Wednesday 29 October 2014

I pity the fous who don't read this book.

For the art lovers among you I present the cover of Prince of Fools as released by Bragelonne.

For the French among you I present the link to purchase the book!

Release date 19th of November 2014

Sunday 26 October 2014

Foolish things.

Contest Ended
Winners: 50,42, 44, 48, 23

I have a bunch of trade paperback Prince of Fools to give away - fine fat volumes, signed and stamped.

So it's contest time. All I need from you is something foolish. A photo, a drawing, an anecdote, a video - doesn't need to be original (though source credits are good).

I'll give five copies at random to entrants, and the best entrant will get a fine mug too!

Send entries to me at

Contest ends November 5th.


#56 H "Your greatest fan learning to walk in heels for a role - want's to grow up to be Jorg. And his mummy would wuvs him for it."

#55 Sam

#54 John - battle royale!

#53 G.

Conference paper submission on Nov 11th.

*buys emperor of thorns*

#52 Pavle (seriously funny clip)

#51 Jason

#50 Vivianne - a foolish conversation between friends

M - It's like they know our every move!!! We have a leak in our group.... A mole if you will allow bad punning.
K - That one is just a baby, we can still club him!

#49 Arne

#48 Sakky

Last year, in high school, I had to spend one class sitting next to the most annoying, ignorant person imaginable. He was insufferable. Not only was he a Christian who attempted to argue against GLBT* people having the right to get married, one day he spent the whole lesson (and it popped up again in a few lessons after) trying to argue with me that "Bullying (did) not exist." And that you were merely allowing yourself to be insulted. I nearly hit him with my chair.

#47 Gerry -  X is for what?

#46 Craig

#45 Robin (with 48 hour to go before exams ... this could be foolish)

#44 Josh

#43 Ryan

#42 Neil  (this really did appear in our office)

#41 Yiannis - an improved and updated cover

#40 Shawn - Just say no to steroids!

#39 Angelica - foolishly destroying WONDERFUL books

#38 Stephen M.

#37 Stephen R.

At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker who is leaving the company due to "downsizing," our manager commented cheerfully, "This is fun. We should do this more often." Not a word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.

#36 Vadim

#35 Haley

#34  Dusty

Here's Bramstoker Award-winning novelist Michael Knost and I being foolish at Shocka-Con, a horror convention in West Virginia where we were peddling books. (He peddled many more than I.)

#33 Carishma - foolish games...

#32 Dimitar - foolish cats

#31 Mia - Mark Laurence Fishburne

#30 Leigh - foolish nurse

My silly story harks back to my nursing days way-back-when.

I was the night duty nurse in charge of a geriatric ward and for the one night, I had a little student nurse doing her "night duty experience". 

In the small hours, when all was quiet, my student complained that she was bored. So I asked her to go around rinsing and cleaning all the patients' dentures.   A while later I looked up from my paperwork and noticed she had a plastic basin and was about to enter the bathroom with it. 

Yep. You guessed it.  She had dutifully gathered all the dentures and put them into the one bowl ... argh!

#29 Darrell (& wife's) first pumpkin moment

#28 Adam - a hospital tale

I am a man of few words, and even fewer coats, but I do own two such items. I work for the NHS and work cross-site, between two hospitals. About six months ago, I brought Coat A to Hospital A; it didn't rain, but I forgot to grab it from the hook. I went to Hospital B the next day; and, this being Britain, it thoughtfully poured down. I had neither coat, and got soaked. 

Cursing my luck, I take Coat B to Hospital B the next day, but again (can you sense a pattern?) leave it there. I travel to Hospital A, and it again rains, soaking me a second time.

That this happens once, might just be bad luck. That it has so far happened four times in just over six months, despite reminders from my wife to remember the coat, moves into foolishness territory. It has actually become a running joke at my workplace, to the extent that there is an informal pool to see which hospital I will forget each coat at; I understand the winner of the most correct guesses gets a bottle of wine.

And one of my coats, probably.

#27 Pieter - Badgers, mushrooms & snakes

#26 Sarah

#25 Filipe ... a foolish thing!

#24 Ben

#23 Joy - a note in a bookstore...

#22 Lisa - an old but cherished email

Sent: Sun, October 25, 2009 10:03:27 PM
Subject: My glass is half empty, big surprise

10pm- just off of work. Apparently I do not have enough to do while sitting in Afghanistan, deciding whether to study, watch a movie, or sleep during my 10 hours of rest. While making this huge decision, which I need to make each night (or day if I am on nights) I had a thought, and that thought turned into a theory, the theory into an epiphany. Oh yes, I will share this with you, of course. I am a sharing kind of person, as each of you know. Plus I really like being right, and after 34 years(yes I count my infancy) of being scowled at for being a "glass is half empty kind of person" (I heard that from 2 separate people this week, actually) I can finally agree with pride, YES I AM!!

    -I think that the "Glass is half full" people are not optimistic, but fundamentally stupid and naive. Why? Well, if my glass is half empty, that means it used to be full, and I drank half, and now have half left. However, if you say my glass is half full, that means someone only filled it halfway, and that is all I get. Only an idiot would be grateful and happy about getting screwed like that. See, you say, I have filled this halfway from empty. I have emptied this halfway from full. You dont tell some one you packed your bag half empty. No, you packed it half full from empty, or emptied it half way from full. I can't believe no one ever thought of this.

Please, fill my cup to it's limit, and I will empty it halfway(and then halfway again, at my leisure). Naively optimistic people can continue to be grateful for their half full cups, we can make twice as many happy that way. — Lisa H.

#21 Michael - another picture distinguished by being of the reader in question. #niceHat

#20 Dogancan

#19 Jeana

#18 Ben - a foolish foul-mouthed short story  

#17 Raymond

#16 Miguel - I'm not sure how owning my books is foolish ... but it's an entry :)

#15 Sarah and daughter being knicker ninjas!

#15 Dom

#14 Jade - Happy snake!

#13 Stacie

#12 Bev - I can think of nothing more foolish than politics and here are some quotes about the fools and foolishness of our political system from America's great humorist, Will Rogers. 

Will Rogers' Quotes on US Politics

"A president just can't make much showing against congress. They lay awake nights, thinking up things to be against the president on."

"Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees."

"We all joke about Congress but we can't improve on them. Have you noticed that no matter who we elect, he is just as bad as the one he replaces?"

"We cuss Congress, and we joke about 'em, but they are all good fellows at heart, and if they wasn't in Congress, why, they would be doing something else against us that might be even worse."

"The "Ways & Means Committee" is a committee that's supposed to find the Ways to divide up the Means."

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

"The Senate just sits and waits till they find out what the president wants, so they know how to vote against him."

"Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans."

"Many a politician wishes there was a law to burn old records."

"A politician is just like a pickpocket; it's almost impossible to get one to reform."

"The difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the Democrat is a cannibal. They have to live off each other, while the Republicans, why, they live off the Democrats."

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the entire government working for you."

#11 Alicia - the first entry containing the person submitting it!

#10 Kaushal

This actually did happen to me.

One fine morning I went to one of my classes, because hey, sometimes why not?
So I get to the lecture hall, and there's this bunch of students just sitting around outside the hall - whose door was closed. I assumed it was locked/occupied. So I also parked myself on the floor and waited,

By the by more students arrive and all joined us, like some weird protest horde. And eventually the professor arrives.

"What're you all doing here?"

"The class is locked".

So he joins us in the wait. At this point it's 8:15 (class is supposed to start at 8).
After waiting a couple minutes, he walks up to the door, grabs the handle and... opens it.
Apparently it was open all along.

The professor gives us all a withering look, like "What the fuck am I going to do with you dumbasses?"

#9 Paul

#8 Alexandros - Peekaboo!

#7 Andrew, "I saw this months ago in a newsagent window. I think they should have considered the layout a bit more to prevent me and my camera purposefully cropping their advert."

#6 Tiago - Crabstacio!

#5 Christian ... uh ...

#4 David gives you .... Billy with fish.

#3 Janine vs Old Lady

I have done many foolish things in my life, here is one of them: 

In my early eager student nurse days I spent over two hours washing an elderly patient, washing her only nightie, and rearranging her side room/isolation room so she could see out the window in her chair. I just finished when my other colleague came in to see what was keeping me so long. I beamed at her and said "look, she can see out the window now, I've tidied up all her room" she called me out of the room. "Janine she's blind, put everything back where she can find it please."

#2 Santiago - Jimmy Fallon and Robert Downey Jr.

#1 The Lolrus

Monday 13 October 2014

Why didn't you...

Someone tweeted me a few days back with a list of complaints about Prince of Fools. He wasn't happy with my choices. 'Why?' he wanted to know. Specifically:

"Why though? Wouldn't it be more fun if the Viking was a coward or the story never left one tense location?"

Well... I suggested that he write that book.

Now it may seem foolish to suggest to someone that their book, occupied as it is by a journey of over a thousand miles across a variety of kingdoms and terrains, might benefit from never leaving the location it started in... in the case of Prince of Fools you might as well ask: "Wouldn't it be better if this book was a completely different book." ... presumably expecting a civil and well explored reply in the space of 140 characters. However, I have been asked more mild versions of the why question about every book I have published.

