Well, yes. Three weeks since the last post, and even longer since the rest of the site got refreshed (the links page is in need of some serious housekeeping, for instance) and I'm sure ... well, I guess maybe there's someone somewhere who noticed, and maybe cared just a little bit.
But there is a reason - aka an excuse. (Aside from me being busy writing and stuff, obviously, which is my standard justification for anything and everything I don't do). Significant changes are in the pipeline for brianruckley.com, so I figured I'd hold off until v2.0 emerges. So it's good news, really: a brand spanking new brianruckley.com is en route! But the pipeline in which it currently resides has been of slightly indeterminate length, hence the drop-off in activity while those involved awaited a measuring tape. I can now report that the end of said pipe is within sight and my virtual facelift will occur in the not too distant future (which is still not exactly a precise prediction, I know, but we're talking weeks rather than months, assuming no disastrous interventions by the gods of chance).
So things will remain subdued around these parts until then.
In the meantime, look: pretty picture. Specifically, the cover to the recently released Czech edition of Bloodheir (thanks to Martin for sending me the image).
The mass market paperback editions of Bloodheir are released in the UK and US around the end of this month. The US version has just fallen into my grubby little hands, and I can't resist doing a little public admiration of it. Behold how (a) red and (b) cool it is:
Looks particularly fine alongside the equivalent edition of Winterbirth, I think. Also raises the obvious question of what variation can we expect when the time comes to give Fall of Thanes its paperback clothes? Blue? Grey? Pink? No idea, in fact, but I'm looking forward to finding out (so long as it's not pink). Setting aside the question of whether the text inside the covers is any good or not, there can't be much doubt that the covers themselves for this series have been great eye candy. Score one (or three, I suppose, since it's a trilogy) for Orbit.
For those who have not seen it yet, here is the cover for Fall of Thanes, in all its beardy and mail-clad glory:
Nice, no? And to answer the single commonest question I get asked these days: the planned publication date for Fall of Thanes is May 2009. It may vary slightly depending on exactly which bit of the planet you call home, but as things currently stand we seem to be on schedule, so it should be in that ballpark for everyone.
And while we're on the subject of books, the hardback of Bloodheir more or less sold out in the UK in a gratifyingly short period (for which many thanks to all those who bought a copy!). That's good, obviously, but it has meant that for a while now the book's not been universally available in these here parts, and those who didn't snap up the hardback early on might have been feeling a bit left out. Change is afoot, however, as trade paperbacks have now been released in the UK, so Bloodheir is once more available from Amazon UK, and should filter into bookshops nicely in time for Chrsitmas. Should you happen to know anyone who's been hankering after a copy, do let them know - the mass market paperback's still 4 or 5 months away, after all.
There has been some minor tweaking and polishing of the website, these last few days - so minor, in the main, that no one but me and the webguy is ever likely to notice the differences. One thing I'd quite like people to notice, though, is the addition of a couple of new links on the relevant page. I've mentioned both the websites concerned in this blog before, but will take any opportunity to try and drive a few more eyes their way, so:
Strange Maps is a long-running demonstration of the wisdom of picking a single, original theme for a blog and sticking with it. You never know quite what's going to show up, but it'll often be surprising, interesting and/or pretty to look at it. Especially if you like maps, naturally.
The Abominable Charles Christopheris by some distance my favourite webcomic at the moment - has been for a long time, in fact. Not surely precisely why, but I think it's some combination of: beautifully precise and expressive art, joke strips that I find gently amusing, an over-arching story arc that's dark and mysterious (possibly a bit too mysterious to be honest, since I'm not sure anyone's really figured out exactly what's going on), and Karl Kerschl's obvious affection for the characters he's created.
Just to add, further to last post about the Facebook giveaway: I should perhaps mention, for those who don't already know, that if you're not on Facebook, but still have a craving for a signed, dedicated etc. copy of the Bloodheir hardback, you can get one (but I'm afraid you'll have to pay for it). I can sign, inscribe or otherwise vandalise as instructed any copies ordered from Transreal Fictionin Edinburgh before they're shipped out to you. It costs cover price plus post and packing. Not as good as a free competition, I know, but a good deal more certain in outcome and it doesn't require you to join one of those pesky social networks if you're allergic to them ...
Post title kind of says it all. Further details are here, but it all boils down to this: each week in June, everyone who's signed up as a Fan on Winterbirth's page on Facebookgets entered into a draw to win a signed, dedicated or otherwise personalised copy of Bloodheir. Sounds like a bargain to me. (And there's not exactly a gigantic army of fans on there at the time of writing, so if you go join up now you're in with a fighting chance. Not that we're actually going to make the fans fight each other, obviously. Though that might be worth bearing in mind for future competitions ...).
