Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The omnibus is one stop away!

 The signature pages have been signed by me and the graphic designer, Nate Taylor. They're now with artist Jason Chan. The layout is nearly complete, and should be with the printers soon!

The numbered edition can still be pre-ordered at Grim Oak.

It will have a dust jacket:

A design on the hardcover (a rough here):

And 9 pieces of interior art (3 shown):

The omnibus is one stop away!

 The signature pages have been signed by me and the graphic designer, Nate Taylor. They're now with artist Jason Chan. The layout is nearly complete, and should be with the printers soon!

The numbered edition can still be pre-ordered at Grim Oak.

It will have a dust jacket:

A design on the hardcover (a rough here):

And 9 pieces of interior art (3 shown):

Monday, 18 July 2016

Moving on.

Conventional wisdom ... conventional commercial wisdom ... is that in the business of writing, when you have a good thing, stick to it.

It is enormously difficult to break big in the business of book selling. As an author, if you have a character or world that sells ... you stick to them like glue (I save my good similes for the books).

This is in no small part why we often have fantasy series spanning 10 or 20 ... sometimes 50 novels.

It's not a bad thing. I've read as many as 7 books focused on the same character and enjoyed them.

However, when it comes to writing I like variety. In the Broken Empire trilogy I wrote about Jorg, a dark, intense, fearless and violent young man. In the Red Queen's war the main character, Jalan, is a coward with a short attention span and little ambition. Those books allowed for a lot more humour than the previous trilogy.

Even with the following wind of a successful  first series it's no small thing to carry your readership with you to follow an entirely new character. The Red Queen's War is higher rated on Goodreads than The Broken Empire, but many of the readers who came to it open their reviews with the complaint that "he's not Jorg!". I understand the psychology behind that reaction, but at the same time I have to point out that those same readers don't open any other author's books with the complaint "he's not Jorg!" We are, to some degree, programmed by publishing to expect the same thing from any given author. This is partly because that's what publishing generally wants and gets. Publishing is increasingly a numbers game where the goal is to minimize risk. Risk is minimized by repetition. More of the same is very appealing when that 'same' includes profit.

So I count myself lucky to have publishers who have been willing to let me jump the rails.

And now The Red Queen's War is concluded, what next? Many readers will hope for more from the surviving characters, or more of the Broken Empire's world, or both.

I'm certainly not saying that I won't ever return to those shores or follow the adventures of a favorite character from the previous stories (major or minor). But, just as I didn't want to be bound to Jorg Ancrath for the whole of my writing life (I could be finishing of book 9 of Jorg's saga right now and I'd likely have a healthier bank balance because of it), I also didn't want to be bound exclusively to the world and magics of the Broken Empire.

So, I was very glad when both Ace and Voyager wanted to publish Red Sister and the rest of the trilogy I had started on, (series title: Book of the Ancestor).

We have a new world, a new protagonist, and once again I face the challenge of bringing my readers with me while attracting new ones. And yes, there is no Jorg, there's no Jalan, there's no familiar world. But all these things are also true of every other book not written by Mark Lawrence (of which there are quite a few). And in the plus column, you know you like my writing, and you know I won't keep you waiting. I'm half way through the final book of the trilogy and fully expect to be finished several months before the first book hits the shelves.

After that? I really don't know. I will stare at a wall and see what pops into my head. Everything is on the table.

To conclude: Yes, I would probably sell more books by continuing to turn the handle on the first thing I wrote. No, I'm not doing that. This way lies more fun, more variety, more possibility.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The Gemmell Award shortlists!

I'm very pleased to find The Liar's Key has made the shortlist for the David Gemmell Legend Award.

You can vote again, the 2nd round total adds to the 1st to decide the winner.

Go vote! It just takes 2 clicks, no registration. And the winner gets this...

On the Morningstar Award for best debut I voted for The Vagrant by Peter Newman. The Morningstar winner (Prince of Thorns was shortlisted in 2012 but didn't win) gets this:

And Jason Chan's fine artwork is up for the Ravenheart award for best cover!

The Legend Award shortlist is rather different this year...

