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Showing posts from April, 2016


Soon after I started writing the Abendau books, I ran into research blackholes. Most could be addressed by asking appropriate questions or reading books. But one proved problematic: my characters - many of them, anyway - were in the army, over a variety of ranks.
Now, this is what I knew about an army. It's big. It has soldiers, with guns. They say 'Aye, Sir!' a lot.
I knew nothing about the culture or language. I could - and did - research ranks, and roles. I understood the leadership required - I'm a leadership consultant and the skills are transferable. But I didn't understand how belonging to the army can affect that leadership approach.
In short, I did not have the knowledge or understanding to write a convincing army officer. And my main character was destined to become a CEO....
Having accepted my limitations, I started chewing my lip nervously. Happily, Jim Kane, a Game of Thrones fan, posted to offer advice to writers writing military scenes. It turned out …


DEVISING EXPANSIVE WORLDS I began my writing career with a Space Opera trilogy (my Abendau world). It has something like 15 point of view characters – all written in close point of view, with their own individual voices. It’s not a huge world for Space Opera but it has multiple star systems, extensive systems of goverance and considers the social and cultural set up of much of that world.
Quite a bit to bite off for my first writing project. Ambitious, perhaps. Since then I’ve enjoyed writing standalones (not that they’re simpler, per se – using Belfast as a sf setting was far from straightforward.)

To be honest, I thought I was done with series writing, that I only had one big, complex world in me. Then I wrote a 300 word flash fiction piece about a race of Storm Mages. And that got me thinking, and it started to grow and I’m starting to get ready to draft that world (the small matter of two books to release and two to finish, first, but details, details….)
It seemed, therefore, a…


If you were me, would you like yourself? Would you want to stay in my head for a series of novels? That’s the challenge faced when writing close point of view. We’re kept close to the characters’ thoughts. If we like that character’s world view, or their elusive voice, chances are we’ll stick with them. If we don’t… meh. Book set down and forgotten.
In the type of omnipresent voicethat used to be prevalent, characterisation was different. It was possible to keep distant from our heroes – and villains – and tell a little more than now, because an external narrator’s voice is more forgiving of telling than internal exposition is.
If I wanted to present a hero using that approach, I could do so. He’d arrive, all dashing and suave, and jump down from his trusty steed with an easy smile on his face. His sword would flash, his cape swirl, as he fought across the courtyard, his enemies falling before him. Finally, he’d reach his target and secure freedo…


The ship’s engines shut down, leaving a heavy silence. Averrine looked through her viewing port to the moon’s surface of black rock shot through with purple glass, bleak and unchanging. A tower of the same rock stood, looking organically formed rather than built.

The soft hiss of her cabin door made her turn. Her captor, his blue eyes cold, held out a breathing mask. She met his eyes, but didn’t reach for it.

“We have two ways we can do this,” le Payne said. “You can put the mask on and walk to the tower, or I can have you dragged. I really don’t care.”

She didn’t reply. He shouldn’t be escorting her, it wasn’t befitting someone of her importance, but she hadn’t seen her bastard of a son Kare since he’d overcome her, taking both her empire and her powers. Her demands to meet him had been rejected and le Payne had made it clear there were other, worse, conditions which could –would –be applied if she continued to ask. Looking at him, grim-faced, holding a weapon in her presence –in h…


A term I found myself facing this week was 'wannabe writers' - and not in a good way. Wannabe writers don't want to wait for a traditional deal and put their work up, via self-publishing, before they're good enough. Or writers who haven't caught fire with the public (regardless of review ratings), ostensibly because they're not good enough. (Now you've finished spluttering your coffee, either in agreement or disbelief, I'll go on.)

At first I blustered at such a label. I'm not a wannabe. I’m about to release my third book. I’m getting great reviews. Loads of people have said nice things about my writing.
And then I stopped. In fact, first I got to the ‘Oh, will you just stop’ point, and then decided to take my own advice and go off and muse on why that term felt like one of disrespect.
What’s wrong with being a wannabe writer? What’s wrong with trying to chase your dream? Who are you harming if you want to bring out a kindle book (or pay for som…


Last weekend, I went to Mancunicon, the Eastercon for 2016. This is one of the big events in the UK science fiction and fantasy calendar, an annual convention that happens – surprise, surprise, over the Easter weekend.
I was excited on a number of levels – to meet some of the Guests of Honour, to catch up with other writers, to take part in a couple of panels, and to geek-out for a weekend unsupervised. But I was also excited to meet a couple of best-selling novellists who I knew from Facebook and who’d been a great support to me over my first year as a published author and, true enough, we sat down over a pint late on the first night.
You’ll know the names, I’m sure, if you’re into science fiction, especially military science fiction. Tim C Taylor, author of the Human Legion series, and P P Corcoran, of the Saiph series. Or, rather, you might know the names. If you’re a kindle reader and follow the best-seller charts, you will. But the chances are you w…