Category Archives: Stars Trilogy

About the three book series The Sky full of Stars, Falling through the stars, and Darkness between the stars. The epic story of man’s leap to other worlds.

Looking forward


Generally speaking I try to keep away from mainstream politics, it distracts from my narrative habits. However, I may not be interested in politics, but that alas, does not mean that politics is not interested in me.

Take for example a forthcoming and hard earned holiday in London. The planning and booking for which trip were finalised in February, with only a minor panic over accommodation in June interfering with our schedule. On my to do list from the 15th October to the 6th of November are many visits to museums and all the other cultural wonders that the UK’s capital has to offer. Afternoon teas, theatre, lectures, sightseeing, a couple of grooming interludes and a few strolls down memory lane. Three whole weeks of just chilling out and having my own form of restrained fun. By restrained incidentally, I do not mean any kinky sojourns around the more salacious streets of the capital. I leave all that to younger flesh.

While there I will also be editing down an old copy of ‘The Sky full of Stars’ to make the story crisper and more engaging, refreshing my memory prior to a wholesale rewrite of the whole trilogy. A task I have long neglected. Then I have a few quirky stories which I will be throwing at some of the more mainstream sci-fi magazines from this list. I hope some of my narrative mud will stick, or at least get some worthwhile feedback.

Also whilst in London I hope to run into a couple of very decent people I have come to know through online contact. Just for a general chat and the simple pleasure of shaking their hand. A little face to face socialising, nothing much.

Regrettably a shadow has arisen which threatens our enjoyment. The whole dreadful soap opera of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Overall, I think leaving that bureaucratic farrago is a good thing. The UK should have been freed March 31st 2019. At least according to the date set by the triggering of article fifty of the EU constitution. I have seen no good reasons for not leaving on that date. Nor should another extension to the leaving date be sought, no matter the court judgements. Courts should not interfere with the political process, nor create political law retrospectively. That is a dangerous path to walk.

This does not matter to those who do not want the UK to leave. They do not believe in democracy. At least not in any form I have ever witnessed.

In the UK we were always told that we lived in a country where the average voter had a say via the ballot box. The general rule being that the majority gives an elected government an opportunity to fulfil promises made, contingent on their party being given a parliamentary majority. Whilst those elected are not compelled to keep their word to the absolute letter, a promise to their voter base is a promise and such commitments should not be broken lightly. Failing that, what is the point? If politicians continually break faith with those that elect them, does a walk to the polling station become nothing but an exercise in outright futility?

Let me expand. When I was eighteen, I had the opportunity of voting in the plebiscite for the UK to remain in the Common Market, as the European Union was called then. To my undying shame I voted for the UK to stay in, voting that way because my older brother told me it was a good thing and that I should vote yes. That decision has haunted me for several decades. It was a bad decision, made in ignorance that I have regretted for over forty years. During that time I have had the displeasure of watching the great promise of the then EEC morph into little more than an exclusive club for the well connected and arrogant. Of laws concocted by crass bureaucrats for what seemed no more than their own self-aggrandisement. Regulation for regulations sake from an unelected commission and rubber stamped by a parliament in name only. Watching the importance of my vote diminish as European democracy began to languish and die, the sovereign bodies of all the nation states gradually becoming little more than yes men for a patronising elite, hoping against hope for their turn to ride the bureaucrats great gravy train.

Now the UK is (probably) leaving the EU, I think a great wrong is at last, I hope, being righted. ‘Deal’ or no. All precautionary mechanisms are, from the best information I have available to me, in place for Britain’s World Trade Organisation terms exit aka ‘no deal’, or more pejoratively ‘crashing out’ if one is to maintain the hyperbole. Emergency provisions have been made and supplies stockpiled. The much prophesied worst is like the weak protestation of a street corner penitents mantra that ‘the end is nigh’, it will not come to pass. Like so many of the scare stories presented as news drip fed from so many once reputable media outlets.

On the day, the greater British public may not even notice the difference. Only those involved in warehousing and distribution will notice significant changes to their paperwork. The price of some goods may even fall as suppliers will no longer be forced to use EU based distribution hubs and instead bring their products directly into the UK as they did before the EEC and later EU.

My final word on the matter is this; if the UK does leave the EU on the 31st October I will be in a London bar somewhere celebrating with a modest glass of single malt, then stepping out to see the fireworks. This promises to be a Halloween and bonfire night to remember.

There may even be a story in it.