Not present are Sanderson and Abercombie (who have featured in 6 and 5 shortlists respectively ... i.e. every time they release a book.) You might call this a good thing for variety, but then again the award is a popularity contest over a particular subset of the readership - i.e. those who can be reached online and persuaded to vote. So the absence of a book with over 23,000 ratings on Goodreads and the presence of a book with fewer than 100 ratings might be considered strange. Particularly when you note that Goodreads ratings are roughly proportional to readers.

However, it's well known that motivating your readership can play a significant role in such votes. The book with 93 ratings is part of the Black Library, Games Workshop's label for Warhammer books. And Warhammer has a huge following. In 2010 a Warhammer book won the Legend Award. That book to this day only has 337 ratings on Goodreads.

The rest of the shortlist has a roughly similar showing on Goodreads (3x ~2000 ratings and 1x ~5000) but given the scale of the books left out by Sanderson, Abercrombie, Hobb (sadly!) and others it's very clear that the result is completely up in the air!

It's worth noting that this year's shortlist has no female authors on it, again. By my count there have been 3 female authors shortlisted over the award's 8 year history.

The answer would seem to be clear enough. If a book with 93 ratings can get voted onto the shortlist then all it would take is for a Robin Hobb or Naomi Novik to mention that the vote is on, tweet the link etc, and they would be right in there. And if they remain too classy to even indirectly toot their own horn ... then if just a faction of those who (justifiably) complain of under-representation in this particular award would take action to get the readers of those authors voting ... again, there would be women on the shortlist in no time.

Good luck to all!

As an afterthought - if no author mentioned the poll then the result would be a rather predictable one largely based on sales numbers. If every author mentioned it then the result would be a rather predictable one largely based on sales numbers. So, actually the degree to which authors engage with the award and make their readers aware it exists, is really what gives the award its character.

Monday, 4 July 2016


Just for fun. And also for a signed copy of The Wheel of Osheim. A small contest aimed at showing writing ain't so easy.

Here are four photos of a scene that's in your head. You want to share it, or the essence of it, or something from it that is important to your story or character. Simple. Choose one. You have 50 words or fewer.

Put your lines in the comments, or email them to me at I'll enter them beneath the appropriate photo. Maximum of two entries per person.

The best one gets a book. I'll send another book to one entrant at random. So there's an incentive to enter even if the best you can do is "snowy".

Competition closed.

The 'best' was discovered by making random selections until I found one that was very good. There's really no way to choose between the many good ones.

Ryan won with:

"All at once autumn had stolen upon the world. It crept out through the branches of the trees, staining the canopy overhead a hundred hues of red and gold and orange. Its kiss was sharp and crisp in the air, and in the crunch beneath your feet. Beautiful in decay."

The random winner is Simbatron with:

"As we left the city, and its painful memories behind. The road before us gave a message that even as the trees wither out and the leaves fall and die. There can still be a beauty found in death. "

Email me your address and let me know if you want a dedication!


In ten minutes the frost was going to start melting and falling off the oaks and elms in steaming drips. The fields, still buried in snow that had fallen so charmingly yesterday, looked pink in the dawn, blue in the shade.

The road home. It always seemed so harmless."


"As the snow pressed under my feet made its characteristic noise, my eyes clenched in response to that white day. All had the color of winter - trees with pale leaves as far as we could see, fresh snow covering every inch of ground and a white clean sky."


"The tracks were still fresh; mere grooves carved into the snow, which ran down the path and into the snow laden trees of Seregal Wood. Tybyna was going for the Dark Tower nestled with the ancient wood; for the sanctuary of the ice magu. I would have done the same."


"Hesitating, he watched sunlight sparkle on undulating snow covered fields he long ago toiled, as limbs, sheathed in ice, of trees he once climbed, steadily moaned, and occasionally cracked, under deep winter stress. Tentative tires turned, then crunched on packed snow. The years away no longer mattered. He was home."


"I remember running across fields of pristine snow stretching to the horizon. I remember a few trees, their branches covered in icicles long enough to impale a grown man. I remember the cold. I remember the howling of the beasts snapping at my heels. But I do not remember dying."


