Book Review: The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: The Black Iron Legacy
Author Info: http://garhanrahan.wordpress.com/

This book has been all the rage in the grimdark community and rightly so. I read it a few weeks ago but was not able to post the review until now due to my swamped schedule and low mental energy level.

The Gutter Prayer is a very strong debut and doesn’t even read like one. You can tell the author is quite experienced in worldbuilding and action-heavy plots even if you didn’t know he has a professional background as a game writer.

The setting is a city with a Lovecraftian and steampunkish aura to it, inhabited with the normal people and bizarre city guard creatures called Tallowmen (lovingly called candle-fuckers by the people) on the surface, ghouls and weird ass creatures living underground in the vast network of tunnels and huge caverns. There’s the industries of the alchemists with their polluting chimneys and toxic dumps, huge cathedrals, university complex and all kinds of cool places in the city of Guerdon. The city is quite intriguing and full of surprises. The criminal underground and the machinations its leaders plot, the actual underground and its entirely different culture and hierarchies keep the feeling of adventure and exploring alive throughout the whole book.

The strength of this book is not the characters, but rather the worldbuilding, plot, mystery solving and fast-paced action.

There’s a small but eclectic cast of main characters. The protag figure is Carillion (Cari) who was cool in the beginning but grew dull. Professor Ongent, Rat the Ghoul and the thief taker Jere are the most interesting characters in my opinion. Then again you don’t read this book for character porn. (Malazan is where you go for character porn.) The multi-layered, Lovecraftian-steampunkish-weird city and its messed up theology, strange lore, way-out-there creatures, political intrigue and awesome action is what The Gutter Prayer is offering in generous quantities. It’s like a playing a fine game of Arkham Horror but with mystery and puzzle-solving elements.

The one thing I wasn’t impressed with was the big twist in the end cause I have seen the exact same kind of thing elsewhere (not going to say where cause it’d be a spoiler to those who read that one.) But then the whole aftermath with the new city was bizarre, original and super cool. The ending is weird like the rest of the story and all that weirdness works out in a great harmony until the last page.

Overall The Gutter Prayer is a great read with lots of original and entertaining elements and fast-paced thriller aspect.

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Drama Queens, Sock Puppets and Character Assassination: The Case of Ed McDonald

I had the misfortune of dealing with an extremely toxic situation inflicting the SFF community in the past few days. I was not able to make public statements to avoid jeopardizing ongoing investigations and it was very hard to keep quiet through this time. It has been a hard test for the SFF community and I am proud of the whistleblowers and bloggers who have acted with great integrity. I believe the community will come out stronger after this ordeal.

I am going to copy paste what I wrote on Reddit about this clusterfuck of epic proportions. Here we go:

This should be a good lesson to learn about knee-jerk reactions, jumping in bandwagons and making quick judgements without hard evidence, on word of mouth.

Also a lesson about how important critical thinking is. The community has been subverted to slander an innocent man in the vilest and most vicious way possible.

Most people are trusting and honest but it takes one sociopath with no morals to abuse this trusting nature, take advantage of sensitivities around delicate topics and manipulate an entire community. These two very sick, very immoral and cruel individuals have planted rumors, spread disinformation and insidiously manipulated the unsuspecting good-hearted people who have great empathies for the victims of sexual predators. Their actions and the way they planned and ran this whole act over the course of nearly two years would turn intelligence agency operatives green with envy.

I have stood with Ed the entire time and tried to warn people about the possibility of those victims being fake sock puppets only to be bullied, yelled at and accused to be a victim-blamer, victim-invalidator and a defender of sexual harassers and predators.

I tried to tell friends, but they assured me they have heard from multiple victims, legitimate profiles. I nearly backed down. At some point the abuse and patronizing was so intense, I was forced to play along with the narrative to save myself the headache. For that I feel really bad, I should have done better. I should have spoken louder. I asked questions, questioned the legitimacy of those victims of Ed and received abuse, accusations and insults for it. For merely asking for proof and questioning the existence and legitimacy of the alleged victims.

Why all the trouble? CAUSE I KNOW ED and I know he would never, ever do the things they were accusing him of. We are not even close, we have been kind of friends that had arguments and didn’t talk for months on end -we hadn’t been talking for months before this dumpster fire blew up. This is the relationship I had with Ed to this date -kind of a distant friend that was critical of him and had disagreements.

