Jack Of Ravens Review

There’s a review of Jack of Ravens here which raises some very interesting issues.

What I’ve been working on for the last few years is an epic story covering more than two thousand years of human history, numerous mythologies, a huge cast of characters with complex motives and inter-relations, an enormous range of antagonists, monsters, creatures and Fabulous Beasts, each with their own history, and a fair smattering of mysticism, psychology and philosophy thrown into the mix.

Unlike, say, The Wheel of Time, where the books are successively numbered so you know exactly which one to read next, I’ve told this fantasy tale over a trilogy of trilogies – the Age of Misrule, Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent sequences.

I’ve attempted to provide background information so new readers can drop into the story pretty much anywhere, but I think I’ve got to face up to the fact that they can’t. If you’re a new reader to Jack of Ravens, you’re just not going to get the depth, subtelty and interplay unless you’ve read Age of Misrule. You’ll certainly get a rattling good yarn, but it will lack what I intended as the author.

The problem is, the trilogies have each been packaged in such a radically different way that the casual reader would find it hard to tell that they’re all part of this massive canvas – although the excellent design for the Age of Misrule Omnibus has brought it in line with Jack of Ravens.

What I think I need to do now is get the word out more that this is one big, sprawling story. I’d hate for a reader to come to the books under the false pretences of thinking they’re starting a standalone trilogy (and only in fantasy can you use those words…) and be disappointed.

Money In Misrule

I’m trying something a little different… Over on my MySpace blog I’ve posted an extract from Age of Misrule. Anyone can copy the extract on to their blog or web page, email it to friends or print it out and hand it to interested parties, as long as they include the copyright notice at the bottom and the link to where the book can be bought online.

Quick-witted entrepeneurs can use it to make a little cash, by setting up an Amazon Associate account and getting paid every time someone clicks from their site to buy the book.

I’m going to be trying the same with the extract from The Burning Man when I post it in a few weeks’ time.

Who Really Writes The Stories?

All writers are privy to a big secret. They rarely talk about it among themselves, but when someone foolishly raises it, there are embarrassed smiles and nods and a few mumbled words of agreement. The reason is simple: to admit the big secret would mean admitting intellectually dangerous things to yourself and to risk the rest of the world calling you a crackpot.

So I’m going to tell you about here.

Writers are deeply troubled about the genesis of their stories. Not only that, they have nightmares about the reality of said stories, and their meaning and potency beyond the words on the printed page.

To illustrate, I’ll give you some examples from my own work. In World’s End I wrote about the main characters visiting Glastonbury Abbey where they uncovered secret knowledge encoded in the design of the ancient Abbey’s floor. Due to the vagaries of the way I work, I’d already semi-written this scene before I went to Glastonbury to conduct the research on the detail of the setting. While I was there, I came across a book which discussed how secret knowledge had been encoded in the Abbey’s floor, but the knowledge and much of the pattern had been destroyed in a fire almost a thousand years ago.

Now I had never come across this before. I swear I made it up. It’s just coincidence, right? It’s the kind of thing that could have happened, so no reason why it shouldn’t have happened.

Except the same thing happened again when I was writing Darkest Hour: something I was convinced I made up, came to light while I was researching Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh.

And it happened again during the writing of Jack of Ravens. Three times I have written about real things that were completely beyond my knowledge.

Most writers will tell you this happens all the time during the creation of a story. Stephen King has spoken (in On Writing, I think) about how he has come to consider his creative process more like archaeology: how the story is already fully-formed somewhere and he is simply digging it out of the sand.

Other authors have told me in very concerned tones about how what they have written has somehow started to affect the ‘real’ world. Graham Joyce speaks eloquently about near-supernatural happenings on a Greek island that echoed the story on which he was working, House of Lost Dreams. Robert Graves has written about the strange pile-up of coincidence and synchronicity during the writing of The White Goddess when books would mysteriously fall from shelves, open on the correct page with the information for which he had been frantically searching for days.

Both Alan Moore and Grant Morrison have spoken about the use of the imagination during the writing process as an act of magic, and it’s difficult for many writers not to believe that. Strange, irrational things happen during the creative process. There’s a sense of tapping into something else, and once tapped that something else coming into your life to haunt you for a while.

So now I’ve got this out into the open I’d be interested to hear about the experiences of others…

The Age of Misrule – New and Improved

A brand, spanking new omnibus of the Age of Misrule trilogy – featuring World’s End, Darkest Hour and Always Forever – is now available to buy.

Age of MisruleIt’s got a great, black and red designery cover and, more importantly, has a very slightly updated text to eliminate some of the errors that crept into the original printings.

The story – like the current Kingdom of the Serpent – was designed as one big tale, which for marketing reasons was split into three and published annually. Now it’s presented as originally intended, where the more subtle interweaving of plotlines are clearer.

And maybe now more people will get that enigmatic final paragraph…

You can see it on Amazon.co.uk.

Don’t forget – if you’ve only read Jack of Ravens, the epic story starts here…