Google’s Auto-Narrated Audiobooks

Finally, after years and years of not trying, I have got my books onto Google Books.

After doing so, I had an interesting offer: be a part of their beta for auto-narrated audiobooks. Auto-narration means that a modern day Microsoft Sam reads to you, entirely failing to understand nuance and emotion, but randomly being pitch perfect when you least expect it. Usually when he has to swear.

Given the number of people who have recently asked me if I have audiobooks available because they can’t read for various reasons, such as dyslexia (it’s three – three people asked), and the currently-prohibitive expense of flesh and blood narrators, I thought I might as well give it a go with book one, Shadow of the Wraith. The result isn’t terrible, bar for the inability of the platform to let me control the length of pauses or use any kind of emphasis. I quite enjoyed listening to it, even if the content itself did make me acutely aware that I wrote most of it when I was twelve and thirteen.

The partially robotic delivery certainly won’t be for some people, and I obviously intend to eventually make real audiobooks – probably after Hollywood gives me an advance for the Avengers-style film series it wants me to write and direct – but hopefully this will allow some people who are interested in the book, but can’t read it, to enjoy it.

Listen to a sample here.

Meanwhile, Shadow of the Wraith is currently free as a clever/crafty way to try to get more sales for the better other books. Find your version of choice here.

Spark

I tried another one. Technically this is the third one, but I gave up the second as a lost cause learning opportunity.

Instead, I tried a photomanipulation more on topic, about reading and imagination. And I shoved my characters in it. This was also a simpler one, with only four images, other than my character/ship concept art (mostly from Arianne), and a couple of custom brushes.

Here, again because I don’t know what else to do with, is a photomanipulation I’ve cleverly named ‘Reading’, and even more cleverly thought of as ‘learning’ so I don’t have to address all the issues with it:

Perhaps next time, I’ll…write a book.

What Waits Below

I was thinking about one of The X-Files films the other day for no reason. The film starts with a child falling through the ground into a cave system, getting alien’d up, and then the Smoking Man and his people cover it all up with grass and a children’s play area. Being a writer with books to get on with, I obviously decided to make a photomanipulation along the same lines.

Now…here it is, because I don’t know what else to do with it.

I’ve never done one of these before, because I’ve only really worked with 3D except do very mildly edit my book covers, and took some additional inspiration and tips from Nemanja Sekulic. I can see plenty that should be improved and corrected, but I’ve done enough that my brain will let me go back to writing now.

Fear of the Dark

Fear of the Dark is out now for Kindle and in paperback and hardback! This space opera is standalone, and you do not need to have read the previous books in the series (although it helps).

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4GPSF18

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B4GPSF18

Do you fear the long dark?

A dark planet on the galaxy’s edge. A primordial predator. A desperate hunt for a dangerous secret.

When the medical frigate Ruby Rose picks up an SOS from the planet’s lightning-ravaged surface, the medics do not hesitate to drop into the raging storm. But the innocuous little planet is home to something sinister. Something desperate. Something that will stop at nothing to find what it’s looking for.

Across the galaxy, the crew of the Star Wraith receives a call for help. The captain of a medical frigate has lost his medics, and one of their names is all too familiar. But how could the Wraith’s crew know that a simple rescue mission will lead to a string of murders and a waking nightmare that will leave them forever changed?

Read about the main characters, Archer and Juni here:

Fear: Cover Reveal and Pre-Order

Fear of the Dark will release in just 20 days, on 9 July, and is now available for pre-order!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4GPSF18

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B4GPSF18

Here, at last, is the cover:

Do you fear the long dark?

A dark planet on the galaxy’s edge. A primordial predator. A desperate hunt for a dangerous secret.

When the medical frigate Ruby Rose picks up an SOS from the planet’s lightning-ravaged surface, the medics do not hesitate to drop into the raging storm. But the innocuous little planet is home to something sinister. Something desperate. Something that will stop at nothing to find what it’s looking for.

Across the galaxy, the crew of the Star Wraith receives a call for help. The captain of a medical frigate has lost his medics, and one of their names is all too familiar. But how could the Wraith’s crew know that a simple rescue mission will lead to a string of murders and a waking nightmare that will leave them forever changed?

Fear of the Dark is the sixth book in the NEXUS series but, like most of them, it is standalone. If you happen to know book one and two, though, that will help, because this is finally the return of Archer and Juni!

