Latest News

The First Officer – Alpha Protocol Book 2 Out Today!

Today is the big day for The First Officer – Alpha Protocol Book 2! By the time you get this email, the book will be released into the wild!

You can get your copy now at the following links:

Here’s the back cover copy to give you a taste of what the story is about:

Forgotten treasures lie waiting in deep space. So too does the greatest threat humanity has ever encountered…

Assigned to a new warship with cutting-edge technology, Jack Samson returns to the Frontier, determined to cast off the question marks over his previous conduct.

The Navy ventures ever farther beyond the Frontier, with fantastic new discoveries becoming a daily occurrence. As humanity reaches for these technological riches, it enters a deadly contest with a lethal adversary, the very survival of the human race being at stake.

Samson and his crew face the fight of their lives as they seek to secure ancient technological wonders and humanity’s place amongst the stars.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’m running a $0.99 sale on Book 1 this week, so you try out the series for minimal investment!

You can get a copy of book 1 at its sale price until next Tuesday, at this link:


Writing sci-fi is a bit of an enjoyable diversion for me from my main stream of fantasy books, and while there tends to be a lot of cross over in audience between the two genres and I realise not everyone signed up for this newsletter is a fan of sci-fi, but I hope if you give my sci-fi books a shot, you’ll enjoy them. I like to think of them as being fantasy stories set in space.

The Alpha Protocol series follows the adventures of a naval officer called Jack Samson, as humanity encounter aliens in deep space for the first time. I like to think of the tale as a blend of Star Trek, any of my fantasy trilogies, with a splash of Indiana Jones added to the mix!

The First Officer Excerpt

Hey folks,

I’ve got an excerpt from The First Officer this week. The book focuses on Jack Samson again, our naval officer from book 1—he’ll continue to be the focus character for the series generally for as far as I’ve outlined it—but I’ve got a couple of new characters in this book who help expand the story for this book, and the broader arc for the whole series.

Here’s the excerpt to give you a little taster of what’s to come in the book. Yes, it ends in a cliff-hanger. Sorry, not sorry!

‘Make connection with the sensor buoy and pull its data,’ Captain Jones said. ‘Set ship’s passive sensors to maximum range.’

‘Aye, Captain,’ said the sensors officer, Lieutenant Perez. ‘…Ma’am, the sensor buoy is inactive.’

‘Why?’ The captain sat up in her chair.

Perez frowned. ‘It looks damaged.’

‘Can you give me anything more than that?’ Jones said, adrenaline starting to seep into her blood.

‘Not without an active sensor scan, ma’am.’

Jones chewed her lip. An active scan would light them up like a Christmas tree. There was no way she was going to do that until she had a better idea of what was here.

‘Stick to the passive sensors for now,’ she said. ‘Pull whatever you can from the buoy.’

‘Aye, Captain,’ Perez said. ‘It looks like the basic cartographic array is intact. We should be able to pull that data completely, but I can’t make any promises about anything else.’

‘Get it to me as soon as you have it.’

‘Aye, Captain.’

Jones took one more look at the readout of the ship’s vital statistics and considered returning to the letter she had been writing. The situation with the buoy had worried her, though, and she didn’t like to write to her son when she was worried. He could always pick up on it. She stared at the viewscreen, which was blank except for some telemetry data and ship status icons. They didn’t have enough detail in their system yet to put anything on it, and unlike some captains of her acquaintance, Kallista Jones didn’t like fake representations of whatever star system they happened to be in.

‘I have the cartography data,’ Perez said.

‘Put it through to my station,’ Jones said. She tapped some buttons on the armrest of her chair, and the buoy’s preliminary system scan came up on her private viewscreen.

They were aware there was a star in this system, but they didn’t know much else. It was easier to simply send a probe or a ship to a system you were interested in, rather than trying to watch it with telescopes and work out how much dark matter there was.

Her eyes drifted across the image that appeared. Four planets, and—

Her eyes stopped, locked in place.

‘What the hell is that?’

I hope that whets your appetite for The First Officer! You can preorder a copy now at the links below. The book will be released on Thurs Dec 1, so only a few more days to wait!

