STORMBLOOD Cover Reveal!

The day has arrived. The good good people at Gollancz have revealed the cover art for my debut novel I’ve been jabbering on about for almost a full length of the Earth’s rotation. And it is gorgeous. Feast them eyes:

Stormblood

It’s very blue.

I had extensively input on crafting the cover. We agreed to go for the “Gotham in space” aesthetic. Dark and moody, but slick and adventurous. Containing a sense of noir mystery, underpinned by a sense of exuberance and widescreen exploration. And they knocked it out of the park and into orbit. I asked them to make it as screaming blue as possible, and they jumped the rail to outdo themselves. I mean, look at it! Those spaceships! Those buildings! That mist! All credit goes to Gollancz and Blacksheep for their stellar work.

I’ll do a write up on the finer details of crafting the cover, but for now, I’m going to bask in the blue glow of this very fine cover. Gollancz has a full proper write up, if you’re inclined to check it out.

Pre-orders have also opened! I cannot understate how disproportionately helpful they are for debut authors, and essential keeping us afloat. If you do pre-order, I’ll owe you a life debt (and by life debt, I mean buy you a drink or send you a bookplate). If you can, support your local bookstore, but you can also order it online:


Book Despoitry (free shipping worldwide): https://www.bookdepository.com/Stormblood-Jeremy-Szal/9781473227422?ref=grid-view&qid=1568803043304&sr=1-1
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stormblood-Jeremy-Szal/dp/1473227410
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Stormblood-Jeremy-Szal/dp/1473227410

In the meantime, I’m going to look into framing this thing on my wall.

Writing Update: Stormblood Edits

At the tail end of the year, my good good agent John Jarrold has sent me edits for my next book, Stormblood. It’s The Wire meets Mass Effect set on an asteroid that’s comprised of a hundred cities stacked on top of each other. Contains first-person snark, alien drugs, drug culture, religious cults, armor, gangs, neon-dunked streets,, food porn, and booze. Lots and lots of booze.

I’ve been tackling the edits for a few weeks now, they’re going pretty smoothly. It’s been slowly climbing in word count to where it sits at a solid 120k, 15k longer than The Rogue Galaxy, but John told me not to worry, since 140k is not unusual for a debut novelist, especially in the UK.

So I’m letting my legs stretch a little, letting the slow moments between characters linger, letting them shoot the breeze and grow on-screen rather than rushing because I’ve got to keep the pace up (nailing this balance down is no easy feat). It’s cathartic to keep refining and discovering things about your world and characters and know that you’ve really nailed a scene. It’s always my favourite part of the writing process, where you’re giving each chapter the last few polishes and finally see the gems and realise how pretty they are, to con a cliche. In earlier drafts, I knew I was onto something, but it was too broad, the waters too muddy for me to sharpen it to a fine point. Now that I’ve got the shape of the narrative burned into my head, it’s easier to take that paragraph, or that chunk of text and realise what it’s doing in context, and improve upon it until I’ve got exactly what I want on the page. I go over each chapter like this, honing the emotions, the narrative development, the scenery, until it’s as good as I think I can make it. It’s so, so easy to overstep and turn a quiet, sedated moment into a melodrama of sentimental monologues that are shamelessly trying to exploit sympathy from the reader. The line’s harder to walk than you’d think. I’ll forever believe that characters are the true heart of any narrative, and I want their emotions and desires and conflicts to be on-point as possible. So I’m going through the book and trying to make that happen.

It’s not perfect, but I love this book and almost everything about it, and I hope it sees the light of day at point. But if it doesn’t, then I’m still happy to have written it. There’s a lot of personal things in this book, baked into the characters, story and world, and putting them on the page has taught me a boldness that I’m not sure I had prior to writing this. I wrote what I wanted, but there were some things I deliberately avoided because I wasn’t sure how they’d be received, and if I’d want folks close to me reading it. But I went with my gut and spun out a first-person narrator who wasn’t afraid to be forthcoming out his deep, personal traumas, who said what he was thinking and got some pretty messed up things inflicted on him as a result. It even prompted my agent to comment on it.

