New Year’s Eve, and you know what that means? Happy birthday to me. Yes, indeed, I am 41 years old today and this is my 7th yearly review post. Time marches only one way, my friends…
I’ve been hugely blog-lazy this year. There are still many authors blogging very effectively, but it’s not quite the standard tool of authorial public relations that it was at one time. A lot of my day to day activity has now moved to twitter, I’ve gone over the various stages of the publishing process in the past and have little to add, and I’m less inclined to vomit my opinions at length onto the internet, having done so enough in the past and been surprised and outraged not to see the world change too much as a result. I still follow the various controversies that spring up but when it comes to contributing, I dunno, it seems like there are better things to do with my time. I’ll certainly keep the blogging going for significant announcements and the occasional review, but it’ll probably only bubble away for the foreseeable future. We’ll see…
A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – The First Law and its sequels roll inexorably on, it would appear, and I’m told the 6 books have now sold over 3 million copies in all languages and formats, though hard data is always surprisingly hard to come by. Meanwhile I released not 1 but 2 books in a year for the first (and probably last) time, and both Half the World and Half a War made the top 5 on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. I did a load of travelling, touring and events, including visits to Australia, America, Russia, Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy, and a week’s touring in the UK. Some was great, some probably less worthwhile, and I’ll definitely be scaling the events back next year in a bid to get more work done. I actually won some awards this year, would you believe – A Locus award for Best YA Novel for Half a King, and another for best Novelette for Tough Times All Over, as well as the Schwabischer Lindwyrm for, well, showing up, I guess. That one comes with a very comely 5 kg bronze statuette, though it did trigger a security alert at Stuttgart Airport.
A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – What with the releases and the touring it’s been a slightly strange, piecemeal year on the writing front. Jan and Feb were spent finishing off Half a War, which needed a lot of editing (much of it done on the road in Australia). Then I had a lot of trips and travelling around the two book releases, in between which I was writing the last four or five stories to complete my collection Sharp Ends. Then, over the last few months, I’ve been working up ideas for a new trilogy in the world of the First Law, and starting to experiment with the first few chapters, which is showing some promise in between my traditional and entirely predictable slumps into pessimistic despondency. It’s a strange thing – no matter how many books you write you never really feel fully equipped for the one you’re writing.
TV and FILM – Once again I’ve watched a metric shed-load of TV, most of it good to some degree. I think this year has been notable for my personal method of consumption shifting from part DVD to almost exclusively streaming via Netflix and Amazon Prime, with quite a lot of what I’ve watched being Netflix or Amazon originals. The landscape shifts, indeed it does. An eclectic set of personal favourites have included The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels, Black Sails, Vikings, Sense8, Peaky Blinders, Attack on Titan, The Bridge (original obvs), The Good Wife, Suits, Fargo, Narcos, Gomorrah, Gotham.
What with the kids and everything the cinema doesn’t happen too often. I felt The Force Awakens walked a very fine line between all kinds of conflicting demands to deliver a hugely entertaining film that actually felt like Star Wars again even if, at times, it perhaps felt a little too much like Star Wars. But my film of the year had to be the gobsmacking Mad Max: Fury Road, a tour de force of action and design which somehow managed to be edge-of-the-seat involving without really having a plot, performances or even a script. Very much looking forward to the Hateful Eight and the Revenant in the new year, though. I’ve always loved me a good western…
GAMES – Blog laziness has meant that I’ve failed to review much of what I’ve played, but it’s been a decent year, particularly strong in the open-world roleplaying department. I actually thought the game version of Mad Max, though a little repetitive and Assassin’s Creed-y, was a nice effort with some great visuals and atmosphere . Also Assassin’s Creed-y was Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the first Assassin’s Creed I’ve played since the rather horrible Assassin’s Creed 3. They really do make too many of these, but Syndicate was a big improvement – a nice imagining of Victorian London and a choice of more interesting central characters (including, gasp, a woman) giving it a bit more zip, even if the framing story still seems more of a lame-ing story and the use of historical characters like crime-fighting Darwin and investigative reporting Dickens rather set the teeth on edge. There was plenty to like about Metal Gear Solid V, the