Apologies I haven’t been writing much on this blog recently, however that’s not to say I haven’t been writing – I’ve just chosen to make writing books the priority over writing blog posts, which I hope people understand. In fact, I am very pleased to say that I’ve just completed the first draft of my fourth novel, The Electric Detective. And this has been a long time coming, let me tell you. I started it in 2011, wrote 10,000 words, then scrapped them and started again. Then I wrote 23,000 words, scrapped them and started again. Then I took a break and wrote Time Rep: Continuum. Then I went back to this book, wrote 70,000 words, scrapped them, and started again. And now finally, on my fourth attempt, the book is complete, coming in at just a touch longer than the original Time Rep.
And I’m really, really happy with it.
So what is The Electric Detective, I hear you ask? Well, it’s basically a comedy science-fiction locked-room murder mystery set in the future. There – that’s a nice simple summary, right? The story follows Penelope, a droid who has been purpose-built to help the police solve a seemingly impossible crime – the murder of the CEO of DroidTec, killed by someone who can apparently vanish into thin air. However, as Penelope starts to unravel the mystery, she soon begins to wonder if the very people who built her are somehow involved, and that her closeness to the investigation has been orchestrated to help them tie up the loose ends as much as the police…
So yeah, that’s what it’s about. To give you a little taster of the tone I’m going for, here’s the opening paragraph:
There are very few people who can remember back to the day they were born. In fact most people will struggle to tell you what they were doing last Tuesday. Those who say they can remember being born are usually mistaken – more often than not, they’re either recalling a vivid dream they’ve mistaken for reality, or they’re lying. There are some people however, who truly can think back that far, and these people are very special indeed. Usually, the hippocampus (the part of the brain thought to be involved in structuring memories, not to be confused with a caravan park for travelling hippopotamuses) isn’t fully formed until early childhood, meaning that once you’re all grown up, things start to go a little hazy if you try and remember anything you experienced before the age of two. Unlike most people, Penelope could remember every single detail about being born. She could remember the first time she gained consciousness.The first thing she ever saw when she opened her eyes. The first sound she ever heard. Then again, that was only seven minutes ago, so this wasn’t much of an achievement in her view.
Anyway, that’s it for now. It’s taken six years, but I think we’re there.
Now I can get cracking with that third Time Rep…
So it’s New Year’s Eve. You know, if 2017 ever had an induction meeting with humanity before taking over from 2016, here’s how I imagine the conversation would go:
2017: Hello, I’m 2017 and I’m here for the induction.
2017: Yes. I’ve just been employed as the new year. It’s my first day tomorrow, but I was told to come and see you before I got started…
Humanity: Ah, yes! Take a seat, take a seat! I have to say, you’ve come at just the right time.
2017: I have?
Humanity: Oh yes. You see, your predecessor was just awful. AWFUL! So many things went wrong under 2016’s tenure, so we’re delighted they’ve come to the end of their contract. But they’ve left us in an awful mess, so we thought it would be best if we had a little chat before you get going, just so you know what needs cleaning up.
Humanity: So – it seems 2016 thought it would be okay to create some deep divisions in society.
2017: It did?
Humanity: Oh yes – it’s in all the media outlets if you don’t believe us. We’re divided. You’re either a Brexiteer or a Remainer. Pro-Trump of Pro-Clinton. Left or right. Those who think we’re divided and those that don’t think we’re divided. It’s very clear.
2017: So what do you want me to do about that?
Humanity: Well you see, the truth is, as a species, when we look inside our hearts, we think that maybe we don’t really want to be divided.
2017: Oh? And why is that?
Humanity: Well, because we’ve realised that on the inside, we all have people we love. We all have fears. Hopes. Dreams. We all want the best for our children. We all feel empty and sad when we see conflict. We all feel a warmth inside when we make others happy. The truth is, despite everything we’re hearing, when we look at ourselves we realise that there is so much more that unites us than makes us different, and as such, we really have nothing to fear from each other.
2017: But if that’s true, what’s the problem? Doesn’t that mean that you’re not really divided after all, and that you’re being tricked into thinking you are?
Humanity: The problem, 2017, is that whenever we feel threatened by something or someone, our first reaction isn’t always to remind ourselves of everything we have in common with each other, or to place ourselves in the shoes of those we fear to try and understand them better. Instead, we’re increasingly looking to blame someone when things go wrong. And it’s all 2016’s fault.
2017: So what do you need from me?
