My Eastercon Schedule

Very much looking forward to Follycon, the 2018 Eastercon in Harrogate. I’m arriving Thursday and leaving Monday afternoon. I’ll have a Milford Writers’ Conference display (with leaflets and information).

It will be lovely to meet up with friends and see some interesting panels… and to participate.

This is where you’ll find me over the Easter weekend.

Sunday Apr 1, 2018

11:00 AM
6:00 PM

Monday Apr 2, 2018

10:00 AM
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Pleasantly Pleasing Progress

I’m delighted to say that I’ve beaten my February 28th deadline and already delivered a draft of Rowankind to my publisher. OK, only 3 days ahead of schedule, but AHEAD is the important word here. Of course the book isn’t finished yet. My editor will have a long string of comments, and then I’ll have some fairly serious editing to do, but the whole process is chugging along nicely.

So now I’m allowed to forget about Rowankind for the next few weeks. In fact I want to forget about it, because when I start the edits I want the perspective of distance. I’m too close to it now to assess it properly. If I can give it a few weeks and come back to it fresh, I’ll be able to read it as if I were a reader, not its writer. That’s the plan, anyhow.

So what am I up to now?

I’m on a writing retreat.

Yeah, I know. Shouldn’t I have taken a few days off? Well, yes and no. A few of us who met at Milford decided to come to the wilds of Welsh Wales, to Trigonos where Milford happens every September, to spend six days with a laptop and a stunning view in order to get some uninterrupted writing time. No day job, no phone ringing, no meals to make, no kids to see to…

Sunshine portraitWe arrived in glorious sunshine on Sunday. It was a blue sky drive and then the clouds began to roll in. This is the view from my bedroom window.  You can just see the edge of the lake (Llyn Nantlle) in the middle distance and the hill opposite is the Nantlle Ridge. I did a little furniture removal and shifted the writing table to the window,  of course… because why would you want to stare at a wall when you could be staring at this.

Am I actually getting any writing done? The short answer is yes. I’m working on the edits of a book that’s largely written, but still needs a bit of polishing. It’s a fantasy set in an analogue of the Baltic states around 1600-1650. I don’t have a contract for this one yet, but I’m working with my agent, Don Maass, to ’embiggen’ it before sending it out.

It’s a political/historical fantasy and though I’ve taken the Baltic as my base, I’ve messed with both the history and the geography. I suppose it’s an alternate Baltic. For a time the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth was huge. I’ve taken a chunk of that and made it the kingdom of Livonia, encompassing present day Latvia, Lithuania and the northern part of Poland, and used it as a setting for a story of political intrigue spiced with magic.

Laptop window sunshine

It’s told from three viewpoints, Valdas, the king’s failed bodyguard, Lind the (successful) assassin, and Mirza a witch of the Atsingani travelling people. They start off separately, but come together. We know who killed the king, but we don’t know who paid him to do it, or why. There’s an obvious culprit if you follow the money, but they need to look beyond the obvious.

Yesterday I stated writing in sunshine and today I woke to snow.

Laprop window snow

snow view portraitI have to say that Trigonos is lovely in all seasons. The snow is beautiful, especially since there’s no requirement to actually trudge out in it. except for pleasure.

Compare and contrast the first picture  with the last. Chilly but gorgeous. Hopefully they’ll have cleared the roads by the time I have to travel back on Saturday. Looking at the news, it’s nowhere as bad here as in Kent.

So I guess we just hunker down and get on with the wordsmithing for the next four days.

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How to get a literary agent

I’m writing madly to a deadline, so I don’t have time to write a new blog post this week, so this is an updated reprint from my own blog, previously published in two parts and now condensed to one. I hope you find it useful.


Donald Maass of Donald Maass Literary

I’m delighted to be settled with Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary agency in New York. My own personal journey to agency representation (at least until 2016) can be found on my blog. What I’d like to discuss here are the practical aspects of finding a literary agent, from research to submission packages.

The Right Agent
There are agents and agents. Some are hands-on who will see potential in your writing and help you with your manuscript before sending it out to publishers. Some agents are hands-off. If they judge that your manuscript is something they can sell, then they’ll offer representation and send it out, as is, on your behalf. Do your research. (Hint, don’t send your blockbuster space opera to someone who only wants the next great literary novel.)

