admire these writers) but of the writers who produce books of the type that mine would be if they reached their full potential. The two writers I've come up with are Rick Riordan (of whom little needs to be said) and Sarwat Chadda, author of the fantastic Ash Mistry series.

What both of them bring that perfect mixture of action, adventure, incredible imagination, pace, great characters, and humour that I want in my books.

There are other writers I admire enormously, as I said, and whose books I snatch up the moment they're available: Jonathan Stroud, David Almond, JK Rowling, Stephanie Burgis, George RR Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson and Ian Esslemont, Pat Rothfuss, and so on, but these aren't people whose books I particularly want to emulate, or at least not right now.

When I was a newt just starting out on the big old writing adventure, I remember hearing the advice that you should write if you can't find what you want to read on the shelves, and you know, that's a perfectly honourable motivation for writing, but for me, well, I can find plenty to read that I love, and even stuff that is exactly like what I want to write, and I find that an even better motivation. Figuring out exactly who my models of writers are gives me far more focus for my revision. It gives me a shape and an aspiration to compare myself against. Either that or it's a fantastic way to waste time when I could be working. Either way, win-win!

Well, this is difficult

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The book I'm writing now is the hardest book I've ever written. Honestly. And I think that comes down to one thing:

This is the first sequel I've ever written.

Naively, I assumed that because it was a sequel, it would be so much easier than the first book. After all, I already had most of the characters, right? I've done most of the world-building and the research. I've got the voice and the style. I don't, in general, find plotting as difficult as other parts of writing.

It should be easy.

But it's not.


There are a bunch of things I hadn't expected.

Things like lack of freedom with the world, story, and characters that I didn't face in the first book. These people and places are pretty much fixed. This time around, I'm not just making stuff up. It has to be consistent. The first story had a particular structure, and I can't do the next one in a completely different way if I want it to fit.

Things like the knowledge that some people will have read the first book and some won't. And among those that have read the first book, some will remember it and some will scarcely remember anything. And I still need to make the story work for all of these.

Things like the fact that, in the first books, most of the characters had pretty complete personal arcs, but now I need them to have new arcs all over again.

I was a pretty big fan of the TV show Revenge. I really loved the first season. But then I watched the first episode of the second season, and I nearly didn't watch anymore. They had done a great job of tying almost everything up in the first season, and then they had to drag it all back up and get going again. In the end, I watched the second episode of season two, and I'm glad I did, because they pulled it back together and mostly succeeded. But it was a lesson, too.

The same was true for the show Alias. I don't know this for sure, but I was pretty certain that the writers had intended to end the show at the end of season 4. But then there was a season 5, and they had to get it all going again. They did a good job, but I bet it wasn't easy.

So, yeah.

(And, I bet any season pros are laughing at me for this, because you've been there before. Still, pity poor me...)

Giveaway

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secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb-temporary-coverSo, you all know I've got my debut novel out in 2014, right? Of course you do. I bet none of you have been thinking about anything since.

Anyhoo... I joined up with the appropriate debut group, OneFourKidLit, which, as the name kind of suggests is a group of Middle Grade and YA authors who have their first novel published in 2014.

If you know me, you'll know I can't leave anything well enough alone, so I volunteered to overhaul the group website, and the overhaul is now done (onefourkidlit.wordpress.com).

Anyhoo, part two... To celebrate this, we're doing a big giveaway of books for readers and, for aspiring authors, critiques of chapters of novels and queries.

Full details of the giveaways.

Click here to enter the giveaways via rafflecopter.

The giveaways are open until May 31st midnight EST.

Anyway, if you fancy spreading the word, I'd be embarrassingly grateful.

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Today I have been mostly...

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Today I have been mostly blogging on this group blog.

It's mainly an introduction blog entry, so if you already know me, you probably don't need to see it. If you don't already know me, well, hello!

Here's the blog entry.

