Archives for March 2013

New Kormak Covers

Here are the new covers for the first three books in the Kormak series. I think we can all agree they are a gigantic improvement on the ones I designed myself using Powerpoint and stock art. They were created by Clarissa Yeo at bookcoversale.com. I highly recommend Clarissa if you’re in the market for a cover for your print or ebook. She is fast, talented, patient and very pleasant to work with as well as reasonably priced. 

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A Map Of Kormak’s World

So finally the Kingdoms of the Sun have what all serious/series fantasy worlds seem to need– a map. This beautiful one was done by Chazz Kellner using Campaign Cartographer 3. (Thanks Chazz!) It’s an enormous improvement on the vague sketches and lists of names that I produced when I first started writing the stories. The distances are accurate and I now have a much clearer idea where everything is. It’s been a fascinating process watching bits of background from my published books, my notes and my half-completed short stories take shape. I’ll be adding this map to the latest version of the ebooks. Hopefully, there will be an update for those of you who have already bought them.

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Of course, there are a few words of caution. Like all maps, this is a snapshot of the political boundaries of the continent at a particular period of time, roughly 20 years after the Orc Wars. They are not likely to remain stable for very long. The Templar Kingdoms are under pressure from the Seleneans to the East. Many feel it is unlikely the descendants of the Oathsworn will hold their lands for another generation.  The Elvenwood is shrinking as humans encroach from western Taurea and the Siderean strip on the Blood Coast. A blight is eating away at the heart of the forest.

Taurea is imploding politically as civil war tears it apart and it is quite likely that its neighbouring kingdoms will take the opportunity to rip chunks out of it. The Orc Hordes are rumoured to be preparing a new invasion which may re-draw the map completely.

As example of how quickly things can change, the Great Scar Valley was until about twenty years ago the Valley Kingdom of Rahania, a fertile land of lakes and farms. It was turned into a wasteland when the orcs came through, burning the cities to the ground and taking the human population for their herds. 

The Kingdoms of Shadow and Ash are expanding outwards and bringing  undeath and dark magic in their wake. This is not merely a migration of population, it is a malign growth of the Shadow-blighted Desert of Ash itself.

And of course, things are likely to change as new stories get written, new places get added

Standard Bearer, Kuala Lumpur

In keeping with what is fast becoming a proud tradition of this blog, here are some pictures from the signing I did at the Standard Bearer, Kuala Lumpur a month or two ago. As ever there are some establishing shots of KL taken on my phone’s camera, then pictures taken by other folks who were kind enough to send them along.

This was a most excellent signing and I would like to thank Wolf and Zen and Dzirhan and Norman and Jason and Jar Jar as well as those people whose names I have unfortunately forgotten for showing up and listening to me rant on the subject of writing, games and anything else that entered my mind.

I’d particularly like to thank Wolf for taking me to see the Thaipusam Chariot depart for the Batu Caves (third picture down) and for his great hospitality. I’d also like to thank Jar Jar for not holding a grudge after I broke his arm. 

By the way, the Standard Bearer is located in Publika, KL which is singularly the coolest mall I have ever been in, with cafes decorated in retro-futurist chic so that they look like something out of Mad Max. The way to the bathrooms is even illustrated with art by local comic book artists. Naturally, with my usual eye for the telling detail, I neglected to take pictures of any of this

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Strategy Games Sale at Good Old Games

Good Old Games is having a sale of strategy games over this weekend. All of the Age of Wonders games and several of the Heroes of Might and Magic games along with many good city management games and King of Dragon Pass are available at 50% off. None of them cost more than a few dollars. Just thought some of you might like to know!

Anatomy of an E-Book Sale

I just bought an e-book, Yesterday’s Spy, by Len Deighton. So what, Bill, I hear you cry– you buy ebooks every day. Most of us do. What’s there worth writing a blog post about in that?

Well, it’s a process I usually do unthinkingly and today I actually analysed it on the level of both my intellectual processes and the mechanisms of sale. (Forgive me if what I am going to say sounds entirely obvious, but sometimes it’s worth thinking about the obvious.) Here’s what happened.

This morning I was reading an article on Slate about how Len Deighton wrote Bomber which may well have been the first book ever written on a word processor. (It’s a fascinating article, you should take a look.) This reminded me how much I enjoyed his writing. I went to Amazon, did a search and found a Harry Palmer book I could not remember having read before so I bought it. The whole process took a few minutes from start to finish.

Since I am ultimately in the business of selling books, I started thinking about what was involved in this? How did I go from not even thinking about an author to buying his book maybe ten minutes later?

There were a few steps. First I needed to be reminded of Deighton’s name. Then I needed to remember the fact that I had really enjoyed his books. Then I had to be able to easily find this particular book. Then I had to be able to buy it.

Much of this process was based on the technological miracles of our age. I was sitting in a cafe in Prague, reading an article on Slate, an American website magazine. The fact that I was on my laptop meant I had only to click on a link and I was at Amazon, looking at Bomber. I clicked on Deighton’s name and got a list of all his books currently available there. I narrowed the search down to kindle books since I wanted something to read now, not weeks later when the book might come in the mail. I noticed a title I did not recall, clicked on it. I read the product blurb and did not remember any of the details of the story. Could it be I had found a Deighton book I had not actually read before?  Clicked look inside and read the first page. The writing was as good as I remembered Deighton’s writing being and I did not recall the opening so I bought it. A few seconds later it was on my phone and I was reading it.

Some of them echoes the experience of conventional book buying, such as reading the back cover blurb and then scanning the first few pages of the book. The rest of it is a product of the technology of our time.

Think about how this would have gone in the pre-Internet age. If I was reading about Deighton, it would most likely be in a newspaper and probably round about the time when there was a surge of publicity based on his new book being released. I would then have had to physically go to a book shop. The book I bought, part of Deighton’s deep backlist might well not have been in stock. If it wasn’t, I would never have had a chance to notice it. I might have bought another Deighton, since I was there anyway. Chances are it would have been the big new release that had generated the surge of newspaper hype. I would probably have started reading it a few minutes later on the bus. The whole process would have taken a lot longer than a few minutes, and would only have happened if I recalled the Deighton article a few days later when I was in town shopping on the weekend. There are a lot of chances for the sale to have been missed in that process. All of them were short-circuited by the Internet and the technology.

The convenience of the Internet enabled the sale. A complex web of sophisticated software engines drove it. The fact that I had a phone in my pocket as powerful as the computers of my youth (hell, the computers of ten years ago) let me download and start reading at once. One of the powerful promises of that one-click buy was instant gratification. I could get what I wanted in seconds. The one-click made it easy to make an irrevocable commitment to the transaction.

All that said, I think it’s important not to forget the most important part of the equation. I already knew who Deighton was, and I have always loved his books. Without that, I would not have bothered at all. Even in the age of the Internet, an author’s name still means something.