Saturday, 1 August 2015

Prince of Thorns is 4 years in print!

Check out the third, second, and first birthday round-ups. Things have moved on!

First the obligatory "Four years? It only seems like yesterday."

Being a numbers guy as well as a words guy I like to keep track of things and record them for when I'm a doddery old guy looking back at my 'glory' days.

On Goodreads Prince of Thorns is a touch off 40,000 ratings!

And it seems a good bet that next year Prince of Thorns will have broken the 1000 reviews barrier on!

And the blog breaking a million views by next year looks on!

And finally my snail's pace conquest of Twitter continues its crawl.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Zombie Apocalypse - the contest!

It has come to my attention that many fantasy readers have the odd sword or axe lying about...

That got me thinking. If this happened...

...what thing in your house would you reach for to fend them off?

Send me a photo of it for one chance to win, or an action shot of you holding it for two chances.

Prizes? Of course prizes! I'll randomly award 3 signed Prince of Fools paperbacks, and a signed UK Prince of Thorns Advance Review Copy (ARC) to four lucky entrants (remember, an action shot of you plus weapon/improvised weapon doubles your chance).

I'll give a day's warning before I close to entries (all of which get posted here).

Mail me your photos (resized if you're feeling friendly) at

Entries so far (there are others in my inbox)
My added snark is intended to raise a smile, all entries welcome, no offence intended!

#26 Edd - knows that one sword might be good for a few zombies, but for a whole horde you need at least four.

#25 Andrew - knows the pen(cil) is mightier than the knife. Both pictured here with a piece of A4 for scale.

#24 Gerard - has an eye for a very sharp chisel when zombie-carving.

#23 Michael - has a handy dagger...

#22 Stephen - (clearly a man with deep pockets) would reach for his trusty pocket-knife.

#21 Lee - knows that the smart money is always on the light sabre. At least until the battery runs out...

#20 Daniel - would eschew a thousand years of technological development and pass over his bow and arrows in favour of a stone affixed to a stick.

#19 Sabrina - hails from Switzerland where rifle training is mandatory. If the zombies make it through the wall of bullets and don't get worn out by all the steep slopes then it's fondu forks at the ready!

#18 Jennifer - has a wider than usual range of kitchen knives

#17 Tracey - with her moisturiser and apparent concern for zombies' early wrinkling issues demonstrates that zombies might have a positive impact on the gene pool...

#16 Gabrielle - an antler happened to be closest - not ideal perhaps but she's sure the zombies will get the point.

#15 Logan - would opt for the closest rather than be eaten while trying to decide which of his four swords to use.

#14 Robin - has a more traditional view of home defence

#13 Salman - puts his (short-lived) faith in insect spray

#12 Justin - fends off this particular zombie with a banana. I'd say a plantain would be better...

#11 Dan - opts for the classic baseball bat and hatchet combo.

#10 Rebecca - would grab Needle and Long Claw! Because she's METAL.

#9 Robert - will be fine if the zombies' heads are attached to their necks by a giant nut...

...or are vulnerable to crushing in any way ... ok, he'll be fine. Good choice, sir!

#8 Chane - improves on the pillow (thanks Pen) with two candlesticks. Sadly they look to be made of glass... admittedly they do each have a very small spike at the middle and with a great deal of luck one might take out both a zombie's eyeballs with them...

#7 Pen - Joins the ranks of zombie fodder with this ill-considered choice.
 "The Well Rested Warrior

Because let’s face it, I’d be just as useless with a real weapon – might as well take a nap."

#6 Roodie - I'm not sure he's getting this. When the zombies come Roodie = Foodie.
Though perhaps he's been inspired by the game Plants vs Zombies!

#5 Dingo Dave would reach for his trusty katana!

#4 Tom, and a cunning ploy to machete off his own head to deny the zombies the pleasure of killing him!

#3 Shannon illustrates my suspicions about fantasy readers!

#2 Alicia keeps her bow at home, but this action shot (pun intended) is outside. Remember, headshots only, or all you're doing is furnishing them with defensive spines.

#1 LS believes that her cat, Loki, has "magic kitty eyes" and would save her. So she'd grab him. Here we see zombies as agents of Darwin...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Words count.

This is essentially just me posting an infographic - but I ramble a little afterwards.

 SFF word counts with a couple of classic  'heavyweights' thrown in. (click chart for more detail)

Here are the word counts for my first 6 books. I'm currently on the home stretch for Red Sister and have 145,000 word of that one down.

Word counts for The Broken Empire and The Red Queen's War trilogies.

And here they are again, with the word-count heavyweights of the genre for comparison - Pat Rothfuss and George RR Martin's longest works.

With Rothfuss and GRRM for scale.

Wordiness can be a bad thing, but a long book is neither inherently good nor bad. I've loved all Rothfuss' and GRRM's doorstop tomes. A long book is not necessarily a wordy book.

Some people love wordiness, others don't. I tend to be in the camp that appreciates efficiency and elegance in prose over wordiness. I also like efficiency and elegance on the larger scale of the plot/story, but that's less important to me.

Condensing language is difficult to do without losing meaning and becoming ambiguous, but when it works it works very well. If you can replace a paragraph of mechanical description with a single line that does the same job you squeeze all the impact of that whole paragraph into one short line and it hits hard.

That said, the length of a book is primarily an indication of how much story the author has to tell rather than an indication of how wordy they've been in telling it.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, 75%

The Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, 75%


So, we're 75% of the way through phase 1 of the Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and I've taken the opportunity to check in with our ten bloggers / teams to see how things stand. I wanted to see if everyone was happy that they were on course to pick their single champion for phase 2 by September 1st, or if not 'on course' still confident that they could meet that deadline. I offered to ask one or more of our reserve bloggers to help share the load if anyone was under too much pressure - real life happens, and 26 books is a lot.

The TL:DR is:  Everyone except Sarah of Bookworm Blues is fine, no help needed, they'll be done by September or before. Sarah is somewhat behind due to a health crisis and advancing pregnancy but hopes to catch up. If she needs help it's on offer.

To contrast the level of attention our 260 authors are getting in this exercise to what they might expect from a real agent ... I questioned such a beast. A successful one.

He typically spends 6 minutes with a manuscript and given a pile of 26 would expect to be mailing out 26 "no thank you's" within 5 hours.

He gets 30 submissions a week (cover letter, synopsis, first few chapters) and calls for around 6 full manuscripts a year. That's 0.4% of submissions leading to a full read. In those cases he will get back to the author within a week. Most of those guys he doesn't take onto his books.

That's how tough it is and that's how quickly he goes through the slush making decisions. The rest of his time is spent pitching the work of and dealing with the needs of his existing clients.

[Edit] My own agent, Ian Drury receives 50-60 submissions a week and if he were to focus on a pile of 26 submissions would expect to be finished with them in a day's work, many rejected very early on for poor prose, some few read to the end of the submitted three chapters. Most batches of 26 would not have elicit a single request for the whole manuscript. About 1 submission in 1000 lead to Ian signing a new writer up.

The specific state-of-the-nation breakdown runs thusly:

1. Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues

Has ten books read and reviewed and will have another five done by next Friday. Falling behind but hopes to catch up..

2. Steve Diamond &co at the twice Hugo nominated Elitist Book Reviews

Well on track with only 4 books left in the running.

3. Mark Aplin &co of the award winning Fantasy-Faction

Have selected their final 9 and assigned two readers to read each cover to cover.

4. Mihir Wanchoo of Fantasy Book Critic

Is down to his last 6 books and is sure he can complete by September.

5. Lynn Williams of Lynn's Books

Is definitely on track for a September finish. 15 books eliminated, 5 possibles, 5 left to read.

On track and confident. 

7. Bob Milne of Beauty in Ruins

10 left - plans to read 5 this month, five next.

8. Ria of Bibliotropic

Definitely on course - thinks she has her champion!

