Archive | December, 2014

Happy New Year!

31 Dec

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Actually, I tell a lie (but it’s a nice quote and I wanted to steal it.) In many ways, this year has been a very good one for me.

Principally, my son was born on 23rd December, 2014. Eric is a very healthy baby with an extremely good pair of lungs. He likes being cuddled by his mother and father, but really – really – dislikes being changed or washed. After some hesitation, I think I managed to master the trick of changing him as fast as possible.

This was somewhat marred by Aisha having a fever on the 26th and having to go back into hospital for a few days. She’s now back in the house, feeling weak but getting better. We still don’t know what caused the infection, however.

Being a father is both wonderful and terrible. Eric is a lovely child, yet he seems so fragile. I hold him gingerly, because I’m scared of hurting him; I hold him firmly, because I’m scared of dropping him. I’m almost neurotic about dangerous stuff in the house; I’m currently planning to hammer the bookcases into the walls, just to be sure he can’t pull them down on his head. Is this normal?

We spent the first five months of 2014 in Manchester, then went back to Malaysia for two months before finally getting the visa. I won’t go into details, because this message would then become a rant, but suffice it to say that getting the visa for someone who could actually make a valued contribution to the country was an extremely difficult task. It might not be so bad if it wasn’t far too clear that the UKBA is a joke. Frankly, the system seems designed to take as much money off the would-be immigrant as possible, rather than defending the country or even ensuring that immigration is limited to people who can be expected to behave in a civilised manner. (For example, you need to have a TB certificate. Sounds reasonable … except the clinic they approved to do the test charges huge rates, by Malay standards.)

The writing has been going reasonably well, as you know. Ark Royal surprised me by doing fantastically well on Amazon, so I wound up writing three sequels; The Nelson Touch, The Trafalgar Gambit and Warspite. I’m planning to write the next two Warspite books – A Savage War of Peace and A Small Colonial War – over the next year, followed by another trilogy provisionally entitled Vanguard.

Schooled In Magic has also been doing well; I’ve got two more books in the pipeline … and, as you know, several more books planned. I would love to write these books exclusively, but I need to vary myself. <grin>. Bookworm III will be out in February, I hope, along with The School of Hard Knocks (SIM V).

I’m currently fiddling with my choices for the next few projects. Ideally, I plan to write either Never Surrender (TEC 10) or Coup D’état (stand-alone) next, probably in late January or early February. After that, I need to finish the Decline and Fall of The Galactic Empire at some point, along with another Schooled In Magic or Royal Sorceress book.

Warspite will be coming out in audio soon enough, along with the next couple of books in The Empire’s Corps series. I’m exploring options for bringing out audio versions of the Schooled In Magic books too, just to see what will happen. CreateSpace sales have been low, unsurprisingly; I cannot set the prices any lower without eliminating my profits completely. (I get one dollar on the books.) POD doesn’t have the economies of scale that the traditional publishers enjoy. I still pray for a book published by a mainstream house – I would like a mass market paperback with my name on it.

That said, I’m nervous about some of the recent changes in the book industry. While I can’t say the dispute between Amazon and Hachette did anything for me, one way or the other, I do have a feeling that Kindle Unlimited and the EU’s VAT changes will have serious effects on Indie writers such as myself. (The VAT changes will bite into my income, while smaller presses and single-person businesses are likely to go under. This will naturally REDUCE the EU’s tax base, which is really freaking stupid.) Kindle Unlimited, in many ways, has had a similar effect on my income. Instead of a 70% share of the profits, I get a smaller fraction of the monthly pot.

This isn’t the only problem. In order to run promotional efforts, I need to have my stuff in KU … which obviously weakens my long-term profits. In effect, I am taking a hit for exposure, which may or may not pay off. I don’t think it’s worth it, so I am exploring additional platforms for my books.

This has happened, at least in part, because of the sheer volume of items on KU, many of which are tiny compared to a full-length book. (With a single exception, all of my kindle books are full novels.) I think that the number of participants has been driving down the proceeds for everyone, while the relatively low price of KU membership devalues the non-KU books. Amazon will, I suspect, take steps to fix this problem, but it will almost certainly require them to either cancel KU or do a much better job of filtering inclusions.

Until then, if you like a book by an author, buy it directly and leave a good review <grin>.

Personally, my moods have been swinging rapidly from up to down. Objectively, I know I am in a good position; subjectively, I’ve been having moments of deep depression for no apparent reason. Having a child may help with that, as I may have been fretting over every last problem (such as the baby stopping kicking for a while) or it may make things worse. I guess I will just have to wait and see.

I have been invited to RAVENCON and EASTERCON, but I don’t think I will be able to make it to RAVENCON (it depends on Eric’s moods). I may be travelling to the USA for WORLDCON, but I can’t promise anything yet. Watch my blog for details.

Anyway, it’s back to taking care of the baby. I wish you all a very happy new year <grin>

Chris, Aisha and Eric

Warspite: A Question of Rank

30 Dec

I’ve had a handful of questions recently about the rank situation in Warspite – in particular, the observation that three characters have been doing jobs they are not supposed, judging by their ranks, to be doing. I may not have explained matters properly <grin>.

Midshipwoman Jodie Powell should not be serving as the Captain’s Steward, as well as playing waitress when the captains meet for dinner on Warspite. However, Warspite doesn’t have the large crew of a fleet carrier, so the junior commissioned officer was the only one who could be spared regularly. (Or so they reasoned.)

Philip Richards was a Senior Chief before being reassigned to a desk (which he considers a fate worse than death). Originally, the RN intended to make use of him as a desk jockey for a year or two, then offer him a chance to become a commissioned officer. His quasi-promotion to Lieutenant-Commander sped the process up – it was basically winked at by the First Space Lord and his staff, who knew John would need someone who could replace the XO on short notice if necessary. This wouldn’t have flown under normal circumstances – and could easily have blown up in John’s face. Luckily, they returned as heroes <grin>.

Percy has the most interesting issues. He’s a corporal, but because of his family name and connections, there isn’t much chance of him NOT seeing promotion, unless he screws up so spectacularly he gets assigned to a remote asteroid mining station. His superiors saw the berth opening on Warspite, which wasn’t really expected to see action, and decided to slot Percy into the post to see how he coped with it. As it wasn’t a ‘real’ promotion, his superiors knew he could simply be returned to his old unit and held back if he did mess up.

(Percy would prefer to believe that the ‘old boys’ network’ wasn’t working in his favour.)

This created something of a headache for poor Hadfield. Percy had a good record, but no real command experience – and, if the Marines had to split up, Percy would be Section Commander. He squared this circle by assigning Sergeant Peerce to Percy, with orders to effectively treat Percy as a promising young officer (thus allowing Peerce to mentor Percy to some extent) … and to be ready to take over, if Percy screwed up. Peerce was not Percy’s subordinate, in any real sense; he was merely serving in an advisory role, feeding Percy rope to see what he would do with it.

I hope that makes sense.


Christmas Post: Five Things That Could Have Happened To Emily

25 Dec

Hi, everyone

As a Christmas gift for my readers, I have written a set of short snippets set in the universe of Schooled In Magic. These are all glimpses of how different Emily’s life could have been, if someone made a different decision. They are not, of course, canon. I probably won’t expand on them either (unless someone really wants it.)

Enjoy! If enough people like this, I may make this a regular thing. <grin>.


Five Things That Could Have Happened To Emily

One – Slave

Emily has no idea why Shadye kept her as a slave.

Certainly not for sex, or for what little she can do for him. Shadye shows no interest in her scrawny body – thinner now than she was before he took her – and she simply can’t do much for him in any other respect. His skeleton servants cook, when Shadye remembers to eat, and do most of the chores around his fortress. Emily spends her days wandering the extensive passageways, feeling her fragile clothes from Earth slowly turning into rags, and silently trying to understand the madness surrounding her.

He has her under a spell, she knows from bitter experience. His merest words to her have the force of law, commands she must obey. There are times when he makes her pose for him, or dance, or humiliate herself … and times when he says a word the spell takes as an order, forcing her to obey. She has tried to escape twice, only to discover that her body simply won’t walk more than an hour away from the fortress. Not that there’s any real hope of escape. Even if she could break the spell, where would she go?

