Tabbernant : Old Blue on Blue Eyes :Portrait #3


He has never been able to simply do as he was told Tabbernant has always wanted to know why he was doing what he was ordered to do. This is a problem in a society based on the instant obedience of military discipline. So, Tabbernant believes he will end his career as an Officer, the way he begun it, as an Ensign.
This does not bother Tabernant, as shrew investments as a Venture Capitalist have made him one of the richest people in the Tree.  He plans on sitting back and enjoying his upcoming retirement.

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Keltonnant : Portrait #2


Major Keltonnant, Sharlensya’s uncle from the Trunk. He is the Winter Squad’s doctor. He pretends to be gruff and businesslike, but everybody knows he is a big hearted and generous person underneath.

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Science Fiction Conventions 1986 – 2013

At ArmadaCon 23 in November 2011, I marked a quarter of a Century since I started attending Science Fiction Conventions. Last year, ArmadaCon itself celebrated its silver jubilee. So here is the to update this list of conventions I have attendended, and would again, if given the chance.


Science Fiction Conventions 1986 – 2013

Novacon 16 : De Vere Hotel, Coventry
Santacon IV : Viking Hotel, York (Multimedia)


Galactacon IV : Shepperton Moat House, Shepperton, Surrey. (Multimedia)

Novacon 17 : Royal Angus Hotel, Birmingham.
Leisure Hive : Wiltshire Hotel, Swindon. (“Doctor Who“)
Necroninecon (Shoestringcon 9) : Hatfield Polytechnic, Hatfield.


Honeycomb : Wiltshire Hotel, Swindon. (“Doctor Who”)
Falcon : Hilton National Hotel, Bath. (“Doctor Who”)
Concert : Stakis Regency Hotel, Edinburgh. (Multimedia)


Elydore III : Shepperton Moat House, Shepperton. (Multimedia)
Carousel I : Holiday Inn, Cardiff. (“Doctor Who“)
Shang-ri-la : Reading. (“Doctor Who”)


Carousel II : Holiday Inn, Cardiff. (“Doctor Who”)
Confiction (48th World Science Fiction Convention) : Het Nationaal Congresgebouw, ‘sGravenhagen, Nederland.
Concussion : Central Hotel, Cardiff. (Multimedia)

Reconnaissance: Park Hotel, Cardiff.
Speculation (42nd National Science Fiction Convention) : Hospitality Inn, Glasgow.
Touchwood : Shepperton Moat House, Shepperton. (Multimedia)


Lucon IV : Leeds University Students Union, Leeds.
Inconsequential : Aston Court Hotel, Derby. (Humorous S.F.)
Magicon (50th World Science Fiction Convention) : Orange County Conference Centre, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.


Helicon (44th National Science Fiction Convention) : Hotel de France, St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands
SmofCon 10 : Hotel de France, St. Helier, Jersey, C.I. (Conrunning)
Panopticon ’93 : Novotel Hammersmith, Hammersmith, London. (“Doctor Who“)
Con-Yak (Beneluxcon #19) : Hotel Mercure aan de Amstel, Amsterdam, Nederland.


Inconceivable (Inconsequential II) : Tudor Court Hotel, Drayton, nr Long Eaton, Derbyshire. (Humorous SF)
Wincon III : King Alfred’s College, Winchester.
Armardacon : Astor Hotel, Plymouth. (Predominantly “Star Trek”)

Confabulation (46th National Science Fiction Convention) : Britannia International Hotel, London.
Intersection (53rd World Science Fiction Society) : Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre, Glasgow, Scotland.


Evolution (49th National Science Fiction Convention) : Raddison Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London
Inconsistent (Inconsequential III) : Quality Scotch Corner Hotel, Outside Darlington. (Humorous SF)
Novacon 26 : Ibis Hotel, Birmingham.


Intuition (49th National Science Fiction Convention)


2Con (51st National Science Fiction Convention) : Central Hotel. Glasgow
ArmadaCon 12 : Copthorne Hotel, Plymouth (Multimedia)


Nocturnal 3K : Raddison Edwardian, Heathrow, London (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Armadacon 13 : Copthorne Hotel, Plymouth (Multimedia)


South : Raddison Edwardian, Heathrow, London (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Armadacon : Copthorne Hotel, Plymouth (Multimedia)


The Harvest : Paragon Hotel, Earls Court, London (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Construction : Hanover International, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff (World Con Planning)
Armadacon 15 : Copthorne Hotel, Plymouth (Multimedia)


Concourse (55th British National Science Fiction Convention) : The Winter Gardens, Blackpool.
Armadacon 16 : Copthorne Hotel, Plymouth (Multimedia)


Interaction (63rd World Science Fiction Convention) : Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre, Glasgow, Scotland.