My conscience wouldn’t let me sit there and do nothing while they ruined an innocent man. I tried to fight the accusatory and patronizing people accusing me of horrible things. I got constantly gaslighted by one of the perpetrators, who was rallying people into a witch hunt. I privately messaged the people, Ed’s readers I have seen falling for it and expressing their shock, told them the truth.

Most of my friends told me to stay the hell out of it and not make myself a target, They said I’d get burned too, I should step aside, wait and see what happens. I told them I was out of it, and not going to be involved anymore, but you know I just could not. I have been a victim -no, a survivor- of an extremely abusive marriage where I was kept captive and powerless to do anything with daily threats to my life and limb, so you can imagine how awful it was to be blamed to be a “victim-blamer”, “defender of abusers” and all that. Go figure. I have nerves of steel though and despite having a fever and terrible flu I fought on and stuck to my guns to defend Ed.

I did make myself a target and have been viciously slandered by the main perpetrator of this defamation campaign, including right here on reddit -they deleted their vile posts since- but know what, I don’t care. I have kicked out a murderous, extremely dangerous sociopath ex-spouse out of my life despite death threats so I am not about to be scared by some those deranged dirtbags half a world away. They can kiss my shiny metal ass!

Anyway I am getting a flood of messages from people now, apologies, kudos for standing up for Ed when no one else did. I have beaten myself for not standing up to all the bullies, not being loud enough, I am absolutely humbled people actually noticed.

Doing the right thing is difficult, especially for someone who has psychological trauma from being bullied into silence for years, been unable to defend against bullies and injustice and been burned over and over and over being paralyzed with anxiety more often than not, struggling to break out of it and stand up to all the wrongs and injustice. I am very proud of myself that I did it for someone else, someone I have known as a good person.

It is mighty difficult to go against the bandwagons and outrage, pitchforks and torches, risking my place in the community, reputation, future publishing career. Despite advice from friends telling me not to risk my future and reputation, despite other friends telling me off. It is not an easy thing to do, and I didn’t know I had the nerve to do it, most certainly not in the bad shape I was with fever and all. Literally rowing against the current.

But you know, sleeping good and having peace of mind aside, doing whatever little part it is to help stopping malicious people from burning an innocent man is all that matters and worth all the stress, emotional abuse, missed meals and lost sleep.

I hope the damage done to Ed’s reputation can be reversed with a collective effort and the evil people who did this see the faces of justice and karma both.

Here is the links to other bloggers’ posts on the matter:

https://weatherwaxreport.blog/2019/03/27/about-ed-mcdonald/

The Fantasy Inn: Statement on Recent Events.

http://www.bookwormblues.net/2019/03/27/on-allegations-and-ed-mcdonald/

http://booknest.eu/component/k2/blog/1484

https://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2019/03/recent-me-too-allegations-ed-mcdonald.html

Here is the reddit thread about it: https://old.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/b674hy/allegations_against_ed_mcdonald_retracted/

And the official statement regarding the evidence proving the accusations 100% false:

The irrefutable evidence proves beyond all doubt that one or two individuals have utilized multiple social accounts with the express purpose of spreading malicious rhetoric against Ed McDonald, and making it appear that ‘reports’ are coming from numerous sources, where in fact they all come from a single source. This source has never met Ed McDonald.

It is now very clear that Ed McDonald has been exposed to a long and malicious campaign by someone who has abused the trust and confidence of people, over and over.

— In light of this, it is asked that members of the Fantasy community:

*Do not name the individuals behind the allegations – even if you suspect who they are. The individuals do not deserve any further attention. Their names have not been mentioned here on purpose.

*Do not pursue the individual(s) behind the allegations. Do not cause them any distress. Doing so may impact pending legal action.

*Welcome Ed McDonald as a member of the community. Any further harassment will not be tolerated.

— To prevent gossip, the following overview has been provided to summarise these events:

*A number of social media accounts across multiple platforms have been linked to either one, or at most two, individuals behind the allegations.

*These accounts use different personas (including names, real world locations and background information).

