The Fleet Quintet is now the Free Quintet

I’m giving away the first four books I ever published free for the whole of July.  As this is a Smashwords campaign, it means the books can be downloaded onto any device, which is nice.  No faffing about there, then!

Along with the first three Fleet Quintet books (the fourth is available to buy here), I’m also giving away the first book I ever published:  A DOORWAY INTO ULTRA.  I’ve had many adventures with this book, not least of which a change of title.  It has more reviews than anything else I’ve written, though it has the least Sci-Fi content (perhaps that’s why!)

These are the four books I’m giving away:

(1)  A DOORWAY INTO ULTRA:  Smashwords Link

You can read more about this book on my website here

A Doorway into Ultra 1


You can read more about this book on my website here


You can read more about this book on my website here


You can read more about this book on my website here

Free Fleet Quintet 1 2 3

I’m rather hoping, of course, that by giving my books away I’ll generate some (good!) reviews.  One must, I feel, live in hope if one is to live at all!  Otherwise, I hope, more than anything, that you enjoy the books when you “buy” them!


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Review: Aggretsuko

I LOVE THIS!  I discovered it last night and watched the first two episodes, brilliantly short at fifteen minutes each – though they felt so much longer, packed as they were with story line.

If you’ve been on Mars recently and haven’t heard of Aggretsuko, it’s Japanese anime for adults.  All the characters are animals, the main character, Retsuko, being a red panda.  But the cuteness stops there.  Retsuko is in her twenties and works in a seriously shitty office job, the kind we either wish we didn’t have or spend our lives trying to avoid.  Her awful boss is channelling 80’s chauvinism and Retsuko, being the “responsible” one, gets dumped with all the work.  She’s basically a pushover and not at all confrontational.

But she’s angry.  And it’s the rage that makes it so funny:  when she gets angry, she karaokes death metal.  The first time this happened (she was in the toilet, it transpired), I nearly died laughing.  The cute panda became a sharp-fanged monster, an image I want on a T-shirt.  THIS is how I feel!

Despite the fact that Retsuko is more than a generation younger than me, I identified with her at once – and I’m quite sure I’m not alone, and that gender or age has nothing to do with it.  I’ve been listening to metal for years as my only outlet to the rage I can’t express.  For me, I’m standing on a mountain top with my microphone (and guess what – it looks just like Retsuko’s) screaming such expressive lyrics such as “shoot shoot shoot motherfucker.”

I can’t wait to watch the rest of this.  I wish only happiness and a more fulfilled life for poor Retsuko.  Seeing this on the day I didn’t get a job I’d just interviewed for (and didn’t want) made it even more poignant – I don’t even want to think about the rage I would have had to suppress!


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Flashing a little fiction

I seemed to have missed the flash fiction train.  It seems to be quite a big thing, particularly online.  Having mastered the art of the humongously long novel and short stories that are actually novelettes, brevity isn’t something that comes easily to me.

It hasn’t always been like this.  I remember writing short stories that were, actually, short.  I even remember writing fun “novels” which were deliberately only a page long.  And then the other day I found a paragraph on my computer that I had entirely forgotten about.  I don’t remember when I wrote it.  I don’t know what I was thinking at the time.

It was untitled and was less than 100 words long, just a paragraph.  It was staccato with no complete sentences, often just single words, or several strung together in a rather poetical style.  But it was quite utterly the most brilliant thing I had ever written.  Clearly it must have exhausted me, those 97 perfect words, because I had never gone back to it and then forgotten about it altogether.

What a find!  I’ve been inspired to finish the tale, or – at least – add to it, because the entire story was already visible in that brief paragraph.  I realised it was rather like writing poetry, where every word counts, where rhythm is everything, where imagery was paramount.

It’s the most exciting experimental piece I’ve ever attempted!  Because it’ll barely scrape the 1000 word mark, it will then be classifiable as flash fiction.  My first!




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When music creeps into your writing

It’s ironic that the two most brutish men I’ve ever created should both be associated with tinkly piano music.

When writing a novel, I obsessively listen to the same music every day until the book is finished (or I’ve gone nuts.)  The Bladerunner soundtrack is forever associated in my mind with my novel TRANSFERENCE and two Einaudi tracks Oltremare and L’Origine Nascosta from Divenire are the theme for Vincent Gomenzi (the anti-hero in V.GOMENZI.

But it was another Fleet Quintet character that had his music appear in the prose itself.  The hard ass Igen Dyce, whom we first met in FLESH FOR SALE has his character broadened considerably in V.GOMENZI.  The piece of music (The Mystery of Love from the TV version of Dr Zhivago) is actually a favourite of his girlfriend’s.  She’s a minor character whom we hardly ever meet, but is Igen Dyce’s primary motivation:  when she sells herself to the Fleet, he dedicates his life to recovering her.


In the sealed silence of their luxury apartment, he became aware that he’d left a selection of music running but couldn’t draw himself away to turn it off.  A piece came on, Michelle’s favourite, called something trite like “The Mystery of Love.”

It began unsuspectingly, a few quiet notes, but suddenly the orchestra swelled and the piano became more compelling.  He had never heard the piece properly before, never noticed the tremendous crescendo, so perfect it was like glass breaking, the notes clear and translucent.  And then suddenly it stopped, the melody changed.  It was the same melody that danced through the collection, so light it took your breath away.  It always made Michelle cry.  The emotion of the piece was undeniable.  Not only did it reach out for God, it found him.  The brief piano melody, the cool sweep of a single violin behind it, penetrated Igen’s consciousness as he stood at the window, staring at nothing, as he realised that he was never going to see Michelle again.


