The false city of Tir from The Fey Man

Realms of Tir: Cairnacei

Carnacei is something of a joke, for it is not a city of Tir, but just a field of poppies. The story goes that Sir Cei, having killed King Amyr, lost his life here and his blood soaked the flowers, turning them red.

The story of Sir Cei differs depending on where the tale is told. On the basics, though, all storytellers can agree. Feeling the long shadow of his father, Amyr had it in mind to marry the daughter of a powerful Westerner, to cement his relationship with the richest realm of Tir. But Amyr was vain and selfish. When he was presented with portraits of the possible candidates, he chose, not the best match, but the most beautiful. He would have Kyru, daughter of one of the smallest lords in the West, or he would have no-one.

Kyru came to Cairnauran with only three attendants; her father could afford no more. She found courtly life lonely, and was not particularly enamoured of her new husband. But there was one Western knight left alive after the battle of Camlann: Sir Tengidar. Tengidar was scarred from the battle but still handsome, and the two grew close. Too close.

One night, they fled together. Amyr was furious, and Sir Cei was amongst those chosen to hunt down the wayward lovers. They hunted high and low, traversing lands even Sir Beduir had not yet seen. But, when they finally found Kyru and Tengidar, Kyru made Cei swear to protect Tengidar’s life. And Cei swore an oath that he would let no harm come to his brother-in-arms.

When they returned to Cairnauran, Cei told King Amyr of the oath he had sworn. Furious that Cei had sworn such an oath, Amyr gave him a simple order: execute Tengidar, or be labelled a traitor.

What happens next varies wildly depending on the teller. None know for certain what became of Kyru, of Tengidar, even of Cei. But King Amyr’s fate is well-known; he was beheaded by Sir Cei, and thus did Emyr’s unified Tir become fractured and broken.

The Unquiet Sword is Available on Amazon

Cover to The Unquiet Sword, book two of the Fair Folk seriesAmazon offer a much shorter preorder period than the other retailers, but with the release date for The Unquiet Sword getting closer and closer, the ebook is finally available for preorder.

Unfortunately, Amazon don’t allow preorders for paperbacks, so be sure to sign up to my email list to find out as soon as they’re available for purchase!

Preorder The Unquiet Sword for just 0.99 today: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Faerie is forgotten. The Western King must be brought to his knees.

Thomas Rymour and his friends are free from the stinking prisons of the Western Kingdom. Their quest is clear: stop the war and free the dragons of Tir. But they have no food, no horses, no maps, and a traitor in their midst. Their hopes of success are small.

But the Western Kingdom is not a kingdom united. The dwarfs strain against their contracted servitude to the elfs. And there are fanatics and terrorists that seek to bring about the end of the world. Scattered malcontents that might be persuaded to rise up and offer their aid.

And they have Caledyr, the ancient sword that can break the Western magics. A sword that whispers to Tom. The more he uses its power, the stronger its hold on him. And now Tom isn’t sure if his journey is one of liberation or vengeance.

Is it the sword that thirsts for violence and blood? Or is there something dark growing inside Tom himself?

The Unquiet Sword is just 0.99 for the peorder period only. Don’t miss out! Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble

Outcast Journeys is a box set of nine SF&F ebooks featuring The Fey Man

Outcast Journeys fantasy ebook box set

Everyone loves a deal. And an ebook box set is a great deal for everyone. The authors get more exposure, the readers get a bundle of ebooks for a bargain price. So it’s great to be able to tell you about Outcast Journeys, a box set of nine SF&F ebooks for 0.99 which features The Fey Man!

From dragons to space ships, experience the trials and battles of memorable characters as they navigate magical worlds.

The box set offers nine ebooks for just 0.99. That’s a pretty good deal! Get Outcast Journeys today.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Apple iBookstore | Kobo | Smashwords | Nook

The books of Outcast Journeys

Leros of the Underworld: The Tournament by Nathan Anton

Introducing Leros and his sinister alter ego, Demiro. His adventures in Earth Alpha pit him against a tyrannical queen.

Forgotten Relics by Tiffany Cherney

Leader of a crew of thieves on the starship Kathya, Rei’s attempt to strike back against her foes could change her life forever.

The Unfinished Song: Book 1 Initiate by Tara Maya

In a world of pixies, roving cannibals, and hexers, exiled warrior Kavio searches for a new life, while Dindi faces an initiation that no one in her clan has ever survived.

Sky Stone by Scarlett Van Dijk

When a magical journey transfers Skyla to a magical medieval land at war, she steps into a destiny made for her by the gods.

Rys Rising by Tracy Falbe

The magical tabre created the rys, but then reviled them as unworthy failures. The fallout will drag two human civilizations into a war that tests the faith of all involved.

The Amber Isle by Ashley Capes

A rogue named Never is on a quest to learn his true name and lift a curse on his blood.

A Forest of Eyes by Ashley Capes (Special bonus sequel to the Amber Isle)

Poisoned and furious, Never must add a desperate quest for a cure to his existing search for truth.

Roc Isle: The Descent by Alex James

Lord Azure of the Azure-Cloud Clan struggles to raise an army against those who assassinated his parents.

The Fey Man by James T Kelly

Thomas Rymour, a prophet who cannot lie, joins the battle to free the dragons, but can he ignore the lure of Faerie?

Nine SF&F ebooks for just 0.99. Get Outcast Journeys today.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Apple iBookstore | Kobo | Smashwords | Nook

The cover to Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Lost Stars.

Star Wars: Lost Stars review

If Lost Stars by Claudia Gray is an indicator of the new Star Wars expanded universe, then I think we could be looking at something pretty cool.

I was a big fan of the old Star Wars EU. But when Disney bought Lucasfilm, they wiped the slate clean. No more Corran Horn, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Dash Rendar, Galen Marek, Ysanne Isard, or Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Star Wars EU had decades to build up success and history. There was a lot to live up to.

Lost Stars is a YA novel about two lovers, Thane and Ciena, both in the service of the Empire. Thane defects to the Rebellion. Cue tragic romance. I won’t lie, I really wasn’t sure about it. Could a couple of unknown, star-crossed lovers shoe-horned into the original trilogy really compare with the Thrawn trilogy?

Spoiler: it can’t. But it’s still good.

But by ending the war now, before it truly begins, the Death Star will save more lives than it took.

I wasn’t sure a YA tragic romance was a good fit for Star Wars, but actually the tone is almost perfect. That has something to do with what Lucas made, and something to do with Gray’s writing. She gets the feel of Star Wars. She captures that brisk sense of adventure so well you feel you could be reading a novelisation of deleted scenes. Almost

And the best thing Lost Stars offers is its fresh perspective. Thane and Ciena rationalise Alderaan as a necessary evil, a space opera Hiroshima. And the destruction of the Death Star is a terrorist act, a war crime that slaughters thousands of good officers. And these contrary viewpoints work well because Gray isn’t writing villains or ciphers. She’s writing complicated characters. Thane is a cynic, sure that no government is perfect, content to work with the one in place until he can no longer abide its methodology. Ciena is an idealist, seeing the order and the stability the Empire has to offer.

And who is this General Calrissian? Thane decided not to ask that question out loud. If the Rebel Alliance was happy turning over its two most critical missions of all time to a bunch of brand-new generals, okay, fine.

I’m always sceptical when a writer tries to weave new characters into an existing story. It smacks of a retcon. Why did we never see this guy? Why did they never mention her? But Gray pulls this off well. Thane and Ciena aren’t big players, and the only movie characters they meet are minor. Tarkin, Mon Mothma, Captain/Admiral Piet, and even they only have brief appearances. These cameos offer little glimpses and expansions to their characters and, by not leaning on the main cast of the trilogy, Gray builds a sense of a much vaster galaxy.

This also allows Thane to question who the Rebel heroes are, since he never sees them involved in any real military efforts, yet they always seem to be in charge. It’s funny, and a nice nod to the fact that both Thane and Ciena suffer from the same illness of Luke, Leia, Han and co.: they’re often in situations they don’t belong for the sake of the plot. Thane obviously becomes an X-wing pilot but is given ground assault duties. Ciena is a deck officer but gets sent out in TIE fighters. But this is Star Wars. Our heroes can’t be constrained by realism. Which is why a con man and a gas miner was allowed to lead the greatest Rebellion offensive of all time.

Sometimes we’re loyal to more than one thing. When there’s a conflict, we have to choose which loyalty to honor.

The biggest problem with Lost Stars is that it’s trying to serve two masters: the story and the hype. Released in the lead-up to The Force Awakens, the cover is splashed with promises of exclusive content that ties into the new film and never-before-scenes from the Original Trilogy. Thane and Ciena don’t just find themselves in situations they don’t belong. They find themselves shoe-horned into events. Events conspire, contort even, to bring both into contact with Alderaan, Yavin, Cloud City, Endor. And in order to fit all that in and get some post-Jedi events, the plot takes big jumps through time. Sometimes it feels like Thane and Ciena’s Greatest Hits, and the final showdown seems a bit rushed, slotted in with very little explanation at all.

Which is a bit sad, because there’s a good story in here. And if Gray had been given a bit more space and fewer marketing boxes to tick, there was the potential for a deeper, more meaningful telling to match a deep and meaningful tale. The story between set pieces shows a war more devastating than anything the films portrayed, and the galaxy she created was big enough that Thane and Ciena didn’t have to be at every movie battle. Personally I think it would have been stronger for it.

Lost Stars doesn’t always navigate its way around the Original Trilogy perfectly, but it’s an enjoyable story, well-written, with strong characters. Being YA it doesn’t have the heft of the Thrawn trilogy, but it’s got the fast-paced adventure Star Wars is known for. I’d readily pick up a sequel.

A Kindle ereader leant against paperbacks

Amazon’s latest Kindle Paperwhite Promotion is a Little Odd

Amazon are running a promotion: buy a Kindle Paperwhite and get a free book. Sounds good, I thought. Perhaps they’ll offer a credit, or that the Kindle might even arrive with the book preloaded. But no. Bizarrely, the book that Amazon are offering to go alongside your shiny new ereader is a hardback.

Isn’t that a bit like giving you a free CD when you buy an iPod?

Waterstones logo

Mourning the Waterstones that Never Was

Four years ago I predicted that Waterstones were working on an ereader, and since then I’ve looked forward to an integrated nirvana of a bookshop that sold books irrespective of format. But now Waterstones are shutting down their ebook store and handing their customers over to a Kobo. And I’m mourning the lost opportunity.

The ebook market has three major players in my country: Amazon, Apple and Kobo. Apple doesn’t offer ereaders. Kobo is in bed with WHSmith, a high street chain that hasn’t been known for books for at least ten years. That left Amazon with the edge. Unless Waterstones entered the market.

Waterstones is the UK’s biggest high street bookseller. If you’re buying a book in the real world, chances are you’re buying it from Waterstones. I believe they could have had a real edge in the UK ebook market. Humanity is a fan of the one-stop shop. That’s a part of why Amazon is such a success. And Waterstones could have out-done Amazon at its own game.

Here’s where my dream comes in. You wander into a Waterstones. You’re looking for a gift, so you browse the aisles. Ooh, the new Robin Hobb is out. The shelf has a QR code on it, which you can scan with your Waterstones app. Want to buy the ebook? A few taps and it’s in your library. Right, back to this gift. You browse a bit until, aha, this one’s perfect. It looks so good you want a copy for yourself. Get to the till and the staff assistant tells you this is part of a deal; you can get the ebook at half price. Sounds like a great deal. She offers you another code to scan with your phone. Moments later you walk out with a gift and two new ebooks.

