Tuesday 31 December 2013

Select Mode - short story set in the Broken Empire

The links below are to the .pdf and audio files for my short story Select Mode.

The story is listed on Goodreads - you can rate/review it HERE.

This is a 3000 word short story set in the Broken Empire and featuring Jorg and The Nuban.

I wrote it for the anthology Unfettered which I talk about HERE.

You can buy the anthology HERE.

Since Unfettered sales have now allowed Shawn to meet his cancer bills he has said we authors can release our stories earlier than contracted. I'm releasing mine free to say thanks to my readers for a great year.

But wait, there's more. For your $0.00 we also throw in an audio version of the story read by author T.O Munro.

T.O. has appended a reading of an extract from his book Lady of the Helm also for $0.00.

If you're interested in how T.O. came to be my reader - we held a competition, check it out HERE.

What reading is...

Many of us will never have a conversation with a friend or lover that's as intimate as those we've had with the books in our lives.

There are few opportunities to open ourselves as deeply as that provided by a book that hits just so. I can say things on a page that would never leave my mouth. I can take from someone else's pages things that I would otherwise never have had in my life.

I don't claim any great art but if you've read my books it's likely that there are moments between those covers that meant something to both of us. And with the classics of literature there are passages that echo through generations.

With a film we get the creator's vision, but generally the broadest brush strokes of it, fed to us through the committee of professionals who constructed it on the screen. Films can be powerful, beautiful, moving, but in the end they're the work of a team.

A book is the closest you can get to touching another person's imagination. It's a singular relationship between the reader and an author just a keystroke away on the other side of the page.

It's a sadness that so many people don't find the time to read in these days of iPhones and Facebook, streaming movies and multi-player console games. I know I'm starting to sound like a white-haired old-folk complaining about the young-folk in between yelling at them to get off my lawn ... but I am (although aging) a child of the computer era - or at least a teenager of it, and perhaps a child of the books and Lego era.

It's not so much that I regret the lost sales ... though of course I do :)    It's more that a world in which those private, silent, variously deep or funny or thrilling, conversations that take place between a reader and a writer - on buses, trains, in living rooms, bedrooms, at the kitchen table, hell even on the toilet... a world in which those conversations grow fewer, in which 'you read' becomes an oddity, an accusation even... such a world seems less colourful to me, more homogenized.

Connecting us all together is a great thing, with a million potential ups, but one potential down is simply the standardizing of taste. If we all watch the same 100 multi-million dollar films, if we all play the same 100 block buster games ... we've lost something of the diversity and brilliance that 100,000 books bring to the stage. Books are one of the last cottage industries. One author, unconstrained, throwing their thoughts and imagination at the page. Their readers numbered in hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, more rarely hundreds of thousands. All those conversations going on... keeping the world full of magic.

The year's page turns from 13 to 14 tonight. I hope our book pages keep turning as long as there are years to count.

Have a HAPPY

Monday 30 December 2013

List of Lists ... Three!

List of Lists .... Three!

(I did this last year and the year before ... I'm doing it again!)

2013 has been kind to Emperor of Thorns!

Below are the 45 'Best of 2013' lists & 6 'Best of 2014' lists that I know of featuring Emperor of Thorns (presented in chronological order of publication). The two main reasons for assembling this list of lists are:

i) A thank you to the reviewers in question. It's a labour of love maintaining a book blog.

ii) You're probably here because you liked Emperor of Thorns. These reviewers (or in one case, these 120,000+ voters) appear to share your taste in one book, perhaps you will enjoy the other books on their lists.

Bookwraiths Best of 2015
Leona Henry's Best of 2015

Eagle's Books of 2014
The Upstream Writer (whole trilogy)
This Is My World
Myth and Mystery (Rick Riordan)

Fantastical Imaginations - Authors' Choice
Books in the Moonlight
Fantasy-Faction - Best Book
Sky Sea Stone
J Michael Melican
Fantasy Literature
Fantasy Review Barn - A Barney Award
Reddit r/fantasy - The Stabby for Best Book
T.L Gray

Wednesday 25 December 2013

The Stabbies - reddit r/fantasy awards 2013

I have THE STABBY! Thank you reddit r/fantasy!

Check out the official results and the nominations

The book results (unofficial rankings)

Best Fantasy 2013

Emperor of Thorns - me! W00t, woo, hoo, etc
A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan / Brandon Sanderson
Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
Frontier Fortress - Myke Cole

The Daylight War - Peter V Brett
She Who Waits - Daniel Polansky
Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
The Tyrant's Law - Daniel Abraham
River of Stars - Kay

Best Fantasy Debut 2013

The Promise of Blood - Brian McClellan
Blood Song - Anthony Ryan
The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
The Thousand Names - Django Wexler
The Grim Company - Luke Scull

Many thanks to everyone ... except... y'know, those guys who didn't vote for me, and I promise to wield the Stabby with reckless disregard for health and safety regulations.

