Late September and October Update

Hey Everyone!

I apologise for the update being so late this time around but I have been writing non-stop to keep myself on these deadlines that keep popping up to shout at me.

First of all, if you didn’t see my previous post, I have a new series out next with BHC Press! This is the Secret Project that I’ve been working away on in the background for the last year and a half, and the trilogy is called The Magicians of Venice. I worked really hard to find it a home, and guys, seriously, it’s in great hands with BHC and I couldn’t be happier. I’m so pumped about this project as they are the kind of books I’ve always dreamed about writing; archaeology, magic, Venice, ancient history, romance, creepy Hannibal field kabuki style murders…it really has it all. It’s also given me  a chance to play around with my fave archaeology mystery of all time…Atlantis. Yep, it’s going to great. I’m currently doing drafts and edits of book two so I’m not around on social media much…it’s all head down butt up to knock it into shape. I’ll be posting loads more about it soon but in the mean time, you can go here to the BHC Press website and read more about book one, The Immortal City.

In other news for Blood Lake Chronicles fans, I have just this morning, finished a final draft of Kingdom. It’s going to be sent off to my editors soon so expect a pre-order announcement by the end of the month. This book guys, it’s been crazy hard to get together and I had to delete 70% of the first draft I wrote back in April and rewrite it in the last month. I won’t go into spoilery details but it’s been a hell of job to work with three main character story lines and not have the whole thing dissolve into a mess of faerie you know what. In my mind I’ve kind of been calling it Rosa and Merlin’s Awesome Adventures in Faerie, but you will also see Bleddyn step up and play a big role in this one.

That being said…here is a cover and a blurb for you to oggle! HURRAY!

Bleddyn is a man with secrets, but he can’t outrun his past any longer. With Balthasar and Nimue in the clutches of his greatest enemy, he’ll have to reclaim his birthright as the King of the Unseelie to save them. First, he’ll have to recruit the formidable general Eirianwen to stand by his side, but his ex-fiancé isn’t going to be won over so easily.

Eirianwen never thought she would see Bleddyn again and the woman he remembers died centuries ago. Only he can unite the scattered Unseelie in a final battle against the Autumn Queen, and as much as she hates it, Eirianwen knows she can’t keep fighting alone. Bleddyn promises to get revenge for everything that was taken from her, but when the doors to the past are opened, neither one will be prepared for what comes out.  

Rosa will do anything to get Balthasar back, and when Merlin makes a plan to recruit the Wild Hunt to their cause, there’s nothing she won’t do to secure their alliance. Making a bargain with a god is never a good idea, and her deal with Gwyn ap Nudd might end up costing Rosa more than she’s willing to pay.

Oh yeah…this one has it all happening. I’ve been super excited about writing about Gwyn ap Nudd and the Wild Hunt as they have always been favourites of mine. There is also quite a lot of a good looking, sweet as hell guy called Arthur who tags along for some adventures. You will also get a sneak peak at the end of the Aramis and Soren book I’m drafting between other projects. Also, soooo much fun to be writing.

Speaking of books, I’ve read some great ones in the past month. I feel like I have a never ending battle with my To Be Read pile while I try and draft but these ones have crept through.

Stars of Fortune- Nora Roberts

Full Disclaimer: I only read Nora Roberts paranormal books and I’m always surprised how much her covers never  look like they are paranormal. In saying that I loved this book. A bunch of supernatural strangers thrown together to hunt stars hidden by Celtic Goddess? Yeah sign me up. It has a bevvy of paranormal goodies including a magician and a seer and I won’t tell you what else because I’ll spoil it. But seriously, if you love a good treasure hunt with a supernatural twist, check it out!

The next one I’m going to try not to gush all over you about is Grace Draven’s newest, Phoenix Unbound. Okay, you guys know how much I love Grace’s books but I’m absolutely loving this book. Fire magic? Hot take on fantasy Huns? Gladiators? Dragon myths? There is so much that is awesome about it. Grace writes the best fantasy romance because her world building is always so stunning and believable that the romance compliments the story, but it’s by no means the only thing going on. It’s a great epic fantasy and you can check it out here.

