Big News!

Books Twitter image - paperback.png

I can finally reveal why I’ve been silent here for so long, and the reason is, I’ve been hard at work prepping my novels for release in paperback form. All you old skool book lovers (and in all honesty, I don’t blame you if you are) can now get your hands on a physical copy of my first two novels! Woo-hoo!!

And boy, has it been a labour of love…or should that just be ‘been a labour’…to get them ready. First, I updated the ebook editions, giving them another thorough once-over with various grammar/spell-checkers, plus giving in, and introducing the Oxford comma to the text.

Next was the preparing of the covers for Amazon CreateSpace. The cover for Warriors Made of Glass wasn’t too much of an issue, as I’d saved it with excessively high dpi for the ebook. It was A Candle Amongst the Stars which was the bugger, as its size and dpi was the minimum for an Amazon ebook; therefore, too low for the cover, so I had to go about manipulating it in GIMP to try and up the count without distorting the image noticeably. Hopefully, it’ll come out alright in print.

Then there was the formatting of the manuscripts themselves, and I used Amazon’s Kindle Create Add-in for Microsoft Word to automate the process. The app is in Beta, and though it streamlines the process nicely, it crashed A LOT, so if you’re thinking of using it for your own books, save your work regularly! Again Warriors Made of Glass behaved itself, and I got it exported as a pdf pretty quickly. A Candle Amongst the Stars, not so much. For some reason it wouldn’t behave when it came to page numbering, choosing to start at page 2 instead of 1. After several hours of swearing, I found a simple (typical!) solution (I manipulated the footer by hand) and managed to export the pdf before it changed its mind.

So there we have it. My novels are now in printed format. You can find them on Amazon here: A Candle Amongst the Stars and here: Warriors Made of Glass. The links take you to Amazon UK, but they’ll be available from your national site too.

Also, I’m planning to do a freebie offer on the ebook versions soon in celebration, so stay tuned for that!


Happy New Year!


So how were everyone’s festivities? Mine was the usual stuff-fest of mince pies, cakes, chocolates, nuts, misc. nibbles and what-not. I started off in Yule, where I celebrated the shortest day of the year by eating homemade vegan pizza, a rather crappy sugar-fest of a brownie pudding from Tesco, and watching a Ghost in the Shell marathon courtesy of some DVD’s I’d purchased a while ago so I could get free P&P on Amazon. It was the original anime version of the movie in a double set with Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Having rewatched the original anime, I realise how much better it is than the dumbed-down Hollywood version. And yes, I’m still enamoured of Batou!

I managed to burn some of the excess calories off on my cross-trainer before Xmas rocked up, which brought more food, nibbles, and something I haven’t eaten in a while (despite being vegan), namely nut roast. It was another Tesco’s offering, but unlike their travesty of a pudding, it was a lot better, although I was in danger of breaking a tooth on its overly hard nuts.

Then, shortly before the New Year, my mate and I headed off to the cinema to watch Jumanji. We also wanted to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi at some point, but figured as it was the holidays, as the film had only recently come out, and as it was Meerkat Wednesdays (2 for 1 on tickets), it would be rammed. Boy, were we wrong!

We were greeted by the desk clerk telling us that the only free seats in Jumanji were right at the front, and the next showing wasn’t for another couple of hours. Given that it had been a 45-minute drive to get to the cinema, we couldn’t exactly pop home and wait it out. It was then my mate asked about Star Wars. We were told that it too was fairly full, but there was still good seats available, so that’s what we went and saw. Turns out, the theatre was probably a little over half full by the time it started. I still can’t get my head around the fact that Jumanji was busier than Star Wars, I mean c’mon! It’s Star Wars!

I also can’t get my head around all the hate that’s been going on over the film. I thought it was great, and I liked the difference in the storyline and direction. Yes, it was quite a bit different to The Force Awakens, but let’s face it, that was just a rehash of A New Hope, complete with exploding Death Star. Also, watching the film was a little bitter-sweet, as shortly before reaching the cinema, the news reminded us it was the anniversary of Carrie Fisher’s death. I’ll be honest, I got a little teary-eyed at times when she came on screen. Personally, I’m glad it’s done well at the box office, despite the concerted effort of a bunch of nay-saying fanboys to make it bomb. Seriously, the f*ck is wrong with some people?

