Friday, 28 October 2016

Ooo la la!

I've gathered together all my French covers from the excellent Bragelonne for your viewing pleasure!        

(Jalan clearly gets a haircut at some point) 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Magic, the gathering!

I have spent more money than I am going to admit here on Magic cards. I started playing back in the early to mid 90s, then took it up again in the 2000s when ebay would deliver big boxes of second hand cards to my door...

Anyway, I've given it up because I've got nobody to play against, but I was still very pleased to see that someone had created cards for Brothers Jorg, Makin, and Rike.

& from @Koopo3001 on Twitter:

This last card I think predates the book and the name is coincidental, but it's cool even so!

If they did an expansion based on fantasy characters from books I might well jump back in!

I've found there are some great (fake) Lord of the Rings MTG cards online. Feel free to send me any good examples of fantasy book cards.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

REVIEW: Ender's Game

I read this story quite a while back with no special expectations. Like most books I read it just happened to be lying around the house.

I read it, was hugely entertained, and went on to read three or four of the sequels.

I've heard since all manner of 'stuff' about the author but what's true and what isn't I don't know and I'm not here to critique the man behind the keyboard. All I can do is report on the contents of the book and those I can thoroughly recommend you check out.

The main character, Ender Wiggin, through whose eyes we see the story unfold, is a child genius. If you're one of those people who wants your protagonist to be an average member of society, typical of his/her age and gender... step away. Ender's story is told because he is very far from ordinary.

OSC employs a bunch of fairly standard story-telling tricks. Our hero is underestimated at every turn, he exceeds expectations, we know he's got it in him and we're frustrated by the stoopid people who just won't see it. There's a bully/nemisis and nobody else but us sees just how nasty he is... However, OSC manages to bake an irresistable cake using those standard ingredients and once he starts sprinkling on originality as well, you've just got to eat it all.

This is sci-fi, not hard sci-fi, not soft sci-fi... let's say 'chewy'. It has a slightly old school EE Doc Smith feel to it, and you expect someone to pull out a monkey-wrench whenever the computer starts smoking, but none of that worried me.

Given the date it was written there's some quite prescient stuff about the internet here, although shall we say ... optimistic ... about the ends to which it's put. Card foresaw rather more reasoned political/philosophical debate and rather less hard core porn. Additionally the inclusion of female and Muslim characters whilst not front and centre was fairly progressive for 1985 (not ground breaking but certainly ahead of the curve).

This is actually a book with good messages (for the time) about equality, and one which poses interesting philosophical questions about what happens with races with orthogonal thought processes come into contact, and how far one can or should go in such situations.

There definitely is some characterisation going on. We're not talking Asimov's Foundation here where brilliant ideas invite you to forgive cardboard characters. The people here are decently drawn and Ender has his own angst (involving genius psychopathic siblings) that is quite engaging. However, it's the stuff that goes on that drives the story. The war games in preparation for battling the aliens, the unfortunately named 'Buggers'. These war games and Ender's brilliance in overcoming increasingly dire odds are a major theme and I loved them.

And then there's the twist. I'll say no more on that except that I was too engaged with the story to see it coming, and when it hit me ... well, I'd give the book 6* just for that moment. It doesn't work for everyone but it did for me!

EDIT: I have now seen the film - which I enjoyed. The film skips a lot that's important to the book, but I found it entertaining.

EDIT 2: Orson Scott Card reviewed *my* first trilogy. That's pretty damn cool!

(scroll down the article)

You can go and 'like' my review on goodreads, if you like.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Road Brothers, the embiggening!

For the past 11 months you've been able to buy Road Brothers in ebook, a self-published collection of short stories focusing on the individual backstories of Jorg and his companions. Readers seem to like it. It has a 4.9 rating on Amazon.

Many people have asked if they can buy it in paperback or hardcover, and the answer has been "no".

This is changing! Voyager are going to publish a new, bigger, better Road Brothers in (I think) the summer of 2017. It will be available in hardcover, ebook, and later paperback. I don't yet know what cover it will have or even if it will still be called Road Brothers. It will contain all the current stories, plus the Jorg story from the special edition, and two unpublished short stories, one which focuses on the Nuban and the other which puts the spotlight on Fat Burlow's tenure as leader of the Brothers.

