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A Short Plea for Help

It’s been two years since Gallow was published by Gollancz. In the normal run of things the third book in the trilogy would have come out about now and I’d be submitting the manuscript for a fourth (or not) having been contracted (or not) for more at some point over the last six months. But that’s not how we did this. If you’ve been reading the series then you know that all three came out in consecutive months and then . . . an awful lot of nothing.

I’d like your help to change that. The first series has sold . . . adequately. Adequately, so you know, means it hasn’t earned back its advance but has tipped in to profit (whatever that means). Adequately means thousands of copies, not hundreds and not tens of thousands. Most of all, adequately means it hasn’t sold well enough to get the forces of sales and marketing remotely excited, but it has sold well enough that they don’t run away with their fingers in their ears the moment anyone corners them about it. Adequate isn’t great, but it’s enough to be grateful. So if you bought some Gallow, thank you.

Now to the matter of more and where I need a little help: My editor at Gollancz is keen. I’m keen. I’ve got outlines. They’re stronger for the wait and are stories that will at least match The Crimson Shield for both ferocity and pathos. I don’t need your help to sell more copies of The Crimson Shield or the Fateguard Trilogy omnibus; what I need help with are the three shorts Gollancz published earlier this year.

Shorts? What shorts?

Well exactly. Three little stories, 10-20k words each that tie up some loose ends left hanging at the end of The Last Bastion. You want to know what happened to the Eyes of Time? The drowned tomb under the lake? There’s The Anvil, in which Arda gives Gallow a taste of his own medicine. There’s Solace, in which Mirrahj does Gallow’s job for him; and there’s Dragon’s Reach, in which Oribas meddles with things with which perhaps he shouldn’t.

I need your help. These have not sold adequately. That’s going to make sales and marketing nervous. We’re talking tens of copies. I probably need to get that up well into the hundreds. Maybe it’s because they’re only e-books, but you know what? If one person in ten who bought one of the novels in e-book form had also bought one of the shorts, I wouldn’t be writing this. It shouldn’t matter, but in a market where publishers are generally looking to reduce the number of authors they publish, it could become a handy excuse.

So what am I asking for? I suspect the problem is more that no one knows they’re there. If you’re a Gallow fan who just didn’t know they existed, here are the links! Buy them! Spread the word! Think of it as a bit like a Kickstarter – pledge £1.99 to Amazon and if we get enough, maybe more novels will happen – but even if we don’t you still get your story.

The Anvil: King Valaric wants some dirty work done by someone who knows their way around a forge, and Gallow isn’t around.

Solace: Gallow, Mirrahj and the Eyes of Time

Dragon’s Reach: Oribas can’t say no to another Aulian tomb.

I can’t promise that Gollancz will go for more if the shorts suddenly pick up. I can’t say for sure they won’t if the sales stay as they are. I can say that it’s hanging in the balance and here’s an opportunity to try and make a difference.

Need more incentive? Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. If this works and tips the scales, I’ll write another short, free to download for anyone.

Gallow is, to an extent, in your hands now.

Thank you.

- Nathan Hawke

A Short Update (2/9/2013)

Cold Redemption came out while I was on holiday so it didn’t get much attention from me. At least two people have read it, according to Goodreads. It’s a bit early for any reviews but there are a couple more for The Crimson Shield.

At the Falcatta Times, they’re not so sure. “All in, it was an OK book but for me, I’m going to wait to see what the others have in store before I pass full judgement though.” Which is a shame, because I know the reviewer is a huge Gemmell fan and I thought I’d done better than that.

I did a guest post for the same site about Grimdark and what I think it is and what I think it isn’t. The gist of it is that I don’t think that Gallow is Grimdark because I have my own idea of what Grimdark means. Other people disagree on both counts.

Fantasy Book Critic “I felt that at times that the fighting swamped the story. Yes it’s all thrilling, epic stuff, but I thought the novel really shone when the focus was on the dialogue and interaction between the many interesting characters. Their observations and world-weary humour made this an enjoyable read for me.” I’m glad they liked the humour. The thing with Gallow and most of the rest of the characters in this, they don’t have inner demons tormenting them (with the possible exception of Medrin). They wear themselves openly. There’s not much to find out about them because they’re up-front about who they are? Does that make them shallow?

