Deadline


Deadline Update (#scifi #humour)

This long awaited Astronomicon novel is now in the final stages of preparation for release. The “final” draft version has come back from my trusty proofreaders and many minor changes and corrections have been completed. It’s currently undergoing what should be the final serious edit.

Deadline Front Cover previewAs soon as Deadline comes back and I complete any changes required, it will go out to proof readers for one final time before hitting the shelves of Amazon and Smashwords. Within a couple of weeks of appearing in Smashwords, their system will ensure it appears on iTunes,  Nook and many other formats.

I thought you might all like to see the prototype of the latest cover design (above). The space craft depicted is the primary location for most of the action within Deadline, but this is a very early rendering. We need to add a lot more detail and sort out the lighting before it becomes the published cover. In case you haven’t recognised it, the backdrop is a close up of Jupiter

It’s going to be a fascinating experience to see how my existing readers, and any new readers, react to the multiple levels of humour within the book. My previous novels have usually contained some dialogue humour, mostly around characters teasing or making fun of each other, but Deadline is my first proper foray into a humour driven story, funny events and light-hearted characters.


Deadline Progress

Front cover design for Astronomicon DeadlineAstronomicon: Deadline is taking a while to write. There are several reasons for this, not least the recent complete revamp and re-release of Astronomicon: Distant Relatives.

The main delaying. factor has been the genre change I’m experimenting with. Don’t worry, it’s still very much science fiction in the classic sense but this is my first venture into comedy. It’s set in the same universe and with the same technology as the other Astronomicon books,  but I realised right from the early stages of planning that the plot would lend itself wonderfully to a more humorous style.

This complicates the writing somewhat as not only am I worried about pacing the events in the plot, but also pacing several levels of humour around those events. That’s a whole new experience for me.

Chapters 1 to 32 are now complete (pending editing by my editor) and, according to my current plan, I have seven chapters to go. My aim is to get writing complete before the end of August.

Thank you for your patience. I’ll keep you posted.


Can you plan too much? #scifi

As most of my works are science fiction, I tend to end up with many scenes set on space craft. Some of these are brief, but in my more recent books space craft have featured more heavily.

View along top of Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor

Sometimes I’ve sketched out deck plans on paper, detailing just the locations which crop up. This was how I designed the Elysian in Astronomicon: The Beginning and the USS Oppenheimer in Icarus. Other times I have put in some hours constructing detailed 3D models on my laptop. Examples of this are the Icarus from the book of the same name and the Akhena from Astronomicon: Distant Relatives.

The clear advantage of 3D models is that I can try out walking around the different locations, trying out new angles and coming up with ideas that a paper plan just wouldn’t inspire. It gives me a better idea of distances and lines-of-sight, occasionally causing me to use locations I would not have considered otherwise.

Eridani Flagship AkhenaThis doesn’t always go to plan. When I started designing the Eridani flagship, the Akhena, I quickly discovered that I had bitten off far more than I could chew.

The vessel was considerably larger that I could construct myself, so I was forced to limit myself to the important areas that would be used in the novel. The main hangar bay (near the rear of the vessel) was constructed in detail, as were the major corridors and some obvious architectural features such as the gardens. I may have to add to this model in future as the Akhena will be appearing again in a planned future novel.

JHF Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor (overview)

My most recent work, Deadline, has led me to build my most detailed model yet. Most of the book is set on the Celtic Conveyor so it was necessary to model many of the locations on the ship. Especially as the crew spend much of their time chasing the mysterious alien intruder around the bowels of the ship. I’m also planning for the model to be re-used as the Celtic Conveyor’s sister ship, the Astral Empress. If I can use a model several times, it makes it worth investing a little more time in the construction.

JHF Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor

With practice, I have got much faster at using the tools and a better judge of what details are important and which can be glossed over or ignored completely. It’s been a fascinating process and allowed me to maintain perfect consistency when characters move about within the vessel.

Now all I need to do is find someone who can render up the models so I can use them on my book covers too.

Icarus Front view 2 - In Space

Icarus – Gecko Class Asteroid Mining Vessel


Silly Character Names?

Sometimes someone says something to you which makes you see things in a different way. Some recent comments from my readers have had that effect on me.

I’ve always played it safe with character names, trying not to stray into comedy, cause offence or sound reminiscent of anyone famous. I have tried to broaden the geographical spread of my character names, after it was pointed out to me that in my first book everyone seemed to have a common British name, and that has gone some way my character names more interesting. But not far enough.

In real life no-one wants an embarrassing name, a crazy name or a name which sounds like their job (nominative determinism if you prefer), but novels are not real life. In a novel, a character’s name is a flag. No matter how distinctive their appearance, how graphic their description, they will mostly be referred to by just their name. Other characters will refer to them by name. Readers who talk to other readers about your novel will often refer to characters by just their name.

Every character’s name is crucial. It’s the memory key that recalls every other part of their personality and appearance in the mind of your reader. If it’s not distinctive, evocative and memorable then you run the risk of readers becoming confused. If they lose track of which character is which then, no matter how exciting the story is, the whole thing will stop making sense. That’s when you lose the reader.

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