A collection of comments, views and snippets that inform my writing...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

North Korea Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Enters Japan's Air Defence Space

North Korea just tested another submarine-launched ballistic missile, #SLBM, attracting international condemnation. There is a question about whether the missile test was wholly successful, but what is certain is that the missile entered Japan’s air defence space. South Korea is carrying out increased public safety and air defence drills. I write about it in ‘Sword of Allah’ launching September 19th.

What will China do? North Korea is a useful lever for China, because it gives China something - leverage - which it can trade with the West. The issue of the Spratly Islands - over which China recently lost a case in the Court of Arbitration - is a case in point. So, freedom of the high seas or North Korea toeing the line. Get the picture?


SLBMs and a claimed nuclear fusion bomb test on February is raising the stakes in this sensitive region. Full story at CNN

Friday, August 19, 2016

Chinese Launch Mozi Quantum Communications Satellite

China has just announced the launch of a 600 kg test satellite in the mission called 'Mozi' (after the Chinese philosopher). Potentially uncrackable cryptographic communications could be the result of this research. The project budget is said to be in excess of $100 billion, but how many satellites that means is unclear. What is disturbing is why they feel the need for such expensive communications infrastructure. I've long been concerned about Chinese global ambitions, and wrote about them in 'Gate of Tears', 'Sicilian Channel', and now 'Sword of Allah' (launching 19 September). What on earth would the Chinese have to do with Islamists? How about Africa?

China's quantum communications satellite launches
Photo credit: Jin Liwang/Xinhua/Eyevine

More here at the New Scientist ...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

'Sword of Allah' Book Cover

At last, the cover for my next thriller 'Sword of Allah' has been finalised. Book 2 in my 'Maghreb Trilogy' it is bang up to the minute - and beyond - building on the amazing political and military events of the last six months - and of of course on events in 'Sicilian Channel' - the first in the Maghreb Trilogy.

Launching September 19th!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's Happening between China and North Korea?

Well, what is happening in the Far East? The South China Morning Post reports today that a senior North Korean diplomat (that's an oxymoron) has made a sudden visit to meet the Chinese President.

Chinese expansionism is one of the themes of my novel 'Gate of Tears' and also 'Sicilian Channel', and North Korea also comes into the picture in my thriller 'The Sword of Allah' due for release in the autumn this year. In January 2016, North Korea claimed the successful testing of a hydrogen bomb. The jury is still out on this but the verdict is expected to be 'false claim' - but what if the claim really did hold merit?

It's clear that China sees Kim Jong-un as an ally (keep your friends close etc.) but must be somewhat teed off by his F you attitude to much of the rest of the world. Just how long the Kim family can keep the lid on the hotpot of North Korea is anyone's guess, but Xi Jinping (who looks like a nice guy) must be getting sorely fed up with this lot in Pyongyang.

Watch out for my take in 'Sword of Allah' later this year, and be careful what you wish for!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Monty Python and BBC Bias

The BBC is starting to undergo change as a result of commercial and other pressures. I did think that 11,000 food recipes was over the top – that particular cake was over-egged , so to speak. Nevertheless, there are other reasons for change, and one of the arguments has been that the BBC is biased.

One of this morning’s Radio 4 items was almost Python-esque. ‘What has Brussels done for us?’

Today it was ‘Clean Sea Water’. Now I admit I haven’t heard the whole series of broadcast pieces, but this piece dredged up Margaret Thatcher’s battle with Brussels over sewage in our sea water.

Clean sea water is an admirable achievement, but do we really believe that if we had not joined the EU we would still be swimming in sewage, and that bathers would be ‘going through the motions’ in today’s UK seas? After all there is an international convention against dumping at sea (!) Joking aside, despite the EU, the city of Milan is still struggling to reduce pollution of the River Po.

Given the current pre-Brexit referendum fervour, I am wondering whether there will be any balancing news items in the next broadcast.

So, apart from clean sea water, what did Brussels do for us?
  • Shaped our bananas?
  • Renamed our ‘manholes'
Yes, they may be myths, but the debate about BBC bias is surely not a myth - arguably!

How to Make a Book Video Trailer

I've had some great comments about my latest book video trailer for 'Sicilian Channel', so I thought I'd share the process with you. I've written about it on my author website here

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is China Rebranding Itself?

