Friday, 19 December 2014

A Year In Numbers ... Four!

So following on from similar posts at the same time in 20132012 and 2011 I record a year of ups and less ups. I take a minute to do the sums and raid the scrapbook.

It's been a very good 2014 all told! 

High points have included becoming an award wielding author with Emperor of Thorns winning the David Gemmell Legend Award, and the reddit r/fantasy Stabby award for best fantasy book 2014:

Prince of Thorns is still going strong as well - here it is topping the epic fantasy list on UK Amazon this summer thanks to a price discount.

Prince of Fools tickled the underbelly of the Times bestseller list, reaching #21 in its release week. That's the London Times (established 1785) not the New York Times. And came 11th in a much expanded Fantasy category in the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fantasy 2014.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics to follow:

Prince of Thorns got its 30,000th Goodreads rating this year, and the Broken Empire trilogy sold its 500,000th book in English in 2014

Amazon reviews are up considerably, and always gratefully received ... unless they're, y'know, not good  :)

This humble blog had its 500,000th hit in 2014.

Blog traffic since inception

Oh, and I'm on twitter.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Michael Moorcock is 75!

There are three fantasy milestones in my life, Tolkien, Moorcock, and George RR Martin. Despite his success I still feel the need to qualify Martin with a first name – Tolkien and Moorcock have reached the bedrock status where surname alone will do it.

Tolkien and Moorcock had the most profound effect on me, coming into my experience very early on. I was seven when my mother read me Lord of the Rings, twelve when I started hunting down Moorcock in second-hand bookshops in the late seventies.

          Tolkien showed me the majesty of fantasy, painting a vast sweeping story with detail and passion and care. Moorcock showed me raw imagination and energy, pushing back the boundaries of fantasy on every side, a psychedelic explosion of colours flung at the canvas with wild abandon. Moorcock in his 1978 essay ‘Epic Pooh’ makes it clear that his own writing is a rebellion against the form and ethos of the works of Tolkien and others – and that’s fine with me. I can love Turner and Picasso at the same time.

          Moorcock embraces chaos. His works are diverse even between each front and back cover. Across the spectrum of his novels almost everything you can imagine is touched on – perhaps subverted, or lampooned, or shown to you from a new angle that only enhances its beauty. And despite this enormous variety, there are themes that run through a great many of his books, holding the chaos together and reiterating the fact that there are deeper thought processes at work, not just an outpouring of fevered imagination.

          I’ve read perhaps two dozen of Moorcock’s novels, spanning three decades. Many of them I have adored. All of them I have considered worthy of my attention – provoking a strong response. These stories form a significant part of my internal landscape. Elric, Dorian Hawkmoon, Prince Corum, and Jherek Carnelian, feel like strange, eccentric, dangerous uncles partly responsible for raising me. The artwork from the covers still hits me with a tsunami of memories each time I pull one of the books from my shelves.

          Moorcock is never safe, never gentle, never afraid to make a sharp left turn and veer off into something wholly new. That’s what makes him a joy to read even after more than half a lifetime keeping company with his books.

          So on his 75 birthday and with the 50th anniversary of his first book looming it seems an excellent time to acknowledge his influence on me, my generation of readers and writers, and several others generations besides. Thank you, Mr Moorcock, for sharing so many worlds with me. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The first half million is the hardest -- I hope.

There is a reluctance among authors to discuss sales figures or at least a perceived reluctance. Perhaps it's connected to the very definite and more understandable reluctance to discuss money. Though I think if more authors did discuss money it would rapidly deflate the illusion that we're wealthy and knock out yet another leg from beneath the tower of ridiculous self-justification that book 'pirates' inhabit.

Author Jim C Hines is one of the few I know about who break the money taboo (*), but there is plenty of sales information if you dig for it. The Wertzone blog has a top sellers' list conservatively estimated from public domain figures.

One of the reasons you perhaps see relatively little information about authors' sales is that the authors themselves get relatively little information about it. The numbers take a long time to reach us and have to be dug out of the recesses of complex royalties statements. For non-English publishers the process is even more glacial. I have some overseas publishers making offers on my 4th book without ever sending me a single sales figure for the first three over the course of the years they've been in print (on the other hand some foreign publishers are quite prompt). It's possible that they consider the exercise purely academic unless/until you've earned out any advance paid to you and are thus reluctant to bother. But still, it really would be nice to know how my work is doing in the 20+ non-English speaking countries it's published in.

Anyhow ...

As of June 2014 I'm able to say that over half a million copies of the Broken Empire trilogy have been sold in English.

