Sunday 28 April 2013

Author on author!

It's always great to get a good review. I've had quite a few and it doesn't get old.

One of the few book-related things that is even better than a good review is a good review from an author whose work you admire.

Reviewing oneself should be discouraged, but in place of that I have a 'review' of Prince of Thorns on Goodreads that links the Goodreads reviews I've had from Robin Hobb, Terry Brooks, Rick Riordan, and Peter Brett.

Robin Hobb took me by suprise when providing some kind words for the front of Prince of Thorns. At that point I had just finished my 10th Hobb book and was (still am) a huge fan of her work. When you've been absorbed in somebody else's world and (as a writer) constantly amazed at the quality (thinking 'I couldn't do that') it's great to get: "This is an absolutely stunning book. I still don’t know how he managed to write such a dark tale with such a dislikeable protagonist that still kept me turning page after page after page. Absolutely riveting read." 

Peter Brett was another author who by chance (and the odds were against it since I'd read rather few fantasy books in the decade before writing Prince of Thorns) had become a favourite of mine just before he read and liked Prince of Thorns. My sons shoved his book at me, and I owe them!

In 1979 a very bored boy discovered a fantasy book that had been left in a hotel room on a Greek island and was on sale in the foyer. The book was The Sword of Shannara... and I fished out my drachmas and bought it. Loved the hell out of it. So it was very surreal to find 34 years later Terry Brooks had reviewed me!

Myke Cole isn't yet a NYT bestseller, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he makes it onto that list in due course. Myke has the distinction of being one of the vanishingly small number of authors I've actually met and also the only author whose book carries my blurb! I loved Control Point. Fortress Frontier was even better. And I'm reading Breach Zone (the third book) in draft form... and it's the best so far.

Rick Riordan is probably the most famous and big selling author to ever review me. Sadly I've not read his work. I'm not a fan of Young Adult fiction (not being one) but I do hope to try out some of his other novels.

Courtney Schafer's debut 'The Whitefire Crossing' was a great read and I'm part way through the follow-up, The Tainted City, which I'm enjoying even more.

Teresa Frohock's debut 'Miserere' surprised me in good ways (and icky ways) and I'm waiting impatiently for more of her novels to hit the shelves.

I've also had the pleasure of being 'blurbed' by Conn Iggulden (who I've not yet read) and Robert VS Reddick (who I have!)

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Always a bigger fish...

Just to keep things in perspective... here's a little video of some books you might know, scaled by the number of ratings they have on Goodreads, which in turn has some loose correlation to sales.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

I brought a thorn to a knife fight...

EDIT:  It's all over!

King of Thorns (49.3%)             [it won on the Facebook likes with 500 vs 498, but lost on tweets]
The Blinding Knife (50.7%)

Huge thanks to everyone who voted my way for helping me punch above my weight!

Now I guess I should go read some Weeks! (got his first trilogy - wife & boys really liked it)

So Bookspot have been running a death match tournament and 64 contestants have reduced through bloody battle to 2. Since this battle is clearly a key index of popularity (with low-selling authors like Joe Abercrombie + Red Country crashing out in round 1) it's vital that King of Thorns triumphs!

The only impediment to this lofty goal is the small yet enormous obstacle presented by one Brent Weeks. A man who has set his eyes firmly on the prize!

Let's break this down, people.

Here are the numbers (Amazon ratings for the books, twitter followers for the authors, goodreads ratings for the authors)

So, this is a battle like David vs Goliath, molehill vs mountain, of Beauty (me of course) vs the Beast! ... dare I say it... Underdog vs The Baddie.

This is one of those million to one shots that have to come off. For King of Thorns not to win would be a crime of Weeksian proportions!

Now more than ever before friends, fans, minions, flying monkeys, and... others, I need your votes.

Go to the page and 'like'

Go to the page and comment at the bottom

Go to twitter and tweet with the hashtag #kingofthornsftw

Your country needs you. We can do this. Yadda yadda & yadda. For the win!

Thank you.

Friday 12 April 2013

I am not my character. Duh.

Niven's Law: "There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is 'idiot'."

The past 18 months have been a great experience. There have been small negatives though, and this aphorism pretty much sums them up. I was moved to blog on it by an unexpected and quite illuminating observation.

A few months back I dived into a forum debate prompted by Joe Abercrombie's post 'The Value of Grit'. Joe and a whole bunch of other authors engaged in the discussion along with other regulars.

One author particularly passionate about issues concerning the portrayal of women and the undesirability of graphic rape scenes etc was Francis Knight, a lady of strong feminist principles. She had a lot of sensible things to say.

