Blog, Publishing

RE-RELEASE NEWS! THE HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE ARE BACK!

THE NEXT RE-RELEASE BY THE MINDFLAYER… 

As some of you know, I recently faced a small crisis in my book publishing career. Due to a thoughtless and frankly disconcerting change to a publishing platform I had used for ten years, many of my books were either disappearing or no longer yielding me any royalties. I promised you all that as a result of this I wouldn’t be giving up, but migrating my books into a new platform and giving them a rebirth. The first of these efforts was the Black Gate: Omnibuswhich features all three books of my Black Gate trilogy in one volume! I cannot begin to express my gratitude to all those that supported this effort, many of whom had already read the Black Gate trilogy in its entirety but still went ahead and bought the Omnibus anyway. My thanks goes out to you with the full knowledge I can never repay this insanely kind act. Gods bless you all. 

I’m now pleased to announce the next effort.

And it’s not one but TWO books! A double-re-release!

My tome Nekyia is going to be removed from the old publishing platform and re-released as it was originally intended: as a two-volume set entitled Four Horsemen and The Fifth Horseman. Both of these books have faced numerous setbacks and obstacles to being published, including two publishers reneging on contractual agreements to publish them (hence why I was forced to release it as one very unwieldy volume – to differentiate it as a “new” title). But now, at last, they can be released as intended, and my, my, the apocalyptic heralds are looking better than ever! Just look at those covers… 

Thanks to Likozor, who also did the art for Black Gate: Omnibus, for the insane covers.

Both texts have been edited and improved. Four Horsemen features a new introduction with some additional insight into how the book came about. More than ever before, I want to tie together my underlying multiverse, and so these books really make it clear how Four Horsemen and The Fifth Horseman relate to the Black Gate series. 

I hardly sold any copies of Nekyia. I think it was arguably my worst-ever performing book, especially considering its cost to produce. I only blame myself for this. The old publishing platform I used meant it cost me £20.50 to print the damn paperback, so I had to sell it for £21.00 (and made only 50p per copy – if that). I know that price is way too high, and quite apart from the price of entry, it was 800 pages long (but unlike the Black Gate: Omnibus, which is a similar length but cohesiveNekyia was chopped seemingly haphazardly: divided into two halves, the first part then furtherdivided into four, and the second part divided into five, and so on). It was confusing and broke the story up in ways that made it a slog to read. They were always meant as two interrelated books, not as one. 

So, the tale of Nekyia is finally coming out as it was always meant to be, and I can’t wait to share these two books with you in this unique double-release! If you want to check out the blurbs, you can head on over to the Amazon page (where the Kindle is already available!) 

FOUR HORSEMEN

Amazon UK

Amazon US

THE FIFTH HORSEMAN

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Paperbacks are on their way! 

Blog, Publishing

URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT: MY BOOKS ARE GOING TO DISAPPEAR

The goddess of darkness and a man who fell on her knees in front of her. Fantasy illustration. Black and white background.

Hey everyone, 

I don’t really know how to begin, so I think it’s best I just say it how it is.

As many of you know, the majority of the books I’ve released over the years have been self-published. To do this, I used a platform, which I won’t say the name of, but it wasn’t Amazon’s in-built one. This platform had a lot of features that were really useful to authors and a wider distribution network than just Amazon’s. I have used them for a decade now, and never had any problems until now. I’ve probably produced over 50 books with them if you include works I’ve produced collaboratively with other authors and also clients. 

But earlier this year, they made a dramatic change. I won’t go into all the boring and technical details, but suffice to say my faith with this platform has utterly disintegrated. The new system is unusable and almost all of my old data has been damaged in some way. I have lost sales and revenue significantly. Most of my books are no longer distributing and if they are, I’m not being paid when they sell. Ten years of work has been compromised. It’s been very stressful and tough. I’m not the only one affected by this – thousands of authors have, including some great writers you know and love. We’ve been chatting about this at length, though I’ve kept silent about it publicly, waiting for solutions to emerge, but it seems none are forthcoming. This is real and happening. So, I thought I finally had to air it. 

I should say, if you’re a Writing Collective author reading this and you’re concerned, then your books are okay! We’re monitoring it daily, but we think that due to the way they were set up, they will not be affected in the same way as my individual books.

I am never one to despair! With destruction comes new beginnings. I am going to be working on removing my work from this platform and republishing it on new platforms. This will likely mean my books disappearing from Amazon over the next few weeks / months (or at least becoming “out of stock”). This is sadly unavoidable if I want to reclaim the rights, which I certainly do. But the good thing is that I’m not powerless here. In the words of Escanor from Seven Deadly Sins:

The books WILL be re-released! And on a better platform, which gives more creative freedom, and overall a better deal for me. I’m not going to be able to re-release them all overnight, as there are simply far too many. But I am going to work on rebuilding my list book by book. I’m going to try and make it fun – letting people vote on which books come back next, making a game of it. I already have plans for the first couple of books, and boy are they going to look better than any book I’ve released previously. At the end of the day, I had fun writing these books, and so as challenging as this process is, we should still try to claim something fun and positive from it. 

