Tag Archives: Dave Freer

A Mankind Witch

To the North of the Holy Roman Empire are the pagan Norse-lands. It is here that Prince Manfred of Brittany, and Erik, his Icelandic bodyguard, must venture in the dead of winter to a mountainous land of trolls and ice to find a stolen pagan relic, the arm-ring of Odin, something so magical that it should not be possible to move it beyond its wards, let alone take it away. It is gone, and unless it is recovered before Yuletide and the re-affirmation of truce-oaths, a new Viking age will be born. King Vorenbras will lead his berserkers in an orgy of killing, rapine, looting and destruction, across the Empire’s unguarded North-Western flank.

Princess Signy is the King’s older stepsister, and everyone believes her to be the thief, a witch and a murderess. Everyone, that is, but Cair, her stable-thrall, a man plucked from the ocean, with a hidden past. Cair doesn’t believe in witches or magic, let alone that Signy could steal and murder. If he has to drag the foremost knight of the age, and his deadly bodyguard kicking and screaming though the entire Norse nine worlds to prove it and free her, he’d do it. No Kobold, dwarf, or troll is going to stop him, or his scepticism. Not the wild hunt. Not even a Grendel. He doesn’t believe in this superstitious rubbish. He’s a man of science and learning, and he’s used that to fake his way into being feared as a magic worker. But for Signy, he’ll be all of mankind’s witches.

He’ll have to be, because that’s what it’ll take to defeat the dark magical forces which are marshalled against them.

And now it is available from… me. The rights to this book reverted. It is available an e-book on Amazon (the picture is a link, and if you use it, I get an extra 6% – from Amazon, not from you. If you think Authors are overpaid, don’t use it!


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Steam Mole launch, redux.

It would seem that I was wrong. In fact THE STEAM MOLE is launching, well, being released (out of its cage, rampaging, breaking furniture) on the 11th of December. The date on Amazon (by which they shipped, and people received copies) was merely the original date, which got changed.

It is difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to change and update listings on Amazon. I understand this. I accept this. However, not telling the author is a poor idea. I’m going to talk about THE STEAM MOLE in another paragraph, but let me explain this clearly. Of the income derived from that and any other book’s cover price 10% will go to the author. The other 90% goes to the publisher, the distributor, the retailer. If it’s a paperback, that’s 8%. That is not, of course profit. All of the stages INCLUDING AUTHORS have costs. Without turnover, those costs cannot be met. I know, now, from publishing some of my own work to raise the money to bring my dogs and cats over, and now — like almost every other author out there, dabbling in Amazon KDP (Bolg –
), Smashwords etc. that I can, if I really push hard and tell everyone, and get some excitement going, sell about 1/3 of what having it published, distributed and retailed by the usual channels does. That, if you're publisher or distributor, makes me — for that book — more valuable than your single biggest retail outlet. If you're a retailer, I could massively increase the traffic going to your store rather than Fred's store. The picture above is a link to Amazon. If you click through there Amazon pay me 6% on that sale, and on anything else you buy in the same trip to their store. They give me Bookscan figures for free and they give me a platform to promote myself and my books. A platform where they add far more traffic to me than I add to theirs. The 'cost' of my time, money and effort (and the best outcome takes a lot of all of them, more than I have to spare, unless the return is good.) has always been carried by the author, although 90% of the turnover generated goes to the rest of the chain. Firstly, this is a losing proposition from my point of view as I can invest the same time, money and effort,and keep 76% of the income by doing it myself (publish independently – 1/3 of 76 is a lot more than 10%), and secondly not helping me to do it is obviously a losing proposition from those who take 90% of the income. Naturally the more they invest, or kick back to me, the more I'll do. If I have to wait and nag to get my copies, don't get ARCs, wait and wait and nag to get paid, and am kept out of the loop… well, I've done my bit. They can work for their 90%. They, as a retailer or publisher, may be investing heavily. But if that is invisible to me… then I am inclined to think why the hell should I do more than anyone else for a lot less than anyone else? There is no way that a retailer who could sell up to 1/3 of a publisher's books would not have received their copies well before the release, and no way that communication — from retailers, distributors and publishers which could help those sales would not be done… except to authors. This is not a poke at the Steam Mole’s publishers. So far I have dealt with five and in fact they’re better than most. It’s just not something that has occurred to the industry yet, they’re so used to authors carrying the internet publicity with no thanks and little support, and the smallest part of the return, that it hasn’t got through this is worth changing. And yes, I know. It's ONE book. They sell many. Trust me on this, divide the year by the number of new books dealt with that year… most authors would be delighted at 1/10 per book of what gets put into communicating with a distributor or retailer (about the same book) who can sell much less than the author does. So far the only part of the entire publishing chain – much as I worry about them, and don't like their potential dominance – that appears to put real value on my efforts and support them, is Amazon, who give me 6% if you buy (anything) from them via my links, a platform, and sales information that would cost me $150 a year for free. So, dear readers, please buy from them. I'd love to encourage you to support your local independent bookstore, and those bookstores who contact me to tell me they're hand-selling my books will get my support and recommendation. I know that side of retail battles and I don't expect you to match Amazon in cash – I'll take it in labor :-).

