Coming Soon – The Epiphany Club

If you’ve been following my blog for any time at all, you’re probably familiar with the Epiphany Club. They’re a band of Victorian steampunk adventurers I invented for a short story, reflecting my interest in Victorian history, strange machines, and old-fashioned adventure stories. In the decade since, I’ve written five novellas exploring their adventures. And now, at last, those novellas are collected in one place.

The Epiphany Club isn’t just my biggest self-publishing project yet – it’s also the first time that I’ve dared go into print. Previously, my books have been purely digital, but now, for the first time, you can also get a physical version. A preview is currently sitting on my desk and I have to say that it looks pretty awesome. I’m very proud of this project.

So what’s it all about? Well…

Dirk Dynamo is used to adventure. He’s chased villainous masterminds across the mountains of Europe, stalked gangsters through the streets of Chicago, and faced the terrible battlefields of the Civil War. But now he’s on a mission that will really shake his world.

For centuries, the Great Library of Alexandria was thought lost. Now a set of clues has been discovered that could lead to its hiding place. With the learned adventurers of the Epiphany Club, Dirk sets out to gather the clues, track down the Library, and reveal its secrets to the world.

But Dirk and his colleagues aren’t the only ones following the trail. Faced with strange machines, deadly assassins, and shocking betrayal, can they survive the perils confronting them? And what will they find when they finally reach their destination?

Roaming from the jungles of West Africa to the sewers beneath London, The Epiphany Club is a modern pulp adventure, a story of action, adventure, and romance set against the dark underbelly of the Victorian age.

You can pre-order the e-book now, and if this is a story that appeals to you then please do pre-order. If you want to read a sample before you buy, the first novella is free from all good e-book retailers. Sadly Amazon won’t do pre-orders for the paperback, but I’ll provide details when it’s available.

Welcome to a world of curiosity and adventure. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed the writing.

Author Help

This post’s for the other writers out there.

My friend and fellow author Russell Phillips has recently gone into business providing support services for self-published authors. His Author Help business offers proofreading, formatting, technical support, and very reasonably priced web hosting for authors.

I’ve known Russ for over twenty years, and he’s been a huge help to me over the past few years with self-publishing and website issues. I can heartily recommend his services – I’m planning on moving my web hosting to him soon. So if you’re an author in need of help, then hey, why not try Author Help?

Coming Soon – Dead Men and Dynamite

Adventurer Dirk Dynamo finally has all the clues he needs and is heading into Egypt to find the lost Great Library of Alexandria. But as he sets out on the final leg of his trail, others are there ahead of him, people who would use the knowledge of the Great Library to nefarious ends. As he races spies and criminals through the land of the Pharaohs, Dirk must decide how far he will go for knowledge, and what he really values most in the world – life, love or learning.

Find out the final fate of Dirk Dynamo and the Great Library in Dead Men and Dynamite, the fifth and final book in the Epiphany Club series, published in February 2017 and available to pre-order now.

Creating Book Apps With AppOpus – a guest post by Russell Phillips

Digital publishing has opened up a wider range of options for authors than ever before, but few of us are making the most of them. Today I have a guest post from Russell Phillips, on a format with exciting new possibilities, and one few authors are considering – book apps.

Over to you, Russell…


This post will explain how to create book apps for Android phones and tablets, which can be uploaded to Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, both of which pay 70% of list price per sale. The apps are created using an application called AppOpus Builder. At the time of writing, this costs $99, with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll also need to install the free Java Development Kit (JDK).

AppOpus Builder creates apps that are effectively an ebook with a built-in ebook reader. The reader software includes a search facility and text-to-speech (TTS). It’s not as fully featured as some ebook reader apps, but it has all the essentials, and TTS is a nice addition. My only complaint is that the user has to tap a button to turn pages, instead of swiping. The developers have said that they’ll consider adding swipe page turns in a future version.

Why a Book App?

