Snow (30/11/10)

Posted in Critical Failures

7am. Snow. Global warming is a lie.

8am. Snow. Wishing I’m not going to work today.

10am. Snow. Apparently I’m NOT going to work today.

11am. Snow. Sticking needles into Al Gore dolls and wishing I hadn’t invested in UK Tropical Orchards Ltd.

12am. Snow. Realising that, tomorrow, we’ll be *prepared* for snow. Which means the local school will be closed, even though the roads have been cleared.

1pm. Snow stops. So that means everything will melt and freze again and be ice. Yay.

2pm. Realise that ‘global warming’ is now called ‘climate change’ for a reason. Stop sticking needles into Al Gore dolls.

3pm. Snow now making up for lost time. Blizzard. Just in time for walk to school. Yay.

4pm. Snow. Stagger home from massive snowball fight. Playground full of children and a good few parents too. Freezing. Sodden. Happy.

Yay for snow.

Diamond Cascade: Interlude on the Elvish Border (part one)

Posted in DC

“I reckon they’re diplomats on an important mission. I reckon they’re in disguise.” Expendable Elvish Border Guard Number One began to lower the ladder down from their lookout post, high up in a tree on the edge of the forest, looking out towards the hills and plains of North Horn Reach, land of human abominations.

“I reckon they’re lost.” Expendable Elvish Border Guard Number Two stopped for a moment and cocked his head. “Do you hear something?”


“I hear you two making a load of noise,” grumbled Number Three from inside.

Number Two frowned. “I swear I hear something.” He got up, went to a window.

“I’ll just lower this on my own then shall I,” muttered Number One. He finished lowering the ladder. Down below, the two unexpected visitors tied their donkey to the tree and started to climb. At the top, they brushed the snow off their cloaks and shivered.

“Well met.” Number One eyed them carefully, looking for clues that they were who he thought.

“Well met.” The first elf peered into the tree-house. There wasn’t much to look at. “I’m Levinchius. This is Unthal.” The second elf up had all the looks of a wizard in the making. The first one, Number One thought, looked a bit shifty. Ah well. Diplomats.

“There is something out there,” said Number Three. “I saw something.”

“We saw something too. Or heard something,” muttered Levinchius. “That’s why we came up.”

“Oh. Not because it’s freezing down there and night is falling and everything is covered in snow then?”

“And that.”


“What was that?” Number Two and Number Three were both peering out the window.

“Can’t see. Bloody weather.”

“Right.” Number Two picked up the chamber pot. “I have a plan. I’m going to drop this on the donkey. Then the donkey will bray. Whatever it is that’s out there will come towards the noise. Then we’ll see what it is.”

“It’s probably a deer,” muttered Number One.

“Right.” Number Two shook his head. “We’re called Expendable Border Guard Number One, Two and Three, a couple of mysterious strangers show up and you reckon the strange groaning noises and the unidentifiable shape moving out in the darkness is a deer. It’s zombies.”


“It’s zombies.”

Number Three shook his head. “It’s always zombies. Can’t it be skeletons for once.”

“I still say it’s a deer,” said Number One. “Hey!”

“Oi!” shouted Levinchius “Don’t . . .”

Number Two dropped the chamber pot. They watched as the donkey jumped in surprise and ran away into the forest.

“I thought you tied him to the tree,” said Unthal once they couldn’t see it in the gloom any more.

“Oh! Looks like that worked!” shouted Number Three. “They’re coming closer.”

“I did tie it to the tree,” shouted Levinchius. “Shit! My bedroll was on that.”

“My backpack was on that!” swore Unthal.

“Your backpack?” Levinchius shook his head. “Why’d you put your backpack on the donkey? It’s supposed to go on your back. You know, like it says in the name. Back pack”

“It was heavy!”

They stared after it.

“Zombies! I knew it!” shouted Number Three.

“Skeletons!” said Number Two.

Number One went to look. “Are you sure it’s not a . . . Oh.”

“Zombies and skeletons.”

“I need to get my backpack back!” Unthal clenched his fists.

“Well that’s us fucked.” Levinchius went and crouched in a corner. He might have been trying to hide, although Number One couldn’t quite tell who or what was supposed to be fooled.

“We’re up a tree-house,” he said brightly. “They can’t get us up here. Let’s shoot them with arrows until they’re dead. Again.” He frowned. “How does that work?”

“It works,” grumbled Number Three. “Trust me, I’ve been guarding borders since before you were born and if I’ve seen an undead horde coincidentally show up at the same time as a couple of mysterious stranger once, I’ve seen  it a hundred times. Arrows work.”

“I just shot a skeleton and the arrow went straight between its ribs and came out the other side!” said Number Two.

“In the head, obviously. Idiot.”

“Oh crap, they’re climbing the tree. How’s that work? They’re mindless undead minions, they’re not supposed to be able to climb trees. That’s ridiculous. Oh, wait. That one fell off.”


“That’s not the point. Look, another one’s having a go! And another! How in Mother Nature can re-animated skeletons climb trees? Look! The zombies are at it too!”

Number Three paused. He leaned on his sword and looked out the window. Skeletons were indeed climbing his tree. “Let me get this right, Two. They’re skeletons. They don’t have eyes, yet they can see. They don’t have ears yet they can hear. They have neither muscles or ligaments yet they move. They have no brain, yet they can fight about exactly as well as an Expendable Border Guard. Nothing about them makes any sense or stands up to any scrutiny whatsoever. And in the middle of all that, what you don’t like, what you have an issue with, is that they’re climbing a tree?”

“All I’m saying is that climbing twenty foot of tree trunk with no branches to give you any purchase is a pretty mean feat even if you’re alive and in the pink of health. As opposed to the, er . . .” He peered down. “Sort of yellowy grey of un-death.”

“And what I’m saying is that when you stand that next to being able to sling a sword when you don’t have any tendons in your wrist or any skin to grip the hilt is also a mean feat, and one of considerably more relevance.”

“Er . . . Excuse me . . .” Levinchius had come out of his corner. He was pointing. “Don’t mean to interrupt this fine debate, but . . . behind you!

Vale and the people he reluctantly travels with his friends will be back in the new year.


Another Prologue Bites the Dust (23/11/2010)

Posted in News

Finally, finally, my editor has sent back his comments on The Order of the Scales. If you like my dragons, you should thank him. Every time, and this is no exception, he comes back demanding more, more shock and awe. I’m beginning to think he’s an American military strategist in disguise.

The other thing he always comes back with is ‘ditch the prologue.’ And I have to admit he’s always right. It’s easy this time to see why – the prologue explains a load of stuff about the Taiytakei and, in particular, the mysterious Picker, that maybe takes the edge off what comes next. I thought you guys deserved to know at least part of what was going on over on that side of the plot, but that was before we had a deal for a pile more books. So those who were looking forward to having the secrets of the Taiytakei revealed, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little more – but there is an upside: they will be revealed in considerably more detail. Unlike the King of the Crags’ “Night of the Knives,” this one won’t be going up as a taster.

I like prologues, though. Always have. Comes from a fondness for the old pre-credits sequence that Bond movies used to have (which, I realise, rarely had anything to do with the subsequent plot). If I manage to finish The Warlock’s Shadow by the end of the year (bit of an if at the moment), I shall try again :-)

Round-up of the week’s other news: Jasper Fforde, Leanna Renee Hieber and I talk about the differences between adult and young adult fantasy over at SFF chat; The Ranting Dragon has (another) Sneak preview of the cover art for Order of the Scales while the Yetistomper has noticed the US cover for King of the Crags (and who wouldn’t)

Diamond Cascade’s Magic Shop

Posted in DC

The Crown of Resistible Humour

The Crown of Resistible humour is usually found wrapped in a gaudy parchment canister. When opened, there is a small (non-damaging) explosion, and a folded piece of golden parchment will will emerge – this, when unfolded, takes the shape of a crown. When the crown is put on, the wearer must immediately begin making a will save every round. Each failed save compels the wearer to abort any other actions and tell a joke. These jokes are bad, causing all who hear them to make a Will save (DC 5) or fall temporarily insane (this includes the wearer, who has to save merely for even thinking them – silence may save everyone else, but not the poor fool wearing the crown). These crowns are, apparently, produced in large numbers and distributed for free around the festive seasons by Gnomes for reasons of their own. Gnomes are affected by the crown just as anyone else, but do not need to make a will save to avoid insanity – they’re used to it.

Once removed, the crown loses all enchantment.

Ring to Avoid Disappointment

This ring works only in conjunction with scrying devices and is completely useless without one. In conjunction with any kind of scrying the wearer is able to place a geas on the adventure location at the other end, preventing any other adverturing party from looting the location until the wearer and their friends has arrived.

Construction cost: Usually free, but with a monthly tariff of around 1000gp (operator charges may vary)


Cover Art: The Warlock’s Shadom (16/11/10)

Posted in News

Pretty pretty cover art for The Warlock’s Shadow. Night in the scent garden. And no, once again, the figure in the archway is NOT Berren. Pleasingly androgenous though, given the scene this is meant to be.

Nice blues. Still working on the lettering though :-)

warlocks shadow cover - shrunk

Diamond Cascade: You Picked the Wrong Bard, Ogre Boy

Posted in DC

Alturiak 17: … and the vile scouts and foragers of the armies of evil, yadda yadda yadda…

Its the middle of the night. The wind is howling, rain lashes down, the sky is filled with clouds. I can barely see my hand in front of my face it’s that dark and if you shouted in my ear, maybe I’d hear what you said or maybe not. Still, apparently if you’re an elf, none of that matters and you can still here an orc creeping towards the pile of wet wood that would be your camp-fire if you had any means to light it a hundred yards away. At least none of us are asleep.
It comes down to us and a few orcs, creeping around each other, all browning our trousers not knowing who you’re about to walk into. Now and then there’s a flash of lightning. You hear the odd shout. Sometimes, in the flashes, you see something move. If it looks like an orc, I shoot it. If I’m not sure, I shoot it anyway. Better safe than sorry and we’ve already established that I wouldn’t miss half this lot I’m with.

And then there’s a flash and about thirty feet away from me there’s this ogre, standing there, looking right at me and I’m looking right at him. In my mind’s eye, I go all Legolas on his ass, shoot an arrow in his knee to bring him down, another one in his thigh to use as a step and a springboard to somersault over his head and shoot him through the eye as I do and down he goes. What actually happens is that one arrow hits – I hear the grunt – I shoot a second one in the dark and then, when I don’t hear a big ogre-hitting-the-dirt sized crash, I stand there and cower and creep and hide. Come morning, there’s a scattering of dead orcs and a different ogre who ran into Caleb Knight of Something and we’re all still alive. Cold, wet, short of sleep and probably all about to go down with hypothermia, but still alive.

Except me. Apparently I’m the only one with a potion of Resist Elements.

The ogre with two arrows in him ran away. Booyah!


Poppies (9/11/10)

Posted in Critical Failures

I shall be wearing a red one on Thursday. I wrote a long post into the whys and the wherefores, and then I read it and realised it was, by and large, bollocks. Really, it comes down to a pretty simple thing. Killing other people sucks. There’s no such thing as a good reason for setting out to do it. To anyone. There might be understandable reasons or rational reasons but there aren’t any good ones. None.

Normal service will be resumed next week. This may well involve a rant at my editor :-)


Diamond Cascade: To the Victor, the Spoils

Posted in DC

Beyond the corpse of Captain Shark-face, a bounty of treasure awaits. Chest upon chest of it. Like a gang of starving street-urchins set upon a rich man’s table, we fall upon it. . .
. . .BOOOOM! goes the first chest in a ball of fire as Wizard Daftboy smashes it open . . .
. . .HISSSS goes the next as the Halfgit forces the lock. . .
. . .SMASH goes another as Crazy Dwarf throws it down the stairs. . .
. . .TING goes some poison-dart-like-thing as it narrowly misses Shifty’s face

Eventually, someone bothers to look through Captain Shark-Face’s personal stuff and finds the chest keys under his bed. After we’ve smashed them all and set off their traps. After we’ve been charred, poisoned, mangled and, in the case of the Halfgit, tripped so far out on hallucinogenic gas that there’s probably no coming back. All but one chest is smashed. We have no means to carry most of this treasure. The tide is coming in. The only ways out are either underwater and full of sharks or up through a tiny hole in the ceiling that’s almost impossible to reach.