Anyway, back to THE STEAM MOLE. Obviously, I wrote it, it's adventure, and um, equally obviously, the good guys win. Not without cost and growth and tears of course, but hey, nothing for nothing. It is my first entirely Australian set novel, and it has been described as ‘something of a love-letter to Freer’s adopted country and a whacking good tale’

Basically it’s a story set around what I know best: survival against the elements, living by your wits off the country. Of course there is pursuit, and strange steam powered digging machines and flying wings, combat and heroism. When is there ever anything else? At stake is the Republic of Westralia’s richest mine, and probably the free country’s survival. Against the heroes, the desert, heat, greed, stupidity, and the Imperial forces, all determined to see the good guys fail. Our heroes are outnumbered, outweighed and all Tim and Clara have is their brains, courage and determination. You just have to feel bloody sorry for the enemy.


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Each unto their own humour

I’m very probably the only person in the universe who will ever find this funny. But I did, to the point of having to get up and walk around because my sides were too sore from laughing.


The cave glowed with a warm and friendly light. Yeah, I know an eldritch and sickly glow would have been more appropriate, but Fintan uses some kind of glowing ceramic filament for lighting. I know because I got sent out to borrow a cup of perovskite and few spoonfuls of Ytterbium oxide from the neighbors, if they could spare them, when he was working on it. It’s cheaper and easier for me to order these sort of things online than to explain to Fintan that his neighbors are a furniture reconditioner and laundry, and neither of them would lend him a spoonful of sugar, let alone Lanthanide oxides. They might be more generous with rat-poison if they thought he’d drink it. That too is possible. He just doesn’t die.
I listened outside, cautiously. I’ve yet to work out what women find attractive about the old goat, but he’s not helpful when he’s interrupted. But all I could hear was his tuneless whistling. So I walked bravely in past the tottering piles of books. Grimoires, physics tomes, penny horribles… I bought him a computer once.  I thought he could use that for his research, instead of looting libraries. He thought it great for surfing online porn, until he’d given a large number of sites a virus. Then he got bored with it. That was typical of Fin. The time to be really afraid was when he latched onto the new idea.

There he was, in his dirty old white robe and bare feet, scrawling magical symbols onto the floor, straggly white beard narrowly missing the gunk he was shovelling out of little tubs and writing with. I sniffed cautiously. Yep. Quark. A kind of soft cheese, which Fintan makes in various flavours. This looked suspiciously like ‘strange’ quark, which was still better than ‘truth’ or ‘beauty’. They’re point-particles, which meant he was messing about with non-spatial geometry again. Sure enough there was his hand-blown modified Alice version of a Klein Bottle gently rocking away in the middle of the charmed circle.

I wondered if I should run like hell.

He shaped the last  symbol of the Feynman diagram and sat up and grinned at me with that childlike glee of his. “I’m hoping to summons Nonabelian ghosts to deal with the vintage problem.”

The rocking of the bottle was getting quite marked by now. It started to gyrate. The air was a little smoky, but that could have been from the fire on the other side of the orrery.  The bottle began to fill, slowly. With something in a nasty shade of virulent green.

Fintan looked at it and sighed. “It’s either Creme de Menthe again, or some poor alien’s just found his drinking beaker is a lot emptier than he’d thought it was. Well, neither are much use to me.  So,  Eochaid-me-lad, how about if we went somewhere to find a cool glass and some pretty women?”


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A short, short History of the Alternate Time-line for Cuttlefish

A Short-Short history of the Alternate time line for ‘Cuttlefish’.

Cuttlefish history branches not with a General changing his mind or being killed, or a battle going differently, but with a simple pre-marital argument in 1898.

Dr Clara Immerwahr (a brilliant chemist) has an argument about the purpose of science with her intended, Dr Fritz Haber (something that would happen in the marriage and result in her untimely death in our timeline). She broke off the engagement. Her family, one of the leading Jewish families in Breslau, felt this a disgrace and sent her off to visit relations in England. She never returned, married happily there, had a daughter in 1907, and took a different direction within chemistry working on fabric dyes.

Fritz Haber never recovered from this blow. He began drinking too much, and changed his direction from working on the synthesis of ammonia to the extraction of gold from sea-water (a direction he took anyway, after the apparent suicide… well, death of Clara). While other continental scientists were working on ammonia synthesis they were somewhat behind Haber, and whereas the Haber-Bosch process was up and running by 1911, and able to supply the German war machine with feedstock for the manufacture of nitrates, this was not true in this time line. The British Empire controlled access to the main natural supply of nitrates in the World (the Chilean caliche deposits), and World War One was a very short damp squib (as it would have been without artificial ammonia synthesis) as despite their use the Birkeland-Eyde process (a way of making artificial nitrates), the Central Powers having badly hurt Russia, began to run out of munitions after four months — at which point it became a race between the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Germans to see who could reach a peace treaty first, knowing that would be to their advantage.

Austria-Hungary won that and suffered a minor break-up of their territory. The Turks found the cave-in fraught with uprisings and lost much of their Empire to the French and English, or independence.

Germany… the British Empire was determined to see it did not threaten them again. This meant breaking it up into states, and getting rid of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The ‘agreement’ was to allow him to have had a mental breakdown, which would allow him ‘retire’ gracefully. However, his abdication would have made his sons rulers and the British Empire was having no more of that. So the remaining German states were placed under the Regency of Adolf Schaumburg-Lippe. This minor German Prince, with his vivacious very pro-British wife Viktoria (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) were so adroit at reconciliation and in dealing with the German High Command that a Royalist uprising by Wilhelm II’s sons was successfully put down. France however seized the moment to invade a small German principality.

Thanks to Prince Adolf – and especially to his wife the British Empire intervened on the side of their historic ally, Germany, in the process mending many fences. The result of this was an arranged marriage between Edward VIII of the United Kingdom (who in our time line married Wallis Simpson in 1937, and had to abdicate to do so) and the daughter of Prince Adolf and Princess Viktoria (in our timeline their only child was stillborn) Princess Alexandria in 1916. And thus a new Imperial line was founded, in which the German Empire and British Empire largely became one. Russia still had something of a revolution – but the Mensheviks won. France, having alienated Britain, found itself mired in colonial wars.

And the world had no synthetic Ammonia, and the British Empire, dominant in coal, saw to it that coal, not these new-fangled oil-derived fuels stayed dominant. The Windsor-Schaumburg-Lippe family controlled vast coalfields… and had the means to slap punitive taxes on oil and control and tax the shipping of it.

Coal ran the Empire.

But coal is a very dirty burning fuel, and as Europe had neither WW1 nor the Spanish ‘flu, it had many people and much use. Emigration particularly to Africa and Australia went ‘full steam ahead’. Colonialism and racism flourished. So did the massive infrastructure of a steam-driven world.

By 1935 environmentally things began to go wrong, just as the British Empire began cracking under the strain of too many people and too little food, as Synthetic Ammonia has been the basis of much of the fertilizer used in our timeline. The coal-based society was pouring out massive amounts of soot (particulate carbon) caused substantial ice melting in the Arctic, particularly in Russia.

And that led to a methane burst (where methane locked in by ice or pressure reaches a point where a lot of it is released) in the tundra.

Methane is a short lived (breaking down in the atmosphere) but very effective (around 72 times as effective as CO2) greenhouse gas.

This caused real environmental catastrophe Massive melting of ice, more outgassing methane… a warmer world. Over seven years average temperatures rose 7 degrees.

It proved a disaster for the earth, but the saving of the Empire. Governments failed to cope as heatwaves ruined agriculture and their coastal cities and plains were flooded. World weather conditions were very erratic, causing the collapse of already overstretched agriculture, widespread starvation, wars, mass-migration.

Elected governments in many countries failed. Government was suspended, martial law imposed, in the British Empire with authority returning to the Royal Family. Military intervention was largely brutal and self-serving… except that the British Empire, with more military might and infrastructure than any rival, did a generally better job of restoring order and seeing people at least got some help. More if youe were white and British of course. In India the suffering was terrible. But Commonwealth countries who tried to go it alone – Australia, Canada, South Africa — rapidly became chaotic, soon begging the Crown to intervene, and restore direct rule. Which it did, and managed to stabilize things over the next few years (as the weather was re-settling, at hotter levels.) The Empire had its finest hour — along with some colossal failures, but these were lesser than the disaster’s impact elsewhere.

Slowly (by about 1942) things began to return to a new form of normal. A normal where London is largely flooded, but not abandoned. Like Venice, Her streets have become canals.

The British Imperial House was not ready to hand back the power it had been given or taken. The Canadian Dominions, with vast new arable lands and new settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland was a major engine for Empire. The restive factories of India provided goods for the Empire. In Australia — the Western settlements had suffered withering drought and had been abandoned by the Empire, with forced resettlement to the East coast and Tasmania.

At home Ireland seethed. And coal, the driver of the Empire, began becoming more difficult to source and more expensive. In the tunnels and tubes under the drowned city, anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty – the people who would see a return to older values and free elections eke out a strange existence. They are served by a fleet of Stirling engined submarines. After the 1914-15 War, submarines were outlawed by the treaty of Lausanne, as the Kaiserliche Marine submarines had inflicted considerable damage on the Royal Navy, and were thus hated. But the revolutionaries, the underpeople, operate a small clandestine fleet smuggling illegal goods — chocolate, teak, quinine.

The year is 1953. This is when ‘Cuttlefish’ is set.


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The arrogance and the ignorance


Yeah well. Not my fave cover, although to be fair I was asked for a description of the Aliens and their space suits by the artist (it’s supposed to be a hi-viz suit for a species that is red-green colourblind).  It’s not quite what I envisaged which was purple and dayglo lime greeny yellow/ 🙂 It’s a fair comment, and goes with the turf, and the luck of the draw.

Rant alert: It was however the guy who decided to have go at it because it was a Baen book who really got up my nose and itched. He/she plainly has no idea what the book is about, or who the authors are. However: We must be some kind of far right nutters to be abused.  This is on a charming par with deciding someone’s skin colour means they’re stupid or dishonest. Baen, to their credit, are possibly the ONLY major house who can fairly be said have a tolerant open policy to who and what they publish. Yes, they’ve published the far right… and the far left. Find another major sf/fantasy publisher who can honestly say that. So: for the only publisher doing the right and honorable thing… the arrogant and ignorant get a free pass to have a go at the authors and their books. Heck, it’s easy enough to shred my work, and that is fair enough.  But have the grace not come come up with the equivalent of ‘all blacks are stupid’ when you do it. At least read some of it. This on the other hand was a fine parallel to the guys who had never read Harry Potter but tried to get it banned because they’d heard it was Satanist.

Baen’s attitude is something anyone who believes in free speech should praise and respect them for -regardless of which party they support.  But to the type who feel that free speech and tolerance are only important when it applies to them (and you get them on the left and right – on the left they produce Pol Pot and the right Adolf Hitler) they’re bad because they didn’t take the ‘right’ side and discriminate against.   That’s neither liberal, tolerant, nor a belief in free speech.  Tolerance is and always will be: when it something you do not approve of, and is not said by someone you like or approve of, and you still support their right to say it.   ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’  This, and not blinkered narrow bigotry (no matter if that bigotry is in favor of NeoNazis or Gay Liberation) is intrinsic to Western Liberal Philosophy. Without we’re just a shade of totalitarian intolerance. And it doesn’t matter who you are being intolerant of.

rant endeth

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Third person?

I’ve been wrestling with the sample chapters for a YA proposal, which in utter rebellion against my agent will be neither Urban Fantasy nor Military sf, nor a mish-mash between. It’s this new subgenre Contemporary remote island Fantasy, with which i hope to at least be one the rare participants in.

The awkward thing is that some (not a lot) of the book calls for points of view which are not that of the lead character. But it feels a lot stronger and more immediate in first person. Now I have written a few stories in first, most of my books in third, and one story (Jack – probably one of my best) in first-and-third. 

I suppose the answer is to write the first 2-3 chapters and see which works best to readers. (I HATE this part of proposals – get started and then leave it, and some editor may decide to CHANGE the original thrust of the book, but this is one I still feel would do better as a book-to-publisher sale and not book-to-kindle sale… those ALSO have to happen in this copious spare time and life I have. )

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