Blog

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).

iCOzflB4.jpg large

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

Here’s the scheduling.

EW72L-EWoAMHTKE

 

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

rgD3OMwu.jpg small

And so would our books!

EW-Lw_zWAAAvwrs

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

All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed doing this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

I joined StarShipSofa’s ranks as an assistant editor back in 2014, when I was a 19 year-old scribbler still traipsing around university with a handful of short fiction pieces that only dated a few months back. My gateway into editing was being second in command of one of the biggest short fiction podcasts in fandom.

To say I’d was thrown into the deep-end of shark-infested editorial waters is an understatement. But I got by, in no small thanks to Tony C. Smith. Over the years, I watched it grow by almost 5,000 additional downloads per week. I made an effort to double, and then triple our staff size. I instigated the decision to open for unsolicited submissions for the first time, kickstarted the idea of running translated fiction, casting our narrator nets out to the archipelagos of film, television and voice acting. All in all, my editing days ran from episode 360 through to episode 600. That’s 240 weeks of short fiction. Given at least half had multiple stories, that’s up to 360 stories: edited, produced, and uploaded by me.

I assign myself credit for doing this because none of these things would have gotten off the ground if Tony hadn’t given me creative freedom to do whatever I wanted on the show. None breathing down my neck, telling me what to play. What we couldn’t play. Authors we couldn’t run. Types of stories we couldn’t use. Nothing of the sort. Total command of the ship was mine as far as fiction went, and I could steer it in whatever star systems I so desired. That meant I acted as editor and producer for stories for half the folks in the industry. And I do mean half. Including Harlan Ellison, William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Kim Stanley Robinson, Alastair Reynolds, Peter Watts, all the usual suspects. And then there was the one time I interviewed the Oscar-winning production designer on Mad Max: Fury Road.
None of that would have happened if Tony didn’t trust me to do my own thing and to do it right. But he did. Even when I didn’t deserve it. Even when I wanted to try something he wasn’t sure about. And I will forever and ever owe him for that. I won’t pretend there weren’t rough patches, or that we butted heads. But for the most part the engines ran smoothly throughout the years. Even when new staff came aboard in 2017-2018, things went well.

But there’s a catch.

See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more.

When I first came aboard the mighty ship, I told Tony I’d be with him until I got an agent. And in 2017, I did. But I stuck around, because I hadn’t sold my novel yet. I’d kicked around the idea of quitting once or twice, thanks to burnout and real-life issues, but stuck to my guns.

And then in the tail-end of 2018, STORMBLOOD sold to Gollancz. And so did the next two books.

Overnight, I had a book slated for early 2020 and a trilogy to complete.
I think we all knew what was going to happen sooner rather than later. But I didn’t want to let go. Not quite yet. Maybe I could do both. Maybe things would slow down.
I learned pretty quickly in a rather brutal fashion I was delusional.
Sure, I could do both. But I’d be doing an injustice to both parties and the audience they consumed them, with both coming out a shadow of the quality they should be.

If I attempted doing both, I’d stumble out, sideways and on fire, as a withered stump of an overworked and undernourished creator. And remember what I said earlier about my heart being a writer, not an editor?

In the five years I purchased fiction for the show, never once did I play a story when there was a better one on offering. Never once did I sacrifice quality for convenience. I don’t believe that to be ethical, to myself or the very loyal and very deserving audience that has stuck around to tune in, week after week. If I played something, it was because I believed the story had something important to say. And I wasn’t about to start doing that now. A huge chunk of my life went into this show. If the best thing it needed was for me to walk away, so be it.
So I’m doing just that.

The fiction department will be left in the very capable hands of Gary Dowell. I’ll still be around, of course. But my last piece of edited fiction on StarShipSofa was episode 600. The episodes I worked on will always be there, and I hope to revisit them over the years.

It’s been a hell of a wild ride. Knowing that people are tuning in each and every week from Sweden to South Africa made the difficult days easier. Your messages of support and gratitude, it be online, or at conventions is always welcome. To the hundreds of authors, narrators and editors I had the privilege of working with over the things: thank you for inspiring me with your wit, humour, passion and outright love of storytelling and all things science-fiction. Sharing in your talent at and working together was the highlight of my job. There’s something truly special about being a tiny cog in a vast, grand machine, bigger than you, bigger than all of us, running on a burning passion to share our wonderful and weird stories with listeners across the globe. Thank you for trusting in me with your stories. I can only hope I did right by them.

To Harlan Ellison, who yelled at me over the phone when I convinced him to sell us the rights to his story: whenever you are, please don’t kill me.

To Tony, Gary, Kelly, Michael, Lisa, Diane, Amy: thank you for making my editing stint so wonderful. The years went by in a blink. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Best,
Jeremy Szal

ETA: I’ve had some people ask if there’s anyway to support me, or if I have a Patreon. I don’t. What I do have is a debut novel that’s coming out in just over four months and I would greatly appreciate any pre-orders, pre-purchases or just a purchase at any time. If you’re into space opera and cyberpunk noir, this might be your thing.

UK Amazon
US and international buyers

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