Imagine my surprise then when browsing Goodreads I discovered that she finds herself in the position of having the top of her review listings capped by a 1* piece accusing her of sexism. The reviewer states plainly that they know what Knight thinks of women (and it's not good!). This view was probably not helped by the fact the reviewer read and reviewed the book thinking Francis Knight was a man. It would be interesting to see what would have resulted if they hadn't had that misconception. (The fact that 'Francis' is not the author's real name could lead us into a whole other debate on women and gender-neutral pen names... but let's not go there!)

I found this ironic because similar accusations have occasionally been levelled at me. At the start of the aforementioned debate Francis and I were supposedly on opposite sides. This division being wholly the construct of people who'd not read my books but had read the rare, but controversial (& therefore well known) reviews that painted me as the enemy of all that's good (see blog post title).

The debate fizzled out when the people who were 'against grit' (whatever grit actually is) turned out not to have read (or at least have read and then be ready to decry) any of the books commonly labelled as gritty. We appeared to settle on the consensus that if books as terrible as the ones people were up in arms about actually existed then we wouldn't want to read them. Thus the debate was more a case of one section raging against books that don't exist whilst another section tried to point out that such books don't exist.

In any event - it seems like Francis suffered from the same strange phenomenum that I, and I guess all other authors, do... namely readers thinking that they are their character.

Francis wrote about a sexist man - some readers have demonstrably assumed she is a sexist man.

This seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche and even intelligent individuals can slip into it. We react emotionally to fiction. If that fiction centers on a particular character who we have strong feelings about, particularly if it's written in the first person, we as a species have trouble separating author from character and it slips into what we say about both.

An ostensibly more sophisticated spin on the same idea, and one that I've seen in a couple of places, is that the character is an aspiration, an avatar, i.e. who the author wants to be. This seems clever until you take three seconds to consider it... then it's stupid. Authors of fiction (at least the ones you might wish to read) possess a better than average imagination. If they want to imagine themselves in some sort of Mary/Gary Sue/Stew role where they are 'winning all the sports' they can lean back and do so. If they take on the considerable labour of many months (or years) to create an entire book then they are either making a conscious effort to create a work of entertainment, and selecting characters who will get the job done, or they tend to have something more to say than, 'Look at mmmmeeeeeeeee! I'm great!... or I would be if I was... you know... this guy here.'

So the tl:dr for those who have scrolled to the bottom is:

I am not my character. Not this one. Not the next one. Not the characters who disagree with them... it just.doesn'


I'm not Jorg. I'm not angry all the time. I am not a stranger to fear. I don't consider friends to be assets to be spent easily in the pursuit of my goals. I am clever.

I'm not Jalan. I don't chase after all the women nor would I experience his level of success should I try. I am considerably more loyal to my friends and more considerate of other people. I don't ever go berserk. I am cowardly. I am a bad loser.

I'm not Nona. I'm sorry to say that I won't die for my friends. I am far less brave or determined. I do take things to heart and doubt myself.

I'm not Snorri, or Makin, or Gomst or Dr Taproot, or Kettle, or Abbess Glass.

Again. It doesn't work that way. And even where I share a trait, that's also true for hundreds of millions of real people. We all have much in common.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Book Dominos

I'm playing book dominos with Justin Landon and this is how the game stands so far!

I'm using only books I can remember rather than googling for help. I did consider a variant where one player uses female authors and the other male, but it's hard enough as it is. Give it a go!

STOP PRESS - I lost :(   without googling I couldn't find the next move...

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Book Tower

I wanted to write a highbrow blog post, God knows I did. Something about existentialism in fantasy, or the state of traditional publishing, or gender issues... I even asked twitter for help (promising not to credit anyone)... but here I am again with another silly competition.

The only thing high about this one is how high you can stack your books. When I tried to stack my wife's 147 Star Wars books I found out just how difficult this can be!

To compete all you will need is:

Note Mark Lawrence Inc accepts no liability. Side effects may include book related injuries and/or death.

[Note! I've awarded the prizes. You can still send in pictures & I'll post them. But the contest is closed]

So the competition is for the two signed trade paperback King of Thorns supporting the base of my tower and for the rather fine mug atop the tower sporting all three covers from the Broken Empire trilogy.

The object is to win. You win by having the best tower. The best tower isn't necessary the highest, but it helps. I will post all entries below in order of height (it helps if you have a person of known height in the picture)

No supports!

Your tower doesn't have to be a single column but single columns are more impressive in the height stakes as they're more difficult.

