Another 5* Review for Aphrodite's Dawn

Just found this lovely review on Goodreads, and I snipped a bit out to brag with :)

“Aphrodite’s Dawn” is intriguing, compelling, and suspenseful. Even as I was cringing over the symptoms of this truly dystopian society, I was enjoying the characters, the situations, and the backstory. Garrett is a rock-solid protagonist, and his “sidekick,” Pitr, is adorable and such a sturdy friend."

Big thank you to the kind person who posted it, and to everybody else - see, told you it was good, now go buy it and see if you agree :D


Kim Curran - Shift: Officially Awesome

This is rare: two books I've felt the urge to blog about in as many months.

Today I want to draw your attention to 'Shift' by Kim Curran (from Strange Chemistry books). Again, usual rules apply - I know both the author and the editor vaguely and I'm not trying to suck up to either of them. I'm also not doing to go into an in-depth on the story. If you want the outline, go look it up on Goodreads or Amazon.

So, I've had this book for several months now, sitting the the 'read next' slot on the shelf, and I kept skipping it. There is a good reason for that. I was writing and editing 'Amunet' at the time. Now, Amunet is a very different story, and before anybody points the finger no I wasn't worried I would be overly influenced by Shift.

See, what happened was I read the first three pages and realized it was a 'confidence killer'. By that I mean its one of those books I occasionally get that hit me in the 'how will I ever get that good' spot, and I think it was Kim's debut novel. I didn't need that while I was in the middle of my own work, and so I avoided it.

I'm glad I did, 'cos I was right. I devoured this book. This book cost me sleep. This book took me back to when I was young, free and single and spent more time each evening reading than doing anything else. The underlying concept of the novel, the ability to change things based on being able to go back to previous decisions and take the other path is very well thought out and feels original (although I'll bet someone else has used it somewhere if you dig hard enough). The setting was believable, and the characters wonderfully well constructed. OK, so there's the trope of the the slightly bewildered, gifted boy meets the more-than-slightly wild, gifted, spunky girl, but its handled in a fresh, bright way that sucks you in and makes you care about the characters (even some of the bit-parts)

The thing that got me most was the pace, which was pretty much flawless. No periods of angst-filled inward assessment, no 'issues' to be worked through, and no 'hand me the bucket' romantic melancholia: just a great adventure that really was difficult to put down each night.

Having read this outside of one of my own projects, its no longer a 'confidence killer', its an 'aspire to'. A full 5 stars, and a full recommendation to both the target YA audience and older readers


Things to remember for Xmas

So, tree is up and decorated. Twice actually: its a new tree and the first arrangement didn't look so good so we stripped it and did it again.

Gifts are all bought and wrapped - OK, I know that makes me a bit weird and that a lot of people haven't even started gift shopping, let alone finished it.

But there's one thing I'd like everybody to think of as they make out the gift list: Don't forget to give something to your favourite charity. All charities get hammered at Christmas. People get too busy. Donations tend to dry up from regular sources and pick up from unexpected ones.

I know most of us give something. I help out Cancer Research and the Alzheimer's Society with regular donations, but every Christmas I send something to the cat shelter we got Tootsie from - The Scratching Post. Just £15 or so to help make sure the heaters stay on and the bowls have food during the winter.

Go on - pick a charity. Maybe a local homeless shelter, or a contact centre for the elderly. Throw them a twenty. In the UK that gives someone a meal and a bed for the night.

Now, where did I put my supermarket shopping list: food, booze, snacks, more booze.... :)


A sudden dramatic pause...

Things at Harkess Hall have suddenly gone quiet. No more frantic scrabbling noises coming from the upstairs office. No more swearing, and heartfelt pleas to the Gods of Editing. Silence descends, eerie and pregnant, broken only by the soft whisper of pages of loose A4 being turned.

The Edit has finished

'Amunet' is released to the beta readers. I sit in my deep leather chair, trying not to bite my fingernails so deeply that I wont be able to work when the reviews come back. A tense time.

The Writer & Artists Yearbook sits before me, unopened, taunting me. Should I tempt fate by starting to list all those prospective agents and publishers to whom my latest work should be submitted. winnowing through the lists to pluck out those most likely to be interested in something YA; Steampunky with hints of Urban Fantasy? I push it resolutely away; after the edits, after Christmas.



The Next Big Thing

Janet Edwards was kind enough to be the first tag me in the the great 'Next Big Thing' meme that seems to be spreading like a virus through the blogs of authors the world over. 

Now I've been tagged again by Sam Stone, 'The Queen of Vampire Fiction' author of the Vampire Gene series and any number of terrifying short stories. Her latest collection is 'Zombies at Tiffany's'. You can check out her NBT post here

Janet is the author of 'Earth Girl', published earlier this year, and you can see her NBT post here.

Check out the bottom of this post for my 'onward links' to deserving wordsmiths.

So, the whole point of this is to go through a list of questions to winkle out/brag about what's over my particular horizon, so here goes.

1) What is the working title of your book?
My first book, 'Aphrodite's Dawn' was published in January. Its SF, and mainly for the YA market. My next work will be 'Warrior Stone: Underland'. Its very different from my first book, being urban fantasy with hints of steampunk. I'm hoping its found a home, but that's still to be confirmed. 'Amunet' (my real 'work in progress') is still in editing, but is also supernatural and steampunky. Should be ready to send out into the world in the new year.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I haven't a clue. I keep an old-fashioned dictaphone in my car (I do a lot of commuting) Stuff pops into my head. I could be listening to a podcast, or the news, and something will raise itself above the background noise and I reach for the recorder.
The interesting stuff happens when I play it all back to 'log' everything into my ideas book. Everything gets mixed up in my head, and that's when the ideas come spinning out the side

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I have a problem with the whole 'genre' thing, which is probably why I like to write for the Young Adult market. In YA, the genre doesn't matter so much.
If I have to pick a genre, though, I tend to say Speculative Fiction: how else could you describe urban fantasy + steampunk + alternate reality :)

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Warrior Claire Stone (the eponymous hero of Underland) is one of my favourite characters. I'd really like to work with her through some more books. Who I would get to play her is easy: Allison Scagliotti, who plays Claudia Donovan in Warehouse 13. Fiesty, stubborn and really, really smart.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Claire Stone accidentally discovers Underland, and after being inviting to become a Warrior, fights to stop personality-stealing beings from Beneath reaching our world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Who knows? At the moment, I'm happiest going along the traditional publishing route. I dont have anything against self publishing, but my personal ethos is that if you go down the traditional route, then a prospective reader can assume that the book has been professionally edited, proofed, and published.
I know that's a generalization - there are dreadful book that are supposed to have gone through that process and wonderful ones that didn't. I may try the self publishing route one day, but not just yet.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

For an 80,000 word novel it takes me 10-12 weeks to get the first, very dirty draft out - but then I do have a day job at the moment. I usually set it aside for a couple of months then come back and do a review and first edit before I start showing sections to my review group.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre.

Demon Trappers springs to mind. Jana Oliver is a great author (and I can see Allison Scagliotti as Riley, too). There's also a kind of 'Harry Dresden's Kid Sister' thing going on here too, and touches of Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron (Raven Dane) and maybe a little 'Clockwork Angel' by Claire Cassandra

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Not this book specifically, but I have to tip my hat to Terry Jackman. Terry runs Orbit, a group of writers circles, under the auspices of the British Science Fiction Association. It was Terry who looked at one of my early doodles and suggested my style could well suit the Young Adult market. After I'd done a little research and realized she wasn't suggesting my writing was childish, I decided to have a go - and wrote my first published novel. So I definitely have Terry to thank for putting me on this path.

10) What else about your book might pique the readers’s interest?
It's very much a crossover story, and would appeal to anybody over the age of twelve thru adult.
I’m tagging some other authors to answer the same questions next Wednesday, November 21st (Week 25).  Do check out their blogs. 

Joanne Hall (The Feline Queen)

Bev  Allen (Jabin and the Space Pirates)
Dolly Garland
Geoff Nelder (ARIA: Left Luggage)


Review: The Feline Queen by Joanne Hall

As you all probably know by now, I don't do reviews often. I tend to keep my mouth shut unless a book made a major impression on me, and I'm even less likely to write a review of something by someone I know because it tends to feed the Trolls.

And yet, here I am, putting finger to keyboard to tell you about this book. The Feline Queen is a collection of short stories by Joanne, published by Wolfsinger Publications, and with cover art by the awesome Andy Bigwood.

I first met Joanne at Fantasycon '12, and then again at Bristolcon '12 (where she was one of the organisers, and a damned fine con it was too). And I'll be perfectly honest, it wasn't me that bought her book. I had already spent my book budget for the con (on some sketches by Tom Brown, if I remember) . It was my partner. So its all her fault.

So I put up with a week of my partner ranting at how god this was and how I had to push it to the top of my 'To Read' list - so for a quiet life that's what I did.

The best way I can describe 'Feline Queen' is to draw a parallel with a box of chocolate; you resolutely put the lid back on, place the box out of arms reach, and steadfastly commit not to have another one for at least an hour - until the little demon inside your head whispers 'go on - just one more'. So I can honestly say that Joanne Hall cost me at least four hours sleep over the past week.

There are so many 'the thing I like about's with this collection its difficult to know where to start. My partner described it as a collection of campfire stories. For me, I think it was the variety. Although most stories had a fantasy feel, there was no over preponderance of sword and sorcery. Indeed, there was a strong thread of faerie tales and humour that ran throughout.

I don't do spoilers, and I don't do descriptions of the stories. I know I should in a review, but to me it smack to much of spoiling the joy of the next reader. I will say look out for the girl who can walk on smoke, and I give special awards to the title story, 'The Witch on the Wall', and 'Ismay's Run'

A truly well deserved five stars and 'must read'.


Mark today as a good one

For the past week I've been suffering from an infected sinus, which has manifested as all the teeth on one side of my face aching. Not good.

Today, though, I got two belly laughs - and from unexpected sources. That makes them all the more valuable.

The first was someone on the TV show 'Switched' telling their boss to F**k Off in a most wonderful 'wish I could do that' way.

The second was a usually quite serious team where I work picking up on a jokey fault clearance I submitted, and writing a 'Service Report' blaming an outage on Aliens and Internet Faeries.

I guess any day you get two good laughs out of has to be classed a success. :)


Roll Up, Getcher BristolCon tickets now

BristolCon have announced the dates for next year's extravaganza (Oct 26). Special offers currently available on the already ludicrously generous price. Go to www.bristolcon.org to sign up


BristolCon Artist Shoutout #2

Sorry about the delay, this was supposed to be out last weekend, but stuff happened.

Anyway, on to the second (and last) shout for people I saw at BristolCon that (for me) stood out from the crowd.

First Jennie Gyllblad. "Illustrator and Graphic Novel Artist' it says on her card, and I cant find anything to disagree with there.

What attracted me to Jennie's table - apart from her wonderful feathered headdress - was that I saw an instant synergy between her work and my current novel, Amunet.

Its surprising how often I see something that calls to something I'm working on. A hint as to what sort of cover art I might want when it gets published (assuming I get a say). Anyhow, Jennie's site is very much worth a look at www.jenniegyllblad.com

Next, Tom and Nimue Brown. Spent ages chatting with Nimue about Tom's work, and even managed to buy a couple of pieces (though not as much as I would have liked). Really looking forward getting my hands on 'Hopeless Maine: Personal Demons'. I also so wish I had known Nimue was a druid while I was chatting to her - actually, that might not have been such a good idea. Druidry fascinates me and I would probably have scared away other potential customers. Hope to seem them both again at other cons.


BristolCon Artist Shoutout #1: Talis Kimberley

BristolCon laid on entertainment for the die-hards that wouldn't leave after the Con closed, and we were extremely lucky that said entertainment was provided by Talis, ably abetted by by Chantelle Smith on vocals and Simon Fairbourn (I believe) playing so many instruments it was almost surreal.

I love Talis is informal style. I hope she wont be offended if I say it the very unpolished nature of her performance that makes it so immediate and personal - and I mean personal in the sense that you get to feel she is playing for you, not just as a gig. It was wonderful, and I still have the refrain of the Plastic Spoon song earworming me days after.

Simon played (not simultaneously) Oboe, bass acoustic guitar, penny whistle and trumpet. Thinking about it, I'm lying; he did play both guitar and penny whistle sort of at the same time. Credit where its due after all. I have to admit (having been accused of assault with intent on a guitar myself), I enjoyed watching Simon play almost as much as I enjoyed listening to Talis and Chantelle.

So there you have it. Swindon based, www.talis.net for more info, being listened to even as I type this. Go see her if you get a chance, or buy an album if you like really personal folk. And I haven't even mentioned the knitting.

And if you folks ever see this - thanks again :)


BristolCon, how many ways do I love thee?

Well that was a wonderful surprise. Let me start by saying that the BristolCon team should be on the honours list, or up for a Nobel, or something. A huge thank you to all of the people who worked so hard to put it all togather and make it the best Con I've been to this year (fx: thunderous round of applause, wolf whistles, etc)

See, I'm actually torn as to whether I should tell people how good it was. Kind of like when you find a quiet, relaxing, untouched greek island; you want to tell everybody how great it was, but you dont want to give away the location. BristolCon is a bit like that in that what makes it work is its size, and the fact that its a single day. I do worry that if it gets too successful, it will lose that loverly 'small con' feel.

And, of course, they gave me my first 'Guest' status and my first Panel (where, I am told, I 'did all right' with which I am content :) )

I spent so much time catching up with good friends, and making new ones, I actually didn't get to go to many panels, but that was part of the joy. There was enough space set aside for socialising (and free tea and coffee) that it never felt as though I should be worrying about too much else.

There will be a few more posts over the next couple of days about some of the new people I met, but I wanted to get this out while it was fresh in my mind. Thanks again, BristolCon


The cost of 'free' speech

This article on the BBC's website today tells the tale of an individual who thought it was appropriate to celebrate the deliberate and merciless deaths of two female police officers responding to what they thought was a follow up to a burglary call.

Barry Thew was arrested for wearing the T-shirt, then sentenced to four months for a public order offence, to which he pleaded guilty. I suppose we must give him credit for that. I suppose we must also cut the man some slack and consider he may have come from a disadvantaged background, or had had previous unfavourable dealings with the police. I'm not sure that excuses him from wearing a slogan so crass and disgusting.

However this case brings up an awkward discussion on the right to free speech. The man, however disgusting, had an opinion, however foul, and stated it. I happen not to agree with him, but I'll bet there are others who do.

But what about the off-colour joke made too soon after a disaster (Matthew Jones, jailed), or the anguish of an outraged fan that comes out in a distressing text? The man who texted that Tom Daley's deceased father would be disappointed in his Olympic performance was also beaten up by the authorities (although not charged), both using a rusty part of the Misuse of Telecommunications legislation. I very much doubt I would get the same prompt service from the police if someone started to troll me here.

Free speech has never been free; there has always been a cost to using it. Whether that cost has been the disapproval of ones peers who disagree, or the cost of taking a moment to consider if what you are about to say actually enriches us all, it is still a cost. I'm just not sure if the cost should be determined by the police and the CPS.


Another first...

I shall be going to BristolCon next weekend. I was born in Bristol, and left there when I was only 16 to seek my fortunes in London.

BristolCon has a great reputation already, so its really nice to be able to go to a Con in my home town.

Then things started to get better; very kindly the organisers put me on the Guest list, rather then just the member list - and then yesterday I found I've been invited to take part in my first ever Con panel. Quite appropriately, its on keeping oneself out of too many confrontations online.

I am really excited about this, and will have to work extra hard to keep my foot out of my mouth :)


YA Convention, Anybody?

Whilst at Fantasy Con this year I had a chat with a YA publisher and was utterly delighted to find out that she was considering putting together a convention, in the UK, to promote Young Adult entertainment.

Now I know there's a 'whose interested' gone out, but I'm not sure how wide the circulation is meant to be, so I'm not going to name names.

However, if you have an interest in seeing such a thing happen, make a comment or mail me and I will pass all the comments along.

I think this is long overdue - but its going to be a real challenge to put together. Please support the idea if you are a YA author, or if you are involved with YA publishing or media.


Thoughts on a Brighton Con

FantasyCon 2012 draws to a close. I'm now home, slippered feet on a stool in front of the fire sipping a a mug of tea and wondering if it was al worth while.

There was something different about this year's con. Now, how much of that was that the con had changed, and how much that I had changed I really am not sure. The con was certainly bigger this year, especially on Saturday - and to be frank the hotel struggled somewhat to cope. Horror stories about rooms were more prevalent than last year, for one thing. The basement panel room was as hot and as unusable as last year, and the dealer room is still inadequate; yes I know its a book-focused con, but it would be nice to have t-shirts or geegaws or a little art.

Personally, I missed a few very good friends that did not or could not turn up for any number of reasons, and the issues that tainted last year's con are still very much being talked about. Having said that, I got to see a lot of people I haven't had the chance to mix with for a while, and met a number of new friends; Janet Edwards and her husband, Dave Brzeski, Jilly Paddock.

Back to how much the con had changed vs how much I'd changed, I didn't go to many of the panels, and those I did go to I wished I hadn't. It really isn't that I know it all (though I'm sure some people would say I clearly think that I do), but I really dont enjoy panels much any more. There's far too much hijacking and/or lack of direction. Even some of the masterclasses suffered from identity crisis, with the honoured sensei not really knowing what the subject really was.

On that note, a very big round of applause to Will Hill. His masterclass on 'How to write and sell YA' was superbly managed and we actually asked if we could get another hour if we all chipped in another fiver. Really nice bloke too.

So will I go again? Really not sure. The organising team did do a wholly remarkable job getting anything together given the short notice they had, and a vote of thanks to them. I dont think the Royal Albion could cope if the con got any bigger, even though Brighton is a great venue.

I think it boils down maybe to why I go to cons, and a change in personal circumstance that may restrict my options over the coming years.

Am I glad I went? Certainly.


Review: Bryant & May and the Invisible Code

This book was really refreshing and original, especially as an audiobook (narrated by Tim Goodman). I know this is this latest in series (of seven or eight), but its the first one I have listened to, so new to me.

Messrs Bryant and May head up the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a shabby, ill-regarded unit of a half dozen or so officers and a gender-confused cat, reporting direct to the home office.

Bryant and May and the Invisible Code | Christopher FowlerI dont do descriptions of the book itself: I hate when people accidentally print spoilers. Also, there are lots of places where you can see what the book is about.

What I loved about this book was the characters, particularly Bryant, and an undercurrent of humour. Imagine a pensioner with the curiosity and education of Holmes, with a tendency to drift towards the paranormal. Quite happy to play with Machiavellian skill on the supposed frailties of his post-retirement age, and as sharp as a bucket of best quality nails. Goodman gets the voice for Bryant perfect.

The other characters are as beautifully rendered. Even those with quite peripheral roles have great depth, and Fowler is wonderful at both avoiding stereotypes, and yet almost parodying them when he does use them.

This is a real 'appeals to all' type book, and I heartily recommend it.

Right, now- off to Audible to wishlist the rest if them


New Review for "Aphrodites Dawn"

Somebody was kind enough to drop a review for Aphrodite's Dawn on Amazon. Click here to read it, then why not grab a copy for yourself and see if you agree :)

"Harkess has still made these ideas his own and has been inventive with the world that he has created... I would definitely recommend this book to others as it is a quick and exciting read."


SHIFT it, Kim Curran


Amazon just sent me an email saying they just dispatched SHIFT, by Kim Curran.

Doubly excited, as I have chatted with Kim on twitter more than once and she seems a lovely person, plus, this is the first book out from STRANGE CHEMISTRY, the YA imprint of Angry Robot books. I've been watching Angela Rutter as she launched this new imprint, and I was really impressed by the effort she put into raising awareness and keeping people informed. Now its time to have a look and see the sort of stuff she and her authors are going to put out.


I got Interviewed

Making Connections
The nice people at Making Connections asked me some interesting questions, and I tried to do them justice with the answers. You can have a look at the interview here. I talk about how my characters work for me, how I balance my writing against my day job, and other stuff.

While I'm throwing links around, my facebook page is feeling lonely and neglected. Drop by and show some love with a 'Like' :)


Sneak Preview

There is a great website for YA readers out there called "D. Renee Bagby Presents YA First Chapters"

Aspiring writers like yours truly (or perhaps 'perspiring' might be more appropriate after the mini heatwave we just had) get to post some interesting facts about themselves and their current work of genius, and then the whole first chapter is available to read.

OK, I know Amazon do this too, but Renee's site is way more accessible and isn't top-heavy with names from major publishers. I've already picked up two more books for my 'to read' list from it.

Aphrodite's Dawn gets a mention today. Click here to have a look. Click here to buy it if you like it, or even click here to drop along to my facebook page and give me a like :)

Hope you enjoy it or, if  'Aphrodite's Dawn' isn't to you taste (although I can't possibly think why), maybe you'll find something else you like. It will be up there for a week or so. Just scroll down if its not at the top.


Help! Wanted: Review

I'm relatively new to horror, at least horror for its own sake. Its growing on me, though, and I'm even writing some myself - which is a surprise. Help! Wanted is right in the niche that I like. Not into slash/gore fests, and not really into Lovecraftian stuff. I guess I like my horror a little more psychological, thought provoking.

Help! Wanted pretty much delivers there. In any antho there are some stories you just skip across; its the nature of the beast. Having said that, there was more than enough variety to keep me reading through my lunchbreak as well as at home (thank you Kindle Reader for PC). However, anthos dont give you much scope for detailed review as its too easy to drift into spoilers.

Special mentions to Lisa Martin for 'Face out' and Gary Brandner for 'Words,words,words', to Gregory L Norris for 'Carpool', and Adrian Chamberlain for 'The Interview'


National Disgrace - Part 2

Tony Nicholson, paralyzed from the neck down after a stroke and abandoned to a living hell  by his government and his judiciary has starved himself to death

David Cameron, the 'Pro Life' brigade, and the court of appeal who left him to rot in hell - hope you all sleep well tonight.

I couldn't

Want to be a reviewer?

I recently found out that Goodreads they have a program where members can get free copies of books just for doing a review on them. Seems a great idea to me. There's an index for different genres.