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He does it to himself, I swear!

Anyway, my current round of edits will continue to consist of refining each scene, tightening up the dialogue and making sure the world-building is in shape and the character arcs are on a smooth trajectory that’s isn’t too blatantly going through the motions of a narrative path. The next round will be more focused on the prose-level. I edit my prose as I go, but this time I’ll be putting the final touches on the work on a sentence level. Some don’t bother with this, but to me, language and choice of words is important, and if I can look fancier by replacing lobby with atrium or blue with cerulean, I will, dammit!

I’ll probably polish off edits this week, and turn it in early next year. Me and John are going to discuss what to do with it. I’ll be posting a yearly round-up soon, so look out for that, and have a great holiday.

Book Release: Where the Stars Rise and Asian Science-fiction

It’s not been a bad year, writing wise, but having so much on means I get my attention split between projects. But even so, I’ve always been focused on this one project ever since I was asked to contribute towards it. And almost two years later, it’s out!

Where The Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy is exactly what it sounds like: an anthology that focuses on Asian science-fiction and fantasy, exploring Asian cultures, themes, language, histories and futures. Being from a background Lebanese background, not usually a culture typically associated with Asia like Japan or China, I went for I knew everyone else wouldn’t be writing. So I wrote a spacepunk story set in Turkey, because I could.17352543_10155107326431575_1699043594855734950_n

The dataSultan of Streets and Stars is about Bohdi, young programmer of AIs (dubbed djinn) who’s had to skip Earth when a nasty accident resulting in the death of dozens puts rich-as-hell Arab gangsters on his tail, believing him responsible. Only, Mr. Bohdi is in debt to a dangerous alien bounty hunter, who wants the djinn for himself. And things get…messy.

It was a pleasure to combine cutting-edge technology and cool ideas with Middle-Eastern culture and history. Computer viruses are named are monsters from Islamic mythology, starships are fashioned like Phoenician ships, and tech-centres are constructed like Ottoman buildings. And food. Lots of baklava and lokum. When I build a world, I want it to inhabit every sensibility and every character aspect, and I think I achieved that here.

There’s so few good depictions of Asian cultures, and especially Middle-Eastern cultures, so I’m very proud of this story, and happy it’s in this anthology. And I’m even happier it’s doing so, so well. Here’s some reviews:

“. . . this collection is essential for anyone interested in the diverse and engaging possibilities of fantasy and science fiction.” — Booklist (American Library Association)

“. . . this fascinating collection addresses issues of immigration, dual cultures, and ethnic issues through genre devices such as ghosts, steampunk robots, and planetary exploration. Sf readers looking to discover new voices will enjoy this volume that reflects the eclecticism of Asian culture.” — Library Journal

“This anthology was good, with the majority of the stories being either good or very good page-turners.” — Tangent

And then it gets even better, because two of my favourite authors provided blurbs.

“A wealth of stories running the gamut from poignant to mind-blowing, rewarding journeys both faraway and familiar.”
— Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen saga

Where the Stars Rise is a hell of a lot of fun. Great writers, magnificent storytelling, and worlds I wanted to spend a lot more time in—no matter how dangerous they were. I had a blast reading it.” — Rob Boffard, author of the Outer Earth series (Tracer, Zero-G, Impact)

And then there’s some select quotes from Bloggers and Goodreads reviews:


The complexities of the stories and the characters and the stories will delight readers, but they will also elicit a reaction all too familiar to book lovers everywhere: the stories will leave readers wanting much, much more. I recommend Where the Stars Rise and also encourage this new subset of science fiction and fantasy. – Ekta R. Garg, from The Write Edge


There are historicals, futuristic, space settings, fantasies, Sci-Fi, with male and female protagonists of all ages. I learned about different counties and times and events. I traveled to the moon and other planets. Some stories are funny, some are sad, some have happy endings and others were bittersweet but I’d be willing to bet that readers with even a passing interest in these genres would find a few to appeal and many to enjoy. Overall, a B+- Dear Author Reviews


There are some truly standout pieces; Memoriam by Priya Sridhar, Back to Myan by Regina Kanyu Wang, and The dataSultan of Streets and Stars, by Jeremy Szal were amazing for me. There are many more well written stories included, but just these three alone are worth the price of the anthology.  – NonStop Reader

So people are very much enjoying this anthology, and you will, too. It’s important to boost diverse voices and to support projects that cover international cultures and worlds that are left outside of the mainstream. If you’re interested in Asian cultures, this one is essential.

The website and full retailer list is here. But you can grab it from Bookdepository for free delivery worldwide. Or ask your bookstore to order it in. And do remember to leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon. It helps. A lot. More than you think.

 

 

StarShipSofa: Final Slush Update

Hello everyone,

The slush is done. It’s done. It’s over. And now I know how Frodo felt after throwing the ring into Mt. Doom.

I’ve been so ridiculously busy. Over the course of the submissions I’ve suffered two illnesses, traveled around the globe and back, and a bunch of other personal issues that I’d rather not discuss publicly. On top of that I’m in my final semester of university, and I’ve barely had a second to myself. But you guys all understood and gave me your unending patience, and for that I am grateful. I’ll definitely be looking at getting both an intern for StarShipSofa permanently and a few slush readers to help me out. But right now, I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to hunt down an assistant to help me out because I’m so busy. If that’s not a paradox, I don’t know what is.

It’s been an incredible experience for me, not as just as an editor, but a writer as well. I’ve never really been on the other side on the coin, as they say, in terms of submissions and shifting through slush. But the experience was worth it.

There have been stories I absolutely hated letting go off. There were some that I wrestled with for days and days, completely unsure of what to do. Damn, do you people write fantastic stories. I hated myself for saying no, and writing that letter came with a heavy heart. But the decisions have been made and the acceptances and rejections have been sent off.

For those of you who got acceptances, I’d have given you my personal email address. If you haven’t already, please send your story file and your bio (pasted in the email) over to it. Do not try to reach me via the submissions email – that’s purely for reading slush.

StarShipSofa will absolutely be reopening to submissions. When? I don’t know. I definitely need to graduate from university first, and we’ve got a lot of stuff to sort out over at StarShipSofa. When I get a second I’ll be writing more detailed blog posts about my experience doing slush and the common pitfalls, what to avoid, etc, etc. And if I rejected you, don’t give up. Drag yourself back up and shoot me a story that kicks me in the gut (not literally) and one that I cannot say no to. But more on that later.

It’s been an absolute blast to read your excellent stories, and it’s going to be even more fun working with you all and seeing what the final production looks like. I’ve heard some of them already and they’re excellent. I’m hoping you guys will be as proud of them as I am.

Until then, thank you all so much. And never, ever, ever give up.

Jeremy

Back from America, and other stuff

As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been that active, either here or on social media, etc. Well, that’s because for the past few weeks I’ve been paying a visit to good ol’ US of A. And you know what? I had a ripping good time.

Not all of it, though. We ran into at least a dozen complications with our booking before we even got to the mainland, this namely being the airline forgetting to put my dad’s last name on his ticket (how we even passed the gate in Sydney is an enigma that’s never gonna be solved), the travel agency assigning us to the wrong airline, an airline that we had to pay for both entertainment (a sorry selection at that) and meals. On a 22 hour flight.

Oh, and we couldn’t even sit together.

But we did manage to solve this all in the end, although the process was nothing but painful.

First stop was Hawaii before our connecting flight to Los Angeles, but I can’t say I remember too much of it since I was half-dead and completely jet-lagged. I just remember it being hot, sandy, and stormy. L.A. was a different matter entirely. We spent three days at Disneyland, California and Univerisal Studios park, and I can’t remember a time when I ever felt more like a kid. You’re never too old to go there, seriously.

You may, however, recognize these locals.

 

 

IMG_2431I’d have hoped you’ve seen Back to the Future, right? RIGHT?

IMG_2435 However, you’re less likely to have seen Gone Girl. This was where they filmed the kissing scene next to the sugar factory at the beginning. Yes, I was looking for the boxcutter.

Oh, and we went to this little place called the Hollywood walk of fame.

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And then was the drive to Vegas. Six hours through nothing but this.

IMG_2489It was a beautiful sight, though. You always hear about the Mojave desert, and you see the Mid-Western desert a lot in films. But to actually see the barren landscape for what it is…that’s a different story altogether.

And then, there was Vegas. Oh, Vegas….

IMG_2511I mean, seriously, who builds a metropolis of gambling, sex and booze in the middle of the desert? Americans, of course, and it was awesome. Not the gambling and sex, of course, but you can get some dirt-cheap beer in the States.

The thing about Vegas is that it’s wrapped in a time-warp. You can wonder the streets for hours and hours like we did, and suddenly realise it’s 1:30am. There’s no change in crowds, and (almost) everything’s open around the clock. I also couldn’t help thinking what would happen if there was some sort of apocalypse how lucky everyone in Vegas at the time would be. You’d likely be shielded from the worst of it and in one of the most lavish places on earth. But then they made a videogame out of that, so I won’t be copyrighting that concept!

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Oh, and I couldn’t not share this.

IMG_2540*Slow clap.* 10 points for creativity right there!

Sadly our trip there was pretty short and we drove back to LA in the early hours of the morning for our flight to New York City. We stayed in Brooklyn. Easily the highlight of the trip. It’s such a progressive place: it’s got such a *now now now* vibe to it that you can’t help but kept swept up in it. IMG_2575 IMG_2569

 

 

And then there’s Times Square.

 

 

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Seriously, there’s no place like it on earth. We only had a few days there, but it definitely wasn’t enough. A month would have only allowed us to scrape the surface. It’s a gold-mine of discoveries in that city and I’m roaring to go back.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with fellow author and editor Alex Shvartsman. A good many conversations over various things were had, and an extremely tasty pizza was consumed. I even reviewed his collection for Strange Horizons, which you can check out here.

I just wish I had more time in that place…IMG_2671

 

Oh, and look what I happened to pass by!

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Anyway, we were onto Boston to stay with my aunt and uncle. Now here’s where we ran into a roadbump: I got food-poisoning. Or something. I dunno what it was and at this point I’m afraid to ask. All I know is that our six hour drive from NYC to Boston consisted of me hugging my stomach and needing to stop every few minutes because I was on the verge of puking. Thankfully I didn’t and after what seemed like a drive through Satan’s personal traffic lane we arrived in Boston. It took me a good three days to recover. Three days of eating dry toast, drinking flat lemonade and sweating in bed. Amoung other things, but I’ll spare you the gory details.

Eventually I did recover, and we set out to explore Boston. It was definitely a much more relaxed pace than before – we weren’t rushing around desperate to see everything like before. And I have to say that Boston is a beautiful city. Very English. IMG_2690Oh yeah, did I mention Americans like guns? Like, like like?

No? Well, I am now. IMG_2732

I swear, there were more guns in that room than the entiriety of Australia. Rows and rows and rows of ’em. And yeah, I got to hold one. More than one. Many more than one. And that’s all I’m gonna say on the matter. But still, it’s strange to see these killing machines on the racks as if they were bread rolls!

A few more pictures o’ the landscape, including one that wouldn’t look out of place on another planet! Seriously, look at those veins in the rock!IMG_2743

We stopped at a little quaint village for coffee, and this was our view. You could do much worse.

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Aww, bless your heart, auntie. You’ll make anarchists out of us yet.

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Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and I’m back in Sydney, knee-deep in uni work and other stuff. It’s my last semester, which I have mixed feelings about. I can’t wait to get away from the study and work and turn to making a career out of writing and working in the publishing industry somewhere…but never getting up in the morning and going to your favourite class? No longer seeing your friends daily? No longer experiencing that university spirit? It’s a toughie.