Always remember that when seeking representation and a traditional publishing deal money flows to the writer. There are lots of genuine agents out there who operate professionally, but there are a few who will charge reading fees (never pay them) and then try to direct you to their chum who is a freelance editor or book doctor. All of which you will pay for – often through the nose – without getting any closer to your goal of publication.

This isn’t to denigrate professional freelance editors. They perform a valuable service and I would recommend anyone going down the self-publishing route to consider employing a professional editor – preferably one with a good reputation and a solid history of working in your genre. Sadly, these great editors are not the ones a scam agent will be sending your book to. If you’re going to use a freelance editor, pick one based on recommendations and reputation.

Seek wisdom about scammers who prey on writers from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) on their Writer Beware site.

Witers & Artists YearbookSo, carefully avoiding scam agents, what type of agent do you want? Hands on or hands off? Are you looking for an agent who works with a specific genre of book? Do you want an agent who is country-specific? Take a look at Most of the agents you’ll find listed there are in North America, but you can find British literary agents listed in The Writers’ and Artists Yearbook. Witers’ Digest hosts Chuck Sambuchino’s blog (Guide to Literary Agents) which often highlights new and ‘building’ agents.

Check the following:

  • Does the agent rep your genre and your intended age range?
  • Is the agent actively seeking new clients/building their list?
  • Is the agent willing to help and advise with your manuscript?
  • What is important to you in contract negotiations? Size of advance / foreign rights / e-publishing rights / audio rights / movie options?
  • Where is the agent based?
  • Is there anything special that may connect an agent to your pitch?

Some agents work alone, others work within the framework of a literary agency. If you sign with a single agent you are vulnerable if that agent leaves the profession. If you sign with an agent who works within an agency, your contract is usually with the agency, so if your individual agent is no longer able to represent you, then you will be resettled with a different agent within the organisation. Also a large agency is likely to have foreign rights specialists and contract specialists, so your agent has expertise to call on.

Keeping Track
List all the agents you think might be a suitable match and check their guidelines carefully. When I was agent hunting, I actually put all mine into a database. Make sure you note what you’ve sent, and when, and to whom – especially if it’s a submission to an agency rather than to an independent agent. Regarding agencies, some will tell you to submit to their agents individually, others will say that a submission to one agent is a submission to all because if your first choice agent doesn’t feel the manuscript is right for her/him it will be passed on to other agents within the organisation.

If the guidelines give a time period for response, note down when you expect to hear back. When the deadline date has passed you can politely enquire about your submission. (I always give them a little leeway – maybe a week or two.) Some agents simply don’t respond if they aren’t interested, which leaves you hanging. Didn’t they get your sub? Are they so overworked they haven’t had chance to look yet? Did they read the first paragraph and throw it in the bin? You simply have to decide to walk away if you haven’t heard back after a sensible time period, but it’s up to you to decide what that time period is. If the submission has gone more than two or three months beyond their stated response time and your queries have not been answered, then I would write it off. Having said that, I got a rejection from one New York Literary agent thirteen months after I’d signed with my current agency and several months after my first book had been published.

Following Guidelines
What should you send to a prospective new agent? The short answer is: send whatever they want you to send. It’s all in their guidelines. The agent might ask you for a cover letter, synopsis and the first three pages, or maybe the first five thousand words. A few agents still ask for paper subs, but most accept (and prefer) electronic submissions these days. Paper subs can be shockingly expensive if you have to post them transatlantic.

Your Submission Package
Many words have been written on how to submit. I recommend reading up on manuscript format online and reading blogs on the topic of submissions from pro-agents.

  • QueryShark, by literary agent Janet Reid has excellent advice.
  • The Miss Snark Archive, though dormant since 2007, is a fascinating (and funny) insight into the lit agent world from an insider’s point of view.
  • PubRants is a rant about publishing and submissions by literary agent Kristin Nelson and is very educational.

The Query Letter
This consists of two parts – the query and the pitch. The whole thing should be not more than a single page, single spaced. This is a business letter, be polite, be concise, be clear.

The Query
The order can be fluid depending on which side of the Atlantic you are sending it to — most British agents seem to prefer an opening statement of something like: Please accept my query on BOOK TITLE, complete at 77,000 words, but most American agents seem to want you to begin with the pitch and include that information at the end.

Your query letter should contain the following:

  • If you’re querying by email don’t forget your full contact details: name, address, phone number, email and website if you have one
  • The agent’s name must be correct.
  • You will have to reformat your query letter to individualise it for each query you send. Don’t make it look like they’re getting a mass mail out.
  • The title, genre and length of the work and whether it is complete or not (and for a first novel it should be). It should also say whether it’s aimed at adults, new adults, YA or middle grade. Some agents will rep a variety of ages, others rep only adult, or only children’s fiction.
  • Ditch opinion. Concentrate on facts. (Not: ‘Hello, I’m the next J.K.Rowling,’ or ‘like Stephen King, but better.’ Don’t say you know this is best-seller material. Don’t say that your Aunt Mathilda loved your book (unless she’s the Guardian’s book critic).
  • The pitch – more anon.
  • A bit about you – not your complete life story, but writing-relevant experience, especially if it’s a story about mountain climbers and you shinned up Everest last year. Say whether you have any other publications, or have won any competitions, or have attended Clarion, Viable Paradise, Milford, or similar serious writers’ events.
  • You don’t have to include something that tells the agent why you’ve picked them, but it there’s something obviously relatable you can include it (as long as it’s brief). ‘I read your interview in Writer’s Digest and note that you are looking for stories about climbing Everest…’ etc., or even  ‘I’ve followed your agency blog for a number of years and have checked out your guidelines and it looks like we have interests in common.’
  • The query letter is not the place for a full synopsis. (Though you may include a separate synopsis if the agent’s guidelines ask for one.)
  • I always thank the agent for their time.

The Pitch
The pitch is crucial. How do you describe your book succinctly while making it sound exciting? You have limited space to make your point. Here you can afford to allow your writerly ‘voice’ sneak in. If you are pitching an urban fantasy with a wisecracking heroine, consider using your heroine’s voice in your pitch (but only if you can do it successfully).

Start off with two or three succinct sentences that will hook your reader into what the story is about. Sound enthusiastic without using unnecessary ‘puff.’ You can say: Like Game of Thrones set in modern day Glasgow (because you’re not trying to say it’s better than Game of Thrones) or you can simply describe the book. Try to find its unique selling point. It’s about a wizard, a knight and a stable boy who go on a quest sounds like every other quest fantasy you’ve ever read, but maybe: An elephant shapechanger and a lavatory attendant from Bombay, have to journey into the jungle to seek the tiger’s eye, might snag on your agent’s imagination. (OK, I’m being facetious here, but you get my drift.)

Here’s a single paragraph pitch for my novel Winterwood, which sold to DAW in 2013 as part of a three book deal, and hit bookstore shelves in February 2016. (The second in the Trilogy is Winterwood and I’m currently working on the third, Rowankind.)

Winterwood front cover-smallWinterwood Pitch – 113 words
Winterwood is a tale of magic, piracy, adventure and love, set in an alternative Britain in 1800. Mad King George is on the throne, and Bonaparte is hammering on the door. Ross (Rossalinde) Tremayne, widowed privateer captain and witch, is torn between the jealous ghost of her dead husband, and a handsome wolf shapechanger; between the sea, and her unsavoury crew of barely reformed pirates, and the forest, where her magic lies. Unable to chart a course to her future until she’s unravelled the mysteries of her family’s past, she has to evade a dangerous pursuer and discover the secrets locked in a magical winterwood box in order to right her ancestor’s wrongdoing.

This may not be perfect, but it did the trick. Once your cover letter is as good as you can make it send it out. If this is your first time making submissions to agents you might want to start by sending to a few to see whether you get a good reaction, i.e. form rejections / no response / requests for more pages, or full manuscripts. Keep a record of what comes back and when, so that a year from now you don’t send almost exactly the same query for the same book to the same agent. (You can, however, query an agent who has previously rejected your first book, for your second and subsequent books.) Once you’ve got the hang of the submission process and you’ve refined your query letter and pitch, you can query as many agents as you have time to research (as long as you don’t send a mass mail out with no pers0nalisation).

If you get a rejection from an agent, note it down, learn from it and move on to another submission. Never send a snarky response or that door will close on you forever. Even sending a polite ‘thanks for your rejection’ is not required. Agents get enough email. Do you want to clutter their inbox?

General advice: Pare down / Focus / Revise / Polish / Test on a few / Revise again / Send widely / Send again / Send again / Send again / Don’t give up!

Good luck with your search for the right agent.

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Beginning at the Beginning

I’ve always been particularly fascinated by book-beginnings. One of my favourite opening sentences is the one which opens John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids:

Day of the TriffidsWhen a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts out by sounding like Sunday, there’s something seriously wrong somewhere.

