Monday 29 July 2013

What the Broken Empire meant to me

Like a lot of people, specifically a lot of men, more specifically a lot of men of my generation, I never ever speak about my feelings and very rarely admit to having them. That's nothing to be proud of - it's just a particular brand of fucked up that gets handed out a lot. And in the tradition of making a virtue out of necessity I and many in the same boat, play up to it.

I'm asked a lot if it was difficult to write this or that scene, particularly the more dark and violent moments in Jorg's tale. Whilst I've answered honestly that the violence and general wickedness hasn't been particularly hard to write, I have perhaps been disingenuous in passing off other elements with similarly flip remarks.

The fact is that you can't (or at least I can't) put on paper a scene that has the potential to truly move a reader unless it moves you too. I guess there may be masters of emotional manipulation who can write in cold blood something that reduces the reader to tears. I'm not one of them. Being emotionally wedded to your writing isn't guaranteed to make others take those same emotions from it - a degree of writing skill is required in the mix too. But it is likely in general, and a certainty in my work, that a high degree of involvement is needed in order for there to be any chance that the impact will be felt on the reader's side of the page.

In short, though I will deny it to your face with my last breath, I've wiped away more that one tear whilst writing the parts that others have wiped tears away whilst reading. There. Take my man cards. Begone!

Seeing the first dozen or so reviews come in for Emperor of Thorns, and for trilogy as a whole, it's been clear that the books have had an impact on not a few of the readers. Some have just enjoyed the story. One spoke of never being truly connected to Jorg and seeing him as insane - though still giving the last book 4.5 out of 5*. It's good to know that the trilogy can be read as an exciting adventure story and that considerable enjoyment can be taken out of it even without ever really taking Jorg seriously as a human being or caring over much about the observations on his particular brand of the human condition. However, it's far more heartening to read the reviews where the reader has truly got what the books are really about and been on an emotional journey through them. For those people I sense that the tale told won't be one that is washed out by the next book or by the passage of a few months. You get the feeling reading some of these reviews that Jorg and his story will be part of their authors' internal landscape for a long time.

It's for those readers, who fully appreciated the honesty of the books, and responded to the depth of feeling I put into them, that I carry the honesty a step further and say that there were no smoke and mirrors at work here, that this writing meant a lot to me, that I laughed and cried too, and that it was a privilege to have had this chance to share those moments with them.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Emperor of Thorns - the early reviews!

Emperor of Thorns 

 These are all the reviews I know of so far! (in chronological order)

"In a genre fit to bursting with toadstools on Tolkien's tomb Lawrence is a vibrant and original voice who blazes his own trail"    - Mark Timmony, Booktopia (SFF & Fantasy Buzz)

"Emperor of Thorns delivers a moving end to a trilogy that has been breathtakingly refreshing and compelling throughout."   - British Fantasy Society

"Few fantasy series in recent years have been as divisive as Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire."   - Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

If I was <snip> to name the most important science fiction and fantasy series of the last decade <snip> Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy would be on the list.   - Staffer's Book Review

The thing I love best about this series, though, is that nothing is as it seems.   - Bibliosanctum

"an examination into the darkest and lightest parts of the human psyche" - Bookwormblues

"The ending of Emperor of Thorns, and of the whole Broken Empire trilogy, is beyond compare" - Hillary Hall

"As should be expected each book has improved on the last" - Parmenion Books

"the ending could well be the finest achievement of Mark Lawrence’s entire trilogy" - Fantasy-Faction

"However you want to put it, the last adventure of Jorg of Ancrath is his best outing yet." - Founding Fields

"A perfect ending to a brilliant trilogy and an unpredictable, ruthless and poetic literary masterwork of a great mind." - Fantasy Book Review

"I loved it and in fact would go so far as to say it is the perfect way to conclude the series." - Lynn's Book Blog

"an engrossing read, well paced, set in a world with remarkable depth" - Ally's Desk

"Now, for those of you who don't like these books because Jorg is a deplorable personality, you miss the point." - Adventures of a Military HouseWriter

"The entire series, and its latest installment, EMPEROR OF THORNS, deserves your attention. Be disgusted by it, be unsettled by it. But don’t ignore it." - Myke Cole

"Broken Empire was an amazing series, and I eagerly anticipate Lawrence’s next literary effort, whatever it may be." - Peter V Brett

Monday 22 July 2013

The big topple!

It's the BIG TOPPLE 

(note - this contest has concluded - Hilary's entry won - very many thanks to all entrants, your efforts were very much appreciated).

A book toppling contest to celebrate the release of Emperor of Thorns, last book in the Broken Empire trilogy.

The prize!

#1 A signed doodled hardback copy of Emperor of Thorns (not this one, but possibly even better... or worse)

#2 A mug - sporting all three covers of the Broken Empire Trilogy


The sheer honor of it. Victory over your enemies. The lamentation of their lamentors. The knowledge that your name will be whispered down the centuries.

