Thursday, 31 May 2012


This is a kids' picture book that my daughter, Celyn (age 8) wrote & is on sale with all profits going to the children's hospice charity that helps her and lots of other life-limited / terminally ill children. Check it out!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Guest blogs, reviews, and ... nothing else

OK the title is a lie, there's only one guest blog and one review!

I guest blogged (my first ever) over on Bookworm Blues where there's an excellent series of guest blogs on Special Needs in Strange Worlds. It's much more diverse and interesting than you might think.

Broken Heroes

And there's the first review of King of Thorns up at Fantasy Faction. I know that Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) have started landing on doormats across the States, so expect more reviews in the near future! They may not all agree  :)

First King of Thorns review

And that's it!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

King of Thorns - fragments, part (xi)

Another of those deleted 'death vignettes' from King of Thorns

Connie Hux, sixteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Daughter of Samath and Greta. Born Hodd Town, Renar.

The speed of the shafts zipping over the walls didn’t scare Connie. It isn’t until you haul the bowstring back for your first shot, until you feel it bite at your fingers through the leather of the guard flap, and your bicep aches with the tension, that you remember just what rides behind the sharp iron of those arrowheads. The arrows didn’t scare her - she scared herself.

Connie loosed six shots into the men streaming to reinforce the enemy’s ram. She knew each one hit, though she didn’t stop to watch. Commonsense dropped her between shots and she’d no desire to see men die. If it were her say the gates would open and the Prince of Arrow could have her oath. But Camson was on the walls, up in arms to defend the Highlands and King Jorg. And it only stands to reason – the more who held the walls alongside him, the less likely Camson would be to get hit.

As Connie stood for her seventh shot, Camson glanced her way, a wild grin on him. Even the winter sun struck gold from his hair.

The day turned darker.

“God no . . .” A voice that creaked with age.

Old Jorna’s fingers hurt her shoulders as he helped her down. The light came flat as before a storm.

“I’m not hit.” She tried to say it.

Across the wall Camson loosed another arrow out toward the ridge, not seeing her, not looking.

 “I’m not hit.” The words wouldn’t come.

“Ah hell . . .” Something more than age cracked Jorna’s voice.

And darkness took her.

Friday, 11 May 2012


I’m pleased to announce that Stephen Susco, writer of THE GRUDGE, and writer/producer of upcoming films HIGH SCHOOL (June 1st) and THE POSSESSION (Aug 30), has optioned the film and tv rights in Prince of Thorns and the Broken Empire trilogy published by Ace/Berkley in the US and Voyager in the UK.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

It's a sad turn of affairs when a chap has to interview himself...

OldMark:        Thanks, NewMark, for taking a moment to let me interview you. 2009 salutes you.

NewMark:       No problem. There’s loads of spare time in the future.

OldMark:        Wow! Really?

NewMark:       No.

OldMark:        OK. OK. We’re on a clock here. I get it. Sheesh. So tell me, am I rich and famous up there in the future? What’s 2012 like? Tell me they’ve found a cure for male pattern baldness.

NewMark:       We have hover-cars and my dreadlocks are down past my arse. I’m flying to all those book awards you haven’t heard of yet in my solid gold helicopter. How about we talk about the fuckin’ book? Focus!

OldMark:         OK. Got it. No lottery predictions, no small talk. Right King of Thorns, what should people know about it?

NewMark:       Well here’s the thing, OldMark. With Prince of Thorns I said very little concerning what it was about. I thought I’d set it out there and let the reader make up their mind. And what a lot of different things they thought! You simply wouldn’t believe it. But I won’t spoil it for you.
Of course like many books Prince of Thorns is about a collection of many different things all at once. Obviously it’s about a particular unfolding plot with a beginning, middle and end. But it’s also about

(i) the issue of nature vs nurture – was Jorg the product of his experience or would he have been a monster however idyllic his childhood?
(ii)  the ambiguities in responsibility and purpose that arise from the protagonist's age
(iii) the disparity between what Jorg tells the reader about his motives and responsibility and what the reader actually deduces
(iv) the changes wrought in us through experience as opposed to those wrought by simply growing.

And running through all of that it’s about anger, passion, internal conflict ... all that great stuff that pulses through literature. I don’t claim to have done a good job of it, but I do claim to have tried with honesty and without reserve.

OldMark:       And there’s me thinking I just wrote a story! Wonderful what a year of navel gazing will do for you. Anyhow. What does our navel say about King of Thorns? It doesn’t sound like there’s much left for it to be about?

NewMark:      When my editor (Jane Johnson, you've not met her yet, but you're going to like her) read it she said in her editor's letter: is shaping up to be the most extraordinary work of fantasy I have ever read: because you take such risks... 

Well I wasn't aware I was taking risks as I wrote it but they seem to have worked for the readers so far. Will that hold true for the wider world? It's nearly time to find out.

OldMark:       Yeah... but what's it about?

NewMark:      Well, I’m gonna leave it pretty much open again and see what people tell me it’s about. Pretty clearly though it’s a reversal of established paths. The ‘chosen one’, the ‘golden and virtuous hero who has been foretold’... that ain’t Jorg. Jorg’s the guy in that guy’s way, the one scheduled for demolition and to be a footnote in the history books. That’s pretty much the starting point.

The other main thing I wanted to note is that Prince of Thorns was written as a standalone. King of Thorns is written as book two of three. It won’t leave you on an annoying cliff-hanger – it will be a self-contained and hopefully satisfying story – but it does contain elements that are enriched by the reading of the trilogy’s final book. There are small components of King that might appear a bit standard – they are not. There are parts of King where a line of story might seem to end before its time or evade some detail the reader would have liked followed up – these things are picked up, elaborated on, and completed in the final book.

OldMark:        So basically two years have passed and I’m just as tight-lipped as ever?

NewMark:      Yup.

OldMark:       So what about this whole author thing? How’s that working out for me? Is it fun? Have we done anything cool?

NewMark:     Well. I guess it’s like anything. Stuff’s rarely as good as you think it’s going to be. Anticlimax is the norm. So that’s where you’re lucky, OldMark. You didn’t ever entertain a burning desire to be an author and you didn’t build up an imaginary landscape of how great it would be. The main difference in your life is that all that spare time you never had and used to fill with PC games and writing, you still don’t have and now fill with twitter and facebook. You don’t write nearly as much as you used to because you’re less bored and there’s always someone wanting a chat or an interview or you have to recheck your Amazon or Goodreads ratings...

OldMark:       Sounds like you need to unplug the internet! Better still leave the computer room entirely and dig the typewriter out of the attic.

NewMark:     We’ve got a laptop now, with wireless internet. There’s no escape.

OldMark:       Cool! I always wanted a laptop.

NewMark:      Oh, and the economy really tanked. Your company laid off half its scientists before Christmas and the rest of us might be out on our ear before next Christmas.

OldMark:       Suckage. You’re not ever getting another job what with your caring responsibilities!

NewMark:      True. But it would give me time to write!

OldMark:       Or you could just exercise a little sodding self control and turn the internet off.

NewMark:     Yeah, yeah. Oh! That’s the other thing. Signed an options contract on the film and TV rights today. Still an Everest to climb without oxygen before there’s any chance of an actual film, but hey, we’ve put our mountain boots on and got a ticket for base camp!

OldMark:      Oh shut up! If you’re just going to make stuff up this interview is over!

NewMark:     No, straight up! This guy from Hollywood- Hello? Hello? You still there? ...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

King of Thorns - fragments, part (x)

Two 'Brother - snapshots' & one deleted vignette:


Skin, bones, and mischief comprise Brother Gog. Monster born and monster bred but there’s little to mark him from Adam save the stippled crimson-on-black of his hide, the dark wells of his eyes, ebony talons on hand and foot, and the thorny projections starting to grow along his spine. Watch him play and run and laugh, and he seems too at ease to be a crack in the world through which all the fires of hell might pour. Watch him burn though, and you will believe it.

Brother Maical

Brother Maical’s wisdom lies in knowing he is not clever and letting himself be led. The foolishness of mankind is that we do not do the same.


Chaliced Rome, fourteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Son of Molly Freerange, father unknown, raised in the Haunt’s shadow.

So many arrows had missed him that Chaliced started to think they all would. He started to think Kelly’s warm kiss, the one she gave behind the stables, really would keep him safe. Even when the arrow came he thought it some kind of mistake. It didn’t look like an arrow, just black flights and an inch of wood standing from his chest. It hadn’t felt sharp, more like a punch. He reached to tug at it but his fingers were too cold to grip. Chaliced turned to ask Old Jorna and something hit him in the neck.

To fall forty feet from wall-walk to courtyard flagstones takes almost no time, but starting to fall, those moments of imbalance, of flailing arms, of a foot finding nothing but air beneath it, they can take forever.
Even falling Chaliced didn’t think he would die, or that he could die. Fourteen is too young for it. He wanted . . . too many things. One more kiss would do.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sugar and spice and slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails, that’s what Readers are made of . . .

It used to be the case that I really didn’t have the slightest interest what anyone thought of books. I knew what I liked and that was fine. Gradually zilch expanded into a mild interest in what three or four friends might think of my favourite novels. The internet rolled along and once in the bluest moon I would scroll down an Amazon review page and nod my agreement or blink my surprise at the polar opposites expressed there.