Character Spotlight: The Assassin

Juni Lien was supposed to be a woman, not a killing machine. But perhaps for the daughter of three assassins, there was never anything else in the cards.

Juni is second-in-command of the Star Wraith, but sitting in one place is not something she’s used to, and the sense of confinement is growing when we meet her again nearly a year on from books 1 and 2. Working in a team, coming to terms with the fact that she’s in possession of feelings, having to confront herself as a person rather than drifting through life as a weapon…it may be too much. Perhaps she made a mistake in not pulling the trigger when she had Archer in her sights.

For the rest of the team, Juni is an unknown entity – a predator carefully placed among her prey, yet choosing instead to fight alongside them. She could be a valuable and fearsome ally…if she can be trusted.

The assassin will slip out of the shadows soon, in Fear of the Dark…


Arianne has done all of the art for my books since book 3, and you can find more of her work here: arianneelliott.artstation.com

Character Spotlight: The Freelancer

One of the two main characters of the NEXUS series, I technically haven’t written a book about him for 10 years! Travis Archer is a freelance bounty hunter with just a little obsession with the idea of being a space cowboy.

Archer is half human and half Necurian, an ancient race with psionic abilities. Although Archer can use these abilities, his lacking knowledge of how to do so safely may have caused some problems, just beginning to manifest when we meet him again, a year after the events of books 1 and 2.

He is the de facto captain of the Star Wraith, having uncovered the ship’s ugly truth almost a year earlier. Plagued by nightmares about the things he has been a part of since then, he knows that it isn’t a position he deserves.

The freelancer will drift into town soon, in Fear of the Dark…


Arianne has done all of the art for my books since book 3, and you can find more of her work here: arianneelliott.artstation.com

Obligatory Update

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a useless blog-writer must still update their blog at least once every year. As it is approaching the one-year anniversary of Church of the Assassin releasing (already), and I’ve written nothing here since…here is that update.

Ahem. Let’s see… What’s in the news… Well, never mind.

Although this was never supposed to be any kind of review blog, I have babbled about films and even games here and there, and yet I haven’t even returned to talk about the dreaded/fawned-over Snyder Cut. I do have a half-finished review of it written, but I couldn’t be bothered to finish. The gist is that I grudgingly like it a lot more than Whedon’s nonsense, but it’s still terrible.

More importantly, I am currently just over 90,000 words into my next book, which will see the return of Archer and Juni, the two who are supposed to be the overall main protagonists of my series, and yet haven’t been seen for 9 years. I’m glad no one was around to take a picture of the stupid smile on my face while I was writing their first scene together since 2012. It will be the first of a trilogy of sorts, alternating with the trilogy that Church of the Assassin kicked off.

In the meantime, I’m working on hardbacks of all the books, which will be available soon! And because I wanted it, the artist who has done the last three covers is doing some art for both Archer and Juni, so I should have that to share soon too.

I’m also considering writing some more of the Writer’s Guides, as they seem to be the most popular thing on this site. But you can see how infrequently I write anything here, and judge for yourself how likely that is to happen.

So there’s my annual update.

Bye.

Church of the Assassin: Out Now!

When you take a shot at an apex predator, do not miss.

Church of the Assassin is now available in paperback and as an ebook from most retailers.

This is a standalone novel, and the fifth book in the NEXUS series. While the series itself is space opera/science fantasy, this book is more on the thriller side. Pick it up now, and I think you’ll enjoy Alexiares’ path of vengeance and discovery!

KILL ONE TO SAVE A HUNDRED

Alexiares spends her time killing, tinkering with a car she never drives, and wondering if she’s a sociopath. This simple life is complicated by a deadly purge of her sect and she finds herself on the run, trying to make sense of the slaughter. She’s not alone: the broken-minded assassin has inherited a baby girl. But how can hands that know only how to squeeze necks and strip engines ever nurture a child? When painful revelations, betrayals, and secrets show Alexiares that her life can only cause Baby pain and suffering, she’ll have to make a difficult choice.

Across the galaxy, one seemingly natural death puts rookie Intelligence officer Ryan Blake on a collision course with Alexiares. His journey into desperation and madness will reveal a world he’ll wish had stayed hidden. One full of mysteries and death. As his mentor says, there are cases to make your career and there are cases to make you look over your shoulder for the rest of your life, right up until it ends abruptly and violently.

KILL A HUNDRED TO SAVE ONE

Relentless hunters want both her and Baby, and they will tear worlds apart to get them. They are bigger, stronger, and more resourceful. But Baby is more than a newfound vulnerability to Alexiares: she is a reason to live. A reason to kill.

When you take a shot at an apex predator, do not miss.

Retailers include:

Amazon

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple Books

Additional outlets can be found here.

And, of course, add it to Goodreads to let me and others know what you thought of it, and see what other readers are saying.

Of Thanos and Polymer Clay

I should probably have written this right after I actually saw Avengers: Infinity War, but…I didn’t. But I have seen it and it was fine. Nothing overly special but vastly better than Age of Ultron and Civil War – each tied for worst Marvel film.

The spoilers start here, so if you haven’t seen it, skip to the superman head!

Avengers-Infinity-War-Team-Cap-Banner

I was wrong-ish about who would die, because I completely forgot that there was a second film, originally pitched as Infinity War Part 2. I said Iron Man and Captain America would die. I stand by that, but obviously with a conclusion still on its way, that’s the one where it will happen.

Speaking of dying, we might as well jump straight to that. It was bad. Does anyone actually believe that Spider-Man is dead? Or Black Panther? Or the entirety of the Guardians? Of course not. We know they have their own solo films on the way. Then again, the way Black Panther goes, off-screen, makes me think that the Russos never actually intended for us to believe that these heroes are all dead. Rather, I think we’re just meant to wonder how they’re going to get themselves out of this situation. The answer will sadly probably be alternate timelines or time travel, neither of which I’m fond of. But really, I think the problem is that it’s an issue at all. I know the fact that Thanos actually clicks his fingers is meant to be a shock, because that’s the big finale that the heroes are meant to prevent, but all that death doesn’t make for a sad ending. It’s too much and it’s too obviously temporary. If anything, the very last scene of the film should have been the click. Then cut to black. Leave everyone wondering what it meant and who died.

Otherwise, it was decent. Absurd that right after they find out that their friend is dead, along with an entire race of people, Iron Man and chums are cracking jokes. But that’s just the Marvel way of desperately trying to cram comedy into every gap. There are a lot of heroes to keep up with, and mostly it’s balanced well. Perhaps too much Thor and Vision, perhaps too little Black Panther and Captain America/Nomad, but generally, it was well done. Other than how they chose to make Peter Quill fairly unlikeable and Gamora little more than a token sacrifice.

AIW

Thanos himself was good. I liked the way they made him less bloodthirsty than they might have. He talks to the heroes, rather than monologuing at them. He understands and respects – to a degree – their efforts to fight him. Even when he has defeated one of them, he doesn’t kill them. He knocks out Nomad, but then just steps over him. He reaches down to the defeated Scarlet Witch, but just holds her head in an almost comforting manner. He might be mad, but he’s not 2D, cartoon evil. This is, of course, contradicted by the earlier parts of the film, where he slaughters every last Asgardian and murders both Loki and Heimdall. But still…

And then there’s the after credits scene. Nothing too special, other than A) I don’t think Fury will be one of the ones to come back, and B) She’s coming! I’ve been looking forward to the solo Captain Marvel film since it was announced, and I’m looking forward to seeing her arrive in Avengers 4. The colourful logo on Fury’s pager seemed a little over the top though. I maintain that, rather than the logo, a shiver-inducing, exciting end would have been:

…CONNECTING…

…CONNECTED…

Fury?

I’m coming.

And also that she should be in his contacts as ‘The Other Cap’. But that’s beside the point. It was good, I’ll watch it again, but I hope Avengers 4 will be better.

And now Superman:

Superman head sculpt

I mentioned before that I tried my hand at sculpting in polymer clay, and Superman was the result. I then tried sculpture 2, the main character of the book that I’ve just finished and am now editing.

DSC_0187

It includes this weird, Winston Churchill-looking baby. Better than the original ET-Yoda hybrid look it had before. Alex herself, on the other hand, didn’t turn out so well. Confirmed by the number of times people called her a he.

S7300259

But the finished product turned out well enough. Plenty of issues, as with the Superman head, but I at least have an idea how to avoid those issues next time.

Final-Before

As for the book itself, even when I’ve edited it, I still need to finish writing another book that has to come out before it, so it will still be a while.