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Tarquin Jenkins and the Book of Dreams

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00002]Why Write A Book?

A question I’ve been asked a dozen times lately, so here you are, the reason why…

Twelve years ago, while sitting on the early morning Virgin train to Euston, London from Milton Keynes, I watched my fellow passengers either sleep through the hour-long journey or stare wistfully out of the window. This journey was to be my life for the foreseeable future – I had to do something. And so was born, Tarquin Jenkins and the Book of Dreams, a madcap, rip-roaring romp through history, time, transportation, and the known galaxies.

The blurb…

ALL TARQUIN JENKINS WANTED TO DO, was travel through space and time, solve some of the Universe’s more pressing problems, and lay hands on the Nerydire Book of Dreams.

UNFORTUNATELY, nobody told him about the bloodsucking Leche, the leprechauns, the other leprechauns, the killer androids, the extremely rude waitress, Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci, the malfunctioning toaster, the Zargothian legal system, the Bloated Shagganat nightclub, the psychopathic Griddleback hordes, and a flame- haired, one-eyed space pirate called Georgia Blade

Tarquin’s life became a little complicated.

I am a 60s baby. I grew up with Monty Python, Star Trek, Dr Who, Hai Karate aftershave adverts, the Goodies, Clint Eastwood and wrestling on a Saturday afternoon. I was lucky enough to be in the studio audience for the recording of a Fawlty Towers episode. With so many influences, It was clear to me the sort of book this would be. At the time, we were living in a quintessential village in the middle of England (Little Britain?) So, couple this with a love of history and a pythonesque sense of the ridiculous, the book would be funny, involve time travel, chairs, caravans, narrowboats, cookery and needlework books, the British Foreign Office (I retired from their employ in 2011), and very small people. Oh, and aliens, lots of them, both good and bad.

I sent my first chapter off to one of those pay for review sites in the UK. In return I got an in depth analysis with strong, critical words of advice. The reviewer was John Grant, also known as Paul Barnett. (www.johngrantpaulbarnett.com). Eleven years later, I am very proud to say that Paul edited the final manuscript. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that without his guidance, Scottish wit, perseverance, and passion for cricket, Tarquin Jenkins would still be languishing on my laptop…That sounds funny (GQ model…), but you know what I mean.

In the early days of writing I would submit pieces to members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Chronicles website (www.sffchronicles.com). This proved invaluable, and I learned so much from their experiences and comments. It is still a website I frequent, and I often look for views on ideas for the second book in the series now underway.

I had decided many months ago that I would self publish the book. I felt that it was a niche book, and though appealing to readers from 12+, I just couldn’t see a publisher taking a chance. I am glad I went this route. Despite the sharp curve in learning, I found a good ebook formatter and a printer. Initially, I’ve had 100 paperbacks made for promotional purposes. Some have gone to bloggers and reviewers, others to friends with teenagers. A Goodreads giveaway has just ended, and a further 10 will be given to local libraries here in Montreal, where I now live with my Canadian wife and our 14 year old son.
Book two is underway, and promises to be as madcap and wacky as book one…

The draft blurb…

After his gruesome death in 2015, Tarquin Seebohm Jenkins can now get back to studying the Book of Dreams, and joining the search for Nostradamus and Leonardo Da Vinci, and the amulet they stole. Trouble is, every Tom, Dick and alien are preparing to do the same…

I hope you enjoy reading the book.

If you would consider writing a review of the book, I am happy to offer free ebooks for a limited time (From now to June 20 2016). Just email me at; peterfordphotography@gmail.com

Tarquin Jenkins and the Book of Dreams is available at;
Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
You can find further information about Tarquin Jenkins here:


Heir to the North by Steven Poore

spHurry Up and Wait

This has been a busy old year for me. I accidentally started a series of SFF social meet-ups (the SFSF Social, aptly enough), and saw at least two short stories go to exciting markets. By the end of the year I’ll have been to four conventions. And there’s the small matter of an epic novel to launch at this year’s Fantasycon in Nottingham. You could almost call it an overnight success.

Except that there’s no such thing as overnight success in this business. My first short story sale, This Place Sucks, was to an online magazine called Pantechnicon (now defunct) back in 2010. The issue’s TOC makes for interesting reading – Ian Whates was a name I already knew, and I belonged to the same writers’ group as Ian Sales, but I bet I wasn’t the only one back then who didn’t know who Adam Christopher and Jen Williams were.

Like Adam and Jen, I was in for the long game. I was already building up and writing the first draft of what would become Heir to the North. There are old, long-buried threads in the SFF Chronicles critiques sub-forum from as far back as 2008 where I’m playing with parts of the narrative. Unearthing them is a lot like being in an episode of Time Team – with Panu Lumme, Jeff Richards and others all examining the relics of the dig.