This is a scenario off the top of my head; I’m sure there’s plenty more that could be done. But it serves to show that Waterstones could have helped tackle show-rooming (where people browse the shelves and then order from Amazon) as well as offering great deals and convenience to readers.

Now I’m not saying Waterstones could have toppled Amazon; I’m not daft. But Waterstones had the perfect chance to compete and innovate. Instead they paid lip service to an ebook store, sold an incompatible ereader, and wondered why they didn’t see a success.

And it’s the reader who loses out. Less competition equals stagnation. The ebook vs paperback war is nearing an end, and I think it’s safe to say co-existence will be the outcome. The winner of this “war” will be the person who sells that co-existence along with convenience.

Because readers just want to read books.

Draft cover for The Unquiet Sword by James T Kelly

Announcing The Unquiet Sword

Sometimes it feels like readers have been asking for the sequel to The Fey Man since release day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that people are so eager to continue with the story! Either I’ve managed to create a compelling and immersive tale, or that cliffhanger really hung the cliff :-D Well the wait is almost over.

The Unquiet Sword is almost here.

Releasing on 8th October 2016, The Unquiet Sword picks up where The Fey Man left off. It’s available for preorder now from the following vendors:

Kobo | Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble

Amazon doesn’t permit a preorder period of longer than three months, but subscribers to my mailing list will know as soon as the Amazon preorder goes live!

I can’t wait to see what you think of The Unquiet Sword!

P.S. I forgot to mention the preorder price is just 0.99!

Title card for Let's Build The Fey Man YouTube series

How #feymanlego Became a Thing

“How hard can it be?” I can’t seem to stop asking this question. It leaves me tackling projects I’m not entirely equipped or prepared to handle, but honestly? I kind of enjoy it. So when I started getting back into Lego, I started to wonder what a Fey Man Lego set would look like. And then I thought I could record myself building it and sharing it online. And before I knew it, I had a webcam and a pile of Lego and no idea what I was doing.

Of course I wasn’t exactly blazing a trail. Customised Lego is not something new, ranging from “kit-bashing” (putting different pieces together to create something new) through altering or painting existing pieces to sculpting entire new pieces (and even selling them). So the first step was research. I read blogs, watched videos, and slowly built a picture of what I could and could not achieve by myself.

I thought the webcam would be difficult to find, but the first one I found happened to be the one recommended by nearly everyone. I also happened to find it when it was on sale! The Logitech C920 is small and puts out a good picture. I recorded a few test videos with it, customising a minifigure using paints. The videos looked okay, but the minifigure didn’t and the sound wasn’t right. I dug out an old USB headset and abandoned the paints.

I found a website called Firestartoys.com which sold individual Lego minifigure components and accessories. They’ve got a huge catalogue to trawl through, and it took a few weeks to identify which pieces would work for the set. The Lego website also offers a Pick a Brick service which meant I could order specific bricks without breaking the bank.

Soon enough it was time to record the first official Let’s Build The Fey Man video. I have to admit, I was surprisingly nervous! This video would be visible for the entire world to see. What if I looked like an amateur, or a fool, or I wasn’t entertaining or interesting enough? I restarted two dozen times, even wiped a video and started all over again. But in the end I had a video. And I put it online.

Thankfully the feedback has been positive so far. I’m still finding my way a little and my audience isn’t big, but they seem to enjoy the videos and, best of all, they offer feedback, ideas and suggestions. That’s what matters to me. As long as they enjoy the journey, it doesn’t matter how many of them there are. We’ll build this set together, and hopefully it will look great at the end of it all.

Want to take a look at the results? Check out Let’s Build The Fey Man.

Each sale of The Fey Man in paperback earns about 40p in royalties

Are Paperbacks Worth It for Indie Authors?

Let’s talk numbers. I know, it’s terribly gauche to talk about money and how much we all earn, but if we don’t talk about it then we’re all ignorant. Besides, this isn’t an attempt at gloating. I’d like to make a serious point here: are paperbacks worth it for an indie author?