See the results of LAST YEAR'S awards.

Reddit r/fantasy has 45,000 members (up from 25,000 last year) and is the most active fantasy forum on the internet. Well worth checking out - though the interface is a steep learning curve at first.


Tuesday 24 December 2013

Spoof cover winners

So, after voting on my facebook page these are the top 6 reader-made spoof covers

Some great ideas there - many thanks for taking part. I'll wing a Broken Empire mug Jeana's way (not an Empire mug that's broken).

See full entries HERE.

#1  Jeana  (27 points)

The ruthless CEO Olidan is impressed by Jorg Ancrath’s scheming abilities and forces him to infiltrate their rival company, Gelleth. But Jorg is not going to bend to anyone, especially not to the CEO whose office he desires. Can Jorg make the dangerous climb to the top?

#2  Mia   (24 points)

#3  T.O Munro  (24 points)

Dysfunctional families and murderous mayhem, a rip rollicking read for all the family, tuck your children up with this family friendly reading.  Let your dad and/or your uncle read you to sleep!

#4  Jeana  (21 points)


#5  Dean (16 points)

"In order to shed the trappings of a pawn and arise a player within the game of the Broken Empire, Jorg Ancrath must capture and kill Sageous, a dream-witch of immense power who has manipulated Jorg since childhood. However, in order to best him at his own game, Jorg must seek the advice of another.

That man is Corrion, a powerful dream-witch confined both physically and mentally to the dungeons of the Haunt. His intimate understanding of Sageous and the demons of Jorg's past  will propel the young prince along a precarious road of vengeance and, perhaps, redemption.

#6  Dusty (10 points)


Friday 20 December 2013

The Reddit r/fantasy awards get a name!

Yay! I won the contest to NAME the r/fantasy award!

The awards are now called THE STABBIES!

And the award for best book (picture below) is THE STABBY

See the results of LAST YEAR'S awards.

Reddit r/fantasy has 45,000 members (up from 25,000 last year) and is the most active fantasy forum on the internet. Well worth checking out - though the interface is a steep learning curve at first.


Thursday 19 December 2013

Books I read in 2013

I can't legitimately do a top 10 as everyone else seems to ... the shameful truth is that I only read 10 works of fiction this year. So all of them would quality as 'top' automatically.

However, I enjoyed all of the books I read in 2013. Some more than others it's true, but all had their moments and none was a chore.

Presented in no particular order (though She Who Waits just steals first place over strong competition)

The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

I'm currently 3/4 through this and it's looking like another strong contender for best book I've read in 2013. Set in an alternative 'wild west' very loosely modelled on our world with demon-driven six-shooters and paddle steamers, this is a great read. The prose is very strong - powerful, touching on poetic from time to time, but never wordy or flowery. The characters are brilliantly drawn and the story engages, leaving you unsure at each stage how things will go and where we'll end.

Tomorrow, The Killing - Daniel Polansky

I review it HERE. Excellent noir fantasy.

She Who Waits - Daniel Polansky

I review it HERE. Superb finale!

The Daylight War - Peter Brett

I review it HERE. Great to return to this world/characters.

Breach Zone - Myke Cole

I read a beta copy and am reserving my review until the end of January on request. (It's great, best of the series!)

Tainted City - Courtney Schafer

I review it HERE. Excellent 2nd book.

The City - Stella Gemmell

I review it HERE. Very well written, much to recommend it!

Swords of Good Men - Snorri Kristjansson

I review it HERE. Original and fascinating.

Grim Company - Luke Scull

I review it HERE. Great imagination, good fun.

The Bull and The Spear - Michael Moorcock

I review it HERE. A return to my formative reading.

A Year In Numbers ... Three!

So following on from similar posts at the same time in 2012 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 2013 all told! 

High points have included Emperor of Thorns getting to to #6 in Epic Fantasy on Amazon UK with only GRRM ahead.

And later the whole trilogy was in the UK top 10 bestsellers in Epic Fantasy, with Prince of Thorns outselling A Game of Thrones ... at the same price!

Emperor of Thorns also featured on the Times bestseller list, reaching #16 in its release week. That's the London Times (established 1785) not the New York Times.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics to follow - I dispense with the Goodreads stats graphs as they're getting too long and samey.