Of course, I signed up for this straight away, so if anybody is interested in reviewing my SF story 'Aphrodite's Dawn' click here. If you might be interested in a different story, or different genre, you can still use this link and work your way up the menus to something that tickles your fancy. Lots to chose from, nothing to lose but your inhibitions.

Go on, give it a try :)


Too Tough on Trolls?

That apparently is what the UK is being accused of by some in the article on the bbc website

I'm kind of torn. I do believe that anybody guilty of cyber-cruelty should be nailed, and the full force of the law landed upon them. If you are racist, or threatening, or act in a way to deliberately cause real hurt, you should face the consequences. Our society generally is over-tolerant of random acts of cruelty.

On the other hand, the police swooping on the 17 year old who tweeted about Tom Daley's father was utterly ridiculous and an over-reaction beyond all reason. It smacked of 'if you cant catch the criminals, criminalize those you can catch'. Much of seemed to be because of a backlash hysteria against the 17 year old.

And perhaps that's the problem. Its the hysteria of the next that governs the action of the police, and governs our opinions of what is happening online. There was a recent feeding frenzy around a site called LendInk. Somebody reported it into the Facebook Writing Community as being a pirate site. In fairness, there had been two genuine alerts weeks before, but the attack on this guy was immediate and lethal, with so many complaints being registered with his ISP he was taken offline.

The internet, and social media, are so immediate too much gets said before we think about the implications. Perhaps there should be a universal, mandatory 5 minute posting delay to allow our forebrains to catch up with our hindbrains.



There is a movement, or at least I've heard it said, the YA has to be non-stop, pacey, because its for the teen market. There is some truth in this, and 'Variant' by Robison Wells is a good example of that. Apart from periods of slightly over-repeated internal angst by the main character, the pace is pretty relentless. The guy cant even pause for a snog without getting smashed by a pipe-wielding maniac.

But just what is 'pace'. Does pace equate to action? I don't believe it does. I just finished 'Forbidden', the second book in the Demon Trappers trilogy, by Jana Oliver. Now, this is the second book of the trilogy, so I was prepared to accept a little 'part 2 slump' ( and if you don't know what I mean, think about 'Empire Strikes Back' and 'Matrix: Reloaded') and it was not, frankly, as good as the first book.

But it was still a damned good read. The action was more spread out, and there was a lot of 'positioning' for the third book,  but it was still thoughtful and engaging, and to me that's what is important. So long as what is going on is relevant, and still moves the story forward, that's fine. There are no infodumps, no passages that are boring, so in my opinion Jana Oliver has done a dmaned good job again. The last half dozen chapters led up to an unexpected climax and a superb end-twist in the last few paragraphs.

Excellent job, and I'm really looking forward to the last book. 4 stars on Goodreads


Tony Nicklinson - A National Disgrace

For the three of you how may not know, Tony has been paralysed from the neck down by a stroke. He can communicate only be looking at letters on a board. He describes his life as 'torture' and 'a living hell'.

Tony want to end his life, but he cant, because he cannot move. Dignitas will not help him, and the law in the UK says anybody who assists him is guilty of murder, a position repeated by the Court of Appeal, who chose to duck the issue and pass it back to the government to deal with rather than being big enough to deal with it in law.

This country's continuing cowardice in coming to terms with this issue is disgusting. We spend millions on court cases whining about terrorists human rights and worrying about them being deported to countries where they might be tortured, and yet we inflict this deliberate horror on our own citizens in this supposedly civilised country.

We do not live in the dark ages any more. Our laws should not be influenced by religious hysteria. It is cruel and inhumane to force people who have a good reason for choosing to end their lives to suffer on. Suicide, or this sin of taking ones own life is irrelevant. There is no argument to support 'well it could be used to force old people to die'. Sufficient safeguards can be put in place to prevent this. Palliative care is an option, but should not be forced upon people who dont want it.

This is cruel and petty, and at the bottom of this and every other story like it is a human being in torment who is being abused by their government and their society. It has to stop.


Pride vs Greed

Wasn't sure about posting this, but its been on my mind for days now and wont leave me alone, so I guess that's a 'yes'.

Main Olympics are over, and everybody is quite rightly heaping plaudits on those who made it happen, with special applause for those who volunteered, and people who went out of their way to be nice, polite, funny, helpful. I take my hat off to every last one of them and thank them for making the Olympics and, vicariously, Great Britain, shine in the eyes of the world.

And then I think of the unions who stood there with their hands out, driven by blind greed and political leverage, trying their damnedest to bully us into doing what they wanted by threatening to make the  Olympics and, vicariously, Great Britain, an utter shambles and disgrace, and to humiliate us in the eyes of the world.

I hope they are ashamed by the examples of others. I hope their membership is ashamed. I doubt it. Greed and politics are powerful motivators, and these days it seems much more so than pride.


First Draft Finished

Just finished the first draft of my current YA project 'Amunet'. 82000 words. W00t!

Its a hell of a feeling when you get to the end. Even though you know you still have to edit it, probably more than once (who am I kidding, way more than once), its still a buzz to get to the end of a first draft. For me, that's when it become real, when it becomes a book. It's whole. There's no more worries about 'can I/will I finish it'. Its there and all you can do now is make it better.

But now to put it away for a bit, and let it stew for a while. I have two books currently in Schroedinger Submission status which I may need to query, two short stories ditto, and there's been a submissions call for an anthology I would really like to get into.

Plus, I should be chasing up some marketing options for Aphrodite's Dawn, my first publish novel. Time to stir the pot on that again, too, I think

Most of all, I want to do some reading. Proper reading, not 'just before bed' reading. Lunchtime reading.

All good :)


Curse of the Trilogy

I just finished listening to 'Variant', by Robison Wells (narrated by Michael Goldstrom) As this book came to an end I was so furious I could have spit nails, and I actually swore at my phone. Seriously.


Another damned TRILOGY. Worse, there was nothing in the description on Amazon or Audible to suggest it was a damned trilogy. If there had been, I wouldn't have bought it. I am, at the moment, fed up with trilogies, and I am fed up with publishing houses making sure we all pay £25 for a story rather to £8 or £10.

The conclusion had been working up nicely, then there's an odd twist, and with a growing sense of horror I hear the cheesy hook-line: "tune in next week, folks". Worse, if thats possible, than a Dan Brown chapter-end cliff-hanger

But what makes it really, really, really annoying is that it was a damned good story. OK, the main character was a little monomaniacal, and now I understand why he kept repeating the same rant over and over in such depth (padding), but it was essentially excellent. The pace was good throughout, original storyline, very believable characters. If it hadn't been for the trilogy/cheesy hookline I really would have given this five stars

(Note: I fully expect this to come back and bite me on the butt when somebody finally bribes me into writing a trilogy :). I don't have an issue with trilogies per se, but I hate trilogies that are not self contained in their parts)

I'd still recommend it as a read, though


7 Weeks

Holy Smokes, its just seven weeks to FantasyCon 2012. A weekend of debauchery and schmoozing with the Genre cognoscenti and literati while indulging in serious liver abuse and highly questionable disco dancing (which last year went on until 5am).

Then four weeks after that, Bristolcon. First time there, but Bristol is my hometown so it will be nice to take a trip back. Sure there will be much of the same going on, just slightly smaller in scale. Sometimes small is nice. One of the best cons I ever went to (and my first) was NewCon5 (organised by Ian Whaites of NewCon press), and the least fun I had was at SFX this year, where there were 4500 people.

For me, the whole point of Cons is to meet people. Sometimes, you simply end up with a friend, which is great. Or you could find yourself chatting to a personal hero, or someone who can help you in the business, or someone who wants to read what you've written and just doesn't know it yet. Big cons tend to be impersonal. The talent gets hidden away in 'green rooms' and 'queue here if you have the right colour wristband to talk to this level of celeb. Hell, they even charge for autographs. Not my scene.

Keep it cosy. Keep it personal. :)


ARIA trailer

My good friend and mentor Geoff Nelder has a new book out. Take a look at the trailer here , then drop over to his blog 


Tea From An Empty Cup

This was my first Pat Cadigan book, and although I know its a teeneager now (first published 1998) I enjoyed it so much I felt I had to say something.

It felt 'old school', and in the best way possible. Even the physical book, which is quite slim, made me nostalgic for the days when books didn't all come in trilogies and you could hold them in one hand without flirting with tennis elbow.

Conceptually, the book was right up there with the best of Gibson's cyberpunk, but - perhaps in keeping with the Japanese theme - some of the more philosophical discussion in the book reminded me of Masamune Shirow's 'Ghost in the Shell'

With the basic outline of the story involving two individual but linked investigations inside a virtual environment, there was an option for the virtuality to be either ridigly policed or anarchic, and I'm glad to say Pat chose the anarchy, and the 'Alice Down the Rabbit Hole' mutable logic and reason of the place comes over really vividly.

Nice to see more of Pat's eariler works seem to be about to re-release, and I will be looking out for 'Synners' eagerly


Bonus Story

I'm treating anyone who drops by my webpage to a bonus short story. Its called 'A Light Touch On The Neck" and was published about a year ago on Abandoned Towers. It was one of the first YA shorts I wrote. Click on  the 'Bonus' tab and have a read. Comments welcome.



Random act of kindness

I'd like to nominate S. Spencer Baker for a 'Random Act of Kindness' award.

Cant go into details about what, but he recently showed a generosity of spirit to a total stranger (me) that left me slightly at a loss for words, and wondering how I could repay his kindness.

Guess the best thing I can do it this. Go buy his books. I have read the first of the 'Slabscape' series already. It is good, and it made me chuckle at several inappropriate and inconvenient times. You can find his book on Facebook here


Editing Special Treat

I've recently had a chance to work with a new editor. Don't know if it will come to anything, and for that reason not going to say who, or what the work related to.

What I will say is there will be a raft of writers out there who'll scream 'you must be mad' when I dare whisper that I like editors. You can learn so much from a good editor (if you can be bothered). I admit, as in everything to do with this business, there are good ones and bad ones, but I've yet to meet an editor who wasn't able to add something to what we were working on.

I see editors as being a vital part of what we do as writers. Its part of the process: another pair of eyes to look over the story, the lack of the emotional connection, the market/business awareness, getting the 'house style' into place. I suppose there are writers out there who don't need an editor, but there are many more who don't think they do.

For me, I know the value of a good editor. I'm just starting out and I'll take any help I can get. My first editor, Steve Haynes, made a huge difference to my first novel, Aphrodite's Dawn, and a chap by the name of AJ French who edited/published two of my short stories (under my alter ego) was great too.

Hope I get to work some more with this 'new' person.


Too much information?

Social media is a wonderful thing, but I've recently discovered something I never thought about. I follow several publishers/editors, both on Facebook and Twitter. Its good to keep an eye on what the market is doing and what is being released.
The down side is that I have submissions into at least two of these publishers, so when they happily post 'acceptances today' in a message, who can blame me for catching my breath and clutching my hands to my beating heart in hope, watching the inbox for hours, only to slink away, depressed and disheartened, at the end of the day.
Add to this the 'reading a great manuscript' message. Same hopes, longer fade.
OK, so its nice to know that the people you've entrusted your metaphorical children to are actually working hard, but in the back of your mind there is always that little niggle of hope or doubt. Guess that's why they say one of the first attributes a writer needs to develop is a thick skin :)



is life at the moment. The infamous day job is absorbing time like a sponge, the new story, Amunet (now 25k words and growing fast) is doing its best to soak up whatever is left, and some scumbag tried to break into my house. Putting the damage right is taking what little time I have left spare, so I suppose the little git did manage to steal something.

But on the back of that I got a really nice surprise. The police have been brilliant. I was expecting a crime number and little else, but we had a SOCO sweeping for prints in 3 hours, beat bobbies an hour behind that (on an england football night, too). Then the next day the PCSO's were doing door to door on my street and streets either side, and dropped in on the missus to make sure she was all right. To top it all off, we got a call from victim support, asking us if we were OK and was there any help we needed.

And all for an attempted break in. I am impressed, and will be writing to the appropriate senior officer to say so. Its good to have your stereotypes challenged occasionally


Cyrus Darian rides again

Woohoo - I just heard the new Cyrus Darian novel (by Raven Dane) is going to be out in September. Apparently, its going to be launched at the huge Steampunk event 'The Asylum'

I love reading Steampunk. I'd love to get involved in the whole scene, but I dont have the stones (or the shape) to wear the costumery.

For those of you that haven't read the first book, Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron, here's a link. I can best describe it as a bit of Moriarty, plus Dorian Grey out of 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', in a Steampunk universe and seasoned lightly with a touch of salacious sexuality ambiguity. Nothing sordid, and in the best possible taste. Worth a read, right after you finish Aphrodite's Dawn (which you are going to buy, aren't you).



...and awaaaaay we go...

So, the battle of the outlines is over and the winner is, as usual, a rank outsider. Out with thoughts of adult SF/Horror, in with a delightful YA morsel (currently titles 'Amunet') with a little of something for everybody and an alternate universe to get things started. Can you imagine where we might be if Henry VIII had been a staunch patron of the sciences and the usurper Elizabeth had never been able to topple Mary and he son from the throne? Roll forward 500 years and see what you get.
Already 5000 words in and going strong. It would be just my luck to sell something that needs editing in about a week, just as I really get my momentum up. Not that I'd be complaining, of course. I'm just sayin'.....


Aphrodite's Anniversary

I just realised my novel, Aphrodite's Dawn, was published four months ago yesterday.

Its my first novel, so its a bit shy, but I'm sure it would be more than happy if anybody wanted to buy it from Amazon (for the paltry sum of £2.05). It needs to get out more and meet new people.

My facebook page is feeling lonely too. Why not click here to pop over and tell it how much you like it.


Wolf Whistles and barbs

On the news this morning were articles telling of a recent report into abuse and inappropriate sexual contact of women. I'll start off by saying any form of contact or communication that makes anyone feel threatened or abused is inappropriate.

Having said that, the poor old wolf whistle got lined up for its usual battering, and I feel kind of sorry for it. OK, I get it, for some its not welcome, and I get that it can make people feel threatened. maybe that's because its overused? I don't know. I've never had anyone whistle at me.

But that got me thinking about something slightly different. What is an acceptable way to show ones appreciation, and how is one supposed to know when its appropriate? I mean, if you go to effort of making yourself look smart, what could be worse than nobody noticing?

But on a more serious note, it did ring a bell with me about the impact of (presumably) innocent comments/gestures. Very recently, someone I interact with on a regular basis made another in a series of jabs about my technical skills/knowledge in an area which I have never professed to be expert, or even competent. My first reaction was anger, and a desire to strike back - but when I picked at it a bit more I realised my reaction was because I was hurt. Not offended, plain old hurt.

I confess. I have just been on a 'management training' course, and I've just been dealing with this sort of interaction, but it still came as a surprise. I'm sure that this person thinks they are being funny. Might be, to them. Even maybe to others. Not to me.

So, to get to the point (at last, I hear you cry), something that was mentioned right in the dying gasp of this course, which is relevant to both the situations above, stuck in my head and I will be trying to keep it there.