I saw the New Year in with yet more nibbles, a dickie tummy (apparently, rolls in the freezer can go off), and my yearly alcoholic drink (thank you Aspall Cyder).

So here’s to 2018, and to hoping the orange one doesn’t cause the extinction of the Human race!

And who knows, maybe I’ll actually get a paid job this year (I know, I know, pigs have got a better chance at flying!)

Once Bitten

I missed a weeks blog entry, mainly because I didn’t have much to say, but also because I got pissed off with the mark of my latest uni assessment, which put me in a bad frame of mind.

My previous Open University assessment came back at 100%. The last one was 82%. Now I will put my hand up, and admit I goofed up slightly when it came to laying out calculations (though taking marks off me because I wrote ‘seconds’ instead of just ‘s’ is a bit much). But a couple of other parts had been marked down for reasons that made me fume. Now, if you’ve ever done (or are doing) a course with the OU, you’ll no how much they beat it into you NOT TO PLAGIARISE! Mention your sources!  Acknowledge your sources! etc etc. So, when I was faced with summarising an article written by someone else, I took those warning sirens to heart, and made sure I acknowledged the author of the article whenever I mentioned his thoughts on something. Unfortunately, apparently, this is considered “reviewing” and article as opposed to “summarising” it, which lost me marks, gained me an admonishment for “not reading the question properly” and promptly made me annoyed. The second kick in the proverbial nuts, was another “you didn’t read the question properly!” Arguably, I had. The trouble was, I had translated the question’s meaning differently to what was apparently being asked, so again, lost marks. Ugh! Anyway, my next assignment comes with another ‘summarise the article’ type question, so I’ll be sure not to mention the author at all (except in the reference) and see what happens. I need to keep my overall percentage grade up as the OU is quite stingy when it comes to their 1st and 2:1 pass rate.

Beyond the aggravation of my assessment, I managed to catch a couple of films at the cinema, namely Kong: Skull Island, and Ghost in the Shell.

Kong: Skull Island

First up was Kong: Skull Island. It was a fairly entertaining film. Samuel L. Jackson’s character was a bit of a cliche in a ‘man’s better than animals’ kind of way, Tom Hiddleston’s was as easy on the eye as always, and it was [spoiler alert] nice that Kong actually survived the end of the film, unlike in King Kong, which had me bawling my eyes out.

The only real problem I had with the film was the ‘bad-guy’ monsters. Now I could suspend belief and believe that the creatures on the island had gone through some collective evolutionary gigantism, giving way to giant oxen, spiders, (unseen) ants, stick-bugs, and of course, apes. However, the monsters seemed completely out of place with everything else. The didn’t conform to a scaled-up creature, or even a prehistoric creature, so they ended up jarring against the backdrop of animal life. The were these two-legged, weird-skulled, things that would have been better-suited to a sci-fi film set on another planet.

Still, overall, it was an entertaining movie, and I’m glad I got to drool over Tom…I mean got to see it 😉

Ghost in the Shell

Prepare to be disappointed. Why? because I really enjoyed this film! I’m going to pass over the whole white-washing thing, as that’s an argument for another day, and (IMHO) not as clear cut when dealing with anime and manga, and just review the film based on the film itself.

Now, many years ago, I watched the original anime. It was cool, but it was also so long ago that I’ve forgotten most of it. I remembered the iconic jump scene, and Batou on his boat, but the story line itself has been lost from memory. So, overall, I went into the film fairly fresh. And you know what, it was a pretty darn good movie. My mate sulked at the end, but I think he’d been caught up in all the negative reviews, and had basically prepped himself to not like the film, and did just that. But I went in with hope, and wasn’t disappointed. The visuals were great, especially the imagining of the futuristic city. The plot was followable, which is something that can be an issue with anime films, whose writers interweave spirituality, visuals, and crazy ideas, to a point where they can overwhelm you. And I remembered I once had a crush on Batou…and now I do again.

The only thing that irked me was that Scarlett Johansson seemed to stomp around in a rather (for want of a better word) butch manner. I don’t recall her being that way as the Black Widow in Marvel, and I don’t recall the Major being all stooped and stompy in the original anime (but like I said, it’s been a while since I saw it), so I’m not sure what was going on there, but it was very distracting

To be honest, I think the white-washing argument pushed critics to instantly write-off this film, and hence turned the viewers against it before they’d even seen it, leading to it bombing in the cinema. This is a shame, as the film itself doesn’t deserve the full force of negativity it received. Very few films are perfect, but this isn’t as crap as the nay-sayers make it out to be, so go see it while you can.

Imaging the Races – a new Approach

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about how I brought my alien races visually to life through the use of a site called TekTek. Doing so let me get a better feel for the different races, and allowed me to quickly write descriptions of their looks without having to trail through paragraphs of previously created descriptive metaphors. Several of these images can be found on my Meet the Races page, where I’ve gone into more detail about some of the more common alien species in my novels.

Since then, TekTek has become defunct. Because politics. Which had left me in a bit of a pickle when it came to creating more characters, as I had no good way of drawing them. Throwing together a few exoplanets in GIMP is surprisingly a hell of a lot easier than drawing hands, faces, feet and everything in between. I am not a good artist.

Help came with a bittersweet aftertaste. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother died not too long ago, and it was my responsibility as her only child to go through all her stuff, chucking out the unusable, sending good stuff to charity, and rescuing some of my old childhood tat. Amongst my teddies and ornaments were, miraculously, two folders full of old science fiction sketches I’d done when younger. I vaguely remembered them, and had hoped they were still around, though honestly, I’d forgotten how full they were. There were spaceships, aliens, Human characters, animals, and planetary backdrops. I’d been quite prolific!

Many of the animals, ships and landscapes had been drawn free hand. A lot were still unfinished, and were only outlines, but many were coloured and complete. The humanoid aliens had been created by tracing over a couple of fashion model templates I’d nicked from school (FYI, they were only a couple of photocopied pieces of paper. It was hardly an arrestable offence), and this had allowed me to create better sketches.


An example of one of the model templates

I spent a good couple of months scanning each sketch into my computer, and now I have more aliens, people, and creatures than I know what to do with. However, as my novels progress, I can look to these sketches, and finally weave these characters into the narrative that has been in my mind since creating them. Thank you younger self!

Calling Doctor Strange

Ho-boy, did I nearly miss a Marvel film. Not since Iron Man 2 have I not seen part of the MCU on the big screen. Sure, I missed Deadpool, but that’s not part of Disney’s MCU. However, I did get the DVD for my birthday, so all’s good.

Doctor Strange was one of those films where I wasn’t sure when it was supposed to be out, then I checked, and realised it had already been out for a month or so. But with no main-brand cinema near me, and no transport of my own, I couldn’t just pop out for an evening to catch it. Instead, I had to wait for my housemate to be free, which happened this weekend when my mate decided to ditch his usual family Sunday lunch, so we could head off to Chester for a bit of shopping.

It seems gone are the days when I went to Chester to buy cute new shoes & clothes. First time there in eight years and I buy a laundry Ecoegg, and then exchanged some of my old Lush pots for a free face-mask. I sure know how to live the crazy life.

Anyway, as it happened, the Vue in Cheshire Oaks was pretty much the only place still showing Doctor Strange, or rather it had one last showing in the early evening. So after my ‘successful’ shopping, we headed there.

First grumble. The Vue in Cheshire Oaks needs more foyer seating. Two tables and a non-functioning massage chair is pretty crap going. We arrived about 30 mins too early, and were stood around, me eating my nachos and VERY runny salsa, until we decided, “sod it,” and headed for the screening theatre. Luckily we were allowed in early to take our seats. I’d finished my nachos before the screen had even gone dark.

