Thursday, 9 May 2019

Blood Under Water - cover reveal!

I've been working on a sequel to Up To The Throne. It's called Blood Under Water, and it's a story of revenge and conspiracy in a murky, waterlogged city where corruption and murder hold sway. When a priest shows up dead in a canal, Giulia falls under suspicion. Will she clear her name and find the killer?

Only one way to find out - buy a copy. Coming soon!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

What Is Steampunk, And Is It Dead Yet?

I've been out and about for the last couple of weeks, attending steampunk events in Chatham and Didcot, and it seems appropriate to consider the two great questions of steampunk, namely: What is steampunk (and what isn't)? and Is steampunk dead (yet)? Or, rather, to fail to consider them, because I think they're both a bit pointless.

What is steampunk? And what isn't?

Taking the first issue, the short answer to "What is steampunk?" is probably something like "It's impossible tech with a retro, generally Victorian, feel."

But this seems to me to be the wrong question. It implies that there's a clear yes-or-no, either-or answer, that something is either in or out. I think this attitude leads itself to people appointing themselves as experts and gatekeepers and excluding others. A friend of mine says that in any subculture, first you get the innovators, and then you get the gatekeepers. And that, to my mind, risks making a genre stagnate.

For instance, is this steampunk?

It's some sort of ornate, anachronistic tank, and its name - the Empire Steam Tank - suggests that it's the right sort of thing. But the guys around it are Renaissance rather than Victorian, and its setting - Warhammer Fantasy Battle - is inspired by Medieval and Renaissance history and myth.

The sensible answer, to me, is to say that it's got a steampunk influence, by which I mean that it's got a sense of anachronistic, impossible technology, but also a sense of being tied to the look and feel of a historical period. The Space Captain Smith books are like this. They're science fiction, but they draw on Victorian and World War 2 imagery as well (and a load of other stuff). If you want to call them steampunk, go ahead, but that's not all they are.

If you want, you can subdivide this idea into different sorts of "punk": "dieselpunk" for the 1930s-50s, "clockpunk" for the steam tank above (and some of the machines in Up To The Throne), and so on. But outside really tying down the specific graphic style of a time, I'm not sure I see the point. "Retro" covers a lot of bases.

A book of Marmite

Is steampunk dead? And who cares?

So, question 2. Is steampunk dead? Well, as far as I can see, self-evidently not. I've got friends who continue to do "that sort of thing". The style will always be fun and enjoyable, even if it's not cutting-edge among the youth of today. It's also a useful way of writing all sorts of stories, from serious discussions about the nature of empire to jolly adventures where the inconveniences of history and science can be temporarily put aside. That kind of retro-tech will always be useful to authors and visual artists. As such, it can't "die".

As to the subculture aspect of it, steampunk remains one of the easiest ways to get a lot of people together who do interesting things. It allows a wide range of creativity and isn't tied in to a particular franchise or intellectual property. You don't have to like The Difference Engine, for instance, to like steampunk as a while. It's also family-friendly, at least here in the UK, and arguments that it's meant to be fundamentally subversive and anti-establishment never really ring true with me.

So, I'm not sure what the answer to that is, except that it certainly doesn't look dead. I've met some great people through steampunk, and I've had some really good times because of it. Long may it continue.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Up To The Throne in Paperback!

I'm delighted to announce that my novel, Up To The Throne, is available in paperback as well as for Kindle.

Copies have been purchased and they're looking good! You can buy copies from Amazon here:

Click HERE for paperbacks!

And you can read the first chapter for free here:

Click HERE to read Chapter 1!

And, what's more, here's me reading the first chapter out loud:

Click HERE to listen to Chapter 1!

Reviews and ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are always appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Articles for Fantasy Faction

I've been writing for the website Fantasy Faction for about six months now, providing reviews and pieces about various aspects of writing and publishing. I thought I would collect links to them here in one place, for ease of reading.

Here they are, in chronological order. Just click on the title to see the article.

September 2018:

Review: Black Man / Thirteen

October 2018:

Of Lead and Plastic: Tabletop Wargaming in 2018

The Island of Doctor Moreau - Review

November 2018:

Editing Your Writing

December 2018:

Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Review

January 2019:

Worldbuilding: More Than Just Maps

February 2019:

Taking Comedy Seriously

March 2019:

Carnivale and Frostgrave - first thoughts on two skirmish wargames

There will be more...

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Interview with Thaddeus White

Here I am, being interviewed by Thaddeus White, author of the Sir Edric books (among other things). Thaddeus has written several fantasy novels, including comedies, so it was interesting to talk to him about the experience of writing comedy (and not writing it, for once) and creating a fantasy setting.

Here's a link to the interview: Click Here

And here's a link to Thaddeus' website:

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Alien in the style of The Canterbury Tales

The Aylien's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer

(Spoilours doth followe)

Parte One

Once there was a shippe that did fly through Heaven
With a cargoe of stonne and crew of seven
From sleep awoken and from their course waylaid
When their captain hearde a calle for aide.
They made port and set forth to explour
“It doth seeme legit” said their science officour.

