It’s that time of year

Christmas is coming, and with the human race spread out on over five hundred planets there are a variety of different traditional celebrations.

One of the most interesting is found on Greenworld. This is an unusual planet, as Jane explains to Ian Sinclair:

Sinclair turned to lean against the huge curved viewing window. ‘Any particular problems?’

‘Only my mother. Not only has she failed to grasp that I’m in Space Fleet now, and I’m not going to come home for good and settle down—but she’s also failed to grasp that colonised space isn’t just Mercia. Did I tell you what happened when I tried to talk to her about Greenworld?’

Sinclair’s eyes closed for a moment. ‘Eastern side and well in towards the galactic core. Isn’t there something odd about its orbit?’

Jane nodded. ‘No axial tilt to speak of—it doesn’t have any seasons. There’s a temperate belt round the equator which is populated, then it shades off into darker and gloomier forests as you head for the poles. The trees grow with no annual rings which makes the wood an expensive rarity. I’d managed to scrounge a little bit of the grainless timber and showed it to her. She as good as called me a liar.’

Living on Greenworld can be a little confusing. Every day is the same length and the weather hardly changes through the year. Because of this the Greenworlders make a huge issue of Christmas. Parties can go on for three or four days and meals take up an entire afternoon. Of course the date of Christmas has nothing to do with the Greenworld year, they use dates based on Old Earth’s calendar. The Greenworlders have also absorbed a lot of other cultures’ traditions, so Father Christmas has joined with Grandfather Frost and dons blue robes to hand out presents. St Lucy visits during the late afternoon but instead of candles her costume is alive with as many small lights as can be contrived by an engineer with nothing to do in the evening.

Greenworld Christmas is a wonderful experience, even if it can be overwhelming the first time.

Free Downloads at the Weekend

The first book, “Run From The Stars” will be available as a free download for four days from Friday 4th to Monday 7th September 2015.

This book will make you gasp, cry, fall in love and scream in terror.

If you like it positive reviews on Amazon will be appreciated.

This offer will not be repeated in the near future to make sure you download now.

Why do energy weapons go bang?

When I started writing about Jane I realised that the characters would need some sort of hand weapons. Firearms still exist in my future history, but the Arcturian Space Fleet officers needed something more, so I invented the hand energy weapon.

It is a short-barrelled hand weapon which has only two controls, the trigger and the safety ring.

Take the weapon firmly in your right hand, left handed officers will need to reverse some of the following instructions.

Put your thumb on the safety ring and push forwards. Release. Look at the charge indicator. Green means that it is fully charged and you have about one hundred shots on setting two, or three on setting seven. Yellow means that the weapon is partly charged, the length of the bar indicates how much charge is left. Red means that you are down to your last ten shots. Good luck.

Now, carefully pointing the weapon down the range, push the ring forwards and down. It will move through two detents, and you will hear a loud double click as the emitter sets live. You are now on setting two.


Take your thumb off the safety ring and it will pop back towards you. YOUR WEAPON IS STILL LIVE. Pushing the ring down now will give you access to higher settings

Now bring the weapon up, align the sights with the target and gently squeeze the trigger.

When the firing contacts close you will hear a loud bang and see a bright green flash. Look for the hole in the target, but remember YOUR WEAPON IS STILL LIVE, KEEP IT POINTED AT THE TARGET.

Put your thumb on the ring and push upwards. The ring will click through two detents and lock. Your weapon is now set safe.

So what happened? When the emitter sets live it takes a small quantity of material from the H-cartridge in the grip and moves it to the chamber. As the trigger contacts close this is converted to energy and emitted as a narrow beam. It is this beam hitting the target and causing a very rapid temperature rise that does the damage.

The beam is so intense that the air between the weapon and the target is heated and ionised as well. This air expands rapidly to get out of the beam. That’s what causes the bang that you hear.

The face that launched a thousand spaceships

Well, not quite a thousand, but enough to matter.

I am, of course, talking about Jane herself.

Jane’s childhood home was the farmhouse at Hallsfield on the planet Mercia. Jane is only three generations from the original settlers, her great-grandfather built the original farmhouse. Of course it’s been remodelled and extended over the centuries, but there are a couple of the original composite panels in the back wall of the machinery shed.

Jane’s early years were spent in the shadow of her older brother, Tom. Jane’s small size and unconventional ways of doing things meant that Tom didn’t quite take her seriously. But she soon learned how to assert herself, and the repertoire of tricks she developed to get the better of him in the end led to the outrageous stunts she has pulled off as a space fleet officer.

From an early age she could see that Tom would take over the farm when her parents retired, and that the best she could hope for would be to spend the rest of her life as his deputy. This, and a growing dislike of getting up early to see to the cows, turned her towards the idea of a technical career. She studied computing and electronics, and would probably have gone on to be a successful engineer if interstellar politics had not suddenly intruded into her life.

Peter Dean, a renegade space fleet officer, and Simon Garrett kidnapped Jane, no easy feat. They took her to Garrett’s house on Topanga, where affection began to grow between Jane and Garrett’s son, Andrew.

Space Fleet were aware of what had happened, but their search for Jane was making no progress. She, on the other hand, had bluffed Dean into believing that she was interested in him.