Over the last 12 months though I have been in the very different position of caring quite a bit about what a huge number of strangers think of one particular book with which I’m very familiar. That close study has given me new insights into the nature of readers, insights that are probably common knowledge to the rest of you, but I’m going to expound upon anyhow.

The first and most obvious observation is that we are a diverse lot. Here are a few of the extremes posted regarding Prince of Thorns:

- Prince of Thorns is easily the most incredible epic fantasy I have ever read.

- It's about on the same level as a dedicated high-school student's unpolished first draft.

- This is one of the fastest paced fantasies I’ve read in a long while. The action comes fast and thick.

- I found it very slow going and nothing happens. It just meanders.

- Let's get this out of the way first: Lawrence has a way with words; he is a master of pacing; and he can keep one turning the pages.

- Disturbing, Beautiful, Chaotic, Poetic, Haunting, Exhilarating.

- This is an unredeemingly awful story.

But enough of that. We know humans are weird. Some like marmite. My observations are more about the broad streams that divide readers into a taxonomy, simplified and cartoonised for your viewing pleasure below. Spot yourself!


The Plotster:

The Plotster, unsurprisingly, is all about plot. Unless the plot is explained to them on page 1 (some will allow you to dawdle until page 2) they are not happy bunnies. Unless the events transpiring are moving us steadily through the expounded plot toward the stated goal ... the Plotster believes nothing is happening. The world could be on fire, the main character having a profound and life-changing epiphany ... but to the Plotster’s mind nothing is happening. The plot must be served. Books are plot machines. Period.

 The Characterophile: 

The Characterophile is the Plotster’s foe. The Characterophile is a chummy sort, and is looking for friends. They want to be attached to a character ASAP. They want to see that character grow. Ideally the character should be a paragon, but not Mary Sue, virtuous but not perfect. Should the character be stained in some way then they must be about redemption. All about redemption. There are of course more sophisticated variants of the Characterophile who will attach to characters who are neither good nor virtuous, or even seeking redemption - these collectors will take to any character, so long as they are interesting. Plots are permissible. Their function is to exercise the character, to rotate them so we get to see them from all sides. Possibly even to turn the character inside out. The Characterophile can be strange.

The Beautician:

The Beautician might well have several poets’ bones in their body, but it’s not a requirement. They appreciate writing on the small scale. The Beautician can be arrested by a single line. The power of prose can take their breath away. Insight and gravitas can nestle between a capital and its period. The Beautician will highlight passages for Kindle, will remember lines months afterward, will recognise the writer’s voice. For the Characterophile and the Plotster the prose is simply a delivery mechanism. For the Beautician it is an end in itself.

The scanner: 

 The Scanner views the world through a distorting lens crafted from their politics, buzz-topic or personal bugbear. They don’t so much read as sift through a story looking for word-bites that can be used to construct the case against. Generally they arrive at any given book with a full set of opinions about its contents, furnished by whatever clique they happen to be affiliated with. The tale in hand is merely a means for ingratiating themselves further into said clique, points being scored for vitriol and mockery.  The Scanner is a rare creature but so noisy you may be fooled into thinking there are many of them.

I don’t like scanners. They’re a bit wank.

The self-righteousness of a Scanner is inversely proportional to their self-awareness.

The Award Reader:
The Award Reader is on a mission to collect the finest. They have a crib card of points to look for, an aesthetic culled from the group-mind of a small selection of high profile short fiction magazines. They can tell at a glance what award any given book was written to win, and can list the reasons it will fail. The idea that a book was not written with awards in mind, or that it possesses qualities that their yardstick is not graduated to measure, will not cross the Award Reader’s mind. Each year the Award Reader’s cleverness is confirmed in a process of long and short lists. The Award Reader is a happy soul.

Of course the zoo goes on. There’s the Subject Matter Expert whose main goal is to to find an error in whatever detail they happen to be expert in. The Lover, a subset of the Characterophile who just wants two characters to get it on. The Moralist who desires that the story instruct us, the Hunter of Secrets who will ferret out a hidden message in any text longer than a till reciept. And more and more subdivisions marching away into infinity.

And of course almost none of us are any of these. Be wary if you ever meet a person so singular that just one of these titles makes a snug fit. We’re a mix and match. Myself I tend to think of as:

(in a 3:5:2 mix)

Whereas I’d consider the typical genre reader to run more along the lines of:
(in a 6:3:1 mix)

But in the end it's all good & of course I love all my readers. Except the Scanners. Oh, and these guys: