The Tyrant has landed

After a good while of editing, it’s finally complete. The Tyrant Rises.

If you do read it, I would very much appreciate any feedback on Amazon, good or bad. There’s only one thing worse than being talked about….


It’s been a while…

…but i’ve still been busy editing and writing.  Something has had to give – kids, work, wife, sanity…I need to keep hold of them (the latter is questionable), so it has been the blog.

And finally, the book is finished. It even has a name – The Tyrant Rises.

A very old friend (both in years and years of friendship) Carl Howe has designed me a cover, and once the final version is done, I’m going to self-publish.

I’ve tried a few agent submissions, and I’ve received a few very friendly ‘no thank you’s’. My problem is probably my pitch, but also there seems to be a special lack of agents that fit the bill for what I’m trying to write. Which is a little worrying, in that there may be no market for my book. Or it may be crap. Which it isn’t, right?!?

Still, if the Amazon self-publish route goes well, I’m sure that there will be plenty of agents then!

Next blog: the day it’s finally published.


The sound of a heavy bar being put in place was the last sound.

It was dimly lit, and William noticed candles on the walls, big, thick candles that would last for many hours.

He lay down. He closed his eyes. He opened them, shifted on his bed, and closed his eyes again, keeping them shut even through the wakefulness beneath.

He stayed like that for perhaps five minutes, and then flung the cover off himself. He prowled around the small room and noticed the food and water placed on the floor on the blind-side of the bed. If it could be described, it would be as functional. It offered no thoughts of taste or flavour.

He ate some of the food and drank some of the water.

Hi exhaustion was such that he could not rest his mind to an extent that would allow sleep. He paced the room, sat down, lay down, paced again.

Such a time came when his head hit the pillow and he did sleep. When he woke, the candles were still burning, although lower. He had no idea just how long he may have been asleep, but the candles still had many hours of burning left. On a whim, be blew out half of the candles. It left enough light to pace by.

It turned out that his whim was prophetic. He slept again and when he awoke, one of the candles had extinguished. Two were left burning, both very low. He left them to burn, and he watched fascinated as one guttered and then went out. The room was now almost dark. It was mesmeric to watch, and he had no choice but to watch. Until the third candle started to gutter, when he moved and lit one of the remaining three. It flickered and took hold. Carefully he put it back in its place

Four became three, and somewhere he slept and ate a little. There was no noise, no sensory input of any kind other than the sound of his own boots on the floor and that of his own mastication.

Three became two, became one. He slept, he woke. Time move slowly. Or quickly. There was no point of reference.

His nerves were becoming more threadbare the further the last candle burned. He paced the small cell incessantly. He swore violently at the spent candles, at the cell, at le Clerc and at anything else that sprang to mind.

The last candle went out and turned William’s hysteria on. He fumbled across the floor finding the wooden door, and he hammered on it, hitting it repeatedly with first his fists and then the flat of his hand once he could feel blood oozing from the knuckles.


He had considered that perhaps they would be taken to a railway station, perhaps even one inside a regimental barracks. It was both of those things, but also so much more. He had expected a train. One of those green, blue or black affairs that hissed steam and was driven by a red and black faced old timer in coal stained overalls. One of those things that you saw everyday with small children beaming brightly, suited men reading serious papers and old ladies gossiping quietly. These things were pleasing to the eye, a place where a man could relax in comfort knowing that, as long as he had his copy of Bradshaw’s with him, he could be anywhere in the country at the stated time, fresh and ready for anything. They smelled beautiful, they were big and comforting, they were home.

The monstrosity in front of the company certainly hissed and its one saving grace was that it smelled like a real train. Other than that, it gave no cause for comfort.

It was a raging beast, a fortress on wheels. The engine was longer by half than a normal engine, and it was black, cold and hard. Thick armour plating clothed all of its surfaces and a stumpy funnel peered a mere six feet in to the air, a jagged crown set on its top. The cabin was completely enclosed, made of the same armour cladding as the engine itself with a tiny porthole on either side. A cunning sight-glass extended upwards from the cabin, an array of mirrors allowing the rotating scope to give a two-hundred and seventy degree view, only the ninety degrees behind being blind. Appended to the top of the rear cabin was a gun turret housing a pair of stubby cannons large enough to down a charging rhinoceros. Even its wheel were ominous, larger than normal, and black and foreboding, the steam that licked around them creating an aura both vast and terrible and beautiful.

A dozen carriages were attached. Like the engine, they didn’t give any of the innate cheeriness of a normal steam train. All of them were dark and foreboding, the same gunmetal grey and armour cladding. Raised bunkers appeared on top of each carriage, in which were a pair of soldiers armed with rifles that were new and queerly designed.

It was a fortress on wheels: it had artillery, fortifications and infantry. It was colossal. Her name was Black Bess.

The Pirate Captain

“So then, son.”

It was unfortunate that this had been the opening gambit from the Pirate Captain, for his ending would be worse. He was no-one’s son, and the cause sat before him.

“I am no-one’s son,” William spoke low and cold, gravel in his tone, echoing his thoughts.

He drew his longsword. It was a butcher’s weapon, crude and lacking all finesse, and even though William’s fencing abilities were renowned within his own circles, he enjoyed the bludgeoning effect of this particular brutal weapon.

It grated like a body being dragged over a stone floor as its metre-long blade was slowly exposed, the effect mesmerising the Pirate Captain’s men.

The Pirate Captain broke the mesmer with a scream.

The man on the far left raised a brass blunderbuss, its speaking trumpet aimed at William’s head. The frizzen sparked and an explosion filled the room leaving them all blind from the flash and the smoke. All apart from William, who’d moved like a ghost, facing away from the blunderbuss as he went, ignoring the man as spent for a few instants, disembowelling another who was levelling a pistol at his former position with a great upward hew of his sword. The down stroke caved the skull of the man next to him with a dull thump, like that of a clapper on a broken bell.

The remaining three tars were stunned and blinded by the blunderbuss but William was moving still, elegantly drawing his sword against the throat of the fourth man and pulling with some effort as the tip slipped free from grinding against the man’s spine. The fifth man had a cutlass out, swinging it wildly around himself in a parody of insanity and William merely thrust at the man, the point beating the edge, skewering the man neatly through the chest, trapping his sword in the bone. William merely looked at the man wielding the blunderbuss, little more than a boy, and even with the jammed sword, the boy blanched, dropped his weapon and ran.

It only left the Pirate Captain.

William was breathing heavily, but not from the effort, only from the pent-up frustration that had built up over the preceding three years.

The Pirate Captain stood, a wry smile on his face and it was only at this that William realised he’d not sensed one flinch of movement from the man.

He stood and it seemed to take an eternity. He was at least a foot taller than William, massively broad in the shoulder with an impressively large stomach that barely moved as he stood, belying its cumbersome impression.

“You bastard,” spat William. “I am nobody’s son. Murderer, rapist, defiler I name thee.”

The smile became a broad grin. “You’re the second man to recently attempt to fillet me. The first hangs outside. How would you like to die, little man?”

William dragged his sword discordantly across the floor before hefting it upwards: it dripped blood. He realised that he shouldn’t tarry because the cowardly sailor would no doubt fetch help. And the Pirate Captain knew it too. He’d placed the table between them, drawing his weapons, a long knife in his left hand and a machete in his right. Neither was a match for Williams’s sword unless he was so inordinately fast that he could get round William’s guard. He didn’t have the look of someone gifted with speed. He was just too big. But then, both the pugilist and the swordmaster who had taught William had been old and fat, vastly beyond their prime, and both moved… eerily. It was the only word William had ever been able to ascribe to them. One moment they were reeling or too far away, the next William was sat on his bottom, stars around his vision or a sword was nicking his throat like a razor.

And with astonishment, he found it thus with the Pirate Captain. One moment there was a table between them and William had his longsword, his prey at his mercy. The next, William was reeling away, a deep gash in his left shoulder.

“Who was it, little man? Did I fuck your mother?”

Some Steampunk Technology

I’ve tried to bring alternate history and steampunk together… and some of the fixes that have been cobbled together in attempt at presenting a near-realistic, but technologically impossible blend. And there’s also the reading politics and world order as they could have happened. Nothing big, really.

Looking around him, William would never have guessed the degree to which the estates extended underground, and how the surrounding woodland was a powerful part of Brocklehurst’s master plan in the battle for Britannic supremacy over Europe (the Prussian, nominally allies, were twitchy over France, the Austrians, Hungarians and Spanish were twitchy over France and the Anglo-Prussian alliance and the power of their armies, the Dutch…well… just twitchy. Part of their national make-up. And the Russians. Well, they were flexing their muscles. War seemed imminent somewhere in Europe. And quite soon). The clever thing was, that whilst the area was famous for its mysticism, druidry and witchcraft, just a few miles down the road was the conurbation of Manchester, a vast cottonopolis also massively famous for its engineering, gadgetry and inventiveness.

From Ancoats there had been the steambulator, a beautifully engineered, minute, steam engine fixed on to a large sofa chair. There was even an umbrella holder for those inevitable Manchester drizzles.

Rochdale had produced a number of pointless automatons, small foot high water-powered figures that could walk in a straight line, or possibly fall over on cobblestones.

Stockport had invented a range of hats, from self-defence hats that exploded when thrown, to automated oilskin hats that unfolded in to a waterproof over-coat when rain fell. And this by the power of the sun! Incredible!

In fairness, most of these Mancunian inventions had been ridiculed, but Brocklehurst has seen through the gadgetry and had concentrated on the beauty of the detail – a steam engine the size of a child’s fist, using motion to almost perpetualise the re-circulation of water. And then there was harnessing the power of the sun! This was genius at work. And to top it all, Brocklehurst had the genius to bring all of it together. Imbued with the power of nature, in the form of powerful mysticism gifted by the local crackpots (crackpot! Ho! Genius!), Brocklehurst had redefined science, although this was still top secret. As were the automation experiments in all the other power houses of Europe, those very developments and technologies that every government knew about each other. The Russians had the Vezdekhod, an armoured vehicle that was apparently causing problems – the armour did not prevent occupants being killed when explosions occurred inside the machine. It was mostly developed, however and a few tweaks to the engine would have it up and running. If they combined forces with the Prussians, a most formidable weapon could be born, as an American, Hotchkiss, was reputedly developing a motorised rifle for them that could propel ten bullets every second over a distance of five hundred yards! Whilst the gun worked, unfortunately ammunition production was not yet up sufficiently automated – mass producing self-enclosed projectiles to the required precision was not yet consistent enough to be safely reliable, and whilst that concern had almost been solved, the actual production of the number of shells that would be useful to a large quantity of weapons was as of yet not viable. A small number of guns could be serviced quite easily, but the numbers required for a whole army – not yet. There were some minor design issues also. Occasionally the gun itself would get so hot that the whole thing would explode as it overheated the substandard ammunition. There were rumours that somewhere in the British design houses that a water cooled version was being designed, although, again, the ability to produce sufficient numbers of projectiles to equip a reasonable sized fighting force was not within their capabilities. Even the Dutch had been at this innovation malarkey, building some fantastic dams – they didn’t even need to paddle anymore!

Whilst all of these inventions were known about (and all of the Europeans were doing it, even the French on the behalf of both the British and Prussian governments), the significant British spy network had not yet managed to obtain any meaningful blueprints. Thankfully, the initial blueprints to the British inventions had been stolen, and the European powers could design similar contraptions to their hearts content – because the one part that hadn’t been written down – anywhere – was the requirement for nature to lend a hand. Brocklehurst had even gone to great lengths to ensure that his blueprints were stolen. The stolen blueprints included faulty steam engine design, materials that could not possibly soak up the sun’s rays and convert it to power, and a quasi-perpetual motion design that amounted to little more than a bucket with a hole in it. That you had to refill manually.

Stieber doesn’t do vomit

A fist struck Rimbaud full in the face and he momentarily blacked out.

His subconscious heard the sound of sliding metal and he regained his vision just in time to see the rapist skewered through one ear hole and out of the next, the sword sticking fast into the fine leather upholstery.

Rimbaud stared wide eyed as the body of the rapist twitched in its death throes. Even Amara only whimpered, also transfixed at the macabre scene.

“I gave strictest instructions to you both zat zis specimen vas to be entirely unharmed.” Fire blossomed in the man’s eyes and the Prussian accent became thick and fierce.

“My Lord Stieber,” cried Rimbaud. “I have tried to protect the lady from that animal. First he walked off into the hills on a wild goose chase, murdering her husband and causing the most grievous form of harm upon the girl. The buffoon didn’t even realise who she was.”

Rimbaud’s incoherently fast babble continued as Stieber’s fires had not yet died down.

“And then he hit her and threatened me, and no matter how I entreated him to better behaviour and less violence in the name of our Lord, he would not listen. You saw what he was like, even the threat of your good name did no good.”

Stieber remained mute, but thrust the sword more deeply, twisting the blade as he did so. Blood and white matter flowed down its central groove as Rimbaud watched in fascination at the cerebral matter, before vomiting violently in to the rapists lap.

An undulating, uncontrollable laugh sounded from the other side of the rapist, wild feral eyes gleaming whilst tears rolled down her face, and her body shook uncontrollably, urine coating her clothes. Ivory white teeth shone against her black skin, teeth bared like a feral animal.

Stieber rolled down the window and ordered the driver to “make haste, make the greatest haste”. His eyes still gleamed dangerously, but a green tinge had coloured his gills.

“I hate vomit,” he muttered to himself.