Tag Archives: Book

Star Wars Fan Fiction Experiment

One of the joys and hassles of writing speculative fiction is the world-building involved. I found that out recently when I started writing a new Science Fiction book. I’m at the stage in my writing at the moment where I just need to get on write and improve my storytelling skills (I think anyway) rather than focus on world-building, so that part of things can hold me back. So I had a think about Fan Fiction – as long as its not for profit then its allowed. So I thought I’d give it a go.

You can see my first effort and follow along with it as it progresses here at Wattpad. The story is called Into the Heart of the Empire. I don’t know what’s going to happen yet, so I’ll have as much fun as you will discovering the story too!

Here’s the start of it:

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away …

Following the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star, a new hope has been kindled in the universe. The Evil Empire is not all powerful. The Rebel Alliance has shown that it is possible to stand up for freedom and against oppression. Across the galaxy there are stirrings of resistance to the Empire.

Even in the heart of the Empire’s industrial infrastructure there is unease and a willingness to question the word of the Emperor and his forces of oppression. One such place is the Imperial dockyard on Malykan, a system of the Inner Rim.

The ship shuddered as it came out of hyperspace. The battle damage it had sustained made handling difficult and it felt like at any moment the drives might fail.

Jana Yaku could think of simpler ways to die than taking on the mission the Rebel Alliance had assigned her. To be fair to them, she had volunteered and she was the only pilot (she thought) that could pull this off. But still … she regretted her decision now.

The mechs on Yavin had patched up the ship has best they could. The whole point was that it was supposed to be battle-damaged—that was her cover story, but Jana wished that the Rebels who’d knocked this ship out hadn’t been quite as thorough in their work. That’s ironic, as it was her, in a Y-Wing bomber who’d disabled the Imperial Reaper class Escort frigate. Two proton torpedoes had ripped large holes in the frigate—one just forward of the engines and one taking out the Frigate’s bridge. Twisted metal and plastiglass had been bent and welded back into shape by the Engineers on Yavin, but where Jana sat on the bridge was still an uncomfortable and unnatural place to be.

“Reaper-class Frigate, The Ravager, please acknowledge.”

She sighed. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she got a challenge from the Imperial Navy. After all Malkyan had to be one of the most intensely militaries parts of the Inner Rim, given the Imperials built a large number of ships and weapons there.

Goodreads for Short Stories?

55 Short Stories from the New Yorker
55 Short Stories from the New Yorker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a fan of Goodreads – even before the website came out I was toying with a similar idea – not so much for the social networking aspect of it – but more as a way to record the books I’d read. Previously I’d done such things by the use of spreadsheets, but obviously a website and app that you can access everywhere and has a database of published books makes that take a lot easier.

Why record what you’ve read?

For me it’s because I’d forget what I’ve read otherwise and be doomed to start reading or even buy something that I’d already read before. I tend to read quite a few books from the library, so a quick glance at a bookshelf doesn’t always solve the problem.

Also I think its good to be able to rate titles – for instance if you’ve read a book by one author and did or didn’t like it then the next time you’re tempted by another book of their’s you can see what you thought of their previous stuff.

I tend not to write long reviews though – usually just a simple rating suffices for me. I’m more likely to leave a brief note for myself on Goodreads if I really hated a book and why so I can remember to steer clear in the future.

Short Stories?

Which brings me onto short stories. If you read a short story collection or anthology, or even an issue of a short story magazine, there’s no way on Goodreads or similar sites of recording what you think about individual short stories. You can only rate the whole book. You could then write a detailed review of each story, but that’s quite laborious and also wouldn’t enable you to search your reading history by author or story title to see if you’ve read a story before and what you thought of it. Given that short stories can pop up in different anthologies I think it would be very useful to do so.

What’s to be done?

I think for short stories there needs to be some way to have short story level meta-data so you could actually tag a short story once you’ve read it and provide a simple rating or a review if you want to. Ideally this should be linked to your ereader software if you read ebooks – then you can just rate a story as you read a collection and update your database that way. I’m sure Amazon must be thinking of linking Goodreads in that way at a book level – how about at the short story level?

What do others think? Do you come across this problem as well?

The Dragon of Borvoli – new Historical Fantasy Short Story Published

The Dragon of Borvoli coverI’m really excited to tell you about a new short story that I have just published as an eBook on Kindle.

The Dragon of Borvoli is all about a young boy who’s the only inhabitant of his village to fight the ‘dragon’ that has been terrorising his village. The story is set in a Dark Ages world – probably something similar to Cornwall – St Michael’s Mount certainly features for instance, but the setting isn’t very specific. What I was going for was more the atmosphere of the Dark Ages where belief in monsters – think Beowulf – was still strong.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.

Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.

Its currently available for just £0.99/$0.99 or 0.99 Euros from Amazon:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

I hope you like it – let me know what you think!