The first thing I’m going to release to start this process of resurrection is Black Gate: Omnibus – a collation of all three books in the trilogy into one epic volume! This will be coming out June 2020.

The Black Gate trilogy is kind of a calling card for me as a writer, so it makes sense that this is the first book to be risen from the ashes. Check out the cover reveal below! I think it might be my best-ever book design-wise – I’m still trying to keep going forward through this! (thanks to Lizokor for the amazing artwork).

Don’t worry, all the major books I’ve published will be coming back. Some of them needed updating and proofing anyway, so in some strange way, this has been good: it means further refinement and improvement. 

One other thing I would mention is that if you really like my work, and want to see more of it, one way you could help me during this difficult time is by becoming a patron. I have recently set up a Patreon account, where I’m sharing never-before-seen writing and behind-the-scenes videos every month. The good thing about being so prolific, is that even with these setbacks, the surface of my creative output has yet to be even scratched. There’s enough in the archives to keep us all entertained for years. 

Patreon is proving a really fabulous and vibrant community, and its growing daily. So please, if you’re interested, take a look and consider backing me; I’ll be eternally grateful. 

To all those who have read, reviewed, shared, and studied my books over the years: I salute you with every one of my mindflayer tentacles. You’re the best, the bomb, and you’ve literally helped keep me sane and alive. I promise never to give up, never to surrender, and to keep fighting the good fight. You guys make it all worth it. 

Lots of love, 

Your friendly neighbourhood mindflayer

Become a Patron!

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Review of BleakWarrior by Alistair Rennie

Fantasy, and in particular the sword & sorcery genre, has had a rough patch. I think Neil Gaiman illustrated it perfectly when he said in his introduction to The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1999): ‘it is an irony, and not entirely a pleasant one, that what should be, by definition, the most imaginative of all types of literature has become so staid, and too often, downright unimaginative’. As much as I adore the works of Tolkien, they have become almost too pervasive in their influence. It is always the way that when one book or story is successful, it spawns imitations and, in the case of Hollywood, sometimes outright clones. It can be exceedingly difficult to break the creative influence of the our literary forbearers, but we must try to tread new ground (or at least, re-examine old ideas in a new way).

This brings me to Alistair Rennie’s BleakWarrior, published by Blood Bound Books in 2016. This is like no other sword & sorcery story I have ever read. BleakWarrior is equal parts Warhammer 40,000 and Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. Equal parts philosophical exploration and Tarantino’s House of Blue Leaves. It is violent to the extent it could make George R. R. Martin blush, and yet the murder and sex orgies are juxtaposed with dialogue that is unequivocally Shakespearean and emotionally rich. Take this sentiment from the eponymous BleakWarrior himself: “But surely a strain of consequence must bind our absent purpose to some singular aim.” He is questioning whether fate has brought himself and another character together, but the labyrinthine nature of his syntax gives us a measure of the madness that eats away at his soul. The book is full of rich (and sometimes hilarious) exchanges such as this that circuitously hint at deeper meaning.

BleakWarrior is set in a secondary fantasy world with maddening logic. It is most similar to the magical sci-fi, baroque universe of Jack Vance and his Dying Earth series. It also follows Vance’s suit in the sense that many chapters from this book feel like they could be stand-alone short stories (and I believe the first part of the book to be published was a chapter called “The Gutter Sees The Light That Never Shines” in an anthology of Weird Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer). These episodic instalments, however, add up to create a greater whole. Seemingly innocuous threads become critical components later on, and characters that seem disconnected from the whole tapestry suddenly prove integral. Given the nature of so many threads, there is certainly massive potential to expand this universe and take the story even further in subsequent volumes. BleakWarrior is assuredly standalone, but I could certainly stand to have more!

BleakWarrior also has shades of Haruki Murakami. In Murakami’s most recent book Killing Commendatore, metaphorical concepts come to life. Alistair Rennie creates the “Meta-Warriors”, a cadre of assassins that embody strange concepts. The Gutter, for example, is a murderous psychopath who stinks like his namesake. But also, a play on words, because his preferred method of killing is gutting his opponents. Or Whorefrost (a pun on hoarfrost), whose semen is a lethal dose of sub-zero that freezes you from the inside (yes, you read that sentence correctly). Needless to say, this book is not for the faint of heart. It is as far from Tolkien’s world of innocent heroism as you can imagine. Here, bloody fights devolve into sexual orgies, scientists conduct experiments so immoral you have to laugh or else cry, and pussy-juice may or may not be magical.

