Friday, 22 December 2017

Next Cover - Mark I

So since my next book has reached the proofreading/critique/editing phase I've started working on the cover, so here is the Mark I. Based on previous experience by the time I reach the Mark XIII I should have something useable!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Reading List

Well with Christmas fast approaching I thought instead of banging on about my writing I'd just share some books/stories that I've found entertaining, including several excellent ones you can read for gratis if you feel like joining

Okay lets start with the series currently known as 'Empire of Man' but I will always think of as 'March To The stars'. This series of books is by David Weber and John Ringo and it may well be the first thing I read by either of them. Back in the days wen Kindle was something you did with firewood I had to visit the Forbidden Planet bookstore in London to get my hands on US imprints that had no UK publishing arm. I must have picked up 'The March Upcountry' on two or three visits and been rather dubious about the cover art. Finally I bit the bullet and bought and I cannot tell you how many times I have re-read that series over the years, it hooked me on David Weber's works in particular and was what really got me into the military sci-fi genre.

A very different group of soldiers are the Time Commandos from Simon Hawke's 'Timewars'. In an era when past wars are being used as a surrogate battlefield by the great powers of the 26th Century a special team is charged with preventing any permanent damage being done to the timestream. As the series goes on they find themselves dealing with terrorists attempting to hold the past to ransom to force the powers to abandon time travel. The big twist in the series, and a large part of why I found it so entertaining, is that a myriad of fictional figures such as Robin Hood, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Three Musketeers are all real in this history and the commandos find themselves embroiled in those characters stories. The series is finally available on Kindle so now is the 'time' to read it.

Jack Campbell's 'Lost Fleet' is a great space opera series, with a firm emphasis on people and tactics rather than super technology. Captain John' Black Jack' Geary went into a escape pod after making sure his crew escaped when their ship was attacked in the opening exchanges of an interstellar war. A friendly fleet finds him but that's where Geary's luck runs out. Not only has it been a hundred years since he went in the pod but the same war is still raging and both sides are on the brink of collapse. If that weren't bad enough Black Jack Geary is a legendary military leader in the folklore of his side in the war and since the fleet that rescued him has been caught in an ambush guess who they expect to rescue them?

Now about those threads over at

'Arose From The Azure Main' is massive series of posts telling the story of the Britain of 1980 being displaced in time back to the year 1980. Politics, pop culture, trains, its all there in fascinatingly well worked out timeline. Might help if you have some familiarity with the major UK political figures of the 1980s, but still excellent if you don't and the creator has turned part of the story into a series of books as well.

'The Fireflies of Port Stanley' is alternate history but it isn't sci-fi. it is nonetheless a cracking story, wherein a bureaucratic error sees a trio of obsolete tanks sent to the Falkland Islands where they are lovingly preserved all the way up to 1982 and the Argentine invasion. It's well written and great illustration of the butterfly effect.

'The Anglo-American Nazi War' is dark to say the least. It's premise is that a Soviet failure at Stalingrad leaves Nazi Germany in control of Europe throughout the 40s and 50s until the war turns apocalyptically 'hot' at the start of the 60s. Bleak and unflinching but also engrossing and well written.

Anyway those are my suggestions for some Christmas or New Year reading, hopefully it was useful and I will be back to pontificating shortly.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Death of all Salesmen

I'm old enough to remember the time before the first VCRs came and just how expensive tapes were when they appeared. Any number of stores popped up renting tapes, many of them (here in the UK at least) small independent. A few years later Blockbuster reached our shores and the independents vanished as the all conquering juggernaut came to utterly dominate the market. Blockbuster seemed to have an unassailable market position, until new technology made it's market disappear. The same fate has befallen all too many other well known brands in recent years, is society fated to go 'shopless' as well as cashless in the future. I discussed how money might work in a futuristic interstellar society, so now I'm going muse on whether the experience of spending that future money is really going to be so utterly different.

So first off lets exclude bars, clubs and restaurants. The need for shard social settings isn't likely to go away unless you rewrite human psychology. Let's focus on retail, the pure exchange of goods and services for money. Services are probably the thing most immune to all pervasive power of online shopping. Even if you imagines some of those services being automated, assuming anyone would want to visit say a robot barber, they are still going to require a bricks and mortar location for their business. One ironic consequence of the advance of digital commerce is that many of those little specialist retailers driven out of business by cavernous superstores and supermarket chains determined to put a store on every corner. The ASDA/Walmart might disappear but the local baker, butcher or tailors shop may re-emerge as viable enterprises. You could imagine a universe where retail is divided up between a few massive corporations and a legion of little family businesses, co-existing in distinct niches. Some future shopping mall may not be dominated by glittering high tech store fronts, but by shops selling bespoke and handcrafted goods.

There are also any number of goods where people want to touch and try them out before they buy them, whether its a dress or a sofa people want to see how they look or feel before they commit to them, people are very tactile when it comes to purchasing, just watch people poking and prodding the fruit in any grocery store for proof. Also how often do people go and look at a product in physical store before they go hunting for the best price online? Imagine the irony if future online retail giants have to create 'showrooms' for their potential customers.

One other dystopian possibility is that a future world might really have all the retail carved up between megacorporations all desperately fighting for market share. Imagine the shopper being offered some form of discount scheme. A 'loyalty card' where the loyalty part is taken very seriously by the store issuing it, a scenario in which the brand you shop with is akin to gang colours or national allegiance.

In the end if you want to send your character down to the shops for a pint of blue milk you're probably on solid ground...

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


In addition to adding an email option to the blog I've also added a short list of links to what I've found to be useful resources as well as links to my book. I thought it might be helpful to explain why I chose them. provides that one thing every writer needs when they are trying to create a workable story, feedback. It's a 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' setup where basically you accumulate credits for critiquing other peoples work and when you have enough credits you can post your on work on their weekly list and get feedback from other writers. You can even put up a chapter or two of a novel and find people willing to critique it and do proofreading. The site has subsections dedicated to different genres and while you will get honest responses the site places an emphasis on civility and providing constructive criticism.

DAZ 3D is a freebie program by a major producer of 3D models and its the software I used to make most of the elements in the 'Secession' cover. Yes a lot of the models do cost money but there's also a whole load of free models out there from multiple sources because the program is largely compatible with the commercial program Poser. If you have the time and the patience you can do some very cool stuff with it and create a cover that reflects what you had in mind even if you can't draw a convincing stick figure.

The International Skeptics Forum, formerly the James Randi Educational Forum, may seem like an odd place to recommend to writers. It's underlying mission is to provide a space to debunk the myriad of conspiracy theories that seem to plague us today, but it also has sections on education, technology, history, politics and a host of other topics. If you want some freewheeling and occasionally not NSFW discussions to stimulate the brain its a great place. is dedicated to the 'what if?' genre of science fiction and fantasy. It covers not only alternate 'real' history, but also alternate ideas based on popular culture, if you ever wondered what if character X chose differently in your favourite book/TV show/movie you'll probably find it there somewhere and if you don't your more than welcome to create your. The sections on pre1900 and post1900 alternate history are a great resource even if your interested in 'straight  history'. There's a lot of very knowledgeable people there and many of the 'what if?' discussions illuminate the why and how of what actually happened and provide a wealth of factual information. There's also some fabulous timelines and stories at the site that make great reading and I'll probably talk about some of my favourites in a future blog.

Monday, 4 December 2017

What now?

So yesterday I published 'Secession' on Amazon and now the obvious question is what do I do now? I've had enough experience of the online world to not expect it to be an overnight success, its going to take time and effort to reach any sort of take off, assuming I'm not just kidding myself about it being anything other people would want to read.