*These accounts have pretended to be different individuals to spread falsified allegations in open and closed groups, and in private chats.

*These accounts have made comments in support of posts made by each other, as well as shares and likes.

*At least one account is in a position of authority in a public internet forum. This authority was abused throughout this case, and ultimately Ed McDonald was banned from the forum after he tried to defend himself against the allegations.

Book Review: Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn

Seraphina's Lament

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: The Bloodlands
Author Info: http://www.bookwormblues.net/

Seraphina’s Lament is one hell of a debut.A word of warning: This book is grimdark as grimdark goes. It is not exactly the bleak and nihilistic kind, but it is grimdark so if you are looking for a dark, gritty story with some disturbing scenes and highly damaged characters, this is your thing. If you love Mark Lawrence books this is definitely your thing. For one it opens with a killer prologue featuring abject cannibalism. There is violence and gore but it is not a gorefest -the grimdark is more in the characters. Every single one of them is broken and the main theme of the book is “You must break in order to Become” it is quite a thing to see these broken characters getting even more broken. Sarah Chorn takes broken to a whole new level. I gotta say this is one of the best grimdark debuts I’ve read.

The story is highly inspired by the Holodomor starvation massacre engineered by Stalin (not to mention the villain is literally Stalin!) The setting is a secondary world based on the early period of Soviet Russia with the addition of magic, slavery and a rigid caste system.

Read the rest on my guest review at Booknest:
http://booknest.eu/reviews/guests/1466-seraphinaslament

Book Review: Blood of the Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

The Coraidic Sagas

Genre: Fantasy/Coming of Age
Series: Coraidic Sagas
Author Info: https://aliciawanstallburke.com/
Blood of Heirs is the debut book by Australian author Alicia Wanstall-Burke and the first book of a series. This is a coming of age book, I’d categorize it as YA fantasy that is great for the grown-up audience. I am not a big fan of coming of age stories, but this one impressed the hell out of me. First of all, big kudos to Alicia for writing such a great story that is free of ever-so-irritating love triangles and keeping the romance element to an absolute minimum. One of the reasons I steer clear of YA except for the books that are vetted is the horrendous teen angst, excessive romance (or main plot being romance) and love triangles. That is a huge turn-off for me, and even the romance dose in the mighty Wheel of Time irritated me to no end. Romance and love triangle stuff aside, the characters are highly compelling and the storylines flow smoothly with brilliant twists and turns.

Read the rest on my guest review at Booknest:
http://booknest.eu/reviews/guests/1449-blood-of-heirs-coraidic-sagas-1

Ending The Struggle of the Struggling Artists: A Free Guide

You guys remember my Wattpad guide, right? It turned out to be useful for a lot of people.

I decided to post more things like that and not just book reviews and publishing related stuff. I have not been in the best shape physically and mentally so I didn’t blog a whole lot most of 2018 and a good part of 2017. (That is also the reason why I wasn’t able to write this post 2 years ago.)

Anyway, that terrible slump is over and I am pretty much reborn from my ashes like a phoenix and going to be hell of a lot more active. I owe my grand awakening and rebirth to an amazing composer I have discovered within the last few weeks. Long story short, some Jedi master info he shared on social media turned out to be a crucial life-changing catalyst that has awakened me from this terrible slumber of stagnation and mental paralysis. This is the topic of a whole another blog post, and I will make a detailed post on that soon.

Now back to the topic at hand: There is a number of struggling artists among my friends & social media connections and I noticed a lot of them are struggling to pay their bills, selling their work far too cheap and exhaust themselves to promote their art, to little avail. That is because they don’t have much of a choice. I see people who do art commissions for ridiculously low prices and it truly breaks my heart. I screamed like hell on Facebook but it goes unheard in all the noise and never reaches the audience who needs it. Now I’m sacrificing my fiction writing time to do this piece cause it makes me literally sick to see all that unfairness and I want to help making a difference.

As someone who has made pretty decent money from art before, I am going to give you some useful -perhaps vital- tips. Now the full disclaimer: I don’t want anything in return other than seeing you guys out of poverty, I am not upselling anything or dropping any affiliate links whatsoever. Good karma and making a difference is more than enough. I am going to be frank though, there will be no sugar-coating and no bullshit. I’m autistic so being frank is in my nature anyway. Think of me as the doctor making a diagnosis and prescribing the medicine to fix it. You may not like some of it but if you really listen and follow the tips here, you will get out of that vicious cycle of poverty sooner or later, depending on how quick you act and how much effort you put on it.

