Sunday 29 January 2017

Shock Value!

Shock value: the potential to provoke a reaction of sharp disgust, shock, anger, or fear.

When people say, "That <Insert Act of Violence> was only added in for shock value." they are not complimenting an author.

But if they say that something was added in for comedy value ... not so much. And how about, "You only added that in for interest value," or "Come on, you only wrote that bit to make me feel a sense of wonder and awe." I can't remember ever seeing that.

So what is wrong with shock value?

A book generally comprises highs and lows. Few readers consume books hoping for a constant feel-good story, The darkness in a book allows the bright spots to shine more brightly. There's less joy in a victory if you haven't come face to face with the consequences of failure first.

So is the accusation of shock value just made by those upset at being more shocked than they wanted to be? Sometimes it might be.

I think the truth though is that "shock value" is, or should be, aimed not at criticizing the notion that a book might shock us but at clumsy implementation. It's hard to imagine that many people really think a book should never shock its reader ... but doing so by having a ghost jump out and say "Boo!" or by some other method that a particular reader does not find effective may provoke calls of "shock value".

TL:DR - generally it's not the shock they're complaining about, it's seeing the mechanics of the process.

Saturday 28 January 2017

REVIEW: A Dance With Dragons


This is the review I did for the Sunday Express. It only appeared in hardcopy so I can't link it.

Since it's a national newspaper and many of the readers may never have read a fantasy book, let alone the first four in the ASOIAF series, the review is less about this book and more about the series and the author. I hope to make them the gift of a great reading experience. 

My rating for the book is set in the context of the alternative works of fantasy on the shelves rather than in an attempt to rank this volume amongst its predecessors (I would say significantly better than A Feast For Crows - less good than the first three, still excellent)

[Sunday Express review]

By the time you reach the end of George Martin’s A Dance with Dragons you will be nearly two million words into A Song of Ice and Fire, a sprawling epic fantasy series that is for many readers the single most defining work in the genre for a generation. A Dance with Dragons is itself over four hundred thousand words (one thousand printed pages), not that far shy of the whole of The Lord of the Rings or War and Peace - not that literary worth is measured on weighing scales.

Martin’s series, starting with A Game of Thrones, has been a slow-burning phenomenon, dwarfed only by the colossus that is Harry Potter. Right now all the volumes are on the Amazon top twenty list. When A Dance With Dragons was released in hardback last month it immediately became the fastest-selling fiction hardback this year in the UK.

It has probably been the most anticipated (adult) fantasy novel ever published, helped of course by the recent excellent serialisation of the first book by HBO. A significant contribution to the anticipation has been the six-year wait since the last book, a source of controversy and teeth grinding amongst the readership. Internet grumbling about the delay reached such a pitch it prompted Neil Gaiman to blog to fans: ‘George Martin is not your bitch’. Whilst the books may roll out of the printing house on a conveyor belt, the words themselves cannot simply be squeezed out of the author by mounting pressure!

So, has it been worth the wait? There was a five-year wait for book four, A Feast for Crows, and many fans felt the novel didn’t fulfill the promise of the first three, making the critical success of book five the focus of still more intense speculation.

Martin’s success stands on the simple fact that he has brought to the fantasy genre the mature skills of realism, characterisation, and observation more commonly associated with literary fiction, and married them to a vivid and endless imagination. His commercial success derives from the fact that the books are addictively enjoyable. 

You don’t need to be a reader of fantasy to enjoy Martin’s work. Martin writes primarily about people. You will have fallen in love with, or at least be fascinated by, his characters long before you see your first dragon. By that point you’ll believe in the dragon because you believe in the people through whose eyes you see it.

A Dance with Dragons advances the story with more purpose and scope than its predecessor, reacquainting us with favourite characters (Tyrion, Jon, Dany, and Bran) we’ve not seen since A Storm of Swords (2000). The story ranges across thousands of miles from icy wastes to dusty desert, expanding the incredible diversity of Martin’s world, showing stories on the small scale (Arya’s training) and the grand (Daenerys’ realpolitik). And although the 1000 pages meander through many lives and situations, there are hints at the ultimate convergence and conflict of disparate story threads, a slow building sense of momentum, and finally a rising tension and pace that drives us breathless to the edge of several cliffs. 

One quote that stuck with me is “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” And George Martin offers you a fair portion of those thousand right here.