The new material ups the wordcount from 42,000 to 63,000 words, and was a necessary addition for the publishers to take the risk of bringing the work to hardcover and putting it in shops.

I have, however, negotiated to be allowed to give out one of the unpublished additional stories in my newsletter. So just sign up and it will be winging its way to you early next year!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

SPFBO - runner up interviews

Coming 4th is generally held to be pretty hard if you're in the Olympics, but in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off there are no medals for second place in the heats. 

As a small consolation I've invited the authors of the 2nd placed books (where the bloggers were ready to name such a book) to take part in an 'exit' interview, modelling it on these interviews I did with self published authors back in 2012.

Here are the first three to respond!

1. Score out of ten the following reason you write (10 = nail on head, 1 = no part of me has ever even thought this). You may qualify your numerical response with a tweet length text addition if you so desire.

-I hope to become rich

[Josiah] 3. I’d be a terrible rich person. I’d spend all my money on pimped-out dirigibles and tacos.

[Benedict] 3 - This just doesn't feel like enough of a possibility, certainly in the short term, for it to drive my writing. 

[AJ] (3) During the day, I work for a non-profit company that aims to support a global community’s conservation efforts…money isn’t really what drives me. 

-I would not be happy knowing only a couple of people ever read my stories

[Josiah] 8. I dream of one day seeing someone reading my book on the train.

[Benedict] 9 - I live for this! Readers dropping a quick email or leaving a review are what keeps me going. 

[AJ] (8) It’s a thrill to have someone pick up my book and enjoy the adventure. The more, the better. 

-To stay sane

[Josiah] 7. I’ll never be sane, but writing helps to blunt the crazy.

[Benedict] 1 - I'm not one of those people, sorry. I'd probably waste lots of time on computer games if I wasn't writing, and I'd cope just fine. I miss computer games.

[AJ] (1) My fear is that it will be the other way around. To find a moment in my busy life to be the writer can be dauntingly difficult.

-To have people tell me how well I do it and how wonderful I am

[Josiah] 7. I wish I could claim to have transcended vanity, but nope.

[Benedict] 6 - Positive praise is always nice, but I know I'm still growing as a writer and publisher - I'd rather have constructive feedback mixed in there too.

[AJ] (2) I don’t need praise; I just want people to have a great reading experience and enjoy the story I weave together. 

-To prove wrong somebody/bodies who said I wouldn't succeed

[Josiah] 3. As a rule, I try not to let people get in my head. It’s crowded enough in there.

[Benedict] 5 - I've been very lucky in getting a lot of support at home, although I'd love to show them all how deep the rabbit hole can go.

[AJ] (4) I could give this a one, but I do want to prove myself to…myself. Does that make sense? I wanted to know if I can do this. My social circles are mostly supportive and if they ever had doubts about my ability to succeed, they never voiced them. 

2. You've opted to self-publish. Did you ever try to have a publisher do it for you? Are you still trying? How much success are you finding?

[Josiah] I started collecting rejections from publishers when I was sixteen. My favorite rejection came from a producer at the BBC who extolled me to, “Live a little more and write about it less.” I didn’t listen. In an average year, I’ll submit between 150-200 works to publishers, publications, and agents. I will never stop trying.

[Benedict] I sent a few manuscripts to Marvel comics back in the day! Otherwise, discovering the modern self-publishing movement actually spurred me into writing more regularly. Before that, the selection process in traditional publishing put me off pushing to complete anything - I think it would kill me to spend ages writing a story and not be able to get it into readers' hands.

[AJ] I briefly looked at agents and publishers a few years ago, but I found the road of self-publishing more interesting (also; I hated the we-will-get-back-to-you-unless-we-do-not game). One of the major advantages of self-publishing is the freedom and control you have over the (creative) process, which really appeals to me. 

On the other hand, to have an agent and publisher behind you can open up a lot of doors and resources. So both ways have pros and cons.

At the time, self-publishing was a way forward for me; to gain more insight and knowledge into the entire process. To have that freedom and flexibility to work around my day-job was the only way I saw it could work for me. What the future brings? Who knows. All I can say is that I’m happy with the road so far and I’m always open to explore new opportunities. 
3. How much hard work is self publishing? What fraction or multiple of the time you spend writing do you spend on the business of self publishing and self promotion? 