It Is Possible To Make $50 An Hour Or More – How I Did It

I will give some background info before getting to the heart of it so you see I know what I’m talking about: I never talked about it on this blog, but I happen to be a self-taught pencil artist, even though I haven’t been active for a number of years. I took commissions back in the days and made pretty good money.

I quit doing commissions after doing a few pieces cause 1) I didn’t need the money (I was making good money from my corporate IT job at the time) and 2) I wanted to draw what I wanted to draw and doing commissions was literally strangling me due to my severe untreated ADHD. Drawing was therapeutic for it but commissions were not. 3) The whole reason I did commissions in the first place was a challenge to myself -to prove that I could get decent money for my art.

This is why I cringed so bad when I saw a pencil artist doing pet portrait commissions for a measly $15 and others doing custom art for $10/hour or less. The lowest I charged was $150 for something that took me a couple of hours and I thought that too low. That is $150 in 2006, which was 12 years ago, and that bought more food back then than it does now. I am a super autist so I got curious and checked the USDA statistics just now: Retail price of a pound of beef was $3.97 in 2006 and $5.80 now in year 2018 so go figure. Nearly 50% more buying power, so that $150 would be $225 in today’s currency.

Highest I charged was $500 ($750 in today’s dollars) for something more detailed that took a good part of a day. I am dropping these numbers here so you see it’s quite possible. If I did it, so can you. The only reason you are not making this kind of money is the unfortunate circumstances you are in right now, which means bad environment factors. These can all be fixed in no time using the methods I am about to tell you.

So how did I manage to make this kind of money as a nobody? Did I do free work for “exposure” or sell my art super cheap to get my name out there? Did I have connections? Not at all. Like I said, I made pretty good money from my full time IT job and drawing was just a hobby for me. Commissions were to prove myself I could actually get paid for it.

How and Where I Found The Clients

I found clients from fandom forums, Yahoo groups (which were quite big at the time) and what limited social media we had back then, in the form of now defunct msn, icq and nearly extinct irc. I had a Deviantart gallery (I still have it!) and uploaded my work there and my own web site, showed it around on the aforementioned primitive social media, posted my LOTR and Harry Potter pieces on fan art forums and the clients came to me. I’d done a peculiar Nazgul piece for myself using a movie still as a reference and received offers up to $2000 to sell it or make another one like it. LOTR was pretty hot back then with the movies newly released so it was super duper easy to get visibility and clients flocking to you left, right and center by posting something better than the average fan art floating out there. 2k was good money but I didn’t want anyone else to have that piece and it was the kind of work you do only once. You are artists so you know what I mean. I spent 3.5 hours on that blade alone, making the worn texture with sewing needles. 2k was good but not good enough (Hint: That is the exact mentality I want you to develop about your art. If I didn’t have faith and confidence, people wouldn’t offer that kind of money for it.)

So, here is your first tip:

Do some fan art of the hottest trendy thing you like, post it around on fandom forums, Instagram, Deviantart and Twitter, post on fandom-related Facebook groups and what have you. On Twitter, Instagram and Deviantart make sure to stuff your keywords and hashtags to death. You have stiff competition so better give those pieces all you have, this will be your premium portfolio and storefront. It is crucial that these fan art pieces MUST be your absolute best. It goes without saying that you need to keep track of what sells on the fandom market and deliver the same kind of quality.

I gave everything I had to that Nazgul drawing and worked on it every day for 2 weeks, put easily 15-20 hours and it still gets shock and awe reactions 15 years after I have created it (Holy shit, time flies! 15 years! When the hell did 15 years pass?!) I could easily get high-paying commissions if I pimped it around right now.

You guys have hell of lot better platforms and broader opportunities than the limited tools I had back then but you are making some grave mistakes and this is why you are struggling.

What Is the Biggest Mistake That Is Sabotaging Your Livelihood

I observed a number of artists for a good long time and analyzed their patterns, they all have one major thing in common (other than the fact that they are struggling to make ends meet and selling their art way below what it should go for.)

