Tag Archives: Sharon Bidwell

Project Hush-Hush – Event, Rewriting and … Acting?

So, what have I been doing the last few days? Well, first a few words on Project Hush-Hush.

SecretHow The Forgotten Son opens is hugely important, more so than usual for a book. The opening lines are so vital to the success or failure of any novel, but when it’s the first of a new series of a licensed project, those first few lines, indeed the whole prologue, is even more important. And so the publisher and I have been discussing this opening, and it occurred to us that I am in a unique position to rewrite a piece of history — or rather add something new to a piece of history that means a lot to a lot of people.  Yup, this is one of those entries where I can’t reveal too much about the content of the writing — the scene is too big and too integral to the concept of the series that to reveal its contents would spoil so much. So, you’ll have to just bear with me and believe me when I say that reworking the prologue is a unique thrill that may not ever be one I experience again.

I was showing the first line to two friends yesterday, both of whom are big fans (of what? Well, that would be telling), and only one of them understood the in-joke of that very first line and just what it meant. Just goes to show there are different levels of fans. I’m confident though that the majority of fans will get it, and that one line will set the tone for the rest of the series.

10551036_10152313417955197_986522740607362979_nIn other news I was at another Candy Jar Book Festival event yesterday, this time discussing ‘monsters and mirrors’ with fellow author Benjamin Burford-Jones. It was an interesting little talk. Not many turned up, but we did get an interesting few including a couple of kids who had all kinds of random questions to ask about monsters in fiction. My favourite part was the girl’s answer to my question, ‘what monsters do you like best in Doctor Who?‘. The answer? Why, the cake monster. Of course! (Must be an episode I’ve never seen!) During this event I also did a little bit of acting! Sort of. Ben was going to read an extract from his book, Beware of the Mirror Man, but it soon became obvious that he doesn’t have the most involving reading voice so I happened upon an idea. The section he chose features two characters — Sophie and Ell. Now, Ell is a mimic who happens to have a cockney voice, and as the title of the blog suggests I am something of a Londoner (albeit one who was born in Wales). So we acted out the scene, with me providing the cockney-voice of Ell. Which was great as Ell by far got the best lines in that scene, and we got a couple of giggles from the kids. Job done! 😉

Next up,as well as the ongoing research for The Forgotten Son I have the proofed version of Sharon Bidwell’s The Draco Eye to go through, and looking through the proofs of my forthcoming short story collection. All the stories in the latter have been published individually by Untreed Reads Publishing over the last four years, but they’re putting them into one all-new volume for release in a couple of months. So look out for that one!

Now, it’s time to head back to find out how John James is dealing with the creature that he’s discovered in the back garden…

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Project Hush-Hush – Additions and Tour

SecretFirst up, been doing a little bit of work on Project Hush-Hush today. Adding a new character to the mix, since I felt something was missing from the twins’ plot, something to ground it to the bigger picture and the ’60s. And so Charles Watts has joined the twins, now named Louis and Owain. I was planning on getting on with the next chapter, since I’m looking forward to upping the creep factor by introducing Mary and her bizarre journey, but first I need to re-jig chapter one a little. Which includes renaming a couple of characters so that their names more clearly reflect the year in which they were born — no point given them a name that probably wasn’t used in, say, 1930.

dracoMEDIUMIn other news, my fellow author, Sharon Bidwell, has taken up the gauntlet and added her own Writing Process entry to the ongoing blog tour. Please do pop by to see what she has to say about her own processes. She even has this to say about me; ‘Andy is mostly a plotter. When we co-authored a book together I found it a little exhausting and it wasn’t just because we were stepping in at short notice and had limited time. Andy is fast and he tends to know exactly where he wants to go.’ Which is nice. And may even be true. 🙂

For the sake of context, let me explain. Sharon is an author I always wanted to have write for Space: 1889 & Beyond and, with a little encouragement, she agreed and wrote A Fistful of Dust. In fact, her first draft of that book came in before any other manuscript for the second season, even though it was to be fifth in the run. Along the way disaster struck and I lost the author of the second book in the season, and with time running out I needed to turn around a second book and quick. Re-enter Sharon. Since she had a good handle on the universe I sweet-talked her into helping me write the second book, Mundus Cerialis, which we did in ten days. I think for Sharon it was a whole new pace of writing, but she secretly enjoyed it and was amazed at how quick it turned around. I was so impressed, and in her debt, that I made her write another book. I’m nice like that. But to give her a little incentive, I allowed her the joy of bringing dragons into the Space: 1889 & Beyond universe — she LOVES dragons! How could she refuse? The result of this will be seen next month when her novel, The Draco Eye, is released.

Outing a Fictional Character

Space: 1889 & Beyond has been running for over two years now, with ten books published and a further two on the way to wrap up the second season. Since day one, one of my own personal goals was to explore Victorian views on sexuality, both through the characters of Annabelle Somerset (not your clichéd Victorian adventuress – although she does have her moments) and Nathanial Stone. Exploring such views via Annabelle would seem obvious and not worthy of pointing out, although holding her own against a predominantly male-led society is only one issue Annabelle has to deal with – losing a limb is another, not to mention certain revelations explored in the final three books of season two. With Nathanial it would seem to be less obvious, although this line from the opening chapter of Journey to the Heart of Luna (published September 2011) would offer up the first clue…

When we do, I hope I am there. For I would like to ask him this: Why, O Lord, did you make me wrong? My dean at Mortarhouse College could never answer such a question, and he was a very learned man. Only the Almighty can answer me now.

Throughout the two years and ten books we have revealed hints and clues about Nathanial’s personal journey, most especially in Conspiracy of Silence (published August 2012) and Mundus Cerialis (published December 2012). One would hope that at the end of the latter book all our readers would be able to work out that Nathanial is a gay man. This is how Mundus Cerialis ends…

Arnaud noticed Nathanial standing there. “Annabelle suggested we ‘bunk together’. I do not think Captain Folkard would like me to be in his room.”
 
Nathanial glanced up the gangway towards the control deck. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”
 
Arnaud placed a finger in his mouth and looked around the lab. “Not much space, non? What to do? I have no sleeping bag.” He coughed abruptly, and looked up with the most pathetic expression Nathanial had ever seen.
 
“You are unwell?”
 
Oui. A virus from the Ceres underground, I think. Ne vous inquiétez pas,” Arnaud said, waving away Nathanial’s concern. “No snuggling,” he added, with a slight smile.
 
