Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ehren Kruger has no business calling himself a writer

As I'm sure you can imagine, the art of storytelling is something that's, well, really really bloody important to me. I'd assumed it was important to everyone who makes a living through writing fiction, because when you're writing fiction, telling a convincing story is frankly everything. It's one of the main bleedin' points of the entire exercise.

So, imagine my surprise when I read that the writer for Transformers: Age of Extinction believes that it's just not that important...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Manic Depressives In Space

There's been a little bit of a theme in a couple of my books so far (namely the first in the Cynos Union saga, Messiah's Shard, and book 3, The Abominable Moon), of people not being quite who they say they are, or rather, not being totally honest with how they feel. In fact, it was a major plot point in both books; to see how, you'll just have to read them, but suffice to say, the basic point is that everyone, absolutely everyone, hides who they really are from the world. I keep using that trope, so now it's time to look at why.

I've mentioned before that a big part of why I write what I write is the fact that it's cathartic. Writing helps me to deal with my own personal demons, and in a way, understand myself better. Oh, and settle in, because this post will be a long'n (and also, possibly, maybe, a little bit uncomfortable to read, but keep going to the end, 'cos I promise it's not all doom and gloom)...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Can we pack it in with this nonsense about "proper literature", please?

Ah, the joys of being on holiday; it quite often means that I miss something the day it gets published and then have to rant about it a week after everyone else has given it a good going over. Usually, that'd lead to me not bothering, since people have already said everything I'd want to say by that point, but this time it's different.

This time, I done got the fire in my belly, and it all started when I read that article on Slate (you know the one), about how adults who read YA fiction should be embarrassed.

Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not a post where I come out swinging in defence of Young Adult fiction, because quite frankly, I'm not a fan. I've tried to read some, here and there, and it's just not my cuppa tea. Instead, what I'm here to do is ask this question: when did it become a-okay to imply people are somehow deficient as humans (and "should be embarrassed") when they like something you don't?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Food Supplies - A treatise on the most important part of planetary colonisation

Author's Note: this story does not take place in the Cynos Union. I felt like a change of pace...

(Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography /

People often ask me what the most important thing about colonising planets is. I swear, they ask questions like that all the time, and I'm convinced they want me to answer with something exciting, filled with much bravado and swinging between starships with plasma cannons held in our teeth.

This has never happened, ever. Also, don't try it. Ever. Plasma cannons have an annoying habit of going off unexpectedly, and your head won't grow back.

Trust me, I've seen it happen...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Never have I been prouder to be a metalhead than I am right now

Y'know, I've never made a secret of my musical tastes. I am a metalhead. I may not have the long hair any longer (because damn, did I ever look like Meatloaf, when I had long hair), and it's no longer dyed every colour they could find in the barber's, but I remain, in my very soul, a headbanger till the day I die. Hell, that's even leaked into my books; I was intent that the Cynos Union would be 80s sci-fi, but with added metal, a bit like if Star Wars suddenly decided to switch out John Williams for Steve Harris out of Iron Maiden.

But anyhow, there is a point to this preamble; over the past couple of days, something has happened, a thing that's left me feeling more proud to be a metalhead than I ever have before (and I was already pretty bloody proud). It all started in a little pub in Newcastle...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A nerd's perspective - the EU is the model for humanity's future...

Well there we go, it's that time again. Today's the day when we've all flocked out to the polling booths for the European elections (I hope there's been a good turn-out, too; ye can't complain about who gets in if you didn't vote in the first place).

Anyone who's been following the news in the UK over the past few weeks (or, let's be honest, hasn't been comatose during the last few weeks) will know that the topic du jour is Britain being part of the EU.

Nationalistic sentiment has been spurting out all over the shop, rapidly transmogrifying into jingoism, and the results have been oh so very telling...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

So THAT'S the difference between a 'character' and a 'person'...

Warning: this post talks about Transformers. Again. Because I like Transformers. Deal with it. 