[Josiah] Self-publishing is easy. All it requires is an internet connection, a word file, and a moment of optimism. Anyone can self-publish. Succeeding at self-publishing, on the other hand, requires regular human sacrifice and caffeinated vodka. Ideally, I would spend 20% of my time on promotion and 80% on writing. Presently, I’m spending 80% on promotion and 20% on staring into the void.

[Benedict] Self publishing is emotionally tiring - it can be very depressing to know your work is out there, but people are not picking it up. At the moment I'm focussing almost exclusively on writing, to build up a catalogue of three or four books. After that I'll push the self promotion button a bit more.

[AJ] Honestly, harder than I expected. Finishing your story is only half the work. Then, you have to find the right editor, think about cover design, typesetting, ebook formatting and everywhere there’s money involved of course, so you have to be careful with what you invest. Finally, after you have the actual book polished and done, comes the marketing, online presence and fan base building. Trying to find the answer on how you get people to pick up your book and read it…without becoming obnoxious. 

Self-promotion can be dangerously time-consuming. With only a few hours per week that I can spend on writing, it can be a real obstacle. At certain times I dial down the promotion as far as possible, in order to focus on writing. In a way, that’s part of the promotion process as well, since each new book you release, has the chance to stimulate new readers toward your previously published books as well. 

4. Write one short paragraph to convince readers your book's the self-published work they should experiment with _or_ supply three paragraphs from your book to do the talking for you. Which do you choose?

[Josiah] I’ll let Senlin Ascends do the talking for me.

Senlin cleared his throat and furrowed his brow. “Marya, I… I have a difficult time expressing certain… genuinely held feelings. I…” he swallowed and shook his head. This was not how he wanted the speech to go. She waited patiently, and he gathered his thoughts. “You’ve made it impossible for me to read a book in peace. When you’re not here, I just gaze at the words until they tumble off the page into a puddle in my lap. Instead of reading, I sit there and review the hours of the day I spent in your company, and I am more charmed by that story than anything the author has scribbled down. I have never been lonely in my life, but you have made me lonely. When you are gone, I am a moping ruin. I thought I understood the world fairly well. But you have made it all mysterious again. And it’s unnerving and frightening and wonderful, and I want it to continue. I want all your mysteries. And if I could, I would give you a hundred pianos. I would…”

She stopped him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. She rose, her hand moving to his cheek. He tried to stand and fell back onto the keyboard with a discordant bang of notes. She kissed him, shifting the bench with the side of her leg. He attempted to lift himself from the keyboard, but again she pushed him back with the force of a kiss and again he banged upon the keys.

The villagers who walked past the headmaster’s cottage that evening wondered where he had gotten a piano and why he insisted on playing it so poorly and so loudly for so long.

[Benedict] From the folk story ,The Magpie King and the Black Squirrel' from They Mostly Come Out At Night: 

It was in the early days of the forest, long before the outsiders arrived. The world was still new, and would look strange to your eyes if you saw it now. Cat and mouse would walk together through the leaves, chatting about a joke a human had told them earlier that morning. Rabbits sneered rudely at passersby, concerned that everyone was after their patches of clover. Strange creatures that you cannot imagine shared these trees as their home, such as mammoths, bears and dragons.

The Magpie King was young, and was still becoming accustomed to his power. He viewed every feature of his forest with wonder and delight, and found great joy in taking the opportunity to pass the time of day with every deer, leopard or wolf.

This idyllic paradise was shattered when a great darkness enveloped the sky above the forest. Man, woman, fox and frog alike threw themselves to the dirt and wailed for the Magpie King to protect them.

[AJ] From Windcatcher – Book I of the Stone War Chronicles

For the second time since the conflict started, Raylan saw a wolf pass over his head like a dark shadow of death. There was nothing he could do as a chaos of fangs and claws threw itself directly on top of the horses. Crashing toward the ground, the legs of both horses snapped like twigs, and the entire wagon began to roll. A disarray of flesh, stone and wood crashed down the slope. Raylan felt himself launched into the air, barely missing a dead tree stump on the way. Slamming into the ground, he slid on his side into a stone boulder. With his heart pumping pure adrenaline, he jumped up at once, unaware of any injuries. He saw the remainder of the wagon continue its downward crash.