New story


Well, there’s another 4300 word submission accepted by Leg Iron books. This time for their Halloween compilation. That will make three stories I’ve placed with them in under twelve months, which isn’t bad. The money isn’t an issue and I’m never going to make a fortune writing, but it’s fun.

I seem to have struck a chord with my semi-comical little narratives although if they have a major fault it is this; when I start a story I often have no idea where it is going to end up. My narratives often go wandering into the weeds and get lost somewhere in the long grass. I’ve tried planning, laying out careful plot lines but the thing I really enjoy is romping off to play where my wild ideas are. My inner child likes to prod at things with a stick, lift the rocks to see what’s underneath. I also like to take the odd sideswipe at PC ‘culture’. Which amuses me. Although I often don’t know where to stop.

For example, my latest submission began life under the working title ‘The Coat’ but after the plot got lost in the woods at around the four thousand word mark, I had to send out a search party to bring the narrative back to a timely conclusion or it would still be wandering in circles. When I was done, the tale had been tidied up and shortened with a new title; “Good here, innit?” which makes sly fun of extreme ‘hate speech’ laws in a highly repressive society. And that revelation is as much as I am going to give away. Kevin Hillman at Leg Iron books liked it right away, which shows that we share a certain macabre sense of humour. There is another similar work in progress comic short story with the working title; “Three benches and a bicycle rack” which is as much as I’m giving away here. Let’s just say it will be funnier than “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”, I think.

Regarding promised videos; I’m having a few issues with glitchy sound. When I record a video, I like to do my readings in one take, often over twenty minutes at a time. What I’m experiencing is the recording randomly dropping whole words and occasionally even two or three, so a sentence ends up making no sense at all. Which is frustrating. However, when my recording issues are resolved I shall be adopting a policy of posting only partial readings to YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion with the full versions exclusively on Bitchute. Suffice it to say I have good reasons for doing so. YouTube’s policy of erasing whole channels for being even mildly politically incorrect for one.

Then there’s the issue of my planned compilation. This is still a work in progress, but I have a few new ideas for satirical supernatural stories which I want to include. This will delay the final project completion by a month or two but I hope any potential readers will find it worth the wait.

On the ‘Stars trilogy’ front, the current draft of ‘Darkness between the stars’ has clambered arthritically over the 90,000 word mark after the last edit with about another 60,000 to go. That is how much further I have to travel down that path. What I have written so far is good and I have the last four thousand words already written. Unfortunately marrying the two parts together in a meaningful way is proving more difficult than I had first anticipated. There’s almost too much to keep in my head at any one time.

In the meantime, just to keep the story machine in my head working, I will continue with the short stories and see what strikes.

Progress


Finally, the logjam on ‘Darkness between the stars’ is beginning to break. I have a basic 69,000 words followed by another 30,000 plus in notes and dialogue which needs shoehorning in. There’s some good stuff in there. Failed diplomacy. Arrogant double dealing. Attempted kidnappings and assassinations. Stuttering relationships and a couple of other red herrings to keep it interesting. Oh yes, and an interstellar ‘Police action’, which makes for an action packed interlude just before the denouement and wrap up.

There are also a couple of spin offs. One project with the working title of ‘Straight on through morning’ and a single volume follow up to the ‘Stars’ trilogy I’m calling ‘Earth’s night’ set in the days following the ‘Stars’ timeline.

This whole project has been a monkey on my back for the last eight years. Simply because what I’d written had lost direction and I couldn’t visualise where the narrative was heading. There was a large black hole of a discontinuity I couldn’t see past.

I don’t actually foresee a finished draft before October, but it won’t be for lack of effort. Work at my day job has tailed off for the next couple of months which will give me more focused keyboard time. As I’ve been offered even more regular paying work beginning in September, this means I have a three month window in which to press on regardless. Fingers, nose and eyes crossed.

Regarding ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ I hope to have a working draft in the next three weeks followed by proofing and editing. There should be a reading of my updated version of ‘Blink’ up on Bitchute by the end of Sunday. I’ve salted it with a little more irony and taken a few sniping side shots at certain modern urban dogmas. Enjoy.

Oh yes, I was talking to an eZine publisher in California, but as I don’t want to write their kind of horror story for free I think we’ve agreed that my material is ‘not a good fit’ for them. On the flip side, there will be a ghost / supernatural toe-curler for the Halloween Underdog Anthology.

New project


As Xenophon said to Claudius; “Better out than in.”

With luck there will be a new project available in hardback and eBook format by the end of May. Should be on Barnes & Noble and Amazon by then. The working title being ‘The Cat tree and other stories’ Essentially it’s going to be a collection of my short fantasy and supernatural fiction, the raw text of some which can be found on the pages of this web site. What the hardback edition will have is artwork as illustrations to accompany the text. I’ll try and add some of these to the eBook if formats allow. Artwork for front cover will include this image.

All the twisted tales from my back catalogue, including several which have never seen the light of day, will be in this modest omnibus edition. This renewed focus is because paying work has slacked off considerably and Angie is going away with house guests for a couple of weeks, which means I can focus on getting the literary side of things done and out there, so there will be a video for the short version of ‘Blink’ while our house guests are elsewhere.

A full list of edited and improved stories will be available shortly, although I’m writing a couple of fantasy tales especially for this edition. Working titles are “The hunting of the Squonk” and “The coat”. I may also create a similar package for my back catalogue of short science fiction stories. That project will include novella versions of ‘Blink’ and ‘Oggie’ which are significantly longer (and better) than the originals. Better fleshed out characters and backstories, more savage twists.

Work proceeds very slowly on the third volume of the Stars series. So far I’ve carved off most of the fat, which leaves around 70,000 words to date but there are two main story threads which need tying off and completing from ‘Falling’. Also two spin off projects at around 30,000 words each and counting.

A word of advice for those looking at online payments processors; Don’t bother with Patreon. One very good reason being that they’re very limited. Payouts only go via PayPal (More fees) and one other online service. You can’t actually, as an individual, transfer funds directly from Patreon to your bank account like you can with Subscribestar. This is very limiting and another very good reason not to use Patreon. Payment speed is also snail-like. Up to ten working days for an online transfer between Patreon and Paypal? I have transferred thousands in under forty-eight hours from the UK to Canada using only my regular bank accounts and the worst that happened was an early morning phone call from UK bank security. By contrast my last royalty cheque from Leg-iron books cleared immediately after taking four days to arrive via airmail from Scotland. Draw your own conclusions. In crayon if you must, but draw them nonetheless.

A Coelacanth in the bathroom


… is the title of my latest short story with Leg-Iron books for their spring anthology. I’ve decided to err on the lighter side of things with a dark little comedy of errors which I hope readers will enjoy. Sort of a comic tale of the unexpected. Currently just under five thousand words and in the final editing stage before publication. Will post the links to Amazon etc when available.

In the meantime, here’s the artwork frontispiece. If this is the version Leg Iron books choose to use, if at all.

Still working on the artwork for my reading of ‘Blink’. Stars trilogy is still being restructured. Not much more to say. Manuscript at 69,000 words, which is still only about half way.

What can I say. Fiction writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. On the technical side, have just adjusted the site to make Smartphone surfing possible.

Update: Contracts signed for the text. Not sure about the artwork.

Up on bitchute


Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.

Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.

Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.

As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.

‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.

Back


After a long hiatus, I’ve restarted work on ‘Darkness between the stars’, the third installment of the ‘Stars’ trilogy. There is a problem with the story as it stands, there are too many threads to close, loose story lines going nowhere. Too much happening in real life for me to focus seriously on writing. New job. New responsibilities. Much to learn and teach.

I know ‘Stars’ is a flawed project which needs tearing apart and rebuilding rather than abandoning outright. There is much in it that is good but the whole thing is in need of a serious restructure. Even shortening. But I must finish the whole thing first.

A long wait….


It’s always a long period between approval and distribution listing times. At the moment I’m twiddling my thumbs and playing with site headers and profile pictures, which I’ve tried to make a little less intimidating. Yes, I’m fully aware that I look like a mildly scary screen villain. The kind that always appears to be having an internal debate between kneecapping or simply throwing his victims into a bottomless pit lined with spikes. If I try to smile it’s even worse, as though I’ve forgotten my chainsaw, but have just happily remembered that there’s a nice rusty old axe out back. The mirror is not my friend.

Despite appearances, in real life I’m a decent enough fellow whose behaviour normally falls within the parameters set for ‘Gentleman‘. Kind to animals, women and children. Courteous, polite and despite often being preoccupied, few unkind thoughts pass unprovoked through my temporal lobes. Any tendency to wickedness on my part is restricted purely to the narrative. Why I’ve ended up looking like the bouncers evil uncle (At least in my own mind) I have not the faintest idea.

No matter. I’m going to try and pick up the narrative threads for the third offering in the ‘Stars’ trilogy over the next week or so. For some reason the story loses its way about sixty thousand words in and there have been too many distractions and divers’ alarums over the past nine months to devote enough processing time to such a large project. Although I will finish ‘Darkness’, it’s only a matter of time and effort.