Then things became really complicated. Dean and Garrett were involved in a deep conspiracy and to fund it they had sold Jane to both the Khan of Nineveh and Archduke Kalbstein of Bavaria. With both deposits secured they then attempted to deliver Jane to the Khan. As Jane put it “You do not want to know what he wanted to do to me, particularly not when you are eating.”

Thinking that Jane will not survive the Khan’s attentions Dean lets her read the technical manuals for his spaceship. As bad moves go this is a classic, Jane has now memorised exactly how the drive systems work and what can make them fail.

Helped by Andrew she almost escaped. Aware of the problems she could cause Dean and Garrett set off in Dean’s eighty-footer to make the delivery to the Khan. With Jane in a straight jacket and strapped to the floor in the storeroom they feel reasonably safe, at least until Jane gets loose and wires a dead short onto the orthodynamic drive controls.

The resulting implosive starcrash puts the ship out of commission. Dean manages to dead-stick it back to the takeoff field but crashes on landing.

Jane, meanwhile, has been transmitting and space fleet are not far behind.

They believe that they can take Jane back to the farm and that will be the end of the matter.

Not so.

Jane has now discovered that she prefers spaceships to cows. She also has memorised the entire mechanism of the orthodynamic (faster-than-light) drive. This is not only highly secret but is also the key to Arcturian political, economic and military ascendency.

There was only one thing space fleet could do. They gave her a commission.

And that’s how a farmer’s daughter from a backwater planet ended up as an officer in planetary operations.

P-side and V-side

Please observe the instructions in this post when visiting your local spaceport for your comfort and safety.


When you turn up for an interstellar flight you’ll notice the two lines painted on the floor at the checkin desk. The orange line is on the outside, and up to this line the law of your home planet applies. This is called P-side, P stands for Planet. Once you check in and step over the black line, which is on the inside, towards the apron where the space liners are, you are diplomatically in interstellar space, and everything is governed by the protocol of interstellar law. This side of the line is the V-side or vacuum side.

The lines make a complete loop around the sensitive parts of the spaceport, so you will see them again as you leave baggage reclaim at your destination planet. Customs are operated by the local planetary government and are entirely P-side.

Please don’t treat this as a free way of avoiding the consequences of a crime. If you’ve stolen something and dive over the line, the station manager will heave you back into the arms of the waiting cops. Contrary to popular rumour the Arcturian station managers don’t carry guns, at least not all of the time, but they do have the assistance of some very fit baggage handlers.

Political asylum is another matter entirely. The protocol explicitly forbids planetary governments from operating a secret police, so if your home planet has one you can legitimately escape by crossing the line. Once there you as as much protected as you would be in an embassy.

On behalf of Arcturian Interstellar Space Lines may I wish you a pleasant flight.


What next?

Both books have now been available in all formats for a week.

What would you like me to blog next?

Would you like to see more technical detail about how Arcturian technology works? Or would you prefer to know more about the backgrounds of the characters?

Please let me know. Either post a comment on this blog entry or use the contact form.


The layout of the Eighty-Footer


This spaceship is the mainstay of the Confederate space fleet.

Paul has created a very good picture of it for the cover of Run from the Stars, which really shows you what standing next to it on a spaceport apron would be like.

This post is about one of the sketches I drew when I was writing the books to fix exactly where all the parts where and how it all joins up. I’m not a proper artist, I’m just an engineering draughtsman, so this doesn’t look nearly as good, but it does how you how the ship works.

If you click on the picture at the top you’ll see one page from the engineering drawing set which shows the arrangement of the major parts.

Important things to note are the way that the undercarriage maingears have to fold flat to fit into the very thin wings, and the enormous track width, almost thirty feet. The width of the track means that it is very forgiving of both bad landings and rough ground handling.

You’ll also see Dr. Mcallister’s signature in the “checked” box. You’ll meet her near the beginning of Turn to the Stars.

This is a list of the numbered parts:


1. Reaction Motors
2. Elevons
3. Waste Heat Radiators
4. Fusion Reactor
5. Orthodynamic Drive
6. Hydrogen Fuel for Fusion Reactor
7. Undercarriage Maingears
8. Plasma Turbines
9. Fin and Rudder
10. Gas Separator (under deck)
11. Emergency Escape Panel
12. Bed cabin
13. Personal effects stowage
14. Weapons Pod
15. Shower and WC
16. Electrical Equipment Room (gearspace)
17. Store room
18. Galley
19. Day Cabin
20. Fixed Teleportal
21. Pressure Suit Stowage
22. Airlock
23. Flight Deck
24. Undercarriage Nosegear
25. External Lights and Sensors Dome
26. Slot Antenna
27. Belly Motors
28. Lock-on Port
29. Docking Probe
30. External Services Connector
31. Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Masks
32. Reaction Mass Water Tank (under deck)
33. Accumulators (under deck)

Turn to the Stars is available

Turn to the Stars is now available for download on Kindle and Kobo. The Nook edition is in the pipeline and should go live inside the next 24 hours. The print edition is working its way through the proofing process and will be available in a few days.

Run from the Stars and Turn to the Stars together make up a complete story, all the loose ends are tied up fairly neatly.

I hope you will enjoy them.