Competition: Name A Character In My Next Book

WOULD you like to have a character in a book named after you? Well, now’s your chance! One lucky person gets to choose a name that I will then use for one of the characters in the forthcoming sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. You can choose your own name, or a family member, or a friend . . . the choice will be yours—well, within reason; I’ll get to that shortly.

Here’s how it works. Just follow this simple set of instructions:

  • First, get hold of a copy of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia in the format of your choice. See this page for a list of stockists.
  • Read the book.
  • Post a review on the Amazon page here. The review must be at least 100 words, but the content is all yours, and you can be honest—in fact I’d prefer it. If you think the book’s only worth a one-star rating and you really didn’t like it, say so. Giving a glowing review and a five-star rating won’t change your chances of winning the competition.
  • As soon as you post the review, come back to this site and use the CONTACT form to send me a note (the link is at the top of the page). Don’t delay, do it right away, because the first person to do that is the winner (the contact form sends me email, and the first one in my mailbox gets it). Include the following information:
    • The name you’d like me to use for a character in the book. As I mentioned, it can be your own name, or that of a friend or family member, etc. However, it must be appropriate for a nineteenth-century person (if you’re using a real name, that shouldn’t be a problem). I can’t use Twitter handles like BuzzGrrl999, for example. And please don’t use famous names; I can’t really have a character called Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or Kim Kardashian. I’ll be the final arbiter on whether I can use the name.
    • A link to the Amazon review you’ve created. I need enough information to be able to find it, so a URL is probably best.
    • A contact email address, in case I need to get in touch. I will not share this email address.
  • The winner will be announced on this blog on July 1, 2014.
  • I will choose the character that gets the name based on how the name fits. For example, if the name you choose is German-sounding (or at least fits a German character), then I might attach it to a German secret agent. So bear in mind your character might not necessarily be one of the good guys. And your character might end up dying a nasty death. But hey, that’s actually a pretty cool thing to tell your friends, right?
  • You’ll also get a mention in the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

That’s all! Read it, write a review, let me know. What are you waiting for?

I Don’t Always Write Blog Posts . . .

. . . BUT when I do, I try to make them interesting, and mention at least a little about what’s been going on since the last post. However, I’ve noticed that recently—according to my WordPress stats—I’ve gained more than a handful of new followers. If you’re one of the new followers then Welcome, gentle reader. For the new readers I’m going to put a little more background than usual into this post. And don’t forget to explore the other pages through the link tabs at the top. In particular, take a look at the Social page and consider following me on Twitter, too.


The Day Job

BY profession I’m a Java web application developer. A few months ago the company I work for had a little bit of an unintentional downsizing, by which I mean that several of our other developers, by coincidence, all gave notice at about the same time—and as a result of that, my workload more than doubled as those other guys’ project work was dumped in my lap. So for several weeks I was working late nights and weekends, catching up with all the outstanding bug fixes.

Several weeks on, just about all of those bugs have been fixed, and so I’m back to regular maintenance on all those various applications. Which means I’m back to normal hours without the late nights and weekends. I’m even getting time in some of my lunch breaks to manage a little bit of writing.

Now that all the urgent work is done, I’ve also been spending some time evaluating some new software—web application frameworks, to be specific—to see what the next generation of our software should be using. For what it’s worth, we evaluated JSF (JavaServer Faces) and found it wanting; next up, I’m writing a small application using Apache Wicket to see how that goes, and so far it looks promising—at least, it gets away from JSPs (JavaServer Pages), which can only be a good thing.

Moving House

WE bought a new house, and we’ve been moving a few things in and getting the place ready to take the bigger furniture. Right now there’s not much we can do until some of the flooring has been replaced—but that’s just a few days away, now, and then we can get ourselves properly into the new place. And I can’t wait.

What I’m Writing

NOT that I should need to say, because it’s plastered all over this site, but I wrote Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, a steampunk action adventure story that was published last year. Now I’m working on a sequel, which—with a little luck—should have a first draft complete by the end of August (at least, that’s the target I’ve set myself). The timeline, which is a scene-by-scene version of the story from beginning to end, is complete; that gives me a plan to work to. The first few scenes have been written, but progress has been slow. The good news is, the pace is picking up and I expect to get back to full momentum on that within a week or two, especially when the house move is behind us.

What I’m Reading

RIGHT now I’m reading Kingdom City by Ben Ireland. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so far.

What I’m Smoking

IF you’ve read back a few posts, you’ll have seen the post about how I’ve been switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. On that, just a quick update: it’s going very well. Thanks to the e-cig as a way to stave off the craving I was down to about three “real” cigs a day. Then came another milestone: I haven’t smoked even one “real” cigarette in the last three days. Very pleased with that.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

LAST word: I play some computer games as relaxation. I used to play World of Warcraft a lot (although I haven’t played in months now), and I’m also a big fan of the Half-Life games and their close cousins, the Portal series. Recently I found out about a game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted, which is variously described as steampunk and tweedpunk (is that a new word?). It’s a survival-stealth game, which under normal circumstances would have put me off because I’m not a fan of that genre (I tried playing Thief once, and detested it), but I’m finding Sir to be more than a little bit addictive. I mean, killer robots wearing country tweeds and smoking pipes. What’s not to like?

