Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.


The MS is complete. I even have a title, agreed after consultations with my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. Of which, more later in this post.

Because, in publishing terms, the book has a short lead in time (we want to launch at Fantasticon in Hull; a fantasy/gaming/scifi convention that takes place on 2nd and 3rd September), we need to get on with it. So, the editors have been sending me the typos and stylistic/grammatical errors I missed during my own edit. I’ve been dealing with those by return. In the not too distant future, I’ll get the full MS back with any other suggestions, based on content and language. And I’ll deal with that by return.

We’ve had initial discussions on the cover and I await the results with eager anticipation.

So, the title: I created the book using a working title to blend well with book one, Blood Red Dust. Green, the Dust said something about the success of ecopoiesis since the ending of the 1st book. However, it didn’t really address the conflict in book two. But both I, and Dan Grubb (my publisher) wanted to run the proposed series with a commonality in the titles. ‘Dust’ is an apposite theme word. I brainstormed 50 titles. Cut that down by restricting choices to only three words, and then fed the remaining 35 through Amazon to check for uniqueness. That left me with 10 potential titles. I had my two or three favourites, but I wanted a more independent view, so sent that list of 10 to Dan. And we came up with the title now to be used.

So, watch out for Generation Mars: War Over Dust.

We’ll reveal the cover soon. Watch this space.

And, meantime, make sure you read book one, won’t you? You can get it here from the publisher, or here from your local Amazon store. And, of course, it’s available from all leading book retailers.

The Sweet Oil of Vitriol: A Tom Glaze Hit, by Daniel Eagleton, Reviewed.

sweet oil of vitriol

This is a different type of thriller. Dealing with the murky lives of Mossad Agents, it follows the early career of Thomas Glaze, a young man totally deluded about his appeal to women, his ability in the field, and his tolerance for drugs and alcohol.

Unsurprisingly, with such a catalogue of denial, he fails miserably as an agent, causing many problems along the way for himself, his colleagues, the women he collects, and a few random members of the public.

As a character study, it works well, as this ‘secret’ agent breaks the first law of fieldwork by getting himself noticed. His inability to understand, let alone accept, his own failings, coupled with his arrogant blame of everyone but himself for his failures doesn’t endear him to the reader. However, he’s skilfully drawn and the story has a compulsive element to it that keeps the reader turning the pages.

This is much more than a thriller. It deals with self-delusion very well. The sheer arrogance and total lack of self-awareness reminds this reader of the failings of most politicians. For utter misconception of his self, Glaze excels.

He is, of course, also completely amoral and unconcerned about the effects of his mistakes, except for rudimentary guilt feelings that are never allowed to mature into real regret or remorse.

There are a few editing glitches that need attention, but I find so many of these nowadays that I’m beginning to believe the standard of book production in general is in decline. That most readers seem unaware of and unconcerned about these frequent errors is a matter of disquiet for a reader who is also a writer.

The story is well paced and carries a number of unexpected twists and turns. If you enjoy straightforward formulaic thrillers, this will be a change and possibly even a challenge for you. But I enjoyed the read, whilst constantly appalled at the personality of the main protagonist.

Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.


Some weeks are a country walk, others a trek across mountainous desert. This one has been a touch demanding. But, the book itself is now done. It lacks a title, of which I have a brainstorming session’s worth of around 50 at present. And the blurb demands to be done. I usually try for three of those; 50 words, 100 words and 150 words. Condensing the essence of 113,900 words to such tiny proportions is never easy, especially when the story combines a number of threads. But it will be done. I’m committing myself to having the package with the publisher by the weekend.

As for the past seven days, these have been hard work interrupted by a two-day break to attend the funeral of a beloved old aunt. At 103, she’d had an active life in which all who knew her loved her. Vera was the older sister of my dad, Ken, who died before I was born. We met late in life and she was able to fill in many gaps in my knowledge about the man who fathered me. It was a sad occasion, as any death always is, but also a celebration of a life well-lived.

We travelled to Southampton for the service, stayed overnight, and then spent the following day in relaxation on the coast before arriving home late last night.