What a classic! It sets the scene, sets up expectations and leads brilliantly into the story of a man who wakes in hospital with his eyes bandaged to find that the world has changed forever.

The Day of the Triffids was the first adult SF novel that I read. I was eleven or twelve and I’d bought it via a school book club. It made such an impression on me that all these years later I can still quote the first line. Now here I am, a writer with five books already published and under contract for a sixth, and I’m still searching for the perfect beginning of my own.

Finding the right opening line, the right opening scene is a gift. It’s difficult at the best of times, but even more difficult when the book is not the first one in a series. People often ask which comes first, the characters or the plot. It’s a bit like asking a songwriter whether the tune comes first or the words. The two are often so intertwined that it’s impossible to separate them. They arrive at the same time.

And so it is with books, at least, it is in my experience. I usually find a scene that plays in my head. I know who the character is and what the situation is and I have an idea of the basic conflict that’s going to be the engine of the plot. I may not have all the details, but I can work them out later. At the beginning of Winterwood I knew that I had a young woman drawn to visit her dying mother. There was enmity between them, and the young woman had put herself in danger simply by being there. It begins:

Winterwood front cover

The stuffy bedroom stank of sickness with an underlying taint of old lady, stale urine and unwashed clothes, poorly disguised with attar of roses. I’d never thought to return to Plymouth, to the house I’d once called home; a house with memories so bitter that I’d tried to scour them from my mind with salt water and blood.

It was a strong image which became the opening scene of Winterwood. As I wrote I discovered that the young woman was dressed as a man, was the captain of her own ship and was, in her mother’s eyes, a pirate. She was also an unregistered witch, a capital offence in a Britain with magic. As the scene opened up in my mind and on the page, I found out that it was 1800, almost a century after the golden age of piracy, and the house we were in was on the edge of Plymouth, a town with a long maritime history, both naval and commercial. The young woman in the shadows, Rossalinde, known as Ross, is visiting her dying mother for the first time in seven years, but there’s still no forgiveness between them. Later Ross says: I had come to dance on her grave and found it empty.

Thus the Rowankind trilogy begins. Ross captains her own ship because she’s a widow. Will Tremayne, the man she ran away with seven years earlier, died in an accident leaving Ross in charge of a ship-load of barely reformed pirates. Ross’ mother passes on a legacy, a task that Ross doesn’t want, and a half-brother she didn’t know she had. No, I’m not going to tell you the plot of Winterwood, suffice it to say that Ross has to use all of her ingenuity and her courage to fulfil the task, and along the way she meets and falls in love with Corwen, a wolf shapechanger, much to the consternation of the ghost of her late husband.

And so the scene is set for Silverwolf. Starting a sequel is a far different thing from starting a new story. I already have two fully-formed characters, Ross and Corwen, who have committed to each other and who should be enjoying their happy-ever-after, but that’s about to be curtailed by the arrival of a visitor. So I have to open with that happy-ever-after. Ross and Corwen have hidden themselves away in a modest cottage on the edge of the Old Maizy Forest, a liminal place part way between the mundane world and Iaru, the magical world of the Fae. Silverwolf opens:

silverwolf-final-cvr-400A large silver-grey shape trotted out of the trees, a grizzled brown hare dangling dead in his jaws. In wolf-form Corwen was almost the height of a small pony, but he had to hold up his head to prevent the hare’s legs from dragging on the ground. He dropped it to the side of the path, and in one smooth movement changed from wolf to naked man.

Ross and Corwen’s rural idyll is interrupted by a thunderous knocking on the door. Corwen’s old friend, Hartington, a stag shapechanger, has brought a message from the Lady of the Forests. What Ross and Corwen did in Winterwood inadvertently paved the way for the return of magical creatures to Britain. A rogue kelpie has taken two children in Devonshire. Ross and Corwen must return to the real world.

If Winterwood was Ross’ story, then Silverwolf is Corwen’s, though still told through Ross’ viewpoint. After dealing with the kelpie, Corwen is called back to his home in Yorkshire to resolve a family crisis.

At the end of Winterwood Ross and Corwen, with the aid of the Fae, wrought a change which has far-reaching consequences for the magical inhabitants of Britain. The mundane world and the magical world, long separated by the heavy hand of the Mysterium, the organisation which regulates magic throughout the land, are about to merge.