The Rules:

It's pretty simple. Set some books up and film them while you topple them. Send me the file or link to youtube etc.

There will be a day of voting August 12th and the winner will be declared. Obviously the number of books toppled will be a factor, but people will be driven by other factors such as creativity, style, filmography, and sunspots. I will order the entries by number of books involved.


The Entries:

Here's mine to inspire you to do better:

#1 Fiachra H 

The grand push, 725 books! (warning, the down stairs section may upset some book lovers).

also (books, dominos, and a valiant effort to get up stairs!)


#2   Hilary T  (EoT, and quotes by an up and coming young actor)

#3   Cece G (with acting!)

#4   Corey A

#5   Doug W (236 in one go!)

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Rules to Write by

Writing is one of those things that you don't know how you do. Or at least I don't.

The cliche is that it's like riding a bike. A skill that you can't demonstrate until you do it, and that after an absence you may start to lack faith in your ability to do again... except that when you try you always find you can. Woohoo! Look at me, Ma! I'm riding! I'M RIDING!

The trouble is that if you're struck by a sudden crisis of confidence in your cycling ability... if you know that you once could ride a bike but you're not sure how exactly you did it and now think that maybe you no longer can... just pop outside and give it a try. Pick a quiet street. No one will see you. And bingo, ten minutes later your faith in the ability of conservation of angular momentum to keep you off the concrete is restored.

Writing is like riding a bike, except that you do it with a ton of people staring at you (if they're not interested you're doing it wrong). Also the gap between peddling and finding out if you're moving forward or toppling sideways is about a year for a published author. Additionally, if you fall off... you die. Or at least that's likely the end of your career.

Pat Rothfuss recently said that one of the great things (from a writer's point of view) about short stories was that they allow you to fail. You can experiment in a short story and if it doesn't work you've only lost the days it took to write rather than the year a book might take. Moreover (and this is my addition) because the readership for short fiction is so much smaller than that for novels and the readers' investment in time is also less, you've not lost/alienated your audience (or at least not much of it).


The one-novel-a-year model is of course far less forgiving. Produce a book that isn't excellent - that doesn't have readers raving about it... just one such book, and it's likely to be the beginning of the end. Produce a book that's an actual stinker and it's game over, man. Best take off and nuke the planet from orbit just to be sure.

So, since we're talking about the riding of bikes &/or the writing of books. Both things that we don't really know how we do. Let's look at the mechanics.

You'll notice that there are rather few books on how to ride bicycles. Chapter 1, Keep turning those pedals. Chapter 2, What to do if you start falling to one side. Chapter 3 yadda yadda.

There are however many books on how to write. These offer some comfort in the scary business of 'putting it out there', but may ultimately be of as little use.

Here are my thoughts on 'not falling off'.

Compared to a lot of research scientists I’m neither methodical nor thorough. The kind of abstract mathematics I look at to solve problems, the coding of it into algorithms, and the interactive development against data do not typically tend to invite intuition. However I do seem to have built a reputation for feeling my way to solutions and then inventing the proof after the fact.

With writing I seem to sit at the same slightly maverick / under-serious end of the spectrum.

I once went to creative writing lessons. I took an evening class, once a week for thirteen weeks, held in a port-a-cabin in the car park of a local college. It proved very useful in making me think about the act and art of writing, and more importantly the reader.

I once read a book on writing. It was called ‘On Writing’ and I enjoyed it a lot – mostly because Stephen King told a lot of anecdotes in it and didn’t say much on writing.

I see a lot of writers blogging about writing. Some of them have almost made a second career of it. And the thing here is that in order to have much to say about writing (unless you’re going down the autobiography / anecdote route that King took) you really have to be in what I call the ‘mechanical school’. This doesn’t mean that your writing will be in any way mechanical, simply that you deconstruct the writing process into many parts and for each part draw up rules / methods / exercises and the like.

A lot of new writers are drawn to these approaches because they give you something to hang onto. Writing can be a scary prospect for someone taking up the pen for the first time. Having a set of instructions can be very comforting.

Three often seen pillars of writing advice are:
i)                    Write every day. Set yourself word-count targets.
ii)                  Plan out your story. Keep notes on the characters. Plot a path.
iii)                Your first draft will be shit. Revise, revise, REVISE!

These are perfectly good pieces of advice. I’m not going to argue with them. I will simply point out that writing is not a science and that everyone’s experience with it is different.

My own experience is:
i)                    I don’t write every day, or even every week. I don’t keep track on my word-count.
ii)                  I don’t plan my story. I just start typing and see where I get to. Generally I don’t know what the next page will bring, let alone the next chapter.
iii)                My first draft may or may not be shit, but it’s the only one I write. Much later I check for typos, change the odd adjective, and send it off. I’ve tried revising work before and it feels like chasing my tail. I’m unable to tell if version 2 or 3 is better than version 1. So I don’t bother.

