Bringing characters to life

Sep 7, 2017

STOP PRESS – Elite Dangerous Premonition just came out in paperback on Amazon as I was writing this blog. I would really appreciate it if folks who’ve already read and enjoyed the ebook version could give it a review. Reviews make a massive difference to the visibility of the book and are the best thing you can do to help out an author. Many thanks!

This weekend I attended FantastiCon up in Hull. This was the fourth one, but at the same venue as last year – the magnificent Guildhall. My two boys Mark and Joshua were immediately ensconced with their PCs and loading up the latest games and my wife Anita and Mark’s girlfriend Abbey chatted to the attendees. For me it was a chance to meet friends old and new and catch up on all that’s happened over the last year.

Fantasticon is run by my publisher, the indomitable Dan and his long suffering, but wonderful, wife, Gabi of Fantastic Books Publishing. It’s a mix of modern and retro computer and tabletop gaming, books, creative arts and socialising, with quite a lot of impromptu mucking about into the bargain, particularly when the alcohol starts flowing. 😉


One of my first assignments was to have an on stage chat with another of Fantastic Books’ authors, Stuart Aken, who was launching his latest book “War Over Dust“. It was fun for us to compare notes about how we approach writing, develop characters, do our research and so on. Turns out that I’m a ‘plotter’ and Stuart is a ‘panster’ – I plot out everything to the nth degree and Stuart prefers to write by the ‘seat of his pants’!

Plotter and Panster. The two Fantasticon wizards!

Later that day I did a reading from my upcoming novel the “Lords of Midnight” followed later on by Kate Russell and her recently launched audiobook “A Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery.”

I, along with two of my longest standing ‘Elite’ buddies, also formed the ‘Drinklings’ (a little homage to the famous ‘Inklings‘) at the Con. Expect the unexpected. 😉

The “Drinklings” inaugural meeting 😉

My main event for the Con was something Elite Dangerous related though and this occurred on the second day.

Whilst writing for the game I’d been fortunate enough for part of the in-game story to have been voice acted by two very talented voice actors – Amelia Tyler (@AmeliaTyler) and Jay Britton (@VoiceJayBritton).

The reaction to the work that they did was remarkable throughout the Elite Dangerous community, with huge enthusiasm and thanks for it being the first example of its type in the game. To see an example of their work in the game and how the community responded – check out this stream segment from @Pumpkinberry who chanced upon the spooky wreck of the abandoned spacecraft ‘Zurara’. (warning – some strong language!)

Amelia, in particular, brought a character to life that had long been in the Elite mythos, the mysterious old woman, Rebecca, who features in my Oolite Saga.

Between the three of us, we’d concocted something a bit special for the Con. In fact, it was almost entirely Amelia and Jay’s work, with me adding in very small amounts of direction. They’re that talented that I hardly had to do anything but look on in admiration for nailing the characterisation straight away.

Here’s Dan introducing me and then me introducing the segment.

We chose a scene from my latest Elite Dangerous book ‘Premonition’ (which has just come out on Amazon!) and Amelia and Jay acted it out. For me, as the writer, it was very strange to see characters that you’ve imagined and worked hard to make real, actually become real before your eyes. It was quite surreal.

Amelia played Kahina Tijani Loren (aka Salomé) the embattled heroine from the story, whilst Jay played the Imperial leader Fleet Admiral Denton Patreus, one of Frontier’s powerplay characters from the game. I’ll let you watch what they did with the scene I gave them.

Suffice to say the reaction was as I’d hoped. Huge appreciation for both the story and the work both of these actors put in. For some in the audience, who were present at the in-game event where Salomé herself met her death in April this year, it was a poignant moment indeed to see her in the flesh before that final crisis. You can read the story of the Children of Raxxla in the book.

I did have to reflect a little on the wisdom of writing strong and memorable characters in my books – they are tricky things to handle as you can see!

Author held at sword point by own characters!

A few years ago I hadn’t even considered the possibilities offered by audio. Suffice to say it’s now a big part of my plans for my books, both current and future. Stay tuned for details.

I was also given a wonderful present. Those behind the Children of Raxxla faction and the Galactic Mapping crew, gave me (and Zac Antonaci of Frontier) a wonderful map of the Elite Dangerous galaxy in recognition of the work I put in producing the book. I even have a small spot (well – several thousand cubic lightyears!) of it named after me. Humbled wasn’t the word.

A Galaxy apiece!

Fantasticon remains my favourite ‘Con’. It’s not very big when compared to the enormous SF and Fantasy conventions, but it contains a wonderful and closely knit community of friends who really look out for each other, despite many of them having huge challenges and difficulties in their lives. It has an intimacy that you can’t find elsewhere. I count myself very lucky and humble to be part of this group. They are collectively awesome.

So many folks to thank, and they all know who they are, but shout outs, in particularly, to those setting out and tidying up, and all those working the stands for long hours. Bravo!

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