If you know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it’s possible to make ebook apps that are far more interactive than standard ebooks. Depending on your niche, this might be a big advantage or it may be an irrelevance. In the Operation Nimrod app, it is possible to display the floor plans at any point in the book, which isn’t possible in the ebooks. This is a useful feature, which isn’t really feasible in a standard ebook, but it’s barely scratching the surface of what is possible.

There is another, less direct, advantage. The Google Play store offers A/B testing of descriptions, something that is not currently offered by any of the ebook or print book vendors. The results could be applied to the book’s other formats, with the caveat that what works for the app won’t necessarily work for other formats.

Ultimately, the only way to be sure whether a book app will sell is to create one and see. So far, I’ve sold very few of the paid versions of my apps. The ad-supported ones do better, but generate very little income. On the other hand, they don’t seem to affect sales of the print and ebook formats. I haven’t tried Amazon Underground yet, but it would be interesting to see how that compares.

KDP Select

It’s not entirely clear to me whether or not a book created with AppOpus is covered by KDP Select’s exclusivity requirement. The Terms and Conditions for KDP Select state that “During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”An app is certainly a “digital format” and I suspect that it would be considered “substantially similar”, since it is effectively a book with a built-in ereader app. However, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t work for Amazon, so I may be wrong.

Source Files

AppOpus Builder is not a writing tool. Rather, it will take a collection of files (one per chapter), and turn them into an Android app. HTML files are strongly recommended for the source files, but it can also import RTF and plain text files. A basic knowledge of HTML is therefore useful, but not essential. JavaScript can also be included, and can be used to add a level of interactivity to book apps. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. HTML Dog has some good HTML tutorials if you need them.

Images and JavaScript

Put all of your content files in a single folder. Images, JavaScript, and other media should go in a sub-folder. When referencing external files in the HTML, prefix the path with a “./”. For example, where you might normally have an image tag such as:
<img src=”foo/bar.png”>

In AppOpus Builder you should instead use:
<img src=”./foo/bar.png”>

Linking to Other Apps

You can include links to web pages or other apps in the app store. To link to an app, you will need to know its Package Name (see the Application section below). Assuming the app’s package name is, the link to the Google Play store would be and the link to the app in the Amazon Appstore would be

These links can be used in web pages as well as in apps.

Running AppOpus Builder

AppOpus Builder consists of two files, AppOpusBuilder_Commercial.jar and AppOpusBuilder_Commercial_Ads.jar, which are delivered in a zip file. Unzip them to a convenient location, then double-click on the relevant one to run the program. Both versions work in the same way, but AppOpusBuilder_Commercial_Ads.jar includes a small advert at the bottom of the screen in the finished book app. This gives the possibility of offering a free version with adverts, and a paid version without adverts. This is a reasonably common option with Android apps.

If adverts are not included, the book app will require no special permissions. If adverts are included, the book app will require some special permissions, so that the app can download and display adverts.



Chances are that you’ve already got a cover, and hopefully it was designed by a professional. You can use this in AppOpus, but there are other options. As you move your cursor around the display on the Cover tab, different parts are highlighted. If you want to just use your existing ebook cover, click when the edge of the rectangle is highlighted. In the dialogue box that appears, click foreground-image and select your file. Then, click foreground-scale-type and select either “fit” or “fill”. “Fit” will scale the image to fit in the screen without changing the aspect ratio. If the aspect ratio of the image doesn’t match that of the screen, there will be blank space around the image. “Fill” will stretch the image to fill the screen, avoiding blank space, but stretching (and distorting) the image out of shape if the screen’s aspect ratio doesn’t match that of the image. Remember that the user may turn the device onto its side, so that the width is larger than the height, so the distortion may be significant.

If you don’t want a fixed image that will either have blank space or be distorted, the cover can be configured to automatically adjust to the screen size and orientation. In this case, you can set images and text separately. Two images can be chosen, a background image (which will always be stretched to fill the screen) and a foreground image. In addition to the two scaling options mentioned above, there is also “center” and “pack”. “Center” will position the image in the centre of the screen. Any parts of the image too large to fit on the screen will not be displayed. “Pack” positions the image below the title text. The text can be split into header, title, and footer sections. Simply click on the relevant area, then specify the font, size, colour, and text to display.


Screenshot_-_ContentsRather confusingly (to me at least), the Contents tab does not define the table of contents for the book. Rather, it is used to determine how the table of contents is presented.

Click on the table of contents to see the options dialogue. Most of it is self-explanatory. If the disable-tts box is ticked, there will be no text-to-speech option in the finished app.

If the show-about box is ticked, an extra “About AppOpus” entry will be added to the bottom of the book app’s table of contents. When tapped, this entry will display a “Powered by AppOpus” screen. I disable this screen, but it includes a message at the bottom directing the user to for help and troubleshooting, so you may wish to leave it enabled.

If you wish to display ads in your book app, you’ll need an AdMob account, which in turn requires an AdSense account and an AdWords account. These can be created during the AdMob sign up process. In order to set up ads in your app, add the app under the Monetise tab of AdMob, then create an Ad Unit for it. In AppOpus, enter the Ad unit ID in the admob-id box in the options dialogue on the Contentstab. Once the app is available in Google Play, link the ad to the app on the AdMob home page.


Screenshot_-_ChaptersOn the Chapters tab, click the folder icon in the bottom-right corner. In the dialogue box that appears, select the folder containing the content files and click Open. All of the files will be listed in the table.

Drag and drop the chapters into the correct order. Click on a chapter name to edit it. The chapters will appear in the table of contents as they are listed on this tab. If a file is renamed, click the refresh button at the bottom of the screen to reload the list.

Note: if you re-open a saved file, the chapters may not be in the correct order. Make sure you check them before creating a new .apk file.



Signing and Keystores

Android apps need to be digitally signed. AppOpus Builder signs the app file, but it needs a keystore file in order to do so.

If you already have a keystore file, click on the Keystore… button to select it, then fill in the Keypass, Storepass and Alias boxes.


If you don’t have a keystore file, click on the Generate Key… button. This opens the Key Certificate Tool, which is used to create the keystore file. Click the Output As… button to select a file to save the keystore as. It is very important to keep the keystore file, alias, and passwords safe. If you wish to update an app, you will need the keystore file that you used to create it.

Fill in the text boxes using the following as a guide:

  • Common Name: Your name
  • Organizational Unit: Put something like “Apps” or “Mobile apps”
  • Organization: If you have a publishing company name, use that. If not, use your name
  • City, state, country: The city, state and country where you live
  • Alias: Leave this blank
  • Key password, store password: The passwords. You will need these if you have to update the app later

Click Generate Key to create the keystore file. The Keystore, Keypass (Key password) and Storepass (Store password) fields in AppOpus Builder will be automatically filled in.


To select the launch icon (displayed on the phone/tablet) click Launch Icon PNG… and select a .png image file. I use the same icon as in the Google and Android app stores. I haven’t been able to determine what the splash icon is used for, and so I use the same image file for that.

Title is the title that will appear on the phone/tablet, under the launch icon. I suggest you use the same title as you set in the app stores, but note that the Google Play store won’t allow titles longer than 30 characters.

The Package Name must be unique among your apps, and should be in com.domain.appname format. For instance, if your website is and your app is called Awesome Book, the package name would be If, like me, you have a domain, just use instead of com, eg

The Version Number is used by Android to determine if an app has been updated, so make sure that every time you update an app, you increase the version number before creating the .apk file.

Finally, click Output As… to select the destination .apk file and click Create App to create the app.

Testing the App

You now have an Android app, packaged as a .apk file. If you wish to install it on your Android phone or tablet for testing before uploading, you will need to go to Settings and tick the Unknown sourcesbox (depending on your device, that will be under Applications or Security). Once that is done, copy the file to your phone or tablet and tap on it to install.