Turning the final page you can only be disappointed . . . to find it is the last, and you’ll immediately want to reach for the next volume. And there maybe lies the rub.

Edit - and 5 years later it's really starting to rub!

You can go and 'like' my review on goodreads, if you like.

(interestingly, to me anyway, although this book has a Goodreads average of 4.3 and a staggering 49% of its readers gave it a 5*, of the 30 reviews with the most likes - forming the first page of reviews - only 4 give it 5*. Which just goes to show how much we like to bitch and to read bitching!)

Monday 23 January 2017

Red Sister giveaway on Goodreads. Just click and you're in!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Red Sister by Mark  Lawrence

Red Sister

by Mark Lawrence

Giveaway ends March 23, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
It's signed too!

Thursday 19 January 2017

List of Lists ... Six

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

2016 has been kind to The Wheel of Osheim!

Below are the 28 'Best of 2016' lists & 2 Best of 2017 list that I know of featuring The Wheel of Osheim (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 The Wheel of Osheim. These reviewers (or in one case, these 200,000+ voters) appear to share your taste in one book, perhaps you will enjoy the other books on their lists.

James Reads
Rob J Hayes
Quill to Live
Elitist Book Reviews
Queen of Blades
Leona's Blog of Shadows
Sublime Perspectives
Fantasy Book Critic
Reddit Stabby Awards
Best Fantasy Books
Grimdark Magazine
Kristen Reads Too Much
Laura M Hughes
ATG reviews
The Royal Library
Konjam Random
Lynn's Book Blog
Grimdark Readers and Writers chose it as their best book of 2016
Derek Alan Siddoway
Book Scrolling
The Reading Frenzy
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
From the Dust Returned
Mighty Thor JRS
Bookworm Blues
Goodreads Choice Awards

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Thursday 12 January 2017

The Stabbies - reddit r/fantasy awards 2016

It's all about the Stabby. The voted award handed out each year by r/fantasy in many categories, including Best Book, Best Debut, and Best Self-Published Book. 

Check out the official results and the nominations

The book results (many more categories on site)

Best Fantasy 2016

Image result for morning star pierce brown
Morning Star - Pierce Brown

The Obelisk Gate - N.K Jemisin

The Wheel of Osheim - ME!!!!!!

Age of Myth - Michael J. Sullivan

City of Blades - Robert Jackson Bennett

Blood Mirror - Brent Weeks

Best Fantasy Debut 2016

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

Steal the Sky - Megan O'Keefe

Too Like the Lightning - Ada Palmer

Paternus by Dyrk Ashton

Best Self-published / Independent Fantasy 2016

Image result for mirror's truth fletcher
The Mirror's Truth - Michael R. Fletcher

Unsouled - Will Wright

The Demons We See - Krista Ball

Path of Flames - Phil Tucker

Paternus - Dyrk Ashton

Congratulations to all!

Despite The Wheel of Osheim managing a measly finalist place, I did get a surprise compensation for the second year in a row in the form of the Stabby for favourite active author on r/fantasy. So HOORAY! Many thanks to everyone ... I promise to only use it on people who annoy me in any way at all.

See the results of the 2015 Award2014 Award2013 Award and the 2012 Award.

Reddit r/fantasy has 145,000 members (up from 85,000 last year and 69,000 the year before) 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 10 January 2017

Charity Book Auction! (completed)


As part of the Booknest 100 signed books charity drive I am hosting an auction that closes at 9pm GMT on Wednesday 11th of January.

The highest bidder will have delivered to their house 20, yes TWENTY, fantasy books signed by the authors involved.

This little lot includes works by bestsellers like **ME**, Anthony Ryan, Christian G Cameron and Michael Sullivan, and by authors who I know should be bestsellers if they aren't already, like Daniel Polansky and Myke Cole, as well as fine writers like Luke Scull, Mazarkis Williams and Phil Tucker.

Image result for path of flamesImage result for emperors knife

We also have SPFBO finalists Dyrk Ashton, David Benem, & Daniel Potter, Voyager 2017 debutante Anna Spark-Smith, and highly regarded authors Jen Williams and Emma Newman!

And many more that are largely unknown to me but very likely that's due to my ignorance!