That's certainly a topic I'll come back to, especially if I find anything that really works and is worth sharing. What I'm probably going to be spending most of my time on now is the next book, or books to be honest. I have a Victorian steampunkish novel that I've had someone proofreading and I've deliberately left it to one side before I come back to it and apply their results. One lesson I've learned from Secession is to not get caught up in endless rewrites.

Beyond that I'm 45,000 words into a Secession sequel and about the same number of words into a sequel to the steampunk novel. That's the thing, even when I think 'hey I'll just kick back and watch some TV tonight' I still somehow end up doing some writing. Right now I have a miserable cold and yet here I am typing away to write this blog. At some point writing ceased to be a hobby and became more of a compulsion or an addiction. Still at least its cheaper than alcohol :)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Its out!

So as you may be able to guess my book is up on Amazon in Kindle format. It has been a very long journey from the original idea to this day and an awful lot of people contributed to getting Secession Campaign and I hope I've remembered to give everyone a nod on the front page. Links to the US and UK Amazon pages are to the left if anyone is interested and you can read the first couple of chapters for free. In addition I thought it would be nice to give a little bit extra to those who've had the iron constitution to keep reading my blog so here's an excerpt from the first combat in the book. Captain Henry Moses is commanding TF106, the Alliance force, and Captain Gina Colbert commands the 'mutineers':

Secession: TF106

Henry considered what the captain of the Vigilant had to say, she had only told him something he had already concluded for himself but he still had one last move to play before he conceded. “As an alternative Captain Colbert you could recognize that the orders issued to you are the ones that are invalid and illegal and stand down. We would then proceed to Ezekiel and seek to persuade the authorities there to also obey Alliance law and carry out the arrest of those individuals accused of sedition and treason. That is the only reasonable option to defuse this crisis.”
Gina choked down the desire to say something like, good one. It wouldn’t fit with the seriousness of the moment, “No, Captain I’m sorry but I and the men and women serving under me have made our choice. We will not let you pass. I would deeply regret having to fire on you and your brave crews but I will do so if you attempt to jump to Ezekiel.”
Henry settled back in his seat. Well that’s that, he was sure everyone from Admiral Suarez upwards would want a piece of him, but it couldn’t be any clearer for the record and the inevitable board of inquiry that Taskforce 106 had been faced with no choice but to withdraw in the face of a superior hostile force. He was about to advise Captain Colbert of his decision, and that its consequences would entirely rest on her and those who had issued her orders, when he suddenly had the decision wrenched from his hands.
It was hard to blame Henry Moses for not noticing that Pale Horse and Bloody Sword had failed to maintain their position behind the screen of warships. His focus and that of every officer in Taskforce 106 was on the threat from the ERG. That the two transports were running parallel with their escorts instead of being tucked safely behind them was a trivial problem, or it was until Pale Horse’s targeting system began to track one of Force Alpha’s fast destroyers.
That triggered a chain of action and reaction that moved too fast for any rational thought to overtake it. The ERG Light Cruiser Crossbow locked on to Pale Horse in near automatic response. Seeing one of the ships they were supposed to protect being locked up Mombasa targeted the Crossbow, the battlecruiser Valiant targeted Mombasa, and at that point somebody, or possibly several somebodies given the conflicting data that was retrieved later, fired.
The shields on the light cruiser Crossbow shimmered and flickered for an instant before snapping back into rock solid stability as it was hit by Mombasa. Even as they were stabilizing Crossbow fired its entire primary armament right into Pale Horse. The transports shields didn’t flicker; they shattered and half the rounds dumped their energy straight into the hull, almost breaking the transport in half, with air, fragments of molten metal and bodies billowing out into the vacuum.
Before Mombasa could launch another broadside Valiant intervened. Mombasa’s shield stopped the incoming rounds in a blaze of luminescence, but it was the last contribution they would make as the generating nodes overloaded and burned out leaving the ship practically naked to the next attack.
After that space was filled with weapons fire and the ships of Taskforce 106 found themselves on the receiving end of practically all of it.
So if that seems like something you would like more of: