• Issue 281 - December 2023

    01 December 2023



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the December issue of the Shanville Monthly!! We're in the run-up to Christmas now, and if any of you are looking for an extra special Darren Shan-theme gift, either to buy for someone else or receive yourself, you might want to check out my Terrified Troll fundraiser, which is still active and features LOADS of unique, exclusive PERKS... Elsewhere, Archibald Lox has joined the audio books revolution... the 2023 edition of the fan-created Cirque Du Freak fanzine is live... Father of the Future is still picking up wonderful reviews... and our old friend Shanta is on his way!!! For all these stories and more, read on...






    Are you ready for the first ever Darren Shan PICTURE BOOK?!? I hope so, because it's on its way!! And the even more exciting news is that YOU can be involved in its creation! It's called THE TERRIFIED TROLL, and the artist is a friend of mind called EVA BYRNE.


    We hope to sell the rights to a traditional publisher down the line, but we're going to start by creating a LIMITED EDITION, SIGNED, HARDBACK version, which is only going to be available to people who pre-order a copy during our FUNDRAISER. Yes -- it's the first ever Darren Shan fundraiser too!!!!


    As well as the book (available as either a NUMBERED or LETTERED edition), we've put together a group of incredible PERKS -- limited edition PRINTS that Eva has created... one-to-one ZOOM CHATS with me... in-the-flesh meetings with me, where we get to hang out for a couple of hours...and more!


    Whatever your desire, whatever your budget, we have something for YOU!!! The link for the fundraiser is below -- feel free to browse it at your leisure and purchase perks at your pleasure, although a few are almost SOLD OUT, so my advice is to hurry!! Oh, and if you could PLEASE share the link with everyone you know, not just fans of my books, but adults who like picture books, or parents with kids, or teachers or librarians or booksellers or... well, ANYONE!!!... we'd be SO delighted. Your backing is crucial to bringing this to life, and the more people we can reach with the fundraiser, the greater our chances of being able to deliver the book by the end of summer 2024, which is our goal.


    To find out more about THE TERRIFIED TROLL and associated PERKS, click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-bring-our-troll-to-life






    Anyone fancy listening to an AI Archibald Lox audio book?!?


    Intrigued by the extistence of AI narrators, I tried launching the Archibald Lox series as audio books a few months ago, on Apple, but it was a mess. I wasn't able to have any kind of editorial control over the process. I wasn't able to control the price of the audio books (Apple hiked the prices far higher than I wished). And I wasn't able to have the omnibus Volumes adapted, meaning I had to use the nine small books of the series, which made it VERY expensive. And for some reason their system couldn't handle book 3 and wouldn't publish it, leaving a gaping hole in the series! In the end I called time and shut it down. As I noted last month, to the delight of those who are anti-AI, it was a case of Humans 1 - AI 0!!!! :-)


    BUT, just as in the second Terminator movie, the machines are back! I noticed that GOOGLE are also now doing AI audio books, and upon investigation, their system is far superior to Apple's. I'm able to edit each book -- for instance, I noticed that the word "live" in the last line of the final book was being pronounced to rhyme with "five" instead of "give", which was a major flaw, but I was able to easily go in and tweak the line slightly to get the correct pronunciation of the word. I was able to have the omnibus Volumes adapted, so there are only 3 books to collect. And I can directly control the prices, so I was able to keep the overall cost down -- I set it at $6.99 (or your local equivalent) per book, and if you buy all 3 Volumes you get a 5% discount, bringing the cost for the entire audio series in at just under $20.


    Here's the direct buying link for Volume 1: CLICK HERE


    I know that views on this matter are decidedly mixed, and many people are of the opinion that all "creative" AI is bad AI and should never be tolerated in the creative fields, i.e. it's fine if it's a medical programme that will help save lives, but a no-no if it's putting writers, artists or voice performers out of work.


    I'm in two minds. I can see the downsides of AI, obviously, but I also think it's truly mind-blowing technology. While I try to avoid cliches as much as possible in my books, the truth is that my jaw dropped when I was playing around with the Google programme.


    It's also author-empowering. Audio books are very expensive and time-consuming to produce. Like most self-published authors, audio books have been beyond my reach to date -- I just can't justify spending several thousand euro on having the Archie or Darren Dash books adapted, knowing I'm not going to make that money back.


    AI offers me the chance to get around what so far has been an impassable audio barrier, and make the books available to the small number of fans who have politely but insistently been asking me for many years to release my self-published books on audio. It takes some of the power from the hands of the traditional publishing companies and puts it into the hands of writers who don't enjoy their backing, and as a small self-publisher (albeit one who has also published traditionally) I'm all in favour of that. I'm by no means anti-traditional-publishing, but I think it's good for writing in general if there's an easy route to market for the little guys too, and if they can compete on a more even playing ground with the big players.


