Monday, 8 February 2016

triumph/tragedy

EDIT: I discovered this unpublished blog post from 2012 ... not sure how it escaped publication. I do remember it... Anyway, I pushed "publish" and here it is, 4 years late.

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I don’t know many writers. I’ve met five in total, and they were a disparate handful. All of them verbally dextrous, all of them clever and thoughtful, but beyond that a diverse bunch.


Our writing experiences seem to be equally varied. Some of us agonise over each element of plot and prose, others dash it down and move on. Some focus on action, some on character, others build worlds first then populate their stage.

What I think might unite us as a common core though is that writing is hard – you need to push against an invisible something that doesn’t want to move, and doing so exhausts some secret muscle you didn’t know you had. It requires you to exercise both your imagination and your emotions, stretching both to a degree where it starts to hurt. And beyond that, the sharing of that writing - which undeniably you have put something of yourself into, something personal and generally hidden – that sharing requires courage.

There certainly are people that like to over-share. People who will assault strangers with their intimate personal details, people who with the slightest provocation will shine an unwanted light on the mechanics of their close relationships or elaborate upon the most trivial and embarrassing of their medical complications. My limited experience of writers suggests that we’re not those people. Putting ourselves out there isn't an instinct - it's a gamble, a risk.



Ernest Hemmingway famously said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That is certainly an overstatement for me, but then again I won’t be counted a giant of literature a half century after I’m dead. It is true though that the occasions when it has felt like bleeding are the ones that led to the passages of mine that are most talked about and quoted.


To do that, and then to put it up for rejection, and failing rejection, to have it published and exposed to ridicule, requires courage. Just because you have felt something passionately, and what you wrote resonates back with you when you read it – does not mean it will echo in others or that it is well written. It’s a risk.

The penalty is nebulous and can be dismissed as insubstantial, but it has sharper edges than any reply that girl you asked to dance at the school disco ever gave you.

So to the theme of this post – Sarah invited a triumph over tragedy vibe, an insight into how life experience lensed into writing practice.


Clichés exist because there are things that are so true they bubble spontaneously from many sources. Clichés aren’t wrong, just over used. It’s a cliché to say that surviving a tragedy gives you a new perspective. The man still standing after a building has fallen all around him, or reprieved from some terminal condition, will tell us that the world looks different, that trivial concerns now seem exactly that, trivial, and will no longer tug at him. He will concentrate on what matters from now on, walk taller, be a better person.  That’s how we feel at such times. There’s a half-life to it though. Good intentions slip, resolutions slide, and the world catches hold of us again by degrees, sinking innumerable petty little hooks into us.

My tragedy was largely vicarious. It’s my daughter’s tragedy. There’s a reaction against using that word in the same breath as disability because it can seem to belittle the person, to focus on what’s been lost rather than what skills and potential they have. I agree with that sentiment. My daughter was severely disabled by complications during her birth but she loves life, is happy as often as she can be, and is a tremendously valuable and wonderful person. She even has a picture-book in the semi-finals of the Goodreads Choice Award! But, none of that changes the fact that I will always feel that the random chance that stole her ability to speak, to walk, to hold, to eat, to sit, to see a horizon, and to grow without pain, was a tragedy.

She is not tragic - what happed to her was a tragedy.



And some small part of it was my tragedy too – and it made me feel like the man in the cliché. And whilst the world has stolen away much of that feeling of invulnerability – that false conviction that you’ve faced the worst and nothing now could hurt you – I retained some small measure of that courage. And it’s that courage, bolted to my original marginal stock, that tipped my hand, made me send my manuscript out, and made me smile whenever I got a bad (or sometimes hateful) review, knowing that in the grand scheme of things, and indeed in pretty much every minor scheme of things too, it really didn’t matter much. What mattered was that I’d said what I had to say, I’d drawn my line in the sand, and whether it lasted, whether it was noticed, whether that girl at the disco said no and her friends giggled behind their hands – I had taken my chance and would not regret doing so.





