Saturday, 30 December 2017

Claus, Jack and Flury


This Christmas I read a very appropriate boxed set of science fiction adventures called Claus. It contained three novels and I couldn’t put them down. Such a clever concept and so well executed. They are what I want to recommend to you as the year closes, and wish you a happy New Year.

The Christmas stories you never heard as a kid. Discover how elven live on the North Pole, how reindeer fly and what makes a snowman live.

CLAUS: LEGEND OF THE FAT MAN

Claus Legend of the Fat Man

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Gerald in Ireland

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.
Map_of_Ireland_in_Europe.svg
In this series on Gerald of Wales, we come to his trip to Ireland. There were problems in Ireland between the Irish nobility and the Norman Marcher lords who has gone over from Wales and conquered mini kingdoms for themselves. In 1185 King Henry appointed his youngest son John (the future King John) as Lord of Ireland and sent him over with a large expedition to solve the problem once and for all. Henry sent Gerald along too, because he was related to some of the invaders and the king thought Gerald might be able to smooth the way.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Social Engineer and Dawn of Procyon


Two more science fiction books to recommend, one set in familiar surroundings and one on an alien and inhospitable planet.

Social Engineer by Ian Sutherland

Social Engineer

Monday, 11 December 2017

Gerald of Wales, Royal Servant

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.
Henry_II_of_England (w)
So far we’ve looked at Gerald's early life and his time as Archdeacon. In July 1184, Gerald began his ten years in the service of the Plantagenet kings. When King Henry II summoned him to his presence he claimed to be unwilling, but he would have known that a period at court was likely to lead to high church office.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Alien Invasion series and Ambassador series of Books


In my last science fiction post I said I would be recommending some of the modern books I’ve read. I talked about series of books where the author makes the first ebook free as a carrot to draw you in, hoping that you will like it enough to buy the rest of the series. It is indeed a good marketing strategy and has worked with me several times.

This time I want to introduce you firstly to the Alien Invasion series by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant. These two writers are worth getting to know as I have loved almost everything of theirs I have read. They are very prolific and write in a range of genres, some of which I’m not interested in, like zombies, so I haven’t read everything yet.

Invasion Platt and Truant

Monday, 27 November 2017

Gerald the Archdeacon

This is the second part of a series on Gerald of Wales, probably the most famous and influential Welshman in the twelfth century. Last week was about his early life.

When Gerald returned to Wales in his late 20s with a distinguished degree from the best university in Europe he set himself a mission to reform the Church in Wales. He had the latest ideas from Paris and was determined to improve the lax and old-fashioned institution. Supposedly celibate priests openly kept wives, and knights and princes took the priests’ income and sold off church lands to make money.

The first to experience Gerald's reforms were those inhabitants of Pembrokeshire who refused to hand over the tithes of wool and cheese due to the church. Gerald obtained a special mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury and rode about the area collecting the tithes. When the powerful sheriff of Pembroke defied him, Gerald immediately excommunicated him, forcing him to submit to a painful beating before the dreaded sentence was lifted.

Modern Day Science Fiction

In looking at the history of science fiction we ended last week with modern films, but of course science fiction is also thriving in books and on TV. There is even a dedicated TV channel called, for some strange reason, Syfy.

Gifted (TV)

Along with fantasy and zombies the whole area of speculative fiction is very popular. As progress in many fields grows exponentially, people are drawn to ideas about what will happen in the future. Another area of growth is the superheroes / special powers stories that started in comics. I'm currently watching Inhumans, Gifted and Iron Fist amongst other TV series.

I read about 60 books a year, at least 50 of them science fiction. I read on Kindle due to my disability, and as well as ebooks being cheaper than print, authors often run promotions where they discount their books or even make them free.

Intruders cover (396x546) (72dpi) Web

My novel Intruders is currently on promotion, priced at only 99p /99c until the end of November, so now is a good time to grab it.

It has become usual for authors to offer the first book of a series free, in the hope that you'll enjoy it enough to buy all the following books, and it has certainly worked with me on several occasions. I review every book I read so I plan to share some of the best with you. I don't claim to be an expert on modern science fiction books, but I can share the ones I'm reading. I also share some in my monthly newsletter, so you might like to sign up for that.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Gerald of Wales: Early Life


Gerald of Wales
Gerald of Wales lived in the twelfth century and it is from him that we get a great deal of our information about that time. Seventeen of his books have survived to this day and are particularly interesting because he wrote about everything in his life, not always impartially, and passed comment on the people, the country, church life, politics and any other subject that interested him. He was one of the most fascinating figures of the medieval period, and I shall be writing about him for the next few weeks.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Science Fiction Films: Serious Questions 2

We are coming to the end of my history of science fiction. We have discovered that science fiction often plays on people’s fears, particularly of technology and the future. Modern science fiction films continue to address serious questions, as it has always done. This week we take a second look at the serious questions.

The Time Travellers Wife

Time travel stories used to be about what the person did when they got there. But what about the physical and emotional toll on the time traveller? The Time Travellers Wife (2003), the début novel by Audrey Niffenegger, looked at the strain on both the time traveller and his wife. It was made into a film in 2009.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Twelfth-Century Church in Wales

In the twenty-first century religion is a matter of personal preference, and many people have no belief at all. In the twelfth century most people believed fervently and the Church dominated not only the religion but also much of the public life, politics, and culture of Wales, as of other European countries.
Illuminated manuscript
Church leaders today may become well known in their sphere, but wield very little actual power, whereas in the twelfth century the bishops and abbots of the Church were among the rulers’ wealthiest and most influential leaders. They were a crucial source of potential support in men and money at a time when the Normans and the Welsh were still very much against one another and vying for land and castles.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Science Fiction Films: Serious Questions 1

We are coming to the end of my history of science fiction. We have discovered that science fiction often plays on people’s fears, particularly of technology and the future. Modern science fiction films continue to address serious questions, as it has always done.

Men in Black

The film Men in Black (1997) was based on a comic book series created and written by Lowell Cunningham, illustrated by Sandy Carruthers. This was a science fiction version of the American Immigration Service – there is even a scene where the Men in Black pose as IAS agents. Maybe the authorities are only trying to protect us.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

End of Writing Tips

Writing

I’ve been posting writing tips on my blog for a long time, for two reasons. Firstly, I am learning the art and craft of writing and it seemed a good idea to share what I was learning as part of my writer’s journey. Secondly I hoped I could help other aspiring writers. But what starts as a good idea can become a drudge if you’re not careful.

I now have four history books, a poetry collection and a science fiction novel, all of which need promoting if they’re going to find readers. I’m writing the next novel in the science fiction series, and there are already two more outlined. And I have a life to live! Something’s gotta give.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The History of Wales

Now Medieval Gower Stories is published, I need to start giving my history fans some juicy bits to get your teeth into. While I’m casting around, I thought you’d like to remember the big series I did on Welsh history.
Hywel_Dda_at_Cardiff_City_Hall (w)
There was an item on the Welsh News one evening about Welsh children not learning Welsh history, so I decided to redress the balance for all of us who don’t know Welsh history. It’s just highlights, but it will give you quite a lot of reading. Here is the list of blog posts in order:

The Welsh – The Original Britons
The Power of the Druids 
The Celtic Saints 
The Good Lawmaker 
What's in a Name? 
The Ogre of Abergavenny 
The Sitting 
The Welsh Kingdom of Dehaubarth
Llywelyn the Great part 2, the Scandalous Affair 
The Last Prince of Wales 
Gwenllian, Llywelyn's Daughter 
The Conquering of the Welsh 
Wales is Full of Castles 
The Sleeping Prince 
Laws Against the Welsh
The Welsh Bible 
Mary Jones' Bible 
Jemima & the French Invasion 
The Daughters of Rebecca 
Industrial Explosion
Rape of the Fair Country
Sir William Lower and Astronomy
The Welsh Not
Wales in the First World War
Wales and the Second World War
The National Assembly of Wales


Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Science Fiction New for Old

Science fiction continues to innovate at the same time as harking back to old themes.

New for Old 1

In 1912 Conan Doyle wrote Lost World, where dinosaurs live on. In 1990 Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs are re-created. Steven Spielberg snapped up the film rights before the book even hit the shelves. The film in 1993 looked like a nature film at first, it was so realistic. Spielberg abandoned animated models in favour of new computer-generated creatures.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Book Launch News

IMG-20171030-WA0004

Well, the book launch of Medieval Gower Stories on Saturday went even better than I hoped. I normally hold my book launches in the Oxfam Bookshop, which means you have to attract your own audience, and can be hit and miss. Saturday was the Local History Book Fair at Swansea Museum, and by holding it there I had a captive audience. The organiser had only set out about 20 chairs and they had to find some more, which was great.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Science Fiction Themes in the 1990s


Over the last few weeks in the history of science fiction, we have been looking at different aspects of science fiction in the 1990s. By now cyberpunk ceased to be a ghetto and became more integrated into the mainstream. Emerging themes included environmental issues, the implications of the global Internet and the expanding information universe and questions about biotechnology and nanotechnology. Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age (1995) is typical of this. It won both the Hugo and Locus awards in 1996.