Nathanial shook his head. There was a time when he would have responded to that, but instead he smiled. Always the same Arnaud.
 
“I think we shall have a lot to discuss, then,” Nathanial said and stepped into the lab, feeling better than he had in a long while.
 
Things were not perfect with Annabelle, but they were on the right path to healing the wounds, and he had made his peace with Folkard. Surely he still held some animosity because of Edwin’s death, but the captain had brought Arnaud back to him – from death in some respects. That went a long way.
 
He closed the door behind him. It was finally time to move forward again.

fistfulMEDIUMThe most explicit confirmation of Nathanial’s sexuality, and his difficulty with such, was due to be shown in The Forever Journey, but due to some ‘technical difficulties’ the book which followed this, in terms of narrative, was released first. Thus the consequences of certain revelations and themes from The Forever Journey were felt throughout A Fistful of Dust (published October 2013). In terms of narrative I, as editor, had no issue with the consequences being seen before the events that led to them. In fact, I felt (and still feel), it adds to the mystery, leaving the readers to wonder what actually happened to our gallant crew on the way to Mars (answers to which will be revealed next month when The Forever Journey is released!).

Our readers have been very supportive of the series thus far, with many applauding us on the ongoing stories for our regulars cast of characters, as well as those who appear occasionally (such as Doctor Cyrus Grant and Commander George Bedford). They seem to understand that, as author David Parish-Whittaker put it, ‘it’s not just “Airships and Adventures!” (Not that it doesn’t have those, too). I think this particular subplot helps remind the reader of the very real social differences and constraints of the time period. We’re not writing about modern people in top hats here.’ This personal journey for Nathanial has been there since day one, as I said, and I knew that once we brought it to the fore it would illicit some interesting responses. I especially expect some choice comments being made in reviews of The Forever Journey, not just about Nathanial, but about other revelations made in that book, but what I was not expecting, not in a million years, was this ‘review’ on Amazon.com for A Fistful of Dust

reviewone
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So shocked was I that I posted it over Facebook, to get the opinions of fellow authors, readers and even Anne Rice – since she’d recently been talking about reviews on Amazon.com, and was curious as to how she, a best-selling author of world renown, would respond were it in response to one of her books. Her response was, ‘it’s typical of some of the trash reviewing going on, on Amazon. I clicked report and gave the reason. Imagine a review like this attacking “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” because Uncle Tom is black.’

I am still somewhat miffed as to why, ten books on, someone should take such a position. One person suggested it was akin to revealing that a character like James Bond was gay all this time, a comment which I find bizarre in itself. With the Bond example, I agree it would be a case of ‘what were you thinking?’, since he has a history with women and is quite clearly a straight character. Not so with Nathanial. As shown in the examples above, Nathanial has always been gay, and his personal journey encompasses this element of his character. From actively allowing people to believe he had some interest in Annabelle, to his flirtatious behaviour with, at first, Erasmus Stevenson in Journey to the Heart of Luna and Dark Side of Luna all the way to his first meeting with Arnaud Fontaine in The Ghosts of Mercury to his insistence on having Arnaud join them on the season two mission. Later the reviewer did go on to explain why he made the above comment, in an equally inexplicable manner…

reviewtwo
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The implication that we included a gay character because it’s ‘cool’ to do so, is one that puzzles and irritates me. It seems to suggest that we made Nathanial gay all of sudden, that it was a stunt to fit some kind of political correctness. Never mind the previous nine books of character development and steady unveiling of this aspect of Nathanial’s character. Surely the whole point of fiction is to not only tell good stories, but to explore the nature of people along the way? This is done gradually and carefully, without being offensive or, in this case, explicit. To be offended and thus reject a series of novels you were, presumably, previously enjoying just because a character is revealed to be gay, strikes me as a very silly and bigoted way to react. Would it not make more sense to stick with it, and see how the character’s journey pans out? After all, Nathanial is a man living in the 19th Century, the implications of his sexuality will have consequences.

Despite this and the somewhat unexpected reactions from a few people yesterday, I still hold true to what we are trying to achieve here with Space: 1889 & Beyond as a whole, and with the character of Nathanial Stone in particular. All I can say now is this; readers, stick with us, there’s an end game here, one that most will not see coming, but hopefully one all will find interesting and will spark some thoughts in you all. In closing I’d like to quote Arnaud’s father, Sébastien Fontaine…

“Could it not be that they are merely laws man has attributed to God, led by their own fears and ignorance? It is my belief that not everything can be split between right and wrong. There is a whole area that falls in-between. Just because someone disagrees with another, it does not make one more correct than the other.”

Space: 1889 & Beyond – News Update

More Space: 1889 & Beyond news!

Series One, now with 50% off

Two fantastic offers that run through until August 15th 2012…

Untreed Reads is having a big sale at their store, with 50% off all titles. This includes the entire series one back catalogue – so if you’ve not joined the adventures of Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset now is the time. And, on top of that, you can pick up the series two Season Pass for £10.87, saving yourself £3.20 off buying the titles individually as they’re released.

Pop by the Untreed Reads Store now to take advantage of these amazing offers.

Coming mid-August 2012

The second exciting series of steampunk adventures!

 

Series 2.
2012-2013

Everything H.G. Wells could have written.

Everything Arthur Conan Doyle thought of,

but never published – because it was too fantastic!

 

Following on from the success of the first series, Untreed Reads Publishing is proud to present the second series of six books based on the world-renowned Role Playing Game, fully licensed from creator, Frank Chadwick, and headed by best-selling author Andy Frankham-Allen.

The series begins mid-August, and will be released bi-monthly, thus running for a whole year. Once again we’ve brought together some of the best names in fantasy fiction as well as some relatively new names to bring you a series that will continue to re-shape the popular steampunk universe first created almost twenty years ago.

This series our heroes, “Professor” Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset are joined by two others on their journey through the aether. Captain Jacob Folkard, the commander of HMAS Sovereign, and another familiar face. There is much turbulence and change ahead, as secrets are unveiled, mysteries revealed, with the fate of the British Empire hanging in the balance. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Join Nathanial, Annabelle, Folkard and guest as they travel from one corner of the Space: 1889 universe to another, from the conspiracies that eat away at the heart of the British Empire to the underworld of Ceres, watch them as they encounter pterodactyls in the clouds above Venus, join them on their longest journey between worlds where it seems their darkest fears follow them all the way to Phobos and the mysteries contained inside that moon… Where will their journey end? Nothing is certain, except that by the end of series two the 1889-verse will be shaken to its very core!