"The blade lashed outwards slicing the snowflake neatly in twain. The giant lumbered backwards. Cathar's right foot moved forward with a crunch on the virgin snow. The bastard in front of him swung his great ax ahead of him and Cathar thought again how much he hated the snow."


"Avétk walked through the night. He didn’t mind the frost clinging to his hair or the cold creeping up his wet legs. Durek always said discomfort led to freedom.
Dawn skulked over the grey hills. Sunrays dragged shadows across the snow, caressed his cheek, made light of his suffering."


"Ragged breath wreathed his sight in trailing billows. Stumbling, feet dragging through the ice, too numb now to feel the blood staining the pristine white crimson.Clutching desperately a twisted frost sheathed trunk, the motion caused a shower of snow from its dead branches as they raked the flat grey sky."


"Crouched in snow, she peered ahead into the white. Tracks of all sorts blazed forward – a few departing the path, leaving chunky blue-chalk shadows like rippling streams. Charcoal-pencil treetrunks were near-hidden by poufy fronds dripping ice – but dead ahead she saw it: the black tip of the landmark tree."


"The way lay still before us, lost in the cold bitterness of the harsh winter; the wind was whispering through the frozen trees as though the lost echo of a forgotten lullaby. Desolate. All I could think was that I had miles to go before I sleep."


"The trees had sprouted needles of ice and the fields bore a thick harvest of the same. The roads could still be seen, though. Not the biting cold nor the promise of death in every gust of frosty wind stopped the trudging of man and beast and cart."


"Blue shadow crept across the lightly rutted and trampled snow as the fading light somehow lit the trees along the avenue with a glowing gold from within. White powder clung to the branches and the evening was still, only trees ad fields as far as I could see."


"Sentinel trees, unbowed by delicate burdens of frost, stand in the light of a new sun. My path runs white before me under a cold and open sky. Nights' tattered remnants lie in the shallowest of shadows, still hiding from the dawn. And the world waits for me, temporary, timeless, silent."


"In dark of night, Lady Winter had put her own foliage upon the trees. White shards of glass, water stuck in time, glowed with the light of the gods from every bough. 

What stood dark and terrible in the night now inspired the travelers with beauty."


"He laughed. First sound he made in days. Falling asleep freezing he would bargain with the stars. In desperation he'd give anything to escape the snowy tundra. This morning, waking up to black forstbitten fingers he hoped a bargain was struck. Only to be greeted by snowy trees."


"He gestured to the frigid, faceted trees and landscape before him. "See this? Just like Shyana." Martin squinted through the glare and snorted. "What, beautiful? Didn't take you for a poet." Roderick shook his head. "No... deadly. And fucking cold." The two men rode on in silence."


"Thank God for the snow!” I said. Three wheel tracks snaked ahead of us cutting through the thick bright snow. The expanse of land felt like a dartboard; trees scattered as darts drenched in snow. Far ahead, the bulls eye with trees thin and close. “Let's go."


""What do I stand to lose?"
Snow had rendered the once bright field into a mass of monochrome. Not a blade of grass was left untouched. The trees stood in gloom, with the snow hugging the leaves. Chill air filled her lungs, making her cold heart swell with resilience."


"You think you're better than me? I've turned my back on friends, lovers, even myself. I leave my heart burrowed in this snow to freeze the weakness and push on. 

We raise our swords and you say, "Are you ready?"

The cold bites at my smile. "Always.""


"Full of bastard fucking snow."


"Almost there.  It fills the mind instantly, as if it were only yesterday, when in fact, it had been an eternity.  I just wanted to be done."


"A winter wonderland. A clever phrase, and a nice picture are generally all it takes to swindle the low functioning mouth breathers out of their money. Romance and sentiment were lost on Gunther, to him it was just another business opportunity. He scowled as he continued to paint."



""the woods were snowy, dark, and deep"...well, not dark and deep with the sun edging west. At least there was a road, that would get us into the city ahead of the trouble. Barely.""


"Thick silence accompanied the thick snow, so fierce was it that it seemed loud and screeching. He knew not a soul inhabited the country, and so jealousy subsided when he was the one to gaze upon the white that was purity, and the pale pink of innocence."


"Branches creaked as they slowly writhed in the wind as if trying to molt from the silver thaw. The road ahead was littered with frozen footprints and tire tracks, like trapped memories of the previous day bustle. The storm had left its mark."


"Hesitating, he watched sunlight sparkle on undulating snow covered fields he long ago toiled, as limbs, sheathed in ice, of trees he once climbed, steadily moaned, and occasionally cracked, under deep winter stress.  Tentative tires turned, then crunched on packed snow.  The years away no longer mattered.  He was home."


"If you want to sell heaven’s dust to society’s upper crust, a little snow can’t deter you. Or a lot of snow. Or anything short of the Queen herself, being honest. Rolan sniggered at the thought. Most men who ferry drugs through a foot of snow fall short of honest."


"When our battles are over, the ground gets irregular with corpses and heaps of mud. But what lay in front of my eyes was like the outcome of a battle of gods. Peaked hills with broken rocks tearing the grass, a mysterious fog, clouds darkening the world."


"As we crested the ridge and before us was a sweeping vista of shear rock housing a gray canyon below us. It is enough to take your breath away, or it was the climb...yeah I am going to go with the climb."


"Roads. Kress avoided them. In the dead of winter in a forest, above the great paved roads of the empire, Kress hopped trees or buildings. His feet hardened by the rocky shore where he had grown. Now he stood before the mountain, stretching his toes, a smile on his face."


"Softly the cloud looms, pale and listless. They watch the scene unfold below.

The woman whose stance is victorious. She is alone. Her achievement known only to her.

The rocky mountain beneath her feet, ancient, indefinitely cold. It is defeated for now, but when it plays again, the world knows."

-Sam H

"There was grandeur in life. He was sure of it standing on the world’s crown, where the earth reached for the sky. Clarity had evaded him. Until now. Now it permeated his skin, lifted his weight and sent him soaring to the heavens."


"Danilo ascended the cliff face, and finally reached its rough pinnacle. He surveyed the rough valley below, bearded with green, expecting to feel out of place...a pimple on some great giant's chin. It was not so: he was the center."


"So this is what hell looks like?” he thought, standing on top of the desolate rock, overlooking a barren canyon. “Not bad, considering my sins."

-Kate R

"The land looked a wild sea frozen in time; only, rocks for water. And here I stood atop a plunging wave of grey stone, more swelling behind. The clouds descended in black and the wind howled. I am ready. I drew an icy breath and dove."


"She said she would wait... she had, these days and months. This was the place, the mountain where the fire fell, now covered in new-green accept the gashes of earth now forever barren. "I'll jump I swear it!" she screamed again for what seemed the 100th time, hoping against hope for her lover's reply."


"As the sun rises and the dense fog clears, the damage nearly overwhelms me. I search for life from atop the blackened rock face and the blasted valley before me. Is anyone left alive among the devastation that covers the shattered hopes and dreams that I'm fleeing."


"Taking pleasure in being alone is a luxury for those who know they really are not, that there's a crowded town over the hill or a busy road a thousand miles away. Such luxury is denied those who know that they are, really, alone. "


"I played with the idea in my head, the curt reminder of my anguish fresh with the wind whipping through the boney remnants of my wings. Here it could end. The rising sun could carry me up after. Here it could end…no one has to die. Just me."


"She looked down the side of the mountain. "Dammit. That's not a road."


"With bloodied hands, ragged breath and nothing else in life, Alan braved 
the rocks to find the lone figure. For a year, it watched from among the 
clouds, impossibly, judging.

Alan wanted an answer, even if he were the one to fall this time. “Did 
you enjoy my sorrow, brother?”"


"2016. Midwives said it was to be the year of the boy and wise nature knew what was coming. War, and men are needed for the bloody business of it. 2034. Kal wasn’t ready but now of age it was his duty to exact revenge, and they had it coming. "


"Cad spent three days wishing for company. A barmaid with loose standards, tight curves, and a pair of horses, ideally. Anyone agreeable enough to point him toward Eastport would suffice. The silhouette on the ridge struck him as neither a maiden nor agreeable, so he swallowed his wishes and hid."


"All at once autumn had stolen upon the world. It crept out through the branches of the trees, staining the canopy overhead a hundred hues of red and gold and orange. Its kiss was sharp and crisp in the air, and in the crunch beneath your feet. Beautiful in decay."


"I saw the ghost of her, walking on the carpet  of gold and fire. I wanted to follow but some unseen force held me tight. She was heading towards the light through the golden tunnel where the dark and twisted branches clawed at the sky."


"A quiet spot for reflection, thought, solitude and perhaps connection. Arms reaching above for protection and a distant sky beyond promising new discoveries. A contemplation of colour, of endings, change and then new beginnings. A path of discovery stretching into the distance, an unknown. A promise."


"Fera didn’t trust the tunnel of yellow trees ahead, though it looked peaceable enough. No telling what magics dangled from those branches, invisible and deadly as Rin. Or who hid behind the façade of serenity.
Fudge whinnied, stomped. Impatient beast. She sighed and nudged him forward."


"Golden arch above your head, carpet of blood at your feet, this is where you will meet your fate...
She stood frozen, a sense of dizzying unreality swept through her, mouth gaping and terribly dry. The words from the gypsy thundered like the voice of a god in her memory."


"My head hangs as I know that the red tint painted in the trees only signals the change ahead. Soon the golden glow will fade as the cold will begin to seep into my bones. Till then, I shall bathe in its fire."


"Presented we were with trees laden gold, leaf scattered ground coloured red as a simmering forge. Through the avenue, boles silhouetted black, flanking us, closing in like the claws of a trap... We walked and we listened to wind's breath on the trees, light filtering through, shimmering with the breeze."


"Leaves splashed the asphalt, their blazing colours morphing dull pavement into a lava flow, surface cracked with upthrust magma, handfuls of glowing crimson scattered like peppercorns. 

Above, branches writhed like snakes, hissing yellow tongues into a tunnel of serpentine kisses. He strode to a bench and began to sketch feverishly."


"A cheerful yellow canopy of leaves hung above for miles, and even the road invited her with a lush red carpet of fallen leaves. However, when she noticed their black, unnaturally twisted branches like fingers of witches, she couldn't help feeling something dreadful awaited her ahead."

-Michael A.

"As we left the city, and its painful memories behind. The road before us gave a message that even as the trees wither out and the leaves fall and die. There can still be a beauty found in death. "


"This path I walk is that of life and death. Like the phoenix approaching its zenith, the path is covered by the golden flames of oblivion.  I despair not, for once the fire has fallen and winters chill fades; life returns again. The fire is not of death, but life."


"The silent amber canopy stood waiting for the activities of the day, pensive sentinels, guarding the passage of time."


"He knew that everyone around him looked up and saw beauty; saw reds and golds and magnificence. But he didn't, he looked up and saw flames all around him which licked the ground and made it bleed. Fire, blood, pain and suffering, they were the words of his life now. His life since she had been taken. Since he had watched her blood soak into the soil of this very park and nourish the tress that now burned above him."


"People say these trees drip with the gold of your fears. Bleed the reds of your humanity. Cowards they are. A tune swells in my ears, filling me with a familiar warmth. I close my eyes and hear the warning carried by the breeze.

"You should fear me."

No, I think.

You should fear me."


"The tunnel covering the path was nature-made. Gold leaves, looking richer than the sun above. The color fuller than any young maiden’s hair. The beauty that promised fire if touched. Only fitting that the ground was covered with those already the color of blood."


"Sun dappled, red-gold leaves rustled in wind-driven waves that appeared to emanate from the sleeping child, as if an extension of the fiery bronze curls haloing her pale, peaceful frame. "She has your face," Dara whispered to Ciara, seeing their daughter for the first time, "And, apparently, your work ethic.""


"The road ahead was broad and even in order to accommodate large crowds not there. Amber autumn leaves emboldened the sun above while fallen red leaves stippled the asphalt beneath my feet. The benches were empty; all but the one I sat in."


