To Serve a King: A swashbuckling sci-fi short story…

To celebrate getting my short story published in the New Accelerator magazine, I have decided to put it out as a blog post. Enjoy…

To Serve a King

The pressgangs never came around here. Why would they? Pickings for naval impressment were slim in Albany. As one of the kingdom’s more remote regions and situated near the petering end of the Good Hope trade wind, the place was populated mostly by farmers. Granted, there were plenty of scrapyarders and a handful of metal workers here, but experienced sailors were few and far between.

And yet, the dreaded pressgangs had arrived.

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Chipping away at MY genre.

So I’ve just had another dent in my bid to become the biggest sci-fi author ever born (or something like that) as I watch what I thought was a new concept and perhaps even a new genre go to the proverbial dogs.

Actually, it’s not that bad, and I’m not so naive to think I’d created a completely new genre. But still…

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 19.23.46Nobody said it’s easy getting a story published, and I’m expecting my fair share of knock-backs when I eventually do set upon the task of trying to get a publisher. But I hadn’t expected to receive any knock-backs quite this soon in the process.

You see, when I initially came up with the particular genre of sci-fi I wanted to write, I thought the idea may be a little novel (pardon the pun). Not unique, perhaps, but at least different.

That – as it happens — is apparently not the case. It has been cruelly demonstrated over the previous few months that others may have already had the same idea as me, dagnabbit.

Still, looking at things optimistically, I’ve done my best to see the positives in all of this.

But I’ll get to that in a second…

After I’ve had a moan…

Ok, so deep down I knew I was never going to find anything entirely original. In all honesty, I just really wanted to write this book. In the back of my mind, though, was always the hope that perhaps there was something new in my novel, and that this would stand me in good stead to get people interested in reading it.

Nevertheless, to find something so close to what I have written is a blow.

But before I continue, it might be prudent to quickly explain what my genre is. Continue reading

Finding the joy of writing again

So I’ve just been composing a chapter that I had in mind for book one and really wanted to write, but could never squeeze in, which was a shame because the hero saves a whole star system from being discovered by those dastardly Brits and their Royal Navy and everyone cheers and whoops, pats him on the back and gives him their babies to kiss. Great stuff.

Anyway, after looking forward to writing this so much, I’ve somehow managed to find a place for it at the beginning of book two. And I’m very pleased to say that it hasn’t disappointed.

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Get rid of the adjectives? Have you gone mental?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of those people who frequently overwrites. I just can’t get enough of chunky adjectives, hyperbole, laying-it-on-thick, over dramatisation, theatrical adverbs and big, fat, fluffy sentences that you can really get your teeth into.

However…

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Plagiarism..? I see no plagiarism

History buffs out there may recognise the quote I’ve adapted for the title of this post: Admiral Nelson is said to have uttered it at the battle of Copenhagen when he put the telescope to his missing eye and said he could, ‘see no ships’. What a witty man he must have been.

He was also a very eloquent man and one who spoke many a phrase worth stealing for my book. In fact, I have already nicked some additional quotes of his and adapted them for my own use…

…and herein lies my conundrum:

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To Tease is to Please?

Hello again, friends…

Okay, so I’m going to blatantly post some content on here now; but I do so with more than just the intention of getting people to read small passages from my novel: The Heroic Adventures of Horatio Lee.

I am actually trying to come up with a ‘teaser’ to put at the front of the book and have shortlisted two excerpts, but I’m not sure which one to use. The first comes near the end of the story and I like it because it’s full-on and says, ‘come and get it’, whereas the other is not quite so dramatic, but a touch more tense and fulfills the duty of ‘teaser’ better than the first, I feel.

I would love an opinion on what anyone thinks  Please use the comments box as your voting card (good or bad – all donations are kindly accepted). Thanks.

Teaser one…

…Almost as if on cue to tear Horatio from the horrific scene he’d just witnessed, another cheer went up from his crew. They bayed and hollered as the single remaining mast of the frigate République splintered and gave way in the most spectacular fashion. The French ship then too then limped out of formation, her starboard drive coughing blue and silver smoke.

Taking advantage of the brief respite this small victory had afforded the crew of Vendetta, Horatio climbed the steps to the poop deck behind him to take stock of all that was happening astern of his ship.

Having never witnessed a full-on engagement before, he was struck deeply by the morbid beauty of it all. Each of the ships involved in the clash had taken on a rough, dishevelled and almost romantic appearance as their torn solar sails twitched and flicked with each touch of neutron shot and gunsmoke streamed from their stern exhausts. For a second, Horatio forgot about the death and carnage that those energy spikes were wreaking all around him and he watched in awe as the exquisite blue-green lances of energy spewed out from the competing vessels, streaking toward their enemies and lighting that fatal space between the ships with a criss-cross lattice of superheated light. Every time a spike found its target and the smashed section burst in all directions, the scattered pieces of wreckage illuminated and almost sparkled in the reflected light as it bounced off the fragments of debris like a million fireflies.

It was just such a shard of wreckage, however, that brought Horatio painfully back to reality. A shot from the vanquished République, which although drifting away was still firing, smashed into the mizzenmast near where he was standing and sent an inch long, glowing-hot metal splinter straight into his left forearm. Thankfully, one of the gunners working nearby saw his wounded Commander and immediately ran to fetch a Surgeon’s Mate.

The blood-splattered woman who swiftly appeared was well equipped for on-the-move repair jobs. She took a surprisingly firm hold of Lieutenant Lee’s arm, produced a pair of bloody pliers from her belt, apologised briefly and then summarily pulled out the splinter and bandaged the wound. It hurt like he could never have imagined, but the injury wasn’t life threatening and so, as the woman moved on to the next victim, Lieutenant Lee resumed his duties…

***

Teaser two…

“Range, five leagues to target, sir.”

“Very good. Slow to point-zero-zero-eight Lps, set the mizzen topgallant, charge EETs to eighty six percent and wait for my command.”

EETs were the Emergency Escape Thrusters: two small, single-use ion drives mounted at the very stern of a warship. Their primary use was to accelerate the ship away from its opponent once the firing run was complete, just in case you should find yourself out-gunned – and thus avoid exposing the vulnerable stern of your vessel to the enemy’s cannon. The Royal Navy was the only force to fit this technology to its fleets, while other star nations – particularly the French – found them an expensive, weighty and, some may say, cowardly addition to a warship. Moreover, in the vast majority of cases EETs would not be employed and you would simply put your vessel alongside the enemy and the true battering would commence.

For Lieutenant Lee to have charged his EETs to a relatively high eighty six percent was of no consequence to anyone aboard Intrepid at the present time; except he wasn’t planning on using them to run. What he had in mind was to use their exceptional stab of power for something rather different.

“Range, three leagues.”

At a distance of three leagues the target could finally be seen with the naked eye. It was a sad-looking skeleton of a ship, obviously old and completely run-down, and its masts and sails had been removed, which only served to further the ship’s dejected, forlorn appearance.

Lieutenant Lee looked on with almost sad eyes and sensed he was about to do the compassionate deed of putting this sick old lady out of her misery.

“Range two leagues.”

Intrepid came in at the perfect angle, approaching the other ship from her port stern quarter. Lieutenant Mattingly, who was now glued to his readouts, continued counting down the range while monitoring the technical updates from the rest of the ship.

“Range, one-point-five leagues.”  

Lieutenant Lee addressed Quartermaster Slater without looking away from the target. “Mr Slater, starboard guns prepare to fire, if you please.”

“Aye, sir,” said the burly quartermaster, turning to face the maindeck. “Starboard guns, prepare to fire.” He passed the order to the gundeck officers, and the command then reverberated along the entire length of the maindeck and down to the gundeck in a matter of seconds as the officers in turn relayed the order to their guncrews.

“Range, one league.” Lieutenant Mattingly’s voice took on a slightly tighter pitch. “Speed, point-zero-zero-eight Lps.”

Intrepid’s deceleration had reached its intended 0.008 leagues-per-second: the standard speed at which to engage a target on an initial firing run. The calculations of Lieutenant Mattingly had – as expected – been spot-on and the frigate attained attack speed at precisely the right distance from her target.

“Range, half a league.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. Mr Slater, make ready the portside cannon, if you will.”

At this command, the examiner, who up until now had been an all-but-invisible presence on the quarterdeck, glanced at Lieutenant Lee in surprise. Intrepid was approaching the target from its portside, meaning only her starboard cannon would get a chance to let off a shot. She was far too close to switch sides, and tacking around to come back for a second pass was against the rules. So why was he ordering the portside cannon to make ready?

 “Range, one thousand yards.”

 “Very good, Lieutenant.” Horatio was stood stock-still watching his target and keeping a careful eye on his ship’s approach. Then his eyes narrowed. “Helm, bring us round to run level.”

At this distance all those who were topside aboard Intrepid could see the target looming into view. As worthy as she was for the scrapheap, she was still an impressive sight. At least three-times the size of the frigate and with a hull that resembled the walls of a fortress, she cut an imposing figure up close. But, much like a wolf stalking an ox, Intrepid would not be deterred.

“Range, one hundred yards.”

Intrepid had now completed her turn and the two ships were finally parallel to each other. Which meant only one thing.

“Fire, Mr Slater.”

“Starboardside guns… Fire!”

***

Well, above you see the first ever public showing of my work. I’m guessing that if you got this far, it can’t have been that bad. I want to send my novel to Baen Books who accept unsolicited manuscripts, but who also like teasers. So what do you think? The first or second?

Oh, and here’s a cheeky little link, just to leave you with a flavour of what comes next. Awesome stuff…