The final book I’m currently working my way through is The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev.

This is a non-fiction work about the Renaisance Bad Ass Lady, Caterina Sforza. You might recognise her as the woman who takes on the Borgias in the TV series but the truth is always more fascinating than fiction. Elizabeth Lev is a lively writer so it’s by no means a dull history book.  If you are after a read about a woman taking on the patriarchy of  the day, and beating them like a drum, look no further. Grab a copy here.  

Okay, this blog is huge so I’m going to get out of here. A final heads up…The Blood Lake Chronicles box set is going to be free this weekend here on Amazon so if you have been thinking about giving it a go, the time is now.

Ames x

Books Of Magic

I love reading books about magic of all stripes and stamps, the more original the better.  Over the last 12 months I’ve read some great fiction so I thought I would share my favourites that I am sure I will find time to read again and again.

The Peter Grant Series – Ben Aaronovitch

I was drinking ale in a medieval pub in Estonia (Old Hansa) when I was recommended the first of this series ‘Rivers of London.’ I love urban fantasy and this interesting mix of crime and magic was irresistible from the first page. Ben Aaronovitch’s knowledge of London streets, history and heart is impeccable. As you read it you can really tell that he deeply loves this sprawling metropolis. Newbie police officer and protagonist Peter Grant has an encounter with a witness of a crime only to learn that he had been inter61oYoZzwsdLviewing a ghost without realising. The story and world grows as he’s introduced to Nightingale (my personal favourite in the series) and inducted into the Folly, the magical crimes unit of the London police. I won’t give away spoilers but I have a tendency to gush about this series. Its sharp, clever, engaging and I really love the history that is woven into it. The Rivers are formidable characters in their own right and it’s a delight to watch as they engage with Peter throughout the entire series. Aaronovitch’s creatures are incredibly original and it really delves into using magic to kill or maim and the costs of that. There is the seduction of magic and what it can be used for, and the hands that it should stay out of at all costs. The supernatural demimonde is an incredible lesson in world building and urban fantasy writers should use this series as an example of it being done well.

I went through all of the Peter Grant books like a crack addict. One of the great things about it that is hard to do well as a writer, is that Aaronovitch’s explains the magic without robbing the joy of it. If you love crime and magic this series is worth your time and money.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu – Susanna Clarke 

I need to admit something here…I am obsessed with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Fiercely. Deeply. And in ways that I can’t fully explain. So when I approached this book of short stories it was with equal parts eagerness and hesitation. This is due to the fact that Susanna Clarke wipes my writer soul across the floor every time I read any of her words. They wrap themselves around my mind and fill it full of wonder and sheer joy and make me want to hide in a corner somewhere until I recover. With illustrations by Charles Vess its a beautiful book visually as well.

Okay so enough fan-girling (for now)…this is a series of short stories based in the world Clarke created for Jonathan Strange and Mr tumblr_m2s5xmSc2I1qbk98go1_500Norrell. Jonathan himself turns up in The Ladies of Grace Adieu and I couldn’t help but squeal as I’m a stone cold Strangite. These are  tales of magic, wonder and the malicious and lingering presence of the Fae. These are not the beautiful cuddly creatures of so many paranormal novels. These are established very quickly as a different breed entirely. They are a capricious species who don’t particular care what harm they can cause in the human world. They are not the kind of Fae you want to fall in love with. The only one that shows any kind of decency (in a backward manner as is their way) is Tom Brightwind when he uses magic to build a bridge in Thoresby, not to benefit the town so much as distract them while he seduces the mayor’s wife. Mary Queen of Scots makes an appearance in a way that will cause you never to look at embroidery the same way. The delight for me in the collection (there was more than one) is when Neil Gaiman’s town of Wall turns up in ‘The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse.’ As a fan of Stardust and The Duke I laughed in glee at his frustrations and ultimate solutions.

