Quotes for 2020 #50

An on going series of quotes from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer: Not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

William Blake was a strange fish. He was also one of the leading lights of the ‘romantic’ era poets, a writer, artist and illustrator. He was therefore a little mad, but only in the good way. He illustrated Milton’s Paradise Lost among other things and his illustrated version is perhaps the best known. He was a believer in ‘free love’ a hundred and fifty years before Woodstock, occasionally berated as a pornographer, accused of insanity, claimed to see visions, and by the standards of the time he was certainly a tad on the left wing side. So after his death he was almost entirely forgotten about for a generation before his work came back to public consciousness.

None of which is the reason I chose this quote today. Instead its because this quote was one I read several years ago that partly inspired me to create one of those doors and the place that it led to… So on top of everything else in a rich and complex life, William Blake was also, in part, responsible for this writer creating Esqwiths Piano Bar and Grill, the Passing Place of the novel of the same name.

And without Passing Place, Maybe my latest novel (released this week) might not exist either. As in part Miss maybe began life as a character in an early draft of Passing Place, while the story she told was to tell was never written and her part in Passing Place is little more than a cameo, Miss Maybe still has one important influence of events in that novel, all be it by no more than a passing smile at the piano player…

So Blake and his doors, influencing other writers even now, as such I tip my hat to him…




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Cryptocurrency and blockchain: the complex made simple

This is a bit of an unusual book review for this blog I know, and not a subject I would normally delve into, at least not here. There are no airship, or dragons, or spaceships in this book…  Well there are, but not in the usual way… because this is a non-fiction book that seeks to demystify and de-jargon the complex world of cryptocurrency’s, blockchain and the digital economy. A subject that could be reasonably described as a tad on the heavy side and which I frankly would not claim to fully understand, though after reading this particular book I have a much more rounded not quite understanding…

Like most people, I would imagine, what I know about cryptocurrency’s is mainly what I know about the ubiquitous Bitcoin which, if it doesn’t dominate the crypto market, certainly dominates the public perception of it. And what I know most about Bitcoin is it generates an awful lot of the spam in my spam folder. Bitcoin is the modern day carpetbaggers / snake-oil salesman’s dream product, the masses don’t really understand what it is, but know ‘others’ are getting rich on the back of it and no one wants to miss out on the opportunity for fear of been left behind. A quick search of the word cryptocurrency on google will get you a whole bunch of dubious ads offering get rich quick investments, because ‘yay, capitalism’ , ‘yay, lack of regulation’  and of course someone will always try to sell you a dream.

Then there is Blockchain, a term that is spoken of in boardrooms and government offices around the globe, and as with all new tech idea’s a lot of those discussing it don’t really understand it. I know a civil servant, working at a reasonably high level in a government department, who sat in a meeting discussion ‘block-chain: and why we need to implement it’ for a couple of hours. Having listened to everyone stating over and over how enthused they were about the subject and how important it was that they implemented it, he asked a question no one in the room could answer, a deeply insightful question, and one that cut to the quick, as it were. That question?

‘Can I just ask, what exactly is block-chain?’

Much like Bitcoin, block-chain, the underlying technology, is something that not everyone understands, but they know they need in the emerging digital economy. What this whole subjects needs is a bit of demystifying, it needs explaining in a way that’s easy for people to get their heads around, it needs explaining in a way that doesn’t drown the reader with dry arid techno babble, and it needs explaining in a way that will let it all make sense. Also the odd pop culture reference, star wars joke, and the understanding that if you really want to get people to learn about a subject the way to do it is to entertain them as you teach. Because everyone pays more attention when they are laughing along with the writer and made to smile while they think…

(note for anyone from Cisco, whom technical books it has been my misfortune to have to read in the past. If you make the subject matter as dry as the Sahara, your readers will dry of thirst before they learn a damn thing. Sorry needed to get that off my chest… damn you Cisco…)

Kate Baucherel is a fellow Harvey Duckman writer, and the writer of the annoyingly good SimCavilier novels (annoying because I didn’t think of it first, they are extremely well written and a fabulous read) A 7th dan black belt in karate. Ski’s. Loves star wars. has been known to dress up as Han Solo at every opportunity. lecturers and she is also the person who you invite to a conference on digital currency and block-chain if you want other people to attend.

‘Meh a cryptocurrency applications conference in Newcastle, I’m not sure I can make it…’

‘What Kate Baucherel’s going?’

‘Okay in that case I’ll be there.’

So if anyone is going to demystify the subject of block chain and cryptocurrency its her, and in her non-fiction book Block-chain Hurricane that is exactly what she does. It is frankly a great read that informs, educates and explains complex subjects without becoming dry and unreadable as so often happens. Instead even to a layman like myself it illuminates the subject and throws in enough humour to make reading it an informed pleasure. Because you need the geeky references and the jokes to get through what otherwise would be a dry subject.

For reasons that make little sense there is however a quote in the book from a disreputable novelist that comes from a twitter question Kate asked about a year ago… The vivacity of that quote is questionable, so questionable I am not going to repeat it here (it was however a very funny one liner I am somewhat proud of, and if I am going to be quoted in a book about cryptocurrency and blockchain I am glad its this one… It’s one of my better musings on  the subject, but you’ll have to buy the book to find out what it is…)

Can I claim to know what I am talking about on the subject having read this book? Well probably enough to answer that civil servants question, which is the point at the end of the day. More importantly perhaps enough to recommend this to anyone who wants to get their head around the subject. Because I doubt you will find a better book for doing so anywhere. You will laugh at the jokes, you will also learn a lot in the process, and probably not even realise you are doing so, which is the best way to learn anything.



Look at that I got all the way through that without once mentioning my new novel Maybe is being released this week…

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And then two come at once…

It’s like buses… You wait around for ages for a book release then two come at once… catch you unawares and you have to do a little self promotion…

hd and maybe

In case you were unaware, the first of my A Ballad of Maybes trilogy is been released this Sunday, which is that most auspicious of dates ‘The Ides of March’ on which famously if you know your Shakespeare we are told to BEWARE!!! Julius Cesar was murdered in the roman senate, and also, as it happens, fifty years ago I was born. So it seemed a fitting date to release the first book, Maybe… The kindle version is on pre-order now… and the print version will be available later this week

The government of Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Victoria, struggles against a criminal conspiracy that threatens to destabilise the Empire. A conspiracy that reaches from the riverside slums of London, to Whitehall and the palace itself.

History stands at a crossroads. The Empire may rise to new heights or fall into ruins.

Meanwhile, Benjamin West searches for the truth about his long-lost father who disappeared in the Amazon basin some fifteen years before. His search has led to Cheapside and the funeral of the famous Polynesian engineer Mr Maybe, the man who had held the answers Benjamin seeks.

The death of Maybe, and how it is connected to the disappearance of West’s father bring together West, his former manservant Gothe and the mysterious woman standing by Maybe’s graveside. Fate entangles them in a struggle against criminals, murderers and the agents of those forces that threaten to bring down the government.

Can they hope to win out against the odds stacked against them?


Meanwhile, not to be left out old Hannibal has a short story in the forth Harvey Duckman Presents anthology, which I am delighted to be a part of once again. The Story is called ‘The Elves and the Bootmaker’ and is an episode from Hannibal’s early life before the novels, when as a young man still calling himself by his given name ‘Harry Smith’ he is about to sign on as a junior officer on his first Royal Air Navy command. Its a tale which explains a lot, and involves the delightful Miss Karma from Croydon, who was alluded to in ‘From Russia With Tassels’ 

As ever the fourth Harvey contains story’s from a plethora of talented indie authors, some new, some established names, as well as a foreword from the delightful Amy Wilson which would be reason enough to buy a copy even if Hannibal wasn’t in it… Again the kindle version is on pre-order now and the print version will be out in early April

Welcome to our worlds…

Harvey Duckman presents the fourth in a series of collected works of suspense and mystery in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and steampunk.

This anthology features work by exciting new voices in speculative fiction, including both established authors and previously unpublished writers.

These short stories give a glimpse into some fantastic worlds that are already out there for you to enjoy, as well as a taste of more to come.

Volume 4 includes stories by: Adrian Bagley, Crysta K Coburn, Thomas Gregory, Christine King, Peter James Martin, John Holmes-Carrington, A.L. Buxton, Zack Brooks, Fred Johnson, Ben McQueeney, Keld Hope, Deborah Barwick, Jon Hartless, R. Bruce Connelly, and Mark Hayes, as well as a bonus ‘Harvey Duckman’ story by Andy Hill, and a foreword by Amy Wilson.