    Having said that, I don't think the threat to audio book narrators is quite as pronounced as doomsayers will claim. As impressive as the Google audio narrators are, they're NOT the same as real-life narrators, and the end product is nowhere near as polished as a REAL audio book. It's an admirable fake, but fake nonetheless, lacking the passion and nuances that a skilled human narrator brings to the table. If I could afford it, I'd be going for a human narrator, and I'm sure that traditional publishers will continue to use humans for the majority of their more commercial authors. Human-narrated audio books are undeniably better, and will remain the first choice of anyone who can afford to go down that route, but AI gives the little guys a chance to at least dip their toes in the water and grow their market slightly.


    Oh, finally, one tiny but crucial point that swung the balance for me firmly going ahead with this was the name of the audio narrator that I chose. Google offer several of them, and one is called... ARCHIE!!! I think the gods of AI were tipping me a wink with that one, and whispering in their most human (but inhuman) voice, "Come on, Darren, you KNOW you want to!!!!"






    If you're a recent Follower of mine, you might not be aware that every year I publish a SHORT STORY on my website, all about... SHANTA CLAUS!! It started life more than 20 years ago, and is set just after the end of Tunnels Of Blood. Originally it was limited to the characters who appeared in my vampire books, but over the years it's grown to include mentions of all of my major series, as well as nods to a few of my one-off books too. It's the only place in the official Darren Shan universe where you'll find Lord Loss rubbing shoulder with Mr Crepsley and B Smith! Just don't take it TOO seriously -- it's all intended to be nothing more than good, freaky fun!!! In recent years I've also used the story to include one or two updates on the status of the ongoing efforts to bring some of my work to life as movies or TV shows. While I have no major news to share this year (you'd have heard about them here if I had!), there might be a few interesting little updates. You'll be able to check it out from sometime in the middle of the month, by clicking here: https://darrenshan.com/extras But ONLY if you've been a good little boy or girl -- the link won't work if you've been naughty!! Shanta KNOWS!!!!!!






    FATHER OF THE FUTURE, my latest Darren Dash book for mature readers, went on sale in October. It's a satirical, time-travelling tale that looks at the dangers of putting too much power into the hands of a super-computer, and what happens to humanity if we cede too much control over our lives to the artificially intelligent machines that we create. The book picked up a VERY positive review from SELF-PUBLISHING REVIEW recently, who said it was a "wildly creative read" that "weaves issues of religion, science, and politics into a masterful allegory of contemporary society." Nice!!! You can check out the full review by CLICKING HERE


    The eBook is available through Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google Play, Kobo, Smashwords and lots of other online stores, at a wallet-friendly price tag of just $2.99. It's on sale all around the world, at a similar low price in your local currency, e.g. £1.99 in the UK, €2.75 in Europe. You can also buy it as a hardback or paperback through Amazon stores worldwide. If you're going to buy a physical edition, I strongly recommend the hardback, which is a beautifully produced book -- and before you slap my wrist and accuse me of trying to upsell you, I actually make slightly less on the hardback than I do on the paperback!!! (I wanted to keep its cost down, to make it more attractive to buyers.)




    Apple, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etchttps://books2read.com/u/318gPw

    Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Darren_Dash_Father_of_the_Future?id=jKnYEAAAQBAJ



    Amazon USA hardbackhttps://www.amazon.com/Father-Future-Darren-Dash/dp/B0CKH7NMVV/

    Amazon USA paperbackhttps://www.amazon.com/Father-Future-Darren-Dash/dp/B0CKD3YCFW/

    Amazon UK hardbackhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Father-Future-Darren-Dash/dp/B0CKH7NMVV/

    Amazon UK paperbackhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Father-Future-Darren-Dash/dp/B0CKD3YCFW/






    There was a lovely article in my local newspaper, THE LIMERICK LEADER, last month, in which myself and Eva Byrne were interviewed about our forthcoming picture book, The Terrified Troll, and our fundraiser to raise the money necessary to finish and publish it. It first appeared in the physical edition, and then later online. It gave us loads of space to talk about how we know each other and came to work on the book, and how we're going about bringing it to life. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and you can read it by CLICKING HERE






    The Cirque Du Freak FANZINE is an annual FREE online publication, made BY fans of the books, FOR fans of the books. It features fan art, fan stories, cosplay photos, etc. This year's edition went live shortly before Halloween. I meant to include a link to it then, but I wad on holiday and... um... forgot!! Sorry!!!! Anyway, better late than never, right?!? And by not directing you towards the fanzine last month, it means you get to enjoy it THIS month!!!


    To access the fanzine, CLICK HERE, then enter a price of 0 in the box that asks how much you want to pay, and you can then download it for free. I've attached a piece from the fanzine, above, to give you an idea of the quality that's on display, but there are LOADS more in it to coo over, and a couple of stories too.