Now let us speak more softly, as respect demands it, of the Raven King. The final tale in the series, ‘John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner’ is mentioned in passing in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but here we have the account in its entirety. I loved the Raven King and his looming omniscient presence in Jonathan Strange so it was great to have this story added into the collection.ladiesofgraceadieu I would dearly love it if Susanna Clarke would write a story just about the Raven King but she is definitely an author who knows her own mind on these things. Her writing has no unnecessary bits. Every part has a point and a purpose. As a writer I have this compulsion to pull apart stories I love to see how they work but I have learnt to tread carefully with Clarke. Once you see the tricks your admiration just grows until you are feeling like the ultimate fraud to even try and step into the profession. It can be said that her Victorian style of writing is not for everyone but for those who love Austin and the Bronte’s and want something like it with a magical twist they should look no further than Susanna Clarke.

The Magicians- Lev Grossman 

There is an old saying of ‘Good writers borrow, great writers steal’ and going into this series I can see why many people have mentioned it after reading this trilogy. Comments and headlines often say things like ‘Hogwarts for Adults’ and ‘a sort of terrifying Narnia.’ There are definite elements of truth in both comments.

The trilogy begins when protagonist Quentin Coldwater receives an invite to attend a prestigious college of magic, Brakebills. There is the typical shenanigans of drinking and fucking and pushing boundaries that teenagers are known for but this isn’t the total focus of the first book, its only really the first third. Quentin can be a dislikable character, depressive, needy and emotional but its not hard to believe an ultra intelligent and privileged kid could act in this manner. The real story starts to kick off when he and his friends discover a way into Fillory, a magical land from a series of books Quentin loves.1408_SBR_MAGICIAN_COVER.jpg.CROP.original-original

As with the Peter Grant books I won’t give away too many spoilers but there are things that this series does really well.Firstly that magic really comes with a price and its always a personal price. Julia, one of the most excellently crafted characters I’ve seen in a long time, suffers deeply when she isn’t accepted into Brakebills. She has to live with the knowledge that not only is magic real but she’s been purposefully denied the opportunity to learn it. She forges her own path and in many ways I see this trilogy not so much about Quentin but about Julia. She isn’t about to cry over things as Quentin has a tendency to do, she is made of sterner stuff and hunts magic and learns it on her terms. She suffers great personal  costs and to me her journey was the most engaging.

Secondly, even though there are obvious Narnia overtones Grossman seriously makes Fillory, his Narnia,  100% his own. The clock trees are an original favourite of mine. This land isn’t ideal. Its damn frightening majority of the time. I also loved the libraries of history seen in the third book of the trilogy. I love a good magical library.

This series is a strange beast and for months afterward I couldn’t decide if I intensely loved it or hated it. Readers of the series seem to fall into one category or the other. I loved it, but its a complicated love. Grossman didn’t set out to write a story with a likeable protagonist, he can be a darn right piece of shit when he wants to be, but can’t everyone? I still wonder if the book is about the pointlessness of wishing for things to be better all the time instead of enjoying what you have…or that dissatisfaction comes from within yourself and not the world or wonder around you.Even with the knowledge of magic and other worlds Quentin still struggles to be happy or satisfied and that would frustrate a lot of readers. It’s jaded in its way but I still believe its worth the read because there is so much in this series that is awesome. There is terror, wonder, love, pain, suffering and magic. It’s violence is sudden and visceral. Magic is not safe and to abuse it is to court pain. Grossman has tried to be realistic in his approach to the magical, how modern teenagers would probably approach it, and in that way he is making a social commentary. I will read it again because there is much that can be overlooked with a single reading. I am looking forward to what they do with the TV series and I hope they don’t soften its edges.

So there we are folks…they are my top picks. I need to do another blog on YA, including a magic series in that category, but these are the best magic books of 2015 in my opinion. They are the ones that  have really stuck with me for a variety of ways. I hope you give them a go.