Oh what a night!


Last night I hosted my very first Facebook event. The event in question was for the release of my first published book by Imzadi Publishing, The Blackstar Gambit which is the seventh book in my Col Sec series.

The event threw a curve at the normal author events, in last nights party we had author slots taken up by sci fi and fantasy authors which lasted for the hour, as normal but here was where it differed and got really interesting. These authors were invited to bring along a special guest, in the form of one of their characters from their books. As host, all I had to do for the first hour was introduce my book, inform everyone a little about myself then go on to let them know a little more about the series but always keeping the focus on The Blackstar Gambit. I threw in a game or two to keep it fun and friendly and then I passed it over to the next author.

It was a long day for me starting with the arrival of my author copies of the book from Imzadi, and the timing couldn’t have been better for it allowed me to post a photo of them on the event. Then as the day progressed I worked on my script for the evening collaborating with the organiser, Karina Kantas of KKantas Author Assist until I was satisfied that everything would go smoothly. Before I knew it the time had come for the event to start.

As interesting as the night was when we reached the midnight stage I was just about finished. I had commented on other author’s input, played all the games, chatted with guests for over seven hours with three or more to go. In the end I had to regretfully bow out and say goodnight to everyone. I felt like I had let them down by not staying until the end but the time difference between the UK and US meant that I was finishing up as some were just sitting down to their evening meal. I couldn’t stay any longer as I had been at the laptop working on this event from 8 am so I was understandably tired.

The event was a success though, I was able to reach a wider audience for my series and I made a few more friends in the writing community who I intend on remaining in contact with. When they have an event of this nature I will be sure to participate as they did on mine.

The future of the series is unclear, in the writing world there are no guarantees but I am hopeful that through this event there was more than a little interest showed. Success for any book is all about sales, awards mean nothing if the book doesn’t sell, some may disagree but in today’s world success is measured by the Benjamins, a sad fact but nonetheless a true one. Regardless of that, I still consider last night a success. I had fun, met some interesting new people, was able to reconnect with some old friends and talk about the new book. With time, I’m sure the rest will come.

New Challenges.


I recently was given the chance to co-host an author event on Facebook. The event was to promote the re-release of Sunshine Somerville’s book The Kota. Each guest author was offered an hour’s slot in the event that lasted most of the afternoon and for me it was a first time thing.

I had attended such events before as a visitor but never as a host so this was definitely a new challenge for me and as the time drew near for me to take control, panic set in.

What was I supposed to do again? Could I cope? What if I messed things up? All these questions were running through my head and more as I sat down at my laptop as the clock counted down. Luckily I had the support of my new Marketing and Promotions Manager, Karina Kantas who had prepared my schedule from what I was to post, what I was to say, even down to smoothing my brow and easing my fears prior to my joining the event. She was a true professional and I honestly could not have done it without her.

The event went off well, I cannot say without a hitch because my first post needed the approval of the person running the event which threw me into another mild panic, but as soon as that was sorted and the event started to flow, all went remarkably well and I was left thinking “What was all the fuss about?”

I had a great time, I was made to feel so welcome by everyone present and the best thing was, although I was there to help promote the re-release of The Kota, during my hour long guest spot, all I talked about was my writing mainly the Col Sec series. It was a fantastic venue to promote my upcoming release of The Blackstar Gambit by Imzadi Publishing on May 16th and my entire back catalogue of not only the Col Sec series but the Jack Dillon books as well.

Interest  in the series was high and my page on Facebook devoted to it, along with the fan page for it, both received new ‘likes’ and many people said they would be picking up the books in the future.

Now I’m left thinking about my own event which is fast approaching. We have our own release party booked on Facebook on the 19th May, three days after the release of The Blackstar Gambit to celebrate said release which I am looking forward to now with pleasant anticipation. All the details are being handled by my supremely competent marketing Manager, Karina so all I have to do is turn up on the day and do my thing. I hope it goes as well as Sunshine Somerville’s did but whatever happens, I know it’ll be an enjoyable event and just the first of many. The Col Sec series is an ongoing series with no sign of it coming to an end any time soon. Imzadi Publishing has agreed to publish Ronin, the first book in the series so I have high hopes that many more will be published by them in the near future so these events will become common place as more and more books come out.