My happy dance wasn't as cool as Calvin's.

I offer this up in the spirit of excitement and wanting to share my amazement. Only the fact that I swore not to use this very clich├ęd word in this context prevents me from using it here.

I guess that one reason for the reluctance to discuss such things may be fear of being seen to be chest-beating or failing.

But I've always taken the view that I'll share the highs and lows with any of my readers who bother to follow me online - so there it is.

And in the spirit of sharing, I should also note that this milestone comes at a timely moment since last week the Aerospace giant that employs me by day announced out of the blue that it was axing the 150-strong advanced research group I happen to work in. Since the casualties are expected to be >90% it's very likely that I will soon be made redundant. With all the constraints that caring for my very disabled child put on me (Celyn was born a month after I got this job, and is now ten) I'm unlikely to be able to secure another job - so it looks like I'm going to be the full-time author that almost all my readers think I am anyway!

Hopefully the first half-million sales are the hardest  :)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Big Three-Oh, oh, oh, oh

Prince of Thorns reached 30,000 ratings on Goodreads today. I remember wondering if it would ever reach 1,000 before people lost interest. It was a realistic concern. In December of 2011, five months after release, the book had 728 ratings.

So, what will I do to mark this milestone? It's traditional to do a stock-take at moments like these, to reflect and draw conclusions.

The launch of Prince of Thorns generated a wave of great reviews and positive feedback, and by that first Christmas the book featured on more than 20 'best of 2011' lists. But, like most of humanity, I remember the negatives too, even though they were thinly scattered among a sea of positives.

Prince of Thorns was met (at least in the fish bowl of the blogosphere) by a controversy over the vanishingly small reference to rape it contains.

A somewhat more muted but persistent criticism from the same regions of the blogosphere were complaints about the lack of female characters / 'strong' female characters.

Before getting further into this let's first agree that of course Prince of Thorns does have female characters and their role expands in the remainder of the trilogy. But rewind. Let's say there actually were none. Zero. So what?

If you google "Prince of Thorns" and "female characters" you'll see a slew of such complaints. Go on, give it a try!

Is there a band of sisters?  Demands one person in response to the book concerning a band of brothers and knowing full well that there is not.

There is, however, still a problem with women. While you wouldn’t expect a woman to be riding with Jorg and his band of thugs, you have to read 150-odd pages before a woman with the slightest bit of agency turns up. And another.

Female characters? Great! Of course literature needs them. 'Strong' has always seemed a silly qualification to me. How about 'well written'? If you write women well, individually and as a whole, then there's no call for 'strong' - you just get 'women' who are variously weak, strong, kind, cruel, etc just as men are.

But, major roles for female characters in every book, no matter what it's about, no matter what the scope, or the length of the book? Then you lose me. If you replace 'female' with 'male' in the argument I'll object just the same. Does a book covering a day or week on a WWII submarine need a major role for a female character?

Prince of Thorns is a pretty short book - you can fit 5.2 copies of it into the word count of George Martin's A Storm of Swords, or A Dance With Dragons.

It's a book told from a single point of view over a period of maybe three weeks, the majority of which is spent in the wilds with a band of murdering thugs. It made no sense when I wrote it to shoe-horn in additional female characters - the demand makes no sense to me now.

Yes, you're entirely welcome to prefer stories with particular components. And yes, you're entirely welcome to pick up my books and, on finding that particular component absent, to say 'I didn't enjoy this book because it lacked the thing I like'. But to criticise the author for not putting in that thing you like, as if it were some kind of fundamental flaw in personality, ethics, or decency ... that is, was, and always shall be ... crap.

As a footnote - because some people with an axe to grind conflate the contents of one book with the issues concerning the content/direction of the genre as a whole ... I will state (though I shouldn't have to) that there very likely are issues with the representation of females and minorities in fantasy as a whole. There very likely are a disproportionate number of straight white male protagonists in fantasy books. It's good when we see variety, and the hope that we'll continue to move toward more diverse fantasy that proportionally represents its readers &/or society is laudable. That still doesn't mean that 'this particular book does not contain (enough/the right sort of) female characters' is a valid criticism of that particular book, other than in the sense that it is the reason you didn't enjoy it(*).

(*) I'll moderate that by agreeing that if you're covering many points of view and many characters over a decent period in a setting where we would reasonably expect to see a good mix of genders ... then, yes, the absence of female characters could be a cause for complaint. Which of course brings us back to my original point - one size does not fit all - such criticisms should be dependent on the particulars of the book in question, not as a tick-box on a check-list prepared independent of any knowledge of said book.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

My reading in 2014

Shocked by the fact that book blogger Richard Auffrey read a total of 240 books in 2014, I thought I would present my own meagre haul.

