Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blackguards! Kickstarter anthology.


Kickstarting is basically a glorified pre-order where you can get all sorts of benefits - check it out HERE


Joe Martin of Ragnarok Publications asked me if I would put a story in for this anthology back before it had a name and was just an idea. I said yes because Joe and fellow Ragnarokian, author Tim Marquitz, had shown themselves to be supportive good fun guys on facebook and I had a story bubbling at the back of my mind.

The story I've got in the Blackguards anthology concerns Brother Sim, of whom Jorg Ancrath has said:

i) Assassination is just murder with a touch more precision. Brother Sim is precise.

ii) Shakespeare had it that clothes maketh the man. The right clothes could take Brother Sim from a boy too young to shave to a man too old to be allowed to. He makes a fine girl too, though that was a dangerous business in road company and reserved for targets that just couldn’t be killed another way. Young Sim is forgettable. When he’s gone, I forget how he looks. Sometimes I think of all my brothers it’s Sim that’s the most dangerous.

iii) Brother Sim looks pleasing enough, a touch pretty, a touch delicate, but sharp with it. Under the dyes his hair is a blonde that takes the sun, under the drugs his eyes are blue, under the sky I know no-one more private in their ways, more secret in their opinions, more deadly in a quiet moment.

 iv) Brother Sim holds himself close and you will never know him no matter what words pass between you. He whispers something to each man he kills. If he could speak it to a man and let him live, then I might have lost a killer. 



Here's a small snippet from the story:


“A name has been given.” Brother Jorg spoke behind Sim. He’d climbed the spiral stair on quiet feet.
      “Which name?” Sim still watched the road, leading as it did back into the past. Sometimes he wondered about that. About how a man might retrace his steps and yet still not return to the place he’d come from.
      And Brother Jorg spoke the name. He came to stand by the wall and set a heavy gold coin beside Sim. In a brotherhood all brothers are equal, but some are more equal than others, and Jorg was their leader.
      “Find us on the Appan Way when this is done.” He turned and descended the steps.
Assassination is murder with somebody else’s purpose. Sim reached for the coin, held it in his palm, felt the weight. Coins hold purpose, they bear it like a cup. A murder should always carry a weight, even if it’s only the weight of gold. He turned the coin over in his scarred fingers. The face upon it would lead him to his victim.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Raffling the Prince of Thorns manuscript for charity!


(The original proof copy of the Prince of Thorns manuscript, complete with my corrections, signed & doodled)

So last year I auctioned the Emperor of Thorns manuscript for charity raising over $3000, and the year before that I auctioned the King of Thorns manuscript, raising $400. Here's my daughter handing the check over to Children's Hospices South West, a charity that runs a number of hospices for terminally ill and life-limited children.

(Celyn, during one of our stays at the hospice)

This year I'm raffling the Prince of Thorns manuscript.

There are bonus prizes too depending on the size of the winning donation (explained below). These include a mug sporting the trilogy's three covers, a rare signed 1st edition UK hardcover Prince of Thorns, a signed 1st edition UK or US Prince of Fools, and the Prince of Fools audiobook on CD (US version). Note: happy to swap the mug for a Prince of Fools mug and the books for other books.

You buy your raffle tickets by donating directly to the children's hospice charity. Each $ you give is one ticket (I'll do any necessary currency conversions). Email me the receipt they send you. If for any reason you can't donate via the website contact me on empire_of_thorns@yahoo.co.uk  and we can work something out.

[NOTE: The charity aren't involved in this. They just accept donations - you need to tell ME you've entered and how much you gave so I can allocate tickets to you.]

I'll do the draw in a public and random fashion on October 31st and send out the prize.

If the prize winner bought $25+ of tickets they'll also get the UK or US Prince of Fools hardcover signed 1st edition. 

If the prize winner bought $50+ of tickets they'll also get the pretty mug in the picture showing all three Broken Empire covers.

If the prize winner bought $75+ of tickets they'll also get the rare UK Prince of Thorns hardcover signed 1st edition.

If the prize winner bought $100+ of tickets they'll also get the US Prince of Fools audiobook on CD.


(prizes can be varied if you want others of my books or a Prince of Fools mug etc)

(to be clear - if you don't win the raffle you get nothing save the knowledge you've helped a great cause)


I'll keep a tally of the donations on this page with shout-outs/links for anyone who'd like one.



$2391 raised so far!        Feel good about it!






Contributors include:
(I will list you here to thank you publicly unless you ask me not to)
(I'll include a link for you on request)

Lisa Herrick - first off the blocks!
Edward Partridge - also famous for having the first Prince of Thorns tattoo!
Anthony Fleming - most excellent chap!
Tom Lewis - internet hero.
John Piontowski - a doubly generous fellow!
Sam Stedman - to the rescue.
Jan Waite - Goddess of Giving!
Sylvia Lucas - a star.
Sky Fleming - A1 human being!
Deb McManus - top lady.
Shawn Speakman - author, publisher, fine fellow!
Alicia Wanstall-Burke - thespian, gentlewoman, scholar.
Paul Weymouth - dude!
Adrian Collins - King and Overlord of Grimdark Magazine.
Stephen Ivelja - superman!
Dusty Wallace - shine on.
Pen Astridge - a woman of many talents!
Luke MacWhirter - salt of the earth.
Alex & Katie Page + little Jorg - a constellation of stars!
Steve Drew - man of reddit.
Janine Dhami - a giver!






Friday, 22 August 2014

Interview with a book thief.

There are, on Youtube, illegal copies of the audiobooks for my Broken Empire trilogy.


Youtube makes having them removed quite a struggle (both Youtube and the people who post them profit from the advertising that interrupts you when you play them - so why would they make it easy?)

So, instead of trying to get them removed I just put this in the comment section:

please stop stealing my work and the work of the people who put together this audiobook

Now nobody who is doing a bad thing likes to be caught in the act or be made to feel uncomfortable about their activities. If you point out to someone who has just thrown their coke can on the floor that there is a wastebin five feet away - they'll often as not tell you to fuck off, unless you're seven foot tall and mean-looking.

So sometimes my message prompts a reaction. This is a collection of replies from Emmanuel. The originals are all publically viewable on the youtube comments thread.

emmanuel
Not full copy please put full copy 

Mark Lawrence
Buy one.

emmanuel
Dear mark kiss my ass dident you get payd once all ready from the publishing house so whats this talk about stilling work.theres no work to be took you sold it and dont own it anymore 

Mark Lawrence
Buying a paper or electronic book doesn't entitle you to the audiobook for free. An enormous amount of extra work went into that and the narrator deserves to get paid, as do the technicians etc involved in its creation...

(extra note added for blog - I do of course get royalties per sale so each sale lost to theft hurts my income)

emmanuel 
Dear mark I didn't still your book I didn't up load it to YouTube but I do believe in being able to read or listsin to someone's work before taking home for good books and music being especially of those sins there a million of you guys all calling your selfs artist walking around acting like I'm robbing food from babys mouths the fact of the situation is I won't be robbed or tookin advantage of anymore I'm glad we live in the world today were I can see and hear for my self now.sorry you don't feel the same but wiy would you your a thief of some higher class or some shit lol
 
Mark Lawrence 
Emmanuel - you live in a very strange world of your own design. I spent years of my life writing books that you have stolen. For some reason you feel this makes me a thief. Do you really, for one second, believe anyone reading this exchange would agree with you?

You did steal my work. You have had all the benefit of it without paying anyone involved for their labor. In law you had no right to do that. It makes you a thief. 

Let's note here that we're talking about the third audio book of mine. So you've listened to two entire books, and halfway through a third ... to convince yourself they're worth paying for? Seriously?

You think after two books you might be 'robbed' by the author and the narrator if you actually pay for what you've taken? How does that even work?

emmanuel
Dear mark no one feels sorry for us thieves not me not you I'll continue listening to works of art that other people put out there for I and uthers evin though you come off as a man that has never listened to other peoples works for free and maybe you haven't evin though that seems very unlikely but as I said I pay for good work and that is my world I like that people throw it out there for me to sort thru the good from crap and I'll say this evin though you bitch like a rich smart stuck up man I like your work its gritty and cut throat post apocalyptic fantasy it has most of the elements of my tru world books like yours are Howe things mostly work that's wiy its strange wiy your braking my balls so mutch lol.anyways I'll probably go out and get your books to remind me that a famous guy like you gave me so mutch greef over words that only people that think the same in certain ways would remember in the end anyways its late bro I'm crashing have good night no worries I won't learn no lessons but I'll meet you half way :)

Mark Lawrence 
Emmanuel - I'm fascinated by your insistence on calling me a thief. I guess it makes you feel better about your own behaviour, but I would really like it if you could try to explain your reasoning. How, by working hard to make something, then offering it for sale, am I a thief? Please explain.

emmanuel
Dear mark and other fans of mark I just bought all of Darren
shan's work because I listened to most of his books on YouTube I guess that's money your not getting. And that's because your arrogant.next time you should maybe be nicer and talk to people ask what thay thought of the book that was put up on YouTube missing chapters. :/

Mark Lawrence
Dear Emmanuel. I don't want 'fans' who steal. I don't think you'll find many people who consider it 'arrogant' to object to theft. 

You will never find me being nice to thieves in the hope I might earn a few cents off them. That's not me. It's also not arrogant. It's how normal people are. You know ... the ones who don't steal.




Sunday, 17 August 2014

Book Touching

[Contest ended - will still post photos if you want to join in!]

A mini-contest for you.

Grand Prize - One signed doodled first edition hardback copy of Prince of Fools (UK or US)

(this sort of thing)


+ Two other prizes of signed first edition hardcover Prince of Fools!

The two un-doodled books are to be randomly awarded (weighted by the entries as described below).

All you need do is send me a photo of you touching one of my books. If there are two people touching the book then your chance of winning is doubled, three people triple it etc etc.

The picture with the most people touching a single one of my books wins the grand prize! Animals count in the case of a tie-breaker!

I'm at empire_of_thorns@yahoo.co.uk

Go!

Contest closed Sunday 24th August 10pm GMT

Grand prize = #23
Random Prizes = #14 & #25


Entries (ordered by number!)

#23 Ms Burkhead + children and staff! I'm told there are 29 touchers here! Sadly the under-ring of weeny children is all but invisible. By looking closely I can see 20 people (plus the baby) so we're calling it 20. 29 or 20 it's still winning!



#27 Meg & a heroic effort at a karaoke party (when you take the mike you own the crowd) I will call this 19. A more intelligible singleton of Meg included below.




#22 Wonder-Claire and the pub quiz crew! 18!



#25 Mark and approximately half of Texas - number actually touching? Looks like 15



#21 TJ and employees! 13!



#19 Ed and students! 11 in total, learning through touching. (10 in this shot - there's an 11 with Ed our photographer in, but this is a much nicer shot so I'm showing it!)



#26 Aleksandra and family, including a 96 year old birthday-lady to make 9! (and below a slightly suspect 21)




#20 Charlie, 8 and a dog! (I'm assured the finger under the plant leaf is a whole new person!)



#18 Janine & workmates! (ruling the roost with 8)



#19 Holly & chums. After discussion this is a 7, the bump isn't touching the book and even if it were the imminent arrival's little fingers aren't in the shot... I'll give cross baby a pass and let her/him count!



#14 Josh & Co


#5 Glen, employing mini-minions. I'm sure they've all read the book!


#4 Fiona, Patient Cat is patient while Patient Cat's pillow is re-purposed.


#17 Dogancan, Dogancan's dad, Dogancan's mum! From Turkey!



#15 Naiky, Nairy, and David - it should be the _same_ book they're touching but in a fit of generosity I will call this THREE as they could so easily be and I wouldn't be good at reading rules in Brazilian Portuguese so why should Naiky be good at reading rules in English!


#11 Jordan, and friends


#6 Adam & Rachel - few in number but big on style!



#24 James, and son, and swords



#1 Michael - Jorg comes between husband and wife...


#10 Lisa (& minions!)


#13 Gemma .... somehow this is turning into pets' corner...



#28 Alicia, touching many books ... with her spine.




#16 Anthony - he may only have 1 person but he's really TOUCHING the hell out of that book. A panacea to cute kiddies and bunny wunnies!



#2 Angela - You'd be a fool not to read your toddler this book at bedtime.



#3 TJ, giving us the bird!



#12 Nick



#8 Daniel, from Germany (still only counts as 1 person ... if we get someone from Outer Mongolia I'll count that as 2 though!)



#9 Tom



#7 Malin, rules are meant to be tested! I think in this case though I'm counting it as a 1 person touch.























Friday, 1 August 2014

Prince of Thorns is 3 years in print!



My 'baby' is 3 years old. Well, actually it's a lot older than that, but it's been on the shelves in English for 3 years today!

I've made annual state of the nation posts. This for 2012 and this for 2013.

This is how things stand in 2014 (click for detail)


Things appear to be going well. Prince of Thorns has doubled its Amazon.com reviews in a year and the trilogy has gone from 15,000 ratings on Goodreads to 50,000. Prince of Fools has been on the shelves for 8 weeks and is already making its mark. Blog traffic hit a peak of over 32,000 hits in a month and remains steady, averaging 20,000+.

It's not something I ever imagined for my writing but I can't deny it's very pleasing. As my youngest daughter gets older and her health continues to deteriorate she demands more of my time, so the possibility that my writing could support us and I might no longer need to keep my day job is very welcome - even though I would miss the variety (I'm a research scientist by day and it's often an interesting job).

In any event, these are the numbers. Occasionally I like to think I have some measure of control over them or responsibility for them - but the truth is I'm riding a wave here and have little to do with how big it is or where it's heading, my task is just to keep on it as long as I can.

Let's see where we are next year!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Red Queen's War Book 2

We have a title!

It took me a long time to come up with a title that felt suitable, and when I did it wasn't popular in all quarters. But the long and reasoned debate has concluded, the blood has been mopped from the floor, and we have a title!

The book should hit shelves near you in June 2015.

Next up, the cover!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Interview with T.O Munro, author of Lady in the Helm

So I'm interviewing T.O Munro because he donated money to a children's charity and got his book, Lady of the Helm, a place in my Million Dollar Bookshop





Tell us about your debut novel, Lady of the Helm. I find this kind of question hard myself, but it’s a necessary evil. The ideal is that the people reading this are convinced to give your book a go by a super-excited friend who has just read it and converts them. However, being at the earliest stage in the process, you need to make that happen yourself. Lacking a presence on bookshelves and a big publisher to send your work to reviewers with their implicit ‘quality control stamp’ on it is a tough place to be. 

Lady of the Helm and the rest of the bloodline trilogy have many of the features of traditional epic fantasy, but with complex characters following an intricate and carefully constructed mesh of story lines.  There is the familiar scale of a great threat to the known world and defeating it depends on the actions of a few key individuals.  However, it has I hope more nuanced characters and subtle plotting to fill what I felt were deficits in my own reading experience.

My villains and heroes are not always easy to tell apart, driven by more complex motivations than the mere black and white of good and evil.  One of the leading villains is a favourite character for many readers because of the history that has shaped her and which betrays itself in her actions. The arch villain is bad but not without his own dark humour catching the reader unawares mid-smile with another act of imaginative evil. The heroine’s greatest attribute is more her sheer bloody minded-ness than her skills with sword or spells.  And through it all there are the micro-motivations of individual humans (and elves and orcs) credible personalities plucked from everyday lives into the midst of unfolding catastrophe.

As a reader and a scientist, I like to understand things, to be able to explain them.  Lady of the Helm has a complex plot that is woven very carefully together.  I dislike unresolved mysteries, loose ends and deus ex machinas in my own reading, so in my writing I have tried to get a story that twists and turns and surprises but in an entirely logical and credible way.  A lot of the reviews suggest I seem to have succeeded.  I most want a reader to say “hell I should have seen that coming, but I didn’t.”  However, there is always a risk I guess, that the more the reader knows there are plot hand grenades waiting to go off, the more they will be on the lookout for them!    



There are hordes of self-published books hitting the e-shelves every day. How does any author make themselves heard? It seems very daunting to me.

What a good question.  Do tell me when you find the answer.

I self-published not because I doubted the quality of the book, but because I have a demanding day job and finding the time to write was hard enough, still less sending off synopses and resumes to a succession of agents and/or publishers.  I just wanted to get the book out there and self-publishing is the simplest way. But it is a very crowded and diverse market. For example there are books of 25 pages or 38 pages, clamouring for attention alongside novels of a more traditional length.  It is hard for the reader to filter through this to find what they want.

Ultimately all authors rely on word of mouth and a bit of luck. The best thing any reader can do is review an author’s book particularly.  I have got an amazon review from about 1 in every hundred readers, I don’t know if that’s a good ratio or not, but I do know that a lot of my recent purchases have been because of recommendations made on internet forums, blogspots and reddit.

Once the trilogy is completed with “Master of the Planes” later this year I will be able to give more considered thought to marketing!



Describe your book as a cocktail, mixed from other authors, books, movies and the like. Maximum of five ingredients. Shaken or stirred? 

Reviewers have mentioned Lord of the Rings, which fits with the traditional epic scale I was trying to achieve.

They have also cited GRRMartin due to my propensity for killing off characters they were just getting attached to – all absolutely essential to the story I hasten to add, no acts of gratuitous authorial vengeance here, and also I should add locked in and plotted long before I read Game of Thrones.

Like GRRMartin with his Houses of Stark (York) and Lannister (Lancaster) I have plundered British History for inspiration, though no-one yet seems to have realised just how extensively.

There are other fragments of influence sprinkled through all three books.  A prize to the first person to spot the fleeting references to “Bridge over the River Kwai” and “The Railway Children” – neither of them normally considered as influences on the fantasy genre.

I am too much of a control freak to have shaken these ingredients together, they are all stirred to ensure a smooth structured blending of the disparate influences.


What counts as writing success for you?

Readers, readers, and more readers.  Why else would I write?  There is nothing quite like hearing someone is waiting patiently for the last book having stayed up all night to finish reading the second.

Also, I like books that move me, I am a big softie at heart.  I cry at the closing credits of Lilo and Stitch.  What the epic fantasy genre affords is a colossal scale with which to illuminate the struggles of individuals and in so doing to sweat some emotion from the reader.   So success means readers who smile and laugh and cry because of what I wrote.

What I really want to do is write a book that gets turned into a film that has Annie Lennox singing a haunting soundtrack for it – but I think that’s already been done!.


You’re a school teacher by day – do you have an impression of what percentage of your teenage pupils are regular readers of books? How does that compare to when you were their age do you think? 

I do push reading so hard at school.  I’ve endlessly quoted GRRMartin about “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, a non-reader lives but one”  I’ve quoted Professor Susan Greenfield on the value of reading over computer games as being the thing that builds those essential human skills of empathy, of placing yourself in someone else’s shoes.  You do not glibly hurt those who you empathise with, you  learn empathy by being swept up in a written story.

I don’t know that the proportion of teenage readers has necessarily changed, I think the big shift has been from outdoor physical activity to sofa based gaming, from TV watching to internet surfing, from gathering in parks to endless facebook exchanges.

Through all this I think reading has stayed pretty steady, just not in paper book form.  But girls read more than boys.  What encouraged me recently was to hear that, with smart phones, girls at my school were able to download books and read them on their phones on the bus home.  This left them safe from the opprobrium of less literary peers who simply assumed they were on facebook.



What effect (if any) does being a science teacher have on your writing or reading even. Do you come across books where you just shake your head disbelievingly at some unrealistic events or other times do you appreciate science allusions in certain books? 

There is a whole element in my science lessons of decrying the great science gaffs that completely dispelled my suspension of disbelief when reading books.

Wizard of Oz and the green tinted spectacles which turned all colours green, doh! everybody knows that blue and red would look black through such a filter.

Lord of the Flies and the wrong lenses, if his glasses could focus sunlight Piggy was longsighted and would always have seen the rock coming (sorry should I have put in a spoiler tag?)

Toy Story One and using a hemispherical shell to focus sunlight on an unlit fuse.

More recently I have abandoned a book “The Age of Miracles” because, despite its beautiful writing, the flawed science was really obstructing my enjoyment.

And then of course the film 2012 every law of Physics flouted from Newton’s laws of motion, to plate tectonics and back again. How did a film find so many ways to be awful?

My favourite bit of science in film is the concept of the weeping angels in Dr Who, the idea that these beings are quantum locked and can only move when unobserved was such a brilliant leap of imagination to get from a pithy science concept to the scariest monsters since the Daleks.

In writing fantasy you have huge potential to do extraordinary things, but I have tried to keep my magic limited and internally consistent.  I have also come up with my own means of managing that perennial problem of magic, which plagues every story from Lord of the Rings onwards, namely “why can’t they just solve the problem with magical/eagle flight to get where they need to be.”

In Master of the Planes buried in part three there is a piece of homage to two titans of physics, not unlike your passing reference to IKEA in Prince of Fools. I will be curious to see which physicists may spot it and nod their recognition.


I’ve categorised readers into characterophiles, plotsters, and beauticians. How do you divide across these categories as a reader? 

I read that post, and thought it was very good.  That was just after I had read your Thorns trilogy and I wish I had recorded in advance where I would have put you on the scale just to prove that I guessed right.
As a reader I need stories that engage me, that make me care about the people.  You need all three elements for that, so there is a threshold of quality for each element below which my enjoyment of the story is compromised. A great plot with bad writing will just annoy me.  But provided those minimums are met I can be carried away by a book for its plot, its writing or its characterisation.


Does the spread differ when you’re on the other side of the page?  

As a writer I am a plotster.  I want to weave an intricate web of storyline that challenges the characters development and gives me opportunity to write them some great scenes, but the plot is the skeleton, the frame, the context through which I display the characters.  While I hope I don’t neglect the other two, plot comes first.

A colleague quoted Maya Angelou at her retirement do, saying “people will never forget how you made them feel” and I want to plot and write books that make people feel, hopefully something good, but feel something.


What do you do best as a writer?

The features that come out most in reviews are plot lines that surprise and twist and turn, and a certain economy of style with no wasted scenes or words.   It’s really great to see readers expressing unprompted appreciation for the very features I was specifically trying to achieve. So I’m happy with that!