And now I’m writing Rowankind, the third book in the trilogy. And the beginnings get more difficult. I currently have just over 100,000 words of the first draft, complete with a provisional opening. I’m aiming to finish the first draft at around 120,000 words and then add in where necessary. And that beginning? It might be the very last thing I write. It could change, but at the moment it begins:

I’m a witch.
I can hear someone sneaking up on me a mile away.
This time it wasn’t the clip-clop of hoofbeats, nor the soft tread of boots, but the rustle of a small animal running through winter-dry grass followed by the snick of claws on the flaggstones of our front path.
“We have a visitor,” I said.

Winterwood and Silverwolf are on bookshop shelves now in the USA and also available in electronic form. In the UK they are available in print form as an import from specialist SF bookshops, and online from the big firm named after a river. Rowankind is out in November 2018.

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Discovering what I didn’t know I didn’t know.

I wrote my first two (unpublished) books on my trusty Amstrad PCW using Locoscript. I was fairly late to the computer party in general and email in particular (1996) but the internet was still young. Google didn’t exist. Wikipedia wasn’t even a twinkle in its father’s kneecap. Back in those days if you wanted to talk to a random bunch of like-minded people, you went in search of a usenet newsgroup.

I found a couple of great writing groups on usenet, misc.writing and (later) rec.arts.sciencefiction.composition (r.a.sf.c.). The serious writers hanging out there gave me my first lessons in manuscript format and pointed me to the group FAQ which taught me how to submit stories. Hey, you don’t learn these things unless someone tells you. Since writing is generally a solitary occupation, you don’t know what you don’t know until someone points you in the right direction. I remain eternally grateful for those first lessons.

There’s a learning curve in the publishing world, or more likely a chain with links in it. Actual writing is only one part of it. Misc.writing taught me that I had to write, revise, polish, send it out, and while waiting for an answer, stick my derriere in the office chair, place my fingers on the keyboard and write some more. It’s still the best advice I can pass on to new writers

Every time someone posted a little self-congratulatory ‘I’ve finished a story’ post, someone else would say, ‘So what are you writing now?’

After being a very solid newsgroup with a small (tolerable) percentage of spam and hardly any flame-wars, eventually misc.writing began to be overtaken by trolls and a few of us writing speculative fiction found the rec.arts.sciencefiction newsgroups. Those who knew how, formed a new group for SF writers, rec.arts.sciencefiction.composition. If r.a.sf.c didn’t roll of the tongue as easily as misc.writing, it was still a great group full of interesting and knowledgeable people. (Though no one could ever decide how to pronounce it. I called it ras-fic, a friend called it ras-eff-see.)

HetleyIt was through r.a.sf.c. that I joined my first online critique group. There were twenty of us to begin with and though numbers fell, about ten of us stuck together for eight years, helping each other to get better and better until some of us actually sold novels. I think the first of these was Jim Hetley who writes very fine fantasy fiction as both James A Hetley and James A Burton

I’d never have found Milford if it hadn’t been for ‘meeting’ Liz Holliday on r.a.sf.c., and without Milford I wouldn’t have found another link in the chain that eventually led to my publishing deals. I made good friends on usenet – and some of them are still friends, real world and virtual.

Some of the old misc.writing crowd have resurfaced as a facebook group twenty years on. Still the same bunch of good people.

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What’s the Psi-Tech trilogy about?

Nimbus, the final book in my Psi-Tech trilogy, is out now.  Who-hoo, I have five books out and this is the first complete trilogy.

Sometimes big ideas start with a bang and arrive fully formed, sometimes they start small and grow. The Psi-Tech trilogy has not one big idea but two, though neither works without the other.

Way, way back in the mists of cliché, when dinosaurs walked the earth, we all cleaned our teeth with sticks, and Amstrad was cutting edge technology for a scribbler like me, a scene presented itself and begged to be written.

Empire of Dust

Empire of Dust – Cover

A telepath sits in a small, grey room on a backwater space station, acting as a human phone operator, making instant calls across the galaxy for anyone who can pay the going rate. It’s a dead-end job, not what she’s trained for, not what she’s capable of doing, not what she’s used to. So why is she here?

 She’s here because she’s afraid. She’s on the run from… someone. (I didn’t know who or why, right then, but I knew it was serious.) If they catch up with her they’ll kill her and she’ll be very lucky if it’s quick and painless.

 She needs to escape, but her luck and her credit have run out.

