Baby’s first steampunked ray-gun

Most of my hobbies include a craftwork element. Since finding out that Steampunk was the same, I’ve been having a crack at making my very first prop.

I’m not 100% sure about this, but I think it’s a good first go. First of all, I was lucky enough to find a pair of these:

in the local Age Concern charity shop for £2 the pair.

One of them has been taken by my son-in-law, who has been making props far longer than me, and while I eagerly await seeing what he’s done with it, this is what I’ve done with mine:

Courtesy of black primer, stone-effect paint, more black primer, rub n buff in silver and gold, a blue crystal from a broken necklace and a bit of watchwork from a broken brooch. Also a bit of copper wire wound around a drinking straw to make a spring.

If exposed wires are good enough for Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, they’re good enough for my ray-gun.

Now onto the more difficult task of figuring out how to make it a holster!

Alex Answers Questions!

I got a nice email from Coffee Time Romance this morning inviting me to submit the answer to a question, which they would then promote in their newsletter. This seemed like a great thing to me, and I wrote out a long answer for them and hit the submit button. Then everything froze and I don’t know whether it went through or not. If it did, I’m sorry for repeating it here. If it didn’t, at least I had copied what I wrote before I lost it 🙂


*QUESTION: How much of your real life bleeds over into your books? And do you worry that someone will be able to tell the fact from the fiction?*

I used to write specifically to get away from my real life. In those early days you would find me imaginatively on the decks of tall ships or the bridges of starships, a very long way away from everything of my current reality. I’d used reading as an escape since I could follow the words of The Hobbit, and writing was a natural escalation from that. I liked the fact that I could control these worlds and they would contain nothing that really hurt me.

But as I’ve grown into myself and begun to accept that I will never be a swashbuckling hero with the world’s fate in my hands, I’ve learned to love the life I’m actually living. When I moved into the English fenlands, I found a place where I could put down roots. I spent my first five years feeling blessed every time I came out of my house and saw the view – I’m surrounded by flowering countryside. And that began to work its way into my books before I was even aware of it. The first sign was the frequency with which my heroes took up morris dancing – first in Under the Hill and then also in Blue Eyed Stranger.

Then it really kicked in, and The Reluctant Berserker was knitted together out of one thread of my lifetime of Anglo-Saxon re-enactment and study and another of love for the fenland landscape. There is a strong element of me trying to give you the glory of this place – the fact that it’s a balm to the soul to live in this much beauty.

I don’t worry that people may be able to tell the fact from the fiction because I’m not hiding any of this. If you’ve ever tried, you’ll know that in fact it’s much harder to bring a real place to recognizable life in fiction than it is to simply make one up. If I describe a flowering hedgerow in a way that makes a reader picture it intensely enough to almost be there, does it really matter if I drew it from reality or not?

I have only this life, and in this life I have been fortunate enough to receive some beautiful things. I’d like to share them because I hope you enjoy them too.


Hey! Answering questions is fun If you would like to ask me anything (within reason, of course) go ahead and either ask here or through my contact form or email. I’ll do my best to give you as comprehensive answer as I can and be grateful for the prompt.

Happy New Year to all

Guess who got a year’s subscription to Photoshop as a Christmas present 🙂 It doesn’t half make moodboards easier to create.

I’m going into the new year cautiously optimistic about the three pen-names thing. I have just finished writing a space opera, and a cozy mystery before that, and now I’m eager to write a mm romance again. I think having the ability to change genres in an organized way will really help me when I’m having my next attack of “I cannot stand to write another [whatever genre] novel ever again!” And it may mean that you’re not subjected to quite so many Frankenstein’s monsters of novels that don’t belong in any category in future.

As you can probably see from the moodboard, I’m itching to start the next Trowchester novel, Seeing Red, but I just have to get the edits on Starship Ragnarok done first. Hopefully Seeing Red will be underway by the end of the month, though.

I have a marvellous new program called Book Report which is telling me all sorts of things I didn’t originally know about my books. One of which things is that Leanne was quite right to suggest that more people liked The Reluctant Berserker than I had previously thought. So that may eventually get the sequel I originally half planned for it after all 🙂 (After I’ve written Seeing Red and the Age of Sail book I promised you, of course!)

It’s nice to have some enthusiasm again, and even better to have accurate information on which to base a plan for what to do with it.

What book of mine would you most like for free?

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

In keeping with the re-vamping of every single thing that is going on in my life as an author, it finally occurred to me that at the end of my books I offer people the chance to sign up for my newsletter in exchange for 4 free books. This is all well and good, but one of those books is Lioness of Cygnus Five, which is now not an Alex Beecroft book at all.

People who want Lioness probably want SF/F and therefore probably ought to be signing up to Alex Oliver’s newsletter, not mine. I need to replace Lioness in my offer with an actual mm romance book.

