Sunday 27 December 2015

The Farce Awakens

"Getting too old for this shit..."

Just been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No spoilers here, but I have to comment on it, as it really wasn't what I was expecting at all. The popcorn guy said to me, "I've seen it three times already. You'll love it." I assume he was referring to the movie, and as I'd heard nothing but positive things in the media about it, I was looking forward to a good day's entertainment.
OMG, how wrong could I be? I know it makes me a heretic, but watching this movie was a distinctly underwhelming experience. I mean, to start with, it felt cheap. CHEAP? Yes, really. The other Star Wars movies always felt lavish, and Lucas, for all his faults, made them look great, with sweeping panorama shots of landscapes, ships arriving, etc, before every major scene or new location. The Force Awakens, on the other hand, looked and felt like it was made for TV. I know previous movies have been criticised for having too much CGI, but this one needed a whole lot more, because it looked crap. Some of it could have been filmed in the field behind my house. Come to think of it, almost every location looked like Earth. Which obviously it was, but you're meant to at least think you're in a galaxy far, far away, and not just over New Zealand (that was Lord Of The Rings). And what the hell happened to the acting?!
I know Star Wars was never famous for its acting skills, but they weren't as bad as this. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have all been dug up again for this re-run, and they look tired and jaded. I saw Harrison Ford a few years ago in Cowboys And Aliens, and he put in an excellent performance as an ageing rancher, but in this movie he looks like he's had all the fire sucked out of him. With its original actors and constant references to past glories, I felt this movie was trying to be too reverential to the originals, to the point that it just got in the way of the plot. The other actors are all unknowns, and to be honest, I still don't know them. The lead woman looks like a Hunger Games rip-off, sans the charisma, the black guy has the most interesting back story, and comes close to getting the best dialogue, but really, there's not enough time spent on these characters, they don't shine enough and I had no sympathy for them whatsoever. No wonder the cute orange droid gets so much attention. I know Hayden Christensen was pretty awful in the prequels, but after what I saw today, he's been elevated to Oscar-winning status. Seriously.
And the plot? Well, if you've seen the other movies, you'll find no surprises here, and that's all I'll say about it. The bad guy, Kylo Ren, is a cut-price Darth Vader, who, I kid you not, will be discounted further halfway through the film. The Death Star? Well, like I said, no spoilers, but you will get the sense that you've seen this movie before. Almost everything in it is a copy or a reference to past stuff. So I'm left wondering what all the hype was about. George Lucas got a lot of stick for his handling of the prequels - he's a bad script writer and a terrible director - so when I heard he'd been taken off this movie, and his directing chair given to J.J. Abrams, I had high hopes. But all I can say now is: Come back George, all is forgiven. Your artistic eye and your childish sense of wonder are sorely needed. I know I saw some X-Wings and Tie Fighters, along with a smidgen of lightsaber fighting, but I don't get the feeling I just watched a Star Wars movie. There was a whole bunch of stuff missing, and the most important missing piece was this: Atmosphere.

Suddenly I'm feeling nostalgic for The Phantom Menace. I think I need a brain scan.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

August 99c sale!

Yes, that's right folks. Each of the five X-Troop books is now available for just 99c (99p) till the end of August. Am I mad? Well, of course I'm mad. I'm a writer. But don't worry about that. If you have any of the stories missing from your collection, now's the time to get your sweaty mitts on them, before my meds kick in.

Amazon Links:
X-Troop 1: Amped
X-Troop 2: Assembled
X-Troop 3: The Tollon Codex
X-Troop 4: Bunker 51
X-Troop 5: Arctic Run

The X-Troop Collection: Books 1-5

The X-Troop series is now available as a complete collection in one ebook.
Follow Alex Harvey and his elite team as they track down alien infiltrators through the backstreets of England, the jungles of Guatemala and the frozen wastes of Canada. Hidden among the human population, the genetically engineered aliens have plans that could doom humanity, and only X-Troop, with their own genetic enhancements, can stop them. But with alien masterminds and shadowy government organisations to contend with too, Alex knows the odds are stacked against his team, because nothing is quite what it seems.

Available at Amazon and Amazon UK

Monday 29 June 2015


Hot on the heels of my last release, I am pleased to announce another! This, however, is a re-release of my first novel, Even The Dead Dance To Live, spruced up with a gorgeous new cover and some light re-editing.