You can preorder your copy of The First Officer here now:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

The First Officer Cover Artwork

Hey folks,

Today, I want to show off the full original cover art for The First Officer in all its glory. Fred Gambino is the man behind it, and as always, he’s created a piece of art that is fascinating in and of itself. I like for a cover image to tell a story of its own in some way, which has been the driving inspiration for my Alpha Protocol covers, and it’s something Fred always pulls off with flair.

Here’s the complete image, which will form the full cover of the paperback version.

The story picks up shortly after the end of book one. It’s a self-contained story, so although it’s part of a bigger story arc, you can pick up this book and enjoy it even without having read part one. Here’s the back cover copy to give you an idea of what it’s about:

Forgotten treasures lie waiting in deep space. So too does the greatest threat humanity has ever encountered…

Assigned to a new warship with cutting-edge technology, Jack Samson returns to the Frontier, determined to cast off the question marks over his previous conduct.

The Navy ventures ever farther beyond the Frontier, with fantastic new discoveries becoming a daily occurrence. As humanity reaches for these technological riches, it enters a deadly contest with a lethal adversary, the very survival of the human race being at stake.

Samson and his crew face the fight of their lives as they seek to secure ancient technological wonders and humanity’s place amongst the stars.

The First Officer will be released on 1 Dec and is available for pre-order now over on Amazon, and will be coming in Audio a little later. You can pre-order your copy of The First Officer now at these links!

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

That’s all for this week. I’ll have some more on The First Officer next week. Until then, take care!

Alpha Protocol 2 Cover Reveal!

Hey folks,

I’ve finally got myself organised enough to make the announcements I had promised for last week, so here we go!

I’m very pleased to be able to reveal the cover for my upcoming book, and second part in the Alpha Protocol series. The book’s title is The First Officer, and here is the cover!

The artwork was once again created by Fred Gambino, who I think has the most incredible ability to visualise and execute science fiction artworks on a truly epic scale. The only difficult part of working with Fred is deciding which of his concept paintings to go with for a cover – all of them look so good. As with any good piece of art, each one of them inspires a story of their own and they all certainly get my creative wheels turning.

I chose the image I felt was most fitting for the story, and am very happy with how it turned out. It really conveys the aesthetic and sense of story that I wanted, and gives a bit of a hint of what’s contained within. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I think it’s very eye catching!

I’ll have more details about the book in coming posts over the next few weeks. The First Officer will be released on 1 Dec and is available for pre-order now over on Amazon, and will be coming in Audio a little later. You can pre-order your copy of The First Officer now at these links!

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Not updates… (sorry!)

Hi folks,

I know I promised some updates and news this week, but unfortunately I’m not quite ready to make those announcement, so will have to put them on the back burner until next week! All being well I’ll be good to go then!

Instead, I’m going to be talking about another mini paint this week. It’s another Scibor mini, but something a little different than the knights I’ve mainly been painting. This time out it’s a barbarian warrior slash Viking.

Here he is:

I wanted to try some different colours than I usually lean towards, so went for teal/turquoise and purple this time, with some red here and there for contrast.

Again, a chief focus was pushing the highlights, which I think has worked well in areas, but I kinda dropped the ball on the fur, which I think could really do with another one highlight at least, perhaps two. I could also have done a bit more on the hammer handles and tunic trim looking at the photos now.

I also wanted to play around with painting red hair (to get a good pop against the teal) and also work on my face and flesh painting. I’m happy with this for the most part, but I need more work on controlling where I’m putting down the high light layers. I’ve used a glaze on the cheeks, nose, and lips, which I think has given the face more depth and is something I’m going to incorporate into my process from now on.

I’m pleased with the shading on the cloak, but again think it could do with an extra highlight.

I’m a little disappointed with the hammers, as I think they read more like stone than the steel they’re supposed to be. I think less black, using a dark grey instead, and a stronger white highlight would help, but I’m open to suggestions here!

I also spent a bit of time reading up on how to take better photos, and I think a couple of very simple little changes have made a pretty big impact. All I’ve done is turn off one of my lights and change the camera angle. There’s still a bit too much noise in the background black for my liking, so I’ll try a larger aperture next time. I used f14 for these, and I think I’ll still be able to keep the model in focus even with something like f12 or so (can’t remember what the intervals are on my lens) while blurring the background into a smoother texture.

That’s all for this week. I’ll have everything in place for updates next Monday, so check in then to hear the news! Until then, take care!

Mini Painting – The Red Knight

Hey folks,

I hope you’re all keeping well and had a happy Halloween! I’m a day late with my post this week down to the bank holiday here yesterday, but I’ll be back to my regular schedule of Monday posts next week!

I’ve got a mini painting post for you this week, with my ‘red knight’. It’s another Scibor Miniatures sculpt. I really do love painting these minis as they all have an incredible amount of character, and they have just the right amount of fantasy for me, which I tend to prefer to keep at the lighter end of the scale.

Working out how to get the mini well positioned in the camera frame seemed to be my main challenge this week, but I think the photos have mainly ended up all right with a couple being thrown off by my bad light metering. I still need to work out how to better set up my lighting to get that nice smooth black background so many mini painters who photograph their minis seem to get!

So here he is!

I had two focus areas this week. The first was my continuing effort with non metallic metal (NMM) for which I used a new recipe. More on that later. Focus number 2 was painting red, a colour I’ve struggled to get a nice result with in the past.

Along with the blending aspects, working out where to place my highlights remains my biggest challenge in NMM. I’m posting these a couple of weeks behind my painting, and it’s something I’m continuing to work on, and hopefully improving on, even if only incrementally. On this mini, I really didn’t get it right anywhere, except for perhaps the helmet, and even then only in places! Even my application of light to basic shapes is wrong. I really don’t know what I was thinking…

I think my blending is showing signs of improvement on the sword blade, and I’m content with how it turned out. The photo is a bit overexposed hiding the shadows on the top of the blade. Really need to get to grips with my photography!

Here and on the next pic, you can see my effort with the red. Overall I’m happy with the result, as I can see where it needs improvement, and I now know how to do it. I think I could better this by pushing the shadows a touch more, and pushing the highlight by quite a bit. I really haven’t brought the highlights up enough.

I free-handed the fleur de lys, and again I think I’m seeing signs of improvement here also, although I did manage to get it a bit crooked. I blame the funny angle the shield is hanging at! The red blending needs a bit more time spent on it, but overall I think this is heading in the right direction.

I think the highlights on this side are a bit better in terms of placement and look like their coming from a more consistent light source, unlike the front!

My main guidance here – for colour recipe and blending approach only, the botched highlight placements are all my fault! – was this video from the entertaining Zumikito. If you’ve been following my mini painting journey, you might find it useful too! I certainly did! You can find it here:

Overall, I feel like I learned quite a lot from painting this mini. Over the course of this one and the next one to come, I really felt like some concepts were starting to make sense to me, so hopefully that will continue!

Next week I’ve some exciting news and updates, so be sure to check in for that. Until then, take care!

Behind the Scenes IV: Blood of Kings

Hey folks,

Today’s post is a behind the scenes look at my current Blood of Kings trilogy, which is still a work in progress.

The inspiration for this series comes from a plot elements mentioned in the Dragonslayer and Wolf of the North trilogies, and follows the broader arc of magical resurgence in the Middle Sea World that I’ve been building across all of my books.

I also wanted to use this story to revisit some of the locations we’ve already seen in my other books for the simple reason that I really wanted to spend some more time in them! Considering the way the magic arc impacts all the different parts of the world, I thought this was the ideal opportunity. It gives me the chance to explore how magic has impacted society against the comparison of my earlier books where it was still highly illegal!

After Dragonslayer, I felt the urge to return to a coming of age style story. However, I enjoyed writing Guillot so much, that I didn’t want to leave out the older world weary type, so I created the band of mercenaries that Conrad, the developing young man finds himself with. It’s a fun balance to play with—the world weary cynicism of mercenaries who’ve been around the block a few times, and the youthful optimism bordering on arrogance of a young man who hasn’t experienced much of the world yet.

That’s about all I can say about this one, as it’s still a work in progress, and I don’t want to say anything I later decide to change!

If you haven’t read it already, you can check the books out here:

Mini Painting – The Blue Knight!

A painting post this week. I’ve got another Scibor miniature in the photo booth for this instalment. I really love the sculpts by this maker, and have bought quite a few from their range. The models are a real pleasure to paint, with great detail and a lot of character in the poses and expressions.

I’m continuing on my path of trying to improve all aspects of my painting, but with a focus on non-metallic metallics (NMM), which I think looks amazing on fantasy and sci-fi miniatures (I prefer true metallics on historical models, for whatever reason…).

To the photos!

For this model I tried a different NMM recipe, sticking to more grey tones than the bluish ones my previous paint job had. I think I prefer this scheme as it provides a more neutral base for more advanced techniques like object source lighting (light given off by a lantern the model is holding, for example), and sky-earth non-metallic metals (where the blue of the sky and the brown/green tones of the ground are reflected by the metal). I also just prefer the appearance of this recipe.

While my blending has a long road of improvement ahead of it, I feel I’m getting a better feel of how to make the paint go where I want it to, and behave how I want it to. The key thing I’m finding here is diluting the paint well when glazing, and wicking a lot of the moisture off the brush before applying, to give greater control. I’ve been playing around with a few different techniques here, and I’m gradually coming to understand them, and when to use which, but lots more practice is needed!

I need make faces more of a focus in my efforts. They’re the focal point of any model, and I’m really not giving them the attention they need. It’s neat enough in the details, but there’s not enough contrast, and the face is a bit flat as a result. I’m also not that happy with the sword, which ended up a bit too stripey for my liking. I’ll approach this differently next time.

I’m underwhelmed by the heraldry I chose for this guy. I think the sculpt deserves something better, but it looked great in my head! Perhaps three narrower zig-zags would have been better.

Blue was my colour of choice to focus on for the cloth. I’m again taking the ‘push the contrast’ approach here, but my blends leave a lot to be desired, and this is something I’ll need to pay attention to going forward.

That’s all for this week. Next week we’ll be taking another behind the scenes look at my work, with my current trilogy, Blood of Kings being the topic! See you then!

Behind the Scenes III: Dragonslayer

Hey folks,

These week we’re taking another behind the scenes peek at my work, with Dragonslayer being the work in question.

My third trilogy marked a big departure for me, as it was the first that I did not self-publish. Tor, the Fantasy imprint of McMillan, reached out and expressed interest in working with me while I was in the middle of Wolf of the North. We decided that the best way to do that would be with a new series.

I’d been rereading Dumas while I was finishing up Wolf of the North so was feeling strongly that vibe at the time. I’ve always been captivated by that atmosphere and setting. I’d also travelled to both Paris and Bordeaux during that period, and fell in love with all things French, from the food to the architecture and the history (and the wine!).

The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo are two of my all-time favourite books, along with Sabatini’s Scaramouche. With these books fresh in my mind, a French style fantasy setting proved too tempting to ignore.

While my previous books had been coming-of-age style tales, I wanted to try writing about an older character. Someone who’s seen his best days, and is struggling to find purpose in life.

A theme I’d been slowly teasing out in my previous books was the gradual resurgence of magic in the world, along with magical beasts. I try to base all my story elements in things that have examples in real human culture, rather than the completely fantastical. Dragons and the way they appear in so many different cultures have always fascinated me. I’d been hoping for an opportunity to introduce them for a while at this point!

Thus was born Guillot dal Villerauvais, the country of Mirabay, and the Dragonslayer trilogy. It follows a down and out swordsman, once considered the finest of his generation as he’s tasked to tackle the scourge of dragons on the land. He quickly learns that not all monsters fly around breathing fire, though!

If you haven’t read it already, you can check the books out here:

The Continuing Adventures of the Wee Beasties

This week we return to the mayhem and mischief spreading duo, Willow and Poppy. To fully capture their escapades, I’d need a camera with superfast autofocus and one of those rapid burst modes. When they’re at full throttle and up to their hi-jinks, it’s almost impossible to catch them on camera. I have lots of photos of white and brown blurs, but that’s about it!

I had a think to how I could get some better shots of them while they’re awake, and the answer came once again as I was sorting out recycling:

What is it with cats and boxes? This one was only on the floor a few seconds before they were into it. They like it so much I didn’t have the heart to throw it out, so it’s now a permanent household fixture. When I came down this morning, the box had been moved to the other side of the family room—clearly the cats weren’t happy with where we’d left it…

Far easier is to grab a shot of them snuggled up together when they run out of gas!

That’s all for this week! I hope you’re all keeping well, and I’ll be back next week with another behind the scenes look at my work, this time with the Dragonslayer trilogy!