Monday, 25 April 2016

What's been happening?

It’s been a long time since my last update, but during the last four months, a huge amount has happened.

The most significant, and most important, is the birth of my son; my first born.

Logan was born on the 1st April 2016, and my wife and I could not be happier. The ‘wee man’ (a very common Northern Irish phase that applies to him perfectly) is doing very well and growing up fast. It’s only been three weeks but we see such changes in him. We are, as doting parents, taking a lot of photos. Not all of which will be on Facebook.

In between recent daddy duties and preparing for the birth of my son, I have actually managed a lot of writing.

Within the last few months I have written a couple of fan-fiction stories for a wargame that I play called ‘Dystopian Wars’ by Spartan Games. Its a game set in an alternative 1800's with a distinct Steam-punk style to both its background and game play. The fiction pieces were for a friends gaming campaign to flesh out a small rulebook he was preparing, and I have included the longer of the two at the end of this blog post. I hope fans of the game will enjoy, and I hope other readers will just like the story on it’s own.

I have also continue to do work on the Wrathborn wargame, fleshing out more background details and stories for the gaming system. More work will follow in the coming months all being well.

I also very recently sent off a sample story to Black Library, a publishing house that produce novels for the sci-fi and fantasy wargames Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Age of Sigmar. They are currently running a competition to choose new authors and had requested submissions, so I duly threw my hat into the ring. Hopefully they look on my submission favourably, but we see.

Finally, I have not been idle on the Haldred Chronicles front.

I have chosen ‘Haldred Chronicles: Anna’ to be the fourth book in the series. This was one of the Haldred Chronicles books I was thinking of kicking off in December 2015. I am now working my way through my original 19,000 words and updating the draft. When I have time, and with a new born this is often a very mutable thing, I intend to work on the book and flesh things out.

My objective is to have a first draft done by the end the summer, and maybe release the book in November or December 2016. Time will tell, but at least I have something to work toward.

In the meantime, on the 1st May 2016 the first two Haldred Chronicles books (Alyssa and Kalla) will be FREE on Amazon Kindle for a limited time. So if you haven’t had a read of them, or know someone who’d maybe be interested in a little fantasy murder mystery and detective, head on over to (HERE) or (HERE) and grab a free copy of both books. I hope you enjoy!

That’s all folks. I leave you with my Dystopian Wars fan-fiction story and I hope you enjoy. Till next time.

* * * * *

A Mystery Considered

Lord Alexander Stanwell-Howe shot bolt upright in bed.

“That’s it!” he cried, much to the surprise of his cat ‘Lady Hathaway’, the black feline jumping in fright off the four poster bed.

Quickly Stanwell scrambled out of bed, jumping into his slippers and practically running for his over-stacked work desk in the next room. He lite an oil lamp sat nearby and started searching frantically through the documents upon the extensive oak wood desk.

“Yes, yes I’m sure of it!” he said, though whether to himself or to the many cats that quickly assembled round him was unclear. He eyed a particular document, emblazoned with the seal of the Federated States of America.

“Ah ha! This proves it!”

He looked to a particular tiger furred cat that sat, curled up on a nearby shelf

“The prime minister will need to hear this immediately Lord Barnsby!” Stanwell declared; the cats only reaction was to eye him suspiciously before seeming to fall back asleep. Leaving the papers still strung across his desk, Stanwell marched confidently to his bed side. He grabbed a small handle set into the side of his bedside cabinet. He turned the handle several times, before a well-worn red button flicked upwards from within the mahogany construction; he pushed it and was aware of a bell ringing somewhere distant.

After a few minutes, Stanwell’s butler arrived.

“You rang my lord?” he said after opening the expansive double doors of his master’s bedroom and study. His lordship was by this stage changing into his day clothes.

“Yes indeed Winston, I must meet urgently with the Prime Minister and the Minister of War. I have concluded something of great and frightful importance! They must be informed at once!”

“Very good sir, though I should warn you it is two o'clock in the morning.”

Stanwell blinked in surprise at his man servant. He strode over to the window to his bedroom, still buttoning his shirt, and pulled open the curtains; nothing but star-scattered blackness stared back at him.

“Well Winston, I’m afraid we shall have to dispense with the niceties of sleep. This can’t wait and indeed, I fear we may already be too late. Please communicate with them that I shall meet them at the Houses of Parliament, post haste!”

“Very well sir.” Replied Winston, hiding his concerns for his master’s sanity behind his neutral expression. He hurried to carry out Lord Stanwell-Howe’s unusual request.

* * * * *

An hour later, Stanwell paced up and down the flag stones of the inner sanctum of the Houses of Parliament. Around him the only observers were a couple of late night guards who eyed the unusual man wearily; his pacing was facilitated via his custom built mechanical chair, that he used when conducting government business. The spider-like machine lurched up and down, steam hissing from joints of it's mechanical legs occassionally, though Stanwell gave no indication that the unusual motion was upsetting him. Instead, his face appeared fixed in concentration; his single machine-eye, embedded where his left eye should have been, flickered blue and red as if he too were some kind of machine given human form. Beside him, one of his small black cats kept pace with both chair and master.

Stanwell did not speak to the cat as he prepared himself; he'd learnt through experience that chatting to cats in public was frowned on.

Just at that moment the Prime Minister arrived; it was three thirty in the morning so he was not in the best of moods.

“I do hope you have a damn good reason for getting me out of bed at this ungodly hour Stanwell!” the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, bellowed as he thundered from the parliament buildings main entrance, flanked by his heavily armed household guards and several nervous looking aids.

“I assure you I do sir!” Stanwell replied, immediately brought out of his concentration now that his summons had been answered. “Is the Minister of War with you?"

"Well I wouldn’t say I'm with the PM, par-say." Came a voice, as Lord Strathgordon made his appearance from a side door, slipping in with much less extravagance than the Prime Minister. He regarded Stanwell through his goggle like glasses and tipped his top hat. The PM simply glared at both of men as he came up to them, handing his cloak to one of his aids and straightening his waist coat.

"Get to it man, why are we here?" Ordered Benjamin.

"I have grave news gentlemen." Stanwell announced. "An attack is imminent!"

Despite the late hour, Lord Strathgordon chuckled. "My dear boy, we are at war. An attack is always imminent."

Stanwell returned the smile. "Indeed minister, but I mean imminent in a location we did not suspect was under threat. I speak of the Indonesian islands!"

"Rubbish!" Grumbled the Prime Minister. "Our latest spy reports indicate the Empire of the Blazing Sun would prefer no hostilities there. It's too important for them and too important for us. A major engagement would drain their resources to too great a degree, especially with their attacks upon the Russians."

"I would have agreed with you a week ago Prime Minister." Stanwell shot back, his mechanical chair hissing as it manoeuvred to better position him to speak to the two most powerful men in Britannian. "But I have been going over other intelligence reports, from other sources. I have deduced a conspiracy is afoot; our enemies mean to deceive us!"

"Explain." Asked Lord Strathgordon politely, indicating with his walking stick.

"Our own intelligence has shown that the Japanese government would rather hostilities not begin in Indonesian; they require all their resources to strike against the Russian and American fleets. However, I have studied the intelligence reports of our American comrades. They detail the troop movements of the Prussians and French. I have realized something in my deductions; several of our enemies army units are missing."

"Missing?" Asked Benjamin, his brow furrowing.

"Yes sir!" Continued Stanwell. "For months they were reported in Europe and the Mediterranean, engaged on numerous fronts. Then suddenly, reports on particular army units ceased!"

“Could the units not simply have been destroyed?” Strathgordon suggested.

“These are not companies or even regiments Minster, but entire army groups! As successful as our engagements have been, and those of our allies, destroying an entire army battle group of any size is no mean feat! I fear that these army groups have disappeared from the European and Mediterranean threatres, because they have been redeployed!”

Stanwell reached into the folds of his coat, producing several rolled up parchments. He unrolled one and held it out for the two ministers to see.

“An intelligence photograph, one taken not long ago near Indonesia, perhaps only two hundred miles distance. One of several. It was not marked as important when first I came upon it, but I fear it is.”

The black and white photograph appeared to show nothing more than a dark shadow in the sea, obviously photographed at great distance and in stormy weather.

“I took the liberty of enhancing it.” Stanwell said, unrolling another page. This one showed more of the shadow, and several notes that Stanwell had made. At the top of the page, the words ‘Metzger B’ were written in black ink.

“A Prussian battle robot.” Said Strathgordon, adjusting his glasses as he peered at the parchment.

“Difficult to see considering the photograph was taken during rough seas." continued Stanwell. "I did further cross referencing with other reports. I was not only able to identify the robot but confirm that this particular battle robot was attached to the 23rd Reserve Iron fleet. One of the fleets now missing from the European threatre.”

Strathgordon and the Prime Minister exchanged looks.

“This better not be a wild goose chase Stanwell.” Grumbled Benjamin. “or I might reconsider retaining you as my advisor.”

“I assure you Prime Minster, it is not!" Stanwell quickly retorted. "I have many reports and analysis documents just like this. I will gladly turn them over to prove my point; our enemy is moving. They are redeploying army and naval battle groups to Indonesian in preparation for an attack. It will be headed by the Empire of the Blazing Sun, but it is their Imperial Bond allies who will provide the lions share of the manpower and firepower. This will leave the Japanese free to continue their attacks elsewhere without undue drain on their resources.”

“Prime Minster, with your permission I would like to convene the War ministry immediately to consider a response.” Strathgordon asked.

The Prime Minister nodded somewhat reluctantly; he let out a breath.

“Very well, see to it Strathgordon. I will have an emergency cabinet meeting organized in the morning. Stanwell, you best prepare yourself. This will be a busy week if what you say is true.”

“I shall Prime Minster!”

Stanwell saluted, an unnecessary gesture from a civilian but the Prime Minster returned it anyway, shaking his head as one of his aids returned his cloak and he turned to leave.

Strathgordon and Stanwell watched him go.

“Good work Stanwell.” Said the Minister of War. “We’ll consider carefully how best to respond. We may well have to call on our own allies to aid us in this endeavour.”

“I agree my lord.” Nodded Stanwell. Despite his manic nature, his face turned serious.

“I fear this clash will involve all of our own Grand Coalition allies and our enemies in the Imperial Bond. The fate of all of the Indonesian islands may be at stake!”

* * * * *

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