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The end of an epic adventure

Today is release day for most editions (ebook, audiobook and US paperback) of The Prince of Lies, the final volume in the Night’s Masque trilogy. An adventure that began just over three years ago, when I finished the manuscript of the first book and started submitting it to agents, is almost over already; something that seemed barely conceivable when I set out. Read more

I&E follow-along: panic time!

I meant to write this post yesterday and schedule it to go out whilst I was on my way to BristolCon, but I’ve been blindsided by a cold (great timing, huh?) and forgot all about it. So instead I’m typing this in my hotel room whilst waiting for my con buddies to turn up…

Well, there’s only one week left to NaNoWriMo—which means that I have no time left to make substantial changes to my outline. Gulp! On the plus side, the opening chapters are pretty much ready to go (I’ve had snippets and images leaking into my thoughts at odd moments for the last few weeks), and I have maybe a dozen chapters’ worth of scenes altogether. On the minus side, I have only the vaguest idea of what’s going to happen after that, so there’s a danger I may stall at the 25% mark, as I did so many times in the past.

However I now have a lot more novel-writing experience under my belt, so I think I can weather the storm. I’ve got more than enough material to keep me going for the first week, and hopefully by the time I’ve written the first few chapters I’ll have a better handle on the characters and where I might take them. I”m not sure I’ll ever be a hardcore outliner, particularly when it comes to completely new projects like this one, but the last few months’ preparation have been invaluable in laying down the foundations for this novel and eliminating ideas that didn’t float my boat.

So, I’m going to enjoy the convention (as much as is possible with a streaming cold!), and not worry too much about where the story is going until I get there. I’ll be posting my progress every Friday, so we’ll see if this strategy works!

Alternative covers for the Night’s Masque trilogy

When I was writing The Merchant of Dreams I bought two Playmobil pirate ships and a bunch of figures to help me plan a small sea battle and the climactic land battle. It was so helpful that I did the same for The Prince of Lies, winning a vintage castle and a bunch more figures on ebay. Not all my recent purchases have been vintage, however; when I was in Hamleys (the famous toyshop in London), I spotted a black-haired, bestubbled medieval dude who struck me as the spitting image of one Mal Catlyn!

Of course I had to buy him so that I could use him in my plans, and it was only a short step from there to a flash of inspiration: maybe I could recreate the Night’s Masque book covers with Playmobil… Read more

Friday Reads: The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora is dying…

The third instalment in the hugely popular Gentleman Bastards series, this novel has been the subject of so much fevered anticipation in the six years since Scott Lynch left us with the cliffhanger of Locke’s fatal poisoning that disappointment seems almost inevitable. Since I didn’t read Red Seas Under Red Skies until earlier this year, my wait was shorter than most; just enough to make me excited for Book 3. So was I disappointed? Yes, maybe a little, but mostly Hell No! I’m not saying The Republic of Thieves is flawless—no book ever is—but I enjoyed it enough to rip through it in a week, despite it being a fairly ponderous tome (almost 600 pages in hardback).

N.B. I’ll try and avoid major spoilers, but a few minor ones are inevitable if I’m going to be able to discuss what I liked and didn’t like. Read more

BristolCon schedule and a free chapter!

Only two weeks to go to the release of The Prince of Lies, and things are hotting up! In ten days’ time I’ll be at BristolCon, where I have the following items in my schedule:

10amPanelSeriously Inventive Ways Of Killing People, with Sara Jayne Townsend, Janet Edwards, Doug Smith and Alex Shepherd

10.5o amReading

5pmPanel: Magic in Fantasy, with Storm Constantine, Snorri Kristjansson, Paul Cornell and moderator Jonathan Wright

7pmKaffeeklatsche (sign up to have a free chat with coffee & biscuits)

If you can’t make it to BristolCon for my reading (and even if you can), you might like to pop over to fantasy book blog The Founding Fields, where you can read Chapter One of The Prince of Lies absolutely free!

There’ll be more cool stuff—including various giveaways—over the coming weeks, so watch this space…



Friday Reads: The Tainted City, by Courtney Schafer

Dev is a desperate man. After narrowly surviving a smuggling job gone wrong, he’s now a prisoner of the Alathian Council, held hostage to ensure his friend Kiran — former apprentice to one of the most ruthless mages alive — does their bidding. But Kiran isn’t Dev’s only concern. Back in his home city of Ninavel, the child he once swore to protect faces a terrible fate if he can’t reach her in time, and the days are fast slipping away. So when the Council offers Dev freedom in exchange for his and Kiran’s assistance in a clandestine mission to Ninavel, he can’t refuse, no matter how much he distrusts their motives. Once in Ninavel the mission proves more treacherous than even Dev could have imagined. Betrayed by allies, forced to aid their enemies, he and Kiran must confront the darkest truths of their pasts if they hope to save those they love and survive their return to the Tainted City.

