• Issue 245 - December 2020

    01 December 2020



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the December Christmas issue of the Shanville Monthly. It's been a long, hard year for most of us, and Christmas won't be quite the holiday it usually is in many places, but let's all do our best to enjoy the break as much as we can, and hopefully 2021 is going to be a much easier year for us. To help bring some festive cheer to the season, I'll be unleashing my Shanta Claus story once again, about a week or two before Christmas Day -- hopefully that will raise a smile or two... Also, to help people save a bit of money if they're buying books of mine this yuletide, I'm running a couple of sales this month, one on my new Archibald Lox series, and one on an older book for adults... I also point out where you can get the best deals if you want to buy the hardback or paperback of the Archibald Lox Volume One collection (either for yourself, or as a present)... and there are all the usual Darren Shan roundups too -- reviews, articles that mention my books, fan art, and a whole lot more. But let's kick things off with those seasonal sales...






    I'm going to be running a couple of eBook SALES in December -- call it a little Christmas gift from me to you guys! First up, in the middle of the month, from the 13th to 20th, I'm reducing the price of the first Volume of Archibald Lox books. Book 1 is always FREE, and during the sale Book 2 will cost just $0.99, and Book 3 just $1.99, meaning you can buy all three books for less than $3!! Alternatively, if you want to read it as one big story (or just prefer the cover), you can buy all three books in the single collected edition (The Missing Princess) for the same reduced price of just $2.99. The sale will be global, with reduced prices everywhere -- for instance, a total price of £2.49 in the UK, €2.75 in European stores, $3.99 in Canada, $4.99 in Australia and New Zealand... You'll be able to buy the eBooks through all the major sellers -- there are direct links just below.


    Book 1 on Amazon: CLICK HERE   Book 1 on Google Play: CLICK HERE   Book 1 on Apple, Kobo, B&N, etc: CLICK HERE


    The Missing Princess on Amazon: CLICK HERE   The Missing Princess on Google Play: CLICK HERE   The Missing Princess on Apple, Kobo, B&N, etc: CLICK HERE






    At the end of the month I'll be running my second sale, but this one's only for my older readers! From December 27th to January 2nd, I'm reducing the price of my very weird, very dark sci-fi novel An Other Place, released under the name of Darren Dash a few years back. It's easily the strangest book I've ever released, and to my surprise it earned rave reviews and a strong cult following. During the sale it will cost just $0.99 in the USA, £0.99 in the UK, $0.99 in Canada, $0.99 in Australia, €0.99 in Europe, and a similar price in all other Amazon stores. (I'm afraid the Darren Dash books are currently only on sale through Amazon -- sorry -- though it's something I'll very likely look into changing next year.) To buy it in your local Amazon store (but wait for the sale!!) CLICK HERE.






    For those who might have missed it -- Archibald Lox is my new series. I released the first Volume as three short eBooks earlier this year, but have now collected the story into one big volume, which is available in a couple of physical formats, as are the original three books. The cheapest way to buy them will always be as eBooks (I like to offier big discounts on the digital front), but if you want some books to hold and love, read on for where you can get he best deals...


    1) If you're looking to buy a hardback edition of The Missing Princess, (which collects the three shorter books into a single edition) the best deal seems to be on Book Depository, which (at the time I'm writing this at the start of the month) is selling it at a 17% discount (about $26.23 instead of its regular price of $32), with free shipping worldwide. CLICK HERE to be directed to your country's branch, where you'll be shown the cost in your local currency.


    2) You can get the paperback of The Missing Princess on Amazon or Book Depository at the same price ($16),and they seem to be the stores offering the best price -- CLICK HERE to be sent to your local Amazon store, or CLICK HERE to be directed to your local Book Depository branch.


    3) The cheapest way to buy Volume One in a physical edtion is to buy The Missing Princess, which collects the three shorter books into a single Volume, and is significantly cheaper than buying them individually. BUT if you would prefer to buy the three shorter books as individual books, I've produced paperback editions, but only through Amazon stores worldwide. CLICK HERE to buy Book 1... CLICK HERE to buy Book 2... and CLICK HERE to buy Book 3.