 She’s contemplating cruising the transients’ bars to see if she can hitch a free ride. She’ll take anything, even the worst bucket-of-bolts mining barge, even if she’s got to sleep her way on board.

Then a last-minute job comes in. She doesn’t want to take it so she jacks the price right up, but the caller agrees anyway. It piques her interest. Telepaths always hear, but they mostly choose not to listen. This time she does. There’s talk of a new colony. The settlers are back-to-basics Ecolibrians who’ve opted for a closed planet. If she can talk her way on to that mission she can steer clear of her pursuers, find safety.

That was how it all started. It grew slowly and changed over time, of course. The first scene didn’t survive, though the frightened Telepath and the Ecolibrian colony did.

The gestation period of a book varies from months to years and this one was years. I wasn’t under contract to a publisher back then, so there was no pressure. I wrote the first draft in four months then let it sit on a back burner, revised it, wrote a different novel, and another. A couple of years later I returned to it, revised it yet again, and sent it to my (then) agent. On her advice I cut it drastically. When I parted company from that agent I sent it out under my own steam then waited three years while a major publisher hung on to it after saying: ‘The first couple of chapters look interesting, I’ll get back to you…’ Three years later I withdrew it from that publisher still, as far as I know, unread beyond the first two chapters. More time passed, another agent came and went. When I sold my first book to DAW (Winterwood, a historical fantasy) and signed up with the Donald Maass Literary Agency, my editor said those words that every writer hopes for: ‘What else have you got?’


Crossways: Book Two in the Psi-Tech series.

DAW’s publishing schedule had an empty slot for science fiction before one for fantasy, so Empire of Dust became my debut novel. Under Sheila Gilbert’s gentle but thorough guiding hand, I added back a fair amount of what my first agent had asked me to remove. I restored plot layers and character complexity, while growing the universe around the twists and turns of the narrative. By this time I knew that DAW wanted a sequel, so I was building the world for at least a two book series and possibly three.

What has become my Psi-Tech Universe now contains a galaxy-spanning human society which uses jump gates and telepaths to navigate foldspace.

Neither jump gates nor telepaths are unusual tropes in science fiction. So what makes them different in the Psi-Tech universe? Mega-corporations more powerful than any single planetary government. race each other to colonise worlds and gobble up resources, using as their agents psi-techs, humans with psionic implants. Each one of them is economically tied to the megacorp that paid for their implant. They are treated well as long as they don’t step out of line. If they do rebel, their attitude can be readjusted, but they may not come out of it exactly… sane.

Add to this the platinum problem. Platinum is a valuable catalyst and though it exists in lots of places, it’s usually only found in tiny quantities and it takes a long time to process tiny quantities from a huge amount of ore. Fun fact: in the whole history of our world to the present date, the amount of pure platinum produced amounts to less than 25 cubic feet. In my psi-tech universe, with every jump through foldspace a small but significant amount of platinum is lost, so the need to find more and bigger platinum deposits drives everything. And the megacorp which controls the most platinum is in the strongest position.

And now back to that frightened telepath, Cara, fleeing from her former boss because she knows too much. When she hooks up with Navigator Reska (Ben) Benjamin, she plummets them both into danger. Friends become enemies. Betrayal follows betrayal. Knowing where to place your trust becomes the ultimate survival skill. If they make the wrong move an entire colony planet will pay the ultimate price.

Cara and Ben’s story is just the beginning, though. Solving one problem highlights another. Ideas demand room to grow and Empire of Dust is only the first outing for my troubled psi-techs.

Nimbus front coverIn the second novel, Crossways, the survivors, now wanted by the megacorps on trumped-up charges, take refuge on a huge space station run by a coalition of crimelords. Crossways fought for its freedom from the big corporations, so its denizens don’t ever intend to let it be taken over again. It’s a kind of future version of Tortuga-in-space where pirates, smugglers and free-traders can take refuge alongside displaced persons, refugees, radicals and opportunists. The megacorporations have been looking for an excuse to take down Crossways and the psi-tech presence there might just be the excuse they need.

But something is stirring in the unfathomable depths of foldspace. Pilots and navigators are trained into believing that foldspace visions are an illusion, but that’s a lie perpetuated by their teachers ‘for their own good.’ Yeah, right! In the third book, Nimbus, what’s really happening in the Folds will change the future of humans in space, but not unless the conflict with the megacorporations is resolved and humankind tackles the problem together. There are some hard choices to be made.

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Looking Forward and Looking Back – Ten Years of Blogging

I blog every other Tuesday on my WordPress blog – mostly things which are writing-related. My next Tuesday post should fall on 26th December which all Brits will recognise as Boxing Day – still very much in the middle of the holiday. We’ll have family staying for a few days, so I will be out of the office, hence this is an early post. Daughter, G, her husband and two kids arrive (by car) on Saturday 23rd, and son, J, and his intended arrive by train the same day. Both lots are here until 27th.

We’re looking forward to family time with kids, grandkids and my mum (who lives next door). I’ll be cooking Christmas dinner for nine – turkey, ham and a veggie option, with all the trimmings.

So today, I’m both looking forward and looking back

It’s ten years since I started personal blogging – first on Live Journal and latterly continued on Dreamwidth (mirrored on Live Journal). My author blog at WordPress is much newer, dating back only to August 2013, shortly after I was offered my first book deal by DAW, but before the first book actually came out.

This seems to be a good time to do a review of the last ten years and also of 2017.

To begin at the end: 2017

Freya's hat-sm


2017 has been another good year for me. I’ve had two books published, gained another grandchild (now 10 months old) courtesy of my daughter and son in law, my son has achieved his doctorate and announced his intention to marry in January 2018. I managed a trip abroad in the summer to Worldcon in Helsinki with a side-trip to Tallinn for some writing research. Trips at home included a week in North Wales for the annual Milford SF writers’ conference and three conventions: Eastercon, Fantasycon and Bristolcon (which also gave me the excuse to spend a couple of days in Bath for more research). Altogether not a bad year! Between those momentous events I’ve been sitting behind a desk, tapping keys and hopefully making some sense. As the year ends I’m halfway through writing book number six which is due out in November 2018 and I have another writing project on the go which is not yet ‘sold’ officially, but I have high hopes.

In the music business (my day job) I’ve done tours for Eileen McGann (Canada), Cloudstreet (Australia) and Dan McKinnon (Canada) as well as gigs for Keith Donnelly, Zulu Tradition (South Africa), Robb Johnson, Union Jill, Lee Collinson, and Tania Opland & Mike Freeman (USA).


Vin Garbutt RIP

I was devastated to lose Vin Garbutt in the middle of the year. Vin had been struggling with heart problems, but had successfully undergone surgery and looked to be recovering nicely when a different heart problem snatched him away from us. Vin was not only one of my busiest agency artists, but he was also a good friend. A talented, charismatic performer, a dedicated family man and one of the nicest people on the planet. To say he is missed is a vast understatement

But life goes on, and I’m already working on gigs into 2018 and 2019. I’m looking forward to having Ritchie Parrish Ritchie back in the UK for a tour in May 2018, and Dan McKinnon in the autumn. Also I’ve been doing a lot of immigration paperwork for musicians coming to the UK from outside the EU. At the moment EU musicians can travel freely and perform anywhere within the EU, but who knows what will happen after Brexit.

And now delving back into the last decade.

When I started my Live Journal blog (blogging as ‘Birdsedge’) it was mainly to keep up with friends who hung out on there. December 15th 2007 was my official welcome to the world of blogging, but I didn’t really get underway until January 2008. My first real post was 7th January 2008 when I wrote about managing time. Looking back I see not much has changed. I still have too many things on my to-do list and not enough time. That’s a recurring theme.

I didn’t start blogging books until 2009, and that’s largely because in December 2008 I added up the books I’d read in the year and it was a very slim list – only about 30 in total. In 2009 my book log for the year recorded 61 titles. In 2010 it was 56, in 2011 only 43, but in 2012 it was back up to 53. In 2013 it started shrinking again – down to 36, but in 2014 I had my worst year ever for reading, only 19 books, but I suspect that was because I got my first book deal in 2013, so I was writing like mad. I’ve always said that I can’t read when I’m writing (or at least when I’m first drafting) but I’m getting better at that. In 2015 it was creeping back up to 34, but in 2016 it was up to a massive (for me) 97. This year so far it’s been 74, which is pretty respectable. Over 500 book blogs (and early blogs) can be found on Dreamwidth at I also blog around 25 to 30 movies a year in my Movie Of The Week posts. Ten years of blogs. If you’re reading this on Dreamwidth (since this is one of the few posts I’m triplicating to WordPress, Dreamwidth and Live Journal) you can catch up with my writing blog at

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