Chivalry – the first Jake Savage Adventure – eBook Now Free

Chivalry Cover - NewYou can now grab a copy of the short story Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure for free from most major eBook stores.

Chivalry is the first story I wrote featuring the character Jake Savage. Jake goes onto feature as one of the main characters in my novel Hell has its Demons and also in two other short stories: Bring on the Night and The King of Britain’s Head. I have another short story featuring him in the works and more to come.

Get Chivalry for free from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | iBooks | Nook | Smashwords

New Short Story Published: Judge a Book by its Cover

Judge a Book by its Cover - eBook copyJust to let anyone know who reads my stuff that I have a new short story out. It’s called Judge a Book by its Cover.

Unusually for me its a contemporary fantasy story – I tend to base most of my writing either in the historical past or a fantasy world. I feel its kind of on the edge between fantasy and horror – that’s sort of the theme of the story.

Anyway, here’s the blurb and how to get it. You can read a brief extract from it here.

A creative writing student wonders what the difference is between two genres of fiction: horror and fantasy. Like his new girlfriend says: “Perhaps it’s like the difference between pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich?” But when he asks his tutor the answer he gets leads to a truer definition of “Horror” than he ever expected.

Judge a Book by its Cover is a fantasy/horror short story.

You can buy Judge a Book by its Cover in eBook format from the following retailers and several others to numerous to list!

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble

Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

The Perils of Making eBooks Free

Free books
Free books (Photo credit: randomduck)

Free ebooks can be a great way of getting the word out to potential readers about your books. This helps by putting your book into “others also bought” lists, putting it on free best seller list and hopefully getting reviews.

But there can be some downsides. These are some of the ones I have experienced:

  • Freebie collectors: lots of downloads and very few reviews. Why because people basically download free stuff and hoard it with very little intention of reading it – or maybe with the best intentions, but then don’t bother.
  • Reviews of free books tend to be more critical. Usually I think because the reader got a book that wasn’t really what they were looking for – they misunderstand what the title is about because they haven’t considered their purchase very much. For instance one of my publications – Alt Hist magazine states clearly in the blurb that it contains all sorts of historical fiction, but got criticized recently by a reviewer because it wasn’t just alternate history. I guess they just looked at the title.
  • “Good for a freebie, but I wouldn’t pay for it”. Well thanks for that review! I have also seen a review of a free book that complains the book was too short! But it’s free, what is your problem! If I was charging it would probably be $0.99 – which I think is a legitimate amount for a short story. If they enjoyed the read would they really not even pay that much for it?

I think these issue can also happen to a certain extent if you price at $0.99. People who collect freebies and bargains don’t often seem to make informed decisions!

But having said that I have definitely had some success with making titles free. Usually for a limited time and then putting the price up again – as this does help with getting into related title lists.

But writer beware, some readers value their free downloads higher than anything they might purchase! 🙂

Using Archive.org to Research Your Novel

The Internet Archive, archive.org, has to be one of the most valuable resources for any historical novelist. The Internet Archive contains a lot of things from archived versions of internet pages, to audio and visual material including films. But for me the most valuable resource is the number of scans of old, out of copyright books. In particular the number of printed editions published in the 19th century of historical documents such as chronicles, registers, parliamentary documents etc, is simply staggering. A number of these books have been scanned from the collections of various libraries and in particular large US Universities, so if you want material from non-English speaking countries then other resources might be better. And sometimes they haven’t scanned every book you might come across. For my research of the Pontvallain campaign I did find that other repositories of material were useful as well, but by far the largest source has been the Internet Archive.

You might say – “hasn’t Google books” scanned a lot of out of copyright books? Yes you’d be right – as have Microsoft. But often the best place to find these scans is at the Internet Archive – for whatever reason Google Books often doesn’t display the full version of these scans and the Internet Archive is easier to use.

So how do you get started?

I am assuming that you already have your bibliography together. If you need to research titles then somewhere else might be a better place – probably a general history of the period with good footnotes and bibliography of primary sources.

For this example I am going to be searching and downloading the Issue Roll of Thomas de Brantingham, bishop of Exeter, Lord High Treasurer of England…, A.D. 1370, ed. F. Devon (1835)

1. Searching

I would suggest you search by the title of the document rather than the author name. The search box is pretty straightforward, but if you search for the Editor here, Devon, you get the following:

search - devon

But using the title you get:

search results

2. Which Title

There are likely to be different copies of each text – presumably because scan have been provided by different libraries. I would generally choose the one with the most downloads as its likely that other users have found this to be in the best conditions – some scans can be messed up – blurred images, bent pages!

