Yearly archives: 2013

Woohoo another good review on Amazon!

Astronomicon: Icarus front cover imageI have to admit that Astronomicon: Icarus is just about my favourite Astronomicon book, so far anyway. Being a standalone novel, it’s not part of the ongoing series but it is set very much in the same universe. If you haven’t already heard about it, you can find out more here.


It’s gathered two reviews on and one on So far it looks like my US readers love it, but those from here in the UK just think it’s quite good. I am curious as to why that might be. Looks like I need to get more reviews!


Amazon US reviewsAmazon UK review.





Astronomicon: Icarus $0.99 offer

Astronomicon: Icarus front cover imageThose of you who missed the promotional offer on Astronomicon: The Beginning will be pleased to hear that I’m now running the same offer on Astronomicon: Icarus.


For a limited time this stand-alone science fiction novel is available to download from Amazon for just 99c (or 77p here in the UK).


The epic Astronomicon Universe continues to grow with this standalone book telling the story of the Icarus. Set in 2078, whilst working the Trojan asteroid cloud, Captain Taylor and the crew of the deep space mining vessel Icarus discover a mysterious prototype ship drifting in space that has suffered a catastrophic failure.


Battling the dangers of the asteroid field, the Icarus crew attempt to rescue the survivors of the stricken ship. Meanwhile a vessel from Earth is coming to deal with the damaged prototype but with a conflicting agenda. After unwittingly discovering the bizarre secret of the prototype vessel, the crew of the Icarus end up fighting for their very survival.


This strong addition to the Astronomicon book series will appeal to fans of Science Fiction and thrillers alike.


JHF Celtic Conveyor

Bow of the Celtic ConveyorI thought it was time to give another update on the progress with the Jovian Heavy Freighter Celtic Conveyor design. There probably won’t be much more construction work beyond exterior dressing now as I am mostly working on writing the novel. All the elements I expect to feature within “Astronomicon: Deadline” are already designed, so I can get on with writing the first draft.


For those of you who are interested, here are a few statistics about the Celtic Conveyor:

  • Overall Length: 450m
  • Width: 35m
  • Mass: 150,000 Metric Tons
  • Payload Capacity 221,000 Metric Tons
  • Cargo Pods: 24
  • Captain: Nigel Hoffman


Wide view of cargo pods and drive section of Celtic conveyor

Obviously, being a freighter, the Celtic Conveyor’s carrying capacity is largely dedicated to the enormous detachable cargo pods. Each of these is 20 metres long, 13.5 wide and almost 8 metres tall. These can be pressurised if preferred and airlock access is provided to each along the Celtic Conveyor’s central spine.

The vessel is able to fly without some or all the cargo pods, but any connected pods should be balanced to avoid affecting the vessel’s flight characteristics. For financial reasons a full cargo manifest is preferred wherever possible.

View along top of Celtic Conveyor

What really sets this model apart from the science fiction ship models you normally see is that most of the internal structure is also modelled. In this view you can see cabins on the far left, a reception area behind that and some of the passenger facilities located in the rear of the passenger deck. These include (from left to right), a GP surgery, pharmacy, a dental surgery, small infirmary, sports hall and exercise gym facilities with changing rooms.

Front view of passenger section


JHF Celtic Conveyor’s design incorporates a variety of factors and influences. The primary concerns are practicality and viability. The bow, in particular, features several nods to maritime vessels. The vessel’s long, thin shape presents the smallest possible surface area to the direction of travel, minimising micrometeorite damage during transit. The shape also allows for much lower powered field emitters to be used to protect the vessel from Jovian radiation emissions.


The passenger deck is designed to be practical and efficient whilst providing comfortable and varied space for passengers to enjoy voyages of between one and two months. There are two kitchens. The main one situated in the restaurant on the Passenger Deck, but there is a support kitchen on the lower Service Deck which also acts as a backup in case of equipment failures in the main kitchen.  The passenger deck also houses all food and consumable supplies, water and atmosphere reprocessing facilities, laundry, secondary crew accommodation, 32 Cryosleep pods and some extra passenger entertainment facilities.


The vessels almost flat 3 deck layout only became viable once artificial gravity technology was adopted from the Eridani people. See “Distant Relatives” for more information.



How much planning is enough?

Front view of Celtic Conveyor - Interplanetary FreighterI’ve always been keen on doing a sensible amount of planning for each new novel I write, but over time I’ve found myself doing increasing amounts of preparation work.  As usual I still find that I only use a minor proportion of the planning material in the resultant novel. Character backstories are usually far more detailed than crops up in dialogue, more locations are planned than end up being used and often some conversations get edited out completely to enhance the flow and pace of the novel. Sometimes I end up not using characters I’ve designed, or combining two characters into one to simplify things for both me and the reader.


Rear view of Celtic Conveyor Interplanetary FreighterRecently, in what little spare time I get, I’ve been building a 3D model of a vessel which incorporates most of the locations in my next Astronomicon novel. As I’ve said before in other posts, it’s doubly worth doing as the next but one novel will be set in the sister vessel and will therefore share most of the same layout.


This is a very time consuming process but proved to be a massive asset in Astronomicon: Icarus. It allowed me to create scenes, most notably the armed boarding of the vessel, with a fantastic level of clarity, and provided inspiration for several scenes which I would not have otherwise imagined. The Icarus was a small vessel and relatively simple to construct. In contrast, the Celtic Conveyor (pictured above) is a much larger freighter with an additional capacity for almost 100 passengers. It’s not practical to construct the entire vessel in full detail, so I’m having to concentrate my efforts on the areas most likely to feature in the book.


This goes against my perfectionist nature, the idea of leaving parts of the vessel incomplete feels so wrong, and means I may miss out on some inspiration. In most cases more planning means a better novel, but where’s the cut off point? When does the extra planning work stop being worthwhile?