Source: South China Morning Post
I keep an eye on events in China - Chinese expansionism is one of the underlying themes of 'Gate of Tears' and 'Sicilian Channel'. So, I read the South China Morning Post from time to time. The SCMP used to be one of Rupert Murdoch's organs but is now owned by the Alibaba Group - one of the world's largest internet conglomerates.

Why did I check the ownership? I checked because today's edition is doing a 'drains up' on the Cultural Revolution, which started 50 years ago, and I wondered why the SCMP would dredge it up. The SCMP is Hong Kong based - that is, within the People's Republic. The story included the fact that 1.7 million Chinese were killed during the 10 year upheaval (official death toll). The SCMP has interviewed former Red Guards and rebels for the story.

So, is this story driven by Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba and a very rich man) or is it driven from elsewhere - i.e. within the Chinese Government? Let's face it, they both need each other - Alibaba was founded on providing a sales portal for Chinese business, and China needs the trade to fuel its growth. Symbiosis. Therefore, one cannot but help conclude that the current Chinese Government is disowning the Cultural Revolution in a very big way.

Today's issue also reports a speech by China’s President Xi Jinping, saying that "Academics must remake Marxism for 21st century".

It is clear that China's rebranding of itself is continuing apace, and although its growth has slowed to 6% it will surely overtake the US in the next decade. The forecast for 2016 from the IMF is that China will have  a GDP of $12 trillion, as against $19 trillion for the US.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sicilian Channel Now Launched!

10th May was hectic, getting all the launch details sorted. At least this time I have developed a book launch plan (MS Project 2010) - 200 tasks! Next time should be easier - and the launch of 'Sword of Allah' is not that far away - 110 days and counting...

Just one scary hiccup today - with all the recent online activity, press releases and publicity, some b##### piggy-backed my email and started spamming, causing a temporary site suspension. If you have been troubled, please accept my apologies.

If you are reading 'Sicilian Channel' then here's another picture I took while in Tabarka, Tunisia, from the mediaeval Genoves fort:


Monday, May 9, 2016

Sicilian Channel Video Trailer - Now!

One day to launch, and the video trailer for Sicilian Channel is now up! Had great fun putting this together. I have to say that the sound track is a really great piece of rock - thanks to Peter Baker at Songnet.co.uk.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sicilian Channel - Just One Week before Launch!

One week to go, so much to do...finalising the video trailer and podcast scripting, storyboard and image collection. We'll get there!

Here's a here's a surveillance shot of psychopath Maruška Pavkovic taken in Malta - and she's carrying...

If you want to know more about her, just click the pic.


Maruska surveillance picture

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sicilian Channel - Theme Music - Victim of a Miracle

Just agreed the theme music for Sicilian Channel (launching May 10). Great voice, reminds me of Bonnie Tyler. IMHO good enough for Bond theme.

Victim of a Miracle
Artist: Christina Anderssen
With words by Chris Breen of www.lyrico.co.uk and music by Peter Baker of www.songnet.co.uk, this powerful pop/rock song has hidden meanings...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sicilian Channel - the Submarine

In Sicilian Channel (launching May 10 2016), there is mention of an old submarine. It doesn't feature in the story - it's just there, but this is right where much of the action takes place. And it's a real sub! Here's one of the research pictures I took:


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mediterranean Tensions

Recently, when I was researching Sicilian Channel I was waiting at a bus stop in Malta. Eventually a bus arrived and stopped, queue moves to board. A man - Somali/Eritrean/Ethiopian, I would judge - entered the queue from the wrong side. The bus driver told him to get off the bus and join the queue in an orderly fashion. Man swears at bus driver and continues into bus (has shown a valid ticket).

Bus driver sees red, tells man he needs to learn manners to stay in Malta, orders man off bus. Man refuses. Huge argument. I am now alongside the driver waiting to pay my fare. Driver phones police and argument continues, engine  switched off.

Fortunately another bus arrived and I changed buses. As I sat down the man in question boarded the same bus. He obviously decided not to wait for the police.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sicilian Channel Book Cover

I can't believe a year has passed! I've been busy completing Sicilian Channel and the cover is now ready. Publication is slated for May10th. So, here's the cover!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Isaac Asimov on Creativity

Interested in the creative process? Are you a writer or an inventor? Well, it seems that the creative process works better for those who work alone. During some recent book research I came across the process of being innovative in an organisation using the SIT (systematic inventive thinking) process and teams. Its is apparently a widely used technique, but seems to conflict with Asimov's ideas.

Although written in 1959, Asimov's insights still carry a lot of weight.

So, does creativity work better for solos or for teams. What do you think?


Full Asimov essay here at MIT Technology Review

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Best Tongue Twister

What's your favorite tongue twister?

Try this after a glass of vino:

Theophilus Thistler the thistle sifter
Whilst sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles
Thrust three thousand thistles
Through the thick of his thumb.

Try this after a glass of vino:

Theophilus Thistler the thistle sifter
Whilst sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles
Thrust three thousand thistles
Through the thick of his thumb.
Try this after a glass of vino:

Theophilus Thistler the thistle sifter
Whilst sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles
Thrust three thousand thistles
Through the thick of his thumb.
Try this after a glass of vino:

Theophilus Thistler the thistle sifter
Whilst sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles
Thrust three thousand thistles
Through the thick of his thumb.
Try this after a glass of vino:

Theophilus Thistler the thistle sifter
Whilst sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles
Thrust three thousand thistles
Through the thick of his thumb.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Do you Keep a Character Book?

Strange people make great characters!

I was stuck in a traffic jam today and thought about a guy I met last week. He had an interesting work history, and gave me the idea for a character for future 'use' in one of my novels. I thought about making a few notes about him so that I would not forget - my memory is far from being as good as it used to be.

Then I remembered another guy I'd done some work for, and he was borderline mad - there were many aspects of his character manifested in strange behaviours (such as having seven separate washing baskets for his different types of clothes). There are several other such characters in my memory (and yes, I guess, a few I have forgotten).

So, I think I will open a book so that I can record these details so that I do not forget them. It said that you should write about what you know - I'm just afraid I'll forget what I did know. Does anyone else keep such a character book?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Felinfoel Ales - a Memory of Home

#amwriting today on the subject of microbreweries as part of a side project, and today I came across this in Wikipedia :

FelinfoelBreweryDragon.jpg
"FelinfoelBreweryDragon" by WyrdLight.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A great memory of my home town and drinking underage in the George (now demolished - I think it was a Buckleys House) and the Prince's Head (Felinfoel Ales).

Now that's what I call book research!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

MH370 - What a Book Plot!

Creating a tight plot for a techno-thriller can be extremely demanding and many are clearly inspired by real events. Sometimes reality, or at least an interpretation of it, can present a far more intricate plot than most writers could ever conceive.

I've just been reading an article on NYMag.com in which Jeff Wise, a science and technology writer, has reviewed all the data and the possible aircraft trajectories.

The article is packed with data facts relating to the incident, most of which are undisputed. However, in the absence of the black box flight recorders the field is still wide open for conspiracy theorists. The conspiracy spectrum ranges from alien abduction to suicide bombers and a deliberate US airforce downing of the aircraft.

In the article, Wise leads us neatly through his thought process, the analysis of the data and the events (or at least as much as have been disclosed publicly). He argues convincingly that the Malaysian Air Boeing 777, flight number MH370, was in fact hijacked by agents of the Russian State when it disappeared from radar over a year ago.

He suggests that it ended up in Kazakhstan - probably in the Baikonur Cosmodrome. You may remember that Central Asia was mentioned as a possible destination very early in the search - within 48 hours, I recall. Although I have worked in Kazakhstan, I didn't get very far outside Almaty (or Alma Ata as it was then known).

The whole sequence of events which he proposes is close to the fantastical, but just possible. Normally, I would get Occam's Razor out and start slashing, but on this occasion I will leave it in the drawer. Perhaps the simplest explanation is not the correct one.

From a book plot point of view, if I'd had the genius to devise this there are a couple of aspects which I would not be entirely comfortable with. Would a writer ever let a minor plot detail get in the way of a good story?

The full NYMag story is here

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Susan's Brother Website

I'm pleased to say thay the website for Susan's Brother has now been launched.

The site includes some background on how society's views of child neglect and emotional abuse have changed since World War 2, together with some material on special schools of the time.

I've also included an article about the challenges of writing a biography.

Tell me what you think - I think the design is clean and simple. The site is at www.susansbrother.com