Heir to the North grew into a monster, with a sequel attached. Having spent so long working on it, I wasn’t going to just dump it onto Amazon’s KDP programme and watch it disappear into limbo. I sent it out for representation at literary agencies instead, and collected a couple of dozen rejections. When Angry Robot Books set up an open submission window, I sent it out there too. To my surprise, it nearly got published. Nearly. That was 2013. Two years ago. You might be getting the relevance of this post’s title.

Autumn, 2014. Fantasycon, York. Vodka, and a serious meeting with Sammy Smith of Grimbold Books. Heir to the North had a home. Now all I had to do was hurry up and wait…

Jen Williams is nominated for a British Fantasy Award this year, for her novel The Copper Promise (which is a proper good read, by the way. Recommended.) Which award? Best Newcomer. There y’go: it’s all worth waiting for.

Steven Poore is an Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist. He lives in Sheffield with a crafty partner and a three-legged cat. Heir to the North is released by Kristell Ink/Grimbold Books on October 23rd, and is available to pre-order throughAmazon here.

You can find Steven at:          stevenpoore.wordpress.comsfsfsocial.wordpress.com, Twitter: @stevenjpoore

Stephen Palmer talks to Tickety Boo

bi-full-artStephen Palmer: The N-Word

Recently a well known scientist caused a media storm by suggesting that women scientists in laboratories were distractingly sexy and prone to fits of tears. He was rightly lambasted and mocked for having such an old-fashioned attitude.

This incident caused the most interesting recent tea break conversation in the staff room of the college where I work, between myself, two sociology teachers (for whom racism and much else is on the curriculum), a biology teacher and a psychology teacher. We covered sexism, racism, the youth of today – ie our students – and a few other related topics, and the conversation really made me think afterwards, not least about the use of offensive words in literature.

Last year Infinity Plus Books published my surreal, alternate-history fantasy Hairy London, a novel not to be taken at all seriously, but which has a couple of really serious themes – the nature of love, and the treatment afforded by white men of what used to be called the Establishment to non-British people, the “lower” classes and women. As somebody who is appalled by racism and sexism, and who has happily used a full human range of characters in his novels, I wanted to make use of some of the excesses of times gone past in order to allow two of my main characters – both of them men from wealthy English families – to learn from their experiences. To do this, I used the term darkie. I used it to make the point that racism is shameful and inhumane; and for no other reason. I felt my useage was appropriate.
This use of the word was noted in one of the novel’s reviews: … there is a boldness echoing the New Wave experimentalism of British SF in the 1960s. Bold to the extent that elements of the depiction of racism may prove controversial, not least some historically accurate language…

So, I asked myself: is it ever acceptable to use this term? And if so, what about the N-word?
I recently completed a trilogy set in 1910/11, the first volume of which is called The Girl With Two Souls, whose main character is a fourteen year old of mixed racial descent; technically, a mulatto. This word has its origin somewhere in the sixteenth century and comes from the Spanish mulato. Interestingly, the N-word is not much younger – a few decades perhaps.

You will note I haven’t actually spelled out the N-word here. But I did use it in full in The Girl With Two Souls, to enhance the sensation received by the reader that my main character was being treated with appalling inhumanity. I felt that, because the word was used in an appropriate social context, not to mention an obvious historical context, it was right to use it.

Some people today think the word shouldn’t be used in any context; they say it is always wrong and always inappropriate. I think this is misguided, and often unhelpful. To censor the attitudes of people in the past by not using their dialect is to ignore or conceal their deeds.

I suppose we’re all guilty of unthinking mistakes though. The tea break conversation mentioned above turned to the use of the word ethnic, which I’ve regularly used as an umbrella word – for example to describe my collection of musical instruments – to mean non-British. The sociology teacher pointed out to me that the word was meaningless, since everybody has an ethnicity, a point which had escaped me, even though I’m of Welsh extraction and have received anti-Welsh mockery (from an Indian – oh, the irony). Ethnic… it shows how easily we slip into unhelpful terminology when describing the wider world.
The sociology teacher went on to explain that the acronym BME is used by British police and other organisations to cover black and minority ethnicities, thereby collecting everyone under one label. But it is a meaningless label, and hardly helpful, not least when, for example, non-British refugees (eg from Somalia) are all housed together when they are from groups who in Somalia are at one another’s throats.
As an interesting addendum, none other than President Obama used the N-word during a podcast on 21 June 2015, showing that, in some circumstances, and from some people, there is a place for it.
It turns out we are all human, with individual circumstances of gender, race, culture, background, etc. So I think it would be good if our society reflected that fact.

Stephen Palmer has a new book out called Beautiful Intelligence. Check it out on Amazon

Michael Gilmour chats about his self-published book. Battleframe…

battleframeHere at Tickety Boo Press we are keen on networking. Michael Gilmour has done alot to promote Abendau’s Heir by Jo Zebedee so we like to reciprocate. Here’s his story so far.

“I began my debut novel, Battleframe, like every other author, staring at a happily blinking cursor on a blank screen. What sort of demented programmer designed Word with an incessantly flashing cursor? Like a dripping tap or some arcane torture it only stops blinking while you’re typing. How annoying is that! So under the lash of the cursor I began my personal journey of crafting my imagination into words. And that’s how Battleframe was born.

So other than my blinking overlord, what drove me to write? It was the story. Once I began, the only way that I could find out what would happen next was to write it. I think that readers sometimes forget that writers love to find out what is going to happen next as much as they do.

I initially wrote Battleframe as a series of episodes for a website that I was developing. Each article ended in a climax with the ambition of drawing the reader back to the website a few days later for the next exciting instalment.

This seemed to work on two fronts. Readers returned (which is always a great endorsement) and I had to get busy writing a thousand words every few days. Before I knew it, I had completed around eighty episodes and had the framework for a novel. In addition, the feedback from readers was awesome and caused me to select particular twists and turns in the plot. When I look back this is where my “problems” began, as like any worthwhile work of art my book became all consuming.

Writing is more than just putting words together on a page. I found that I was living, eating and breathing the story over and over again. I’d be sitting at the meal table with my family trying to gauge the weight of the salt shaker while I imagined it was some hi-tech grenade. I had to blink twice before I realised that my daughter had asked me to pass the salt and not the Tellurite infused munition.

One time I found myself at a church function and we were asked to draw a picture of something that made us feel at peace. All around the small group individuals had pictures of sunsets, flowers and dolphins. I had an intricately designed laser sniper rifle fully equipped with a back harness! It was clear that I needed some sort of counselling!

Every spare second I’d be either at the keyboard or dreaming up the next reason to be there. Speaking of dreaming. Each night when my head hit the pillow magic seemed to happen. Scenes played out in my mind as I spun an imaginary camera around a battlefield, an enemy base or the characters burying loved ones.

If you’re about to embark on authoring your own novel then listen to this warning. It’s very likely that you will become obsessive, fanatical and downright unpleasant to live with at different times during the writing. So whatever you do, when you finally get published thank those that have put up with you. You only have to turn the first few pages of my book to see a list of those people that helped me along my journey – they needed a lot of thanks.

So back to my episodes. The problem I found with them was they were a piecemeal mish-mash of material that had the makings of something interesting (the readers thought so anyway) but barely resembled a novel at all.

I recollect writing what I thought was a brilliant chapter where three alien beings made entirely of energy talked to one another as they looked out on the galaxy. It was a really serious, key chapter and I’d spent quite some time polishing it.

I read the chapter to my wife (always a wise move) and she burst out laughing and told me how ridiculous it all sounded. With a thoroughly deflated ego I went back and rewrote the aliens as an elderly man, a beautiful woman and a young university student (complete with skateboard). The only thing that is out of the ordinary about the characters is they have the unusual names of Wisdom, Creativity and Intellect. The chapter really seemed to work and was a lot more fun to write then glowing orbs of energy. Better than that, it passed the wife test….which is always a plus!

I often travel as a part of my business and as I live in Australia this means that I’m in the air for at least fifteen hours before landing at my destination. Prior to writing, I would don my noise cancelling headphones, assume the foetal position and pray for sleep to help me survive the long flight. I’m a firm believer that the best movie to watch while flying is the picture of the little aeroplane on the map…if only it would move faster.

The rigours of flying all changed for me when I started pulling Battleframe together. The flights meant that I had an uninterrupted, extended time to completely focus on my writing. It’s incredible how something as boring and tortuous as flying can suddenly become enjoyable when you have an opportunity to write. In fact, there’s a scene in the book where the characters have to travel a long distance and this was really inspired by my own experiences.

Most of my writing is conducted while sitting on the couch with my laptop resting on the coffee table. I’d put on some orchestral music (I collect movie soundtracks) and type away at the keyboard. I would never write in my study as that was the place I did my other work. For me, I needed the clear separation between my business and writing.

I often get emotionally involved while I write. There is a particular scene in Battleframe where one of the characters is trying to save someone (not giving away spoilers here). My wife came into the living room to discover that I had tears rolling down my cheeks. She thought that something terrible had happened and was relieved when I told her that something nearly did but that everything was OK now.

