Who are the GSO?

A question I have been asked a fair few times is “What does GSO stand for?” My reply of “Peace and security or oppression and tyranny, depending on your viewpoint” does not seem to satisfy and in an earlier draft of the book, there was an explanation. However, it was redacted somewhere in the editing process. So, for lovers of acronyms explained:

GSO = Government Security Office

There. Fully informed. But then, what is the difference between this lovely bunch of lads and the various other Imperial henchmen in the Anjelican Universe? Well, here’s a very brief spotters’ guide:

The GSO – The Government Security Office. Their brief is to find and crush sedition at the personal level. Imagine Thought Police meets Gestapo. Each world’s GSO operates independently of the local government and reports to the Vice-regal Security Office (at Stella Sector HQ), which in turn reports directly to the Emperor.

The Imperial Navy – The Emperor’s principle military force. Each Stella Viceroy must maintain his own Navy, using the proportion of taxes gathered from planetary governors, known as the “Imperial Levy” (the rest of the taxes go directly to the Emperor). There is a whole lot more to the navy (the 11th united command, alliance forces etc), which I’m sure I will be returning to ad nauseum. Suffice it to say, they are there to fight military actions in space, invade planets (through the Imperial Marines) and police space against smugglers and pirates.

Naval Intelligence – A branch of each navy, gathering intelligence and carrying out counter-espionage against organised insurrection (as opposed to the GSO’s focus on individuals). There is an on-going and bitter power struggle between the Navy and the GSO.

The Proctorate – the Imperial Proctors are entirely concerned with monitoring and enforcing the flow of taxes to the Imperial treasury. This can be at any level from viceroys and governors, right down to an individual’s pay and business affairs. All proctors are technically equal and all technically report directly and individually to the Emperor. This is to ensure that all are in a position to report infractions, no matter how high the rank of the accused. Corruption within the Proctorate is almost unheard of due to extremely harsh disciplinary measures.

The Caluphas – Originally the 483rd Regiment of the 1st Imperial Army, its first commander – Colonel Calupha himself – could not raise the funds to recruit and pay his men. So, he recruited from long term prisoners and offered the results up as a semi-suicidal force. The resulting blood lust of the violent rapists and murderers was such that civilian populations in conquered areas suffered greatly. The Imperial Armies turned them into a terror force and now there are dozens of Calupha regiments.

The Imperial Armies – Armies under the central control of the Empire, they are used as cannon fodder and occupation forces. The vast majority of those on punishment service are sent to the armies. Unlike other branches of Imperial service, commands and commissions can be bought out-right.

The Imperial Marines – See the Imperial Navy, above.

The Militia – military forces raised and maintained from amongst the local population by planetary governors, and under their direct control.

Local Law Enforcement – All local law enforcement can be structured and organised by planetary governors. On LaMarque, for example, there are regional police forces and the LaMarque Investigations Office (LIO).

Advertisements

LONCON3

Wow!

Okay, you may need a little more than that. I went to LonCon3 at ExCeL in London, which some of you may have noticed was the WorldCon. Yes, that’s the big science fiction convention, still devoted to the written word, where they judge and announce the Hugo Awards.

And I mean, wow!

I am still buzzing. Not just because my publishers, Inspired Quill, put together a great stand with inspired authors and an inspired message, which they did. Not because I sold some books and took a selfie with childhood hero, Robert Silverberg:

20140814_155219

Not even because George RR Martin strolled past while I was working on my laptop and I didn’t even look up (#epicfail).

It was meeting all the conventioneers that made me feel wowish. The incredible diversity, friendliness, passion, knowledge and downright tolerance brought home to me the wonderful community I am trying to write for. Some who stuck in my mind were people I met again in civvies after seeing them in costume the previous day, the American lady who brought me a bag of M&Ms just because and the first ever stranger to tell me they liked my book. At one point I knew I was talking to a physicist, so mentioned that I had worked hard to make the science right. He bought it and then discovered that he works in astrophysics at Harvard. I twitched a little and considered snatching it back from him…

It was great sharing a stand with Sara (the supreme commander of Inspired Quill) and Matthew Munson and Ben Hennessy (fellow authors at IQ). There was a real sense of being in it together and between us we sold a respectable number of books as well as networking and promoting IQ’s social enterprise ethos. Here is a picture of my end of the table:

20140814_122509

Yes, that is a giant gobstopper in the middle of the sweetie solar system. I believe it is the largest one can buy in Ashby de la Zouch – watch out for a future blog where I break it up to see if it really is multi-layered inside. We also noticed that if you line up several of my books in that configuration you can make one big window.

The dénouement of the conference was the Hugo Awards, so I will sign off with this picture of the after-party. Can you see two TARDISs?

20140817_223923

Leicester Launch

Okay. On the 27th July (2014) we launched my book “We Bleed the Same” at The Exchange in Leicester’s cultural quarter. Here are the pictures from the event that made it past the censor. Thank you to everyone who came along! Especial thanks to my friend Jo, who stepped in with a pen when we could not locate the ones I had brought along. Yes, every book was signed with a pen advertising colostomy bags.

Me signing my first book:
P1010273

An entirely edible solar system made from gobstoppers (of various sizes), space dust, popping candy, flying saucers and chocolate moon rocks:
P1010271

Me and my very excellent publisher, Sara-Jayne Slack of Inspired Quill (she’s the one on the right):
P1010276

The mayor of Ashby de la Zouch, Andrew Badger, came along. Thanks, Drew!
P1010277

Members of the Wilkinson clan snorting popping candy:
P1010284

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…