She tries to read his books, to study the power he uses so freely, but she can’t parse out a single word. Shadye merely laughed when she asked him to teach her magic, then told her never to ask again. His power makes him unstoppable. She tries to kill him once, in sheer desperation, and her body does as she wants … but it doesn’t matter. Shadye calmly plucked the knife out of his chest, then tossed it to one side. The lack of punishment for her act only makes it worse. There is no hope of escape.

Shadye mumbles and rages, muttering to himself in languages she doesn’t understand. There are times when he seems to see her as a pet, something to be petted, and times when he seems angry at her for reasons she cannot understand. One day, she is sure, he will kill her … or command her to kill herself.

And if he doesn’t, she knows she will end her days in the dark fortress; lonely, starving, helpless, naked … and enslaved.

Two – Apprentice

Perhaps it is the stricken look in her eyes that makes Void think twice, after telling her she needs to go to school. Or perhaps it is the challenge she presents to him, the chance to teach magic to someone who did not even know it existed two days ago. But he changes his mind and tells Emily she can study with him.

Void is a stern taskmaster, Emily discovers. He expects her to rise with the sun, eat a small breakfast, and then study until the sun starts to set behind the distant mountains. But it doesn’t matter, because she is learning magic! Within the first few days, she casts her first spells; within the first two weeks, she learns how to string concepts together to cast several spells in quick succession. Power sparkles over her fingertips as she moves from spell to spell, learning how to use them and open the next layer of magic.

Two months after her arrival, she accidentally turns one of the maids into a toad. She calls for Void, expecting punishment, but he only praises her for her achievement. The fear in the maid’s eyes daunts her for a second, yet it fades behind the praise of the first true father figure she has ever known. They’re there to serve, Void says, and it is true.

Later, perhaps two years after her arrival, Void takes her to Zangaria. There, she sees the Queen, ruling the country with an iron hand. And yet, one look tells Emily that Queen Alassa is under a spell, keeping her nothing more than a helpless puppet.

But it isn’t important to them, so they walk on.

Three – Friend

Emily had always hated and feared girls like Melissa – and, when she was honest with herself, envied them too. Melissa is popular, the queen of first year; Emily has always been a loner and a freak. But she has no choice, Madame Razz says; she has to share a room with Melissa. All of the other rooms are taken.

She grits her teeth, expecting to have her study time interrupted constantly. But she is completely unprepared for Melissa welcoming Emily into her circle of friends. Beauty and wit are important, true, but so is magical prowess. There, Emily can do well … and, slowly but surely, she begins to come out of her shell.

It takes time for her to build up the confidence to seek out new friends, but Melissa is with her every step of the way. By the time she completes First Year, she has a whole circle of friends of her own; by the time she graduates from Whitehall, she is one of the most accomplished students in the school. And, a year after her graduation, she marries Melissa’s cousin.

And, at last, she has a family of her own.

Four – Murderer

Emily offers no resistance when they come for her.

There’s no point, she knows, as they bind her hands and march her through Whitehall, down towards the portal chamber. She is a murderer, a killer … no, a mass murderer. Alassa is dead, Zangaria will have a civil war, millions of people will die …and it is all her fault.

The blood of the murdered princess will never leave her hands, she thinks. She was told, time and time again, not to combine her spells, not to risk something that could have fatal effects. The image of Alassa’s face, half-frozen in stone, will never fade from her mind, no matter how long she lives. Magic is a deadly weapon, not a game. She killed … and she knows that, even if she could run, she wouldn’t. She must face justice for what she has done.

It is an hour before she faces the court, nine magicians garbed in black and red. They ask her if she has anything she wishes to say, before they pass judgement. She hesitates, then shakes her head silently. The verdict is unanimous, as she expects. Guilty.

“This is the fate of a murderer,” they say, as they cast the spell.

She wants to scream as her flesh hardens into stone, but it is already too late. This is the punishment for murder, for magical crime; to remain trapped in stone forever, one of the stoned philosophers. They carry the statue to the garden, then leave her there, helpless and alone. It will be centuries, she thinks, before the statue erodes to the point she dies, her thoughts and soul released to an uncertain future. By then, she may well be completely insane …

But what other fate, she asks herself, does a murderer deserve?

Five – Necromancer

They find her, the sole survivor, in the ruins of the Great Hall, lying on top of the bodies.