The_Diamond_Age

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Launch

Did you know King John starved the Lady of Gower and her son to death in Windsor Castle?

Did you know Edward II’s treasure was lost at Swansea Castle?

Stories cover with border

Ten fascinating stories from medieval Gower: battles, brutality, adultery, daring escapes, fairies and an ogre!

If you like scandal, intrigue and true stories from history, then you’ll love Ann Marie Thomas’ book.


Regular price: £4.99


Special price at Book Launch: £4



BOOK LAUNCH

Saturday 28th October 11.30am

Local History Book Fair, Swansea Museum

Come and hear Ann Marie Thomas tell the story of the writing of the book and the fascinating stories she uncovered

Refreshments available and you can browse the Book Fair from 10am


Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Time Travel Science Fiction Films (1990s)

During this period of cyberpunk and anime, time travel continued to be a popular theme.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future (1985) was born from a man reading his father's yearbook and wondering, if he could go back to then, would they have been friends? The film examines the problem of time travel – the grandfather paradox. If you go back and kill your grandfather, you would not have been born, so how can you have gone back to kill your grandfather? Dr Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist, said, “If you change the past, the present becomes a logical impossibility.”

Marty McFly, a typical American teenager of the Eighties, is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean "time machine" invented by a slightly mad scientist. During his often hysterical, always amazing trip back in time, Marty must make certain his teenage parents-to-be meet and fall in love - so he can get back to the future. It was followed by two sequels, and there is also a dedicated website.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Escape from the Tower of London

Just to ramp up the anticipation for Medieval Gower Stories, here is another story from the collection. If you want to see any more, you’ll have to buy the book! The ebook is available now on pre-order from Amazon and is half price for the first week. You can get the print book from me.

9 Escape Tower of London pixabay 300dpi

This story links to Gower in two places. William de Braose sold the inheritance of the Lordship of Gower to Baron Roger Mortimer to raise money in 1320. William's daughter Alina and her husband John de Mowbray were supposed to inherit Gower and had even made a contract with William that guaranteed their succession. William actually sold the inheritance of Gower three times over, he was so desperate for money.

Friday, 13 October 2017

SciFi Disaster Films (1990s)

In the middle of the popularity of cyberpunk, disaster films were still popular, with films like Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998), and a fascination with genetics, in Jurassic Park (1993) and Gattaca (1997). Throughout the 1980s and 90s a science fiction or fantasy film came out virtually every year, as the film industry catered to the public appetite for escapism and excitement, while still playing on their fears.

Armageddon (1998)

Armageddon

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Medieval Gower Stories Book Launch Planned

I have been writing about this, my new history book, for a few weeks now, so if you have seen the progress news you can go back and read it. Having successfully loaded to ebook version to Amazon KDP and had the print version printed, the next thing is to launch it. I plan to publicise it online of course, and drop the price of the ebook for the first few days (watch for notification) but because it is a physical book too, I want to have an actual, real world book launch.

Stories front cover

The place where I have had all my previous launches said they were sure they could fit me in, but when I gave them an actual week, to coincide with the ebook publication, they were fully booked. My heart sank. What to do?

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Cyberpunk Films (1990s)

In this history of science fiction series, we are currently looking at cyberpunk, and have already looked at key books by authors such as Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling. Last week we looked at Japanese manga and anime. Cyberpunk influenced film too. The Ghost in the Shell manga was the inspiration for the hugely successful The Matrix (1999) series. The film Johnny Mnemonic (1995) was based on a short story of the same name by William Gibson. Other films were Total Recall (1990), The Lawnmower Man (1992) and Virtuosity (1995). The growing market in video games also picked up the themes, with the critically acclaimed Deus Ex (2000) and the Metal Gear (1981) series.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Introduction to Promotion for Authors

Have you ever been accosted by someone in the street trying to sell you something? Did you buy? Why not? The main reasons are: 1. Not interested in the product or service. 2. Not trusting this stranger.