Previously On…

At the end of the last series, Nathanial and Annabelle found themselves in something of a tight spot. Annabelle lost one of her legs due to the machinations of the manipulative French man, Le Boeuf, on an experimental heliograph station, and Nathanial found himself placed under arrest for the destruction of said station. It seemed things were looking up for them after they helped rescue Annabelle’s increasingly mad uncle, inventor Cyrus Grant, and foiled a Russian plan to secure the moon and the alien Heart at its centre. But as series one closed, Annabelle was disheartened by her uncle’s deterioration, despite the support of Lieutenant George Bedford, first officer of the Royal Navy’s flagship HMAS Sovereign, and Nathanial was left to ponder his own future. He hopes that his actions on Luna will give his innocence some credence, but is concerned about the reception awaiting him on Earth… No one but he and Annabelle survived the destruction of Peregrine station, so who is behind the charges levied against him?

A view from a gantry…

Series two begins mere hours from where series one left off, with the series creator, Frank Chadwick, joining forces with series editor, Andy Frankham-Allen, to bring you a tour-de-force in Space: 1889 adventure!

The Stories

  1. Conspiracy of Silence by Andy Frankham-Allen & Frank Chadwick
  2. To Ceres by Steam by Paul Ebbs
  3. Leviathans of the Clouds by Steven Savile & David Parish-Whittaker
  4. The Forever Journey by Oli Smith
  5. A Fistful of Dust by Sharon Bidwell
  6. Horizons of Deceit by Jonathan Cooper

 

The Team

Series Editor, Andy Frankham-Allen (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Andy Frankham-Allen is a Welsh-born author of many short stories, both for Untreed Reads and the Big Finish’s official range of Doctor Who anthologies. In 2005 he co-authored the last in Noise Monster Productions range of Space 1889 audio dramas, and in early 2011 Untreed Reads published the first novel in his new real world dark fantasy series, The Garden, which was nominated for the Rainbow Award, Best Full-Length Supernatural Novel 2011. He continues to write short stories and novels, with upcoming projects including a novel in Crossroads Press’ Scattered Earth series, and non-fiction Doctor Who book for Candy Jar Publishing, as well the second book in The Garden series. On top of all that, he’s also the series editor for Space: 1889 & Beyond.

Series Creator, Frank Chadwick (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Frank Chadwick is no stranger to the Victorian science fiction field. He is the creator of the Space: 1889 universe, with the first in a series of role-playing adventures, board games, and miniatures rules appearing over twenty years ago. He is known throughout the gaming industry as one of its most prolific designers, with over a hundred published games. He is also well-known in the history and military affairs field, with over two hundred books, articles, and columns. His 1991 Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but he still lists steampunk as one of his first and greatest loves.  As well writing one and a half novels in the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, his forthcoming works include two novels with Baen Books, How Dark the World Becomes and The Forever Engine which is set in the Space: 1889 universe.

Paul Ebbs (author, To Ceres by Steam)

Paul Ebbs has written various Doctor Who related things for the BBC, Big Finish Productions and BBV, and as a TV writer he’s written for such notable shows as EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill and Dead Ringers.

Steven Savile (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

Steven Savile has written for Doctor Who, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder and other popular game and comic worlds. His novels have been published in eight languages to date, including the Italian bestseller L’eridita. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his Primeval novel, Shadow of the Jaguar, published by Titan, in 2010, and has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award on multiple occasions. Silver, his debut thriller reached #2 in the Amazon UK e-charts in the summer of 2011 selling over forty thousand copies in the process. He wrote the story for the huge international bestselling computer game Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release, and he served as head writer on the popular online children’s game SPINEWORLD which have over one million players. His latest books include Tau Ceti (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson), Each Ember’s Ghost and the novelisation of the computer game Risen 2: Dark Waters.

David Parish-Whittaker (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

David Parish-Whittaker was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest for emerging talent in speculative fiction for his short story A Warbird in the Belly of the Mouse.  He’s previously written tie-in fiction for the Rezolution miniatures ruleset by Aberrant Games, to be published in an upcoming anthology.  His short fiction has also appeared in Every Day Fiction.   He currently writes videogame analysis and reviews for Geekosophy and Bag of Games. When he’s not writing, David works as a captain for a national airline. In previous incarnations, he has been a naval flight officer, traffic watch pilot, glider tow pilot and aerobatic instructor.  He is a rated commercial glider pilot, and holds an H-2 hang glider rating.  In his off hours, he plays a replica medieval harp for the Goliards, an early music group specializing in 13th – 15th century music, mostly to cement his geek street cred.

Oli Smith spent two years as a freelance writer working on novels, audio books, comic strips and video games for the BBC series Doctor Who. Now he works as a creative producer for London-based video games company Mediatonic and spends his evenings playing board games. He still likes writing, retro sci-fi and RPGs so it looks like Space: 1889 has got him covered.

Oli Smith (author, The Forever Journey)

Sharon Bidwell was born in London on New Year’s Eve. The first short story she submitted — Silver Apples of the Moon— was accepted by Roadworks Magazine. The editor announced her as ‘a writer who is going places’ and described the story as having ‘both a Sci-fi and horror element,’ and being ‘strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style.’  With a repertoire of twisted tales and a love of cross-genre writing, it surprised everyone (including herself) when she branched out into erotic romance. These works have been critically acclaimed and often described as ‘deeply passionate’. Sharon’s worlds are vivid, unexpected and sometimes intensely magical. She is the author of the best-selling gay romances ‘Snow Angel‘ and the sequel ‘Angel Heart’. Sharon writes whatever her warped mind can come up with. Although her longer works to date mostly involve a variety of wonderful men finding true love…or at least some loving, she’s quite capable of writing something darker, grittier, and even outright twisted.

Sharon Bidwell (author, A Fistful of Death)
Jonathan Cooper (author, Horizons of Deceit)

Jonathan Cooper was born in Wolverhampton in 1981. He started his career in theatre, writing plays from the Birmingham REP and the King’s Head in Islington. He has written extensively on the web on film, TV, video games and other assorted geekery, including a stint producing reviews and opinion for Mirror.co.uk. He has written and produced two short films with another two in production and has had short stories published internationally – he is also, according to the BBC – one of the top 200 comedy writers in the UK. Horizons of Deceit is his first full-length science fiction piece, and he remains bizarrely proud of the day Steven Moffat threatened to set his eagles on him.

Adam Burn has been drawing from an early age, and has been working with digital art for at least seven of them. He is a freelance artist who has worked for Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games. He was, most recently, the Senior 2D Artist for Taitale Studios on their forthcoming MMORTS game, Novus Aeterno. Steampunk is a new genre for him, but one he’s finding his way around quickly, and he is responsible for the covers of series two, as well as the revamp of the Space: 1889 & Beyondlogo.

Adam Burn, cover designer

Exclusive: Conspiracy of Silence (prologue)

1.

“AETHER PROPELLOR SECURED and ventral mast shipped, sir.”

“Very good, Mister Barry.” Lieutenant George Bedford, acting captain of HMAS Sovereign, the most modern aether battleship in the Royal Navy, took a quick scan of the bridge instruments and engine room repeaters before turning back to the young sub-lieutenant. “At what would you estimate our drop, Mister Barry?”

Barry had only worn the single thick stripe of a sub-lieutenant for eight months and Bedford hadn’t known him as a midshipman. The youngster had a good level head on his shoulders, Bedford had learned that much about him several weeks earlier when the two of them had dropped half a dozen Saltators—giant lunar red ants—with revolver fire when the monsters had boiled unexpectedly out of the hatch of a cutter on the docking bay. His technical skills were another matter, but they were coming along.

Barry squinted through the lens of the horizontal inclinometer, aimed out the bridge’s starboard observation blister, consulted his pocket watch, waited ten seconds and took a second reading through the lens. He paused, doing the calculation in his head.

“I make the drop fifty-five fathoms per second, sir.”

Bedford nodded; he made it nearly the same. Fifty-five fathoms a second, a descent rate of almost four miles a minute, was a bit steep and on this trajectory would put them down in the North Atlantic instead of the English Channel, as well as scorch the lower hull. “Trimsman, let’s have fifteen percent buoyancy on the lifters.”

After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

“Fifteen percent buoyancy, aye, sir,” the petty officer answered and went to work on his forest of levers, each controlling the angle of one of the liftwood  louvers which covered much of Sovereign’s lower hull.

“Mister Barry, my compliments to Lieutenant Boswell and he may light the coal boilers at his discretion.”

“Sir.”

They wouldn’t have enough atmospheric oxygen for the boilers for another ten minutes or so, but Boswell, the chief engineer, knew that well enough. The sun was still visible above the curvature of the Earth and would remain so all the way down through cloud-free skies. Although it was not yet day in Southern England, the eastern sky would already be pink and the sun would rise full up in the hour their descent from orbit would take, racing as they were toward the dawn. The solar boilers would do until Boswell put the black gang to work, would probably suffice until the last ten minutes of the flight, when they would penetrate the near-permanent cloud and smoke cover over Greater London. No solar boiler yet made would work down under that grey-brown shroud.

Bedford took another look at the bridge, its gleaming brass instruments and polished mahogany panelling, and he sighed. In an hour, a bit more, Sovereign would be down and secure at Chatham Dockyard and his temporary command would end. There was no chance for a simple lieutenant with eight years seniority to land a permanent command such as this—the choicest command in the fleet, coveted by officers with two more stripes on their cuffs and with the all-important political backing and social standing he lacked. No, he would be reassigned. In the past he had always looked forward to a new assignment, but not this time. After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

More than that, she held memories. Were it not for his assignment to HMAS Sovereign, he would never have met and befriended Nathanial Stone, and would not now be delivering him to the police for trial as a traitor and saboteur. He would never have met Cyrus Grant, one of the greatest scientific minds of the age, now reduced to confusion and madness by their experiences on Luna. Most importantly, he would never have met Grant’s niece, Annabelle Somerset.

Annabelle…

2.

NATHANIAL WATCHED AS the line of Russian former captives was led to the steam omnibus waiting at dockside. The irony of their situation and his washed over him like a cold wave. Former enemies of Britain, they, along with British personnel, had been captured by the alien Drobates on Luna, and all had been rescued by Bedford’s daring raid, leading fewer than a dozen Royal marines and naval ratings. Now the Russians would be released, amidst much public fanfare, to the custody of the Russian ambassador, who would in turn express the heartfelt gratitude of the Tsar.

In the subsequent fighting which had nearly cost all of them their lives, the Russians had done nothing to help while Nathanial, with a captured Drobate electric rifle, had held a long, dim tunnel against an alien horde, and had done so nearly alone and with little expectation he would escape with his life. Now British soldiers helped the Russians into the steam omnibus, showed them every courtesy, while a quartet of hard-eyed constables marched purposely toward Nathanial, obviously intent on taking custody of him from the two Royal Marines who guarded him.

Nathanial had at least expected to be met by some sort of government official, have the charges explained. Instead a black police four-wheeler loomed behind the constables. Were they really simply going to pack him up and cart him off to prison with no further ado?

Nathanial looked for any sign of his friends. Captain Folkard, who had relieved himself of command of Sovereign after the disastrous events on Luna had played themselves out, was nowhere to be seen on the dock, but Nathanial spied Annabelle making her way to him on the arm of Lieutenant Bedford, both of them limping. Bedford had suffered a nasty sprain of his ankle on Luna and Annabelle… Months earlier Annabelle had lost her right leg above the knee and now wore a mechanical limb designed by Nathanial and built using Drobate technology over the course of the last few weeks. It seemed to serve her well, the only bright spot in this uniformly bleak scene.

“Is this Stone?” the leading constable asked.

“Of course it is,” Private Jones answered, bristling slightly. “And what of it, then?”

“It’s all right, Private,” Nathanial said. “It is clear enough they are here for me. If you gentlemen would be so good as to give me a moment to take my leave of my friends, I would appreciate it.” He addressed this last to the leading constable.

Instead the man gestured to his assistants. “Seize him and put him in the van.”

“No! Just a moment, please!” Nathanial entreated but to no avail.

Two constables pinned his arms to his side and pulled him toward the black carriage. A few yards away Annabelle cried out and broke free of Bedford, reached out to him. The leading constable made as if to stop her but Jones’s rifle was suddenly in his hands at high port.

“Touch the lady, friend, and you’ll be chokin’ on your teeth,” Jones growled and the constable took a step back.

“Nathanial,” Annabelle said and thrust something round, flat, and metallic into his hand, “take this and remember—never lose hope.”

