Guest Post | Mazarkis Williams Says Writing is Writing

The Emperor’s Knife is one of the several titles released over the last twelve months that fit into Paul Weimer’s designation of silkroad fantasy. That is to say, it’s a fantasy novel that wraps itself in the cultural texture of the Middle East and the Eurasian Steppe. Williams’ novel succeeds most often when Sarmin is on screen, a mentally unstable prince capable of anything, including manipulating the pattern, an abstract magic that I still only barely grasp.

It’s a complex world Williams has created, and the plot woven through it is equally layered. There are some ups and downs in relation to narrative pacing and some overly opaque foreshadowing, but all told it’s a novel I can strongly recommend and promises to be a memorable series. I should also point out the wonderful cover for Williams second book, Knifesworn, which depicts a covered female figure, a welcome departure from the poses so often associated with genre.

Let’s give a big round of mouse clicks to Mazarkis Williams…


Writing is always the same job no matter what your status, but to the people around you, there is a tremendous difference between published and not published. A few years ago, whenever people asked, I would tell them, “I write,” followed inevitably just a few seconds later with, “No, I haven’t published anything.” People pitied me, scorned me, or were just confused how to act when they heard I was unpublished. After all, it looks like a failure – everyone else can produce satisfied clients, paychecks, or some other tangible result of their labor.

Once I crossed that publishing hurdle, I learned to my surprise that I am actually an interesting person. It turns out I am more witty and talented than I had believed. Everyone wants to talk about the next book, ask how many copies I’ve sold (don’t know), or learn more about the publishing world (so do I). But I’m still the same person. I continue to write the same, slow way and face the same issues. And for years I’ve been internalizing those strange, pitying looks, those incredulous smiles. You’re a writer? Yeah, right.

So in beginning Knifesworn I set out to fool everyone – to pretend I was an author. It had worked with The Emperor’s Knife, except there had been an unlimited amount of time with that one. Now Jo wanted a complete book in twelve months – ten, really, because two months were eaten up by edits and proofs of the first. Ten months. I figured out how many words per day that was and revved up to go. But I quickly had to reconfigure, as there were days I had to spend with my mother, who was ill; days I had to spend with my family and various doctors, discussing her treatment; days my children had a performance or a college visit or something else that couldn’t be missed; and days when I had to recover from the other days.

Worse, the plot kept slipping through my fingers. Various scenes had to be discarded or rewritten because they didn’t fit with the story I was expected to provide. There was neither room nor time for me to pursue an interesting tangent, flesh out another civilization, or explore themes that excited me. But the scenes I had to write weren’t going well– they were confused, without direction, and sometimes downright awkward. I wasn’t enjoying it. I dreaded to even open the document.

Book two is the one that shows everyone you can deliver . For most authors book one shows what can be done with years of relaxed writing. Book two shows whether you can play the game like Brandon Sanderson or Matt Forbeck – in other words, could I write on schedule, and well? And if not, would I ever get published again? Pressure mounted.

In the midst of this my mother died, and then it was December and suddenly January, and two months remained to get that bitch done.

But it got done. While it was all happening I thought I was writing too slow, that I wasn’t keeping up – but I wrote more in one year than ever before. Counting the scenes and characters that were deleted – Mage Mura of the Tower, Didryk of Fryth, Banreh of the Felt – I wrote enough for one and a half books, so I more than met my goal. It was focus I lacked.

Besides my family situation there were plenty of things to distract me. The importance of self-marketing was not something I knew about ahead of time, but crashed right into when The Emperor’s Knife was released. Blog posts, giveaways, tweeting, facebooking, and trying to overcome my naturally dull personality took up a lot of my attention. Anxiously reading reviews, trying to find that one clue that will make the next book perfect – that happened too. Learning how to budget not my time but my energy is an ongoing struggle.

I am still working on revisions – but, gloriously, Knifesworn looks to be on time, and as I read it now, to my surprise it’s a damn good book! The lesson is, concentrate on the story. Believe in the story. Trust the story. And from now on I will also trust people who tell me I can write (even when I read over one of my own sentences and cringe). I wasn’t fooling anyone – I am an author. And now when I go to parties and say so, people won’t get a funny look on their face until I say, “. . . fantasy.” It’s a beginning.

You can find Mazarkis Williams on  the web and Twitter. Be sure to visit the former to learn more about The Tower & Knife series. Williams is an international author of mystery with no “in-person” sightings.

Come back later today for an excerpt from Knifesworn, the second book in the Tower & Knife series!

Written by Justin Landon

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer’s Book Review. When he’s not writing things of dubious value to the world, he’s at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.