Monday 26 October 2015

A million words!

I noticed yesterday that if I included the books I've written for existing contracts but which have not yet been published then I have in my three trilogies, The Broken Empire, The Red Queen's War, and Red Sister, just passed the million word mark!

I also noticed this:

(UK editions except for The Wheel of Osheim)

Assuming that Winds of Winter is not published before June next year I will have put out two trilogies in the gap between George RR Martin's last two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series! And at 805,000 words that's about two GRRM books' worth!

Given that I was working a day job and caring for a disabled child for that period I'm quite proud of that!

Of course I only have to turn my gaze in Brandon Sanderson's direction to see a yearly word count that puts mine to shame. And if I had Martin's income from A Dance With Dragons off the book I had published in the same year then who's to say I wouldn't have spent more time enjoying the money than writing the next five books!

Anyway - just a fun observation. I could probably fit the six books into the gap between Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear and Doors of Stone too. However, as a big fan of both A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Kingkiller Chronicle, I would rather have the next book in the series take its time and live up to expectation. The disappointment of something rushed out would undermine any joy in seeing the books appear.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Tough crowd.

There was a time when comedy was about the stereotype. The stand-up would mock apocryphal Irishmen (or whatever nation your nation considered a bit dim), or a fictional mother-in-law, or the driving abilities of women. That sort of thing.

These days that sort of humour sinks stone-like into the silence of a frowning audience. What raises a laugh are witty observations on the iniquities of modern life. Honesty, garnished with good timing, sells. The comedian draws deep on the well of their own experience. This of course adds yet another layer to the 'risk' taken. Not only might the audience not laugh at your joke - now they're judging you too. When the comedian opens up some layer of honest experience that they assume is shared and will strike a chord - something in the peeing in the shower vein - there's always that risk that the audience will blink and go "What? You think/do what now?"

Actually this is not a blog about comedy. Although I put lines into my books that I find funny I insulate myself from the possibility that the reader may not find them funny by not depending upon them to be funny in order for the book to work. I don't write comedy fantasy - if a line doesn't make you laugh ... then it's just a line, and we can both pretend that it was never intended to raise a smile.

What this blog is about is prose. Prose that heads towards the poetic.

It's my contention that when you write a sentence that stretches the language and is intended to strike some chord in the reader you also run the risk that it will fail - that it will sound pompous or clunky - and that you open yourself to the same slow-hand clap that haunts the comedian's dreams.

I'm thinking that the reason so many writers stick to the story telling and lay it out in plain bricks-and-mortar language is that fear of putting yourself out there with a line that might just hang there like a bad smell.

When I write something like:

“Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over, until you know every touch and corner, but still you'll find an edge to cut you.”


Hers was a bowstring beauty, not learned but taut with possibilities.


“We die a little every day and by degrees we’re reborn into different men, older men in the same clothes, with the same scars.” 


“A man is made of memories. It is all we are. Captured moments, the smell of a place, scenes played out time and again on a small stage. We are memories, strung on storylines--the tales we tell ourselves about ourselves, falling through our lives into tomorrow.”

I'm betting on what echoes in me doing the same in the reader - and if it falls flat it can fall very flat indeed. It's a risk, a gamble, I'm on my stage throwing out lines, hoping I won't be left hanging.

Friday 23 October 2015

Play your part in the Apocalypse!


This is a contest to design a card for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse card game. It's being kickstarted HERE. Check it out!

There are 2 prizes of signed books (anything I have at home or a promise of a signed hardcover of The Wheel of Osheim) to be randomly awarded to 2 entrants. So you don't need to be super-creative or arty to win a prize.

The BEST entry will also win a book and be included in the official card deck, with artwork by Cathy Wilkins.

So - to design a card you need to know a bit about how the game works.

You're designing a delay card. An innocent that will die again and again as our backers play the game.

This card will be placed on the table between the player and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Its demise will prolong the player's existence.


Each card is characterised by 4 numbers. Consider them the hit points/ life points it has against Death, Famine, War and Pestilence respectively.

A card that survives an attack has full health by the time it is attacked again.

Each horseman does 2 damage on his feet and 4 damage when mounted on his horse. So this card would be destroyed by any horseman with the amount of damage going through onto the next card in line depending on which horseman it was.

If a card has a resistance of 3 then it will delay an unmounted horseman indefinitely. A card can have a maximum resistance of 5 against any single horseman (very rare). With a resistance of 5 a card could delay a mounted horseman indefinitely. (once all riders are in play and mounted they become still more dangerous and even a 5 will fall!)

So - think of an interesting card. The clever bit is to give them resistances that make sense. You should explain your reasoning to help us.

The pest control van above is best at resisting Pestilence because ... it kills rats/bugs. It has some use against Death because the driver requires killing, and against Famine because you could ... eat the driver. Its use in slowing down War is negligible, hence the 0.

More examples? Um ...

Sex-Bots might be:

Death: 0  (they're not alive)
Famine: 0 (you can't eat one)
War: 2 (make love not war!)
Pestilence: 2 (Sex-Bots lead to a dramatic decline in sexually transmitted diseases!)

You can (if you like) accompany your card with some art/photo (borrowed or original) and a snark-line.

                                                             ("The main driver for technology is, and will always be, better porn.")

Random winners = #9 & #5 (thanks to
Selected winner #31!

#37 Caroline

Astrologer/Tarot reader
Death - 1 (they can say about the actual and past lives, but not about the future)
Famine - 1 (they can give you tips about herbs, anything else)
War - 1 (they know signal of disasters, but lot of them are pacifiers)
Pestilence - 3 (many of them are fans of organic things)

Snark line "I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people."

#36 Caroline

Death - 2 (they care about mental illnesses, but not the physical ones)
Famine - 0 (nobody knows what they eat)
War - 1 (they teach sociopaths how to control their destructive impulses)
Pestilence - 4 (health professionals need to be clean)

#35 Caroline

Death - 3 (their favourite characters always die)
Famine - 1 (will eat... after this chapter...)
War - 1 (many book have wars and things like that, but they're scared about this situation)
Pestilence - 3 (a lot of them are organised)

Snark line "I read so many books that I don't have time to write one"

#34 Robert

A Waddle of Penguins
Death - 5 - Death ain't got nothing on an Antarctic winter, come at us bro!
Famine - 4 - They don't eat for weeks and can walk 50km on an empty stomach.
War - 1 -SLAP FIGHT!
Pestilence - 0- Very susceptible to diseases.

Snark - Cold enough for you?

#33 Paul


Death: 1 Death will want to finish them off Quickly
Famine: 2 They have endorsed everything so will have food supplies
War: 2 War has a soft spot as there music can be used in siege situations
Pestilence: 4 Squeaky Clean to the point of Sterility

Snarkline - If Four Horseman listened to our music of course they would be fans of ours 

#32 Frank

Crystal Ass of the Pimp-King

Death: 2  there is a living soul inside it which it draws it's power from (the eternal soul of Pimp-King Bubba Mac-Daddy), 
Famine: 0  Can't be eaten.
War: 2  can be turned on enemies, or simply thrown at them before running away ... It's pretty heavy)
Pestilence:  2  heals the current bearer of the crystal ass of any and all ailments. 

#31 Florencia and Juan

Confused Tourist

We should have turned left...

Death: 0 Death doesn't take vacations.
Famine: 2 They are open to tasting just about anything.
War: 0 Look at that big mexican with guns! Doesn't he look like Machete?? Let's get a picture and an autograph!
Pestilence: 2 Current on all vaccinations.

#30 Florencia and Juan

Jehova's Witnesses

They know something...

Death: 5  God will destroy all non-Jehovah's Witnesses at Armageddon!! (suck it pagans!)
Famine: 0 No scout cookies? Come on!!
War: 0 Jesus said "he who lives by the sword will die by the sword" 
Pestilence: 1 As long as they don't need a transfusion...

#29 Charlie

The Pool Boy

Death - 1 His long handled leaf remover keeps death at two arms length
War - 0 No armour
Famine - 0 - Requires massive amounts of protein to sustain muscle mass
Pestilence - 2 - His clean water ensure disease has no harbour

Snark Line - I'm not that mean but I keep it clean

#28 Charlie

The Tiny Wizard

Death - 1  Hard to get a bead on
War - 0 Cant see much from the ground and at huge risk of being trampled
Famine - 2 Still nibbling on an acorn from last season
Pestilence - 1 Many bugs are afraid of him and disease doesn't see the point

Snark Line -  My magical hat will get us out of this

#27 Charlie


Death - 3 Having seen his heroes return from death many time, he no longer fears it
War - 0 No real world skills
Famine - 1 - Eats but eats crap
Pestilence - 0 - Prone to sickness

Snark Line - Unless every comic book and movie ever has lied to me, I should be fine.

#26 Alex


Death 1 - Death isn't far away, but she's made it this far
Famine 4 - According to her, you're never eating enough. Have another cookie, dear.
War 2- She's lived through some of the worst wars in history and doesn't want to see another.
Pestilence 0 - The elderly are much more susceptible to diseases.
Snarky line - "I hope you left room for dessert!"