Edited by C.G. Hatton.

The Links, because there is little point telling you all this if I don’t put links down…


MAYBE : A ballad of Maybes: book 1 

Harvey Duckman Presents: Volume 4 


MAYBE : A ballad of Maybes: book 1 

Harvey Duckman Presents: Volume 4 





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Writing Female Characters

I have over the years read too many books with shocking badly written female characters in them. I suspect I am not alone. Indeed I can give you a list of far too many ‘great’ writers who write awful female characters, and as a genre science fiction is worst than most for this. Lovecraft stands out as an obvious culprit, Wells struggled with them, Verne had none, Tolkien’s novels with perhaps a couple of notable exceptions was virtually devoid of them. But they are far from alone, as a genre science fiction was for a long time a desert when it came to strong female characters, and often times still is. though it is not a problem for science fiction alone, but one that runs through all fiction. Too often the female character is the damsel  in distress, the victim and needs to be ‘saved’ by the male characters. Whats more this is not an issue that resides purely with male writers, I have read plenty of female writers novels which fall into the same trap.

This is not to say a female character can’t get in trouble and need saving, I have no problem with a plot which does that. I only have a problem if that is the case purely because the character is female. Its also not to say a female character can’t be weak, foolish, and get themselves into situations they can’t get out of, again the issue is if the reason for all those things is simply because the character is female.

promo 1

Ditsy damsel in distress is a trope long past its time, its lazy writing, even if its written, as I have seen some writers claim, in irony. If there is an exception, then spoof fiction making fun of the trope is perhaps it, but even then it has to be done well, and all too often it isn’t, and frankly I’m not sure who is reading it if it is, because here is an adage for you…

‘Treat your audience like idiots, and you’ll find yourself without one.’

Amazing as some writers may find this, a lot of readers are female. In some genre’s a majority of them in fact. So if your going to write down to women, do so at your peril. Not that this alone is a reason to write good female characters, in fact of all the reason I could spout it probably should be way down the list of reasons to write strong capable female characters. The main reason should simply be because women are just as capable as men of being heroic, striving against adversity, or conversely just as capable of been villainous, devious and utter shits… Simply put the important word here is characters, and they should be as well rounded as their male counterparts. So here is another adage for you…

Never think of your characters as male, female, black, white, gay, straight, just because these are definitions, they should not define them.

I have read some truly awful examples of failing to do this. I had a politics lecturer once who, when he found out I wrote, sent me the first few chapters of his WIP novel. As this was the man marking my essays I had to be very tactful when I talked to him about it, and his writing was very good for the most part. He crafted a good story, had a great sense of place and time (this was a novel about WWI veterans and there experience both due in and after the war) His novel was incredibly well researched, indeed there was no end of good things I could say about it. But his female character were not only flat two dimensional nothings with no life to them, but everything about the female characters was written with so much misogyny I found it hard to credit that this writer was actually an intelligent man. Nurses fawned over male doctors and did all they could to please them and land themselves a husband , for example. And don’t get me started on the dialogue between these characters… This ruined everything that was good in his writing for me. I just couldn’t read it. 

The point here is that  for a character to come to life for a reader they have to be real and real women are just as full of contradictions, just as capable of being heroic, or cowardly, have shades of gray, intelligence and stupidity or anything else as men. So why write them differently? Yes there are differences, but beyond biology they are differences of life experience. Women in modern western societies are still not treated in equal fashion to men, though they clearly should be. Women in some other socialites around the world are very much second class citizens. Men do not experience sexism on a daily basis, any more than white men experience racism on a daily basis, or face the pervasive threat of sexual violence in the same way women do. If you’re writing in the modern world and you ignore these things when writing female characters then they are not going to be believable. The same applies in any genre fiction. But again while life experience is different at their core for a female character to be ‘real’ they have to be just as ‘real’ as there male counterparts. Which puts me in mind of one of my favorite quotes on the subject of female characters, from Josh Weldon.


Which is the point in many ways. I try to write strong female characters because, I try to write strong characters, its as simple as that.