Sunday, 7 February 2016

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

I invited Mike McClung to guest blog on his experience in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (which ends on March 1st!).



And he did...

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


I am not a patient person.

Good things come to those who wait? Are you kidding me? The entirety of modern society is founded on the principle of faster, better, more. The Industrial Revolution happened because nobody wanted to wait two weeks for Mom to finish making them a new shirt. (Mom probably wasn't particularly thrilled about it either, admittedly.)

Patience is a virtue? Well, honestly, it's not like I don't lack a whole host of other virtues, so missing that one doesn't really shift the balance pan much. And call me a cynic, but this one is generally uttered by those who've already got theirs, so to speak, to those forced to come along, cap in hand.

Both those old homilies have always struck me as condescending pats on the head, and are followed up with a silent but understood “now run along and don't bother people with your not-terribly-important wants and needs.”

That's all well and good, McClung, I hear you say, but what has that got to do with fantasy or publishing or the #SPFBO? Be patient, I'm getting there. Heh.

The publishing industry, my friends, is about the worst sort of industry someone like me could ever have to deal with. Say you finished writing a book. After months or perhaps years, you finally wrote 'the end' and really meant it.

Oh, my sweet summer child.

The traditional publishing system is so Kafkaesque, even the gatekeepers have gatekeepers. You will likely spend months if not years searching for an agent, because traditional publishers will not accept unagented submissions. In order to be accepted by an agent, you'll need to learn the dark arts of query and synopsis writing. Yes, you must learn to write about your book in such a way that people who do not have the patience time to read your book will want to read your book.

If you secure the services of an agent, he or she will then shop your book around to publishers. This may take months, possibly more than a year. Be patient. At some point in the (distant) future, your agent will either find a publisher who wants to publish you, or they will tell you that, despite their herculean efforts, no publisher is interested.

But let's say you grasp the golden ring. You receive a publishing contract (which might take a month to actually receive, and then a couple more to negotiate). Soon you'll see your book on the store shelves, right? I suppose that depends on your definition of soon. Your editor might have it for 2-5 months, and then it'll take around 9-12 months to, you know, actually be published.

Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue.

Now let's contrast this with self-publishing: I write a book. I write 'the end' and really mean it. I upload it to Amazon and 12 hours later it is available for purchase.

Ah, but traditional publishers add value, you say! Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If you'd like to take a look at the 'value' Random House/Del Rey added to my first novel in the form of its cover. 


But even if traditional publishing always added value to a novel, the time frame it takes for such value to be added is simply unacceptable. My time on this earth is finite, and I have less of it every day. I am impatient because I am not immortal. I get to make the value judgment regarding what is worth my time. Traditional publishing isn't worth the wasted time, especially when you consider the uncertain outcome. There is no guarantee your book will ever find an agent, or if it does, a publisher, after years of effort.

To put it succinctly, oh hell no.

But McClung, I hear you say, didn't you just sign a multi-book contract with Ragnarok Publications? I am confused/you are a hypocrite!

Here's the thing: I've given away nearly a hundred thousand ebooks in the last five years, over various platforms. Free. Gratis. Mian fe. I have done everything I can to reach those readers who are willing to take a chance with their own time to try an author new to them. I've reached only a fraction of the readers I believe will enjoy my books.

Many readers, especially fantasy readers, won't read a self-published book. Their time on this earth is finite, and they have less of it every day. They get to make a value judgment on what is worth their time, and in their estimation, self-published fantasy books aren't worth their time.

That's why I submitted Trouble's Braids to the #SPFBO when I heard about it. Social validation is a valuable thing, like it or not. It isn't infallible, but it's a hell of a lot better than blind, random choice. If a jury of my peers, so to speak, found value in Trouble's Braids, I knew it would go some way towards lessening the stigma of being self-published. (Yes, there is still a stigma attached to it. I don't think we really need to debate that.) More readers would be likely to gamble their time on the book.