    It's that time of year again, when SHANTA comes to town!!! I wrote a short, tongue-in-cheek Christmas story many years ago, featuring some of the characters from my first three vampire books, and since then it's expanded vastly to include references to pretty much every YA book or series that I've released. It's the only place in the Darren Shan universe where there are crossovers between my various fictional worlds, where Lord Loss can rub shoulders with B Smith and Mr Crepsley -- and maybe even Archibald Lox. It will appear ON THIS PAGE on my web site about a week or so before Christmas Day. I'll also post links to it on my Facebook and Twitter and Blog pages, so keep an eye on those for updates.





    While we're on the suject of my yuletide crossover... A fan on Facebook called Thomas recently posted the following message: "Anyone else feel like des tiny could have had some secret connection to the Demonata that was never written about? Like he's cracking open a cold one with lord loss or something?"


    Every so often, a fan of both my vampire and demon series will ask if there is any connection between them. They'll usually point to Mr Tiny and mention the otherworldly monsters that we glimpse towards the end of that series -- might those monsters have been the Demonata, and could I one day merge the two universes? The simple answer is -- no.


    I did very briefly consider crossing over, as I started work on Lord Loss before I finished work on my vampire books. Mr Tiny would have slotted quite nicely into the universe of the demons, and might have had an interesting role to play -- perhaps he would have sided with humanity against the Demonata? But I cast the thought aside after no more than the briefest of flickers.


    Firstly, it felt too gimmicky. I think The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonata and Zom-B (hopefully Archibald Lox too, once it's completed) all work so well in large part because they're set in self-contained universes with very strict rules. Once you start mixing things up, throwing vampires in to help out when Grubbs is battling demons, or having Lord Loss pop up while B Smith is kicking some undead ass... those rules break down and it all becomes very silly very quickly. That's not to say it can't be done -- Marvel have fared quite nicely with some of their mash-ups, not least on the movie front -- but as a general rule I think it's a bad idea.


    The other reason I dismissed the idea almost immediately is that there was absolutely no mention of the Demonata in the vampire books. I was still working on The Saga, so it would have been possible to slip in a mention of them -- it could have been as basic as Mr Tiny referring to the monsters as the Demonata, and hinting that he'd soon have to turn his attention away from vampires to tackle a possible threat from the demons. But that would have begged the question -- why hadn't the vampires been fighting the demons all these years? As a Vampire Prince, Darren surely would have been told that part of his duties would have involved protecting Earth from invading demons! No, if it was to have worked, it would have had to been embedded early in the vampire series, and possibly played an important part in those stories.


    So, to wrap up, once again, the simple answer is -- no. No connections at all between Cirque Du Freak and Lord Loss. I bring them together, along with all my other work, in my annual Shanta Claus story, but although I love that tale, it's very tongue in cheek, never to be confused for canon. :-)






    A few months ago, a fan of my books called Kendra decided to put together a Cirque Du Freak fanzine, and invited contributions from anyone who was keen to get involved. Many answered the call, and the finished result hit the web on Halloween. It's a gorgeous piece of work, featuring a lot of artwork, a few pieces of fan fiction, and photos of Shansters cosplaying as characters from my books. I was familiar with some of the artists here, but there are plenty whose work is new to me too. The fanzine is FREE to download -- click on the following link, enter 0 in the box that asks how much you want to pay (Kendra stresses that nobody should pay -- she wants this to remain FREE), and you'll be sent a link to download the 55 page zine as a PDF file.




    My thanks to everyone who contributed to the fanzine, and my extra special thanks to Kendra for all the time and effort it took to put this together. You did a fabulous job, worthy of a standing ovation!!! :-)





    There was a lovely review for Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds over on Kiki's Epeolatry a while back. Noting that it's been a while since my last book for younger readers, the reviewer says "I can't believe how much I have missed him doing a children's book until now."


    Awwww! I must admit, it's nice to be back with a series for kids. I love my Darren Dash books for adults too, but they've all been stand-alone stories. It's nice to work on a bigger scale, with the space to build slowly and layer in all sorts of levels, twists and surprises. Speaking of which, Kiki also mentioned this in her review:


    "Archie is an enigma in itself. Presented as being a normal boy yet being a locksmith in The Merge? Hmm. There's something strange here. He's a puzzle that needs to be solved without a doubt."


    Heh heh. Long-time Shansters know that things are very rarely as straightforward in a Darren Shan universe as they might at first seem. Kiki's right, of course -- there's a lot more to Archie than meets the eye, and over the course of the three Volumes I'm going to be gradually revealing more and more about his background and the source of his powers. Why IS he such a natural with the locks? The answers await... in the Merge!


    To read the full review, CLICK HERE






    There was a super 5 star review of Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan last month on the Addicted To Media site. This is Book 2 of the series, and while there have been lots of cool reviews of the first part, there have been less of Books 2 and 3, so this was particularly warmly received here in Shanville! Some of the reviewer's comments included: "Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan is non-stop adventure from the very first page and once again transports readers to magical realms beyond their wildest imaginations." And: "An incredibly readable book which will appeal to even the most reluctant young readers."


    You can check out the full review by CLICKING HERE





    I've a double dose of Mr Crepsley reviews, for those of you who can't get enough of the suave, grumpy, orange-haired charmer!


    First up, a vlogger called Connor decided to read all four books in The Saga Of Larten Crepsley in just 12 hours. (Connor's a veteran of this kind of thing -- he read all 12 of the Cirque Du Freak books in 24 hours a while back!) You can find out how he got on by CLICKING HERE



    Next up, a reviewer called Loz read the four books (in an unspecified time span!) and wrote a more traditional review of the series, which you can check out by CLICKING HERE


    Both reviewers really enjoyed the Mr Crepsley series (phew!), but intriguingly, while Connor decided he preferred the original Saga a little bit more, Loz actually preferred the prequel series!


    Loz also raised the issue of whether one should start with Cirque Du Freak or Birth Of A Killer when reading the two series. While there are pros and cons either way, my advice, if you're new to my work, is to start with Cirque Du Freak, read the 12 books in that series, then check out the Mr Crepsley books. But if you're coming back for a re-read, you'll get a different feel for (and understanding of) the storylines if you start with the Mr Crepsley books, then push on from there, so it might be fun to do it that way.


    But, hey, you guys are the boss, so whatever works for you is fine by me! :-)



    A reviewer with the flutteringly beautiful name of The Butterfly Reader recently reviewed the first two books in my Saga of Darren Shan series -- Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant. It's lovely that, even twenty years after they were first published, these books are still picking up new reviews -- although it should be pointed out that The Butterfly Reader isn't new to the book, noting in her review of the first one that she's read it 5 times already! The reviews are short and snappy, and won't take up too much of your time, and if you'd like to check them out, CLICK HERE for the Book 1 review, and CLICK HERE for Book 2.






    Halloween might have come and gone for another year, but this is a round up some Halloween-themed bits and pieces that I never got a chance to share with you guys in the run-up to the big night... starting with the photo above, which was shared with me by a couple of librarians at Bay House School in the UK, who put together a ghoulishly groovy collection of recommended Halloween reads -- and I was delighted to see Zom-B in among the mix. Thanks, Simone and Katniss -- you have great taste in books! :-) Next up are links to various articles which recommend spooky books (there's at least one Darren Shan book in each list, of course!), perfect reading for Halloween, but also for any other day of the year! There are scary books for every age group -- from picture books for the little ones, to full-on horror for grown-ups. So you might want to bookmark a few of these for ideas about what to read on a rainy (scary) day!
















    Over on YouTube, vlogger Morgan's epic journey through the twelve books of my Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak series is continuing without any hiccups. Basically, Morgan is re-reading the entire series in order, and posting a review of each book. These aren't quick, paper-thin reviews -- each video lasts about half an hour, and see Morgan discussing them in great depth. Perfect for those of you who'd describe yourselves as "serious Shansters," who've maybe read the books numerous times, and want to hear from someone who cherishes them and thinks about them as much as you do. Morgan's recently posted his review for Book 7, Hunters of the Dusk. I provided links for his reviews of the first three books in the November issue of the Shanville Monthy, and here are the links for Books 4 through 7.


    Book 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLSbXRaME7g

    Book 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11P0QF52eN0

    Book 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M36u-iTe3Xs

    Book 7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj20WiI6m2Q


    And if you want to check out the first three books, here's the Shanville Monthly November link: https://www.darrenshan.com/news/shanville-archives/2020/11/






    Upcoming author Rachel Brooker (not to be confused with the infamous Rebecca Brooker, a villain more dastardly than Mr Tiny, Lord Loss and Dan Dan combined!!) recently spoke about five of her favourite children's writers, those whose books have inspired her to take up her pen and try to tell her own stories, and I was honoured to see my name in among the five -- I had a little chuckle, too, when she spoke about her drama project in school! :-) You can read the article by CLICKING HERE






    If you've been following my blog and Facebook posts regularly over the last couple of years, you're probably familiar with the artist Amity Lee. She's drawn a LOAD of amazing pieces inspired by my work -- including the first ever fan drawings based on my Archibald Lox books. In October she decided to do INKTOBER, where artists set themselves a challenge of producing a certain amount of work over the course of the month, inspired by a set of "prompt" words. Never one to do things by halves, Amity Lee set herself the challenge of drawing a piece EVERY SINGLE DAY of the month... and she only went and did it!!! She decided to base the drawings on my Saga Of Larten Crepsley series, and they flow in chronological order, following the storyline of the books. I started sharing her drawings on my blog and Facebook posts towards the end of November, and I wrote a little piece about each drawing, something that I'll carry on doing. I will continue sharing them through December, and probably into January, so keep watching and make sure you don't miss any of them!







    I've been sharing a lot of photos of cosplaying Shansters in my blog and Facebook posts over the last month, and there was a glut of them in the run-up to Halloween. I've included small images of a few above -- there's Kagamatori as Kurda Smahlt, The Spark of Revolution as Grubbs Grady, Vanessa and a group of her friends as various performers at the Cirque Du Freak, and Jake as Mr Crepsley. For larger images, and lots more photos, scroll back through my blog and Facebook entries.



    I'M BACK!!


    It's finished. It's finally finished. I have shuffled, slowly and sluggishly, out of the creative wilderness, and the first draft of Archibald Lox: Volume Three is finally, finally finished.


    *deep breath* ... *and breathe again*


    I've always been a fast, efficient writer. Over the years, I've come to pride myself on it, always pushing myself along at a brisk pace, keeping the books coming, far more prolific than the vast majority of writers, with (or so I hope anyway!) quality to match the quantity. I've often said that I don't believe in Writer's Block, and I still don't. But reader, dear reader, there's certainly Writer's... PAUSE.


    I'd deliberately slowed up a bit after I completed my Zom-B series. I'd been writing and touring madly for a very long time, and felt like I needed a bit of a break. I didn't down tools completely, by any means -- just took things a bit easier. I finished my first draft of Volume One of Archibald Lox in 2014, then Mrs Shan and I had our first child, and it was nice (maddening, but nice!) to spend lots of time with my wife and son, and not have to worry about writing deadlines.


    I began chipping away again several months later, wrote the first draft of Volume Two of Archibald Lox over a nine month period from late 2015 to mid 2016. It was a BIG book, a real whopper, but I would have finished it much quicker if I'd been writing it a few years earlier. But that was fine. Even though I was taking my time, I was still making good progress, and all was well with my world.


    There was another long break after I finished the first draft of Volume Two, before I sat down to start Volume Three in March 2017. I ticked along nicely, writing about 100 A4 pages over the space of the following month. But then, on April 26th, 2017, I put the book aside "for a while"...


    ... and didn't return to work on it for more than three years, in June 2020.


    There were a number of reasons for the unseemly PAUSE. One contributing factor was that I didn't have the book mapped out to my complete satisfaction. I wasn't sure how many Volumes there were going to be at that point, and I was holding some key ideas back, planning to use them in a later book if I continued with the story past the third volume. That meant it was a bit light, plot-wise. It didn't feel dynamic, and I wasn't sure how beef it up and inject urgency, and fashion it into a match for Volume One and Volume Two. (Especially Volume Two. I'm REALLY pleased with how that one turned out.)


    Family life was another factor. When you have young children, and work from home, it can be tricky to focus. And although my son was growing and had started pre-school, we then had our second child, our daughter, and that derailed me a bit too. (Though, again, it's a derailment I've been very happy to have endured. I purposely prioritised family over writing. The writing probably didn't have to suffer quite as much as it did, but I've no regrets about spending more time with my kids than many father get to spend with theirs.)


    The third factor was the biggest fly in the ointment. When I wrote Volume One, I was so excited. I thought it was some of my best work, I loved the universe of the Merge that I'd created, I was looking forward to exploring it in more depth in future books and sharing them all with the world. I thought it was going to be another hit and that life on the publishing front would roll along merrily as it had for the last decade and a half or more. But then, after a few judicious edits, I sent it to my agents...


    ...and they didn't like it.


    I worked on it over and over, rewriting and editing like mad, but they still didn't like it. And when they finally sent it out to a few publishers, the publishers didn't like it either. And it began to dawn on me that as far as the industry was concerned, this was an unloveable beast, and I was going to have to self-publish it if I wanted to get it out into the world.


    Now, I've self-published several books for adults (as Darren Dash), and I've no problem with self-publishing. But I really never thought I'd have to self-publish a Darren Shan middle grade/YA book. It threw me. My confidence took a deep knock, and this joy of a huge project became a waking nightmare. If it had been a one-off book, I might have left it and moved on to something new, but I was in too deep to back out. Even though my agents and editors didn't love Archie, I did, and I felt compelled to follow him to the end of his path, to see where it would lead him.


    So I buckled up and pushed ahead with it as a self-published series, but it wasn't easy, and the last few years have been a dark, hard time for me. But this year, despite all the other bad stuff going on in the world, creatively I began to emerge from my fugg. When I released the first three Archibald Lox books back in the spring, an immense weight lifted from my shoulders. And when readers responded to the books with warmth and kindness and excitement and intrigue and joy... well, that gave me a lift the like of which I sorely needed. I hadn't lost my marbles. The books weren't the duds that the professionals had proclaimed. They might not make any significant bestseller charts -- I'm not very good at the whole promotional side of things, so it's hard to make people aware that these books exist, even though they've picked up some fab reviews from critics and readers -- but there was love out there for them, and that brought me back to my keyboard to pick up where I'd left off with Volume Three. I quickly figured out what I needed to change and add to make it work, and dived -- well, waded -- right in. I went slowly, and at times it was a real struggle, but on Friday 13th November, I typed the full stop at the end of the last line, and the first draft is finally in the bag.


    I still have a lot of editing to do on Volumes Two and Three, but that will flow smoothly enough, I think. And I've even had ideas for a few new books, the first time in a long while that ideas have been flowing through me and demanding to be fleshed out.


    People, you might not have been aware that I was out of the game -- even during the midst of my creative downtime, I released a few books for adults, so I've been keeping my hand in -- but trust me, I was, big time. But now? Now, my faithful, patient readers?


    I'm back!!!!


    (Sorry for the length of this post, but as you can see -- it's been a long time coming!)




    There were 317 entries in total for last month's competition, with 16 prizes up for grabs, so about 1 in 20 of those who entered walked away very happy Shansters! Commiserations to those of you who didn't win, but never mind -- I'll be running another competition fairly early in 2021, so stay tuned to the Shanville Monthly for updates! Unusually, although fans entered from loads of different countries, all the winners this time, with the exception of one in Australia, came from Ireland, the UK and the USA. The random luck of the draw, or the cunning workings of DesTiny?!? Only time will tell... :-) Anyway, the 16 winners, in the order drawn, were:


    Tam Neill, England.
    Cassandra Wilson, USA.
    Lydia Aizlewood, England.
    Margaret Curtin, Ireland.
    James Lidgey-Hutt, England.
    Tyler Whelan, England.
    Talia Bugden, England.
    Thomas Paxton, USA.
    Carly Coughran, Australia.
    Maxime Moone, Ireland.
    Emma Martin, Ireland.
    Chrsitopher Robertson, Scotland.
    Kenneth Chruscinski, USA.
    Alejandro Ibarra, USA.
    Tyler Rouse, USA.
    Elijah Fleming, Ireland.



    IT'S A WRAP!



    And that's it for December. I hope you all manage to enjoy the yuletide season, even though our celebrations will have to be curtailed in most parts of the world this year. It's going to be a quieter one than usual, but hey, watch an old favourite movie, read a good thick book, listen to some catchy tunes, and remind yourself that we're living through historic times and this will be something to tell our kids and grandkids about in the covid-free decades to come. I'll be back here at the start of the New Year -- which will hopefully prove to be a lot more fun for us all than 2020! -- with all the latest news and updates. Until then, Merry Christmas, and all my bloody best, Darren Shan. x x x



    Follow Darren Shan on Facebook and Twitter. He also has a (very rarely updated!) YouTube page.





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