I felt kinship reading BleakWarrior because in many ways it bears similarities with my own attempt to reinvent the sword & sorcery genre: Beyond The Black Gate. Beyond fuses a high-fantasy secondary world with ultra-violence and horror. Both BleakWarrior and Beyond The Black Gate feature insane killers that are steadily humanised by an agonising process of self-awareness. But what sets BleakWarrior apart from so many books, including my own, is the unique language Alistair Rennie has created to tell his story. It is at once parodic of traditional high falutin medieval fantasy lingo, but also an outstanding example of it. When the character Nailer of Souls, who as his name suggests consumes the souls of those he defeats in combats, tastes the spirit of BleakWarrior and announces: “Your soul to me is poison, BleakWarrior” – I could not help but shiver with the poetry of it.

Alistair Rennie is someone who understands that language gives meaning as much by its rhythm and sound than through signification. He feels the pulse of linguistic intercourse (and sometimes marries this with literal intercourse). In addition, the Meta-Warriors are literal embodiments of concepts, which means they are at once living breathing characters but also commentaries upon their own tropes. This means BleakWarrior creates a clever kind of loop, whereby it relentlessly satires itself but in doing so displays enough self awareness to then bypass cliché and achieve real epic grandeur.

Similarly, Rennie aligns the reader’s reason for reading with the reason for BleakWarrior’s actions: he does not know what or who he is and must find answers. There is a mystery at the heart of this book. What are Meta-Warriors? Why do they exist? And why do they run so counter to all the laws of the natural world? This mystery keeps us turning pages, just as it keeps BleakWarrior propelled into acts of dizzying violence. We feel sympathy for BleakWarrior because we, too, are in the dark: lost in a miasmal world we do not understand but are fascinated and sickened by.

I will not spoil how BleakWarrior ends, but suffice to say it does not disappoint. If you have been longing to read some high-quality sword & sorcery, then please look no further than BleakWarrior. It will repulse, titillate, raise hairs, and move you in unexpected ways.

Long live the Bastard Sons of Brawl!

X

Thank you for reading! If your appetite has been whetted, to purchase a copy of BleakWarrior, go to Amazon UK or Amazon US. To purchase a copy of my own Beyond The Black Gate (which will indebt me forever to you, dark scribe), go to Amazon UK or Amazon US

 

Blog

New Novel Coming November 2019: SAVE GAME

Hello friends!

Yes, you read the blog title correctly! I am bringing out a new novel, Save Game, in November of this year (just in time for Christmas… nudge nudge!). I’m excited about this book for so many reasons. It has had a long gestation period and it is unlike anything I have previously published, but I think should appeal to anyone who loves epic fantasy novels, video-games, RPGs, or underdog stories (or all of the above)! So, let me share the blurb!

Levi Jensen is, by all accounts, a loser. He failed sixth-form, never got to university, and works at a no-future fast-food restaurant. The only thing he’s good at is gaming. When his father starts dying of a new type of cancer, only treatable privately and at impossible expense, Levi’s one hope of saving him becomes the million-dollar cash-prize for winning the dark-fantasy video-game Fate of Ellaria. But Levi isn’t the only one with motivations beyond money for winning. And the price of success in Fate of Ellaria might mean the destruction of what little he has left in the real world.

Save Game is a heart-breaking story of an underdog against all odds, as well as a love-letter to the beauty of video-games. Inspired by the amazing and eclectic everyday people who inhabit the gaming world, and the pain of their real-world lives, Save Game aims to show the courage of those who feel they’ve got no place in reality.

In some ways, this book is my answer to Ready Player One. Many of you following me will know I’m not much of a fan of Ernest Cline’s work. I liked the intention behind it, but felt the execution amounted to references over substance – and a limited framework of ‘canon’ at that. Save Game for me is an attempt to tell a story with real emotion, that keeps the most important aspect of gaming at its heart: the players.

Many elements of the story are based on personal experience. I did live and work in Birmingham for a number of years, and while I did, my father was diagnosed with an aggressive sarcoma, which put him in critical condition in hospital for three months. Thankfully, after an incredible journey, he recovered and is still kicking ass today. I also spent years immersed in an epic, virtual fantasy world with two of my closest friends, and was a “games journalist” with GameSpew (and still contribute occasionally).

But if none of that persuades you, perhaps the cover will!

Look at that beauty!

So, look out for this novel early November.  Please let me know if you’re excited for this release in the comments below! I love to hear from people!

Currently, I am actively looking for Book Reviewers to do preliminary reviews. If you are a reviewer and are interested in looking at Save Game, please get in touch via Twitter or the Contact Form of this website!

Until next time, denizens of the deep!

P.S. Don’t forget that if you’re curious about my work, but not sure yet, you can get a FREE science fiction novel from me (plus loads of other giveaways and goodies) at my mailing list The Mind-Palace.