It is a week before she is able to talk, to tell them that Sergeant Miles did something that disrupted Shadye’s power. (It’s a lie.) She tells them there was a flash of white light, that he did something else to shield her, that in the end he saved the school. (It’s a lie.) And she tells them that she can’t remember anything else, save for the light. (It’s a lie.)

She lies, but she knows what will happen if she tells them the truth. Shadye told her to kill Sergeant Miles, to drain his magic and life … and compelled her obedience when she refused. She pressed the knife into his flesh and felt a surge of magic, so powerful that even to touch it risked madness; she grasped the magic and hurled it at Shadye, feeling her thoughts burning even as the necromancer exploded into a blaze of light. And now …

It pulses through her thoughts, as if the back of her mind is constantly on fire. She knows that something isn’t right, but she tells herself that she can handle it. (It’s a lie.) Her thoughts seem to be twisted, yet she is still the same person. She snickers cruelly when someone suffers, when someone is in pain, when someone is the victim of a practical joke … something that would have horrified her, once upon a time, is now amusing. And she pranks people too, herself, merely because she’s bored. It’s just a joke, she tells herself … (It’s a lie.)

Jade likes her, she knows; she can use him, twist him until he is bent around her little finger. Alassa owes Emily her life; Imaiqah owes Emily her freedom … they can both be used, perhaps without ever knowing they were being used. And she has so many ideas … once, it would have bothered her to introduce so much so quickly, but now she doesn’t care. Change is coming, she tells herself, and the Nameless World can cope. (It’s a lie.) She will steer the Nameless World’s development for its own good. (It’s a lie.)

And sometimes, when she looks into a mirror, she sees a pair of red eyes looking back.

Unto Us A Child Is Born

24 Dec

Hi, everyone

My son, Eric Jalil Nuttall, was born yesterday at 9.56pm. Mother and baby are both fine; we took him home today.

Obviously, my next book will be delayed.  <grin>

Merry Christmas to all my readers!



The Emirate of Kabat

18 Dec

A setting for the coup story.  Any thoughts?


Kabat is a fictional middle east country, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and bordering Qatar and the UAE.


Kabat is centred on Kabat City, which covers two islands and a growing settlement on the mainland. (Originally, the Emirs were worried about defending the mainland and chose to build their permanent settlements on the islands.) Now, there are multiple bridges and other links between the three parts of the city.

Outside the city, there are a handful of smaller settlements further down the coastline, with modern roads running into Qatar and the UAE. Suspicion of Saudi influence led to a refusal to build a road leading directly to Saudi Arabia, although the border is barely patrolled and tribesmen have been known to cross it without giving a damn.


Officially, Kabat has a population of 2 million; unofficially, people-smuggling is rife and the exact figure may be considerably higher. The population is divided into Kabaties, Expats (Western and Arab) and Guest Workers (mainly East Asian).

Kabaties themselves (basically, everyone who can claim descent from the original owners of the land) are entitled to a wide range of benefits, including free education and a major government stipend. The quid pro quo of this arrangement is that they’re not allowed any real say in government policy. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in problems; the average Kabati graduate is completely unsuited for the position he may have been led to expect, so youth unemployment is alarmingly high.

Expats have few rights, but as the government values both their presence and their money, they’re welcome. Most of them tend to be hired experts who discovered they liked the country enough to stay (or businessmen taking advantage of the low tax rate).

Guest Workers have effectively no rights at all and, to all intents and purposes, they’re slaves. Their passports are confiscated, they’re put to work at once (which may not be what they were promised) and they’re generally treated poorly. Beatings and sexual harassment are far from uncommon. Unsurprisingly, they remain a sullen mass on the edge of society.

There is no legal requirement for women to remain veiled, or in the home. (A woman is expected to have the permission of her menfolk to marry, but not for anything else.) Kabati women are often educated (although they are denied access to some educational streams); however, there are few jobs for them at any level. (High-class families or strict religious families might insist on the veil, regardless of the law.) An increasing number of young women are remaining unmarried, as finding suitable husbands is quite difficult.


Roughly a third of Kabat’s revenues comes from oil. The remainder comes from taxes levied on foreigners and foreign-owned businesses. Given the lack of regulations, it is unsurprising just how much passes through Kabat on a daily basis.


Officially, Kabat is Sunni Muslim. Unofficially, other faiths are tolerated as long as they stay out of sight and out of mind.