Re-reading this while editing has been a nice surprise. I'd forgotten how involved the tale was. For those of you who haven't read the original, it follows the travails of an ex-cop named Shakespeare Cruz in the aftermath of a civil war on the far-off moon Callisto. Shakespeare is taking care of his adopted daughter, unaware that her real father, a brutal warlord, is closing in on his location. Mayhem will ensue.

It's not just a simple tale of survival, vengeance and action, however. For Callisto, I did a hell of a lot of research on the real Callisto, the frozen moon that orbits Jupiter, and looking back, I'm kind of impressed at how much information I included in the story. Callisto is a real place, and I wanted the reader to physically walk the landscape and feel what it would take to survive there.

The other star of the tale is the colony city of Cielo - a gang-ridden hellhole after the civil war. For this story I did a lot of research on the Lebanese Civil War, and the cartels in Mexico. It's a grim setting, with no room for sentimentality. Again, I was impressed at the attention to detail. It may sound strange, since it was I who wrote the book, but after three years it's easy to forget.

This is a book with a ton of characters too. We have Shakespeare Cruz, the ex-cop with a very shady past (I won't give too much away), and his daughter Seina, a lively, feisty seven year old who doesn't actually know the truth about her father. Or her mother, even. But there is also Raoul, the once-mighty criminal lieutenant who is now forced to scavenge for scraps on the moon's surface, dreaming and plotting to return to the city and reclaim his rightful place. Then there's Crisi, the noble ex-cop on a crusade to liberate the city; Pulia, the dance instructor who defies the gangs to rescue young girls trafficked for prostitution; Nil├ęs, the rogue businessman who funds the resistance movement whilst selling goods for the gangs; and Lorenzo, the mighty warlord who rules over them all, and who wants Shakespeare's head.

And even that doesn't really scratch the surface of the story. I've never written such a long, descriptive tale involving so many characters, and I'm not sure I will again. It took a lot out of me. Reading it all again, however, I'm glad I did. It's immersive, and by the time I'd finished, I felt like I'd actually visited the frozen moon that NASA has yet to land a probe on. Hopefully, you will too.

The good news is that you can get your hands on it for just 99 cents (or 99 pence) at Amazon (or Amazon UK) until the 13th July. So don't hang about. An epic tale of colonization, love and death awaits you. Just don't forget to bring your winter woolies and, if you're a softie like me, a hankie too. Enjoy. :)

Thursday 28 May 2015

Arctic Run

Well, dear long suffering readers, you've waited a long time for the fifth instalment of the X-Troop series to arrive, but the good news is... IT'S HERE!!!!

Yes, my apologies for taking so long with this one. Eight months was too long to wait. But it's here now, and you can follow Alex's adventures in Canada's frozen north as he attempts to track down the fugitive Xeen and its hybrid monstrosities. This is the end game, and the conclusion of the struggle between X-Troop and the Xeen's attempt to trigger the invasion of Earth. Who wins? Well, I'll let you find out, but on the way you'll be treated to the action-fest that you will surely expect by now, with an unrelenting pace and an explosive (and perhaps surprising) ending.

The best news is that it is available for just 99 cents (or 99 pence) until June 12th, so grab it while it's cheap, sit back and enjoy Alex's last thrill ride as he kicks ass, no quarter given, none asked.

Amazon UK

Monday 9 February 2015

Free download of The Tollon Codex

Get a free download of the third book in the X-Troop series, available on Amazon from 10th Feb to the 14th Feb. What better way to treat your loved one on Valentine's day than with a tale of ripped warriors, aliens and Mayan ruins? No? Well, you could attempt to pass the kindle across, hidden discreetly under a box of chocolates. And flowers. I've heard that works too. But, if for some bizarre reason (I know, I know) that tale of romantic Mayan legends, passionate mountain jungles and a seriously high body count fails to do the trick, you'll know at least that it didn't cost you anything. Well, except for a complete lack of sex that evening, but hey, don't say I didn't warn you.