"As the fire rises above the trees and the smugness of the autumn heat begins to kill what Mother Nature waited all winter to create; you can see how quickly what is worked for is easily destroyed by its maker, in time. "


"The burning orange disc eased below the horizon, setting the western sky ablaze in its wake. The clouds burned pink and orange, and the sea shimmered gold as the sun slipped beneath the waves, surrendering up the sky to the grey steel of twilight as night gathered in the east."


"Stillness of water and stone.
Gulls bitter cries at the loss of light and memory
Day becomes past, no future is promised
Come moon! Come stars! Reveal the infinite!"


"The rocks were crumbled across the beach, diminishing in number as they reached the shoreline. Yet perhaps they did not end there. Perhaps just beneath the surface they crumbled the depths to the ocean floor, where, huddled en masse, they were yet more darkness in the belly of the world."


"Her mood was governed by the seasons - bitter in winter, spiteful in summer, spring and autumn variations on the theme. Yet, she never noticed the changes, never felt any difference. She never felt at all. Until the end of days. Then, she felt more than she wanted."


"Heavens set ablaze by a fiery light. Silent, dark bolts of lightning jut from the earth beneath and into the amber clouds of the dying above. Angels fall upon the earth, littering the ground with bodies to stain the earth red. Their screams are no more than whispers."


"“It’s beautiful.”

I gasped as his hand touched mine. Leathered, veins stark blue against the pallor of my skin. He looked at me, he saw me as if for the first time. “I am sorry.”

The sun took him away from me, but its colors brought forgiveness to my soul."

-Sam H

"I stepped over the fallen body of my comrade, realizing that the fire within me matched the blazing horizon above, the flames reaching out their fingers into the icy water. Two rivals not unlike me and my former companion.I wondered which one I was; The flame or the chill."


"Sky lit, as if by conflagration, above calm waters. I look to the jetty on my right, nought but black sticks at a distance. Clambering drab boulders, walking shifting pebbles, I head to the smudge of a boat in the dying light, anchored in rippled mud, treacherous as night."


"There it lay. From foot to emblazoned horizon; the vast expanse of a world submerged. Ripples danced it's embryonic skin, distorting the sky, giving life to a dystopian plane enticing enough to snare a weary mind. A breeze thick with salt and brine screaming the promise of adventure."


"The large, rough rocks and the flat bay mimicked the grey clouds scattered across the sky. The sunset touched them making pinks and golds appear in the dying of the day. Low tide exposed the skeletal structure of the jetty and revealed the sliver of coarse sand that met water."


"As she set, she burnt the surface of the water, dressed the sky in the purple and golds of royalty, and heralded the end of an era. For it was, or would be. A promise lingered in her dying light on the horizon’s edge. A promise of war."


"It's not the first time I've sat here, I like sitting. And eating, and drinking, and most certainly sleeping. Still. I like sitting. I take my pipe and pull at the dark smoke, tasting its velvet texture as it curls around my tongue. I chuckle quietly. Soon the sun will set. It'll set on us all."


"As the sun was shedding his last rays of light, in the distant horizon and over the still cold water, day was bleeding into night.
Kendrick was lying among the rocks on the shoreline, admiring the view, as life was bleeding out of him, making him colder by the second."


"Across the burnished waters of the bay the bright coin of the sun melted into a puddle of gold on the horizon. Hearing the siren calls of her sisters out at sea, once more she knelt at the water's edge weeping bitter tears into the waves, mourning her stolen skin."


"The endless shoreline.
Light retreats from the Darkness.
The chase never ends."


"I pick a path down to the water, though my feet ache to leap from stone to stone with remembered, reckless speed. The salt air reaches deep into my chest, building an unbearable tightness there. I kneel, and weep, and the waves caress my outstretched hand. Finally, home."


"Icy waves and brittle sunlight wrenched a ragged breath from the washed-up woman. Salted seawater burned her wounded back and metallic blood filled her mouth as an agonised groan burst past traitorous lips. Groans became laughter. Whether in spite of the gods or, perhaps, because of them, Ksenia was alive.  "


"The yellow light fades softly from the now darkening sky, painting the far reaches in hues of midnight. The soft whisper of water travels up the quickly cooling sand. I walk into the freezing water, chasing light that my blind eyes can no longer see."