01) Mark Lawrence ~ The Wheel of Osheim (US edition) 02) Daniel Potter ~ Off Leash 03) Michael J. Sullivan ~ Age of Myth 04) David Benem ~ What Remains of Heroes 05) Anthony Ryan ~ The Waking Fire 06) Aderyn Wood ~ The Raven 07) Daniel Polansky ~ TBA 08) Phil Tucker ~ The Path of Flames 09) Emma Newman ~ Between Two Thorns 10) Amanda Bouchet ~ A Promise of Fire 11) Jen Williams ~ TBA 12) Ulff Lehmann ~ Shattered Dreams 13) Luke Scull ~ TBA 14) Sue Tingey ~ Marked 15) Anna Smith-Spark ~ The Court of Broken Knives 16) Timandra Whitecastle ~ Touch of Iron 17) Christian G. Cameron ~ TBA 18) Dyrk Ashton ~ Paternus 19) Myke Cole ~ TBA 20) Mazarkis Williams ~ The Emperor's Knife

So, TWENTY fine, signed, fantasy books. I'll even put a dedication and a doodle in mine or send you an alternative if I have it!

Image result for waking fire

What am I bid? Winner takes all, losers lose nothing!

All the money goes to the fine international charity Doctors Without Borders.

You can bid in the comments but you must also email me at

I will post the current winning bid here.

Current Winning Bid

£430 ($516) Heine F
£417 ($500) Rich Craft  *lead bid*
£417 ($500) Anonymous (has emailed)
£333 ($400) Rich Craft
£185 ($222) Jeff Wooliscroft
£180 ($216) Anonymous (has emailed)
£175 ($210) Jeff Wooliscroft
£150 ($180) Ben
£115 ($138) Curtis Vidulich
£87 ($104) Alex de Jong
£60 ($72) Shinda
£50 ($60) Anonymous (has emailed)
£40 ($48) Parmenion Books

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Monday 9 January 2017

Self-Publishing ...exchanging gate-keepers?

This is a ponder piece rather than an opinion piece.

Despite having run the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off for two years I don't have strong opinions about self-publishing other than to say that there are definitely brilliant self-published books and that being brilliant does not guarantee that they will take off.

Here's my thought.

To get a book off the ground you need either a lot of luck or a significant push. Any book needs to break the noise barrier and achieve a critical mass of readers before it can launch as far as its quality can carry it.

If you get a good deal with a large publisher they will put their weight behind you and it helps a lot. Bloggers will be interested because the publisher's name carries a cachet (an expectation of quality), and the book will be in stores. This all gives significant advantage.

But the big publishers (and the literary agents who have their attention) are the much-maligned gate-keepers. It's their opinion that keeps countless books from the public. The tastes and guesses of a handful of people are standing in the way of writers having their work tested in the crucible of public opinion. That's the theory, and it is true. It sounds elitist.

Now consider the alternative. Self-Publishing allows anyone to put a book immediately before the general public. The trouble is that so many books are put into the public eye this way that almost all of them are overlooked, and that brilliant books can flounder.

So, many self-published authors consider how they can help themselves. Many spend some dollars. They might buy a great cover. They might pay for some Facebook adverts etc. And with swift access to sales statistics I have already seen sensible scientific approaches to this where an author spends in one way, looks at the impact, spends in another, looks at the impact etc.

It seems clear that these publicity strategies will be honed and shared, with ever more bang-per-buck delivered.

But what then? Consider two authors with equally good books. Jenny A is a stock broker and Sarah B stacks shelves at Walmart. Jenny drops $10,000 into tried and tested book publicizing methods. Sarah B does not. Jenny has purchased herself a much better chance of success.

But if they approached a traditional publisher both would stand exactly the same chance. Suddenly the elitism of the big publishers is sounding egalitarian and the even playing field offered by self-publishing is sounding as if it can be tilted in favour of those with money.

Conclusion? I don't really have one. There are problems on both sides of this fence. Do you feel better thinking it was the opinions of a minority of supposed experts that kept you from success or that it was your inability or unwillingness to invest (gamble) enough in publicizing your own book? Neither sounds good.

On the plus side, it is certainly still possible to do well following either route if you have a good book and some luck!

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Sunday 8 January 2017

Patreon Books

This content is for tier 3+ patrons only. 
If you've reached this page by any other means, then taking what's here is no different than visiting a pirate site. The stories here are on sale on Amazon.

I will be adding new material here on a semi-regular basis.

These .mobi files can be read on Kindle or on your phone/PC using the free Kindle app.

The PDF and WORD files should be readable just by clicking on them.