3. Book summary page

This is where you see the metadata for each book. Key things you might want to check are the publication date, copyright information and language. On the left you will see a list of file types. Ignore this list! Go straight to the link for All Files. If you go straight to PDF for example here, you might be redirected to Google Books and then find you can’t get the PDF for some reason – but you can.

book page

4. All Files list

I would always select the file type ending .pdf as this will be the best version. Sometimes you will have the option to choose colour or black and white – the colour version looks pretty but takes longer to download.

All files

5. Download!

Be warned this can take sometime – each PDF might well be 50 MB or more in size. So be patient.


6. What about Kindle, ePub, text versions!

Well unfortunately as these are scans of books producing images the text is not particularly well rendered, so you may well get nonsense. Some of the text comes out fine, but some will be rubbish. See the example below:

text nonsense

This is from the text file, but the text is used to make the ePub, Kindle formats as well, so you will have the same problem.

PDF is the best option.

Check out the Archive

I hope this guide has been useful. The Internet Archive really is a great resource for any historical novelist or anyone with an interest in history and in particular primary sources.

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Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett is one of those authors that I grew up with as a teenager. He was publishing his first books when I was really getting into things like Fantasy fiction and role-playing games, so his parody of that whole genre really hit the button. The subject area combined a typically English sense of humour, similar in many ways to Blackadder, which was a favourite TV series for kids of my age as well, was perfect reading for me at the time.

I probably read his first 13 or so books in the Discworld series – up to Small Gods I think. After that I stopped. I was at University, had other things on my mind, and frankly I was probably a bit bored with the series by then!

But it’s always nice to come back to an old favourite and recently I’ve been doing that – time to get retro I guess. So I’ve been reading some of the Pratchett books I missed. I picked up I Shall Wear Midnight not knowing anything about it really. My fault – it seem this is the fourth book (?) featuring the young witch Tiffany Aching, AND … I see from the frontmatter that the books featuring her are ‘For Younger Readers’.

I wouldn’t describe myself as young! Would this be for me? Had I stumbled across Terry’s imitation of Twilight?

Yes and No. The plot is fairly predictable – a bit disappointing I thought. There’s an ancient evil that is doing nasty things to all witches (witches in Discworld being similar to magical social workers!) Only Tiffany (I was never really clear why only her) can sort it out. Along the way there’s a bit of a love interest – love triangle – hmm I think this is where the YA comes in. This book, I would suggest is for teenage girls – not boys, who presumably would be reading the regular Discworld stuff. It has a female protagonist – who’s clever, a bit lacking in self-confident, feels a bit put upon, and is in love with one guy, but should be in love with someone else. Feels like a combination of a Jane Austen novel and Twilight to me?

That sounds like I’m being really critical. I’m not. It was a good read and I didn’t mind the character, who was interesting, or the love triangle bit – which produced some humorous moments. The humour wasn’t anything special – I’m sure I used to laugh more when I was reading the earlier books, but perhaps that’s because it was newer then – but I think what I felt let down by a bit was the rather limp plot. The ‘ancient evil’ didn’t really make much of an appearance until a quarter of the way through. The first part of the book seemed more about establishing the character – which was OK, but I didn’t need it that much even though I hadn’t read the other books in this mini-series about Tiffany Aching.

I probably won’t read any other of the books ‘for younger readers’/teenage girls, but I am going to try some of his other more recent books – i.e. stuff that was written this Millenium! Monstrous Regiment is next on my list.


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I now have a Goodreads Author Profile!

You can see my Goodreads author profile here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1353250.Mark_Lord

Not sure if it will help much, but was quite fun to set-up! It’s interesting to see that Goodreads are also allowing you to now sell eBooks via their website. I wonder how many sales they are getting though? Most of mine so far seem to be coming via companies that have their own physical reader – i.e. Kindle, Nook or iPad/iPhone.

Anyway if you have read any of my writing, and would like to connect then feel free to do so over at Goodreads.




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Second Time Round the Book of the New Sun

Sometimes when you come back to a book for a second time it’s not quite as good as you originally thought. Not in the case of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. For me the second time round has been a fantastic experience so far. I’m 115 pages into my reading of the first book in the volume: the Shadow of the Torturer. I think this time I am taking more time to appreciate the fantastic quality of Wolfe’s writing. Whereas the first time round it was perhaps more of a struggle to keep a grasp on what was happening in the strange new world I was reading about, this second time I am slightly familiar and instead deepening my appreciation of it.
After reading The Book of the New Sun the first time I went on to read Peace
and The Fifth Head of Cerberus. I found this more accessible and just as good if not better than the New Sun. I was slightly concerned about returning to the world of Severian again, but I am glad I’m there. The symbolism and the language is more evocative and there are passages that I can’t believe I didn’t gasp in wonder at the first time round – for instance Severian’s visit to the gloomy library, like something straight out of Borges, was quite bizarre.
What’s your favourite Gene Wolfe book?