Blog traffic since inception

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Narrator cage fight!

[** RESULTS **]

Well, I was expecting a handful of entries and an easy choice. In the end I'd be happy to have had almost any of the entrants as my reader. Guided by the vote here, the voting on my facebook (more controlled as it's just my friends, not the entrants' friends, and by my own ear/tastes I eventually selected T.O and Richard.

T.O blew the rest away on my Facebook vote and did very well here. Richard did well in both votes and sounds great to me. Also, both are authors (T.O Munro and Richard Ford) and it means I can try to reward their efforts by letting them plug their own work at the end and maybe append a reading of the first chapter of their books.

As back-ups and extra honorable mentions I have Cheryl, Paul and Lewis in that order. And I do have at least one more Broken Empire short story coming out.

Again, many thanks for all the entries. I now know what those dithering judges on things like the Xfactor go through - when you have to not select someone who is clearly excellent it really sucks.

[** RESULTS **]

I invited readers to send in recordings of their narration of the short passage below if they would like to be considered to read the whole thing for the audio version.

And now I'm in trouble! I got 19 excellent contributions and whilst (to my ear) some are clearly better than others, there are so many excellent ones that I have no idea how to choose between them. We've got every accent from Indian, through German, American, and in the UK ones which I can distinguish between we've got Scots, Yorkshire, Home Counties... and the reading talents on display are great. They do exactly what I know I can't and bring the piece to life with personality and emphasis and acting skill.

As a writer I notice also how the lines are delivered from the point of view of preserving the meaning - I listen to the timing. The staff is thick and polished from hard use. You might make the case for a comma there, but certainly that quarter beat some readers leave clarifies that it's not thick from hard use, just polished.

Then there's the question - is it more important to have a voice that sounds like you imagine Jorg's voice, or a delivery that brings Jorg's personality to the thing?

For example, the female readers don't sound very Jorg to my ear, but I'm very happy to consider them because they (variously) do such a good job of delivering the prose in a Jorg-like manner. If a reader brings the sentences to life then that's more important in the long run than if they have a deep voice (and remember in this story Jorg is six months younger than he is at the start of Prince of Thorns).

Here's the passage:

Select Mode (graphics from the Unfettered anthology).

Here are the entries:

& a huge thanks to everyone who was a good sport and took part - I very much appreciate the effort and admire the talent!


If you're going to vote please at least listen to the first line of each entry. I know there are a lot of them but it's only fair. Or if you can't manage that then at least choose at random rather than just from the top of the list.

You can vote for as many of the narrators as you like on this poll. I'll use the results as a guideline but will exercise my own judgement as well. It would be great if we could do this on merit and not recruit friends to vote!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Author Teresa Frohock talks about how to pronounce the title of her book... and some other stuff.

So I'm interviewing Teresa Frohock because she donated money to a children's charity and got her book a place in my Million Dollar Bookshop.

(I should add that I've read Miserere and enjoyed it greatly - I review it HERE)

1. Teresa Frohock - or 'The T' as I like to call you, safe in the knowledge that a thousand miles and more lie between us - tell me about this here book of yours. Miserere, how do you even say it? My mouth isn't sure what to do at the end...

‘The T’ works for me. My friends over here call me T, my enemies call me things that shouldn’t be put online—those kind of words scare the children.

The title Miserere (mee-seh-reh-reh) is taken from the 50th Psalm of the Vulgate and simply means: have mercy.

Miserere is about Lucian Negru, a knight who had to make a choice between his duty to his family and the woman he loved. He chose wrong. Everyone lives in a world that is like Eden gone rancid, a place called Woerld, where demons are real and the angels are far away. But the story, the real story, is about how Lucian returns to Rachael and attempts to free her from the demon he unleashed on her soul.

And there are angels and demons and Cerberus, a very special demon. I’ve thrown in sword fights and psalms and swirled it all together to weave a dark tale for adults.

I’m in your genre, making it bleed.

2. Very nice cover. Did you have any input? Do the characters look as you imagined?

I had no input whatsoever, but yes, the characters look exactly as I imagined they would have looked when they were younger.
I loved it from the first moment that I saw it. Both of the women are in realistic armor, and I really appreciated how Michael C. Hayes gave Catarina flashier plate armor than Rachael’s chain mail. If you look closely at Rachael’s face, her eye is on Lucian. Michael juxtaposed the light and dark behind Rachael and Catarina beautifully to show that neither woman is wholly good or evil. Most of all, I loved the way that instead of Lucian standing and the women kneeling, he is on his knees between them.
Those two women could bring any man to his knees.


