Writing

States of Independence and a new book

There’s a new book! Wait, what? Read on…

I should have open with an apology for being silent for so long. I’m sorry. Now let me tell you the exciting reason. I have been hammering away at the next book. Second novels are infamous in the writing world for being hard to do. It has taken longer. It is a bit shorter but people who have read it agree it is even better than the first! Now it is with my publisher who is considering what to do with it.

It’s in We Bleed the Same but you will not have needed to read it to enjoy the story. This one happily stands alone as well as enriching the universe. My aim in this saga is for the books to be readable in any order.  This time we meet a Freedom Protection Agent, called Jaq Pilakin, who is investigating an apparent accident of war and hoping it turns out to be a murder. Where the action in We Bleed the Same takes place over a whole year, this book’s action is over in three-and-a-half days. And yes, several of the characters you have already met do turn up.

So, I know you have been waiting for me to explain this somewhat strange post title. Well, States of Independence is a one day literary festival in Leicester, specialising in the independent press. It is free to get in and runs from 10:30am – 4:30pm in the Clephan Building, DMU, LE1 5XY.

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Excised Lecture… Modern Athréak History

One of the difficult things about writing science fiction is sneaking in your world building without info-dumping or committing the heinous atrocity that is known in the trade as “author intrusion”. This challenge is compounded if, as in “We Bleed the Same” you are writing the entire book from a single character’s point of view.

When I was writing it and needed to get on without getting bogged down I would put in a gap with the information I wanted to convey and would return later to figure out how to get it in. However, on one occasion – almost as a joke – I got Danny (the hero) to attend a lecture on Modern Athréak History. Then to my surprise my cold readers let it pass without comment, so I left it in when I sent it off to the publisher. People kept letting it through; I assumed it must just be a fantastically written lecture scene…

It was the third editor who finally unmasked it for the info-dump it was. So, for those who want to know a bit more about how and why the Empire, Athréa, the FFAIO and the Simplaerosian Kingdom are all fighting over one muddy patch of land – here is the deleted lecture. (The start of it remained included in Chapter 37.)

“One of the lectures focused on how the current military situation arose. The lecturer was an elderly man with white hair and a twitch below his left eye, which got more pronounced when he became animated on certain points. He wore an old fashioned Alliance uniform and a cravat from where his Adam’s apple would bob up as he spoke in a supercilious tone of voice, peppering his speech with convoluted sub clauses.

Due to the prevailing political situation, the Angel City, Engalise to the modern amongst you, was a natural choice for the Federation in setting up its headquarters. When we became a significant threat to the Empire a few decades ago, the Emperor at the time, old Pastan Victorious it was, an oxymoronic moniker if ever I heard one, ordered an expeditionary force to invade and destroy the city. He reasoned that, as it was completely independent, it was not a part of Simplaerosia and, therefore, it would not breach the Alliance to attack it. The Simplaerosians concurred with that assessment but pointed out, bless their hearts forever, that there was no way to get to Engalise without crossing Simplaerosian territory and so, with all the ferocity that their advanced technology afforded them, launched attacks on all the Imperial forces breaching their borders.’

‘So, how did we get hooked up with Simplaero?’ asked a woman on the front row.

‘Ah yes. Well, the Federation was defending Engalise, which had encased itself in a huge sink field, and the two co-operated militarily to expel the Empire. The strange, and most would say expeditious, thing was both the Empire and Simplaerosia regarded Athréa as a localised matter and continued with their Alliance in every other corner of the Galaxy. So, we have the peculiar phenomenon of Simplaerosia fighting with us on Athréa and against us in other theatres, although, in reality, both sides try to avoid that as much as possible. It is entirely in Simplaero’s interest to have the Empire bogged down in fighting us.’

‘Bogged down?’ asked the man next to Danny with a snort of derision. The lecturer looked genuinely surprised at the sentiment expressed.

‘Why yes. The naval casualties we necessarily suffer are a classic guerrilla campaign. The resources the Empire must expend in keeping us down are out of proportion to the threat we currently pose. More significantly, Athréa has become a mincing machine. For decades Emperors who could not afford to lose face or allow the Federation to operate unmolested, poured troops on to the planet, only for them to be pulverised. An army unit that lands on Athréa never leaves.’

A murmur of satisfaction rippled around the room but the lecturer looked irritated.

‘Please, everyone stay focused on what is important. Remember the sacrifices of the Athréak people, the descendants of the ancients, who still called themselves Anjelican despite massive interbreeding with the human occupiers. They have to go about their lives with war all around them…'”

Reviews of We Bleed the Same

Okay, I’ve held off the narcissism as much as possible but it may be that you’ve found out about We Bleed the Same, like the look of it, and want to know if it is any good before you buy it. Well, here below is a selection of reviews, warts and all, that I hope will give you an idea of what people think about it.

I promise – the reviews on the links below, and the ones on Amazon (other online retailers available…), are all I can find as of the time of this posting. So, I am hiding nothing from you.

An excellent writer and reviewer called Siobhan Logan said: http://siobhanlogan.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/puny-and-angels.html

Interesting SciFi author who I met at LonCon3, Jessica Meats said: http://plottwister.blog.com/2014/08/30/review-we-bleed-the-same-by-david-wilkinson/

Physicist and gaming reviewer, Susie Cumberland said: http://wordofthenerdonline.com/2014/09/review-bleed/

And you can find 12 reviews (2 of which are the ones by Siobhan and Jessica) on the Amazon website: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1908600306/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

 

 

 

Dragons at Christmas

Dragons on Athréa?
Here is one of those posts that will let you peek behind the curtain of the editorial process. It has long been my belief that dragons live in the mountains of West Fvelln. In the primary draft of We Bleed the Same, they appeared in Chapter 38 but it was decided that their presence might confuse things a little. I experimented with replacing them with other giant flying creatures called Donnucks but in the end they went too. That’s why you may have noticed that Chapter 38 is so short.
Anyway, here are two passages. The first is the whole excised section, including the dragons. The second is shorter and shows the part where the Dragons are replaced. It starts straight after the current chapter ending.

Dragons:
‘Happy now, Danny?’

‘Much better, thank you.’

As if to mock him, the radio crackled into life.

‘Shuttle craft vectoring 84-degrees-319. This is an Athréak Defence Patrol. Identify yourself immediately or be fired upon.’

Scottsdale hit the transmit button.

‘Hi ADP. This is Free Federation Orbital Insertion Vehicle Four Nine.’

Danny caught a glimpse of a jet fighter slipping in and out of the peaks not so far away on their right. It bore Simplaerosian markings.

‘Oh, hi Scottsdale. Manifest and destination please.’

‘Two intelligence officers for Rim West. Flight plan has been filed.’

‘Yeah that all checks out. Have a good tr… Hang on my wingman wants me…Proximity alert! Three UFOs cutting in on us. You got any ordnance Scotty?’

‘Four heatseekers and a belly full of chaff and flares.’

‘Okay, I’ll form up on you. Black 2, get up above the peaks and see if you can eyeball what they are. Be ready to fight, both of you.’

Scottsdale pointed at two buttons on the console in front of Danny.

‘That one is chaff. That one is flares. Hit whichever one I shout at you. Clear?’

‘Clear.’

‘Major, you got the tracking console?’

Leda’s voice came through their headphones, ‘I’m on it.’

Danny looked out of the side windows in time to see a vicious looking Simplaerosian fighter jet pull up beside them and then drop back a little to cover them from above and behind. They tensely waited for a few moments and then the wing man’s voice came over the headphones.

‘Woohoo! Stand down guys. They’re biological.’

Scottsdale seemed ruffled for the first time. ‘Danny, you lucky bastard! I’ve been making this run for two years and never seen this but you get it first time out.’

‘Hey, what… ? What you talking about?’

‘Fvelln Dragons!’ said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. ‘Dolphins of the sky…’

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. ‘Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about 230. Our stalling speed is about 180, so can you do, say 190?’

‘No problem.’ Scottsdale began to throttle back.

‘Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about 85 seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.’

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from their wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. ‘It’ll take about 6 minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!’

Leda leapt forward pointing, ‘There!’

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

‘Stay in formation!’

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a shining sea of scales on the belly of another as it rolled away, its wings folded into low drag ‘V’ shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful bat like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

‘Look at that!’

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller dragon there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. Powerful legs could now be seen, the front ones tucked beneath the base of each wing and the rear ones held tight against the root of the tail. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was the eye that held his attention. It was large, black but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned round to look at the other dragon and it was doing the same. He was about to exclaim to Leda but stopped when he saw she had her eyes closed and her head tilted forward. Her lips were moving. She appeared to be at prayer.

Their shuttle jumped and Danny jerked around to see the dragons beating their wings hard to regain speed and altitude before folding them back and diving across the shuttle’s bow. The smaller one turned its head back to look at the shuttle a moment longer and then followed the others down.

The ADP leader’s warning had been prescient as the cliffs were now looming up in front of them. His voice was heard again.

‘Well, that was something, wasn’t it? Safe trip guys, see you later.’

With that the fighters turned away just as the shuttle plunged into another gorge in the towering rock.”