Cleverness counts too. You might have low fantasy at the bottom and high fantasy at the top. Your tower might be made entirely of copies of The Towering Inferno and set on fire (please don't do this). King Kong might be scaling your tower... You might have a great action shot of your tower toppling... who knows.

You can include the top book as a separate piccie if you want to plug/promote/suggest a particular book.

Go for it.

Email photos to me at

Competition has ended! Points, awarded by ten non-competitors (including me) have been tallied and marked by each entry. Remember, there are no losers... only towers that sucked. No, seriously, thanks for being such sports and for all the effort put in here. I had great fun with this.

1st #19
2nd #2
3rd #3


(1) Roger & co (~9' ... we don't need no ceiling restrictions. Windy conditions too!)
(see near the end of the list where baby Henry of clan Roger laments his failure to compete!)
[10 points]

And the inevitable collapse!

(2) MR & sister (8'4" - more than three hundred books in six languages (English, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Yiddish and Georgian)! The book at the top is "Wayside School is Falling Down")
[71 points - SECOND PLACE]

(3) Dom (8'3" ... who knew the height of the ceiling would turn out to be the limiting factor? Not me! Also, *random factoid* Robert Wadlow would be looking down on this tower, being taller than it by a further 8 inches!)
[44 points - THIRD PLACE!]

Close-up of the 'air gap' to dispell notions of ceiling support + proof positive from Katy of the need for hard hats! This injury was not sustained in a tower collapse but rather from a book falling from a shelf. But still... *see safety precautions at the start of the blog*

(4) Allison (7'0" single column! - the power of boxed sets on display)
[4 points]

(5) Johann (6'11", topped by an Iain M Banks boxed set! ... is he holding it up with his nose?  :)  )
[12 points]

(6) Nadine (6'9" & a single column! ... but forget the tower, I want to see the rest of her basement library! Apparently all four walls are like that!)
[29 points]

Sonja Mheob (a very late entry)

(7) Rebecca (6'6" a stirling effort!)
[14 points]

(8) Anna (6'4" (not single column) and a 2' tower of books all with 'tower' in the title!)
[23 points]

(9) Vivianne (6'3" - The Petronius Twin towers, complete with bridge!)
[20 points]

(10) Kelsey (6'1" - always good when it's taller than you are & hey, a dog too!)
[27 points]

(11) Sebastian (5'9")

(12) Allison ( > 5'7" ('the fatty' I'm calling this one) )
[39 points]

(13) Cullum (5'7")
[16 points]

(14) Max (5'4" + beer mountain!)
[16 points]

(15) Ally (5'4" + 1 father)
[11 points]

(16) Lynn (The Daughter-Cage (tm) not sure how high)
[35 points]

(17) Liam's Tower (5'1" - our highest single column tower to date)
[8 points]

(18) Awale (4'6" - with a comic foundation! Tricky things to work with.)
[1 point]

(19) Carliee & Friends (Awesome recreation of the King of Thorns cover - height not a goal here!)
[73 points - FIRST PLACE]

(20) Santa (intended a single chronologically ordered tower but had to make two. The first or 'base' starts in 1953, consists of 56 books in Latvian, and has pretty much a book for every year since 1953 - in order. The second stage loses the theme but stands higher at around 4')
[22 points]

(21) Jannick (4' but showing sufficient building material for a 30' tower!)
[12 points]

(22) Brandon (4' (the unsupported version)

(23) Michael's Tower (3'9")
[4 points]

(24) Gabriele (3'6" - twin towers fashioned entirely from Roman themed books!)
[6 points]

(25) Rabindranauth (3'3" ... somehow it looks taller!)

(26) Lee (& helpers) - winning points for cuteness. Also great taste. Also it's the first free-standing tower that is demonstrably taller than someone!
[19 points]

(27) Baby Henry of Clan Roger (2'3")
[33 points]

(28) Kara (our shortest entry so far! Not sure of Kara's age but she's way proud of her potty skillz!)
[7 points]

(29) Mia (It was to be the Eiffel Tower... but it fell. Look closely and you'll see Mia in the rubble.)
[17 points]

And now the illegal entries!

(30) Nicole (she's 5'2", her tower considerably taller when complete. Sadly the illegal flying buttress relagates it to the bottom of the list, but not from the possibility of victory!)

(31) Emmerentia (way high triple tower, with wall leanage!)
[19 points]

(32) Kelsey (8' but with wall support!)
[20 points]

(33) Brandon (7'+ but with serious wall leanage going on!)

Alicia (1/2 a foot, but defying gravity!)