FantasyCon 2016

A week after the event and the buzz from FantasyCon still hasn’t worn off. Scarborough turned out to be a fab venue, with an energising combination of faded Victorian grandeur and sea air. I’m determined to go back and explore the area properly when there aren’t as many distractions.

Alex Davis and his team of volunteers set up a wide-ranging programme of events, and huge thanks are due to them for organising a great weekend. It was refreshing to have plenty of space in the various function rooms so there were no disappointments turning up to find the room already packed out.img_5567 The seagulls provided a startlingly effective morning alarm call service, necessary after sitting up late into the night talking about diverse matters, such as Ballard, and trees, and Tolkien. Good company, good times.

On the Saturday I took part in a well-attended panel which was ably chaired by  Terry Jackman, along with Stephen Aryan, Jen Williams, Ian Whates, and Steve McHugh. We discussed whether we should be killing off our main characters and seemed to reach a consensus, that yes, we should. Except when the character in question is Mog, the Forgetful Cat. We also established it was extremely difficult to talk about death of main characters without spoilers.

It was lovely to catch up with the Angry Robot team again. Marc, Penny, Nick and Jared took excellent care of us over the weekend. I was on the train home when the news broke that Angry Robot Books had won the BFS Award for Best Independent Publisher. I’ve learned it’s remarkably difficult not to jump up and down and shriek with glee in a situation like that. Many thanks to everyone who helped make it such an excellent weekend!

That was last weekend. This weekend the new Open University MA in Creative Writing begins. This promises to be an adventure of an entirely different kind.

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My Favourite Reads of 2015

2015 has been a year of upheaval here, with a house move in between the releases of The Waterborne Blade in May and Waterborne Exile in August. I’m a bit taken aback to realise I’ve been living surrounded by boxes for six months now, between permanent homes. Most recently I’ve been making notes on a new fantasy project – codenamed Fury – and work on that will begin in earnest in January. If all goes to plan I could have a first draft in place before we begin work on out next renovation project. Later in the year I’m hoping to resume work on Waterborne Revenant with a view to exploring other publishing options for it in 2017. I’ve also signed up for the first part of the new Open University Creative Writing MA. Lots of plans, but of course we all know what happens to those.

Anyway, this post claims to be about the books I most enjoyed reading in 2015. Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes was one of my favourites, a high-stakes adventure featuring two engaging protagonists. I’m looking forward to the sequel. DSC05169In House of Shattered Wings Aliette de Bodard evokes a haunting vision of a broken Paris in the aftermath of a war in heaven. Dave Hutchinson shows us more of the all too plausible future he introduced in Europe in Autumn, with the superb Europe at Midnight, managing once again to surprise the reader as the plot takes unexpected turns. I embarked with caution on Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey afraid the subject matter of dementia might be too close to home, but I found it compelling and immersive. Mark Alder’s Son of the Morning had me wishing I’d taken notes at times – it took me a while to sort my Edwards from my Edmunds, Mortimers from Montagus and Osberts from Orsinis – but the characters were great: Dow, who is utterly ruthless and set in his beliefs, yet plausibly so, and the Pardoner, Osbert, shamelessly out for his own gain. I was fortunate to be able to read a pre-release copy of Peter McLean’s debut urban fantasy Drake, which features a wonderfully foul-mouthed and inept summoner of demons. You’re in for a treat when it’s released next week. Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House was another page-turner that I didn’t put down until I’d finished.

The outstanding read for me this year has to be The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin. This book begins with an absolute gut punch of a scene, the impact of which Jemisin manages to double up with the ending. The writing is superb, the content often harrowing and while it deals with important themes it never resorts to preachiness. I hope to see this book coming up on all the award lists in 2016.

Wishing everyone all the best for 2016, and perhaps less rain as well.

 

FantasyCon 2015

FantasyCon begins tomorrow! The organisers have set up a great programme of events for the weekend, but hopefully there’ll still be some time to hang around in the bar.

I’ll be taking part in a panel on the Sunday morning:

Room: Suite 1

Sun 25 Oct 10.00am

By the Gods! Religion & Beliefs in Fantasy

How can we portray plausible belief systems in genre writing without doing a disservice to characters or becoming overly didactic?

Moderator: Juliet E McKenna. Panellists: John Connolly, Adam Dalton, Iain Grant, Jasper Kent, Susan Murray

And later on in the Mass Signing in the Dealer Room at noon.

Stop by and say hello!

Penrith signing

Autumn is setting in and writing work begins in earnest, but first a quick reminder that this Saturday, 19th September, I’ll be signing books at The New Hedgehog Bookshop, 19 Little Dockray, Penrith, from noon onwards. Do drop in and say hello if you’re passing by.

In other news, I’m delighted to say Adrian Magson has kindly featured me in the New Author profile in the October issue of Writing Magazine.

Now it’s nose to the grindstone until Fantasycon. I’ve been working on the outline of my third novel and it’s time to find out how much that helps – or hinders – the drafting process.

Events 2015

I’ll be out and about over the next couple of months.WaterborneExile-144dpi-2

August: Angry Robot will be invading Forbidden Planet in Birmingham (tomorrow evening!) and London (next Thursday evening).

September: On Saturday 19th I’ll be signing books at The New Hedgehog Bookshop, 19 Little Dockray, Penrith, from noon onwards.

October: I’ll be at Fantasycon in Nottingham all weekend and doing a panel, pencilled in for the Sunday morning, on religion in fantasy.

Do stop by to say hello if you get the chance!

The Waterborne Blade: release week

Release week for The Waterborne Blade is upon us! I’m still struggling to get my head round the fact the book is really out there at last, but here’s a brief roundup of reactions so far:

“This is a well-paced, enjoyable read with characters that feel rounded and real, changing and evolving as the book goes on. […] it’s in the scheming of courts and cousins, childhood spats and splintering marriages that the writing shines.”
Rhian Drinkwater, SFX Magazine

“I have to hand it to Murray, she certainly knows when to kick in the exciting developments in plot and character to keep you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think you’ve reached the right place to set it down, you end up reading right through the night to find out where exactly the plot is about to take you. It pretty much blind sighted me and I read a lot of fantasy! […] Fast paced, enjoyable, not too heavy, not too light, just right fantasy!”
Book Frivolity

“An exciting new fantasy series with an awesome female protagonist that is compulsively readable. […] I almost missed my MAX stop on my way home because of this book. It’s totally engrossing, which makes this book go by pretty quickly, and leaves you wanting more.”
Roberta’s Literary Ramblings

TheWaterborneBlade-144dpi“This thrilling tale of sword and sorcery thrusts us right into the action.  When we meet the protagonists, we are given no background on them, or on the situation they find themselves in.  We are told they need to flee, now, and we follow.”
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Corner

“The Waterborne Blade is an intriguing and compelling fantasy woven from a fascinating story set in a vibrant world inhabited by vivid characters. Susan Murray is a consummate storyteller who fulfills everything you could desire of a book and leaves you wanting more.”
Graeme K. Talboys, author of Stealing into Winter

“This is a wonderful thing, a sweeping fantasy which somehow manages to pull off the trick of being intimate and very human at the same time. It begins with a realm in peril, and then puts its shoulders back and strides confidently towards a horizon packed with magic and love and abandoned palaces and a huge and very real evil. Susan Murray has written a debut novel of great skill and depth, and I loved it.”
Dave Hutchinson, author of Europe in Autumn

Available here:

UK:
Amazon.co.uk | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

North America:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | BarnesandNoble.com | IndieBound.org

Global DRM-Free Epub & Mobi Ebook
Available now from the Robot Trading Company

First sightings in the wild

Release date for The Waterborne Blade is edging closer, and this week the first copies were sighted in the wild – or, more precisely, in a backroom at a top secret location. The first reviews are trickling through, and this whole thing is starting to look real.

Featured image   Featured image

Cover art for The Waterborne Blade

TheWaterborneBlade-144dpiSuper-quick blog post here. Lots going on behind the scenes and I’m deep in the first draft of the sequel – Waterborne Exile, due out August 2015 – but I had to surface to share this cover art, revealed yesterday.

It’s by Paul Young at Artist Partners. It’s gorgeous.

It’s as if art director Marc Gascoigne scooped out the contents of my cranium and distilled it down to produce this. Which is clearly impossible as I would have noticed. Unless the rumours about the robotic implants are true …

The Waterborne Blade is due for release 5 May (US and ebook), 7 May (UK).

2014: The year everything changed

Except, of course, not much has changed after all.

After starting with the buzz of a 2-book deal the year’s been a strange never-quite-stepping-across-that-threshold affair as my publishers were put up for sale by their holding group. They’ve risen phoenix-like from the ashes ready to resume publication in 2015 with The Waterborne Blade rescheduled for release in May.

On the writing front, I’ve discovered the massive dose of validation from a publishing deal doesn’t do much to counter the self-doubt – if anything, it provides a near-inexhaustible supply of new food sources for the self-doubt. At this point I can vouch for the wisdom of advice to bash on with the next book once the previous one is out of the door. Maybe next time I’ll try that. As it is, the sequel has had the benefit of a long gestation period before drafting began in earnest in mid October. I’ve compiled a list of tweaks for the first novel to accommodate developments in the sequel and been mulling over the editor’s notes which arrived just before Christmas, ready to start work post-festivities.

Drafting the sequel has been an interesting writing exercise in itself, working to get the most from the elements already in place – they say creativity thrives within constraints, after all. I’ve learned more about my writing process, too, and to trust my instincts. Since I have a grown-up author contract I set out to plot like a grown-up author. The very first scene I drafted was what I anticipated would be the final one of the novel. So far, so good. With the overall shape in mind I outlined the early stages, but the further I planned, the more hazy things became. Outlines are sterile things, and I find better details arise organically while drafting. The upshot of this is I’ve stopped trying to plan too far ahead, but now aim to work in chunks of 25-30k at a time with a pause to take stock between each chunk. anticipation

On the reading front I’ve been reading more in other genres this year. Standout reads for me have been The Three by Sarah Lotz, and Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson. There was a load more stuff I’d thought to include here, but 2014 is almost done and there’s a lot of work ahead in 2015 so I’m closing now with a suitably festive pic of our dog (the household’s chief wrapping-shredder).

Wishing all the best to everyone for 2015, especially those for whom 2014 has been a particularly tough year.

The York Effect: Angry Robot Deal

Short and sweet, this one. In case anyone missed the news earlier this week: I have a 2-book deal with Angry Robot Books who’ll be publishing my debut fantasy novel The Waterborne Blade in October this year.

The York Effect? I met both editor and agent through one-to-one pitch sessions at the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York. The event offers a wide selection of workshops and the opportunity for feedback on your work. Well worth attending if you have the opportunity.

Short. Sweet. Scary (in a good way).