There's a review of Bloodheir up at the Grasping for The Wind blog that's nice in all kinds of ways. I mention it here, though, mainly because I think it's the first time I've seen anyone specifically praise the way I write about love. I'm a big softie, really. It's a relief when something you've tried quite hard to get right has precisely the desired effect on the reader, even if it's only one reader.
(I'm similarly relieved, incidentally, whenever someone describes my battle scenes as 'cinematic' - which one or two folk have done - because believe me, pretty much from draft 1, page 1 of Winterbirth, whenever I'm writing violence I've been sitting there hunched over the keyboard all but muttering 'make it cinematic, make it cinematic', like some drooling, lunatic hermit who used to be a failed screenwriter and has gone downhill from there.)
In case anyone likes to know these things, the title for book three was agreed a little while ago, and it is: Fall of Thanes. No, it's not quite finished yet; Yes, it will be finished before too long. And yes, one or more Thanes may indeed fall, but Who? How far? And will they bounce?
There's a video of me reading from Bloodheir at the Alt.Fiction event up on YouTube. I'm not, though, going to embed it here, for two reasons:
1. Like most people, I dwell in a happy little fantasy world in which I sound and appear to everyone else exactly as I sound and appear to myself within the confines of my own skull. This pleasant illusory state of mind is directly (and cruelly) contradicted every time I hear my voice as it is heard by others, and having a permanent reminder of the glaring discrepancy staring out at me from my own blog would be just too masochistic. In this case, I choose to preserve my feeble illusions, thank you very much.
2. More importantly (as if anything could actually be more important than preserving my precious self-image!) the reading contains what might well be considered SPOILERS for not entirely insignificant plot developments in Bloodheir, so a little bit of distance is probably a good thing for those who might want to consider whether they really want to watch it. If you prefer your reading experience to be entirely unsullied by advance knowledge of what's coming up, proceed no further. You Have Been Warned.
For those undeterred by these two caveats, here's the link. You will have to excuse my not exactly masterful reading technique; first time out, and all that. If I get to repeat the exercise at some point in the future, I'll try to do a bit better. There are plenty of clips of other authors showing how it should be done elsewhere on the Orbit Books YouTube channel.
... for those thousands (dozens? couple?) of folk who might have been worrying my recent lack of posting indicated some cataclysmic silence-imposing development, such as my kidnapping by the aliens recently revealed to be swarming the UK's skies, the good news is it's only because I've been busy, and keeping a low internet profile. It's actually quite refreshing to do a bit of internet detox now and again: I've been pretty much restricting my attention to e-mails and whatever my feed subscriptions harvest from the virtual ocean, and it turns out that's plenty to keep me feeling vaguely in touch with the 21st century. Probably means I've missed all types of excitements, fascinating chance discoveries, flamewars, announcements of earth-shattering importance etc. etc. Still, since I don't know about them, I can't regret missing them, can I? Ignorance is bliss.
Slightly more substantive posts should follow before too long, but in the meantime:
The succession of Steven Moffat as showrunner for Doctor Who is awesomely good news. I've actually been a bit remiss in keeping up with the current series - I've mostly liked what I've seen of it without being hugely engaged - but am now much more interested in what Mr. Moffatt may come up with in years to come. His latest Who episodes, pretty much certain to be leading candidates for the best in the series based on past form, hit the airwaves on 31st May and the week after.
Want to know if your ancestors were criminals? Maybe it's just me, but I think it's extremely cool that documents detailing something like 200,000 criminal cases tried at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1913 are freely and easily available online. Plug in your family name (or any other keyword you want to give a run out) and start wandering through the lives of the guilty and the innocent from centuries past. There's loads of fascinating stuff in there. Could be a great resource for writers of historical fiction, alternate history, Victoriana, steampunk, whatever ...
And finally, turns out there's a Kindle edition of Bloodheir. See? I can pretty much tell just by looking at photos of the thing that the Kindle isn't the breakthrough device as far as my personal aversion to reading fiction on-screen is concerned, but there's no doubt Amazon's proactive involvement in the whole e-book adventure has livened things up a good deal. And the Kindle reader itself, despite looking over-priced to me, is still No. 1 in Amazon's own electronics sales chart, so what do I know? If anyone does buy the Kindle version of the book, let me know how the experience goes, would you?
