The Thin Blue Line–Pre-Order Now!

20 Aug

Hi, everyone

The Thin Blue Line is now available for pre-order from Amazon (links below.) The book itself will be available from 23rd August (Saturday, US time).

This probably requires a little explanation. <grin>. Amazon has recently started offering pre-orders for Kindle books. I wasn’t convinced this was actually useful at first – big publishers have slack built into their schedules that self-publishers can’t match. To add to this, you need a final version of the book before you can pre-order, so I can’t offer Hard Lessons without actually having something to sell.

And then it occurred to me that I could use the system.

If you pre-order the book, you won’t actually be charged until the book goes live. At that point, assuming I understand the system properly, you’ll get the book and I will (hopefully) have a large number of sales, all of which will take place at the same time. This should give my rankings, which are based on books sold, a hefty boost.

Cover Blurb

Earth has fallen … and humanity is holding its breath, waiting for the next blow to fall.

On Terra Nova, Earth’s oldest colony world, chaos and anarchy are threatening to break out, with total collapse only one disaster away. In a desperate attempt to save the rest of the Empire, the planet’s Governor has summoned the leaders of the Core Worlds to Terra Nova, in hopes of sharing power and preventing civil war. But dark forces are on the move, intent on ensuring that the conference fails.

As the first strands of a deadly plot are uncovered, Imperial Marshal Glen Cheal finds himself fighting to uncover the plot before it is too late. Meanwhile, on her own mission to save the last best hope for peace, Specialist Belinda Lawson of the Terran Marine Corps is plunged into a nightmare where she can no longer trust her own mind, while her decisions will save or damn the Empire …

Failure isn’t an option. But success may not be an option either …

[Like my other self-published Kindle books, The Thin Blue Line is DRM-free. You may reformat it as you choose. There is a large sample of the text – and my other books – on my site. Try before you buy.]

Thank you for your time.

In other news, LONCON was great fun. I’m currently plotting to try to get to the next one in Spokane, USA.


Quick (Again) Updates

11 Aug

Hi, everyone

Good news first – I’ve only got three chapters to go for The Thin Blue Line (TEC 9). I hope to finish it tomorrow, then send it to be edited and get it up within a week or so. I also need a cover, which hopefully will be ready on time too. This is a stand-alone piece, of sorts – it might be a good idea to reread When the Bough Breaks beforehand, as Belinda reappears in this volume.

After that, I’m going to write a short story (5K-10K) for an anthology of MIL-SF writings. I’m planning to do one set in either the Ark Royal universe or The Empire’s Corps universe. Which one would you like?

-One story would be the origin story of the hero of Warspite – basically, a ‘what I did during the war’ story. He would be pitted against a remorseless alien foe, all alone in the night.

-The other would be centred around a small Marine detachment in the middle of a city, during a war. I’ve got several separate ideas for it, but none really gelling yet. The core one is basically ‘Christmas in wartime’ when the Marines try to celebrate despite being under heavy fire. Another one would be more sentimental, I think.

Paul suggested one featuring Roland, the former Crown Prince. I’ve given it some thought, but it would really be more of a character story as he makes his way through Boot Camp. How does that sound? But it would be less exciting than either of the other two stories, I feel.

That said, my life is seeing more changes. <grin>.

Hopefully, we will be going to the UK for a year or so, after long battles with the UKBA to get permission for me to live there with Aisha. There’s a complete lack of actually useful communication from them, so while we have the stamped passport I’m still left a little unsure of the exact procedures. They start by demanding a lot of documents, then they give us the stamped passport and … what? Do we still need the TB form? <bangs head off wall several times.>

So I’ll be going to LonCon on Saturday and Sunday coming, then heading back to Edinburgh (after having made a few bookshops in London a little bit richer.) Then …

My current plan is to write Barbarians at the Gates II next, then go on to either Hard Lessons (A Learning Experience II) or Warspite (Ark Royal V2) Let me know which one you’d like.

It’s been a busy month for my publishers, in other news. Both Study in Slaughter and Necropolis have been posted on Amazon. Paper copies of Schooled In Magic should be available within a week or two. If you liked them, please write a review.

I’m probably going to be working through the edits for Work Experience (Schooled in Magic IV) in the next couple of weeks, then hopefully have it up in a couple of months. The School of Hard Knocks (SIM V) has been accepted, but no publication date yet.

I also have the planned titles for the next three books in the series. 6 – Love’s Labour’s Won, 7 – Trial By Fire, 8 – The Parting of the Ways. Assuming everything goes according to plan, Trial By Fire will serve as the end of the first story arc. Then things really start moving.

Anyway, back to the writing for me.


Vote No

10 Aug

It is just over a month until Scotland goes to the polls to vote on the most prominent question in Scottish Government since the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Should Scotland separate itself from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and become an independent nation?

I’m going (assuming I get back there in time) to vote NO. This is why.

One – We Don’t Need To Change Our Status

Let’s be brutally honest. Scotland is not an oppressed nation. We do not live in fear as jackboots crush our necks, our culture is not under threat and we are not strangers in our own country. Scotland is not Kurdistan, Tibet, Basque or even Eastern Ukraine. Scots are not being herded into death camps or forced off the land into slums. We have a parliament of our own, rights to vote for Scottish, British and European politicians and generally life is pretty good.

Do we really need to rock the boat?

Two – It Would Be Impossibly Complex

India used to be a united nation under the British. When independence came in 1947, so did chaos and near-Civil War. Separating out Scotland’s rightful share of everything owned by Great Britain (military bases and industries, for example, as well as railways and airports) would be fantastically complex.

For example, what percentage of the British Armed Forces would go to Scotland? The Scots Guard would probably be Scottish, but what about the SAS, Royal Navy, RAF and suchlike? Scotland houses a number of military installations crucial to defending Britain, including airbases and radar installations. Would those continue to be run by the UK or would they become Scottish? And, if so, what happens to the personnel?

And then there’s the nuclear question. Would an independent Scotland keep nukes? But the main base for the British nuclear deterrent is in Scotland. Would Scotland allow the base to remain there or would the newly-independent Scottish Parliament demand that the nuclear submarines were moved? If so, the cost of building a new base in England would be staggering.

Here’s another question. My parents were born in England, I was born in Scotland and grew up in Edinburgh … and I consider myself British. I have friends and family on both sides of the border. Now, where do I fit in if we enter a brave new world of Scottish independence? Am I British, Scottish, English or what? Britain is not a country where there are sharp divides between racial groups, certainly not between Scottish/English. How many families will be affected badly by an attempt to brand them as either Scottish or English?

And what about the Royal Family? Would they be part of Scottish life or would we become a republic? If so, what happens to the royal possessions within Scotland?

And that barely scratches the surface. Imagine the worst divorce case you’ve ever heard of and multiply it a million-fold. That’s how bad it’s going to be.

And this leads to …

Three – We Can’t Afford It

Divorces are always expensive when there’s money and property involved. Just think of all the stars who have had high-profile divorces where there are literally millions of pounds at stake. It’s going to be a great deal worse as we try to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. I can’t even begin to estimate the costs we’d face, all of which would be paid by the Scottish taxpayers. What? You think England is going to pay when we’re leaving them with a mess to clear up? Of course not.

We would need a whole new bureaucracy to deal with the problems, everything from reissuing passports to opening diplomatic missions overseas. And this bureaucracy would be unlikely to go away when it’s work was done. It would remain a steady drain on the Scottish Taxpayer.

Of course, this is par for the course with the Scottish Parliament. The parliament building itself grew hideously expensive as building progressed (despite the fact we already had a perfectly good one) and the Edinburgh Trams became a financial nightmare (despite the fact it would have been far cheaper and more flexible to buy a few hundred new buses). And then there’s the concept of free education, which merely moves the bill onto the taxpayers instead of the students.

Overall, the costs would be staggering and Scotland is not a wealthy nation. Do we really want to shoulder the costs of independence?

Four – It Would Be Immensely Disruptive

I have a British passport. So does every British citizen. Legally, there’s no difference between someone born in Scotland and England. But what would happen if Scotland becomes independent? Would a Scottish passport be available at once? Would British passports still be considered valid? Technically speaking, a case could be made that every Scottish citizen living abroad would be there under a false passport (a crime) as soon as Scotland becomes independent. Do you really want to deal with the problems this would cause?

That’s not even the most serious problem. Right now, travel between England and Scotland means nothing more than travel between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Would we have to put in border control booths along the border?

And then there’s the economic question. Businesses cannot thrive when they’re unsure of where they stand, at least legally. Would a large corporation like BAE SYSTEMS be governed under British law or Scottish law? Furthermore, what about the costs of doing business?

