Abercrombie gave a peek at the cover art for the upcoming (Winter 2009) paperback UK release (phew!) of The Blade Itself.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie’s thoughts:

Art is by Chris McGrath who does a lot of Urban Fantasy covers but less epic-style stuff, and I reckon he’s done a bang up job. Gritty, impactful, and says epic fantasy without the slightest whiff of cheesiness (which is not an easy trick to pull off). Not at all a bad representation of Master Ninefingers either. Never an easy thing for an author to see his/her characters made manifest like that. Glokta (Before They are Hanged) and Jezal (Last Argument of Kings) will be following over the next few months, at which point there’ll probably be some tweaking to give it more of a unified series feel…

Most notably, this is the first semi-official look we’ve had at any of the characters from Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Logen’s pretty straight forward (but looks a bit younger and less ugly than what I pictured), so what I’m really curious to see is how they portray Sand dan Glokta, the tortured, erm… torturer from the series.

Chris McGrath is probably best known for his work on the Dresden Files books, which I was recently raving about. It’s just too bad about the gradient used on Abercrombie’s name.

As Abercrombie says, kudos to the art team at Gollancz for putting together a character based cover that doesn’t suck (Orbit should take note…). In fact, it’s actually pretty great.

Scott Lynch may have disappeared from the Internet, but he certainly hasn’t been wasting his time. Though The Republic of Theives still has yet to surface (Lynch has given a tentative 2010 date for its release), Lynch is offering something to keep fans of his Gentleman’s Bastard Sequence to chew on while they wait. What is it? A weekly-released, pulpy serialized-novel about World War II and Martians.

Queen of the Iron Sands by Scott Lynch

Synopsis:

At the height of the Second World War, Violet DeVere was a WASP– a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, trusted with ferrying the most advanced warplanes in the United States arsenal. Five years after the war, she’s barely making ends meet as a crop duster and part-time science fiction writer.

Kidnapped across a hundred million miles of space, Violet suddenly finds herself a prisoner in an impossible empire, an inhabited Mars shielded from earthling eyes by a scientific illusion called the Veil. Mars and its people are ground beneath the heel of the ruthless All-Sovereign, whose legions rule the skies. All resistance to his absolute despotism has been driven to the deadly red sands beyond civilization.

Outgunned and outnumbered, Violet DeVere and her few brave Martian allies make a desperate stand against the All-Sovereign… against an ageless tyrant with the power to destroy every living thing in the solar system.

Just a bit of a departure from his other work. Lynch has a lot to say about the project HERE, and I’ve pulled out some of the interesting bits:

In early 2008, I had a vivid dream about a book I had written. It was a pulp adventure of some sort, with swashbuckling and planet-hopping and flashing ray guns, and the cover art was killer. Lurid black-and-red, full of energy, downright beautiful… I held that physical book in my arms and gazed down at it with total contentment.

And then I started to wake up… and the book in my arms lost all of its weight, and the colors faded from the cover, and one bitter moment later I was sitting up in bed, holding empty air and swearing at the top of my lungs.

[…]

So I started that book, fumbling along on the few scraps of memory I still had. I wrote about six chapters before life and other business intervened, and then I put the story away and barely thought about it for a year.

[…]

Until recently, I was offline for a very long time. Longer than I’d meant to be, for personal reasons.

Now my cup runneth over with things to do, responsibilities I’ve stacked up, from revising and turning in certain manuscripts to rebuilding this website. And let’s talk about my responsibility to you, my readers… you’ve gone for some time without seeing anything new from me. Not for lack of writing, but for lack of showing.

[…]

I’m going to start posting that dream-book I wrote, chapter by chapter, in weekly installments as a free online serial novel. And I’m going to finish the sucker in the grandest style I can.

[…]

First, those of you doing a potty dance for a certain forthcoming novel should know this won’t slow down my work on that, because I can’t let it. I’ve taken a couple of hours to set the HTML for this project up, but after this, I won’t be writing for Queen of the Iron Sands for some time. I’ve got five finished installments lined up like bullets ready to be fired, and even with the accelerated pace of my first-week releases those will keep me for a month.

Second, this story is free. It’s got nothing to do with any existing contract, it’s no publicity stunt for any upcoming project (though it is, for damn sure, a publicity stunt for my work in general, meant to end my long silence in the loudest possible fashion). I have a donation button, for those that wish to throw some coins in the jar, but think of it in those terms– pay what you like, as a tip, to show that you enjoy the story, and to help me keep presenting it. If you don’t like the story, you don’t owe me nothin’.

Third, there will be no weenie updates. There will be no itty-bitty appetizer chapters to follow the main course chapters, no feeble little half-chapters, no 400-word placeholders in between the big chunks. Chapter 1, “My Father Brought the Sky Home,” is about as small as they come. Some of the chapters waiting to be uploaded are much longer; none are shorter.

Fourth, new installments will be released weekly, probably on Fridays. I myself live in the Central time zone of the United States, but the number of readers I have around the world and the heavy presence of the UK contingent, in the GMT zone, leaves me scratching my head about the best time of day to actually post each new chapter. So let’s try this as an experiment… for starters, I’ll try to get them up in the wee hours of each Friday morning my time, which should be just before noon for those of you in the GMT zone.

As I expect many of Lynch’s fans are, I’m a little skeptical in the setting/plot/tone of the story, but my faith in Lynch’s characterization, dialogue and witticisms are more than enough to get me over any reservations. And hey, if it gives me a good way to kill an hour at work every Friday, I can’t really complain, right?

The more interesting thing to me, however, is hearing Lynch talk about falling off the face of the Earth for a long period of time. It’s good to have him back on the ‘net (he’s a funny guy, naturally) and it’s good to hear that his absence wasn’t a sign of stalled work on his fiction. As with all projects of this sort, tt’ll be interesting to see how he manages to keep up with production once his built up buffer of work (five installments) runs dry. In any case, hopefully this is a sign that Republic of Thieves has moved onto an editing stage, freeing up a bit of Lynch’s writing time. Time will tell, though.

You can download the currently released chapters HERE.

Lou Anders, editorial director of Prometheus Books' science fiction imprint PyrMore news is pouring in for the ‘Conquering Swords’ anthology that I reported on yesterday. For one thing, I erroneously assumed that Pyr Books was the publisher (based on Lou Anders involvement), but it will in fact be published by Harper EOS. Anders posted a comment on the Fantasy Book News & Reviews post about the anthology:

And Michael Moorcock writing a new Elric story.

Title is now Swords & Dark Magic. Thanks for the interest. It won’t disapppoint, I promise!

Anders also shed some news in the comments section on my previous post:

And you can add Gene Wolfe to the list of contributors too. Plus a whole lot more.

On top of this, Joe Abercrombie inferred that he’s going to have a story included in the anthology as well.

So that brings the confirmed list of authors to: Joe Abercrombie, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, Scott Lynch, James Enge and C.J. Cherryh.

Looks like Harper EOS is hitting for the fences with this anthology, and it’s certainly getting people excited. I know I’ll certainly be getting my hands on it as soon as I can!

The Infernal City by Greg Keyes

Four decades after the Oblivion Crisis, Tamriel is threatened anew by an ancient and all-consuming evil. It is Umbriel, a floating city that casts a terrifying shadow–for wherever it falls, people die and rise again.

And it is in Umbriel’s shadow that a great adventure begins, and a group of unlikely heroes meet. A legendary prince with a secret. A spy on the trail of a vast conspiracy. A mage obsessed with his desire for revenge. And Annaig, a young girl in whose hands the fate of Tamriel may rest….

I’m still a little bummed that Greg Keyes, author of The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone is writing tie-in fiction… but I suppose you gotta pay the bills somehow. Still, if any author can get me to give tie-in fiction a second look, it’s Keyes.

As for the cover, the most interesting aspect to me is that they’re downplaying the Elder Scrolls connection. There’s no big logo, there’s nothing indicating that it’s related to a videogame, there’s no cheesy Computer Generated chick is leather. In fact, it all looks kinda boring. The artwork is nice, but the overall low contrast and the font work isn’t very memorable. Maybe it’ll look better in person.

Best Served Cold by Joe AbercrombieJoe Abercrombie, author of Best Served Cold has news on his next novel, The Heroes:

Both because the action centres around a ring of standing stones called the Heroes, and because it’s about heroism and that (meant semi-ironically, of course). It mostly takes place over the course of three days, and is the story of a single battle for control of the North. Think Lord of the Rings meets A Bridge Too Far, with a sprinkling of Band of Brothers and Generation Kill. It’s about war, you get me? Principally it follows the (mis)adventures of six assorted persons on both sides and different levels of command, whose paths intersect during the course of the battle in various fateful, horrible, wonderful, surprisingly violent, surprisingly unviolent, and hilarious ways. With the Northmen: a veteran losing his nerve who just wants to keep his crew alive, an ex-Prince determined to claw his way back to power by any means necessary, a young lad determined to win a place in the songs for himself. With the Union: A depressive swordsman who used to be the king’s bodyguard, a profiteering standard-bearer, and the venomously ambitious daughter of the Marshal in command. But of course a fair few familiar faces show up on both sides…

I’m just finishing up the first draft of the second part of five, so two fifths of the way through, about 85,000 words in. Which means the whole thing is looking like about 220,000 words – similar length to Best Served Cold and Last Argument of Kings. Really want to write some shorter books one of these days. REALLY want to. Provided I keep writing relatively smoothly (which is by no means a certainty given that we’ve got a massive building project starting over the next few months), the whole first draft will hopefully be done spring next year. A fair bit of editing will no doubt be required, though, meaning that an October publication is just too tight. For small fry like me November through January is pretty much the zone of death, which means February 2011 is probably the soonest you guys can expect to see it lighting up the shelves, alas.

That’ll mean 20 months between books, which is a fair bit more than I’d like in general but, hey, maybe I’ll be able to get a head start on the next thing (yeah, right). It also means no book from me in 2010, though I’ll have a short story out in an anthology. So, the headlines:

The Heroes. It’s about War. February 2011 (hopefully).

So damn excited. If there’s anything Joe can do, it’s draft interesting characters, in dire situations and really make them shine. February 2011 can’t come soon enough.