If you don’t have an Android phone or tablet, and don’t want to buy one (a cheap one should be sufficient, as long as it’s running Android v2.3.3 or later), you can install an emulator. The Google and Amazon app markets both require screenshots to be uploaded when listing a new app, so you will need something to run your app on.

Both app stores have a facility for sending test versions to specific users before releasing the app to the general public. When uploading a .apk to Google, select the Beta or Alpha tab. On Amazon, select Live App Testing. For Google Play, the testers have to be members of a Google+ community or a Google Group. On Amazon, you simply enter a list of names and email addresses. In both cases, only the testers will be able to access the test version of the file. In both cases, you can add yourself as a tester. I strongly recommend doing this so that you can try the app on your own phone or tablet before submitting it for sale.

App Stores

To sell on the app stores, you will need to register. It’s free to register on the Amazon Appstore, while Google Play charges a one-off registration fee of $25. Once registered, uploading a new app is reasonably straightforward and similar to uploading an ebook to the various stores. I’ve found that the vast majority of my sales (over 95%) are from Google Play.

Both stores require certain images to be uploaded along with a description, etc. There is some commonality in the images they require. I suggest creating the following images, so that you have everything required for both stores:

  • Icon, 114 x 114 pixels. PNG, with transparency
  • Icon, 512 x 512 pixels. PNG, with transparency
  • Promotional graphic, 1024 pixels wide x 500 pixels high. JPEG or PNG, no transparency
  • At least three screenshots, JPEG or PNG.

Make sure that all of your screenshots are one of the following resolutions: 800 x 480px, 1024 x 600px, 1280 x 720px, 1280 x 800px, 1920 x 1080px, 1920 x 1200px, or 2560 x 1600px.

Both stores will accept videos, too. For Google Play the video will need to be hosted on YouTube, whereas for Amazon the video file is uploaded directly.

There are a few differences between the two app stores, explained below.

Google Play

Once an app is on sale at Google Play, it is possible to A/B test the graphics and description. Under Store Listing click Experiments to get started. The graphics (icons, screenshots, etc) and description can both be tested in this way. Although the test results are only directly relevant to the app, they also provide an indirect way of testing descriptions to be used on ebook and print book stores.

The Amazon Appstore doesn’t appear to have an equivalent of Amazon’s Author Pages, but Google Play does: Developer Pages. Once an app has been published, click Settings then Developer page to set yours up. A short description, developer icon and header image are compulsory. You can also enter your website’s URL and choose one app to be featured, giving it pride of place on the page.

Google Play doesn’t allow pre-orders, or initial app availability to be set for a future date. However, updates can be set to go live in the future (Google calls this “timed publishing”). If the app is initially published to the Beta or Alpha channel, timed publishing will be available for updates. So, if you wish to use timed publishing for a new release, make sure you publish an initial version to the Beta or Alpha channel, then publish an update to the production channel.

A recent addition is the User Acquisition Performance report, which gives details of the number of visitors to the Google Play store listing, and how many of those people installed the app.

Amazon Appstore

Neither store allows pre-orders, but Amazon does allow availability to be set for a date in the future. This does, at least, allow you to set a date for the app to become available, making it easier to release it on the same date as other formats.

The Amazon Appstore now has Amazon Underground, which is similar to KDP Select for ebooks. Users install the Amazon Underground app, which gives them access to the apps enrolled into Amazon Underground for free. Developers are paid for the time that users spend in the app, currently at the rate of $0.0020/£0.0013/€0.0018 per minute.

Amazon Underground doesn’t require exclusivity, but it does require some slight changes to the app. It must have a unique package name. Amazon recommends appending “.underground”. For instance, an app with the package name would have the package name on Amazon Underground. The app must also have the Amazon Underground branding added to the launch icon. The Migrating Your App to Amazon Underground page has full details of all the required changes.

About The Author

Russell Phillips is a computer geek and an award-winning author of military technology and history. Born and brought up in a mining village in South Yorkshire, he has lived and worked in South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cumbria and Staffordshire. His articles have been published in several magazines, and he has been interviewed for the American edition of The Voice of Russia. He currently lives in Stoke-on-Trent with his wife and two children.

How Can I Afford Professional Editing? – A Guest Post by Sue Archer

To many people, editing is the dark half of producing a book. The creative work is done, and now someone comes in with a red pen and decimates your beautiful manuscript.

In reality, editing is a vital part of the process, a creative act in its own right, and one we can’t afford to neglect. Today I’m privileged to have a guest post from the ever insightful Sue Archer, an entertaining blogger and professional editor, on how you can afford professional editing. Over to Sue…

How can I afford professional editing?

One of the challenges indie authors face is the cost of hiring a professional editor. Writers on a tight budget often wonder how they can possibly afford such a service.

Picture by Matt Hampel via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Matt Hampel via Flickr Creative Commons

Like all professionals, editors need to make a living, and charge accordingly — but there are ways that authors can reduce their spending while still benefitting from the services of a professional editor.

As a freelance editor who works with indie authors, I’d like to share three ways that you can reduce your editing costs: improve your self-editing, obtain a lower-cost editing service, and negotiate a services contract that is right for you.

Improve your self-editing

If your editor charges based on an hourly rate (which many editors do), the more effort that your editor spends on your manuscript, the more cost to you. So anything you can do to improve the shape of your writing before submitting it for editing will benefit you. Submit your work to writing critique partners or beta readers for feedback. Take advantage of good self-editing resources like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. And find out where you have weaknesses and work on them.

Picture by Joanna Penn via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Joanna Penn via Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most common issues with initial drafts is that they are too long. Almost any manuscript has areas that can be cut to tighten the writing. Find out the standard length for your genre and work towards it. Take some time between your drafting and revisioning stages, so that you have the objectivity to spot things you can remove or change. Reducing the word count will lower your editing costs.

When you get to the detailed self-editing stage, I recommend using a style sheet. A style sheet is a place for capturing stylistic decisions on items such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. (I have a free style sheet template on my website that you are welcome to use as a starting point.) A style sheet will help you confirm that you’ve applied the same style consistently throughout your manuscript. In addition to helping you self-edit, it will save your editor time and potentially help your wallet as well.

Obtain a lower-cost editing service

You’ve done all the self-editing you can. Now it’s time to see if you can find a really cheap editor who will catch the rest of your mistakes — right?

Nope. (Sorry!)

There’s no getting away from the axiom that you get what you pay for. Qualified editors charge for their services accordingly. Going with an editor who advertises an extremely low rate could result in you wasting your money. What I recommend instead is that you find a flexible, professionally trained editor who offers lower-cost types of editing services. (And yes, I am biased here — but I have heard many horror stories from authors who received the equivalent of a spell-check when they thought they were getting a real edit.)

A manuscript assessment, for example, is an excellent way of getting feedback from a professional editor for a lower cost than a substantive edit. The editor writes a report outlining the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript and recommends changes. You can then apply this feedback to your writing.

Another alternative is a time-based mentoring service. I have seen this service become more popular in editing circles, especially among editors who work primarily with indie authors. It allows authors to get some advice on an area they need to work on without going through a full edit. I offer this service for writers who are looking for feedback on a particular section of a manuscript or have editing-related questions.

In general, having a flexible editor is an asset. Some editors offer set prepackaged services, while others package each project individually. Ask your editor if there are ways you can reduce the cost of an edit, such as paying for fewer editing passes.

Negotiate the right editing contract for you

So you’ve done all you can to find the editor and editing service that’s right for you and your budget. Now you can relax!

Not quite. Before going ahead, I’d make sure you take a thorough look at the terms of the editing contract (and if there is no form of contract, whether formal or informal, I recommend you look elsewhere).

The editing contract is a key tool for controlling your costs. And, like any contract, it is negotiable.

Be sure to verify exactly what is included in the service. What does a “substantive edit” or a “copy edit” mean? Will the editor review the manuscript again after you make changes? If you’re not sure about something, ask, and get the answer in writing.