"We are personally responsible for the impact of our communications."

Or to put it another way, don't assume the person on the other end of your comment will interpret it the same way as you. I know its a generalisation, but maybe its a good place to start.


Rock On, RB

Going to a gig. Well, cross between a gig and a festival and all in support of cancer charities. http://www.concertatthekings.co.uk/ is well worth a look if you are in the west country, and feature many bands I thought had died long ago. Glad to be so wrong. Worthy cause, glad to support it, and looking forward to spending time with my family from Bristol at the same time.
Just wish my hair was a bit longer and my waist was a bit thinner to make the obligatory bad dancing easier

Happy Day

Twenty three years ago today, I met this pretty, shortarse young lady near the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus. Luckily for me, the dodgy moustache I favoured at the time didn't scare her off, and we got married 2 years later to the day.
We're still together, and she is still my best mate.
My favourite day of the year, to remind me how lucky I am


Hammer in one hand, screwdriver in the other

Yes, I'm worldbuilding. Again.

Its one of the unique features of being a writer of speculative fiction. At the very least we usually need to bend what relevent reality exists. Usually we end up starting from scratch. Right now, I'm creating a factory that is ring-mining a gas giant and the culture that would go with it. Hell of a lot of work to add to the process or storytelling, but its part of the fun, part of the act of creation.

Still, I can see why so many of my peers tend to prefer trilogies, or same-world series :)

Looks like this one is going to be a bit of departure from my last four novels; for grown ups, rather than YA, and 'dark SF' (if there is such a genre - if not, I guess I just invented it). Still in planning, though, and a long way to go. Still, it takes my mind off wondering how the two I have out on submission are doing.

The fun just never ends :)


Standing at a crossroads...

After many, many longs months of editing and tweaking, my latest two projects are finally at a point where I can throw them out to the market and see if anybody bites. Both are for the Young Adult market; one SF and one Urban Fantasy/Steampunk.

Of course, having macheted my way through that particular jungle, the next problem is what should I start on next? I just looked at my project folder and I have seven books waiting to be written. OK, two are follow-on's from stuff already completed, but I have Vampires, Brain-sucking Aliens, a Psychic, and a baby factory!

Maybe I need to stop having ideas faster than I can write them :) Still, I'm not complaining. Cant think of anything worse than coming to the end of a project and not having any ideas for what to do next :)


Don't ask if you don't want to know...

Most writers brave enough to give their work to somebody else and ask for comments have a vague idea of what's coming back. The depth of the comments and feedback will always depend on the experience of the person you asked to dissect your precious child and, intellectually at least, you are prepared to get back comments and suggestions that feel as though somebody has ripped out several of your internal organs.

Then you read them again the next day, and the pain is (usually) less, and you see which comments you agree with, which ones you don't, and you send back a nice note to the friend who ripped out you heart, thanking them for their help and maybe asking for a clarification or two. Sometimes they are painful, but they are necessary and we learn to take them in the spirit they are intended.

Then there are the writers who ask you for comments, but who are really looking for a mutual back-patting society, where everyody tells them how talented they are and that they are bound to sell this one because its so ground break/innovative/etc/etc. Its often branded as 'being supportive'. I guess it has its place. But then, people can be supportive and honest.

A quick aside, here, to establish my bona fides. I am an active member of the BSFA's 'Orbit' community of mutual critiquers, and I am the co-ordinator for Orbit-4. So I'm used to being on both ends of crits, on a regular basis.

I had a situation recently where somebody was asking for people to look at a published book and comment. I thought that was a bit odd. You normally ask that sort of question before publication. Now, to make this easier to write, I'm going to say this person was a lady, but she may not have been, in the sense of preserving anonymity.

So I read the free bit from the Amazon page, and while I was there had a look at the comments. The sample looked as though it had not had the benefit of a professional editor, the publisher was not one I had ever heard of, and the eleven 5* reviews all consisting of two words, like 'good read' and 'excellent book'. I pointed out how fake that looked (in the kindest way), asked about the editor, and made a few fairly gentle comments about things I saw as potential issues with the book.

Not a word back, not even a thank you. And I guess that's OK if you think what some authors have vented into the cybersphere when they've had negative comments made. Still, its made me think twice now about extending a 'helping hand' in the future. I guess the moral is be sure what you ask for is what you really want. And even if what you get back isn't what you expected, at least say thanks.


What is urban fantasy?

OK, this may sound a bit of an odd one, but I have been struggling with this for a while. See, my definition of urban fantasy is, in a nutshell, Harry Dresden. It's fantasy, in a mundane urban environment, usually where the general populace don't have a clue of what is lurking in the shadows around them. Simon R Green's 'Nightside' books come broadly into this catagory, as do Tim Waggoner's Matt Richter series.

But then along comes the 'new' Urban Fantasy: Buffy! Kim Harrison! A plethora of hard hitting 'girls with attitude and the moves to make it stick'. Mandatory love triangle, usually involving at least one paranormal. The cynic in me says its a highjack job - paranormal romance looking to get respectable by including some rough and tumble :) I'm mostly kidding. Mostly.

I read an interesting blog today. The long and diverse history of urban fantasy, by Carrie Vaughn. She nails the hijack down to around 2007. Dresden started around 2000, Nightside around 2003. I dont know enough about Waggoner's work to say if Richter is his only Urban Fantasy, but that was around 2009, so it sounds about right. Anyhow, her article is well worth looking over.

I've no problem with a genre evolving. Heck, I really like Kim Harrison's work (and love the pun titles), and Buffy works on so many levels for me its unreal. I also love the 'Demon Trappers' trilogy by Jana Oliver. But at the same time, there is a sense of Urban Fantasy as a label being refined down, and excluding much of what it once was in favour of marketing it to an ever more specific slice of readers. That I am not in favour of . Genres are already too specialised, and the boundaries between them are already to high.


Trilogies, trilogies, trilogies everywhere

I read about this a while ago. I cant remember whose blog it was on, or I'd give appropriate credit.

The thrust of the comment was lamenting the demise of the single volume book. At first I thought this was an exaggeration. Now, not so much. I was reading 'Clockwork Angel' by Cassandra Clare (check out GoodReads for my comments). Now, this is a fine book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was about 2/3rds of the way through when I started to get an uneasy feeling. When I checked - sure enough it was part of a trilogy.

I wasn't best pleased. The story was good, but I don't know if it is good enough for me to want to read two more volumes of it. So then I checked back along my reading list for trilogies/multi volumes:

Demon Trappers 
Wizards first law
Time Scout
Chaos Walking
Hunger Games

And that's just about since Christmas. How many of those have I actually read in full? Just the 'Wizards First Law' series by Abercrombie. How many will I read? Probably only Demon Trappers and Divergent. Why?

Good question. If the material is there, a trilogy is a good idea. If it isn't - its a drag and a ripoff .

Most of my writing is single volume. My book 'Aphrodite's Dawn' (available from Amazon, folks, don't miss out) stands alone, although I have an outline for a sequel maybe one day. Of my works in progress, all three stand on their own. But here is the embarrassing admission: I have outlines for two of them to go to trilogies.

Pot and kettle? Not really. Anything I have that is multi-volume, the plan is that each can be read in isolation without leaving you feeling you don't have the whole story. I think that's fairer. Of course, I actually have to get them finished first :)


Dipping a toe into Eastercon

This was my first Eastercon. OK, my first half Eastercon if you want to be pedantic. And to be honest it was more of mate meeting session, which is never a bad thing. Ian Whates of Newcon press is always a pleasure to chat to, and it was nice to bump into  Trevor Jones - given I hadn't really spoken to him in about eight  years, it was great to be remembered. And, of course, Anne Sudworth put on a wonderful display of her artwork

One of the highlights of the evening was a random chat with a bloke by the name of John Cox. Nobody famous that I could tell, but we had a right old natter.

Then today just when it seemed all over, Raven Dane delivered a brilliant presentation about training horses for the movie and film industry.

Next year, Bradford, may be a bit too far out of my patch, but I'll certainly think about going next time its in London


The positive side of rejections

We all get them -writers and rejections, I mean. OK, probably not Steven King, but you get my point.

Thing is, they aren't always a bad thing. Maybe that doesn't make sense. Allow me to expand.

I think creators - so that's artists, writers, etc - need three things to keep them going, rather like a fire. A fire needs fuel, oxidizer and ignition. Creative types need inspiration, dedication and - probably most importantly - appreciation.

It doesn't have to be much, but its the lack of appreciation that grinds me down. And no, I'm not talking about screaming hoards of fans besieging stores at book launches (though I cant say it wouldn't be nice). Appreciation is just a little something that lets you know that somebody out there values what you are doing in some way. It can be a tiny thing, like someone dropping you an email with a nice comment, or someone on GoodReads giving you a healthy number of stars. And the more personal it is, the better. Getting a story accepted is right up their near the top.

So how can a rejection score on the appreciation side? Its how its delivered. Lots of publishers only send regular, impersonal rejections. I can understand why; they don't have a lot of time and being too honest could kick off a firestorm. So 'form' rejections are an expectedly crushing disappointment, but we live with them.

Personal rejections are rare and treasured. You find out more about why your work didn't fit, and you know that the editor or publisher thought highly enough of you to take the time to send you a personal message. Its appreciation, and between peers.

I got one this weekend. One of the three best rejections I've ever had, and it couldn't have come at a better time. For various reasons I've been feeling a little down and demotivated for most of this year, but right now I feel my mojo has returned and I am kicking serious ass on a couple of projects I haven't felt able to tackle.

Always look for the silver lining, I say :)


...but I don't read kids books

I was having a chat with a colleague in my day job and had somehow managed to casually drop into the conversation that I had published my first book - as authors do. The initial response was all interest and 'wow' until we got to the 'what's it about' bit. As soon as I mentioned it was 'YA' said person flinched away and said 'I don't read kids books'.

Now I was quite surprised by the instant rejection. I thought about marshalling arguments based on Potter, but the moment passed. The surprise didn't go away, though. I mean, I wonder how many people think of YA as 'kids books'? Someone should do a survey.

See, I disagree with that. OK, maybe I'm biased, but I haven't read a YA book yet that wouldn't appeal to an adult who read the same genre. Anyone who likes Jim Butcher's work would probably like The Demon Trappers trilogy by Jana Oliver Its interesting to see that some of the books I read ages ago as 'adult' have now been re-branded (or cross-branded) as YA. David Eddings 'Belgariad' springs to mine.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this, and if you are one of the 'I don't read kids books' try one and see. Preferably mine, of course.


First 5* Review for Aphrodite's Dawn

I haven't read any SF for decades. There was a time when I read as many books in the genre as possible, often up to six books a week. Then I got older and discovered the gory joys of horror novels. Recently, a friend recommended this book by a new author and I decided to give it a go. I was delighted, the narrative gripped me from the first page, always a good sign. The writing, characters and settings are excellent and the story keeps up the tension throughout. A thoroughly good SF tale that is enjoyable from start to finish. I may not go back to reading SF, but I will keep reading work by R.B. Harkess..."

Well thank you kindly, Demonica


A milestone, sort of

I just reached the halfway point in my current project; rewriting a 100,000 word story.

The story, code name TAVOG, started out as an adult SF/Fantasy  mashup and I fought with it from the minute I finished the first draft. It didn't want to be edited. It was like pulling teeth without anaesthetic for me. Who can guess what it was like for the story.

Anyhow, a very competent editor associated with a major genre publisher cast an eye over it, came up with a couple of very good points, then pulled the pin out of the grenade and dropped it on the table. "This would probably work well as YA" sez he, over his shoulder as he heads for the hills.

So that's the project. Rewrite 100000 words into a YA story. Easy? No. The original story was written from three different points of view, two of which were very much 'grown-up'. Now there may be a YA novel out there somewhere that fits that model, but I've not seen one. Ripping out two points of view and rearranging the story cost me (so far) 22,000 words, one awesome character, and a lot of skull sweat.

Having said that, what's coming out of the process is really exiting, and I'm sure its going to be a much better book when its completed. Never let them convince you writers don't need editors :)


Young Adult Book Theatre

I just joined Young Adult Book theatre. Is a great site, showcasing some of the best new YA material from some innovative small press and indie writers. There are games, too, and load of other interesting bit. Worth a look




Cast of Wonders

My first ever podcast, done by Cast of Wonders, has gone live today.

They've done a great job, and it sent chills down my spine (but then I'm biased). Please go give it a listen. The guys at Cast of Wonders are doing a great thing, and there aren't enough people doing YA audio magazines. Share the love, and support them if you like what they're doing.


I haz a podcast

The guys at Cast of Wonders, the up and coming audio magazine for Young Adult readers, have been fooled/bullied/convinced to feature my short story 'Jack in the Box'.

This story has almost done the full round: its been published, reprinted, podcast - now all I need is some to buy tv and film rights and I'm sorted.


Grand Plan Replanned

Can't remember who said this. Probably Sun Tsu, or somebody like him. "No military strategy survives the first encounter with the enemy".

Based on that, I think the Grand Plan did OK. I wrote three outlines; one as a sequel to Aphdrodite's Dawn, one as the second book in the Warrior Stone trilogy, and a steampunk/urban fantasy mash with a working title of 'Amunet', so I guess I met the first half of the objectives.

Writing the three shorts was not so easy. I have finished one, and its currently out for peer preview. But then I got some comments on another story I wrote a while back. I never put it out for publication as I was never totally happy with it. Not the 'fussing with it ad absurdium because I can't let it go' thing, but just a feeling it was missing something. The comments gave me an idea and I've just launched into a total rewrite of a 100k word novel. Did I hear somebody at the back scream 'insanity'? Perhaps.

So I have no idea how long that's going to take, but I figure that's got to be worth two short stories? Mmm?


Last stop on the Blog Tour

Courtesy of Mr Jonathan Pinnock, of 'Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens' fame. Drop by here and take a look.

Of course, the down side of this is that I have to start thinking of interesting things to put here now. Sure, I think of something. Somehow :)


New stop on the blog tour

This time I have the great pleasure of working with Rev Wayne Austin Goodchild. Pleas go here and take a look. Its rather amusing.


Blog Tour

I've been lucky enough to be invited to post on the blog of the Queen of Vampire Fiction herself, the inimitable Sam Stone. You can see my post here.

Sam is a wonderful lady. I've met her a number of times at conventions, and I think I've read all of her published stuff. I've even reviewed a couple of her books earlier in this blog. If you haven't tried her Vampire Gene series, its well worth a look.


Blog Tour: Rosie Oliver

Rosie Oliver has kindly volunteered to be the next host for my blog tour.

Rosie is a fellow member of the BSFA 'Orbit' crit groups, and writes SF so hard its  Brinnell number is higher than rhenium diboride


On Giving and Taking Offense

Heard something on the radio this morning. It wasn't a 'news item' as such, so there may be a touch of the apocryphal here, but here goes. Apparently, the bus drivers of Brighton and Hove have been advised - on pain of disciplinary action - that they are not to use term like 'love', 'darling', 'babe' when referring to customers.

This is based on one (I'll just say that again - 'one') customer reporting that she felt offended being addressed in such a way.

I can almost guarantee that said bus driver was not going out of his (or her way) to offer a calculated insult by looking at this customer and thinking 'I bet I can wind her up if I call her "babe"', and its has to be better than the surly grunt we get seem to get of so many bus drivers. Can you blame them?

OK, there are times when its appropriate to use one form of address over another. I would expect to be addressed as 'sir' in most shops, but on the street, I bump into somebody (or vice versa) 'mate' is perfectly acceptable, as is 'love' or 'darlin'. So I am confused what this woman who complained wanted to be called. 'Miss' is now considered an insult, 'Missus' is considered derogatory to younger women. 'Mzzzz' perhaps? Or maybe 'Citizen'?

Somebody posted something recently on facebook - I wish I could remember who so I could give them full credit - that very much addressed this sort of thing, and I support the concept totally. Isn't it long past time we all stopped looking for things we can take offence at, and instead decided to take offence only when offence is intended?


Swings and roundabouts

My last post was about a news item that upset me - so here is one about a news item that made me smile.

I was watching the BBC Breakfast program this morning, specifically the item on the 'Tough Guy Challenge'. This is a gruelling assault course involving mud, climbing nets, very cold water, crawling pits, more mud... I think you get the idea.

And this year they opened it up to kids - after fencing off some of the more obviously dangerous bits. What brought the smile to my face were the boys - and girls - they were interviewing who had just completed the course. One young lady around ten explained how she was 'really frightened, but I made myself do it'. When the reporter asked how she felt, the little girl replied 'Proud of myself.' I almost got a lump in the throat. Almost.

A lad of about the same age summed it up. "It felt real. Adventure rides you're all strapped i and you know its safe, but this is a big difference, and its a bit dangerous." And all the while his faced had that 'can I go back and do it again' look.

Kid love to be pushed, to feel the adrenalin, to feel scared. I know I used to. That little tremble of uncertainty when you look down off the roof of the garage and wonder if you really can jump off, and the awesome sense of achievement when you do.

I think its a shame so few kids get to feel that these days.


I saw a news item yesterday that upset me enough to knock my own book launch off the top of my blog. The item was a man by the name of Dr Raymond Janowski, Deputy head of something important for Hertfordshire Health Authority (or whatever the right name is) blandly trying to defend the Health Authority's policy of forcing people to lose weight before allowing them to have surgery. All a little imprecise, I know.
See, I was busy spitting nails because the article was actually about a 79 year old woman who was desperately in need of a hip replacement. She wasn't hugely overweight, but the hospital was insisting she lost over three stone before they would operate.
How in the names of the gods is a 79 year old woman supposed to lose a third of her body mass if she can't walk? You lose weight by exercise. Dieting alone is not very effective,and at her age she would be risking malnutrition of clinical anorexia - either of which would have compromised her recovery a damned sight more than a little excess fat.
There is a time and place for insisting that people lose weight before an operation, but this example was rampant bureaucracy, unnecessary and heartless, and I wish that these pompous, self-opinionated fools who make rules for the masses but ignore the needs of the individual could be afflicted with the ailments they refuse to cure, just long enough to give them a flavour of the suffering of others. Bet the rules would change then.


Aphrodite's Dawn Now Available

 Aphrodite's Dawn is now available from the kindle store

Garret and his friends have their world turned upside down when they find out they are living inside a dying starship. They have to make the choice; leave things as they are, or fight to get the starship to the new home they set out for thousands of years ago.


Where is all the YA SF

I was recommended to this link, which is a fascinating look at science fiction for young adults by Malinda Lo. In one way, it makes me feel good, because one of the reasons I started to write YA was because I thought that adventure stories, especially for boys, were underrepresented. Seems I needn't have worried.

One the flip side, I never realized I had so much excellent competition!

On the whole, though, its competition I'm glad to have, as it means the YA market for the sort of stuff I like to write, and more importantly read, is vibrant and active, and that has to be a good thing


I got sent this artwork last night, so I thought I would share it with you straight away. Awesome, isn't it. I'm told we should get a release date really soon, so check back here or keep an eye on my facebook for news.


Grand Plan Update

Second outline finished. I now have the second Warrior Stone book waiting to be written. Of course, cant really start it before I find somewhere to place the first one. And I guess the same goes for the sequel to Aphrodite's Dawn That's the outline I'm working on now, but I cant really get started on writing it until we see how Aphrodite's Dawn is received. Looks like the steampunk outline could get developed first.

That is, unless I can actually come up with an idea for one or more of the three short stories I promised myself. So far, still not a squeak. I guess it could be my muse is more than happy with the three book ideas, but I'll give her a little longer to make her mind up.


The questionable sanity of HS2

I  don't like the idea of HS2. I know that investing in infrastructure work is recognized as being a great way to push out of a recession, and I don't deny that. I'm not sure that a high speed link between London and Birmingham is the best use of the money - after all there are far more congested public transport links getting INTO cities rather than between them that should probably be sorted out first.

But what triggered this post is that I've just seen it rumored that the contract for HS2 is likely to go to an American company. If that's true, everybody needs to oppose it. What the hell is the point in spending an obscene amount of money we don't have, supposedly to boost the economy, when the economy that is being boosted is not ours, but America's.

That's not protectionism. If we have the skills and resources to do it ourselves then that is what we should do, and save ourselves another embarrassment like the Siemens/Bombardier debacle where £1.4billion worth of rolling stock that could have been built in the UK is now being built by Germany. I mean, when was the last time you heard of Germany, or the USA, offering us $1 billion plus contracts for anything.



Grand Plan in trouble already

Well that didn't take long. Remember the 'Grand Plan'? Three outlines and three short stories before I can start on another novel? I should be so lucky.

First, ideas for shorts are avoiding me in droves, even after I've done the usual trick of scanning Static Movement and Wicked East Press for ideas.

Second, and most problematical, what I did come up with was a new outline for another YA story (again, somewhat steampunky) that is so damned interesting I am having a real problem not going straight past the outline and starting writing it.

Must exercise patience. Must try to stick to the plan at least until the end of January.


GetWriting 2012

Things progress apace. I have my material ready for both my 'instant pitch' sessions now. The stuff for an adult SF novel (by my alter ego) is sent in and being routed to Lee Harris of  Angry Robot, and my pitch for the last story I finished, "Warrior Stone: Underland" is ready to be burbled hurriedly at Marlene Johnson. All I hope is that my tongue doesn't do its usual trick and glue itself to the roof of my mouth.
Pitches aside it will be nice to see a few familiar faces (Jonathan Pinnocka nd Sandra Norval to name but two), and hopefully make a few more contacts.


Review: 'Steampunk' ed Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant

Two stories in this collection stood out as shining examples of Steampunk. Honourable mention for  "Last Ride of the Glory Girls" by Libba Bray. An excellent Wild West steampunk romp, gentle twists and a good punchline.

The best story, by far, was 'Steam Girl', by Dylan Horrocks. The story is written in true steampunk style. The story is so dense that it is almost impossible to summarise it without dropping spoilers all over the place, but for me it had everything a steampunk tale need and was superbly framed in a mundane setting that telegraphed the ending but still left you with a virtual 'air-punch' and a muted 'yes' at the end.

Unfortunately, the rest of the anthology lacked fire. Not so bad that abandoned the book. I did read it to the end, but its not one I will be keeping to read again.