Today, I discovered that the charity AGM I was unable to attend due to my trip away has elected me back on the board as a trustee. And would I please produce an advert for the Hall along with photographs to illustrate its advantages as a venue. If possible, could I do this by the end of today, as the publication concerned is due to be printed almost immediately!

For weeks I’ve been carrying my camera to catch the front of the building in the sun. But it’s location means it sees sunshine only for an hour or so each day and only during the months of June and July. Every time I caught it at the right time, there were cars parked outside. Today, on my way to collect the keys so I could photograph the interior, not only was the sun shining as required, but the cars were absent. Back home from the trip, I set about putting words and pictures together, only to discover the software I’d downloaded wouldn’t produce the desired size of image, unless I upgraded. I did that, and, finally, the piece of copy with its accompanying pictures is done.

And now, after a 06:15 start, and at the time of 20:30, I think I’ve earned a rest. Retirement, what’s that? A glass of red awaits my descent to the sitting room, so I’ll wish you all a good night and bring you up to date with the rest of the book facts next week.

Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.


Reading each chapter, making amendments, additions, deletions, corrections, and then feeding them through grammar checker, It removes unintended repetitions, weak verbs, and many other small errors you can miss when reading from the screen. It’s pretty intense. But I’m up to page 329 of 411. Twelve chapters to go; mostly in the denouement now, so building more tension as I move along.

I’m printing off each chapter and passing it to my independent reader, to look for inconsistencies, confusions, occasional homophonic substitutions, the odd grammatical fail and anything else she feels worth mentioning. So far, these have been few. I then put right those things she points out that I agree with.

Final stage is reading the whole book, aloud, from print. That identifies awkward sentences and tonal inconsistencies.

I still need to come up with a good title: ironically, the working title doesn’t work. Brainstorming might sort that! Maybe a visit to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for an apposite quote. TBA.

Then my publisher, currently gnashing teeth with impatience, can have the MS. We’re hoping to launch at Fantasticon 2017. This annual celebration of science fiction, fantasy and gaming is held in Hull, this year’s UK City of Culture, and takes place on September 2nd and 3rd.

I’ll be there. Perhaps we’ll meet there!

Laid in Earth, by April Taylor, Reviewed.

laid in earth

Georgie Pattison sings again in this continuation of the amateur sleuth’s adventures. This is a heroine with all the self-doubt, anxieties and fears of any normal woman, but with the courage and sheer bloody-mindedness to find the truth. Justice matters to this lady and she’s willing to take personal risks to find it.

Once again, her reluctant local police detective is embroiled in the action. Hamilton is a woman for whom the term ‘no nonsense’ was originally coined. Get these two women together and, through the flying sparks, their combined experience, knowledge, and sheer determination to get at the truth, strike fear into the heart of the hardest of criminals.

The story is full of twists and turns and the wonderfully convoluted clues keep the reader guessing throughout the book. An added interest here is the information about the world of music and singers, fed naturally into the tale and forming both relief from the tension and material clues to the crimes.

The murders come with shocking clarity, but their motives and solutions are anything but clear; until the very end.

As always, April Taylor draws her characters, even the bit players, with a pen dripping in observational skill and experience. These are people you know, people you’ve met. No stereotypes or two-dimensional folk in these pages.

There’s an added bonus for music lovers who download the eBook: links to performances of the music featuring in the story.

Lovers of Christie and armchair crime will thoroughly enjoy this engaging tale. It says a lot for the quality of the storytelling that I read this whilst editing my own scifi novel, an intense and time-consuming process, and was so engaged by April’s tale I just had to read to the very end. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.


The work continues. All characters have now been subjected to scrutiny for consistency in their various appearances through the book. Some selected words have been substituted, and certain terms have been introduced. One or two special features are now included to make the story more in keeping with the future in which it’s set.

I’m finally at the stage, due to start tomorrow, of feeding each chapter through Prowritingaid’s grammar checker. This will remove unintended repetitions, weak verbs, and many of those other small errors that the eye misses when reading from the screen.

