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Saturday, 18 April 2015

IndieRecon 2015

The last three days have given us all another excellent IndieRecon, dare I say it even better than last year! Just like last year I have learnt lots and enjoyed so much more, so I thought it best to share some of my favourites with you all.

1. Joel Friedlander - Formatting the inside of your book
This was an excellent talk by someone who has spent many years honing his craft. He gives us so many hints and tips as well as pointing out the simple things you can do to take your production from looking amateur to looking professional with a couple of clicks. Well worth a listen, but now I need to go and remove all the page numbers from the blank pages in my Benjamin Knight novels!

2. Joanna Penn - Making a living from your writing
This is something I am sure we all dream of, and Joanna gave an amazing talk about the practicalities of it. First off, decide what you mean by 'making a living'? Joanna went part time over 3 years to focus more on her writing before finally giving up work and focussing full time. This involved downsizing considerably, and even now, after 5 years writing full time and doing talks and consulting work etc, she is still only earning half of what she earned as an IT consultant. The benefits? She is happy!!!

3. David Farland - Million Dollar Ideas
David has spent many years helping very successful writers as well as writing himself. He gave a great talk about how to break down your story idea to make a best-selling book appealing to the largest audience. The discussed rationales for choosing your setting (time, place etc), audience (which will impact the age, gender of your protagonist etc) and making sure you give your book emotional appeal (which has to both powerful and appropriate to the content!). Well worth an hour of your time!

4. Knowing your author rights and licensing
This is something I hadn't considered before but something I am now actively thinking about! As an indie-author especially, you own so many rights to your intellectual property and there are people out there who may want to buy them. The speaker from mentioned that their website deals mainly with the sale of foreign rights to your books, while the speaker from looks more at other rights (eg movie/tv and other publishing rights). It is a lot to think about, kind of like giving your baby away (or at least letting someone else do as they wish with it), but might be worth thinking about.

5. Jessica Bell - How to self-edit your book
Even though we all know we shouldn't, this gives an excellent checklist of things to look at in your manuscript and a framework to make sure you don't miss them. Jessica is a longtime editor who was kind enough to discuss her process, so even if you use her checklist before sending your work to an editor, it should help the whole process go much more smoothly.

These were my top 5 talks from the event, which were yours?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Fallen Heroes

Growing up, my heroes were never rock stars or actors, and certainly not politicians. No, growing up my heroes tended to be fictional characters, whether they be in books, comics, movies or on TV. The people I connected with and aspired to emulate were as unique and varied as anyone living or dead.

In my late teens, a character on the TV show Babylon 5 seemed to be everything I thought a good, honourable man should be, and I wanted to be more like him. For those of you who remember, he was the Ranger called Marcus Cole. In movies, characters like Eric Draven (in The Crow) and Rick Deckard (in Blade Runner). In my thirties, the movie Fight Club spoke to me like nothing else I've ever experienced (I really was just another thirty year old boy), and as time goes on I find yet more fictional characters who have attributes I wish I possessed.

Which brings me to why post this today. As I've said above, I didn't look to the actors portraying the characters, or the TV channels on which they were broadcast for guidance. So, I looked to the writers, those incredible people who created someone so amazing I wanted to be more like them.

And today we have lost one of those most amazing, incredible people.

Terry Pratchett.

For those of you who don't know, he is the author of the Discworld series of books, as well as so many others, and his stories and characters have been entertaining me for as long as I could read. He made witches funny and wizards cool long before they went to Hogwarts, and his stories about the City Watch make me smile just thinking about them. He was a true genius, and the world is less without him in it.

It's only 2 weeks since Leonard Nimoy died, another of my childhood heroes (though it was Spock who truly spoke to me growing up), and hearing of his death made me feel much sadder than I expected it to. He was a great man, by all accounts, and an accomplished and successful actor, but I'd never met him and knew him only from the characters he portrayed. Why did news of his death make me feel so sad?

Perhaps it's a sign of getting older, having your heroes (or their creators) die, but after hearing about Sir Pratchett today I've been able to think of little else. Maybe it's the knowledge that I'll never read a new story WHERE DEATH SPEAKS IN CAPITALS or wake my wife up laughing at a scene I've read in the early hours of the morning (because his books are just so un-put-downable!).

I don't know, perhaps I just want a way to say goodbye, to say thank you for all the endless hours of joy he brought me throughout my life. I have all of the Discworld series in paperback, as well as many of his other books, and my daughter is almost old enough to start to appreciate them. I can't wait to share all of those wonderful, magical and hilarious moments with her.

Goodbye Mr Pratchett, and thank you for everything.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

X-Calibur book 3

I managed to write around half of the third in my X-Calibur series before Christmas, and after a two week break I have been going through it, trying to get back in the groove and continue the story. At first it seemed to be going ok, but the more I write, the more I can see the plot as it stands just isn't working.

