Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman: Pre-Order Competition!

You should know Emma Newman. She’s lovely, she drinks a lot of tea, and she has an excellent speaking voice. Oh, and she’s a fabulous writer too – evidenced by this rather nifty short story previously featured on this here blog.

And very soon her new book, Between Two Thorns, is coming out from the fabulous people at Angry Robot, and in celebration of this loveliness there’s a special competition for pre-orders. It’s going to rock people, so get your eyeballs below for the deets! 


Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!


Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in “All Is Fair” – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.


How to Enter

Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).


If you order from Forbidden Planet or (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT and they’ll assign a number to you.


Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:


Forbidden Planet (signed paperback)


Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook


Amazon (paperback) UK



The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)


UK Edition


US Edition (bigger)


There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here:




Random Reading Update

I’ve recently finished reading John Connolly’s The Burning Soul (the 10th Charlie Parker book) which was as good as ever – the cover confused me a little because (spoilers) no one actually gets set on fire in a cornfield, although in previous Parker books people have been set alight in unpleasant ways. This led me to contemplate the interplay between title, cover and actual book content, particularly with regards to Crime fiction; I don’t particularly want to see Charlie Parker on the front of the book because how he looks to me is obviously very specific to my imagination, and I don’t really want that tweaked by an artist’s impression (this is without going into how much of Charlie’s character comes from his voice and actions rather than the sparing bits of physical description in the books themselves – Parker is a shadowy soul in my head, a beloved character whose face isn’t always clear, but with whom I have walked some very dark paths). And, this being crime fiction, I also don’t want spoilerfic images on the cover – mob types wielding guns, hidden crawlspaces, Angel and Louis arguing. So what are you left with? Strange and unsettling imagery, essentially – covers that give you a flavour of the book without telling you exactly what it’s about, which is as it should be, I think, particularly for that genre. Anyway, if for some crazy reason you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it – crime fiction with supernatural elements and a lovely, mournful atmosphere (and a healthy vein of dry humour).



At the same time as that I’ve been reading Doug Strider’s SF pulp novella Space Danger!, recently made available in all good ebook places. As most of you will know, Doug (or Marty) is my partner, and he is very fucking funny; his surreal sense of humour is all over this – someone described it as the Navy Lark meets Douglas Adams via the way of Dan Dare comics, and I giggled mightily through it.



Before that slightly odd pairing I read Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, a crazy jambalaya of a book about the end of the world and what comes after. It’s fabulous, meandering and yet not meandering – the story kicks off in rousing style, and we’re all set for an adventure into unknown territory… and then we leap backwards for an extended flashback. Except of course, that the flashback is the story, and all the meandering and, quite frankly, joyous footnotery are secretly immensely important. It’s impossible to talk about it much without giving too much away, but this is a vivid, bursting-with-ideas book, full of genuine humour and emotion (I’m beginning to think that a sense of humour is my one deal-breaking prerequisite for a book. If a book is utterly po-faced I just can’t get through it).



And now I’m on to Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, which is one of those books where if you mention you haven’t read it, people will hiss at you and throw things. I went through a big Iain Banks phase in my early twenties, but somehow managed to miss this one, so I’ve some catching up to do.

            What are you reading at the moment? Anything good? Tell me, I’m horribly nosey.

The Year in Books: My Tippity Top 5 Reads of 2012

Well, we are in that tricksy limbo stage between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (or as a friend on twitter called it, Twixmas) so this seems a likely time to attempt one of those “summing up the year” posts, with notes on wisdom gained and lessons learnt. Since I have a notoriously bad short term memory and barely any wisdom I will be summing up the year by trying to remember the best books to grace my eyeballs in 2012.*


(later I will do a post on writing and where I am with that, because the status of writing at the moment is EXCITING)


So, best books. In no particular order:


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – one of many incredibly popular books I have avoided for years simply because it was always in the 3 for 2 offer at work. I know that sounds like a stupid reason, but when you spend five years of your life peeling stickers off the same handful of books you start to build a healthy resentment. Plus it was shelved in general fiction, a happenstance that can move a book down my TBR pile a few notches.


Well, I was wrong, and the shelving was wrong too. This book is science-fiction, no? A gorgeously confusing and lyrical trip through the lives of possibly reincarnated souls, Cloud Atlas is like the music being written by one of its principle characters, Robert Frobisher; we speed forward in time, and then back, always buffeted by echoes and hauntings. Brilliant, beautiful, moving.



The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – this won the Orange Prize for Fiction this year, so I’m willing to bet it’s shelved downstairs in the more respectable General Fiction section, despite being the most fantasy book that ever fantasied. Honestly. This is your standard fantasy trope of a young hero growing to manhood and finding his calling, but told through the eyes of his friend and lover, Patroclus. It’s a vivid, dream-like book full of teenage lustings and tortured love, and the depictions of the gods are genuinely chilling.



The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie – this is a book about conflict; the futility of war, the grotty scrambling horror of it and the terrible waste of life. It’s also really fucking funny, and contains the sort of characters that I dearly wish populated all fantasy books; witty, morally dubious and above all, real. The highlight for me was Craw, your typical “I’m getting too old for this shit” soldier, who faces several difficult decisions throughout the course of the book and continually tries to do the right thing, despite the hopeless shitstorm of war and muck.



The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – Yes, I’m really quite behind on this one. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle last year and it instantly rocketed into my top 10 books of all time, so I was looking forward to this; not to mention that Stephen King is a big fan too. It’s a genuinely weird, hypnotic novel, with possibly the most chilling opening paragraph I’ve ever read. It scares and delights in equal measure, until you realise that the delights are in fact all a trick of Hill House, and you are as much under its spell as Eleanor.


Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell – According to Goodreads I read four books in this series at the beginning of the year, but since I don’t exactly trust Goodreads or my own terrible memory I am plucking this one out for praise. The Saxon series tells the story of Alfred the Great through the eyes of Uhtred, a Viking raised as a Saxon and grown to become one of the king’s most trusted warriors. My little summary makes it sound terribly dry, but Uhtred the Wicked is a fabulous example of a first person narrative that drips with character, and Cornwell is extremely skilled at taking huge historic events and bringing them down to a personal level. If you’re a fantasy fan who perhaps hasn’t quite taken the step into historical fiction, I highly recommend this series and Cornwell’s retelling of the Arthur myths in the Warlord trilogy.


And that’s it! A special mention for The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King – I re-read the first three Dark Tower books this year and that one particularly still blows me away. Great stuff.


So what about you? What were your best reads of 2012 and what are you looking forward to next year?


* I should note that I also read many excellent books by writers who are also friends – I decided not to include them here because inevitably I would forget someone and then look like an Evil McFannypants. I may do a follow-up post titled “You Should Read These Books or I Will Give You a Severe Look”.




Big Up Bristolcon


I went to my first ever Bristolcon this weekend, which I’m pleased to report was brilliant. Good times were had, dodgy food was eaten, minds were expanded.  

At this stage I’m not a massive con veteran and I’m just starting to find my feet with these things, but what struck me about Bristolcon was how cosy it was – cosy friendly rather than cosy tiny, I mean. There were two conference rooms where the talks took place, spaces for the dealers and artists, and a huge bar, and I very much enjoyed walking back and forth across the hotel because inevitably you would bump into someone you knew almost immediately.

            I met up with possibly too many people to name, but I’ll chuck a few up here – saw Fran Terminiello for the first time, who shared a bottle of wine with me and undoubtedly has better taste in booze; finally said hello to Lou Morgan, who I have spectacularly failed to meet previously despite attending many of the same events; discussed a Watership Down roleplaying game with the mighty Dave Moore; caught up with Anne Lyle, who saved me from awkwardness when I turned up hideously early (I was very paranoid about missing the train and consequently got up at 4am); admired Emma Newman’s spectacular coat; Mhairi Simpson prompted a vividly memorable conversation about, uh, green dragongs; saw Gareth L. Powell receive a monkey dressed as a fighter pilot… as you can probably guess, I had a lot of fun. And thanks to Guy Haley, who got the same train back for a little while and ensured that at least 20 minutes of my journey was filled with amusing chat (the rest of it was spectacularly hideous. There is nothing quite like 20 boozed up football fans all trying to vomit into the same train toilet).

            The panels! Also, the panels were great. I particularly enjoyed the Women in Sensible Armour talk, where the sense of “we’re not putting up with this bullshit anymore” was palpable, and Danie Ware brought up a particular bug bear of mine (namely: strong women having to have massive personality problems or issues). The steampunk panel was great too, headed by the fabulous Philip Reeve – there were lots of opinions on show, all articulated wonderfully. Plus Nimue Brown had an excellent hat.

            All in all, I had an excellent experience and felt very welcomed and included. I am a reasonably introverted person, as I may have mentioned before, and a decade or so ago the idea of travelling to a place by myself and actually, you know, talking to people I’ve never met before would have been totally unthinkable; now I’m pleased to say I can do it, with bells on, and that is partly due to the awesome and friendly writing community. Good show, I say, good show!

Great Books I Have Known: IT by Stephen King

One of the things I want to do now I have this swish new space is a series of blogs about books that have been particularly important to me, or made a lasting impact. I’m not sure how regular these will be (goodness knows I’ve plenty of books to write about in that respect) but I’ll be aiming for around once a month. It’s nigh on impossible to choose just the one book by Stephen King, and I’m sure I’ll be coming back to him more than once for this series, but to start with I’d like to talk about It. No, not that, you filth wizards. The other It.


            IT tells the story of the Losers Gang, both as children and adults, as they attempt to face down the terrible predatory force of “it”, a being able to disguise itself depending on the fears of its prey. The creature often appears as Pennywise the Clown, giving an entire generation of readers a life long phobia of weirdoes with painted faces.


            It is a big old book, born of those delicious days when King wanted to tell you the back stories of every minor character- a habit that makes for doorstep sized books, but I have always loved that aspect of his writing; King is brilliant at creating believable characters precisely because he seems to know their entire back stories. This book is full of people you can care for and understand, and that is why the terrifying force of It is so effective; if you can remember being afraid of the dark, or watching a horror film you really shouldn’t have just before bed, or have ever felt uneasy walking across an abandoned piece of wasteland, then It will scare you silly. I think it’s scarier than The Shining, scarier even than The Stand, and in fact the only book he’s written that freaked me out more was Pet Sematary, and that is largely because it is so relentlessly grim. No one is safe in It, and no one gets out unscathed. Just the opening scene is so shocking that thinking about it now gives me the creeps.


            It’s not a perfect book mind, and aside from accusations of bloat, I have heard people say the ending is very weird, and there’s a scene that takes place in the sewers when the main characters are children that has drawn raised eyebrows and frowns from everyone I’ve mentioned it to, but to me this is King at his best; a story that is relentlessly scary, tremendously compelling and ultimately redemptive. He’s known for his pitch perfect depictions of small town American life, but for me the doomed town of Derry was the best of them, and the one that will haunt me the longest.