The constables pulled him away and he saw George Bedford comforting Annabelle as the doors on the back of the van closed and plunged him into darkness. He looked at his hand and saw a small gold watch, gleaming dully in the faint light which entered through the overhead ventilator. He recognised it as the pocket watch her father had given her—which contained on its inside a daguerreotype of her deceased parents; the only thing she retained from that former life.

Never lose hope.

 

Back by Popular Demand

Hi, gang!

We’ve noticed a few people asking if we’d be doing a season-pass for the second series of Space: 1889 & Beyond. Originally the answer was ‘no’, due to the initial behind-the-scenes chaos with getting the series together. However, we’ve found a way to change that. And so, we’re very pleased to announce that ‘yes!’ we are now doing a season-pass. But there is a catch!

It’s a good one, mind.

The season-pass is only available until August 15th – so if you fancy saving £3.20 ($5) off the entire second series, then run along now and pick up the season-pass for only £10.87 ($17). Yes, that’s just over a tenner for six books! Who can pass up such a deal? But hurry, this only lasts for two weeks.

Visit the Untreed Reads Store HERE to purchase the pass.

Space: 1889 & Beyond – Series Two Press Release

Coming mid-August 2012

The second exciting series of steampunk adventures!

 

Series 2.
2012-2013

Everything H.G. Wells could have written.

Everything Arthur Conan Doyle thought of,

but never published – because it was too fantastic!

 

Following on from the success of the first series, Untreed Reads Publishing is proud to present the second series of six books based on the world-renowned Role Playing Game, fully licensed from creator, Frank Chadwick, and headed by best-selling author Andy Frankham-Allen.

The series begins mid-August, and will be released bi-monthly, thus running for a whole year. Once again we’ve brought together some of the best names in fantasy fiction as well as some relatively new names to bring you a series that will continue to re-shape the popular steampunk universe first created almost twenty years ago.

This series our heroes, “Professor” Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset are joined by two others on their journey through the aether. Captain Jacob Folkard, the commander of HMAS Sovereign, and another familiar face. There is much turbulence and change ahead, as secrets are unveiled, mysteries revealed, with the fate of the British Empire hanging in the balance. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Join Nathanial, Annabelle, Folkard and guest as they travel from one corner of the Space: 1889 universe to another, from the conspiracies that eat away at the heart of the British Empire to the underworld of Ceres, watch them as they encounter pterodactyls in the clouds above Venus, join them on their longest journey between worlds where it seems their darkest fears follow them all the way to Phobos and the mysteries contained inside that moon… Where will their journey end? Nothing is certain, except that by the end of series two the 1889-verse will be shaken to its very core!

Previously On…

At the end of the last series, Nathanial and Annabelle found themselves in something of a tight spot. Annabelle lost one of her legs due to the machinations of the manipulative French man, Le Boeuf, on an experimental heliograph station, and Nathanial found himself placed under arrest for the destruction of said station. It seemed things were looking up for them after they helped rescue Annabelle’s increasingly mad uncle, inventor Cyrus Grant, and foiled a Russian plan to secure the moon and the alien Heart at its centre. But as series one closed, Annabelle was disheartened by her uncle’s deterioration, despite the support of Lieutenant George Bedford, first officer of the Royal Navy’s flagship HMAS Sovereign, and Nathanial was left to ponder his own future. He hopes that his actions on Luna will give his innocence some credence, but is concerned about the reception awaiting him on Earth… No one but he and Annabelle survived the destruction of Peregrine station, so who is behind the charges levied against him?

A view from a gantry…

Series two begins mere hours from where series one left off, with the series creator, Frank Chadwick, joining forces with series editor, Andy Frankham-Allen, to bring you a tour-de-force in Space: 1889 adventure!

The Stories

  1. Conspiracy of Silence by Andy Frankham-Allen & Frank Chadwick
  2. To Ceres by Steam by Paul Ebbs
  3. Leviathans of the Clouds by Steven Savile & David Parish-Whittaker
  4. The Forever Journey by Oli Smith
  5. A Fistful of Dust by Sharon Bidwell
  6. Horizons of Deceit by Jonathan Cooper

 

The Team

Series Editor, Andy Frankham-Allen (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Andy Frankham-Allen is a Welsh-born author of many short stories, both for Untreed Reads and the Big Finish’s official range of Doctor Who anthologies. In 2005 he co-authored the last in Noise Monster Productions range of Space 1889 audio dramas, and in early 2011 Untreed Reads published the first novel in his new real world dark fantasy series, The Garden, which was nominated for the Rainbow Award, Best Full-Length Supernatural Novel 2011. He continues to write short stories and novels, with upcoming projects including a novel in Crossroads Press’ Scattered Earth series, and non-fiction Doctor Who book for Candy Jar Publishing, as well the second book in The Garden series. On top of all that, he’s also the series editor for Space: 1889 & Beyond.

Series Creator, Frank Chadwick (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Frank Chadwick is no stranger to the Victorian science fiction field. He is the creator of the Space: 1889 universe, with the first in a series of role-playing adventures, board games, and miniatures rules appearing over twenty years ago. He is known throughout the gaming industry as one of its most prolific designers, with over a hundred published games. He is also well-known in the history and military affairs field, with over two hundred books, articles, and columns. His 1991 Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but he still lists steampunk as one of his first and greatest loves.  As well writing one and a half novels in the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, his forthcoming works include two novels with Baen Books, How Dark the World Becomes and The Forever Engine which is set in the Space: 1889 universe.

Paul Ebbs (author, To Ceres by Steam)

Paul Ebbs has written various Doctor Who related things for the BBC, Big Finish Productions and BBV, and as a TV writer he’s written for such notable shows as EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill and Dead Ringers.

Steven Savile (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

Steven Savile has written for Doctor Who, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder and other popular game and comic worlds. His novels have been published in eight languages to date, including the Italian bestseller L’eridita. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his Primeval novel, Shadow of the Jaguar, published by Titan, in 2010, and has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award on multiple occasions. Silver, his debut thriller reached #2 in the Amazon UK e-charts in the summer of 2011 selling over forty thousand copies in the process. He wrote the story for the huge international bestselling computer game Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release, and he served as head writer on the popular online children’s game SPINEWORLD which have over one million players. His latest books include Tau Ceti (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson), Each Ember’s Ghost and the novelisation of the computer game Risen 2: Dark Waters.

David Parish-Whittaker (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

David Parish-Whittaker was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest for emerging talent in speculative fiction for his short story A Warbird in the Belly of the Mouse.  He’s previously written tie-in fiction for the Rezolution miniatures ruleset by Aberrant Games, to be published in an upcoming anthology.  His short fiction has also appeared in Every Day Fiction.   He currently writes videogame analysis and reviews for Geekosophy and Bag of Games. When he’s not writing, David works as a captain for a national airline. In previous incarnations, he has been a naval flight officer, traffic watch pilot, glider tow pilot and aerobatic instructor.  He is a rated commercial glider pilot, and holds an H-2 hang glider rating.  In his off hours, he plays a replica medieval harp for the Goliards, an early music group specializing in 13th – 15th century music, mostly to cement his geek street cred.

Oli Smith spent two years as a freelance writer working on novels, audio books, comic strips and video games for the BBC series Doctor Who. Now he works as a creative producer for London-based video games company Mediatonic and spends his evenings playing board games. He still likes writing, retro sci-fi and RPGs so it looks like Space: 1889 has got him covered.

Oli Smith (author, The Forever Journey)

Sharon Bidwell was born in London on New Year’s Eve. The first short story she submitted — Silver Apples of the Moon— was accepted by Roadworks Magazine. The editor announced her as ‘a writer who is going places’ and described the story as having ‘both a Sci-fi and horror element,’ and being ‘strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style.’  With a repertoire of twisted tales and a love of cross-genre writing, it surprised everyone (including herself) when she branched out into erotic romance. These works have been critically acclaimed and often described as ‘deeply passionate’. Sharon’s worlds are vivid, unexpected and sometimes intensely magical. She is the author of the best-selling gay romances ‘Snow Angel‘ and the sequel ‘Angel Heart’. Sharon writes whatever her warped mind can come up with. Although her longer works to date mostly involve a variety of wonderful men finding true love…or at least some loving, she’s quite capable of writing something darker, grittier, and even outright twisted.

Sharon Bidwell (author, A Fistful of Death)
Jonathan Cooper (author, Horizons of Deceit)

Jonathan Cooper was born in Wolverhampton in 1981. He started his career in theatre, writing plays from the Birmingham REP and the King’s Head in Islington. He has written extensively on the web on film, TV, video games and other assorted geekery, including a stint producing reviews and opinion for Mirror.co.uk. He has written and produced two short films with another two in production and has had short stories published internationally – he is also, according to the BBC – one of the top 200 comedy writers in the UK. Horizons of Deceit is his first full-length science fiction piece, and he remains bizarrely proud of the day Steven Moffat threatened to set his eagles on him.

Adam Burn has been drawing from an early age, and has been working with digital art for at least seven of them. He is a freelance artist who has worked for Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games. He was, most recently, the Senior 2D Artist for Taitale Studios on their forthcoming MMORTS game, Novus Aeterno. Steampunk is a new genre for him, but one he’s finding his way around quickly, and he is responsible for the covers of series two, as well as the revamp of the Space: 1889 & Beyondlogo.

Adam Burn, cover designer

Exclusive: Conspiracy of Silence (prologue)

1.

“AETHER PROPELLOR SECURED and ventral mast shipped, sir.”

“Very good, Mister Barry.” Lieutenant George Bedford, acting captain of HMAS Sovereign, the most modern aether battleship in the Royal Navy, took a quick scan of the bridge instruments and engine room repeaters before turning back to the young sub-lieutenant. “At what would you estimate our drop, Mister Barry?”

Barry had only worn the single thick stripe of a sub-lieutenant for eight months and Bedford hadn’t known him as a midshipman. The youngster had a good level head on his shoulders, Bedford had learned that much about him several weeks earlier when the two of them had dropped half a dozen Saltators—giant lunar red ants—with revolver fire when the monsters had boiled unexpectedly out of the hatch of a cutter on the docking bay. His technical skills were another matter, but they were coming along.

Barry squinted through the lens of the horizontal inclinometer, aimed out the bridge’s starboard observation blister, consulted his pocket watch, waited ten seconds and took a second reading through the lens. He paused, doing the calculation in his head.

“I make the drop fifty-five fathoms per second, sir.”

Bedford nodded; he made it nearly the same. Fifty-five fathoms a second, a descent rate of almost four miles a minute, was a bit steep and on this trajectory would put them down in the North Atlantic instead of the English Channel, as well as scorch the lower hull. “Trimsman, let’s have fifteen percent buoyancy on the lifters.”

After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

“Fifteen percent buoyancy, aye, sir,” the petty officer answered and went to work on his forest of levers, each controlling the angle of one of the liftwood  louvers which covered much of Sovereign’s lower hull.

“Mister Barry, my compliments to Lieutenant Boswell and he may light the coal boilers at his discretion.”

“Sir.”

They wouldn’t have enough atmospheric oxygen for the boilers for another ten minutes or so, but Boswell, the chief engineer, knew that well enough. The sun was still visible above the curvature of the Earth and would remain so all the way down through cloud-free skies. Although it was not yet day in Southern England, the eastern sky would already be pink and the sun would rise full up in the hour their descent from orbit would take, racing as they were toward the dawn. The solar boilers would do until Boswell put the black gang to work, would probably suffice until the last ten minutes of the flight, when they would penetrate the near-permanent cloud and smoke cover over Greater London. No solar boiler yet made would work down under that grey-brown shroud.

Bedford took another look at the bridge, its gleaming brass instruments and polished mahogany panelling, and he sighed. In an hour, a bit more, Sovereign would be down and secure at Chatham Dockyard and his temporary command would end. There was no chance for a simple lieutenant with eight years seniority to land a permanent command such as this—the choicest command in the fleet, coveted by officers with two more stripes on their cuffs and with the all-important political backing and social standing he lacked. No, he would be reassigned. In the past he had always looked forward to a new assignment, but not this time. After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

More than that, she held memories. Were it not for his assignment to HMAS Sovereign, he would never have met and befriended Nathanial Stone, and would not now be delivering him to the police for trial as a traitor and saboteur. He would never have met Cyrus Grant, one of the greatest scientific minds of the age, now reduced to confusion and madness by their experiences on Luna. Most importantly, he would never have met Grant’s niece, Annabelle Somerset.

Annabelle…

2.

NATHANIAL WATCHED AS the line of Russian former captives was led to the steam omnibus waiting at dockside. The irony of their situation and his washed over him like a cold wave. Former enemies of Britain, they, along with British personnel, had been captured by the alien Drobates on Luna, and all had been rescued by Bedford’s daring raid, leading fewer than a dozen Royal marines and naval ratings. Now the Russians would be released, amidst much public fanfare, to the custody of the Russian ambassador, who would in turn express the heartfelt gratitude of the Tsar.

In the subsequent fighting which had nearly cost all of them their lives, the Russians had done nothing to help while Nathanial, with a captured Drobate electric rifle, had held a long, dim tunnel against an alien horde, and had done so nearly alone and with little expectation he would escape with his life. Now British soldiers helped the Russians into the steam omnibus, showed them every courtesy, while a quartet of hard-eyed constables marched purposely toward Nathanial, obviously intent on taking custody of him from the two Royal Marines who guarded him.

Nathanial had at least expected to be met by some sort of government official, have the charges explained. Instead a black police four-wheeler loomed behind the constables. Were they really simply going to pack him up and cart him off to prison with no further ado?

Nathanial looked for any sign of his friends. Captain Folkard, who had relieved himself of command of Sovereign after the disastrous events on Luna had played themselves out, was nowhere to be seen on the dock, but Nathanial spied Annabelle making her way to him on the arm of Lieutenant Bedford, both of them limping. Bedford had suffered a nasty sprain of his ankle on Luna and Annabelle… Months earlier Annabelle had lost her right leg above the knee and now wore a mechanical limb designed by Nathanial and built using Drobate technology over the course of the last few weeks. It seemed to serve her well, the only bright spot in this uniformly bleak scene.

“Is this Stone?” the leading constable asked.

“Of course it is,” Private Jones answered, bristling slightly. “And what of it, then?”

“It’s all right, Private,” Nathanial said. “It is clear enough they are here for me. If you gentlemen would be so good as to give me a moment to take my leave of my friends, I would appreciate it.” He addressed this last to the leading constable.

Instead the man gestured to his assistants. “Seize him and put him in the van.”

“No! Just a moment, please!” Nathanial entreated but to no avail.

Two constables pinned his arms to his side and pulled him toward the black carriage. A few yards away Annabelle cried out and broke free of Bedford, reached out to him. The leading constable made as if to stop her but Jones’s rifle was suddenly in his hands at high port.

“Touch the lady, friend, and you’ll be chokin’ on your teeth,” Jones growled and the constable took a step back.

“Nathanial,” Annabelle said and thrust something round, flat, and metallic into his hand, “take this and remember—never lose hope.”

The constables pulled him away and he saw George Bedford comforting Annabelle as the doors on the back of the van closed and plunged him into darkness. He looked at his hand and saw a small gold watch, gleaming dully in the faint light which entered through the overhead ventilator. He recognised it as the pocket watch her father had given her—which contained on its inside a daguerreotype of her deceased parents; the only thing she retained from that former life.

Never lose hope.

 

Once again…

So sorry, once again life got in the way and I was unable to post Writers’ Wednesday yesterday. Life, in this case being crazy early mornings for the day-job, and watching the re-imagined V. Been over twenty years waiting for this show to come back, and so it’s going to get a bit of a review from me soon. There is so much to love about it.

So, I shall therefore have a special post next week written by Sharon Bidwell.

In the meantime, I’d like to remind you all that this Saturday I’ll be starting my new eBook, Vampire Knights, on this very blog. It’ll be an exclusive, never printed anywhere else (although, that’s not to say it might one day), novel serialised weekly. So, that’s just two days away… be there!

Writers’ Wednesday #2: How Did That Happen?

Welcome to this week’s Writers’ Wednesday. I’d like to welcome Sharon Bidwell to my blog; she’s a relatively new friend, one of many author friends I’ve met via networking on Facebook, a quirky, funny woman who has a thing for grouting. She’ll say she doesn’t, but don’t believe her. It’s her first love. Her second love is writing, and she’s here to tell us just how she got into writing, and why…

How Did That Happen?
(Or: How I Came to Write All Sorts of Things, Including Gay Romance.)

Sharon Maria Bidwell

I always say I write as I read, meaning anything and everything. From the first time I picked up a book, I wanted to experience as many adventures as possible.To paraphrase a quote I once read (but alas, cannot remember to whom I should attribute it), “Why live one life when you can live thousands?” It amazes me to hear some people have read none of the classics. Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were my first ‘adventures’ at an age when I also read authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.

I started writing when I was sixteen, but never seriously. Some part of me wanted to, but if I ever made applicable ‘noises’, too many people sneered. I can’t say I actually listened to their scorn, but I was too busy with other things in my life and set it aside as many people do, as a dream to be realised one day or to prove unattainable. I continued to write, but years passed before I allowed others to read my work, and I have to admit the stories I showed them weren’t very good, even though those readers responded with sounds of encouragement. I have wondered whether they were biased and being kind, but looking back on those initial attempts, no matter how poor the writing, I realised I was still ‘storytelling’. The idea of being a storyteller harks back to the times when I was too young to read far more complex novels than would have been possible for my age, so I begged people to tell them to me.

I eventually studied a couple of writing courses, and subsequently began to submit to small press magazines. Many authors have started this way and I always joke that I had fewer rejections than Stephen King before a first acceptance. I’m not counting the dozen or so things I sent out prior to those courses. The internet didn’t exist back then; not many people owned computers; I hadn’t learned enough to be successful. Even those failures were returned often with positive comments, and any writer will tell you it’s unusual to receive a rejection where the editor has taken the time to add a personal note. That’s when I stopped sending things out until I had studied this pursuit of writing and found the best and correct way to submit to publishers. Consequently, the first story I sent out was accepted by the second publication I submitted it to. Even the magazine that initially rejected it pointed me to possible markets for its publication, so in a sense the story was an immediate success.

Since then I’ve had moderate success with short pieces, poems, short stories, and articles, both fact and fiction. The problem I faced was simple. When was I going to produce a longer work? I had projects, but nothing that was ready for publication. One can approach writing in one of two ways, by writing what one likes and trying to find a market for it, or writing with a specific market in mind.

I believe my main problem has always been one of my personal strengths – I write as I read, ‘anything and everything’. Much of my work crosses genres and that provides me with a rich world of storytelling, but work difficult to categorise can be difficult to place. There’s no point sitting around wishing for good fortune, so I decided if I wanted a longer work published, I was going to have to make it happen.

Now those who have seen my eclectic book collection wouldn’t be surprised to spot the occasional romance, but if they’d only read the darker short stories I like to write they might be surprised at where that decision led me. I’d read a couple of books by authors such as Angela Knight. This led me to discover Loose-Id who publishes sexy romances for women – very different romances from the type I had read as a teenager. (Please note: as a teenager I was reading romances as avidly as I was reading Stephen King and James Herbert – I have said my book collection is eclectic, and I’m not exaggerating). I thought, ‘I can do this’, just prior to mild panic when I accepted I had never written something so explicit. Even so, the motivation remained and I had nothing to lose by trying.

They rejected my first submission. On reflection, two of their reasons I agreed with, one I didn’t, still don’t, but that’s irrelevant. They were right to reject that book at the time. In a strange way, it gave me more confidence to believe what they were saying when I did manage to write a book they wanted to accept.

Squirming under the sting of rejection, I started reading in earnest, trying to study the market. I’d never previously considered writing romance, but I liked the variety of stories available, from vamps, shape-shifters, westerns, and sci-fi: if you could envision it, a book existed in the romance industry.

I grew increasingly frustrated. I wanted to write for Loose-Id, but I needed something special, something different. One of their books featured stories where two men loved one woman and each other, but that still hadn’t clicked in my head. Then I noticed that m/m (man on man) books began to appear with increasing frequency. I read one and loved it. It was my first true experience of a gay romance outside of more mainstream books. The love scenes were very much part of the story and just plain fun. The snappy dialogue appealed and would influence the way my characters spoke.

If I were struggling to write an explicit hetero romance, how did I think I was going to write a gay one? It started with a vague idea with no real direction or richness to it. I pictured a man sitting on a bench and a thief creeping up on him. I had no idea as to their identity or sexuality. A few days later I came across the name ‘Shavar, meaning Comet’ and suddenly I knew who the man was and why he sat there, seeking peace and solitude. I had found the perfect story because it swept me up in it. I wrote the draft in about eight weeks starting in June one year. I had subbed it by the beginning of the following year, received a request for the full manuscript within two days, and had it contracted a month later. The Swithin Chronicles 1: Uly’s Comet appeared the following August.

While the first manuscript was shelved awaiting my personal edit, another idea came to me, this time for a m/m contemporary work. I was able to work on it totally focused with no interruptions, and as it has a largely winter setting, writing it during winter seemed appropriate. I wrote it because, again, I had a story that nagged at me, but in the back of my mind I tried not to hope and told myself Uly’s Comet would be rejected. I needed another work lined up to send in when it was. That book became Snow Angel, my most successful work to date. I’d just finished that when Uly’s Comet was contracted… and the publisher asked if the ‘comet’ book were to be a series.

Panic. I had never envisioned it as more than an isolated book. I had never envisioned writing more than one gay romance. Imagine the contrasting and sometimes hilarious reactions when telling your family and friends you have had a book contracted, and then having to explain that not only is it an explicit romance, but a gay explicit romance; not only that – the publisher wants more of the same. I know in a perfect world it shouldn’t matter, but I had jumped in the deep end without the ability to swim… or so I thought.

This time I didn’t have to search for a story – books two and three came to me. I understood these characters so well, the biggest headache was making sense of the hundreds of notes, some amounting to only a single sentence, scribbled on whatever I had to hand: even on napkins and toilet paper. I can laugh at that and now always carry a notebook with me, but my head was so full of these stories that even snippets of conversation would just pop into my head when least convenient. As for any possible embarrassment, if in doubt, brazen it out. I was proud of my work and willing to say so.

I never set out to write gay romances or to be a spokesperson for equal rights, although I quickly realised I had a perfect opportunity and little option but to stand for my beliefs. I have no agenda, but it’s obvious that anyone capable of recognising emotions are universal believes in equality. I was also to discover that the reasons why women write and read gay romances were as varied as the authors and books available, but to cover that topic would take another blog entry.

I envisioned a race that freely took lovers of either sex, in a society where, as long as no one was hurting anyone else, people lived as they pleased. The ultimate Utopia? No, for there are still those who will harm others for political reasons and power.

The trilogy is at heart m/m romance (I should say m/m/m romance) but there are a few m/f scenes that may lead people to believe otherwise. By the end of book three all becomes clear, but book one can be read as a standalone novel. One can also read from book two, but if one reads book two the chances are curiosity will make the reader look at book three. The sex is also more explicit, and there are more intimate scenes in books two and three, and the pace is faster, but book one was needed very much to set the stage and it was my first romance novel. I still love that book, even though one day I will likely subject it to a ruthless edit.

Someone described my Swithin ‘comet’ books as prince and the pauper crossed with Arabian nights. I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a fun comparison. Markis, the Swithin Prince, not only has two men in his life but a princess, and the reason is simple. Markis is a prince and needs to marry. However, there’s no need to think of them as a true quartet and my little princess finds her own kind of happiness by the end of book three, I promise. As well as the trilogy, there are to date three Swithin Spins and there may be more in the future. This series is particularly special to me because if it weren’t for that first novel my father would never have seen a longer work of mine published before he died, and that is priceless!

Reading influences would be too many to mention, and none are exactly direct. Mostly, they are works that have sat in the back of my mind where small pieces have come together to create something new and whole when I had the right story for it – stories that helped me explore a vivid and contrasting landscape. Team all this with a visit to Italy and I had the scope to create a rich background and setting. The world of the Swithin is a mix of Arabian and Mediterranean influences. Think of crisp white marble, terracotta tiles, fairytale castles, pale desserts, soaring cliffs, and deep valleys filled with rich and abundant foliage (all things you’ll find in Italy) and you’ll begin to glimpse their world. This is offset by poorer districts with muddy bandit-infested alleys, but this isn’t the world of the Swithin, merely parts of a planet on which they live.

Take a race who freely takes lovers of either sex, a prince with a problem, his personal guard who loves him and manipulates him for his ‘own good’ without apology, a princess who needs rescuing from a backward nation, a war to avoid, and throw a street thief into the mix to steal the prince’s heart. There you have Uly’s Comet, the first of the Swithin trilogy, and the first of many gay romances I’ve written. I don’t intend to abandon the other genres I love, and those twisted stories many know me for, but I will always follow a story wherever it leads me, even if it does leave some people wondering, “How did that happen?”

For a taste of the Swithin world you’re welcome to read a short story on my website: (Please note: the events in this story happen between Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 of the novel, The Swithin Chronicles 1: Uly’s Comet); At What Moment.

A whole host of Sharon’s work can be purchased at Loose-id.

Text © 2010 Sharon Maria Bidwell
Covers © 2010 Loose-id, All Rights Reserved