Cover madness

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Ever since I sold Secrets of the Dragon Tomb back in December, the thing I've been most ridiculously excited about is seeing the cover. Even more so than the interior illustrations (and you would not believe how excited I am about them...)

Now, I know that it's going to be ages until I've got a cover. The publisher has to hire an artist, work with them on what the cover is going to be, go through revisions, approvals, input from marketing and sales and so on and so on.

Thing is, I can't wait. I just can't.

Every time I take a look on goodreads, that sad blank, grey cover looks back at me, mocking me.

Well, I'm afraid I gave in.

I bought a rather nice image on a stock photo site, cropped it, and slapped some text on.

secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb-temporary-cover

I was tempted to spend ages making it look like a real cover, but Steph quite sensibly gave me dire warnings about the confusion that it might cause.

So, it doesn't look like a real cover. But at least when I look at goodreads, I don't have that horrible blank giving me the evil eye.

And if you're on goodreads, feel free to add the book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16172967-secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb ;)

Creating Your Ebook the Right Way

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For those of you creating and formatting your own ebooks, my blog series explaining it all in mind-numbing detail continues:

http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2013/03/creating-your-ebook-right-way-part-4.html

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb!

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And another one! (See previous post.)

This time for Secrets of the Dragon Tomb tself.


Thanks again to Pulp-O-mizer. (Yes, I could do this all day...)

(Secrets of the Dragon Tomb ill be published by Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt / Macmillan) ... in the future.)

Also check out the cover I did for Steph's middle grade fantasy novel, Renegade Magic Kat, Incorrigible book 2) which is out now in hardcover and in mass market paperback on March 5, 2013.

Thrilling Martian Tales!

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So, in my upcoming middle grade novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, there are frequent references to a fictional pulp magazine called Thrilling Martian Tales. My protagonist is a bit obsessed with it, and with the British-Martian spy, Captain W A Masters, who stars in it.

When Steph tweeted a link to the incredibly awesome pulp-o-mizer, I thought it was a fantastic chance to mock up a cover for the magazine.

Sadly, you can only order the magazine on Mars in 1816. Get out your clockwork time machines and go buy it!

Creating an ebook

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Just a heads'-up for those of you who might be thinking of creating an ebook:

I've just posted the second in my series of blog posts explaining the entire process over on my other blog:

http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2013/01/creating-your-ebook-right-way-part-2.html
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Over on the other blog, I've started a series all about how to create an ebook from scratch. I'm going to cover everything you need to make an ebook for Amazon, Smashwords, and the various other stores.

First entry here http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2013/01/creating-your-ebook-right-way-part-1.html

Bone Roads on Smashwords

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Just a quick note that my fantasy short story collection, Bone Roads, is now available on Smashwords.


The collection consists of nine short stories, eight of which were previously published in places like Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons and Black Static.

You can still buy the .mobi version of this collection via the various Amazon stores, but you can now also get an .epub version at Smashwords. It should filter out to other online stores over the next few weeks. Here are the links to where you can buy it:

Smashwords
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Here are a few reviews of stories in the collection:

"Marvelous."
- Colin Harvey, Suite101, on 'At the Gates'

"This one kept me turning the page without pause, with its natural pace and flow of words, good characterization, and skillful plot build-up. Samphire's writing skill is matched only by his knowledge of Ancient Egyptian culture and mythology."
- Scott M. Sandridge, Tangent Online, on 'The Land of Reeds'.

"A great coming-of-age story."
David Roy, epinions, on 'When the Dragon Falls".

Enjoy!

Bone Roads: a free ebook for Christmas

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Bone-Roads-coverFor those of you who have Kindles, my short story collection, Bone Roads: Nine Stories of Magic and Wonder ill be free rom Amazon on Christmas day (apparently timed according to PST).

I'm not sure if this is just Amazon in the US or all Amazon stores, but check it out if you're looking for some reading on your shiny new (or old) Kindle or Kindle app on Christmas.

There's no DRM, so feel free to convert to other formats if you prefer!