Regenerations 2006 : Swansea Marriot, Swansea Marina, Swansea (Doctor Who)
Armadacon 18 : Plymouth Novotel Hotel, Marshmills, Plymouth (Multimedia)


Regenerations 2007 : Swansea Marriot, Swansea Marina, Swansea (Doctor Who)


Regenerations 09 : Swansea Village Inn, Fabian Way, Swansea (Doctor Who)


Regenerations 10 : Swansea Village Inn, Fabian Way, Swansea (Doctor Who)


ArmadaCon 23 : Future Inn, William Prance Avenue, Crownhill, Plymouth (Multimedia)


ArmadaCon 24 : Future Inn, William Prance Avenue, Crownhill, Plymouth (Multimedia)


ArmadaCon 25 : Future Inn, William Prance Avenue, Crownhill, Plymouth (Multimedia)

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Sharlensya : A Face to Launch Many Thousands of Words #1

I have always known what my characters look like.  In the first draft of Winter Squad, I included long descriptions of each character. The problem I found was that they slowed the pace of the story telling, putting the reader’s imagination into a strait jacket. So they were edited out by the third draft, and instead I included only the briefest of descriptions, feeding the readers imagination and letting it run wild.


However, I would still like people to have a better understanding of my original vision.  The picture to the right was drawn by Welsh comic bock artist Mike Collins at the 2013 Cardiff International Comics and Animation Expo.  It is based on the rough photoshopped image I showed him.  They say that imitation is the greatest compliment, so I have made this picture as the starting point of all the pictures in this series of drawings.  It gave me a structure to work within and to embelish.  I hope Mr. Collins approves.

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Upcoming Event : Book Signing 21-DEC-13

So, it is almost Christmas, and I have one big publicity event before the big day.  On 21st December, I shall be selling copies of my novel Winter Squad at The Comic Guru in Cardiff. This is my friend Kristian Barry’s business, on Wood Street, bang next door to Cardiff Central railway station and bus station.  Kris is one of my oldest friends, I have known him since the 1980′s. This is probably going to be the biggest publicity event so far, with an advert on Facebook and a poster in the shop’s window.

I am glad Kris agreed to this signing for two reasons.

  1. The last Saturday before Christmas, so Cardiff will be full of people doing their last minute gift shopping.
  2. In the novel, the Winter Solstice is New Year’s Eve, so having an event on that day works well.

Last month I made my annual trip down to Plymouth for ArmardaCon, which was celebrating its Silver Jubilee this year. I had a table in the Dealer’s Room and sold twelve copies to attendees.  When asked if I was working on a sequel, I said that I was, and then said that it would be finished ready for launch at next year’s ArmadaCon 26.  So, I have a busy few months ahead of me.

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An Universe That Awesome

capaldi as caeciliusWhen it was first rumoured that Peter Capaldi had been cast as Doctor#12, a friend on the Outpost Wrinkly web forum dismissed the idea, on the grounds that we did not live in an Universe that awesome.  Well apparently we do, as three weeks ago, it was announced that the Scottish actor would take over the keys of the TARDIS from Matt Smith at Christmas. This marks the return of an older Doctor, which I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised about.  After casting Matt Smith, the youngest person ever to play The Doctor, the pendulum would inevitably swing the other way.  Although to be honest, I was a bit surprised by how far the other way it has swung. At 55 years old, Peter Capaldi is the same age today as William Hartnell was in 1963.  When he actually starts filming, it will be after his 56th Birthday, which will make him the oldest actor ever to play The Doctor. And for most of that life, he has been a fan of Doctor Who, a proper fanzine writing fan of Doctor Who. As you can see from the photo on the left, this is not the first time he has appeared in Doctor Who as in 2008 he played a fictional version of  the Roman merchant Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in The Fires of Pompeii.  Also he has appeared in the spin off series Torchwood playing the doomed civil servant John Frobisher.

I suppose these days, everyone immediately thinks of the foul mouthed spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker from the television series The Thick of It and the movie In the Loop.  However he is such a versatile actor, I am sure his version of the Doctor will banish that vive character into the history books.  Capaldi is also a writer and an Oscar winning director, (1995 Academy Award for Best Director of a Short Feature for  Franz Kafka: Its a Wonderful Life). He is going to be far to busy playing The Doctor to direct an episode, but I wonder if he will be the first actor to write and star in an episode of Doctor Who.

It seems to be something of a tradition that the title sequence of Doctor Who change in the last series of the incumbent star’s time  as The Doctor. Back in 1973, the Time Tunnel and diamond logo was introduced at the start of Pertwee’s swansong. Back in 1980, as Tom Baker was calling it quits, the starfield with neon logo was introduced. This is again the case with Matt Smith, when The Doctor’s face in the titles was re-introduced. Given current budgetary conditions, it will be unlikely that, apart from his face, they will change much for Peter Capaldi. 
But before we see Mr. Capaldi in action, there is still the Fiftieth Anniversary episode on 23rd November, followed by Matt Smith’s swansong on Christmas Day.

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This afternoon saw the official launch of my novel Winter Squad.  I had arranged to use the new Meetings Room at Treorchy Library.  When I arrived, forty five minutes before the event was due to start, the room was laid out for a meeting, with the two tables running down the middle, ten chairs around them, and the rest stacked in a corner.  So I rearranged the furniture, so that there was a table I would be sitting at, with copies of my book, at the front of the room, and chairs arranged theatre style in facing me.  Then a table at the back with a kettle and tea and coffee making facilities. 

When I made the arrangement, I forgot that both my sisters and their family would be away on holiday.  They won't be happy that they missed this, as they have been so supportive during the writing process, but once booked, it was impossible to un-book. There was a fundamental reason I wanted to hold the official launch today. Exactly two years ago today I started writing Winter Squad, or as it was then known the Y.A.N. or Young Adult Novel.  I soon realized that whilst the 14-24 year old demographic was the main market for the story, it would have to have a wide appeal, which is why it soon became known as the N.Y.A.N, the Not-so Young Adult Novel, before the working title of In the Tree of Life was settled upon. 

Although the advertised start time was 2pm, by the time everyone had arrived, it was closer to 2.20pm. This was the first event to be held in the new facility, and sixteen people, including myself were present. The plan had been to start with a reading of the first chapter, then I would talk a little, then another reading, followed by a Question and Answer Session.  The funny thing is, when I was practicing the reading, I got it right every time, the presence of a live audience was more of a shock than I imagined, as I stumbled a couple of times during the reading of the first .  True it was the longer of the two, and I was going in cold, by the time I was reading the first half of chapter three, I had warmed up and only stumbled the once. 

So my first event as an author under my belt, I am very happy.

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On the  morning of 31st July, 2013, at 8.38am, I authorized my novel for publication via Amazon’s CreateSpace service.  This was the paperback edition, 390 pages in total, ninety eight thousand words filling those pages.  A few days later on 5th August, the Kindle eBook version went live as did the hardback edition, produced via the Lulu print on demand service.  All these different editions come under the banner of the TIMELESS Press.

As I have said in an earlier article, I started writing the novel back in 2011, whilst I was on holiday with my family, on a cruise of the Western Mediterranean aboard the MS Grand Princess.  The ship was docked in Livorno harbour.  I was staying aboard that day, as I had for most of the previous ports of call.  This was meant to be a nice relaxing break.  Well, that was the plan, but things rarely go to plan, and the first few chapters of the first draft of the novel just came together, and more importantly so did the structure for the rest of the novel.

The novel itself took about nine months to write.  Editing another nine months.  Then came the search for a publisher and three separate rejections.  Then I chanced upon the Amazon CreateSpace website, and a whole new chapter opened.

 I was determined to make sure that the novel looked as professional as possible.  CreateSpace offer free ISBNs for books they publish.  But apart from tying my novel permanently to the Amazon Group, the sight of a CreateSpace ISBN would not look very professional.  Hence the creation of  the TIMELESS Press.  A block of ten ISBNs was purchased from Nielsen, the UK ISBN registrar, for the local SF Fan Group TIMELESS.  The various editions of my novel would use three of them, the remainder would be available to any member of TIMELESS, who having written a book that is of a high enough standard to be published via CreateSpace.

During the 1990′s I used a desktop publishing package on my old RiscPC to produce The Oracle the news letter for TIMELESS’ predecessor  SF fan group SF Fantasy Cardiff, so I knew a little about layout and design. About leading and kerning and how to make something look good on a printed page.  I chose the DTP package Scribus to lay out the novel. Should anyone else in the group wish to use the TIMELESS Press, then I will lay their manuscript out using the templates I have developed.

The font I chose is one of the Century family of fonts.  Century Schoolbook is a legible and clear serifed font that look good on the page.  Well all Century fonts look good on the page, but for me Century Schoolbook is the best of the best. The paperback edition has the type set to 10.5 points with leading set to 12 points.  The hardback edition has the type set to 11 point and the leading set to 14 point.  If you are scratching your head wondering what a point is, it is a measurement used in printing where an inch is subdivided into seventy two units called points.  Adobe chose to use points when it developed its desktop publishing software, and it has become a standard in computers as well as publishing.

novel cover artworkbackcoverAlthough the real fun came with the design of the cover.  At least twenty layers containing different elements went into the production of the cover artwork.  My aim was to use as many colours of Autumn leaves as possible.

The first thing I created was the tree in the centre.  This artwork was created for pleasure, whilst I was on holiday last year, in the same lounge aboard the MV Grand Princess that I used to write the first draft of the novel.  When it became apparent that I needed to design the cover for publication, using this image was obvious. It started as the silhouette  of  an apple tree in Winter, which I cut in half and flipped, to give it the symmetrical shape.  Then to emphasise the multiple realities the novel is set in, I overlaid half the tree with a golden circuit board pattern generated by the GIMP, the software I was using. I did the same to the silhouette of a root system.  The  image of a Winter sunset that forms the background for the tree was a picture of clouds taken with the camera on my mobile phone, then suitably processed.  A small section of this image was then coloured various shades of brown for use as the soil behind the roots.  The grass was a thin slither of the soil image, edited into another layer and processed with various GIMP filters until it looked green and spiky.

I knew that the picture of the Tree would only be part of the cover.  I decided to use a red leaf about to fall from the tree as the next element.  The veining on the cover was achieved by  taking a photograph of a leaf,  applying a desaturation filter to make it black and white and then removing the white background to create a transparent mask.  This was then stretched until it could cover an oblong the size of the final cover. The Colour Gradient tool was used to create various shades of yellow in the veining. I then created the background.  I used  the colour gradient tool again to achieve different shades of red on a large blank oblong, then dropped the veining as a layer on top.  By merging down the two layers, I had created the desired background for all the other elements.

The text on the front cover is again Century Schoolbook, but coloured various shades of light blue using the Colour Gradient tool.  The 3D effect was created using the Motion Blur filter in GIMP, then duplicating the layer this created  many times, to give it body. Finally, the blurb was typed onto an opaque yellow background which when dropped onto red veined background created  an orange effect, thus giving the cover the desired spread of autumnal colours.

The final stage came when I saw the proof copy of the paperback edition.    I decided to put a line drawing of a leaf above the chapter headings, to make them more visually interesting.  Then as the chapters are arranged into parts one, two, three, four and five, I took the image of the Tree from the front cover and made a simple black and white version of that, with no distractions to go one the title page of of each of theses sections.

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Phish Phingers

Welcome back everybody.   This web log has been temporarily unavailable due to vital maintenance work. This of course had to happen when I wanted to update it for the first time in months, but as I said, it was unavoidable vital maintenance., the company that hosts this web log and my web domain informed there was a problem, and put a block on the domain. A person or persons unknown had hacked this web log, and where using my bandwidth for nefarious purposes.  They were trying to obtain bank details from the unwary by generating spoof emails that appear to be from banks.  This is usually called Phishing, as the criminal is fishing for information.

The problem is, as you can see now resolved.  I deleted the files that had been inserted into the web log software, all with genuine sounding names, but not genuine functions.  Justhost then gave the site a clean bill of health, and reactivated it.

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Brighter Days Ahead

Last night I walked home from work in Treorchy Library whilst it was still daylight when I got home.  A definite sign that things are on the up.  It is hard to believe that on Tuesday morning there was heavy snow and it seemed as if Winter would never go away.  Yes, I know it is still Winter, and will be for the next five weeks, but at least I can start looking forward to better things.

Today I went out and had a look at my garden for the first time.  There is still not an awful lot that I can do out there.  However, I raked the lawn, removing the old leaves and assorted debris which has accumulated there.  The lawn is shrugging off the strictures of its first Winter and looks ready to grow even more vigorously this year.  Of course it is more of a yellow green than I would like, but it is still winter.  If it remains dry, I might give it its first dose of fertilizer of the year.

I also swept the path, upper and  lower patio.  Despite the lousy weather, the moss has once more established itself on the  patio slabs and the patio furniture is looking the worse for wear.   It looks as if I am going to have to get a pressure washer and clean them.  I would really like to get some new furniture this Summer.  Also I must get an arch for the climbing rose at the bottom of my path.  It has established itself on the trellis that is currently supporting it, but needs more.

Its so nice to be able to go outside and not return indoors frozen.

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