Interview with Chris Rosser

Cadoc’s Contract
The Lords of Skeinhold
By Chris Rosser


A warrior returns home from a holy war, burdened by a blood debt to the gods. With the world he left behind in tatters, he must reconcile his role in his family’s undoing.

A warrior returns home from a holy war, burdened by a blood debt to the gods. With the world he left behind in tatters, he must reconcile his role in his family’s undoing.

Cadoc wanted more than the life of a simple farmer. So, when Artur, Duke of Kas Mendoc raised his banner, Cadoc answered the call, marching south to enlist in a great crusade against the Oskoi. He travels to a distant land and carves his name in the bodies of the dead.

Yet Cadoc has a secret, a contract made with the gods to give him the strength he needs to survive this bloody war. One hundred souls — a debt of blood to a hungry god. But disaster strikes and Cadoc flees for his life. Can he face the men he left behind and account for those he killed? Has he paid his debt, or was his soul part of the price?

Just released, Cadoc’s Contract is the second novella by Chris Rosser set in the Skeinhold series, and another masterful tale by a burgeoning new voice in the Aussie spec-fic scene.

I met Chris online via a mutual friend who told me he had another friend who also wrote fantasy. That friend was Chris. So I checked out the first novella Chris has released (The Weavers Boy) and followed him on twitter. Chris is quite sociable and likes to get to know the people who follow him, so he started chatting, and I chatted back, and the rest is history.

I thought I’d ask Chris if he’d like to do an interview, answering ten (terrifying!) questions, in support of the release of Cadoc’s Contract. He said yes!

So, sit back, relax, grab a coffee, a tea, a water – or even something stronger-, and say hello to Chris Rosser.

To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I’m originally from the Wales in the United Kingdom. I migrated to Australia in the mid-80s with my family. After a brief stop in Melbourne’s western suburbs I moved out to Bacchus Marsh, where I finished the rest of my primary and secondary schooling. Bacchus Marsh oddly enough produced another great Australian writer — Peter Carey. After finishing school, I stud-ied History and Archaeology at Melbourne University, then I went on to compete a Masters of Arts in Editing and Communication.

What started you writing, and is it the same thing that still inspires you today?

I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but I first started taking it seriously (at least as a hobby) when I was 15 or 16. Back then I did it for the sheer fun of it. Then when I started sharing them, people said I wasn’t half bad and that I should consider publishing. Like most youngsters, I dreamed of fame and riches and got frustrated when realities set in. So, I became a professional technical writer instead, and the professions been very good to me. Now I’ve happily come full-circle, and I’m back to writing fiction for pleasure and I’m much happier for it.

How many novels/stories did you write before you published?

Far out, I’ve probably written about 15 books in various stages of completion before I published my first in 2018. A couple of them will be resurrected, but they belong to different genres, so I’ve not yet decided how and when I’ll tart those up for publication. Right now I’m focusing on finishing my current fantasy series.

What has your publishing journey been like?

It’s been a long and staggered process if I’m honest. I first tried going the traditional route in 2005-ish and actually managed to find an agent here in Australia that agreed to take me on. Unfortunately for reasons I still don’t understand, she dropped me with nothing more than an irrelevant rant via email. Being young and inexperienced, it was quite a blow to my confidence and I didn’t have the self-belief to try again. I would have dealt with an outright rejection, but to be accepted then dropped… that was rough.

Anyway, not long after, I landed my first professional writing job, then I moved to the UK with my wife to work and travel throughout Europe, and I didn’t write much fiction beyond the occasional tilt at Nanowrimo. Then, as we were coming back to Australia via North America in 2010 the Kindle revolution was gathering momentum, I bought a Barnes&Noble Nook in New York and I began to consider self-publishing. We started a family not long after we got back to Melbourne though, but the idea wouldn’t go away. I slowly started to get back into writing, picking up Nanowrimo and blogging again in 2014. I guess I just fell back in love with writing fiction.

When I published The Weaver’s Boy, it was almost by accident. I mostly wrote it as a means of getting back into my characters and my fantasy setting. But I was invited by someone on Twitter to submit a story to their online magazine. I took a punt with an extract of The Weaver’s Boy, and was accepted. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, and I thought bugger it, I’ll publish the complete story and see what comes!

Please tell us about your novel, Cadoc’s Contract.