I have come to the painful decision to scrap it and start again.

The overall story thread will continue, but I seem to have written myself into a hole and the best way to get out of it is to start from scratch. I'm sorry that this will mean a delay in the third book being published, but I hope you will get to read a much better book because of it.

My plan is still to get this book published as well as the 4th Benjamin Knight book and first Shadowalker this year, this is just a minor bump in the road.

Here's to keeping everything crossed that it will all work out for the best!

And if anyone wants to volunteer to be a proof reader, please get in touch.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

It's been a turbulent year, but one that has seen the release of the final Benjamin Knight book as well as the first 2 in my science fiction series (X-Calibur) and all 8 of my series for younger readers (Pups - The Adventures of a Third Grade Werewolf).

In other news, the final 2 competition entries have been won! Congratulations to Chris from Indiana and Andrew from Philadelphia. Your signed copies of the first 3 Benjamin Knight books are on their way to you.

Next year, I hope to release the third X-Calibur novel (The Trial), the fourth Benjamin Knight novel (Oracle), and if you're really, really good, the first in my Urban Fantasy series, currently titled The Shadowalker!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Third winner

There has been a third correct entry to decipher the secret message at the end the New Light (Book 3 of The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight).
Well done to Sarah from New Zealand!
That still means that there are 2 prizes remaining (signed paperback copies of the first 3 Benjamin Knight books). Get your thinking caps on and work out what the message below says!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Antagonize review and Interview

I was one of the lucky few to get the chance to read an advanced draft of Thomas R. Manning's second Daniel Quinn novel, Antagonize. Here's my review!
A fantastic sequel in every sense!
Antagonize, the sequel to Energize (From the Logs of Daniel Quinn), is an amazing sequel in every sense of the word. The danger is greater, the action stronger and the character growth enlightening; he has to save two whole planets for flux sake!
From the start, this book will not disappoint. Beginning with a mission from the starcade, Daniel's journey takes him to a new alien world where he meets his employer. Within minutes, he's engaged in a gunfight with an incredible adversary before flying off on an adventure where every tick of the clock diminishes his chances of success.
He meets new friends, makes new enemies, and sacrifices more than any one man should in the name of peace.
If you enjoyed Energize, you will absolutely love Antagonize.
A well deserved 5 stars!
So there you are, a well deserved 5 stars! Antagonize can be picked up here
Keep reading though for an interview with the man himself, Thomas R. Manning!

What inspired you to write your first book?

All my life I loved science fiction. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I love Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica (the new version), and Firefly also. When it came down to picking a project to write and potentially publish, sci-fi seemed a natural course!

But there’s also something more: sci-fi tends to be epic, following a large group of people on their voyages and adventures. I wanted something more intimate. In the case of Daniel Quinn, I wanted a sci-fi adventure that focused on just one individual, and how the galaxy could be affected by his actions.

How did you come up with the titles (Energize and now Antagonize)?

The overall theme of Energize is power. And a simple search using thesaurus brought up the word energize, and being a huge Star Trek fan, I loved that my title not only emphasises power, but is also a homage to the series I grew up watching!

After that, I wanted to keep consistency among the titles in the Quinn series, so I went to google and typed in, “words that end in ize”. ^_^

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Antagonize?

I’m sure with every read-through of the book I’ll catch something that I’ll want to fix. Nothing’s ever perfect, but the story, the characters, and the narrative are all what I imagined them to be. I’m thrilled with Antagonize and I hope the world shares my opinion!

How much of yourself is to be found in the main character of Daniel Quinn? What differs?

I didn’t use much of myself when creating the character, but I think he does relate to my sense of awkwardness. Also, I tend to have strong feelings when I know something is right versus when it’s wrong, so I’d like to think that, like Daniel, I would stand up for what I believed was right if given the chance.

What books have influenced your life the most? What book are you reading now?

Jim Butcher, and more recently Brandon Sanderson, have been my biggest inspirations. I read Butcher’s Dresden Files series and became immediately hooked on his storytelling and characters. In fact, one of the first things I thought of when brainstorming projects was, “What if there was a story, very Dresden-like, set in outer space? That’s how the intimacy and personal theme of the Quinn series came about.

I recently read Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books and became floored with his ability to craft an epic story, incredible characters, and an original magic system. I’m jealous of his imagination! Currently I’m reading his Mistborn series and loving it!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The writing itself is the most difficult for me. I can create the ideas with ease, outline the story without problems, but when it’s time to dedicate myself to writing 70,000-100,000 words, I sometimes have trouble finding a groove. With a full-time job, two (soon to be three) kids, and my wife, I have to be able to find random times throughout the day to write, which isn’t always possible.

Do you write an outline before writing you book or is it 'on-the-fly'?