In the first 11 months of this year I managed to read 12 books and 2 graphic novels.

I also read out loud a number of children's books to my daughter, Celyn, including all 13 volumes of Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events!

The books I've read this year are listed below in chronological order (most recent first). Click on each to see my Goodreads review of that book. The short version is that I enjoyed them all.

You'll notice that I took the time to catch up on some very popular books that everyone but me seems to have read already!

Currently reading final version.

Excellent storytelling!

My least favourite Gemmell book!

Great read, very more-ish.

Wonderful to be back with Fitz/Fool.

Solid melee-rific tale.

Fascinating re-imagined historical fantasy.

Understated, beautiful writing.

Intriguing start to a huge and complex tale.

An exciting romp, well told.

Weird and wonderful.

Engaging, fun.

My only re-read. Love me some Sandman!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The YouTube challenge!

Competition now closed - though you can still send me videos!

The 'merit' winners (chosen with help from Facebook etc)

#4 Gabe
#11 Adam
#12 Mayara

The random winners
#13  Tom
#15  Shawn
#10   Tyler
#3   Dan

Send me your address & what you'd like (with 2nd / 3rd choices) and I'll see what I can do. I have no English Prince of Thorns.

I still have mugs...

and T-shirts...

and  oh-so-many books...

to give away.

This isn't even all of my English language spare copies!

Oh course posting these would cost me about a thousand pounds, which is why I dribble them out in competitions over the years. Also, while giving away free Prince of Thorns and Prince of Fools can be like a gateway drug to the Broken Empire and Red Queen's War trilogies ... giving away Emperor of Thorns makes less sense - the people who want it already know if they like the books.

Anyway - I'm lightening the load - I'm giving away 5 signed books, 1 mug & 1 T-shirt.

4 of these prizes will be randomly awarded - so it's worth entering even if you're not a champion film-maker!

To enter all you need to do is make a video of some description - this could be a review of one or all of my books, a plea for a prize, a video of your bookshelves, or you reading from the books ... or ... surprise me.

I would really prefer you send me the link to the video on youtube (don't know how? - it's easy, learn a new skill for your CV). However, if it's a video short enough to attach to an email, you can send it to me.

I'm at Let's see what you've got!


#16 Sean

#15 Shawn - a video tour of his book cases.

#14 Charlie - a plea for gardening help.

#13 Tom


#12 Mayara - a review of Prince of Thorns (in Portuguese)

#11 Adam - Ruminating on magic in the Broken Empire

(Interesting and thoughtful stuff, Adam. Your analysis seems spot on in most places although I'm not familiar with much of the background that you project it against. Antinomianism is a new word to me (I'll be sure to work it into conversation now!). I've read Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy so I must have read about Nietzsche (& likely seen and forgotten the word antinomianism too) but I could tell you very little about his ideas. I guess most of the 'philosophy' to be found in the trilogy is homespun, borrowing fibres from subconscious memories of previous reading.)

#10 Tyler - Pitching a Lawrence-Weeks collaboration

9 Sean - your entry could be as random as this!

Click HERE (youtube and blogger once again refuse to talk to each other!)

#8 Mark (Lawrence!) - a word from my namesake.

#7 Andre (the 1st entry from Brazil) - we now have as many entries as prizes!

Click HERE (it's youtube, sometimes it does the picture link ... sometimes not)

#6 Emanuel - the simplest option often works.

#5 Ashmitha, the smart money co-opts a child!

#4 Gabe - Broken Empire - this is just a tribute...

Click HERE (Lord knows why some link and some don't...)

#3 Dan - a Broken Empire song

#2 Josh - Broken Empire quotes

#1 Dennis -  an 'unsolicited' testimonial

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My fantasy shelf

Having just given myself dust-fever moving 10 tons of fantasy books, giving away 2 tons, and organising the remainder alphabetically ... I thought that the least I could do was get a free blog post out of it.

This is the shelf in my new 'study' / games room. It's our SFF collection from H to Z, with a couple of G's lobbed in and minus my wife's Star Wars books (another 7 foot shelf like these) and a lot of vampire books I wouldn't give house room to. Also minus whatever happens to be hiding in my sons' rooms at the moment (though they did let me give all the Dragon Lance & Forgotten Realms books to the charity shop).

I haven't read all of these, but I've read a lot of them.

You can click any shelf for a high resolution look.

& on the unit opposite, graphic novels and miscellanea :