Check to see what the maximum fee will be under the contract, and how things will be renegotiated if more work is needed than originally estimated.

Finally, pay attention to cancellation terms. If you are not satisfied with the service as things progress, can you cancel with partial payment? Is there a kill fee? How much notice is needed? The last thing you want to do is continue to spend money on something that is not working for you.

You can afford a great editor

There are many wonderful professional editors who provide great work for a reasonable cost. You’ve spent a long time working through your manuscript — why not spend a little more time and money to make it the best it can possibly be?


If you’ve worked with professional editors, what was your experience? If you haven’t, and you are a writer, is there anything holding you back from hiring one?

If you have any questions about editing in general, please feel free to ask me below or contact me directly. I’d be happy to answer them!

How To: Large Print Books

Today’s post is a guest post from indie author Russell Phillips. If you like what you read, or are interested in military history, then please check out Russell’s site.

Over to Russell….

How To: Large Print

Some time ago, I decided to release a large print edition of A Damn Close-Run Thing. It’s not necessarily something that I would recommend to other indie authors, unless you have reason to believe that there is a market for a large print version. In that case, this post should help you create something that is genuinely useful for those people that struggle to read standard print.

Font and Font Size

Obviously, large print books need a larger font size than normal. 16 point is generally considered a minimum size, though 18 point is recommended if at all possible. Having decided on a minimum font size, there should be no text in a smaller size. Page numbers, copyright information, etc should all be at least as large as the main body text. Headings should use a larger font size, as with normal print, but nothing should be smaller than the minimum size that you choose.


It is also important to consider the font face. A sans-serif font should be used, and if at all possible, avoid using italics, underlining, or blocks of capital letters. I recommend the Tiresias LPfont. This font has been specifically designed for use in large print documents, and can be freely downloaded from the Tiresias website. (Note that the contents of the Tiresias website is in the process of being moved to theRNIB website).

White Space

In general, plenty of white space makes a book easier to read for those with sight issues. Single spacing can make it difficult to find the start of the next line, so use 1.25 or 1.5 spacing instead. Similarly, indented paragraphs can make it hard to find the start, so use block paragraphs instead of indented paragraphs.

Margins should be wider, at least 25mm (1 inch) wide. If you have footnotes, move them to the end of the chapter or to a section at the end of the book, so that they do not clutter the page.

Left Align

Most print books use full-justified text, so that the right side of the text is lined up along the right margin. However, this leads to uneven gaps between words. For this reason, left-justified (or ragged-right) text is more readable, and so should be used in large print books.

Headings should also be left-aligned rather than centre-aligned. This makes them easier to find.

Images should be aligned to the left for the same reason, but there should be no text to the right of the image. A partially-sighted reader may not realise that there is text next to the image. The image should be clear, and any text inside the image should obey the same rules as the rest of the text in the book. If possible, move the text out of the image. If this isn’t possible, ensure that there is good contrast and that the text is on a plain background.

All text must be horizontal, including things like labels on diagrams and images.

Keep Things Together

It is important to keep related items connected, without large spaces. If your contents page doesn’t already have a row of dots between the chapter name/number and the page number, add them. Tables should usually have lines around the cells. It is also important to avoid widows and orphans (single lines from a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page).

Don’t use hyphens. If a word won’t fit on a line, put the whole word on the next line rather than splitting it with a hyphen. Hyphenated words (eg u-boat) should be on one line, not split over two lines at the hyphen.

Use a Clear Layout

Hopefully your books have a consistent layout already, but this is particularly important when designing books for the partially sighted. Headings should be clearly different to the body text. It’s a good idea to include chapter names on page headers if possible, as it allows the reader to easily determine where they are in the book.

Mark it as Large Print

Finally, make it clear that the book is a large print edition. In Createspace, make sure that the “Large Print” box is ticked on the Description page. This will allow Amazon and other retailers to categorise it as a large print edition. In order to make it clear to human readers, however, the title should be modified. This need be no more than appending “(Large Print)\” to the end of the title. The cover should be marked to show that it is a large print edition. This can be as simple as a coloured band with “Large Print Edition” printed in it.


Further Reading

This blog post covers the essential points. If you wish to find out more, the following are likely to be useful:


Making a large print version of paper books isn’t too difficult, although a large number of images will make it more challenging. In my experience, sales have been minimal. That may be true for you too, but the only way to find out for sure is to try it.

Highlights of 2014

Today, Laura and I went out for our first works Christmas lunch. As we’re both now self-employed and working at home, neither of us had other colleagues to do this with, so a festive lunch together seemed like a nice tradition to start.

While we were eating mounds of tapas  in one of our favourite cafés, we talked about highlights of the past year. It’s been tough in places, but with a definite upward trajectory, and a lot of my highs have been related to my writing. So, in no particular order, here are some of my writing highlights from this year:

  • Having my short story ‘Surprise Me’ published in Daily Science Fiction.
  • Deciding to take my destiny into my own hands by self-publishing.
  • Releasing my first self-published books, learning a lot and getting some great reviews.
  • Getting enough freelance writing work in areas I love, mostly history and science fiction, so that I could stop bidding on less interesting projects.
  • Writing three whole novels in the space of a few months, and working with an editor on two of them. Because they’re ghost writing I can’t say more about them, but it’s been great fun.
  • Joining the writing team I’m now part of for the ghost writing gig – they’re a great bunch.
  • Getting to know fellow readers and writers through the internet, especially those of you who regularly frequent this blog. I didn’t make great use of social media before the last year or so, and it’s been fun getting to know interesting people I didn’t before, as well as chatting with a few who I did.
  • Getting my gorilla onesie. It’s only a writing thing because I sometimes wear it to keep warm while I work, but damn I’m grateful for it now that winter’s closing in.
That's right, I am exactly as cool as a three-year-old playing dress up.
That’s right, I am exactly as cool as a three-year-old playing dress up.

Next year I’m hoping to build on all of this. I have plans to finally publish a series of steampunk novellas in the spring, and then get back to my more heavy duty fantasy Rome novels. The sci-fi ghost writing looks set to continue. And I will of course keeping filling this space with words.

How about the rest of you – what have your highlights of this year been, whether related to reading and writing, science fiction and fantasy, or any other thing? Share some of them below, and lets celebrate together.

A dozen different inspirations

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Sir Frank Dicksee. Image via Wikimedia commons.

No-one ever asks me where I get my ideas from. Why would they? I know lots of smart people, and they understand that ideas come from all over the place. But looking through the stories I’ve assembled in Lies We Will Tell Ourselves I was struck by what a wide range of sources I’d chewed up and spat back out in these short stories:

  • How We Fall – came from a deliberate decision to turn the next two adverts I saw on the side of bus shelters into a story – the adverts were far less classy than what I made out of them.
  • So Cold It Burns – sprang from a couple of paintings I saw in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in particular the blighted leaves that hint at sorrow to come in Frank Dicksee’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci – the guitar strumming cousin and his song about an actress is based on my friend Dan and his hilarious Keira Knightly song.
  • Distant Rain – my friend Nick, a naval architect, was telling me all about submarines while at another friend’s wedding, and this is the result (the wedding in question was that of occasional commenter on this blog Jon Taylor, at which I met several people who are now good friends, so it was an auspicious occasion all round).
  • Day Labour – inspired by Kris Drever’s song ‘Harvest Gypsies’.


  • Digits and The Extra Mile – both written for a competition in a magazine with the theme of ‘five’.
  • Second Skin – influenced by working for a company that analysed investments, where I learned about hedge funds and how awful they are.
  • The Harvest – inspired by a chapter in an anthropology book on the subject of agriculture.

The only story where I can’t point at the inspiration is ‘Our Man In Herrje’, and I wrote the first version of that so long ago that the process is lost in the mists of memory.

It’s amazing where you can find inspiration. Where have you found yours recently?