Wednesday 4 February 2015

Whingers, Wankers and Publishing

We've heard all the usual complaints about ebooks and Amazon forcing small bookstores to close, driving traditional publishers to the wall. There's been a lot of hand-wringing about how an ereader cannot replace a paperback because the paper feels so nice to touch, the book feels more substantial - so you feel you are reading something of worth - and it's easier to gift a book than an ebook. Every year, it seems, someone in an article rejoices at the fall in ebook sales that, for some reason, never actually happens. And many people cannot wait for the Indie publishing phenomenon to finally collapse under the weight of its own crap, so that readers can return to the protective bosom of the professional publisher, certain at last of being able to read a 'quality' book that is free of typos and poor plots. We've heard it all before, and since I wrote on this subject three years ago in Dinosaurs Ate My Ebook, nothing much has happened to change my mind on this. All we've seen is a Groundhog Day of whinging. And if you are an American reader and you're wondering... yes, to whinge means to complain. Peevishly. A lot.

The biggest complaint about the effect of the electronic revolution on publishing focuses on the loss of jobs - the poor girl behind the bookstore counter, the poor guy standing by the printing press, the poor editor sitting behind the desk: all waiting for the customers to validate their existence, and all waiting in vain because some evil corporate bastard in Amazon has stolen their trade, their livelihood and their sense of self-worth. Oh no, isn't new technology awful? Which is odd, because the printing press was also considered to be new technology in its day, and condemned by moralists and establishment figures alike. But now we look back on the birth of the printing press and celebrate it for its contribution to democracy. So, apart from cheap (and free) books, what else has the ebook revolution brought to society today?

Here's one interesting thing that ebooks have brought to society: Jobs.

Okay, considering all the jobs that have been lost in the publishing industry in the past few years, that might seem a strange thing to say, but it's true, and it's all down to Indie publishing. Now, Indie publishing is a fairly simple phenomena to examine. Basically, anyone with a computer can now write a book, create a cover on Photoshop, write a blurb, and upload it to Amazon, Apple or Barnes and Noble. And because they no longer need the approval of an agent or editor to publish, lots of people have rushed forward to take advantage of this. Which sounds nice but, in the real world, we know it's not that easy. Editing a book takes time and skill, not everyone has the talent to create a good cover, and in order to sell the book to lots of readers, one has to find a way of reaching those readers. A successful Indie writer has to be a good writer, a good editor, a good artist and a good marketeer. That's asking a lot, and of course, the editing, artwork and marketing used to be handled exclusively by professional publishers. But not anymore.

Since the beginning of the Indie writing phenomenon, I have watched the massive growth in the market for freelance cover artists, freelance editors and marketing websites, all catering to the needs of the Indie writer. Self-published writers now invest thousands of dollars in this new growth industry. Hundreds of artists, for instance, now have to chance to sell their work in a way they did not before. Many small marketing websites, operating from people's bedrooms and offering readers news on the latest free ebooks, have grown into moderate businesses that now need to employ staff and programmers. All over the internet, there are people making a living offering their services as editors and formatters to Indie writers and, over the past three years, their numbers have been growing.

And who has benefited the most from this phenomenon? Women.

Yes, and it's strange that, considering how fashionable it is these days to laud anything to do with women, few have commented on the boost that Indie publishing has given to women. The majority of Indie writers are women, just as the majority of readers are women. There is no need now to worry about whether the patriarchal, misogynist, blah blah publishing industry is promoting enough female writers, because women can now reach out directly to their readers, working from home, working flexible hours, being their own boss. They can run their own businesses now, from home, while raising children, balancing the demands of work and home, as the mantra goes. And many of them do. Working invisibly, and often under pseudonyms, thousands of them are now writing and publishing from the comfort of their own computer, all over the world. And the ones that aren't are setting up websites offering their art, their networking skills and their advice.

The liberal intelligentsia are usually the first to praise women's empowerment, just as they enthuse about crowdsourcing, anti-government demonstrations and anything else they perceive as involving the mass democracy of individuals and their heroic struggle against authority and corporations. They have praised the efforts of Indie musicians and Indie film makers. But when it comes to Indie writers, they are strangely reticent, looking a little uncomfortable with this freedom of people being able to publish whatever they want. They will praise free speech and blogging, but they rarely praise self-publishing. They will name-drop the latest Indie songs or Indie movie they enjoyed the day before, but when it comes to Indie writing, most of them are firmly on the side of the traditional publishers, which just goes to show how shallow their notion of liberalism really is.

Many self-professed liberals think that liberalism is merely the enunciation of bourgeois good manners. All they feel they have to do is mindlessly follow the latest liberal fads of diversity, multiculturalism, women's rights, gay marriage and feeling sorry for African children, and that is that: no further thought required. They're wankers, basically, marinating in their own sense of moral goodness. The truth is, most have not the faintest idea what liberalism really is, and while they are liberal about democratic freedoms, they are conservative and blinkered about self-publishing.