The film itself was pretty enjoyable. I love Benedict Cucumberpatch as an actor (Sherlock FTW!), and was not disappointed. There were some genuinely funny moments, though I reserve judgement on whether his cape is the Snarf of the MCU, and the fight scenes weren’t so chaotic that you lost track of what was going on. However, I don’t think Benedict had a 100% grip on his American accent, and it seemed to wax and wane rather throughout the film.

The biggest gripe I had with film was with the 3D. To be honest, I find 3D a bit gimmicky, and not really necessary to enjoy a film. Plus, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who needs to wear their normal glasses under their 3D specs, which is very annoying. At first, I thought the issue I was experiencing was perhaps down to my new glasses. Because I do a lot of computing, mine have an anti-reflective/glare layer on them, and I figured it was this that was causing the problem. Basically, while watching the film, I noticed that objects, scenery, and people in the distance were blurry, almost double-vision like. Annoyingly so. Once the film finished I bemoaned this fact to my mate, who (glasses free) said he’d noticed the same thing. So it was the film, and not my specs. Now whether this was part and parcel of the 3D-ness of the film, or whether the reel/projector were off, I don’t know. So here’s the question: did anybody else notice anything similar when watching it?

A Candle Amongst the Stars ~ Introducing the Title

 photo Light amongst the stars.png

“A glimmer of hope is the belief that there is a slight chance that something positive will happen.”

“Glimmer: to glow faintly or flickeringly… like a candle.”

At first glance this appears a rather random title, so how did it come about? The first part of the title boils down to one thing…hope. When I think of hope, several sentences spring to mind…. During stressful times we oft refer to “the light at the end of the tunnel”, “the beacon of hope” or the “glimmer of hope”. In all cases, hope has a visual context. Hope becomes a tangible entity; something that can chase the darkness away, and in the case of the tunnel and beacon, it can also have a guiding quality, leading the person away from the darkness.

Sometimes, in truly dire times, hope’s light can be hard to find. It may be a mere spark, almost drowned out by blackness, yet it’s still there, you just have to search extra hard to find it. Moreover, even a source as small as a candle has the power to light up a person’s world and chase the shadows away.

As for the second part…the stars…well, that’s simpler to explain. The story is set in outer space, which is filled with billions of stars, and amongst them a flicker of candle light would, again, be extremely hard to find…but it’s there.

Jumping Ship (Twice)

…. and over we jump to Tumblr* WordPress

This is going to be a basic round-up, as I’ve spent too much time faffing around with this blog’s layout this afternoon. First off, welcome one and all. This blog is a continuation from my old Blogger site. I’ve jumped ship as Tumblr provides me with a better opportunity to mess around with html and css, which is something I’ve been trying to get the hang of. I’ve jumped ship to WordPress because I need to get the hang of it, and it has a slightly better layout. Can still mess around with html though! I’ve brought over the main pages from Blogger, but my other ramblings I’ve kept there. I may share them on this site as a kinda Throwback Thursday thing later.

2015 proceeded to kick the dog while it was down, so I didn’t get my third novel under way as planned. However, a bit of good news came my way, and that was Scrivener had finally released its beta Linux version, and for free! Though I didn’t get any words down, I did spend some time populating the programme with all my character biographies in readiness. Boy did I have A LOT to copy over.

My second novel’s cover didn’t make it to the finals of AUTHORSdb competition, but I’m not bummed about that. Being a semi-finalist is still pretty good going, especially as I made the cover myself. I get to rock a little rosette, which is nice.

2016 sees me in a bit of a better mind set (relatively speaking) and I’ve finally started writing my third novel. 6000+ words done, so that’s 6% of my aimed for word count reached (I’ve given myself a target of 100,000, but it could well be more, my second book certainly was).

2016 promises to throw some more curve-balls at me, but hopefully I’ll be able to weather the storm and see my life getting back on track. Talking of which, I need to sign off and write for an hour. Toodles!

*edited 02-Nov-2016