The process for getting .mobis onto your Kindle is well documented online. It's pretty easy by all accounts.

If you like the books/stories, don't forget to give them some stars on Goodreads!

Solomon - short story - Jorg story
This is a 5,500 word short story starring Jorg Ancrath - the 4th Jorg story I've written. It appeared in the anthology Unbound II, published in 2022.
It's set during his time living in the Renar Highlands.

About Pain - short story - Library trilogy #1.7
This is a 6,000 word short story that is associated with the Library trilogy, ideally read between books 1 and 2, but no harm to read before THE BOOK THAT WOULDN'T BURN
It features Livira, Clovis and Volente from the trilogy and a number of new characters.

Returns - short story - Library trilogy #1.6
This is a 8,000 word short story that is associated with the Library trilogy, ideally read between books 1 and 2, but no harm to read before THE BOOK THAT WOULDN'T BURN
It features Livira, Yute and Wentworth from the trilogy and a number of new characters.

The New World - Prologue - Red Queen's War Sequel.
This is the prologue to the sequel I started writing to the trilogy. The first chunk of that is to be found in The New World novella (see down the list). This is the prologue that makes sense later after their sea crossing. 
Note - the 'natives' and 'savages' (Jalan's words) are the descendants of modern day Americans and are not the native Americans of history.

Overdue - short story - Library trilogy #1.5
This is a 12,000 word short story that is associated with the Library trilogy, ideally read between books 1 and 2, but no harm to read before THE BOOK THAT WOULDN'T BURN
It features Yute and Wentworth from the trilogy and a number of new characters.

I ,Hubert - the 1st 10 chapters

The first 10 chapters of a sci-fi comedy novel I wrote in 2023. Currently it's out with my agent looking for some publisher love.
It takes some inspiration from the 70s classic sci-fi film "Silent Running".
If you've got feedback on this one - hit me with it!

The New World - a Jalan and Snorri novella (goodreads link)

Originally the start of a new Jalan book (after The Red Queen's War trilogy), I took the start and made it into a novella to include in the special edition omnibus.

The book itself is about 1/3rd written. I'm not sure when/if I'll get back to it. I do love writing Jalan, but he's not one of my most commercial characters, and I've got to eat! 

The novella covers a sea voyage to America.

Gunlaw - a weird western (goodreads link)

A complete fantasy book. Written during the publication of The Broken Empire, so around 2012. My agent felt it was too large a departure from the trilogy that had brought me to the readers' attention. So I wrote Prince of Fools afterwards rather than a followup to this one.

Technically ... a weird western. Gunslingers, hex witches, dogmen, minotaur, trains that run further than you can imagine ... 

Mikeos Jones is a gunslinger, faster than thinking, part of the gunlaw, a man who can seldom afford the luxury of looking past the end of any given day.

Jenna Crossard is a hex-witch, but her ambitions are larger than spells and charms - the need to understand the world consumes her. They say the gunlaw keeps men safe from the endless horror of the sect, but to Jenna it's a cage and she wants out.  If that means breaking open the world and killing a few gods ... so be it.

Blood of the Red - a more traditional fantasy (goodreads link)

The fantasy novel I wrote before Prince of Thorns. 
      It's 20 years old now! But I had a good time writing it and I think it's a fun read.

Darker Tide - horror with strong SFF (goodreads link)

A lot of my stuff strays towards horror. I wrote this after I'd finished Book of the Ancestor.
A quick read - very definitely at the shortest end of the book scale.
This was written to demonstrate a proposed video game mechanism, and as such focuses on the idea and on action. But I hope it's also a fun, potentially unnerving read!
It's set in the 80s (like my Impossible Times trilogy) and has lashings of SFF content. Currently my highest rated book - because so few people have read it!

The Devil You Know - three short stories

These three stories are bundled together for arcane reasons concerning Amazon's royalties structure - they are not connected. The stories are:
The Devil You Know - A Book of the Ancestor short story that has never appeared before. It's set immediately after the end of book 1, Red Sister.
The Hero of Aral Pass - A Red Queen's War short story that sheds more light on the events in Aral Pass that made Jalan Kendeth into a hero. Primarily focused on events before book 1, Prince of Fools, but the framing story is set after the trilogy concludes. This story first appeared in the anthology Art of War.
A Thousand Years - A Red Queen's War story that concerns Snorri and Tuttugu when they were just starting out as young warriors. The events happened ~20 years before the start of book 1, Prince of Fools. This story first appeared in the anthology Unfettered III.

