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  1. I know everything is very much DOOM at the moment. And really I should be DOOM XTREME* being in one of the especially vulnerable groups to the Covid-19 virus, but I just can’t do it. I’m sorry, it’s not in my nature. I mean, my wife isn’t coping quite as well but she is a cosmopolitan animal who actively enjoys going into the city every day and wandering about doing city stuff like looking in windows at things she will never buy and reading a book while eating alone in a restaurant and appearing mysterious**.  But I can happily look at things I will never buy on the internet^ and I can look mysterious eating a bag of crisps on the sofa while writing a book.

                  Or so I tell myself.

                  Anyway, lockdown has changed my life because I am no longer on my own all day to pootle about doing whatever occurs to me. The family is here too. Some things have suffered, I’m not writing half as much as I usually do as I just don’t have the mental space I have found I need. But other things have been remarkably positive. My wife is about which is brilliant, and she brings with her more of a sense of structure, so there is lunch time – I thing I usually forget exists – and a time when works starts and ends, so the day is kind of bookended in a way my days usually aren’t.

                  But the biggest thing is the boy is home.

                  One of the most annoying things about being chronically ill is the way it sucks time out of you, forces decisions on you. Generally, all of my energy goes on writing. I’m good for about a couple of hours a day and then I’m sort of greyed out for the rest of it. But cos the boy is home and he’s ten and curious and talkative and interested and I’m generally the one that does child stuff as I’m always here (and my wife is doing important things for important people) I can’t do the things I usually do. So energy that would usually be put to that  has gone to him and it’s been brilliant. We’ve gone for (government sanctioned) walks as a family. The boy and I have  baked, we’ve done science experiments, we’ve invented stories, I’ve taught him to ride his bike. All this stuff that I just usually don’t have the energy for cos I’ve been throwing it all into words I’ve given to him and it’s been hugely rewarding.

                  I’m not exactly enjoying lockdown, but I am going to do my best not to regret it.

                  However, while I am here, telling you how lucky I am, it should be remembered that I am lucky. My wife is lucky and our son is lucky and most of the people reading this will also be lucky. There are many, many people out there who are not lucky and for whom this Lockdown will make their situation worse. This article in The Independent is something you should read . And maybe consider giving something to one of the charities mentioned. One of the side effects of the lockdown is all the things that help charities make money: marathons, half marathons, bake sales, shows, all these events that help them help others are not happening and they need to make that money somehow. So maybe that £50 you would have spent on a meal out that you can no longer have can do better and harder work somewhere else.

    And if you are in a position where the lockdown is making life intolerable or you are struggling for any reason then reach out because there are people out there who will, and want, to help you. If anything, Covid seems to have made us a slightly more compassionate society.

    Look after yourselves and be well




    *As we say in the nineties.

    ** Or so I imagine.

    ^Superyachts, if I can’t afford a thing I’m going to really not be able to afford something.

  2. So, as I mentioned on my twitter. The earliest version of The Bone Ships had a prologue that we removed as we thought it might be a bit confusing for the reader (because of a the sudden change of point of view it would cause.) But here it is for you to have a read of and hopefully it will distract you a bit from all the virus DOOM.

    It's probably pretty rough as it's not been through the gentle attentions of my editor, Jenni Hill, who generally stops me looking like an idiot. And there may be ideas in it that I ended up discarding for various reasons. But anyways, here you go.



    Prologue. The Hag's Call.



    Waves as monuments; vast, ever changing, and as cold and pitiless as the sea-hag's heart. Rolling breakers taller than the home islands picked up the Cruel Water and tossed the ship around like a leaf in a stream. Cruel Water's crew had worked together long enough to trust each other in any storm. They pulled together hard, fought the flapping wings of the ship as the howling wind threatened to rip them from the spines, hard, worn, women and men of the Gaunt Isleands, readying the ship to fight.

                Over the scream of the wind through the ropes of the rigging Shipwife Arrin heard the groan of the gallowbows as the winders span the pulleys to draw back thick firing cords. He heard the comforting click of the retainer hooks snapping to and the warmoan as the cord vibrated in the wind. Despite the danger, the high seas, the biting cold, somewhere within he felt a shiver of pride for his crew.

                'Half a shadow on the for'ard to seaward, Shipwife,' shouted his Deckkeeper. Like them all she wore a stinker, a shapeless gown of birdleather, greased with fishoil to offer some protection from the weather. Buffeting wind pressed it against her body and had ripped the hood clean from it, sending the material flapping away like a bird shot with a bow: mad with pain, directionless and doomed. The rain blackened her hair and plastered it to her head. He raised his voice in reply, even now, at this moment, knowing how a word of encouragement could work miracles.

                'We can be proud of them, Deckkeeper,' a smile from her in return and then the Deckkeeper was gone, running off into the rain. No, not running, climbing into the rain, the ship so heeled over she had to practically pull herself along the bonerail with her one arm to return to the bowcrews. A deckwife stumbled past, holding a wingbolt. Arrin wished he had a gullaime windtalker, so when he fired the bolts it could guide them home, but if the sea hag cared for wishes he wouldn't be on the deck of a black ship being chewed up in the teeth of the northstorm.

                'Where is it, my crew?' He screamed the words into the gale, mouth filling with water as a huge, grey wave of freezing water crashed across the ship. He heard-not-saw someone go overboard, the scream, the crack of a body against the bonerail and the splash. He wondered if it was only in his mind he heard the body hit the water. Then he was coughing, spitting out bitter salt water as he strode down the deck. Shouting, a shipwife is always shouting. 'Where is it? Find me that ship! A bolt's no good without a target! Find me something to loose at!'

                He stared into the storm, grey seas rose, shifting, twisting, picking his ship up and thrusting it toward the dark grey sky before dropping it down and down into the troughs between the waves. His view then only water: water around the ship, water in the air, the slate deck beneath him a flimsy and delicate thing, running with water. This was the hagsbreath, the northstorm's wrath, the worst weather the archipelago had to throw at the ships that travelled the seas, but the Shipwife kept his calm, as he always had. The Cruel Water was a ship of the dead, crewed by criminals condemned to die – himself among them – and if the storm was their sentence then let it be so.

                But surely, if the mother ever loved her people, she would give him a last victory? A chance to take a Hundred Islander ship with him to the Hag's embrace, far below the ocean.

                He found Aspran, the Bowsell of the Maindeck, a woman as tall as she was wide, crouched behind her gallowbow at the aimer's point.

                'Aspran,' still shouting to be heard above the wind and the creak of the ship's bones. She pushed her hood back to answer, face like bread-dough, heart as strong as a longthresh.

                'Ey, Shipwife.' She had one eye closed against the water to keep it fresh for aiming. They bowed down, heads touching to be heard better, sharing a small privacy in the violence of the storm. Water running off them in rivers.

                'Where did you see it? The ship?'

                'Four shadowpoints off our beak to seaward.' Her voice already hoarse.

                'And you're sure?' almost kicking himself for asking, of course she was, she was an old hand and a steady one, but he had to ask.

                'Ey, shipwife.'

                'And it was big?'

                'Six ribber, I reckon, with corpselights glowing round it.' She did not add 'more than a match for us'. She did not need to.

                'Well, the Maiden's smiled on us before,  Aspran, let's hope she smiles today.'

                Hag's Hands, it could be anywhere. A big ship would have gullaime windtalkers aboard so it had the advantage in manoeuvrability. Should he load the landward side bows as well? No, the last battle had left him shorthanded, better to have the crew to work the ship's wings. He stared up to the rump, four deckwives fought the steering oar, the rest busy with ropes, up the spines, furling the wings against the wind. They were a good lot despite their crimes and, even aboard a ship such as this, those whose crimes were deemed unacceptable had a way of vanishing, having accidents. A strong crew and he liked them.

                'Ship rising! Ship rising to seaward!'

                And there it was.

                Ship rising.

                Rising above the wave like a cliff, all but its topwings furled, a tower of white bone, sixteen corpselights, balls of coloured light glowing around the decks. His bowpeeks open along his side, an inner light shining through them. The great skull of the araceesian, the sea dragon whose bones the ship was built from crowned the prow. Arrin's ears hurting as the air pressure around him changed, an effect of the gullaime aboard the bigger ship working the winds to steer it, and with a shudder he realised he knew that ship. Not only were they outmatched: the Cruel Water was a two ribber, no match for one of the ancient and huge six ribbed ships – but they were facing The Araceesian Dread, the flagship of the Hundred Isles fleet. Riding her prow, grey hair streaming out behind her as if she were born to the wind, sword held aloft as if she cut her way through the storm, was the shipwife, Meas Gilbryn, Lucky Meas, the witch of Keelhulme Sounding.

                He swallowed. For moment on deck is seemed as if everything vanished, the wind, the cold, the constant discomfort of skin rubbed raw by damp and seawater. He was stood alone, one man with the responsibility of seventy lives resting on his shoulders and knowing it was a responsibility he could not live up to, not this day.

                'Aim for the rigging!' No doubt in his voice. Act as if you've already won. 'If it can't catch the wind it can't steer and this sea'll have it over! Loose as we come to!'

                He had a second to wish he had fired the bolts with oil, but knew it would have been impossible to keep a fire in such a storm, then the bows loosed. The heavy thud of the cords hitting the stoppers, the ululation of the bolts flying through the air, the howls of war. The bolts flew, all well aimed, all flying true and again, that moment of pride in his crew. As he watched the flight of the projectiles they were already back at work, spinning the bows back, bringing more shot. He let himself hope that they would do some real damage, but he should have known better. The bolts flew straight and true but the windtalkers aboard the bigger ship worked well, Sudden gusts blowing the bolts off course. One got through, but it sailed between the ships spines, damaging nothing more than ropes. They didn't call the witch Lucky Meas for nothing.

                'Spin the bows!' he shouted, drawing his sword and holding it high in echo of the figure across from him on the prow of the huge ship. Spin the bows my deckwives! Lets get another shot in!'

                As he screamed the Araceesian Dread heeled round, side coming up out of the water, showing the hundreds of spikes and hooks that covered its bone hull and the line of green weed across the ribs at the bottom as they left the comfort of the sea. Then the bigger ship straightened, he glanced at his crews, the gallowbows only half drawn. He wanted to salute them, to thank them for what they had done this day and on so many others.

                Lucky Meas let her hand fall and he heard the call of the enemy gallowbows as they pronounced the fate meted out on him so many years ago by the Tenbern.

                You will go to a Ship of the dead.

                There to definitely die.

                Only the day is undecided.

                'Well, it is decided now,' he thought.






  3. So, well before THE BONE SHIPS was a thing I was talking about it with Tom Parker (and my friend Matt who is a saint and puts up with me wittering about stuff at him but it’s Tom that’s relevant to this particular post).  We were chatting about my ideas for ships and creatures and Tom was REALLY excited by the ideas and wanted to draw them, so he did.

                  I ended up using some of his drawings as proof of concept when I sent in my pitch to Orbit, to give an idea of this wild and frightening world and the ships that sailed through it. Now, the pictures were all based on early versions and early ideas, and a lot changes as you go along  (Tom has done some more drawings that you’ll see at a later date.) But I always feel that readers have been so kind to me it would be nice to give something back. So I’m going to. The picture below is one of Tom’s original proof of concept bits of art for THE BONE SHIPS. It doesn’t exist anywhere else and is signed by the artist. It’s a total one off and I’ll be giving it away next week. All you will have to do to enter is to have reviewed THE BONE SHIPS on Amazon.  (I appreciate that Amazon has some odd rules and not everyone can review there so there will be another competition for something else at a later date that is open to more people.)  Keep an eye on my Twitter for details on how to enter this and any other giveaway I might do. But without Further ado here is Tom's ASTOUNDING, and total one-off drawing. Of TIDE CHILD.

    (It's much more detailed and beautiful than my terrible photograph shows.)


  4. I'll be at both the above venues this month. Fantasy con from the 18th of October and Comicon in Author corner on the 26th or 27th, maybe both. Not 100% sure yet.

    Here's my Fantasycon Schedule. 


    Fantasy Bucket List Friday 4:00 PM
    101 things to do in Fantasyland (before being eaten by a dragon). Hosted for your benefit by the Fantasycon Tourist Board. (Not 100% sure I will make it to this one as it'll be tight getting there.)
    RJ Barker Jeannette Ng Charlotte Bond Juliet McKenna

    Medical, social, fantastical: models of disability in fantasy narratives.   Friday 6:00 PM
    The panel explores the different ways that societies disable people in fiction, the impact of world-changing fantasy events on the physical and mental health of characters, and how mental health disabilities can be successfully and respectfully included within a narrative.
    Ruth de Haas Jeffrey Collyer RJ Barker Mike Brooks

    Public speaking for authors Saturday 10 AM – 11:30:00 AM (workshop)
    Oh sure you can sling words on a page, but public speaking? Whole different ball game. Where the ball is on fire and looking at you. Fear not! We know you’ve got the walk down, let us show you how to talk the talk.
    Lucy Hounsom RJ Barker
    Person or Pet? Saturday 3:00 PM
    Sentient non-humans, non-sentient pets, soulbonds and free will in fantasy stories. The panel explore the muddy waters of how we treat non-human characters, and the problematic issues of consent tied into these tropes.
    RJ Barker Katherine Inskip Jacey Bedford David Tallerman
    Animal Kingdoms Saturday 5:00 PM
    From Watership Down to Cats: pros and cons of anthropomorphic stories. Can they free us from biased storytelling, or do we carry our innate prejudices over?
    Lucy Hounsom Amy Brennan Jacey Bedford RJ Barker
  5. I thought I might write a blogpost about writing stuff cos I don’t really do things like this much, I generally just talk nonsense on Twitter and I am too lazy to blog regularly. And I also have some stuff upcoming that I thought I could tell you about, so two birds with one cat, or whatever.


    Anyway, I saw a thing on Twitter about how the saying ‘if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life’ was wrong and about how writing IS work. I think it was Chuck Wendig? Anyway, I would like to REFUTE STRONGLY what he was saying, by which I mean largely agree with what he was really saying while talking about how words are really quite nebulous things and half the time whether something chimes, or doesn’t, with us is dependant on the emotional weight a word holds for us. In short, our experience colours the way we perceive things and don't get angry about the small stuff as we agree more often than not.


    So, "Work". I have a standing agreement with my agent that we don’t use the words ‘work’ or ‘career’ or ‘job.’


    I hate those words.


    They have very specific meanings for me past what is in the dictionary. Writing is very much NOT work for me. Work is thing I have had to do, not by choice, but because I want the simple things in life, like food, or shelter. There have been so many years where I have dragged myself from a warm bed to get a bus to go to a place and to do a thing I had no interest in while under the sway of people who I didn’t like whose motives in life I didn’t understand*. I'm sure, to a huge swathe of people, that feeling of being at work and knowing that ‘this is not what I should be doing’ is familiar. I cannot remember feeling any other way about work. Cannot remember going in to work without wondering what I would have forgotten to do or what odd rule of corporate life I would have crossed, or what thing I what thing I had got done but not in the way I was meant to.** Or, more often than not, what I could be doing instead.


    In short, work for me was an exercise in dread, constant low level anxiety and a generally less than optimal life. I am sure it is for a lot of people.


    So, is writing work?


    No, not for me. I chose to do it. I actively enjoy the thought of it every day. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard, or emotionally draining or tiring or frustrating sometimes. It is often all of those things, and few things, so far, in life can match the time pre book release for finding the keys to your head and opening up whatever can of worry and anxiety you have in there. But I still never think of it as work, because if I did it would feel like it had become some sort of obligation for me. That I was going backwards in life to a place where I didn’t want to be. When it starts to feel like work, and sometimes it does, I take a few days, step back, do something else***. Let myself remember why I love what I do so much. How lucky I am to be here doing this right now.


    In short, of course I don't disgaree with Chuck (if it was Chuck). This is basically the same thing that Chuck (if it was Chuck) was saying. Writing is hard sometimes, don't let that stop you. But also, I was thinking that half the time you see people falling out on the internet (I’ll just aside politics here, and stick strictly to the largely inconsequential) it’s often because people weight words differently, rather than because they actively disagree.


    So find what works for you, using what makes you happy is a great way of getting things done. If you're the sort of person that needs to do the work to feel like you're getting somewhere? Then do the work. And if you’re the sort of person who never wants to work a day in your life? Well, then don’t.


     TL/DR. It's all good and we're mostly more alike than not. Just get the thing done.



    Follows is some recent reviews of THE BONE SHIPS. Then some appearance dates and some footnotes.




    ‘A perfect storm of Fantasy.’




    “...utterly different from The Wounded Kingdom, yet just as rich with detail. “




    The worldbuilding, the prose, the character development, and the story beats are all top-notch.”




    It will be fascinating to see where his journey will lead him as the story progresses, and how far he will travel from the morose young man wasting his days in idleness and drink.



    “Brilliant Writing” ROBIN HOBB.


    "Stand out of the most original worlds I've seen in years." ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY.


    Magnificent." PETE MCLEAN.


    "Loved every second of it." TASHA SURI.


    Incredible (haunting, even) worldbuilding, badass female mentors, voicey strangeness, high adventure, and flawed characters with SO MANY FEELINGS from RJ, this time on the high seas! Unique, strange, compelling, and wonderful.” MELISSA CARUSO.


    (JOHN GWYNNE also said lovely things but I am an idiot and can't find where I saved the quote. And I;ve missed off osme other people's quotes and reviews. Sorry. I am a slack Alice.')






    14 September. THE ENGLISH BOOKSHOP. Uppsala Sweden.


    26th September. WATERSTONES Swansea.


    01st October. REDDIT AMA on the internets if you can’t see me in person.


    3rd October. WATERSTONES Newcastle. (Provisional)


    DATE TO BE CONFIRMED. October. Harrogate Waterstones.


    18,19,20. October. FANTASYCON GLASGOW. (I’m not sure what I will be up to there yet.)



    *Not everyone was horrible, of course. This is almost definitely hyperbole on the part of the author.

    ** A particularly upsetting episode where it was explained that I was using ‘it’s’ wrong by someone who was using ‘it’s’ wrongly.

    ***I wish we all could do this when life gets a bit much. I tend to read L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais.

  6. Oh look, I posted something, blimey. ANYWAY. Here is my schedule for the WORLD FANTSY CONVENTION in Dublin. Why not pop by and say hello. Or if you want a book signed or just a chat grab me after something and I'll be more than happy to (time allowing).  If I seem a bit distracted, dazed or confused then don't worry, that's just normal for me.

    The popularity of Anti-Heroes in Comics

    Format: Panel

    15 Aug 2019, Thursday 11:30 - 12:20, Odeon 3 (Point Square Dublin)

    Deadpool, Harley Quinn, The Punisher, Ghost Rider: in many ways insane, evil individuals - hardly what we would call heroes! And yet they are some of the most popular and interesting comics characters around! Are they better-written characters (and if so, why)? Do readers, and creators, need a counterpoint to all the feats of noble heroism to which action heroes are typically inspired?
    RJ Barker (Orbit) (M)  Michael Carroll , CE Murphy Helena Nash  Kieron Gillen

    Talking animal characters in SFF

    Format: Panel

    15 Aug 2019, Thursday 18:00 - 18:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

    Science fiction and fantasy have a long history of anthropomorphic animals in both children’s and adult novels. What is the attraction of talking animals? Can they be seen as a commentary on the human condition? What are the pitfalls and opportunities offered by this anthropomorphism?

    Lise Andreasen (M) Robert V. S. Redick (Talos, Gollancz, Penguin Random House) ), RJ Barker (Orbit), Virginia, Adrian Tchaikovsky


    The portrayal of disability in art

    Format: Panel

    17 Aug 2019, Saturday 14:30 - 15:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

    People with disabilities are woefully under-represented in art of all kinds. What are the right and wrong ways to portray disability? How can we encourage artists to increase this representation and to do it in a fair and realistic manner?

    RJ Barker (Orbit) , Marina Berlin  Leo Adams, Day Al-Mohamed (Invalid Corps Film) (M). Ira Alexandre (Lady Business)

    Born sexy yesterday

    Format: Panel

    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 14:00 - 14:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)

    Too many heterosexual relationships in SFF, especially on screen, are still rooted in stereotype and cliché: conveniently fragile women, toxically entitled men, and pervasive, usually unacknowledged, power imbalances. Which relationships in current popular media buck this trend to provide more thoughtful depictions of love and partnership?

    R.W.W. Greene (New Hampshire Writers' Project), Ciaran Roberts (Six to Start) ), RJ Barker (Orbit), Nikki Ebright (Nikki Abridged, Shiny Garden), Atlin Merrick (Improbable Press) (M)

    Autographs: Sunday at 15:00

    Format: Autographing

    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 15:00 - 15:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

    Rebecca Gomez Farrell , Pat Cadigan, Derwin Mak , RJ Barker (Orbit) , Kathryn Sullivan ), Rebecca Roanhorse.

  7. Just a quick note here if you're at fantasy con in Chester?  Was it Chester? Probably, anyway if you are going you'll know where it is so that's cool.  Anyway, here is where I am and what I am doing.


    7.30 – The Edward Room

    I’ve No Idea What I’m Doing Mike Brooks (m), Russell Smith, RJ Barker, Allanah Hunt, Jeanette Ng

    10pm – The Victoria Room

    Dungeons and Disorderly Module T1: The Temple of Elemental Weevils - Powder, Stewart Hotston, Lee Harris, Mike Brooks, RJ Barker, Penny Reeve, David Moore (m) Nate Crowley (m)



    10am – The Victoria Room

    When Magic Goes Wrong Katherine Inskip (m), Steve Mchugh, Ruth de Haas, RJ Barker, Ren Warom

    11am – The Victoria

    Breaking the Glass Slipper (Live) Lucy Hounsom, Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, RJ Barker, Claire North

    12pm – The Disraeli Reading Room

    (I am sooo looking forward to this, I love reading and people always seem to really enjoy it so do bob along.)

    Then on Sunday I'll be at the British Fantasy Society awards where I am up for Best Novel and Best Newcomer. Doubt I'll win anything but it is nice to be on the shortlists. See you there, or not.

    THEN, We go to MCM Comicon the weekend after where I'll be among the guest authors doing a whole host of stuff.


    16:00pm – 16:45pm – Creator Stage: Fighting Fit – Crafting fantastic action – Authors Peter McLean (Priest of Bones) Claire North (84K) Gavin Smith (The Bastards Legion) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) and Kim Curran (Slay) join moderator and Author RJ Barker (King of Assassins) to discuss what makes a great action scene in fantastic fiction.


    17:00pm – 17:30pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNINGPeter McLean (Priest of Bones) Claire North (84K) RJ Barker (King of Assassins) Gavin Smith (The Bastard Legion) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) Kim Curran (Slay)



    12:00pm – 12:45pm – Creator Stage: Orbit Presents – Orbit Authors Nicholas Eames (Bloody Rose) Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand) Mike Carey (The Girl with All the Gifts) Tade Thompson (Rosewater) Heather Child (Everything About You) RJ Barker (King of Assassins) Stephen Aryan (Mage Born) talk all things Orbit


    13:00pm – 13:45pm – Creator Stage: Diversity in Fiction – Authors Marieke Nikamp (Before I Let Go) Micah Yongo (Lost Gods) Temi Oh (Do you Dream of Terra-Two) Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand) and Jeanette NG (Under the Pendulum Sun)  join moderator and Author RJ Barker (King of Assassins) todiscuss the importance of diversity in today’s fantastic fiction, the strides that have been made, and the work that still needs to be done.


    13:00pm – 13:30pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNINGI'm not actually doing this as it clashed with the above thing but if for some reason you want me to sign something just grab me.


    Then I'll be at AGES OF ESCAFIELD in Sheffield doing a thing on plot and character at 11.30 (Ish) hanging about a bit before haring off to HULL for a HULL SFF thing at Hull Waterstones. I am a bit flaky and can't remember the time, about six ish or something. Anyway. It will be fun and there are other cool writers there too. THEN it's SLEDGELIT on Saturday the 24th of November. Not 100% what I'm doing yet but I am doing stuff so if you're near Derby drop in.

    Aren't I just the busiest little bee.

    By the way, if you're doing a thing, a con or a podcast or whatever and you want me to appear then I like doing things and my contact details are in the CONTACT bit of the website which is HERE so drop me a note and we'll see what we can do.






  8. There's a book called Slow Horses by Mick Herron and in the first few pages there's a bit where a man pretends to look at his mobile phone. The author then points out that this is entirely indistinguishable from someone actually looking at their mobile phone. Now, I don't know if Mick Herron observed this, read it somewhere, or heard it and none of those things matter. What matters is he chose to use that phrase in that place in that book and the minute I read it I knew I was reading something brilliant, because it was simple, truthful and illustrated so much about what was to come.

    In Tade Thompson's Rosewater there's a passage in the first few pages where Tade points out that, when people matchmake, they are introducing you to someone who they think their version of you will like, and that it is a form of judgement. This gave me exactly the same feeling as reading Herron's book.


    Sometimes, there's something about a book where you just know the author has aced it: the voice, the world, the way it all works together and Rosewater rolls. It turns in on itself and grows and drags you forward to the next page. I haven't even finished this book but I want to tell you about it and I want you to read it. I mean, to be fair, you'll probably hear about it anyway but I want to feel like I told you about it right at the beginning and then it can be our secret and we can say we heard of it at the start before everyone else.


    In full disclosure I should point out Tade is a friend of mine, and I'm kind of very glad about it. Because he's Tade who wrote Rosewater. If he wasn't my friend he would be Tade Thompson the Author of Rosewater and I think that might make him a bit intimidating on first meeting.


    In short, you should buy this book. It is very, very good.

  9. Sooo, it's been a year.

    Today KING OF ASSASSINS is released in the UK and Girton, Merela, Xus the warmount and Rufra's adventure comes to a close. I'd love to write a really long blogpost about the books and the characters and what I hoped to achieve with them but it would be hugely spoilerific. So I can't, not really. If that sort of thing is your bag then check out the back of King of Assassins where I talk a bit about that.


    Instead I'm going to talk about success.


    As a reader it's been a year, for me it has been much longer since the initial six week writing frenzy that gave birth to Age of Assassins. Then there was a lot of interminable waiting while I changed agents (for very dull reasons, nothing spicy, sorry) then a shorter but EVEN MORE interminable waiting time while we decided on a title and I couldn't tell anyone OH MY GOD I HAVE SIGNED A BOOK DEAL.[1] Then waiting for release and waiting on tenterhooks for reviews. So much waiting, but the payoff was definitely worth it.


    Something I've been asked a lot by people is 'is it successful?' Well, look at this list of award shortlists. (I'm not just bigging myself up, stick with me here.)


    Kitschie Golden Tentacle.

    Gemmell Morningstar

    British Fantasy Society – Best Newcomer

    British Fantasy Society – Best Novel.

    Guardian Not-The-Booker (longlist)[2]

    And the reviews for each book (so far) have been better than the last (mostly).


    I guess, to an outsider that looks successful and, depending on your metric, it probably is. But that is not what people mean when they ask 'is it doing well' or whatever variant they use. They mean have you sold lots of books.


    That is a harder question to answer. My friend, Nick Eames, wrote KINGS OF THE WYLD and that has been HUGELY successful, sold bucket loads of books and you can unequivocally say, 'yes, that has been a commercial success. But for most writers such lines are not so easily drawn. I have access to a thing that will tell me how many books I've sold but that sort of information is largely meaningless to me so I never look. I mean, I know Age of Assassins has gone into a second printing which is lovely. I think. Also, “success” is a word that really needs put into quotation makes. Different books can sell different amounts and still be successful depending on what your publisher expects. If you're not Nick then success is a bit like a wiggly, constantly moving line and you decide your place on it by trying to place a pin while blindfolded.


    To really know how you're doing you need a lot of extraneous information to pin that line down, and then, when you have that information all you really have is a reason to get anxious about something that, in the end, you can do very little to control.


    So I ignore it. My agent is happy and Orbit seem happy so that's good.


    In the end I choose to measure success by the way I measure everything[4], am I happy? And the answer, of course, is yes, ecstatically happy. So I have been, to my way of thinking, wonderfully successful, beyond my wildest dreams if I am honest. Since Age of Assassins came out my wife and I have said all along it didn't matter if it bombed, we've just had an amazing time and made loads of great new friends. Being an author and meeting all the people involved, no matter how peripherally, has felt like coming home.


    So this blogpost is really a thank you to all the people that have not only made my dream come true but made it such a wonderful experience, my agent, Ed Wilson at Johnson and Alcock, my editor, Jenni Hill, my publicist Nazia, everyone at Orbit, the book bloggers, reviewers and writers and all the people I have met along the way and, Every. Single. Person. that has read it and enjoyed it[3]. Thank you all so very much. I am forever indebted to you all for the most wonderful year of my life.


    RJ. 07 August 2018


    1. Originally it was called The Uncrowned Heir, then All Deaths Well Intention'd (still my favourite) before Orbit suggested Age of Assassins and by that time I would have happily accepted Mr Stabby's Exceptionally Stabby Day as long as I got to tell people about it.

    2. This was a bit cheeky actually.

    3. Or not, sorry about that.

    4. And would encourage everyone to try.
  10. Oh Apollo! I offer these libations to you! I who wield the chisel in your name put down wine and place meat in the fire. I who show truth of character in marble. Who chips away the lies until they strew the floor of the workshop. Apollo hear the entreaty of your servant Blind Akakios.


    You must have heard them speak of me, great Apollo! And I have never asked ought of you. Only the brave, foolish or virtuous put themselves before the chisel of Blind Akakios, they say. And still they come, 'cast me in stone,' they say. 'Cast my wife in stone and lay your hands upon her body to know her.'


    And if not all were happy with the statue they find waiting them then that is beyond my control and I have faced mortal peril to show truth in art, all in your name.


    I deal in deeper truths than mere likeness and I see far deeper than eyes can. I have yet to to meet the man who, when asked to stare upon my work, can say, truthfully, they do not find something they recognise of themselves or those they love within it. Though my statues oft remain hidden, all talk of me is as the best. All know I the name of Blind Akakios.


    Though you, mighty Apollo, son of Zeus, know the truth.


    I am not the best.


    She is the best, she who hides in the wood. She who whispers her secrets to me in the night. She who is always naked, and yet, when she moves I hear the whispering hiss of silk on skin. Each night I visit her glade in wonderment as I did that first night. Each night I find new sculptures. Such remarkable likenesses of the body! Such realism, such form, such truth. And all achieved within a day!


    A day!


    Oh great Apollo hear me beg.


    The hands she places on my body are soft. As soft as her skin must be, should she let me only touch it. When we sit and talk late into the night I am entranced, held by her spirit. When we lie together as man and woman I am bound and forbodden to touch her. When I wake in the morning she is gone to her hidden workshop and I am left to wander among her works, lost and amazed and trapped by my envy of her talent.


    Oh great Apollo!


    Grant me sight for just one day, I beg once more.


    I would give all to look upon her work.


    To look upon her.


    Just once.