(That site has one of my favourite reviews on it. I have a long memory)

I suppose the main thing I have to say is that I don’t think there’s going to be another Gallow story next summer, so for those who like the character and the style of the stories, I’m sorry. Gollancz are holding off on any offer for further stories until they see how these ones do. Given the parlous state of genre publishing at the moment, I’m not holding out much hope. It takes a publisher the best part of a year to process a manuscript from submission to publication (unless they crash it through the system, but that rarely happens) and there won’t be another manuscript until I can see a home for it. Bills to be paid and all that jazz.

Reviews Round-up

Gollancz have done a round-up of what people have been saying about the Crimson Shield over here. To be honest, the SFX quote is a bit of a cheat. It’s particularly gratifying, though, to see some other writers who I know were and remain fans of David Gemmell apparently enjoying Gallow.

You can follow the progress of Edi’s Lighthouse reading Gallow here.

Short Stories Live 27-06-13

The following short stories are now lie on the interactive map:

Medrin and the Magician (location Sithhun)

The End of Farri Moontongue Part 1 (Temple of Fates)

The End of Farri Moontongue Part 2 (The Ice Mountain Sea)

The Fateguard (The Temple of Fates)

The Screambreaker (Vanhun)

Selleuk’s Bridge (Selleuk’s Bridge)

Grumpy Jonnic (Andhun)

The Crackmarsh (The Crackmarsh)

Valaric the Wolf (Tarkhun)

The Edge of Sorrows (The Vathen)

Witches’ Reach (Witches’ Reach)

First Review for the Crimson Shield

The first review I’m aware of for The Crimson Shield is up at Parmenion Books, and it looks like Gallow had done his job for at least one reader. The comparison to Gemmell’s Rigante is particularly pleasing for me personally. I did study some of David Gemmell’s work quite closely when writing this series to try and understand how he makes his heroes work. I think his best heroes were heroic not so much through what they did but through what they inspired in others. And isn’t that a large part of what fiction is about?

First Impressions

“A good, uncomplicated Viking-ish fantasy – A great mix of bloodied axes and brave warriors, an honest hero and the war that gets in his way, so all good stuff!” – Tom Lloyd, author of the Twilight Reign series.

I’ll take that as job largely done then.

The Last Bastion (Publication due September 12th 2013)

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In the end it is our defiance that redeems us

Cold Redemption (Publication due August 8th 2013)

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And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can.

Elizabeth Browning

Gallow the Foxbeard is dead, everyone knows that – until an Aulian alchemist crosses the mountains in the dead of winter, bringing with him the power to lay to rest the dreaded Shadewalkers and a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious sword.

The Crimson Shield (opening chapter)

Beside him Sarvic turned to run. A Vathan spear reached for him. Gallow chopped it away; and then he was slipping back and the whole line was falling apart and the Vathen were pressing forward, pushed by the ranks behind them, stumbling over the bodies of the fallen.

For a moment the dead slowed them. Gallow turned and threw himself away from the Vathan shields. The earth under his feet was slick, ground to mud by the press of boots and watered with blood and sweat. A spear point hit him in the back like a kick from a horse. He staggered and slipped but kept on running as fast as he could. If the blow had pierced his mail he’d find out soon enough. The rest of the Marroc were scattering, fleeing down the back of the hill with the roars of the Vathen right behind. Javelots and stones rained around him but he didn’t look back. Didn’t dare, not yet.

He slowed for a moment to tuck his axe into his belt and scoop up a discarded spear. The Vathen had horsemen and a man with a spear could face a horse; and when at last he did snatch a glance over his shoulder, there they were, cresting the hill. They’d scythe through the fleeing Marroc and not one in ten would reach the safety of the trees because they were running in panic, not turning to face their enemy as they should. He’d seen all this before. The Vathen were good with their horses.

Sarvic was pelting empty-handed down the hill ahead of him. They’d never met before today and had no reason to be friends, but they’d stood together in the wall of shields and they’d both survived. Gallow caught him as the first Vathan rider drew back an arm to throw his javelot. He hurled himself at Sarvic’s legs, tumbling them both down the slope of the hill. Gallow rolled away, turned and rose to a crouch behind his shield. Other men had dropped theirs as they ran but that was folly.

The javelot hit his shield and almost knocked him over. Another rider galloped towards them. At the last moment Gallow raised his spear. The Vathan saw it too late. The point caught him in the belly and the other end wedged into the dirt and the rider flew out of his saddle, screaming, the spear driven right through him before the shaft snapped clean in two. Gallow wrenched the javelot from his shield. He forced another into Sarvic’s hand. There were plenty to be had. ‘Running won’t help you.’

More Vathen poured over the hill. Another galloped past and hurled his javelot, rattling Gallow’s shield. Gallow searched around, wild-eyed and frantic for any shelter. Further down the hill a knot of Marroc had held their nerve long enough to make a circle of spears. He raced towards them now, dragging Sarvic with him as the horsemen charged past. The shields opened to let him in and closed around him. He was a part of it without even thinking.

‘Wall and spears!’ Valaric? A fierce hope came with having men beside him again, shields locked together, even if they were nothing but a handful.

Another wave of Vathan horse swarmed past. The Marroc crouched in their circle, spears out like a hedgehog, poking over their shields. The horsemen thundered on. There were easier prey to catch but they threw their javelots anyway as they passed. The Marroc beside Gallow screamed and pitched forward.

‘You taught us this, Gallow, you Lhosir bastard,’ Valaric swore. ‘Curse these stunted hedge-born runts! Keep your shields high and your spears up and keep together, damn you!’

The Vathan foot soldiers were charging now, roaring and whooping. As the last riders passed, the circle of Marroc broke and sprinted for the woods. The air was hot and thick. Sweat trickled into Gallow’s eyes. The grass on the hill had been trampled flat and now gleamed bright in the sun. Bodies littered the ground close to the trees, scattered like armfuls of broken dolls where the Vathan horse had caught the Marroc rout. Hundreds of them pinned to the earth with javelots sticking up from their backs. There were Lhosir bodies too among the Marroc. Valaric pointed at one and laughed. ‘Not so invincible, eh?’

They reached the shadows of the wood and paused, gasping. Behind them the battlefield spread up the hill, dead men strewn in careless abandon. Crows already circled, waiting for the Vathen to finish so they could get on with some looting of their own. The moans and cries of the dying mixed with the shouts and hurrahs of the victors. Before long the dead would be stripped bare and the Vathen would move on.

‘Got to keep moving,’ Gallow said.

‘Shut your hole, forkbeard! They won’t follow us here.’ Valaric picked up his shield. He kicked a couple of Marroc who’d crouched against trees to catch their breath, glared at Sarvic and headed off again at a run. ‘A pox on you!’ he said as Gallow fell in step beside him. ‘They’ll move right on to Fedderhun and quick. They don’t care about us.’

But they still ran, a hard steady pace along whatever game trails they could find, putting as much distance as they could between them and the Vathen. Valaric only slowed when they ran out into a meadow surrounded by trees and by then they must have been a couple of miles from the battle. Far enough. The Marroc were gasping and soaked in sweat but they weren’t dead. There wouldn’t be many who’d stood in the shield wall on Lostring Hill who could say that.

The grass was up to their knees and filled with spring flowers and the air was alive with a heady scent. ‘Should be good enough,’ Valaric muttered. ‘We rest here for a bit then.’ He threw a snarl at Gallow. ‘This is the end of us now, forkbeard. After here it’s each to his own way, and you’re not welcome any more.’

‘Will you go to Fedderhun, Valaric?’

Valaric snorted. ‘There’s no walls. What’s the point? Fedderhun’s a fishing town. The Vathen will either burn it or they won’t and nothing you or I can do will change that. If your Lhosir prince wants a fight with the Vathen, I’ll be seeing to it that it’s not me and mine whose lives get crushed between you. I’ll be with my family.’

There wasn’t much to say to that. Old wounds were best left be. Gallow’s own children weren’t so many miles away either. And Arda; and they’d be safe if the Vathen went on to Fedderhun. He touched a hand to his chest and to the locket that hung on a chain around his neck, warm against his skin, buried beneath leather and mail. He could have been with them now, not here in a wood and stinking of sweat and blood. ‘I’m one of you now,’ he said, as much to himself as to Valaric.

Valaric snorted. ‘You’re never that, forkbeard.’

Gallow set down his spear and his shield and took off his helm, letting the air dry the sweat from his skin. ‘It’s still your land, Valaric.’

But Valaric shook his head. ‘Not any more.’

The Crimson Shield (First Published 7th July 2013)

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Honour has not to be won, it must only not be lost

Years ago, Gallow turned his back on his own people and settled among strangers in a quiet corner of the world, hoping to be forgotten. With the coming of a new invader, he is inexorably forced to choose – where do his loyalties lie.