Going with an independent publisher was a logical next step for the Amra Thetys series on the validation curve, so when Ragnarok approached me, I said yes. Judging by the covers Ragnarok's Shawn King imagined up for the series, I think I made the right choice, even though I had to push back the publication of the fourth Amra book in consequence.


So. traditional publishing, self-publishing, independent or small press publishing. There are proponents and opponents of each. I'm neither. I'm just an impatient guy who wants to get his stories into as many hands as possible. Sometimes that means having to be patient. (Irony, you can kiss my






Friday, 5 February 2016

Page 1 critique - "Balance" by Kareem Mahfouz

I'm critiquing some page 1s - read about it here.

First the disclaimers.

It's very hard to separate one's tastes from a technical critique. There are page 1s from popular books with which I would find multiple faults. I didn't, for example, like page 1 of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule (I didn't pursue the rest of the book). But that book has 150,000+ ratings on Goodreads, a great average score of 4.12 and Goodkind is a #1 NYT bestseller. His first page clearly did a great job for many people.

I'm not always right *hushed gasp*. You will likely be able to find a successful and highly respected author who will tell you the opposite to practically every bit of advice I give. Possibly not the same author in each case though.

The art of receiving criticism is to take what's useful to you and discard the rest. You need sufficient confidence in your own vision/voice such that whilst criticism may cause you to adjust course you're not about to do a U-turn for anyone. If you act on every bit of advice you'll get crit-burn, your story will be pulled in different directions by different people. It will stop being yours and turn into some Frankenstein's monster that nobody will ever want to read.

Additionally - don't get hurt or look for revenge. The person critiquing you is almost always trying to help you (it's true in some groups there will be the occasional person who is jealous/mean/misguided but that's the exception, not the rule). That person has put in effort on your behalf. If they don't like your prose it's not personal - they didn't just slap your baby.


I've flicked through some of the pages looking for one where I have something to say - something that hopefully is useful to the author and to anyone else reading the post.


I've posted the unadulterated page first then again with comments inset and at the end.

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Prologue

My world was reduced to the rhythmic beat of my boots, the burn in my lungs and my need to end this chase. My target led me through cattle fields in the dead of night. He navigated the farmland with obvious familiarity; I however had almost lost my footing a number of times. Most people would try to lose me in the bordering woodland, but then, Survivors aren’t most people… He jumped a low fence and disappeared into a large building, it outlined the night in deeper shade of black. A barn if I had to guess. One of the massive doors was ajar and inside was a void of darkness, following would be… risky. The noise that followed kept me from moving any closer.

It was the sound of a sizable dog that managed to congeal the sound of a bark and a growl together to create a noise that made you wish you had fresh underwear to hand. It became increasingly offended by my existence and the hellish sound it produced was amplified by the empty barn. My imagination projected images of creatures my father would tell tales of to scare my brother and me.
The barking increased in ferocity. I don’t care how brave you think you are. An angry set of sharp teeth bent on ripping you apart will make you reconsider.

“Ha! The big bad fucking Orphan scared of my pup!” Apparently the dog had given him enough courage to make a stand.

“This night has one ending, Brant, and if you make me kill that dog because you are too cowardly to face your death then I’ll make sure that you feel every agonising second of it.”

“Let’s find out, Orphan!” The dog came running. Shit …

I considered shoving something in the dog’s mouth, but what? …  Without the luxury of choice I picked up a stick that would have to do, for a second I looked for something else but the dog was now only a few feet away. Fuck it! He leapt for my neck, jaws open and all four legs off the ground. I wedged the stick in his mouth and felt teeth bite into the wood; I kept a hold of the stick, hoping it gave the animal the sense that it had hit its mark ... it worked. I knew it wouldn’t stay there long before he realised his error. In an instant I was racked with regret, felt sick with guilt and resigned myself. I unsheathed my sword, the steel in my hand caught the moon’s light before it arced through the air and bit into the dog’s neck, severing the spine. The tiniest of yelps cut short confirmed the beast had died.