latest from famous maverick video game auteur Hideo Kojima – with some awesome visuals by ace Hideo Kojima, genuinely rewarding and varied tactical espionage action worked out by genius Hideo Kojima, and several of expert Hideo Kojima’s best ultra-dramatic set piece dramatic sequences that you don’t play but just watch, mostly. Unfortunately Kojima’s incomprehensible plotting, Kojima’s intensely tiresome adolescent focus on sweaty boobs, and Kojima’s endless trumpeting of his own name dampened my enthusiasm considerably. My third best of the year has got to be Bloodborne, which successfully took the ultra-challenging Dark Souls formula into cosmic horror territory with some tweaks that improved playability and atmosphere without losing the ultra-difficulty and sense of crushing darkness we all so enjoy. My second best would be Fallout 4, a cynical post-apocalyptic setting I’ve always loved and Bethesda’s most detailed world yet. Bags of content and hugely enjoyable in the early and middle games, it was somewhat let down by a lacklustre and limited central plot and an endgame that rather artlessly revealed its own total lack of choices. Which leaves, as you may well already have guessed, drum roll please, The Witcher 3 as my game of the year. I didn’t even review it at the time I was so busy with other stuff, and I played it too long ago to have a huge amount to say now, but I think it may be the best effort I’ve ever seen at combining open world and free will for the player with convincing characters and central narrative. I found the actual gameplay a little limited, after a while it became way too easy, but those criticisms aside it was flipping brilliant. A truly vast world but packed with detail, and with the kind of meaningful coherence you rarely see in a video game (maybe as a result of it being a literary world adapted, rather than a world devised purely for a game). It also featured some amazing, expressive character designs and some clever plotting with real moments of high drama. You also have to admire the developer’s cottage industry ethos and fan-friendly attitude. Two thumbs up.
WHISKY – Been a bit of a year for blends, with Taketsuru 12, Hibiki 12 and 17, and Ballantine’s 21 all scratching that smooth, light, easy-drinking itch while still retaining plenty of character. Ardbeg always works for me though this year’s Perpetuum wasn’t a patch on previous special releases like Supernova or Ardbog. Bruichladdich Black Art also hit the spot in a big way for a big, complicated, relatively lightly peated Islay.
THE YEAR AHEAD – 2016 looks like a different sort of year again, with much preparation, exploration and experimentation. Sharp Ends was finished a while back and is due out in the US and UK at the end of April. Probably there’ll be a few UK events for that, and it looks like I’ll be returning to my familiar haunt of Aviles for Celsius Festival in July, but otherwise I’m trying to keep the overseas events to a minimum so I can concentrate on getting my new trilogy up and running. I’ve already got some relatively solid ideas together for that, and have written an experimental first few chapters to try the characters on for size. Rather than planning exhaustively right away I’m aiming at an approach more similar to what I did with the First Law – work up some ideas, experiment with some scenes, revise and refine the character’s voices, work up some more ideas, refine some more, live with it and see how I feel. In an ideal world I’d like to roughly draft all three books before fine-tuning, revising and editing each for publication, as I think that’ll give me the best chance at the most complete and coherent trilogy, as well as a controlled and timely publication schedule, but I expect that’ll depend on how fast I can get this first book written, and it may be that other mysterious projects which have long been bubbling away in the background will boil over and require a certain amount of attention. Either way, there’s going to be a fair gap between Sharp Ends and my next book, but hopefully that’ll be offset by faster publication later. I shall keep you informed…
Happy new year, readers!
32 comments so far
Happy Birthday Joe!
I would also strongly recommend Jennifer Jones on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s probably the best new series I’ve seen this year and David Tennent is immense in it.
Have a fantastic, and productive, New Year 🙂
Happy birthday, Joe, and best wishes for you and yours in the new year.
Thank you for the books in 2015 – in a world where piracy is rife and books can be obtained illegally for free I will continue to send my hard earned coin to you for the joy you give me in reading your books . May all our contributions and payments to you keep you in the finest whisky and content in your environment so that you can keep spinning us your tales – Thank you Joe and Happy New Year to you
happy birthday and all the best for you and your Family for 2016!
I guess 41 can still be considered quite Young for an international bestselling author.
Beside that only women get older – men just become wiser.
Many happy returns.Good health to you and your family!
That leaves us with another 50 (more or less!) years of your writings to look forward to.Cheers!
Yeah, saw Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Arrow this year, and liked em all to a degree, but I think Gotham was my favourite of this year’s superhero fare. Jessica Jones and Daredevil had a lot in common, both aiming at a grittier superhero vibe and both heroes rather overshadowed by their respective villains. Tennent was great, as was D’Onofrio. Both shows got a lot of potential, I think, be interesting to see where they go.
First – i cant wait for the next First Law trilogy 🙂
But my question is – did you read Witcher books? And if not do you plan to ( they are even better than games)?
Thanks in advance
You must watch Sicario. The best (specially in visuals and maturity of the script) movie in last ~3 years.
Happy Birthday/New Year Joe,
I like the reviews and I have to say that I do prefer blogs over twitter, although I agree that technology is tipping towards twitter.
Looking forward to Sharp Ends and if you come the Yorkshire way I will be sure to come along for the signing.
Although I loved the Shattered Sea trilogy, I am a First Law man through and through so relly looking forward to the upcoming work you will be doing.
Keep up the great work
Where to start for the uninitiated Oregonian when it comes to whisky? I drink a lot of very good beer but have little experience with quality whisky. Any recommends?
Happy Birthday and happy New Year, Joe
Happy B-Day Joe!!!!!! And a very happy new year!!!….uhmm…what does it mean “a fair gap”??? ahahah
Happy Birthday Joe! Love your stuff and am awaiting Sharp Ends. Take care
Thanks for the review Joe, great stuff as usual!
May i recommand a little gem i found during steam sale: Mordheim. Its a turn based but man its fun, punishing and addictive. You’ll like the dark fantasy universe, the characters could have been in your books. The chaos grunt looks alot like our beloved pratical Frost. Have fun, but beware its really hard to manage a successful warband in Mordheim!
Great round up, congratulations with your book sales, well deserved. I totally agree with your Witcher 3 review; the “Family Matters” quest (bloody Baron) was sheer genius and among the best gaming moments I’ve ever had. I’m really excited to hear you’re working on more First Law material. I have to admit the Steven Pacey narrated audio books kept me enthralled on many a long business trip.
Keep doing what you’re doing, your work makes many a long drive or lazy Sunday an absolute Joy – so much so I even look forward to getting in the car! One for you to mull over, but I’d love to see what you could do with a historical setting, and take on Bernard Cornwall, Ben Kane and Douglas Jackon etc. Your gritty, black comedic style would bring some needed originality, and would no doubt be a commercial success due to the popularity of the genre.
Anyway, I’m off to drink lots of champagne and party like its 2015, happy new year!
First, Happy Birthday!
Second, excellent work this year! It is a rare and memorable event when I get to introduce my husband to a book I enjoy that he would also like. This happened for the second time ever with the First Book of Law series back when they first came out. The very first time this occurred was with Barry Hughart’s series, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox – Bridge of Birds, Story of the Stone, Eight Skilled Gentlemen.
Since hubby drives 10 or so hours a week, he has begun picking up your books on Audible. I, however, continue to buy the hardbacks because they can last through whatever meal I’m in the middle of cooking or eating, just needing the pages mopped off 🙂 I can always tell what book I loved best because of the stains on the pages. (Red Country is wrecked and the First Law books are well marked.)
I enjoy how you let us hear the inner voices of certain characters. My own writing has always had inner dialog, especially about the doubt and fears of even the most seemingly competent characters. The most hardened individual is brought into better focus, if, as readers, we can crack through that exterior to see the real person underneath. Every character is a person, not an imaginary and unreachable superhero and even the best intentions don’t always end up good. The grayness you give us is inspiring, I have always disliked pure good or evil characters, they are flat and boring. I want a book, that with all of my flaws, I could be comfortable living/playing in and you generously provide that space.
Am halfway through Half The World, reading a chapter here or there…yes, while cooking or during meals, but so far only one corner has soy sauce and one other page has a coffee spill. I’m certain it’ll get doused by a bowl of pho soon enough.
Thank you for sharing the worlds that reside in your mind!
Happy birthday and New Year! I always look forwards to this post.
I read Brian McLellan’s blog post on how author contracts work, with advances and earning out. (http://www.brianmcclellan.com/blog/how-an-author-gets-paid-the-big-picture)
If it’s not something you’d rather not disclose, which books of yours have ‘earned out’ in the UK so far? Also, do you know what proportion of the 3 million First Law sales were not in English?
Completely agree on Witcher 3. I’m a huge fan of the Dragon Age series and I loved Inquisition, but the open world and story felt like separate entities–you couldn’t have both at the same time. Witcher just did such a good job of merging the two aspects together though and I feel that made it the better game.
Happy Birthday, Joe!
I hope to read your Sharp Ends (in Russian?)next year and the first part of new trilogy in a year after that. And I want to ask – have you not only played but read The Witcher? Sapkowski is very popular in Russia. Wish you a fruitful year!
Happy New Birthday, Joe!
A new First Law trilogy? Dribble, dribble, dribble…
Mysterious projects eh?
I really really hope it’s what we are all hoping…
BTW, after nearly rowing with my Bro over catan, I read your twitter comment and we are all happy families. Happy nee year to you, Your family and your legion of readers
Good to see someone enjoying The Good Wife, a soft title for a very very well written series, even after 6 years.
What is on the gaming calendar for this year? Honestly not sure how you pack it all in.
I keep trying to convince myself to buy X-Com from 2013, but my can’t convince myself that I would be able to find the time.
Neither the less, Warhammer Total War and Bards Tale 4 this year …. Ho Hum.
Igor, unfortunately only three of Sapkowski’s books have been translated to English so far. It might be better to wait a few years until the full set is out.
I like your list of tv series, you have good taste.
We have to watch something now that the truly great shows like Sopranos, the Wire and Mad Men are done. There’s still Game of Thrones, and Fargo is excellent. I will check out Gomorrah from your list, wasn’t really familiar with it.
BTW, I have seen The Hateful 8 and it is fantastic, definitely a top tier Tarantino film as far as I’m concerned.
I wish you a superb writing year because I am very curious about your new First Law trilogy!
Happy birthday! 🙂
If you’ve not watched Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” yet, you might want to read Andy Weir’s fantastic original novel first. Somehow he managed to write a hard SF book that is concise, has the pace of a thriller and is filled with humour. Just in case you have room on your reading list for recommendations. 🙂
The term “Million” as a quantity gets bandied about quite a lot, but people forget just how mind bogglingly big it is.
If you were employed to count to 3 million, and did so 7.5 hours a day, working a standard 5 day week, you’d be counting for more than 22 weeks. That’s pretty much 5 months.
If you were to stack 3 million books (and assuming each book is approximately inch thick), the stack would be over 47 miles high, or over 47 miles long, if you were to – more realistically – stack them horizontally.
3 million is an immense number. Well done Joe!
Why does it sound like you are speaking directly to me through your tweets?
So I’ve been reading and listening to your audiobooks obsessively for the last two years and though I love your work I feel a bit slighted as when I attempt to free-write it sounds like… well you?!
Not hundred percent like you, but extraordinarily similar. Thanks a lot, pal! lol And there is no Better Call Saul on your recommended TV series list!?
Thanks Joe, appreciate the blog. Love all your work! Hopefully one day I can work on adapting one of your books or ideas for film
Somehow i missed the juggernaut series game of thrones on your list? Personally cannot wait for its season 6, but are you one of those who prefers to wait for the book? Just curious, but seeing the places you go to, it might be difficult not to get spoiled, even accidentally ! And what is your anticipation for Patrick rothfuss’s combined tv series/movie/video game ?
Just curious to your take, anyhow; Keep up the good work!
Woah woah woah…you skipped both Assassins’ Creed Black Flag *and* Assassins Creed Rogue? Despite being a Black Sails fan? I’m flabbergasted.They are easily the best pirate games ever made.
I just found this and I’m so happy that you’re writing a new First Law trilogy. I’ve been a part of the First Law world for basically every day of the last 5 months – listen to the audiobooks a bit every day so it’s really stretched them out. Cheers!
Dark souls the boardgame is going well on kickstarter. Any interest from you in this joe?
Happy Birthday Joe!
To bad that 2017 will be and Abercrombieless year. I hope that, since we won’t have new tales to read from you in this year, you give us blog posts with some more frequency. I mean, I don’t think an update every four months can work for a section titled “recent news”. 😀
I would love to hear about the process of building the new trilogy. Not big plot things, but perhaps tantalizing us with worldbuilding aspects, the names of the new povs, which issues are you finding more difficult to deal with, …