There's been a massive furore in the world of Transformers over the past few months, even bigger than when Beast Wars happened, or when Bayformers happened (but then, Bayformers is awful, so...). That furore is over the whole issue of female Transformers, with the shorthand I've seen used in various places being "the Windblade issue".

Now, to forestall the argument that I'm only against Windblade because I'm sexist (the standard, instinctive reaction even to people making valid, well-thought out criticisms), I'm going to preface this little stream of consciousness by saying that I'm 100% in favour of having female characters in the Transformers mythos. There are already a whole shedload of women out there who love Transformers, and having female Cybertronians also has the rather desirable benefit of making the story universe within IDW's Transformers comics that much more diverse and wonderful.

It's just a shame that Windblade herself, the poster-girl for this absolutely necessary movement, is dire...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heartbleed - unveiling a curious quirk in humanity's heart

Well, this week's been interesting so far, ain't it? Look around the internet, and you'll see that the biggest news story of the week (nay, of the bleedin' decade) has been this heap big palaver about the Heartbleed bug. Yes, this was the week that the internet collectively cacked its pants, because... well, let's not play down the seriousness, Heartbleed is one of the worst security threats to ever hit the internet.

It is, in short, a clustersmurf of epic proportions. 

But - and this is a big but - the most interesting bit about the Heartbleed situation, for me, is that it illuminates one surprisingly prevalent trait of human nature: humanity's inherent propensity for running round like headless chickens, proclaiming that the end is very bloody nigh. And do ye know what? It's all evolution's fault...

Friday, April 04, 2014

Female Aliens, or: Why Do People Insist On Putting Ladybumps On Lizards?

Blimey it's been a busy old month, what with one thing and another. There's the writing on the next book to keep on top of (which is loads of fun), there's some super-secret artwork that you've not seen yet, but that you will, eventually (which is also loads of fun)... yes, alright, basically, I'm saying that I've been having fun for a month, although it's fun that's actually productive at the same time, so basically, the key point to remember is that everyone's a winner!


I had another crack at sketching out a sookas, one of the eight foot-tall, right-wing lizards that call the Cynos Union home, and a close friend said something to me that made me smile, as he spotted more or less exactly why I made the sookas the way they are. Y'see, the sookas in the pic is a female (as is the one in the pic just up there, above this paragraph), and he quite rightly pointed out that a lot of people would instantly think it's a male...

Monday, February 24, 2014

A tribute (and a thank you) to the late, great Harold Ramis

It's no secret that while I may have been during the tail end of the 70s, I consider myself an 80s kid, through and through. I mean I may have been born 3 years before the decade started, but I grew up in the 80s, and something like is bound to have a big effect on a growing boy. Like everyone who was a child during the greatest decade there ever was, there's one thing that influenced me more than any other, beyond Transformers, or He-Man, or Duran Duran, or Robocop, or Frankie Goes To Hollywood, or any of that stuff.

Yes, I'm talking about Ghostbusters, a movie that, in hindsight, had a spectacularly big effect on how I write, and how I even think about plot-lines. And so, it was with a heavy heart that I read the news today (courtesy of The BBC), saying that Harold Ramis has died, aged 69...

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Want instant fame? Create an insanely stupid conspiracy theory!

I was watching TV today, and I was quite shocked to see a new advert for Tetley Tea show up ('cos there's not been one on telly for four years). I was also quite shocked, in a really rather good way, to see that it's got aliens in it...

Now that is a cool alien design. However, after I'd boggled at how cool it was to see aliens advertising the very elixir of life (I haven't been this excited about an advert since the Smash robots), I had another thought, and it was this: "I wonder if someone has now said this advert is part of the alien conspiracy theory?"

So I had a look, and glory be, the conspiracy theorists didn't disappoint...

Sunday, February 02, 2014

I wonder how hard it would be to write a sci-fi novel for the whole family...