3. Your publisher, Night Shade Books, a decent sized concern with a reputation for finding new authors, imploded not long after your debut was published. I'm guessing this didn't help you find your audience?

Not particularly, no.
There were a lot of factors in that situation, though, and I’ve fairly analyzed it to death. It’s all really quite moot now, but my poor book didn’t receive a lot of marketing, and unfortunately, my marketing skills were somewhat dismal at the time. I learned on the job, so to speak.
Book bloggers saved Miserere from being pulped. I stand in eternal gratitude to all of the wonderful reviewers out there who saw Miserere for what it was and said such nice things about it online. If it hadn’t been for bloggers, then I think Miserere would have sunk like stone and disappeared within a year, because no one knew how to market it.
I remember reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón saying something about his novel, The Shadow of the Wind. I’m paraphrasing from memory, so double-check my facts, but either his publisher or his agent said that his novel would have a very sad life because no one quite knew how to classify it.
I knew exactly what he meant.
So I taught myself how to publicize and market my own book. I have made a lot of mistakes and I will make many more, but I have learned quite a bit.
Miserere is fantasy with a dash of horror—like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—two great things that go great together.
Go on.
Have your scary bits with your fantasy.

4. Having chapters from a child's point of view doesn't make a book Young Adult fiction. For the sake of those who haven't read A Game of Thrones, discuss:

Oh, for Heaven’s sakes. I think that goes back to marketing with a heavy dash of societal attitudes.
Some of the first reviewers didn’t quite know what to do with Miserere. I have several gems, but I haven’t trotted this one out for a while:
“… [Miserere] occasionally venture[s] into territory that bordered on dark fantasy and horror—torture, rape, the Simulacrum, demonic possession, the Sacra Rosa, profanity, etc.—which jarred uncomfortably with the book’s YA sensibilities.”
I’m not picking on this reviewer, because he was NOT the only one who made this type of assessment. As a matter of fact, I had more WOMEN who mistook the novel for YA than men.
You want to talk about WTF moments. I had them.
That was my initial indoctrination into how women are marketed differently than men. If George Martin had been Georgiana Martin, Game of Thrones would have had a cover that depicted a triangle between Arya, Joffery, and that whiny Stark girl, the one whose name I can never remember, and it would have been shelved in the YA section.
I had demons.
Demons = horror.
Nobody got that for some reason.
Marketing fail? Probably.
So I sat down and tried to figure out why I was getting the hand-wringing “is it YA or not” vibes. I compared the reviews for male authors against reviews for female authors who wrote the same type of books. No one said that Abercrombie’s plain prose led the reviewers to believe The Blade Itself was YA.
I know that people don’t consciously say to themselves, “Huh, a female author and a child character, therefore it must be YA.” Okay. Maybe some people do, but not all of them.
We’re conditioned by society and by our respective cultures to think of women as writing about children in a nurturing way. And before everyone jumps in and talks about how YA literature addresses issues such as rape, misogyny, bullying, etc., I know all of that. However, those YA book are designed to tell stories that help young people to work through these traumatic issues, and that is a form of nurturing.
Writing nurturing books is not evil or bad and there is nothing wrong with it. A lot of women do write YA and write it well.
I’m not one of those women.
I’m not maternal. Ask my daughter.
I write dark fantasy and horror.
Get used to it.

5: Female authors do write dark-as-you-like fantasy, discuss:

For the record, I didn’t think Miserere was that dark. As a matter of fact, I billed it as horror-lite. You know: the kinder, gentler style of horror where everyone doesn’t die and there is a possibility for a happy ending.
Oh, sure. There is creepy stuff, but I mean there aren’t people staggering around, stumbling over their intestines. We’re not talking about splatter-punk here. This is fantasy.
Yes, there are dark moments and a sense of dread in places, but the tension is more in the sentence structure. I dislike gore immensely, and I do believe that any writer, male or female, can easily cross a line that would make the work too dark to be called fantasy.
Can women write dark fantasy? I could reel off many names. I’ll give you my personal favorite.
Tanith Lee is my hero. I love her work. She can build the mood with a sentence and carry the reader along tenderly, right up until the moment that her prose drives a dagger through your heart, and you never see the world in the same light again. She can do it without shedding a drop of blood.
Well … okay.
Maybe she sheds a drop or two.
You get the idea.

6: In Miserere real world religions play significant roles. This doesn't mean it's a religious book, but perhaps you could hammer that point home for us?