 

Oh, and I do have news. Well, pretty big news in fact. We’ll call it That Thing that I Can’t Talk About™. Unfortunately I can’t talk about That Thing that I Can’t Talk About™ just yet, so it’ll have to be on hold. But it consists of several things, and those things are sales to major markets, including one I’ve been trying to break into for several years now.

But enough of my rambling. I’ll update you when I can.

And ’til next time, America! Keep being weird.

StarShipSofa Submission: Closed and Submissions Update

Hey everyone,

So now submissions for StarShipSofa are closed. Please do not send me any further submissions, and any sent will be deleted unread. I hate having to do this, so please don’t make me do it.

But anyway, thank you so much to everyone who submitted. I’m not going to disclose how many I got, but let’s just say that I received enough stories to last StarShipSofa for several years. Several, several years, in fact. So obviously this means I’ve got a massive wealth of stories to choose from and I’m looking forward to it.

But it’s going to take some time. More than I anticipated.

By my count, I got at least twenty stories of the novella-ish length. That’s around 15-20k of words each, multiplied by twenty. That’s easily the size of one of the longer A Song of Ice and Fire books, and that doesn’t include the other submissions, many of which are pretty damn long in their own right. But I’m not complaining: I asked for long submissions and I got ’em. But it’s going to take some time to read through them all.

Am I going to finish all these beasts? No. But I will definitely read for as long as I can, as a writer myself I know that the ending can make or break a story, and I’m not one to read a couple of paragraphs and instantly smash the big ol’ red reject button. But there does come a point when I’m prettttty sure I’m not going to pick this story up. But a lot of the time I can’t justify an answer unless I’ve gotten to the end, or near it. So please, be patient with me and I’ll have an answer for you sooner or later.

That’s it for now. Thank you all again for allowing me to consider your stories.

– Jeremy Szal

Massive Announcement: First “Professional” Sale!

I’ve been quiet about this for the past week, but I can’t keep the lid on any longer.

Exactly one week ago, I signed a contract for a short story, selling it to a magazine. Which magazine, may you ask? That magazine would be Nature magazine, published by Nature Publishing Group, a division of PAN MACMILLAN/TOR!

I won’t lie, my jaw smacked the desk when I saw that Nature had accepted my story. At 19 years old, I sold fiction to a magazine published by a division of one of “Big Five”.

Phew. Wow.

So, I scrapped my brains off the wall and popped a beer in the fridge to celebrate (it was first thing in the morning, and even by Australian standards that’s a tad early). Then I saw that Nature publishes anthologies with names like Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Philip K. Dick and others, and that Nature is the most cited science journal in the world, with over 3 million visitors to the website per month.

And I scrubbed my brains from the ceiling one more time. I seriously couldn’t believe it. Even now, it’s a little surreal. Hell, even family, teachers and people I barely know, who don’t even read science-fiction (some don’t even read at all) know about Nature magazine.

There are no words that can express just how riveted I feel. My editor has been phenomenal in making the story the best it could possibly be. I’ve seen the page proofs and artwork, and I love it.

But I’m not getting side tracked. This is the first step in a long, long journey that I won’t be quitting any time soon.

Look for my story in a future issue. For me, I’m back to my editing and writing. And who knows? Maybe I’ll sell another story with them in the future.

Actually, scratch that. You can bet that I will.

What I’m watching/reading now

In in between my endless exams, story writing and taking the dog for yet another walk, I’ve been doing one or two things…such as…

Game of Thrones: Season 3

With Season 3 having finished a few months ago I’ve been eager to re-watch some of the episodes, particularly the latter ones. Of course, watching “The Rains of Castamere” with my friends at university and seeing them squeal in shock (hint: I’ve read the books already) gives me some sort of sadist pleasure. I’ll be posting a blog the entire Season later. So moving on..

I’ve been reading these….

Far too much pointless swearing and a little hard to keep up on who you’re actually following in the narrative, but still good so far.

I seriously need to find out why everyone is raving about this. I got my copy signed when I met the guy at Supernova. Not bad, huh?

In in between my endless exams, story writing and taking the dog for yet another walk, I’ve been doing one or two things…such as…

Game of Thrones: Season 3

 

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