It’s dangerous for me to write on-the-fly lol. I would end up writing a story about ninja unicorns and flying turtles (which people would apparently want to read, I’ve found out)!

But a danger with a full-blown outline is you either become bored with the story quicker, because you have it all in your head from the start, or you get distracted by later scenes that are more exciting than the current one you’re working on (Not that it’s a bad thing. There’s no reason you can’t jump around in your writing).

For my next project, after NaNoWriMo, I plan to outline each chapter before I write it, that way it’s my sole focus both in my mind and on the page.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I think I’ve hated everything I’ve written at some point or another, and that’s a common thing among writers. One of the reasons writers quit is because they aren’t confident in their work. They think it’s substandard and give up. But that’s why revisions and edits exist. You can turn anything you hate into something you love, if you give it the time and attention it deserves.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Whenever I’m asked this, my first immediate thought is, “never stop writing”. However, I think it’s also important that you have a message within your story. Ask yourself: Why am I writing this? If you have a purpose behind it, then the writing will come naturally.

Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers?

THANK YOU! I write because I want to share my stories and messages with as many people as I can. I win and succeed every time a person reads my stories and enjoys them. So thank you to all my readers!

What's your next project?

Currently I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, writing a steampunk adventure with assassins, sky-trains, and a city built within the mountains. It’s called The Doom Clock. Here’s the current synopsis:

When the most important assassination order of her life fails, Rayne is left for dead on the outskirts of Theradin City. Weaponless and alone, returning to the city means marking herself a traitor. The King's ruthless guard would do anything to hunt her down.

But if Rayne does nothing, the Guild she grew up in could be destroyed. And she'll learn that there's more at stake than just the loss of lives.

The destruction of the Guild could herald in an unprecedented event, one that would shake the foundation of Theradin City.

It could start the Doom Clock.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The 'Science' of X-Calibur

Today I thought I would post some information behind the technology used in my current series, X-Calibur.
Please note, this is Science Fiction and is not intended to suggest that any of this is possible. It may even contradict current theories around Relativity and Quantum Mechanics! It is only for those of you who want to read more into the stories and understand the rules of how my universe works...
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines or software. From the point of view of the X-Calibur universe, it is used to describe truly sentient machines, that is intelligent thinking machines that are also conscious and self aware.
Perhaps the most famous AI introduced so far is Merlin, the damaged American-European Alliance Mainframe that has come to believe it is the computerised consciousness of the mythological wizard. He is software, able to move between different hardware at will (such as the Tor, Arthur's ship the Vanguard or the Hive ship itself).
As well as Merlin, the Teleri have also admitted to using a variety of AI's on their ships. These help coordinate the communications between remote pilots and the small fighter craft they control, or regulate the relevant information displayed for the bridge officers to interpret and act upon. They are not known to act autonomously and move between ships or systems at will.
The ships in both the Mori and Teleri fleets use a 'Gravity Engine' for propulsion. The gravity engine allows for sub-light speed travel as well as 'jump' travel, that is travelling large distances in the blink of an eye.
Both species have learnt to manipulate gravity, not only using it to provide artificial gravity to the various levels on their ship, but also use it to distort spacetime in order to move. They do this using a fictional ore called gralitanium (the same material Adam 359 and Orlac 552 were required to mine on the asteroid tethered beneath the Hive ship in X-Calibur: The Return).
Once refined, the ore has unique properties that allow the manipulation of gravity. For sub-light travel, the gravity engines distort local spacetime, causing ripples (gravitational waves) in the surrounding space. The ships then 'ride' these ripples like a ship on the ocean.
For jump travel, the gravity engines manipulate spacetime to the point where it bends, connecting two points of the universe by an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or wormhole. This allows almost instantaneous travel between two points, one greatly distant from the other.
As part of the universe I have created, I have imposed two restrictions on this system. The first is the maximum distance of any wormhole travel (which I set arbitrarily at 18 light years), and the second is the recharge time between jumps (which I set at 8 hours). The reasons for this are purely for the story, there is no 'scientific' basis.
If the characters could jump instantly from one side of the galaxy to the other, then jump back again if they got into trouble, it reduces the element of danger. Instead, by making a long journey take time, and then the characters being stuck wherever they end up for at least 8 hours, I hope it adds an element of suspense whenever they travel to a distant region of space. It also allows for some bonding and conversation between the characters on those long trips!
The Mori rely on nuclear fusion to power their weapons, ships and equipment. Nuclear fusion is the process where two atoms collide at high speed and fuse, forming a new element and releasing energy in the process. The Mori have learned to do this in a controlled manner, using fusion cells small enough to fit in even the smallest of plasma pistols.
The Teleri, on the other hand, long since did away with nuclear fusion. They then used local geothermal energy in their underground cities, with disastrous results as you will discover in X-Calibur: The Descent! For the last two thousand years or so, the Teleri have learnt to harness zero point energy (more specifically quantum vacuum zero-point energy).
Zero point energy is a feature quantum mechanics, and is the lowest possible energy a quantum mechanical system may have, resulting in motion even at absolute zero. Currently, the ability to harness zero point energy is thought to be impossible, though research is ongoing!
There are a variety of weapons used by various people in the X-Calibur universe. The Mori typically prefer plasma based weapons. Plasma is a high energy ionised gas, here produced by the fusion reactors, and directed towards a target. The Mori have plasma weapons of various sizes, from the small plasma pistols to the enormous plasma weapons mounted on the cruisers and even the Hive ships themselves.
The Teleri, on the other hand, employ a variety of weapons. Having stopped employing nuclear fusion, plasma weapons are rarely seen. Instead, they have adopted other offensive materials to defend themselves from the Mori.
The first of these is the Ion Cannon, a beam weapon which fires a stream of ions (atoms or molecules with an electrical charge) at a target. They are powerful, able to fire in short bursts or a continuous beam, and highly destructive. The rifle Triltan carries with her beneath the frozen planet is ion based.
The second weapon seen on the Teleri vessels is the Rail Gun (or Railgun). Rail guns are electrically powered, electromagnetic projectile launchers. The rails accelerate the projectile to hypervelocity speeds, firing it at a target like a bullet from a gun (only much much faster). The projectile then tears through the hull, causing considerable damage.
The third weapons employed by the Teleri are Antimatter Missiles. Antimatter is a material composed of antiparticles, that is particles which have the same mass as ordinary matter but the opposite charge. When a particle and antiparticle collide, both particles are annihilated, resulting in the production of huge amounts of energy.
The final weapon, only found on the largest of the Teleri ships, in a Singularity Cannon. A singularity is a point in spacetime in which gravitational forces are so large, they cause matter to have an infinite density and zero volume. Though not quite infinite in density or zero in volume, the projectiles fired by a singularity cannon cause such large disruptions in gravitational waves that they can tear even the largest of ships apart.
Unlike current-day communication, which is limited by the speed of light, the species in X-Calibur need to be able to communicate over long distances instantly. Radio waves wouldn't cut it (taking 100 years for the signal to reach the target 100 light years away), so instead they have developed systems based on the principles of quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement refers to pairs or groups of particles which interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently. As such, what happens to one particle will be reflected in anther particle in the same quantum state, regardless of the distance between them (made possible by the time-dilation effects of special relativity).
As such, Arthur can call up Caran Doc or Gar-Wan for advice, even when on the other side of the galaxy!
Energy Shields
Energy shields remain solely in the realm of science fiction. Though research is ongoing, looking primarily at bubbles of supercharged plasma, the type of energy shields found within the X-Calibur universe have no real basis in current physics.
Suffice to say, the 'energy' surrounds the craft (or individual/small team in the case of the Teleri) to form a barrier which protects against physical damage, as well as energy weapons and radiation. They also manage to contain an atmosphere, as seen on the energy shield surrounding the tethered asteroid.
As in most science fiction, when a shield takes damage the effectiveness of it slowly depletes until it collapses altogether, leaving the ship vulnerable to attack. Shields take time to 'recharge' until they again protect the vessel from further damage.
While humans and the Mori were looking to the stars, hoping to leave behind the confines of their planet and solar systems, the Teleri had little interest in what was happening 'out there'. The primary focus of their scientific study related to understanding the universe, not exploring it, and developing technology which would improve the lives of every Teleri.
Of course, readers will know that Ajoch objected the that notion, resulting in a split in Teleri society, but those who moved below ground continued to explore the field. The scientists quickly came to believe that for the Teleri to truly utilise technology, they would have to embrace it in such a way that biology and technology became indistinguishable. That then developed into extensive research into Cybernetics, or Wetware.
The example seen so far is the 'capsule', a small device implanted behind the ear. This is implanted into all Teleri at birth (those who don't follow Ajoch's teachings anyway), and allows the brain to connect directly to a computer.
The capsule is composed of a central processing unit, utilising wireless communication, as well as hundreds of tiny tendrils which worm their way into the brain. They then attach themselves to various regions of the brain, including the visual cortex, auditory nerves, sensory and motor cortices and the amygdala (where memories are processed).
The benefits of the capsule are multiple. As well as allowing for translation between languages and wireless communication, the connections in the visual cortex allow for real-time targeting reticles and detailed overlays (put simply, a HUD). The connections to the sensory and motor cortices allow manipulation of stimuli (eg blocking out pain) or enhanced movements (eg faster reflexes), and the connections to the amygdala allow for uploading and downloading of large amounts of data (memories or information from a connected computer) – a bit like walking around with the entire internet inside your brain!
Is there anything I've missed that you'd like to know more about? Message me or comment in the section below!