Pile_of_junk_mail

What about junk mail through the letterbox? Have you ever bought anything? Same reasons.

This type of advertising is scattershot – throwing it at everyone and hoping to find the one person who will buy. It’s time-consuming, expensive and not very effective.

I belong to a writers group. How would we feel if a visitor turned up at the group meeting one month and immediately started trying to sell their books? That’s a bit more targeted – authors are usually readers. But the same reasons apply as above. We don’t know who they are, how good a writer they are, we don’t know what the book is about or if it’s any good. And jumping in with a sales pitch is rude.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Medieval Gower Stories Publication!

Stories front cover

Well, the new book is on the way. The manuscript has been formatted for print, a quote agreed with the printer, and the file and the cover sent off. I should have actual printed copies in my hands this week. I decided not to go with Create Space online as it’s too expensive for short books.

The ebook version has been formatted and submitted to Kindle, with the cover and the categories and everything else you need to fill in. I’m waiting for an email from Kindle to say it has been successfully converted, or that there are issues that need fixing. When I tried converting it with a free online converter, all the images came out in the wrong place and some of my paragraphs were split in half. I just hope Amazon does a better job.

I plucked up courage and asked lots of people to read it and leave honest reviews on Amazon on release day, and was delighted with the response. I just hope they like it and do actually leave reviews. They say you should three times as many people as you want reviews.

I’m hoping to have a ‘real world’ book launch the last week in October. I will be finalising the date with the venue this week. Then it will be spreading the word everywhere I can. The advance readers who live locally I hope will spread the word, and my church, the Writers Circle and the Poetry evening I go to.

In the mean time, I have the online work to prepare and work out what promotions to run. It will probably be free or 99p/99c for the first few days after it comes out. I’m aiming for 23 October, so wish me well.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three (soon to be four) medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Manga and Anime (History of Science Fiction)

During the 1980s, a large number of cyberpunk manga and anime works were produced in Japan and gradually caught on in the western world.

Manga are comics created in Japan or by creators in the Japanese language, conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century. The term manga in Japan is a word used to refer to both comics and cartooning. Manga as a term used outside Japan refers to comics originally published in Japan. In Japan, people of all ages read manga. The medium includes works in a broad range of genres: action-adventure, business and commerce, comedy, detective, historical drama, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy, sexuality, sports and games, and suspense, among others. Many manga are translated into other languages. Since the 1950s, manga has steadily become a major part of the Japanese publishing industry.

Anime is a Japanese term for hand-drawn or computer animation. The word is the abbreviated pronunciation of "animation" in Japanese, where this term references all animation. Outside Japan, anime is used to refer specifically to animation from Japan or as a Japanese-disseminated animation style often characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastical themes.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

After Writing

You’re a writer because your head is full of stories that you need to tell. If you have the self discipline to keep writing, you eventually end up with a first draft.

Writing

You put it away to get some perspective and come back and edit it to death. If you’re not going to chase agents and publishers, you decide to self publish. That means you’re responsible for everything.

I quite enjoy editing. Writing is art and craft: the first draft is the art, the inspiration and creativity, after that it’s craft. The craft involves editing, critique partners, an editor, beta readers and all sorts. Whatever help you use, eventually the novel is finished. What happens after the writing?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Medieval Gower Stories: The Ensanding of Pennard Castle


The exciting news about Medieval Gower Stories is that it has gone to the printer! I’m just waiting while they inspect the file and let me know if everything is acceptable, and finalise the quote. Then they will give me the deadline for when the books will be ready. I am still wrestling with the ebook fomatting, but hopefully can load it into Amazon this week. The physical book launch will be next month, but I want the books ready before I decide on the date. To whet your appetite a bit more, here is one of the stories from the book.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Difference Engine by Gibson & Sterling 1990

The Difference Engine (1990) is an alternative history novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It is widely regarded as a book that helped establish the genre conventions of steampunk.

It posits a Victorian Britain in which great technological and social change has occurred after entrepreneurial inventor Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer (actually his analytical engine rather than the difference engine).

The novel was nominated for the British Science Fiction Award in 1990, the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1991, and both the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Prix Aurora Award in 1992.

The Difference Engine(1stEd)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Formatting Your Manuscript for Ebook and Print

I have reached the stage where my next history book, Medieval Gower Stories, is ready to publish. In the past I have had two contrasting conversations about formatting – one about ebook formatting and one about print book formatting.

The interesting thing was that the person who was struggling with creating an ebook was only used to print books and the one who was struggling with creating a print book was only used to ebooks. The formatting is very different, and you need to get your head around it or you will be very confused.

Before ebooks, there were only print books, and you either paid a printer (which was called vanity publishing and was a BAD THING) or you got yourself a contract with a publisher (which could be soul destroying getting accepted, but was then a GOOD THING). Either way, the internal layout of your book was done for you.

Now, with ebooks and print-on-demand, you can publish your own books (which is a GOOD THING) but you have to pay to have formatting done (which is a BAD THING), or format them yourself. So, unless you have money to spare or an expert friend, you must bite the formatting bullet.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Medieval Gower Stories Cover Reveal

Just a short post this week, but exciting. I wrote two weeks ago about my search for a cover. Well, here it is!

Gower Tales3

The book itself is finished and I’m just formatting the manuscript into two files: one for print and one for the ebook. Publication is getting nearer!

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Crystal Express 1989/Schismatrix Plus 1996 by Bruce Sterling

In the New Age era of science fiction the general idea was that science and technology in the future would make the world a better place. Star Trek for example was set in a universe where Earth was united under a global government and there was no poverty or sickness. The Cyberpunk era was a reaction to this, a belief that advances in technology would benefit the elite but result in more unemployment and more oppression of the poor. The world of the New Age was clean and shiny. The Cyberpunk world was gritty and dirty. During these weeks we are looking at some classic Cyberpunk novels. This week, the Shaper/Mechanist universe of Bruce Sterling.

Crystal Express

Crystal Express

Short stories which depict worlds full of scientific advancement, genetic and surgical modifications of people, colonization of the solar system and alien contact. But they also show concern for the future of real people. The author's books include "Involution Ocean" and "Islands in the Net".

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison

A novel needs to have conflict, some challenge or obstacle which the hero has to overcome. The more conflict the better. Not just major setbacks, but little things too. Can you introduce a secret fear which isn’t a problem for most people?

We couldn’t afford holidays when I was a child. I remember going to stay with relatives a few times, and the first time I remember was staying with my Dad’s parents in Sussex when I was 4 or 5. Two teenage boy cousins stayed as well, which was not a good idea, since they teased me. They christened me ‘waterworks’ because I cried so much. They did teach me to gamble at cards though, much to my mother’s annoyance!

Grandparents Stoner


Monday, 11 September 2017

Medieval Gower Stories–Introduction

My new popular history book Medieval Gower Stories is almost ready for publication. To whet your appetite, here is the Introduction.

Introduction final

I live in the city of Swansea in South Wales UK, right on the edge of the Gower peninsular, Britain's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We have everything, all in one place: chain stores, little independent shops, leisure centres, museums, theatres, art galleries, the beach, the countryside, and train and motorway links directly to London and lots of other places.

In the past, Swansea was known as Copperopolis, the industrial centre of the world for smelting copper and other metals, due to the close proximity of coal and easy access by sea and river. But before that, especially long before that, I thought Swansea and Gower were not important at all.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Eclipse Trilogy: A Song Called Youth by John Shirley


The Eclipse Trilogy (also referred to as A Song Called Youth trilogy) is a series of three science fiction English language cyberpunk novels by John Shirley, (Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona).

The books depict a dystopian future, set in a hypothetical mid 21st century where a new Russian Soviet has invaded Western Europe, causing massive disruption and destruction. Their armies were only repelled by the (unseen) use of tactical nuclear weapons, resulting in a stalemate, somewhat like the middle years of World War I. The New Soviet--more oligarchic than communist--has been stymied. But now Europe is in chaos, the USA is in crisis. To keep order and free up troops for actual fighting, NATO has contracted with the Second Alliance Security Corporation (SA), a right-wing, private security company of mercenaries, an anticipation of Blackwater-style privatization of the military. Second Alliance is part of a hidden (fascist) agenda unbeknownst to most of those who hired them. The heroes of the series are the New Resistance, who are fighting to expose and defeat the SA's racist policies and attempt to grab power.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Write What You Know

There is a famous piece of advice to writers: Write what you know.

Write what you know

Its validity is sometimes disputed, because crime writers write about murder and rape without having actually experienced it themselves, and science fiction writers write about whole worlds and alien races they couldn’t possibly have experienced. But it’s good advice for beginners, to draw on your own experiences, people and places you know, in order to give your story a touch of realism.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Medieval Gower Stories - The Search for a Cover

After you write a book, one of the challenges is to find a cover. There are websites offering pre-designed covers that you can customise very cheaply, but you run the risk of having a cover very similar to someone else’s. Also in my case it’s unlikely that I’d find anything suitable for a medieval history book. Prices for a bespoke cover design can rise high. Designing one yourself is a bad idea unless you are a trained graphic artist.

When I was thinking about publishing my first book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth I went to the Local History Book Fair at Swansea Museum and saw some lino cut prints being sold by the Gower Society. They were local scenes produced by a local artist whose family had granted the Gower Society permission to use them on notecards. Alina’s family lived in Oystermouth Castle and there was a lovely design featuring it which I asked permission to use. The artist’s family were consulted and gave permission as long as the artist’s son, a graphic designer, created the cover for my book, to ensure their father’s work was showcased well.

Alina Cover (396x612) (72dpi) Web

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Big U & Snow Crash Cyberpunk Novels by Neal Stephenson

We’re looking at the cyberpunk era of science fiction history, and this week, two significant novels by Neal Stephenson.

The Big U (1984)

The Big U

This is Neal Stephenson's first published novel, a satire of campus life.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Don’t Use Reference Books When Writing

Stephen King

Stephen King has written a famous book about writing, called appropriately, On Writing. Here is a snippet of advice from an article in 1986. It may be old advice, but still very valid.

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere?

And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later.

When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

Monday, 28 August 2017

Introducing Medieval Gower Stories

Introduction final

Swansea Castle

Happy Bank Holiday, if you’re in the UK, I hope you have a great day. Today I’m resurrecting my history posts to tell you about my new book.

In case you’re new to my work, let me give you the background. Many years ago, I stood in the middle of Swansea and looked up at the ruins of Swansea Castle. I wondered what the castle was like in it’s heyday. I was already writing science fiction, and I wondered if I could come up with a fantasy about someone being thrown back in time from the castle ruins to medieval times. Not an original idea, I know, but it caught my imagination.

I went away and Googled it and stumbled across Alina de Breos, her father William and her husband John de Mowbray, who started a rebellion which grew to sweep across the country and topple Edward II from the English throne. Intrigued, I went to the library and asked them to teach me how to research that period in history. I hated history at school, but this wasn’t boring lists, this was real lives, real people, and I was hooked.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Involution Ocean & Neuromancer Cyberpunk Novels

Last week we reached the Cyberpunk era in the history of science fiction, the reaction to the New Wave rosy future. Two of the key novels in Cyberpunk were Bruce Sterling’s first novel Involution Ocean, and William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer.

Involution Ocean

Involution Ocean

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Seize the Day


Dead Poets SocietyIn the 1989 Robin Williams film Dead Poets Society, he played an unconventional teacher who encourages his students with the Latin phrase Carpe diem – seize the day. This has become a well-known saying, to encourage people not to dream of the future but take action today.

This applies especially to writers. It’s what you do today that will make your future. Don’t just dream of writing a book ‘one day’, do it now. Don’t just seize the day, seize the inspiration, seize the opportunity.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Cyberpunk Science Fiction (1980s)

In the early 1980s there was a reaction against the New Wave’s rosy depiction of the future, and writers began looking at the 'punk' underbelly of future society, which didn't enjoy all the amazing benefits of everyone else. These early works have been credited with "renovating" science fiction literature after it had fallen largely into insignificance in the 1970s. William Gibson's debut novel Neuromancer (1984) encapsulated this movement. It was the first winner of the science-fiction 'triple crown' — the Nebula Award, the Philip K Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. Other key writers in the movement included Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, and later Neal Stephenson. We will be looking at some of their key novels in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

How To Run a Book Launch


If you are producing a printed book, which is easy enough with print on demand like Create Space, you can have a book launch. It would be difficult to launch a book without a hard copy, but you might find somewhere with wifi and persuade people to bring their ereaders.

On the subject of where you will hold your launch, as you can see below, a bookshop is favourite. This is actually a charity bookshop that likes to support local artists, but any bookshop, especially independents, likes a book launch because the people attending will also browse the shelves. Another place to try is your local library.
How to Run a Book Launch
A book launch has two phases: publicity and performance. It’s no good arranging a book launch if nobody comes, and your event will not be very successful unless the audience are entertained and encouraged to buy.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

New Wave Science Fiction TV

Before we leave the New Wave era of science fiction history, a lot at two significant developments on television. TV began to catch up with what was happening in books and films. Dr Who began on British TV in 1963, and Star Trek began on American TV in 1966. Both had such enduring appeal that they have been revived in recent years.

Dr Who 2

This is a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963. The programme depicts the adventures of a Time Lord called "the Doctor", an extraterrestrial being from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship called the TARDIS, an acronym which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Accompanied by a number of companions, the Doctor combats a variety of foes, while working to save civilisations and help people in need.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Giving Talks

Speech 2Giving talks is a great way to earn a bit of extra money and get the attention of potential readers. A lot of writers will be horrified at the thought of standing up in front of people and giving a talk. I’ve had some experience, because I used to be a trainer, but it’s still scary – if you do it cold.

Think about your story or your book for a minute. Do you think it’s good? Is it interesting? Is it exciting, or heart-warming, or surprising? The answers should be ‘yes’, because you wouldn’t be promoting your book if you thought it was boring or badly written.

Monday, 7 August 2017

New Wave Science Fiction Films

Before we leave the New Wave Science Fiction era, we’re going to look at films this week and TV next.

2001_A_Space_Odyssey_(1968)_theatrical_poster_variant

Science fiction films took inspiration from the changes in the genre. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971) and Richard Fleischer's Soylent Green (1973) all reflected the new style. 2001: A Space Odyssey came from Arthur C Clark's vision of creatures out there who were older and wiser than us, and I wrote about in April here. No other science fiction film was so conceptually daring. The storyline was as true to life as possible, based on real technology.

The 1974 film Dark Star was the counter-culture answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1979 Dan O'Bannen co-wrote the most celebrated alien story in history: Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. It was the stuff of nightmares. This film again had meticulous attention to detail. Blade Runner (1982) was another film which used science fiction to comment on sociological issues.

But traditional feel-good themes continued to be popular. Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) explored the idea of a peaceful confrontation with aliens. George Lucas' Star Wars (1977) was traditional escapism with an epic setting. Spielberg's next film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) looked at what if one friendly alien who got left behind? The alien (E.T.) is helped by lonely boy. The aliens are the grownups.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

12 Steps to Overcome Procrastination

I found this advice so useful, I typed it out and stuck it on the wall by my desk. Unfortunately, I didn’t note where it came from. So, my apologies to the author, but it’s definitely worth sharing.

Overcome Procrastination

“Turning pro is free, but it is not easy. You don’t need to take a course or buy a product. All you have to do is change your mind.” Steven Pressfield.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Gods Themselves – New Wave Science Fiction Classic

In the history of science fiction series, we are looking at the New Wave which took off in the 1960s and 70s. Many authors prominent earlier continued to be successful by adapting their style. We highlighted three classics in particular. Two weeks ago we looked at Robert A Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and last week was Robert A Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). This week is the third book, Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves (1972). Here is the plot outline.

The Gods Themselves

TheGodsThemselves(1stEd)

The Gods Themselves is a 1972 science fiction novel written by Isaac Asimov. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1972, and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1973.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Print on Demand

Thanks to ebooks you can publish a book today for next to nothing. But what if you want a print book – a physical book you can hold and hand to people?

SigningTraditional Print

When I published my first local history book it was clear that most sales would be impulse buys. Tourists and locals would be intrigued and say, “It’s less than a fiver, I’ll have one.” A printer will print however many copies you ask for, but because of the setup costs and economies of scale, it makes sense to print a lot at once. That means you need several hundred pounds usually.

I funded my first print book out of my pension money. I used the profit from the first book to fund the second. I used the profit from the second to pay for professional editing of my first science fiction novel. So when the third history book was ready, I didn’t have the funds. The solution? Print on demand (POD).

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - New Wave Science Fiction Classic

In the history of science fiction series, we are looking at the New Wave which took off in the 1960s and 70s. Many authors prominent earlier continued to be successful by adapting their style. We highlighted three classics. Last week we looked at Robert A Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). This week is Robert A Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), and Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves (1972) will be next week. Here is the plot outline.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by American writer Robert A Heinlein, about a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth. The novel expresses and discusses libertarian ideals. It is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the moon.