STORMBLOOD Review Round Up

STORMBLOOD has been out for just over three months (!) and has collected quite the ensemble of reviews and blurbs from authors and professional outlets alike. It sits at a healthy 3.87/5 average on Goodreads, which is hard to not be pleased with.

Presented without comment, here’s what some people have been saying:

 

The Guardian calls it a “high-octane, galaxy-spanning cyberpunk military space opera with an original premise and a breakneck plot that never lets up. Stormblood boasts gloriously described alien worlds, mammoth starships, exotic weaponry and bizarre extraterrestrials – but Szal doesn’t stint on the human element. Fukasawa’s affection for his old colleagues is touchingly rendered, the perfect foil to the novel’s gung-ho action sequences, and his depiction of addicts in search of a fix is both poignant and powerful.”

Nicholas Eames of Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose fame calls it “an excellent debut with a ton of heart. Aside from being an action-packed rollercoaster (because it definitely IS that) it’s also a story of brotherhood–the kind you’re born into, and the kind you forge through lived experience.”

SFX Magazine put it as “delivers visceral, bone-crunching fight sequences and a strong emotional core”

Gary over at Booknest.eu “read this in two sittings with eight cups of tea, half of which had gone cold by the time I took a sip, so engrossed was I in Vakov’s story and the world Szal has created.”

Sam of The Book In Hand blog gave it the July Book of the Month and “didn’t expect this to have such a deep and profound emphasis on many of the topics it does, some being siblings/family, drug abuse, poverty, trauma, brotherhood and camaraderie.”

Tammy Sparks of Books and Bones and Buffy gets down to the nitty-gritty: “An excellent start to a new series, Stormblood melds high tech thriller with a cyberpunk sensibility and a dash of humor and heart.”

Maddelena of Space and Socrery recommends caution, as “there were a couple of harrowing torture scenes which made my skin crawl– but this is ultimately a captivating adventure story with plenty of heart at its center, and also a very human, very poignant journey.”

Jake is Reading feels that “STORMBLOOD is incredibly hard-hitting and Szal pulls out all the stops but none of the punches. Being one of the more intense books I’ve read, there are also memorable moments of humour and friendship, and Szal’s worldbuilding is both fascinating and unique.”

Nick Borrelli declares “there are very few books that will engage you the way that STORMBLOOD does.  It’s rare to come across a book that has so much intense action and yet also touches you on a personal and emotional level at the same time.”

Arina of RockStarLit warns thatStormblood’s action is not for the faint of heart. It’s precise high-caliber artillery ready to burst a hole in your chest. If you’re in for high-caliber military action, a developed tech world brimming with spacefaring cultures, and a raw portrayal of the fallouts of war and addiction, Stormblood is the book to satisfy all your hungers” but gives a trigger-warning for “abuse, beating, self-harm, ptsd, addiction, death”.

BLINDSPACE, and the state of things

It’s been nearly two months since I posted my last blog, and nearly two months since STORMBLOOD hit the shelves.With all the reviews, bloggers, blog posts, video reviews, guest posts, Goodreads rating, signings, launches, and general tomfoolery, it’s been one whirlwind of a time. Barely had the chance to catch my breath.

Reviews so far have been very, very good. Better than I was expecting. I’ve been signing every copy I can get my paws on instore – the feeling of actually seeing All My Words out in the wild is amazing. Even more so when I’m rubbing alphabetical shoulders with Tolkien, Neal Stevenson, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tade Thompson, etc. But more on that later.

For those of you not in the know, STORMBLOOD is the first book in the Common series. Or trilogy, rather. And I’m waist-deep in editing the second book in the series, BLINDSPACE. Without spoiling anything, this book goes full blown space-opera. We expand beyond Compass, beyond the solar system, in fact. Whereas the first book had a noir cyberpunk-ish theme to it, especially in the early pages, BLINDSPACE is very much in the vein of THE EXPANSE (you’ll know when you see it), and authors like Alastair Reynolds and Pierce Brown. They’ve always had a strong influence on my writing, but now it’ll be much more obvious. More characters are added to the main cast, both new and familiar. And not all of them are human. The story will be told entirely from Vakov’s messed up, alien-infused first-person PoV.

It’s also much darker than STORMBLOOD. Elements of PTSD, addiction, fanaticism, and, of course, absolute rage are very central themes to the book. It’s also significantly longer. STORMBLOOD clocked in at around 155k (in hindsight, I could have shaved 2-3k of prose calories off that and the story would be the same). But BLINDSPACE will be sitting at around 180k. Probably. Maybe. You never know what my editor will make me cut!

