New #SciFi #Comedy

Free scifi novel DeadlineMake a great start to the new year with a fun, light-hearted science fiction novel, available for free on LitNet for a limited time only.

Being made redundant almost a billion kilometres from Earth was a bad way to start the week, and Blake Horton did not expect it to get any better.

This light-hearted sci-fi novel covers the misadventures of an out-of-work life support systems engineer on his way back to Earth and a reporter desperately in need of a scoop to save her career. He needs to get back before the reading of a will. She needs a breakthrough in her story before her time limit is up. With each other’s help getting back to Earth in time should be possible but life certainly isn’t about to make it that simple for them. An alien intruder, a rogue robot, space pirates and government agents are just some of the obstacles conspiring against them.

It will be moving to Amazon later on this year (where it will no longer be free), so read it now while you don’t have to pay for it and please leave a comment to let me know what you think!

Click here to see more.

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.


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.