One of the major employers in Scotland is the defence industry, which largely sells to the British Armed Forces. The military prefers to buy from home-grown industries where possible because they don’t halt shipments for political reasons. But would this continue if the Scottish shipyards were in another country? I have a feeling that the Royal Navy would be pressed to reduce its investments in Scottish facilities as much as possible, weakening the Scottish economy and costing jobs. (The Scottish Navy would be unable to supply enough contracts to keep the shipyards going.) And a sudden surge in unemployment will have knock-on effects that could prove disastrous.

We would also not have a financial security net. Britain is a wealthy country. When the economic crisis hit, the British economy was able to handle it. Smaller countries like Ireland and Iceland were much less able to cope with the chaos, which led to their effective surrender to the EU. What would happen to Scotland if there was a sudden sharp drop in oil revenue, for example? I doubt it would be pleasant.

Furthermore, would we use the Pound, the Euro or a newly-created Scottish currency? Using the former two would mean subordinating our economies to either London or Brussels (assuming they allowed us to use their currencies without argument) while the third would cause considerable disruption in its own right. Britain can afford to back its currency, an independent Scotland would be a far more questionable proposition, as far as the markets are concerned. The value of the ‘Scot’ would sink rapidly at first, almost certainly leading to capital fleeing the country. Savings would decrease in value for quite some time.

But let’s consider something more personal. Right now, in the UK, everyone pays the same prices in large shops and supermarkets. I don’t think that will remain stable if Scotland becomes independent. Believe it or not, shopping is more expensive in Ireland than in the UK. Why? The costs of doing business in Ireland are higher. What sort of other cost increases will affect businesses if Scotland becomes independent … and how will they be passed on to the consumer? What about pensions? Benefits? There will be a colossal risk of disruption to benefit payments to people who rely on them.


Call me a cynic, but I rather doubt MSPs will take a pay cut in sympathy.

Five – We Would Not Be Guaranteed Entry Into The EU

Leaving aside the question of if we actually want to join the EU (the SNP, despite claiming to want independence for Scotland, has not shown any enthusiasm for leaving Europe) there is no guarantee we would actually get into the EU. In fact, as I noted earlier, the EU is a political project, governed by nations that would have very good reason to veto Scotland joining the EU.

How many countries in the EU, let me ask, have separatist movements? The answer, according to Wikipedia, is pretty much ALL of them.

Do you really think that those nations, which really don’t want to face the hassle of dealing with separatist movements of their own, would be eager to encourage Scotland’s entry into the EU? They wouldn’t, because that would be cutting their own throats. Instead, they have every reason to make our entry into the EU as difficult as possible, no doubt forcing enough conditions from us to seriously cripple Scotland’s independence. (This is, to all intents and purposes, what happened to Ireland and Greece during the economic crash.)

The same could be said for the UN. There are too many nations with separatist groups who would have every interest in making it as painful as possible for us.

What does this mean for us? Right now, Britain can sell freely within the EU, at least in theory. An independent Scotland would be shut out of European markets until we negotiated entry to the EU, which would cripple our economy. And again, it would cost jobs.

Six – We Would Lose Much Of Our Influence

Britain is not the mighty empire it once was, for better or worse. But we still have a great deal of economic, military and political clout. Scotland would not possess that clout, regardless of our aspirations. The EU would consider us to be little better than Greece or the Eastern European States – states that “missed a good opportunity to shut up,” as the former French President put it, back in 2003. We would have little or no influence within the EU, no matter the formalities of the situation. And if we balked, we could be denied access to EU markets.

Britain can and does deploy a formidable military force, despite recent cutbacks. But an independent Scotland would not be able to match that deployment, even for a greatly reduced military. Indeed, the costs of modern military equipment are so high that smaller militaries are unable to keep up with the larger ones.

Furthermore, Britain can and does send a substantial portion of foreign aid to needy countries around the world. Scotland would be unable to make a similar attempt at charity – and Britain’s ability to do so would be sharply reduced by Scottish independence.

In short, we would be giving up an influential position for one that would have very little influence. And we’d cripple England’s influence too.

Seven – It Would Damage Our Security

One thing history teaches us is how quickly the world can change. No one anticipated the First World War, yet it shattered the pre-war balance of power. The sixty-nine years of relative peace in Western Europe since the end of the Cold War may not last indefintely. Indeed, the terrorist attacks in New York, social unrest on many European streets and the rise of Putin’s Russia may lead to an end to a period of unprecedented peace.