The country has a somewhat schizophrenic attitude to religion. On one hand, there has been an increasing growth in fundamentalism, with the rise of a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (religious police; a concept borrowed from Saudi Arabia), but on the other hand commercialised religious festivals (including Christmas) have been growing in popularity.

The secret police closely monitor most of the larger mosques within the country. Preachers have freedom, as long as they don’t attack the government, the emir or do anything else calculated to cause trouble. Most of the major mullahs receive additional government payments in exchange for keeping the sermons free of controversy. This has not, however, found favour among the younger generation, who regard such preachers as hired shrills.


Kabat is ruled solely by the Al-Kabat Family. There is no pretence at any form of democracy. By law, high-ranking posts in the civil service and military are reserved for Kabaties, who are often selected through ties to patronage networks.


Kabat started life as a British protectorate in 1850, under the rule of the first Al-Kabat Emir. Kabat rapidly made a name for itself as a trading and shipbuilding hub, allowing its traders to join the shipping networks that fuelled the British Empire. Disputes between Britain and the Ottoman Empire (and later with Saudi Arabia) ensured that Kabat remained important up until 1960, when the British started to withdraw from the region. Although there was still a treaty obligation to defend Kabat, Britain lost interest in manipulating local affairs.

Fortunately for Kabat, Emir Abdullah I was a match for the challenges facing his tiny state. The discovery of oil in 1961 gave him an influx of both cash and expertise, which he invested heavily. Kabat not only modernised; it fought hard to lure both international trading firms and corporate bankers to its shores. This growing wealth attracted envious eyes, mainly in Saudi Arabia (which had seen an outflow of Saudis attracted by political and economic freedom) and so Kabat looked for a new foreign protector. Although Kabat lacked the value of Kuwait, the US was quite happy to add its might to the British protection.

The war on terror, however, seriously upset relations between Kabat and America (and, to a lesser extent, Britain). While the Emir would have been quite happy to watch the US destroy Saddam’s regime, it caused a series of major upheavals within Kabat itself. The Emir responded to this with a mixture of bribes and threats, removing outspoken Islamists with one hand while upping his population’s living stipend with the other. However, the pressure of ruling (and at least two coup attempts by his older children) finally overcame the old man. He died in 2015, bequeathing his country to his sole surviving son, Emir Abdullah II.

Law and Order

Kabat has a very laid-back attitude to anything, as long as it takes place in private. For example, homosexuality and prostitution are both strictly forbidden within the country, but Kabat has a thriving gay scene and uncounted thousands of prostitutes.

Minor crimes committed by outsiders have only one punishment; immediate expulsion.


On paper, Kabat has a formidable military machine;

7000-strong Royal Army (Royal Kabat Army)

5000-strong National Guard (Royal National Kabat Guard)

500-strong Royal Guard

The military is well-equipped, with 200 tanks and various other armoured vehicles (mostly former British or American gear.) However, it has major internal problems, in common with most other Arab states. In particular, senior officers are selected for loyalty and family connections, rather than competence, while the general training and morale levels of the average soldier are depressingly low. The National Guard is charged with supervising the Royal Army, which causes major problems for anything requiring coordination. In some ways, the only thing keeping them together are the presence of a cadre of Western advisors serving in the ranks.

Kabat provided a battalion of troops to support the US mission in Afghanistan, 2007-2009. However, it was not a great success by any reasonable standard. Troops showed low morale, particularly when they felt deserted by their officers; the advantages they should have brought to the field were neglected by poor planning and preparation. The only Kabati unit to cover itself in glory (or something resembling it) was the 1st Special Forces unit (the Black Daggers), which earned grudging respect from its American liaison officers. However, the Black Daggers were implicated in Prince Ali’s attempt to overthrow his father the following year and were disbanded.

The air force of Kabat (Royal Kabati Air Force) is composed of two squadrons of helicopters and a single squadron of ex-RAF Tornado jets. In theory, Kabat can call on American or British airpower at short notice, if necessary. This hasn’t actually been tested in practice.

The navy (Royal Kabati Navy) consists of five patrol boats and one old ex-RN frigate.

The Royal Guard is not composed of Kabati soldiers. Instead, troops are hired from Pakistan to serve one-year terms within the country, in exchange for a high rate of pay. The Royal Guardsmen are bitterly resented within the country, largely because they are not only paid more, but seen as interlopers.