Often these 'whys' are asked in a manner that indicates the questioner has a very firm idea of the (my) writing process in their head. I must have sat down with a ruler and set square and designed each element of my tale, weighing up the choices, wondering what message they'd send and what world view they're promoting...

The truth is that I write the story as it comes to me - there is no world, no plot, no character other than the one I start with ... until my fingers move across the keyboard and then with a flurry of key presses, there they are. Asking me why the story does X or Y feels, on this end of the question, as meaningless as asking my why I dreamed of an eagle over a forest last night rather than a crocodile in a swamp.

There are other answers to the whys but they're not the real answer. The real answer is 'that's the way it came off the end of my fingers'.

One why asked quite often in certain circles is "why set your story in a medieval-esque world with all the power structures of that time (which I will proceed to hotly debate in any case)? why not set your story in a utopia where all all treated equally?"

On further questioning it turns out that everyone one doesn't have to be treated equally, just that the divisions shouldn't be along lines of gender or race - a Swiftian mockery of such prejudice is preferred where our hero is persecuted for being a big-endian. The thing is ... that was powerful satirical insight into the nature of othering ... back in 1726 ... I don't feel the need for it to be repeated in every book in the intervening 288 years.

Another true, but less immediate, answer is more technical and runs like this:

when you're writing you have to decide, or have an instinct for, where the focus of your story lies. The reader only has so much attention, dilute it too much and your story will fail to grasp their interest. There's a reason why fantasy stories are "so conservative".

The 'why didn't you' person says - it's a whole new world and yet you bog yourself down with the trappings of this one...

Yeah, there's a reason for that. Why am I so "conservative" that I measure people's heights in feet and their age in years? I could say, "Sam walked into the room. We all stared. At seven fuuts tall he stood head and shoulders below everyone else. He looked more like a three hundred and fifty yurg old."

The answer there is pretty obvious. Almost every fantasy writer will give you traditional measures of length and time because they don't want to dilute your attention - they don't want to force you to learn whole new measurement schemes that add nothing but confusion.

The same holds true for all the rest. The writer needs the reader's imagination to do the heavy lifting - the don't want to spend four pages detailing a zoob fruit when they could just describe the apple in three words and let your experience fill in the blanks. When the writer does employ differences they make sure they earn their keep, having meaning and worth for the story.

The medieval-esque setting (like the Eastern setting, the cold north with bearded axemen, the hot south with arab-esque inhabitants) is part of the landscape of the reader's imagination - there to be taken advantage of, saving 400 pages and a fuck-load of confusion.

Would it be 'clever'  to have the north an arid desert and the south a freezing glue-jungle with wooopa worms and flug-birds? Well, no, not particularly. Sure if that's the focus of your story, but otherwise ... you risk overload.

The focus of my stories tend to be characters. I want the reader focused on the character - what's important to them, what threatens them, what they need. If Jorg lived on a ring-world with six suns and a complex religion requiring devotations be made to three separate gods during the course of the day, and by the way it's a matriarchy with a symbiotic race of aliens that arrived two hundred years ago etc etc... it would just have made it harder to tell the story I wanted to tell.

So, yes, if you want the focus to be on how clever and imaginative you are ... weird me out. If you want the focus to be on your plans for utopia or your critique of modern society, play those games. But if you're going to criticise fantasy as conservative or me for drawing on the architecture of existing fantasy to furnish my pages with stuff for my characters to play with ... then you've very much missed the point of what most authors are trying to do.

Why didn't I play the rather heavy handed gender-politics games that excite a certain rather vocal section of the blog-o-sphere?

Because those are not the games that excite me.

Saturday 4 October 2014

The Liar's Key - early rough for the US/UK cover.

Here's Jason Chan's rough for the cover of The Liar's Key (pre-order the UK version here).

In uniting the two cover styles for Prince of Fools into a single cover for The Liar's Key Jason has had to balance between the tastes of two different publishers/markets and make some interesting compromises.

The UK market (or publishers) are not keen on showing the protagonist's face - wanting the reader to be free to imagine their own version. So in the Liar's Key cover Jalan's sword will cast a heavy line of shadow (not seen here) across his eyes, a mask if you like, offering some ambiguity. And, while the artist has obviously retained the Beckham hair-cut from Chris McGrath's US Prince of Fools cover, he has perhaps given Jalan a little more dramatic flair/swagger more reminiscent of the UK Fools cover.

I did suggest a slightly pompous Prince Jal, or for Jal to be clearly edging away from the action but neither publisher believes their customers are ready for an epic fantasy cover to figure a non-heroic 'hero' so that didn't get realised. However, if you _know_ Jal then I think Jason Chan's final effort (to be revealed) leaves a little room to reinterpret the scene.

In any event - I think it's a fine cover and the Jason's undeniable talent has paid off yet again.