Being a writer is all about riding the highs and the lows of our stories. It’s being with our characters as they gaze at sunsets, run through the jungle and duck behind a rock to dodge plasma fire. The characters, setting and plot come to life in our imaginations and the words are just a mechanism to share the experience with others. The challenge for me was to select words that properly reflected what I was already seeing, feeling and experiencing.

It was at this time that Battleframe was finally at the stage where I could begin inflicting numerous readings upon my family. Let’s face it, every writer has someone that deserves to be punished with the early drafts of our latest masterpiece. I’ll never forget the evening when I reverently handed the first few chapters of Battleframe to my wife and eldest daughter. I was so proud of what I’d written, and despite this I humbled myself by providing them with a red pen to mark-up any mistakes they found (as if there would be any I thought).

About half an hour later I came back to see how they were going and to bask in the sunshine of their praise as they acknowledged that I had written something spectacular. My daughter told me that it was boring and she had stopped at page ten to watch something on the television. My wife had used the red pen to full effect, leaving a little bit of the original text in place.

I switched the TV off and explained to them in no uncertain terms that they couldn’t possibly be right. After about fifteen minutes of arguing I left the room in disgust, flopped dejectedly onto the couch and started to read their comments. I begrudgingly acknowledged one point after another until I realised that I needed to completely rewrite everything.

When you ask someone to read an early manuscript don’t make my mistake and justify your position. If you do this then they’ll feel bad that they’ve upset you and you’ll lose a beta-reader. Writers need people to bounce ideas off and get feedback on their work. More than that, the people you’re talking to need to feel that they can be as honest as possible. I still have a sneaky suspicion that my daughter was getting a little bit of revenge for all those school assignments that I suggested she rewrite.

I later passed on the first half of Battleframe to my twenty-one year old son who was studying Arts at university. I must admit that his feedback was absolutely brilliant. He approached the book from a completely different perspective and this caused me to write a number of chapters that provided some background to some of the technology and the characters themselves.

After eighteen long months and about twenty rewrites I finally held my completed manuscript. I assembled a number of beta-readers and provided them with a printed copy and a survey. The survey asked questions about the characters, setting and plot. It also highlighted particular key scenes that I was seeking feedback on.

Once everyone had finished reading the manuscript I invited the group around to my house to discuss it. Three hours later I had invaluable feedback. For instance, one of the readers was ex-military and he asked a number of questions about the ranks for battleframe pilots and how they were different to other military personnel. I had also backed myself into a corner on a number of plot points and after a bit of discussion I was able to pull things together.

Having a group of people beyond your family that can provide you with open and honest feedback is exceptionally important for the writing process. I would often discuss points with each beta-reader and come back to them with rewrites that helped address the issue. If you want to keep beta-readers then whatever you do, provide them ongoing feedback. Every beta-reader also needs to appreciate that it’s your book and that sometimes you may choose not to take on board their suggestions.

After all of the corrections and rewrites I was thoroughly sick to death of Battleframe. When I’m feeling like this it’s better for me to take some time out or risk making silly errors. I put the manuscript down and didn’t work on it for a few weeks. I just needed a break.

When I returned to Battleframe I was refreshed and eager to tackle the final read-through. While I did this I also searched for an illustrator who could capture one of the scenes in the book for the front cover. I spent hours and hours trawling websites like deviantart.com and made a list of the artists that I believe could best represent the Battleframe vision. I approached a number of them and finally settled on Sebastien Hue from Paris. He is an incredible illustrator that was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Once the illustration was completed I designed the rest of the cover and spent a large amount of time laying out the internal pages. It helped that I have a background in design and although not perfect (they never are), I was really pleased with the final look of the book.

After checking the Battleframe files about a thousand times I selected an online print-on-demand website, uploaded them and pushed the button to order the first proofing copies. A week later the package with the first copies of my book arrived. There’s been a number of moments in my life where I was overcome with joy; getting married, the birth of my children, flying an aircraft solo and now seeing my debut novel, Battleframe, in print. If you have not held your book then I hope that you receive this as an encouragement to keep on writing and if you are a published author then I hope you smile in remembrance of your first time. My wife recorded me opening the box of books and you can view this at michaelgilmour.com. I often watch the video to help remind me of the joy of seeing my own words finally in print.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading a few of the highlights and anecdotes from my personal writing journey. Since publishing Battleframe a few weeks ago I now have readers clamouring for book two of The Mindwars…..so I’d better get writing!

Since his early childhood Michael embraced the excitement and infinite possibilities of science fiction. Battleframe is his debut novel in the Mindwars series and is the culmination of a lifetime of adventures. He resides in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three children.”

Michael can be reached at: http://michaelgilmour.com