Bone Roads on: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Here's the blurb:

A ghost searches for revenge in ancient Egypt.
A girl risks awakening a dark god to save her dog.
A boy unearths the bones of a dragon…

These fantasy stories were previously published in magazines including Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, and Black Static.

The Nine Stories:

When the Dragon Falls
A Field Guide to Ugly Places
The Frog King
Five Things of Beauty
Dawn, by the Light of a Barrow Fire
The Sea Beyond Thule
The Land of Reeds
The Western Front
At the Gates

Reviews of stories in this collection:

"This is the first story I've read this year that I'd consider a masterpiece. It's rare for a story to move me to tears, but this one did."
- John Dodds, The Fix, on 'The Western Front'.

"Marvelous."
- Colin Harvey, Suite101, on 'At the Gates'

"This one kept me turning the page without pause, with its natural pace and flow of words, good characterization, and skillful plot build-up. Samphire's writing skill is matched only by his knowledge of Ancient Egyptian culture and mythology."
- Scott M. Sandridge, Tangent Online, on 'The Land of Reeds'

The other place

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Today's blog entry, on the elsewhere, is about outlining characters:

It's not really a secret that I am not a character-driven writer. When I sit down to write, the story, ideas, and setting come to me before the characters do. Steph is the opposite. When she sits down, its the characters that come to her first and foremost, and she figures out the story afterwards.

Now, I don't think it matters which way around you come up with stuff. Characters, story, setting, idea, whatever. What does matter is that you figure out all the aspects sooner rather than later.

And on and on...

Read, if you dare.

Wonderful, exciting news!

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Okay, I've held off on this for most of a week, but that's the extent of my self-discipline, so here goes:

My middle grade novel Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is going to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books (an imprint of Henry Holt / Macmillan) in the US and Canada!!!

My wonderful-fantastic agent, Jenn Laughran, gave me the news last week, and the announcement was in Publishers Marketplace over the weekend.

A few of you might remember Secrets of the Dragon Tomb from when I was writing it a few years ago. It's steampunk! It's a thrilling adventure! It's set in the Regency. On Mars. It's full of despicable villains, deadly clockwork machines, unlikely spies, and terrible peril. And it has pterodactyls. Of course.

If I can be slightly immodest, I absolutely love this world. I don't think I've ever had so much fun coming up with ideas and writing the characters as I did for this, and I'm so excited that I'll get to share it with other people.

I can trace this book all the way back to when I was about 16 years old. (I am now *ahem* 41 years old, so, you know, that's an awful long time...) My parents gave me a fantastic book, called The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams, by David Kyle.

It's a wonderful book. I still own this book (I actually now have two copies), and am known to wave it around frequently, most recently at a steampunk panel at Bristolcon. (I was on the panel, not waving it from the audience. I'm not that crazy...)

The book gives a history of science fiction writing and art from its earliest origins right through to the mid-70s. The bits that really wowed me most of all were the stuff on early pulp, and the stuff on Victorian science fiction, particularly the work of the French artist, Albert Robida, whose fantastic flying machines and elaborate futuristic ideas were an enormous influence on me.

robida

(You can see a bunch more of his work here, or, you know, on the internet...)

Add a touch of Jane Austen, some Indiana Jones, and some sub-Wodehouse humour, and, well, you're probably going to just end up confused. (Yes, I will have to come up with a better elevator pitch than this...)

Right now, I know absolutely no other details about the publication. I don't know when the book will come out. I don't even know if it'll keep the same title. I do know that it's going to have internal illustrations (*faints with excitement*; I love books with illustrations), and that it's part of a two-book deal, but I don't yet know what the second book will be.

But right now, who cares!?! Right???

YAY! *Lies down again in excitement* (This is the lazy person's version of excitement; you may jump up and down in excitement. I lie down. With chocolate. And green tea.)