The steep slope was littered with small boulders and trees; the ground filled with the fallen needles of those forest giants that died. It had softened Raylan’s landing, but also made the ground a slippery slope all the way to the ravine’s edge. The wagon smashed into a large boulder with the sound of shattering wood and bending metal. The horses’ limp bodies—clearly dead now—rolled along the slope. Raylan heard the wolf growl in anger, as it got tangled up in the reins and four pair of legs. Its heavy stone body was dragged along by the dead weight of the horses and rapidly approached the edge of the ravine; but that did not concern Raylan in the least. Before he actually saw the stone wolf disappear over the edge, his focus was drawn to the wagon. It had split open upon the rock, throwing Stephen and the chest out of it.

For a moment, Raylan was confused by the bandaged person flying through the air, until his mind caught up to the fact that Regis’ remains had been in the wagon as well. Raylan started moving before Stephen hit the ground, next to their wrapped up comrade. The chest landed almost at the same time. Because it lacked a proper lock, it sprung open. The dragon’s egg instantly launched out of its wooden confinement and began tumbling down toward the ravine at incredible speed.

5. The first great book, poem, and album that pop into your head?

[Josiah] Invitation to a Beheading by Nabokov, “An Arundel Tomb” by Larkin, and “Plastic Beach” by Gorillaz.

[Benedict] Book: The Lord of the RingsPoem: Ode on a Grecian UrnAlbum: Simon & Garfunkel - Tales from New York 

[AJ] This perfect day – Ira Levin; defy the rules to shape your own future, but not all is as it seems. The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost; adventure awaits for those that dare. 10000 days – Tool; sometimes the road is long, but the feeling is overwhelmingly good.

6. What has been the most effective mechanism (which is open to others) in getting readers? (we can omit the SPFBO)

[Josiah] I’ve found r/Fantasy to be a wonderfully supportive community that is full of passionate and engaged readers. Like most online communities, they resent it if you just pop in and start flogging your books. But if you participate and contribute to the conversation, you can find new friends and new fans.

[Benedict] Patty Jansen runs monthly promotions for Sci Fi and Fantasy authors, which alternate between 99c and free promos. They cost nothing, but everyone involved pushes the promo to their individual mailing lists - the reach that can be achieved is huge. (

[AJ] There are so many opportunities out there, it can be difficult to choose which you want to focus on. To do them all can be a full time job. Not to mention that one method will work for one writer/genre, while it totally fails for another. Here’s three that stand out for me.

The most effective platform I encountered up till now is Goodreads. It’s highly interactive and useful to gather interested readers and reviewers. Especially their giveaway can have great results in getting your book in front of people. In turn it will start to build your book’s reviews list. Which will create more exposure and lead to additional reviews, and so on, and so on.

Second would be the use of paid advertisement lists, to announce your promotions. Mailing lists like Ereader News Today, the Fussy Librarian or the famed Bookbub (which I haven’t tried myself yet), have thousands—if not millions in case of Bookbub—of readers waiting to hear about your next master piece.

And finally, the Reddit community is a great group to be a part of. Be it /r/worldbuilding or /r/fantasy, there are plenty of places to gain feedback or inspiration, discuss ideas and encounter future readers. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call it an effective tool to sell many books for an unknown author like myself, it’s a wonderful way to make connections.

7. Any last thoughts? 

[Josiah] Self-publishing can be a lot of fun. I grouse about the process sometimes, but if I had a time machine that could take me back to 2013 when I published Senlin Ascends, I wouldn’t change a thing . . . except the goatee. I would put myself in a headlock and shave that blond abomination right off my stupid, stupid face.

[Benedict] Just wanted to say a huge thanks for this interview, and also for running the SPFBO. I got a fantastic review from Sarah at Bookworm Blues, but more importantly it has really helped me get a firm foothold in the indie fantasy community - there are a number of fellow SPFBO authors I would now call friends. In a profession that can be as lonely as this one is, that human contact is invaluable.

[AJ] To Mark: Thank you for the opportunity. You are an inspiration. 
To those that aspire to write: Enjoy the road traveled. Take it one step at a time, prepare and learn, but never forget to enjoy. I hope the things above will help you on your way.

To those that read: It truly is an age of finding unknown treasures in the world of storytelling. And when you do find such a hidden gem, please don’t keep quiet about it. Mention it to your friends and family. Talk to those you encounter at work. Do an elevator pitch at the mall, and grab the nearest people on the street to enlighten them; for if you do, somewhere in the world an unknown author will be forever grateful that you found his book important enough to mention.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Red Sister gets its first reviews!

First let me explain why you're hearing in October about a book you can't pick up until April 4th. Note, I didn't say you couldn't buy it until April ... because you can. You can PRE-ORDER it!

And that's part of what this is about. Pre-orders are very important to authors. They build confidence at the retailers and ensure an initial pulse of buying that helps a title make the best-seller lists where it attracts further attention and sales.

Reviews this early didn't happen with The Wheel of Osheim, The Liar's Key, Prince of Fools, Emperor of Thorns, or King of Thorns. They did happen with Prince of Thorns, and there's a reason for the similarity. Red Sister is my first new world since 2011. It's a new style, a new direction. The aim of giving out review copies six months early is to ensure that old readers are encouraged into the new world, and that new readers are encouraged to try an 'old' author.

If you didn't like or read The Broken Empire and The Red Queen's War ... this is something different. Perhaps you'll give it a chance!

My US and UK editors, my beta reader, and the majority of the people who have read Red Sister so far say it's the best book I've written. I can't judge my own work, but I'm getting a good feeling about this one.

Both of Red Sister's first blog reviews have been by readers who were very keen on my previous work, so it's encouraging to see that existing readers are loving what they find. The next test is to see what new readers think!

From SF&F reviews:

"I must admit that I went into the new book with high expectations, and a little trepidation. Could the new book, the new world, the new characters – could they excite, horrify, depress and elate,  could they explore the human condition as well as his preceding works? Just to get it out of the way, the answer was an emphatic yes. This is a book very distinct from everything that came before; what it has in common though is a narrative that pulls no punches, and characters that are beautifully, brokenly, repellently, cleverly human."

Read the whole review on the blog, and if you like it, then 'like' it on Goodreads too to let your friends know.

From Booknest:

"It had never crossed my mind that I would read a greater story than that of Kvothe the Arcane. I had never thought it was possible to find a greater character than the Emperor Jorg Ancrath. I had never even slightly considered that there might be a fantasy world out there toppling that of Τhe Final Empire, and most definitely, I had never thought that i could love a book more than The Night Angel. But here we are."

Read the whole review on the blog, and if you like it, then 'like' it on Goodreads too to let your friends know.

Friday, 14 October 2016

REVIEW: The Lies of Locke Lamora

So, I was surprised to discover we owned this book, since it's a very well known book but nobody in my house had ever mentioned it to me.

Turns out my wife bought it, tried it, found it too slow, and gave up. I've convinced her to give it another go.

I enjoyed Locke Lamora and his lies quite a bit. Immediately I liked the writing, which combines wit with solid prose. Like my wife I hit a bit of a soft patch early on, though for me it was that I was finding the point of view very 'surface' sharing almost nothing of Locke's thoughts or desires, leaving him a bit of a blank. Lots of fantasy fans quite like a blank to project themselves onto - but I'm not one of them. Fortunately Locke's personality continued to develop and the point of view seemed to settle a little deeper into him as things progressed.

The real strengths of the book are the plotting, the dialogue, and the atmosphere. The dialogue (banter) brings the Gentlemen Bastards to life, the plotting keeps the reader on their toes, and the city is very well imagined.

I was surprised to find that the light-hearted tone (set primarily by the banter between Locke's gang) actually allows a slew of quite dark themes/scenes to slide past with less impact than they might have. The child prostitution, the gruesome torture scenes, and the mutilation dealt out by our hero are all absent in my own début which is often called out for being very dark.

In any event, I found it to be a rewarding read, well written, and entertaining. I'd recommend any fantasy fan to give it a try.

You can go and 'like' my review on goodreads, if you like.

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