I'm rather proud of the Cynos Union series, but then, I suppose I should be, because it's my baby. 'Tis the first ever book series I've published, after all, and like they always say, you never forget your first. It took me a long time to be able to say it (crippling self-esteem issues are always fun), but I'm proud of what I've achieved with the Cynos Union, and pre-emptively proud of what I'll achieve with it next.

However, while the Cynos Union series is many things, what it's categorically not is "suitable for younger readers".

There's entirely too much effin' and blindin' for that (which was bound to happen since the main characters are mostly salt of the earth Yorkshire sorts), not to mention the odd evisceration, and it's for that reason that each and every Cynos Union book comes with a disclaimer in the front-matter, saying that it's for mature readers only. But what if I went for a book that didn't need that disclaimer?

Basically... writing a young adult/teen fiction novel that the whole family can enjoy: how hard can it be?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here's a thought - do compelling characters HAVE to be human?

Right then, here's an interesting thought. I was pootling about the other day, doing lots of ever so important and useful things (er, okay, I was on Facebook), and I happened to see that someone had left me a new review for The Non-Random Dog. It was a five star review, so I was pretty damn chuffed, but the really nice part was what the reviewer actually wrote about the book. Specifically, the part that made me really happy was where they said about the characters being the key thing in the book.

I was really rather happy to see that highlighted, 'cos that's kind of the point of what I'm doing. Y'see, the thing is, I loved sci-fi all my life, and while I love big technology and stars blowing up as much as the next nerd, the thing that's always hooked me in is the characters. From Deckard, to Ripley, to Optimus Prime, to Han Solo, to Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova, to... well, you get the point. But here's a question for you guys and gals out there: do compelling characters absolutely have to be human?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"What? You have souls in your books? But you're an atheist! TRAITOR!"

So, I was pootling about online a few days ago, and ended up chatting to someone who'd read Messiah's Shard, the first book in the Cynos Union series. It turned out to be an interesting conversation, not least because I think said person was a bit annoyed with me. Y'see, that person was a little bit baffled why I decided to make souls a thing that explicitly exist in my story universe, when I don't even marginally believe in them in the real world. They expressed that bafflement by calling me a traitor to the cause.

Naturally, this confused me somewhat, 'cos I didn't realise I even had a cause. Well... other than spinning the odd whimsy here and there, and trying to get people to read my books, of course, but being a writer, that's kinda my job description. Oh, and the word 'apologist' might have happened, as well...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Verisimilitude (or, Building a convincing universe on the cheap)

Verisimilitude. That's a big word, ain't it? According to The Almighty Google, the exact meaning is 'the appearance of being true or real' (as in 'Piers Morgan tries for human, but lacks verisimilitude'), and when people talk about realism in books, or movies, or whatever, what they usually mean is verisimilitude. Take Jimmy McGovern's work, for instance; people often talk about his gritty realism, where 'gritty' basically means 'all life is misery and pain', but that has verisimilitude 'cos, in many ways, life is misery and pain.

But how do you achieve that same effect in science fiction, where you may very well be writing about people who aren't human? They might even be sentient five-limbed vampire squids, and when one has no frame of reference for what a sentient five-limbed vampire squid is like in the real world (because none of them return my calls, or even send me a postcard), how does one give them 'the appearance of being true or real'? Well, this is where the 'science' and the 'fiction' get down and dirty with each other...

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The joys of storing an entire universe in my brain...

Ye gods, it's been a busy week, and no mistake! Not only did I have to tot up all the downloads from the freebie sale (and a massive, massive thank you to everyone who took part, and supported the Cynos Union), but I've only gone and published a new book (yep, The Abominable Moon is available to buy now), I've worked with the web designer to get the official site updated, and I've had random inspiration sleeting through my brain. Oh, and the cat was wanting some fuss (on his timescale, naturally, since he's a cat).

Anyway, that bit about random inspiration got me thinking about the mechanics of writing a big ol' saga like the Cynos Union. It's a bit of an odd sensation, storing an entire universe in my brain, but I tell you what; it's kinda fun, too...