The Battle for Harmatia has begun…
Cover Art by Stef Tastan
The Harmatia Cycle © Madeleine E. Vaughan
The Battle for Harmatia has begun…
Cover Art by Stef Tastan
The Harmatia Cycle © Madeleine E. Vaughan
For those of you on twitter, or deeply invested in the booklr, booktube or bookstagram community, you may have recently come across the disaster that was #SoapGate. It was a hashtag which exploded recently after a book-box subscription included some pretty risky merchandise in their A Court of Thorns and Roses inspired haul. Namely two very highly detailed penis shaped soaps which definitely made this box NSFW. I’m not going to even talk about the completely illegal published fanfiction also included in the box, which breached copy-right on so many levels, because honestly…I don’t have the time or energy to deal with that intense level of nonsense.
Instead, I want to take a different approach to the discussions that surrounded the whole #SoapGate fiasco. It seemed to me that many people were deeply offended by the soap which, whilst hilariously inappropriate, was ultimately harmless and precisely the kind of merchandise you’d expect in an ‘Illyrian boy-friend’ box. Why not enjoy some penis-shaped soap? You stick it to the wall, lather it up and have a giggle…just as long as you don’t try anything else with it, what’s the harm? The box was rated 18+, so no one should have been surprised.
But people were. Why? Not because of the illegal publications, not because of the (some would argue) questionable quality of the writing, but because A Court of Thorns and Roses is a Young Adult book, and including dicks just wasn’t on.
And this really bothered me, because A Court of Thorns and Roses isn’t a Young Adult book. It’s New Adult. So why is no one calling it that?
Unless you’re into a niche in the American market, or you’ve kept your finger on the pulse-line of the book word, the term ‘New Adult’ probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to you. And why should it, when the book world routinely ignores New Adult as an age-group and genre? You go into a book-shop, and you’ll see the Children’s section, the YA shelf, and then adult…and no in-between.
Unfortunately, a between does exist, both in the demographic of readers, and in the books which are being produced.
So what is New Adult? Well to answer that, we have to look at what Young Adult is. Young Adult is a category of children’s books aimed for 14-18 year olds. A good, and easy example of YA is probably Twilight. In YA the main characters are usually between 17 and 18, and there tends to be a romantic plot-line somewhere in the story. The books are more likely to dwell on feelings and thoughts than Middle Grade books, and there is usually a sexual/romantic awakening in some form or another. YA books, especially YA fantasy, have a particular sort of feel to them—they will often be criticised by ‘critical’ readers because of their subject-matter, and are written off as shallow or dull, because anything that’s written for or enjoyed by teenage girls can never be considered valid.
YA also, however, has a knack of addressing subjects in new and innovative ways, through setting, character and story. We get LGBTQ+, Disabled, POC characters in YA books like Six of Crows or The Mortal Instruments. Other YA books comment on capitalism, racism and corruption, such as The Hunger Games and Noughts and Crosses.
These books tackle interesting topics, whilst being relatable to their readers by examining the difficult ins-and-outs of being an adolescent. It’s only natural their ‘film-franchise’ popular.
The problem, however, is the assumption that past 18, we all magically become adults, and 18 to 50 year olds are all the same…
Between the ages of 19 and 25, our personalities are still versatile and developing. From finishing school, most people this age are moving into University, which far from ‘adult life’ is just another phase of learning, adapting, and character building. The human brain is still developing during this time, and it’s only after the age of 25 that our identities and personalities really start to solidify—(and for some, it’s even later!).
So why is this generation of people, the last of the millennials and the eldest of the Gen Z, being completely ignored? We’re not Young Adults any more—that 17 year old girl who’s never kissed a boy isn’t relatable to us, on average. We are a generation who have possibly, if not probably, lost our virginity. We are a generation that has kissed, and flirted. We are a generation who can legally drink, and drive (not at the same time!), and don’t have a curfew. We are a generation who are panicking as we learn to manage our own finances, live alone, get into long-term, serious relationships…
And we are a generation that grew up with the first few cycles of YA books. There is a big, and marketable difference between Game of Thrones and Cinder, Saturday and The Fault in Our Stars. From my own experience, having dabbled in adult-fiction from a young age, even I still got whiplash when I tried to jump from one tier to the other all at once. To me, adult fiction felt too distant, too dense, too impersonal for me to fully enjoy, while with each passing year, YA became increasingly and frustratingly un-relatable. I felt like I was being tossed between two campsites, without ever being comfortable in either, and the Lord knows I wasn’t the only one.
And thus, like Excalibur rising from the lake, New Adult fiction rose from the murky depths of the publishing world. At first glance, it was essentially YA with sex—explicit and detailed, not the virginal, censored touches that made us blush and hide behind our books when we were teenagers. It existed almost primarily within the Romance genre, concerning itself with characters in their early twenties, getting up to some hot mischief—not yet mature, but not children either.
And then, slowly, those nineteen and twenty-year old characters began to leach into other genres as well. And suddenly, A Court of Thorns and Roses was on our shelf, staring a young sexually active woman, with a sexually-active mind, all packaged up in that glorious, readable way that made YA Fantasy so easy and enjoyable to read.
I should add, very quickly, that New Adult isn’t all about sex. Sure, portraying sexual relationships is a key part of it…But there are other avenues that are opened up by NA that YA can only brush on. Abuse, trauma, rape, abandonment, monetary issues—the list goes on, and while YA has been tackling this nest of nightmares for years, it could only ever be as mature as the youngest reader could cope with…And it was also governed by what was deemed appropriate for that age. I mean, when was the last time you read a gay sex scene in a YA book?
And yet, despite the fact that New Adult fiction is being produced, and it is being marketed to us, and it is being read, the prevailing belief that New Adult fiction doesn’t exist continues to burn a hole through my waning patience.
I walked into my local Waterstones recently and saw A Court of Frost and Starlight on the YA shelf. I crossed over, grabbed a copy, picked a sex scene and began to read it aloud. Within two lines, my friend nearby was squirming. Sure, Sarah J Maas doesn’t use the words cunt, fuck and cock, but, my god, all three are present in vivid enough detail that, had I been an old guy in a trench-coat, I’d have probably been arrested. If it’s not something you’d want read-aloud in the children’s section, you probably shouldn’t have it in the children’s section.
And so, back to the #SoapGate disaster then. Ignoring copyright scandals, you all need to stop worrying about phallic toiletries—they’re not the real problem here. The real problem is that a book written for 19+, is being shelved in the same place as books for 13+ because the industry is too afraid of dealing with a new market, when the YA one is already established. Why take risks, when you can make money?
But whether they’re ready to acknowledge it or not, New Adult is in demand, it’s being written, and with the success of each new book, it’s only going to grow. And with growth come cash.
So get used to the term, because New Adult is here to stay.
And so is the dick-soap. (Or not.)
Yes, you saw that right. After much deliberation, I have decided to split the third installment of The Harmatia Cycle into two books. This decision came when I found the book was getting far too big, and that I was having to cut important parts out. The story demanded to be two books in order to be told properly, and so I have obliged. Book 3 will be released this year, all being well, with Book 4 coming shortly after. Titles and covers will appear a few months before release.
Another discovery I made whilst writing Book ¾, was that there was an empty space in the back-story of how everything came to pass. As such, I am going to be writing a short novella following Torin Merle and Eliane of the Delphi, and the events that transpired between them before Rufus’s birth. This will not be necessary reading for anyone who wants to finish the series, but will add an extra layer for those readers who love a big fantasy world!
I have also been working on a short scene which will be released soon. This is a section from Blood of the Delphi, but told from another character’s point of view. The short-story follows Marcel during Zachary’s illness in book 2, giving an insight into the character dynamics as seen by Zachary’s more observant, clear-minded and fiercely loyal second in command. I wrote this as part of a writing exercise, but thought my readers may enjoy this insight during a time that wasn’t covered by the book. This will be released soon (on what platform, I haven’t decided), but you can sign up to my newsletter to get a FREE copy before anyone else.