I read and reviewed the first book in this series, The Whitefire Crossing, just over a year ago, shortly after meeting Courtney Schafer at Chicon 7. I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to the sequel, and I’m glad to say that The Tainted City didn’t disappoint. Read more

Share my book with the Boosh app

Love ebooks? Have a smartphone? And a Facebook account? If so, and if you’re in the UK or Republic of Ireland, you can participate in the pilot programme for Boosh, a new ebook-sharing service, and read The Alchemist of Souls for free!

The free app is available for Android right now, and will be in the Apple AppStore in a couple of weeks (the release of iOS7 has resulted in a bit of an approval backlog!).

Important: the free copies are on a limited, first-come-first-served basis. Half are being released now along with the Android app, the other half will be available when the iOS app launches. When the free copies run out, you’ll still be able to use the app, but you’ll have to pay to download books. Read more

Book Review: The Folding Knife, by K J Parker

Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.

He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he’s only ever made one mistake.

One mistake, though, can be enough.


I first encountered K J Parker’s work last summer, when Sharps was released in paperback and ebook. I loved the combination of sardonic wit and understated worldbuilding, so when I discovered that Fantasy Faction had chosen another Parker standalone for their September book club choice, I couldn’t resist joining in.

At first I found it heavy going, even compared to Sharps. The protagonist, Basso, is a banker, and the early sections detail his rise to power as First Citizen of the Vesani Republic. Parker’s narrative style is very dry, often committing the cardinal sin of telling rather than showing, and yet the prose is so polished and Basso so compelling a character that the book drags you along in spite of yourself as you wonder what enormity he’s going to commit next. Both stylistically and plot-wise it reminded me a great deal of I, Claudius, with its cut-throat (sometimes literally!) politics in a world of senators and slaves.

As I mentioned above, I love Parker’s worldbuilding. There might not be any fantastical elements, but the history geek in me revels in all the real-world parallels. This book is clearly set in the same world as Sharps, but probably somewhat earlier; at any rate, it resembles an alternate history of the late Roman Empire, in that there is an Eastern Empire ranged against a motley collection of smaller states that resulted from the collapse of the Western Empire. The Vesani Republic itself resembles Venice: it relies almost entirely on trade, having little or no agricultural territory, and since the ruling class consists of merchants rather than knights, it hires mercenaries to fight on its behalf. It’s as if the Roman Empire dissolved gracefully instead of being overrun by barbarians, and thus went (politically) straight from the fourth century to the seventeenth without any pesky Middle Ages in-between!

My sole gripe with this book was the character of Basso’s sister. Admittedly he does something terrible to her and her family early on in the story, but her bitter hatred of him, and her resultant campaign to ruin his life in a myriad petty ways, started to grate eventually. On the other hand, Basso’s dogged love for her despite her enmity does serve to give him a touch of nobility to balance his other, less admirable qualities.

Back on Fantasy Faction, an issue that provoked much interesting debate was “what is Basso’s one mistake?” I won’t discuss that—or the metaphoric resonances of the title—here, for fear of spoilers. All I can say is that this book impressed the hell out of me, and will stay with me for a long time. Whether or not you consider it to be fantasy, The Folding Knife is a fine novel and well worth (re)reading. Though I fear that next time, knowing what is to come, the prologue may reduce me to tears…

Unexpected Journeys: an epic fantasy anthology

I’ve been sitting on (and occasionally hinting at) this news for weeks now, and at last I can spill the beans: I have a short story in an upcoming anthology of epic fantasy, edited by Juliet E McKenna and published by the British Fantasy Society. W00t!

Unexpected Journeys has an awesome table of contents, with contributors including Kate Elliott, Gail Z Martin, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Stephen Deas. The anthology will be launched on 31st October at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, and will be given away free to all current BFS members.

My own story is titled A Thief in the Night, and is set in the world I’ve been developing for a new series of novels, but several centuries earlier. It’s given me a chance to play with a really cool idea that didn’t quite fit into the novel series, and also stretched my short-story-writing skills (this is only the second short story I’ve had published, as I so seldom write them).

Please note: you will not be able to buy the anthology in shops or online; it’s a BFS membership exclusive. The electronic rights will revert to me in early 2014, however, at which point I will decide when/how to republish it.