Still, eventually we do. (Am I the only one who can Spider Climb?) So now we’re down to trying to pitch the one tent that we’ve got with us on a windy cliff-top in a storm. That’s about when it occurs to most of us that we never found the thing we were supposed to be looking for in the first place.

To recap:

Most of my stuff is covered in salt-water and is probably going to rot. There’s a big pile of treasure underneath me that we can’t reach and couldn’t carry even if we could. We’re out on an exposed cliff in the middle of the night in freezing rain and a howling wind with no shelter to speak of. At least I’m not too bashed up.

Unlike everyone else, who are either battered, smashed, bruised and burned or raving mad.

Our lift back to civilisation is waiting for us out at sea. Waiting for us to bring them a ship that we can’t sail and happens to be stuck in a tidal cave filled with sharks. We are at the wrong end of a cliff and the only way down involves being able to breath underwater and body-wrestle said sharks.

Oh, and we smashed up our only boat.

And this black pearl, the whole reason we came here in the first place, is distinctly not in our possession. Presumably its somewhere back in the submerged caves covered in salt water and yet more sharks.

And the only reason we were looking for the damn thing in the first place was to give it to some dodgy bloke who would then, MAYBE, tell us something about some shit about which I DON’T CARE AT ALL.

I’ve had enough. The rest of them can do what they want. Wolfgirl’s already pissed off somewhere doing her own thing and I reckon she had the right of it. Shifty, he’s got twenty-four hours to sort his shit out or he can stay behind. The rest. . . I don’t even know the rest of them. Wizard Daftboy, Mad Monk, Crazy Dwarf, Caleb Knight of Something, I don’t even know who these people are. What happened to my friends? There was a point to all this once, wasn’t there?

Maybe there wasn’t. Maybe I just wanted gold. Wine, women and song and a few friends to share it with. What am I doing here, out on this godforsaken cliff? Gods, Ebra, what am I doing?

As soon as we get back, I’m out of here.

And that’s when a band of orcs and ogres stumble into our camp.


The Lemon of Honour (2/11/10)

Posted in News

After the near miss at this year’s Gemmells, it’s about time something of mine won an award. So here it is. The prestigious… LEMON OF HONOUR


Not, as you may expect, for any of my currently published pieces but for a little one-side of A4 dashed off last weekend during the launch party for fellow gang-member  Alex Bell’s Lex Trent vs. The Gods. An award for the most fanciful, most imaginative, most…

…most biggest pile of utter rubbish as to why the killer in our murder mystery for the weekend had actually done the deed (although I did at least get WHO bit of whodunnit right).

I’ll not say who did it, but I will say that my AWARD-WINNING contribution did include the words “Master of Disguise” at least twice… Only time will tell whether the editorial staff from Hodder Headline were truly as impressed as they seemed, but let’s put it this way – I’ll not be straying far from the phone for the next few days[1] and I wouldn’t be at all surprised it we’re seeing some BIG NEWS soon[2]…

(with thanks to the cast from ItsMurder)


Meanwhile, its National Novel Writing Month apparently, so for no reason other than to give myself an ulcer and annoy the hell out of everyone around me, I’ve decided to try and finish the first draft of The Black Mausoleum by the end of November instead of the end of December. I’m also going to be working on a short children’s book simply for the sheer hell of it; anyone fancy doing some illustrations that would be marvellous, but it’ll be pro bono work, so I’m guessing that’ll be a no then. If it’s any good, it’ll go up on the site as a freebie some time after Christmas.

Another week, another review: apparently the Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is very well written and full of action and adventure. So I’ll forgive the repeatedly mis-placed apostrophe, Fringe. Tsk.

[1] Not

[2] also Not