9. Tyson Mauermann of The Speculative Book Review

10. The guys at Fantasy Book Review

Are down to their last five books and consider that they have ample time to give each a full read and reach their decision before September.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Big Book of Thorns is on its way!

It has long been an ambition of mine ... well, these past 4 years at least ... to have a special edition of the Broken Empire books. And when I say special I don't mean just a fancy front page proclaiming it to be a special edition - I mean SPECIAL.

The Broken Empire trilogy means a lot to me. It was an emotional thing to write and contains some of the best writing I'm capable of. I know it means a lot to quite a few other people too, because I've had hundreds of emails and messages telling me so. Both the book and the process of putting it into the world and interacting with its readers have been a journey - an epic journey - and I wanted something to commemorate it.

After a lot of nagging, set-backs, planning, failing, natural disasters, and blind luck, we've finally got there. It's coming!

Grim Oak Press are going to be producing an omnibus edition, the whole trilogy in one volume, a Big Book of Thorns! Shawn Speakman's the man in charge. He loves books, he loves these books, and he loves producing beautiful examples.

The plan is to produce a very high end lettered edition of 52 signed leather-bound books, and a high quality numbered edition of 1000 signed cloth-bound books.

All of the books will have internal art, multiple pages of it, by Jason Chan - the artist who did the covers for the US and UK Prince/King/Emperor of Thorns. Jason will also sign the books along with me.

I'm hoping to canvas reader opinion about any scenes they might like Jason to capture.

Graphic artist Nate Taylor (an illustrator who works with Pat Rothfuss) will create a thorn design for the cover and interiors.

I'm hoping that the finished product will be something like this (with cover design of course and some detailing on the spine. I've asked for spine ridges because, dammit, I like spine ridges!).

NOTE: Grim Oak won't be taking pre-orders on this until much later in the year, maybe October, and the plan is to put the books into people's hands in the first half of next year.

I'm sharing this now because recently I posted about the signed and numbered run of The Liar's Key - I posted multiple times on my Facebook page, the Prince of Thorns facebook page, Twitter, my blog, and Goodreads. The books sold out quickly and ever since I've been getting distressed messages from people who missed out because they didn't know about it. So, I'm getting the word out early!

Special editions are a labour of love. Compared to the sale of hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks they make very little money. I make more money on a fire & forget deal for the Lithuanian rights to Prince of Thorns or whatever. They cost a lot to buy because they cost a lot to produce. I'm pushing this because I love the idea of a big boxed leather-bound Book of Thorns. I want one. I hope you do too!

I'm also considering writing a new Jorg-based short story to include in the special edition but I'll canvas opinion on that. Do people want any extras, or just the core text?

But wait, there's more! When the print run sells out Grim Oak Press are going to donate $10,000 to the Children's Hospice charity that runs several wholly charity-supported hospices, one of which gives 14 days respite care a year to my daughter Celyn and cares for a great many other life-limited children. This is a very generous move, suggested by Shawn Speakman, and in-line with Grim Oak Press's track-record for charitable donation. I know that the money will be very well spent on the most vulnerable of children, putting some happiness into their short lives and being there for them at the end.

I don't have anything else to show you, except this sequence of photos I took recently when unwrapping my copy of the Unfettered anthology from Grim Oak Press. This should give you an idea of the type of thing they produce.

(check out their announcement)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Obey the stars - your horoscope book!

Aquarius (Jan 23 - Feb 22) Your creativity and ability to effortlessly invent has turned you into an inveterate liar and a sexual deviant. You're prone to repeatedly making stupid mistakes and the main reason for this is your stupidity. You think people like you ... but they don't.

Gemstone: Asphalt
Spirit Animal: Wombat
Ideal Fantasy Book: The Name of the Wind


Pisces (Feb 23 - Mar 22) You're an early adopter and great adventurer, holding lesser mortals in contempt. With Piscean generosity you're swift to offer advice and criticise other's efforts. Everyone considers you to be full of hot air and shit in equal measures. They are not wrong.