Friday Links

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A whole bunch of links for your Friday delectation over on the other blog:

Friday links (on a feathered T. Rex, writing, publishing, the real origin of vampires, and baby elephant cuteness)

A special bonus for you who are still sticking around on LiveJournal (shh! Don't tell them on Blogger...) A photo of a dynamic, frightening battle between pirates and dinosaurs:

dinosaurs-and-pirates

The dinosaurs won. I was playing the pirates.

Authors' websites: your thoughts?

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So, I started this project to build a free WordPress theme specifically designed for writers. The kind of thing that comes with page templates for books and short stories, the functionality to easily link to Barnes and Noble and Indiebound and Amazon and other bookstores. And stuff like that. 

What I really need is input from writers and readers as to what kind of thing the WordPress theme should include. I've put up some more details over on my other blog. If you've got any suggestions or comments, please do head over and leave your thoughts. I'd really appreciate it.

Five favourite books

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I'm talking about five of my favourite books. But not here. Sorry. Over on t'other blog:

http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2012/10/five-favourite-books.html

Not that I don't love you, you understand.

Passion

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Over on the other journal I'm blathering on about writing passion:

http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2012/10/passion.html

That's all for now.

Birthday, with Tyrannosaur

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Today was MrD.'s fourth birthday, and, like all four-year-old boys, he is completely obsessed with dinosaurs.

Luckily, as I have the power to move in and out of fiction at will, we took him to Jurassic Park for the day (luckily leaving before disaster struck and we were eaten by Tyrannosaurs).

Here is the proof:

MrD and Patrick, with Edmontosaurus

That's me and MrD. with an Edmontosaurus.

Patrick, with Tyrannosaur

And, of course, me with the Tyrannosaurus, before we were forced to flee when the electric fences came down.

A random music entry

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I miss the days when pop music consisted of hairy men doing crazy dances and playing brilliant music.

Sigh.

I'm probably showing my age, but after the 1980s, it was never the same. :)



JoNoWriMo, Bristolcon, and a book review

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This year I've signed up for the JoNoWriMo challenge again, for the third year. JoNoWriMo is a bit like the other, more familiar writing challenges, like NaNoWriMo, except that this lasts for two and half months, and you set your own goals. Last year, I failed miserably at the challenge, because I had an ambitious word count but no current project.

This year I'm aiming for about 40k words, plus some other work, but this time I'm half way through a novel, so I have some momentum. This is actually the first novel that I've outlined in advance, and while there are certainly flaws in my outline (I need to figure out a better way of keeping forward motion and increasing stakes/tension in the outline), it's made writing a far easier proposition. I tend to have very limited writing time and also tend to be pretty brain dead and exhausted when I start, so actually knowing in advance what I'm going to write has made me way more productive.

Unfortunately, right now, I've realised that I kind of skimped the outlining in the middle part of the book, and it's all very vague. Still, I managed just over a thousand words today in a very brief, low-energy period, and without the outline, I probably wouldn't have managed any. So, win!

I'm probably going to post wordcounts here from time to time for accountability, but feel free to ignore those posts.

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Steph and I are also planning to go to BristolCon again this year. BristolCon is a relatively new con (I think this is its third or fourth year), and it's only one day, but it's fast becoming one of my favourites. It's small enough that you don't feel lost or unable to find people, but it has a lot of great writers going, and it's one of the few times each year we get to meet friends like Justina Robson, Tricia Sullivan, Aliette de Bodard, and lots of others.

We still have to figure out whether we can get proper childcare for the day, so it's not 100% certain that I'll be there, but Steph certainly will be.

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Over on the other blog, I've posted a brief book review of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress (just called the "The Savage Fortress" in the U.S.). It's a middle grade adventure set in contemporary India, with two children caught up in a conflict between demons and gods from Hindu mythology. I'm recommending it.

Here's the blog entry.

Designing an ebook

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Over on the other blog, I've done a detailed blog post on how I designed an ebook cover for a new novel, The Tyranny of Heroes, by Terry England. If you're interested in ebook design, go and check it out!

Read the blog entry...

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