Perhaps you think I worry on these things too much, but I try to write characters that people can identify with on some level, and if my female readers can not identify with my female characters I will have failed in that. the Hannibal stories are full of strong capable women, generally stronger willed and more capable than Hannibal. But as the Hannibal stories are told by him the female characters like everyone in them but Hannibal is shown under the lens of his vision. So while I may worry just how much my readers can connect with these characters they’re are observed second hand to a degree like everyone other than Hannibal.

With my new novel Maybe on the other hand I don’t have the filter of Hannibal’s personality between me and the reader. I can’t point to Hannibal and say ‘yes well that is just how Hannibal sees the world‘ Also, unlike the Hannibal novels Maybe is not written first person form a single characters perspective, the two main characters who share the majority of the POV screen time are Benjamin West and Eliza ‘Maybe’ Tu-Pa-Ka. If the books are to work therefore my readers have to identify with both of them. I had, in short, to get Eliza right. Which, while I was certain I had done so, was going to cause me a degree of trepidation when I let the book be read by my beta readers (who would have no qualms about telling me if the heroine was not written well). Asking two female friends to beta read was a deliberate choice on my part because if I had not got Eliza ‘right’ then as I say they would tell me and if Eliza doesn’t work them the novel doesn’t work. If anyone plays the part of the ‘damsel’ in the first maybe book its Benjamin West…

Thankfully for me my beta readers love the book and more importantly love Eliza.

One Beta reader, who noted that Maybe is set in the same universe as the Hannibal novels, though before Hannibal time, said she would love it if Eliza and Hannibal met as:

‘Eliza would eat Hannibal alive’.

Which is a reasonable correct assessment, and made me smile. For in many ways Eliza is everything Hannibal himself isn’t, ie. strong willed, capable, determined, brave and down right heroic at times.

Meanwhile the other beta reader, when asked by someone else what they thought of Eliza said

‘She fantastic, I want to be her when I grow up.’

So, if I pulled off nothing else with Maybe, I am reasonably certain I wrote my heroine well. With luck other readers will think so as well, because as I say Maybe only works if readers ‘Miss Maybe’ works. She is a strong character, and if she wasn’t the whole series would not work, but more importantly she would not be ‘real’ and no one would care about her. Which is what it comes down to, I want readers to care about my characters, be they men, women, or for that matter a reanimated corpse…

ides promo

Maybe will be released 15/3/20 and the kindle version is available for pre-order now

Pre-order maybe now


US and other territories 






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Quotes for 2020 #49

Because sometimes you need a quote or two to get you through the day, or just make you smile, or think…

Today is dear old Edgar, great grandfather of all that is gothic, Allen, really quite a cheerful is misunderstood soul, Poe.

Its odd to think to that my daughter and sons generation when Poe is mentioned the first thing they think of is a red creature with a telly in its tummy. How did we come to this? Is not the tell tale heart of humanities wonder still open to the dark streets of Paris where murders lurk in shadows? Will we now in fact quote the raven nevermore?

In fairness I suspect Edgar Allan Poe’s impact on civilization will outstrip that of the telly tubbies… But that on one side this is among my favorite Poe Quotes (other than EeeOhhh) for at times when writing and editing this is exactly how it feels…


TG banner

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Maybe… Almost…

So, finally book 1 of A Ballad of Maybes is almost complete, and just the final editing and beta reading to go, I even have the blurb written for the back. So it’s time to reveal the final actual cover of the first book in the trilogy. A trilogy that I started about five years ago, that then sat on a virtual shelf for the longest time. Three novels worth of time…

The full three book trilogy will be written and published this year (at least that’s the plan, as this is a project I have wanted to do for a while.) Book two is well under way… there is an argument that says I would be better to write the whole trilogy then release it on a bi-monthly basis but I prefer to let it out into the world as each book is complete. Each book will be complete onto themselves…

So here then is the cover…

Copy of Maybe book 1 cover final (1)

And for those who want to know more. The blurb…

back words

Its almost here… Which of course means I have to do a few terrifying things, like write an actual press release… So you can expect me to mention it a lot… Apologise in advance…

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quotes for 2020 #48

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer: Not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

Dear old Mr Vonnegut, writer of such gems as slaughter house five a book that ignores so many rules of narrative that it can send you a little made just following the story, is always good for a strange quote or three. But seldom is that more apparent than with this one, possibly my favorite Vonnegut quote…

It is wonderfully understated, after all giraffes are odd, but the duck-billed platypus… Now that’s proof of creativity…

images (1)


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