Mister Bucket for Assembly

My fifth Gryphon Clerks novel, originally scheduled for last December, is finally out!

Most of the delay was because I needed to disentangle a few irrelevant storylines that were choking up the main plot; I'll probably publish those as a novella at some point, since they deal with characters that fans will be familiar with from the Hope books. The Gryphon Clerks series tends to have stories in it that overlap in time and tangentially connect through shared characters and events, and this will be another example.

Now is a good opportunity, in fact, to reflect on the series, where it's been, and where it's going next.

I'm finding that the books are tending to come in pairs. Although published first and fourth respectively, Realmgolds and Beastheads form a pair, since they both deal with roughly the same time period: what's known in the later books as the Unification War. The second and third books, Hope and the Clever Man and Hope and the Patient Man, are obviously a pair too, showing the struggles of the brilliant young mage Hope as she deals with the consequences of some bad decisions (one of which is hers). Part of the first book occurs during the Unification War too, linking it to the first pair.

Bucket the gnome is a secondary character in the Hope books, as are Hope's friend Briar Heathlake and the gnome leader Gizmo, and they come into their own in the first of the "gnome" books, Mister Bucket for Assembly. In the course of that book I found I needed a few more gnome characters and a newspaper, and once I had them they wanted a book of their own, which I'm now working on: Illustrated Gnome News. As I write this post, I'm probably more than halfway through the first draft, at 54,000 words. (Bucket was 92,000, and News looks like being roughly the same size.)

I actually got about 70,000 words into Bucket a couple of years ago, and was planning to finish it off during my summer break, but I got sick with a heavy cold, and then Beastheads didn't do as well as I'd hoped, and I got a bit down about the Gryphon Clerks series in general. To give myself a change, I started the Auckland Allies series, which is quite different in setting and pace and functioned as a nice refresher; and also the Hand of the Trickster series, likewise.

Then, last year, I took another look at Bucket, and felt like it needed to be finished. The themes of an oppressed people seeking representation were, let's say, timely, and elections were... somewhat in the news; and the book was better than I remembered. My editor, when I sent her a completed draft, agreed; she kept telling me, "This book is needed." For some reason, she edited parts of it while out in public, and she kept chiding me for making her laugh out loud or shed tears in front of people.

Around the time I was working on Bucket again, Michael Wills approached me to ask if his small press, Digital Fiction, could take over the Gryphon Clerks series. I'd worked with Michael before - Digital Fiction had republished one of my short stories, "Something Rich and Strange," and I'd done editing work for him as well - so I knew he was a good person to work with, trustworthy, and a better marketer than me. My response was basically "Let me think about that OK yes please."

So far, Digital Fiction have republished Realmgolds, which is doing well under their imprint, and now Bucket is out with them too - the first of my ten published novels to be with a publisher other than myself right from its launch. The plan is that the remaining three, and future Gryphon Clerks novels, will also move across to their list.

So, what might that future look like? As a science fiction writer, I know that predicting the future is basically impossible, and that applies even when I'm talking about things I plan to do; my published novels resemble my outlines, for example, but in much the same way as Hollywood movies resemble the books they're based on (the difference being that I make them better and more complex during the process, instead of the reverse). Be that as it may, as well as Illustrated Gnome News, there's that novella based on offcuts from Bucket that I want to finish up and release. After that, I'm pondering whether it might be time for a couple of books featuring the Realmgolds' Agents, an FBI-like organisation which has cropped up a few times so far in the books, and which some of the secondary characters already work for. I have one partially drafted, which is also a country-house mystery with potential to be hilarious.

There's also The Rediscovery of Hardlac, which I have an outline for; a completely new group of characters going to a part of the setting that I haven't fully explored yet in search of the secret of an ancient elven technology. And I have a couple more ideas that have been kicking around for a while, which you can read about on the Novels page.

(I have an outline for the fourth Auckland Allies book, too, and will probably work on that later this year or early next year.)

Meantime, Mister Bucket for Assembly is doing well on launch, hovering in the top 10 in the steampunk genre as I write. That's an encouraging sign for the series, and for my collaboration with Digital Fiction.

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