My approach may seem unprofessional (it is) and sloppy (it is) and before I was published I was told quite regularly that I was ‘doing it wrong’. But here’s the thing: there is no ‘doing it right’. The stuff I write means something to me – there’s heart and passion behind it – and the emotion clearly reaches a good number of the people who read it. There’s no right and wrong. The advice you see is worth trying, but if it doesn’t fit... drop it on the floor. The only test of whether your way is working or not is whether your readers want to read more.

I also see a lot in writing circles about:
The importance of networking.
The art of pitching.
The magical secrets of the query letter.
How to work a book convention.  
Snagging an agent.

I’m sure that all of these things can help you and may reward study. However – they are not laws – they are not the only way.

I wrote my story. I sent it off at random to a small number of agents I’d never heard of and whose details I got from a list on the internet. I hadn’t ever been to a convention. I cobbled together a cover letter at the point of writing the ‘dear agent’ email.

I post this simply to register the fact that there are no rules. You can succeed (or fail) howsoever you choose. There's no game being played against you here, no in-crowd you need to be in with, no secret handshake, no formula.

Someone once asked me for 5 writing tips. I gave them:

5 things I did writing-wise that may or may not be of interest.

i)-- don't write because of something you want to be or some place you want to get. Write because right now, this moment, you need to. ...For the minutes or hours you're writing, the thing in front of you should be the most important piece of fiction you've ever written. 

ii)- be honest, call upon yourself, write as if you're the only one who will ever read this - risk ridicule and misunderstanding.

iii) join a critique group and develop skin thick enough to take the sting from contrary opinions whilst being sufficiently thin to admit any persistent lesson.

iv)- consider your work on both the grand and small scale. Story is important, plot and character are important, but so is each line. There's a power in the language that can be exploited in almost every sentence to propel a reader on.

v)-- if your writing doesn't move you, it won't move anyone. It's incredibly difficult to push strong emotion through into another human's head simply by the ordered depression of plastic letter keys. If, added to this difficulty, what you're writing isn't even important to you ... well, let's just say it won't end well!

In the end though, it’s practice, aptitude, luck.

Sunday 7 July 2013

The Stupidly Huge Giveaway Results

All the entries can be found HERE

Final Vote Tally

It is perhaps a cliche to say how good all the entries were and how much I appreciate all the skill and effort put into these. It's also true.

The competition was so fierce that some really excellent work didn't even make the top 4. I hope you all had as much fun with it as I did.

Many thanks!

The random prize winner was #36

1st Place:  Nadine K. (225 points)

Jorg Catalogue

This is a pdf file that you can link to by clicking HERE

It's well worth a look - very funny.

Here are a couple of highlights:

2nd Place:  Sonera A. (202 points)

Jorg and Katherine
 My Choice, My Evil.

You can call me Lady.

3rd Place:  Wout S. (144 points)

Art Deco style poster for Jorg - the movie?

4th Place:  'The Fat Lady'  (138 points)

A musical tribute followed by a musical book review!

Here again blogger won't let me embed the video but this is a youtube link you can & should follow :D

Example frame:

Very funny though even I felt I'd seen enough of my face before the end of it :)

Monday 1 July 2013

Lifting the hood

The recent spectacular portrait of Jorg by Kimberly Kincaid (very sadly recently deceased, far too soon) has prompted me to this blog wherein I display it and other images of the Broken Empire's most infamous son while asking whether we want our heroes (& anti-heroes & others) revealed.

My question concerns the ubiquitous hooded man of fantasy-cover-land. 

When reading a book does it upset you to have the face of the main protagonist eyeing you from the cover? Keep in mind that the face on the cover might not be the same as the one the text paints for you. Do you want to see Aragorn, or Gemmell's Druss the Legend, or Hobb's assassin Fitz, looking out at you. Or when it comes down to it is the oft-maligned hood a blessing, allowing your imagination free rein to paint its own picture on the shadows beneath?

Here's another Jorg, this one from the Dutch cover

And from Jacob H

New from Craig Paton on deviant art

And from Gnaberius:

From KingVego

From DeriHarrow

From Danps

From Hugo Campos (draft)

Four from Guilherme Match - check out his portfolio HERE

This from Mike

And from Daniel

By BlackCrescents

By Miu-chii

By Black Crescents

Jorg and Miana

By Darkstar020

Jorg (& Gog)

& another by the same artist here:

By Luan Matheus

I'm afraid I've lost the attribution for this one - please tell me if you know.

And another for which I have lost the attribution (let me know if you know)

From ├čruno Alcantara

From Zuko.

From WinterArt
From Onufrienko

From Lauren Newburg

by Bethany Honaker.

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