What You Get Depends On What You Do

17 Dec

One of the fundamental truths of education is that what you get out of it depends on what you put in. If you study hard, read the background material, ask intelligent questions, turn in your assignments and take your exams seriously, you will probably do well. On the other hand, if you don’t attend half your classes, don’t bother to read the textbooks, don’t sit the exams and spend far too much time coming up with excuses for the previous three, you probably won’t do very well.

In short, education rewards those who actually work.

I mention all this because the latest piece of manufactured outrage on the internet is the decision by some American colleges to allow law students (specifically, ‘people of colour’) to delay their exams, as a result of being ‘traumatised’ by the recent events in Ferguson. Or, apparently, from spending the time they should have been studying protesting against said events in Ferguson.

This has spread out of hand, with suggestions that ‘people of colour’ should not be failed, even if they fail. (On the other hand, at least one university professor has shot the idea down flat, for which he deserves congratulations.) Apparently, being able to claim one has been ‘traumatised’ is sufficient to merit rewards one hasn’t earned. (I won’t get into the racism shown by some of the people who think this is actually a good idea.)

I’ve been hearing a lot of silliness recently, but I believe this one takes the cake.

Let me be blunt. Time management is important. If you don’t learn to manage your time, you probably won’t get very far in life – particularly as a lawyer. And, unless American higher education is very different from British higher education, students are not whipped into classrooms, chained to desks and told there will be no bread and water until they’ve produced a word-perfect essay. You are expected to act like grown-ups and manage your own time.

If you have spent the last five months prior to the exams willingly doing something – anything – other than preparing for the exam, you will probably fail. And that will be your choice. Why, exactly, should you be rewarded for not doing the work, for not putting in the effort, while other hard-working students are struggling to get passing grades? And what is the value of the grades (not just yours, but your classmates) when they have not been won fairly?

But there is another point, after this. Legal work is not exactly stress-free. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t offer specifics, but I’m pretty sure there will be times where you will have to do plenty of research, work to a very tight deadline and think on your feet. Not to mention encountering pointy-haired bosses, clients who will expect you to lie, cheat and steal on your behalf, bad-tempered judges, juries made up of clear-sighted people and outsiders who think the official legal uniform should be something in stripes, if only to save time.

If you are traumatised by something that happened several months ago, you are probably not going to make it as a lawyer. The real world is rarely inclined to coddle people.

And if you believe that someone should be judged guilty BEFORE holding the trial, you probably shouldn’t be in law in the first place.

This should be enough. But there’s one further point, raised by Mike Williamson. Who in their right mind would want to hire a lawyer who couldn’t handle this to represent their interests?

There are such things as real excuses. Students can get into accidents that leave them unable to complete the year or take their exams, forcing them to retake the entire year. They could become ill. Or they might be called away to attend a funeral, or a wedding, or … well, whatever. These are valid excuses.

But choosing to spend time protesting instead of studying, or being unable to cope with a Grand Jury’s decision, is not.

The world is not fair. Chances are that just about everyone will have to endure personal problems that they will struggle to overcome. Coddling students now, students who are effectively adults, will only hamper them in the long term.

And if people don’t think much of lawyers anyway, this is not going to help.

Killing the Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs

17 Dec

Written in a moment of irritation.

Let me start with a modern-day parable.

In the middle of a city – we will call it Idealism – there sits a large castle, surrounded by ivory walls. Inside that castle live the kings of the city, hidden behind walls so high they never have to see a merchant, peasants, soldier or slave in the city below. Those kings spend half their time trying ideas to reinvigorate Idealism, which has lost some of its lustre since the kings took control, and the rest of it inspecting their coffers and distributing largess to the masses. But there’s just one problem. The coffers are running out.

Surprised? Largess is expensive, you know.

So the kings sit down and have a think. Eventually, because they’re not really that bright, it occurs to them to raise taxes. Excellent, they think; we will get more money to fill our coffers, which will allow us to distribute more largess and everyone will love us! And so they raise taxes.

And it works, for a while. Until they do the accounting at the end of the year and discover that their revenues are falling off, sharply. Their ability to distribute largess is also falling, because they have less money. So, after a slightly shorter think, they issue new orders; once again, taxes are to be raised.

Next year, they have even less money.

And now the kings are panicking. They’ve agreed to keep distributing largess … and now they can’t, because they don’t have the money. But the people who were receiving that largess are looking riotous. All of a sudden, the kings look vulnerable … and so they make a desperate grab for the remaining wealth … and discover it’s gone.

And then the gates of the castle are stormed, by those who took the largess, and the kings are hung from the roof … and then everyone starves, because the kings have shut down or driven away anyone interested in producing food.

This isn’t exactly a happy ending, is it?

OK, if you haven’t already guessed it, the kings are the European Union’s unelected bureaucrats and the kingdom is the European Union. And I’m talking about the VAT increase on ebooks and other electronic products, which will be coming in January. It is about as short-sighted and stupid as killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.


Amazon’s solution to this is to basically decide to increase prices, matching them to VAT, starting in January. They don’t have much choice, unless they want to take a harder hit than they already will. But let us see what choices this leaves us kindle authors:

One – accept the price hike, lose sales, get less profit (and Amazon gets less profit too) and pay fewer taxes.

Two – lower our prices, get less profit (and Amazon gets less profit too) and pay fewer taxes.

Is anyone else seeing a problem here?

Less profits – fewer taxes. Fewer taxes – less government revenue. Less government revenue – fewer services (largess).

Amazon will probably survive this. But what about the smaller companies? Everyone selling something online will take a major hit from this piece of government-issue stupidity. And how many productive businesses will go under because of it?

There are times when I feel Atlas Shrugged should be compulsory reading. If you increase taxes and regulations, you drive businesses out of business, which causes unemployment levels to rise, which places a greater demand on social services … when the revenue stream needed to keep them running is starting to fade. And, in the end, you cut your own throats.

This, frankly, is what you get when you allow people with zero experience outside politics to actually run countries.

<Goes off to bang head on wall>

Updates and Suchlike …

16 Dec

Hi, everyone.

First of all, I’ve finished the first draft of Love’s Labour’s Won, Schooled in Magic 6. It’s a little more low-key that previous books, but that will be blown away by book 7. This was a race against the baby, due in a week, but I’m glad to have it done before the baby arrives.

However, it will probably be a month before I put hand to keyboard again to write the next book. This gives you some time to decide what you want.

The two principle possibilities are Democracy’s Price, which will be the third and final Democracy book, and Never Surrender, which will be Book 10 of The Empire’s Corps.

But there is another. I’ve been mulling over a near-future story, partly inspired by The Dogs of War, where a bunch of mercenaries are hired by a princess from a middle east state (think a cross between Qatar and Dubai) to overthrow her brother, who’s not only a royal brat, but climbing into bed with Islamists who will rapidly turn the state into a disaster area for everyone. This would be a stand-alone, perhaps a joint project, but we will see.

Which one would you like?

In other news, Warspite is coming out on Create Space in a day or two, once all the links are in place. Feel free to purchase a copy from the links on the Amazon page.

Warspite will also be available as an audio book soon, hopefully by February.

The Best Laid Plans has been edited; hopefully, it should be out in ebook in February.

The School of Hard Knocks (Schooled in Magic 5) should be available in January or February.

As always, comments are welcome.


Riding the Red Horse

16 Dec

The spectre of war once more looms on the global horizon. A new generation of writers and military theorists are addressing the new forms of warfare that now challenge the nation-state’s monopoly on war. Terrorism, technology, 4th Generation warfare, the decline of the Pax Americana, and the rise of China are among the issues contemplated by the 20 contributors to RIDING THE RED HORSE, the new annual anthology of military science fiction.

RIDING THE RED HORSE is a collection of 24 essays and short stories from technologists, military strategists, military historians, and the leading authors of military science fiction. From the Old Guard to the New, the anthology features some of the keenest minds and bestselling authors writing in the genre today. Three national militaries and three service branches are represented by the contributors, the majority of whom are veterans.

