"You wanted an update. Here's the update. You won't like it," writes George R R Martin on his long-running blog, Not A Blog.
"The Winds of Winter is not finished."
Queue howls of frustration from Direwolf fans: the next instalment of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire will not arrive before the sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones airs in April.
Both the author and his publishers had hoped that The Winds of Winter would be ready for publication in March of this year, giving readers a month to ensure that their first impressions of Martin's continuing saga were formed by the 'original' medium of the books rather than HBO's adaptation. Martin has now confirmed that this won't be possible.
"Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words," Martin continues. "You're disappointed, and you're not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed... but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me. For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, "I have completed and delivered THE WINDS OF WINTER" on or before the last day of 2015."
While several storylines depicted in the TV show have already outpaced the source material, Martin has now confirmed that the sixth season of Game of Thrones will run rampant with 'spoilers' for those with a preference for reading the books first.
The news can illicit one of two responses....
The first is disappointment, swiftly followed by anger. A rage that Martin hasn't stuck to his deadlines, that he's allowed appearances, projects and general fame to distract from his main task of finishing his books. "Boo Martin," we cry, before settling down to watch HBO's series all the same.
The second, more mature response still begins with disappointment, but promptly navigates its way into the cool waters of relief. Martin isn't rushing his work. He's not allowing the pace of a TV show - an entirely different production beast to publishing a novel - to dictate his creative talent. He explains in his post that 2015 saw him have "more bad days than good ones", and mention his long-standing frustration with deadlines.
"I am going back to my stance from last March, before all this. It will be done when it's done. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it."
As to whether the show will 'spoil' the novels - his response is candid: "Yes and no". Plot twists will be revealed. Characters will inevitably die. "Enjoy the show. Enjoy the books," he concludes. "Meanwhile, I'll keep writing. Chapter at a time. Page at a time. Word at a time. That's all I know how to do."