An author friend of mine jokingly referred to my release as a tidal wave was coming, in any event, I am ready for it, whatever happens.17821125_10210855277251283_2070480600_n17792611_10210855274931225_1434468212_n

Interesting Times


The Satan Strain AMAZON LARGEDeath List - High ResolutionThere is an old Chinese curse that says ‘May you live in exciting times.’ What this means is that to live in uninteresting times of calm and harmony is much more preferable than the opposite. Although this is always reported as a Chinese curse the truth is that there is no evidence backing the claim. The nearest equivalent Chinese expression is ‘It is better to be a dog living in peaceful times than a human living in chaotic (warring) period.

I can fully understand this feeling, I’ve long upheld the belief that it is easier to bend to outside forces if it results in an easier life but I find myself forced, in a way through my own endeavours to be living in interesting times. To clarify, by interesting I by no means chaos or war, although there does seem too much of that going on in the world, I refer to a more personal level. By that I mean my writing career.

I’ve been writing seriously for more than a decade now and my sci fi action/adventure series is seven books deep. I also have two other new thriller series ongoing under the pen name of Jack Dillon. The seventh book in my Col Sec series is about to be released through Imzadi Publishing, and by ‘about to be released’ I mean on May 16 which is a nail biting few weeks away. There is a trailer for the book out on YouTube, along with an audio trailer, there are ads flying around Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites so the pace is quickening. To say I am excited about this would be a massive understatement. My goal in setting out to write a book has always been to get published. Yes I have self published previous books and if I had not done so I would not be able to be in the position I am today. Imzadi has agreed to publish the first in the series too so I keep hoping that the entire series will be available through the same outlets provided by Imzadi.

As much as I want to concentrate on the Col Sec series I find myself drawn to my other works as well. In this respect I have just completed the sequel to The Death List, the first SI6 novel, Crosshairs, and I am working on the second book in the ATLAS Force series, WIRE Tap. The first in this series, The Satan Strain has been garnering some rave reviews so I have high hopes for the sequel.

Taking all this into consideration I don’t think to live in interesting times is a curse, not to me at least. I consider myself to be blessed to be in the position I find myself and I hope that I can bring enjoyment to others with by stories so they can also live in interesting times too.

Fear of the unknown.


balance-2034236eery-1648250Fear has plagued mankind since the first hominid stood erect. It has taken many forms and can strike at any time and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. When it strikes our natural instinct is one of two things, fight or flight, these are common reflexes we are all familiar with and we know the signs, the sweaty palms, the shortness of breath all these are common. There is no cure and we shouldn’t look for one for a life without fear is worthless. Fear helps us to expand our limits, to stretch our potential and become more than we are.

I have faced fear on many levels, a couple of times it was life threatening and it’s at these times we either dig deep and battle through, or we fold and run. A true test of courage is to do that which you are afraid of, despite the fear and not simply because of it. To do something you know will cause you fear is not courageous, it takes guts and fortitude but you know what you are facing because you sought out that fear. To face a sudden situation where you are suddenly thrust into danger but you do what is necessary despite fear for your life or for for another, that to me is true courage. You didn’t seek out the fear, or the danger but you got through it despite being afraid. Many may argue that this point of view is wrong and may state incidents which prove their point, that is absolutely fine, this is my opinion only. I have faced life threatening fear and I got through it because I had to, there was no other choice. I am not saying I am courageous and should be held to a higher standard, just that I got through it.

Now I am facing a different kind of fear. This is the fear of the unknown. Many horror movies play on this theme using it to build tension so that the climax can be satisfying and fear of the unknown can be truly terrifying. The fear I am facing though is not life threatening, it isn’t even dangerous in any degree, but it is something any writer, I would think, can relate to.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember in some form or another, and I’ve been self publishing for almost a decade.Last year I was lucky enough to have one of my books picked up by a publisher in the US, Imzadi Publishing. They agreed to publish The Blackstar Gambit, book seven in the Col Sec series and the release date is 16th May this year. My fear is quite simple and on two fronts; what do I do if this book bombs and I get no sales? All the hard work I have put into this series and all the hard work those extremely talented people who showed faith in my work will have been for nothing. I will have let so many people, including myself, down and I don’t know how I would handle that. On the other hand, basically the flip side of that, and just as scary, how would I handle it if it was a huge success? I’ve battled this road for so many years alone, seemingly getting nowhere, with just my faith in my ability and the stories I needed to tell as my companions that to have others come on the journey as well would be surprising to say the very least. Fame, or at least recognition is not something I have sought after, the thought of being an anonymous writer was appealing to me but nowadays with the advent of social media that is no longer an option. To make it in this business your face and identity have to be known to the world because you’re not simply a person who sits all day at a laptop banging out words that some people find exciting, you are a Brand. You have to market yourself as that Brand.