My heart ached for the dog, his death a result of unyielding loyalty. Loyalty to someone who had spent his life like spare change. I turned my grief into anger, and then aimed it straight at Brant.
I ran into the barn, my anger burning all caution away. Once inside the moon was to my back, I could see nothing within and all was silent.


“Brant!” I called after him.  He had drowned seven years ago in a fishing wreck up north. He reawakened with the ability to breathe underwater, and set to using his new talents robbing merchant vessels of their goods. He also had three murders under his belt. Four, if you include the dog. “When I find you I’m going to core out your throat like an apple! Then watch the life leak out your neck, you cowardly waste of life! Brant!” I heard him before I felt him fall on me from the barn rafters, the impact left me prone on the floor. I dropped my sword in the fall but I’d be damned if I was going to lose him. He was close; I could hear him, so I blindly felt my way around in the dark. I felt some part of him and got a kick in the face for my labours. He thought it an adequate enough strike to make his escape and hurry for the barn door. The moon blessed me with enough light to be able to kick his feet from underneath him. Quickly I was back on my feet and hot with anger. 


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----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prologue

Some people skip prologues. I used to be one of them. Now I write them and hope my readers don't skip them.

There's a school of thought/writing that says prologues fulfill a unique role and as such follow different 'rules'. Some prologues are essentially info dumps, a condensed world-building / history. These are the sorts I used to encounter a lot, and skip, without losing much.

Another school of thought is that prologues should be as exciting and engaging as any other part of your book. If you have a prologue then your prologue contains your page 1 and that page 1 has to work just as hard as if it were in chapter 1. I try to write my prologues like that. And the only reason I opt for a prologue is usually because I'm offering a PoV I may not return to, or won't for a long time, or I'm dealing with a period a significant time before (or maybe after) the main story.


My world was reduced to the rhythmic beat of my boots, the burn in my lungs and my need to end this chase. My target led me through cattle fields in the dead of night.

So this isn't the info-dump type of prologue. Good.

My, my, my, my, my. Can restructure to reduce 'my' and 'I' in first person. Eg:
My world was reduced to the rhythmic beat of my boots, to burning lungs and the need to end this chase.

He navigated the farmland with obvious familiarity;

We soon learn it's his farm and the narrator knows this. He also knows his name. So why not tell us now? Brant could navigate his own farm as easily by night as by day.

I however had almost lost my footing a number of times.

Might be better shown than told. Turning the corner my foot tried to slide from under me and for the fifth time I nearly fell. 

Most people would try to lose me in the bordering woodland, but then, Survivors aren’t most people…

Lost + Lose, repetition.

He jumped a low fence and disappeared into a large building, it outlined the night in deeper shade of black. A barn if I had to guess. One of the massive doors was ajar

Farm, large building, massive door ... let's just call it a barn and skip the guessing?

 and inside was a void of darkness, following would be… risky. The noise that followed kept me from moving any closer.

void of darkness - feels like overkill


It was the sound of a sizable dog that managed to congeal the sound of a bark and a growl together to create a noise that made you wish you had fresh underwear to hand.

noise, sound, sound, noise - awkward repetition.

'congeal' feels like the wrong word, maybe fuse, marry, blend etc

It became increasingly offended by my existence and the hellish sound it produced was amplified by the empty barn. 

Doesn't feel as if enough time has passed for 'increasingly' plus realistically it would've been barking the whole time. Also, the barn's a void of darkness ... it could be full of stuff rather than empty? This whole line like feels like a bit of a waste to me.

If you want to underscore how scary it is maybe take it in a different direction. The sort of guttural howl that reminds you who's the predator and who's the prey.  

My imagination projected images of creatures my father would tell tales of to scare my brother and me.
The barking increased in ferocity. I don’t care how brave you think you are. An angry set of sharp teeth bent on ripping you apart will make you reconsider.

Good to make it personal, but here it's a tale about tales told. Perhaps a quick direct memory of actually being savaged/threatened by a dog as a child. Throw in specifics, rolling eyes, white teeth, slobber, ferocity, the quickness, the sound, the smell. All these will remind most readers of something similar whereas describing the descriptions in the tales is a bit more distancing. Remember the pain, the strength of the animal, the helplessness, being paralysed in the moment.

