Man, trying to market a new book can be a real pain in the expletive. Yes, this post is a public service announcement (the public being any and all readers of SF/F/UF) concerning the recent release of The Ferryman’s Toll a.k.a. Hourglass 2: Half the time, twice the action!
But I am an author ostensibly, and doing insufferable self-promo is all part of the fun. Plus, my last three blogs followed the ridiculous, and pointless misadventure of an alcoholic incontinent private eye, so I’m due this one.
Back to the matter at hand. When it comes to starting up ad campaigns on NetGalley or trying to attract readers on social media and the like, I always struggle to think of authors whose works fit alongside my two Hourglass books.
I’ve had several charming editorial reviews lately which have compared my writing and/or novel content to China Mieville, Ursula Le Guin, Robert E. Howard, Larry Correia and Simon Green, which is all beyond flattering. But whilst I can see where some of these comments are coming from in terms of the series’ tone or language, the ones which try to find common ground regarding story premise never feel quite…right.
My reading is varied, so I don’t claim to be king shit in knowing every author, series, or genre-changing-novel relative to the urban fantasy genre. Of course, I have read a number of works belonging to the genre, some of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but they’ve all felt too different compared to Hourglass. Maybe it’s because so many of them abide to the idea that urban fantasy must be told in first person (of which I have little mileage, unless I really enjoy the writing), or that they all involve the heavy use of lycans, vamps, witches, wizards, and similar archetypes. And that’s all fine and dandy and warlock nose candy. Lots of people love those things, but with the exception of some occasionally vague references to their being mystical powers in the larger Hourglass universe, the first two books steer clear of traditional urban fantasy creatures, making Hourglass feel like a bit of a square peg in a round hole.
“A genre-busting thriller, Hourglass is an occult masterwork of tension and grit.” – Self-Publishing Review
For starters, I intentionally avoided magic users, opting for an alternative blend of paramilitary weaponry and paranormal superpowers, and aiming them at the sort of dark and scary creatures which Clive Barker and Guillermo Del Toro might appreciate.
Focusing on the paramilitary angle, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series (despite Ledger’s DMS strictly fighting “scientific” threats) or Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series seem like apt comparisons, and to an extent I’d agree, but I still think the omniscient narrative style of the Hourglass books separates them in tone. And yet urban fantasy continues to be a common catch-all description for my two books.
“Fans of urban fantasy should jump on this series at its beginning. A fast-paced, richly imagined, gritty tale of modern-day good versus evil.” — Kirkus Reviews (The Ferryman’s Toll)
To this day, I’d say the best comparison is to Brian Lumley’s excellent Necroscope series (back in the ‘80s and ‘90s!), which grew into a fantastic fusion of blood-drenched, military-tinged horror, which eventually grew into cosmic fantasy! Epic! Clearly, that’s a mouthful too.
Maybe I should just stick to speculative fiction. That’s a nice big categorical umbrella which shelters all manner of strange and bizarre literary outcasts, without automatically conjuring fairies and romantic shape-shifters to the minds of anyone who hears the words urban fantasy.
For all I know, there are two dozen individual bodies of work of similar style and tone to Hourglass and Ferryman, and if there is, I’ll hopefully stumble across them one day.
In the mean time, any SF/F readers out there, why not take Hourglass and/or Ferryman for a spin? They’re a fraction of the price of a latte, and took considerably more love and attention. Who knows you might even like it/them. And I’d love to hear if you have any similar reading recommendations.
“Conspiratorial and spooky, James doesn’t hold back on creativity or drama, for an innovative blend of paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy fiction.” Self-Publishing Review (The Ferryman’s Toll)
Daniel James is an author of speculative (and sometimes dark and weird) fiction, from Liverpool, England. His character-driven, action-packed urban fantasy novel, Hourglass, received a Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, and was voted one of their Best 100 Indie novels of 2021.