Sunday, April 16, 2023

Audiobook Release: Escape from Crescendo Station One!


I'm a little late announcing this one, but I've had a busy time setting up my Patreon for release.
I knew I wanted an audiobook of Crescendo Station and how I wanted it done. Candace left quite an impression on me after she recorded Ataris Station, especially with her use of music to add to certain scenes. I asked her to do Crescendo, and she agreed instantly.

As I recall, I gave little direction, only where I wanted her to add the music. Candace is an awesome narrator, and she took to the project like a duck to water. The trouble here is that I don't want to spoil the story with any behind-the-scenes talk, so I'll just offer this small anecdote. Candace went above and beyond, even adding an effect I had not thought about, nor expected. It made listening to the chapters more special.

I have plenty of codes to give away, both US and UK, so feel free to get in contact with me for one. This audiobook will take some beating in terms of quality and I have no doubt it will remain a favourite of mine for a long time. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Crowdfunded Comics and my Contributions.


One thing I have always stood by is that I support independent creation, in written, illustrated, and any other visual form. I will always pride myself on being an independent writer because it gives me freedom and control over my own work, not some publisher. When the Comicsgate movement kicked off, and with it a wave of independently created comics and graphic novels, I was on board with it, because I understood why they were doing it.

I saw, like many, some of the amazingly shit writing and art that had made it into modern comics, specifically Marvel and DC. The worst part about that is there are so many examples I could cite here. Everyone has their own worst moment/s when they saw these examples in a comic and shook their head. I always remember the one that was the start of it for me.

Yeah. Angela Queen of Hel.  A comic so badly written, especially when it forced in unwanted pop culture references, and weird moments like above, as some sort of humour, it was shitcanned after seven issues. And then, there's this one.

A cheap dig at any reader who disagreed with X23 taking over from the then-dead Logan as Wolverine. The funny thing was, I didn't actually mind the choice because it made sense to me. The biological daughter taking over her father's mantle. The problem was that the writer was not as good at his craft as he thought he was. I stopped reading the book after issue six, and the series was eventually canceled. I don't remember what issue it was, nor do I care to look it up, but one of the final stories involved Laura fighting to save a trainload of turkeys.


It's been a long time since I have read anything from the mainstream comics industry, and I do not miss it. I started backing various crowdfunded comics when Comicsgate appeared, starting with the original Jaw Breakers and then Cyberfrog. Now, I remember the issues surrounding them and their lateness, and I was more forgiving at the time because it was something new. But, nowadays, there are crowdfunded comic campaigns appearing like bubbles in soapy water, all trying to reach a monetary goal of varying degrees, and it gets hard to keep track of them. I have backed a lot, and fulfillment has been different with each one, but I reached a point last week where the whole thing finally pissed me off.


Most of the campaigns have been very late. One was around four years late, and I had to pony up additional postage costs to actually get the book. Another I backed has had two of the three-part story fulfilled, but the second part took that long to reach me, I had to reread the first issue to remember what happened. As for part three? Its Indiegogo was supposed to have launched about two years ago but never showed. Other projects I have backed with assured multiple parts of the story have taken so long to appear that my interest just died.
But then, there were the ones that brought about the writing of this post.
The first is a thirty-two-page comic that was due February 2021. I complained about the lateness and was offered a meek apology which meant little, since the creator had launched other campaigns during the wait. When I asked for a refund, it was refused for not being in the budget.
The second is a sixty-page comic that was due in October 2020. There have been sparse updates and my request for a refund has so far gone unanswered.
The third is a forty-eight-page comic that was actually completed, quite late. But, judging from the comments on the campaign page, international backers (including me) never received their copies. No explanations were given, comments were not addressed, and assurances from the creators on Twitter have so far resulted in nothing.
The fourth one pissed off everyone who backed it. A forty-eight-page comic, due way back in 2019, that took almost $41000 (£34000) and never appeared. I only backed the digital copy because the postage was simply too high, something I am grateful for in hindsight. As far as I am concerned, this one was a scam. The creator simply disappeared, as far as I can tell. The only trace of him is a locked Twitter account.