You can blame the muse for this one. After I published The Weaver’s Boy last year, I had the sudden inspiration to write the story of how Cadoc became the Lord of Skeinhold. When we meet him, he’s journeying by sea back from a disastrous crusade in which he fought as a mercenary. Like many veterans, he’s tormented by what he did and what he saw. He’s also hiding a dark secret, one that’s going to land him and his family in a lot of hurt.

So, it’s become a prelude to my series, set about 6 years before The Weaver’s Boy. It wasn’t an easy draft to write, but I managed to wrangle it back into shape and I think it turned out to be a terrific story, one that helps to set the tone of the series, along with serving as a decent introduction to my word.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Geez where to start! Time is probably my biggest issue these days, thanks to juggling a family and a full-time job. Good writing takes a lot of revision, and an obsession with craft — doubly so when you’re an indie author and can’t just boot it off to your editor for umpteen revisions.

One thing I do battle with is the conventions of the genre. Fantasy and fantasy readers have particular expectations, but for me character and story comes first and I challenge every trope I find. That can lead to moments self-doubt and I wonder if I’m scuttling my chances of being read!

Beyond the writing itself, and the biggest drag is publishing and marketing. It’s doubly hard when you’re outside the United States and certain companies either cripple their services for non-US residents or block us outright from accessing them. For an example, I’m about to start narrating my own audiobooks but the biggest distributor ACX (Audible), won’t allow me to do so from Australia.

What is your work schedule like when you’re in writer’s mode?

See above! A lot of my writing time is fuelled by midnight oil, after my kids have gone to sleep. Sometimes I can schedule in a Sunday afternoon, or snatch some time during my commute to and from work. When Nanowrimo comes round, I usually take some annual leave where I can, though I think I’ve outgrown Nano, and won’t be doing it this year.

Do you use an outline when you write, or are you more of a discovery writer?

Ah, the eternal question: to plot or pants! I’ve tried both. Purely pantsing just doesn’t work for me — I tried with Cadoc’s Contract and the original Weaver of Dreams and it took about much longer than it should have. By the same token, I don’t like outlining so much that it spoils the discovery and takes all the fun out of writing. So, these days I get my characters right in my head, and I have a vague outline to plot the story’s direction. That gives my analytical mind the road map it needs, but there’s enough undiscovered territory to intrigue the muse.

How do you balance what you’re reading against what you’re writing?

The honest answer is I don’t. I have so little time as it is, reading is just one of those things that gets pushed to the backburner, particularly when I’m drafting. When I read these days it’s less for pleasure and mostly to review books for my website and newsletter, or to beta-read the works of other authors.

Today, when I consume a book for pleasure, I’m much more likely to listen to an audiobook, and then it’s typically a genre that I don’t write. After 6 years of academic study and 15 years as a professional writer and editor, I find it very hard to switch off my inner critic. When I listen to an audiobook however, I don’t have that problem.

What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Practice, practice, practice…and be realistic. Writing is a difficult craft, and I’d challenge the belief that it comes naturally to anyone. If you look at your first draft and say to yourself, ‘hey this is awesome,’ you are delusional and you lack the self-criticism you need to improve your craft. Leave it for a month and when you revisit your manuscript, you’ll understand.

I’d also encourage new writers not to compare themselves to their favourite author. When you marvel at the skill of your favourite book, you’re seeing a finished product that’s undergone a huge (often collaborative) effort to produce and refine. When I was a masters student, a lecturer noted that one of Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novels had more than 12 thousand editorial corrections. Step out of the shadows, find your voice and believe in your self.

Chris Rosser, thank you!

Short Stories

The other day I was approached by Chris Rosser, amazing author of ‘The Weaver’s Boy’, Book One in the Lords of Skeinhold, about the possibility of contributing a short story to an anthology project* he was considering.

*N.B. This is all hypothetical with a very specific theme, don’t go bombarding Chris with your short stories!

Now, why would he approach me, an unpublished writer, you might wonder? Well, he is currently beta-reading my WIP, so hopefully that means he thinks my work is good enough that a short story of mine would be enjoyable reading. It is a huge compliment, but alas, I have been focusing exclusively on novel writing – and having been ‘working on’ ‘The Blood of the Spear’ for ten-ish years (and world building t for even longer), I’ve never written a short story in my life.

I haven’t even read many. My reading habits, again, tend to focus on novels – big epic tomes at that – because I like to sink into a story, a world, and really get to know characters and I just somehow assumed that short stories couldn’t get me there. That being sad I have read shorts by GRRM set in Westeros, and shorts by Janny Wurts set in the wider universe of Paravia.