Free Short Stories I have on Amazon

These aren't a Patreon-specific freebie, but I'll list them here in case you didn't know about them.                                                                                                                                                                                          
      During the Dance is, in my view, perhaps my best short story. It packs a lot of emotion into 2000 words. Written around the time my daughter, Celyn, was born profoundly disabled and it seemed likely she would die. The Visitor is a second story inspired by Celyn, but this time wanting to give severe disability some representation in fantasy. The story first appeared in George RR Martin's Wild Cards series, in the book Knaves Over Queens. There's a free follow-up, The Visitor: Kill or Cure, on 
During the Dance on Goodreads
The Visitor on Goodreads

Jacob's Ladder - incomplete, epic grimdark

This was something I started around the time I wrote Red Sister. It was a "possible" but in the end I chose to pursue Nona's adventures.
People call me a grimdark author, but The Broken Empire was the only really dark trilogy I've written. I don't think I'd get that moniker if any of my other trilogies was the first one to be published for me.
Jacob's Ladder is the most grimdark thing I've written since Jorg's story. There are only 7 chapters of it so far, and I hope to come back to it one day. There's a central idea / twist / mystery that's revealed in these chapters, and I think it's a good one with bags of potential.
Have a read and let me know what you think.

Memory - a thriller - real world, not fantasy

This was another something I started around the time I wrote Red Sister. I was well ahead of my deadlines and contracts, but I can't self-publish in SFF (contractually I have to offer SFF to my current publishers, and then it would become part of the schedule that's too slow for me) - so I tried a new genre.
This one didn't find a buyer - publishers said it didn't fit the structure/template of the standard thriller. I haven't self-published it as I don't know how good it is, and I'm not sure there's much a self-published market for thrillers. Plus I don't have a following in that demographic, so finding readers would be an uphill struggle.
I'm eager to get some feedback and see what readers think of it.

Thaw - A Book of the Ancestor short story

Aiki Flinthart contacted a bunch of fantasy writers after she became terminally ill with brain cancer. She wanted to put together an anthology. And she did! Relics, Wrecks & Ruins was a passion project for her, and a day after it was published, she died. 
Aiki had one of her own novels entered into the SPFBO that year (it was a semi finalist), and I was one of the authors she asked to contribute. I wrote a Nona story for the occasion. Here it is!

Zero - the first 4 chapters of a new book I started

Every time I finish a trilogy there comes a period of 'noodling' where I write the start to a book and maybe sell my publishers on buying a new trilogy based on it, or maybe write another start and offer them that. 
This was a noodle aimed at following up my sci-fi start with 47 North, something closer to YA than Impossible Times was.
It's possible that one day I might return to it. Especially if people find it here and tell me they want more.

Dark Tide - short story where the idea for the book Darker Tide (see above) was born (goodreads link).

I honestly can't remember what led to this story. I guess it's associated with the start and end of the day when the sun gets low and every hollow / depression fills with shadow and it looks like they might actually be filled with a liquid darkness. The idea that springs from that is: what it it got deeper like a rising tide rather than continuing as the generally greying that actually occurs. What if it really was like a tide? 

Morality Tale - Jorg short story from Broken Binding Special Edition

Not sure how this ended up titled "The Donkey" in the special edition, but this is the title I had it under in my files. This is here for those of you who treat special editions like holy relics and won't read them. If you haven't bought the special edition - go do that! If it's sold out, then I guess you can read this with a clear conscience.
This is actually a section from inside a longer Jorg story that I started and then abandoned (not everything I try works!) - but this piece stands well on its own as a very short, short story. It tells you a lot about our friend Jorg in rather few words.

Brevity - 118 page collection of my non-book short stories

I've been writing short stories for a long time. Some of these are pushing 20 years old. Some are quite new. None of them are related to my published books. Back in the day when I was learning how to write I used short stories for practice. I sent a lot of these to magazines and some were published (under pseudonyms) for $20 here $40 there.
It's a mixed bag: work I'm proud of, work that was where I was writingwise at the time. I thought I'd throw it all together in a pile of miscellany. At least I know where to find it now! I hope you find some tales to enjoy.

Bound - a Nona story, Book of the Ancestor 2.5 (goodreads link)

A Nona short story, intended to fit between Grey Sister and Holy Sister. Fills in some background on Nona and Arabella.