I studied Buddhism and Taoism when I was young (along with several other Eastern religions), and it seemed that a lot of modern fantasy authors used those themes in their novels. I wanted to do something different, so I looked at Middle Eastern religions.
The concept for Miserere was actually conceived during a college course on the Old Testament. However, I like the iconography used by Christianity; although, I didn’t know that much about Christianity when I started Miserere. I read histories of Christianity to get a more solid feel for the religion. The history of the different sects is fascinating. I read about the Cathars, and the Gnostics, and the early sects that had no names.
In the quotations of Psalms and other verses, I consulted three different translations of the Bible: the Vulgate; an Oxford University translation; and the King James Version. Lindsay’s prayer through the Barren was from the King James Version, which in terms of accurate translations is probably one of the worst, but the King James Version scores a big hit on the sheer poetry of the Psalms. I also considered that since Lindsay was from North Carolina, she would most likely be more familiar with that translation.
Katharoi is Greek and simply means “pure ones”—I didn’t make that up.
I just tried to make this giant mash-up of various Christian sects. The cross in the Citadel is a resurrection cross, which is a Protestant symbol. Some of the greetings that they use within the Citadel come from Bart Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures, early Christian texts that didn’t make it into the Bible. I cut a couple of scenes that used early Christian rites, those scenes will probably find their way into sequels.
The strange thing is: I didn’t do anything special or different. Judith Tarr used Christianity in The Hound and the Falcon (a collection of three books that she wrote in the 1980s). I’ve read other fantasy authors who’ve used various interpretations of Christianity in their works (Ken Scholes comes immediately to mind) and people don’t wonk themselves over the heads and go OMFG CHRISTIANS, WHY?
So frankly, I don’t know how to ram it home any more efficiently than I already have. Anyone who reads Miserere expecting Christian fiction is going to be sorely disappointed. Christian fiction, by definition, projects a particular belief system.
Miserere does not.
Nor do I.
End of discussion.

7: Give me three great books that helped form you as an author, three great books you've read in 2013, and three books that if people liked them they might also like Miserere. You can overlap!

Hmmm, that is a tough one, because that answer often changes depending on my mood. And my memory.
Three great books that helped form me as an author are actually four:
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip;
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle;
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco; and
  • The Shining by Stephen King.
Three great books that I read in 2013. Hmm. Oddly enough, this one is harder for me, because I’ve read so many great books in 2013, but most were research-related non-fiction. I have very little reading time available to me. I’m going to split the difference here and give at least one work of fiction:
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn just blew my mind. Stylistically, structurally, and storywise.
  • The Yellow Cross: The Story of the Last Cathars’ Rebellion Against the Inquisition 1290-1329 by René Weis reads like a drama.
  • The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Ghengis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford is research for my current work in progress. For a non-fiction work, Weatherford approaches the material very poetically.
Three books that if people like Miserere, then they would like these? I totally suck at this.
When people ask me, I totally go with God’s Demon by Wayne Barlow. That is a great book, by the way. If you haven’t read it, you should. Superb mix of fantasy and horror. 
Otherwise, I’m going to go with what some reviewers have said:
  • Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman (this is really a horror novel, but the use of religious iconography in Miserere made someone think of this book).
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois Bujold, because of Miserere’s use of older protagonists.
  • Felicia Day recommended it to C.S. Friedman and Sarah Monette fans, and I’ll go with that too just to give people an idea of the darker overtones in the story.
  • Ilona Andrews compared it to Ladyhawk—I know that’s a movie and not a book, but that is a great comparison. Okay, it just feeds my ego, but she said it so I’m telling you.

8. What's next for Teresa Frohock? Writing something good?

Right now, I have a short story, “Naked the Night Sings,” in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.

Upcoming is another short story, “Love, Crystal and Stone,” which will appear in Neverland's Library Fantasy Anthology, edited by Roger Bellini, Neverland Books, March 2014.

In terms of longer works: I’m working on a novel that is tentatively entitled Cygnet Moon. This is a dark fairy tale that is about a young prince who is caught between his parents’ rivalries. Makar’s mother, Agata, attempts to assassinate him in order to prevent him from usurping her rule, and his father wants to use Makar to assassinate Agata. Makar has his own plans, and he intends to outwit them both. Think Curse of the Golden Flower but with no incest, fewer sons, a lot more animosity, and a likeable protagonist.
Ah, family.

Once Cygnet Moon is finished, then I would like to revisit Woerld and work on Miserere’s sequel, Dolorosa. While Miserere was primarily from Lucian’s point-of-view, Dolorosa will Rachael’s story. I love Rachael. She is bad-ass. Majorly so. I can’t wait to start work on that one, because we’re going to Hell.

Other interviews:

Bradley P Beaulieu
Jason M Hough