And if you like the sound of any of these stories, you can get them all in Lies We Will Tell Ourselves, free from Amazon until Sunday. Why not give it a go?

Why just Kindle?

Lies - High ResolutionI mentioned yesterday that, for now at least, my latest book is only available on Kindle. I know I have some readers who use other devices, and that this has to be annoying for them, so I thought I should explain why, as well as talking about my views on how Amazon approach this.

For those who don’t know, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing includes an option called KDP Select. If an author enrolls one of their books in KDP Select then they gain certain advantages – primarily that they can give it away for free via Amazon for a few days, which most authors can’t otherwise do, and it is included in the Kindle Unlimited reading package, increasing the likelihood of people reading it and giving the author a taste of that sweet, sweet Unlimited money. The catch is, each time you enroll the e-book in Select you do so for 90 days, and during that time you can’t publish it in other e-reader formats.

Normally, this is something I don’t do. I have no objection to Amazon offering benefits to those who work solely with them, but I’d rather not be reliant on one platform and am uncomfortable with the potential monopoly it supports.

That said, having something in Select is a potentially huge way for an author to find new readers and draw them to their work. On that basis, I’d been planning on putting something on Select at some point, though I hadn’t yet worked out what.

Then this November hit and I took on more than I could do at once. Formatting a book for Amazon is relatively easy using Scrivener, but formatting for Smashwords takes a lot more work. So rather than stretch myself further by preparing Lies We Will Tell Ourselves for Smashwords, I decided to make this my experiment in trying out Select.

Of course the same workload also meant that I dropped the ball in getting the book up on Select, not sorting my free days out in time for the book to go live on Monday, and then finding on Tuesday that I couldn’t start the free days on the day I was in. But I’m there now. Lies We Will Tell Ourselves is free on Amazon from now until Sunday, please go grab a copy and enjoy.

Sorry to my non-Kindle-using readers – I’ll make it up to you at some point, I promise!

Out now – Lies We Will Tell Ourselves

“I have no objection to truth,” I said, “but I enjoy untruths too, they’re the building blocks of human culture. Actors pretending to be kings, singers faking heartbreak or elation, novelists inventing heroes in their heads to escape the mindless dullards around them. Reality is a vast sea of tedium interrupted by brief flashes of the repugnant – why would anyone chain themselves to that?”

Lies - High Resolution

Out now on Amazon, Lies We Will Tell Ourselves is the latest, and for now last, of my anthologies pulling together my previously published stories. This time it’s the turn of science fiction…

A spin doctor forced to deal with aliens who loath lies.

A squad of soldiers torn apart by the fiction in their midst.

A hunting submarine with its dead captain strapped to the prow, the crew promising that one day they’ll revive him.

We all tell lies to get through the day, some of them to ourselves, some to other people. Now read the extraordinary lies of the future in these nine short science fiction stories.


  • How We Fall – trapped behind enemy lines, faith and duty clash for Sergeant Grund’s squad.
  • So Cold It Burns – long cut off from home, Gandpa Jo must decide the future of his frozen wife.
  • Distant Rain – the submarine Promethean hunts a mutant whale through a polluted Pacific.
  • Our Man In Herrje – Julius Atticus lives by lies, but can he defend them to the alien Gatherers?
  • Day Labour – a dark secret waits for the farm labourers of a distant world.
  • Digits – a robot finds his humanity in a hand.
  • The Extra Mile – race driver Geordie proves how far he’ll go to win.
  • Second Skin – stock trader Eddy’s symbiont has all the latest apps, including one no-one told him about.
  • The Harvest – as aliens devour the Earth, an anthropologist recognises an unsettling truth.

Lies We Will Tell Ourselves is out now on the Kindle. I’m just releasing it there for now as experiment, and I’ll get into my reasons another day. But because it’s exclusively on Amazon I’m able to give it away through there for a few days, and so it’s free from tomorrow until Sunday, after which it will still be only $1.99.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and read your way into a bright new future!