writing


New look for the Astronomicon website

View of the new website layoutI’m pleased to be in a position to announce that I’ve completed major revamp of the whole Astronomicon website. Almost everything beyond the logo has changed/moved/improved. The whole look is more contemporary, dynamic and now works properly across almost all browsing devices.

Ideally, I would have done it back in November but my failed attempt at NaNoWriMo this year took up all my spare time (and some sleep time too!). Now it’s complete, I can get back to writing my next science fiction novel. 

From now onwards, I aim to post regular updates on my writing progress. Anyone interested in reading the next Astronomicon series will get a better idea of the path to publication but, more importantly for me, it will help keep me working and on track to get it finished in as short a time as possible.


Milestone Reached: 10,000 #Wattpad Followers

Astronomicon on WattpadWattpad is simply the biggest, and I would say the best, fiction sharing site on the Internet. Over 45 million active users and tens of thousands of authors writing and sharing their works to a simply colossal audience, make this THE site to be if you write fiction.

I’ve been active there for a couple of years and it was very slow going when I first joined. It took a few months for me to find my way around the clubs, forums and systems there but, once I got the hang of it, I began to get a LOT of positive feedback for my books and now receive daily requests for me to hurry up and finish the next book and get that posted there too. Now I’m celebrating reaching the milestone of 10,000 followers. When I joined, I never expected to get more than a fraction of that total.

It’s a wonderfully friendly and helpful community, but don’t worry, if you make a mistake someone is sure to point it out to you. Over the last couple of years, I’ve received some of the most detailed and constructive critiques I’ve ever received online.

I’ve tried out more writing community sites over the years that I can remember, and most of them have been a waste of time but Wattpad is a keeper! As an author, it’s well worth spending some time there every day. Just stay patient and don’t expect instant results.


Star Drive Technology

Icarus Front view - In SpaceBroadly speaking, spacecraft fall into two technological categories. There are the sublightspeed variety that we are very familiar with, such as the Space Shuttle (okay so the bit we call the “Shuttle” is actually the “Orbiter”). Then there’s the supralightspeed variety which don’t yet exist, the USS Enterprise and Battlestar Galactic springing to mind as examples there.

Some novels use the technology we have today and go for gritty realism, others jump into the more distant future, get rid of all the lightspeed limitations which can cramp a good story, and head off into Star Trek territory.

Even Star Trek acknowledges the transition between the two technology levels in First Contact. They presented a world where the transition was a break-through and everything changed at that point.

Icarus Front view 2 - In SpaceI seem to be unusual in that I have written science fiction novels which often span the transition period, assuming it will be a tricky process with no single, universe-changing breakthrough. In Astronomicon: Icarus, the titular vessel uses a plasma drive allowing it to reach small fractions of the speed of light, but never get close to a “warp capability”.

The salvage vessel in the same novel, the EUSS Wagner, travels out to the Trojan Cluster using a plasma pulse drive. This is very much a transitional technology which is obviously purely a temporary stage in development. While it is drastically faster than the mining vessel Icarus, is incapable of breaking the light barrier.

The third vessel in Icarus is the mysterious “USS Oppenheimer”, a highly classified experimental vessel fitted with, what the crew call, a “Torus” drive. Details of the technology are mostly kept secret by the remnants of the vessel’s crew but we are given the basic concept of how its space-bending main drive functions, allowing it to bypass the limitations of the speed-of-light.

Of course such technological leaps can be perilous, as the crew of the Oppenheimer have discovered. The first attempt to bend space on an interstellar scale does not go to plan, forming the exciting basis for the whole novel.

I plan to write more books that sit within the transition time of such technology. In real life things often don’t work properly, especially with new technology and I think it can be fascinating to explore that in science fiction too.


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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