Hypocrisy is as old as society. So are the effects of technology on that society. But really, the only thing that has changed about publishing is that more people are now doing it. When pound shops and dollar stores appeared on the high street, did people complain that they would dilute the quality of the retail world? No. Customers aren't stupid. They know how to shop around, and they know what they want. It's the same with Indie publishing. Yes, there's a lot more crap out there now - that's a statistical inevitability - but readers can tell what they like and what they don't. They don't need anyone to hold their hand, and neither do writers, who can now purchase whatever freelance expertise they want.

Indie publishing is not going to die - it is not a bubble waiting to burst - because there are now too many people involved in it, all interlocked and adapting to every change in the market place. It's the chaos principle in action, and it's worth watching because, really, it's better than whinging.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Dare He?

I don't know about you, but I've been seeing a lot of these straight-to-DVD movies in my local supermarket in recent months. Movies that nobody even tried to get into a cinema, because they were that rubbish. Just the titles make me laugh, like Rutger Hauer´s 'Hobo With A Shotgun'. The covers and packaging may be getting more professional, but there's no doubting what you're going to get inside. Recently there have been a string of gung-ho war movies out, with actors you've never heard of and plots that make The Simpsons look like serious intellectual property. My current favourite is the second movie in the 'He Who Dares' series, called 'Downing Street Siege'. Presumably, 'He Who Dares' refers to the sheer gall it took to make a second movie. I haven't seen the movie, and I don't plan to, but the blurb on the back of the case made me giggle. SAS hard men in a race against time to save the life of the kidnapped Prime Minister. We've seen plenty of these kinds of movies from the States, where some hero has to save the President from assorted terrorists, and for Americans, the post of president may well be sacred. But the idea that anyone would want to save the Prime Minister seems too far fetched, even for Hollywood. Given the view that most Brits have of their Prime Minister, it really should be turned into a comedy.

SAS Trooper 1: "Put down your weapon, or we shoot!"

Random Terrorist: "You come any closer and, by Allah, I will shoot your Prim Ministing"

SAS Trooper 1 turns to his companion: "What do you think, Nobby?"

SAS Trooper 2: "Sounds like a good deal to me, Smudger."

SAS Trooper 1 to the terrorist. "Okay, mate. You shoot him, then we shoot you. Deal?"


SAS Trooper 1: "Job's a good 'un. Now, who else in the Cabinet can we let them have?"

It would be the only time someone rooted for the terrorists, really. Be even better if they can make the actor who plays the Prime Minister look like Blair/Cameron/Milliband/Clegg. They all look the same, so any spiv in a suit will do.

I'd pay good money to see that.

Monday 12 January 2015

I'm Back!

Did you miss me?

What do you mean, you didn't know I was gone? Are you serious? You did not have occasion to wonder at the absence of the witty one liners, the acerbic reviews, the bold and perceptive reportage on the world of indie publishing?

Okay, okay, but you could have at least noticed the cobwebs...

Anyway, I'm back in the saddle, and I come bearing gifts. First is the news that work has resumed on the X-Troop series and, two weeks into the New Year, the fifth book is going well. We begin the new novel with Alex stranded in the far north. How? Why? Well, you'll have to see, but winter is drawing in, the lakes are freezing over, the snow will soon fall, and Alex finds himself on his toughest assignment yet, looking for an enemy who's disappeared, and struggling to find the clues he needs to prevent a global disaster. The clock is ticking, and once again X-Troop are involved in a race against time. But they always are, aren't they? And why change things, eh?

So that's where the latest sequel is at. Still no title, I'm afraid, and I can't give away any more clues (yet), but so far it's looking good.

The second piece of news is that, if you haven't already done so, you can grab hold of the second novel in the series, X-Troop, which will be available for free (yes, FREE) at the end of this week, from the 16th to the 20th of January. So if you don't have it, get it then. And if you do have it, tell a friend to try it out. I mean, seriously, what's the worst they could do?

You can always leave town if it's that bad. And you never liked them that much, did you? Did you? Okay, my bad.

But it's there, it's free, and that's gotta be good. Grab a copy at:

Amazon and Amazon UK