So, my question is, out of my self-published books – which is now everything except False Colors, By Honor Betrayed, His Heart’s Obsession, Foxglove Copse and Contraband Hearts – which book would you most like to have for free? Which book (if any) would tempt you to sign on for the newsletter?

If I had to guess, I would go with Blue Eyed Stranger, because a lot of people are reading Trowchester Blues, and would probably appreciate getting to try the next book in the series for free, but I’m not hugely good at guessing what readers really want – that’s why I’m getting into the habit of asking 🙂

So what do you think? If you were coming at my books as a newbie, what book would you like to have most without having to pay for it?

Contraband Hearts named one of the top 11 mm romances

How cool is this? Contraband Hearts joins books by ZA Maxfield and JL Merrow on this list of top 11 mm romances.

The vid at the top is narrated by a strange robot voice which pronounces slavers (people who take slaves) as slavers (drools a lot), and the actors they’ve got for Perry and Tomas would not have been my first choice, but that’s just me being curmdgeonly.

I’m actually delighted by the whole thing. There are actors playing Perry and Tomas for a start! That’s more than I’ve ever had for a book of mine before. It’s worth watching just for that 🙂

They obviously liked the Porthkennack books, because they’ve also mentioned my Foxglove Copse and JL Merrow’s Love at First Hate from the same series.

Hah, I’ve still got it 🙂 (She says with a total lack of shame.)

Yet more cover art changes

Did I say I’m sprucing up my backlist? I feel sure you must have noticed that by now 🙂

This week I’ve been improving the books’ description pages on Amazon and flexing what I’ve learned about writing better blurbs.

But one of the other things I’ve learned since really getting into the self-publishing mindset is that when people want a book of one genre and they see a book with a cover that looks like it belongs to a different genre, they don’t go “oh, how unique and interesting!” They go, “That doesn’t look like the type of book I want. I’ll give it a pass.”

Which means that if your cover is too ‘unique and interesting’ you’re actually putting readers off. What you need is cover art that looks similar to all the other covers in your genre, so that readers are reassured that they are indeed buying something that they want.

It really grieved me to have to replace these two covers, because I was so pleased with them both when I first made them. And I still look at them with pleasure. They are nice book covers – for a Fantasy and for some kind of literary fiction about the surfer lifestyle.


But goddammit, I am trying to make a living here, so I’m going to take the hit and hammer that genre button for all I’m worth. Which means that these books now look like this:


On the plus side, sometimes you can spend days trawling through stock-photo sites looking for the perfect picture, but that picture of Kjartan, which genuinely looks like him fell into my hands in less than an hour. How often is it that you can go looking for a white-haired elf prince and actually find a good photo? Vanishingly rare. It must be an omen.

I think I’m going to keep a cover-art graveyard on this site. I surely can’t be the only one who finds the constant evolution of images interesting.

Also I think some of them might make good posters.

I bought “How to Write A Sizzling Synopsis” by Bryan Cohen recently and read it yesterday at a coffee shop, where I had gone because I felt too ill to actually go into the gym even though I’d come into town to do just that.

It’s quite a short book, with large text, and normally I come out of these ‘how to’ writing books with the feeling that I’ve had maybe one sentence-worth of good advice after having read 100 pages of blather. But this one is really good, and I think quite worthwhile. I’ve taken on board most of its suggestions and re-written some of my book blurbs, in the hope that more people will be moved to buy my books. For example:

Under the Hill

Old Blurb

Voted Best multicultural fantasy of 2013 by the Swirl Awards, and now presented in one volume, Under the Hill is a contemporary fantasy adventure story featuring dragons, elves and world war two fighter planes.

Targeted for abduction by the Faerie Queen, Ben Chaudhry reluctantly turns to Chris Gatrell and his eccentric Paranormal Defence Agency for help.

But it’s hard to keep anything out of the snatching hands of determined elves. Chris himself was abducted from his own time – shot down in WWII, and shot forward seventy years in time, stranded far from his wartime sweetheart Geoff and his Lancaster bomber crew.

When the inevitable happens and Ben is abducted, he finds himself a major player in a game of elven politics that may lead to the invasion of Britain.

Chris has to convince the police he didn’t just murder Ben and hide the body. Determined not to lose another sweetheart to the elves’ treachery, he presses the ghosts of his old crew back into action for a rescue attempt.

But Geoff isn’t dead at all – he’s been on ice in Elfland all this time. Now he has a dragon and he’s not afraid to use it. If only he could be entirely sure which of the elf queens is the real enemy—the one whose army is poised to take back planet Earth for elf-kind.

In the cataclysmic battle to come, more than one lover—human and elf alike—may forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.


New Blurb

The fairies at the bottom of the garden are coming back with an army.

Ben is a modern, sceptical man but the fairies are trying to abduct him. When he hires Chris’s paranormal defence agency to protect him, he doesn’t expect to fall in love.

Chris is a refugee from his own time. He’s lost one lover to the elves already. Terrified, but determined that this time he’ll do better, he promises Ben that the elves will get him over his dead body.