My trusty test reader enjoys a quiet moment with the finished Bloodheir. He's smiling, so presumably happy, even though the only reference to bears occurs on page 161 and involves poking a sleeping one with a stick. Not much to engage the ursine reader, you'd think. Still, it's probably an improvement on Winterbirth, in which the main bear involvement was getting wheeled around in a cage and shot full of crossbow bolts. Contrary to appearances, I have nothing against bears.
Big box of hardbacks and the UK trade paperback turned up on my doorstep last week. One of those moments that I suspect never quite loses its appeal, no matter how well-established and megastarish an author becomes. Orbit have done a lovely job with the book, methinks. It's a very fine package. Seeing the cover art up close and in situ it's striking what a fine piece of work it is. Given that my artistic skills are on the wrong side of non-existent, this kind of thing leaves me not a little impressed. And jealous. The illustration is by Gene Mollica, much more of whose diverse work can be admired here.
There's a Bloodheir review up at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. It contains the succint and pretty accurate line: 'Aeglyss is a complete basket case.' Yep. Can't really disagree with that. The guy's got issues, you know.
And I'll just insert the customary reminder here that anyone who wants to buy a signed copy of Bloodheir can do so via Transreal Fiction. It'll cost you the cover price plus post and packing. Dedications, inscriptions and so on can also be included, but not, sadly, any cute little drawings, as my artistic skills ... well, see above.
Free copies of Bloodheir are being given away over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Just thought you might like to know.
And P.S. : I like the digital revolution, I really do. But sometimes it tries the patience. Like now. My internet connection is playing a game of 'now you see me, now you don't', which becomes tedious after you've had to reset your router for the third day running. Blogger is denying the fact that there are comments on the previous post, despite the fact that there demonstrably are. Look, they're right here, Blogger. Why do you deny it? Shortcuts have magically disappeared from my desktop, leaving unsightly holes in my neatly and carefully arranged array of icons. And Windows has taken it upon itself to ensure that any new documents I create within certain folders absolutely, definitely must be read-only documents. It's for their own good. If I try to tell it otherwise, it disagrees, for I am but a human and it is IT.
Hardly earth-shaking, I know, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. It's annoying. Wearisome. (Especially the read-only document thing, which is, in its own small and trivial way, doing my all too human head in).
EDIT to add: And of course what Blogger was waiting for before acknowledging the presence of comments on the previous post was for me to put up a new post complaining about their absence. Obvious, really. Don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.
The Book Swede seems to have broken the review ice for Bloodheir. Fortunately, he's broken it with a largely positive axe, or whatever you break ice with. If you see what I mean. A friendly ice pick? Oh, never mind.
The programme for Alt.Fiction, the one day sf/f/h extravaganza in Derby in April has been published. It amounts to a seriously packed day of genre goodies, with so many authors crammed into a few hours and a few rooms that it makes you wonder how they find the space for anybody else. If you like your fiction speculative, it's definitely the place to be on April 26th.
Me, I'll be talking worldbuilding in the afternoon, and then I'm apparently launching a book. That'll be Bloodheir, then. Means a little reading and signing, I guess, so hopefully the printing presses are gearing up even now. What it also means is that if you're at Alt.Fiction, you might get the chance to acquire a copy of Bloodheir a whole six weeks before it turns up in the shops. Bargain. UPDATE: No, Bloodheir won't be available on the day. Too soon. Oh well.
Anyone else who wants one can also have a signed copy of Bloodheir, mind you. Transreal Fiction will take orders for signed (and optionally dated, dedicated, inscribed, whatever) hardbacks and post them off to you as soon as it's published. As far as I know, the cost is just cover price plus whatever packing and postage costs are to your part of the world.
On a wholly unrelated subject, if you've got a couple of minutes to spare, turn your sound on and go try this awareness test. It's not easy ...
Is Spring Clean one word, two words, or hyphenated? Unsure, and can't be bothered to check, so apologies to any grammar/spelling police if I'm doing it all wrong.
Anyway, however the phrase (word?) is properly formulated, the website's had a bit of a one. Most of the changes are so minor as to be of no interest to any but the most dedicated of website-watchers, but I'll point to one or two that might be of interest:
Bloodheir now has its own pagein the Books section, so publication must be drawing near. Well, three months isn't exactly near, but neither is it far. As can be seen there (and all around the site, including in the banner up at the top), the final cover image has been settled upon, and I'm pleased with it. I think it's the best variant of the (extremely good) illustration that's previously been on show here and elsewhere, and complements Winterbirth's cover beautifully.
For Winterbirth cover completists, incidentally - and I know I'm probably the only one on the entire planet who actually falls into that category (but I'm allowed, right?) - the latest version of the cover for the US mass market paperback, due out in a couple of months, can be seen here, in the right side bar. Big black band. Striking, no?
Every so often, you get a reminder of why the internet and e-mail are such fine things. A minor example: a flurry of e-mails from readers this week, and I can tell you, there are few things more likely to lift the spirits of a writer - it being, as everyone always says, such an isolated and potentially lonely old business - than hearing direct from the readers (assuming they're polite and friendly readers, of course).
The best thing is, it's a two-way process, so I can fire a random questionout into the virtual ether, and get an answer back in basically no time at all:
"The title Zimowe Gody means more or less Winterbirth. 'Zimowe' means winter (as an adjective). 'Gody' is the traditional Polish name for a wedding, but also may be used for other festivities (like your book's Winterbirth)."
So now I (and you) know. Fantastic. Thank you, Pawel. Incidentally, googling 'Zimowe Gody' - an entirely pointless exercise due to my ignorance of the Polish language, but I couldn't help myself - did at least reveal one thing of which I was previously unaware: Poland appears to have a frankly staggering number of online bookshops. Dozens of the things, as far as I can see. No idea why so many.
And the two-way thing works in reverse, so people can ask me questions or make suggestions, like Andy, who wants an extract from Bloodheir putting up on the website or the Facebook page asap, please, thank you very much. A little bit of patience is required on this front, I'm afraid. Such a thing will be along before too long, but it's not going to be in the next few days or anything. There's a good chance it'll show up on the Facebook pagefirst, but that's not certain. This is, in fact, a rare example of something showing up in print before it's online: I know, for I have seen it (and it is good) that Orbit US have produced a little sampler booklet containing short extracts from not only Bloodheir but many of the other fine books they'll be publishing this year. But that's not something you're likely to stumble upon unless you're in the publishing or bookselling trade, I imagine, so that's no great help to Andy or anyone else, really. Sorry.
And to end on a morbid note, when I talked about the Forth Rail Bridge a few posts back, the Millau Viaduct was flagged up in the comments (thanks, Simon), as another bridge-type thing laden with the Wow Factor. Quite true: it's a stunner, although it might be ever so slightly too perfect and clinical-looking for me to really love it. Not sure.
Thinking about these two amazing constructions raised a question in my mind, and thanks to the internet, finding an answer was trivially easy:
Number of construction workers who died in the three years (2001-2004) it took to build the Millau Viaduct: 0. Yes, that's precisely zero.
Number of construction workers who died in the seven years (1883-1890) it took to build the Forth Rail Bridge: No one really knows, but probably something like 98.
How things have changed. Those Victorians knew what they were doing when it came to putting together brick and steel; health and safety at work, not so much. Just last year, a memorialwas finally created in memory of those who died working on the bridge. But what I find more moving, for some reason, is that you can go and see the name, age, job and the exact day they died for many of them right here. It's a strange experience, to scroll through those lists, and one that would be impossible without the amazing internet.
Of course, things have not changed so much everywhere. The death toll of construction workers is only one - and arguably not the greatest - of the costs associated with this infamous megaproject, but still: apparently, over 100 of them died. That's a lot of dead workers, if true. I wonder if they'll get a memorial? Or have their names listed on the internet?
There's a sneak preview to be had on Winterbirth's Facebook page: the new map that will be appearing in Bloodheir is posted in one of the photos albums there. I think the photos are one one of the things you can access there even if you're not signed up on Facebook, so anyone who reckons they know what new territories the action will be moving into in book two can go have a look and confirm their suspicions.
If you are a Facebooker, you might want to consider adding yourself as a 'Fan' of Winterbirth. There're likely to be one or two more bonuses showing up there for fans over the next few months, possibly even including the chance to get your hands on a free advance copy of Bloodheir. And in other news, looks like the Polish version of Winterbirth has emerged into the light of day, published by Kurpisz. 'Zimowe Gody' defeats the Polish translation engines I've been able to find in a quick online trawl, but there seems to be a 'winter' in there somewhere, so maybe it's a more or less direct translation of Winterbirth. Should anyone fluent in Polish happen to be passing by, feel free to enlighten me.
Chances are, things will be quiet around here for the next week or more (not that they're exactly a hive of frenzied activity the rest of the time), while I concentrate on eating, drinking, caressing the many books I'll no doubt be given on the 25th (people know how to please me), wishing it would snow, and - because you can't let a little thing like a festive season get in the way - writing.