They founde on the ground a spaceshippe sits
Made out of olde bones and someone’s privy bits.
Inside was a great fellowe sitting doun
Withered away like a skeletoun.
With a strange wounde in his cheste full wide
Liken he had burste open from the insyde.

In the shippe's holde they found a great store
Of huge egges, liken it was Eastour.
The saylor Cain looked into an egge's hearte
And a crabbe burst out quicker than a farte!
So his fellows bore him from that playce
With some kynde of creature stuck to his fayce.

The crabbe did die, and the danger past
They joyously took of their repast.
Yet curtailed harshly was that feaste
When from Cain’s belly burste a terrible beaste.

Not making merry

Parte the Second

The beaste slew yeoman Brett, and pulled him into the raftours
Then it took the captain, to eat him for aftours.
Of the seven spayce saylors it had slaughtered three,
Leaving Lambert, Parkour, Ashe, and Ripley.

Quoth Elleyn Ripley “Three of us are now slayed,
Science Officour Ashe, grant us your aid,
Or else I shall declare you are not what you seme.”
But then Ashe did smite her, and spewed clotted creme.

Then one of the crewe, the noble Parkour
Struck off the hedde of that mad scolour
Full amazed ware they all, and passing annoy’d
To finde Ashe to be a God-cursed androyd.

Parkour sedde, “He would have hadde us all killed
We have been betray’d by the God-damned guild.”
“Ashe,” speketh Ripley, “now thou art beheaded
Why to the aylien is thy loyalty wedded?”

Sedde Ashe “Thou cans’t not slay it, that is a surety.”
“Thou admirest it,” says Lambert. “Aye, its purity.”
Now but three remayne of the bold crewe of seven
Lambert, Parkour and Ripley (Elleyn).

"Alas, mine head doth ache."

Parte the Thirde

Said Ripley “Friends, although Ashe is beaten
We must flee this vessel, or we’ll be eaten.”
Said Parkour “We’ll loade up the boat and be going.
Then we’ll sinke the ship and take turns on the rowing.”

He went to the holde, for to fetch some provisions
But the aylien appeared and made grievous incisions.
Ripley heard Lambert cry out, and went to get her
But of Parkour and Lambert, the less said the bettour.

Ripley entered the boat, sailed away from the shippe
But in her bunk was the aylien, having a kip!
So dame Ripley did put on her special trowsours
Donned her spayce helmet and opened the doors.

She was secured: the aylien was notte
And it flew out the window like last nighte’s chamber pot.
At last she was safe, on her journey she went -
But in spayce no-one can hear thee lament.

And what is the moral? Of strange egges beware.

Thank ye for your time: lyke, commente or share.

"Behold my lucky star and begone!"

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Who Travels The Fastest?

Charles Darwin on his throne, at the Natural History Museum, London

So, this is publication day! I'm writing this in the strange quiet period between the new book being available and anyone telling me what they thought of it. It's always a weird time, especially since Up To The Throne is quite different in style to either Straken or the Space Captain Smith books. Many thanks to everyone who has bought a copy. I hope you enjoy it!


I thought I'd mention something about the title. The phrase "Up to the throne" comes from a poem by empire-builder, Jungle Book author and exceedingly good cake-maker, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling is probably not read very much now, and I expect he has dated very badly, but he did have a knack with phrases. A surprisingly number of expressions come from his books, sometimes from works that are half-forgotten.

Disney changed a few things...

The poem "The Winners" contains the lines "Down to Gehenna [Hell] or up to the throne / he travels the fastest who travels alone". It's a rather bleak poem that, as far as I can tell, says that the quickest way to change where you are is to act alone (or at least to take the credit). Apparently it refers to characters Kipling wrote about, and not his own views, but either way it seemed appropriate for the novel that I'd written.

One idea running through Up To The Throne is the selfishness of revenge, and the need to have more purpose than just getting your own back. Grodrin the dwarrow calls revenge "running towards your death", and Publius Severra describes a life lived for vengeance as a life wasted - although I doubt he'd let bygones be bygones, either. As Giulia's search for revenge gets her, and her enemies, closer to seizing the throne of Pagalia, she discovers that her revenge won't let her just kill her target and walk away.

The Winners
What the moral? Who rides may read.
When the night is thick and the tracks are blind
A friend at a pinch is a friend, indeed,
But a fool to wait for the laggard behind.
Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

White hands cling to the tightened rein,
Slipping the spur from the booted heel,
Tenderest voices cry " Turn again!"
Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel,
High hopes faint on a warm hearth-stone--
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

One may fall but he falls by himself--
Falls by himself with himself to blame.
One may attain and to him is pelf--
Loot of the city in Gold or Fame.
Plunder of earth shall be all his own
Who travels the fastest and travels alone.

Wherefore the more ye be helpen and stayed,
Stayed by a friend in the hour of toil,
Sing the heretical song I have made--
His be the labour and yours be the spoil.
Win by his aid and the aid disown--
He travels the fastest who travels alone!