So I have to face my fears and take whatever comes. I have thrown myself into the arena of social media the best I know how, by simply being me. I know of no other person to be, I cannot suddenly pretend to be something, someone I’m not so what you see is what you get. I will gladly interact with my public, as scary as that is to me I don’t want people to think I’m above them, I’m just an average guy who sometimes can tell a good story. If you want to come and share my journey you will always be welcome. Perhaps with company the fear will be easier to face.

Are we alone? The answer could come sooner than we think.


cyber-1929133antenna-947824The news from NASA this week has excited not only astronomers but everyone in the scientific community, including sci fi writers. The news of the planetary system Trappist-1 being discovered is amazing. Seven planets in the system with three in the sweet spot, the habitable zone that could contain water and therefore sustain life. We won’t know for sure until we either send a probe or visit the system but the signs are encouraging at least.

When I was growing up the question all astronomers was asking was ‘are we alone?’ This has been addressed in many sci fi films and books and is a staple plot device in the sci fi genre. It was a question no one at the time thought would get answered in our lifetime. As technology advanced though, many other burning questions had found answers but this one seemed doomed to remain unanswered. This was something that was way beyond our reach, literally. To find the answer we would have to travel beyond our own solar system and into the realms of deep space where the nearest star was at least four years away if we travelled at the speed of light. Well it seems the question could be answered sooner than anyone ever thought possible. Before you go booking your seat on the next shuttle available to visit these planets I must assure you that’s not what I meant. Advances in telescope technology has enabled technicians at NASA and other institutions such as Spitzer, Kepler and Hubble to further investigate these signals and explore these planets for more signs that life could exist on these planets.

I don’t know about anyone else but I am truly excited about this. It’s too easy to become laid back or blase about this because we visit strange new worlds almost every day either on tv or at the movies so this is nothing new to us, with one huge exception. This is real life and all the other stuff is fantasy. This new star system that has been discovered is what dreams are made of, well the dreams of writers like myself at least.

Rogue One, possibly the best Star Wars film to date.


I finally got to see the much hyped new Star Wars film, Rogue One, a Star Wars story yesterday. I purposely kept away from any reviews and comments about the film because I wanted to see it with an open mind. All I knew about it was that it preceded A New Hope, Episode IV which began the immensely popular franchise back in the 70’s.

I had seen the other new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens when that hit the cinemas and was disappointed in the fact it was nothing more than an updated version of A New Hope. So this film at least was supposed to have some originality, at least that was my hope. I got to the cinema without many expectations, I thought I would be excited to see it but to be honest I still had the bitter taste in my mouth left there by The Force Awakens, so I sat in my seat and waited for it to begin.

After the inevitable trailers and adverts that always come before the main feature the lights dimmed and the film began.

From that opening sequence when we see the young Jyn Erso with her family on that cold wind swept planet with the rain battering down on them I knew we were in for a new kind of experience, Star Wars, most definitely, but different somehow, more real in context. The characters felt more real, their experiences, more visceral which was transposed onto the viewer through the screen. The danger the characters were exposed to in this film felt more realistic than in any film that came before. Darth Vader and the Sith Lords were evil personified and yet I felt they were somewhat cartoony and yet the antagonists in Rogue One were more evil and you felt a sense of real danger for the protagonists. Not at any time in the Lucas films did you have a sense that the good guys were in any danger, not when Luke was attacked by Sand People, not when he faced Darth Vader for the first time, not even when Han was placed into the pit to be carbonised you always knew they would survive. In Rogue One, every time Jyn and her band of rebels faced off against the Empire troops you felt any time they could die. For the brief time Darth Vader is seen in Rogue One you get a real sense of menace from him which, looking back at all the other films he’s appeared in and considering the Lord of Evil he was supposed to be, I never got. I don’t want to give any details away but there are several times when my heart was in my mouth as I sat perched on the edge of my seat hoping for a good outcome. I knew enough of the story to know the true outcome but how the film makers got there was truly remarkable. The physical effects were matched only by the use of CGI, notably in the few areas, again no spoilers, that made the film that much more special. This is a film that I could view many more times and still feel the same about. This was the Star Wars film I wanted The Force Awakens to be. This one, even though we all knew what the story was going to be, felt more original than any of the so called new films being thrashed out by Hollywood.

Rogue One is not just the best Star Wars film to date, but the best film of 2016. I hope the makers of Episode VIII take on board all the things that Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One, did right and follow his lead with the new film. Anything less would be a waste and more importantly, a massive disappointment.

