Thursday, 28 December 2006

The state of the art.

I try to do a blog a week on this site. Normally, Friday or Saturday, but I just realised that I will be away from my computer for the next three days. So instead of offering some deep and meaningful discussion of say the 'laws of physics in a world of magic' or whether three books really are better than two, I’m simply going to say where I'm at with my writing.

Being a full-time teacher with a commitment to teaching well (hey, you can only try) I find writing during term time quite difficult. My last really sustained bash at the final volume of the Lamb among the StarsThe Infinite Day was in August. However, in the last week, I've actually had about four full days writing. There were some interruptions: Christmas, church, family visits, none of which I either wanted to – or could – push to one side. Anyway, I have been getting along quite well. This stage of writing is a little bit like throwing a bridge across the chasm but only being able work from one side. You begin to wonder whether you are going to overshoot or undershoot. So far, I am on 144,000 words and have a limit of around 220,000. There is a lot to happen, but I know what's going on. Of course, editing can tighten up a book and we could lose perhaps 10% of what I've written. On the other hand with this being the final book in the series there are issues about ‘closure’ to do with characters. And one would like to slowly build to a climax, rather than race frantically towards it. But I definitely can't put in a whole new subplot.

What I find extraordinary is to think how people were able to do this before the word processor. They must have very carefully planned out where things were going to go. I find myself constantly slipping back a couple of chapters to insert in Chapter 8 some fact that we need to have in Chapter 20. Sometimes, I find myself going back to boost characters so that when they are required later, they don't appear from nowhere. I suspect someone, somewhere has done a scholarly work on the influence of the word processor on the way we write. I have a suspicion that our not-too-distant ancestors could craft perhaps a couple of long sentences or even an entire paragraph in their heads and then write it down. Personally, I struggle to come up with more than the rough draft of a sentence which I then play around with to make it sound right. Is this just me? And does it make books better or worse?

Anyway back to the text!

Friday, 22 December 2006

My problems with magic

One of the great problems I have as a writer is that of identity. When people ask me what sort of thing I write I often mutter, ‘well, fantasy’ or ‘science fiction’. (Actually I sometimes worry that I have slipped down the gap between the two terms. I have too much science for the fantasists who want the occult to ooze off every page and too much supernatural for the scientists who are desperately allergic to any hint of the paranormal. I think the phrase speculative fiction is much better, but it hasn't really caught on.) Anyway, one of the problems with using the word fantasy is that it is assumed that magic is a major element.

Now,I don't really do magic. There are no witches or benign wizards in my books. (Actually in Dark Foundations magic does occur, but it spectacularly backfires in a manner that I would like to think would get me undying praise (and purchases) from the Christian Right.)

But why don't I do magic? I have three objections; theological, scientific and literary. The theological objection is pretty mainstream; magic is manipulation and God is not a god who we can bend to our purposes. The scientific objection – and I am a scientist – the fact is that successful magic rarely occurs in this age of the world. God in his wisdom seems to me to have largely restricted its use: we are pretty much left with those forces governed by the so-called ‘laws’ of physics. And I think that is for our good. A world with magic set loose would be a pretty terrifying place for the weak.

My main objection however, is literary. For me, the problem of magic is that everything is possible. And if everything is possible, the one thing that is not possible is tension. In order to create tension, there must be some sort of resistance, some kind of challenge. And unless you make it (by creating laws of magic etc) there is no such resistance in worlds steeped in magic. In this way magic corrodes reality. Why plough fields to make crops when you can create bread by a spell? Why work to learn medicine when you can heal all ills with a whisk of the wand? Has anyone ever seriously considered the mechanics of say, Hogwarts? Why bother even learning when knowledge could presumably be instantly transferred by magic? Authors of such books get round this by creating various laws and rules of magic so that the very things the hero needs to do cannot be done magically. Consider Lord of the Rings. The Chris Walley Shorter Version has Gandalf turning up on page 20 or thereabouts and saying to Frodo: ‘You have a magic ring that needs destroying but I however have found the Famous Item Transporting Spell.’ And with a few arcane words and a wave of the wand, the ring is transported into the heart of Mount Doom. End of book. I think actually Tolkien realised that this was a problem. Have you noticed how rarely Gandalf uses magical powers? He is far more a prophet (in biblical terms) than a sorcerer. Interestingly, the same principle is at work with Superman, who because he can do almost everything, is actually far less interesting than some of the superheroes with inferior powers. So I don’t do magic. Or even the sufficiently advanced technology (such as matter replicators or transporters) that achieves the same purpose as magic.