    A reviewer called LUKE W HENDERSON was a big fan of my books when he was a teenager. A decade later he decided to return to the series to see how they stood up when read from an adult's perspective, and to record his views for posterity. CLICK HERE for his review of the first book, and at the time of writing he has also reviewed the next six books in the series -- there are links for each of those at the bottom of the first review.


    When I wrote Cirque Du Freak, I was very keen to create a story that could work for both children and adults. As and older child and teenager, I was torn between the worlds of children's and adult's literature -- I was reading plenty of books intended for adults, but I still also loved books written for younger readers. Imagining myself as an 11 or 12 year old, I wanted to write something that merged the two worlds, that was a quick, easy read, suitable for that age bracket, but which also delved into the darkness of writers like Stephen King or Clive Barker, and took readers into the kind of territory that they normally never got to experience with books written for their age range. Did I succeed in my aims?!? Well, have a read of Luke's review and see what HE thinks!!! :-)






    I went to see Five Nights at Freddy's with my 9-year-old son at the cinema last month. He enjoyed it a lot, though it was the first horror film he's ever been to, so he spent much of the time with his jumper pulled up over his head!!! Honestly!! It didn't do a whole lot for me -- it didn't seem to know what tone it wanted to set -- but I had a lot of fun watching Dante and comforting him!!


    Linking in with the film, there was a nice profile of Josh Hutcherson on the LOOPER website. It looked at some of his more memorable films, and Cirque Du Freak gets quite a lengthy mention. While acknowledging that it was a box office failure, it also notes that "Despite its failure, Cirque du Freak served as a major highlight reel of how Hutcherson was evolving as an actor." Something I'd agree with wholeheartedly -- while FNAT wasn't particularly good overall in my opinion, Josh put in a sterling performance and deserved better than the script delivered... a lot like with the Cirque Du Freak movie, one might say, if one were of a mischievous bent!!! Read the full article by CLICKING HERE


    There was also an article on NBC, looking at Josh's career highlights before Five Nights At Freddy's, and Cirque Du Freak was one of the films they pinpointed. As they correctly noted, the film was "a bit of a cult hit that didn't find a mainstream audience," but that Josh put in "a strong turn in a bad guy role that could have had some interesting legs if the movie was more successful." I'd agree with that analysis too -- while the film took a lot of liberty's with the plot of the first three books, and Steve's story arc across them, I thought Josh was perfectly cast in the role -- it wasn't HIS fault that the writer/director changed so much about the character! Anyway, you can check out the article by CLICKING HERE






    A lovely article went live last month over on the BOOKS, FILMS & RANDOM LUNACY blog, highlighting my fundraiser to raise the funds necessary to complete my first ever picture book, which is called The Terrified TrollCLICK HERE


    As the blogger notes, as well as being able to pre-order the book (thus ensuring a copy of the signed, numbered, limited edition first printing), you can choose from a number of VERY exciting perks as well -- personal Zoom chats with me... gorgeous limited prints that Eva has created... a handwritten Troll poem... you can even buy a perk that will allow you to hang out with Darren Shan for a couple of hours!!!






    As most of you are all too aware, I've done extremely few in-person events since the end of my Zom-B series. BUT good news is just around the corner for the those in the UK who would like to catch me live!! I've signed up for SFW XV next March, a sci-fi weekender in Great Yarmouth. Details of what I'll be doing there are yet to be confirmed, but I imagine I'll be appearing on a couple of days, doing a few panel events, maybe even a solo event or two, and of course signing lots of books!!


    I did SFW several years ago and really enjoyed it, so I'm delighted to have been invited back. It's a very relaxed, welcoming festival, with LOTS going on, loads of people from the sci-fi/fantasy/horror worlds of movies, TV, books, comics, etc. Most people (maybe everyone?!?) who attend the festival tend to camp over the weekend, and I chatted with some who went to it every year and treated it as a holiday, the same way that some people do with music festivals.


    If you're interested in coming, you can find all the info you need by CLICKING HERE. I can't guarantee good weather at that time of year, but I can guarantee more access to me than you'd get at a normal event, more time to ask questions and have your books signed. You might even spot me in a restaurant, at the bar or on the dance floor and get a chance to quiz me one-on-one -- but be warned, I take no responsibility for crushed toes if you get too close to me while I'm dancing!!!



    IT'S A WRAP!



    And that's it for December. In the Shan house, we always know that Christmas must be coming when the Shan elf-on-a-shelf elves who visit us each year turn up!! Saucy Minx (in red) and Mishka (purple) touched down shortly before the end of November, and hit town with a bang, staying up late, watching TV and raiding our food cubopards and drinks fridge! I sense festive trouble ahead!!!! I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and New Year's, and I'll see you back here in January for the first 2024 issue of my newsletter. Until then, 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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