Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My 1st Attempt at a Book Trailer

Well, that's it. At 44 seconds it's probably a little too long. Would 30 seconds be more appropriate?

I have to admit that I never really liked the book trailer video idea. Using video to advertise a movie or video game seems entirely appropriate, but advertising something that is text just seems wrong. However, after almost three years of people advising me to give it a go, I have and I'm not too sure how to rate the results. If it was a movie I'd use clips to give some idea of the cast, effects and style etc., but that's not really an option with a novel.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Fifth Astronomicon #scifi Novel out now

Fans of science fiction and followers of the Astronomicon series of novels will be pleased to hear that there is now a second standalone novel set in the ever-expanding Astronomicon universe, bringing the total number to five.
Front cover of Astronomicon: Deadline

This fifth novel is a departure in style from the previous ones. Its subject matter is lighter, the scenario humorous and the events bordering on farcical. I would not go so far as to categorise it as a comedy but it is strongly leaning that way.

It follows four weeks in the lives of an out-of-work life-support systems engineer and a failed journalist. Starting out in the huge mining community on the moons of Jupiter, they need to get home to Earth within four weeks to meet their respective deadlines.

Life always has a way of being more complicated than you expect and they did not expect an alien intruder, pirates, a covert government agency and some unexpected frozen corpses to get in their way!

Buy the whole e-book on Amazon now.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Revamped Front Cover for Those Left Behind

This month I am unveiling the new front cover design for Astronomicon: Those Left Behind. It's long overdue, but finally ready.

One thing I've learned is that it’s not only vitally important for a book cover to be eye-catching. It’s also critical that it works well and remains clear when displayed at a huge variety of sizes. The previous cover for Astronomicon: Those Left Behind did not fulfil either of those aims properly.

The image itself was excellent, a huge, planetary scale detonation viewed from orbit, but the layout of the titles was just too small and cluttered to work at smaller sizes.

The new design, shown above, works right down to thumbnail size, has more visual impact and generally looks more polished. I hope you all like it.

You may notice that I have also tweaked the colour-scheme and texture of the font used for the titles. The font itself is too good to lose, but I have felt for a while now that the gold colour was simply too vibrant. It may have been eye-catching, but it was straying into tacky. Hopefully the new finish is a little more tasteful and has a more dramatic feel to it. Of course now I’m going to have to modify all my other book covers to match!

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Curse of Missing your #Genre

Genres are a tricky thing. Some are obvious and clear, others are fuzzy and wide-open to personal interpretation. There are many sub-genres out there that stir up heated debates around their definition. The more you look into the whole thing the more of a mess it seems to become.

I've always classified myself as a science fiction author. My first few novels were classic science fiction, or at least I thought they were. The fact that they form an on-going series of books, sharing a common scenario and characters pushes them into Space Opera, but then I write very accurate science with a decent attempt to realistically predict near future technology. That kind of makes my novels Hard SciFi.

For years I kept labelling my novels either Hard SciFi or Space Opera, but recently I am beginning to think I may have got it completely wrong. Yes I write epic, far-reaching stories with a large cast of characters and yes my stab at future technology is soundly based in current technological research, but those are NOT the most important aspects of my novels.

The science fiction is not the centre of the story or even the reason for it. Looking back, most of my novels would actually work just as well set in the 18th Century on board wooden ocean-going vessels. The stories would translate very well and there's very good reason for this.


At the core of my novels is not science fiction, but humans. Everything revolves around the characters, their aims, fears, loves, fights and struggles. I've had several people tell me they believe Astronomicon: Icarus is based on the movie Event Horizon. It wasn't. I cannot claim that there is no crossover there, but my book was actually devised after watching The Perfect Storm (which was almost an excellent movie). I wanted to write a version which fixed the problems and, as I tend to write scifi, I wrote it as a scifi novel. In the end it diverged quite substantially from the plot of The Perfect Storm and went very much its own way.

By constantly labelling my novels as science fiction, and some of its sub-genres, I am probably losing a massive chunk of my potential reader base. I know of about a dozen people so far who have loved my books who openly state they do not like science fiction. My books have elements of mystery, action, adventure and even horror in them. They all contain some humour and even a little romance in places. My latest novel, Deadline (soon to be published) even has two of the key characters getting married before the final chapter. I planned it as a science fiction comedy, but it could easily be described as the account of a relationship from first meeting to eventual marriage. Maybe it's a RomCom? (No I don't think so!)