Splitting up the British Armed Forces (to say nothing of everything from the police to MI5 and MI6) would weaken both Scotland and England at a very dangerous moment of world history. Would Scotland be a member of NATO? Almost certainly not, for the same reasons I outlined against an easy entry into the EU. I don’t think the Americans would thank us for disrupting the British military.

And there is another point to consider. A recent report noted that a number of Scottish soldiers were considering staying with the British Army if independence came. Why? Because there would be more chance for action among the British Army. The Scottish Army wouldn’t offer so many chances of excitement, promotion and an actual career. We might end up with the shell of an army as competent and experienced men insist on heading south to stay with the army they know and love. (There are a number of men from the Republic of Ireland in the British Army, who joined because they wanted real excitement.)

Finally, there is the question of nuclear weapons. The SNP is divided on the issue, but tell me – is it really wise to abandon the ultimate guarantee of British/Scottish security? It isn’t so long since the Ukraine gave up its nukes in exchange for a paper guarantee of its territorial integrity, a guarantee that has not been honoured by outside powers. Nukes and a creditable delivery system ensure that we cannot lose a war so badly that we will be crushed, or – more practically – can counter any threats of nuclear blackmail. Keeping nukes does not mean that we will use them. It merely means that we can use them, if necessary.


I am not unbiased in this matter. I honestly doubt that anyone is, not when this decision will have far-reaching implications for our future. However, I have weighed up the evidence as best as I can and concluded, without reasonable doubt, that Scottish Independence will be bad for Scotland.

There are few rewards for being a small country adrift in a sea of sharks. That is what we will face, as an independent state. Nor, if there are any benefits from independence, will we see them in a hurry. Indeed, the drawbacks will materialise with staggering speed, while it will take years to see any improvements to our living standards.

Finally, I will admit that I do not like Alex Salmond. He isn’t the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela or another person with a genuine cause. I will concede he probably believes deeply in the cause of Scottish independence. However, his flag-waving stunts and unwillingness to discuss the nuts and bolts of an independent Scotland worry me. I see him as style over substance.

In short, I don’t want President Salmond.

Worse, even if I put all that aside, President Salmond would have very little influence in the world. The problems facing a newly-independent Scotland that I outlined above will not be directed by Scotland, but by outside powers. We would face a long period of disruption as the world tries to sort out where everyone stands, now that Scotland is no longer part of Britain.

The SNP – and the Scottish Parliament – has not, in my view, shown any real capability for financial management. There is no such thing as a free lunch – someone always pays. The issue of free education, for example, sounds good … but the costs will be shuffled onto the Scottish Taxpayer. Hard reality will impact the SNP’s dreams and leave them shattered, while we pay the costs.

Scotland does not need to be independent. Furthermore, the costs of independence far outweigh the benefits.

I’m going to vote no. And I think you should too.

[If you agree with this post, please share it as wildly as you can. I welcome comments and discussion, either here or on my forum.]

Up Now–Necropolis (The Royal Sorceress III)

8 Aug

Available now!

The British Empire is teetering on the brink of war with France. A war that may, for the first time, see magicians in the ranks on both sides. The Royal Sorceress, Lady Gwendolyn Crichton, will be responsible for the Empire’s magical resources when the time comes. Still struggling to overcome prejudice within the Royal College of Sorcerers, she has at least earned the gratitude of much of the aristocracy, if not their respect.

But just when Gwen needs to be firmly focused on training new sorcerers, her adopted daughter Olivia, the only known living necromancer, is kidnapped. Her abduction could signal a terrible new direction in the impending war. But Intelligence soon establishes that it was Russian agents who took Olivia, so an incognito Gwen joins a British diplomatic mission to Russia, an uncertain element in the coming conflict. Once she has arrived in St Petersburg, she discovers that the Tsar is deranged and with the help of a mad monk has a plan that threatens the entire world.

Immediately following on from The Great Game, Necropolis sees Gwen thrust into the wider international arena as political unrest spreads throughout Europe and beyond, threatening to hasten an almighty conflict. Once again Christopher Nuttall combines exciting fantasy with believable alternate history that is almost close enough for us to touch.

Download a Free Sample, then purchase it from the links on the page here!  As always, reviews are very welcome.

LonCon and Other News

5 Aug

Hi, everyone

The good news, right now, is that we have permission (finally) to live in the UK. We’re going to travel (barring complete disaster, which is alarmingly possible right now) on the 14th – hopefully, after I’ve finished the first draft of The Thin Blue Line (The Empire’s Corps IX).

I’m planning to be at LonCon ( for Saturday and Sunday (16-17th August). I don’t have a definite schedule yet, but I intend to spend some time at the Elsewhen Press table, in between exploring the rest of the convention. (It’s my first real convention.) If you’re going to be in London at the time, drop me a note and see if we can meet up.


Fantasy Civil War Idea

31 Jul

I was reading the new biography of General Lee (Clouds of Glory, well worth a read) and I started to have an idea. Then a few more ideas …

There’s a fantasy world where magic exists (yeah, surprise, surprise). Magic needs a talent to use, but once you have that talent you can call on the Mana and use it to power your spells (a little like The Magic Goes Away, but I’m not sure if Mana can be actually depleted on a global scale or not.) Generally speaking, you need lots of practice to learn how to use magic on a large scale safely, with an increasing risk of madness the more power you channel (there are ways to speed up the process, but they also result in increasing the risk of going bonkers.)

There aren’t actually that many magic users, as magic tends to kill its practitioners if they’re not very careful. Those that do tend to survive do so because they were taught by another magic user, who shares his carefully-acuminated knowledge with his apprentice in exchange for service of one kind or another. Magicians rarely share knowledge outside the master-apprentice system, as they see their private discoveries as something to trade, not to give away freely.

For generations, therefore magic has largely run in a handful of bloodlines lucky enough to have enough magicians survive long enough to master their powers.

Once you get enough knowledge, there are plenty of options, from ‘conventional’ magic to making bargains with demons and suchlike.

The principle power unit in this world, at least for the story, is the High Kingdom of Unnamed (I haven’t started working out the nitty-gritty.) Roughly 200 years before the start of the story, a monarch of a small kingdom launched a series of wars against his neighbours, rather like Alexander the Great. He succeeded in uniting around forty kingdoms, assorted minor political units and suchlike under his banner. Surprisingly, he managed to pass the kingdom down to his eldest son, who proclaimed himself the High King.

There’s something of a gap between the two halves of the kingdom, however. The east is very traditional – it borders various other independent kingdoms, so it tends to think in terms of land power and keeping the peons under control. (Think of France or Russia in 1800). There’s no such thing as social mobility in the east – everyone knows their place, from the serfs working the lands to the nobility in the high castles.

The west, however, is built around smaller kingdoms with access to the sea. Think the Netherlands or Britain in 1700-1800. They have a far more open mindset, greater social mobility and a vigorous approach to innovation. There’s not THAT liberal by our standards, but they’re definitely more open to people rising as far as their ability will take them.

This has had a major impact on magic, starting with the introduction of what we might as well call disciplined magic. Basically, some low-power magicians set up an academy (a cross between a school, a university and a research lab) into how magic actually worked, pooling their knowledge and building on it. This new scientific approach to magic, studying how mana actually worked, allowed them to develop a certain form of magic technology (magitek?) which revolutionised the world. The West loved these innovations – the East hated them.

East-trained magicians tend to be more powerful, West-trained magicians tend to be more numerous.

As of now, the High King is dead (probably assassinated, though I’m not entirely sure.) There is no male heir – there are only a pair of sisters, Princesses Alpha and Beta. Alpha is legally the heir, as there are no male heirs, but there has never been a High Queen before and many of the power elite are concerned about allowing a female to take the throne. (Britain went through something similar when a female ruler stepped up to the plate more than once.) The nobles of the East see this as an opportunity to reverse the changes of the past – they want to capture and marry off the princess to one of their number and crush the free-thinking West. The West sees this as a chance to change the ways of the past still further.

The East attempts to mount a coup. It fails – and outright civil war breaks out between the two sides.



Study In Slaughter (Schooled In Magic III)–Available Now!

26 Jul

The sequel to Schooled In Magic and Lessons In Etiquette

Brimming with new ideas for magical research, Emily returns to Whitehall School for her Second Year, only to discover that things are going to be different. Her friends have become sports-mad fanatics, her new roommates are strangers to her, her new classes are far harder and one of the teachers seems to actively dislike her. As she returns to the comforting routine of the only place she considers home, she finds that Second Year will be far harder than the first.

But as the students settle in to continue their studies, it rapidly becomes clear that all is far from well at Whitehall. There’s a murderer running loose in the school. A murderer who may be a newborn necromancer. And then there’s the spy watching Emily from the shadows, waiting for her to make one tiny, but fatal mistake …

As the darkness falls on Whitehall, Emily may be their salvation…or the person who damns them all.

Download a Free Sample, then purchase from the links on this pageAnnotations hereReviews welcome!


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