So...what can I say about me?
I was born in Edinburgh in 1982, the same year as the Falklands War. I started to learn to read at a very young age and developed interests in science-fiction, fantasy and thriller novels. I remember the library questioning my right to borrow the latest Tom Clancy novel – I was nine at the time – which really irritated me. I didn't watch much television, so my interests were developed by books and comics rather than TV. I was 13 before I saw my first episode of Star Trek on television.
As I grew older, I became more interested in history and political affairs, starting out with the second world war. Learning how the different political, economic and social histories interacted provided (although I didn’t realise it at the time) a base for developing my own timelines, future histories and worlds for my stories. I didn't really study history at school, which was probably why I came to love it so much. What little history I did study was very unsatisfactory.
<RANT> You want the kids to start learning about history, right? Well, start with areas of history that are actually interesting! Forget the Lancashire cotton history, the Norwegian leather industry and PC histories. Start with World War Two. And while you’re at it, stop apologising for everything. Kids don’t want to feel that heroes like Francis Drake or Cortes were brutal imperialists intent on evil. </RANT>
I went to university in 2000 to study librarianship. Yes, I loved books so much that I wanted to work with them for the rest of my life. It was definitely an education, although the cynic in me wonders just how useful it actually was for my chosen field. I was in Manchester during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, something that permanently soured me on certain fields of political activity. I know that ideals are attractive – I’ll even admit that I have ideals of my own – but there is a clear difference between theoretical ideas and real life. Real life is messy and the people on the ground don’t really have the benefit of hindsight. People should play chess as well as study history. Mistakes are usually only apparent after you make them.
While I was in university, I started an online alternate history electronic magazine, Changing the Times. Writing alternate history – discussions of what might have happened if something had gone a little differently – was a challenge I found that I enjoyed. I got better along the way; getting feedback from like-minded people was helpful even when I ended up looking like an ignorant idiot (which did happen). I also learned the difference between useful criticism and people trying to pretend to be critics while enjoying their superiority. (Hint; there is a difference between stupidity and ignorance. Ignorance can be corrected; stupidity is permanent.)
I went back to Edinburgh after university and started looking for a job. Funnily enough, all the jobs my university had promised were waiting for people like me didn't seem to exist – or they did, but they demanded people with real experience. I did some work in a used bookstore, voluntary work in a charity shop and – worst of all – slave labour in an old folks home. One lesson I learned from THAT was that none of my elderly relatives were going to go into one. I think I showed the elderly residents more care and compassion than the carers.
And then I read a book that changed my life. No, it isn't one of those stories about how one self-help book can change the world. It was a thriller novel; not a bad story, but very disappointing in that the bad guys (who seemed to be pretty close to omnipotent) lost their chance to impose their own order on the world. I know that it would have been a pretty bad place to live if they'd won (although one thing I did learn from history is that nothing actually ends) but I would have liked to see it. I told myself that I could do better. And so I set out to try.
I wrote my first manuscript in 2005. Looking back, I’m not surprised that it was rejected – although at the time I thought that it was genius. (Two things you need in the writing world; ego and a thick skin.) I still think that it was a more interesting world than the one created by authors who held out tantalising possibilities, only to have the good guys win. From then, I wrote an alien invasion novel, a cross-time contact novel and...
...Well, everything went on from there.
I passed Changing the Times over to David Atwell because (between writing and working) I didn’t have the time to carry on with it. And I wrote. And I wrote. Tom Kratman convinced me that it was possible for another author to write in John Ringo’s Posleen Universe, so I contacted John Ringo and asked for permission to write the story of what happened when the Posleen invaded Britain. And then I did the same for the Middle East. (Both of those stories are in the Posleen section.) And I just kept writing.
Right now, I’m living in Malaysia with my other half, concentrating on – you guessed it – writing. Malaysia is very different from Britain in all kinds of ways, some unsurprising and others that continue to astonish me. I have quite a few photographs on facebook if you want to look at them. And I’m working on other ideas that may one day become novels. Most of them are posted on my blog.
And if you enjoyed looking at this site, why not let me know?
Changing the Times is currently online here. The 2006 version of the site (we had a great deal of trouble with a German porn site that hijacked the URL, lampooned here) as I created it is here. I post frequently on Counter-Factual.Net (the most civil alternate history site on the web) and Baen’s Bar.
The picture below (produced by Alex Claw) isn't really me, but it’s an alarmingly good likeness...
I'm just a writer, really.