Edited by LTC Tom Kratman, US Army (ret) and Vox Day, RIDING THE RED HORSE covers everything from real-world lasers, intelligence ops, threat assessments, and wargame design to space combats, fleet actions, and ground operations taking place in some of the most popular future universes in science fiction.The anthology consists of contributions from Eric S. Raymond, William S. Lind, Chris Kennedy, James F. Dunnigan, Jerry Pournelle, Ken Burnside, Christopher G. Nuttall, Rolf Nelson, Harry Kitchener, Giuseppe Filotto, John F. Carr, Wolfgang Diehr, Thomas Mays, Benjamin Cheah, James Perry, Brad Torgersen, Tedd Roberts, Steve Rzasa, Tom Kratman, and Vox Day.

Here is the Amazon link:

And here is the Castalia House link for DRM-free EPUB and MOBI formats:

Draft Afterword: Musings on R&J

13 Dec


Afterword for LLW

When I was first forced to read through the script to Romeo and Juliet at school – I was the Friar – it annoyed the hell out of me. Romeo and Juliet were such idiots! They meet each other, fall in love and get married within the space of a very short space of time (depending on the producer.) And they don’t tell their families, with the net result that Juliet is nearly married to someone else, Romeo loses his best friend and then kills one of his new kinsmen … and the young lovers (assisted by the Friar) stage an elaborate plot to fake their deaths, which turns tragic when they actually die. The only good thing about the whole affair is that it finally brings the feuding families to their senses.

I thought they were being stupid, as I said, for several reasons. First, they only just met; they certainly didn’t have time to know if they had anything more than lust. Romeo seems to have a habit of lusting after girls, as demonstrated by his moaning over Rosaline (which stops abruptly once he sets eyes on Juliet), while Juliet is evidently a sheltered and virginal daughter. Second, they don’t bother to tell their parents they’d married, which leads to disaster – Juliet’s parents tried to push her into marrying Paris, unaware she was already married. And third, they killed themselves.

The problem with interpreting Romeo and Juliet is that we look at the play through the lens of our society. We see Romeo and Juliet as adults, free to make their own decisions and able to decide to marry without parental permission. Nor do we see them having problems telling the truth to their parents. Maybe their families are upset at their marriage, we think, but does it really matter to their affairs? Romeo and Juliet had every right to arrange their own marriage, sleep with each other and build a life together. Or not. Whatever happened would be their choice.

But Romeo and Juliet is a product of its time and place.

Romeo and Juliet were young. In Elizabethan England, girls could get married as young as twelve. Romeo was almost certainly underage too, by our standards; I rather doubt he was any older than fourteen. The whole play centres around the decisions made by two very young teenagers, below what we consider to be the Age of Consent, allowing their hormones to lead them into a deadly trap. To us, this is thoroughly unpleasant at best and so modern-day producers tend to imply that Romeo and Juliet are definitely over eighteen. But how can one reasonably expect thirteen/fourteen year olds to think logically?

There were other problems. It was expected that Elizabethan parents would organise the weddings of their children, choosing husbands who would benefit the family as a whole (as Juliet’s father chose Paris). Boys got some latitude; girls were expected to remain virginal right up until the wedding night. By marrying without her father’s consent, Juliet effectively disgraced herself (as well as rendering herself unmarriageable) and sleeping with Romeo afterwards only made matters worse. Juliet could not go to her parents and tell them that she was already married without ensuring her eviction from the family. And, to some extent, Romeo would have the same problem.

Their marriage could easily have made the feud a great deal worse. What if Juliet’s father assumed that Romeo had deliberately set out to make his daughter unmarriageable? Or what if Paris had demanded satisfaction? He’d been promised a bride – and one would not be forthcoming. The two lovers might have been exiled or murdered (Juliet’s mother plotted to kill Romeo after he fled the city) and then the fighting might resume, with the eventual destruction of both families. The Prince had threatened to execute both of the family heads, after all, right in the first act.

The Friar is, in many ways, the villain of the piece. His decision to marry Romeo and Juliet (I have no idea if this was actually legal, but the young couple clearly believed it was) was a bad mistake, setting off the chain of events that eventually led to disaster. There were, I think other options than faking Juliet’s death. He may well have believed that their marriage would end the feud – either that, or he was an evil old bastard – but I honestly don’t see how he could have reasoned that to be true. It was far more likely, as I note above, that all hell would break loose. I do not consider him a holy man.

Most productions, I think, miss this point. To us, Romeo and Juliet is a story about a love affair and focuses on the romance. But the play is, in many ways, a warning about the dangers of unfettered feelings.