The Two Empires - free for a limited time!

Yes, as promised, for the next five days you'll be able to download The Two Empires from the Kindle Store absolutely free!

 You can get it here.

I really want as many people to take advantage of this a small possible, so if there's anyone who you think might be interested then let them know. They've got nothing to lose, after all!

The deal will come to an end on 9 July (sorry, Amazon won't allow me to keep it free for any longer than that)  so grab it now while you can. And if you enjoy it, why not leave a review - or pick up the sequel?

I'm still here!

Sorry I haven't posted here for a while.  It's been a busy year for a number of reasons, but I do at least have a couple of bits of exciting news to reveal.

First up, the next book (what, you thought they all lived happily ever after at the end of The Devil's Gate?). Progress was initially going rather slowly, due to a combination of other things taking over my time and a bit of difficulty in figuring out exactly what was happening in this book.  However, the latter problem seems to be mostly solved now, and I'm finding that fired with inspiration the former is no longer such an  issue.  I'm now over 18,000 words in.  It's a long way off complete, even in first draft, but honestly most of that has been written in the last couple of months.  We'll get there, don't worry.

And now for the second bit of exciting news.  For five days from 5 July 2017, the ebook version of The Two Empires will be completely free on Amazon.  I've been meaning to try this for a while, on the basis that the more people I can persuade to read it, the more people are likely to leave reviews, tell their friends and buy The Devil's Gate and subsequent books. I imagine most of the people reading this will already have their copy, but if you enjoyed it yourself then why not take this opportunity to get your friends involved too?  Anything you can do to help promote it will be hugely valuable to me.  Unfortunately Amazon won't let me give the book away free for more than 5 days out of every 90, so if you want a free copy you'll have to move fast!

I'll post a reminder once the sale actually begins, and I'll try to give slightly more frequent updates on progress with Into The Dark (oops, well now I suppose you know the working title too).

A few thoughts on the EU Referendum

This is clearly going to be a very significant week.

By next weekend, we'll know at last what the UK electorate has decided in the EU referendum. For now, it's all completely uncertain - the one thing we learned from the last general election is how little value there is in polls - but however one looks at it, Brexit is very much a possibility.

When I was at school that would have been a very exciting prospect. Now, a few years later, it's profoundly depressing. In that time I've been to university and met a far wider range of people than ever before, I've studied law, and I've paid attention to what's going on in the world around me. I've come to believe that the EU is a huge step in the right direction, and the idea that we're going to abandon it leaves me quite miserable.

Why is that? Well, the economic case is pretty compelling. I know I've not got the knowledge to put together an argument here about how being part of free trade zone with our closest neighbours and trading partners, and taking advantage of our combined negotiating clout with other countries, is in the best economic interests of the UK. Fortunately plenty of others do, and almost without exception they're warning that Brexit would be economically awful for us. I don't know why these warnings aren't being heeded. Maybe people are so used to voting not changing anything that they've forgotten it really can. The one thing you can say about this referendum is that it gives us a chance to democratically make the most tremendous mess of things.

But to some extent that's all beside the point. Even if ten years down the line by some miracle it turns out that all of these economic experts got it completely wrong and we didn't plunge back into recession, I wouldn't be any less upset about it. That's because the EU, whatever one may argue was its original purpose, has taken on a significance beyond simple economics.

It's an idea that we can build a better continent by working together. That co-operation makes us all better off. That we would rather embrace our neighbours than turn in on ourselves in isolation.

Not everyone agrees. I've heard a lot during this campaign about how we need to restore our national sovereignty. Now, maybe national sovereignty was a pretty cool idea in the nineteenth century, despite all the wars and atrocities that ravaged Europe before the foundation of the EU. But that was a long time ago and the world has changed a little bit since then.

Globalisation isn't just a buzzword. We really are connected with other countries in so many ways, through trade, culture and everything else. For the most part the internet doesn't recognise national borders, and increasingly nor does our shopping. I've got friends across the continent and travel as much as I can afford. I've been an EU citizen for virtually my whole life, ever since that concept was introduced in 1993, and increasingly I am starting to see that as a more significant part of my identity than being British or English or anything else.

More substantially, every major problem facing us today is one that can be better solved by international co-operation. The economy, climate change, terrorism - there's only so much we can do on our own. If we want to make a real difference, we need to work together. Sovereignty over what happens within your own borders doesn't count for much these days. What happens in other countries can affect you just as much, and controlling that is what really matters. For the moment we're part of an organisation that gives us that power. Call it pooled sovereignty, if you really can't let that word go.