Gemstone: Asbestos
Spirit Animal: Lung-worm
Ideal Fantasy Book: The Lies of Locke Lamora


Aries  (Mar 23 - April 22) All conspiracy theorists are Aries. You have a vivid imagination and are prone to hallucination. You are capable of abusing the smallest amount of power and your friends hate you. Ideally you would be a receptionist. Elevation to higher levels of authority invariably leads to assassination. Your self-confidence can crack rocks. The most common adjective associated with Aries is 'douchey'.

Gemstone: Coprolite
Spirit Animal: Sponge
Ideal Book: Prince of Thorns

Taurus (April 23 - May 22) "Prone to breaking things." This is the nicest thing ever said about a Taurean (by E.J White, 1907). You are stubborn and ill-tempered with an aversion to hygiene. People born under this sign are always republicans. Ambitions include killing poor people for sport.

Gemstone: Chewing Gum
Spirit Animal: Beef
Ideal Book: Malice


Gemini (May 23 - June 22) You are clever and silver-tongued. Geminis are often good looking. Your capacity for betrayal is hampered only by chronic laziness. Most Geminis die in prison. You are bisexual.

Gemstone: Cubic Zirconia
Spirit Animal: Chicken
Ideal Book: A Game of Thrones


Cancer (June 23 - July 22)  You are a positive go-getter. A lack of talent often leaves you relying on the generosity of others. Common Cancer professions include beggar, prostitute, and golf-pro. Those born under the sign of Cancer are famed for their stinginess, with wallet opening being an annual event. Most incest is committed by Cancers. 

Gemstone: Coal
Spirit Animal: Sperm Whale
Ideal Book: The Colour of Magic

Leo (July 23 - Aug 22) You believe yourself to be a born leader. This belief is not shared by others. Bestiality is common among Leos as is accountancy. The most common age for Leos to die is 37, on a Tuesday. Leos are always short. Leo men have small penises.

Gemstone: Ice
Spirit Animal: Elderly flatulent lion 
Ideal Book: Blood Song

Virgo (Aug 23 - Sept 22) You are a flexible and highly motivated individual. Virgos are thieves and murderers. All Virgos have tattoos. As an egotist you are unable to accept criticism and live in a world of your own imagination. People hate you because you're arrogant.

Gemstone: Plastic
Spirit Animal: Mole-rat 
Ideal Book: Lord of the Rings


Libra (Sept 23 - Oct 22) Your artistic tendencies combined with poor manual dexterity mean that you will fail in most enterprises. Librans generally die of venereal disease, usually because of stupidity rather than promiscuity. Many Librans become parking attendants. No Libran has ever lived past age 56.

Gemstone: Kidney Stone
Spirit Animal: Slow-worm 
Ideal Book: A Wizard of Earthsea                          


Scorpio (Oct 23 - Nov 22) You are born under the sign of evil. Your ruthless approach to life means that by the time you are murdered you will have killed an average of six people. Ethically you are closer to the honey badger than the scorpion. You are cold and distant and prone to falling asleep during foreplay. Scorpios go bald early.

Gemstone: Bezoar
Spirit Animal: Weevil
Ideal Book: Lord Foul's Bane


Sagittarius (Nov 23 - Dec 22) You're always ready to lend a helping hand and listen to other people's problems. Expect to be taken advantage of as everyone else is a bastard. You will be an alcoholic by the time you are 30. Do not become a social worker. You drive a really old station-wagon, or wish you could. Capricorns hate you because you stole their spirit animal.

Gemstone: Gravel
Spirit Animal: Goat
Ideal Book: Magician 


Capricorn (Dec 23 - Jan 22) All Capricorns are cowards. Your pedantry makes you the most likely to be killed for food in any disaster scenario. Capricorns have been eaten when elevators become temporarily stuck between floors. Capricorns are famous bores and can empty most rooms with half an anecdote. You have haemorrhoids. 

Gemstone: Mudstone
Spirit Animal: Tapeworm 
Ideal Book: Assassin's Apprentice