It is super obvious to an outside observer like myself, but when you are in that situation and worrying about what to eat tomorrow, you won’t have the time and mental energy to see those things. Well that’s what I’m here for.

So lo and behold, here is the biggest mistake that has become the ball and chain keeping you down: You are trying to sell your art to other poor people. Your network is mostly poor folks who can’t really afford to buy artwork and/or penny pinchers who order commissions and stiff you. Surrounding yourself with poor people is not going to get you anywhere if you want to make a living from art.

You need to change this and start building a network of affluent clientele. Thing is, you can’t just go around adding the affluent demographic that isn’t the right audience for you. You need to determine your target audience first. Choose the target audience right and you will make a killing.

How To Get The Right Kind of Clients

First of all, write down what circles/tribes do you belong. Are you a geek/nerd type? Are you in any fandoms? Do you do specialized stuff like pet portraits, wedding portraits? Do you do anime/manga stuff? Are you into erotic art? Do you do tarot, witchcraft, occult art? Do you do religious themes? Are you in the indie publishing scene, can you do book covers? So on and so forth.

Write down your fandoms, main interests, what genres of art you are willing/able to create. Then write down the same for your target audience, who they are, what they buy. No clue? You can go around look at Deviantart and see who sells and buys commissions there. Almost all of the artists I follow do commissions for pretty penny. We are talking about hundreds to thousands of dollars for mid-tier to high-end digital art. There are folks who do ink and watercolors but I didn’t pay attention to that market. Folks who write fan fiction order commissions for their fan fic characters all the time. We are talking about a damn lot of money here.

Many of these same artists make a killing from book covers also. Custom book covers go anywhere from $150 (stock photo manipulation) to $2000 (original hand-drawn digital art). I know for a fact cause I shopped around and got quotes to figure out self-publishing costs for some future projects I’m planning. I didn’t just query the artists on Deviantart but also those I found via Artstation, Instagram and Facebook. Instagram is a great platform for showcasing your portfolio and not very hard to build a following if you do fan art/niche art and use the hashtags wisely. However the competition is rather fierce so you have put your absolute best on there get attention and clients. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I was able to score such deals, you definitely can, without question. The market is hell of a lot bigger now compared to 2006 and it’s so much easier to reach the audience.

How To Avoid The Shysters Who Stiff You

This one is rather straightforward: Charge a decent fee and get half of it upfront. If you are making money from art then you are a professional and this is what professionals do. However, if you follow the tips I gave here, your chances of getting that kind of clients will be quite low. Still, you need to charge half upfront or the clients won’t take you serious especially the affluent clients. They have certain expectations and you need to deliver them. The first one is acting like a professional and this means charging the upfront fees and having a solid price catalog. You need to have a list of standard prices for your original art and prints. Most importantly, don’t sell anything short unless it’s a bundle deal for a repeat customer, a holiday special to attract new clients or upselling something more expensive.

There are other reasons you are getting those shysters and I will get to this in a bit.

Creating More Income

When you are catering to the affluent clientele, you have the options like creating repeat business and upselling. You can offer a discount for a second work or upsell something that costs more. You can also offer discount deals or a small freebie for referrals. If they bring you x number of referrals, do a freebie piece for them (one that does not take too many hours.)

Once you are dealing with the this kind of clientele, there is a whole different ballpark and different work and tactics involved, but that is outside the scope of this article.

The Last and Most Important Piece of Information

One major issue I have been seeing around is the lack of confidence. It is not easy to be confident and have a high self esteem when you are struggling in abject poverty conditions. Believe me, I have been there long enough and I know how that goes.

You need to value your art first and foremost, if you don’t no one will.
If you have even a sliver of doubt, people can tell. It will show one way or the other. It will show when you fold and not charge that upfront fee, it will show when you cut prices before the client asks for it. This gives the subconscious message to the clients to haggle it down as low as possible -even if they had no such intention in the beginning. It doesn’t matter if you are the next Picasso, if you lack self esteem, people will pay low prices and stiff you more often than not. In fact that kind of psychology is what attracts the sort of people who stiff you in the first place.

Many of you have anxiety and depression issues which come with low self esteem. I’ve been there longer than I’d care to, I should know. Here is one easy no-brainer way to fix this. Grab a piece of paper and write the following on it:

My art is valuable.
I am going to make X dollars a month form my art. (Put whatever is the decent living wage where you are. Not a dollar less.)
I charge at least X dollars an hour for the commission work.
I will cater to affluent clientele, they will buy my art and bring me referrals.

You can add more items as you like. Read this aloud every morning when you wake up and every night before going to bed, like a religious ritual.
Do that every single day twice a day until you see that X dollars. It is simple, costs you nothing and requires no effort other than reading a few lines. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is called autosuggestion, a simple yet extremely powerful method to program your brain to remove all the anxiety and low self esteem that is sabotaging your art business.

You are going to see that X dollars, I guarantee that 100%.
And when you do, pay it forward and teach this stuff to any struggling/starving artists you come across.

Oh, and BUY MY BOOK when it comes out and post a glowing review on Goodreads for it and buy it for Christmas/Yule/birthday gifts for all your friends and family. You will have enough money to buy a whole bunch of first edition hardcovers.

Ok I lied when I said I want nothing in exchange for the info I am giving away for free: There is no such thing as something for nothing. I took the hours to write all this (instead of working on my book!) cause I want you people to make a shit ton of money so you can each buy a dozen or two hard cover copies of my book 🙂

There you have it.

Now go make some money!

Book Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind
Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Godblind
Author info: https://anna-stephens.com/

This year has not been very good, I didn’t read nowhere near as much as I’d like. Way late to the party with the 2017 debuts and still a few books left to catch up. I have been so curious about Godblind for the longest time, and happy to finally read it.

Godblind is a page-turner grimdark tale, I didn’t even realize I was at the end when I read the last page. I was like “It’s finished? Wow!” Action doesn’t let up and there is plenty of breathtaking thrill. There is also political intrigue and religious clashes, which are my favorite themes to read in fantasy books.

I have read some critical reviews complaining about the use of modern verbiage in Godblind. Normally that is a pet peeve of mine, but 1) It’s very negligible and 2) The story is so thrilling I didn’t really care.

Rillirin’s thread is quite an interesting one and her character development is pretty cool. Looks like she will unlock her potential in the second book. Crys was my favorite character since I’m a sucker for the underdogs. His adventures and especially the tavern and barracks scenes were so much fun to read. The Mireces high priestess Lanta reminded me of Cersei from the Game of Thrones, she drove me crazy and I wanted to beat her with a saguaro cactus so bad!

Dom the shaman is quite intriguing and his sad story adds a nice element in-between all the fast-paced thrill rides. Corvus is hella interesting, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time. I have a feeling he will have a bigger part in the sequel. Durdil, commander of the palace guard was one of my favorite characters and his POV chapters were some of the most compelling to read.

That’s the quick rundown of the characters. I am particular about keeping my reviews spoiler-free but I can say there are some head-spinning twists and some characters will go to places. There are some incredibly savage and cruel moments that are more brutal than even the darkest of grimdark, so Godblind is definitely not for the faint of heart. Male readers be warned, there is one torture scene that is going to make you cringe (or worse.)
I ought to classify it as GDAF (Grimdark As Fuck) as we say in the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers group. But it is also a great action thriller and might make you forget to breathe in a few places.

Overall a great fun read, compelling characters, fast-paced action, great battle scenes and political intrigue, plenty of blood and mayhem to boot.

Signed Holy Sister ARC giveaway

that thorn guy

On this blessed day of Saint Nicholas I’m delighted to announce a giveaway where you can win a signed (or dedicated) Advance Reading Copy of the much anticipated final volume of the Book of the Ancestor trilogy,

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HOLY SISTER!

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To participate simply comment below this post and answer any (or all three) of the following three questions:

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1. Which of Mark’s books was the first one you read and what made you get a copy?

2. Do you have a favourite book by Mark? If yes, what makes it special for you?

3. Which of his characters would you like to read about in a new short story?

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The giveaway will end on Christmas Eve, 24th December 2018 and as usual, I will ask Mark to randomly select a winner.

This is, as always, an international giveaway, anyone can enter!

Wishing you the best of…

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