Are Indie Publishers the new Self Publishers?


Are Indie Publishers the new Self Publishers? To elaborate on that question I would have to go back to when self publishing was in its infancy. When I first started to write I followed the path of many budding authors before me, and tried to get published by the mainstream publishers. There were many to choose from but, like so many before me I faced rejection from every level. It never occurred to me that the problem was with my approach and the quality of writing I was submitting but in time I learned. Then, still facing rejection, I learned of the self publishing route a writer could take. How to keep control of your work, keep the majority of royalties, it’s the best thing since sliced bread, and all the other things that the advertisers claimed you could do if you chose them. So I tried Lulu.com. After a while I heard about Createspace, owned by Amazon with distribution directly through them and I thought “That has to be better, right?”

My next few books were published through Createspace and I sat back and waited for the royalties to roll in. I did some social media marketing and tried to raise my profile but when I told a someone I met at a party that I had written a book and it was published her reaction was what I expected. Admiration, she was pleased and somewhat surprised until I told her it was self published. Her exact words were, “Oh they’ll print anything, if you send them the phone book they’ll publish that too.” I was gutted and in a way I knew what she meant, but she was obviously getting self publishing confused with Vanity Publishing. When I tried to explain the differences she just didn’t believe me and the conversation died. I had nothing to prove my point because at that time, and it’s still true today, you can actually send in unedited copy with sloppy formatting and it will get published. The word on the street was that self publishing was no better than Vanity Publishing.

The question I asked at the start, are Indie Publishers the new self publishers, is in this regard. Are the small presses, the Indie Publishers facing the same opinion from Joe Public that self publishing faced when that originated? To the man on the street if you mention you have a book deal they expect a world wide ad campaign shown on tv, in shops and in the newspapers. They expect that your book will be available in every bookshop around the world and even in their local supermarket. Unfortunately not all small presses have that kind of marketing budget and to try  explaining that you get the same looks from them that I got when I tried to explain the difference between self publishing and vanity publishing.

I’m lucky enough to have been picked up by a small press in the United States and I know how hard I had to work at getting my book good enough for them even to consider it worthy for publishing. I also know all the hard work they have done so far in getting my book ready for publishing, the editing, providing the artwork for the cover and the two trailers they have already produced, both audio and visual. I know that Indie Presses give the full service that the big five publisher provide but unfortunately they do not have the marketing budget that these behemoths of publishing have earned through years of controlling the market, at least not yet. I hope the success of my book and others they are going to publish, and the success of other writers like me will tip the balance and help earn the revenue small presses like Imzadi Publishing need to compete on a level playing field. The book will be released on May 16th 2017 which I am looking forward to immensely. I had a blast writing it and I hope you have as much fun reading it.

New Perspective


I watched a short video recently on Facebook that got me thinking. It was about this guy who was ranting on about stay away dads moaning about child  welfare payments and how their baby Momma’s were spending their money. I agreed with every word the guy said but that was because I could relate. Back in the late 80’s my wife left me for this other guy leaving our two children behind. Now truthfully, when she told me she leaving I said she couldn’t take the kids and she agreed. I don’t know what she told the kids, probably that she wanted to take them with her but couldn’t but the truth of the matter was that there was no room where she was moving to for them, and she was well aware of the fact.

I kept a roof over our heads, kept the family together and kept a full time job going so we could survive. Was it hard? Damn right it was hard, looking after two children who missed their Mum, was never going to be easy. Did their Mum help out with money? At times, yes but not all the time and this was how I could relate to what the guy in the video was saying.  Did I make mistakes? Of course I did but I never stopped trying to do the best for them.

In later years, the children have had a better relationship with their Mum, which was something I always encouraged, at least I hope I did. I never wanted them to hate her, I had ill feelings towards her, who wouldn’t? She left me for another guy, that I could forgive, eventually, what was hard was the fact of how much debt she left me in knowing I would be looking after our kids. That hurt and I went into depression thinking about it.

I tried to put all this behind me and I actually have an okay relationship with her. I’m glad the kids see her I truly am but what has left me thinking is that their relationship with her now seems to be better than what we have. They travel to see her, they spend time with her, they ask her if her health is okay, but none of that for me. I recently had a bout of the flu which turned into a chest infection and I was off work for a week. Not once have they phoned to see how I am feeling. The only contact I have had is when they want something from, me. This is standard practise for kids you will say, but these are full grown adults with kids of their own. This is not the first time it has happened either. I realised that in their view point I could be the bad guy. I kept them from their mum and made them live with me. It makes a kind of sense but I don’t know if that’s how they feel but it explains a lot. This new perspective has given me something more to think about. How do I go about changing things, should I change things? If I’m right then no matter how I try to tell my point of view they will have made up their own minds. I have no doubt they love me, that is not the issue, it’s never been the issue. Ever since our family got fractured I considered myself to be the one doing the right thing by the kids, never once did it occur to me that they would think otherwise. There’s not much I can do about it now, what’s done is done and we have a relationship that works. Do I wish it was better? Of course, who wouldn’t want a better relationship with their kids. Is it perfect, far from it but it’s also miles away from being dysfunctional. We have had our problems but we will survive but now I’m looking at things from a different view point so maybe I can understand them a little better now, so that’s good right?

Not The Man from UNCLE


It took me a while before I could bring myself to watch the recent reboot of The Man From UNCLE film. I tried to watch it when it came on Sky Cinema but I couldn’t get through it all. Then recently, when I was off work at the start of the Christmas break and I was at a loose end I thought I’d give it a go.

Before I go any further I must state that I like the films that Guy Ritchie has done, all of them, until now. I grew up in the generation that spawned the original series which I absolutely loved. Watching the old re-runs later on in life I saw how cheesy and silly they were but I still loved them all the same, probably because of how they were. This new attempt at bringing those characters and scenarios to life it seemed they took everything that made it what it was and threw it out the window and kept only the four character names. Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo tried his best to capture what Robert Vaughn nailed in his portrayal of the womanising hero but his back story was radically altered to the complete opposite of the original. I’m not sure what other fans of this thought but I was incensed. Armie Hammer played Illya  Kuryakin and again his back story was altered beyond recognition. Instead of the enigmatic rock that kept Solo’s womanising in check he was portrayed as a violent sociopath dealing with trauma from his past.

That’s just for starters.

It get’s worse. The story is supposed to set up how these characters met and became the force for good we all knew and loved but they spend the entire film trying to get one over on the other until they learn a grudging respect for each other’s abilities. There is no mention of the world spanning organisation they worked for, none of the gadgets that made the show memorable and the whole feel for the show was absent. Gone was the innocent bystander dragged into the world of espionage to give it that different point of view, another detail that made the show so memorable. Waverley , their boss was only seen in a couple of scenes and the name UNCLE was only mentioned right at the end just prior to the end credits rolling.

To say this film was a mess would be too gracious. If they had wanted to kick start the franchise once more they should have started with a proper UNCLE scenario with the two agents fighting against THRUSH, everything from this fiasco of a film could’ve been condensed into flash backs or better still, discarded.

The Man From UNCLE is a beloved franchise that has a huge fan base and to give them this atrocity is nothing more than a slap in the face.

Change for the better


As this year draws to a close I look back at what has happened during the past twelve months and reflect on some of the changes.

2016 saw some massive occasions in my life both professionally and personally some of which have been documented here and on various social media. Personally, I became a grandfather again bringing the number up to four, all wonderful additions to the family. It brings home your own mortality when something like this happens. You begin to realise just how finite your time on this world is when you lose someone you love but also when another life is brought forth and laid before you. When you see that little bundle of joy, so small and vulnerable you begin to wonder just how much of it you’ll get to see before you shuffle off this mortal coil. Time travels so quickly as you get older and before you know it your kids are having kids of their own and grandkids are what I think of as being karma. All the things you put your parents through growing up, your kids put you through and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show as your grandkids put their parents through the same ritual called growing up.

Professionally saw some massive changes too. This year saw my twentieth year at the same job, the longest serving employee at a factory I helped get off the ground and become the success it became. It also saw me receiving redundancy from the same job. This came as somewhat of a shock as I had begun to feel like part of the furniture. I now work for a rival company where I settled in remarkably fast and am thoroughly enjoying the new challenges. The other major change came early in the year when I received my publishing contract for The Blackstar Gambit, the seventh book in the Col Sec series from Imzadi Publishing. The book will be out in Spring next year and things are progressing nicely with it. The editing has been completed, the cover has been produced an audio trailer has been issued and this week the video trailer for the book came out. This is something I have worked towards for the better part of two decades and it seems like all the hard work, the sleepless nights and all the effort is finally paying off. I’m about to be a published author.

2016 saw some massive changes to my life and I know that the coming year is going to be crammed with more challenges, more surprises and hopefully a sprinkling of success.