As this is Christmas it might be worth pursuing these thoughts in a theological direction. In the Bible, the miraculous is really rather uncommon and when it does occur – it is rarely – if ever, ordered from below, as if it were magic. There are no good wizards in Scripture. The miraculous is only granted by God on his terms and in his time. I like to think that in being wary of magic I am in good company.

Have a good Christmas!

Friday, 15 December 2006

On epic fantasy sequences (again).

CSSF Blog Tour

This is very much an addition to a blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the problems of writing epic sequences. There I was concerned with the problems of writing such things but there is of course the whole dimension of actually finding a market for them. It seems to me that there are particular problems with the three, four or (heaven forbid) the even longer epic.

Marketing is a major factor here.
You have to get the reading public drawn in to a) buy the first volume and b) want the successor volumes. Yet here there are problems. Because the writer is setting out on a large-scale work, he or she needs to lay foundations in the first volume. But foundations, in the very nature of things, are not the most attractive subject. First volumes can sag (even Lord of the Rings has a very slow start) and this is bad news. How bad the problem is could be measured if we knew what the fall-off rate was from volume one to two and so on. I suspect it's pretty high; my guess would be that each volume sells 75% what its predecessor did. So you need pretty high Vol 1 sales! I also suspect that it's hard to revive a flagging epic. A great Vol 3 is hardly going to help slow sales of a rather dull Vols 1 and 2.

I also wonder whether publishers know what they are letting themselves in for. Now I have no intention of criticising publishers (I love Tyndale). But I can imagine that it is very easy to buy into the concept of a series without realising the implications. Trilogies etc are, like children and pets, a serious commitment. And curtailing them is a sad business. (See for example, the discussions about the news that
Kathryn Mackel's Birthright Project may be cut short two-thirds through the planned trilogy -- Just click the CSFF button above.)

I wish I had some idea of a solution for both readers, writers and publishers. One thought is that we write our epics as a series of standalone volumes so that if the concluding books are cancelled, we still have something worthwhile. The problem with it is that many themes just don't work on this basis. The heroic quest certainly doesn't.

One final thought on this difficult topic, here, as elsewhere, Tolkien stumbled on a winning formula. He wrote a popular standalone book (The Hobbit) and then 15 years later (if memory serves me right) submitted the completed trilogy of Lord of the Rings to Allen and Unwin. But even then, he had some massive support from folk like C. S. Lewis. And it still took years before it sold massively.

Maybe we need more books that aspire to be the Hobbit and less Lord of the Rings.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

On problems in writing science fiction and fantasy (with a Christmas link)

I have already touched on some of the issues in this general area but I was just writing something just now and a particular issue emerged which I thought I would share it. The sentence I was writing was this: “He gave the order and the man jumped to his feet as quick as….” As quick as what? As quick as… A rabbit? A speeding car? The recoil on a Strumback M31 battlelaser? In ordinary speech we use similes endlessly. ‘As thick as X,’ (our most disliked person); ‘as good-looking as Y’ (our current hero/heroine), ‘as strong as an ox’ (Hmm, when did you last see an ox?) But we use similes (and related metaphors) all the time and when we do we use imagery from the world about us. Our language reflects our world .

Now do you see the problem with dealing with the exotic cultures of fantasy? In my case, my character is a military man from worlds where there is very little in the way of nature. And with its loss, goes a whole range of imagery. He can't easily used words such as bird-like or tree-like. Of course, I could do something wacky, like 'as fast as a Jegerbanian rat' but you can't do it often and sometimes it comes over rather odd. What is rather alarming is the speed with which some of our imagery dates. ‘As fast as a Pentium’ sounds pretty pathetic now. How about ‘with Spitfire like’ speed? Even ‘watch-like complexity’ sounds a bit dated.

In this respect, future and fantasy cultures are much easier to deal with in film. We can see rather than be told. The good news about fantasy and science fiction is that it exposes us to strange and exotic cultures. The bad news is that it is sometimes hard to relate to them. I suspect it is this, amongst other things, that C. S. Lewis is referring to in a wonderful aside of his in an article whose location I have lost (reference please someone) about the importance of having ordinary people in science fiction/fantasy/ speculative fiction. He writes thus: ‘to have strange things happen to strange people is a strangeness too much.’ Here as elsewhere, I doff my metaphorical cap in utter agreement. Not just true, but elegantly expressed.

Now let me add a seasonal aside. As a Christian I believe that God, acted uniquely in human history in the events recounted in the Bible. Why then, some people ask, then rather than now? Is it perhaps, I answer, because the biblical cultures were so low down in the development of technology that their imagery is almost universal? Even if we personally have no experience of shepherds or carpentry we do not have to go too far back in our own culture to know what a shepherd or carpenter did. We must be very grateful that the Son of God did not become incarnate as a computer technician or a car mechanic: his words would have become incomprehensible within a generation.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

On the writing of epic fantasy

Large-scale fantasy epics spanning many books are pretty common these days. The temptation for budding writers and – believe me, I hear from a lot of you – is to write just this sort of thing. What I want to do here is to give a warning: be very careful about venturing on the longer and perilous road to Mount Doom (or wherever). Let me give you three reasons.

The first is that an epic saga of say 600,000 to 750,000 words is not simply a scaled up version of a 100,000 word novel. You don't just keep writing longer! The best parallel is in architecture. The novel is a house and the multi-volume epic a cathedral. To go from the first to the second is not simply a matter of scale. You need a much larger and more complex architecture. The saga needs to have a very different structure; with such things as a different pacing of high points and the relaxing and tightening of the plot. Rather like any traditional symphony, all the main components (the however many volumes there are) need to work separately. The practical implication is this: I don't really think you can just start writing with the intention of ending up with a satisfactory creation in a few years time. At very least sketch it out!

Secondly, staying with the architectural image; size of building is linked with depth of foundations. A single floor cottage can probably be constructed even on poor ground with very little effort. But a cathedral, with its great height and vast spans, must have deep and solid foundations. With the most successful epic tales you always get the feeling that you are walking into a real world with an existing, if largely untold, history. The reader must sense that were he or she to metaphorically tap the walls, they would ring hard and solid and were they to open the books on the shelves in the heroes library they would have facts and histories in them. This sort of foundational depth is probably not conjured up in weeks or even months. It is salutary to remember that the type example, Lord of the Rings, was fermented and matured for nearly 40 years in Tolkien's brain before it was completed and published.

Thirdly, because of these factors, you ideally need to do what the master did with Lord of the Rings and that is write it all and then go back and edit it. If you write and publish it volume by volume by the time it comes to the last book, with the previous books irrevocably published, you will find that the die is cast. You cannot now introduce major new characters, reveal that your hero is a diabetic or invoke hitherto unsuspected magic or acts of God. Your first pages determine your last.

That sounds like I know what I'm talking about. I'm not sure I do. But I'd wish I read the above a long time ago.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

On books and sales figures

About three years ago, I completed the last of my projects with the British evangelist, J. John. It was a summary of the life, teaching and work of Jesus called The Life: a portrait of Jesus. It was meant to be a ‘one-stop’ shop for everything on Jesus and the something of an antidote to 'Jesus was an alien, Jedi Master, mythical figure, ancestor of the royal line of France etc' book. So there was a chapter on Jesus’ birth, teaching, miracles, trial and resurrection, etc. Originally, we set the word limit at 80,000 words but it got squeezed down to 60,000 in order to make it a small book. It was a tough challenge, but I was fairly pleased with the result. It was released in the Christian bookshops and never seems to have got beyond them. This was a source of some irritation, particularly as it got extremely good reviews from people and filled an obvious empty niche in the market. This week, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from the publishers to say that total sales had now reached 50,000 and they were going to give it a new cover. (Perhaps, this time, they can actually get it into the secular bookshops, which is where it was designed for).

So there was much rejoicing. But it also gave rise to some thinking about the value of books. Let's say, I went into the ministry and did regular preaching slots, two times a week. So let's do the math: thirty minutes a time to the typical British Baptist congregation of fifty people; that’s fifty contact hours a week or 2,500 a year. Now consider the book: although a light read it is densely packed and will probably take at least five hours to read. So 50,000 copies times five hours gives you 250,000 contact hours. Now unless my math is very dodgy that is a hundred years worth of preaching.

Of course, it might be argued that some books are unread, but we can probably also assume that some books are read by more than one person. (You have no idea how my heart sinks when I hear someone say ‘We like your books, someone got one and the whole church read it.’) And you can't daydream while reading a book. So the statistics suggest that I have reached numbers that only big star preachers get. Gratifying, hey what?

Friday, 17 November 2006

Tolkien's curse

It had to happen I suppose, but it occurred sooner than I had expected. An early reader of Dark Foundations came over at church to compliment me on the book and then proceeded to tell me that in one section I had copied from Lord of the Rings. As it is impossible to describe the plot point he was referring to without spoiling a great deal, I will leave readers to guess the particular moment. Suffice it to say that consultation with my domestic editor (my wife) confirmed that there was only the most tenuous linkage with the Professor Tolkien’s epic trilogy.

But I am hardly surprised: writing a large-scale fantasy these days is like living at the foot of Mount Doom itself. Tolkien’s work casts such a wide and sombre shadow that you cannot escape it. So when you write your fantasy epic, stumble upon some attractive plotline and pursue it you almost inevitably find a little engraved stone. ‘J. R. R. Tolkien was here first’. So, the hero has a faithful friend, who sticks fast by him in battles? Be careful: it's Frodo and Sam. You have a disinherited king looking for his throne? Been there, done that and got the banner of the House of Elendil. Flying monsters? The Nazgul. The quest with its companions? The weapon that must be destroyed? Done, all done! And it’s the details too; the deadly stairway, the gleaming city, the broken sword, the treacherous companion. It's all there in Tolkien, and cursed is he who tries to repeat it. It's a pain, trust me, and part of my exasperation at being accused of borrowing is that I spent long, long hours, trying to avoid simply that.

So what's going on here? Ultimately the very strength of the Lord of the Rings is because Tolkien uses so many of the great archetypes of epic fiction. The problem for those who write in his wake, is that if we do go back to these archetypes, we are now accused of plagiarism. He took what was universal and made them his own. In my darker moments, I feel that Tolkien was like a boy who, reaching a banquet before everybody else, helped himself to most of the best things on the table, leaving the rest of us with mere scraps. When I try to approach many of the great fantasy themes with a view to appropriating them, I seem to hear a little voice with an Oxford accent that whispers ‘Thief! We hates you. It’s my precious!’

Saturday, 11 November 2006

On using the 'J-Word'

Normally, I'd prefer to talk about writing, and I am reluctant to replace the previous post because it had some really rather nice responses. But this present topic has been bobbing around in my brain this week and I thought I would share it, because it does have relevance to the matter of writing.

More years ago than I care to remember, I spent a year on a reasonably remote university campus. We were so distant from the nearest town that we evangelicals would all turn up at the college chapel to hear preaching from whoever was passing through. We had an extremely varied diet, including many academic theologians who felt that here, amongst students, they could use words with more than two syllables. Very soon we developed an index of the preaching, simply based on how long they could preach without using the word Jesus. Some managed the whole thirty minutes without using the word. After some months, we felt that this was a pretty sure indication of whether or not a preacher was spiritually alive or dead.

Years later, I was told that if you wanted to get a book with a Christian framework published by a secular publisher in the UK you had to avoid using the J-word. You could get away with all sorts of things, including discussing spirituality, but somehow that name (the real He-who-shall- not-be-Named) triggered negative responses. At this point, you would expect me to say ‘well, of course, I abhor this view and my books are studded with the word ‘Jesus’’. Well actually, they aren't and in the present series I think I've made a point of using that word just once a book partly because I don't want to put off the interested reader, who comes from outside Christianity. And after all, as the Bible shows there are lots of other names and titles for the Lord that we can invoke.

What you may ask, triggered this reflection? It's just that is our country's leading churchman has a widely noted inability to use the J. word himself. Entire sermons pass without him mentioning it and he achieved a singular feat recently of being interviewed specifically about Christianity by one of our more aggressive radio personalities and never used the word (or, I think, ‘Christ’).

I would be inclined to attribute this apparent ‘Jesus-ophobia’ to some psychological or sociological quirk were it not for the explicit claims of the New Testament, notably in Philippians chapter 2 that one day, ‘every knee will bow at the name of Jesus’. Of course, that is symbolic language but I feel it is interesting that there are so many attempts to whitewash away the very specific and very concrete Jesus that there is in biblical Christianity and replace him by something far, far vaguer.

Are they afraid of something? Or Someone?

Monday, 6 November 2006

Great expectations

As previously noted, the books came out last week: The Shadow and Night and Dark Foundations in two lovely hardback volumes. Unleashed on America, delivered by post from Amazon and even available in one or two Christian bookshops in the UK (apologies for the sarcasm). And...


Well, almost silence. All writers of popular fiction, I imagine, have somewhere in the back of their mind, the hope that the phone will immediately ring or the publisher will e-mail you to say, ‘fantastic news. It's already selling in the thousands, we are reprinting already, you've got rave reviews coming up, Oprah Winfrey is going to plug it, the White House is buying copies or the First Church of Purity and Eschatological Truth is going to have a public book burning.’ What you don't want is…. silence. That utterly deafening public yawn that says ‘oh no, not another book in an already crowded market’.

In some ways, of course, authors are right to have such hopes. As the saying goes, ‘blessed are those with low expectations, for they are rarely disappointed.’ But a small fanfare or two would be nice.

Actually, it wasn't quite as bad as I have painted it. Within days, there were two rave reviews on (and if you wrote one of them, many thanks, and bless you) and people who finished it have made the comments about it being ‘a real page turner’ and ‘when's the next one due’. And it is early days yet.

Of course, I could take the ‘my time will come’ stance or adopt the ‘hey who needs fame?’ pose. I’m holding them in reserve.

For the moment.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

On self-promotion

For reasons that have everything to do with stupidity and my inability to say ‘no’, I am I currently doing quite a bit of speaking and preaching; church, a student Christian Union and a Chinese fellowship. So given that I have a captive audience and we have so many copies of my works cluttering up the house that we are in danger of being buried alive under paper, I have been trying to sell books. Not, I hasten to add, in case the Inland Revenue is reading this site, in anything like large numbers. I think I have sold six in the last week, netting around £25, which is probably what it cost me to send copies to family and friends and people who might conceivably give me a plug.

But the issue, dear reader, is not finances. It’s how to do self promotion competently and consistently. You see in these Christian talks, I try (really) to promote the gospel or Jesus and not myself. (This is the John the Baptist Principle: ‘that I may decrease and He may increase’ see John 3:30.) But if you’re selling books, you have to, at some point say. ‘Oh and I brought these books, and you can buy them and I will sign them.’ But what is the Christian to do here? Is he or she to say, ‘These are absolutely wonderful! I have got fans all over the world who love them! Get out your wallets and buy, buy, buy!’ You don’t have to be very spiritual to see that this is hardly in keeping with the rest of the talk.

Alternatively, you could take the modest approach. ‘Oh and…’ look down at floor ‘… there are some books I have written…. mumble, mumble, mumble. They really aren’t very good. I don’t know why you’d want to buy them. Why don’t you get a Bible or a really good book of theology instead?’ In my usual British slightly bungling manner, I suspect, I manage to do both. The result is that I come over as being a) not very spiritual and b) someone who is embarrassed about his not terribly good books. Hmm.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

The new books are here

It would be a dull or excessively humble author who did not mention on his or her website that they had a new book out. And now that I have two out, I definitely have to mention it. Actually I'm not sure whether the books are strictly out or they're out on 30th October. The good folks at Amazon, who increasingly seem to be a major player in books, not just as sellers, but as an indicator of availabilty, provider of discussion forums and source of quotable quotes, vary as to whether the books are available now or in the imminent future.

Anyway, having had my own copies, I can say that they look splendid, solid and epic, and well worth whatever they cost in anybody's money. But, more importantly, they seem to be being well received, and the first feedback is dribbling in. I have long since rejected any hopes or desires of getting "literary" praise, but I can live very happily with people calling them "a real page turner". If you see yourself as a teller of tales rather than a creator of fine art, there is no finer praise than having grabbed someone's attention and held it.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Whose book is it anyhow?

I have been thinking about the business of over-zealous fans. The great temptation for the author is to say, "Blow them, it's my book, tough". I actually wonder whether it's isn't more complicated than that. I wonder if by making a book public and having people buy it you don't in some way enlist them into the process. I feel that in some strange way people who read the books and particularly those who enjoy them, do become linked to the creative process.

This all sounds terribly post-modern, and I'm still not willing to accept suggestions from my readers -- that would produce a book designed by a committee. But I don't really like the idea of the author sitting on some lofty pinnacle, hurling down some text at the plebs far below. And for the Christian author, as one like to think that readers do pray for you, there is a very real two-way process.

