Writing is a weird thing. So much happens in isolation, where you undergo a daily battle where reality does it best to batter your dreams, where life does it best to make you give up and walk away and forget about those stories niggling away in your mind. But for some reason, you keep going. You keep writing. Then the very thing you've worked so hard for happens and you can't tell anyone about it because publishing works at such a slow pace. And you just get on and write more, almost unsure that the dream is actually happening. But then something wonderful happens and you know that, yes, it is happening. The dream is real.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this:
WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle to Gollancz
Gollancz have acquired, at auction, the debut series from Mike Shackle. The first title, WE ARE THE DEAD, will be published in 2019.
The war is over. The bad guys won.
For generations, the people of Jia – a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals – have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, the Shulka. But on the day that Tinnstra, daughter of one of the Shulka’s greatest generals, is to face her greatest challenge at the academy where all future Shulka are trained, the world is turned upside down. For too long, Jia has focused its defences on the mountain strongholds in the north. But the Egril have rediscovered magic, courtesy of their god-king Raaku. Soon, rents in the fabric of the world open across Jia, from the mountains in the north to the sun-drenched coastal towns in the south – and, through those portals, pour abominations too monstrous to imagine. An invasion has begun.
In moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the Shulka are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.
Six months later, Jia is a cowed and divided kingdom. The Egril have proven cruel overlords. Public executions, terror raids, and brutalised people are the new normal, as the people of Jia think only of surviving, day to day.
Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet… there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby… and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands. A princess, five years old, has survived the occupation – and now the future of a nation lies in getting her safely over the seas, to where new alliances can be forged and the tide of war turned. Somehow, these people will have to find the heroism deep inside them – or die trying.
The last two entries in my occasional blog are about exactly the same point: hitting 65,000 words and not liking what I'd done. Perhaps. Or maybe it was just nerves? Whatever causes it, it happened again this week. However this time I resisted the urge to hit delete and start over. Instead I spent an evening with post-it notes and writing up the chapter by chapter plan of what is happening in Book 2. Seeing the book laid out like this immediately put my mind at ease. I knew what I had to write next. I could see how my main characters' stories were going to unfold and eventually link up once more.
Book 2s are notoriously difficult to write. Often nothing happens. Back in the day when I reviewed books at Fantasy faction, I once remarked that, despite enjoying the story, nothing really had happened. The author had simply moved chess pieces around on the board. I don't want this to be the case with my book 2. My note to myself at the beginning of this was "Everything Gets Worse." Hopefully I can live up to that.