“Ha! The big bad fucking Orphan scared of my pup!” Apparently the dog had given him enough courage to make a stand.

“This night has one ending, Brant, and if you make me kill that dog because you are too cowardly to face your death then I’ll make sure that you feel every agonising second of it.”

“Let’s find out, Orphan!” The dog came running. Shit …

Brant could name the dog - make it more specific - "Go get him, [FIDO]!"

I considered shoving something in the dog’s mouth, but what? …  Without the luxury of choice I picked up a stick that would have to do, for a second I looked for something else but the dog was now only a few feet away. Fuck it! He leapt for my neck, jaws open and all four legs off the ground. I wedged the stick in his mouth and felt teeth bite into the wood; I kept a hold of the stick, hoping it gave the animal the sense that it had hit its mark ... it worked. I knew it wouldn’t stay there long before he realised his error. In an instant I was racked with regret, felt sick with guilt and resigned myself. I unsheathed my sword,

This dog is sometimes a he, sometimes an it. Pick one. Probably 'it' unless Brant does name it and deliver a gender.

It's dark, so he does well to spot this stick and get it as the dog is charging him. It makes me realise I can't see the setting - I didn't know there was a stick to hand. Perhaps if it were a rake handle leaning against the barn etc.

All this is fine ... until I get to "I unsheathed my sword." Then I'm thinking ... why wasn't that the first thing he did? Even if he didn't want to kill the dog ... a sword is a big metal stick.

 the steel in my hand caught the moon’s light before it arced through the air and bit into the dog’s neck, severing the spine. The tiniest of yelps cut short confirmed the beast had died.

A tad wordy. Plus with a severed spine we don't really need confirmation it's dead. Nothing wrong with snarl becoming a yelp that gets cut short - just don't need to be told it confirmed the beast had died. 

Could get us into the fight more if it brought him to the ground, give us hot breath, slobber, mud, blood, the weight of it, the smell.

Mechanics a bit strange - it's a dog of man-killing size... does he hold it back with one hand while swinging the sword at its neck with the other? And now would be a good time for some of the aforementioned raw animal terror at being savaged (attempted) by a ferocious hound.

My heart ached for the dog, his death a result of unyielding loyalty. Loyalty to someone who had spent his life like spare change.

To be fair he's told Brant he's going to kill him. Brant's spending this dog's life in the hopes of saving his own, not for a giggle.

I turned my grief into anger, and then aimed it straight at Brant.
I ran into the barn, my anger burning all caution away. Once inside the moon was to my back, I could see nothing within and all was silent.


Imma say the moon was at his back outside the barn too.

“Brant!” I called after him.

After him? Into the darkness perhaps.

  He had drowned seven years ago in a fishing wreck up north. He reawakened with the ability to breathe underwater, and set to using his new talents robbing merchant vessels of their goods. He also had three murders under his belt. Four, if you include the dog. “When I find you I’m going to core out your throat like an apple! Then watch the life leak out your neck, you cowardly waste of life! Brant!”

Interesting about Brant.
Still not buying 'running away from the man with a sword trying to kill him' as 'cowardly' :)

I heard him before I felt him fall on me from the barn rafters,

What did he hear? Him falling through the air?
He felt him hit him - the falling is separate and not felt. Better perhaps with something like - a huge blow across my shoulders staggered me. Brant's weight bore me to the ground. He'd dropped from the rafters. 

 the impact left me prone on the floor. I dropped my sword in the fall but I’d be damned if I was going to lose him. He was close; I could hear him,

Again 'I could hear him' would be better replaced with what 'I' could hear. Brant groaned close at hand and I turned to face him. - or - The shuffle of feet swung me to my left. etc

Try to use the actual thing rather than an adjective describing the type of thing. Not 'I heard him.' But 'I heard [something].' It puts the reader there.


 so I blindly felt my way around in the dark. I felt some part of him and got a kick in the face for my labours. He thought it an adequate enough strike to make his escape and hurry for the barn door. The moon blessed me with enough light to be able to kick his feet from underneath him. Quickly I was back on my feet and hot with anger. 

Kick, kick, feet, feet.


******************************

I put a lot of red ink on this but actually it was a solid effort. My suggestions were just that - possible improvements to something that already did a good job, rather than replacements for bits that failed.

To me this did all the right sort of things - local, easy to grasp problem, gives us immediate action and interest, there's a threat, the PoV has a voice/character, and some interesting world-building slips in when we learn the nature of the enemy. It leaves the reader with a reason to continue and the expectation that the situation will unfold into a larger story.




Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Wheel of Osheim - contest!



It's been a while, so here's a contest. I'll forego the photo of prizes. Winners can pick from signed copies of The Wheel of Osheim (when available), signed copies of any other books of mine I still have copies of (including many foreign editions), T-shirts, and audiobooks on CDs. It's all good stuff - I can dedicate as requested.

To enter - you just need a photo (or video) of something that involves books and wheels. The default is a wheel of books (see below) and extra chances to win will be awarded for number of books and circularity (a bonus for a video of a 'domino topple'). But feel free to elaborate. A photo of you holding Prince of Fools by a large tire - sure, that's a good entry. A book on wheels, piece of artwork? Great.

Every entry has a chance of winning. I'll award good entries bonus points to increase their chance. There will be 3 winners. ENDS TUESDAY 16th February 2016.


Email your entry to me at empire_of_thorns@yahoo.co.uk.
1 entry per person.


Entries below!



#34 Bev



#33 Chris



#32 Dan (& friend)



#31 Kobe



#30 Pavle



#29 Gurpreet



#28 Santiago



#27 Charlie



#26 Ahmed



#25 Pen



#24 Michael



#23 Tracey (rivaling #1 here!)



#22 Bella






#21 Bev



#20 Niko



#19 Kane



#18 Yariv


#17 Laura - Hot Wheels!



#16 Anderson  - with the Wheel of Manuela!



# 15 Andrew


Watch them fall on video!
https://www.facebook.com/andrew.krey/videos/10156596364340601/?l=1009930405937975536


#14 Marc



#13 Paul



#12 Liana



#11 Michael


#10 Shinkei (original art - the character is Lordose)



#9 Patrick



#8 James



#7 Sander



#6 Paul



#5 Yiannis



#4 Kenneth
(image lifted from an article on the British Museum bookshop)



#3 Paul



#2 Ben


#1 Bryn





Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Writing - a 2-player game.


I've said it before, even if writing is a less lucrative (i.e. non lucrative) business than it used to be before the world became full of myriad instant entertainments, I would much rather be an author today than pre-internet.

I wrote Prince of Thorns (and two books before that) on the internet, sharing chapter by chapter on online writing groups. I got immediate feedback and the interaction with those couple of dozen fellow writers was a big part of what kept me at it. I tell people to write because they like writing - but for me that's not writing in a lonely garret, filing the words away to keep themselves company unseen. For me 'writing' is synonymous with 'sharing'. When I say to write if writing is its own reward for you and to treat publication as an unlikely bonus, I don't mean write only if you're happy for nobody to ever read you words. I really mean write if sharing with a handful of people is reward enough for you. And for me it was.


Now my readers number in the 100s of 1000s I still get that same buzz from the sharing side of it, from the feedback. I think that's why I never use the word 'fans' and always feel uncomfortable when I see other people using it. I don't see this week's reader in a light that's any different from the one I saw my readers in when they numbered in the 10s and were all busy writing their own stories.

Had I been writing in the 80s I would have dropped each book into the black hole of publishing never to hear of it again. Unless, of course, someone took the trouble to hand-write a letter, send it to my publishers, and have it forwarded to me (something that has happened to me once in 5 years). That would have left me wanting - I guess my ego-machine needs a bit more to run on than royalty cheques. An 'atta boy' or two goes a long way.