#27 Andrew

Cannibal Plastic Surgeon

Death - 0 - (Her surgical prowess/powers literally only go skin deep so doesn't fool death)
Famine - 2 - (It will take a while to pass on all her tips for eating human flesh)
War - 1 - (With the short range of her scalpel she won't put up much of a fight)
Pestilence -3 - (Years of medical school serves her well, even if her table manners are less than desirable)

Snark Line: "Outer beauty leads to inner tastiness" 

#25 Kenneth

Aid Worker

Death-2- trained in preventative health measures.
Famine-4- Access to warehouses full of food and a worldwide transportation network.
War-1- Not great at preventing wars, but provides relief to those who are victims of it.
Pestilence-3- Provides medicine, vaccines, and other supplies to disaster areas.
Snark Line: "An aid a day keeps the horsemen at bay."

#24 Kenneth

TV Survivalist

Death-3- He will do anything to survive...the ratings war.
Famine-3- He will eat or drink anything.
War-1- He can sharpen sticks.
Pestilence-2- He stays healthy, which helps fend off disease.
Snark line: “A bottle and a full bladder is all you need to survive.”

#23 Kenneth


Death-3- They’re everywhere; you can’t kill them all.
Famine-2- A good source of protein if you’re desperate.
War-1- They won’t prevent war, but they can survive nuclear fallout.
Pestilence-0- More of an ally to pestilence.
Snark line: “Cockroaches, cockroaches everywhere!”

22 Bonnie

#21 Michael

The Chump

Death - 5 I'm sorry, Death. You're fired! The Chump's combover is a toupee woven of this horse's tail.
Famine - 5 This meal is yuuuge. The Chump has a chef that makes so much fine food that he doesn't even notice when the chef manages to share a little of the spread.
War - 5 The Chump claims he would 'get along with War' He actually does. They get positively sloshed on the finest Scotch money can buy.
Pestilence - 5 The Chump declares bankruptcy! He moves things around from this holding and that foreign account- Pestilence visits another player of the user's choosing for the first two rounds this card is in play. .

Snark Line- "Show me some yuuuge loser without an ego, and I'll show you a loser, loser! You're fired!"

#20 Laura

The Biker Chick

Death- 3 She used to date Death, he still thinks he has a chance
Famine- 2 She once survived a whole week on beef jerky and beer
War- 4 Watch out, this bitch is packin'
Pestilence- 0 Not a frequent handwasher, She's never washed her jacket

Snark line- "I may be a bitch, but I'm not YOUR bitch"

#19 James

The Author

Death- 1 too busy proof reading to see death coming.
Famine- 1 parchment doesn't taste very nice...
War- 4 the pen is mightier than the sword
Pestilence- 2 20 hour days leave little time for illness

snark line- writers block has prevented a witty snark line

18 Andy

Smelly Cat

Death 1 - Even Death doesn't want to go near it.
Famine 2 - This thing will eat anything, including his own boogers.
War 0 - He's a stinker, not a fighter!
Pestilence 3 - Allergies, Mange, Cat scratch fever? YES! 

Snark line: "Good god! What is that thing?"

#17 Andy

Steve Jobs

Death 0 "Too late! What, too soon?"
Famine 3 "Abundant resources in all 3rd world countries"
War 2 "Unleash the message board trolls!"
Pestilence 0 "iHealth 2.0 failed to load"

Snark line: "If I can come back to Apple, I can come back for you!"

#16 Chris

Jar Jar Binks
Death 0 Is there anyone who doesn't want him dead?
Famine 0 Will probably eat all your food
War 0 Will hand supreme power to the most evil person around 
Pestilence 0 He probably counts as a plage in himself.

Snark line: Just kill him already.

#15 Andrew

Prime Minister/President

Death 2 - (unflinchingly makes decisions that send people to their deaths so is already on good speaking terms with Death)
Famine 1 - (accustomed to being fed on expenses so has limited concept of food/cooking)
War 4 - (starts wars and therefore is more useful to War alive than dead)
Pestilence 0 - (is already corrupt so offers no resistance)

Snark line - "Ask not what your country can do for Death, ask what Death can do for your country"

#14 Andrew

A Condom

Death 2 - (prevents life before it can be taken by death, so is accustomed to denying Death)
Famine 0 - (inedible so serves no resistance)
War 2 - (people using condoms are too busy and content to make war)
Pestilence 3 - (serves to prevent the spread of some diseases but is one use only)

Snark line - "The only way to cheat death is to remain a twinkle in someone's eye"

#13 Tracey C

The Yuppie

Death 1 - Prone to suicidal thoughts whenever the market crashes
Famine 3 - Champagne and caviar for everyone!
War 0 - Can't make much money in peaceful times.
Pestilence 1 - Promiscuity and weekend drug binges leads to all sorts of nasty diseases.