Years later, well into my Exodus Sequence stories, another Einaudi track turned up in SUICIDED.  A dirt fighter hears it moments before entering the gladiatorial-type pit.  Rape (cut from Rapier) is possibly the most violent character I’ve ever created so the irony is even greater when you consider the gentleness of Einaudi’s music.  The opening of Eros (from Nightbook) seems to start with birds twittering in the background.  Hearing this music added another dimension to what should have been a mindless fighter:  Rape is anything but mindless and has a revelation that goes beyond immortality.


The music was sawing inside his skull, the violins, the cello, some kind of drum.  He was motionless, listening to every note, his arms at his sides, his expression fixed.

Lights from the arena flashed through a slit in the door, strobing and shattering, a blinding display.  His eyes were fixed to the door.  Cameras were fixed to the ceiling.  Through the walls, the sound of his name pounded.  Through his veins, the music raced.  The rhythms grew more complex until he could hear pounding in their core the word death.  Death, death, death.  One two three.  A three step.  You could dance to it.

It was almost time.  The gun was about to go off.  Then the doors would smash open and his manager would be shouting the last words of encouragement and the noise of the crowds would press on him, a vast, terrible weight … but not yet.  Not yet.  Almost.  He waited.  Time seemed to have stopped.  The violins were sawing to a frantic climax.  It was supposed to be about sex.  This was about death.  Sex.  Death.  Interchangeable.  Same outcome.  Same climax.  Same rush.


(You can also buy SUICIDED by itself:  see here)

I recently read the most appallingly bad book, worsened by characters listening to Led Zep and David Bowie and other big star clichés whom the author no doubt picked because readers would have heard of them.  Worse still, the death metal Goth-girl stereotype has Neil Diamond on her iPod.  Seriously?

This is NOT what I mean about music in writing, but a description of the music itself insinuating into the prose.

Has anyone else had this happen to them?


Einaudi on YouTube:  Divenire  and Dr Zhivago and Nightbook


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The sheer utter misery of approaching literary agents: the days of the rejection slip are over

When did literary agents start treating authors like shit?  I’ve spent the better part of 30 years trying to find an agent.  If I’ve failed, it’s because my work was either utter garbage or wrong for that agent.  But there seems be another reason now.

Agents have always been hopelessly inundated with manuscripts.  The slush pile is famous.  Nowadays, it’s worse.  More people on Planet Earth = more manuscripts = bigger slush pile.  Once upon a time, you sent off your three chapters, prayed hard, got a rejection slip after 6 to 12 weeks and moved on to the next agent.  Multiple admissions were frowned upon:  it was deeply impolite to send your work to more than one agent at a time.

Until recently, I thought this was still true.  I believed that you really shouldn’t send your manuscript to more than one agent at a time and that you should just wait until you got your rejection slip before moving on.  I thought I was taken a huge risk by sending my manuscript off to two at once – but then, I told myself, the one was the most popular literary agent in the world and highly unlikely to even notice I was alive.  It’s like stepping on an ant on the sidewalk – do you even know you’re doing it?  After four months, I hadn’t heard from either agent and took what I thought was another great risk – I approached agent number 3.

And then I read ON AN AGENT’S WEBSITE that if if they weren’t interested in the manuscript and didn’t want to read beyond your crappy first three chapters, THEY WOULDN’T LET YOU KNOW.  They wouldn’t even bother to send you a rejection slip (even an electronic one.)  So how the fuck are you supposed to know if they’re ever going to reply?  The maximum number of agents you can send your work to in a year is 4, given the three month wait.  FOUR.  And if none answer you EVER, then it’s, well, 1.  If agents don’t send rejection slips anymore, is it any wonder that authors now, in desperation, have resorted to multiple submissions?  In another blog, I read that many authors are doing this now.  It’s still a frowned-upon practice but agents are “resigned” to the fact that authors do it anyway;  if one agent does accept you, the polite practice now is to let the others know so that they don’t have to bother reading your stuff.

One could say that with multiple admissions, authors are treating agents poorly.  But how are agents treating authors if they couldn’t even be bothered to send a fuck-off email.  At this point, I should go off in a huff and say, well, bugger all that, I’m going to self-publish.  Except I tried that and it didn’t work.

So I am going to try the multiple submissions method.  Because, God knows, I am so far down in the black pit of despair when it comes to my non-career that I’ve got nothing left to lose.

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An insightful review of Black Panther

Warning:  spoiler alert.  This is an in-depth review that discusses events you may not want to know about if you’re looking for surprises at the cinema.

(This is a reblog)


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A farewell to Ursula K. Le Guin

I was sorry to hear, this morning, that Ursula Le Guin had died, but relieved that she had lived to a ripe age and had successfully produced a huge body of work.  I’ve read several of her books – not always understanding them – and they have all left me something to think about, sometimes for years.  If you haven’t read her, start with The Earthsea Quartet.  (As coincidence would have it, my daughter is reading it at the moment.)  I told a work colleague, who has never read her and likes his fiction literary, to read The Dispossessed.  It’s amazing how her work feels even more relevant today than ever before.

If you want to read more about her, try the Wiki page:  (it has a note on it to say that it has an extremely high volume of traffic so expect it to crash soon.)

None of her books have been successfully filmed, which is a pity, and the radio adaption of The Earthsea Quartet (which I’ve listened to several times on Radio 4 Extra) left something to be desired as well.  I think this is bound to happen when plots of too complex to condense and so much is lost.  Also, her writing created great flights of fancy (for me, anyway) and one person’s vision of a book isn’t ever the same as another’s.  I didn’t know much about her when I first started reading her and wasn’t entirely surprised to find how well-educated she was, something I envy hugely as it gave her writing such a broad scope.  Her work isn’t always easy to read but always worth it.

Amongst her many awards, I see she got one from the US Library of Congress who made her a Living Legend.  Wow:  you can’t hope for anything better than that as a writer!

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