So if you enjoy my books, why not pray for the author?

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Twin apologies

First apology: I assumed no one was reading my site because I didn't get any responses. It turns out that my web person didn't set it up properly. Unfortunately, as she is my wife, I cannot really discipline her in the manner that would be appropriate. So apologies for those people who didn't get a witty response.

Second apology: I haven't written anything for a few days. In part I've been too busy writing the last book in the series, and also I have been signing and sending off copies of the new books: yes, the books are here! (at least, my pre-publication copies are). They really do look splendid. There's something about a hardback that makes you think you are a serious author, particularly when you drop one on your toe.

Incidentally, if anybody would like a signed postcard to go in their book as a sort of bookmark, next best thing to signed copy, feel free to email me at with your address.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

The problem of dedicated fans

I have a couple of dedicated fans of the series who correspond on the IAMTHIRSTY website about my books, and speculate on what's going to happen. Now as they will probably read this I have to say that I'm awed and delighted and flattered by this. But I really don't know what to do about their speculations. One or two have even been close to the mark. Another couple have even made me wonder whether I shouldn't have bent the plot that way. It's a little bit like having someone standing over your shoulder as you write, nudging you and suggesting this or that. One is tempted to yell out "It's my book, guys, leave off!"

But actually I value them enormously and wouldn't mind 1000 more like them. Nor would my bank manager. But I do wonder how J. K. Rowling handles it.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Geology and fantasy

I sometimes get asked how come someone whose background is geology got into writing fantasy (young earth creationists of course have no problems with this as geology is fantasy as far as they're concerned). The answer is, I think, that geology more perhaps than any other science does require feats of the imagination. So today out with my students looking at Carboniferous Limestone and its fossils, I was trying to get them to make the mental leap from these grey rocks with their broken up shell fragments to the warm, blue tropical seas filled with life, hundreds of millions of years ago. It's not an easy thing to do; I could hear the cogs whirring.

Having myself spent 30 years or so doing endless exercises like this, I don't find it too hard to make my imagination do quite considerable leaps when I look at rocks. I like to think that I use very similar mental muscles when dealing with fantasy. So, budding writers, don't neglect the sciences -- they stretch the mind.

Thursday, 28 September 2006

The curse of spaceships

When I find time these days, I am working on the final volume of the Lamb Among the Stars Series, which has the working title of The Infinite Day. A substantial part of the plot involves spaceships and travel on them. I had never realised until I started writing some of the material exactly how challenging it is to write about space travel.

I don't mean the awesomeness of the scale and grandeur of the cosmos, I just mean the depressingly boring and claustrophobic nature of travelling in space. It takes days, if not weeks, and there's nothing to see. Just stars and black stuff. And more of it. And the spaceships themselves tend to be dull functional things. So the entire narrative has to really revolve around people and words and relationships. Only no one leaves, and no one visits. In fact, it's pretty much like writing a drama set inside some large rather drab office. Spaceships seem to be quite the most boring setting in the cosmos. There is more going on in even the most run-down and remote Welsh village than the entire star fleet of some civilizations.

Some people marvel at how they could axe Star Trek. I'm amazed that it ever lasted so long.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Starting the blog

Welcome to readers. Let me say at the start that this blog is mainly going to concentrate on my writing efforts. It's prompted because in about a month's time the new volume Dark Foundations should be published. Actually, it's far more complicated than that and it's probably worth explaining it here.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away (that's a good opening, must use it somewhere), I wrote two of what was envisaged to be a four-book cycle. Incidentally, no one seems to have a good popular name for a four-book cycle. They should be a tetralogy (Wagner's Ring is styled thus), but I've also seen the unlovely 'quadrology'.

Tyndale took them over and then as I was writing Book 3, my wonderful editor Linda Washington suggested that I broaden out the viewpoint. The result was that Book 3 sprawled to 200,000 words, the size of books 1 and 2 together. In a moment of inspiration, Tyndale suggested putting books 1 and 2 together in one volume, thus making the old Book 3, now book 2 of an epic trilogy.

Books 1 and 2 have now acquired the title The Shadow and Night, and frankly, if you've got copies of the original single volumes keep hold of them, they might be valuable one day (and pigs may fly).