My stories are human stories, which happen to play out in a science fiction background. Which genre should I file them in? I genuinely don't know any more.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Too Many #Authors!

Ever since I started selling my e-books on-line I've been building up a list of contacts. These include other authors, readers, editors, magazines reviewers, promotion sites and lots more. Over the years I've noticed quite a few patterns, but some stand out more than others.

Some are obvious, like most scifi writers are male and most romance writers are female, but others have surprised me. Nearly half the horror writers I've discovered are female - call me sexist but I didn't expect that. I also didn't expect there to be so many paranormal romance writers. And by "so many", I mean more than all other authors added together. It's a popular genre but it's beginning to look like there are actually more people writing it than reading it.

On Twitter alone I have found just over ten thousand authors, so far! Some have written dozens of books, some make a full-time living from it, some are struggling to sell more than a few dozen copies and others are still working on their first novel.

I seem to be in a minority in believing that YA (Young Adult) and MG (Middle Grade [US]) are not genres in themselves, but rather age or audience classifications. So many authors say they write YA when I think they really mean that they write for a YA audience. After all you can write many genres for YA and MG (and any other age group).

A huge number of authors describe themselves as "aspiring" but even more seem to use the phrase "best selling". Far more authors use the "best selling" phrase to describe themselves or their work than can possibly qualify for it in the sense that most readers infer from it.

The sheer number of authors has astounded me. As to whether it's a good thing or a bad thing for readers I have yet to decide. I don't know if readers are spoilt for choice with an incredible selection of quality new books being published every day or are just wading through a tidal wave of dross (now there's a mixed up image!) desperately searching for something worth reading.

It's no wonder I struggle to get anyone to download my free novel even though it gets excellent reviews.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Foundation for a Universe

Long before I started writing the first Astronomicon novel, I began planning the universe in which the stories are set. Although I always planned to write novels and short stories set within the Astronomicon universe, it was never the primary reason for creating such a large and detailed scenario. I was originally working on a computer game, a multi-player real-time strategy game where players choose which species to play, before setting about annihilating all the other species through space exploration, technological development and military proliferation.

After several attempts to create the game established that it was a far larger project than could be realised with my resources, I decided that the only practical way to proceed was to write novels set within the universe.

With 12 alien races planned out in detail, a wide range of technological development and a projection of Earth history covering the next 200 years, there was a huge amount of potential material for an exciting science fiction novel. The first problem was picking where to begin.

The most obvious place isn't always the most interesting, but in this case most of the potential stories were not going to make much sense unless I introduced the Astronomicon itself, the mysterious device which links all the books. More than that, the title of the entire series needed to be explained, otherwise it would seem oddly abstract. The best way to do that had to be to cover its discovery. Better still, the group of humans who discovered the Astronomicon itself had a back story which was ideal for some classic science fiction. The first book took shape, named Astronomicon: The Beginning, and covering the first interstellar space flight by humans, seeing them survive a concerted effort to thwart their mission to build the first extrasolar colony.

The second novel, Distant Relatives, seemed to be a natural progression, in that it was set immediately after the first one. It shifts the focus back to Earth and opens with a huge alien invasion of the solar system. We get our first taste of  more advanced technology and the human race begins to the see the bigger picture and how they fit into the universe. The colony from book one turns out to be a key element in the ongoing story, uncovering a plot with serious implications for the inhabitants of Earth.

By the end of the second book, my aim was that readers would have a clear measure of the starting technology level and be fully aware of the approaching threat, but would still have no real idea of what technology they might be up against in future. Readers would discover that Earth's history up to the present day is not quite we have been led to believe.

After the universe and style of technology were both established, that left me free to explore other stories. Astronomicon: Those Left Behind was originally a contender for launching the whole series, but I think it worked much better as a prequel to the whole story. It filled in the reason for the Eridani race travelling to Earth, revealed some of their motivations and, for the very first time, gave a sense of the scale of the alien threat. We see how the relentless invasion of their home-world and ruthless extermination of their population drive them to execute a vast and daring escape plan. Only a tiny percentage of the population have a chance of getting away, but millions have to make the ultimate sacrifice to make it possible.

I believe that this is the best novel I have written so far. The emotions and motivations of the central characters are stronger than ever before. The "hero" has to overcome fear itself, avoid an alien menace and even go against his own people to save his children from extermination. Although this book is very much a prequel to the first two novels in the series, it also works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel. It's a good way of trying out the Astronomicon series without committing to a series.