I’m also working very, very hard to make BLINDSPACE work. This will not be a middle book that exists to set up the finale. This will not be a big, isolated narrative. Events from the first book have consequences, and events taking place in Book 2 have consequences further on.

And because of that, writing and editing it is taking longer than I anticipated. We’re flirting with an April 2021 release date, but those decisions are not up to me, (and nor should they be). I have yet to hand it into my editor (although my agent has read the first half). But I’m working on it full time: 4-5 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I do it for you, oh readers! I do it for you. And seeing folks already pumped for it is fabulous, but it doesn’t come with its own added pressure. But it is what it is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Watch this space…

 

Signing Events (and getting signed stuff)

I’m going to be doing two signings for STORMBLOOD later this month! Both are on the 12th of June. The first is in Kinokunyia Sydney at around 2pm, and the second will be in Galaxy Bookshop shortly afterwards. I’ll be signing all their stock, as well as doing personalization signings (I’m told there are some already). I’ll probably be heading into Dymocks, Sydney, as well. Never done a signing with a published novel before, so things should be fun!

For those of you who live anywhere in the world that is not Sydney, Australia, fear not! You can still get my Sharpie chicken scrawl across the title page of the book. There are some stores that have my signature:

Forbidden Planet

Goldsboro (hardback special edition only)

I signed a stack of bookplates for Gollancz to stick into the printed copies as well. Not sure how you can get your hands on those, but you can always ask!

STORMBLOOD is published!

I am officially a published novelist. My debut STORMBLOOD is out in the world.

Can’t even begin to say how good it feels to type those words.

STORMBLOOD wasn’t the first book I wrote. Or the second. Or the third. I’ve been scribbling down stories since I was eleven years old. But it wasn’t until 2012, when I was seventeen, I seriously considered writing a novel to be published professionally.  I made several attempts at it, but it wasn’t 2016 that I sat down on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in a Sydney cafe and wrote the first chapter of STORMBLOOD.

So it’s been a hell of a long journey. A lot blood, sweat, tears, and alcohol involved, and a lot more rejections along the way. But would I do it again? Sure. Because those years of honing my craft helped me create the novel I always wanted to write. It’s me, my voice, my style, my genre, firing on all cylinders. There’s no trunk novel I’m itching to publish in the future. No grand project I’m planning on working my way up to.

STORMBLOOD is my best work. And I’m insanely proud of it. I couldn’t be happier. My book, on bookshelves across the globe, rubbing dead-tree shoulders with authors who’ve inspired me have helped make science-fiction the genre that is today. And for better or worse, my book is apart of that genre. My characters are are finally out there in the world, waiting to be discovered.

I finally get to say: BUY MY BOOK.

But seriously. Please do buy my book. Every bit helps, especially in these times. Here’s some links:

Amazon US

Goldsboro Special Edition Hardback (only 250 available)

Waterstones

Amazon UK  

Hive UK

Audible UK (for audio listeners)

Goodreads

What also helps is spreading the word. To librarians, booksellers, fans, book bloggers, whatever. If you enjoy about my book (or any book, for that matter) go shouting from the rooftops. Even better: write reviews. They help. A lot. Goodreads, and especially Amazon, benefit writers hugely when there’s enough reviews for algorithms to kick in. Even if it’s just a sentence, it’s a huge help.

Me? I’m off to the bar.

 

Stormblood

Interviews galore

I recently did two interviews with two different podcasts. Both of which I discuss STORMBLOOD, as well as my inspiration for writing the book, where I grew up, what books I read when I was young, and how they influenced me over the years.

The first is with David Walters, on his excellent and aptly named podcast: Authors on a Podcast, Talking Books. You can give that a listen here!

The second is with Dan Smith, on his new and equally excellent “Coffee in Space”. Which you can find right over here.

Hope you give them a listen! And, if you can, subscribe to their channels; they’ve got some great interviews with authors who are not me.

 

 

 

My first virtual con, for the pandemic age

As you might as noticed, COVID-19 has been screwing with the world’s plans. Including, of course, conventions and festivals.

But thankfully, the internet still exists. And podcaster/blogger David Walters has organized MayDay Con, a virtual convention to take place on May 16th from 7:00AM-9:00PM CST. I’ll be in attendance on a panel, as well as doing my first ever reading, and first ever public reading of STORMBLOOD. So if you want to see me make a fool of myself from the comfort of your own home, subscribe to David’s channel here.

If you’re not coming for me (shocked, shocked, I tell you!) there’s one hell of a line-up, including Peter V. Brett, Myke Cole, Matthew Ward, M. R. Carey, Anna Smith Spark, and Luke Arnold (who you probably know as playing Long John Silver for four seasons in the TV show Black Sails).

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The show will be broadcast live, and will also remain online afterrwards, even if you don’t catch it live.

Here’s the scheduling.

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Look at this bunch of handsome bastards. We’d make one hell of a band!

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And so would our books!

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Hope to see you there!

STORMBLOOD and the Art of the Deal

Publishing a book is a curious thing. There’s years of work involved, much of which is behind the scenes. But what remains baroque and notoriously vague is how a book gets picked up by a publisher. And it’s baroque and vague because every book and every publisher is different. In order to shed a little light on the process, here’s the current timeline of how STORMBLOOD went from being in my head to being bought by a Big Five publisher.

 

Early January 2018: I finalize my edits and send STORMBLOOD back to John Jarrold, my agent. In order to hold back the writhing tentacles of insanity, I start a new, unrelated project. I am only partially successful.

February 2, 2018: I’m walking out of a screening of Phantom Thread when I get an email. Gillian Redfearn at Gollancz, who had many good things to say about my previous, rejected novel, is very interested in STORMBLOOD. My book of half-mad dottings has become her reading priority. I ask my agent if this is good news. Yes, he assures me, it is. Commence my blood pressure spiking into the stratosphere. I can’t write a single coherent word.

February 22: I hate the current book I’m writing with the fury of a billion suns. I’m refreshing my emails with all the patience of a cocaine-addled fruit-fly with ADHD. I live for months with the ever-present fear that my book will crushed under the great waraxe of rejection and my body will be dragged twitching and bleeding back to square one.

March 13: Gillian writes in. She’s been busy, as most people working full-time tend to be, but has trudged through the first third of the book and does not hate it. In fact, she doesn’t hate it enough to keep reading. My blood pressure rockets so high it reaches the moon. The world

I don’t get much sleep that night.

April 8: Gillian has finished the book and still doesn’t hate it. “I love this,” may have been included in the email. She’s whirling it away to editorial. Agent says that more than 99% of books don’t get this far. Maybe 6 books a year at this publishing house, and that based on his experience there’s a 60-70% chance of a sale.

By now, the reality has sunk in: I have a real shot at this. I’m zeroing in on the moon. My fingertips are brushing up against the carrot (a metaphor, but not in that way). The book could be purchased by a big Five publisher and unleashed on the world for everyone to read.

I cautiously celebrate with an uncautious amount of booze. All data pertaining to five days are scraped from the memory banks, courteously of Hendricks and tonic.

May 13, 2018: An email arrives from Gollancz. Cue breathless excitement.

It’s a rejection.

The world-building is good, sure. The plot is tight and interesting, certainly. The prose and voice hit the sweet spot for the editorial team, absolutely.

But.

The opening chapter isn’t working. The character isn’t connecting with them the way they’d like. Too much emphasis on emotion in too little space. Not enough room to sink into him naturally and get to know his personality as the story progresses.

The book isn’t right for them.

But!

Would I, one Jeremy Szal, be willing to substantially revise the first chapter and rework how I introduce the characters? Would I be willing to work with Gillian Redfearn in more detail, and then resubmit to Gollancz again for a second look?

Once I’ve stuffed my twitching nervous system back into my body and scraped my dripping brains off the ceiling, I assure Gollancz that the Pope is still Catholic, and yes, I’d be willing to work with them on revising and resubmitting my book to them.

I ask my agent how frequently authors get to work with an editor at a Big Five publisher before signing or purchasing a book. He tells me that not once, in his 35 years of working in publishing, as an editor or an agent, has he seen this happen. It’s totally unprecedented. I’m Sir Francis Drake, machetting my way through the sweltering jungles of publishing to an undiscovered, untouched temple.

Sleep smears into a distant, vague memory. My blood curdles into a spiked cocktail of caffeine and gin. When it clears, I anchor my arse in a chair and get the hell to work.

June 6: The edits notes are extensive and utterly amazing. Detailed notes on the first two chapters, and line edits on the first 100 pages. My head’s spinning, but I see the logic through the fog. What’s been said has merit. My opening chapters are weak. My plotting undermines my characterization. There’s lots of logic gaps. Would I be willing to make necessary changes?

Yes, the Pope is still Catholic.

June 6 – August 12: A family trip to Europe is underway. I take my laptop with me. The apartment we’ve recently purchased in Poland doesn’t have furniture. Between trips to IKEA and beer houses of Krakow, I cobble together a SKARSTA workstation and a JÄRVFJÄLLET office chair and set about refining, polishing, and reworking on every paragraph and sentence of the first 100 pages. Rewriting the first chapter takes two weeks to get right, and another two to polish it to a sheen so startlingly bright a blind walrus would be dazzled.

August 13: It’s done. I’m a caffeine and post-human hybrid, but editing is complete.

August 18: One more pass with my agent before it gets fired off to Gillian Redfearn and Gollancz. I go to London to have a proper meet up with my agent. Alcohol is involved.*

*No animals were harmed during this time. Except for the cows that made our steak.

August 20: I’m faced with the delightful prospect of a 22-hour flight back to the land of Mad Max. Commence biting my fingernails down to the bone once again.

Early October: Gillian likes the edits I made on STORMBLOOD and is taking it to acquisitions. The light is at the end of the tunnel!

Except, that light is an incoming train. The universe has conspired with complete happenstance and the devil to completely screw me over. Complications pile up faster than in a Breaking Bad episode. Gillian gets sick. The Frankfurt Book Fair is on. There’s a strike. There’s a public holiday. One of the other editors is sick.

My nerves are going through a metal shredder a kilometre long.*

*Again, no animals were harmed during this time.

October 19: I check my emails one groggy Thursday morning and sit up.

Gollancz has given Gillian Redfearn the go-ahead to make an offer.

I read the email three times before I fully comprehend what it means.  It doesn’t hammer home until the end of the day, trudging back from the pub after celebratory drinks with mates, until it truly sinks in STORMBLOOD will be published by Gollancz as my debut novel

October 21: I get an email. Gollancz is offering me a two-book deal. Which is great! I’m very happy! But I’m a greedy bastard and I always conceived my debut series as a trilogy. I wouldn’t be able to wrap it up with two books. My agent goes back to Gollancz with a counter-offer, pushing back on contractual, corporate jargon that makes zero sense to me. Between meetings and contacting other publishers, he tells me to prepare an outline for Book 3, on top of the outline I submitted for Book 2.

October 22: Sunday night and I’m glued to the computer, pitching a third book in a series when I haven’t even written book two yet. Who the hell in their right mind would pay me to publish this? Is this even real anymore? Is a fugue state, induced by gin and some mutual Australian spider? It doesn’t matter, because the spider demands an answer. And he always gets what he demands.

I hit send.

October 24: My phone thrills at 1:22am. John’s sent me a note via Facebook messenger to check my emails.

Gollancz likes my pitch and has bumped my offer to three books. Words like “Leading Title” and “Hardback Edition” and “Featured book of the month” are thrown around like marbles in the blender that’s become my brain. I want to flatline. My hands shake as I stutter a thank you message back to John before collapsing back into bed and wondering how the hell any of this happened.

October 25: I wake up. I’m not dreaming. My three book deal is real. STORMBLOOD will be a real book. And as of April 2020, it’s coming out in six weeks. Any purchases or pre-orders will be a huge help, especially during these times.

 

Purchase links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stormblood-Jeremy-Szal/dp/1473227429/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1586952334&sr=8-3

Hive UK: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jeremy-Szal/Stormblood/24847064

Book Depository (free international shipping): https://www.bookdepository.com/Stormblood-Jeremy-Szal/9781473227415

Audible UK: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Stormblood-Audiobook/1473227453?qid=1587030232&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=c6e316b8-14da-418d-8f91-b3cad83c5183&pf_rd_r=1MVFS6K2S86AJZVSHF4F

 

There. The tale is told, the journey is complete. It was a very weird path, even by publishing standards. I’ll always be grateful Gollancz gave me a second chance in an industry where first chances are as rare as hen’s teeth.

 

 

STORMBLOOD available on NetGalley UK!

After nearly four years of writing, editing, polishing, STORMBLOOD is finally available! Sort of.

Right now, it’s up on NetGalley UK. Which means, for a limited time, it’s available for free. The target audience are critics, bloggers, reviewers, and the like, but anyone with a NetGalley UK account can request a copy from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

So, if nabbing a free book is your thing, you can head over on this link to NetGalley UK and request a copy.

Keep in mind I am not responsible for who gets free copies or how long it will take for your request to be accepted/denied. All I can say, is that you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Enjoy!

Stormblood

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