Humanity: Well, we’re worried there are going to be some moments over the next year that will threaten to divide us even further. In those moments, it will be your job to remind us that beneath all those things that make us different – gender, skin colour, religion, sexuality, social status, wealth, political allegiances, EVERYTHING – deep down we’ve still got so much in common, and if we only realised this and worked together as a species, we could accomplish anything.
2017: You talk about these differences as though they are something to be feared, but don’t you realise that they aren’t actually a threat at all?
Humanity: What do you mean?
2017: I mean shouldn’t you be celebrating your differences rather than being afraid of them?
Humanity: But differences are scary!
Humanity: Because… because they’re different, that’s why!
2017: Are they really though? Aren’t most of your differences rooted in shared similarities you just aren’t aware of?
Humanity: What are you talking about?
2017: I mean that if you look hard enough, all differences are born from a foundation you all share – you talked about it earlier – your collective hopes and dreams. Your loves. It’s what makes you different, but it’s also what makes you the same. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Humanity: This is great stuff 2017, great stuff. If this conversation wasn’t so abstract, we’d be writing this all down.
2017: I’m glad I seem to be getting through to you.
Humanity: Yes, but here’s the thing – individually we can be pretty smart, but as an overall species, we can be pretty dumb sometimes. You see, many of us have got pretty short memories, and once we’ve finished this conversation, we’ll go off and check our Facebook feeds, then we’ll watch some amusing cat videos on the internet, then we’ll read some juicy celebrity gossip, and within twelve minutes we’ll have forgotten everything you’ve told us about not being afraid and whatever else it was you just said. So, over the coming year, do you think you could keep reminding us of what we’ve just spoken about?
2017: I’m sorry, but that’s not part of my job description.
Humanity: Oh yes it is 2017 – listen very carefully – we can’t afford any slip-ups like the ones 2016 made. We need you to be the best year ever. Do you understand?
2017: I understand completely. Look, I have the potential to be one of the greatest years in the history of the human race, or perhaps one that is not so great. But all that is really up to you.
Humanity: What do you mean?
2017: I mean I will be whatever you make me out to be. So if you find yourself facing a difficult situation and choices need to be made, it will be your responsibility to make those choices against a backdrop of remembering what you all have in common with each other; to empathise with those you don’t understand; to take a moment to stop and think when someone says something you disagree with.
Humanity: You mean we can do this on our own?
2017: No, not on your own. If you’re going to do this, you need to do it together.
Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make it a good one, together.
Imagine this scenario: a few years ago, you bought a brand new car, and paid good money for it. As cars go, it works just fine and does everything you want it to do. You’re not interested in trading it in for a new model, you just want to keep using it. And what’s wrong with that? You bought the car – it’s yours to do with as you please. However, the manufacturer or this fictional car (let’s call them, say… Sicromoft), really wants you to swap your old car for a new model they’ve just bought out. It’s free, they tell you. It’s much better than that old car you drive. Millions of people have already swapped their old car for a new one and are loving it, so why wouldn’t you?
Well, for whatever reason, you don’t want to upgrade. Maybe it’s the colour, maybe it’s the fact you’re used to the way it handles, but it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s your car, so you shouldn’t have to justify your reasons for not wanting to upgrade to anyone. But this isn’t good enough for Sicromoft. You see, they know better than you, and they really want you to swap. One day, you get in your car, and your phone rings. You pick it up. It’s a nice chap from Sicromoft, asking you if you want to upgrade. You say no, ask them not to call back, and hang up.
The thing is, they never stop calling. Every time you get in your car, before you have a chance to start the engine, that nice chap from Sicromoft calls, just in case you changed your mind. Months go by, and no matter how many ways you try and block the calls, they keep ringing. They won’t take no for an answer. Surely you want to upgrade by now. The new car is so much better. No, you tell them, you do not want to upgrade. Please leave me alone. I just want to drive my old car. Okay, they say, but you know they’ll be on the phone again the minute you start a new journey.
Eventually, Sicromoft take things a step further. One day, while you are driving down a busy road to an important meeting, the entire windshield blacks out, and the words “would you like to upgrade to a new Sicromoft car?” pop up on front of you. You panic, slamming on the breaks and hoping no-one outside is going to get hurt. You never knew your car had the capability to interrupt you like this whilst driving, and are understandably very angry. So you look for a way of getting rid of the message. Underneath the question asking you if you want to upgrade are two buttons: Yes, and Yes. But you don’t want to upgrade. You notice in the corner a small ‘x’, which you assume means ‘cancel’, so you press it. You just want to get on with your journey, after all.
However, upon pressing the x, the screen says “Thank you for agreeing to upgrade!”, and the car begins to transform around you, with you stuck in the middle of it. People around you are honking their horns, but there is nothing you can do. You try and cancel the upgrade, but there is no means of doing so. Helpfully though, the text on the windshield is replaced with a progress bar, saying that the upgrade will be complete in five hours. You think about the meeting you were supposed to be going to. You think how you would have been there by now if Sicromoft had just left your car alone and allowed you to use it freely with no interference. But this incident reveals to you that Sicromoft don’t really care, and they never did. They just want you to have the new car, regardless of what you want.
Fortunately, we don’t live in this sort of world, because automobile companies know that if they showed such utter contempt for their customers, they would go out of business pretty quickly. The same however, cannot be said for Microsoft, who seem to not care in the slightest about what their customers want, or more specifically, what they don’t want. Reading in the news this week about the way in which Microsoft are blatantly tricking people into upgrading to Windows 10 makes me sick. Never in my life have I witnessed a company display such a callous arrogance and disregard for its customers, and the way they continue to refuse to apologise for these methods (even if they have backtracked on some of them) makes my blood boil. Everything about the way Windows 10 is being forced on us is utterly reprehensible, and Microsoft should be utterly, utterly ashamed of themselves.
I think this whole upgrade fiasco is actually a very dangerous thing for Microsoft, and reveals that they still arrogantly see themselves as holding a monopoly in the world of operating systems, and are therefore able to weather any knocks to their reputation. That was true a few years ago, but it ain’t true any more. You only have to look at how Google and Apple are stealing the march on them in the mobile space to understand that Microsoft has problems. Windows is a bit-player on tablets and phones, and as more and more people migrate over to these portable devices, Microsoft’s relevance is starting to dwindle. As a company, they should be treating customers with respect, encouraging people to try windows 10 through educational, persuasive means, rather than duplicitous trickery. People now have the power to take their business elsewhere, and unless Microsoft changes the way they do things and stops throwing those stones at their customers, the whole windows operating system will come crashing down on them.
And do you know what? Part of me hopes it does.
P.S. Written with Microsoft Word.
Hi there everyone – Just a quick note to say that Time Rep: Continuum has now been released! I haven’t seen any reviews yet so I have no idea how it’s being received, but I do hope those of you that enjoyed the first book like this one too. I’m pretty proud of it – particularly a joke in chapter two that still makes me laugh out loud even though I’m the one who wrote it. Yes – I do laugh at my own jokes.
My thanks to the lovely folks at Diversion Books for publishing it – getting Time Rep: Continuum out the door been a long old road since I finished the first draft back in January 2014 (yes, that long ago), and I’m so happy to see it finally out there.
So the moment you have all been waiting for is almost here – Time Rep: Continuum, the sequel to Time Rep, is out tomorrow! To celebrate, the nice folks over at SFF World asked me to write a gust blog post for their site, which I did. It’s up there right now, and tackles a subject that comes up in the book – what would happen to us as a species if time travel really was invented, and we had the power to go back and change whatever we liked? To find out more, why not head over there by clicking on this unnecessarily long sentence which I’ve highlighted in blue so that it acts as a hyperlink to the site to save you the effort of having to type in the shortcut into your search bar which is really long and would probably result in most of you giving up and not reading the blog post at all?
This evening I was invited back to 10 Downing Street because of the work I do with Comic Relief… this time though I made sure the photo they took of me was a bit better than they one from last year!
Just a quick one: Time Rep: Continuum is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo! Here’s the link: https://ganxy.com/i/111810
I know it’s a bit of a leap of faith to put your money down three months up front for a book that’s had no reviews yet whatsoever – after all, it could be a stinker. So let me assure you – Time Rep: Continuum is probably almost as good if not better than lots of average books out there that get pre-ordered all the time! So why not go for it?
Now, you might be thinking “I’m a fan of Time Rep, so I’m happy to put my money down now for this book to ensure I get a copy on launch day in case they all sell out”, but for the sake of transparency, I should probably point out that that’s very unlikely to happen, and that you’ll probably be able to pick up a copy at launch, no problem. I’m not a particularly well known author, and the Time Rep series is fairly obscure, so I’d say if you just saved your money now and bought a copy on the day of release, you’ll be fine. In fact, instead of pre-ordering my book, why not buy some sweets you can enjoy today instead, then buy the book later when it’s out, and some reviews have surfaced online from people who were sent it for free so you can make an informed decision?
There! Another successful marketing blog post to drive those sales!