What is the Diverse Fairy Tale Project?
From 2017, Mag Mell Publishing will be putting together our own anthology of our favourite Fairy Tales. The twist—the project is all about diversity. We’re looking for new, fresh versions of these popular stories that will represent minorities – including having POC and/or LGBTQA+ main characters.
We are particularly interested in hearing from minority authors who would be interested in contributing a short story between 3,000-8,000 words. Authors will be paid between £10-£20 ($12-$24) per story.
This would be a Kickstarter funded project. Authors would not be expected to undertake any work until funding and payment was guaranteed for them.
To celebrate the re-release of The Sons of Thestian, I will be holding a colouring competition between October and November 20th.
A small series of Harmatia Cycle art (Including above designs by Amelia Mackenzie) will be released, and you will have the opportunity to colour the images. Entries can be done digitally, or printed out and coloured traditionally! What’s more, there are no limit to the number of entries permitted, meaning you can colour all the images if you want, or even do the same one twice!
There will be a number of prizes available, and top entries will be featured on my website and on my tumblr.
For more details about the prizes, and how to enter, please check back to my website in October, or subscribe to my newsletter and have all the details and download links sent straight to your inbox at the beginning of the month!
Rufus Merle is a wanted man. After twelve years on the run, raising the infant Prince Joshua, the last of the Delphi line now stands in grave peril. Sick, friendless and out of places to hide, Rufus and Joshua are hunted by dangerous alchemists, a deranged assassin, and a powerful faerie goddess, who will do everything in her power to turn Rufus into a living weapon.
With the net closing around them, and the sparks of unrest and rebellion igniting across the Kingdom, Arlen Zachary is forced to question his own allegiance between the Crown, and the people he swore to protect. As the gods play their hands, and the ancient Sidhe prepare to settle a century old feud, Harmatia trembles under the tyrannical rule of a King, whose only commitment is to the dead.
Hello my wonderful readers!
I have some very important news for you all. Last night, my Publisher The Zharmae Publishing Press announced that they would be closing down. As of the 31st of August, The Sons of Thestian will no longer be available for purchase.
The news came suddenly, but fortunately I have a back-up plan, which I will now be implementing.
For those of you waiting for Blood of the Delphi, it is still going to be released! I have decided to self-publish my work, and though I may have to push the publishing date (possibly to December), I am going to be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the book is released this year!
What’s more, I will be publishing the 2nd Edition of The Sons of Thestian hopefully at the same time, for any who want a new, matching set.
I will be working on making sure the prices for the books are lower, that the quality is higher, and that they are more easily available for anyone who wants to read them.
As I try to sort through this process and get everything together, I
cannot guarantee that there won’t be further delays. These delays are as frustrating for me, as they are for you, and I hope you will all be patient with me. Your readership, your support, is incredibly important to me, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate it and your loyalty.
I hope you will continue to support me, and my work. I will post updates as regularly as I can, and the moment I have more information, I will make it available.
In the meantime, you can expect the following from me:
1) I will be publishing a short-story with the Random Writers this September. This is a short based on my next project The Kestrel Saga, and I am incredibly excited to share it. More details to follow.
2) I will be releasing images for the Cover-art for Blood of the Delphi, and will be commissioning new matching cover-art for The Sons of Thestian, which will also be released soon.
3) I will be working on designs for merchandise, and other nick-knacks for any fans who may be interested (Message me, and tell me what you’d like! – Notebooks? Stickers? Badges? Posters?)
I am, as always, open to any questions or queries, and will remain highly active in the coming months. I will be seeking the advice of other writers who have gone down this path, and will be doing my upmost to get it all right and perfect for you guys.
Again, I ask your patience during this time, your continued support and thank you for everything you’ve done so far. I have some exciting plans for the future, and I hope you’ll all be there to see me realise them!
In the meantime, if you would like to keep track of what’s happening, please show your support by subscribing to my monthly newsletter here!
Many thanks everyone!
Today is the day! Over the last month and a half, I have received a good selection of entries, and judging them has been an extraordinarily difficult task for me, not least because of the level of work.
Due to this, I have judged Art and the Written entries separately, as I felt that was only fair. As such their will be prize-winners from both sections.
Before I begin, I would like to say how much I appreciated each entry. They were each extraordinary pieces of work, and I am so proud and honoured to have received them. You cannot know how much your efforts have meant to me, and I will be forever grateful for your support.
Each piece has been given an individual critique below. Writing Entrant winners will be announced tomorrow (31/05/2015).
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR PRIZE-WINNERS
1st Place: Red Cap by Thomas Fummo
2nd Place: Rufus Merle: La Mort by Rebecca Welch
3rd Place: Rufus Merle by Hamish Steele
Red Cap by Thomas Fummo
The winning entry. There is nothing I don’t love about this picture. Whilst all of the entries were very good, each boasting a different artistic style, The Red Cap is to me a perfect specimen. The attention to detail is immaculate, and the picture totally captures exactly how I imagined the Red Cap should be. The textures, the way the skin hangs both loose and yet tight, the single nostril, the red eyes, the lanky limbs and above all the beak like teeth…You have a great talent for drawing monstrosities Thomas, and on this occasion you’ve really outdone yourself.
If ever anyone wants to know what I envisioned the Red Cap as, I will be directing them to this picture.
Fae by Thomas Fummo
Your rendition of Fae is incredibly pleasing to me! I love the scars, the design of her weapons (all of which you noted and drew!) and her stance, like she’s going to spring out of the screen. For Fae, who is often drawn in a passive way, I liked seeing her looking so fierce and battle-ready, like the warrior she is! You captured her essence perfectly.
Rufus Merle: La Mort by Rebecca Welch
Where do I even begin? The concept is fantastic, and your line-work as always is horrifically enviable. The more you look at this picture, the more details you pick out, and that’s especially what I love about it. You’ve encapsulated the character extraordinarily well, throwing in hints and clues. As always, the way you draw the folds in clothes is wonderful, and I cannot fault you for the anatomical accuracy (those hands!). I am totally charmed by his picture; it could really be ‘La Mort’ in a genuine Tarot Deck, and maybe when I have enough money, I’ll commission you to make the whole thing!
My only quibble, and it is a small one, is that you didn’t have time to colour it, which would have really completed the picture. This, I understand, but it is a shame. Regardless, La Mort is a fantastic piece of work and among my absolute favourites.
Rufus Merle by Hamish Steele
As always, I am charmed by your style. Everything from the pose to the bright colours is just brimming with life and character, and this picture looks like a professional poster for a genuine cartoon! I am especially fond of the details on the clothing and Rufus’s expression. It is clear you drew on the front-cover and the book trailer to inform Rufus’s look, and I especially love the long coat with the fur-line and the boots. Adding the magic was a wonderful, extra touch which just completes the whole thing.
Luca by Amelia Bull
As a big fan of Art Nouveau, I was delighted to see Luca drawn in this way, not least because the style totally compliments the character, and you spent time investigating how she should be dressed and appear. The colours compliment her, and I am very pleased by how anatomically correct she is in build and size. This is a very beautiful homage to the character, and one that I have put up very proudly on my wall. I apologise for not being able to load a better scanned version.
Athea Ascending by Jules Ironside
This is an incredibly vibrant and striking picture. I can imagine it would be even more impressive on paper, and was very struck by its regality and power. The new design of Athea’s staff was creative and interesting, and I liked the touch of the sand turning into a different colour (Almost reminiscent of oxidised blood, though that of course isn’t actually blue!). I think the thing that gets me most about this picture is the eyes, as they really do stand out and are very piercing. You’ve certainly captured Athea very well.