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 threat in the galaxy and Earth is the target.


17821125_10210855277251283_2070480600_nfireworks-804838The Blackstar Gambit is to be released by Imzadi Publishing on May 16th. Pre-order links are in place, release party is booked on Facebook for the 19th so things are heating up. Excitement is building and hopes are high that this will just be the start.

The Blackstar Gambit, book 7 in the thrilling Col Sec series will see Kurt Stryder and Zara Hardy face their most challenging threat to date as they are faced with choices that place millions of lives in the balance. From one side of the galaxy to the other they race to find the truth behind an ancient cult that has spawned an evil so deadly it threatens to destroy the entire Confederation starting with planet Earth. Kurt and Zara learn that the good guys don’t always win and that bad things do happen as they stand by helplessly to watch the Blackstar Gambit play out.

Now you’ve had a sample here’s the links where you can buy it.


So far this is a link just to the paperback edition, we’re still waiting for the Kindle link.





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

High hopes

blackstar-gambit-imzadi-coverThe Satan Strain AMAZON LARGEScience fiction has a wide and varied fan base that the majority of the general public still consider a little off. Although it’s become much easier to come out as a true geek or nerd than ever before it is still a sub culture that gets strange looks from the general public. I am proud to be a geek or a nerd and this lifestyle choice is amply illustrated by the material I write. My Col Sec series is available on Amazon and other online outlets and two of the books have been picked up by Imzadi Publishing in America and I have high hopes that the rest of the series will be optioned as well.

Unfortunately any hopes of earning massive amounts through this series will probably never materialise because the plain fact is that sci fi does not sell that well. Check out any best seller list from the New York Times through to your local bookshop and sci fi will almost certainly not feature. That does not mean that these books don’t sell at all, quite the opposite really, they do sell but not in the millions, unless you are JK Rowling you cannot guarantee your latest book will sell out in minutes.

The Col Sec series deals with the adventures of a group of individuals in an organisation called Col Sec or Colonial Security, set in the mid twenty fifth century when technology has advanced to the stage where space travel is common place and many planets have been colonised Col Sec keeps the peace. These tales are chock full of adventure and fast paced action that rivals any modern thriller written by the likes of James Rollins or Clive Cussler but with the added bonus of being in space. Like most authors my work suffers from not having the reviews that can determine whether a book will sell or not. I’ve had a few reviews which have all been 4 or 5 star ratings but to date my best selling book isn’t in this series, it’s a book called The Satan Strain written under my pen name of Jack Dillon. It features an organisation called ATLAS Force, Advanced Threat Locate And Secure and the story is a modern thriller with a sci fi element to it. This book has had the most reviews, all 4 and 5 star ratings again and in my opinion would sit well among the works of the aforementioned James Rollins, Clive Cussler or even Matthew Reilly. I don’t have an agent repping my work or a big publisher pushing my work, like a lot of writers I’m doing all this on my own. My online profile gains followers every day so who knows, one day maybe my work will be sitting on the shelf next to that of my idols.

I have high hopes but these are not enough to obtain my dream. I know there is still a lot of hard work ahead of me. The road ahead is never easy when you’re working toward a goal all I ask is for a little company along the way.

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.

Are we living in a Dystopian society now?

Gene Roddenberry’s idea of what the future held for humanity was that of a Utopian society where crime had been eradicated as had poverty and illness. It was where the different races within humanity had learned to live alongside each other and embrace each other’s differences as well as the many alien species mankind had encountered throughout the galaxy. It was a beautiful ideal and certainly one worth reaching for. It showed one potential for mankind’s greatness and I say ‘one’ because there is the other side to the coin. As with everything there are pro’s as well as there are con’s and the other side of human potential is the evil that men do.

The opposite of Roddenberry’s Utopian society we see in Star Trek is the Dystopian society we see in books such as George Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison which was filmed as Soylent Green. In these scenarios we see society breaking down and governments being oppressive and totalitarian. As events unfold throughout the world we see more and more incidents that lead us to the future in those latter books. These books posed a possible future and were fiction when they were published, science fiction for the most part because they dealt with matters concerning the human condition and where our hopes and desires could lead to when advancements in technology could make our progress that much easier to obtain. Now though, like in most science fiction the fiction is becoming fact. Our goals seem to be equal part construction and destruction, whatever we seem to make to enhance our lives, to make them easier, we tend to make something that could destroy it just as easy. Instead of us learning from our mistakes we seem to endlessly repeat them. History has shown that we go through cycles where we elevate certain people to positions of power who inevitably are either corrupted by that power or are already corrupt themselves and abuse the power given them which leads humanity down a dark road. There is much fear and uncertainty in the world at the moment as we suspect we could be repeating that mistake again.

I posed the question at the start of this article, are we living in a Dystopian society? I think the only answer is, yes and we have been for some time, we just didn’t realise it.


What is a Best Seller?

As the time draws near for the release of my first book to be published by a professional book publisher the term ‘best seller’ is becoming more and more important to me than ever.

No doubt my book will be available through Amazon in every format possible which brings me to my point. What is a best seller, or more importantly does the term hold the same weight that it used to? I ask this because the internet and particularly, social media sites are full to bursting with best selling authors selling their wares but these people are not household names like the best selling authors I have known in the past, names like Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum and Jack Higgins, to name but three. I have read that if you target your book at a list on Amazon that is unique, such as Dwarf juggling Dolphin riding western then you have a good chance of being the only book on that list. If you sell just one copy then you are immediately an Amazon best selling author.

Now the thought of being a best selling author is as appealing to me as it’s always been but I think I’d rather sell thousands of books a month and not make the international best seller list, or even the national list than be an Amazon best selling author with only a few copies sold. This may sound mercenary and that I’m only in this for the money but you’d be wrong. If I sell more books it means I reach a far wider audience and there’s a greater chance of one day hitting that magic list and becoming a best selling author.

To me the term best selling means that you sell more than others. This is not a race or a competition though, the objective any author has is to reach as wide an audience as possible. To share what they have to say with people who hopefully will appreciate the hard work needed to produce the work.

On May 16 2017 my book, The Blackstar Gambit will be released by Imzadi Publishing and I will begin the waiting game to see if it will reach the lofty heights I aim for.

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.