Let me show you what I mean. The Fey Man is 374 pages long and priced at $9.99 / £7.99. Amazon take 40% of the list price. They then apply a Fixed Charge which depends on the page count, which is $0.85/£0.70 for The Fey Man. On top of that they apply a Per-Page Charge, which is $4.49/£3.74 for The Fey Man. So whenever I sell a copy, I earn $0.66 ($9.99 – 40% – $0.85 – $4.49), which converts to £0.45. Or, in the UK, from £7.99 I earn £0.35.

Now take a look at ebooks. Amazon have two rates for ebooks dependent on price. Below $2.99 or above $9.99 and it’s 65% (don’t price your ebook at $9.99). But, at $2.99 or more it’s 30%. $2.99 it is! Amazon also take a delivery fee based on the file size, which is $0.11 for The Fey Man. So for each ebook I make $2.02, which converts to roughly £1.30.

(The UK government charge 20% VAT on ebooks so from a £1.99 ebook sale I see £1.04.)

These figures alone suggest the paperback is a waste of time, but don’t forget to factor in the cost of commissioning a spine and back cover from your artist, as well as the cost of ordering prints and the sheer amount of time it takes to format a paperback. And for a measly £0.35? Why bother right?

There are, of course, other benefits to paperbacks. Living in the UK, we still have a huge segment of the population who haven’t adopted ebooks. That pesky VAT keeps ebook prices higher than they ought to be, for a start. So if I stopped producing paperbacks, I’d leave a lot of readers behind. A paperback also makes the ebook a better value proposition: £1.99 looks like a better next to £7.99 than in a vacuum.

I also suspect that paperbacks are seen as a validation. That you’re not a “real” author if you don’t have a paperback. But I wonder if this attitude will last. Will we see a day when paperbacks are relegated to items of luxury? Given the sheer cost of paper, ink and postage, will a day come when authors forgo the paperback and release their books in digital formats only?

It’s happening in the music, film and video game industries. I can see it happening in the book industry too.

But what do you think? Is there a death knell sounding for paperbacks? Or will they be around for many years to come?

The Legend of Prince Valiant logo

Prince Valiant Title Sequence: Unlikely Inspirations

Arthurian myths play a big role in The Fey Man. You might think I read and researched a lot of those myths. Perhaps you have a romantic image of me in a montage of reading books, cross-referencing articles, leafing furiously through pages before finally falling asleep on a pile of books, glasses askew. Perhaps you don’t. But whilst I was inspired by the myths, I also took inspiration from another source: the title sequence for The Legend of Prince Valiant.

Time for a confession: I was never a fan of Prince Valiant. I watched it, because I’d watch any old rubbish as a kid. But if there was something else on, I’d watch that. The Legend of Prince Valiant was too slow, too mundane for the tastes of a boy who thought Teenage Mutant Turtles were the best thing since sliced pizza. But the title sequence always stuck with me. I suspect it was the power ballad.

It was definitely the power ballad.

It might sound daft, but I’m fairly certain this sixty second video has influenced my entire thinking of the Arthurian myth. It’s full of sun symbology, brave knights galloping, and everyone is standing about proudly and bearing arms to the sounds of 80s enthusiasm. It speaks of a golden age of chivalry and, well, valiance. And then, towards the end, there’s an old man slumped in a throne. Completely at odds to everything else. Even old Merlin is doing the whole standing proudly thing. But Arthur seems fed up with it all. Or defeated. Surrounded by all this hope and purpose and yet unable to feel it.

And doesn’t that exactly sum up the myth of Arthur? His rule is meant to be a golden age. But, like all halcyon days, it’s too good to be true. It falters and fails. So instead the myth casts another ray of hope, that Arthur will return one day and bring about a true golden age. Yet it’s a vain hope. Those days will never come again. Even if Arthur did come back, how could he bring that time with him? The past has passed and doesn’t return. That old man slumped in his throne is aware of the lie of his legend.

Or am I reading way to much into a cartoon title sequence?