One other thing that I’m thinking about, apart from doing a course of Neuroscience and its application in marketing, is a new service called iAuthor. Is it worth the candle?

Sometimes it seems that the learning curve is more of an inward spiral.

Updates on Authors Den


Having been working for six solid hours, My Authors Den page has been updated with eBook and paperback links for the following;
Cerberus Conspiracy
‘A Falling of Angels’ eBook Kindle edition
‘Head of the Beast’ paperback

Stars Trilogy
‘The Sky Full of Stars’ eBook
‘Falling through the Stars’ eBook

And an amusing four thousand word festive offering (It’s free!)
‘Happy Christmas Charles!’

My ‘Goodreads’ page will have to wait until this afternoon, as it’s a little more user-fiendish than Authors Den and I am in sore need of a walk and some coffee.

How civilisations fail.


One of the themes I’ve been exploring in the ‘Stars’ series of novels is the nature of civilisation. What makes some thrive and others quickly crumble into the dust. Essentially what changes cause catastrophic failure in any given society.

On a little ramble around the Internet, I came across a number of sources which might help me finish the third volume in the series and tie up all the loose story threads. Having given the matter some thought, I compiled a timeline of six stages. I think they make sense;

  1. Prolonged warfare, dramatic over expansion of administrative function, catastrophic environmental change, destructive social movements, or failure to adapt to any given changes which destabilise the supply chain of resources.
  2. When the supply chain of general resources grows too destabilised, the overall living standard of those who depend upon it declines. Critical infrastructure maintenance also declines while resources are diverted by an administration for non productive purposes.
  3. Resource flow declines further as available resources shrink. More resources are diverted into administration than the general supply chain.
  4. Administration leaders and their contacts unsustainably divert resources for their own benefit.
  5. Increasing authoritarian control and surveillance is required by administration to ensure that the population continues to comply with increased resource reduction / diversion and other constraints.
  6. In the final phase, administration turns against its own people, treating the previously compliant like enemies (Failure of criminal law). A general failure of socio-economic agreements (Failure of civil law) is followed by economic and social collapse, often marked by excessive unrest and riots, capital flight, excessive inflation, and the permanent departure of the most productive.

Note:
By ‘supply chain’ I mean the flow of resources that a civilisation depends upon to flourish; be it the flow of commerce and trade, harvest, processing and use of raw material, or development of the intellectual capital of appropriately skilled people. It may help to think of these items not as things, but as processes. Like a flowing river, not a pond.

In ‘Darkness’ the collapse of Earth rule gives rise to ‘Khan’s rules’ as Suresh Khan and the other newly independent Association world leaders try to hammer out a workable constitution. One of the key items below.

Except in time of declared war, administrative function shall not form a total greater than one quarter of any planetary economy.

By the way, I’ve had to disable comments on most of this sites web pages because of the spam issue. IP blacklisting is also now in place for all comment spam trolling advertisers. Apologies to anyone who has anything to say. Use the ‘contact’ form if you get stuck and I’ll try to respond.

Characters discussing morality


I’ve been playing around with a dark little idea that fills in some backstory detail for the final volume of the Stars Trilogy, which is still far short of its proposed total. The following excerpt is an attempt to throw the light of discourse onto why otherwise cultured and civilised peoples can allow, even rejoice in, terrible things done for their cause. This is a topic which has always fascinated me. See what you think.

“Why did the Gaians insist on using human grown neural cells for their Assault Cyborgs, not artificial neural nets? Why did they have to core out all those millions? Kill all those poor people?”
“Cost. Autonomous neural net manufacturing technology used to be amazingly expensive and glitchy, even as recently as ten years ago. I guess they found it cheaper to just harvest pre grown material for cores. Do the math. A thousand assault units at a hundredth of the cost of a full Biotech AI means you can afford a hundred times as many. Simple. It doesn’t matter that there’s only a twelve percent success rate. To the Gaians that was perfectly acceptable because there were plenty more dissidents where they came from.” Suresh Khan raised a philosophical jet black eyebrow at the newcomer.
“That’s sick. The mere thought makes me want to throw up.”
“Congratulations. That at least proves you’re still human.”
“Considering it was humans that thought it up, that’s not much of a compliment.”
“Not all humans, just a few.”
“That few is too many.”
“You know, it’s amazing how many think that everyone else should think as they do, and given the opportunity would murder millions to make them do so.”
“That’s just cynical rubbish!”
“Look in the mirror and ask yourself the question.”
“Crap!”
“Really? Aren’t you being a little dishonest now?”
“No.”
“The question is this. Given the opportunity to make what you think is the perfect society. Everything exactly what you want it to be, world peace, everyone living in harmony, who would you be willing to kill or have killed?”
“That’s an unfair question! People don’t have to die for a society to become perfect!”
“No it isn’t unfair. It’s actually just about the fairest question there is. There will always be those with a contrary view, and as putative leader, it is your responsibility to manage societies response. Who and how many are you willing to send to your executioners?”
“No-one!”
“Even if they pose a physical threat to your perfect society? Even if they murder and terrorise at will? I’ll ask you again. How will you kill them, and how many are you willing to kill?”
“Well there’s the people who created the Gaian murder machine. Most of them are dead anyway. There’s also the people who gave the orders for Ahmed to be blown out of the sky.”
“And?”
“The people who did the killing and everyone who approved of it.”
“Good answers. Now where would you stop?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now you know why I disapprove of killing.”
“But, but, you’ve killed more Gaian Borg and soldiers than anyone else I know.”
“Did I say I enjoyed it?”
“No, but you’re the one lecturing me on the morality of killing.”
“Have I ever even suggested killing one of our own people?”
“That’s not the same and you know it! What about him? He’s killed more people than anyone in the history of the world.” A quivering finger pointed at Richard, who briefly glanced at the accusing digit before returning to his studying.
“Now you know that this isn’t what this discussion is about. It’s about how many people are you willing to have killed to get what you want?” Suresh sighed and leaned back for a moment, arms folded. “ One death? Ten? A thousand? Ten million?”
“Now you’re being ridiculous.”
“No. It’s a perfectly valid question. How many, and where do you stop?”

Now if only I could find a way to shoehorn it into the current story. Without sounding contrived, that is.

A thought from the idea factory in my head


I was reviewing ‘Darkness’ this morning, and began re-editing a sequence where five of my Asteroid miner characters are getting ready for a new expedition. It got me thinking, what will be the next development in caller ID on cell phones? With software that is capable of reading emotions under development, and I’m sure some form of holographic touch screen in someone else’s ideas file, I thought to myself, what would such an ap look like?

In ‘Darkness’ an E-Avatar is a 3D animated iCell figure that reacts to the callers emotions. When in no-vid mode, the cell phones internal software generates a little figure that mimes, dances and reflects nuances from the callers voice patterns. Animated Gif are already available for cell phones as caller ID avatars, so how long before a more reactive version becomes available? Not just reading micro expressions, but also tonal nuances in a callers voice. Maybe firstly as a 2D version, but as screen technology improves, 3D.

Just a thought. The pace technology is moving, I’m sure I’m not the first to consider the idea. Wonder if the idea isn’t original, but simply a derivation of something I’ve seen before on TV or in a movie?

Unscrambling storylines


After my recent brain fart storm, I find myself scrambling round the MSS of ‘Darkness’ tidying up loose ends. In making one story / character change, I’ve unleashed a cascade effect. While this does not alter the planned ending, it has sent the intermediate story skittering off in a new direction. Whilst this is not a completely unfortunate happenstance, it’s a lot of hard work reading and re-reading to clean up the glitches. Massively time consuming.

All this, day job, and Angie wanting me to help with her Canadian History Teachers course. Just been reading the unit on accounts of first contact in British Columbia by the Simon Fraser expedition, and to be honest it’s so dry I can hardly keep my eyes open. Great cure for insomnia. Although I’d prefer a large whiskey.

The only problem with great ideas…..


Maybe there can be sometimes too much of a good thing. Inspiration, that is. Had a great idea the other day for a little dramatic vignette for ‘Darkness’. A sound piece for to round out the backstory. One that ties up two character threads neatly, just in case a reader asks “Hey, whatever happened to them?”.

The only problem is; sometimes an idea is too good and takes over from the main story sequence. Unfortunately, my story now contains too many conflicts with other character threads. At the same time it’s just too damn good to ditch, because what’s written tidies up a gaping hole in the narrative. On the other hand it opens several large tins of wriggling Oligochaeta.

Originally I’d planned to kill off the two characters in question to provide a focus of angry motivation for others, but I like them both so much I really can’t bring myself to do the evil deed.

This means yet another storyline restructure. Head meet desk. Hi. Ow.

Don’t know how anyone else copes with story conundrums of this nature, but it’s at times like these I’m glad that I use a laptop running word processing software, and not my old Imperial Safari typewriter. Think of the trees I’m saving.