 

And now a shortened bit with Donnucks instead of Dragons:

““Fvelln Donnucks!” said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. “Dolphins of the sky…”

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. “Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about two-thirty. Our stalling speed is about one-eighty, so can you do, say one-ninety?”

“No problem.” Scottsdale began to throttle back.

“Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about eighty five seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.”

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from the lander’s wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. “It’ll take about six minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!”

Leda leapt forward, pointing, “There!”

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

“Stay in formation!”

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down, taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a pock-marked, rubbery hide of another as it rolled away, its wings colourful delta shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful moth-like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

“Look at that!”

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller donnuck there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. A series of powerful legs could now be seen, tucked beneath the base of each wing. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was that which held his attention. It was large, black, multifaceted but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned around to look at the other donnuck and it was doing the same.”

 

So then. Dragons. Do they have a place in space opera?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

First key depression to first impression

I started my writing on a course at the Writing School Leicester. To mark the occasion of my first book launch (27th Jul 2014 – yay!) they asked me to write a blog entry on the journey from starting in their workshop to publication. Here below is a copy of it!

Getting my first novel published was one of the more unexpected things to have ever happened to me. It was a book that I set out on writing to learn how to write. Despite several large scientific reports to my name, I had not written a word of fiction since a short pastiche of 1984 I created as part of my English GCSE, [cough-cough] years ago. However, from writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing) the first sentence on 14th September 2011, it was an incredible and oft-times arduous journey that finally brought me to the launch date on 27th July 2014.

I have been making up stories set in my fictional “universe” since I was about five. These have been refined over the years until I had novel plots set in my mind. I would talk extensively to my wife about them and she kept saying I should try it. Then a confluence of events occurred. First I got paid to write an article in a science magazine. Then I heard a successful playwright interviewed on Radio4 who used to be a girl in my English GCSE class, giving feelings of “well, if she can do it…” But mostly it was my wife just telling me to shut up and get on with it, buying me a course at Writing School Leicester for my birthday in the process.

The day after attending the first of Rod Duncan’s ‘Writing a Novel’ workshops is when I began. The first sentence was truly terrifying but things started to flow after about 10 minutes. The atmosphere in the workshops was so friendly and relaxed that I had no real fear of writing low quality material and I knew that the feedback I received there would improve it. I also learned as much by listening to the other writers and thinking about what was good and bad about their work. Having said that, as someone not prone to stage fright, I found reading aloud my own work to others for the first time a terrifying experience. It has got better over the years.

I promised myself early on that I would always take some original work to the workshop every week, whether I would get to read it or not. It was only this that gave me the discipline to keep going and there was rarely a week when I didn’t produce at least a thousand words. By the end of the course in June 2012, I only had about a quarter of the book left to write and so found the impetus to keep going. I finished the first draft almost exactly a year after starting.

For the next three months I edited it extensively myself before handing it to three “cold-readers”. I nervously awaited their feedback over Christmas and in January 2013 I had it – and it was good! A further personal edit took me to February and then I sent the work off to seven agents and started waiting.

And waiting.

To cut a long story short, most rejected it but one of them asked to see the full manuscript. This was so exciting that I accidentally bought a dog (that’s another story) but after reading it all, he also said no. But by then I had received a publishing deal from a small, independent publisher, called Inspired Quill. They gave me a 10-month schedule from then until publication date and so started another set of edits. First a general one, then one by a harsh professional who gave me one brief compliment, followed by five pages of criticism. That was very much an opportunity to grow as a writer and hone the thick skin I had been cultivating up to that point. There was a proof edit and lots of to-ing and fro-ing on the cover, blurb, font (I kid you not) and style issues.

And so we reach now. I have a stack of paperback copies in front of me, ready for the local launch 1,047 days since I first put finger to keyboard. The Kindle and Kobo formats are ready to go. I can find it for sale on Waterstones, Amazon, Blackwells and even Foyles. And in August we’re going to WorldCon in London – the World’s science fiction convention. I’m so glad my wife signed me up to the first workshop.

Welcome to the Anjelican Universe

And so, my new career as a science fiction author started officially on 27th July 2014, with the publication and launch of my debut novel, “We Bleed the Same”. This and most of my future books (yes, there will be many!) take place in the same Anjelican Universe.
This blog will hopefully expand and grow in time but for now I have several ojectives. Blog posts will be split into specific themes:
1. My thoughts as a writer.
2. Explanations of aspects of the Anjelican Universe.
3. Whole sections that have been deleted or rewritten during the editorial process – you get to see the warty underbelly of the books.
4. News.

I am sure there will be changes over the coming months and years but, as with writing, the hardest thing to do is get started. Here we go…