But of course, this time next week we may have turned our back on all that. Perhaps we'll be embarking on the first step of the long and arduous road out of the EU. The road away from the future and into the past, into isolation and irrelevance, on which I'll be stripped of my EU citizenship against my will. I can hardly think of a more depressing prospect.

Maybe we won't, though. Maybe we'll see sense and decide to stick with what we know. Maybe then we'll decide to spend more time and energy on trying to change and improve the EU than we do complaining about it. Maybe this is where things start to get better.

It all comes down to what happens on Thursday. I've already posted my vote. But if you haven't, and you want to stay part of the EU, then make sure to cast yours, because as close as things appear to be every vote counts.

This is a turning point for the UK, and possibly for the whole of the EU. I can only hope we turn in the right direction.

The Devil's Gate - Now Available!

Yes, you read it right - the sequel to The Two Empires is now available on Amazon, in paperback and ebook formats!

After many months of writing and editing, The Devil's Gate is complete and in publication. You can buy the paperback edition edition here or the ebook here. You can also read more about it on my site here (I'll bring that page up to date shortly).

I'm very pleased with how it has turned out. If The Two Empires was a wide-ranging introduction to the world and story, this is a more tightly-focuses book that can more deeply explore some of the themes of the first and continue to develop the existing characters and settings. It's also, in my very humble opinion, an even more thrilling adventure, so why don't you take a look? If you're not yet sold, you can always get a preview from the ebook link.

As always, if you have any questions do get in touch with me. 

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The Devil's Gate - Cover Art Revealed!

It's been a while since I last reported in, but now I actually have something to say. The Devil's Gate is now complete, and I am currently awaiting delivery of the proof from America. Once that arrives (assuming I don't find any errors, which of course is the point of a proof) I'll be able to officially release  it in paperback and ebook.

Naturally this means that the cover is now complete as well, and so I'm very happy to be able to share it with you below. You wouldn't believe how long it took me cursing the PC to produce, but I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out.

You can find out more about The Devil's Gate here. As always, watch this space to find out when I actually have a release date! 

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The 'Almost There - Really This Time!' update

Finally, something concrete to report: I've completed the Fifth Draft of The Devil's Gate. That means I've read through the whole thing cover-to-cover (well, as an ebook at least) to spot what doesn't really make sense or can be improved, and then I've gone through to make all the necessary changes. That's both for the things I've spotted, and the things the other readers have commented on.

That leaves just two things left before the proof is printed. My first-class copyeditor (and all-round superb mother) is going to read it, and will no doubt pick up on dozens of typos that have somehow escaped my attention in all the times I've read the manuscript so far. At the same time, I'm now working on getting the cover sorted. I've got a pretty good idea now of what I want to do, and hopefully I'll have something to share with you shortly.

So hang on there: we're genuinely getting very close. And although I'm clearly biased, I think it's going to be worth the wait. 

Get ready to return to Krakenbar

Get ready to return to Krakenbar

Update 09/08/2015

It's been a while, I know, but progress is being made. In fact, I've now finished reading through and annotating The Devil's Gate, and I've now made a start on actually carrying out the edits. I've got the many changes I identified myself from reading the last draft, as well as those suggestions that the others who have read it made, so it might take a while.  Having just read it I can safely say the final chapter is if anything even more epic than The Two Empires' one.

Also worth mentioning: if you've got any feedback about The Two Empires you've been keeping to yourself, now's the time to share it! I'd love to know what sort of things you liked or didn't like so that the sequel can hopefully have more or the former than the latter. 

I would have posted more in recent weeks, but a) the editing process isn't particularly thrilling to comment on and b) life has been a bit crazy lately. But don't worry: The Devil's Gate is on its way, and I think you're going to really like it.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Update 31/05/2015

Hello everyone! Remember me? 

As those of you with long memories may recall, The Devil's Gate is currently in what I think of as the beta testing stage. Fortunately I've now got the feedback I need to make the next round of editing. It's extremely valuable to hear what other people make of the book, since thing that make perfect sense to me may turn out to be complete nonsense to someone who lacks the benefit of having written it themselves. 

It's taken longer than I intended to get to this stage, but that's probably a good thing: a) I've been so busy over the last few months I probably wouldn't have got much done anyway; and b) it's been sufficiently long now since my last edit that I can now re-read the manuscript with a little bit more perspective. The plan is to read over what I've got, making notes as I go, and then edit based on my own thoughts and those of the readers. 

We're not quite finished yet, but it's getting close. Watch this space! 

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As Featured in Forbes!

Something special I'd like to share with you today: an article on Forbes.com that interviews me about my experiences self-publishing.

Before you get too excited, the headline isn't referring to me. I come in about halfway down the second page, but there's a good few quotes from me. It's an interesting read if you're interested in publishing and its future, and I think probably a well-balanced look at the different results self-published authors are experiencing.

I wouldn't particularly agree with McGregor's comment that Jack Burroughs 'hasn't seen much success' - there are more kinds of success than purely financial, and the fact that I've got a book that has been read by so many people is more success than I ever honestly expected when I started on The Two Empires. But the interview with me is I think a fair reflection of my thoughts on what has happened so far and what the future might hold.

It's also encouraging to read about other self-published writers who have been able to make a living from their writing, and particularly interesting to see how it is they've got to that position. I think there are some useful lessons there, even if none of it is particularly unexpected. As in most aspects of life, it takes hard work and self-promotion to get anywhere. There are certainly some useful things in the article to consider, though.

Am I ever going to be the next Mark Dawson? Who knows. I doubt I'm going to release six novels in the next two years. Thankfully I don't have a four hour train commute every day; in fact, as of last week I now have a fifteen minute bike commute, which is far preferable. However, I'm in no great rush. If I can continue to complete books over the next few years at a similar pace to The Devil's Gate I'll be quite satisfied.

As I said in the interview, I'm hopeful that my audience will grow as it has done so far through satisfied readers recommending the books. I'm very much aware that without a massive marketing campaign behind me, by far the most significant sources of promotion are you lovely people who tell your friends and leave reviews for the world to see, and I'm hugely grateful for that. It doesn't take complex mathematical modelling to grasp the potential for growth if one person tells their friends, and a couple of those friends read it and tell their friends, and so on...

Is this 'wishful thinking'? Quite possibly. But hearing from those who have read and enjoyed my work for me more than justifies my continued writing, and in any case I don't think I could ever stop even if I wanted to.

 

If you're interested, I previously wrote this about the mechanics of self-publishing.

'Sorry-For-The-Lack-Of-Updates' Update 22/03/2015

So I've been rather quiet this month. Whoever first said 'no news is good news' clearly wasn't talking about publishing. This is partly because I'm waiting for feedback on the Fourth Draft, which I'll need in order to make my final revisions. In all honesty though it's been so busy for various reasons that I'm not sure I'd have achieved much anyway.

The good news is that I am finally moving in a week's time (I should have known better than to invoke the curse of 'completing before Christmas'). That means that soon I'll be living in Cambridge, and I'll be able to settle down to finish off my book. Or, alternatively, I'll be so distracted by the bright lights of the big city/Netflix that I fail to make any progress whatsoever. We'll see.

Update 01/03/2015

March, eh? What's that all about? Don't quite know where this first sixth of the year has gone. 

Haven't done much writing-wise for the last couple of weeks. Partly this is because I've been extremely busy with work and other things, but mostly because I'm waiting for feedback on The Devil's Gate. Initial reports have been reassuringly positive so far, but I'm sure there must be things worth changing before the final publication. 

In the meantime, I have done a bit of thinking about the next book. Almost started writing it, actually. I had done a chapter-by-chapter plan of it not long after I planned The Devil's Gate, but now the book is actually written I think the plan could use some revising before I actually put pen to paper. Or, thumbs to touchscreen. You know what I mean.

Update 15/02/2015

I've not done any work on the book this week, since it's being read by the test audience. Still, the initial feedback I've had so far has been very positive, which is encouraging. It would have been rather sad after all this to be told that it was terrible and not fit for publishing.

What I have written though is a guide to some of my favourite podcasts. I've been meaning to write it for a while, and I've got a few other ideas for similar recommendations I might make in the future. Since I'm not working on the book right now, it was a good distraction from the horrors of 14th February. Incidentally, in Finland they don't have Valentines Day, but instead Friendship Day, which I think is a really nice idea and certainly far less depressing. After all, the one thing the world doesn't need is another reminder of how great it is to be in love and how unrelentingly awful it is to be single.

Anyway, if you listen to podcasts, or if you have no idea what a podcast is but you're curious, you might like to give it a read.

My Favourite Podcasts

For the last couple of years I've had about an hour long commute into work. This isn't something I'd particularly recommend, but one of the pleasant side-effects of it has been the opportunity to listen to a lot of podcasts.

For those who don't know, a podcast is a bit like a radio show, but instead of being broadcast at a fixed time over the radio, it's made available indefinitely over the Internet. Most podcasts release episodes on some kind of regular schedule. You can subscribe to your chosen podcasts on your PC or smartphone, which will then download new episodes for you to listen to whenever you choose, or you can just play whatever episodes you like.

There are tons of podcasts out there - some professionally produced, some made by amateurs but often just as good (in a way, podcasting has done for radio what ebooks and print-on-demand did for book publishing). There are no doubt plenty out there that will suit your individual interests, and what appeals to me won't necessarily appeal to you. That said, I'll share a few of my favourites - if any of them sound like your kind of thing, what not give it a go?

  • Welcome To Night Vale - this fortnightly podcast takes the form of a local radio show from a small town where something's not quite right. Actually, 'not quite right' is an understatement - every kind of paranormal activity and conspiracy imaginable is going on. Think Lovecraftian horror meets surrealist humour through the medium of local radio. Over the last couple of years this has become something of a cult hit with world tours of the live shows. I'd recommend you start listening from the beginning, since there's an ongoing narrative.
  • Accidental Tech Podcast - this is a weekly discussion of tech news and issues with three software developer hosts. They primarily focus on Apple, since that's where their main interests lie. It can be quite technical, although even with my most rudimentary programming knowledge I can follow most of what they talk about. If you find technology interesting you may well enjoy it, though what keeps me coming back to it is the great relationship between the the three hosts. You can just pick it up from the latest episode, or browse through the episode notes for one that interests you.
  • The Cracked Podcast - with a new episode most weeks this is the podcast form of the popular humour website. It sees a variety of different Cracked contributors and guests tackling a variety of different topics. Like the website, it's funny but also informative - most articles/episodes are based on surprising facts. Like the website, you'll probably not be interested in every episode but there's almost certainly something on there that you'll enjoy. Like the website, anything with Jason Pargin (aka David Wong) is usually going to be particularly insightful. Also like the website, the humour can occasionally be crude, so you have been warned. My advice: look through the episodes available and pick out one that grabs your interest.
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage - this is actually the podcast form of the Radio 4 science panel show with Brian Cox, Robin Ince and their guests, although with a bit more material cut from radio and more convenient to listen to. It presents topics from a wide range of scientific disciplines in an earnest but humorous way. Look out for the episodes that interest you, but once you start you'll probably end up listening to them all anyway. Bonus tip: if you listen to the radio, your favourite shows quite possibly have a podcast of their own.
  • Isometric - this is a weekly look at video games. I was once quite into gaming although these days I rarely get the opportunity or motivation for it. Despite that I do still take an interest, and Isometric is a good way of keeping up to date. While gaming culture can sometimes be pretty toxic this show takes a more welcoming and more feminist perspective, thanks to the four great hosts. Good place to find game recommendations. Listen to a few episodes and eventually you'll pick up all the in-jokes.

I've only ever stumbled upon podcasts fairly randomly, so there are no doubt many others that I'd enjoy if I ever came across them. If you've got any recommendations of your own, please do let me know below.

Update 08/02/2015

This week my splendid crew of test readers have been reading the fourth draft of The Devil's Gate. I haven't really heard much from them yet, so it could still turn out that it's a load of rubbish that no-one will want to read. But they are, like all my readers, exceedingly intelligent and good-looking people, and so whatever feedback they do provide will be very valuable in putting together the final draft.

So what have I been doing this week? I'd like to say I was working hard on the cover, but that's not true. It belatedly occurred to me that it's not possible to design a book cover until one knows exactly how many pages the book will be, and my manuscript is still potentially liable to significant editing. So I've messed around with some photo editing, but mostly I've just enjoyed a break from book-work for a few days.

Instead, let me offer you a picture of a Krakenbaric city, if Krakenbar had bicycles and motor scooters and baseball caps: 

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Update 01/02/2015

Today is another milestone for The Devil's Gate: I finally managed to complete the fourth draft and get it sent off to my fantastic test-readers. It's a very odd moment to have other people reading it for the first time. Hopefully they won't hate it.

With the manuscript in other people's hands, that means I've finally got chance to take a break. Just kidding - now's the perfect opportunity to get the cover designed. Oh well, no-one ever said writing a novel was easy. And it's not like I can stop writing.

We're on the home straight now though. Watch this space! 

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Update 25/01/2015

This has been quite a significant weekend for The Devil's Gate. I recited the magic words and carried out the secret computer rituals that turned a bunch of documents into a single EPUB file. This means I can now read it on my iPad like any other novel; for the first time it feels like a proper book rather than a simple manuscript. 

Obviously the cover is going to need a bit of work

Obviously the cover is going to need a bit of work

And I am reading it, once again. I'm picking up on some of the errors that slipped through the last edit, and I'm looking out for things that don't make sense (or could be better handled) when it's all read together rather than a couple of chapters per week. Hoping to finish this off before too long, and then it can finally be shared with my test readers. 

Of course, there will still be plenty to do after then. For one thing, I need to put together a proper cover. But I think we're getting close.

Update 12/01/2015

I've been working recently on the not-particularly glamorous task of transferring the edits of the third draft from paper to screen. It's hardly the most creative of tasks, but it has to be done if the book is ever going to come together.

Today I finally finished the job. Hopefully I'll be able to remember the arcane rituals and obscure scripts required to transfigure 27 Word documents into a single properly-formatted EPUB file. I'll then be able to see how The Devil's Gate reads as an actual complete novel.

The wall of old Tallinn

The wall of old Tallinn

Happy 2015!

Happy new year everyone! I know it's a bit late, but I've just got back from Finland and haven't had much chance to post anything.

2014 has been quite a decent year, at least for me personally. Not only was it very productive for writing, but I've had some great experiences along the way. RYLA was one highlight of course, but there have been plenty of other really good times too.

I don't believe in making traditional new year's resolutions, since once you've broken them the first time it's hard to find the motivation to resume them. Instead, I take the opportunity of the new year to set myself goals for the following twelve months, that I can work towards all year and assess myself against at its end.

The results this year have been variable. I've certainly finished the first draft of The Devil's Gate, for one thing. I've not quite made my target of kilometres jogged, but I have kept up with the jogging, which is the more important thing. I've not really made the progress in learning Finnish that I'd planned, but that's mostly because I've been working on the book. Overall, I'm quite pleased with how things went.

2014 went out in an appropriately fun manner. I've been to some good new year parties in the past, but this is the first time I've ended up in Tallinn for New Year's Day. My friends and I travelled on the ferry from Helsinki for a night's partying, and explored the capital of Estonia on the following day. The old part of the city is really beautiful and well worth seeing.

2015 has therefore got off to quite a fine start. I don't expect it to be parties and sightseeing all the way, but with an apartment to buy and a new book to publish in the next few months I think it's going to be a good one.

Boxing Day 2014 Update

Just a brief one before I set off on holiday tomorrow, to report that I've done the editing of the Epilogue and therefore finished the Third Draft of The Devil's Gate.

Quite pleased with this draft; having read the book now I think it's better than The Two Empires. Still needs work, obviously. The plan is to revisit it next year and read it cover to metaphorical cover with fresh eyes.  After that, I'll be plucking up the courage to show the manuscript to a few others for their feedback.

But that's all next year. 2014 has been quite the busy one: I've published a paperback, qualified as a solicitor, written a second book and (almost) bought a house. For the last few days remaining, I'm going to have a bit of a rest. 

I hope you had a very happy Christmas, and that a great new year awaits us all.

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Winter Solstice 2014 Update

I've had a few days off this week, which has been pretty productive. I've managed to finish editing both Chapter Twenty-Four and the massive Chapter Twenty-Five. That leaves just the Epilogue to go. Well, that and actually typing up all my edits, which is going to be an major job on its own.

Aside from that, I also wrote an article about learning Finnish. If you're interested you can find it here

Clearly next week will be something of a busy one (it's Christmas after all - if you're still looking for presents might I make a suggestion?) and then after that I'm going to be on holiday for a week. Not quite sure what kind of progress will be made on the book or when I'll get an update out, but as always provided you watch this space you'll be the first to know.

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