If only that wasn’t looking so likely.

Under The Hill was voted Best Multicultural Fantasy 2013 in the mm romance Swirl Awards. Previously presented in two books, this new edition has the whole story in one volume. If you love KJ Charles’ Green Men and Magpie Lord books, you’ll love this.

Buy Under The Hill now and prepare to be enchanted.

Basically the advice was to simplify everything, focus on the characters, cut as much as you possibly could cut and include a clear call to action at the end. And considering that Amazon now only gives you about 200 words above the cut, you’ve really got no space to work with. Making it short is the way to go. What do you think?

Amazing SF/F novel sale bundle

Check out this fantastic bundle of SF/F titles available for 99c over December!…/1ed7f546-d6d5-11e8-81e3-4b0367…

My Witch’s Boy is one of them, but there are thirty-four other books to choose from! Yes, you heard that right! THIRTY-FIVE sf/f books to choose from. You could buy five books for the price of a coffee

Must the sins of the father be passed down to the sons?

Peasant boy Oswy, sold to witch-lord Sulien FitzGuimar, thinks he’s destined to be carved into spell ingredients. Yet behind Sulien lurks someone even worse – his old master, Tancred, now the king’s mage.

When Tancred stages a coup, dragging the elves into his Empire-building plans, the woman he has set his sights on as a bride – aspiring nun, Adela – sets out to find someone to oppose him. But dark magic is addictive and hard to escape. With all their lives in peril, the fate of the world may balance on Sulien’s traumatized soul.

Writing Resumes

So… Anyone who read my blog in the summer will have seen me going through something of an existential crisis. I’m happy to report that (in so far as these things ever go away) it has receded and now I actually have A PLAN.

I’ve established my three pen names, and they all have websites and at least a few books out. They probably won’t all be blogging, given how hard I find it to keep up even one blog. But I’m converted to the usefulness of Facebook, and you can find me over there on my page:

After much soul searching, I’ve decided that I haven’t really given this self-published author thing enough of a try. I’ve only been doing it full time since April, and half of that time has been taken up in reorganizing everything and then writing and publishing Murder of A Working Ghost. It’s time to give it a good go now I AM re-organized.

Yesterday I took a good look at which of my books people were liking the best (measured by which ones people are buying,) and decided that I would give people more of what they want. No more of this artistic “I’m going to write whatever I want to and people will have to put up with it.”

I’m currently writing a space opera with an asexual main character. That’s currently called Curiosity and is planned as a series for my SF/F side, Alex Oliver. When that’s done (which I hope will be before Christmas,) I’ll start on another Alex Beecroft book.

I promised my Newsletter folks that I would do both a Trowchester novel and a new Age of Sail novel, so that’s what I’ve got planned:

  • Finish writing Curiosity #1
  • Write Trowchester #4
  • Edit Curiosity #1
  • Write a third Dancing Detective book.
  • Edit Trowchester #4
  • Write Curiosity #2
  • Edit DD #3
  • Write another Age of Sail book
  • Edit Curiosity #2
  • Edit the AoS book

After which I will stop and see what things look like again. I know a lot of people joined up with me because they loved the Age of Sail books, and I might make the next AoS book the beginning of a series.

I’m currently writing 3000 words a day, which means that (illness and family crises aside) I can finish a 75K book in a month. But editing takes at least a half to a whole other month, and I need to work some time in here for:

  • researching and planning all these books
  • learning how to use Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads in a way that actually makes me money rather than losing it.
  • making cover art, formatting, uploading, making graphics, blogging, sending newsletters, getting involved in promotion etc…

So, realistically we’re looking at a new Trowchester book in early summer 2019 and a new Age of Sail book in winter 2019. But watch this spot because I may decide to shuffle round the order depending on how things are going.

It’s nice to have a plan!

Grab your free Asexual detective novel now.


Murder of a Working Ghost is currently at #27 in all the Kindle store, at #1 in “Traditional Detectives,” and #2 in “Cozy mysteries.”

If only that was in the paid lists, but alas, I put it on free for a week to try to boost its visibility. In that, it absolutely seems to have worked!

It was downloaded by 4,250 people yesterday. I really hope at least some of them leave me reviews 🙂

Still, I can call myself an Amazon bestseller, which is always nice, and what’s nicer is that people seem to be reading it and then coming back to buy Murder of a Straw Man, the first in the series. This is the one with the asexual sleuth and the gay sleuth who are housemates.

So far the cozy mystery audience seem to be much more open to reading books with LGBT characters than the SF/F audience.The “OMG, why is everyone gay?” comments on the mysteries are much less vitriolic than the ones I’ve been getting on Cygnus Five.

Anyway – enough waffling. If you are interested in getting Murder of a Working Ghost for free, grab it now, as the promotion only lasts until the 9th.

I didn’t mention that I’d changed the cover, did I? Also I changed the cover 😉