As it happens I get an email or two from readers most weeks, along with messages on Facebook and Twitter, and it's great to be reminded that people are out there in all walks of life, across many countries, reading the stories I spend my days tapping out on this laptop.

Anyway - this blog post is about the latest email I received, shared below with permission. For me it captures most of what I've been talking about. The writer-joy of having felt strong emotion, hit the letter-keys, and put down something that years later evokes similar strong emotion in someone you don't know, half a world away.

I get a wide variety of reactions to the Broken Empire trilogy. Some people are left cold, others really enjoy it but on a different level to the one I'd hoped for - it's just an exciting adventure for them. Others really connect. They 'get' it.


The lady who wrote the email below 'got it'. There are trilogy-busting SPOILERS here, so don't read it unless you've read Prince, King, and Emperor of Thorns.


*****


Probably the quickest way to tell you who I am is to say that I am a veterinarian, and so have devoted my life to helping sick and injured animals. Kindness and compassion are my watchwords. You can imagine, then, my reaction to the first few chapters of Prince of Thorns. I closed the book despite the poetry of the prose and the fascinating world and went to the friend who'd recommended the series to me. We had a conversation including phrases like "teenage psychopath" and "kitten-stomping levels of evil." My friend convinced me to give the books another try.

And I did, and I started to see the sparks of humanity in Jorg. I began to understand his past, his pain, and why his men followed him. Saw his beliefs about himself and the world, both the true and the false. I stood on glorious mountaintops with him. Chortled at his insouciance. Cheered him on when he fought against his darkest tendencies and forgave him when he failed to do so. My friend had told me that though I might come to understand Jorg, I would not like him - but he was wrong.

I finished Emperor of Thorns last night and wept. I rarely feel such a connection to a character, but this ending saw me with face in hands, sobbing and shaking until I was completely drained. (spoiler - highlight to read) Not so much for Jorg's death - though it felt as though I'd lost a friend - but for what Jorg had lost, and especially for what he had finally gained. 

It's hard to explain the complicated emotions still swirling through me. Harder still to share them with anyone I know, since the one friend who read the books certainly didn't have this kind of reaction. So here I am, writing a fan letter of sorts for the first time in my life. I thought you might like to know that your writing touched me so deeply, and I wanted to thank you for it. 







Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Five in Five

On the rare occasions that I'm asked what my favourite colour is I will, if pressed for time, simply give the random answer I decided upon as a child: silver.

If I've nothing better to do I will give the true answer. I don't have one. I've never really understood the concept. I don't understand how blue can be better or worse than green. Context narrows the discussion - give me a when, where, and what. What's my favourite colour of shirt to wear to a job interview? White. I suppose. Certainly not day-glo orange.

I'm the same with books. I can't compare a book I read thirty years ago to one I read yesterday. I was a different person then. I have difficulty comparing a high octane fantasy kill-fest (The Way of Shadows, say) to a subtle and reflective work that rests on a decades-spanning legacy (Fool's Assassin, perhaps).

However.

Since this is my fifth year of being a published author I thought I would give you today's answers to:

What are the five best fantasy books I've read since being published?

What are the five best fantasy books I've read that have been published since I was published?


5 Best SFF Books read in the last 5 years.
These aren't necessarily the most intellectual, laudable, groundbreaking books I've read in the 5 years. They are the ones I enjoyed most and think about most often.
My Goodreads reviews are linked for each.

(I started on Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy first)

(I came very late to this party)

(A great graphic novel that's also a great novel)

(Full of energy and possibility - hit me at the right moment)

(It seemed like nothing new - but I just couldn't stop reading!)


5 Best SFF Books read in the last 5 years that were PUBLISHED in the last 5 years.

(I put the trilogy's first book but actually book 2, Tomorrow The Killing, is the best)

(also in my first list)

(I put the trilogy's first book but actually book 3, Fortress Frontier, is the best)

(book 8, or 4.5, of the Dark Tower series)

(how to return to a great series)