I've written the first draft of my [wannabe] masterpiece which is shaping up to be around sixty thousand words, one hundred and fifty A4/Letter pages (line and a half spaced that equates to around two hundred and thirty pages paperback). That's eight fairly chunky chapters including The Prologue.

finaldraft rubberstampThe book is called "Stars, Hide Your Fires" and it is the first book of what I am calling, "The Abyssal Void War" series. Without giving too much away I view the series as a future alternate history. BY that I mean it is set about eight hundred years in the future where humanity has spread out to colonise the stars in a group of systems they refer to as "The Extent". In the most generic sense the "universe" is human only and all of the life on the planets is seeded from Terran/Earth stock. I have tried to keep the physics in this "universe" as real as possible currently only allowing one main technology deviation from that, a plot device designed to allow my characters to travel between locations several light years distant from each other.

The book itself falls fairly clearly into a sub-genre called Military Science Fiction but, as I imply above, it's slightly different from the usual stuff at least as much as in my overall idea.

For those who are interested here is the chapter list:

  • Chapter 01: Wave Without A Shore [Complete]
  • Chapter 02: Agent of Change [Complete]
  • Chapter 03: Mists of Dawn [Complete]
  • Chapter 04: The Final Programme [Complete]
  • Chapter 05: Space Cadet [In Progress]
  • Chapter 06: The Only Thing We Learn
  • Chapter 07: A Fire Upon The Deep

Between finishing the first draft and moving on to review/correct my writing I realised something just didn't add up in my story and correcting that, even though the correction was fairly simple, had ramifications, huge ramifications. It took me more than six months to deal with that alone.

Since then I have been through several steps in order to make this book the best ever written (I jest of course, I can but aspire to be that good). When I started writing, I had little more than a vague notion that I would try to keep the science, the physics in it "real" but reviewing what I knew changed my mind in many different ways. I had already noted that as I wrote my way towards the last chapter the technologies I was writing about changed, not only from a progressing story's perspective but as I discovered we humans were even cleverer and more advanced than I had previously thought. My corrections involved the research of the various subjects my novel touched on, the writing of extensive background histories and the development of various other materials. I have now completed, inasmuch as anything of this sort is ever complete, this process but it is still true that my background changes on a daily basis although currently it is changing mainly in fine only.

I revisited my locations. Although there was some research involved this was primarily achieved by drawing maps, schematics, plans and profiles that allowed me to better describe the scenes in which my characters appear. Again this is largely complete subject to the proviso expressed above. Of course not wanting to reinvent the wheel much of that material will end up on my website wiki for those of you in any way interested in the universe I have created.finaldraft folders

Now I am in the process of creating my final draft which, in broad terms, involves me going through the book chapter by chapter, correcting, expanding and reviewing my material. I am currently at Chapter five of seven (actually six of eight if you include the prologue) and so on. I had been considering adding a ninth chapter and, as I write, I see a very good reason to do so ... that would make the next chapter I review, seven of nine (and if you don't get that you're really not a geek).

Finally, once I have completed the final draft I will have to create the final review copy to send to my editors. I strongly suspect that may be a painful process necessitating as it surely will going through the entire novel once again and ripping from it all that material that doesn't serve to progress the story or bear on the as yet untold stories of books two and three.

By my current estimates I should have the first book completed in about two to three months, so mid to late summer, which roughly speaking boils down to a total of two and a half writing and editing. I freely admit that's a long time but, in my defence, I am also working and don't have a great deal of time to devote to a project that may never really amount to anything regardless of how much I hope otherwise.

For now that's it ... thanks for reading.

J. C Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

A brilliant idea that ultimately fails in execution. It has been said of Turtledove that he is the master of the alternate history series, on the basis of the first seven books of this series I have little choice but to disagree.

A review of "Soldier of the Republic", the debut novel by Ben Slythe. The book might be classed as military science fiction, is well-written and engaging demonstrating the author's excellent grasp of both military organisation and historic battles.

About Me

I'm a 58 year old, happily married Brit with two daughters livin2001: A Space Odysseyg in the south of England.

I had, of course, been exposed to science fiction (mainly old style, black & white) when I was young but my epiphany moment (that moment when you think, "this is really, really good") was when my Dad took me, aged 12, to see "2001: A Space Odyssey". The ballet of spacecraft to the gorgeous refrains of Johann Straus Junior's "The Blue Danube" simply mesmerised me.

I had soon picked up my first science fiction book (Heinlein's "Tunnel In The Sky") and, from that moment, I was hooked. I got rapidly into the classic SF writers, Asimov, Clark, more Heinlein, Silverberg, Anderson, Pohl, Harrison and it was from that love of science fiction, written by people who often loved or were involved in it themselves that my real love of science developed.

Science fiction was mind expanding stuff and led to that curious duality in worldview that only the moderately religious can understand, yes science was absolutely correct and yes god created the world in seven days however, by the age of thirteen, I was Catholic in little more than a cultural sense. When I left school there were, of course, more important things to worry about namely clubbing, girls & drink.

My early career was inconsistent as I started off working in laboratory technology, spent a year and a half in the UK Armed Forces then, exiting somewhat ignominiously, and re-joining my lab tech career. Although the forces weren't for me I remain a huge supporter of them. I went on to gain a degree in biology and, during that period, met my future wife, the woman who (by whatever train of twisted logic she uses) has agreed not to dump me for more than thirty two years! After my degree I switched to IT support in science based industry but eventually moved out into the wider world of computing. .

I don't know when I realised I was but, there can be no doubt, I 'm a geek and proud of it ... as I say above I love science fiction. I've grown up reading science fiction, watching science fiction and playing science fiction. My all-time favourite film used to be "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi", now it's "Avatar" and I have liked what I consider the best of science fiction, everything from "Star Trek" to "Babylon 5", "Doctor Who" to "Buffy", "Dexter" to "True Blood" and "Dune" to "Ender's Game". Although I'm not into "cosplay" (my oldest daughter is) I occasionally go to conventions and I've even learned some Na'vi, the language of the natives from "Avatar", partly for fun but also because it taught me lots about language structure. Though I am an unashamed science fiction buff, my interest in film doesn't stop there. I also love the supernatural, thrillers, romances, comedies, high school, animations, musicals, westerns, war films, romantic comedies and so on. In short there are very few genres I don't like and I am trying to extend that catholicism (small c) to reading.

Moving with my wife to Kent, primarily because the housing was cheaper and we could get more for our money outside of London, where I started work at the aforementioned pharmaceuticals. Since living in Kent we have had a couple of gorgeous kids who are now pretty much grown up and I met some of my best friends. It is because, perhaps in spite, of my relationships with all those people that I am, philosophically, what I am today; a centre left hawk and a humanist.

I have been involved with writing for some considerable time. For a long time I have documented various procedures at work so that others can follow but my personal involvement with writing probably sprang from a combination of my interest in online debate, a particular game I used to love and website management. My debate activities, articles defending against the vacuous claims of science deniers, were written as pseudo-scientific papers which further developed my sense of written organisation. Initially I started to write gaming guides for the game in question (trust me, no one these days will want to know) and later, recognising its potential for role play and storytelling, fiction based on and around the gaming universe.

For a while I fell away from writing then, a few years back, I started to develop a user submission framework in which I planned to act as both editor and author. The level of detail escalated until it became overwhelming and I began to flag but then a TV show, a writing competition, came to my rescue and that of my best friend who was also a budding (now published) author. The competition was hosted by "Richard and Judy" in conjunction with "W. H. Smith" with a fifty thousand pound prize, enough to keep me permanently writing for two years. We didn't win and when we saw the list of winner's we could easily see why my science fiction and my friend's detective novels would never have won, nevertheless it spurred us on to bigger and better things. Having recently quit work and with far more time on his hands, my friend published his first book ("Soldier of the Republic") over a year ago and the detective novel he submitted to the completion ("Terminus Place") is on the verge of becoming his next.

JCR outside a Greek Taverna

Flagging on the original collaborative idea (I had found myself getting too personal with my characters, too involved) it was that competition that changed the project into a novel. I don't have as much time to devote to writing as my friend has had but I am getting there, my novel when I completed it to first draft had reached a staggering one hundred and thirty thousand words and looked like it would get bigger still. With that in mind I made the executive decision to split the book in two and am now working on the first novel.

I had been through the background material of my book (it will take time but my plan is to put most of that on this site) which changed it quite considerably and as such now have a specific review technique. I will outline that in a separate article but, whilst I am currently "taking a break" to create and update this website, I now have only three chapters top go.

Once that is complete I will publish it and start working on the second book to be published sometime next year.

So that's it ... for now I would like to welcome you to the site. I hope you enjoy it and if you have criticisms please can I ask you to be constructive when communicating them to me?

J. C. Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

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