Sunday, August 27, 2023

Lazy Crazy Hazy days of summer?

We’re nearly at the end of August, just waiting for the autumn cool to kick in. Summer is usually a time for lazy days on the deck, reading and writing, beer and barbecues. Yes, there’s been all that this year, but also a lot of stuff leaving me feeling like I still need a vacation! Nothing dramatically disastrous, but a lot of small to medium stressors piling on all at once – family, health, mechanical issues, and the ever-present smoke in the air from angry Nature.

On the plus side, we’ve not been directly threatened by wildfires (though there have been a few small ones nearby, quickly handled) and we’re getting through the other hurdles in reasonable shape.

One of the stresses I’ve had to handle is setting up a new website.

I’ve used Webs since I first set up an author site in 2014. They got taken over by Vistaprint, and announced that they would be merging offerings. That announcement was way back in 2020. Since then there have been a couple of “coming soon” type messages, but little talk and even less action. Then, mid July, seven weeks ago, they announced the move was finally here. My site would drop dead at the end of August, and – no – there was no help or tools available to help with the migration. Just, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Not much time to figure out what to do, especially as we were about to set off visiting family overseas for two weeks followed by more travel for medical reasons. Strike three weeks from the time available to figure my shit out!

Yep. A bit of a perfect storm.

Anyhow, long story short, I opted to give Wordpress a try and have been doing battle with their labyrinthine website editor this month. My biggest worries were to maintain a presence (which I have) and keep hold of my custom domain name (which I’ve done), so I'm still at:

The new site is still very much under construction as I manually recreate content that I scavenged from the old site. But it’s there! And I was relieved to see that when I updated my domain name details to point to the new site, existing links (such as my browser shortcuts and the links in this blog header) still worked.

That was a major headache sorted out. Now I just need to finish populating the site.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

When did Sci-Fi get so boring?

Note – this isn’t referring to the actual stories, there are plenty of good stories out there, I’m talking about the visual appeal of the sci-fi shelf in bookstores.

When I was in my teens, if I had a few minutes to spare on my way to catch the bus home from school I’d often drop into one of the bookstores I passed. I wasn’t particularly looking for something to buy, I would simply feast my eyes on the cover art on display. These were the days of Asimov, Heinlein, Doc Smith, Herbert et. al.

The covers were bright, vibrant, thought-provoking, and above all – imaginative. They begged questions – what’s happening here? Who are these people? What would it be like to live there? These images, decades later, still serve as inspiration for my own art.

Recently, I had half an hour to kill waiting for a picture frame to be put together, so I wandered across the road to a bookstore. I walked out a little while later despairing for the future of my chosen genre, because there was nothing inspiring in sight.

Most of the traditionally-published covers on show seemed to fall into one of three common groups.

Stylized to death: Maybe I’m just out of touch, but I can’t forgive what Jim Tierney did to the Dune series. He isn’t alone, though. There were other covers consisting of plain geometric shapes that IMO do nothing to entice a potential reader. Boring and pretentious.

Wishy-washy: While keeping close in appearance to traditional covers, these have had the life sucked out of them as if the artist was afraid to commit to a clear picture. Distant ships and space stations obscured in an airbrushed pastel haze. A kind of Disneyfied view of space – no hard edges or nasty harsh vacuum here!

CGI perfection: Also close to traditional, these go to the other extreme. Ships and assorted space hardware rendered too perfectly to be true. And always against the obligatory backdrop of sun peeping over the horizon of a planet. Boring and sterile.

But my biggest complaint across the board was a lack of imagination. All three groups come across as generic and dull. After the first few in each group, they all blended into each other, nothing unique or distinctive about them.

Am I just imagining it? Am I being too harsh?

Friday, May 26, 2023

Wrath of Empire

Yes, it’s been a year since I last posted. I don’t know why, I guess I just ran out of things to say.

The blogging world used to be a vibrant community, and it still is around those blogs with a sizable established following, but so many of the bloggers I used to follow – and who used to visit The Bald Patch – have fallen quiet over the years. I found trying to post on a regular basis was a game of diminishing returns.

However, today I do have something to say, so I’ve come out of hibernation.

A new novel, Wrath of Empire, is now out there in the usual range of e-book formats. At the moment it’s at an introductory price of $0.99. The paperback will follow once I’ve received and approved the proof copy.

Wrath of Empire is a prequel to Ghosts of Innocence, and follows the catastrophic events that lead up to Shayla’s mission of revenge.

The Emperor wants peace between warring Families on rival worlds. His brother sees peace treaties as weakness; he aims to seize the throne and rule by strength. And then there’s Chalwen, bodyguard to the Emperor’s nine-year-old son, heir to the throne.

Chalwen takes professional paranoia to extremes, so when she suspects treachery inside the palace her superiors dismiss her warnings. Then the Emperor is assassinated. People are angry, looking for a villain, and all evidence points to one of the rival Families. Amid riots and military clashes, the young heir and his ambitious uncle fight for the throne.

Chalwen must protect the youngster while solving the Emperor’s murder to defuse the conflict. But the uncle has powerful supporters opposing Chalwen’s every move. Throw in a deranged arms dealer keen to profit from the chaos, and full scale interstellar war seems unavoidable.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Artwork for sale

Off and on over the years, I’ve looked into ways to make my artwork available as posters. After sitting on the fence for a while, I’ve finally opened a store on Zazzle and started uploading a handful of more recent paintings.

I’m still finding my way around Zazzle. The website is ... let’s be restrained and say ... not very friendly.

Sure, it all looks easy enough, but the site seems to go out of its way to make it hard to tell what you’re actually doing, and gives no confidence that you’ve managed to do what you wanted to do. It’s taking a while to figure out some of the quirks, like clicking on “My products” gives different information depending on which part of the site you just came from. And I just created a collection to group all my posters together, and clicking on “Collections” in the menu bar shows the collection I just created, but clicking the same thing from the navigator panel says I don’t have any. Contradictory and confusing as heck!

Oh well, I have started off by creating some posters, all in the region of 40cm by 50cm to 60cm depending on the width to height ratio of the original. That’s 16” by 20” to 24” if you’re still working in Imperial units.

It’s still a work in progress, but you can find my store here:

Sunday, May 1, 2022

May Day

Today is May Day. It’s a public holiday in Britain, not so here in Canada but I’m not complaining because we still enjoy more holidays during the course of the year than we used to back there.

May Day is also our wedding anniversary – our 30th this year, so it’s a big milestone.

We don’t do much by way of celebrations these days ... birthdays, anniversaries are all low key ... but it’s still a special day all the same.

Big bouquet of flowers in the living room. A special steak dinner this evening. But meanwhile Ali and Matthew are outside making the most of the sunshine today. They cleaned down the deck this morning and are busy assembling the barbecue she bought last weekend as our anniversary present.

Later on this month we’ll get a weekend away, just the two of us. That’s about as extreme as it gets :)

Happy May Day.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Painting again

I’ve gone for long spells before without completing a painting. In recent years, I’ve done several but they’ve all been specifically for book covers, so I’ve had a clear motivation and timetable to work to, and that felt very different from painting for pleasure.

Now, for the first time in over twenty years, I’ve taken up my paintbrush again for pure pleasure and actually crossed the finish line. I’ve started several in that time, but not completed. That’s nothing unusual ... I have many more unfinished works in my portfolio that finished.

This diversion of energy felt right, now that my first draft of the latest novel is written and working through months of critiques. Painting seemed to complement the critiquing activity.

Even so, the subject was actually inspired by a setting in Wrath of Empire. So here is Grand Duke Ivan’s retreat: Greyspire:



You can get a closer look on my website here: 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Weekend Writing Warriors - responsibilities

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.



Continuing with a scene from Wrath of Empire, a prequel to my first novel, Ghosts of Innocence. Commander Gregor Pavlenko is overseeing maintenance on a giant plasma cannon on board battleship Wrath of Empire. Last week ended with his lieutenant saying: “You always get that faraway look in your eyes.” She grinned. “It’s kinda cute, you know.”


There’s nothing cute about taking your responsibility seriously.” He glanced once more at the dancing lights of the dashboard. Progress was good, but they’d be at it for hours yet.

Gregor swiveled in his seat and gazed across the room to where a small army of intruders crawled behind and under his familiar battle consoles, wrestling a snake pit of wiring harnesses out from open floor panels and knitting them into the fabric of his world. In some sense, he felt violated, but he brushed off the feeling. This was the empire’s new toy. New levels of automation to bring a clinical calculation to battle decisions. Progress. He’d better get used to it.

That’s nine sentences. The scene continues ... 

Following the line of his gaze, Una said, “The techs report they’re close to finished hooking their control lines in.

So,” Gregor whispered, “it’ll have its finger on the trigger for real this time.”

With loads of safeties and aborts in between.” Una’s voice was light, but the set of her shoulders said otherwise.


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