After that, I’ll print off each chapter and pass it to my independent reader, who will undoubtedly find inconsistencies, confusions, occasional homophonic substitutions, the odd grammatical fail and numerous other faults. I’ll put those right and then read the whole book, aloud, from print, not screen.

It’ll then be ready to send to my publisher, who is currently gnashing his teeth with impatience, as he wants to get the book out in time for a launch at Fantasticon 2017. This is an annual event in Hull, which this year is UK’s City of Culture. It’s a celebration of science fiction, fantasy and gaming. And I’ll be there. Maybe you’ll pop along, too!

The book’s reached that all-consuming stage now, which, combined with the deadline, means everything else in life takes a back seat. Progress toward completion is all. Today, for instance, is a beautiful, warm, dry day crying out for my presence in the garden, or, perhaps, a long walk in the forest. But, no. The book demands I remain at my post, tap the keys with bloodied fingers and drive myself blind by scanning page after page checking for necessary changes to the text. My sacrifice isn’t exclusive, however. My long-suffering and lovely wife, Valerie, is also in quarantine, shackled to the house, as I complete the necessary tasks. Such is the lot of the novelist.

And, dear reader, it’s all for your enjoyment!

If you’ve read the first in the series, you’ll be ready for this second book when it appears later this year.  Blood Red Dust can be found at your local Amazon, or, better still, through the publisher’s website.

Looking for the Best Word? Tip #38

Word cloud via

Some help here for writers who want to make their work more interesting, varied, accurate, and effective by using the best words. Also insights into some peculiarities of English for language learners.

A good thesaurus gives alternatives for the idea of a word, but not all of these are true synonyms: context is vital. One way to check suitability is to place synonyms into the sentence to test if they make sense. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is essential.

My dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I use the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. I’ve installed WordWeb on my Mac for times when I’m in a hurry and the apposite word evades me. And I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition of Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ to consult whilst editing my fiction, so I can inject more variety to the text.

However, I attempt to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first: it’s good mental exercise, which I need on a regular basis! Other books of words, which I consult when a word escapes me, live on reference shelves behind me.

So, to this week’s word:

A slightly different approach this week:

I was invited to write the foreword for a recent book on word use. Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ is a super resource for writers and those who want to express themselves in a more personal way, avoiding the clichés and overused words of everyday talk. Earlier this week, I received my copy of the paperback through the post from Kathy, so, with her agreement, I’m using an example from her book.

Noisy or Loud:

“Are you tired of devising alternatives for noisy or loud?

Search no further.

Step closer, dear writer.


Shush now while I invite you into the tranquillity of my studio. Take a seat by the open wind—

What’s that? A chainsaw? Perhaps a lawnmower? No, it has a high-pitched whirr. Aha! The neighbor is whipping weeds. Here. I have an extra set of earplugs for you. Put them in now before you get a headache…

Did I use noisy or loud in the previous paragraph? You already know what a chainsaw, lawnmower and weed whipper sound like, so I’m guessing you heard a racket.

Merely incorporating loud objects in your poetry or prose can paint an effective picture. Or you can create comparisons.

His snoring, a dive bomber in my dreams, morphed into a sleepy wish for an extra pillow to smother the pilot.

The woodpecker’s insistent rat-a-tat-tatting pounded like a jackhammer in my head.

Kathy goes on to list alternative nouns alphabetically, followed by an alphabetical list of active verbs and another of adjectives.

The spelling, by the way, is American, since Kathy’s country of residence is Canada.

The book deals with Overused Words and Phrases, Overused Punctuation, Taboos (think absolute adjectives, cursing, have, I, etc), Sensory Words, and The Environment.

It’s a great inspirer for better language use. And it’s available as an ebook and a paperback. (I have both!) And you can obtain it through Amazon, or visit her website.

Kathy’s book lies awaiting among the paraphernalia of my work on the plan of a location in my latest scifi novel.

I’ve no financial interest in the book, I simply think it’s an excellent tool that should be available to all who use the English language to express themselves more clearly and poetically.

For language learners, there’s a great group page on Facebook.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.