However, more recently I have been branching out reading, being (forced) by both Chris Rosser and Deck Matthews, to read their novellas and short stories. As I said, I haven’t read many previous, and I have never looked into the art of writing a short story or novella.

Now, I have some discarded prologues from ‘The Blood of the Spear‘ that I have put into a folder called ‘Shorts’, with the idea that I might revisit these and expand them some. Or at the very least, turn them into character sketches that might get released one day. But I really don’t have anything ready now, or that I could even work on at the moment as I continue to think about BotS and the greater series.

But Chris’ question got me thinking. What could I write a short story about? Or even a novella? The answer came to me fairly quickly as the muse would have it. I have two characters in BotS who turn up approximately halfway into the story. They are important characters, and as they join my main cohort their back story is left as rather mysterious. Not in the ‘what’s the secret’ kind of way, but more along the lines of ‘there is a story here’. Yesterday they, the characters, gave me the bare bones of that story and I have started a new document in the ‘Shorts’ folder with the notes on how they met and why they travel together.

Now, all I have to do is look into the art of short stories (and given I take after GRRM with the whole ‘ten thousand words is me clearing my throat’ thing, it will likely be a novella) flesh out the bare bones into an actual plot and get some writing done.

It always reassures me when the idea for a new story comes to me. Often time writing BotS I will become so immersed that I wonder what is next and panic, thinking I have no other story in my mind. But then I remember my ‘Shorts’ folder, and my ‘Future Projects’ folder, and my head is again filled with ideas. It’s exciting!

The First of Shadows

The First of Shadows
The Riven Realm Book One
By Deck Matthews


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How do you kill a shadow?

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.

Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm.

~

142 pages
Published by echo Enduring Media
Published on January 22, 2019
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I purchased this book.

______________________________

For anyone new to the blog and my reviews, you would be forgiven for thinking this was Deck Matthews fan page. It’s not, although I am indeed a fan.

About three weeks ago I came across Matthews via his varkaschronicles account on IG. He is by trade a designer and it shows in his posts which are quite eye catching, not to mention somewhat surreal because if I go off his posts alone, he’s reading, or has read, every book in my own library. That’s what first caught my attention. Then I saw an image of his map for the world – or continent – of Varkas (love me a good map!) So, I went to his website. He had a sample of this novella up and I liked it enough that I promptly pre-ordered it, and bought the two short stories he’d already released. I loved them both (and I am not a huge short story fan) hence the flood of ‘omg, I love Deck Matthews’ on this site recently. It’s true though. I do.

This novella marks the beginning of Matthews ‘Riven Realm’ series (I am unsure at this point how many books are planned, I hope it’s a few because I don’t want to stop reading) and gives us more depth to world of Varkas that he had started to reveal in his short stories. In ‘The First of Shadows’ we meet some great characters that I am very keen to get to know more about. We have the mysterious drifter whose opening scene so captivated me, the crippled Caleb Rusk – my favourite, I can’t wait to see how he grows! – the corporal Avendor, the sage Tiberius, the half-fey woman, Palawen and the Tanner, a veteran of the most recent Frost War.

I quickly came to love all these characters and Matthews has a great sense of pacing. He builds a chapter up, and then cuts you off to start a new one! He’s definitely got that whole ‘just one more chapter’ thing down pat. In fact, if I had started reading this at night, rather than at 11am in the morning, I think I would have been very late to bed!

And teasers. He’s great at teasing you with an idea, with some information that hints but doesn’t fully explain – yet – so you keep going, not just to find the answer but cause it’s a great story.

Matthews is all about the tension. And this only a freaking novella!

But we also have to talk about his endings. I think Matthews does endings very well. I loved the ending of ‘The Melding Thief’, and the ending of ‘The First of Shadows’ – o.m.g GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK NOW! It is again one of those tantalising snippets that sets up the next book and has you hanging out for more.

If this is what his novellas are like, I cannot wait for him to start writing a Jordan-esque sized Varkas series (or at least ‘full-sized’), because this, THIS, is the type of epic fantasy and writing I live for. A world that is entirely its own. Varkas is a completely different world to earth and while aesthetically you can assign some imagery to a medieval Europe, the culture is clearly different. Honestly, think The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Stormlight Archives, even The Forgotten Realms in scope. All the (to me) great fantasy authors do what Matthews has begun to do here.

If you are a fan of Jordan, Sanderson, Brett, Weeks or Martin, then take my advice and get in on the ground floor of Deck Matthews career. I am sure it’s going to be a great ride!