Snark line  -  "Thank God for Capitalism!"

#12 Tracey C

The Hipster

Death 3 - Live and let live
Famine 1 - Gluten-free bread and nuts only go so far
War 1 - May be able to distract with a lively debate on the politics of war
Pestilence 0 - Weekly bouts of sickness caused by spending too much time in 'dive bars'

Snark line  -  "I liked Radiohead before Thom Yorke did."

#11 Dave D

The Mad Squirrel

Death - 3 (you ever tried to hit one with your car? They're quick!)
Famine - 2 (They've got nuts! Trees full of nuts!)
War - 0 (scrappy, but no match for a sword or a bullet.)
Pestilence - 2 (you know how many diseases those things get BEFORE they die) 

Snark line - "Why do people always talk about my nuts?"

10 Dave D

80's Rock Star

Death - 3 (so many drug overdoses, so little time. Death tries to take him, but like a cockroach he just won't die.)
Famine - 0 (they don't eat anyway, why do you think he's so skinny)
War - 1 (If I sing about peace it will happen, won't it?)
Pestilence - 1 (main lines antibiotics because, well, he's a rock star.)

Snark line - "Bring me my Aquanet."

#9 Dave C

The Cynic 

Death - 2 (The world sucks anyway, bring it!!)
Famine - 1 (condiments in the fridge aren't much but better than nothing)
War - 1 (Shit happens to everyone, deal with it)
Pestilence - 0 (perpetually single but promiscuous)

Snark Line - "...and I care because.....?"

#8 Lisa

The Boy Scout 

Death - 3 - He is young and full of life and adventure
Famine - 3 - Survival skills, endless supplies of Boy Scout popcorn
Pestilence - 3 - He practices cleanliness, disinfecting items, Water purification, and Leave No Trace
War - 2 - I will help other people at all times

Snark Line - Be Prepared……Hell Follows

#7 A.F.E

Conspiracy Theorist

Death: 1 (he won't put up much resistance, but any body between you and the scythe is worth something)
Famine: 2 (the amount of canned food he's stashed in his cellar in preparation for the breakdown of civilisation could feed a small army)
War: 0 (he's armed, but not exactly dangerous)
Pestilence: 1 (since he's barricaded himself in his house to stop the government reading his brain waves, he can't spread much disease)

"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean the Four Horsemen aren't about to destroy humanity."

#6 A.F.E

Tea Lady
Death: 1 (easy to kill, but it'll still take time to do it)
Famine: 2 (offers not only a large amount of freshly brewed tea, but also a good protein dinner)
War: 2 (it's hard to remain aggressive over a cup of tea and a chat)
Pestilence: 0 (sure, we'd all like to believe that tea has some kind of health benefits, but let's face it, we're lying to ourselves)

"Your mother was right: having a nice cup of tea really WILL solve all your problems. Temporarily."

#5 Tracy

Dagda's Cauldron of Plenty
Death- 3 (Can bring the dead back to life as well)
Famine- 4 
War - 0 
Pestilence- 1 (can prevent scurvy)

"The cauldron, which was never empty, provided food for all according to their worthiness."

#4 Tracy

The Common Cat

Death- 3 (The damn things have 9 lives!)
Famine- 2 (Do you know how many small animals the average cat kills in a year?)
War - 2 (They are rather scrappy fighters)
Pestilence- 0

#3 Jason

The Warrior's Bastard

Death: 3 (Willing to fight to prevent his death)
Famine: 1 (He can take what he needs from the weak)
War: 4 (Put everything into his training to try and impress his father)
Pestilence: 0 (Training only handled fighting, no medicinal knowledge)

"Not another bastard... Don't tell the wife"

#2 Jason

Undead Unicorn

Death: 0 (Already died once, death has his number)
Famine: 3 (Doesn't need to eat, but can always nibble on someone's arm)
War: 0 (Didn't have much practice living in a field under rainbows)
Pestilence: 3 (It's difficult to get the undead sick)

"I'm feeling a little stabby today"

#1 Andy

The Enraged Nerd 

Death: 2 (The nerd has practice with those saving rolls.)
Famine: 1 (The nerd knows how to order junk food in)
Resists War: 2 (The nerd knows war (when RPing)).
Reists Pestilence: 0 (The nerd isn't too good with cleanliness...)

Art/Photo - A nerd with his dice (D20) held aloft. (or PHB)

"Hell Hath No Fury Like a Nerd Scorned"