As a result, I decided enough is enough. I will only be backing books from creators who have fulfilled in a reasonable time, or have stuff I really like and don't mind an additional wait. Most others I will not go near because my enthusiasm for their work has gone and the postage costs have risen to stupid amounts. The images from the top of this post, and above this paragraph are from one of my favourite books, Mary Boys. Both the campaigns, for the origin comics and the full graphic novel, were fulfilled in good time, delivering quality books with great art and story. I will back anything from that creative team and even had the pleasure of meeting them last year, where we became friends.

I find it a shame I reached a place like this, but here we are. If you are running a crowdfunded campaign, fulfilling it needs to be a priority. Failing it and your backers not only taints you and your work, but also puts the whole crowdfunded scene in a very bad light. My wallet is now shut to most of these endeavors until things improve, but whenever that could be is up in the air.

And finally, for anyone who suggests I run a crowdfunded campaign to see how I do, I did. I had one for my seventh novel, Niven's War. I completed it and shipped all copies to my backers three months before the deadline, even after I had to put my own money into the postage costs when the prices went up.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

So, I'm Becoming... a Weeb.


Yeah. That is something I never thought I would write. But, it is strange how these things work out.

Of course, I was very much aware of the anime genre, as most people were. I had seen the likes of Akira, the first Ghost in the Shell movie, Apple Seed, and Wicked City, but had not delved into it much more than that. These days, I am all about seeking out new things to watch or read, either for my own entertainment or to draw inspiration from. For years, I have been friends with both Peta, my regular cover artist, and her husband, Andrew. The pair of them have been huge fans of the anime genre most of their lives, and have been prodding me over the years to delve into it more and more.

Well, I finally jumped in towards the end of last year. A small series appeared on Netflix, set in the Cyberpunk 2077 world, called Edge Runners. I was hesitant at first, since I knew little about the source material, but was soon glad I watched it. The writing for the show was brilliant, and I became invested in the main character, David, and his journey through the hostile world. The support characters were a mixed bunch, but my favourite, and that of many others, was Rebecca. She was a trigger-happy, slightly insane, member of the gang David joins, but was also intensely loyal and had the back of everyone around her. To say any more about it would risk spoiling the story, so I won't do that. But, I was so invested in it and the characters, that when the end arrived, it hit me like a sucker punch, finished off with a bittersweet finale. I have seen many other reviews, especially on YouTube, of how the series impacted the person behind them. This video summed it up best for me.

Next was the series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Andrew sent the complete series box set to me for my birthday last year. At the time of writing this, I have finished the first series and am trying to find the time to watch the second, but it has left a mark on me, nonetheless. The numerous missions The Major and her crew go on, especially those revolving around The Laughing Man, were some intense viewing. This was made cooler to me because, like Edge Runners, the episodes were around twenty minutes long. To be able to tell a good story in that time frame, and yes, there were two of three-part stories, was a show of some amazing writing. And, like Edge Runners, the ending of season one was something of a gut punch. Again, I will not spoil that. Check it out for yourselves.

This brings me to the reason I chose to write this blog piece. Andrew, being the nice man that he is, gifted me another anime to watch for Christmas. One that has had the most impact on me.

Yes. Demon Slayer really floored me. After announcing I had started watching it, Andrew and Peta were keen to hear my views on the series. As with before, the writing in this series has been so excellent that it sets a standard, especially compared to some Western writers. What captivated me the most was the relationship between the main character, Tanjiro, and his sister, Nezuko. He is dedicated to her, and his mission to save her, and she is both dedicated and loyal to him in their continuing journey.
Nezuko herself is a silent character, besides her little grunts and breaths, but the looks she gives her brother and those around her, speak a thousand words each time. One scene that forever sticks in my mind is when she is given a choice of whether to stay behind or continue on her journey with Tanjiro. She responds with a loving look to her brother and the gentle joining of her hand with his.


These days, I look for the small character moments in stories, and not the huge action sequences, because they are what makes a great story in my eyes. That moment has stayed with me, not only for the reason I said earlier, but also because I have not seen anything like that in western storytelling media for a long time. A lot of it seems so soulless to me and comes across as style over substance, usually made to shove on a streaming service somewhere. The writing in the animes I have watched is usually dramatic and endearing, much like Nezuko herself. Will it inspire me in my writing? I hope so, but time will tell.

I have heard numerous stories of how anime is beating western comics in sales, but I've not really looked into it too much. I would not be surprised if this is definitely true, but it certainly seems to be the case. The Demon Slayer movie took $506.5 million at the box office in 2020, making it the highest-grossing movie that year, pissing over everything Hollywood churned out. It has also become the highest-grossing movie in Japan, having beaten Spirited Away, which was an amazing feat in itself. I am definitely on board with this story and will enjoy watching it to the very end, whenever that will come.

Finally, I was reminded of something I saw on Twitter a while back when writing this. The post reported that a comic shop was closing, something which was obviously a shame. The pictures accompanying it showed what remained on the shelves. The western comic shelves were still full, but the manga was picked dry.

These scenes really do say a thousand words about what is going on in modern entertainment, much like Nezuko herself.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Hello, Again... Part Two.


So, what have I got planned for this year?

Well, first off, the audiobook of Escape from Crescendo Station One is being created as I write this. Candace Roman is narrating this as well because she left a lasting impression on me after the audiobook of Ataris Station was created. This rounds off what has been a very personal project for me.

As for future works, I have several outlines finished, and the one for my next book is almost done. During the recording process for Ataris Station, Harem Nights, and now Crescendo Station, it wasn't a good idea to start another book because I needed to focus on any revisions needed. So, now that most of them are out of the way, I have more projects to write than I expected. It's a nice feeling. It feels like I really have come a long way since my first release.

A reader asked what platforms I had, such as a blog or Patreon, during a nice exchange on Facebook. At the time, I had been setting up a Patreon but it wasn't ready yet. Well, it is now, I am just waiting for some content to launch it with. The tiers are what I would like to think as reasonably priced, compared to some that I have seen, and will allow readers to see written chapters before an editor has, as well as my covers as they progress from line art to the finished piece.
No damn A.I art here, thank you very much.
Top-tier backers will receive digital copies of my books before they reach Amazon, and will even be offered Audible codes for any released audiobooks.

Of course, I should point out that supporting me on Patreon is purely optional. Please do not feel in any way that you are obligated to. We are all living in hard times at the moment, and I consider it a blessing if someone even buys one of my books.

For those of you who read this blog and enjoy my ramblings, I thank you for your continued support and apologise for the lack of entries. I will do my best to keep on top of that in the coming year. See you on the journey.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Hello, Again... Part One.


I said to myself a while back that I really should keep up with my blog more. That was in September or October, I think. Then, a lot of different things fell onto my plate, and I fought to clear them. That included a novel release I shall cover shortly, the release of Ataris Station's audiobook, the making of two others, and a writing course I ended up taking. I haven't written a manuscript in ages, but I have several outlines ready to rock.

But then, I realised it was 2023, and almost the end of January. People might be interested to know what I have been up to. So, for my first blog post of this year, I thought I would fill you all in on what I had been up to.

The above picture is the front cover for my last release, a very personal project to me. I had always wanted to write a story that paid homage to the underwater science fiction movies I loved growing up, such as Leviathan, The Abyss, and DeepStar Six. The inspiration came after playing Subnautica, and having the idea hit me as various scenarios ran through my head. The result was Escape from Crescendo Station One, something that was a joy to write. The editing, however, was nothing short of a nightmare. The first editor had it for around six months, which was way too long, and had missed several mistakes, so I had another take a look at it. The drama surrounding that I will spare you the details of, but it left a very bitter taste in my mouth that took some time to shift. Seeing it out now, and getting some good reviews, makes me feel better, given how personal the book is to me.

After Crescendo Station was released, I became aware of the launch of the BBC Maestro site, and the numerous courses it had to offer. At first, I wasn't bothered, because it had nothing I was interested in. For those who don't know, Maestro is the BBC's version of the Master Class website, but with British creators. Then I became aware of a course on the site that taught writing popular fiction, from none other than Lee Child himself, the man behind the Jack Reacher novels. Someone I know once said to me, "every day is a school day," and he was right. So, I purchased the course and went through it.

Listening to Mr. Child talk about the craft and the lessons he had to teach was awesome. It was like I was sitting in the room with him, a cup of tea in hand, an audience of one with a master of storytelling. After it was finished, I was buzzing with ideas, but still had other things to clear off my plate before I could jump into them. But, I do hope the day comes when I can meet Lee Child and shake his hand as I thank him. Is that possible? I don't know, but you never know, right?

After Ataris Station was published, I knew I wanted an audiobook made. So, I submitted it to ACX and waited to see if I could attract any narrators. Sure enough, the auditions started flowing in. They were an interesting listen, especially when it became clear most of them did not have a good microphone. There was even one guy who tried getting a text-to-speech sample by me, but I picked up on it.

By the way, if that was you, and you're reading this, fuck you.

Finally, I heard the audition of Candace Roman. She had such an easy-going voice that was pleasant on the ear, and she read the part well. Upon checking out her profile, I saw that she added music to other samples she had narrated to show what she could do. When I asked if she could do that for Ataris, and she agreed, I gave her the job. It turned out it would be Candace's first audiobook, and she knocked it out of the park. I took such joy in listening to what she submitted, and I only made two revision requests during the whole time. She recorded the work at an amazing speed and I was thrilled to see it released.  I think Candace will go far as a narrator, and I look forward to the day she can do it full-time.

The audiobook for the omnibus of my Harem Nights trilogy had been in production for a while but was paused when the narrator had to move home. It was strange listening to very old pieces of work, but it helped me realise just how far I had come as an author. At the time of writing this, the finished audiobook is going through ACX's quality checks before release.

However, it wasn't all good.

One series I wanted to push forward with was The Adventures of Furman Simms. But, in revisiting the written text, I knew too much time had passed since I last ventured into that world. As much as I tried, I just could not reconnect with it. So, as a result, I chose to leave that one behind. One thing I said to myself was to keep moving forward. Furman had no place in my future plans. I don't like the phrase, but it very much fell into what is known as, "killing your babies."

What are my plans for this year? All shall be revealed in part two of this blog post, which will be published this week

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Looking Back on Crush Depth in a Bikini


It has been a while since I had even thought about this book or its history. This was, in part, because I did not like remembering the crap I went through to get it out. But, I had once written that I would write about what I went through with it, so this blog entry will tell that story.

After a really crappy time, when my first book had done terribly, thanks in part to a poor choice in an editor, and a second that sank without a trace, I had not had any ideas or inspiration for a book for a long time. I loved science fiction and still do, but the ideas were just not coming. I had always wanted to write a mix of a science fiction movie and a disaster one, but still, nothing arrived. Just as I thought about shelving the idea, a strange and interesting story appeared in the news.

Mikaela Kellner was an off-duty cop in Sweden who was sunbathing with a friend when she nabbed a thief who had stolen from them. The news spread because she had done so wearing a small bikini. She acted without thinking and became an Instagram star. Last I read about her, she had quit the police to become a bodybuilder. 
Respect to her.
The story stuck in my mind and I played with it. What sort of situation could I put someone in, where they had to act without thinking, while stuck in a bikini? From that, Crush Depth in a Bikini was born.

Writing it was the fun part and I had a blast. The editing process was what turned it into a nightmare.

First, I tried running an Indiegogo campaign for the book's editing and production. That failed, mostly I suspect, that I was a complete nobody and had no real following. But throughout the process, I had come to know an editor, a lady who had done the work a long time ago (she told me) and wanted to get back into it. I thought I was in luck with finding her. Jesus, how wrong I was on that one.

Now, for the sake of this story, I will not refer to her by her name. Why? Because I know how the internet works and I really don't want anyone going after her.

She had my book for about two months, if I remember correctly, and returned it with some good notes. I went through them in the space of a day and sent them back to her. She assured me that they would be returned in a month's time. I thought this was great and went about my business.
Four months later, I get them back. What awaited me was nothing short of a red-marked blood bath.

I couldn't understand where the newer edits had come from. She had found those parts fine in the first draft but was now tearing them up in this one. I accommodated them in the first draft, but there was one I ignored. The scene was a homage to a moment in Aliens, where the characters begin a fight to the death after the creatures break in through the ceiling. The editor told me it would work better in a different way, but I did not agree, so I ignored the comment. In the second draft, she had seen that I ignored the comment and demanded to know why I was fighting her on it. Later on, she instructed me to remove another scene as she found it boring and that it added nothing to the story.

This was where I got annoyed with her.

I responded that, if I removed the scene, one character would disappear without explanation, and two others would arrive at a new destination, also without explanation. Her response? "Oh, yes. I see your point there. You might want to get someone else to take a look at it."
I got so angry at that response. I had no money to pay another editor and my patience had run out. So, I edited the book as best as I could, but my morale had long since dried up and I did a terrible job. There were many grammar mistakes that remained in the book, ones I completely missed, and I kicked myself about it for a long time. My confidence was at an all-time low and it would be almost a year before I would write again.

To be fair, she did improve some parts of the book, I have to acknowledge that. I did try working with her again, thinking the experience was a one-off, but it was just the same. Peta, my cover artist, and her husband suggested she had been this way with me because she was trying to write the book by proxy, something I thought was not far off reality, but I never investigated further. I haven't spoken with this editor in a long time and have no idea what she has done since, besides publishing a book of short stories.

Fast forward to this year and I remembered Crush Depth shortly after publishing Ataris Station. I had such a wonderful experience working with my editor, Ellen Klowden, that I asked her to take a look at the old manuscript. She did her thing, but in retrospect, the story was very much an imperfect one. There are a couple of plot elements that are a bit of a stretch, but I decided not to change those as I still look fondly on the book.

I added some of my own fixes, like splitting the chapters and formatting it better, but ultimately, it will always be a learning experience for me. The main lesson? Pick your editor well. They will make or break a novel, in my experience.

Crush Depth now sits on Amazon at the lowest price I can make it and is now part of Kindle Unlimited. Will it encourage new readers and break the bank in sales? I doubt it, but at least there is now a version of it out there I can be happy with. I know people say you should always be looking forward, but I have found it is good to look back once in a while, and I know I'm going to do that at least one more time.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Presenting: Ataris Station!

I will always thank Marc Secchia for this.
Why? A long time ago, we were talking about the craft and what I wanted to write next. This was while I was writing Niven's War and was going to tackle Escape From Crescendo Station One after. He suggested I try writing a LitRPG novel, probably after I mentioned I had been a gamer in the past. At the time, I didn't know what the genre was, so I decided to do some research and see what it was all about.

Over the next few months, I found a number of titles and purchased them, all while getting to know other authors in the field. I listened to audiobooks like J. Arthur Klein's Extra Credit, Justin Monroe's Zee Locked In, Josh Walker's They Think I Invented Pizza, David Bushman's Darklands Online, and Ben Ormstad's Daemonorg Prison-Lab, to name a few. The authors themselves were amazingly helpful with advice and were also very encouraging. It is the one thing I will forever love about authors, we encourage each other to no end. After getting through a few of the books, I grew a massive love for the genre that invoked many memories of my time gaming, but there was one problem I could not get over.

I had no ideas.

As much as I tried to think of something, nothing came, so I eventually forgot about it. It's never good to force out an idea. They always end up crap.

At that time, Escape From Crescendo Station One was still with my other editor, and I was surfing Youtube to find something to watch. I came across a series of retrospective documentaries from a channel called Avalanche Reviews and found he had done a series on Dead Space. I had enjoyed the series very much when I had my Xbox 360, many moons ago, and decided to watch them. As I was watching the video on the first game, a single thought ran through my head:

"What would I do if I were in such a situation as Isaac?"

Before I could continue watching, my eyes went wide as an idea popped into my head.

Over the next week, I worked the idea into an outline I grew increasingly excited about. Finally, I began working on it, knowing the book would become the biggest manuscript I would write.

During that time, I spoke with the other writers about who I could get to edit such a thing, feeling that I needed an editor that knew the genre well. One of them suggested a lady named Ellen, informing me that, not only was she good at what she did, but she worked at an amazing speed. He introduced me to her via a message chat and we spoke at length about what I was writing, and that it was my first time writing in the genre. Ellen asked to see the chapters I had written, so I sent them over and called it a night. About a day later, she returned them to me, edited. She asked when she could have the next chapters, and my mind was blown. From there on, she became my editor.

Over the course of the following two months, she would keep me on my toes with questions about the story, characters, and anything else she could think to ask. It was a wonderful experience and one I came to learn from a great deal.

The manuscript was completed, polished and edited, and is now available for purchase. I'm hoping it does well. I feel like it was one of the best things I have written, and my beta readers who have read my previous works say the same thing. Time will tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Ataris Station. A science fiction LitRPG novel.

UK readers can find it here.

USA readers can find it here.

Thanks once again, Marc.