In the meantime, a little selection of treats and trifles:
For Movie Fans, the newly-arrived Hellboy II trailer:
I was a big fan of the first movie - plain old fun almost from beginning to end, I thought, and that's something not many movies can claim - and this one looks like it might be a worthy successor. For Zombie Comic Fans (that's fans of zombie comics, rather than comic fans who are zombies), a tip: I'm way behind on this, since it's been going for ages, but this year I discovered The Walking Dead. I've only read the first collected volume so far, but it was up there amongst my favourite reading experiences of 2007.
It's the homely tale of a small group of ordinary people trying to survive in a world over-run by flesh-eating zombies. Good writing, good characters and the occasional gory zombie attack: what more could you ask? Recommended for those with post-Christmas book tokens to spend and an affection for quality comics. Or for zombies.
For Aspiring Writers, this is pretty old stuff, but it's well worth a read if you haven't seen it before: from the Australian fantasy author Ian Irvine, who's sold enough books to know what he's talking about, Writing Tips, Guide to Success, and easily the best of the lot, The Truth About Publishing. Not everything in there accords perfectly with my own experience, but that's no surprise as (a) Ian's writing from an Australian perspective, and (b) these things are bound to vary on a case-by-case basis. The important thing is that in broad terms there's a huge amount of good advice, truth and common sense in there.
For Anyone who ever wondered what a nuclear detonation at sunset looks like (likely a small subset of the global population, I realise):
Okay, so it's actually just the Sun going down behind a power station just outside Edinburgh, but it looked a bit like the Apocalypse to me.
For Those Who Care About Such Things, the latest version of the Bloodheir cover. It makes me feel cold just looking at it, which in this case is a good thing.
Last I heard, UK, US and Australian publication remains on schedule for June 2008, by the way.
And since it's the season for Giving Gifts, go test your vocabulary - and marvel at the plethora of obscurities lurking like unexploded bombs in the dark recesses of the English language - while simultaneously donating (at no cost to you!) rice to those who need it: FreeRice, which I found via Patrick Rothfuss' blog.
Finally, For Music Fans, especially those who like a bit of acoustic guitar action, what I think is one of the nicest sounds to be found on YouTube:
There're plenty of other clips of him on YouTube, all equally pleasing, and his website's here: Andy McKee. Sadly, no signs of any plans to play in Scotland as far as I can see, otherwise I'd probably be busy buying tickets instead of writing this post ...
And that's it. Whatever festivities you're engaged in over the next week or two, I hope you have an outrageously happy time of it.
Every so often I get an e-mail asking about the publication date for Bloodheir, book two in the Godless World trilogy. We're always eager to please around these parts, so here's the official update, freshly extracted from the horse's (i.e. publisher's) mouth.
The plan is to more or less synchronise Bloodheir publication around the English-speaking world. Winterbirth's appearance in the UK, Aus/NZ and USA has been staggered over about 12 months, but if all goes according to plan (which is never a 100% certainty, of course) Bloodheir will show up just about simultaneously in all those places around June 2008. It may appear a month sooner or later in one place than another, but any differences should be minor.
Barring unforeseen developments, by the way, Book 3 will follow approximately one year later. I guess it will also be coming out everywhere at basically the same time.
And that picture is a detail from the prototype of the Bloodheir cover, just as a bit of a teaser. Cool-looking dude, if you ask me. With a big spear.
Incidentally, although the official publication date of Winterbirth in the US is still a week away, it's in stock at Amazon.com. Buy! Buy! If you feel like it, obviously. No pressure.
Snippet the First. After much umming and ahhing and scratching of head, Book Two in the Godless World trilogy has finally got a definite title: Bloodheir. Took longer to settle on a name than it did to write the damn thing ... Amazon is still calling it Winterbirth v.2 (EDIT: actually, today they're calling it Bloodheir: v.2, which is nearly right), but trust me, it's Bloodheir. Looks like it should be in UK bookshops early April 2008. Before anyone asks, no I don't know what its US or Australian publication dates will be - will try to find out at some point and report back.
Snippet the Second. Another translation deal has been done for Winterbirth - Greece, this time. News of these overseas deals comes out of the blue to me, since other people are doing the hard work of trying to make them happen, so each one is an unexpected little nugget of pleasure.
And finally, an update on DARPA's project to create hybrid insects that I mentioned a post or two back. The Times has details on the plan: cyborg moths! You couldn't make this stuff up. Well, you could, but only if you're an sf writer.