Until next time . . .

Things Are Coming Along A Bit

The House Comes Along A Bit

I spent most of today organising some storage in the basement of the new place, putting together some shelves I bought a few days ago. Good shelves, too—we bought one a year or so ago so we knew what we were getting. They’re metal, and each shelf can hold up to three hundred and fifty pounds. The only problem is that each shelf is basically made of wire, so to finish up I bought some quarter-inch sanded plywood to lay on top. That was all finished up just a little while ago, so now we have five racks ready to take stuff from the basement in the old place. Tomorrow I begin moving things over.

In other house news, we bought some used furniture from a charity thrift store: a big hutch, an armoire, a chest of drawers, a dresser, a small cabinet and a two-seater sofa that was in such great shape that it was just too good to let pass. Most of the stuff is in the garage and once the flooring is in place on the ground floor we can move it into position.

The Writing Comes Along A Bit

NOT as much as I hoped it would, but I managed a couple of hundred words on Gunn & Bohemia II—the most I’ve managed in the last few weeks, what with everything else going on. Going forward the plan is to reserve some writing time every day, even if it’s only half an hour. Some progress is much better than no progress at all; no progress makes me twitchy and irritable, and being able write even just a few dozen words makes a big difference.

I also got a little bit of news from my publisher. A few weeks ago I sent them the first few thousand words from The Artemisia Chronicle, which is a full-length novel I wrote a while back and put to one side, to see if they might be interested. Well, it took a while because they’ve been really busy getting Terra Mechanica and then Tomorrow Wendell (a novel by RM Ridley) out of the door, but I got an email the other day saying they were interested. Next step on that is for me to fill in a submission form, which (with all the house and day job business going on) I haven’t had time to get to. Soon, though.

Vaping Update

SINCE the post about vaping a few weeks ago I’ve been continuing on with using the Vuse, with good results; I still get the urge to burn a real cigarette, especially when I’m feeling a bit stressed, but I’m averaging something like three real ones a day. Some days I’ll smoke four, and a couple of days I managed to get through with only two. And I’m very happy to report that last week I went one whole day without a single cigarette. I feel really good about that.

Terra Mechanica Release and Afterthoughts

The Release Party

THE party went really well, I thought. Although I was pretty tired from a day (a whole week, in truth) of working on our new house, I was able to keep up with the Facebook traffic, and I had great fun to the point where my half-hour question/answer/contest session was over before I knew it. The other authors did a fine job, and the joint was jumping for the almost four hours I was online. (I had to bail out a little early, unfortunately, but going back over the Facebook page it looks like things stayed lively.)

Now, I would be remiss to write this without the shameless plug for the book. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and in paperback (and keep an eye open for other formats such as Kobo).

A Question That Intrigued Me

ONE question that came up during the party: What I want to know is how do you write such intriguing female characters?

My answer to that is, I really just don’t know. It’s not something I give conscious thought to as I’m writing—I just write the characters’ actions and dialogue in a way that’s right for that person, in line with how I see them in my mind. But the question bugged me all day yesterday, and I got to thinking about it while I was working on the house. I think I might have an answer.

I’ve never thought of women as being “like men, only less.” For me, women are “like men, but a bit different in some ways.” I think it’s daft not to acknowledge that men are, on average, physically stronger than women. And I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone if I suggest that women think about things in a different way. Not a wrong way, or an inferior way—just different. I suspect that’s a biological difference.

And women—on average—tend to be more expressive when it comes to emotions. In my view, men can be just as emotional, but we tend to keep things inside more, the result being that women might seem weak in that regard, in the same way that men who wear their hearts on their sleeves often seem weak to the macho men. I tend to think this is more from cultural pressures than biological imperatives.

The point is, I don’t think of women as property, or skivvies, or as some kind of appendage dependent on men. Psychologically, mentally, women are in general at least as strong as men. They can be just as determined, just as assertive, and more. And that, I think, comes across when I write the words and actions and thoughts of my female characters.

Is that the answer? I don’t know for certain, but I do know I’ll continue to write my characters—male and female—in the same way, because honestly I don’t know any other way to write them. I’d have a hard time writing female characters that had no substance to them, mere shadows cast by the light of men, dependent and submissive. Some of my readers might be old enough to remember a certain series of science-fiction/fantasy books that began in the sixties and is still, unfortunately, going strong; books that objectify women and portray them as enjoying or even needing to be treated that way. I made the mistake of reading one once.  I’m not about to mention it by name because while I’m not in favour of censorship, I think misogynistic tripe like that should be marginalised and forgotten in this, the twenty-first century. I can’t imagine myself writing anything like that.

The House Move

THINGS are coming on, if slowly. We can’t begin moving our stuff in until the floors are done (we’re having the carpet in the living room replaced with hardwood, and getting new carpet in a couple of the other rooms because what’s there is pretty old). In the meantime I took most of last week off so that I could do some other work—painting the garage and porch, fixing door handles and locks, cleaning the carpet in the basement rooms, and a bunch of other little things. I have shelves to put up in the basement, and I’ll be doing some of that this evening (and mowing the grass again). Once that’s done we can begin moving some things in; stuff we don’t use often, that’s currently in the basement in the old place. Then, at last, it’ll begin to feel as if we’re making some real progress.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .